Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
And For the record, the Fight for Joy! Journal is my personal spiritual journal that I don't journal in all that often but when I do it's usually worth sharing. I'm going to start doing that here from time to time. My prayer is God will use it to further sanctify and bless you.
DISCLAIMER: Although I am sharing from my journal I am also adding some textual notes, Greek word studies, and other helps to further magnify and clarify what God's Word says and how we might apply it to our lives in sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus)--see Romans 8:28, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love [Him]."
From 10/2/2014: God conceived The Law, revealed The Law, interprets The Law, and applies The Law, and through the sacrifice of His Son, ALL the demands of The Law have been met for those who trust in Him.
Paul wrote, "He who did not spare His own Son (same verb used for the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22:16) but delivered (gave) Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely (graciously) give us all things" (Romans 8:32). If there is a greatest verse in all the Bible, this is it. There is much to ponder and meditate upon here. There is much to consider. In the Greek there is an intensive particle (ge) which magnifies God's deed of not sparing His own Son but delivering Him over for us ("us," of course being all those who, by God's gracious choice, "are beloved of God, called as saints" (Romans 1:6). They are those who, because they are are "in Christ," are not condemened (Romans 8:1).
So, God has given us the greatest gift of all--His Son, whom He "did not spare, but delivered Him over for us all." Delivered speaks of God's active participation in the judicial condemnation of Christ. Luke writes, "This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (Acts 2:23). Jesus--the God-Man--was "delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God."
By delivering His own Son "over for us all," is an example of a Jewish argument from the greater to the lesser. Here it is from God to us. The supreme gift of God's Son guarantees the subsequent gift of everything else we need for our full and final glory. Furthermore, the gift of "His own son," according to the late A.T. Robertson, "is the promise and the pledge of the all things for good of verse 28. Christ is all and carries all with Him."
This is heavy, or to put it another way, weighty. It is much to take in, to absorb, to ponder, to meditate upon. "With Christ," and because He has been "delivered over for us all," Paul writes, God will now "also with Him freely give us all things." Paul often uses this phrase (freely give us) to denote forgiveness and may mean that here. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt this is Paul's meaning here, then every sin a believer commits has been forgiven--every single one--past, present, and future.
And it's not just our sins that have been forgiven. We have also been "freely [given] all things." This is similar language to what we find in Ephesians, where Paul writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3). God has freely given us all things--every spiritual blessing--everything we need for forgiveness of sins, the life He calls us to live here and now, and future grace--all that God promises to be for us in Jesus Christ from this time forth and forevermore! It is whatever is necessary to complete the purpose He had in choosing you and me.
APPLICATION: I believe that in order to begin to apply these truths we must think about what God's Word says here. This is called biblical meditaiton. Allow the words of Romans 8:32 (and the supporting passages) to sink into your thinking and into your heart. As you do, sanctification and transformation will occur. Here are some practical suggestions for meditating on this passage. Think about these things:
1. God delivered His own Son over to death for you. He died a judicial death in your place.
2. God has through His act of delivering His own Son over for you, now freely given you all things--every spiritual blessing--everything you need for sanctification and transformation--your so called Christian life. Here's another way of thinking about that: Jesus Christ is your life! (Read the whole book of Colossians for more of God's Word on that!).
3. God has, through His supreme gift, guaranteed the subsequent gift of everything else you need for your full and final glory. In other words, the Gospel will bring you all the way to glory. There is no such thing as a defective salvation. You have been saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved. You've got God's Word on that!
4. Because of the supreme gift of His Son, God is going to provide you with and do everything necessary to complete the purpose He had in choosing you. So make your life's goals to Treasure Christ, Live the Word, Make Disciples, and Finish Well!
5. Finally, think about this...Because of the pledge of His Son, God promises to fulfill all things for good in your life (Romans 8:28).
I recently blogged about how the New Year provides us with a fresh start when it comes to our spiritual disciplines in our walk with Christ. I am still considering which disciplines I will seek to focus upon in 2017 but I believe I have, at the very least, narrowed down my focus as it relates to Disciplines of Personal Devotion. To refresh your memory, they are:
1. Read the Scriptures. (See my post on Regular Bible Reading)
2. Meditate on the Bible.
3. Pray and work.
4. Keep a journal.
I keep a journal once in a great while so that will not be my focus. I have always felt like I fall short when it comes to daily Bible reading. I plan, therefore, to focus on reading and meditating on the Scriptures in 2017. This does not mean I will neglect other disciplines. I also plan to give special attention to Family Disciplines (Regular family worship and catechizing), Corporate Disciplines (Sanctify the Lord's Day), and Neighborly Disciplines (Evangelize sinners with the gospel).
