Just By Faith Alone - Part 5

Philippians 3:1-11

Tom Pennington  •  October 3, 2004
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Focusing again on the wonderful reality that we've been studying as we've gone through Philippians 3, I have to confess to you that this is one of those passages that I almost hate to see come to an end. And it hasn't yet, so you can relax. We've got today and next week, Lord willing, to go through these wonderful eleven verses in Philippians 3:1 through 11. We've been dealing with the issue of justification.

The astonishing truth that we have been studying, and that we will study again this morning, is profound. And it's profound in a number of ways, and it has had lasting reverberations through the history of the church. In fact, this truth sparked a spiritual revolution that you and I still benefit from. That time we call the Reformation. It was this truth that forever changed the life of a young monk by the name of Martin Luther. Martin Luther's story is really a remarkable one.

I don't know how familiar you are with it, but from boyhood, Martin Luther was terrified. His mind was constantly troubled by the reality that he would one day stand before a Holy God and have to give an account. When he was in college, he attended college to learn what his father wanted him to learn which was law. During his college days two of his friends died, his closest friends. And that only deepened this sort of struggle in his own heart, this fear and terror that he had for God.

One day in the summer of 1505, Luther was riding his horse through a forest in the middle of a thunder storm which is contraindicated, but that's what he was doing. And as he rode through, lightening struck so close it almost struck him, and it knocked him off his horse literally. And in that moment of terror that he lived in, but coming face to face with the God the Creator of the universe; he yelled out, "Saint Ann, help me, and I'll become a monk." To his father's dismay a couple of months later, he left law school, and in August of 1505, he joined an Augustinian monastery of hermits.

He was an exemplary monk. You read his life during that period of time. He fasted constantly, he prayed, he fulfilled all of the menial tasks that were assigned to him with all the vigor and energy that he could muster. And something else he did that became a point of frustration for his peers and for his superiors was, he spent literally hours every day in the confessional, confessing his sins to the one who would hear them. Literally hours, and his peers would almost have to make a line and wait to get into the confessional to confess their sins because Luther had it all tied up. And his superiors eventually had to tell him, "look, wait until you have something really to confess to come to the confessional, I mean after all how much trouble can you get into in a monastery."

Through all of those spiritual exercises as a monk, Luther found no peace for his soul. In fact, he writes of that period of his life, "I had no love for that Holy and Just God who punishes sinners, I was filled with secret anger against Him." In God's providence his spiritual father in that monastery was a man who may have well been a Christian, a man by the name of John Staupitz. Staupitz told Luther this, and Luther records it later. Staupitz said,

More than a thousand times I have sworn to our Holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows. Now I swear no longer, for I know that I can not keep my solemn promises. If God will not be merciful toward me for the love of Christ and grant me a happy departure when I must quit this world, I shall never with the aid of all my vows and all my good works stand before Him. I must perish.

Staupitz went on and said this to Luther,

Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ to the blood that He has shed for you, it is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into your Redeemers arms, trust in Him in the righteousness of His life and in the atonement of His death.

Staupitz told Luther to examine the Scriptures and see if I'm not telling you the truth; and Luther did just that. For the first time in his life he began to study the Scriptures, and in fact he began to study by God's providence the epistle to the Romans. He began a series of lectures on Romans. And he came of course very quickly to the first chapter verses 16 and 17, and he describes in later of his works, the wrestling that he did with God over those words recorded in those two verses. And he says I beat upon Paul. It's a very powerful figure of speech; I beat upon Paul in that text to discern what he had to say.

And he said eventually by God's mercy and grace I came to understand that the heart of it was that there were those who were righteous not by their works, but by faith and faith alone. The just by faith shall live; those who are righteous by faith shall live eternally. And Luther wrote that when he came to understand that he said, "Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates." And the reformation that you and I benefit from was born. The truth that freed Luther is the theme of Philippians 3:1 through 11, and it is the doctrine of justification, .God declaring believers believing sinners to be righteous solely because of the life and death of Jesus Christ received by faith alone.

We've been studying these verses, and let me remind you the purpose for these verses. Paul had already told the Philippians these things years before, ten years before he had started the church in Philippi on the banks of a river with some Jewish women, and he told them the truths that are recorded here. He'd been back a couple of times, and he'd also told them again about the wonderful joy of justification, but now he writes to them, and his purpose is this: he wants them to understand that this truth is to remain the center and focus of their Christian lives, and it is of ours as well.

