Life Sentence

You Get To Choose Your Sentence — Eternal Death or Eternal Life

UNSHAKEABLE: If you are a follower of Christ, you already know that Christ’s substitutionary death commuted your own eternal death sentence and replaced it with an eternal life sentence. So what’s the big deal; how should this affect your life today? Well, among other things, when sin (both your sin nature and your individual acts of sin) tries to remind you that you are still under the death penalty of Adam’s disobedience (which, by the way, is so paradoxical: the world says there is no guilt while at the same time, the god of this world reminds you that you’re as guilty as sin), you can remind sin that Someone else paid the death penalty for you. You were a “Dead man [or woman] walking” but you have been declared “not guilty!” You have walked out of sin-prison a free man or woman by the gracious act of Another.

Life Sentence

Unshakeable Living // Romans 5:17

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

The problem is simple — yours and mine: We’re dead men walking. We are all under a death sentence because of Adam’s sin:

You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in— first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. (Rom 5:12, MSG)

Since Adam was the first human being created and, therefore the head of the human race, through this one man’s disobedience sin entered the genetic code of all humanity. That might seem unfair, but that’s the way it works. Every human being, without exception, even the best among us — the sincere, good-hearted, law-abiding citizen — is horribly infected with sin-tainted DNA:

Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. (Romans 5:14, MSG)

And even though there was no real accounting for sin before the Law of Moses was revealed (“Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break” Rom 5:13), the consequence of sin still reigned: Death for all—both literal, physical death and spiritual, eternal separation from God. What God created human beings to experience and enjoy — an intimate relationship and forever life in his presence — was erased the moment Adam chose to disobey God’s commands.

Yet as horrible as this situation is, the good news is that through another man’s obedience, Jesus Christ, our death sentence was commuted to a “life” sentence — a restoration of intimacy with God and forever life in his presence. You see, Jesus is the last Adam (“The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam that is, Christ — is a life-giving Spirit” 1 Cor 15:45), and as the head of a spiritual race, our rebirth through him permanently alters our genetic code with life — eternal life that cannot be taken from us. Just as the first man’s singular act of disobedience (eating from a forbidden tree) had the universal effect of trumping life with death, so the last man’s singular act of obedience (dying on a tree) trumped death with life eternal for all who believe:

If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Rom 5:17, MSG)

Of course, if you are already a follower of Christ, you know all this. So why does Paul keep bringing this up here in Romans? What’s the big deal; how should this affect your life today?

Well, for one thing, it ought to affect your attitude toward people who are far from God. They are genetically infected with Adam’s sin-tainted DNA and therefore sentenced to death. And there is just one way out: only rebirth into eternal life through Jesus Christ can rewire their Adamic genetic code. Don’t ever forget that! In an age that pressures us into believing that there are many ways to God, that if you are just good enough and sincere enough, then in the end, you’ll be just fine, remember the truth: In Adam, all die! But in Jesus, all live!

Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right:

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19, MSG)

And for another thing, when sin (both your sin nature and your individual acts of sin) tries to remind you that you are still under the death penalty for Adam’s disobedience (which, by the way, is so paradoxical: the world says there is no guilt while at the same time, the god of this world reminds you that you’re as guilty as sin), you can remind sin that Someone else paid the death penalty for you. Your death sentence has been commuted to eternal life!

Should that make a difference in your life today? You bet! You were a “Dead man [or woman] walking” but you have been declared “not guilty!” You have walked out of sin-prison a free man or woman by the gracious act of Another.

Should that make a difference in your life today? You tell me!

Get Rooted: Write out a simple prayer of profound gratitude to God for the commutation of your death sentence to a life sentence of eternal joy in the presence of the One who made it possible by his substitutionary death on the cross.

The Right To Be Happy

Let’s Redefine Happiness Biblically

UNSHAKEABLE: In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness — which, I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, some 300 years later. Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he did not say we had the right to be happy. Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us that line for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better if we disabused ourselves of that notion. We do not have the right to be happy! We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute: The right to be holy. Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that.

We don't have the right to be happy. - Ray Noah

Unshakeable Living // Romans 5:3-4

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness — which, I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, some 300 years later.

Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he did not say we had the right to be happy. Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us that line for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better if we disabused ourselves of that notion.

We do not have the right to be happy! We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute: The right to be holy. Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that. That is what Paul is spending a great deal of time describing here in Romans 5. In fact, Paul begins this chapter with these great words:

Therefore, since we have been justified 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. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)

We have been justified by our faith. That justification came by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, by which his righteousness was imputed to us. Since we are righteous through Christ by his death and through our faith, we are declared holy in the sight of a holy God, and, therefore secure for all eternity. By this, we rightly glory in this unshakable hope—which we might say is what true happiness is all about.

