The pit of despair
It is a real tendency among men to want to defend anything that compromises their territory, relationships or honor. From a very young age we are poised to give an answer for our actions. In many instances we have all heard the proverbial question, “What do you have to say for yourself.” This leads us to believe that we better have a good excuse for our sin and instills in us the trigger to immediately cover up and justify our unrighteousness. With out an understanding of who God is and what He has done on our behalf, we move into the abyss of self justification and moral depravity, spinning endlessly, deeper into a web of lies and deceit, ultimately unable to see who we really are or have become. The defense of our own lives eventually becomes spiritual pride and legalism where we are the only one’s who are right and everyone else doesn’t get it. It generally takes a devastating event in life to pull us back into recognition that we have taken the work that only Christ can do into our own hands.
The characteristics of this kind of lifestyle naturally generate an unhealthy view of world, family, friends, leadership, and the church. Everyone becomes suspect, some become judge and jury, and the very things that you yourself have become are now identified as sin in others. In most cases we become prone to conjecture and unable to see others through the lens of Christ and the work of the cross.
My Adversary’s new Enemy
Once we begin to recognize that the pit of despair is too deep for anyone to crawl out of on their own, it leaves us with a host of decisions on how to proceed. If you have been a Christian like me for most of your life or even if you have been one for a short time. The accuser starts his attack almost immediately and we must decide right then whom we will listen too. This is a pivotal point in Christianity where you now choose how you will live, how you will love and if you can walk in the profound simplicity of Jesus. You will find many around you love the broken and contrite heart, they rally behind your new found desire for change but, just for a moment and when it does not match their accepted protocol you once again are set aside to fade into the backdrop where no one is bothered with the messiness of your sin. This is where you make the glorious switch from defending yourself to the defense that Jesus provides.
1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Jesus our Advocate and our Defense
As you have gathered by now, Jesus is the central component of your success. It will not come through your piers, accountability partners, psychology, counseling, or by the opinion of others have of you. The self-righteous man is just as guilty, if not more so, than the unrighteous individual. In the story of the prodigal son, who was guiltier? Was it the prodigal who spent time in the pigpen and came back repenting, or the elder son who complained and murmured because his father never killed a fatted calf for him? The heathen and the Hebrew alike are without excuse. One might sin in the flesh, the other in the spirit—but both sin. Only God sees what’s going on internally, only He can judge righteously.
Too often, regardless of being the Hebrew or the one in the pigpen, we’re so sure we’re right—when in reality we don’t have all of the facts. In the Day of Judgment, we will be shocked at how wrong we were and how little we knew when all the books are opened and all things will be judged truthfully. Watch out for the self-righteous person. They are the ones who perhaps are most vulnerable to despising the goodness of God when their brothers are glorifying God fresh out of the pigpen. It happens all to frequently when grace is extended to people who come from the pigpen and the self righteous gather in their own spiritual pride and begin to manipulate the work of grace to their benefit, not seeing their own depravity.
You must now rely solely on the work of your new advocate Jesus. Let’s take a commoners approach to some of the characteristics of this work in the book of Romans.
Romans 3:22 KJV
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.
1. Justification is apart from the law. If you’re trying to relate to the Father on the basis of your own goodness or devotion, your consistency or your Bible study, your do’s and dont’s—you’ll never be justified. The law cannot justify you. It can only bring you to the realization that you are a sinner in need of a Savior.
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith…
2. Justification is by faith in the Lord. Our justification comes from our being linked not to God generally, but to Jesus Christ personally. Do you have a general relationship where you say “I’m religious” or, do you have an intimate relationship with the Lord. James says the demons believe in God, but they’re not saved. They’re not justified. They won’t be in heaven (James 2:19). It’s not enough for a person to say, “I believe in God and go to church.” No, he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because the source of justification lies embedded in the Person and work of Jesus.
Romans 3:22 (cont.)
…of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.
3. Justification is for everyone. Whether Jew or Gentile, yuppie or hippie, heathen or Hebrew—there’s only one way to enter into salvation: by faith. It’s not faith in what you’ve done or who you are, it’s not my fickle faith in Jesus Christ. Simply put, it is just believing that it is the faithfulness of Jesus towards me, in me, and for me. And that he loved me while I was ungodly so much so that He gave up his own life so a wretch like me could have new life being perfectly, completely and instantaneously justified!
Justification is by faith in the Lord. Our justification comes from our being linked to Jesus Christ personally.
If that doesn’t do it for you then… Propitiation!!!
God Himself became a Man and absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of propitiation is that God actually inflicted death on a cross upon Himself.
Now we won’t go into the deep theological perspectives of grace, justification, and propitiation here. Let’s not forget, I too am a commoner, a sinner. That being said, the custom of many is to dissect Romans in such a way that we will get bogged down in theological debate rather than simple application. So, allow me at this point to throw out one big word and make propitiation simple to apply to a common pin head such as myself.
Hilasterion, or “propitiation”—the word we don’t hear much today—is used only five times in the entire New Testament: Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1–2; 1 John 4:10; and Hebrews 9 are four of them. The Hebrews reference, I would say, is a real key to unlocking this understanding, because in describing the mercy seat, the author of Hebrews uses the word hilasterion. The mercy seat, or hilasterion, covered the ark of the covenant. It was like a lid. The ark of the covenant contained the law. Therefore, through the mercy seat, God says, “I know you’ve broken the law. I know you deserve to be consumed because of it. But I’m going to put a lid on it through the sacrifice of My Son. He is the helasmos, the mercy seat, the propitiation. It’s not something He gives. It’s who He is! You see He has come between you and the broken law. The wrath that He should have vented on me and you was instead placed upon His Son, who died in your place.”
Now take a few moments to wrap your brain around that and then continue reading.
The fifth use of the word “propitiation” is found in Luke 18:10–14. It is a brief vignette, concerning the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector. Look at verse 13: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It begins with “God” and ends with “sinner.” The middle phrase, “be merciful”—the verb form of hilasterion—stands between God and sin. Every one of us is in one of two categories. You’re either the self-righteous Pharisee, or you’re the tax collector, grateful that Jesus is standing between God and your sin.
Now when I begin to understand the work of propitiation it blows my mind. Propitiation adds an entirely different dimension to what Paul calls “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). It’s not just the Father saying, “I’m going to settle mankind’s problem judicially.” No, He deals with it personally. That God would love me so much He would actually become the object of His own wrath frees me up in a profound way.
I know I’m a sinner. But because He absorbed the anger that should have been poured out upon me, I can walk throughout the rest of the day, week, and year be cause I am the recipient of His incomprehensible love.
Need help applying this?
Tomorrow when you wake up, It won’t take long for your adversary the Devil to begin to accuse you. He may come in many forms and is highly distinguishable because he never encourages, he never has a solution, and he never leads you to the cross. Anything or anyone who comes to you and meets those criteria should be promptly introduced to the new Adversary of your Enemy. Let Him put a lid on it! Meanwhile you can be free!
Next Start, Pleading the Blood!
Commoner, Sinner, Saved by Grace