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The Cross and Justification

Scripture: Romans 3:20-28, Romans 4:1-8, Romans 10:1-3
Lesson: 11
The cross offers us both justification and the right to be sanctified by Christ's righteousness.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

That is one of my favorite hymns. Anyone know why? Last verse: “Highest hills and deepest caves.” Jesus saves takes on a personal meaning for me. I want to welcome our friends who are studying with us for Sabbath school Central and we’re so thankful that you could be tuned in. Matter of fact, at the time of this broadcast I will be in Washington, D.C. God willing and the Prophesy Code meetings will be in full swing and if you don’t know what that is we invite you to tune in to either the HOPE channel of 3ABN and you can even go online and just type in prophesycode.com and you’ll get a lot more information on that subject. It’s a Bible seminar dealing with a special emphases on the last days. Now I was telling our class last week something marvelous that the Lord did. I first got this in an e-mail and when I mentioned it some people said, “No, that’s not true!” and so I got the transcript.

Now here’s what I told you last week. God in His providence… You know on Canadian radio they have very limited religion they allow if any at all. There was a program that was all across Canada. It’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC Radio, and they ran the whole Prophesy Code commercial uninterrupted for free and you couldn’t buy that time. They did it to ridicule what we believe. Now here is a transcript, it’s not the whole transcript, here’s a transcript that led into it so you can get the background for this. Oh, by the way, the date was February 9, 2005, 9:57 a.m. and I understand that right about that time the Prophesy Code website had an unusual spike of interest. It went up. So here’s what the transcript was. The lady who did the program was Anna Maria Tiramante and it’s a secular program, fairly liberal program I understand and here’s part of it, transcript. “Ah, the end of civilization as we know it.

This has long been a phrase used to describe the ultimate demise of something big whether it be the end of an era or an empire or an ancient way of life. Now if you GOOGLE the phrase ‘the end of civilization’ you come across a number of other apocalyptic scenarios depending of course on your definition of the apocalypse. So if you don’t know what signs to look for when contemplating the end of the world, don’t worry. There’s help. From March 4th…” This is going on national Canadian radio! “From March 4th to March 26th an online Armageddon clearinghouse of sorts called The Prophesy Code.com is holding seminars that promise to better prepare you for the end of civilization, yep, as we know it.” And the show ended now with our commercial. And so the last sixty seconds of this national broadcast is the commercial that we run for The Prophesy Code that gives all the information about how you could participate. Isn’t it wonderful?

You know Paul one time said, “Sometimes Christ is preached for strife but at least Christ is preached.” Now as of this week, but wait, there’s more! My next door neighbor, nice guy, he says, “Boy, The Bible Answer Man was sure giving you a hard time yesterday on his radio program.” I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, he must have spent five or ten minutes talking about Amazing Facts on his radio program.” Now I don’t know if any of you have ever heard of it’s called The Bible Answer Man. I think it’s Hank Hanegraff and so. I’d listened a couple of times. I don’t normally listen but I went online and I was able to capture the program from the previous day. Now I just I’m going to play a little of this. I won’t even play the whole thing because I think it’s maybe six-eight minutes, but just to give you an idea of what’s going on. There’s a battle raging out there between truth and error. Alright so, Larry, be prepared. I may say, “Pause the tape,” okay? If I say, “Pause the tape,” can you do that and then play it again without…? Alright. Go ahead and play this for us. This is a phone call. People call in with Bible questions.

A call from someone in Kansas I think. Go ahead. “John, in Newton, Kansas. Hi, John.” “Hello, Hank. Nice to speak with you.” “Good to talk to you.” “Um. Recently a seminar has started up in my hometown. It’s called Prophesies of Hope. Um, I think it’s uh connected with another ministry that’s called Amazing Facts?” “Uh huh.” “I was wondering have you ever heard of this ministry um?” “Yeah, I’m familiar with it. It is the ministry of Doug Batchelor.” “Yes.” “Yes, and you know he’s, he, he’s made some incredible statements about the end time. Incredible I would say in the negative sense from the perspective that I have. Here’s a clip. I actually haven’t even heard this myself so I’m going to hear it along with you, but here’s a clip which I think says something about what’s going to happen.” Pause. Did you catch that? He said I’m going to play a clip that I haven’t heard yet and then I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. Now in my way of trying to deal with truth you would think that you would listen to something before you tell what’s wrong with it. Okay. Go ahead. Now you’re going to have to listen to me for a minute.

