Justified by Faith
Manage episode 326591577 series 3038820
Heavenly Father, we thank you that because of Jesus Christ, the person, the work of Christ, his life, death, burial, and resurrection, we can approach your throne, the throne room of grace, and we can do it boldly, courageously. Not because we are righteous in and of ourselves, but because we have been given a righteousness that is not our own. It's been reckoned to us, counted to us. We thank you for that. Jesus, we, in your throne room, we humble ourselves. We don't deserve to be in your presence, but we glorify you. We're so thankful for your presence. We pray, Holy Spirit, now come minister to us from your holy scriptures and help us meditate on the beauty of justification by grace through faith.
There's nothing that we can do to reconcile ourselves with you. The wall of hostility that's in between. There's nothing we can do dismantle it, so it's only by grace that we come to you. And it's only by grace that we remain in your presence, so Lord, forgive us of any sin and pride, selfishness, self-absorption, law breaking. We repent of all that and we ask that you purify our hearts. And your word promises that blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. We want to see you with the eyes of our souls. We pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The title of this sermon is Justified By Faith. We're in Romans four, one through 12, continuing our servant series. The question before us is, do you understand grace? Do you understand God's grace? If not, you don't understand what it means to have a relationship with God. And one of the ways that you know, if you understand grace, practically is, do you view your walk with God in terms of I have to, or I get to. This morning when you woke up and you're like, ah, church today. Do you say, ah, I have to go to church again? Did it come with a feeling of drudgery? The sermon's going to be too long again. Or did it come with the sense of delight? The sermon is going to be so long, praise God. Praise God, I get to listen to God's word. I get to worship God. I get to serve God. I get to take up my cross daily and follow Jesus Christ.
Well, the reason why you can say that is because of grace. We didn't deserve to be justified. We did not deserve righteousness. We don't deserve the presence of God. We deserve eternal damnation. Everything else on top is icing on the cake. Praise God. A lot of people view the Christian faith as if I keep the commandments, I do a great job of following God then I am accept, then I am blessed, then I'm honored. Then God will give me the things that I want. If I keep his commandments, then I love God. And then he loves me. But that's not how it works. John 14, 15. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. It all starts with love. It's a heart full of love toward God. That's the energy. That's what propels us forward.
And where do we get that fuel? We get it from the gospel. When you run out of fuel and you will, you do. Do you ever run out of fuel? You ever feel like you're running on empty spiritually? I feel like that all the time. And then you have to go to the cross and you say, "Lord, please fill me up. Fill up the gas tank of my spiritual resources. Fill my heart with love." And when he does, then that gives you the energy to be obedient to the Lord.
The last few weeks, we've established that we're all guilty before a holy God. Our only hope is not just to be forgiven, but it's to be justified. When you're forgiven, God says not guilty. When you're justified, God says you're innocent as if you had never sinned. And there's absolutely no way for us to be justified and for God to remain just other than the cross of Jesus Christ. There's absolutely no way anyone, even in the Old Testament, the godliest of saints, there's no way that they can be righteous before God, not even through keeping the law. Was Moses in a relationship with God because of his obedience to God? Well, that's not where it started. It started with God choosing him by grace. How about the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, were they in a relationship with God because of their moral performance? No. God chose them and poured out his love on them. They were justified by faith and God. And not even Father Abraham was justified by works. He was justified by faith apart from works. Romans 3:28. That's the stream of thought. That's where it begins before we enter our text.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. This is only way to have a relationship with God. Apart from justification, by grace, through faith. This is the doctrine of justification. Sola fide. If you study the Reformation, there were the five solas. One of them is sola fide, only by faith, by faith alone. You say, "Was Abraham a Protestant?" No. You say, "I thought Abraham was a Jew." Those are all man-made categories. Abraham was a pagan and God chose him and said, "I am going to bless you." And Abraham, all he did was believe and God attributes accounts, reckons righteousness to him. That's our text today, Romans four, one through 12.
Would you look at the text with me? "What then shall we say was gained by Abraham our forefather, according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works as wages or not counted as a gift, but as his due. And to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works. Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and who sins are covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, but also for the uncircumcised?