To help me focus upon and ultimately meet my goal of regular Bible reading and meditation upon the Scriptures, I have modified Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading Plan. I did the same thing two years ago but failed to faithfully follow through. I pray 2017 will be different. You can download a copy of the modified plan here:
I hold no copyright over the above file so please feel free to make and distribute copies.
In his regular plan the reader will read through Proverbs and Acts every month. In my modified plan I have moved Psalms in with Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. I have moved Acts over with the Gospels. Readers using my modified plan will read through Daniel, Proverbs, Romans, and Revelation every month or so. I can think of no better books to read more regularly. Daniel and Revelation contain much prophecy concerning the times in which we live and the near future. Romans is the greatest book ever written and is intensly focused upon the righteousness of God and why we need that righteousness and how we can have it.
The plan calls for reading 10 chapters daily, one from each list provided. By following this plan the reader will never read the same 10 chapters together again. This will help prevent bordem as it keeps things interesting, so to speak. With my modfied plan you will be reading Revelation every month and Revelation is the only book that promises a special blessing to the reader just for reading it. For those who might find 10 chapters daunting you can also modify the plan so that you are reading five chapters a day instead of 10. You can also read each page every other day but have one day where you read all 10 chapters. I've even heard of some who read 10 chapters daily during the week and then five chapters on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). And, if you're like me and miss a day or two once in awhile, don't panic, just pick up where you left off and keep going.
It is also important to remember the Bible teaches us sactification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) occurs as we renew our minds with God's Word. Paul wrote, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). God told Joshua the same thing in Joshua 1:8, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." The Psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
I can think of no greater responsibility we have as Christians than that of renewing our minds through reading and meditating upon God's Word. Will you join me in 2017 by commiting to the spiritual discipline of regular Bible reading and meditation? I believe God will honor your commitment by transforming your mind and heart thus making you (and me) more like Jesus Christ.
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited to him as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5). Paul’s letter to the Romans has been rightly called The Constitution of Christianity. Indeed, it is the greatest of all the letters of Paul. Its theology is, on the one hand, profound beyond comprehension. But on the other hand, the Holy Spirit gladly guides the believer into the truth that is Romans. The entire letter can be summed up with the phrase, “Righteousness from Heaven.” Paul meticulously demonstrates the utter sinfulness of mankind concluding beyond any doubt, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE” (Rom. 3:10). Such a universal condition results in the need for divine righteousness. In other words, if I want to see God I must have the righteousness of Christ credited to my account. Such is only possible through faith.
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Romans 4 is a pivotal chapter in establishing righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone. There is a mystery here. This should not be taken as something unusual, as elsewhere Paul describes the entire body of revealed doctrine as, “the mystery of faith” (1 Tim. 3:9). Paul is not saying that our faith is recognized to be righteous. If that were the case one would have reason to boast before God. Righteousness credited to us happens outside of us. The phrase, “it was credited to him,” is in the passive voice meaning God does the work, not me. In other words, this righteousness is imputed not imparted. Remember, imputed means to set to one’s account. God has imputed, or set to my account, the righteousness of God. There is no works-righteousness here, as it is totally the work of God brought about through faith in Christ alone. This is the method for obtaining this righteousness—believe God! Otherwise, we receive what is due: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). But if we come through faith, we receive “the free gift of God” (Rom. 6:23b), which is the righteousness of Christ. This is the miracle of faith that results in certain blessings bestowed on the one who believes. First of all, our sins are forgiven—they are sent away. Secondly, they are covered. In fact, they are covered so completely there’s no chance of their ever being uncovered. Finally, miracle of miracle of miracles, the righteousness of Christ is credited to the account of the one believing the Gospel.
So, this raises an important question. Do you possess, by way of imputation, the righteousness of Christ? Your answer to this question is crucial as it concerns matters of eternity—where you will spend it. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It doesn’t matter how good one might be or think they are as the Bible also teaches even the good things we do are marred by sin. Isaiah wrote, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Remember, Paul has already demonstrated the utter sinfulness of all mankind—you included. This is why we need righteousness from heaven. And the amazing thing is this: although it cost God everything to make this possible, for you and me, it is free! This is what Christ came to do—to fulfill a righteousness and die a death that would remove all your sins and my sins and become for us a perfect righteousness. He offers you this righteousness today as a free gift. It is yours for the asking—simply believe the Gospel. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT” (Rom. 4:8).
