I think it’s a sad and devastating reality that Christ-followers are sometimes notoriously sullen and morose. The colloquial saying has proven true, that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” What an odd paradox it is that Christ-followers, the people who have the most to be joyful in and about, are often the most solemn, unhappy, joyless individuals.
I believe this is because we just forget or take for granted how enormously blessed and privileged we are to be the children of God. We must never fail to remember the wonderful, rich blessings we have in Jesus because of his gospel of grace.
Today, I’d like to take you through three amazing gifts that you, Christ-follower, are the benefactor of — all because of Christ and his gospel, his sacrifice, his deliverance.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith.” (Rom. 5:1)
Our position declared: Justified.
Have you ever thought about how God looks at us? When God looks down on us from heaven, what does he see? This is the ultimate paradigm-shifter: that we, as the vilest of creatures, offenders of the law of God, and violators of his holiness, are allowed access into the very throne room of God the Father, the Creator and Ruler of the entire universe. What a glorious mystery and yet what a powerful position we have. We have a special place under God and in Jesus as Christ-followers, one that is exclusive to us. It was given to us by Christ on the cross. Our position is one of justification.
As disciples of Christ Jesus, we have been justified because of Jesus’s she’’d blood on the cross, his work of redemption for us. But what does it mean to be justified? In Romans 5:1, Paul uses a Greek word, which translates “to render, to declare, or to pronounce one to be righteous.”
When we are saved and our sins are washed away by the cleansing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, at that moment, Jesus pronounces us righteous and declares us justified before God. This means that even though we are sinners and we continually fail God and violate his will and desire for us, God sees us as though we are righteous and good.
And that’s all because of Christ. Because of the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus, we’ve been pardoned from all our sin! That truth alone should make every believer joyful. In spite of our sin, God treats us as though we aren’t sinners and he frees us from the bondage and shackles of sin.
And it must be pointed out that this declaration of justification doesn’t make you righteous — it doesn’t make you innocent. There’s a stark difference between being “innocent” and being “pardoned.” Justification is the latter.
We’ve been declared righteous, even though we’re filled with rampant unrighteousness.
We’re clothed in the holiness of Christ so that when God sees us, he sees Jesus.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3)
The word “hidden” comes from a Greek meaning “to conceal, to be hid, to escape notice, that it may not become known.” The idea, here, is that Jesus’s performance on the cross for us “conceals” us, covers us, “hides” us in himself, in his all-surpassing and all-sufficient grace and love, so that God the Judge’s wrath is appeased, is satisfied. (More on this later.)
Christ is our “scapegoat” (Lev. 16:10), the perfect sacrifice that pardons us, justifies us, and frees us. As unregenerate people, we are slaves to sin, our flesh, and to Satan himself. But because of God’s overwhelming love for his creation, for his children, he provided a way, an escape, a remedy for us — his glorious gospel of grace!
Through Christ, we have a way to be liberated from the chains of sin and to be free in Jesus! This is justification: it’s freedom to know and experience God’s love like never before. It doesn’t mean that we are righteous, but it means that God sees us as though we are, on the basis of Jesus’s righteousness, so gloriously displayed and poured out for us on the cross.
Our position described: Secure.
Furthermore, what would our position be without it resting on a firm foundation? On something solid? While other religions and systems of belief also adhere to a semblance of the doctrine of justification, none of them propose that this incredible gift is given to the entire world free of charge.
No, most require that you work for this justification by doing “good” things, by making it up to the God(s) by sacrificing everything, even your life. And while other faiths have a God that sits above, looking down in condemnation on his creatures, the stark contrast of the gospel is that our God comes down to us, he meets us where we are!
There’s no more striving to “work” and “make it up to God” and tip the scales of grace in our favor. Because of Christ, the scales are forever tipped on the side of God’s unceasing mercy! This is the amazing grace and goodness we have in Jesus, that only through faith can we receive this gift of justifying salvation. Justification is by grace through faith in Christ apart from all works and merits of the sinner. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
Understand believer, that without faith we have no salvation. Our faith, the faith of a Christ-follower, is secure. It’s an assurance and a confidence in Jesus’s deliverance for us. The word “faith” in Romans 5:1, comes from a Greek word meaning “conviction of the truth.” You can rejoice in Jesus today and hold firm the gospel of grace because the redeeming work of Jesus has already been performed for us! Our redemption, our security and hope of a future with our Redeemer, our justification is not dependent upon our performance for God. A thousand times, no! Because of Jesus, because of the cross, our salvation is secure, it’s established . . . forever. In Christ’s performance we rest. That’s the only one that God the Father judges us by.
