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Justification

foundation, support

Last month, I mentioned Matthew 7:21-23 in my devo on Hebrews 4. Well, we’ll take a little deeper dive into Matthew 7 in today’s Bible reading. Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount. In these final moments, he talks about judging other people: don’t do it, but realize that you will be able to judge people by their fruit. (Matthew 7:1, 20)

He also talks about prayer: keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking and you’ll receive, find, and doors will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7-8) Notice the continual emphasis in his statements; He doesn’t say that we should just ask, seek, and knock once, or even a couple of times.

Next, He tells us that the broad road leads to destruction, but the Narrow Gate leads to the Kingdom of God. In this section, he talks about the necessity of judging people by their fruit. He says that not every “believer” will enter the Kingdom of God.

Finally, Jesus says there are two ways we can build our lives: On the solid rock of His Word or on shifting sands of everything else. If we build our lives on His Word, we’ll have a solid foundation when storms come. But if we build our lives on anything else, we won’t have anything to stand on when storms come.

When crews begin construction a high-rise building, they don’t build up from the ground level. First, they spend a lot of time digging down to bedrock before building up. A skyscraper needs a deep, solid foundation to support the entire structure. Houses — and even streets — have to have a good foundation, with iron rebar woven through the concrete slab.

According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 5If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (CSB)

Application

We need to read this chapter as one continuing, developing thought and not take the individual parts on their own. The bottom line is that everything that we say and do is to be built on God’s Word. Everything.

And Relationship with God is everything. The worst thing any “believer” will ever hear is, “I know you called yourself a Christian and you even did a lot in my name, but we never had a relationship”. You can do marvelous things, miraculous things and still miss everything.” As someone once said, “You can climb the ladder of success and then learn that your ladder’s leaning on the wrong wall.”

Notice: the people who were condemned in Matthew 7:21-23 were just nominal “believers”, average church-goers. These are people known for their outward displays of their faith. These are people who are “doing God’s work”. If Jesus condemns people who are “doing the deal”, do you really think He will overlook you if you merely “believe”. Jesus’ half-brother says that even demons believe! And yet, they are awestruck by the One they recognize as the God Who is. (James 2:19)

Are you awestruck by the God Who Is?

Don’t miss this or you’ll miss everything! Build your life on God’s Word. Spend time reading it. Spend time studying it. Spend time memorizing it. Not so that you will know stuff. Do it so that you will know Him. Because knowing and being known by Him is everything. (John 17:3)

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repent

In today’s Bible reading from James 2, we see the issue I mentioned yesterday about a supposed contradiction between James and Paul on the basis of our justification before God. Paul says that we are justified by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and James says we are justified by works (James 2:24). So which one is right? And isn’t this just proof that the Bible is full of contradictions?

On the second question, no. No, the Bible is not full of contradictions. It may have differences in the way it presents things (like this topic), but if something seems like it’s contradicting something else, there’s more you need to dig into.

On the earlier question of whether James or Paul is correct, the answer is that they are both right. Huh? Their statements are complementary, not contradictory. Paul is looking at how we have been saved, James is looking at how we prove/demonstrate that we are saved. There are different aspects of our salvation: believers have been saved, believers are being saved, and believers will be saved. Paul is looking at the first aspect, James is looking at the second aspect.

Look at what they say: Paul agrees with James that our salvation will work itself out (Ephesians 2:10). And James agrees with Paul; even demons believe (“believe” [verb] and “faith” [noun] are the same word), but they aren’t saved.

Application

Believer, look at your life. Is your life any different than when you were lost? Assuming you weren’t saved yesterday, your life will experience some changes. It may be behavior, it may be attitudes, but your life will be different if you are really saved. And if your life hasn’t changed, you need to revisit the question of whether you are really saved. Walking down the aisle of a church doesn’t save you. Praying a prayer doesn’t save you. Being baptized doesn’t save you. Saying you believe doesn’t save you.

Putting your trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for your sin
and turning from your sin to embrace a relationship with God
does save you.

Have you done that?

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Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 3. In it, Paul asks, who bewitched you into believing this horrible lie? (Galatians 3:1)

Covenant Promise, signed in Jesus' blood

He looks back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation who was justified by his faith, not by obedience to the Law (the Law wasn’t even given for 430 years after Abraham). God promised Abraham that the Holy Spirit would be given through Abraham’s seed. (Galatians 3:16) Seed is singular because it refers to Jesus rather than the people of the Jewish Nation. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. And those who have faith are the true children of Abraham — not those who obey the Law. (Galatians 3:9)

Application

Do you believe? Do you trust in Jesus’ payment for the penalty of your sin? If so, you are a true child of Abraham and an heir of the promise!

God’s promise to Abraham — and his heirs — was signed in the blood of Jesus.
That’s good news! That’s the gospel!

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Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 2. Paul continues his tirade against the “gospel” of the Judaizers which has been fully embraced by the church at Galatia.

Cross

The key to understanding Chapter Two — and the key to the entire book of Galatians, and even the very message of the gospel — is the last half of Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”

Think about that: If we can do anything to add to our salvation, then Jesus didn’t have to die. Every time that we think we can add to Jesus’ once-for-all, sufficient sacrifice, we are telling Jesus that He wasted his death and we think our efforts mean more to God than Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross.

Application

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can make God happier with you than He already is by doing — or not doing — something. In dying for you, Jesus met every requirement for you to be fully justified as you stand before God on judgment day.

That’s good news! That’s the gospel!

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Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 1. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to counter a dangerous theology that added to Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.

A group of Judaizers (not just “Jews”) said that Jesus’ death was sufficient for our forgiveness, but in order to be a good Christian, you have to be a good Jew, obeying the Old Testament Law, including the rite of circumcision. Paul was quite vocal in his response.

Paul says,

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! Galatians 1:6–8 (CSB)

I’m glad that the Christian Standard Bible brings out the differences in Paul’s word choices that some other translations gloss over. By using the words different and another, the CSB points out that the gospel preached by these Judaizers is not just a little different from the gospel that Paul (and the other apostles) preached. The gospel they preached isn’t just an additional gospel than what Paul and the apostles preached. The Judaizers’ gospel is an entirely different gospel. It has little-to-no resemblance to the real deal.

Application

If you are a believer, a true child of God, you don’t have to add to your salvation (as if you really could!). Jesus accomplished everything necessary to make you righteous in God’s eyes. Because of what Jesus did, your salvation has been fully secured. You don’t have to — and you cannot — add to what He has done to make God any happier with you than He already is!

Sure, with being a child of God, there are commands in Scripture that still apply, but you can obey with a completely clear conscience and obey since you already have a relationship with your Father — as opposed to obey in order to have or maintain a relationship with Him.

That’s good news! That’s the gospel!

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