Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

 
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Life is hard. If right now we were to each take ten minutes to journal about our greatest burdens, our most challenging circumstances, and our deepest fears, and then put them all into a pot and begin reading them, it would be a heavy afternoon.

We would find despair, discouragement, broken-heartedness, hopelessness, guilt and shame. And the Scriptures are raw that this is our lot until Christ returns—creation is groaning, hearts are hurting, etc. keep going on that one for a while.

But through that we triumph. We are victorious. Because there is an unseen reality that is ultimate, and it shapes how we deal with these mediate circumstances.

We forget that God loves us, and how deeply he loves us. Our sin is an ever-present reminder of our unworthiness. Satan wants us to walk in discouragement.

And so, we drift back into old ways of thinking—attempting to merit that which is given to us freely.

In this paragraph we will study in Romans 4 this morning, Paul invites us to join with him in celebrating the marvelous benefits conferred upon the justified believer: “the Apostle speaks as one who is extremely happy and full of joy” (Luther); “it is now the believer who is speaking in fact we might almost say, singing” (Leenhardt).

Grounding the believer’s hope and giving them confidence and assurance.

Hope for the afflicted conscience. Hope for the weary soul. Hope for the person despairing. Hope for the struggling sinner. Hope for the person who has failed so many times in the same areas and wonders if they will ever get a handle on their sin.

If you have been regenerated than nothing can ever threaten that reality. Your position cannot be lost. You can’t commit a sin that’s too great to separate you from God’s love.

Salvation isn’t gained by anything you have, but rather it is personally given as a gift. What guarantees your salvation? What guarantees your entrance into heaven? What gives you confidence that you will endure to glory? Your personal steadfastness? Your personal grit? Keeping your life free from sin?

As believers we hope not in ourselves, but in God. We hope that He who started a good work will be faithful to complete it in us (Philippians 1:6).

We are to think of God’s love for us, not in general sentiment, but in concrete and detailed reality. God doesn’t love you because He is generally good, or you aren’t too bad, or He recognizes that compared to the worst of the worst, you may not be the best of the best, but you aren’t that bad… instead, our confident assurance is rooted and grounded in the distinct expression of God’s love for us in the death of Christ. He killed His son to uphold His perfect justice for punishing sin, and simultaneously reconcile you to Himself.

4 Realities of the Cross that Result in Joy and Confidence

  1. The cross reverses your hopeless condition (1-2)
  2. The cross redeems your earthly suffering (3-5a)
  3. The cross reveals your Father’s love (5b-8)
  4. The cross reassures your glorious future (9-11)

Romans 5:1–11—1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

4 Realities of the Cross that Result in Joy and Confidence

  1. The cross reverses your hopeless condition (1-2)

(1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

This verse contains one of the greatest truths in all of the Bible. It is the truth that God’s people are at peace with Him through Jesus Christ.

Of course, this is a familiar truth for us. This is a verse that many of you have memorized.

And yet even though it is familiar, it is worthy of our fresh consideration. Main statement here is therefore, we have peace with God.

What does it mean to have peace with God?

It means that the God who swears to not leave the guilty unpunished, who is said to be storing up wrath for sinners, is no longer angry.

Many people don’t consider whether or not they are at peace with God, or if they do, they quickly come to the conclusion that they are.

They reason that they are so good, or at least so much better than most people that surely, they are on good terms with God. But Paul says in Romans 8:7 that the flesh is hostile toward God.

They may not be consciously hating Him, but they are at odds with Him because they reject His authority and worship the creation rather than the creator who is above all.

Unbelievers who think they are good with God experience subjective peace with God. They feel that they are at peace. Look, feelings of peace are not what Paul is talking about here.

He is talking about objective peace. It is the truth that you are now in God’s good graces and the relationship is one of peace and love and not strife, and nothing could ever threaten that peace.

How did it come? Having been justified by faith… having been declared righteous by God, not because you are righteousness, but because He gave you righteousness.