I was almost flattered. He actually has me on file. His people are capturing pieces of my sermons and then playing them over the radio program. That’s great. That means we’re making an impact. Go ahead. I’m sorry. “…then during the tribulation when the beast will freeze your bank account. Here’s the clip.” Pause. Error number one, we don’t say this is during the tribulation. Alright, keep going. “Something called the Supercard that will have not only your driving record on it. It’ll have your picture. You will pick your bank and credit card services, your phone services, you will punch into work by sliding the magnetic strip in at the office, your medical health information. They’re developing a Supercard. It’ll be a little bigger than this and you would be astounded how much information they’re going to put on that little bitty strip there. And if you do not cooperate with the religious political laws that go along, you know you’re going to go to the market, I don’t know what it’s like here in New York City. In California people all buy their groceries, they slide their card through when they get to the checkout stand.

They buy their gas, I never just pay cash. I use my card whenever I buy gas. It’s wonderful. Helps you keep the records and everything. Someday there’s going to be a law that we must worship the way the government says and if you do not cooperate and you don’t check in at the right church at the right time you’re going to go to buy your groceries it’ll say ‘invalid transaction’.” “Oooh! There’s some speculation for you (laughing) I mean this is the kind of stuff that you get.” Pause the tape. First of all, I believe every word of that. He’s capturing a quote from 1999, of course keep in mind this was before the World Trade Center. You know what was in the news this week? That the laws are being passed for a National Identity Card. The only thing that’s inaccurate about what I said is they used to call it a Supercard until 9/11. Now it’s for Homeland Security and it’s called a National Identity Card. And I think if the only thing that they can find to ridicule about what we believe is the device of how the Beast Power is going to control buying and selling, that’s pretty lame. Anyway you can play a little more here. “I heard this clip before. This is the kind of stuff that you get. You know you have these kinds of teachings like if you worship on Sunday you’ve taken the Mark of the Beast and all these…” Pause.

He says that we teach that if you worship on Sunday you receive the Mark of the Beast. Do we believe? Turn a camera around. Get a camera around first. I want to try and get some of our class here. Has anyone here ever heard me say that those that worship on Sunday have the Mark of the Beast? Okay, good. Alright you can play the tape again. “…kinds of things are being communicated and they’re sensationalistic facts, misinterpretations of the book of Revelation as well as the Gospels and what I would suggest is that people learn how to read the Bible for all it’s worth. I’m writing a book on that right now called Exegetical Eschatology…” How many of you have heard of the Left Behind book? That’s printed by Tynndale Publishers. They did a whole series of books. It was very popular. Publishers typically print books to make money. They found out how popular prophesy was. Hank Hannegraff, the speaker you were just listening, to just finished a book called The Last Disciple. The Left Behind series says that from Revelation 4 on it’s all in the future, it’s in the future, called Futurism. There’s another view called Preterism and it believes that virtually everything in Revelation was fulfilled by oh, about a hundred and ten AD. Preterism, it’s all in the past. He believes Preterism so I could understand why he thinks that our view of prophesy is wrong. His book he just wrote is all, it’s called The Last Disciple. I don’t recommend it. It’s all about Preterism. Okay, go ahead. “…so stay tuned.” “Alright.

One other thing, if it’s okay.” “Yes.” “Um, he uh, this one that I was speaking of first, the Prophesies of Hope that’s being done by this man named Adam Ramdin. Um…” Adam is one of the Amazing Facts evangelists. “…and he was speaking of prophetic years and he related it back to Ezekiel…” You better, that’s probably enough. I’ll tell you real quick what’s on the rest of the tape. He’s explained, the questioner sounds very sincere and he’s, this is all in, this seminar that he’s going to is in action right now as this broadcast is being recorded. And he begins to ask Hank Hannegraff about the day for a year principle and it goes on for several more minutes and we don’t really have time. But he then says Adam Ramdin, one of our evangelists, a good evangelist, is quoting from Spurgeon and Calvin and Wesley and he doesn’t say anything against them and through this whole dialog you know what’s absent? A single scripture. Not one scripture is offered to counteract or to defend the teachings. What does that tell you? I thought that was very interesting anyway. This kind of thing keeps you awake so I thought I’d share that with you. I do want to get to the lesson because we’re really on holy ground today. Oh, by the way, you can I think this is online. That’s where we captured it. I thought if he’s capturing my programs and playing them I can do it too, right? We’re studying our lesson “His Wonderful Cross” and today we’re on lesson number eleven and it’s dealing with the cross and justification.

