Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Holiness of God - R.C. Sproul - Ch. 8 - Be Ye Holy

These are just my notes.  Please buy the book.  A good place to buy older books is Abebooks.com.

8 – Be Ye Holy
Christians in the early church were called saints.  Today people refer to a saint as a “super-spiritual” person, and the Catholic Church has made saint a title for spiritual heroes.  The New Testament saint simply refers to the everyday believer.  All God’s people are saints.  The word means “holy one.”

The letters of Paul to the New Testament churches were full of saints who struggled with all types of sin.  It seems odd that these people would be referred to as saints since Paul has to rebuke them of all their foolish and sinful behavior.

These New Testament believers were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people set apart and called to purity.  The word holy has two meanings when referring to God or to men.  The first meaning of the word holy says that God is “transcendent—far above and beyond us, different, set apart from us,” and the second meaning refers to “absolute purity.”

If we are not transcendent and certainly not pure, how can the Bible call us saints or “holy ones”?  We can look back to the Old Testament and to the nation of Israel.  When God led Israel out of Egypt, He set them apart to be a special nation.  They were His chosen people.  He told them, “Be ye holy, even as I am holy.”

God also told this to Adam and Eve.  Humans were created in the image of God.  This meant that we were to mirror and reflect the character of God.  We were created to reflect God’s holiness to the world—that’s the very reason we were created and why we exist.

The Westminister Catechism of the Presbyterian Church says that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  I had a hard time with that statement when I was a boy.  I was unable to see how enjoyment fit in with glorifying God.  I knew that obedience to His law had a lot to do with glorifying God.  That didn’t seem like much fun.  I already realized a conflict with what I thought of as fun and obeying the laws of God.  I saw God as a barrier to joy.

A big problem was that I did not understand the difference between happiness and pleasure.  I have committed many sins in my life.  Not one of those sins has ever made me happy.  On the contrary, sin has added an abundance of unhappiness to my life.  Now, my sins have brought me pleasure.  Pleasure can be great fun.  And not all pleasures are sins.  There is much pleasure to be found in righteousness.

If I am well aware of the fact that sin is pleasurable but it does not bring happiness, then why do I still sin?  It seems stupid to do something that I know will rob me of my happiness, yet I still do it anyway.  I smoked cigarettes for years—knowing that they were bad for me, yet I still did it anyway.  That’s sheer madness, and that is what sin is.

We all do things that we know are wrong.  We feel like doing what we want rather than what we should do.  That’s why Paul said, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”  We have a problem—we have been called to be holy, but we are not holy.  And if we are not holy, then why does the Bible call us saints?

The Bible calls us saints or “holy ones” for two reasons.  First, we are holy because we have been consecrated to God.  We have been set apart.  We have been called to a life that is different from the average person.  We have been called to non-conformity.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12: 1-2

Instead of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, Paul calls for a new kind of sacrifice—a living sacrifice of our bodies.  This living sacrifice should look like non-conformity, but not the sort of shallow non-conformity that we often see in Christians today.  God is not concerned with what we eat or drink.  This call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness that goes beyond externals.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 that it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of his mouth.

Why do we focus on external aspects of non-conformity?  It is sin.  The things we do or do not do to display our “righteousness” betray our unrighteousness.  When we major in the insignificant things and neglect the major things, we imitate the Pharisees.  Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies.  These are no great feats of moral courage.  What is difficult to do is to control the tongue, to act with integrity, and to show the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies.  These are no great feats of moral courage.  What is difficult to do is to control the tongue, to act with integrity, and to show the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their preoccupation with the insignificant:

"How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.  Hypocrites!  For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.  You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.
Matthew 23:23

We are called to more than non-conformity, we are called to transformation.  The prefix con means “with.”  Someone who conforms goes with the things of this world.  The prefix trans means “across” or beyond.”  Someone who is transformed rises above this world.  We are called to transcendent excellence and a high standard of self-discipline.  We are not to be satisfied with superficial forms of righteousness.

Be Transformed!
The way we are transformed is by the renewing of our mind.  We must devote ourselves to the disciplined study and mastery of the Word of God.  Our lives on the outside cannot change until our minds have been transformed by God’s Word.  True transformation comes by a new understanding of God, man, and the world.  If we are to be like Christ, we must know the mind of Christ, and the only way we can do that is through His Word.