But there is more. Not only do we rejoice in this hope of the future glory of salvation soon to be realized, but we also rejoice in the glory of our present sufferings. Why? Because, as Paul says, those tribulations loosen this present world’s grip on our loyalties and produce in us the stuff of heaven: perseverance in our faith, Christ-like character, and the unshakeable hope of eternity — plus, I might add, an insatiable longing to see Jesus face to face.

So, my contention is that it is time we redefine happiness. True happiness is the imputed righteousness of Christ. True happiness is the hope of the glory of God. True happiness is the very tribulations that would make the normal earthling unhappy but reminds the heaven-bound believer of that very thing: that they are bound for heaven.

That’s the happiness I want to pursue.

Get Rooted: Write in your own words a concise biblical definition of happiness. Once you have done that, memorize it. I have a feeling you will have plenty of opportunities to share it with those who have a defective definition of happiness. At the very least, you will need to remind yourself of your definition a few times this week— or maybe a lot.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

Everything!

UNSHAKEABLE: These first eleven verses of Romans 5 are so profound that no commentary I or anyone else can offer will really do them justice. So, I want to recommend that you simply read and re-read them until the Spirit who inspired these verses illuminates them to you in a fresh way and brings you into a true and deeper understanding of what it took to justify you, and what it means for you to stand in peace and grace in God’s presence. I have a sense that when you really begin to understand this you will probably fall on your knees in laughter, or dumbfounded silence, or tears — because all those responses are appropriate when you begin to understand even in the slightest the amazing grace and the deep, deep love of God!

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding - Ray Noah

Unshakeable Living // Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, since we have been justified 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. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions (I know, your favorite band) first popularized the song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” back in the late 1970s. If you haven’t heard it — it’s actually a pretty catchy song — you might want to download it to your iTunes.

Anyway, that’s a digression from what I want to talk about. But I do think it makes a pretty good title for Romans 5:1-11. The essence of Paul’s argument here is that we have peace with God (not just inner calm and serenity, but literally, the mutual hostility between God and man because of man’s sin has been ended) and access (free, unlimited, and irrevocable) to his grace (unmerited favor) because, through his love, we have been justified (a once-and-for-all legal settlement) by Christ’s sacrificial death.

I don’t know about you, but I find that funny. Not just kind of funny, but gut-splittingly funny! “Funny” not in the sense of ridiculous — although getting credited with righteousness before God through Christ’s account is a pretty absurd equation, wouldn’t you say? Not just “funny” in the sense of foolish — although the idea of being right with God apart from good works and human effort is the height of foolishness to those who are not saved. And not just “funny” in the sense of odd — although how odd is it that God would go to such great links to prove his love by loving that which was completely unlovable? (Romans 5:6-8)

No, I am talking “funny” in the sense that what God has done for you and me is so undeserved, and we are such unlikely candidates for his grace that the only response we can offer in return is to fall on our knees, undone by love, overflowing with gratitude, and giddy with joy!

These first eleven verses are so amazingly profound that no commentary I or anyone else can offer will really do them justice. So, I want to recommend that you simply read and re-read them until the Spirit who inspired these verses illuminates them to you in a fresh way and brings you into a true and deeper understanding of what it took to justify you, and what it means for you to stand in peace and grace in God’s presence.

I have a sense that when you really begin to understand this — although I’m not sure we will ever really and fully “get” what has been done for us — you will probably fall on your knees in laughter, or dumbfounded silence, or tears — because all those responses are appropriate when you begin to understand even in the slightest the amazing grace and the deep, deep love of God!

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding? Everything!

Get Rooted: Two Options for Scripture Memory: Option A — Memorize Romans 5:1-4, “Therefore, since we have been justified 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. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Option B — Memorize Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Now, read Romans 5:1-11 once a day for the next seven days (you might want to use a different version on different days). Ask God to give you a fresh understanding of the richness of these verses.

God’s BFF

A Description Worth Aspiring To

UNSHAKEABLE: Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept on hoping, believing in God’s promises that one day he would be the father of many nations, even when his only son, through whom his lineage would continue, was about to die. In other words, Abraham didn’t let his circumstances dominate his life; he allowed God’s promises to dictate his life. Abraham believed that if Isaac was going to die on the altar, God would raise him to life. That was his hope. By faith, belief, and hope in the One who resurrects, Abraham became God’s friend. And by the same, you can, too.

God’s BFF

Unshakeable Living // Romans 4:17

God’s promise of eternal life is received through the same kind of faith demonstrated by Abraham, who believed in the God who resurrects the dead and creates new things out of nothing.

