King David is considered the most righteous of all the kings of ancient Israel. How did David receive his righteousness before God? The Apostle Paul said, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:5).”
The Apostle goes on to quote Psalm 32, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin (Romans 4:7-8; see also Psalm 32:1-2).”
The blessed person in this Psalm refers to, in contemporary language, the happy and whole person. This person is living life the way it was meant to be lived. According to the Holy Scriptures, David’s works did not justify him before God. Rather, David claimed quite the opposite. His transgression and iniquities should have cut him off from God’s righteousness. He should be called the cursed person, not the blessed person.
Many people from their youth have been taught a salvation by works narrative. I do not mean someone said to them this is how you get saved, but that someone taught them that if they want to count for something they need to do certain things.
The American version of this teaching says, “Do good in school, get into a good college, land a good job, and then you will live the good life.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to do good in school or land a good job. However, that messaging can easily become a salvation by works narrative. We can begin to think that if we do not do good in school or fail to land that job, somehow it diminishes our worth.
Disney and the promoters of the self-esteem movement have said similar things, like, “You can be whatever you want, if you put your mind to it.” I suppose they were trying to tell kids not to let other people tell them what they cannot do. However, that messaging can easily be turned into a salvation by works narrative. If someone really puts their mind to something but fails to achieve it, does their worth diminish?
The Apostle Paul said: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31)
Many people mistakenly think that the New Testament in some way depreciates the significance of the law written in the Old Testament. Some say that the doctrine of justification by faith alone supports this. The Apostle says, “By no means!” Why?
Let me ask you a question: what is the rally cry that gets you going? What helps you get out of bed in the morning? I am talking about your “boast” in life. Pastor and author Timothy Keller said, “What you boast in is what gives you confidence to go out and face the day. It is the thing of which you say: I am somebody because I have that. I can beat what comes against me today because I am this. What you boast in is what fundamentally defines you; it is where you draw your identity and self-worth from.”
Take out a piece of paper and write on it whatever you thought of when I asked you the above questions. Finished? Now set that piece of paper aside – we will come back to it. The doctrine of justification by faith alone does something very counter intuitive to all our boastings.
Messages regarding racism surround us. Many claim to have the answer that will help resolve racial divisions and prejudices. Only time will tell whether these novel solutions will deliver what they promise. But what if the answer exists tucked securely in the pages of the Bible? What if our racial divisions need not something new but something that has always been there though underused?
The verb “judge” is one of the most nuanced words in the Bible. You need to look at the context surrounding each use of the word to understand precisely what it means when it is used.
For example, when Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” he does not mean we ought not to evaluate someone’s behavior. The illustration that he gives right after this assumes we may need to do that. If you have a big old log in your own eye, Jesus warns, how can you ever expect to take a speck of dust out of someone else’s eye. In the process, you may damage their eye in such a way that impedes their vision more than the speck. To remove the speck, Jesus says you need to first take the log out of your own eye. Then, and only then, will you be able to see clearly enough to take the speck out of someone else’s. (Matthew 7:3-5)
Over the last two weeks, I have asked one of the key questions of our time, “how do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power to change on your own? I answered that question by saying, “you align yourself with someone more powerful who can” (1 John 4:4). I then gave some basic practical tips that could help those who trust in Christ shine his light into darkness and season society with his flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).
These practical tips included: greet those you meet, return wrongs with rights, beautify your tongue – by which I meant speak words of blessing and not of cursing, kill with kindness, don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic, take your cues from Christ and not the world, and finally leave room for God’s vengeance.
These seven tips represent a sampling of the Bible’s teaching on Christian living. While many hail the teachings of Christ in these regards, anyone who has taken them seriously will tell you they are near impossible. How did Jesus himself practice what he preached?
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips continue the list offered in last week’s article.
Don’t say everything you think needs saying on every topic.” Jesus cautioned his disciples about sharing wisdom. While we ought never to shrink back from speaking the truth (Ephesians 4:15), we ought to realize that some people are not ready for the truth. Give those around you just enough truth and wisdom as they can endure and no more. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matthew 7:6).”
How do you detoxify a situation that you do not have the power on your own to change? You align yourself with someone more powerful who can (1 John 4:4). These basic practical tips can help you shine Christ’s light into darkness and season society with Christ’s flavoring (Matthew 5:13-16).
God gave us our bodies with purpose and meaning. Take for example the human tongue. Jesus’ brother James said of the tongue, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:8-10) Johaness Benz, who helped lead the reformation in Germany, said something similar of our whole body: “Our whole body was created so that it might offer itself in obedience to the Word of God. For which reason, if it passes over to the service of Satan in obedience to sins, the whole body is dishonored. Therefore, nobody, no matter how powerful an enemy they might be, can dishonor us as much as we ourselves do by the abuse of our own bodies.” The Apostle Paul gives another example of dishonoring the body. Though it has become culturally controversial, you can read about it in Romans 1:26-27.