Romans

God-Confidence in the Clutch

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines confidence as “full trust; belief in the power, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.” As professional athletes, confidence is often developed through the persistent challenging and testing of our athletic abilities. Over time, we reach a certain point where we aren’t afraid of stepping up to the plate when the game is on the line because we have been through this a thousand times before and proven that we possess the strength and ability to come through in the clutch. 

As those who belong to Christ, we are to possess a similar kind of confidence but a different source and foundation for this confidence. As Christians, our confidence in life does not rest in who we are and what we’ve done but rather in who God is and what He's done. Confidence in God is the key to truly experiencing His power and presence and the source of strength that we need to endure the times in life when our faith is tested. Therefore, the condition and strength of our God-confidence will always be directly related and affected by our perception and view of God.

In describing the faith of Abraham in Romans 4, the apostle Paul provides us with four big principles that describes what true confidence in God looks like. 

To begin with, true confidence in God is based on God’s Word. Despite his circumstances, Abraham was “fully convinced” that God was able and willing to do what God said He would do (v. 21). Most people find themselves struggling in faith and feeling let down by God because their faith is resting in 'their wants' rather than in God’s Word.

“Faith does not come up with things for God to do. Faith responds to what God wants done.” (Crawford Loritts from his book Unshaken) God is not in the genie business of granting wishes. God is in the sovereignty business of giving us His Word. Faith is not proposing our plans and expecting God to work for us. Faith is trusting God’s plan and experiencing God working through us.

The next principle that we see in this passage is that true confidence in God defies our circumstances. Abraham “believed against hope… He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.” (v. 18-19) Abraham’s faith wasn’t naive. He considered the reality of his circumstances and yet confidently decided, “I’m going to believe God anyway.” 

Many times, out of fear of coming across as foolish, we attempt to make our faith more logical and reasonable. However, sometimes God may be calling us to a level of faith that seems ridiculous to those around us. 

Abraham and Sarah had no logical reason to expect a child at their age and with their history of infertility. Our confidence in God does not deny the reality of our circumstances. God-confidence reasonably considers the present situation and yet still leads you to confidently determine that “My circumstances do not define what God wants done in my life.” 

The third principle that we see in this passage is that true confidence in God is anchored in God’s sovereign power. Abraham rested His faith in the fact that God was the one “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (v. 17). We might need to be reminded that the adversity Abraham and Sarah had found themselves enduring was a crisis designed by God. 

God is the Author of our own individual stories and where there is great need in our life there is opportunity to experience the power and presence of God in a real and tangible way. The circumstances that we find ourselves in and the power of God that defies them are statements made by God concerning His ability, sufficiency and power to come through for us in ways that we simply can’t come through for ourselves. The process of waiting for God to deliver in the clutch is always a part of God’s plan, and as we wait in faith and confidence for something to happen, more than likely we will discover that God often changes us before He changes our circumstances. 

And the fourth principle that we see in this passage is that true confidence in God must be tested and used. The more Abraham considered his circumstances and the more that he pressed into the promises and power of God, “he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (v. 20). 

God-confidence is not merely believing a body of truth. God-confidence is experiencing and living out that truth that you claim to believe. God-confidence is not necessarily grown in the friendly confines of Bible study and Christian fellowship. God-confidence is grown in the trenches of being forced to trust Him to get you through the troubles or trials that you are currently facing. 

Therefore, God-confidence is based on God’s Word. God-confidence defies our circumstances. God-confidence is anchored in God’s sovereign power. And true God-confidence must be tested and used.

May we not waste our time when we find ourselves waiting on God to deliver. As those who belong to Christ, may we realize that true confidence in God is developed through the persistent challenging and testing of that confidence. May we seek to attain a certain level of God-confidence that overcomes life’s circumstances because we have been through these things before, and we have reason to rest assured in our God who has proven Himself willing and able to perfectly come through in the clutch and deliver what He has promised to deliver.

 

Simple Gospel

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In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul declares that Scripture proves Abraham wasn’t justified by God on account of anything he did or accomplished. That is why Paul claims that he had nothing to boast about before God. His obedience was not a factor in his justification. Abraham simply believed what God promised, and so God credited him with righteousness. 

Now, we have to be careful here. Righteousness is not credited to us for believing in God or in a God that saves. We can have a strong faith in the existence of God. We can believe that the Bible is God’s holy word. We can show great reverence for God but at the same time, still be seeking to save and justify ourselves by trusting in our own moral performance or character. Righteousness is only credited to us when we transfer our trust from anything else in life to a complete trust in who God is and what He says He will do. True saving faith is a “trust-transfer.”

