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Justification: Declared Righteous and So Much More

October 5, 2014

Regeneration/New Birth: the Spiritual Start of Something Great

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

Way back before Jesus’ incarnation and even before creation, God purposed to conform all who believed in Jesus into the very likeness of Jesus. This doesn’t mean we physically look like him, but spiritually, our attitudes, our motives, our values, our loves, our priorities, every little dimension of who we are, God wants to root out the effects of sin and replace it with what healthy looks like. Jesus is the picture of health.

But how do you do that? Quarantine? Spiritual antibiotics? Spiritual chemotherapy? God’s plan is way more radical than that. This transformation requires an actual new birth. A whole new start. A complete do-over. The theological word for this is regeneration.

  • “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3)
  • “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

Let’s focus on the Titus verse a little. The first part describes the mercy of God in justifying us according to his mercy—not our works; not our doing—but God’s doing on our behalf. Notice that the last clause explains the first. “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” What Jesus calls born again, Paul calls regeneration.

God’s solution? A complete reboot. A whole new start. By the washing of regeneration.  Regeneration is God creating a whole new nature in us. A new life. A new heart. A new power and desire to live to please God. The old nature delights in sin and cannot please God. The new nature delights in righteous living and wants very much to please God. This means for the Christian, sin is no longer our master and we no longer have to live under its bondage. That is great news!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Justification: How God Declares Sinners Righteous

September 28, 2014

Imputation (double)

“His faith was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:22)

Counted. The word is a legal financial word that means “to credit; to credit an account.” You probably do this all the time. If you bank online, to pay bills you will likely transfer money from your savings into your checking—enough to cover the bill.

In imputation, God legally transferred the guilt of our unrighteousness to Jesus on the cross and, when we believe, he transfers Jesus’ righteousness to our eternal moral account.

  • “That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:22-25)
  • “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18)
  • “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This last verse says it so brilliantly simple. God made him sin. Who? Jesus. The holy One. Made him sin? How? On the cross God legally imputed to him our moral guilt. Was he guilty? No. But in God’s eyes as he hung there? Yes. Jesus became our substitute. Jesus became guilty. Jesus became what he was not by the imputing, or transferring of God.

Taking our guilt away isn’t enough to save us. If this was all that God did we still are not righteous. We just aren’t guilty. We’re just back to zero. But to stand before God we must be fully righteous. It’s like asking what it takes to get into Harvard. Do you just have to get rid of the F‘s on your record? No. To get into Harvard you need a whole lot of A‘s.

That is the second part of the verse. “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is the second imputation. In the first, he takes our guilt and imputes it to Jesus’ account. This is why as Jesus hung on the cross, the sky grew black and Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) What was the answer to Jesus’ crying question? Because from the perspective of God the Father, God the Son was morally unrighteous as he hung there. God treated him like we deserve to be treated. Jesus felt Vesuvius wrath.

But this is only half of imputation. Not only can guilt be imputed, but so can righteousness. “His faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5) When I put my hope and personal faith in Jesus, God imputes the full obedience of Jesus to the Law over to my moral account. Now, from God’s perspective, though ungodly, I am seen eternally as fully righteous. The result of this double imputation is that Jesus was in a category of sin he didn’t deserve and we are in a category of righteousness we don’t deserve.

So how does something so completely unfair done by God not make him liable for wrongdoing? Or in terms of Romans 3, how can God be both just and justifier?

Let’s go back to Jesus and the cross. The cross is a statement of value both on the greatness of God’s holy justice and the greatness of our debt to God. Only the perfect and infinitely valuable life of the Son of God could sufficiently pay that price. Jesus’ voluntary substitutionary death allows God to fully uphold his justice while making a way for sinners to be declared what they are not—righteous. The Law is fulfilled in Christ’s perfect life. God’s justice is satisfied in Jesus’ death. God’s glory is magnified as God mercifully declares the sinner righteous while simultaneously maintaining his own glorious holiness. Brilliant!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Justification: God’s Sovereign Grace

September 21, 2014
  • “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 ESV)
  • “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

What is Justification?