I don’t know if you have done much thinking about Abraham, but what a true hero of the faith! Here’s a guy who was saved by faith even before there was a Bible or the Law or Christ’s death and resurrection or a community of faith. God appeared to Abraham one day — we are not even sure if he’d had any previous interaction with God or if this was simply an out-of-the-blue encounter — and Abraham said, “Okay, God — I’m on board. What’s next?”

Abraham then went on a life-long journey with God in which he became known as a friend of God — a pretty enviable designation, I would say — the genetic father of God’s people, the Jews, and the spiritual father of all who believe. (James 2:23, Romans 4:16-17)

Obviously, Abraham was a very special man, and the Bible holds him up as an example to emulate for believers like you and me. We all ought to be Abraham-like in the spiritual dimension of our lives.

But is that even possible? Is there even the smallest chance that I can develop that same Abraham-like relationship with God? Can I attain a walk with God that will be an Abraham-like example to others? And if it’s possible, then how?

Well, it is possible! Paul goes on to say, “God will accept us in the same way he accepted Abraham — when we believe the promises of God who brought back Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He died for our sins and rose again to make us right with God, filling us with God’s goodness..” (Romans 4:24, TLB)

How can we attain friendship with God? I can sum up the “how” in two words: Faith and hope—technically, that’s three words, but work with me!

First, you’ve got to make resurrection the foundation of your faith.

That’s what Abraham did! Romans 4:17 says, “Abraham believed in the God who brings back the dead to life.” Abraham was a little ahead of his time — like a few thousand years — but he believed in the God of the resurrection. What Paul is referring to here is the story of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the altar (you can read the story in Genesis 22) and Abraham’s willingness to actually go through with it. Why would Abraham be willing to do such a thing? Because he had faith in the God of the resurrection — the God who could, and would, raise Isaac back to life again.

The truth is, to have that kind of Abraham-like faith, we have to have that same Abraham-like trust in the God of the resurrection. If you don’t have a foundational and resolute belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and his promise to resurrect you from the dead, your faith will not develop to Abraham-like proportions, and in fact, it will be meaningless. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”

In other words, if we have no faith in the God of the resurrection, then I am wasting my energy writing this devotional…and you’re wasting your time reading it…and you’ll never come close to living an Abraham-like life of faith. You will have a shakeable faith! But the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves that God is who he said he is and will fulfill what he has promised to do. And the faith you place in the God who resurrects the dead will empower you to live the kind of God-honoring faith that Abraham lived.

Second, you must claim resurrection as the basis of your hope.

That, too, is what Abraham did. Romans 4:18 tells us that “even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept on hoping, believing in God’s promises that one day he would be the father of many nations” when his only son, through whom his lineage would continue, was about to die. In other words, Abraham didn’t let his circumstances dominate his life; he allowed God’s promises to dictate his life. Abraham believed that if Isaac was going to die on the altar, God would raise him to life. That was his hope.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but the exercise of that kind of hope is arguably the most powerful discipline you can engage as a believer. Count Bismarck said, “Without the hope of [Christian resurrection], this life is not worth the effort of getting dressed in the morning.” He was right! Christian hope is that important and that powerful.

Karl Marx proclaimed that religious hope is the opiate of the people. But Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” And Paul writes in Romans 5:5 that this “hope does not disappoint us!”

Do you practice hope? I am not talking about the breezy kind of optimism that Mary Martin sang about in South Pacific when she crooned, “I’m stuck like a dope with a thing called hope.” I am talking about the exercise of hope that declares that you are choosing to believe in God’s promises, not just in spite of the evidence, but in scorn of the consequences. We’ve been called to practice that kind of hope.

By faith, belief, and hope in the One who resurrects, Abraham became God’s friend. And by the same, you can, too.

Get Rooted: Memorize James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.”

Why Does God Justify The Ungodly?

Since There Is None Righteous, God Must Make Us Righteous

UNSHAKEABLE: Abraham, by his example of faith, became the “father of us all.” That means as our spiritual father, he set the tone and established the pattern for our faith by his response to God’s grace. If we were to analyze and summarize Father Abraham’s life, we would find that ruthless trust in God’s sovereign love was the chief authentication or outworking of his faith. More than anything else, he offered God his trust, and there was no work of righteousness more pleasing and honoring to God than that. Trust became Abraham’s “work,’ if we can call it that, or his response of righteousness.

Why Does God Justify The Ungodly - Ray Noah

Unshakeable Living // Romans 4:4-5

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Take note of that phrase: “who justifies the ungodly.” That is a rather startling statement, wouldn’t you say? It seems contrary to what Scripture teaches about the wicked, yet here we find that God justifies the ungodly because there are no godly for him to justify. That is why God put our wickedness on Christ so he could put Christ’s righteousness in us, and by that he would have some who are righteous.

So, as we have seen so far in Romans, and we will see again, salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone, and not by our works of righteousness. But the question then arises about what place our works of righteousness have in the salvation equation. Where do they fit in the scheme of things if righteousness is what we are, and not what we do?

As I understand it, verse 11 deals with this quite clearly: “Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” In other words, Paul is explaining that Abraham’s works were simply the proof, the authentication, and the natural outflow of his belief in God. Abraham believed, so he obeyed.

Now at this point, I have a feeling you might be saying, “Okay, I get it. We’re justified by faith and not by works — and Abraham’s case illustrates that. I get that works flow out of our righteousness. But what does all of this mean to me right now?”

Going to verse 11 again, we find that Abraham, by his example of faith, became the “father of us all.” That means as our spiritual father, he set the tone and established the pattern for our faith by his response to God’s grace. If we were to analyze and summarize Father Abraham’s life, we would find that ruthless trust in God’s sovereign love was the chief authentication or outworking of his faith.

When God said to Abraham, “Leave your home and go to the land I’ll show you,” Abraham said, “OK God, I’ll trust you on this.”

When God said to this childless ninety-year-old man, “I’ll make you the father of many nations,” Abram said, “OK God, I’ll trust you on this — call me Abraham, the father of many nations.”

When God said to Abraham, “Take your son and sacrifice him on the alter to me,” Abraham gulped and said, “OK God, I’ll trust you on this.”

More than anything else, Abraham offered God his trust, and there was no work of righteousness more pleasing and honoring to God as that. Trust became Abraham’s “work,’ if we can call it that, or his response of righteousness.

Brennan Manning writes, “The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than the Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.”

Our childlike surrender in trust is the defining response of our lives to God’s gift of righteousness. Our uncompromising trust in the love and goodness and wisdom of God is the work, if you will, that best proves our faith and most pleases God. To be convinced of God’s reliability is the essence of ruthless trust.

I wonder if you’re convinced of that!

Get Rooted: What gift can you give to a God who created everything, so he already has everything? There is one thing that God didn’t — can’t — create: your trust. Like Abraham, you must express trust in God even when there is little to no evidence that a good outcome is guaranteed. When you offer that kind of response to God, you have given him ruthless trust. The question for you is, does God have your ruthless trust in EVERYTHING? If not, go before God and surrender every area of your life to him.

FreeCreditReport.God

Alien Righteousness — Thank God For it!

UNSHAKEABLE: Here’s the mind-blowing thing about your salvation: even the faith it took to believe in Christ’s work of imputing his righteousness to our account was not based on your worthiness. It was a free gift from God. If the faith it took to believe was your own, that would be a meritorious work — but righteousness with God just doesn’t work that way. God’s act of declaring Abraham (as well as you and all other believing sinners) righteous is entirely apart from any kind of human effort; otherwise, God would owe us our wages. Our believing, then, rather than being something with which we impress God into saving us, is simply the conduit through which alien righteousness flows to us, and thus credits us with Christ’s righteousness and produces our right standing with God.

FreeCreditReport.God

Unshakeable Living // Romans 4:3

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

I have a confession. As an undergrad student, whenever I would come to a page in a textbook that carried an illustration or a table as an inset, I would skip it. Rather than allowing the example to reinforce the point in the written material, I would just flip past it and hurry on to more important extracurricular activities that awaited me. But that’s a whole “nuther” story!

Similarly, you might be tempted to skim past Romans 4 since the whole chapter is pretty much an illustrative inset to the case the Apostle Paul has been making so far: that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Jewish law. And now, to drive his point home, he presents the example of Abraham. But don’t skip over this, because within Abraham’s example, you will find a core principle of what it means and what it takes to be in right standing with God.

Eight times in this chapter alone, Paul uses the word “credited” to deliver a theological knockout punch. The New King James Version uses the alternative terms “accounted” and “imputed” nine times. This is a big deal to Paul — as it is to our faith. This is ground zero to salvation. Here is what theologian R.C. Sproul says about it:

Imputation is more than central; it’s essential to the New Testament gospel. Friends, I beg you never to negotiate the concept of the imputed righteousness of Christ. That’s the article upon which we stand and fall because without His righteousness all we have to offer God is filthy rags…

Sproul goes on to say what Paul is declaring is that “the righteousness by which we are justified is an alien righteousness — a foreign righteousness.” In other words, our right standing with God was, is, and always shall be only possible through a righteousness outside of ourselves — what is referred to as “alien righteousness.” Our righteousness before God is only possible because God credited Christ’s righteousness to us. Says Sproul, “the only righteousness that will justify us is the righteousness of Christ. We are naked and helpless without the cloak of His righteousness covering us.”