We must not even place our trust in our act of believing. Adding one ounce of confidence in our own moral achievements or character for justification reveals self-trust which is failure to believe the gospel. It is failing to believe God. 

God has promised that Jesus’ life and death has paid the penalty for our sins in full and has granted us a righteous standing before Him in spite of our sinfulness. Justification is guaranteed to anyone and everyone who believes this promise made by God. Yet, the simplicity of this gospel is a stumbling block to the religious and foolishness to the irreligious.

Our greatest temptation is failing to believe the cross was necessary (irreligion) or failing to believe that it was all that was needed (religion).

 

Drinking From The Fountain of Justification

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We all have turning points in our lives and in our careers that shape the way we end up handling the future. And we all have past experiences that we draw from in order to deal with present realities. One of those turning points for me was the season of 2006 when I had statistically the best offensive season of my career. 

I was coming off what was one of the worst seasons of my career, but then out of nowhere in 2006, I got hot in Spring Training and stayed hot until the season’s end. I hit over .300 that year with over 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases while playing for three different teams in two different organizations. I gained a confidence in my playing ability that season that would carry with me throughout the rest of my career. That season would end up being the fountain I would draw from anytime I felt myself struggling or suffering in the game. If things weren’t going well, I’d remember that season, and it gave me the peace and confidence I needed in order to see past my current circumstances.  

Recently, I was reading through the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, and I discovered a specific spiritual turning point that he mentions should shape the way we handle future realities. The turning point he is referring to is that moment we come to understand our justification before God as a justification based solely on God's grace. That it is based on a righteousness from God that He freely gives to us through faith; not on our good works or what we assume we can accomplish on our own.  
 
Paul goes on to give three big promises that this type of justification provides, and then he explains how this ought to radically alter our perspective on life. 

First, our justification based on God's grace gives us peace with God. I’m not talking about a feel good calming of the heart that satisfies our soul. That would more appropriately be called the peace of God. Peace with God refers to the reconciliation of two sides that are at war with one another. On account of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us, we are no longer God’s enemies. There is peace. We are no longer His rebellious opposition. We are now considered friends.

Second, our justification based on God's grace gives us access to God. The original meaning of the word access used here means to bring near or to introduce. We can’t approach a person of great power unless we know somebody (have a connection). We can only develop a personal relationship with a person of great power if someone introduces us to that person.

For those of us who have been reconciled, Jesus is our connection. Jesus brings us into the presence of God where we can develop a relationship with God. This relationship allows us to go to Him with requests, concerns, problems and failures. We’ve been given access to the Creator of the universe. The sovereign God over all things hears us and will always be willing to help us.

Lastly, our justification based on God's grace gives us hope of future glory with God. It gives us confidence in God’s love for us, and that He is always working towards what’s best for us eternally. The Christian can see past the here and now and look out onto the horizon of where He’s going. There’s a greater place and a greater life and it’s with a great God and it lasts forever.

Understanding the depth of these three truths and our justification by God’s grace alone ought to be a turning point in life that shapes the way we live the present. 

Our justification is the fountain from which we should constantly draw from whenever we're thirsting for some refreshment in life.

Drawing from the fountain of our justification allows the Christian to experience great peace and confidence in the midst of current circumstances. The Christian always has a reason to rejoice no matter the present reality. The truth of our reconciliation, relationship and future with God is the comforting hug from God that holds us whenever we’re hurting. 

Facing suffering by drinking from the fountain of our justification by grace alone will leave us refreshed and revitalized. Facing suffering by drinking from the fountain of a justification by works will always leave us dry and exhausted. 

When we view life through the lens of working for our justification, we’ll begin to run the religious gauntlet… “I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to do better. God is displeased with me. God is punishing me. I’ve done something wrong. God’s not listening to me. I’ve got to try harder.” … until we’re crushed and buried by the weight of what’s happening to us. 

The Christian may not know the reason why he's suffering, but justification by grace alone assures him that his suffering can’t be because God doesn’t love him.

God doesn't punish Christians; He's already placed that punishment on Christ.

Our justification by grace alone gives us reconciliation, relationship and hope for a future with a God who loves us more than we ever dared to believe. We can rest assured in this hope because God’s amazing love was declared and demonstrated in an unprecedented way. While we were His enemies, Jesus still died for us. No one but the Christian can claim such a great love from such a personal God. If while we were His enemies, God extended His hand of peace and offered us a seat at His table, how much more now as His friends can we trust that God is surely looking out for us with nothing but love?

Only the Christian can draw from the fountain of justification by grace alone and drink the refreshing reminder that God’s love supersedes our present realities. 

We’ve been given peace, we have access, and there is hope for the future.