Saturday, November 27, 2010

Praise God that we are justified by Christ and not by works...

I was reading Romans 12 the other day and I was struck by the number of commands that chapter had.  Paul starts off with an exhortation to respond to the amazing grace of God that he expounded on for the first 11 chapters.  He calls all Christians to be a living sacrifice as worship unto God.  The Old Testament saints had to continually offer up animal sacrifices to atone for sin.  Each time was only temporary, which is why they had to repeat it.  However, in Christ, we have full atonement of sin.  The perfect God-man paid for all of our sins, past, present and future, for those who trust in Him.  Paul says that in light of this, our response should be to live a life devoted to God.

So, you would think that since I know that I deserve eternal damnation, and yet, by God's grace, I have eternal life in Christ, that I would joyfully live every moment in complete obedience to God's word.  Sadly, I still struggle with my sinful flesh.  If anyone says they have no sin, they lie.  Especially me.  Here is a list of what Romans 12 commands us to do AND not do:

1. Present your bodies a living a holy sacrifice, acceptable to God
2. Do not be conformed to this world
3. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
4. Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to
5. Have sound judgement
6. Exercise spiritual gifts with zeal
7. Love without hypocrisy
8. Abhor what is evil
9. Cling to what is good
10. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love
11. Give preference to one another in honor
12. Don't lag behind in diligence
13. Be fervent in spirit as you serve the Lord
14. Rejoice in hope
15. Persevere in tribulation
16. Be devoted in prayer
17. Contribute to the needs of other believers
18. Practice hospitality
19. Bless those who persecute you
20. Do not curse those who persecute you
21. Rejoice with those who rejoice
22. Weep with those who weep
23. Be of the same mind toward one another
24. Do not be haughty in mind
25. Associate with the lowly
26. Do not be wise in your own estimation
27. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone
28. Respect what is right in the sight of all men
29. As much as it is possible, be at peace with all men
30. Never take your own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God
31. Do not overcome evil by evil
32. Overcome evil with good

One note.  There tend to be two extremes.  One side is legalistic and think that they need to abide by every command of God in order to be acceptable to Him.  This is faulty thinking.  If we look back at what Paul says at the beginning, that "Therefore" is crucial.  It points to all of the truths laid out in the first 11 chapters.  How we are saved by grace alone.  How we are justified before God, not by our works, but because of the perfect and finished work of Christ.  Therefore, our obedience flows from a joyful and thankful attitude that we are already justified before God.

The other extreme is the libertarian response.  They think they can live however they want because they are already justified.  And they are offended by the mere mentioning of rules.  This is faulty as well.  Yes, we are saved by grace.  And yes, those who are truly the elect can never lose their salvation.  But it is equally true that if we are saved, we will live sanctified lives by the grace of God.  Salvation (and the subsequent sanctification) is never by our own works, but by God's.  So we must perish these faulty views and cling to the truth: saved by grace, sanctified by grace.

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