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The Dialogue on Christianity

Chapter 8

Bryan quickly found the passage he was looking for in answer to John's question.

Bryan: There are many passages, but let me just read one to you. It's found in Romans three. The writer, Paul, has just described the awful state of man in the beginning of the chapter, what he really is apart from Christ. Then he starts to write about the insanity of thinking we can impress God with our own righteousness. This is called trying to live by the law in order to be saved. This is what I was doing when I said that I had reformed as an attempt to be accepted by God. Listen to it:

...By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed...even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation....

Paul piled up all the big words in one paragraph. But I think this will make a lot of sense if you just follow it through carefully. He's really just talking about how we always fail in being righteous on our own by trying to earn salvation. Then he says there is a way to get that righteousness—through Christ who died as a propitiation (I'll explain that word in a minute). Righteousness is given to us as a gift.

Nobody—no flesh, no human (this is what he means)—will be justified or declared to be right before God on the basis of his own merit no matter how much he has tried to live by the laws of God. This is so because these laws were given, at least in part, to show us just how sinful we are. They are the very thing that make us shut up our boasting about our own righteousness. The failure to live by these laws successfully drives us to seeking the righteousness of someone else. We need God's righteousness. That's our hope. Christ came as the righteous Son of God, and He lived righteously throughout His earthly life, even under great pressure to sin. He is the one who died for us who believe on Him.

Now look at that phrase for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means that we are not able to be like God. His glory is His character and power. We are not like Him; we all fall short, no matter how hard we try. You remember what a time I had learning that lesson. Now it makes so much sense.

It says here that Christ is the propitiation, or some translations will say "atonement," for our sins. (I sound like a theologian, don't I? But you'll find this is basic, once you get used to it.) That means that Christ bore the just wrath of a holy God for the sins that were on my account. He placated His wrath. He appeased God by taking my sins on Himself. He bore my guilt completely. And then He rose again to prove that His death was not the mere death of a martyr, but, just what He promised, a death in the place of sinners. Christ was dead for me, and Christ was raised to confirm it. The Bible says that God love me enough to send His Son to do this for me—even though I could never begin to deserve it!

John: I'm beginning to understand this better than I ever did before. It really is foolish to trust yourself to be good enough to be accepted by God on your own. Isn't that what you're saying?

Bryan: Exactly. You used the word "trust." That's the concept here. We are not to trust ourselves, but rather, we are to trust the only One Who ever could satisfy those just demand of the law—Christ. We say that we come to believe in Christ. That means that we are to trust in Christ as our only hope, our only sure hope of salvation. That belief is more than just a mental acceptance of the truths about Christ and His death and resurrection; it means to believe by resting our entire case or hopes of salvation on Him and what He accomplished for those who are His.

Of course, the Bible makes it plain that the faith we have has to be a "repenting faith"—that is, a faith that comes because you hate to go the direction you are going, a faith that has turned from our own control, our sin, our views, our pleasure, our self-righteousness, to Christ. That was exactly what I longed to do; so that part was already working in me fairly strongly. I long to get rid of that sin of mine, that sense of slavery to it. To repent means to have a deep change of mind or change of heart about my sin and my solutions, to the point of letting loose of those sins in my heart and trusting Christ. And Christ's power in me as a true Christian helps me to do just that.

I couldn't just come to Christ still wanting to live the old way. What would that mean? It would mean that I just wanted an insurance policy instead of a living Lord to be my Savior. He wouldn't deal with me like that. Do you know what I mean? You see, as Ben said, we are either trusting ourselves or Christ, and this Christ we are trusting is the Lord Jesus Christ. We accept Him as He is. And that is where the true Christian life begins.

I thought and thought about all this, reading and praying about it all. But one thing made it difficult to come to Christ.

John: What was that?

Read Chapter 9
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