Justification speaks to your standing in the eyes of God. Although not a day goes by that you don’t sin against the Most High God, you are reckoned to Him, counted to Him as being holy and blameless in His sight. Spotless. Without wrinkle or stain.

Here is the essential starting point of the Christian life. This is ground zero. Can I tell you that I have loved this doctrine for many years, and yet this week I was stunned by how rare my reflection is upon it, how often I assume it too quickly in my heart. My friends you need to hear this truth again as much as I do.

I love how John MacArthur clarifies this peace when he says:

But awareness of our peace with God through Jesus Christ is meant to give us far more than feelings of gratitude and warmth, wonderful as those are. When a Christian is convinced he is eternally secure in Christ, he is freed from focusing on his own goodness and merit and is able to serve the Lord with the unqualified confidence that nothing can separate him from his heavenly Father.

John said it this way that perfect love casts out fear. A simple analogy illustrates the point. In a business context when an employee is uncertain about their future with the company they make bad decisions, they are bound up and over focusing on themselves and their performance rather than focusing their energy on the task they have been called to accomplish.

Your obedience flows out of a relationship with God that is absolutely fixed, unchanging and secure. You could never do anything to deserve it. You could never do anything to deserve it.

But because it pleased the Father to crush the Son we have peace. It came through Christ…

(2) through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Consider these words carefully… the instrument through which these things were accomplished is not a what, but a whom. It came by faith and now we are in a position where we stand in grace.

You were bought with precious blood 1 Peter 1:18—not with perishable things such a silver or gold, but you were bought with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. It was a perfect sacrifice, and a costly sacrifice.

You stand in grace now. Standing is triumph, victory, security and stability. And you stand in that position thrilled and overflowing with hope of glory.

Christian, ponder freshly the change in your hopeless condition. What were you prior to God reversing the course of your life?

The opposite of each of these corresponding positive realities. You were outside of God’s grace. You were glorying not in God, but in yourself. God was opposed to you in your pride.

And then by sovereign grace that all change… forever. It all comes to us through the cross of Christ. Praise the Lord. What freedom and assurance.

4 Realities of the Cross that Result in Joy and Confidence

  1. The cross reverses your hopeless condition (1-2)
  2. The cross redeems your earthly suffering (3-5a)

Ok, so if you have ever experienced a trial in your life or think at some point you might go through a difficult season, they pay attention to this next section.

See how the cross changes your suffering. It alters it.

(3) And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations,

Paul here sounds like someone who is no longer in his right mind. Tribulations (thlipsis) is pressure. Used of squeezing produce to get oil or juice from it. The things in life that bring difficulty. We even use that terminology, “hey I’m in the press right now.”

But Paul says something that piques our interest. He doesn’t say I am thankful after the tribulation. He doesn’t say I am thankful in spite of the trial. But rather I boast in the trial itself.

I consider it a privilege and joy to go through difficult circumstances… present active indicative—while it is taking place. My heart finds an undercurrent of joy in the midst of the trial, where I can thank God for bringing it into my life.

How? Faith… look at what the next word is:

knowing...

Not feeling, but knowing. Here the old adage applies, that knowledge is power. Knowing what, Paul?

Knowing that the God who loves me has brought this trial into my life to produce good things in me that can come no other way. Often people will say, “I know God is doing something right now in this trial.” And we get that. We don’t always understand all the things God is doing. But here are some specifics. Let’s look together at what God is up to:

knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint…

In an unbreakable chain, one thing leads to another. A look briefly at each of the words:

Perseverance—the ability to withstand in the midst of difficulty.

You don’t buckle and cave under pressure. Slower to despair. Slower to discouragement. You can handle greater levels of difficulty without complaining. You begin to willingly remain under the trial vs. wishing for it to be over and believing that a trial-free life is your greatest good.

For the Christians our afflictions are to make us spiritually tough and resilient. Our God has promised to be faithful to us in affliction. He knows the limits that you and I currently have.

He knows how far we can be stretched. So, He is right there, taking us beyond where we currently are to stretch us to train us in perseverance, but not so far that we would abandon our hope.

Proven character—trials test us. James and Peter both speak of the testing of our faith (James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:7). Our character has been formed through the difficult times in life. The lessons learned in the hard times typically outlast those learned in easy times. Trials have a way of winnowing away the chaff in our lives by clarifying the vain things we live for contrasted against that which is eternal.

Hope—how does all of this relate to hope? Confident hope is bolstered as we see that we truly belong to the Lord. You want assurance that you belong to Christ. When you go through difficult seasons and like Job rather than curse God and die, you continually cry out to Him that produces assurance.

The outcome of the trial then, is to be the focal point in the midst of a trial. As you focus on the outcome, it completely alters your view of reality.

What believer doesn’t want these things? I know I do. A faith that is robust. A trust in God that is useful to those around me. A faith that protects me from sin and worry. A faith that leads to greater obedience and greater joy. Well here’s the path.

Friends, we can help one another in this. When you come alongside a brother and a sister and they share with you a burden, part of bearing their burden faithfully is to point them back to these truths.

I know for me in the moments that my heart is despairing or wallowing in a trial, it is like a rush of wind in my sails to consider that my portion was given to me by my faithful Father, who is accomplishing a purpose in me through it, and He won’t leave me without completing that work.

That’s the point here. Our hope isn’t in secured by our ability to endure, but in God’s faithful love.

Paul says that very thing. Our hope will not disappoint. You won’t be ashamed one day to find that it was all for naught. Why?

4 Realities of the Cross that Result in Joy and Confidence

  1. The cross reverses your hopeless condition (1-2)
  2. The cross redeems your earthly suffering (3-5a)
  3. The cross reveals your Father’s love (5b-8)

because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Because God loves you. In our house if someone is having a rough time sometimes we will nod to each other and then in unison say together, “we love you mommy, we love you Truett.” Why? It’s good to be reminded that you are loved.

So here Christian. God loves you. God cares for you. And it isn’t a skimpy love. He poured this love out through the Spirit. The Spirit of God is a gift. God said, when I redeemed you, I wanted to be present with you, and so I came near to you.

God wouldn’t give you His Spirit if He didn’t love you. It is a vivid example that God will keep you from His wrath.

We show love by giving gifts. That is exactly what God did when He gave you Himself.

(6) For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

For helpless [ἀσθενής]— experiencing some incapacity or limitation, weak

God chooses to save the weak (1 Corinthians 1:26); God’s power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10); our weakness is an opportunity to boast joyfully (2 Corinthians 11:30); and even the Lord Jesus Christ became weak (2 Corinthians 13:3-4); the apostle Paul came in weakness to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:3). All of these are examples of embracing weakness for the glory of God, that He might be shown to be powerful and sufficient. Weak people need help (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Here it refers to the inner life—a moral weakness… it isn’t referring to fragile emotions, or physical weakness or sickness, but spiritual weakness.

It wasn’t that God detected a softening or a willingness or a first move on the part of humanity that caused Him to take the next step toward them. It was for the ungodly.

It is easy to think that God loved us in Christ and to see how he has changed us today. But when He pursued you and when He applied redemption to your account and regenerated your heart up until that point you were an enemy (in real time).

Hard to determine the meaning of at the right time (was it eschataologically, historically, just in the knick of time, or the time when we were ill-deserving). Paul’s main point is about the love of God, and here then it is to say that God’s timing is perfect. God sent His Son into the world at the appointed time to accomplish his purposes.

  • If God hadn’t acted,
  • The ungodly are being kept by God for a day of destruction and judgment (2 Peter 3:7); God flooded the world and destroyed it, as well as rained fire from heaven upon two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah because they were ungodly (2 Peter 2:5-6); it these whom Christ died for, and according to Romans 4:5, justifies.
  • Romans 4:5—But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

And as theologian Charles Hodge observed,

“If [God] loved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we love him, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint], pp. 136–37).

