Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Great Declaration

How can a person be just before God? Paradoxically, the obvious answer is not the right one. The obvious answer is that if we work hard enough, we will please God. But Scripture takes the opposite tack. It says we are not able to please God based on what we do (Galatians 3:10-12; Romans 3:19,20; 7:7-25), but we are declared righteous based on the work of Another (Romans 3:21-31; Philippians 3:7-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, while it is the duty of a human court to justify the innocent and convict the guilty (Deuteronomy 25:1), God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:4,5) through the work of His Son. For He is the One who paid the price for sin (Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25; Ephesians 1:7).

Now this is not obtained as a result of trust in external rituals (Romans 2:25-29; 4:9-12; Malachi 1:10), but through genuine faith (Ephesians 2:8,9;  Galatians 2:16; 1 John 5:11-13). And this faith has an effect on the lives of those who possess it. It motivates us to follow God out of love for Him because of what He has done for us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Romans 12:1,2). It also brings the power of God in our lives to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28,29). But this transformation is a process, ongoing in our lives but never perfect (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 John 1:8-10; Hebrews 12:1,2). Ultimately, we stand before God not based on what we have done, but on what Christ has done (Roman 8:31-39; Galatians 4:4-7; John 10:27-30).

This is important because if my ultimate standing before God depended on me, I would be left with either self-righteousness or discouragement. But it is only as I accept that this standing depends on the work of Another that I can be set free to grow in Christ. I can be realistic about where I am now because I know that my place with God is secure. But I can be optimistic about the future because I know God is at work in me. And I do not need to water down God's standard so I can convince myself I can keep it. Further, I can face the world with confidence, knowing my relationship with God is secure because it is grounded in Christ. But I am forced to be humble, knowing that I still have a long way to go to be the person I should be. And all this is possible because my righteousness before God is not based on my behavior, but on the work of Another.

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