Why is this truth so important? Well ,it's the gospel. It's the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Listen to how John Calvin, another reformer one of Luther's compatriots put it, he said "wherever the knowledge of it," that is of justification, "wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown."

What powerful words, but it's true, and listen folks, we live in a day when this may very well happen. There are people sitting in churches across our country who have no clue about the doctrine we've been studying, and we may very well as the church enter into another dark ages. Because wherever the knowledge of justification is taken away, and it is being, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown.

Locked into this passage of Philippians 3 are all of the key truths about this great doctrine, and we've been looking at them together. Let me just remind you of where we've been so far. We started in verse one, and we saw that justification is absolutely essential. In verse two we learned that justification is constantly under attack from its enemies. In verse three we saw that this great doctrine is the mark of all true Christians. In verses four and six we learned that justification is the antithesis, or the opposite of all human merit. Justification has nothing to do with who I am or what I've done. And last week in verses seven and eight we learned that justification always follows a radical change in thinking,. a change in thinking about who I am, a change in thinking about ourselves and how we have something to offer God, a radical change in thinking about Christ and His surpassing value,. and a radical change in thinking about salvation. That is how a person comes to have a right standing before God. You have to have that kind of a radical change in thinking that always precedes justification, because in other words those changes really are described elsewhere as repentance and faith.

Today I want us to come to verse 9. It's really the heart of this passage. And here we discover this truth about justification. Justification means to be found in Christ. Justification means to be found in Christ. Let me read for you not the entire passage, we've read it several times in the previous weeks, but let's start at verse 7, just to sort of remind you of the context of verse 9. In verse 7 Paul writes,

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish [manure, excrement] so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

You see verse 9 is essentially a definition of justification, and this is crucial for us because most Christians couldn't define justification if they had to, if their lives depended on it. You walk into the average church in our country and you ask them, what is justification, and you'll get no answer in many cases and in other cases you'll get what I think is a deficient answer. For example the most common response if you ask what is justification is someone will say it means just as if I've never sinned. Well, that's okay as far as it goes, but that's only half the story, that's only half of the reality of justification. It's so important that we carefully unpack all of the richness of this concept.

Now let me remind you of the flow in verse 8, Paul concludes by saying, listen everything that I used to think was worth something everything that used to have value to me no longer has value to me at all. And in fact there's only one thing in all the world that's important to me and that is that I may gain Christ. And then in verse 9 he explains what that means, what does it mean to gain Christ, he uses a parallel expression means the same thing to be found in Him. Paul says the one thing in all time and eternity that matters to me is to gain Christ, or let me put it another way to be found in Christ. But what does it mean to be found in Christ? What does it mean to gain Christ? Well, verse 9, the rest of the verse explains what that means. What does it mean to be found in Christ? Let's look at it together.

First, defined negatively it means not having my own righteousness. Notice how the verse is constructed, verse 9 he says, "I want to be found in Christ," and then he's going to explain what that means. It means, first of all, negatively, not having something, and then the middle of the verse he contrasts that: but having something else. So, we want to look first at what it means to be found in Christ defined negatively. It means not having my own righteousness. He says I want to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law.

Now for you to understand this verse, you've got to understand that the key issue in this verse is the contrast between two different kinds of righteousness. Or put it a different way, it's a contrast between two different ways of gaining a right standing before God. One is my righteousness. It has to do with who I am and what I've done. That's one kind of righteousness in this verse. And then there's another kind of righteousness. It's a righteousness that has nothing to do with me. It's a righteousness that instead has solely to do with the righteousness of someone else credited to my account.

The reformers referred to these two kinds of righteousness the one that's my own they referred to as an inherent righteousness, that is it's something in me that makes me acceptable to God. The other kind of righteousness they called an imputed righteousness, or another word would be credited righteousness. It's a righteousness that doesn't belong to me. I have no claim on it. It's not because I have done something or am something; instead, it's someone else's righteousness credited or imputed to my account. So, inherent righteousness and imputed righteousness, those are the two kinds of righteousness uncovered in this verse.

