Saturday, November 5, 2016

"NEW LIFE in Christ!"

Day #311

Scripture Reading:  Romans 5 - 6 ...

Most people know the truth ... deep down in their hearts.  But we read in Chapter 1, verse 18, that they “suppress the truth in their wickedness.”   They look at life in this world and they know there is a problem, but try as they might to figure it all out, most never discover what is causing the never-ending dysfunction in their lives.  Yet, here in these two chapters is the key to a new life!!  Knowing the God who created you is the beginning, but you soon discover that because of sin you are separated from God and His holiness, and there is nothing you can do to “bridge the gap.”  There is no amount of good works or religious rituals that will make us “righteous” in God’s sight and allow sinners like you and me access to the throne-room of the one true God.  This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is such GOOD NEWS!

Having explained that in the Gospel a "righteousness from God" (3:21) has been made known, a righteousness that is received by faith, Paul went on in Chapter 4 to emphasize that God "credits" righteousness to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.   This righteousness is not earned, but “credited.”  It is as though someone places a million dollars in your bank account (only much better!!).  God’s promise to save those who believe through a “righteousness” that is received by faith and “credited” to them by God’s grace goes all the way back to God’s covenant with Abraham.

We heard Paul talk about this in Chapter 4 as Paul went into great detail about Abraham being the “father” of those who have faith.  The oneness of the message of the Bible is truly amazing!  There is ONE way to be reconciled to God and that is by faith in the Savior.  In the Old Testament those who believed confessed their sin and looked forward to the Savior and God’s forgiveness.  In the New Testament we who believe confess our sin and put our hope in the Savior God provided, Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 15:6, we read, “Abram (God later changed his name to “Abraham”) believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”   Then in Romans 4, Paul quotes that verse (Romans 4:3), and explains, “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

Paul then goes on to lay out the heart of the Gospel in a way that brings rejoicing to the heart of everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord!!  Works can never produce a righteousness that can stand before God.  Paul’s explanation must be read and believed.

He begins Chapter 5 with some of the most amazing words ever penned by human hands: “Therefore, since we have been justified (declared righteous in God’s sight) through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (5:1-2).  Through faith in Jesus Christ, a faith produced by the Spirit of God through regeneration, we are RECONCILED to God and given access to the One whom we have sinned and rebelled against!!  Forgiveness and eternal life are ours, received as a gift of God’s grace!

We who believe can KNOW that we are now “right with God” because Jesus took our place!  Jesus died for the ungodly, for the unrighteous, for those who were powerless to change themselves.  "God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" (5:8).  God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ (II Corinthians 5:19).  WE didn't seek God; HE sought us!  The idea that anyone who is NOT born again of the Spirit would or could, of their own free will, turn from sin to believe in Jesus fails to recognize the depths from which God saves us.  We were not only “lost,” we were DEAD in sin, unable and unwilling to hear the Gospel and believe.

Salvation is a gift!  That simple statement is rejected by so many; not only those in other religions, but by many in the church.  "Justification by faith" is the heart-cry of God's grace that calls to those who are separated from Him and says, "Come to Me!  I have made a way!!" Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through ME!” (John 14:6).  “Since we (believers) have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  ...  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation!” (Romans 5:9,11).

And if that is not enough, there's more!  God reconciles us to Himself through faith in Jesus, and then unites us to Christ as His Spirit works in us to empower us to turn from sin and to live for Christ.  In Chapter 6, Paul explains that we who have “died to sin” (vs. 2) through the work of the Holy Spirit giving us a new nature, bringing life to our dead spirits, are now alive to God in Christ Jesus" (6:11).  We have been united to Christ and are now enabled by His Spirit to think like Jesus and to act like Jesus.  That has implications for the way we live in this world every day, now no longer living for SELF, but for the God who saved us!

In the remainder of Chapter 6, Paul encourages believers to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body.  ... Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (6:11-12, 14).  Rather than being slaves to sin, we are now free to become "slaves to righteousness" (6:18).  Indeed, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (6:23).

While many in the world consider "freedom" to be following the desires of the sinful nature, Jesus offers true freedom to those who are united to Him by faith in His sacrifice on the cross.  We now approach God without fear and rejoice in His love and grace, testifying, boasting, resting in His love ... love revealed on a lonely cross on a hill outside Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago.  Have you received God's  love?  Have you placed your faith in Jesus?  Have you been reconciled to God?  The gift of God is new life in Christ!

"Father in heaven, through faith in Your Son, Jesus, I celebrate Your gift of life!  Thank You for loving me before I was able to love You.  As You have given me life, I now desire to live for You.  Fill me with Your Spirit and help me to live as a slave to righteousness, for Your glory and my good.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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