Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Christian Hope: The Joy and Rejoicing of Believers

    The Christian Hope: Reasons Believers Have to Rejoice

    1. Our Position

    Justification by faith provides believers a reason to rejoice others do not share. Peace is a valued possession and some have it while others don't. As Paul writes

    "Therefore, since WE have been justified through faith, WE have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Some may only say "There's PROBABLY no God", but that's not a settled peace. Some suggest they have peace but it's only because of intoxication rather than reality. Some experience peace for awhile, but as soon as they sin, peace is gone and they are left to cover up or make up, but tey continue messing up. Then there are the self righteous who trust they are fine and even better than others, but are not. They are deceived and while they boast to themselves and others, will be found to have used the wrong standard and do not measure up to the right one, finding themselves not even as righteous as they thought. But in constrast to all these, believers (even those who miserably fall short ourselves) have peace with God, because it depends not on us, but on Christ & the sacrifices he made for us & the benefits he gained & provides for us. This peace if first of all objective as we have gained access by faith in to this grace in which we now stand. Subjective peace then follows. Because our peace rests not upon ourselves or what we do, but upon the promise & provision of God for those who depend on him through faith, we can know this peace, & whereas others may boast or glory in their own works or righteousness, yet never truly know the peace of God, we have peace with God and that's something we glory in.

    2. Our Expectation

    Whereas others in some form or another are compelled or left to live in denial in regard to either the reality of God or the fullness of his glory, believers are free to acknowledge & rejoice in God and the fullness of his glory, prersence, power and plans. We do not live out of a position of panic or fear, but with great expectation and hope! For having come to know that God is for us, we have no reason to deny him or distance ourselves from him in any way, as others do. Both the presence and prospect of God and his presence, his promises, his kingdom plans, and his coming to pass even in the last days does not scare us; rather, we welcome it with joy as our hope not only rest in, but depends on, and looks forward to it. Believers alone are able to fully rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

    3. Our Problems

    Some may ask: If believers have it so great, then why do we face the similar troubles as the rest. Their assertion is that certainly these give cause for concer or reason to doubt. However, as a result of the new state of grace wherein we now live, our trials and tribulations, though they are sure to still come to pass, and even moreso as we serve God in this world, serve to bring us closer to the Lord and to make us more like the Lord! Our problems are the very means by which the promises and plans of God will be worked out and fulfilled not only in our Father's world, but in our lives. We are able to see ourselves and our problems not as others (i.e., that we are the objects of blind chance or fate) but having purpose... purpose which includes the working out of our salvation! Whereas the world either frowns upon or looks only with temporal appreciation unop problems, believers, while we recognize the difficulties, rejoice even in our problems, recognizing that the physical and emotional is not the whole truth nor is the present reality the final reality. We do not look to these in a spirit of martyrdom or masochism, but realize and experience a greater purpose and upshot through them. As Paul wrtites, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope", and this hope is experienced as the grace of God fills our lives.

    4. Our Promise

    Some may ask: How do you know that's not a false hope? Certainly there are many things in the world which might seem to indicate that there is no God or that God may be uncaring or forgetful, but as Ogilsvie writes "...there is one reminder of God's love which stands supreme!" Paul put it this way "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a rightgeous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were were still sinners Christ died for us." We were neither righteous nor good, but even so, God saved us at at a time and situation like this. Christ's love is unprecedented and unparalleled! But this is not all, for there's the lesser to greater proof. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! For if, when were were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" As John Stott writes "Again, if he reconciled us to himself when we were his enemies, much more will he finish our salvation now that we are his reconciled friends! These are the grounds on which we dare to affirm that we shall be saved!" If God saved us when we were unrighteous, ungodly, powerless, enemies; how much more can we look to and trust him now! Our hope is not ungrounded, illusory or deceptive, but our future rests on an even greater hope. Even in light of our sin, believers have great reason to rejoice!

    5. Our Possession

    The believers greatest reason to rejoice is not in what we possess or receive but in the one whom we possess. God is not only the source of all our greatest good, but the object of our greatest boast! Having been reconciled, not only is our boast not in ourselves, but our boast is in God himself, who has wrought and brought about our salvation. We serve a loving, just and gracious God and father. We have reason to rejoice in HIM!!!

    John Stott writes "It's clear... the major mark of justified believers is joy, especially joy in god himself. We must be the most positive people in the world. For the new community of Jesus Christ is characterized not by a self-centered triumphalism, but by a God-centered worship!

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