The great New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce stated, “Beware when you read Romans. Anything can happen.” If we stop to think about it, Romans has sparked every great revival within the Christian church. Augustine, Wesley, Calvin and Luther come to mind as men who, not only had their personal lives transformed by their encounter with Paul’s letter, but they went on to lead world changing revivals.
Luther, who had spent his time as a Monk confessing his sins hours every day in a wild attempt to be right with God, must have sung for joy when he read passages such as “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the law (Romans 3:28). And to encounter Romans 4:4, “Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,” must have been the greatest news he could ever had heard.
Romans 4:13, 14 reminds us, as it did Luther and all the other reformers, that our redemption is based on the goodness and grace of God and not on our own performance. “The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.”
But just in case his hearers are missing the point, which many contemporary Christians still do, Paul goes on, “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants—not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all” Romans 4:15, 16). And then Paul summarizes chapter four by stating, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
All the men that I mentioned earlier in this post who started great revivals after encountering Romans were also men who were troubled by their inability to be more than they were. Bobby Burns once stated, “My life isn’t it what it should be. It’s not even what it could be,” and he was absolutely right. The good news of the book of Romans is that our standing before God is not based upon our performance and law keeping but upon the grace of God.
Luther, who had little hope of salvation throughout much of his life, was totally transformed by the gospel. The Living Bible puts the joy of being saved by grace this way, “But now God has shown us a different way to heaven-not by ‘being good enough,’ and trying to keep His laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says He will accept and acquit us-declare us ‘not guilty’- if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins.” Romans 3:21, 22
I am not going to comment on all these verses because they speak for themselves, but instead I want to ask a simple question in light of Paul’s overwhelming proclamation of grace alone, Christ alone and faith alone; why do so many well meaning Christians still cling to law keeping for their relationship with Christ?
This blog is about help for discouraged Christians and there are few Christians that are more discouraged than those who are on the merry-go-round of a works based religion. I remember when I first became a Christian how we moved to the country, Ruth stopped playing her guitar, we gave away our records, threw out the television, stopped hanging around with our old friends and went to church as often as it was open. I did everything I could think of to be in a right relationship with God.
The particular denomination that I was involved in said that going to movies was wrong, so I stopped going to movies, they said listening to contemporary music was wrong so I stopped listening to music, they said that wearing jewelry was wrong so I stopped wearing my wedding ring and the list goes on. But was I happier than I had been? Not really. Was I closer to God than I use to be? No I wasn’t because I had not accepted the cross but instead the ways of the Pharisee.
It wasn’t until I discovered grace and the joy of being declared righteous through the blood of Christ that I found happiness, joy, peace and assurance. So, here is my encouragement to anyone reading this blog who is struggling with thinking you are good enough or if you have done enough to be right with God. Throw all your cares on His shoulders because He cares for you, died for you and longs to accept you and take you home to Heaven to spend eternity with you.
As Desmond Ford stated, “Only the Christian gospel offers the key to real living. That gospel is the ‘good, glad, and merry tidings, that make the heart to sing and the feet to dance. It proclaims that we don’t have to be good enough to be saved, but we do have to be saved to be good. And anyone can be saved from sin’s guilt and power in a moment.” Right With God Right Now (back cover)
No striving, no beating yourself up over failures, no sleepless nights because you are afraid you will never be good enough and no fear of the judgment. Instead we come to Jesus just as we are and fall at the foot of the cross and accept His love and His atoning death that sets us free from the bondage to sin and its penalty.
Instead of law keeping as a method to try and enter salvation we fall into the arms of Christ. I for one will never go back to legalism because I have found joy in the mercy of the Father. True Christianity isn’t singing songs in church, reading the Bible or listening to sermons, good as all those things are, but instead it is the union of our heart with God and that is what faith does; it takes a hold of God and holds us close to the love of God.
* It seems that everyday there are new headlines of the atrocities committed against the Christians and humanity in many countries. Please remember to pray for these people – they need our support if only in our prayers. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians