Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How Joyful Are You?

Reading: Romans 4  
To understand the Gospel is to be filled with joy. No, I'm not talking about that head-in-the-sand, not-able-to-face-reality, enthusiasm that borders on madness. I'm talking about a joy that, although it may well encounter and experience all sorts of difficulties and griefs in life, endures through and beyond those experiences because of the truth it is anchored in. When we understand the Gospel, we understand a truth that produces this kind of joy. Are you a joyful person? If not, maybe you have a fundamental miss-understanding of the Gospel, or there is something you've forgotten.
Having just laid out the glorious truth of justification by faith alone in Romans 3:21-26, followed by an explanation that this way of justifying us automatically excludes all boasting in Romans 3:27-30, now Paul begins to illustrate further these truths in Romans 4. He begins by showing that Abraham himself had nothing to boast about because it was his faith, his trusting in God, that was credited for righteousness (Romans 4:1-3). He then goes on to explain that this is true for all who believe: their faith is credited for righteousness (Romans 4:4-5). Then Paul digresses from Abraham to illustrate with David the same principle.
6Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the man God credits righteousness to apart from works: 7How joyful are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered! 8How joyful is the man the Lord will never charge with sin! (Romans 4:6-8 HCSB)
This year I am reading through the Bible in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (which appears to be an excellent translation to add to your study collection). I could not help but be struck by the language of these verses. Did you get the impact of what this says?
David speaks of a blessing that belongs to all whom God credits righteousness apart from works. In other words, this blessing is for all who trust God and not their deeds, since their deeds fall woefully short! And here is the blessing:
  • Joy because their lawless acts are forgiven; their sins are covered. Do you trust Christ to be your means of salvation? Then your lawless acts are forgiven. All too often, we are prone to think our lawless acts are what keeps us from being blessed. Yet, the blessing David, and now Paul, speaks of is for those who have lawless acts that need forgiving... and they are!
  • Joy because the Lord will never charge you with sin! What a promise! If you have trusted in Christ, God will never charge you with sin. That is good news. That is Gospel news. And knowing and recalling that truth will bring joy to your soul.
Do we really believe that? The Lord will never charge the believer with sin. Some would argue, “Well, if that is true, then just go on sinning.” Some charged Paul with saying that (Romans 3:8; 6:15). Paul understood the glorious power of grace to transform. (In fact, Paul seems to turn the argument on his opposers in Romans 7 and essentially argues, “Oh, so you think the law is better than grace at teaching people not to sin...let's see, how effective was the law? That's right, the law came and I kept on sinning! The law didn't actually have any effect at stopping sin.)
How joyful is the man that believes that His lawless acts are forgiven. We tend to think our not-so-lawless acts are forgiven (as if there were such a thing). But we go on living under the guilt of our lawless acts. How joyful is the man or woman who, trusting in Christ, understands that the Lord will never charge him with sin. I'm not sure if you (or I) get the impact of that statement—will never charge with sin. Never! Ever!
And to what does Paul credit this glorious assurance? Our faith—our trusting in Christ as the propitiation for our sins, as satisfying the wrath of God against us (Romans 3:23-25). Our faith in the free grace of God to save us though we fall woefully short of the glory for which He made us. He doesn't credit this joy to the man whose life demonstrates that is really a Christian because of the fruit that is born. No, to the man who has simply stopped trusting in his works which fail and started trusting in the free grace of Christ. [For more on this, see the my blog entry, The Proper Ground of Assurance.]
May your new year be filled with this joy that comes from knowing these Gospel truths.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,