Notice, Paul describes the first kind of righteousness as a righteousness of my own, something about me that makes me acceptable to God. Listen, to be truly found in Christ means not having your own righteousness. In other words, before you can be found in Christ, before you can truly become a Christian, before you can stand in a righteous way, before God you must first renounce any inherent righteousness, anything in you that you think is going to make you acceptable to God. Everything that you are, everything that you've done, you must jettison, you must say it has no value to me to gain any credibility or acceptance before God. And listen folks, it's no great loss because the rest of Scripture says that whatever you are, and whatever you've done would never satisfy God's demands, His demands for perfection.

Listen to Psalm 143:2, "In your sight no man living is righteous." Ecclesiastes 7: 20, "There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins." Isaiah 64:6, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a menstruous cloth;" a mentruous rag. But nowhere more profoundly is this truth put than in Romans 3. Turn to Romans 3. I want you to see that we could never satisfy God on the basis of our own righteousness. So, it's no great loss to give it up when you come to faith in Christ, Romans 3:9. Paul has been talking about the Jews and the advantages they have and in verse 9 he says, "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all;" [that is Greeks versus Jews] "Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;"

And then he sets out, you'll notice how the text is set aside in your translation it's in all caps at least if you have New American Standard, that's because he's listing a series of quotations from the Old Testament. He's saying, listen let me prove it to you. Let me prove it to you that we're all under sin, that this is how God sees all of us, and he strings together a series of Old Testament quotations to make his point. He says listen, here's what God has to say, verse 10,

THERE IS NONE WHO MEASURE UP, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS."

He says listen, even at the level of our minds our minds are depraved. We don't understand God, we don't understand His standard, we don't understand His perfection. Nobody gets it, we're clueless. Then he says, "THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;"

Not only are our minds depraved but so are our wills. We never choose to seek God, and to whatever degree man appear men appear to be seeking God it is only for their own selfish ends and not to satisfy the Holiness of God. He goes on to say in verse 11, or excuse me verse 12, "ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD," by God's standard not one person does good, there is not even one. Listen folks no matter how people may appear to us they all appear equally guilty and without defense before God.

You see, you and I grade on a sliding scale. We look at some people in our world, some people around us, and we say well they're more righteous than we are. I mean, after all they've given their lives for this humanitarian effort, they've given up everything, their family to go help these people, so they actually grade a little higher than we do, but after all I'm not as bad as the guy I saw on the news last night who's being arrested for that terrible crime. And so typically, what we do on the scale is we put ourselves at kind of a high medium, you know we give ourselves a B minus maybe. We're not as bad as others, but we're not as good as others as well.

Well listen folks, God doesn't grade on a sliding scale, His standard is absolute perfection. While the kind, listen carefully to this, while the kind and degree of our sin may be different, our standing our status before God is completely the same it is no different than Osama bin Laden, a terrorist a mass murderer or Hitler himself. Everybody looks different to us, but to God their standing is all exactly the same. For all have sinned and come short of the standard of God's glory.

If you're clinging to some hope that who you are or what you have done will satisfy God, you are dreaming. You better wake up, and smell the coffee. If your hope of heaven is in a righteousness of your own making, then you are ignoring what God Himself has said. Listen, don't expect God to say something different in the day when you stand before Him. He's not going to change what He already said, and what He said is: it absolutely is unacceptable. It doesn't meet the standard.

Notice that Paul describes this false righteousness, this inherent righteousness not only as a righteousness of my own, but he goes on to say it's a righteousness derived from the Law. In other words, it's a righteousness that I accumulate in trying to live up to a certain set of standards whether my own standards or whether those of God's. Now, you understand this. This is the most common view of people today about how to gain a right standing with God, and that is you live a good life, you do the best you can.

I read a recent poll that was done of a large number of Americans. They asked them, so how does one gain a right standing before God. Fifty-four percent of American adults said that if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven. And you know what. I think the number is a lot higher, I think those are just the ones that had the courage to say it. I think a lot of people actually believe it more than said.

But there's one major problem with this approach. There's one major problem with thinking that your own righteousness, derived from keeping a set of standards, whether you own or God', is going to somehow gain you a right standing with God and that is even God's law was never intended for someone to gain a right standing before Him. Turn to Galatians 3, Paul couldn't make it any clearer, Galatians 3:11 he says, "no one is justified by keeping the law before God," no one is declared righteous in God's sight by keeping the law and it's evident because look at what the Old Testament says "the one who is righteous by his faith is the one who will live," who will be able dwell in God's presence. Skip down to verse 21, he says, "Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?" So, what is the Law doing? Why do we have the Law if it doesn't save us? He says, "May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life,"

In other words, if we could ever gain life through keeping the law, then that would have happened through God's Law. But that wasn't its purpose at all, verse 22, "… the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." Notice verse 24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ." It's like this giant neon sign saying you can never gain a right standing with God on your own, look to Christ.