Galatians 2 makes it clear, the righteousness we need to stand before God can’t come through our attempts to obey the law. Self-righteousness will not save us. The righteousness that can save us is apart from the law. It comes from God in a different way. In Romans 3:22, it comes “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

Both passages use the same word to describe how eternal right standing before God can come to the sinner. Justification. It’s a long word but don’t be scared. It literally means, to pronounce or declare something righteous. The Law can’t declare us righteous; it can only condemn us. But God can. Let’s look at the verses.

It is “by his grace”

Grace means gift. Grace means getting something I don’t deserve. The justifying declaration of God for the sinner is completely out of his kindness and love and in no way based on the sinner deserving it. If I deserve it, I earned it. If not, it is grace.

It is “through faith in Jesus Christ”

Faith is the means or instrument through which this righteous declaration comes. This faith is not itself a work but rather is the open hand receiving. Notice faith’s object is not faith but Jesus. This is shorthand for the gospel about Jesus. His person as God and man. His work dying bearing our guilt on the cross and his resurrection.

It is available “to all who believe”

Justification is not exclusive. It is not just for Jews or just Gentiles but any who believe. Remember this is a three-part series, so we will unpack this further, but to summarize, here is the Westminster Catechism,

Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.”

The result of God’s justification of the sinner is that the sinner, while still a sinner, is treated eternally by God as a morally perfect human being.

This sounds too wonderful to be true, doesn’t it? Most religions say, try more. Work harder. Do this. Do that. Christianity says the complete opposite. Stop trying! Stop trusting how good you are! The impulse to self-justify by my own actions itself is human pride. Jesus has done the work for us. He has lived a perfectly righteous life and his very righteousness is made available to all who believe in him.

So God makes me righteous? No. Here is a key point. In justification, God doesn’t make us righteous. We still fall short of the glory of God all the time and every day. The miracle here is that God declares us righteous anyway.

Here we are fighting an old Sunday school definition of justification: just as if I’d never sinned. Sounds nice but it robs justification of its true glory. It is not just as if I’d never sinned. It is in spite of all my sin. In spite of all my rebellion. In spite of all my doing the wrong thing and failure to do the right and loving thing. In spite of the massive pile of guilt even the most moral person has created. Despite my sin against him, he justifies anyway. Justification is a moment—a declaration of eternal righteousness for anyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ.

“Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, by the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ.” (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion)

This places the sinner in an eternal category he doesn’t deserve to be in. All his guilt is taken away. God makes an eternal commitment to view him as a morally perfect human being. You protest, “But I’m not morally perfect!” We know you’re not. The friends you grew up with know you’re not. Your family knows you’re not. If you put your faith in Jesus, there’s only one person who doesn’t know that and that’s God. Better said, of his own grace, he freely and lovingly chooses not to know it, not to remember it, not to ever hold it against you. He has declared you not simply morally neutral, but positively and eternally righteous. That is justification.

This is the answer to the either damning or delightful reality check at death. The sudden-pain-in-your-chest, slump-to-the-ground, here-you-go moment. That millisecond on the other side of death where the sudden view is of the majesty of Almighty God, the beauty of heaven, the terror of hell, and the question that determines our eternal destiny. Perfectly righteous or not. Heaven or not. Eternal life or not.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

We’re Not Done Yet!

September 14, 2014

From Self-ambition to Gospel Ambition

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)

Paul was an apostle; the risen Christ appeared to him personally and commissioned him to this. You would think this put him above the petty rivalries and jealousies in ministry. Not at all. He writes this letter from prison. He relates here that his imprisonment has inspired some to preach Christ boldly. Great.

But there was another group. This other group resented Paul’s influence and popularity. They chafed at his authority. Why? They wanted it. So with Paul stuck in prison, this was their chance to strut their stuff. Draw people’s admiration. Draw people to their bandwagon. They preached Christ, but did so with innuendo about Paul. A little sniping. A little snarky. They were ambitious but it was self-ambition. Paul’s response shows what gospel ambition looks like. What does it matter? As long as Christ is preached. Here we see the selflessness of the apostle. The same selflessness as John the Baptist who, when the crowds left him to follow Jesus, famously uttered, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) When our ambition is Jesus and the gospel, we can rejoice whenever those are accomplished; even when it’s someone else’s ministry, even when that person’s motives are questionable. Who are we promoting, after all? Ourselves or a crucified Savior?