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21-23). I have the privilege of pastoring a wonderful congregation of believers. We are slowly working our way through Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have already answered the question, why the Gospel (see Rom. 1:18). We have thoroughly enmeshed ourselves in the goodness of God (see Rom. 2:4). Next we are coming to chapter three where Paul discusses a glorious imputation. Imputation is a legal term that is used in a variety of ways in Scripture. It appears some forty times in the New Testament, ten times in Romans, alone. The word means, “to set to one’s account.” For example, in Philemon 18 Paul admonishes Philemon to charge (impute) to his account any debts Onesimus may have incurred. Theologically speaking, there are three great imputations in Scripture. First of all, there is the imputation of Adam’s sin to me. “Through one man sin entered into the world” (Rom. 5:12). Because Adam sinned, all are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Secondly, there is the imputation of my sin to Jesus. This happened at the Cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Finally, there is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all those who believe. This is a glorious imputation that God brings about in the life of all believers—those who through faith believe the Gospel. It occurs at the very moment of salvation when God imputes to the sinner what is not actually his—the righteousness of God—“Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3:22).
Paul describes this righteousness of God as that which is apart from the Law. In other words, the Law cannot save us. The Bible says through the Law all are accountable to God. Furthermore, it is through the Law we have the knowledge of sin. For this reason, at the final judgment the Law will close the mouth of the unbeliever (see Rom. 3:19-20). But thanks be to God for the glorious imputation of His righteousness. The Bible says the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel—“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). Both Romans 1:17 and 3:22 speak of this imputed righteousness as coming through faith in Jesus. This is the essence of God’s plan of salvation. It is a salvation that is offered “apart from the Law.” In other words, you can’t earn this salvation. It can only be obtained as a gift and it comes through faith in Jesus. Although this is the fulfillment of the New Covenant, this isn’t some new way of saving people but is in perfect agreement with God’s work in times past. This is what is meant by the phrase, “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Rom. 3:21b). In other words, God has always been in the salvation by grace through faith business. This is demonstrated in the Old Testament through the faith of Abraham. In fact, Paul mentions this in the next chapter, “For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). “Credited” here is that glorious imputation about which I write. And this imputation comes by way of Jesus: “But now apart form the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested” (Rom. 3:21a). It has been manifested in Jesus!
Romans 3:23 declares, “All have sinned.” All here would include you and me. It includes every person who has ever lived from Adam onward. The exception is, of course, Jesus—“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). And it is this Jesus who, although “He knew no sin [He became] sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21). We do not earn this righteousness by faith but we receive it through faith. Think about it. Because Adam sinned you and I are sinners—sorry, it doesn’t matter how good you might think you are because you are still a sinner by nature. But God has taken your sins and imputed them to Christ. Through faith you can have Christ’s righteousness imputed to you. This is the essence of the Gospel message and is the message I believe and proclaim. You don’t have to remain in your sin. You can experience freedom. You can be changed. You can have the righteousness of Christ. You can choose life! If you haven’t done this, what are you waiting for? “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). In my last article I sought to answer the question, why the gospel? In this article I want to consider the gospel in light of the goodness of God. All Christians would agree that God is good. In fact, most of us would sum up our belief in the goodness of God with the statement, “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.” I’m not sure where that statement originated. But it is clearly biblically and theologically sound. But have you ever paused to consider why God is good? Furthermore, have you ever considered how we ought to respond to the goodness of God? God is definitely good. In fact, the Bible teaches He is good to everyone—believer and unbeliever alike (see Matthew 5:45). God’s goodness is a wonderful reality and is demonstrated through the riches of His grace, forbearance, and patience toward us. The question is, how ought we to respond to His goodness?
