December 31, 2010

To Live is Christ — a sinner saved by mercy

We are on holidays and listening to satellite radio in our vehicle. A talk show host on one program was ranting about the way language is being twisted and abused. He was upset at normal words being given “politically incorrect” status so that no one would be offended and worried that concern over stepping on toes will replace good communication.

That is an issue for me too. I’m also dismayed by the way false teachers and cults twist the words of the Bible to make it say what they want it to say. As if that were not bad enough, we who are Christian sometimes do it too. For instance, yesterday’s devotional reading didn’t sit well with me because of the loose way the devotional guide handled this verse:

For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. (Romans 11:32)
Instead of considering the context (it is about Jews and Gentiles), the author of the devotional applied it to individuals. He said that no matter what our background is, God has a way of putting us all in the same place so that He can show mercy on us and save us. This isn’t a bad thought, but he used the wrong verse to make his point. A better choice comes earlier in the same book of the Bible. 
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:20–26)
I now chuckle because this passage is so rich in truth that it makes many readers go, “huh?” Long words, difficult concepts, and many phrases add up to “why didn’t the Holy Spirit convey this is simpler terms?”

Instead of the New King James, here is the same passage in a modern English version.

God doesn’t accept people simply because they obey the Law. No, indeed! All the Law does is to point out our sin. Now we see how God does make us acceptable to him. The Law and the Prophets tell how we become acceptable, and it isn’t by obeying the Law of Moses. God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life’s blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that God is right when he accepts people who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:20–26)
In the middle, it says that everyone sins, (we are all bound up in disobedience) but God treats us better than we deserve (has mercy on us). Instead of taking a verse that is about Jews and Gentiles, this passage talks about individuals — you and I — rather than groups of people.

God did not accept me because I obey His Law, because I don’t. Instead, the Law shows me that I am a sinner. I fall short of His glory, yet in mercy He sent Christ to pay my penalty. By faith, I accept Him as my substitute and God accepts me because of Jesus’ sacrifice and because of my faith in what He has done. Yet even my faith is a mercy, a gift from God that I do not earn or deserve. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it well.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Salvation is a gift. Faith is also a gift. I cannot boast about anything. I am a sinner, yet I am forgiven and belong to God because God ist merciful.

This is a grand thought for the end of this year, and a good thought to begin the one to come.

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