Now we have a free offer. And the free offer for today’s study is “The Passion of His Love” and the offer number will be given there on the screen there for you. It’s called “The Passion of His Love” and we’ll send that to anyone who calls the toll-free number and/or who you can even, I believe, e-mail for that. Our lesson is, oh and by the way, as Debbie said if some of you, you can watch the Sabbath School programs live on the Internet just by going to the Central Church website saccentral, it’s all one word, saccentral.org and you can watch it anytime. You can also watch it whenever you want. If you want to study this lesson later or in advance of your teaching by going to the Sabbath school net website. The memory verse is Romans 3:28. It’s dealing with the cross and justification. This is a very deep study, often a very controversial study. The cross and justification. Say the memory verse with me. Romans 3:28. You got your lessons? Ready? “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Now since the central study of today’s lesson is on justification it probably is a good idea to give a definition. Justifying; there’s a number of things that you could include here that really don’t apply to our lesson. You can justify a paragraph when you’re typing.

It’s talking about making all the words go to one side or the other. That’s not the kind of justification we’re talking about. “Justify: to demonstrate or to prove to be just, right or valid; to declare free of blame; absolve; to free of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin.” Justification is a legal declaration of innocence. To be declared just. Now all have sinned and are guilty of the death penalty. To be justified means that the Lord will declare us to be just and forgiven. Who in this world without the grace of God has the right to be justified? How many have sinned? That’s actually not true. All but one. Do you know there are some statements in the Bible… people don’t know how to make exceptions. “It’s appointed unto man once to die but after this the judgment.” Does everybody die? Most everybody dies. That’s what it says. Were there a few exceptions? Enoch, Elijah, that’s it so far unless there are some others that aren’t in the Bible. All have sinned, but is there one exception? Jesus. And so don’t get hung up on these general statements. I know somebody that called our radio program and they said, “Elijah must have died.” They think Elijah is coming back down to earth. He’s one of the two witnesses and he’s going to die in order to fulfill that scripture that says “It’s appointed unto man once to die.” He has to die.

They get carried away and they miss the point that the apostles and prophets are speaking in the most ideal terms. Alright so since we have all committed sin how can we ever be just before God? What does justification mean? Let me read a quote to you from the book Steps to Christ, page 65. “If you give yourself to Him and accept Him as your Savior then sinful as your life may have been for His sake you are accounted righteousness.” This is justification. “Christ’s character stands in place of your character and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.” I heard an evangelist say, “Justification means God looks upon you just as if, like just-as-if-cation. He looks upon you just as if you had never sinned.” He sees the righteousness of His Son. You are accounted righteousness. Christ’s character stands in place of your character. Now how do we obtain justification? By works? Or by faith? I hear someone say both. I hear someone say faith. I won’t ask for a show of hands but I saw some nod when I said works. Let’s find out what the Bible says. What is it called? Somebody read for me please 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Somebody else look up for me Romans 6:23. You should know that by heart, but I’ll have somebody read it. Romans 6:23, someone else 2 Corinthians 9:15. We have microphones available? Got one here. Hold your hand up if you’re willing to read that for me. Yes, is that Michael? Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead and read that for me. Whichever one you’ve got. 2 Corinthians 9:15 is that it? And I think somebody over here hold your hand up if you’re willing to read Romans 6:23. Got a hand right there. Go ahead. Take it to him, Poncho. Alright. 2 Corinthians? 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!” Alright what is salvation? Let’s read Romans 9:23. Romans 6:23? I’m sorry Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What is it? Is it something we work for? If you at the end of your two weeks go to the office and they hand you your paycheck and the boss says, “I’ve got a gift here for you.” And you get excited, you walk out, you get in your car and you open it up. You don’t want to look too eager so you wait until you’re in your car. And it’s your regular paycheck with your hours do you resent the boss calling it a gift? Why do you resent that? You earned it! So when God calls salvation a gift is it something that we earn? How can you earn a gift?