We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised so that righteousness would be counted to them as well. And to make him the father of the circumcised who not merely circumcised, but also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."
This is the reading of God's holy and inerrant, infallible, authoritative word. May he write these eternal truths upon our hearts. What a text before us. The context is that Paul has given us the theology of justification by grace through faith. He does that in the end of chapter two, beginning of chapter three, the whole thing, chapter three. Now he turns to historical example of like, this is the theology, now let me show you a real person that all of us know, and he points to Abraham who was known to the Jews as the father of the faithful. And by the way, Abraham is considered one of the most honored people to have ever lived in all of human history.
The Jews point to him as the father of the faith, the Muslims point to him as the father of their faith, Christians point to him as the father of their faith. Salvation for Abraham, how did it come? That's the question before Paul today. A lot of people think that salvation in the Old Testament occurred by keeping the law. If you kept the law good enough and when you didn't good enough, then maybe an animal sacrifice, but it was all works. Works was the way that you saved yourself. That's what a lot of people think today, that the Old Testament, that was bad cop, Father God. That's the God that punishes people. That's the God that just throws stones from heaven. Sodom and Gomorrah, fire and brimstone. That's the old. And then Jesus comes and he's the good cop. He's the good dad.
God's the same. Abraham was not saved because of his moral performance. He was saved because he believed God and righteousness was counted to him. He looked forward to the promise of the Redeemer, the Messiah will come and he will pay the penalty for sin. The lamb of God takes away all the sin of the world. They, the Old Testament saints, looked forward. We look back. They look forward at the promise of the Redeemer. We trust in the work of Christ. A lot of people think the Old Testament is a separate book. The New Testament is a new book for, partially because old and new, that's why I say Hebrew scriptures and New Testament, but it's one book book. It's one continuum. It's one God. It's one people saved by grace through faith. Paul destroys this whole idea that there's a separation of bifurcation by pointing to Abraham, that Abraham himself was justified by grace.
Romans 4:1 through 2, that's our text. "What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh." But he's saying, we're Jewish. Paul was Jewish and biological descendants of their forefather, Abraham, through DNA. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before. And I love what Paul does here in this tremendous teaching point. He's saying Abraham did a lot of incredible things, but not one thing he can point to that he did and say, I am proud of that thing I did because that's what ingratiated me into God's favor. No, the very moment you point to something in your theology and say, "You know what, I did that", that's the very moment that you can discern that your theology is manmade, because true faith, pure faith humbles us in a way that nothing else does.
And this is a temptation for Christians who have been walking with the Lord for a while. You've gone through spiritual battles. You have spiritual accomplishments on your resume. You've led people to the Lord. You've done great things. You've been faithful for a long time. There is a temptation to say, "Yeah, I did that. I did that." The very moment you do that, you lose grace. Grace is a gift from the Lord, is to humble us completely. So Christians, be careful with pride. If God shows you salvation, it's not because of anything great in you. A lot of people think, "Oh yeah, yeah, God saved me because he knew I was going to be a great pick, a trade pick. I was going to be a great, I was going to do some great. God knew."
First Corinthians literally says that if God chose you, it's because you're a loser. We're just a bunch of losers, we're losers. We're moral failures, just spiritually bankrupt. And that's good for us to stay there. Verse three. "For what does the scripture say?" That's the most important question. The scripture says, "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due." So Abraham believed God, he didn't do anything yet. In Genesis 15, he believed God. And it was counted to him. It was credited to him as righteousness.
Do you ever have a negative balance in your Venmo? It doesn't feel good. Does not feel good, if you use Zelle. Sorry, I don't. You know what does feel good? Getting a Venmo payment that you were not expecting. And the bigger the amount, the better it feels. And that should cha-ching sound is one of the most satisfying things. I keep my sound on my phone just in case, just in case. Well, Abraham had a huge negative balance in his spiritual Venmo. He was a pagan worshiping idols, [inaudible 00:13:28]. God picks him. Guy who has no faith background. God picks him and counts, accounts, credits to him a righteousness that is not his own. Question, when your pay hits the account, doesn't matter when you get paid, biweekly, end of the month, when your pay hits the account, how do you feel? Do you consider this a wage or a gift?