That's the consistent message of Scripture, I won't labor the point, but let me just give you a couple, Romans 3:20 says, "by the works of the law," that is by keeping the law, "no flesh will be declared righteous in His sight.". Second Timothy 1:9, "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in [our] righteousness, but according to His mercy,"

You say, well, I don't understand, I mean I understand I don't measure up to God's standard of perfection, but why won't God accept my good works. I mean, after all I do, some things that Scripture even urges me to do. Why won't He accept those as payment if you will to get into heaven? It's because the good deeds that we perform here only have value here. You might be admired, you might be honored by people around you with some award, but those things have no value to God.

Let me give you an illustration. Imagine for a moment some prisoners of war locked away in some jungle, away from the world and with nothing to sustain themselves, and they find that by necessity they have to create in their prison a monetary system; some system of barter and exchange, which by the way most prisoners do. And they discover that one of the things they have as a resource is a Monopoly game. A Monopoly game, as many of you have, has a number of pretend bills, pretend money, and they take that money, and they agree together, we're going to set up our own monetary system using this money. We understand that you know it's just Monopoly money, but it's going now to have value, and as we trade for various things, as we purchase the things that we have from one another, we're going to use this Monopoly money.

Now imagine that when they're finally rescued, one of those men who has really excelled and sort of being an entrepreneur and a capitalist there in the prison system decides to take his load of Monopoly money to the nearest bank and cash it in. He'd find it's absolutely worthless, has no value in the real world, that's exactly what happens in the Spiritual world. There are millions of people who are spending their entire lives accumulating good works, Monopoly money, and some day when they die when they are freed from this life and they stand before God they have every intention of taking that Monopoly money and throwing at the feet of God and saying here God accept this as true righteousness.

They're in for a great shock, because our good works including even our best obedience to God's Law has no value in heaven, only perfection has value there. If you want like Paul to be found in Christ, then you must start by completely giving up every shred of your own righteousness. As long as you keep clinging to any degree to who you are or what you've done as your hope of a standing before God then you will never have the true righteousness that comes from God. The two simply cannot coexist. What does it mean to be found in Christ? Well first it means not having a righteousness of my own derived from keeping some set of standards.

But then he goes on to define it positively. He's defined it negatively it means not having a righteousness of my own, and now he's going to define it positively. Being found in Christ means having Christ's righteousness. Look at the second half of verse 9, but having we could say, "but (having) that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." The word "but" in this sentence is a crucial word, it's a strong adversative. We could translate it "on the contrary," instead.

And Paul here, by using this word, introduces us to this second kind of righteousness, not an inherent righteousness something in me, but instead an imputed righteousness. To be found in Christ is to have this righteousness, to be found in Christ means not having that, repudiating that and having this. Notice how he describes this righteousness; he says it's the righteousness which is through faith in Christ, through faith in Christ. Now the focus of that phrase is not faith, we'll get to that in a moment, another phrase really drives home the point of faith.

The focus of this phrase is Christ as the object of our faith. Paul is saying listen the justification that I'm describing this other kind of righteousness is rooted and grounded in a person in Jesus Christ. It's faith in Christ. What he alludes to here in Philippians he fills out in Galatians 2, turn there for a moment. Galatians 2 notice verse 16, he says, "knowing that a man is not declared righteous by the works of the Law" that is by keeping God's Law, but he's declared righteous through "faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law:"

You get the point; the emphasis here is it's Christ, Christ only. Can I warn you about something, it's not enough to believe the facts of the gospel, to believe the truth of justification that I'm teaching you this morning, the demons believe what I'm teaching you this morning? Whenever Scripture identifies the object of saving faith it's never the truth in general. It is always the person of Jesus Christ Himself. John 1:12 says, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God."

John 3:16, believe in Him, whoever believes in Him, Galatians 2:16 as we just saw., We have believed in Christ Jesus. This is the heart of faith, it's casting your reliance away from yourself renouncing your reliance in yourself and committing yourself totally to Jesus Christ. Renouncing your own resources your own righteousness and abandoning yourself to Jesus Christ and resting entirely in Him alone for salvation. That's the kind of righteousness that gives you a right standing before God, and it's always, Paul says, anchored in Jesus Christ.