It ceases to be a gift when you earn it. Romans chapter 5 start with verse 17. I’ll read here for you. “For if by one man’s offense death reigned through one man, much more those who received abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness…” The what of righteousness? “…gift of righteousness will reign in life through One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offence judgment came on all men,…” speaking of the offense of Adam “…resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteousness…” the righteousness of Jesus “…the free gift…” the what? “…free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” The free gift resulting in justification. So are we justified by works or by a gift that comes in response to faith? You know I am so thankful that Jesus teaches theology through stories because it is so much easier for me to learn truths through parables and stories than through sanitized theological…

I’ve been listening to a CD this week preparing for this lesson and it’s a preacher talking about justification and he just quotes one biblical fact after another and you know what, friends, it is so hard to concentrate when someone does scripture, fact, scripture, fact, scripture, fact. I’m forcing myself to try and listen. But then I’ve got some other preachers I listen to and they’ll teach a doctrine through a story and I go, “Ah! I get it.” Luke is one of the gospel writers, even though he’s a gentile, who really understood the teaching of Jesus of justified through faith as a gift. Turn with me to chapter 18 of Luke, verse 9 through 14. If you want to understand the science of justification this story and a couple of others are some of the best ways to teach it. “And He spoke this parable unto some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” Now that was one of the problems in the time of Christ.

There was a lot of religious leaders that believed they were declared righteous by their good deeds. They trusted in their own righteousness while they looked down on others. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee…” They were the most rigid about obeying the law. “…and the other a tax collector.” publican. They were known for being very loose and kind of scandalous living. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself…” I always thought that was an interesting play on words that he’s not praying to God, he’s praying with himself. Some of our prayers are really directed at ourselves. Have you ever knelt down with somebody to pray, you listen to their prayer and you know their not really talking to God, they’re trying to give you some subliminal message through their prayer. I don’t like when people do that and I hear parents do it all the time. They’ll kneel down. They’ll say, “Dear Lord,” and their children you know around them. “Dear Lord, thank you that Johnny is going to keep his clothes clean today.” They’re not talking to the Lord. They’re telling Johnny, “I’m telling God you’re going to keep your clothes clean today.” So that’s not the way to pray. That’s not really prayer. He “prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”

I thank you I’m not like other men. You know sometimes we may not ever do that in church but when we’re running down the brethren… I’m at one time I’ve got a Christian friend. We’re pretty close and he could chastise me and I’d start criticizing somebody else and he would say sort of under his breath, “I thank You, Lord, I’m not like other men.” And that was one of the favorite things he’d say whenever he’d hear me talking or gossiping about someone else, he’d say, “I thank you, Lord, I’m not like other men.” And I’d always be convicted because then I saw myself like that Pharisee going, “I thank You I’m not like other men.” He says you’re comparing yourself to others and running them down to make yourself feel better. “I thank You, Lord, I’m not like other men.” Instead of thanking God for His goodness we’re thanking God for ours. Isn’t that what he’s doing? “…extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. For I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess.” Was he telling the truth? Probably did fast twice a week. Probably did give tithes, a faithful tithe. “The tax collector, standing afar off…”

He didn’t even feel worthy to come up front. He “would not so much as raise his eyes...” He bowed his head and he “beat on his breast…” You know what this means? Repentance, sorrow for sin. He beats on his breast, and this is his prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” What is he pleading? What is he offering of himself to God that is good? “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to your cross I cling.” He is not saying, Hezekiah when he was dying, he says, “Lord, don’t you remember all the good things I’ve done? You should heal me.” He doesn’t do that. God did heal Hezekiah but that’s not the way to pray. He says, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!” What is he appealing to? God’s mercy, not justice. Notice that? And listen how Jesus closes off, Jesus helps us understand this parable. He says, “I tell you, this man…” the publican, ‘went down to his house justified...” What’s our study today? Justification. He went “to his house justified rather than the other…” You know what rather means? The Pharisee did not go justified. Still paying his tithe, still fasting twice a week, trying to live an exemplary life but he goes home unjustified before God. Whoo. This is very important. Now how did the publican get the justification? Because he worked for it? or by faith? The very fact he’s there asking God.