Well, it depends on how hard you worked. If you worked really hard that month, and then you look at your pay and you're like, I was working way too hard. I was working way too hard. I got to chill out. That wage is not enough. If you did nothing that month, if you did not a thing, not a single thing, you pretended to work, work from home. You pretended to work and then the payment hits your account. I wouldn't know this, this is hypothetical. It feels so good. You're like, "I can't believe they're still paying me. I did nothing all week. I did nothing all month. I can't believe it. It's a gift. It's all grace." Well, that's how we should view everything from God, Christians. Everything, everything, everything, every day, every, every good gift comes from the Father above, so when you get paid, you should look at it and you're like, that's a gift. Praise God.
I try to tell the IRS that. Everything's from the Lord so it's not taxable if it's a gift. But I haven't gotten anywhere with that. What did Abraham do when God justified him? He did nothing. It doesn't say, Abraham obeyed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Before he obeyed, he believed. And faith is not works. The objection here is, that's not fair. What do you mean, we can get an alien righteousness imputed to us? Like I'm not just saying not guilty, I'm saying your slate is just completely wiped clean. You're righteous when you believe in Jesus Christ. And anyone who's been in the faith for a long time, there is a temptation after a while that when you see someone who's been living a sinful life and then they repent of their sin, and they're justified by grace through faith, there is something inside that irks you, and you say, that's not fair. I have been slaving away for years being faithful to the Lord and this person just repented and all their sins are forgiven. There's no penance? There's nothing? All of your sins are forgiven? Yeah.
Who is the most evil person alive? Like if we could snip one person and everything changes, who would that be? Does a name come to mind? Well, it depends on what your political persuasions are, but let's say it's Putin. Let's say, or Bill Gates, if you don't like. Well, what if Vladimir Putin today comes into, today's Easter in Russia, in Estonia, the Orthodox tradition. What if he goes to church today? What if he listens to my sermon? He says, "Oh, all of my sins can be forgiven? All I need to do is repent and believe in Jesus Christ? And then he repents and he believes and follows him the rest of his days. Is it fair for God to just forgive him? Is that fair? No, it's not fair. It's grace. It's so much better than the fair. If you want fair, then you have to pay for your own sins for all eternity in hell. That's fair. Well, if you want grace for yourself, then grace has to be available for other people as well. That's how grace works. This is what St. Paul is getting at.
In verse three is a citation from Genesis 15, where God appears to Abraham and tells him that he will bless Abraham greatly. This is Genesis 15:1. "After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Fear not, Abram. I am your shield. Your reward shall be very great. And Abram said, oh Lord God, what will you give me for I continued childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus." What he saying is, God's like, I'm going to bless you. I'm going to give you so much favor. And Abraham's like, God, I already have money, I have livestock. I have cattle. I have money. I have gold. What are you going to give a man who has everything? Well, Abraham didn't have everything. He didn't have a son. He didn't have progeny. And he said, God, I'm childless. I continue childless.
Verse three. "And Abram said, behold, you have given me no offspring. And a member of my household will be my heir. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him. This man shall not be your heir. Your very own son shall be your heir. And he brought him outside and said, look toward heaven and number the stars, if you were able to number them. Then he said to him, so shall your offspring be. He believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness." By the way, this is a stupendous promise. Abraham, you're an octogenarian. He's probably in his eighties at this point, close to that. You don't have a son. I promised that I will make a great nation out of you. And through you, I will bless all the nations as a promise of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And Abraham say, I don't have a son. And God takes them outside. He said, "Look at all the stars. You're going to have more children than the stars in the heavens." How many is that?
And Abraham believes, fully believes. There was absolutely no doubt. He even asked God, "God, how will I know?" Verse seven. "He said to him, I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess. But he said, oh Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" I shall possess it. He believes. How will I know that I shall possess it? He believes. God puts Abraham to sleep and gives him a tremendous theophany, which is a vision of God. And God swears by the highest thing by which he can swear, promises by the highest thing that he can promise by. He promises by himself, he swears by himself and Abraham believed, and it was counted, reckoned to him as righteous. On what grounds? On future faithfulness? Is that what God was saying? You're going to be faithful in the future.
