The Promise and the Purpose

What does “righteousness” mean to us? At first it may be an irritation, an easily-dismissed concept that seems impossible to attain. Who, the world tells us, is to say what is right? In the light of God’s Word, however, we find that Jesus calls His followers to righteousness, even perfection. We also find forgiveness of our sins through His death on the cross. We find, in Romans 3, justification! For a long time, my understanding of justification and righteousness went this far. I was secure in the accomplished fact of Christ’s redemption and rejoiced in God’s grace, but I located justification as something that had taken place, and I had already experienced in my life. There is, however, a wonderful view of justification in Romans 4 that I had never seen! It’s a view illustrated by the example of an impossible promise and an unsearchable purpose at work in the life of Abraham.

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Shame and the Gospel

I think it was my freshman year in college when I was asked to go out to preach the gospel. I walked around my campus with a very enthusiastic brother, approaching people and being rejected as soon as they heard we wanted to talk about Jesus. The more we were scoffed at, the happier he seemed to be. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I disliked being approached myself, how I could tell when someone I didn’t know had marked me out to ask for money or a signature on a petition. If only, I thought, it wasn’t so impolite. 

Several years later, a good friend of mine asked me about God. It was late at night, and our conversation had drifted toward the Big Topics of being. He knew that I was a Christian, and admitted that he didn’t know much about the Bible, about Christ, but he wanted to learn. At the time, shadowed as I was by profound doubt, I said something noncommittal and the moment passed. It never returned. The techniques or particulars of preaching weren’t the problem. I was ashamed of the gospel.

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