I mean, do you ever ask for something you think you have no hope of getting? He’s asking God in faith. He’s smiting on his breast, he’s repenting, humbly bowing his eyes, he wouldn’t look up. If we come to God and we humble ourselves, we repent, we confess our sinfulness and plead for His mercy we go home from the house of God justified. That’s good news. Is that complicated? You know what that means? Everybody listening, everybody here, if you do what this publican did you can go home just before God where it says his character is accounted to you. His character stands in place of your character. God looks at your character and He says because you’ve pled for mercy you’re forgiven. Now this is a gift. Acts 8:20 somebody read that for me. Acts 8 verse 20. Someone else please look up Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8 and I’ll have one more if you remember to look up Proverbs 18:16, Proverbs 18:16. So first Acts 8:20. Hold your hand up when you have it. Got someone right there. Okay. Someone over here. We want to keep the ball rolling so Ephesians 2:8. Somebody over here. Give it to Quamboka. We like to spread the joy.

Yeah, bring it over here. Okay, go ahead. “But Peter said unto him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!’” Thank you. That’s it. Remember this man Simon was a sorcerer. When he saw Peter and Philip laying their hands on the people of Samaria and they received the Holy Spirit and this power came on them, the power of God and this sorcerer thought, “Wow! Just think about how my business would go into orbit if I had that power!” And he said, “I’ll pay you big money if you give me the power.” And you know what they said? Well, actually the literal translation is pretty crude so I won’t say it but Peter basically told him, “To Hades with you and your money.” You get that’s a rough translation. The very fact he’s saying this is outrageous that you would think that the gift of God could be purchased with money. Now what are we doing when we try to earn salvation? Isn’t that the same thing that Simon was doing with Peter? We’re trying to pay for with our works what God is giving and what is the attitude of God towards that? Death to you if you think you can pay for what God is giving you.

Why is He so severe? Why does the Lord react so severely to that? I’ve never been able to improve on an illustration I heard from the Civil War where a slave shortly after the emancipation proclamation. Now I think everyone here knows if you know American History a little bit that Lincoln lived to pronounce the emancipation proclamation. He died before the official end of the Civil War but he did live to witness this proclamation that slavery had been abolished. Some slaves in Washington, D.C. who had escaped from (Washington was very close to the lines of the war) had managed to escape North. One slave came to Lincoln. Lincoln used to just walk among the people. That’s why the assassin had such easy access back then. And he approached the president and offered him money, and the president said, “What is this for?” He says, “I want to pay you for my freedom.” And the president said, “I can’t take your money.” And he said, “But I want to give you something. I’m so thankful.” And the president said, “Before you try to offer that again let me explain something.” The president used to, Lincoln used to freely walk among the neighborhood. He’d either ride in his carriage or walk and he knew the people that lived. It was a much smaller community around the White House back then. And he said, “You see that home over there?” He said, “There’s a woman there that lost her son, her only son, in this war fighting for your freedom.” And he said, “See that house over there?” He says, “That woman lost three sons fighting for your freedom.”

He said, “You see that house over there?” He said, “That’s an unusual house. In that house the woman lost her husband and two sons fighting on opposite sides.” And he said, “When you consider how much your freedom has cost are you going to give me money?” And then the liberated phrased that, “I realized that it would be an insult to offer money after they had paid so much.” So what has been paid for our freedom? I mean, when you offer money after God has given His Son, can you see why that’s an insult? Alright, someone else was going to read for me Ephesians 2:8. Did I already give that out? Right there, Quamboka. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” It is a gift! Now I asked someone else to read Proverbs 18:16. Andrew, right here, and you’ll understand better why after he reads this. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” Have you ever noticed how a gift changes an attitude? It is hard to be unkind or short with a person that gives you a gift. Lobbyists in Washington that want to get the attention of congressmen and senators are constantly sending gifts and if those gifts are received that means they then need to give them their ear when they call. I mean if somebody gives you a free vacation and then you won’t take their call that’s pretty rude isn’t it? Salesmen that want to have an interview will give a gift and then they figure after you give the gift there’s something you’ve got a relationship now when you accept the gift.