He wasn't faithful in the future. He sinned time and time again. Cowered before people, lied to kings that his wife was his sister. No, he was counted righteous because God chose to count his faith as enough to make him righteous. People have made this text, Romans 14, problematic by pitting it against James two. So our text says that you're justified by grace through faith. And then James two seemingly argues for the opposite, that we're not justified by faith, we're justified by work. That's the superficial reading. So I'm going to read it and then we'll engage and we'll show that there is no contradiction, but they are saying basically the same thing from different perspectives.
Verse 14 of James two. "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking a daily food and one of you says to them go in peace, be warmed and filled without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." I like James. He was a half brother of Jesus Christ and he was a pastor in Jerusalem for a long time. I like James because he gets straight to the point. You think you have saving faith? You're telling me, you love God. You don't even love people who are in need. So no, you don't love God, and no, you don't have saving faith if your heart isn't moved to help people and their practical needs. That's what he's getting at.
Verse 18. "But someone will say you have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe and shutter." What a savage. He says, demons are tremendous theologians. They know everything there is to know about God. Satan is the greatest theologian. He knows the Bible better than any one of us. They believe and they shudder. Well, what's the difference between a demon and a Christian? The difference is love for God. Doesn't matter how much you know about God. If you don't love God, then you're not a child of God.
Verse 20. "Do you want to be shown you foolish person," Savage. "that faith apart from works is useless. Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he offered up his son, Isaac, on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works and faith was completed by his works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him, his right and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." A lot of people point to the text and they say, there it is. That's the smoking gun against the doctrine, justification by grace through faith.
Verse 24. James two. "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." That's a clear repudiation, right? That's a clear contradiction in the holy scriptures. And what makes things even more interesting is both Paul and James use the same historical figure, Abraham. And they use the same Greek word for righteousness in Romans and James. Are these texts contradicting each other? No. They can't be because both books are written by the Holy Spirit. First, we need to establish authorial intent. What did James mean? What does the author mean? Which is an important question whenever you study the Bible. Don't study the Bible just to say, what does it mean to me? Whenever you read the Bible and you say, what does it mean to me, your putting yourself in a position of authority. No, no, no, no. That's not how you read holy scripture. You read holy scripture, study under it. Intrepidation that the God of the universe would choose to speak to us through the text.
What's the authorial intent? Well, thankfully James comes out and tells us the question that he's trying to answer. Verse 14, what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works. Can that faith save him? What he's saying is if your faith does not change your life, then you did not have true saving faith. Because to believe in Jesus Christ is not just intellectual ascent of like, yeah, I'm going to believe some facts about God. In my mind, I know these things about God, therefore I am a Christian. If your faith, if your Christianity only stays in your mind and does not penetrate your heart and stir your heart, you're not a Christian. You're not a follower of God.
Does God care about the facts of our faith? Yes. We take doctrine seriously. We read holy scripture, we study it. What does the word say? In fact, God cares about the facts of our faith. God also cares about the feelings of our faith. God cares that our hearts are stirred with love for him and for people. He wants our hearts full of zeal for him, so that we live in a manner worthy of knowing God. And if you don't, then your facts are woefully ineffective in saving you from God's wrath.
Verse 19. "You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder." They believe they wouldn't submit. You believe tremendous. Do you love God? The full phrase the reformers used is, justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Because what it means to believe in Jesus means to recognize him as a holy God. And you realize that you have sinned against him. And to really believe in him is to repent of your sin. And repentance means that there's a change of life. It's a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that leads to a change of direction in life. And the moment you exercise true saving faith, you change. You become a brand new person, a new creation in Christ. You're filled with the Holy Spirit. Everything changes.