On our own, we are nothing; we can’t merit any salvation or justification or grace or mercy from God by anything we do. No amount of “good” works can save or justify you. It’s only by grace through faith in Christ’s miraculous and glorious display of love and grace on the cross that we are justified. Paul says elsewhere:
“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.” (Gal. 2:16)
This is what you can rejoice in, Christ-follower, that in Jesus, your justification and salvation is already taken care of! This is the incredible gospel we have, a gospel that says, “Look not at how you’ve failed Me, but at how I have prevailed for you.”
Rejoice, Christian, because the crux of “Christianity is not ‘do something for Jesus.’ The [crux] of Christianity is ‘Jesus has done everything for you!’” (Tchividjian, 21)
“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1–2)
We have acceptance.
Because of the justification we have received based on Christ’s performance on the cross, we can now enjoy the acceptance of God. Where is this notion of acceptance found? It is found in the word “peace” in latter half of verse 1, which says, “we have peace with God.”
The word “peace” here is a Greek word which means “peace between individuals, that is, harmony or accord.” It also implies the ideas of “security, safety, prosperity, and felicity.” For the Christ-follower, peace “is [that] tranquil state of a soul assured of it’’s salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with it’’s earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” The all-encompassing peace of a believer is not some sort of mystical feeling that we must aspire to — no, it’s a fact!
Because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, we have peace with God and we no longer have to fear his wrath and condemnation because of our sin. (Rom. 8:1) “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Rom. 5:9) Because of Jesus, we have been saved from the wrath of God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God’s holy anger was kindled. But through Christ, we have been restored and renewed to a right relationship with God. Jesus opened the door for man to have peace with God through faith in his Son.
But not only is God’s wrath appeased by Jesus’s sacrifice, heaven is satisfied. Christ’s crucifixion not only turned away God’s righteous indignation, but it met the demands of God’s justice. “Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Rom. 3:25)
There is a wonderful word in this verse, a word of antiquity, but one full to the brim of promise. That word is “propitiation.” Propitiation literally means, “to make peace with, to appease.” It carries the idea of something (or Someone) making peace for you on your behalf. Theologian Charles Ryrie defines propitiation as “the turning away of wrath by an offering.” (5503–4) As mentioned earlier, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, because of all our sin, God’s wrath and justice must be met, must be satisfied. Thus, Jesus Christ became our propitiation, our appeasement; he bore all my sin, all your sin, all the sin of the whole world so that the wrath of God would be satisfied, thereby making God’s holy and righteous justice complete.
God’s holiness demanded justice; Jesus met those demands so that all of mankind, so that you could be redeemed! Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin: he gave his life so that we might have acceptance and favor in the sight of God. Christ-follower, rejoice in your peace with God the Father!
We have access.
But not only do we have the acceptance from God, we have access to God. Through Jesus’s sacrifice, we have access into the very presence of God the Father. When the Bible says that the veil was torn (Matt. 27:51), it’s referring to the curtain that separated the common man from the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where the presence of God was literal and real.
The Temple itself is an interesting piece of architecture. And this whole notion of “complete access” put forth here by Paul must’ve been somewhat foreign to his readers. Many of them came from a religious background, one that required a reverential and respectful distance to be constantly maintained between the worshiper and God. The very layout of the Temple suggests such a separation. Gentiles were denied access and were restricted to an outer court. If they ventured further in, they could be executed. Women were also restricted to the Court of Women. Then, there was the Holy Place. This was where only the priests could be and minister. Beyond this, there was the Holy of Holies, which was only accessible by the high priest once per year on the Day of Atonement, and even he could not enter without the blood of an innocent sacrifice.
But now through Christ, there are no more restrictions! Because of Christ, we are not required to go through any earthly mediator to have communion with God. We can enjoy and have full access to God! We can praise him for that and be joyful in that! We don’t have any restrictions on our fellowship; we can go before God anytime we want and he will hear us. Because of Christ, we can have full access to the Holy of Holies, the God of God’’s, and the Lord of Lords!
We have assurance.
Furthermore, not only do we have access to God and the acceptance from God, but if you’re a believer you have assurance with God. You now enjoy a two-fold assurance.
First, we have assurance for the now. Romans 5:2 says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” This phrase, “in which we stand,” holds the idea of permanence or “being firmly fixed and immovable.” A Christian’s faith, hope, and assurance is permanent; it will never fail. Regardless of what trials come, we can rejoice because our trust is in Jesus, the Solid Rock and Cornerstone of our faith. We can know that nothing can separate us from God or his love.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the daylong; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35–39)
Those verses are truth and they should make you shout with joy in knowing that absolutely nothing can separate you from the love of God, from the grace of Jesus.
