Clean Up Your Act
You probably remember the old fairy tale about the princess who kisses the ugly toad and turns him into a prince. That one has always intrigued me, because it reminds me of what God has done for us.
The greatest truth of the gospel is that holy, righteous God loves unholy, unrighteous, sinful people. God loved us while we were still sinners (see Romans 5:8). It's not like we cleaned up our act or fanned some flame of goodness within us and God loved us because of it. Not at all! There is no cause, within us, for God to love us! We're like the toad in the fairy tale.
The cause of God's love lies wholly in the One who pours out that love. God initiates; we respond: "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
One result of being born again is peace. That's what Romans 5:1 is all about: "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Justify" is a term that's used a lot in the New Testament, 15 times in the book of Romans alone. What it means is that you have been acquitted when you come to Christ; you've been declared righteous. It doesn't mean you are, in practice, righteous, but God imputes righteousness to you. He declares it, and then He treats you as though you are righteous.
We can express "justified" in this way: I am treated "just if I'd" never sinned, or more grammatically, "just as if I'd never sinned." That's somewhat simplistic, but it's a handy way to remember it. If you're justified, you are treated as though you had never sinned (even though you have…we all have!). And because of that, you have peace.
Now, what if we weren't justified by faith? What if it was "having been justified by our works, we have peace with God"? I'll tell you the truth: If justification depended on my works, some days (if I've read my Bible, and witnessed to five people, and prayed long and hard) I would have peace. But other days, when I haven't done all that, I wouldn't have peace.
But our justification is based on what He has done, not on what we have done. And the result is peace. We have peace inwardly, and we have peace positionally (that is, peace with God). God has transformed us from our "toad" selves and declared us righteous.
As Charles Spurgeon said, "We have been taken into the highest court of all and there we have been cleared through Jesus' blood — have we not cause to be fully at peace with God — 'being justified by faith'? Precious doctrine! Oh to rest in it with a childlike confidence from now on and for evermore!"
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