Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Just and the Justifier

Over a half-century ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church at the time, asked his congregation, "What would things look like if Satan actually took over a city?" The first slides in our imaginative Power Point presentation would probably depict mayhem on a massive scale: Widespread violence, deviant s3xua1ities, p0rn0graphy in every vending machine, churches closed down and worshipers being dragged off to City Hall. As Barnhouse gave his sermon to a CBS radio audience, he had a different picture of what it would look like if Satan took control of a town in America. He said that all of the bars and pool halls would be closed, pornography banished, pristine streets and sidewalks would be occupied by tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The kids would politely answer “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” and the churches would all be full on Sunday … where Christ is not preached.” (ref: Christless Christianity).

Since Satan desires to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ from being made known, it is not uncommon for him to do so often by substituting other things for Christ. Like an illusory veil of moralism that hides our need for the Savior. He does both inside and outside the church.

Andree Seu recently quipped at the WorldMag blog:
"There is a woman on my street who is loving, gentle, thoughtful, caring, joyful, and redolent of a deep inner peace. She has that beauty that comes from the inside and radiates outward. I see her on her porch early in the morning having coffee and earnest conversation with her husband. They walk down the street at a leisurely pace, hand-in-hand, and she points out flowers to him, and he listens.
"And she is not a Christian...
"I am not like my neighbor. I am not so loving, so kind, so gentle, so peaceful, and do not have a close relationship with my daughter. My neighbor is all the things I want to be.
"And I am a Christian."
Such observations remind me that I am being renewed from what I once was to what God is making me. It does no good to compare our own progress with others, because that will either lead us to pride (Lord, thank you that by your grace I am not a sinner like “that” man or woman over there”) or to despair (Lord, I will never be as holy and effective for the kingdom as Paul was. Or as kind and gentle and forgiving as so and so).

In our walk with God, we must not fix our gaze on ourselves. Rather, we acknowledge with the hymnist that nothing in our hands we bring, simply to Christ’s cross we cling.

We rely upon the Holy Spirit to convict us not only our lack of outward obedience, but also of the heart’s sin stained motives even for the apparent "good" that we do. It is easy, afterall, to work one’s self up even by a host of potential worldly motivations in order to accomplish deeds that appear outwardly good. Of course, this is exactly the type of moralism that Satan uses keep people from understanding their true need for and utter reliance upon Jesus Christ.

Your neighbor and mine, though neither may be Christian, were created in the image of God and have an understanding of the law. Paul explains how this works in Romans 2:14-16:
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
Fast forward to Romans 3, and I think Paul explains why things often appear as they do and he provides the perfect evangelistic response in case someone voices this as an objection to the Christian faith:
21 "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.** (emphasis mine)


Anonymous said...

Found this on the Christian Carnival. Thanks for sharing it! Really good and interesting thoughts about Christ, the Just and Justifier.

Jenny said...

Interesting theory about Satan, and it make sense. I recently read Job. I guess Satan could've had any number of "goal" for that situation, but it seems like the only one that mattered was getting Job to curse God. So I can see why people giving into temptations and whatnot would be secondary to them not hearing the Gospel message.