Tag Archives: Justification by Faith

A Common Way People Miss Heaven

Most of us understand the investment idea of hedging your bets. It’s the old cliché about eggs and baskets. You don’t put all your money in one place. Financial gurus call this “diversification”. You diversify so that if one of your companies or stocks or mutual funds goes belly-up, you don’t lose it all. The importance of this has been sadly demonstrated in a negative way with people who have directed all their investments to the pension fund or stock of the company that employs them. When their company has fallen apart, not only did they lose their job, but because they were not diversified, they literally lost…everything.

But there is one place in life where diversification is actually the worst possible thing you can do, and yet people do it all the time. It’s in the area of the spiritual life. Here’s how it works: People come to understand the gospel, that eternal life comes through trusting in Christ’s work at the cross…but just in case, they make sure they do some other things. This is what the Galatians were doing with circumcision…

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. Galatians 5:1-2 (ESV)

They were taught the gospel, that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but the “circumcision party” or the “Judaizers” came in and taught them that they also needed to be circumcised. And this led to Paul’s stern warning above.

Today, this sort of thinking is one of the main ways people misunderstand the gospel and miss eternal life. For instance, someone says, “Well, I believe in Jesus – that’s the main thing, but I’m hedging my bets. I’m covering all the angles. So I’m going to be sure to get baptized, and I’m going to make sure to have my babies baptized, because some people say you do need that, and maybe they’re right, maybe you do need to be baptized to get into heaven.”

The refrain of these folks is this: “Just in case…”

Now of course, everyone who is a follower of Christ should be baptized and if you claim Christ and you haven’t been baptized, then you should make plans to do so out of loving obedience to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20), but not because you think that faith alone in Christ just might not be enough.

Many people today also trust in the act of taking communion. “I believe in Jesus,” these people would say, “but I’m also going to take communion because I believe this will ‘help’ me into heaven.” And a huge number of people believe in doing general good works as an aid to merit eternal life.

Now, does God want us to celebrate the saving cross of Christ through the Lord’s Table? Absolutely He does. And does he want us to love others and be “good”. Sure. But if you take communion in order to get into heaven, or if you go to church, or give financially, or help an old widow across the street in order to secure eternal life…then God says that Christ will be of no value to you. Refuting this kind of false thinking is so important to Paul that he says it again even more forcefully and clearly:

I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:3, 4 (ESV)

Here Paul explains why hedging your bets in Christianity is so deadly, because in God’s eyes, you are either trusting in yourself, or trusting in Christ. You cannot do both. If the Galatians were to choose to be circumcised, then they were choosing to trust in themselves, in their own obedience to the law, and by doing so they were rejecting the way of justification and faith in Christ. And they were therefore obligated to keep the whole law.

Every. Last. Command.

So Paul says, put ALL your “stock” in Christ and reject trying to be justified by the law in any way whatsoever.

He is the one “investment” that will never go south.

For Monday, June 22nd: Galatians 6


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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Missing Peace by Josh Knowlton


Celebrating Josh’s 20th birthday a month ago at Wheaton College

(Note from Roger:Today I have asked one of my favorite people in the world to be a guest blogger.  He is my one and only son, Josh Knowlton. Josh is a sophomore at Wheaton College studying Anthropology.  Aside from academics, Josh is a member of the Wheaton Men’s Glee Club and the acapella group, Thundertones. He’s also a weekly worship leader for three-year-old Sunday School at the Church of the Resurrection and also leads a weekly ministry to teach English to native Chinese speakers in the Chinatown area of Chicago. Lastly, he also occasionally writes a personal devotional from his Scripture reading. So for today…I asked him to go public. Be sure to share freely!)

One of the deepest cries of every soul is the plea for peace. Not having peace is like a restless night’s sleep. You toss and you turn as your bed creaks and moans. Your pillow always has a lump in it; your sheets always have a crinkle. The temperature either makes you shiver or sweat, as nagging frustration runs through your mind. And when you wake up the next morning in a half-sleep stupor, you end up more tired than you were the night before. Not peace.

This “not peace”  is a constant reality everywhere we turn. It happens at home in the sounds of raised voices; it happens at work in gossip or a biting remark; it happens at school in the form of stress and “being left out”; it happens in the world in the ways of Ferguson, Ukraine and Russia, ISIS.

Every night, the world has insomnia. It’s tossing and turning, desperate for some peace it believes should be here. Restless for rest. But every morning we awake to a world that seems worse off than it was before.

And yet, Paul says that because we have been “justified by faith” by Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can have peace! True peace, a “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Although the world may still be broken and restless in endless ways, God wants us to experience his peace by being in a relationship with him, by knowing his grace.

This probably isn’t shocking to you. But it should be. You see, God knows the words you’re going to say before you even think to say them (Psalm 139:4). He’s numbered your days, and knows what each one will be like (Psalm 139:16). He knows you, the real you. He knows your family history and your inside jokes with your best friends. He’s watched and smiled at your most embarrassing moments, and applauded you at your biggest successes. And he knows your sin—the horrible things you wish you could forget and the little things you can’t even remember.

God knows you better than Google knows your search history. And yet he still loves you endlessly. And as Paul says, he lets us, unclean sinners, enter into a peace with him. No more restless nights, right?

Maybe one day. But for now, this isn’t quite the end of the story. We still live in a world full of violent unrest, unrelenting agitation. Not peace: suffering. And even though as Christians, the Holy Spirit has given us peace, there’s still going to battles we have to face—there’s still going to be suffering.

So how does this suffering work into this plan of peace?

Paul, as usual, has the answer. He outlines: “suffering produces endurance…endurance produces character…and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3).

You see, suffering is like a super-charged, rocket-engine fuel that is agonizing to produce, but ultimately launches our hope in God into the stratosphere. Just like rocket science, it’s hard to understand—especially when you’re living through that suffering. But with Christ working through our suffering—we end up producing hope. It’s kinda like putting last week’s garbage in a blender and ending up with the new iPhone 6. It’s wonderful, beautiful, impossible, glorious. It’s Christ working through us.

Without Christ, peace is like a puff of smoke we see but can’t contain, a handful of sand running through our fingertips. But with Christ, peace is a reality that takes hold in our hearts. And it’s here for us—here for you.


For tomorrow, Friday, March 27th: Romans 6

While you’re at it, here’s another story about Josh…


Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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