There is a radio podcast I listen to when I walk and often, in an effort to understand the way the average American Evangelical thinks, the producers of this show attend a venue where Christians hang out. They roam the aisles of conventions and industry shows and ask random believers probing questions regarding foundational Christian beliefs. The answers they hear -and then broadcast- range from naïve, to misinformed to, “omagosh I can’t believe they think that way!” Now the goal is not to belittle or ridicule, rather their desire in retrieving this information is to identify which issues people may need to know what they believe and why.
Every time I hear one of these broadcasts I think I know the answer; typically, I get it wrong.
This morning was no different; the question had to do with justification, “why is it so central and what does it have to do with the gospel?” Now I learned a cute little diddy once-upon-a-time that helped me (I thought) understand this term. It is, “just as if I never sinned.” While I listened to those questioned I was bursting to give that answer! “oo, oo, oo, pick me!” Like they could hear. I’m not fully awake when I walk.
Well one guy did give that answer and I thought, “Ha! Finally! Someone gave the right answer and foiled their little experiment!” Not so. Apparently my diddy is only half right. The broadcasters only briefly elaborated on what was missing from that equation, they had other answers that needed more concentrated correction, so I flipped the switch on my Nano and instead set out to begin Daily Demotions.
Isn’t God good? Let’s take a moment to ponder that thought (talk amongst yourselves…)
I picked up, Because He Loves Me, in order to complete my review (as promised) and guess what the topic was? The Gospel. Specifically, author Elyse Fitzpatrick sums up the entire message of her book; outlining how the declaration of Justification in the Gospel applies to every thought, every aspect, in each and every day of our lives.
Yes, Justification means we are in fact, “helpless and ungodly sinners.” (1) Yes, Justification means, “the fullness of God condescended to us in Jesus Christ…we don’t have to wonder about the Father’s disposition toward us.”(2) Yes Justification means, “He has made peace between heaven and earth, between God and man, between your Creator and your rebel heart.”(3) Yes Justification means, “His great heart pumped blood through his veins and then out his wounds so he could bless you.”(4) And yes! Justification means Our Savior continually presents us to the Father; “we too are seated there with him, in the throne room of heaven.”(5)
And we must preach that fact to ourselves daily. “We must ponder and be consumed with the thought of his sacrificial love, mercy and grace.”(6)
But why? Well, the answer to that is the second half of the equation I and so many others were missing in reference to the question, “justification, why is it so central and what does it have to do with the gospel?” Omagosh, I think a wellspring of life poured out all over my kitchen table! Happy reading…
“Whenever the gospel slips from our conscious thought, our religion becomes all about our performance.”(7)
“That’s why we can never assume the gospel; it has to be the staple diet not only for the beginning, but for the middle and the end of the Christian pilgrimage…. Paul relates everything, including sanctification, the problems of ethics, and ecclesial harmony, to Christ’s cross and resurrection.”(8)
“The gospel of free justification is the source of genuine sanctification.”(9)
“justification is not the first stage of the Christian life, but the constant wellspring of sanctification and good works. Luther summarizes, ‘Because you believe in me,’ God says, ‘and your faith takes hold of Christ, whom I have freely given to you as your Justifier and Savior, therefore be righteous.’ Thus God accepts you or accounts you righteous only on account of Christ, in whom you believe.’ Whatever other piece of good news (concerning the new birth, Christ’s conquest of sin’s tyranny and promise to renew us throughout our life, the resurrection of our body and freedom from the presence of sin), much less the useful exhortations that we may offer, the announcement that Luther here summarizes alone creates and sustains the faith that not only justifies but sanctifies as well.”(10)
“Genuine sanctification-let it be repeated-stands or falls with this continued orientation toward justification and the remission of sins.” (11) G. C. Berkouwer
and, let it be repeated…..isn’t God good?!
(just in case you want to read the whole article which contains the above quotes…)
- Michael Horton. “Does Justification Still Matter?” Modern Reformation. “The Art of Self-Justification.” Sept./Oct. Vol. 16 No. 5. 2007. Pages 11-17. 31 July 2009. <http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=860&var3=main#top41>
- Elyse Fitzpatrick. Because He Loves Me. Illinois. Crossway Books. 2008