That principal is true in that when God gives us this incredible gift does the relationship change? Here is where it gets into some of the confusing theology and it shouldn’t be confusing. We are justified by faith. It is a free gift, but are there works connected with justification? Connected, yes. Does justification depend on works? No. This is very, very important. Let me see if I can illustrate. If you can handle it, pardon me for putting it that way, go with me to James chapter 2, verse 21. James 2:21. Now we’ve just tried to make a strong case that we are saved by grace through faith. We are justified with a free gift, but how do you deal with James? This was something that caused incredible trouble for the apostles. I mean, for the reformers. James chapter 2 verse 21 and 22. “Was not Abraham our father justified…” Now that’s our study. This is the work we’re talking about. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…” Wait a second! Is James contradicting Paul? Paul said, “It is not by works, it is by faith.” Here James is saying Abraham was justified by works. Romans chapter 3 verse 26, “To declare I say at this time His righteousness, that He may be just and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.” It seems like Paul and James are contradicting each other. Did the Holy Spirit inspire them both?

Is it both scripture, holy scripture that we can trust? Yes, it is. Abraham our father was “justified by works when he had offered his son upon the altar? Seest how faith wrought with his works...” Alright, now this is a very important thing. Faith wrought. What was it that was working? Faith wrought with his works. And by works faith was made perfect. Now there where it says faith made perfect that word perfect means complete, but if you look at the meaning of the sentence it can easily be translated his works by faith were made evidence, manifest. In other words the works proved that he had been justified. Did you understand that? Paul and James are talking to two different groups. Oh, let me see if I can explain it. When I’m preaching to a room full of legalists I talk about grace. When I am preaching to a room full of liberals that believe in righteousness by presumption I talk about surrender and obedience. They’re both accurate. They don’t conflict, but you want to speak to the needs of the people you are talking to or writing to. You see what I’m saying? Who was Paul dealing with? Paul was dealing with Jewish believers that were trying to force the gentile converts to keep all the Law of Moses in order to be justified. Paul was saying that’s not how we receive justification.

James is now dealing with people who have come into the church believing that since we’re justified by faith works don’t matter. Let’s go back to our parable for a minute, the publican and the Pharisee. When the publican repented in church and he asked God for mercy and Jesus said he went home justified here is a very, very, very, very, very, very important question. Did he know he was justified when he went home? Should a person know when they’re justified? If we’re saved by faith should we know it? Would he ask for mercy not expecting to receive it? Does the Holy Spirit ever speak to our hearts and give us comfort and peace that God’s heard our prayer? How many of you have prayed about something, you’ve agonized and all of a sudden a peace floods your soul, you know your prayer got through and you just let it go? I think the Spirit teaches us. He went home justified. Now because this publican goes home and he’s repented and he’s not even looked up and he smote upon his breast, “I am a sinner! Have mercy on me!” And God says, “You’re forgiven.” He goes home believing in his heart he’s justified is he different? Well, first of all he’s different than he came because he came a sinner; he goes home covered with Christ’s righteousness. Does he act different? In real salvation true justification will show a change in behavior.

Alright Luke gives another example of how this dynamic works of justification and sanctification. Go with me to Luke chapter 23, Luke chapter 23. You remember the story of the two thieves on the cross one on the right the other on the left. How many of those thieves were guilty? Both of them were guilty of the same sins. Matter of fact their record is identical Biblically. They’re both guilty of sedition tried to overthrow the Roman government of murder and they were sort of Robin Hoods they would steal to help subsidize their rebellious activities and one’s on the right and one’s on the left of Jesus. One is saved; one is lost, but as far as their record is concerned they’re identical. They’re both helpless to save themselves. They’re both… they can do nothing to save themselves. They both turn to Jesus in their final hour. I guess at the beginning of the crucifixion according to the other gospel writers they both engage in sort of mocking Christ. In other words they heard people around the cross saying, “If you’re the Christ save yourself!” and they said, “Yes, and save us.” Both thieves did that at first. But then one of them as the hours go by, Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, six hours alive, one hour dead, seven hours total. As the hours go by they notice Christ’s behavior. They’re listening to people maybe recount His miracles.