You know, I can tell if someone's a Christian just by looking them in the eye in public sometimes. I was on the TV the other day, and I saw this little old lady, I could tell by looking at her that she was a believer. You can just tell. There's a different person. There's a peace. There's a calm. There's a joy. No longer, you're a Christian. If you're faithful, there's a suffering. A lot of people profess faith. They don't possess the faith because it doesn't change them. Works must flow from our faith, but they're never the grounds for justification. They're confirmation of justification. I remember when my daughter Sophia was born. I was 26 when I had a kid. Wow. That's nuts, and awesome. And I remember I was deathly afraid of infant sudden death syndrome. I was like, you're telling me there's a thing where a baby just dies and you don't know why? They're like, yeah. That's not good.
So at night I would wake up and I'd go up to her crib and I would listen. And to see if she's alive, what did I look for for proof? Did I go to her birth certificate and say, oh yeah, she's alive. Here's proof. No. What did I look for? Is she breathing? Is there heartbeat? Well, that's what James is saying. Works is the heartbeat. Works is the breath. Christian, do you have works? That's the sign of life. That's not the origin of life. The origin of spiritual life is justification by grace through faith. The proof of saving faith is a life of obedience to the Lord. Would Paul have a problem with what James is talking about? No, they're completely on the same page.
A lot of people say, Paul, all he preached was justification by grace through faith. And that leads to licentiousness where people just take cheap grace. And they're like, all right, I can be forgiven anytime I sin, so I'm just going to keep on sinning and just come back for Jesus for forgiveness every once in a while. Paul starts off Romans with his thesis. He's the guy who preached grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, justification by grace through faith. But in Romans 1:5, his thesis is, this is why I'm writing to, and this is why Jesus chosen him. Through whom we have received, through Jesus, we've received grace and apostleship. To bring about what? The obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. He said, we receive grace so that you receive grace. We receive grace to be obedient to God. That's the apostleship. And we extend grace to you. What's the purpose of that grace? So that you live a life of obedience.
This is First Corinthians 15:10. One of my favorite verses where St. Paul is like, I am what I am by the grace of God. I love that part. A lot of people stop there. I am what I am by the grace of God. And then he continues. He like, but the grace of God was not in vain in me. It wasn't empty because that I worked harder than all of them. He's talking about the other apostles. Just kind of a savage thing to say, because those apostles worked really hard. And Paul's like, I worked harder than all of them. Wasn't me, it was the grace of God in me. Starts with grace, ends with grace. I am what I am. Grace [inaudible 00:30:30]. He received the grace to be obedient to the Lord. That's the point. If you receive grace, it's to be obedient to the Lord.
James and Paul both point to Abraham, but at different times in Abraham's life. Which is important, because if you're walking with the Lord on a daily basis, time goes by and you're in a completely different spot spiritually. Like if today you walk with the Lord and tomorrow you walk with the Lord and the next day you walk with the Lord, if you come back next week, you should be in a different spot spiritually. And the more you do that, the more you string these wins together, just faithfully daily following the Lord, a month goes by, six months goes by. You should be a categorically different spiritual being, human being, filled with the spirit in a completely different.
Your character should be different. Your hopes, your dream, your passions, different purposes, asking for God's will in a way that you've never asked for God's will. Not just praying for stuff. A lot of people just pray for stuff. God send me this. God send me that. God help me pay my rent. God help me get a job. God help me get a girlfriend. God help me. God help me. God's like, can we talk? Can we talk, like you and me? Can we talk? What's on your heart? Can you just ask what my hopes are for you, not just give me what your hopes are for you? That's what happened with Abraham. Paul points to Abraham. Genesis 15. This was before Isaac was born. And all Abraham could do was trust God. All he had was God's word. That's all he had. You know, he trusts God. And then James points to Abraham in Genesis 22. This was well after Isaac was already born.
Abraham had raised Isaac, fathered him, cared for the infant that Isaac was, loved this little boy. Taught him how to walk. Probably taught him to ride a camel, I don't know. Taught him to work. Just poured out his love on this kid. And then God comes to him when Isaac is already, theologians tell he was probably a teenager, and God says, take your son, your only son whom you love with your whole heart, the son of the promise, he says, and I want you to sacrifice him. And Abraham does not argue with God. He does not say, God, how could you, how dare you? Who are you to tell me to sacrifice my beloved son?
