27 May 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 7, Salvation (part 4)

What is salvation? What does it mean? I tried to come up with a suitable definition a while back, and this was what I came up with:
Salvation is the restoration of a right relationship between God and a man.
Not God and man—but God and A man. An individual. Salvation is not universal. The relationship between God and man—all of mankind—has not been restored. All of mankind, in their natural state, is set against God. When God created Adam, he had a perfect relationship with God. There was nothing to separate them. In fact, both Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. But then something—someone—led them away from God, and from that point on, even until now, man is separated from God by sin and death. This took God completely by surprise. “Oh no! What ha-happened!! Oh, how am I ever going to fix this?” Right? Isn't that how the liberals and emergents would have you believe? Of course, these are fools. Sorry, there's no other way to say it.

But this did NOT take God by surprise, and that’s why Christ is referred to as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was slain for those whose names had been written in the Book of Life. He was slain so His blood could cover the sins of those who would believe before He physically came to earth. Kinda like postdating a check. They had the promise of redemption, and when Christ came He made good on it. That is why Jesus told the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Abraham saw this day, he saw the day when Christ would come to earth, and he rejoiced because he knew God the Son would enter into the Most Holy Place in the heavens with His blood, to atone for the sins of those who not only had already died believing the promises of God, and for those yet to come.

To forgive the sins of those whose names were written in the Book of Life of the Lamb. This brought all those things we talked about last time. But none of those would be possible without the forgiveness of sins. We would still be dead in our sins; we would still be in the kingdom of darkness, and would still be enslaved to sin. We would still be God’s enemy. And it’s only through Christ that we have this forgiveness of sins. There is no way, no how, that we could ever pay the debt that we owe. And that’s why we must never miss and must never, ever compromise on what the cross was all about. It was not so that we could drive a fancy car and always have good health!!! It was because we were enemies of God, and because we owed a debt we could not pay. And the cross was the only way to pay off that debt, and restore our relationship with God.

See, here’s the thing. Even though we are born dead to God, even though we hate Him and reject Him at every turn, we still have the ability to do “good” things. “Wow, that Mr. Jingleheimer. He does so many good things. There’s got to be a special place in Heaven for him.” If he has accepted Christ as his Savior—there is. But if Mr. Jingleheimer has never asked the Lord to forgive his sins, has never called upon the name of Christ, and is depending on his own vile, filthy works of flesh to make him righteous before God—then his place is not going to be in Heaven. That’s not my idea. That’s the clear word of Scripture. Because without forgiveness of sins, there is no way for a person to enter into the Kingdom of God. Period, paragraph. Psalm 130:3-8If You, YHVH, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for YHVH, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning…O Israel, hope in YHVH; for with YHVH there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all iniquities.

Remember in the gospels, those four men brought their friend to Christ—their friend to who was bedridden with the palsy—they couldn’t get in the house, so they went up to the roof, tore off the shingles, and let down his bed through the hole. When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “You need healing! Be healed!” Right? No? Well, what did He say? “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Kind of an odd thing to say. In fact, when the Pharisees heard this they hollered, “Only God forgives sins! This man blasphemes!” Which is kinda strange if Jesus never claimed to be God. But that’s why Christ came—to forgive sins. Even that was only a part of His main goal. His main mission was not to heal, or to give sight to the blind or to heal lepers—and it sure as heck was not to heal our bank account! Those things were part of His main goal which was what? To glorify the Father. Christ could have gone around giving sight and healing lepers until the end of the age. But we would still be plagued by the curse of sin.

See, the problem we humans have is not sickness, or poverty, or disease, or anything like that. Those are only symptoms. Just like sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever are only symptoms of a cold. We can chug Nyquil™ on the 8’s for a month. But until we get rid of our cold, we’re still going to have sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever. And as long as there is still sin in this world, there will always be sickness and poverty and disease and death. I don't normally quote from paraphrases, and when I do I'm very careful about it. But I do like how the New Living Translation renders Romans 8:20-24Everything on earth was subjected to [the] curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as [if] in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us…the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom.

It is sin that separates us from God. It is sin that causes sickness and poverty and disease and death. And only when all things are made new will those things be done away with. Even we believers in Christ will always deal with these things. But, with forgiveness of sins—and only by the forgiveness of our sins—God can allow us into His kingdom, and we can be truly healed—not in this world, but in the age to come. Habakkuk 1:13You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Psalm 5:4-5For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. Forgiveness. Without it, we cannot be brought to life, we cannot be reconciled to God, and we cannot be redeemed from the kingdom of sin.

Next, Justification. This is another biggie. Because justification goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. Because we are forgiven of our sins, we are justified in the eyes of God. Romans 4-5 are two of the clearest chapters on justification. First, let me throw out a definition for you. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines justification like this:
It is the judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ, and…treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., [treats them] as being conformed to all its demands. In addition to the pardon of sin, justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified…The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled in the strictest sense; and so the person justified is declared to be entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law.
Romans 5:1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. If I rob a liquor store—put a gun to the clerk’s head, they hand over a bag of money, I run out of the store—and right into a police officer. He arrests me, puts me in jail, I go to trial. Here’s the thing. I am guilty. I committed a crime. No doubt about it. But if I can find a good lawyer, or if some of that evidence gets thrown out on a technicality, I can walk out of that court room a free man. The world knows I committed that crime. I know I committed that crime. I did it. But I don’t get punished for it. In fact, nobody gets punished for it. The requirements of justice are not met.