His mind is stirred by the Holy Spirit. Maybe he hears somebody reading from Isaiah 53. Maybe one of the rabbis or he hears Jesus say, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” And that’s a messianic Psalm that talks about the sufferings of the Messiah. He sees them gambling for Jesus’ clothes around the foot of the cross and that’s in that Psalm and all of a sudden he realizes this is Him! We don’t know how the Holy Spirit illuminated his mind, but something happened in his mind. And so you read here in Luke chapter 23, verse 40, “The other thief,” oh, I’m sorry the thief on the left, the lost thief, he says, “Lord, if You’re the Christ, save Yourself and us.” If, if! Can he be saved? You need faith. And the other one answers to his companion, and he rebuked him, he said, “Do you not even fear God…” In other words, even now, don’t you have any fear of God? “…seeing you’re under the same condemnation?” Don’t give Him a hard time. You’re dying for the same things. He said, “…but we indeed justly…” We’re getting what we deserve. You know what that’s called? Repentance. He’s admitting, confessing his guilt. “…for we receive the due reward for our deeds…” I don’t want the due reward for my deeds. How about you? Heaven forbid I should get the due reward for my deeds. That makes me shudder to think about it.

I don’t want my reward, I want His reward. Isn’t that what you want? We’re getting the due reward for our deeds, “but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Did this thief hear Pilate say, “I find no fault in Him”? Two or three times Pilate said that. This Man has done no wrong. Then he turns to Jesus, very short prayer, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” It’s like the publican in the temple. “Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner.” Isn’t that what he’s saying? So simple. Shortest prayer of salvation is Peter’s prayer in the Bible. It’s three words. “Lord, save me!” He didn’t have time for any more than that. He was going down, right? Did the Lord save him? He says, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” And Jesus, you know this is so wonderful because amidst all of the agony, the crushing weight of the sins of the world on His soul, the separation from the Father, the betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of His own disciples, all that Jesus is going through mixed with the physical agony, does Jesus, I mean He doesn’t say, “Look, don’t bother Me now. Can’t you see that I’m having a hard time?”

Oh, my conscience just smote me! Sometimes when I’m preaching to you the Lord says, “Doug.” I get busy working on a sermon. I’ve got Caller ID. Sometimes members will call me and I think, “Not now. I can’t help the sheep now; I’m working on my sermon.” Did Jesus ever say that? And in the midst of His suffering He denies all that He’s going through and He says to this thief, “Assuredly…” How does God offer salvation? Does He say, “Maybe, if you’re good, there’s a possibility”? He gives him an assurance. He says, “Assuredly I say to you” you could be with Me? You might be with Me? He says, I’m telling you “today you will be with Me in paradise.” Now is that man going to be saved? By the way Christ is saying I’m telling you today you’ll be with Me in paradise. It doesn’t come off the way some versions have punctuated it, I’m telling you, today you’ll be with me in paradise, because Christ did not go to paradise that day. He did not rise until Sunday morning.

That’s why He told Mary, “don’t cling to Me. I’m not yet ascended to My Father.” So was this thief justified? By what? By faith. Was his, do you think a peace maybe showed on his face after Jesus? He never utters another word that we hear of. We can only assume that now he needed to hang his faith on the word of Christ that he would be forgiven. Boy that must have brought a great deal of comfort to him. Just suppose, now you’ve got to work with me. We don’t know what happened to the publican or the thief after they received forgiveness except Jesus said the publican went home forgiven. Jesus said to the thief, “You’ll be in paradise” forgiven. Just suppose that for whatever reason Pilate told the soldiers, “You know I’m going to let one of those thieves go.” And they go get a crowbar and they take the nails out and they bind up his hands and his feet and he heals up. He’s scarred for life but he lives.

Would he have been different? Real justification will be seen in a change of behavior. It’s a primitive illustration but it may help a little bit. You’ve got a wagon called works and there is nothing wrong with good works. Don’t fall for this lie that Christians are never to talk about good works or you’re legalistic. The Bible is filled with apostles and prophets talking about how important good works are. It’s not a sin. Let me give you just a few very quickly. Ephesians chapter 2 verse 10. You look these up for me, come on, let me, hold your hand up. Ephesians 2:10 if you’re willing to read that. Find it then hold your hand up. Someone else read Titus chapter 2 verse 7. And I’ll tell you what, while you’re finding that I’ll read I Timothy 5:25, “Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.” Notice what he says about good works, they’re evident. You’ll know them by their fruits. I Timothy 6:18, “Let them do good, that they might be rich in good works…” Do good, “good works, ready to give, willing to share.” Alright now did somebody find the first one I had? Ephesians 2 verse 10.