And Abraham goes on a three-day journey with his son, night and day, just traveling to Mount Moriah. Climbs the mountain, finally gets to the top, ties up his son. Picks up a knife and he's about to slaughter him and God sends an angel of the Lord who stops him. And the angel of the Lord says, Abram, now we know that you fear God. He didn't just believe in God. He feared God so much so that he was willing to obey God to the point of sacrificing his most treasured possession. And then God sends a ram that's caught in the thicket in the thorns and that's who was sacrificed. And that's a prototype of Jesus Christ. Crown of thorns. Jesus Christ, the lamb of God takes away sin in the world.
So how did his faith grow from Genesis 15 and Genesis 22? Just daily walking with the Lord. And that started that journey, that space, that spiritual journey started by just believing God day one. God, I believe. And it was it to him as righteousness. Verse four of Romans four. "Now to him who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due. And to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." Paul, wait, what? What did you just call Abraham, the father of our faith?
Verse five. God who justifies the, what? Let's say that word together. Justifies the ungodly. You called Abraham ungodly? If Abraham is ungodly, what hope is there for any one of us? That's the point. There is no hope. There was no hope for Abraham apart from Jesus Christ. There's no hope for any one of us apart from Jesus. We're ungodly. And the word here in the original is wicked. Someone who was wicked in the sense that they violate the first four commandments. The first table of the law. First commandment, thou shall have no other the gods before me. Abraham had other gods before him. Guilty. That shall not make any idols. He made idols. Who were the Chaldeans? They're all idol worshipers. Thou shall not use my name in vain. He used God's name in vain. The Sabbath, obviously wasn't even a category for him. Broke all four commandments, did not love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, ungodly, wicked. And God counts him as righteous just because he believed God. He believed God's word. And God's like, all right, you're righteous, you're in. You're in. That's all it takes.
And this is what separates Christianity from every single other religion, because this is pure religion. Pure religion means it's from God completely with no manmade categories, fallen lenses of interpretation. You know that when there's a manmade category in a religion or a worldview or a faith, when people start thinking things or teaching things like this, like if you do more good than bad, then you'll go to heaven. That's the premise on which every single other religions based on. If you're more good than bad, then God will forgive you of your other stuff and you go to heaven. This is American religion. Most American religions have you ever, I've been listening to country music lately. It's very soothing.
Country music has a lot to do with Christianity. They talk about Christianity all the time. They talk about church on your porches or drinking beers, watching the sunshine, sunset, sunrise. That's all I need. That's God for me. God will forgive me. God is love. Man, I don't have to do anything for God. I can live any way I want. That's not Christianity. We don't teach that you can earn your salvation. If we did teach that our building campaign would be so much more effective. Raising money for a building would be so easy. You guys are all sinners. You're all sinners. We found a way for you to atone for your sin. For a gift of any amount to our ministry, your sins shall be atoned for. We forgive. We forgive. We'll set up a little confessional booth. You can share all your, oh, that one. Nope. That's $50,000. There's no way. That's some wickedness, you know? No, no, not even Jesus can save you.
This is how the Catholic church before the reformations, this is how they built all their beautiful buildings in the Vatican, et cetera, et cetera. They literally had a saying that because of purgatory, like when your loved one dies and they go to purgatory, because you're not sure where they went. They went to hell. But they created this category called purgatory where like, nah, just in case, just in case. And they had this saying that when a coin in the coffers rings, a soul from purgatory springs. Catchy. Raised them billions in today's USD.
This is like, why do you think there's names everywhere? Be like, make a donation, put your name in stained glass. Make donation big enough, we can give you a hall downstairs named after you. No, atone for your sins. No, you can't atone for your sins. Only Jesus Christ can atone for your sins. Abraham did not work, but believed in him who justifies the ungodly and his faith was all it took for him to be counted as righteous. And that same could be done for us. It was done for Abraham. And then Paul points to David. In verse six, just as David also speaks of the blessing. It's the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart for works. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and who sins are covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
He's talking about David after his egregious sin, commits adultery with another man's wife and then creates a way where Uriah, Bathsheba's husband dies in the field of battle orchestrated by David. And then he's confronted by the prophet, Nathan who calls him out and David knows full well what it feels like to have God's displeasure wrath, disfavor boring down on your soul. That happened for a year. He tried to pretend like it wasn't there, but it was. The wasting away, the inward groaning, his strength sapped like on a hot summer day. And then David writes Psalm 32 about repentance and about the greatest blessing that there is. He speaks of the blessing. What a blessing this is, the one who God counts righteousness apart from works by forgetting sins, forgetting lawless deeds, covering sins.