  • “For I have no one like [Timothy], who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:20-21)
  • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

These verses get at the issue. Ambition is not the problem. We should be ambitious in gospel ministry. We should take risks for Christ. We should ambitiously serve in the church and the community. Ambition is the not the problem. Self-ambition is. Who are we being ambitious for? Pride easily masks itself as spiritual hustle and bustle. Look what I am doing! I must be a spiritual giant. This is slippery and hard to determine because it gets right down to the heart level. Why do I do what I do? Is it for me? Who am I trying to make look great? To ask our church, are we simply trying to make a name for ourselves or be big-shots in Northwest Indiana? That is selfish ambition and pride. Gospel ambition might look the same on the outside but it has an entirely different ambition on the inside.

  • “A good ambition becomes a selfish ambition when it’s our only ambition.” (Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition, p. 75.)
  • “Ambition which centers on the glory of God and the welfare of the church is a mighty force for good.” (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, p. 2)

Here are great indicators of gospel ambition. Will I serve in obscure positions? Am I willing to serve categories of people who don’t advance my name-building? Is my giving of money or time dependent on acknowledgment? How do I react when ministry requirements are inconvenient? These and many others reveal the true motives behind my service.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Paul’s One Passion and Bethel’s Great Need

September 7, 2014

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.” (Philippians 3:12-15)

Look at the words Paul uses, Run. Press. Strain. Verse 13 is particularly rigorous. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…”

Forgetting all that lies behind

Isn’t this always the danger? It’s like Lot’s wife, looking back. Living in the past. Thinking our Sodom experience was the best. Looking back to some spiritual high point or accomplishment. If you are running, is it wise to run forward and not look behind. Great runners always look forward. All their training and preparation is for this one race; this one moment. The athletes that don’t have this focus, you never hear of them. They don’t win. They don’t make the team, they don’t go the Olympics. They end up preaching sermons in Northwest Indiana on the weekends.

Today’s athletes will discipline themselves and push themselves for maximum performance. Sometimes they start training as children. I remember years ago I had the chance to visit Lake Placid, New York, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. It still has an Olympic training facility. When we visited, the ice rink was filled with very young girls, twirling and jumping who were six, seven, eight years old. They were from all over the country, living there full-time. They were training every day hoping and convinced that they were the next American to win skating gold.

Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 9:25, if athletes will give that effort for a prize that passes away, what kind of service for Christ should we offer for an eternal reward?

Straining forward to what lies ahead

The picture here is vivid. A runner giving all his effort. Eyes focused. Head not moving. Body in motion. Not backwards.

What is Paul reaching for? He says it this way, at the end of his life, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8—“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day.”

Pastor Steve, would you just say what you want to say and quit beating around the biblical bush? OK. Here’s what I want to say. We just birthed triplet campuses. Caring for them has meant sending hundreds of our best people to other campuses. Most of these people were extremely involved here; the kind who do the heavy lifting. These people are easy to spot; they almost have spiritual beads of sweat on the foreheads. Leaders. Servants. Many of them the welcoming type. Hospitable. When there was a need they heard about, they were willing to step in. Faithful. They are taking their energy and helping us reach Gary, Southwest Lake County, and the cities of Hobart and Portage for Christ. We still have lots of people who attend here and we still are blessed with many wonderful servants at this campus, just not as many as we used to.

What is needed now here at Crown Point? More than ever before, we need runners. We need to forget what lies behind and press toward what lies ahead. We need everyone here engaged in quality effort and ministry for Jesus.

I had lunch last week with two brand new families to our church. Both just moved to the area. Both were heavily involved in previous churches. I didn’t tell them, “We’re so awesome we don’t need you.” I said the opposite, “You are coming at a time of tremendous need.” One of the blessings of a multisite church is that it creates so many more opportunities to serve. A single site church has single site needs. Now with four campuses, we have four times the needs and opportunities.

I know we have many seasoned Christians who used to serve with vibrancy but not so much anymore. Can I lovingly say, forgetting what lies behind, press forward to what lies ahead? I once heard Pastor David Jeremiah say, “You can know the vibrancy of your faith by how old your illustrations are.” Today is a new day and a new opportunity.

