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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘righteousness

Faithful and Just

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The verse 1 John 1:9 is familiar to us:

If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Calvin vividly describes what it would be to live without this blessing of forgiveness:

It is of great moment to be fully persuaded, that when we have sinned, there is a reconciliation with God ready and prepared for us: we shall otherwise carry always a hell within us. Few, indeed, consider how miserable and wretched is a doubting conscience; but the truth is, that hell reigns where there is no peace with God. The more, then, it becomes us to receive with the whole heart this promise which offers free pardon to all who confess their sins. — Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles

Calvin goes on to comment on the fact that God’s justice or righteousness is spoken of here, where we might expect to see his mercy mentioned instead:

Moreover, this is founded even on the justice of God, because God who promises is true and just. For they who think that he is called just, because he justifies us freely, reason, as I think, with too much refinement, because justice or righteousness here depends on fidelity, and both are annexed to the promise. For God might have been just, were he to deal with us with all the rigor of justice; but as he has bound himself to us by his word, he would not have himself deemed just, except he forgives.

See also:

Written by Scott Moonen

October 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Job

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Thinking a little more about Girard, and about Wilson’s provocative Girardian reading of Job, this makes me wonder if Job is a type of Jesus. A quick search reveals that this is not a new idea, but it is definitely new to me — especially as I am often tempted to side with Job’s accusers against Job. Here are a few ways the type seems to fit:

  • Job is a righteous king brought low
  • Job learned obedience through suffering
  • Job is falsely accused
  • Job did not revile or threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly
  • Job is ultimately vindicated
  • Job is clearly a type of the suffering servant

As to the suffering servant, there may even be ways that Job’s suffering is a type of substitutionary suffering. Job ultimately mediates for his own accusers. And while we are not left thinking that he is an explicit substitute for his people, there is always a sense in which a people are “in” their ruler. Finally, if Job is the Jobab of Genesis 10, then he is part of the Shemite / Eberite seed people before the line is narrowed to Abraham — so his preservation through suffering is representative of the preservation of the substitutionary seed.

Continuing the idea of substitution or identification, it is interesting that Job’s vindication in the face of his accusers and God’s vindication in the face of Satan are linked together. God has entrusted his name and reputation to a mere man. Amazingly, we who are declared righteous in Jesus are in the same position as we bear his name before the world.

Finally, it is instructive to see the way that God’s declaration of Job’s uprightness is worked out in time. We are left wondering until the very end of the book whether God’s preliminary verdict over Job will prove to be justified. There is no resting on past experience for Job; he must labor to persevere even through intense suffering.

Picture source: Job.

Written by Scott Moonen

April 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

Vindicated

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René Girard has incredible insight into human nature, conflict, and the cross of Jesus. Although his understanding of Jesus’s atonement is incomplete, he has a great deal to teach us about the atonement. I must confess I haven’t read Girard yet, but I’ve gotten a bit of him indirectly through others. For an excellent introduction, you should watch this five-part interview with Girard now.

Given my small exposure to Girard, I have always assumed that a Girardian understanding of Jesus’s transcending human conflict and sacrifice operated primarily at a human level. This is the assessment of Caiaphas in John 11:50, who at this stage almost appears to recognize Jesus’s innocence along with Girard. But now I think the human plane is just a small piece of the Girardian puzzle. I am sure this is an elementary insight, but it was new to me this weekend.

God designated Israel to serve as priests to the nations. They failed to represent God to the nations: both in reaching out to the nations and more generally in upholding God’s law and righteousness before the nations. But however great their failure to represent God, they could not help but represent the nations to God, for good or bad. So just as Adam was the true and best representative we had to stand before God under the covenant of life, Israel was the true and best representative we had to stand before God under the curse.

As our representative, Israel and her leaders were not merely envious of Jesus at a human level, putting him to death to vindicate themselves in some human conflict. Rather, Israel very clearly put God himself on trial, on behalf of the whole world. Jealous of God’s greatness, holiness, truth, righteousness, wisdom and beauty, and seeking to establish their own, they put God on trial, declared him to be guilty, and executed him. Therefore, even in purely Girardian terms, Jesus’s death is not simply a transcendence of human conflict and sacrifice by the death of an innocent man, but it is actually an attempt by all of humanity to render judgment for mankind and against God.

It is a failed attempt: Jesus’s resurrection vindicates God decisively in the conflict between God and man. All mankind is shown to be condemned because of the actions of Israel their representative.

The truly amazing thing is that we who are thus condemned can be vindicated — through Jesus’s death and resurrection! In a sense, simply by agreeing with and rejoicing in Jesus’s vindication, God extends to us the great gift of Jesus’s own vindication and resurrection. This is where our understanding of the atonement as sacrificial and substitutionary comes into play, as John goes on to explain Caiaphas’s unwitting prophecy in verses 51-52. Jesus died for the sins of the world at the very moment the world’s sin and rejection of God had become total and complete. Our mediator is no longer Israel, but Jesus himself, the true Israel. Both Israel and all nations are invited to feast in God through him.

Written by Scott Moonen

April 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Salvation Army Band

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Truth adorned with more than just words.

Written by Scott Moonen

September 18, 2007 at 7:01 am

Conviction and the cure

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My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.

Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:

Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?

[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.

We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.

How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:

  1. Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  2. Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
  3. Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
  4. Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
    1. God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
    2. True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
    3. God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
    4. God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
    5. Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
    6. The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
  5. Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).

Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Piper on justification and sanctification

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“The only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin”:

All the sins of God’s people, past, present and future, are forgiven because of the death of Christ once for all. . . . This justification on the basis of Christ’s death for us is the foundation of sanctification — not the other way around. I put it like this: the only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin. Without a once-for-all justification through Christ, the only thing that our striving for holiness produces is despair or self-righteousness.

But I did not say that the work of God in justification makes the work of God in sanctification optional. I didn’t say (the Bible doesn’t say) that forgiveness makes holiness optional. It doesn’t make it optional, it makes it possible. What we will see today is that the God who justifies also sanctifies. The faith that justifies also satisfies — it satisfies the human heart and frees it from the deceptive satisfactions of sin. Faith is the expulsive power of a new affection (Thomas Chalmers). That is why justification and the process of sanctification always go together. They both come from the same faith. Perfection comes at the end of life when we die or when Christ returns, but the pursuit of holy living begins with the first mustard seed of faith. That’s the nature of saving faith. It finds satisfaction in Christ and so is weaned away from the satisfactions of sin.

— John Piper, God Sanctifies His People

Toplady on mercy, first and last

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A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
I come with Your righteousness on, my humble offering to bring.
The judgments of Your holy law with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which Your goodness began, the arm of Your strength will complete;
Your promise is yes and amen, and never was forfeited yet.
The future or things that are now, no power below or above,
Can make You Your purpose forgo, or sever my soul from Your love.

My name from the palms of Your hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on Your heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes I to the end will endure, until I bow down at Your throne;
Forever and always secure, a debtor to mercy alone.

— Augustus Toplady, A Debtor to Mercy Alone, as modified by Bob Kauflin