Rebuilding the Foundations
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I'm prepping for my video on Romans 4, which is long overdue. I have done several videos on the first three chapters (e.g., Overview of Romans). In chapter 4, the most important idea is that THERE ARE PEOPLE TO WHOM GOD WILL NOT ACCOUNT SIN!! (This literally means that God will not keep track of or consider their sins!!)
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How could this not be the most important idea in the Bible!? Who are these people, and how do I become one of them?
Unfortunately, a LOT of teachers have claimed that anyone who believes that Jesus died for their sins is one of those people, but that is not true. When Jesus and the apostles talk about believing in Jesus, they mean believing that he is Christ, Son of God, and Lord. Jesus is building his Church on the confession that Jesus is Christ and Son of God, not on the confession that he died for our sins (Matt. 16:16). God saves those who confess that Jesus is Lord, not that he died for our sins (Rom. 10:9-10).
We must remember that Paul is not the only one who talks about God not accounting sin and instead putting righteousness on our account. The apostle John does as well, saying that those who walk in the light will have theirs sins cleansed in the blood of Jesus (1 Jn. 1:7) and that those who practice righteousness will have the righteousness of Christ accounted to them (1 Jn. 3:7; rather than their own righteousness, which will never be enough).
Grace did not come so that sin may abound. Sin abounded, and so grace came, so that we could stop sinning. Paul asks the question, "Should we sin so that grace may abound?" He answers it with, "May it never be! How shall we who are dead to sin live in it any longer?" (Rom. 6:1-2). Paul was concerned that the Romans would twist his teaching into a license for sin. So was Jude, the Lord's brother, who wrote, "There are certain men, who crept in unnoticed ... ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into loose living, denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
Sin does not have power over those who have grace (Rom. 6:14). Yes, "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2), but those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). Walk by the Spirit, and overcome the flesh (Gal. 5:16), and God will not put any of your sins your account!
A friend mentioned recently that it would be good to regularly address those who have a spirit of condemnation. It is always good to be pressing forward ("not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord"—Rom. 12:11), but we must never forget that holiness in the Lord's work. We can do nothing without him (Jn. 15:5). God's goal is progress, overcoming, battle, humbling yourself, rooting out deceptive sin in our hearts WITH THE HELP OF OTHERS (Heb. 3:13). He is not expecting nor demanding sinless perfection, but is instead hammering away at our foolish hearts and hopeless trust in ourselves. Thus, the child of God can know he is a child of God BECAUSE HE GETS DISCIPLINED (Heb. 12:7-8). Discipline is for those who need to be trained to be different or for those who have somehow crossed the Father's will. In other words, the true children of God sometimes sin and have to be disciplined! When you get saved, God knows he has a huge task on his hands to go from beginning the work in you to completing it (Php. 1:6).
You are the one who does NOT know that the Holy Spirit is overcoming and changing a "deceitful and desperately wicked" heart (Jer. 17:9). God does know. That is why his mercy is new every morning and never comes to an end (Lam. 3:22). That is why those who walk in the LIGHT—open, confessing your sins, not hiding or pretending—can expect fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus to cleanse every sin (1 Jn. 1:7).
Those who walk in darkness, Jesus said, are hiding BECAUSE THEY DO NOT WANT THEIR DEED REPROVED (Jn. 3:19). Those who "DO THE TRUTH" come to the light SO THAT THEIR DEEDS CAN BE SEEN (Jn. 3:21). The Holy Spirit is the transformer, not you. Yes, you must give your effort. You must "work out" your salvation, and you must do so with some fear (Php. 2:12), but it is GOD who works in you to do AND to desire his will (Php. 2:13). If you are longing to and trying to do his will, THAT IS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Yield to that work, and to the pain when you are disciplined, because people simply do not change without pain, and God will get you to the goal (1 Cor. 1:8-9; Php. 1:6; Jude 1:24-25).
Just don't live in darkness. Walk in the light, and present your deeds to God (Jn. 3:19-21), and you will be one of those whose sin is not put on account.