Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Favor with God

The god of this world has been at hard at work capturing man’s allegiance, driving the wedge of alienation deeper between man and God through a living faith that cannot agree “on who God is, what He is like, how man should relate to Him or the dimensions of the supernatural world” (Steyne, Philip. In Step With The God of the Nations). There is no peace of mind, no certainty of anything but fear. Theological exchanges (even those on the street) sound like grade school children, “my god can beat up your god.” How does “yeah well, my god . . .” work in an age of tolerance and so-called reconciliation when there clearly is no basis for either?

If there is a God, how is He to be approached? Do we fall on our knees, or grovel? Should we lick the dust at his feet?

What should I do with my hands: lift them up, stretch them out, place them on my head or clasp them behind?

How is He pleased? What and how much am I supposed to bring into His presence?
What am I guaranteed because of what I believe? What is safe?

The problem with trying to do things in order to earn favor with God is that “doing” is bribery, which means man has created for himself a god lower than he. Man has offended God by breaking His moral laws and bribery makes the judge worse than the criminal. So what kind of God is He, really?

Dr. John MacArthur skillfully and beautifully presents a summary of the first three chapters of Romans by borrowing a scene from classic literature: “In the Iliad of Homer, the great Trojan warrior, Hector, was preparing to fight Achilles and the invading Greeks. As he was about to leave home, Hector wanted to hold his young son Astayanax in his arms and bid him farewell for what ended up being the last time. But Hector’s armor so frightened the infant that he shrank back to his nurse’s caress. The father, laughing out loud, then removed his bronze helmet and took up his little child in his arms. The boy discovered the father of his love behind all that armor. That is similar to what Paul does in his letter to the Romans, beginning with 3:21. Having shown God as judge and executioner, as it were, he next shows the God of love, who reaches out with open arms to sinful people in the hope that they will come to Him and be saved.” (MacArthur, J. Romans : Grace, Truth, and Redemption. W Publishing Group: Nashville, 2000)

God has given us a glimpse at His Holy Perfections in the table of contents of righteousness, the Ten Commandments. The Apostle Paul demonstrates in lawyer-like fashion, that when man stands before God, man has no right to boast of any righteousness, goodness—there is no place for religious pride. God has revealed His righteousness (3:21) and made payment for sin on man’s behalf to demonstrate His righteousness (3:25). That payment received by faith allows God to demonstrate His righteousness by passing over the sins previously committed (3:25-26). God cannot pronounce the wicked as clean without this demonstration of His righteousness. We must believe God or we are lost.

Romans 4 focuses particularly on Abraham and the fact that he was justified before he was circumcised. The Romans could have cared less about circumcision, except for being a rite of passage to adulthood, as practiced by cultures worldwide. What does this mean for them, especially considering the Hebrew background? Simply those acts of religion do not matter to God. Believing God is the key. Circumcision is not a ritual that earns reward but becomes a badge, a symbol in the heart of those who believe what God has done for them. The acts of religion do not purchase favor, but serve as reminders of what we believe and provide discipleship opportunity for new believers.

God’s perfect standard as seen in the law shows man where he fails God and religion cannot repair the breach. Someone said that the only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break. Perhaps this is what people secretly desire when they rationalize their offenses by saying, “but laws are man-made!” Try that one in a traffic stop! First, if there were no God, there would be no ethical problems, no morals; nevertheless, His perfections are evidence of His existence and man is exposed in His light. One may carry on in life thinking he is doing well until the law shows where he has transgressed, and there are consequences regardless if he acknowledges the law or not. He cannot stand before the judge and say “I’ll be good, I’ll never do it again” because acts of future goodness cannot fix what was done in the past.

Only God can do that for those who will come to Him. Christ died because He loves.

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