A Practical Look At Justification By Faith

This may take some explanation, but I have recently thought that the doctrine and experience of justification by faith alone in Christ alone might just be the key to the selling of our house (?).  Let me say here that I absolutely repudiate the prosperity Gospel, – it is the acid reflux of American Christianity.  What I mean to say is that justification by faith glorifies Christ by the Spirit as supremely beautiful and surpassingly valuable, – and in Him I rejoice alone.  But I mean to think through the practical, nitty-gritty existential element of the doctrine, in this case, that at least my prayers should be shaped by this biblical truth is becoming paramount.  On a larger scale, I’m thinking that this crucial element of the Gospel is the key to every situational reality in the life of the Christian and all who would believe.  That it carries with it an element of the activity of faith, – through which faith in Jesus and vital union and communion with Him we have been and will be justified before God.  I have simply chosen to use our dormant house as an example to think through.

I have been long convinced that the Gospel is useful for more than just conversion.  This conviction began to swim around in my mind after listening to some of John Piper’s sermons from Romans 1:16-17.  A while later I heard him remark that he found justification by faith to be essential in the pursuit of successful marriages, – marriages?  Yep, marriages!  And I thought, “What does this mean?”  It puzzled me to say the least, and it didn’t help that I never heard his explanation of this connection.

Nevertheless, as I continued to pray I found my prayers co-mingling with my own human limitations.  In my prayers I found myself calling on a Sovereign God who rules the market place, but in my conversation I found myself saying, “Well, if it doesn’t sell by such and such a time…if only these people would be prepared to make an offer…the market is just so bad right now…etc.”  In practice I regulated the selling of our house to days, months, people, money, and law, etc.  

God convicted me recently that I was being wholly dependent upon these things to sell our house, – a right time, a right person, a right place, a right situation, – all the while there was my Sovereign God.  He created time, people, places, and market trends, and thus He transcends them and operates above them and orchestrates all events for His purpose and glory.  

So how does justification by faith play into this everyday situation?  I remarked earlier that I have been long convinced that the Gospel is more than just the message that converts people.  Indeed, it is that, but it is more than just that.  It is the message that the Christian lives on practically from day to day.  We are both converted and sanctified by its power.  To experience the reality of justification by faith is to be vitally united to Jesus, – we are “in Christ”, – and as such we are now led by the Spirit of Christ into new (Christ-like) patterns of thought, affection, tastes, desires, and loves, etc., and this newness of “Christ in us the hope of glory” will result in a practical change towards a God-centeredness in all things.  Often times, however, after we have believed we turn back practically to rules and regulations and, consequently, to the limiting of our Lord and Sovereign Savior, Jesus Christ.  We tend to confine God to circumstances.  Having been saved by grace through faith, we turn again to natural means of thinking and acting out everyday experiences of life.

Justification by faith teaches us (a) of God’s Sovereign grace, (b) that human rules and regulations are not the means of salvation or conversion or sanctification, (c) that vital union to Jesus Christ by faith is that means, (d) and that being right with God through faith we know Him who having done the most impossible thing (humanly speaking), namely, justifying sinners, is on that basis justified before His children as the God who is Sovereignly able to meet every need that we may genuinely have.  It also solidifies for us our absolute unworthiness apart from Christ to call on God for anything, – we are sinners who needed saving, and God has done this freely in Christ.  If this is our God, then why does our normative behavior look so….natural and not so….dependent upon Sovereign grace (supernatural)?

Therefore, I have conceded to the Lord that He is Sovereign, – Sovereignly gracious, merciful, loving, true, good, and right, etc. and that He is able to do what He wants when He wants with His creation.  And that I am to be thankful that I know Him because of a cross, – that there I was justified by the faith that He would effect upon me in due time for the sake of Christ.  And so I am humbled.  I do not know when God will do this work for Jenny and me.  But I know Him, because He has known me.  And I am satisfied in His Sovereign grace; I rejoice in justification by faith as the practical cornerstone holding together every day, every difficulty, every situation, and I praise God for Christ in whom I am set free to trust my Sovereign from day to day with a real God-centeredness.  I can carry out my sojourn (spiritually and immediately) in the grace of Christ, and therefore, justification by faith has not so much to do with the selling of my house as much as it has to do with the spiritual life and communion imputed to me in Christ that enables me to trust God and to love God in the midst of that situation of life.  Here I will hang my hat for the time being.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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