Paul took the word “credited” or “imputed” (in the Greek language, it is (“logidzomahee”) from the legal or financial world of his day. The term meant to credit to the account of another; in this case, to take from the account of one and legally credit it to the account of another. Once it was in the other’s account, it was legally his. In this case, righteousness became Abraham’s by faith; in your case, right standing with God becomes yours by faith.

And here’s the mind-blowing part of this: even the faith it took for you to believe in Christ’s work of imputation was not your own. That, too, was a free gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). You see, if the faith it took to believe was your own, that as well would be a meritorious work — but righteousness with God just doesn’t work that way. (Rom 4:2,5) God’s act of declaring Abraham (as well as you and all other believing sinners) righteous is completely apart from any kind of human effort; otherwise, God would owe us our wages. (Rom 4:4) Our believing, then, rather than being something with which we impress God into saving us, is simply the conduit through which this alien righteousness flows to us, and thus credits us with Christ’s righteousness and produces our right standing with God.

I know that is a mouthful, but I want to challenge you to check it out here in Romans 4 — our FreeCreditReport.God, if you will. Study it, meditate on it, absorb it, and glory in it since this is the core of what it means and what it takes to be right and righteous with God.

Get Rooted: Memorize Romans 4:16, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Then read Romans 4 in several different versions. I would recommend the version you normally use, plus The Message and The New Living Translation.

Just As If I’d Never Sinned

Jesus Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe — I Owe A Debt I cannot Pay

UNSHAKEABLE: The Good News revealed in the New Testament is that through faith in Jesus Christ’s person and his work on the cross, sinners can now stand before the holy and righteous God justified — just as if they had never sinned. Now don’t miss the beauty of this! Our justification happened only by what Jesus did on the cross. There he paid the penalty that you legally owed as one who had transgressed God’s law. But not only were you pardoned from receiving the just punishment reserved for all lawbreakers, your guilt was removed as well. So not only were you set free, you were totally cleansed — your sin record was expunged. You now stand before God just as if you had never sinned.

Just As If I’d Never Sinned - Ray Noah

Unshakeable Living // Romans 3:24

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.

As a young man, I heard a simple preacher offer this definition of justification: It is just as if I’d never sinned! When you study what the Apostle Paul meant by the word, it turns out that is a pretty good explanation for a highly complex theology construct.

Paul uses the verb “justified” and words derived from its root, thirty times in Romans alone. Obviously, this is an important theme with Paul and the critical core of our Christian faith. Along with “gospel” and “faith” (see Romans 1), this is our theology. The “good news” revealed in the New Testament is that through “faith” in Jesus Christ’s person and his work on the cross, sinners can now stand before the holy and righteous God “justified” — just as if they had never sinned.

Now don’t miss the beauty of this! Our justification, which was a legal concept, by the way, happened only by what Jesus did on the cross. There he paid the penalty that you legally owed as one who had transgressed God’s law. But not only were you pardoned from receiving the just punishment reserved for all lawbreakers, your guilt was removed as well. So not only were you set free, but you were also totally cleansed — your sin record was expunged. You now stand before God just as if you had never sinned.

Now how can that be? Well, part of the justification package included that not only were you pardoned from punishment and declared not guilty, but you were also literally infused with Christ’s very own righteousness — “everything Jesus” was imputed, literally and spiritually, to you. But that’s not all! As beautiful as that is, it is even more stunningly beautiful that to be imputed with Christ’s righteousness meant Jesus had to have both your sins and your sin nature imputed to him on the cross — “he became sin on your behalf so that you could become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

All of that was legally necessary for you to be made right with God. You owed a legal debt that you could not pay to the Judge of all creation. He loved you so much that he sent his one and only Son — perfectly sinless — to pay the full legal price for your redemption by becoming sin and taking the punishment into his own being as he hung on the cross and shed his blood.

And you receive this free gift of God’s grace by faith (saving trust) alone — not by your own works of righteousness or inherent merit. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! You stand before God just as if you had never sinned.

I don’t know about you, but the only response I have to such amazing and undeserved love is to offer the rest of my life as one unending thanksgiving offering to God.

Get Rooted: Today, write a thank you note to God for his free gift of your eternal justification. Keep it in your Bible in Romans 3 as a reminder of the debt of gratitude you owe.