In fact, let me go a step further. Not only is it anchored in Jesus Christ. Our righteousness is Jesus Christ. That's what the Scriptures teach. His righteousness is is what makes us acceptable to God. Christ lived on this world for thirty-three years. Did you ever wonder why thirty-three years? He ministered for three of those years. thirty of those years were spent in relative obscurity. Why didn't Christ reveal more of Himself during those thirty years, and why did he have to come for thirty, why not just come for the three years of ministry? Better yet, why didn't He just come for a weekend to die for our sins and go back to heaven?

It's because during those thirty-three years Christ was doing what we could never do. He was perfectly obeying the Law of God. Imagine for thirty-three years, He never thought a single thought that dishonored God. For thirty-three years He never spoke a word that was a violation of God's perfect Law. For thirty-three years He never did a single thing that showed anything but perfect love for God and perfect love for others. When you and I come in faith to Christ, God takes that perfect life He lived, and He credits it to us even though we haven't lived a single day of it. Christ is our righteousness, Romans 5:19 puts it this way, "through one man's disobedience," that is Adams, "many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of One," that is Christ, "many will be made righteous." Faith isn't what saves us, it's only the hand reached out to grasp what really makes us acceptable to God and that is Christ Himself and His perfect life and His death on our behalf.

Paul also refers to this other kind of righteousness not only back in Philippians 3, not only as that which is through faith in Christ but he says it's the righteousness which comes from God. Literally the righteousness out of God, God is the source of this righteousness. This concept was introduced in the Old Testament. There are a number of texts that are shocking really and should have been to an Old Testament believer. Listen to Jeremiah 23. You don't need to turn there, but Jeremiah 23:5 and 6. Jeremiah writes,

Behold the days are coming declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch;" talking about Christ, a righteous one, "And he will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. and this is His name by which He shall be called.

Here's the name that Christ will have when He comes, the righteous one will have, He will be called the Lord Our Righteousness. What an amazing truth. Yahweh, Our Righteousness. So, this concept was there in the Old Testament for all of us to see, but really it was fully developed when you come to the book of Romans. Turn to Romans 1, I mentioned this earlier that this was the passage in which Martin Luther found liberty for his soul, Romans 1:16 and 17,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it" that is in the gospel "the righteousness from God is revealed" and it's all of faith "from faith to faith; as it is written, the One who is righteous by faith He is the one it is that will live.

Then Paul starting in verse 18 of Romans 1 begins to lay out the case for the need for righteousness, none of us have it he says. And he works his way all the way up to Romans 3:21, and then he comes back to this issue of this righteousness from God. Notice what he says in Romans 3:21, "But now apart from the law" having nothing to do with the law "[this] righteousness from God has been manifested,".

And it's the same one that the Law and the prophets talked about. Even the righteousness from God that we received through faith in Jesus Christ and it's for anybody that'll believe because there's no distinction, we've all sinned and we've all fallen short of the glory of God, and we are declared righteous, that's what the word justified means, we are declared righteous watch this, as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Righteousness from God, God is its source, and Christ is the one whose righteousness it is, and it is given to us as a gift. In fact if you go on to Romans 5:17, he actually calls it there the gift of righteousness, the gift of righteousness. What makes us acceptable before God is nothing else than the righteousness of Jesus Christ and God simply gives us His righteousness as a gift by His grace.

So, why doesn't everyone have it? If He gives it as a gift by His grace, why doesn't everyone have it? Well, notice what Paul says, we come to enjoy, back in Philippians 3, we come to enjoy this right standing before God in a unique way, we come to enjoy it by faith by faith alone. Notice again verse 9 of Philippians 3 he says this righteousness which has Christ as it's object and its source, it's the righteousness which comes from God, and it comes to anyone and only on the basis of faith. You can't earn it. You can't do anything to deserve it. It comes to you simply as a gift, but the way you receive the gift is through faith. Paul develops this theme back in Romans. I have to take you to Romans 4 because it's the classic passage on this issue of faith as the only way to receive this gift.

