Do we do nothing to obtain [God’s] righteousness. No, nothing at all. Perfect righteousness is to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law or of works, but to know and believe only that Christ has gone to the Father and is no longer visible; that he sits in heaven at the right hand of his Father, not as a judge, but is made by God our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption; in short, he is our high priest, entreating for us and reigning over us and in us by grace. In this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place, for there is no law; and “where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).
–Martin Luther, Preface to Galatians
The reason for this persistent story line of the Bible is not simply because the writers like underdogs. It is because the ultimate example of God’s working in the world was Jesus Christ, the only founder of a major religion that died in disgrace, not surrounded by all of his loving disciples but abandoned by everybody whom he cared about, including his Father. He was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and he died oppressed and helpless. Jesus Christ’s salvation comes to to us through his poverty, rejection, and weakness. And Christians are not saved by summoning up their strength and accomplishing great deeds but by admitting their weakness and need for a savior.
–Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 208
“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
The Word is Eternal
Certain people try to deny Jesus’ eternity while not outright deny His divinity. They argue that the “Word” came into existence when God opened His mouth to create the world. They imagine some change in the essence of God. Some names of God refer are applied to Him after He did some work. For example, He is called “Creator of the heavens and earth” after He made everything. But true faith does not recognize any change in the essence of God. If change in God’s essence takes place, then James 1:17 would not be true: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Therefore, it is intolerable to believe that the Word, which was always with God, had a beginning at the beginning of the world.
They even go so far to argue that when Moses talks about God speaking for the “first time” that no Word existed in God before. You don’t need to go that far, however. Just because something isn’t brought out clearly until a certain time, doesn’t mean it did not exist previously. I draw a very different conclusion. At the very moment when God said, “Let there be light,” the energy of the Word was immediately exerted. Since it was immediately exerted, it must have existed long before. If people ask, “How long before?” they will find that it was without beginning. No certain period of time is defined. Jesus Himself said, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). Even before John mentions the creation of the world in His gospel, he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Therefore, we conclude that the Word was eternally begotten by God. The Word lived with God in eternity. In this way, the Word’s true essence–His divinity and His eternity–are established.
“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say,
“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side
When men rose up against us,
Then they would have swallowed us alive.”
God is on our side. Literally, Lord is “for us.” David recognizes that if the Lord was not for him and his people, then they would have been destroyed. God is for His people. The New Testament picks up this truth and expands on it in Romans 8. After describing God using all things for our good and His great plan to make us look more like Jesus, Paul writes, “What will we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).
I mean, the logic is pretty sound here, right? If you have God on your side, then who is against you? Who can stand against you? What do you have to fear?
Now, if that’s all the Bible said about God being on our side, then it would be very easy to agree with the Prosperity Gospel preachers that say, “Hey, God wants you to be successful and He wants you to be materially rich! By the way, God is going to make everything you do prosper!” But Romans goes on to actually explain what God being for us means in the next verse:
“God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
God is on your side by not sparing His own Son from death. God sent Jesus to die on the cross. Before God can be for you, He is against you! Earlier in Romans, Paul writes, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Because of our sin, God’s wrath stands against us.
Romans talks about how we have substituted worship of created things for the Creator (Romans 1:21-23). Because God is God and the Creator of all, He is due all of our worship. To degrade an infinite God means to deserve infinite punishment. We all deserve to go to Hell. He is against us, but the good news of Christianity is that God can be for you. He can be on your side because He did not spare His own Son. He gave His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
As a result of God being for us, He will give us everything (“all things” Romans 8:32) that we need to look more like Jesus. God will bring everything into our lives to make us grow and exhibit the character of Christ in our own lives. Sometimes this means rest and respite. Sometimes this means suffering and pain.
Nothing will gut your leadership more quickly than habitual and enslaving sin, especially sexual sin. If you want to lead better, you need to get pure.
Not only does sexual sin hamper our relationship with God, but the subsequent guilt and shame damage our leadership. Satan wants pastors sitting on the sidelines, feeling guilty and totally inadequate to lead God’s people. Satan wants shame to dampen a leader’s courage and boldness for the gospel.
Are you tired of feeling unworthy to be a pastor?
Do you want to be a better leader? Then you need to get healthy. I’m not talking about getting spiritually healthy. I’m talking about getting physically healthy. The benefits of physical activity are enormous. You feel better. You have more energy. You can lead better.