Wiped Clean And Born Again
Two years ago when I preached Lois' funeral I used her Bible and found some margin notes she had written on Romans 5:1. I don't remember what she wrote or what I said, but I remember the text. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Justification: That act of God whereby guilty sinners are declared righteous on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ. Not made righteous--at least not in this life. But declared righteous--judicially acquitted, forgiven, the slate wiped clean and the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to us. The one thing we spend our life striving for--acceptance--we never find because we keep falling short, but in one moment of faith God gives it to us. And it all comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, his Deity; Jesus, the Savior; Christ, God's anointed Deliverer. The end of it all is, we have peace with God, in life and in death.
I believe that sinful men and women can be born again by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. That is, they can literally be born again. They can be converted, changed, radically transformed. In a world where vast promises are made for everything new, from new cars to soda pop, here is one promise that is both vast and true: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." (II Corinthians 5:17) The new birth is more than a religious slogan; it is a reality for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation, then, is a free gift of God. It is received on the single condition of trusting in Jesus Christ whose death on the cross is the full payment for man's sin. Those who are thus born again can never be unborn. They have security which is eternal and therefore, in the words of my friend Jack Wyrtzen, they are as sure of heaven as if they had already been there ten thousand years.
I believe that the new life that Jesus Christ provides is made possible through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, I believe that without the Holy Spirit there is no way to live the Christian life. There is no combination of human effort and good intention that can enable us to do what God has asked us to do. The old Youth for Christ doctrinal statement puts it with beautiful simplicity: "We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is able to live a godly life." Which simply means that when I need him--which is all the time--he is always there.
From Here To Mombassa
During this Holy Week I believe in the Church Universal, the great body of believers scattered from Mombassa to Lisbon to Minsk to Darwin to Asuncion to Juneau. In more churches than I can imagine, believers are recounting the final days of our Lord. And this Sunday in a thousand tongues they will sing of his resurrection. They are my brothers and my sisters. They are part of God's great worldwide family. And between them and me, though we are separated by thousands of miles and vast cultural differences, there is true spiritual unity.
If you want to know the truth, I still believe in the local church. More than ever, I still believe. After nearly twenty years as a pastor, seeing all that is good and some that is not-so-good, I still believe that the local church is the centerpiece of God's plan in the world today. Nothing will ever take its place. We come to church on Sunday with our minds racing in a thousand directions. It's been a hard week, filled with long days and busy nights. Then Sunday comes at last. When we come to church our friends are there, they greet us at the door, we laugh and talk, we sit together, we sing the hymns and pray the prayers. The pastor preaches. We stand for the benediction and out we go. But we are not the same. Something has happened. We have met God there. It's another one of those mysteries, but God is there on Sunday when the family comes together. I know, I know, in the church things sometimes move so slowly and progress is so hard to see. But it doesn't matter because God has chosen the church as His primary means of blessing the world. We needn't be ashamed or feel like we have to apologize for our imperfections. God is there in the midst of his people and his plan is being worked out in the church and, in ways we can hardly understand, he is being glorified.
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