Secondly, a Christ-follower also has assurance for the future. You can rest in the eternal security of salvation. Again, Romans 8 proclaims significant lessons for us to remember: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29–30)
We are those that have been foreknown. God knew you before the beginning of time. He knew you would be struggling with the things you are struggling with and suffering the adversity you’re suffering. But the Lord has promised good for you. He has promised peace and security. He has promised rest and comfort.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’” (Isa. 43:1–2)
No matter what you are going through, no matter the trials or hardships or circumstances, Jesus is right there beside you providing a way and providing hope. For you, Christ-follower, you have the ultimate hope that everything you are struggling with is working out for the ultimate good and glory of God. No one else can boast in that.
And that is surely something to rejoice in.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:3–5)
The ability to joy in trouble.
While it is said and reiterated and declared and preached so often, and in a myriad of ways, I fully believe that it can’t be proclaimed enough that the Christian has the ultimate Source for joy, even in the midst of heartache and pain and trials.
In the moment, when we are experiencing extreme difficulties or sorrows or sufferings, remembering or being reminded of our ability to still have joy might seem trite or not real enough. This is a sad, depressing reality, because Jesus is enough and we can have joy, even in the midst of adversity.
It’s most likely the most difficult or near impossible thing to realize, but rejoicing through trials should be counted as a privilege for every believer. We have the ability to rejoice during hard times. Why? Because we know that these trials are from or allowed by God, to work on us and to mold and fashion us into his image. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) This promise can’t be overstated or exaggerated, nor can this simple truth be overlooked.
Christian, you’re called by God to serve him and reflect him and prove the outrageous, transforming power of his gospel. Therefore, you can know that everything in life will work out for your good. This is a promise made by God, and his promises never fail. You are God’s masterpiece, his life-work and the adversity in life is God chiseling the rough edges off you, forming you to be more like his Son. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) We are God’s “workmanship,” his masterpiece. If you’re going through difficulty, look to God and know that he’s working on and in you. He desires that you become satisfied solely in bringing him glory and praise.
God’s testing you, trying you, refining you, to be a better reflection of his Son. The prophet Zechariah states: “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zech. 13:9) Moreover, the apostle Peter declares: “In this you rejoice, though now a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6–7)
As Christ-followers, God’s called-out ones, his masterpieces, we have peace and joy because everything we might be enduring is being done in us and to us and through us for our good and his glory. The image and likeness of Jesus is being revealed in us as God is chiseling away at our old nature. And in that, we can eternally rejoice!
The ability to rest in our trouble.
But, along with rejoicing in trouble, there is resting in trouble. The Christian has the ability to rest despite the torrent and tumult surrounding him.
What does this mean? Why can we rest in troubling times? The reason, our only Reason, is that Christ Jesus is our Unshakable Hope! The ever-relevant and encouraging Book of Psalms sheds light on this fact — “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.” (Ps. 112:4–8)
There’s no amount of trouble that can move us from God or his love. What wonderful truth is found here! Look at all the words that describe the Christ-follower’s position when enduring trouble: “it is well”; “will never be moved”; “will be remembered forever”; “he is not afraid”; “his heart is firm”; “his heart is steady.” We won’t be shaken; we are firm and steady in Christ. There’s no amount of trouble that can move us from God or his love.
And what a wonderful hope and promise that “light dawns in the darkness for the upright.” That light is Jesus. He shines in us and on us in difficulty to remind us that he is always there. Whatever will come our way, we won’t be shaken nor ever moved. And even though you may not understand it or see it right now, God is still God, his plan is still perfect, and he’s in control. We can rest in that.
Our hope is full because our hope rests in Christ. Contrast that with the world: the world, the unsaved, have no hope. They have no solid ground upon which to plant their feet, nor anything that’s wholly certain. However, for the Christian, your hope is grounded on and rooted in the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ, and his gospel. And he will never fail us. That should make every believer rejoice and smile! “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isa. 26:4) That’s what we can rest and rejoice in, that we have an Everlasting Strength and an Eternal Rock upon which we can fully rely and on which we will never be moved!
But you might still be skeptical, even after you’ve read about your position, possessions, and privileges in Christ. You might still be saying, “But Brad, you don’t know my situation. If you were in my shoes, you wouldn’t be smiling, you wouldn’t be joyful. If only you knew what I was going through you wouldn’t be counting your blessings!”
And my answer to that: “Yep, you’re right, I don’t know your situation and I don’t know what you may be going through right now. But I do know that you have a loving Savior and a caring God that does know your trouble, your pain, and your suffering.” As the author of Hebrews expounds, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
There is help and relief found in Christ. The greatest thing about being a Christian is that you can always get back up after you’ve fallen, after you’ve been beaten down by life. God is always there to help you up. Jesus will be there when you’ve fallen, by your side with an outstretched hand of grace ready to raise you up again. Believer, rejoice in Christ! Rejoice in his gospel! Rejoice in the privileges you have in Jesus; in the possessions God has given us; and in the position the Holy Spirit has established for us! Rejoice in Jesus!
Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011).
Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013).