Scripture said is that the omniscient God of the universe who knows everything and never forgets a thing, the moment we repent, it says he casts our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. How far is that? God chooses to forget our sin, chooses to forget our sin. Just forget it. Just forgotten. He chooses to forget our sin. Doesn't bring it up again. Satan does. Satan's the accuser. God chooses not to bring it up. What does scripture talk about when it talks about blessing? What does it mean to be blessed by God? A lot of English translations, they take the beatitudes and they take the Greek word Makarios, which means blessed, blessed to the pure in heart for they shall see God. Well, a lot of people, they say, oh, Makarios means happy. Happy are those who weep and mourn, for righteous. What? What? Happy? You know the word, happy's not in the Bible? I've been meditating on that this week, because the world promises happiness. And I look at the Bible, I'm like, It's not there.
There are things that make me happy. I have a slice of pizza, I'm happy. Two slices of pizza, really happy. Three slices of pizza, four slices of pizza, no more happiness. I just feel sad. Just, what did I do? Fitness, fitting this whole pizza in my mouth. Scripture promises joy. And the way that you get joy is from the presence of God. And you get more of the presence of God by fighting sin, which includes suffering. So you're telling me that the weight of the path of joy is suffering. Yeah. Yeah. Jesus Christ. For the joy that was set before him, he took up the cross.
No happiness, but blessedness. Blessedness is proximity to the presence of God. One of my favorite benedictions is Numbers 6:24 through 26. This is Aaron, the great high priest, praying a prayer of blessing over God's people. And he says, "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. And the Lord, lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." This is parallelism. Each stanza as saying the same thing in different words. The Lord bless you. It's parallel to, the Lord make his face shine upon you. So it's blessing when God's face of delight is turned toward you. The idea is reinforced with the third line, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you. Why, why? Why? Because blessedness is always in terms of your proximity to the presence of God. That's the greatest thing you can experience.
The greatest blessing is the presence of God. That's what heaven is. Heaven is just the presence of God. There's nothing in the way of the presence of God. Adam and Eve rejoiced when God came in the cool of the day, they being in his presence and the light of his countenance. And then when they sinned, they were banished, exiled from what? The garden? From the presence of God, from blessing so all they had left was curse. To be cursed by God is to have God turn his back on you. His grace and peace removed from you. So to be blessed by God, to be welcomed into his presence. And how can we get this blessing? Only if our sins are removed from us. Blessed are those, verse seven, whose lawless deeds, that's breaking God's law. Lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Covered with what? Covered with what? Covered with the blood of Jesus Christ who bore our sins upon himself. Covered with grace. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.
This is the greatest blessing that there is. This is the greatest blessing that we have to offer you. That the very second you come to the Lord and you trust in his word, that all of your sins will be forgiven if you repent and follow Christ, you have a righteousness that's not your own. All of your sins are forgiven past, present, and future everything. Your eternity is secure. This is the greatest blessing. And for whom is this blessing available? Verse nine, is this blessing then only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised, where we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. So the question is, did God attribute righteousness to Abraham because of Abraham's faithful act of obedience and circumcision? A lot of people get this right and they say Abraham was circumcised. He was not circumcised. There was nothing passive about his circumcision. God comes knowing the guy's 99 years old. He says, you're going to circumcise yourself.