When we sin, we break God’s law. 1st John 3:4 (KJV)sin is the transgression of the law. And when we sin, we are in the full sight of God. There’s nothing He does not see. Hebrews 4:13 (NASB)And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. We sin, He sees it—there must be punishment for those sins. God’s justice demands it. His court is not like man’s court. There is no getting off without some payment being made to the one who was wronged—and who is it that was wronged? Psalm 51:4against You, and You alone have I sinned. Who decides what the payment will be? Will He have mercy on a person if they stand before Him and they still owe their debt? And when they do stand before God, there will be no lawyer anywhere who can argue against God, and in fact, their fate is already sealed. You see, unlike our courts, there are no technicalities. There are no fancy maneuvers to get a person out of their sentence. None of the evidence will be suppressed. There are no appeals. The verdict will be read, the sentence will be passed. None of His verdicts are overturned. They will be cast, without mercy, without pity, without a second thought, into Hell. And it is fair. Romans 3:19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Anyone who stands before the Great White Throne will be judged by the Law.

In Revelation 20, it says that books were opened and another book, which is the Book of Life. I believe that “the books”—and this ain't a hill I'm gonna die one--I believe one of these books will be their works, one will be their sins, and the other will be the Book of the Law. And then the Book of Life will be laid out. And anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life… But, let me tell you why the gospel is gospel. We have committed all these sins. There is no doubt about it. We did it, God saw it, they must be punished. But as Christ hung on that cross, God was justifying us, forgiving us of our sins, and Christ on that cross took the punishment we deserved. We deserved the wrath of God—but God provided a lamb for His burnt offering. He gave His Son to shed His blood on the mercy seat of the cross. He shed His blood so that death would pass over us. 1st Corinthians 5:7Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

And because He was punished, we aren’t. We are declared “Not guilty” and we are released from judgment. We are justified—how? Therefore we declare that a man is justified by… Romans 3:28, Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:24. All these are very clear, that a man is justified by faith. That when we believe, when we repent from sin and we trust in Christ alone as the one who justifies us, God declares us justified. He declares that we have kept all of the righteous requirements of the Law. “What do you mean? You said that we are all sinners, and now you're saying God declares that we have kept the righteous requirements of the Law? How does He do that?” There’s one last term we need to look at. It’s called “Imputation.”

2nd Corinthians 5:19-21Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Romans 4:5-8But to him who…believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin. Romans 4:22; James 2:23 both talk about Abraham’s faith being imputed to him as righteousness.

And you know, I had been thinking about that concept. That Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness—he was declared righteous simply because he believed a promise. But here’s why I think this is so. We need to go all the way back to the beginning. Who committed the first sin? Adam. What caused him to commit that sin? He believed a lie. What was that first lie? “Hath God indeed said?” And believing this lie caused Adam and Eve to do what? They doubted God’s word—even though Adam had seen the work of God. But Abraham believed without seeing. What did Jesus tell Thomas after He told him to put his fingers through the nail prints, and Thomas cried out “My Lord and my God,” what did Jesus tell him? “You believe because you have seen, blessed is he who…believes without seeing.”

So many people say, “Oh, if I could only see Jesus, I know my faith would be so much stronger!” No it wouldn’t! If someone has to see Christ in order to believe Him, they don’t have much faith to begin with! Because it’s almost as if they are asking, “Hath God indeed said?” But when we believe, and we continue believing, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. To put something into someone’s account. Adam’s sin was imputed to us. Our sins are imputed to Christ. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,
It is not meant that Adam's sin was personally the sin of his descendants, but that it was set to their account, so that they share its guilt and penalty. It is not meant that Christ shares personally in the sins of men, but that the guilt of his people's sin was set to his account, so that He bore its penalty. It is not meant that Christ's people are made personally holy or inwardly righteous by the imputation of His righteousness to them, but that His righteousness is set to their account, so that they are entitled to all the rewards of that perfect righteousness.
It’s kinda like this: If I'm in Argentina, and I need money, I call my friend. I say, “Richard, can you wire me some money?” He goes to Western Union, says “I want to wire $1000 to a Mr. Wood in Argentina.” Does the person on Richard’s end of the wire roll up those bills and physically stick the money through the telegraph wires? What they do is they tell the person on the other end, “There is a Mr. Brittain here, and he has given me $1000 that I need you to impute a Mr. Wood in Argentina.” They take that $1000 that Richard gives them, and they credit—they impute—that money to me.

Adam’s sin is imputed to us; it is credited to us, when we are born. So we start off with a debt—even before we take our first breath. Let’s say.....about $80 billion. Conservative estimate. Probably higher than that. Every time we sin—murder by hatred, adultery by lust, stealing, coveting, etc. We continue to pile up debt every single day of our life. So before we even realize it, our debt has grown from $80 billion to around, let’s say, ballpark, $100 trillion. Now, in order to get into Heaven, we need to have one thing—and only one thing. We need to have the righteousness of God. That’s all you need! All you need to get into Heaven is the righteousness of God!

Ooooohhh.....problem.

How many of us have the righteousness of God? Yeah, pretty much. Well, now, wait. There is one in Heaven Who does have it. Who is that? So we’re going to put a 1 underneath Christ’s side of the ledger, to show that He is the only one who is worthy of entering into the presence of the Father. Ain't lookin’ too promising for us. But here, my friends, is imputation. Watch this transaction. When He saves us, when He calls us, and we respond, we repent—turn our back on—sin, and we trust in Christ as Abraham believed the promises of God and it was counted as righteousness—He takes this $100 trillion debt and places it into Christ’s account. And He takes the righteousness of God, and places it into our account. Christ redeems us from the curse of sin by becoming a curse for us, He saves us from our sins by becoming sin for us, and we receive the righteousness of God that was in Christ as God was reconciling us to Himself through the cross.

God is so unfair!

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