We’ve got a hand right here. Bring, yeah, bring the microphone here. Somebody else over here maybe you’ll read for me, what was the other one I said? Titus 2:7, you got that one? Oh we got someone already got it. Alright, go ahead. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are created for good works that we should walk in them. Who said that? What writer in the Bible? Who wrote that? Paul. He’s the same one that wrote Romans about justified by faith, that’s a gift, right? But does Paul say that we should not worry about works that works are no concern? No, he says if we are justified we’re created we’re saved for good works. Now I gave you another one here Titus 2:7 did someone over here have that? “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing uncorruptedness, gravity and sincerity.” In all things a pattern of good works.

Should Christians treat the phrase good works like they’re a dirty word? But as soon as you start talking about we should have the fruit of good works people get upset. Okay you’ve got this wagon we call works. You want to move the wagon. There’s a couple ways of doing that. Any of you ever seen people pushing a wagon? Especially during the crossing of the American continent it was frequently seen settlers would push their wagons out of a ditch or sometimes up a hill and they’d maybe help the horses, but picture for a second settlers that are pushing a wagon and a horse is tied to the back of the wagon. So the horse is being pulled along by the wagon and they’re pushing the wagon. The horse is grace free grace, okay? Then of course you’ve got the others who just cut the wagon loose and they say, “We’re just going to ride off to the Promised Land (California) without the wagon.” They’re going to get there and have nothing, right? And then of course you’ve got those that put the horse in front of the wagon where the wagon comes after the horse. When you are saved there is a new power because you are saved to live a different kind of life.

This is what James is talking about when he speaks of justification. I’m back here in James chapter 2. “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that by works a man is justified.” Now notice how James what context he puts it in. Abraham believed and he gets credit for righteousness and so he was justified by works. What was the work that Abraham did? Believing. His belief is what made him offer up his son. Now I’ve got the support of Jesus for this. Who will read for me John chapter 6 verse 28 and 29? Got a hand, got a couple hands right here. Over here. Birdie, hold your hand up. John chapter 6 this is a very, very important verse, verse 28 and 29 about works and faith. “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” Alright I love saying this. Are we saved by works? Yes! The works of belief. Somebody is going to quote me on tape and play that back and leave out the last part.

It’s the works of belief. Isn’t that what Jesus said, “This is the work… that you believe.” Does it ever take effort to believe? Yeah. Sometimes do you not feel like believing and you need to pray that God will give you the courage, the strength to decide to believe because God says something even though you don’t feel like it? So there may be an effort involved in believing what God says because the devil is telling you not to believe and the outside evidence is telling you not to believe but you’re going to choose to believe. So what is the work that Jesus said? This is the work, to believe. What is the work that Abraham did? It says he believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Alright let me read something to you from the book Selected Messages and I’ll close with this. “By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety Who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness which answers all the demands of the law.

I am complete in Him Who brings an everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garments of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ and all the glory, honor and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” You know why believing is sometimes a challenge? Because it is so hard for us to not give ourselves credit and say, “Lord, I’ll help you.” Or “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other men. Here is my list of good things.” To lay aside all of our righteousness as filthy rags is sometimes difficult for us and to say He gets all the glory for our righteousness. We are justified as a gift.

We’ve run out of time. Thank you for studying with us for our friends who are watching on television and again for our class here locally. I’d like to invite the ushers to come forward. It’s at this time we receive our Sabbath School offering and this is something that demonstrates our love. We give because of our love for Him not because we buy anything from God. Amen? It’s a gift. Let’s bow our heads and pray. Loving Father in heaven, dear Lord, we are so thankful for the good news the gospel is a simple truth that we can come before You and say, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. We can pray, remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom. And if we pray in faith and confess and repent that we can go from this place justified and you look upon us just as if we had never sinned. That’s good news, Lord. We pray that you’ll bless each person that we might have that experience. Please bless this offering that it might go to perpetuate that truth and please be with us also in our worship service that follows we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We’ll have a few minutes for prayer and meditation as we prepare to move into the worship service.

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Down From His Glory (PB) by Joe Crews

Down From His Glory (PB) by Joe Crews

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