Commendable? Yes. Courageous? Oh yeah. Noteworthy? Definitely. Enough to justify him before God? No, not even that. Abraham believed God's word of promise and it was counted to him as righteous. The circumcision doesn't justify anyone before God. Baptism doesn't justify anyone before God. The sole instrument of justification is faith. And here he says, circumcision is a sign and it's also a seal. And that's what baptism is as well for us. Circumcision was a sign of the old covenant and a baptism is a sign of the new covenant. Both are signs, both are seals. Verse 11. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised so that righteousness would be counted to them as well. He's saying that circumcision was a sign. It points to something else. It points to, supposed to point to inward reality that your heart has been circumcised by God, your heart that's covered with sin and hardness, disillusionment, cynicism, and God circumcises all of that, makes your heart tender, and now you're saved. That's the sign. Baptism is similar. It's an outward reality of something that happens inside. This is why we practice baptism at Mosaic. I get up and I say the same thing right before baptism. I say, baptism does not save you. You're saved by grace through faith. But baptism's an outward sign of an inward reality, it's like a wedding ring. It's like a wedding ring. Does my wedding ring make me married? I have two wedding rings, one wife, two wedding rings because in Russia, they wear it on the right hand. It's a sign that we're married. Praise God. Outward sign, inward reality.
And the same way, it's a seal. And this is fascinating because the New Testament Greek word for seal goes back to the signet ring of a king. When the king writes a letter or decree and he takes wax and he puts at the bottom, that's the signature. And he puts his signet ring in, this is a message from the king. Well, what's our seal, Christians? We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We have the blessing of God's presence every day. When you repent of your sin, God is with you. He fills you by the power of his spirit. This is why it's so important to pursue righteousness, daily righteous, practical righteousness, positional righteousness that's given to us. But practical present righteousness of pursuing God, because the closer you get to God, the more power of the Holy Spirit you get.
We're not save. We're also sealed. Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of righteousness of faith. Verse 12 is the kicker. And to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised, but who walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abram had before he was circumcised. Walked in the footsteps. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, before they sinned against God, they used to take daily walks with the Lord. You ever take a prayer walk? I love prayer walks. Imagine taking a prayer walk and God's right there. That's what they did every morning. They walked with God. The Hebrew word was Halakah, walked with God. And then they were banished because they stopped walking with God. And then scripture says that Enoch, Enoch walked with God and he was no more. Walked with God. God found a righteous person that walked with him.
Noah walked with God. The prophets walked with God. Then Jesus Christ comes, the great Messiah. And what does Jesus Christ say? Hey disciples, what do you say? Follow me, follow me. What does follow me mean? That means on a daily basis, you walk with God. Halakah. you walk with God. Wherever he goes, you just follow and you walk. Let's go, Lord. I'm moving. We're moving forward following the Lord, in the footsteps of the faith.
In conclusion, Jesus Christ paid it all. Paid it all, suffered all. Finished. It's finished. He's won. I'm meditating on the phrase, it's finished. On the cross, Jesus Christ, before he dies, before he breathes his last, he said, it's finished. What's finished? What's finished? And then it says that the curtain that separated people from the Holy of Holies in the temple, thick veil, it was torn from top to bottom as if God, just licked his hand, just tears it up.
What happened? Now we have access into the presence of the Holy of Holies because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I don't know where you are in your faith, but today I challenge you, take a step closer to the Lord, just one step closer. Wherever there is a place of disobedience, one step closer. If you're not even sure that you are a Christian, if you're not sure that you are a child of God, today, all you have to do as, we're going to worship now. We're going to pray. In your heart of hearts, pray out, cry out to God. God, save me. God, have mercy. God, give me grace. God, I believe in you. I trust in you. And then God will give you the greatest blessing that there is. Your sins are covered, forgiven, no more are they counted against you and Christ's righteousness is counted to you.
I'll close with Titus 2:11 through 14. We'll pray and then we'll worship. "For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people." And what does the grace do? Training us. Grace trains us. It's not just fuel, but also trains us. To do what? "To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things, exhort, rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Amen." Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for this blessed, blessed word. And we thank you for the greatest blessing that there is, which is the blessing of your presence. Holy Spirit, we welcome you right now. As we worship you, I pray, let us worship you from our heart of hearts with everything that we have because you're worthy of worship. We thank you Jesus for grace. And I pray that you make us a people that take the grace and that we do not take it in vain, it does transform us. And I pray that it trains us to become powerful men and women of God doing incredible things for your name's sake, for the sake of your kingdom. And we pray all this in the beautiful and powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.