Friday, November 04, 2016

We have peace with God

The following is part four of a sermon delivered on October 30, 2016—Reformation Sunday—at First Baptist Church of Mulberry, FL.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Point three is we have peace with God. We have peace with God.

The Coming Judgment
This is the result of justification. We can have peace with God. Look at chapter 3:19. Because of the law, and because of the fact that we have all sinned (verse 23), Paul says that “our mouth is stopped.” I like the way some translations say “every mouth may be silenced”—and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

As Christians we all confess together that Jesus Christ is king, reigning at the right hand of God the father Almighty. And he will come again to judge the living and the dead. This judgment is coming. It may be some time away or it may be very soon. But Jesus will come back and he will judge the world. And at that time, or at your natural death, you will be in one of two categories. Either you are justified and at peace with God, or you are still in your sins.

At the judgment, you will either have a record of enmity with God, or a record of friendship with God. Remember the definition of justification I read a moment ago? In justification, we are pardoned for our sins, and for Christ’s sake, accepted as righteous. That’s both the foundation and the ultimate end of our peace with God. On the one hand, we’re considered by God as friends—even as adopted sons as it says in Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. In that case, in the end, we will receive eternal life with God. On the other hand, if we’re not justified, we’re considered as enemies of God in rebellion against him. And in the judgment, we will earn not life but death. In other words, we will earn an eternity separated from God, under his condemnation. As you can see friendship with God is more peaceful than the alternative.

Benefits of Peace with God
Now, I want to talk a little about one of the practical benefits of having peace with God. Knowing you have peace with God makes obeying him easier. Some of you here may be active on social media. I recently saw a tweet—if you don’t know what that is, it’s a post on a website called—from a pastor in Orlando. I couldn’t remember the exact wording, so I looked it up and found he seems to post the exact same tweet once every few months. That’s good, because we need to hear it. The quote is this “The ironic thing about legalism is that it doesn’t make people work harder, it makes them want to give up.” For our context today, we could say this—if you think it’s possible to be justified by your works, or if you think good works are necessary to earn favor with God, or if you think your peace with God depends on your behavior, then you won’t be motivated to work harder. Over time, you’ll be more and more likely to want to give up.

Freed from the Law
This is what Paul means when he says we have been freed from the law. Paul says this in several places in the New Testament. It’s a theme in the book of Galatians. It’s a theme in Romans chapters 7 and 8. I’ll refer to what Paul says in Romans 7.
“Likewise, brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God…. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Often, when Paul talks about the law, he’s speaking to people who thought they could be justified by keeping the law. Paul was a Pharisee by training. Do you remember Jesus parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18? The Pharisee prayed loudly with hands lifted in the corner, saying “O God thank you that I am not like other men.” At least he was thanking God. But he was convinced that his superior law-keeping made him better than other people. Jesus said that they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

When Paul was speaking about Justification and the law, this is the error he was trying to correct. He was correcting a misinterpretation of the Old Testament. In the Gospels, Jesus summarizes the law by saying that essentially, it all boils down to “love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” So in that sense, we are not freed in order to ignore the good works commanded or represented by the law. But in terms of our justification, in terms of our standing before God, the specifics required by the law simply show us our inability to follow them. In that sense, the more we try to keep the law, the more the law shows us our sin. The more we try to be holy, the more we realize how much we aren’t.

Let me make a comment about those of you who examine your life, and you know you’re in Christ—meaning you believe and lean on him alone for salvation, and you are repenting of your sins. You know you’re in Christ, but it seems like with every week, you feel like you’re further and further behind in your pursuit of holiness. Some of that is normal. If you’re regularly repenting of sin, and you’re seeking to grow in the Lord, you will naturally uncover little pockets in your heart and your life where you need to repent, but previously you had no idea those things were an issue. That can feel frustrating, but here’s the truth. In Christ, you have peace with God. The fact that you have the spiritual insight to see new things to repent of, and then you repent of them—that’s an evidence of Grace from God. You have peace with God.

Paul says we are free from the law, in this sense. We are free from its condemnation. In Christ, we are justified and made right with God simply by trusting him. Simply by believing his promise. When you trust in Christ, your standing before God is dependent on Christ’s standing before the Father—which is perfect fellowship. And in addition to that, Jesus sends you the Holy Spirit to live in and with you. And as Paul says in Romans 7, you died to the law with Jesus, and with Jesus you are raised and freed to serve God, “in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” What that means is your obedience to God is now motivated not by obligation but by gratitude. Your obedience is worked out with the active help of the Holy Spirit, not merely by sheer discipline, gumption, and determination.

The New Obedience
So we have peace with God, and that means we are no longer under the threat and the curse of the law, and were living in friendship with God. And the new obedience we’re talking about works itself out every day of our lives. Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” It says, “Against such things there is no law.” These fruits are things you cultivate, to be sure, but they are also things that are worked out in you by the Holy Spirit. In Mark 4, Jesus told the parable of the seed growing. He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed in the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” The farmer plants the seed and cultivates the plant, but the farmer does not produce the fruit. Likewise for us, we discipline ourselves to grow in godliness, but the Holy Spirit works out the fruit in our hearts.

Students: when you’re at school, remember who you are in Christ. So that when you pursue integrity in your school work or in your relationships with your peers, you do it in freedom. You’re not simply being constrained by the requirements of a syllabus or by school rules; with the help of the Holy Spirit, you are pursuing faithfulness and self-control, kindness, goodness and peace. Again, not outward conformity, but internal fruit of the Holy Spirit. When some of you go to work on Monday, some of you have difficult managers or clients who are demanding and micromanaging. Again, remember that if you are in Christ, you are free to do your work for his glory, rather than simply for your employer. You’re motivated not by external authority, but by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Knowing you have peace with God makes obeying him easier. It also makes it easier to love your neighbor.

Here’s my point. In Christ, you have peace with the highest authority in the universe. You have peace with the giver of the law with the capital L. When you have peace with God, it further motivates you to obey God. When you are motivated to obey God, you will also naturally begin to consider ways to love your neighbor as yourself.

You have peace with God

  1. Part One - Justification: We have peace with God
  2. Part Two - We are justified
  3. Part Three - Justified by faith
  4. Part Four - We have peace with God
  5. Part Five - Through Jesus Christ

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