It takes sacrifice to know the mind of Christ through His Word.  This is the call to excellence we have received.  We are not to be like the rest of the world who are content with a superficial knowledge of God.

To be a saint means to be separated.  It also means more than that.  The saint is to be one who is in the process of sanctification.  This means we are to be purified daily as we pursue holiness.  If we are justified, we must also be sanctified. 

There is a Latin phrase that describes the saint: simul justus et peccator—at the same time just and sinner.  We are just and sinful.  We certainly still sin, yet we are just because we have been justified.  In and of ourselves we are not just.  We are justified by the righteousness of Christ.  This is what justification by faith is about.  When we trust in Christ and His righteousness (and not our own “righteousness”) for our salvation, then God transfers Christ’s righteousness to our account.

We certainly still sin, yet we are just because we have been justified.  In and of ourselves we are not just.  We are justified by the righteousness of Christ.  This is what justification by faith is about.  When we trust in Christ and His righteousness (and not our own “righteousness”) for our salvation, then God transfers Christ’s righteousness to our account.

This all sounds fraudulent, like God is playing legal games with us.  How can God count us righteousness when we are not righteous!  This is the Gospel!  This is the good news!  We, as unjust sinners, have been provided a way to stand in the presence of a just and holy God by Christ’s righteousness. 

How can God count us righteousness when we are not righteous!  This is the Gospel!  This is the good news!  We, as unjust sinners, have been provided a way to stand in the presence of a just and holy God by Christ’s righteousness. 

Not only are our sins taken away by Christ, but His righteousness is transferred to us.  This transfer of righteousness is a concept that is easily confused and seriously abused.  Some people think that all they have to do is believe in Jesus without repenting and changing their life.  Others view justification by faith as a license to sin.

Luther said, “Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”  James, the brother of Jesus, said in James 2:17 that “faith without works is dead.”  True faith is what Luther called a fides viva, which means a “living faith.”  It is a faith that immediately brings forth the fruits of repentance and righteousness.

If a man says he has faith, but no works follow, that is clear evidence that his faith is not genuine.  True faith always produces real conformity to Christ.  If justification truly occurred, then sanctification will be its result.  If there is no sanctification, then there was no justification.  The two will always go hand in hand without exception.

We are immediately justified the instant we believe.  God doesn’t wait for our good works before He declares us just.  Our sanctification begins the moment we are justified, but this process of sanctification and of our becoming holy is a long, long process. 

Luther compared this to a sick patient who is declared well by the doctor the moment he takes the medicine to cure his illness.  He is not cured right away, but as soon as the medicine enters his body, he begins to get well.  It is the same with us: the moment we believe by faith, we start to become sanctified and holy.  The process has begun and this process will certainly be completed.

The goal then of Christian growth is to become righteous.  This sounds strange since Christians seldom talk about righteousness.  People talk about being ethical or spiritual, but never righteous.  It is probably because we know that it is a sin to be self-righteous.  The word righteous sounds a bit pharisaical, however, this must be our goal as Christians.  Christ tells us in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.”  Our goal is righteousness.

We can know if we are achieving righteousness if there is fruit in our life.  Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.”  A person becomes more righteous and holy by the Holy Spirit working to sanctify him.

Let’s look at the fruits of the flesh vs. the fruits of the Spirit:

Fruits of the Flesh
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

Fruits of the Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

All of us sin, but it is important that we are aware of the warning in verse 21.  Those who practice the fruits of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.  The word practice describes continual, habitual action.  If our lives can be characterized by the fruits of the flesh, then the Holy Spirit has not regenerated us.

There are degrees of sin where some sins are worse than others.  Jesus said that to lust is to violate the law against adultery.  That is not to mean that lusting is as bad a sin as adultery, but that the law has a broader spectrum than the Ten Commandments.  The Pharisees thought that since they never committed adultery that they were sinless, but they ignored the fact that they had lusted after a woman and had indeed violated the commandment. 

