Friday, November 4, 2016

"Righteousness ... the gift of God through faith in Jesus!"

Day #310

Scripture Reading:  Romans 3-4 ...

If you told someone that they needed to believe in Jesus and they asked you, "Why?" ... how would you answer them?  Why does anybody NEED to believe in Jesus?  People might answer that Jesus gives you hope, that believing in Him helps you through life, that Jesus lets you know that you are never alone, or a hundred other reasons, all very personal and most of them true according to the Scriptures.  People experience many positive things through believing in Jesus and the promise of eternal life is certainly something to be thankful for!

But other religions offer some of these things and some even promise life after death, too, so why does anybody NEED to believe in Jesus?  The answer lies in Romans 3-4, and it has to do with the word, "righteousness."  God reveals Himself as “righteous,” as holy, as good, as perfect, and in order to live in His presence WE must be righteous.  This is where the problem in most people’s thinking occurs:  they foolishly believe that they and/or others are or can be “good enough” to enter into God’s presence.  The religions of the world are all built on the idea that people can, by their own efforts, EARN a place in the “afterlife.”  They all propose their different ways of doing so and urge people to follow the religious rituals and traditions of their particular brand of religion.

Such efforts are fruitless, however, because there is not one person on the face of the earth who has ever lived, is living now or ever will live that is "good enough," "righteous" enough, to stand before God and claim a place in heaven.  Some protest and say things like, "Oh, but God is love and He will certainly forgive people from all the different religions."  No, He won't.  He can't.  His standard is perfection and none of us have met that standard.  As Paul continues his letter to the believers in Rome he wants to be sure that they understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He explains at the beginning of Chapter 3 that God is just in bringing judgment on those who are “unrighteous.”

He declares without reservation or exception, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one!" (3:10-12).  He then goes on to explain that the law was given to show people their sin; "so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God" (3:19).  And he summarizes our problem in verse 20, when he says, ‘Therefore NO ONE will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  In a passage we will look at in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes, “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified (declared righteous in His sight) by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

After reading this far in Romans we desperately need some good news!  And it begins in verse 21 of Chapter 3:  "But NOW a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known."  Verses 25-26 explain that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross satisfied God's justice for all who have faith in Jesus.  And Paul goes on to explain that this removes any possible grounds for boasting because this righteousness is received "by faith, so that it may be by grace" (4:16).  “Grace” is, by definition, “undeserved favor.”  It is a gift that must be received, not earned, as Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus:  "By grace you have been saved through faith (and that not of yourselves - it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no man can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, God reveals both His grace and His justice.  God could not overlook sin.  To do so would have contradicted the very character of God.  Sin deserves judgment; it earns judgment.  But God had a plan to save some through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:24).  How did God save those who believe through the sacrifice of Christ?  Did Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross really accomplish anything?  Was it necessary?

Listen to the amazing truth revealed in these words, written almost two thousand years ago:  “God presented Him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement (payment), through faith in His blood.  ...  He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (3:25-26).  GOD did what we couldn’t do.  Jesus paid our debt and through faith in Him God now “justifies” us, declares us “righteous in His sight!”  Oh, amazing grace!!

Chapter 4 points to Abraham as an illustration that proves the point.  God made His covenant of grace with Abraham and with all who would believe through the work of His Spirit within them.  Over and over again in this chapter Paul points to Genesis 15:6: "Abram believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." "It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith" (4:13).  Remember Romans 1:16-17:  "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"

You and I can never BE "righteous" through our own efforts.  No amount of religious works or good deeds can make up for our sin before God's holiness.  But God sent Jesus to be our perfect "sin-offering," and God "credits" the righteousness of Jesus to the account of every person who trusts in Jesus, who believes that He suffered, died and rose again for THEM ... for YOU, for ME!!!  Do YOU believe in Jesus?  Do you rest in HIS righteousness and not your own?  Are you SURE you are saved from God's wrath by faith in Jesus?  THIS is why people need to believe in Jesus.  There is one way to enter God's presence:  through the righteousness that is yours through faith in Jesus.  Praise God for His marvelous gift!

"Father, I thank You for Your love and grace in sending Your Son to pay the penalty for my sin, and for the righteousness that is now mine by faith.  I confess my sin before you and rest in your grace for forgiveness and for strength to overcome the sin that remains.  Hallelujah!  I am free!! In the name of Jesus.  Amen"

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