The God who hates every sinful thought and every sinful deed nevertheless loves the sinners who think and do those things, even while they are still hopelessly enmeshed in their sin. Even when men openly hate God and do not have the least desire to give up their sin, they are still the objects of God’s redeeming love…

(7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

Challenging sentence because of that little though. It requires a concession. Paul isn’t just re-iterating the same idea twice or else he wouldn’t say though or although. So, what’s the difference here? It would seem that the basic principle is abiding—the highest expression of human love would at best die for the most deserving.

It is exceedingly rare for someone to die for a person who is upright. Some scenario where the injustice is so extreme that a person would say, better I die than him. Let me take his place. That basically never happens. Hardly does that ever happen. Although, come to think of it… for a good man, someone would do it.

The thought here is that the substitute can personally attest to the goodness of the individual. It isn’t a righteous stranger, it is a good friend. Someone who is known well, morally upright, and benevolent and generous. And in that scenario, that can happen.

Jesus died as our substitute. He didn’t just come as an example of suffering:

Galatians 3:13—Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

(8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

What is wrong about my thinking here? I’m tempted to think that of course Christ would die for us… not because we are infinitely worthy, but if I were to be given the option of living out my life and not dying or else dying to atone for the sins of millions of people, knowing I would be raised again unto newness of life, I like to think that I would consider that a “no-brainer” and take the vicarious death. I think it is because I assume that I’m more deserving of God’s mercy than I really am. In other words, there isn’t a shock to me.

  • Active verb demonstrates. God chose to put on display his love.
  • Would there have been no other way? To die for non-sinners wouldn’t make sense. What’s Paul’s point? Before there was any moral contribution that we could make.
  • Christ died for us. Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6). One and the same.
  • Underscores the distinctiveness of God’s love. You’ve never experienced anything like it. Love not based upon merit. It’s a love we aspire to give. What human love have you ever experienced that is always dependable? Never waxes nor wanes? Doesn’t fluctuate? What about a love that is unaffected by your performance? Let’s face it, people who love us are easier to love, and people who don’t are harder. And so it is at this very point that we have no response, but to marvel.

4 Realities of the Cross that Result in Joy and Confidence

  1. The cross reverses your hopeless condition (1-2)
  2. The cross redeems your earthly suffering (3-5a)
  3. The cross reveals your Father’s love (5b-8)
  4. The cross reassures your glorious future (9-11)

All the benefits we have just considered, these realities that result in joy and confidence, are happening right now. Your condition is flipped around, and you are at peace with God, right now; you can have confidence that in the midst of this trial right now your character is being developed unto greater hope, and you are experiencing the demonstration of God loving you, right now.

But this next reality looks ahead to the future.

(9) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

What’s the thought? If God would love us enough to sacrifice his son for us, then of course we will be saved from his wrath… why is this important? Because wrath is terrifying. It is God’s perfect, righteous, punishing-anger against sin.

And Paul has even dealt with wrath so far in this every letter. Keep highlighting God being against the unrighteous.

Romans 1:18—For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 2:8—but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

Romans 3:5—But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)

Romans 4:15—for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

God is going to come back and judge sin.

Do you have this reality firmly fixed in your spiritual-mind’s eye? The day when the books will be opened, the deeds will be exposed?

Culturally in the US we are experiencing a little season of some transparency and exposure in the wake of #metoo movement (the widespread accountability of sexual sin committed by individuals in public roles) the publishing of intelligence reports, for what?

The attempt to get clarity on the offense and bring about justice. I don’t have to tell you that these efforts are feeble at best. That isn’t to say they don’t serve a purpose. But that is categorically so different from the judgment that is coming. The exposure, the humiliation, the accountability is so much greater than we can imagine.

And on that day, Jesus Christ will have the prize for which He died. As the sheep are separated from goats, there is no intrinsic difference. As you stand in one line, and your neighbor or childhood friends or family members outside of Christ you know that there is nothing good in you giving cause for which to boast.

And in that day, we will be delivered.

David in Psalm 32 described the swirling judgment of God, and his deliverance in the midst of it. The torrent of God’s wrath will swirl, and all those who belong to Jesus will be saved.