The same principle applies with murder.  The Pharisees thought they were okay since they never killed anybody, but Jesus said that a man was guilty if he had unjust anger and hatred against another.  Jesus said that to hate is a sin against another person’s life.  Hatred violates people.  It is not as bad as murder, but is still a sin.

All of our sins are acts of treason against a holy God.  We need to be aware of the major sins and stay away from them so we do not major in minors like the Pharisees.  What good does it do to stay away from gluttony and be in good fitness if we cannot control our tongue and we slander our neighbors?  A sin against another is much worse than a sin against only ourselves.

The process of sanctification and becoming righteous and holy is not easy, but God shows us the fruits of the Spirit that we are to focus on and strive for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Paul follows up the fruits of the Spirit with these directions:

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desiresIf we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the SpiritLet us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:23-26

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Holiness of God - R.C. Sproul - Ch. 7 - War and Peace with a Holy God

These are just my notes.  Please buy the book!

7 – War and Peace with a Holy God
The Bible tells stories of men and women who have wrestled with God.  The very name Israel means “one who strives with God.”  He is holy and separate, transcendent and far above us; yet He is a God with whom we can wrestle.  The goal of our wrestling match with God is peace with God.  We will look at men who have wrestled with God: Jacob, Job, Habakkuk, and Saul of Tarsus.  Then we will look at what it means to have peace with God.

The name Jacob means “Supplanter.”  He deceived his father, conned his brother, and entered into an ungodly conspiracy with his mother.  It is hard to imagine that the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham could be so corrupt.  God worked on Jacob and eventually transformed his life over the years.

When Jacob fell asleep at Bethel, he dreamed and saw a stairway referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder.”  It served as a ladder between heaven and earth with angels going up and down.  Jacob, at this point in his life, was not in tune with heavenly things, which was strange considering he descended from Isaac and Abraham.  Surely they taught him the stories of how God did great things.  Surely he had heard the story of how Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac.

All of these things seemed too far-fetched to Jacob.  God seemed too far away for him to know and have a relationship like his fathers did.  All this changed with that one dream.

This image of a ladder as the bridge between heaven and earth did not appear again in Scripture until the New Testament in John 1:51 when Jesus said, “You will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  This was a radical statement.  Jesus declared Himself to be the ladder between heaven and earth.  He is the One who bridges the gap and allows us to come to God.  He is the key in our conflict with a holy God as we will see in this chapter.

Jesus declared Himself to be the ladder between heaven and earth.  He is the One who bridges the gap and allows us to come to God.

“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’  He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’”

This place became known as Bethlehem, which means “house of God.”  There was no church there, no temple, but Jacob called it the house of God because that is where God revealed Himself to Jacob.  Jacob was like us in that he heard all the stories, but he did not see the great works of God that others before him saw.  Then once God gave him the dream, he realized that God was not distant, but was there all along.  He had not realized it.  It is the same today—God is here but we are unaware.

This dream did not end the struggle of Jacob.  It marked the beginning of Jacob’s struggle—a struggle for his own soul.  Jacob’s response to the presence of God was, “How awesome is this place!”  People today are bored in church.  There is no sense of awe, no trembling.  People in awe are never bored in church.

We are unsure of the time of Jacob’s conversion.  Some say it was here at Bethel, while others say it was during his wrestling match with God:

22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved."
Genesis 32:22-30
Jacob was victorious only in his survival.  He walked away from the duel, but he did so with a limp that stayed with him for the rest of his life.  The angel demanded the name of Jacob, which is like getting someone to surrender by saying “uncle.”  When Jacob surrendered his name, he surrendered his soul.  He gave God authority over his life and his name as well as his identity was changed to Israel.

Jacob then tried to get the name of the angel to try to salvage a draw or a tie.  Jacob asked for the angel’s name while the angel demanded it.  There are no draws with God.  When we wrestle with Him, we lose.

Jacob was defeated, but he survived, even though he wrestled with God.  He was beaten and crippled, but he survived.  We too must wrestle with God in order for Him to transform our lives and for us to fully surrender our souls to Him.