We need forget about what lies behind. Sometimes people are paralyzed in serving Christ by something in the past. A hurt. A disappointment in a church leader. Forget what lies behind. Maybe you simply rest on an accomplishment of the past or past service or you live vicariously through your adult children who serve for Christ. Forget what lies behind. Today is a new day to strain forward. God is opening doors to us all over Northwest Indiana; it calls for us to give our best effort for Jesus. Press on. Strain. As missionary David Livingstone said, “I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward.”

Realize that we are not planting campuses, we are planting people. The church is people. As people follow God’s leading and serve faithfully in these other campuses, it means God’s people here need to do so as well.

Next week we will talk about what that looks like. Let me remind you of the urgency of this.

Northwest Indiana has half a million people who do not attend any church of any kind. They have no visible faith expression in anything, much less Jesus. Jesus’ final words are guiding us to make disciples. How do we honor him in doing that? Like Paul, to say in my heart, my one thing is “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Sacred Labor

August 31, 2014

How Should I Work?

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24 ESV)

The context here is first-century slavery which is a matter all its own. For the sake of our time, let’s see that in principle this applies to all of us.

Submissive to workplace authority

All authority is God’s authority and most workplaces involve relationships of responsibility. This isn’t bad. The building of the temple had a vast army of leaders and laborers and many of Jesus’ parables involved landowners, workers, and compensation.

Employees here are called to an attitude of submission to those in authority. This is both an action and an attitude. I think we all know what this means and why the bitter complaining in the break rooms is no place for Christians. You might say, But you don’t know how bad it is! Remember, this was written to first-century Christian slaves. If they can apply it in slavery, we can apply it in our modern day employment.

Diligent/industrious

  • “Whatever you do, work heartily.” (Colossians 3:23)
  • “…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)
  • “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Why would God care about the way I work when I am at work—the quality of my work; my energy; my enthusiasm; my ethic? Why does God care? Remember, the goal of the Father is to turn us into little Jesuses; to conform us to his likeness. That includes every aspect of life, even work, and even the quality of the work we offer our employer. We have to see our work as worship. The cobbler is as much worshiping God when he makes shoes as when he sings or prays to God.

Students, the quality of that paper you turn in or your science fair project says something about your view of God. Make your volcano explode to the glory of God. That’s what the real ones do. This is where it’s so exciting to consider the difference our faith can make in our lives—to see all of it as worship.

I was so proud some time ago when I was told about a local business that employs a number of our teenagers. Apparently there was a young woman who worked there. She watched the Bethel teens work and listened to how they talked and she said, That’s the church for me. She now serves faithfully here each week.

Would anybody at your work or school be surprised to find out you are a Christian? Would the quality of your effort on the job be a positive or a negative for the name of Christ?

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’” (Martin Luther King Jr., “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” Sermon at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, IL. April 9, 1967.)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

It’s All About Him 18: In Him All Things Hold Together

August 24, 2014

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:15-18 ESV)

Salvation

There continues to be the insidious teaching that the incarnation, the cross, even eternal life is all about us. It says God did all this first and foremost because of our value, goodness, or worth in God’s sight. Of course, this appeals to us because it exalts us. It makes us feel important.

But this is like the rooster thinking the sun rises for him, so he can show off his crowing. Roosters naturally like doctrines that make them important. The problem is that it simply isn’t true. In fact, what does the next verse say about WHY God has done all this? Why has Christ created, sustained, incarnated, died, and accomplished this salvation? So that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18) He, not we. Christ, not us. It’s not all about us. It is all about him. It most certainly was about our sin and his love for us and him bearing our guilt in atoning for our sins. All of that is true and all marvelous and all wonderful. But these things accomplish a greater purpose. They were done for a more glorious reason. So that in everything he might be preeminent.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

In this passage of Ephesians are listed the saving activities of God through Christ on our behalf. Yet what is repeated as the purpose? For the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:6)

We have the incredible and eternal privilege of being the canvas upon which God the Father painted the glory of his Son. We bear his image. He is conforming us to Christ’s likeness. This is a wonderful privilege and for all eternity we will marvel that God chose to endow us with the likeness of his Son. But portraits aren’t about the canvas or the paint. They are valued because of whose image they bear. The greater the person, the greater the value of his likeness. Christ is the uniting purpose behind all that God has done, is doing, and will do on our behalf to save us, for the praise of his glorious grace.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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