Romans 4, Paul uses the example of Abraham and David; he begins verse 1 of Romans 4, "What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified" or declared righteous before God "by [his] works, [then] he has something to boast about," but he says oh that could never be not before God. "For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Now he says, let's think about that for a moment to the one who works his wage is not credited as a favor, it's not given as a gift, but it's what's due. Listen ,if Abraham had earned righteousness, then God wouldn't have been crediting it to him, He wouldn't have been giving it to him, he would've earned it. Verse 5, "… to the one who does not work, but believes" notice in in the Scripture believing and working are always opposites. Believing is not a work that earns anything from God; it's always contrasted with work. "The one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies" or declares righteous "the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."

And just in case you missed the point he uses the example of David, he quotes David from Psalm 32. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

Listen, when were those words written? When David was righteous and deserved something from God? No, those words come after David had killed a man, and committed adultery with his wife. He wasn't righteous, he didn't deserve a standing before God, he was granted it as a gift by faith. What exactly is faith. If faith is how we receive this gift what is faith? Well faith is simply an empty hand outstretched to receive the free gift of God's righteousness in Christ. It's the channel through which that gift comes to us; never the cause or the grounds of that gift.

Spurgeon in his excellent little book called All of Grace defines faith in this way, he says "faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be and that He will do what He has promised to do and then to expect this of Him." That's faith. John Calvin in the "Institutes of the Christian Religion" refers to faith as "a kind of vessel with which we come empty, and with the mouth of our soul open to seek God's grace." Like a bird in a nest a baby bird with just its mouth open waiting, can't contribute in any way to its feeding, but opening its mouth to receive what the mother bird has brought. That's faith.

Let me give you two warnings about faith. These are commonly misunderstood in our day. Listen, faith first of all, is not the grounds of our acceptance with God. In other words, God didn't decide, He didn't look at you and say, okay, you're not righteous, fine, you believe Me and I'll accept your faith as righteousness. I'll allow you to substitute faith for righteousness. No, that's not it at all. God never accepts our faith as righteousness, He accepts the righteousness of Christ, and we receive that righteousness by faith. Scripture always speaks of salvation as being by or through faith but never does Scripture say that we are justified because of or on account of our faith. As I mentioned earlier, everywhere Scripture contrasts faith with works.

There's a second warning I'd give you about faith, and that is I've counseled a number of people through the years who are tempted to become too introspective about their faith. Well, you know did I really believe? Did I have enough faith? They look back to that day when they think they came to Christ and did I have enough faith? That isn't the question. A wise old Puritan wrote this, "it is not the quantity of thy faith that shall save thee, a drop of water is as true water as the whole ocean. So, a little faith is as true faith as the greatest. It is not the measure of thy faith that saves thee it is the blood that it drips to that saves thee." It's not how much faith you have is is all of your faith in the person of Jesus Christ and in His life and death. Spurgeon wrote of faith "the weakness of your faith will not destroy you; a trembling hand may receive a golden gift."

Perhaps this morning you sit here, and your heart is literally crushed under a load of your own personal guilt. You know you have not come to the place in your life where you've acknowledged your sinfulness and come to God and sought His forgiveness. You know you stand guilty before God, and you know that you can do absolutely nothing to change that, it but if there was anything you could do, you'd do it to know that your soul had peace with God. Well, I've got good news for you. You don't need to do anything; in fact you can do nothing. Only believe in the life and death of Jesus Christ as your substitute. Believe in Him who because of His grace alone declares ungodly sinners to be righteous solely on the basis of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Now, let me back away from our text just in a couple of minutes here and summarize this for you. Because I want to make sure that you have the key elements of justification. There are three of them. Justification is by faith alone and not by human activity any human activity. Justification is by faith alone and not by any human activity.

Secondly, justification is an imputed or credited righteousness not by any inherent righteousness.

And thirdly we are justified as a judicial act and not by a process. There are some people who teach that justification is sort of this ongoing process that happens in the life of a Christian. The Bible says no, justification is a judicial decision by God at a moment in time. When you believe in Jesus Christ, at that very moment God makes a legal decision about you. What does He do? What happens in that moment, that judicial act of God?

Well as kind of a sub point to that let me give you the three things that God does in that judicial act. These are so important to understand. I've mentioned these before but I can never say them enough, because you need to understand what it, what God does.

In justification God does three things; in that judicial act, He does three things. Number one, he credits your sin to Christ. The moment you believe God makes a legal decision, and He decides at that moment to take all of your sin to take the life you have lived and to impute that or credit that to Christ's account and to treat Christ on the cross as if He had lived your life. Second Corinthians 5:21 says "God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us." He credits your sin to Jesus Christ and He treats Christ on the cross as if He'd lived your life.