I find we use the word salvation and we talk about the fact that we are saved—but what a joy to reconsider what we mean by what we say. We have been rescued. And it isn’t just that we have been, but that we will be.

1 Thessalonians 1:10—and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

God the Father killed Jesus to offer Him as a sacrifice for our sins, and in that Jesus rescues us from the Father’s wrath. Justice and mercy are vindicated in the cross.

I had to ask myself—why isn’t this more important to me? Why don’t I think about the wrath that has been stayed and that I am protected from?

In part of my business career I would study copy—sales copy—the words used to create materials that get people to buy products. There is a reason why coupons and offers say things like “special offer” or “limited time offer” and include expiration dates. With the advance of technology now, it is possible to perform A, B testing where marketing analysts can send out to emails and test their efficacy head-to-head.

Incredible level of scientific data now on what causes us to respond to messages. And merely putting an expiration date doesn’t cause people to purchase. It has to be imminent. If you want people to act you must create a sense of urgency. That’s human nature. Focus on the here-and-now, what’s in front of me. Wrath isn’t a today problem, it is a someday problem.

(10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

If while could be rendered grammatically as since… I think since is closer to Paul’s original point. Since we’ve been reconciled, how much confidence does that give us that we will be saved.

Our relationship was mended. Our fellowship was restored. Our enmity has been erased.

See the rift goes back to the Garden. The broken fellowship goes back to the first sin. And today in Christ, we have the foretaste of that fellowship—John 17:3. More to come later, but for now what separates us is the distance between heaven and earth, and the eyes of faith.

You are in the early phases of an eternal love-relationship that will only get better with time.

If God’s grace covers the sins even of His enemies, how much more does it cover the sins of His children?

Confidence. Assurance. Why do we need this? We are weak and we sin. The completion of your salvation is no less dependent upon God’s grace than your initial salvation was. We aren’t saved by grace and then work our entire life to make sure that we repent enough, we don’t miss any sins, we live in the fear of disrupting what we have going on. As if God’s favor is quickly won or lost based upon our performance.

Look, your obedience is to flow from the Spirit’s increasing influence in your life. That as you comprehend God’s love for you, and his majesty and his power, you increasingly hate what he hates and love what loves.

But this truth about God’s role in your salvation produces freedom and joy and confidence.

The thrust of this truth for believers is that our Savior not only delivered us from sin and its judgment, but also delivers us from uncertainty and doubt about that deliverance.

If your sin before salvation couldn’t keep you from God’s willingness to save you, then your sin after salvation could never threaten anything that He has promised you.

This is the death of insecurity.

It leaves us boasting and glorying in God through Christ.

(11) And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

God’s prize in reconciling worshippers to Himself. He gets little boosters running around boasting of His greatness. We boast through Christ. What does that mean?

Reconciliation. Such a beautiful reality. Justification is cause enough for joy. As a criminal being completed acquitted of guilt and counted as righteous. That enables you to leave the courtroom without fear of returning. You won’t face the punishment of the crimes you committed.

But reconciliation… that’s a whole different concept. Reconciliation is coming home after the court case is over, and experiencing full acceptance. Note: can I come up with an example of this kind of sin and restoration. Justification puts you back to being a free citizen. But it doesn’t restore your relational standing with anyone.

Well this is our joyful, confident position because of the cross.

As we review consider how the cross has brought you such benefits. As one commentator noted so well:

Peace is obtained “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1). “Through him” we have access to grace (v. 2). Christ died for the ungodly and sinners (vv. 6, 8). We are justified “by his blood” (v. 9) and reconciled “through his death” (v. 10). Thus rescue from future wrath is “through him” (v. 9), and believers are saved “by his life” (v. 10). Boasting in God becomes a reality “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” since “through him” we have received reconciliation (v. 11). The boasting in God, which is the climax of the text in verse 11, is not pitted against the centrality of Christ. The glory of God and the centrality of Christ are complementary, not contradictory. Indeed, the worship of Jesus as Lord redounds to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11).

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