No one ever carried on a more lively debate with God than Job.  If ever a man seemed to have a right to challenge God, it was Job.  Job was declared righteous by God Himself and yet He was afflicted severely.  His possessions were stolen, his family was killed, and his body was covered in painful boils.  It seems like Job was used as a pawn in a struggle between God and Satan.

Job’s bodily anguish soon affected his soul.  I asked a woman going through chemotherapy from cancer how she was doing and she said, “It is hard to be a Christian with your head in the toilet.”  Despite Job’s pain, he did not blaspheme God.  He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  He refused to listen to others, including his wife, and take the easy out and blaspheme God.  Finally, Job wanted to wrestle with God Himself on the matter.  God responded to Job with some questions of His own:

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, 5 Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? 6 "On what were its bases sunk ? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy ? 8 "Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; 9 When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, 11 And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop '?
Job 38:1-11

Job was severely humbled and responded in Job 40:3-5 with, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth.  I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”  Job wanted to put his hand over his mouth to keep from having any more foolish words come out.

God then asked in Job 40:8, “Would you discredit My justice?  Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”  Job wanted to justify himself to his friends, but in doing so, he made God out to be unjust.  Job finally humbled himself and said, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job’s questions were never answered by God, yet he was satisfied.  God answered Job’s questions not with words, but with Himself.  Once Job realized who God was, he was able to trust in Him.  Instead of being mad at God, he was mad at himself for his foolish challenge.
Habakkuk the prophet was another man who challenged God in the Old Testament.  He thought it unjust that Israel should suffer at the hands of a nation more wicked than they were themselves.  It can be compared to a Jew during the Holocaust wondering if God was on Hitler’s side.

2 How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not save. 3 Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. 4 Therefore the law is ignored and justice never prevails. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk erred a bit by saying that justice never prevails.  Surely there is injustice in the world that awaits judgment, but it was too much to say that justice never prevails.  Habakkuk was upset that God seemingly did nothing while Israel suffered at the hands of the wicked Babylonians.

Habakkuk challenged God and when God responded, Habakkuk’s reaction was similar to Job’s: “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled,”  Habakkuk 3:16.  Habakkuk responded like a child scolded by a parent.

When God appeared to Habakkuk, all of his angry protests stopped.  His tone of voice changed from anger to fear and then to unwavering confidence and hope:

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord GOD is my strength…”
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk was able to rest in God’s sovereignty once he remembered who God was.

Jacob, Job, and Habakkuk all declared war on God and they were all defeated.  Though defeated, they all came away from the struggle with a personal knowledge of who God was and their souls were uplifted.

Saul of Tarsus also challenged God and was defeated.  He was a member of the Pharisees, who wanted to eliminate the new sect of Christianity.  Saul was especially zealous in this regard.  He was commissioned to go house to house and take Christians and throw them in jail.  Saul was very successful at doing this until he had an encounter with Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus, as he tells the story:

13 “At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' 15 "And I said, 'Who are You, Lord ?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 'But get up and stand on your feet ; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' 19 "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,”
Acts 26:13-19

Saul was zealous in his pursuit of righteousness.  He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a man committed to legal perfection.  Ironically, the more zealous he became, the more opposed he became to the work of God.  God wants us to pursue righteousness, but He stands against the proud, arrogant, and self-righteous.  Saul was convinced that he was fighting for God, but he was actually fighting against God.  He was doomed to an ultimate confrontation with the very Christ he opposed.

One of the Old Testament names of God is El Shaddai, which means “the thunderer” or “the overpowerer.”  It was El Shaddai that appeared to both Job and to Saul, as both experienced the awesome power of God.

Saul was on the desert road at noonday, when the sun was its brightest.  Saul was overpowered by a light even brighter than this, a light more brilliant than the sun, a “light from heaven” itself, as he described.  This light was the glory of Jesus Christ, who will light up the New Jerusalem by Himself.  If we look into the sun, we can damage our eyes, so it is not strange that Saul lost his eyesight from the brightness of the glory of Christ.

With this light also came a voice.  The voice is described as the sound of many waters, of a booming waterfall.  The voice of Jesus addressed Saul personally as “Saul, Saul.”  The name repeated indicated a greeting of personal intimacy.  It was how God addressed Moses at the burning bush, Abraham at the altar at Mt. Moriah, and how Jesus addressed the Father on the cross.

