Monthly Archives: August 2009

Justification vs. Legalism

In a sermon on justification, CJ Mahaney helps us understand legalism when he states, “Simply put, legalism is substituting your works for His (Christ’s) finished work.”

CJ also poses some questions that really help expose the heart of legalism.

Questions to help you identify legalism in your own heart.

1)    Am I more aware of and affected by my past sins than I am the finished work of Christ?

2)    Do I live thinking and believing and feeling God is disappointed with me rather than delighting over me?

3)    Do I have an undue concern about what others think?

4)    Do I lack joy?

5)   Do I consistently experience condemnation?

6)   Am I more aware of areas I need to grow than I am of the cross of Christ?

These questions leave many of us standing guilty of legalism, but we need to know how to rightly process the indictment.

The remedy to legalism is the cross.  Robert Murray McCheyne says, “Take 10 looks at Christ for every one look at yourself.”

Jerry Bridges seeks to explain how God sees us in our sin, and how understanding justification rightly frees us up to grow deeper in Christ.

When we pray to God for blessing, He does not examine our performance to see if we are worthy. Rather, He looks to see if we are trusting in the merit of His Son as our only hope for securing His blessing. Disciplines of Grace, 19

We need to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives….It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. Disciplines of Grace, 21.

Few things cut the nerve of desire and effort to change like a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, freedom from guilt through realization of forgiveness in Christ usually strengthens a person’s desire to lead a more disciplined life. Disciplines of Grace, 23.

The next two posts will hopefully help us address the pains of guilt in a faith-filled way.

Posts on Justification: Getting Rid of Guilt Can Crush You or Exalt Christ

I love the church series still continues with a series within a series. I love the church because it is a testimony of God’s amazing justifying grace. So from my sermon on justification I am going to write five quick posts on justification. I hope this is helpful and causes us to trust and celebrate the God who justifies the ungodly.

No matter the sin, the Christian feels guilty for their transgression against God. We can handle our guilt with faith or with the absence of faith. Here is an excerpt from my sermon 3 weeks ago on justification that seeks to explain the wrong ways to handle guilt and offers a brief glimpse into God’s answer for guilt.  The next three posts will also be fleshing out the joys of justification.

When you feel guilty, really guilty, you will do almost anything to get out of that feeling.  This is how many respond:

–       We seek to blame others (we saw it with Adam and Eve in Genesis and humanity hasn’t stopped since). Our goal when we blame: to defer the guilt, to get it off of our shoulders.

  • Sometimes this results in the horrors of domestic abuse. If you can’t fix your own pain, then you blame others with force and anger.
  • Sometimes the guilt results in divorce or shattered relationships because no one wants to humbly forgive but simply make sure the other person know they were the cause of the problem.  Know that you are your greatest problem and many don’t know where to go.

–       Many times escape is the plan whether through alcohol, drugs, food, sex, movies, video games, sports, etc…  Our hearts scream, “Keep me from having to deal with the reality of the pain I’ve caused or the wrongs I have done.”  We want them to go away but after the escape they are there again and usually accompanied by even more guilt.

–       Once some acknowledge their guilt they will try to hurt themselves through cutting, not eating, or simply depriving themselves of something they wanted but now feel no longer worthy to have.

No matter what you have done, no matter whom you blame, where you escape or how you inflict punishment on yourself, you… you, yourself, stand at the end of the day…guilty.

And if you are guilty, then death, condemnation, emotional turmoil, separation from God is your destiny.

Unless there is an answer for guilt. An answer other than escape and blaming. An answer that takes the guilty and makes them not guilty. If that is the case then we have hope. Friends, there is an answer. The answer is found in Romans 4:5 where we are called to “…trust in him who justifies the ungodly.” God makes right the ungodly. He declares the ungodly not guilty. How? When sinners trust in the punishment bearing, guilt removing sacrifice of Jesus.  This is called justification. This is the Christian’s joy because justification creates reconciliation to God.

Grace Never Quits and Neither Does our Need for It

While studying for my sermon two weeks ago on saving grace, I was struck by a quote from John Newton that will hopefully awaken us to the reality that we need grace to sustain us moment by moment.   John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” talks about a remarkable change in his life prior to his conversion. He diagnoses that it was prior to his conversion because…

I was greatly deficient in many respects. I was in some degree affected with a sense of my enormous sins, but I was little aware of the innate evils of my heart. I had no apprehension of . . . the hidden life of a Christian, as it consists in communion with God by Jesus Christ: a continual dependence on him. . . . I acknowledged the Lord’s mercy in pardoning what was past, but depended chiefly upon my own resolution to do better for the time to come. . . . I cannot consider myself to have been a believer (in the full sense of the word) till a considerable time afterwards.”[emphasis mine;  Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, p. 32-33]

If this is us, may we be indicted and repent.  May we remember our need for grace from the beginning to the end of our lives.

And delight that at no moment in our lives are we ever able to live a godly life apart from God’s divine intervention.

There is no time when we are able to live as Christians without Christ.

Grace is always needed for us to endure to the end. Without grace, which grants holiness, no one will see the Lord.

So today don’t proceed without prayers for help. Don’t succeed without prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Don’t fail without prayers of hope that he is teaching you, growing you and promising to give you more grace in the future. Don’t seek to risk in love without pleading for God to empower, enable, and save through his gospel.  I pray this fuels our church to continue to remember we are a community of grace where grace never quits and neither does our need for it.

Thankful with you that God is eager to pour out grace and give us the kingdom.

I Love the Book of the Church

Bible pictureMany books catch our eye and they almost seem to be in endless supply these days. Once you get one book there is another that you would like to get.  Yet in the sea of books, there is one book that is unrivaled in its influence and unparalleled in its importance. God’s Word alone gives life, saves, and lasts forever.  The Bible is the book of God’s people.  I love the Word of God and its permanence in the church.

The book of Isaiah says, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go the law (instruction), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

In reading this, I was struck by the contrast between the last days’ glory and the present situation in Israel.  The text portrays the scene in the last days when the people of God will worship him on the mountain of God.  The mountain of God is so special because it is to remind us of the place of his presence. It is there where God’s people will be led and fed by the word of God.  However a devastating scene stands starkly opposed to this glorious picture of perfection in the presence of God. Surrounding this picture in chapter, in the first five chapters of Isaiah, the people of Israel run after gifts rather than God (Isaiah 1:23). They have thrown themselves at idols (2:8,18,20) and are filled with injustice (1:17,5:7). Their “heroes” are drunks and partiers (5:11,22).  Therefore God promises them banishment from the promised land (5:13). Do you know why? “Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (5:24).  This indifference to God’s word is summarized in Isaiah as arrogance (2:11,12).  Oh may we not fall into the same arrogance. I love the book of God’s church because it is God’s word that preserves His people.  May we heed the warning from Isaiah’s portrayal of wordless Israel.  My prayer for TCC and God’s church in general is that we would hunger, even ache for communion with God which happens primarily in His word.  Isaiah’s words are still on point today when he says, “The grass withers and the flower falls (video games fade, money will run out, cars will break, clothes will get holes in them or go out of style), but the word of the Lord remains forever” (Isaiah 40:6,8). Let’s spend our time with this “forever word,” the book of the church.

For more, see this post by Kevin DeYoung. It strengthened my heart further reminding me why I love God’s word. May we be reminded of the power, joys, and mind-altering truths that await us in God’s word.

Longing to Never Stray from God’s Word