The Bible teaches there are two possible responses to God’s goodness. These responses can be described as willful responses in that each requires an exercise of the will. In other words, when faced with the wonderful reality of God’s goodness a decision is required from us—how will I respond? The first response is alluded to in the first few words of Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness?” Kindness here is the Greek word chrestotes, which appears some ten times in the New Testament and each time means goodness, kindness, or gentleness. Paul says God is good and because of His goodness we are asked, “Do you think lightly of His kindness?” The phrase, “think lightly of” is translated from the Greek word, kataphroneo, and means to despise, disdain, think little or nothing of, to scorn. So one possible response to God’s goodness is to scorn it, that is, to reject it. There are many today who scorn the goodness of God. In so doing, they reject the gospel, and as a result, Paul says, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:5). Obviously, it is a serious thing to reject the goodness of God. Another possible response to the goodness of God—one much more desirable if you ask me—is to receive or embrace His goodness. We do this through repentance. In other words, I repent of my sins and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hosea 3:5 says, “How great is Your goodness which You have stored up for those who fear You.” So to reject God’s goodness is to “[store] up wrath” (Rom. 2:5), and to receive His goodness through repentance is to “[store up goodness]” (Hos. 3:5). This repentance works itself out through perseverance in doing good and results in “glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. 2:7). This is the Word of the Lord!
This brings us back to our original question. How ought we to respond to God’s goodness? To put it another way, how will you respond to God’s goodness? Will you reject it or receive it? Will you continue in your sin or repent, believe in and obey the Gospel? Paul concludes his thought here with a summation of God’s righteous judgment towards everyone: “For there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:11). The Greek word translated partiality here means to judge things on the basis of external or pre-conceived notions. Some Jews wrongly believed God showed partiality towards the Jews. Some today—both Jews and non-Jews—believe God will somehow show them partiality in terms of judgment. However, Paul makes it clear this will not be the case. God is not partial. He is no respecter of persons. His judgment will be righteous and just. The only way to escape God’s judgment is to respond right now to His goodness by repenting of your sins, embracing, believing in and obeying the Gospel. If one fails to meet God’s conditions by rejecting and scorning His goodness, only judgment remains.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18-19). I would imagine most Christians know the basic definition of the Gospel—the good news about Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Paul defined the Gospel in his first letter to the Corinthian believers when he wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). But I wonder how many Christians would be able to articulate the primary reason behind the Gospel. In other words, why did God give us the Gospel? Most, I am sure, would answer with some reference to the love of God. John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” However, Paul reminds us of the primary reason for the Gospel. In his letter to the Romans—a letter that has been rightly hailed as the Constitution of Christianity—he declares the revelation of the wrath of God is the primary reason for the Gospel. In other words, Paul underscores the utter sinfulness of mankind, the fact all are without excuse and deserving judgment, and how desperately we all need the righteousness that only God can provide. So perhaps we should begin our Gospel presentations with God’s wrath rather than God’s love. After all, the Bible does say those who have not believed the Gospel, “[have] been judged already” (John 3:18). Could you imagine sharing the Gospel with someone by saying, “Did you know God’s wrath is right now being revealed against your ungodliness?” Think about it? How can we convince others they need to be saved unless we first answer the question saved from what?
Once we answer the question, “saved from what,” only then are we ready to present the Gospel. The Gospel, according to Paul, is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The Greek word for “power” here is “dynamis,” from which we get an English word, “dynamite.” The word means inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. The power of the Gospel is what God uses to deliver people from His wrath. It rescues people from the ultimate penalty of their sin—eternal separation from God and eternal punishment. Clearly, to believe the Gospel is to be rescued from all spiritual dangers. It is no wonder the Bible presents the proclamation of the Gospel as the obligation of all believers. In fact, Paul reminds us we are not only obligated to proclaim the Gospel but should all be eager to share the Gospel with every person (see Rom. 1:14-15). Such a message seems foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). But it is this foolish message that has the inherent power to produce the righteousness of God within a person’s heart. It is this foolish message that once embraced by faith results in “salvation to everyone who believes.” This is the Word of the Lord!
Saving faith consists of three fundamentals. First of all there is the mind—what we might call mental assent to the Gospel. In other words, one hears and understands the Gospel and the truth about Jesus Christ. This is the witness of Ephesians 1:13. Secondly, there is the emotional aspect. It is here one embraces the truthfulness of the Gospel with sorrow over sin and joy over God’s mercy and grace—“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13). Finally, there is volition which speaks of the will or desire. It is here that one submits his or her will to Christ and trusts in Him alone as the only hope of salvation thus resulting not only in salvation but also in genuine repentance and authentic obedience of the one being saved. Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord” (Rom. 10:9). This is not a simple acknowledgement that He is God and the Lord of all. Even the demons acknowledge as much. This is the deep personal conviction—without reservation—that Jesus is Lord. Since Jesus is Lord, the saved person endeavors to bring every aspect of his or her life under His Lordship. Therefore, when one believes the Gospel sin is repented of, Christ alone is trusted for salvation and faith is evidenced through submission to Him as Lord. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
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Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
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