Jesus asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”  He didn’t ask why Saul was persecuting the church, but why he was persecuting Jesus Himself.  He then asked why he continued to kick against the goads, which are sharp spikes on an oxcart used to keep the ox moving.  He was telling Saul to quit banging his head against the wall and surrender to Him.

Saul replied, “Who are You, Lord?”  He knew he had been overpowered by God, but He did not know who God was.  Through this experience with God Himself, Saul became Paul just as Jacob had become Israel.  His life was changed forever with this encounter and he found peace with God and a commission to apostleship, like Isaiah did.

Saul the Pharisee was zealous in his fight against Christ, but Paul the apostle was even more zealous in his fight for Christ.  He had a vision of holiness that was so intense that he never forgot it and it drove him to serve Christ with everything he had.  He wrote about it in detail in his letters.  He became a man who knew what it meant to be justified.  It was Paul’s writings that awakened Martin Luther in the monastery and answered his question of how an unjust man could survive in the presence of a holy God.

The struggle we have with a holy God is due to our conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This struggle creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The criminal does not want the company of a just judge.  We are fugitives fleeing from God whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with God until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

We are at war with God until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

Paul says in Romans 5:1-2 what happens to us when we are justified by faith and covered by Christ’s righteousness:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

The first fruit of our justification is peace with God.  Peace to the Jew was a precious but elusive commodity.  The Jew longed for the Messiah to come and bring peace to Israel.  So important was peace that the very word for peace, “Shalom,” became a daily greeting.

Peace is a big, big deal.  I remember having my turn at bat as a youngster interrupted by people yelling and running out of their houses on VJ Day in 1945 that signified the end of World War II.  It seemed as peace would be established forever, but I had no idea how fragile it was.  Peace treaties between men are made to be broken and peace can’t be trusted.

God’s peace is different.  We enter into a peace treaty with God that is eternal.  When we sin, God is displeased and He will correct us and convict us of our sin, but He does not go to war against us.  His bow is no longer bent and His arrows of wrath are no longer pointed directly at us.  We have a mediator, Jesus, who keeps the peace between us and the Father.  He ensures and guarantees peace for us because He is the Prince of Peace and He is our peace. 

Our peace with God the Father is permanent, not temporary.  If we sin, God will correct us and convict us of our sin; but He does it in fatherly love.  We are no longer enemies of God and the arrows of His wrath are no longer pointed directly at us.

We also enjoy an internal peace.  St. Augustine said, “O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”  We no longer have to feel the emptiness and guilt of being separated from God.  Paul refers to this in Philippians 4:7 as “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.”  Jesus’ last words in John 14:27 were, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

Peace is only one immediate fruit of our justification.  We have also been given access.  This is a huge thing for anyone who has ever wrestled with a holy God.  Access with a holy God is a relatively new thing.  The High Priest in the Old Testament was only allowed into the Holy of Holies once a year.  Other than that brief moment for that one person, there was pretty much no access.  God was up there and we were down here—way, way down here.

All that changed the moment Jesus died for our sins—the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom and we were given access to the presence of God.  We don’t just have access to grace, we have access to Him. 

Once we are justified by Jesus, we no longer need to say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”  We are able to be comfortable in the presence of a holy God because we have been justified by a holy Christ.  We are covered by His righteousness.  We can pray directly to God the Father.  He is no longer our enemy or far away from us; He is near to us.  We now have access!  We certainly still come in awe, in a spirit of reverence and adoration, but we can come.  This is tremendous news.

Paul says in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.”  We can do this because of our great High Priest, Jesus.  We have access because of our justification.

It is still important to remember that we are not just—we still sin—but Jesus is just and it is He who justifies us.  We must still tremble before a holy God.  We must still be in awe that Jesus Christ, God the Son, would die for us so we could be justified and have access to God the Father.  We are still to enter with confidence, but also with the knowledge that a lot went into our access and it is not something to be taken lightly.

Luther said that we are to fear God, but not with a servile fear as a prisoner before his tormentor, but as children who do want to disappoint their beloved Father.  We come in confidence and boldness.  We have access.  We have a holy peace.