There's a second thing He does. He credits Christ's righteousness to you. He credits Christ's righteousness to you. What does that mean? Well, one writer put it this way, Robert Ramon an excellent theologian says, "in Gods sight the ungodly man now in Christ has perfectly kept the moral law of God; which means that in Christ," listen to this, "he has perfectly loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength and loved his neighbor as himself." When God credits Christ's righteousness to you, He sees you as having lived the perfect life of Jesus Christ, always having loved God with every fiber of your being, always having loved your neighbor as yourself.

A few years ago, I some of you have heard me mention this, the bank made a mistake. Now I know banks don't make mistakes, but they made a mistake in my case, and I was looking at my bank statement, and I noticed that there was a two hundred dollar deposit that showed up that I didn't make. Well, I thought, you know, that's not really my money, and so I need to contact the bank and let them know that they made a mistake, so I called the bank and spoke to a customer service representative and I said look, you know there's two hundred dollars in my account that I didn't put there. And she said, oh, well sir you know I'm looking at your account here and that's a deposit that you made. And I said well you don't understand, I didn't make that deposit, I've never made a two hundred dollar deposit. I have all my deposit slips, and that's not my money. Well I'm sorry sir, but there's nothing I can do to help you.

Okay, so I called back another day, and I thought you know this is still not my money, so I called back, and I spoke to someone else, I think a superior at that point, a supervisor, and I explained the same thing. Look this isn't my money; you need to do something about this. She said, sir I'm looking at your account and that two hundred dollars is right there it's in your account. So, I wrote a letter, and I said look, and I explained the whole deal, and I said this isn't my money. And I got this nice little letter back from the bank that said, sir thank you for your inquiry, we've investigated it, and we've seen that, and that in fact that is your money that it was deposited in your account. So, I gave up. I took Sheila out to dinner.

But I got to thinking. If they could make that kind of mistake and give me a deposit that wasn't mine maybe somebody else could get my bills. The amazing thing is that in justification that's exactly what happens. Christ gets all of my bills, and I get all of His deposits. In justification God credits all of my sins to Christ. He credits Christ's righteousness to me, and there's one more thing He does.

Thirdly, because of the first two, because He's credited my sin to Christ, and because He's credited Christ's righteousness to me He forgives my sins and He declares me before the bar of His justice to be forever perfectly righteous. The moment we believe. Think of it folks, every sin that you have ever committed carries with it enough guilt to deserve God's eternal wrath, but if you believe in Christ, God once and for all issued a legal decision about your case He declared you perfectly eternally righteous. Maybe you haven't enjoyed that as a believer, maybe you really haven't enjoyed the reality of what justification is. There are several reasons for that, one is maybe you've just never heard it never been taught it. There are a lot of people who I think are honestly Christians who don't understand what they have in Christ.

I think others just think it's too good to be true. They think of God somewhat like the judge I saw in a Herman cartoon a number of years ago. Where the accused was standing there before the judge and the judge says, "I find you not guilty, but I'm going to give you two years just to be on the safe side." That's how they think about God.

There are others who have been influenced by the chick track theology. Some of you have seen those little chick tracks, the little cartoon tracks. And one of them has a picture of a believer standing before the judgment seat of Christ and seeing this movie run in front of God and every one of all the sins they've ever committed, listen to me that is bad theology. It borders on heresy, because in Christ all of my sins have been forever dealt with, I will never face them again. They were imputed to Jesus Christ, forever gone in the mind of God. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those [that] are in Christ Jesus."

What an amazing truth. What is justification? This is my favorite summary, and I'll close with this. When God justifies a man, it means that on the cross He treated Christ as if He'd lived your sinful life, so that forever He could treat you as if you had lived Christ's perfect life. May God grab grab your heart with the overwhelming reality of His grace.

Let's pray together.

Father, how do we begin to thank you for such amazing grace? Lord, help us to live as those that have been justified. Help us to give ourselves to You to lose ourselves in love and wonder and praise, to live our lives in a way that honors You.

And Lord, I pray for someone here this morning who has not yet experienced that reality, who still wears the verdict of guilty, who feels the weight of that guilt. Lord, I pray that this morning you would cause them to turn away from all of their own righteousness anything that they're clinging to and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior as their only hope of a right standing before you.

I pray it in Jesus' name, Amen.