Romans: All Fall Short

Romans: All Fall Short

Expectations. Have you ever tried to live up to someone else’s expectations? We can try and try, but the pursuit of meeting the expectations is often futile, frustrating, and impossible. Often times these are even good expectations, such as how we should treat each other and other moral laws. Yet just like the Israelites couldn’t live up the commandments, neither can we.

Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God in the wilderness. You have been rebelling against the Lord from the day you left the land of Egypt until you reached this place.

Deuteronomy 9:7

This is who we are. We make moral codes and ethics thinking we can dictate and control behavior. That making rules will be enough to have a just and righteous society. We say we live in a country founded by Christian ethics and tell others we live by the golden rule, but all these are meaningless and impossible standards if our hearts aren’t postured towards God and if we don’t understand righteousness is achieved by faith in Christ alone, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

John Piper so well reflects the thoughts on Christian ethics by William Wilberson in his biography in “21 Servants of Sovereign Joy”:

“The nominal pursued morality (holiness, sanctification) without first relying utterly on the free gift of justification and reconciliation by faith alone based on Christ’s blood and righteousness.”… “What they do not see is that there must by reconciliation with God and an imputed righteousness from him before we can live holy and righteous lives in the world.”

Deuteronomy also explains that we are to have a posture of worship towards God, to love Him with all our hearts, and “to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways.” (Deuteronomy 11:12) That to follow His ways lead to blessings and to turn from them leads to curses (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

It sounds like such a simplistic formula, love God and obey His law. How quickly we discover that we’ll never perfectly uphold the law. Some of us may react by rebelling further and giving up on trying to uphold Gods law at all, while others react by creating additional rules that are easier to keep and make you appear holier. Either way we react, we’ve probably created our own internal version of what right and wrong are and made sure it’s something we can keep. We’re not supposed to measure what is good by our standards though, we are to measure them only to God’s, when we sin, we sin against Him and that is enough to keep us separated from God for eternity.

The problem when we try to earn salvation by good works is outlined in the lesson of the rich, young ruler. He failed to recognize that we are never holy and good enough to earn eternal life. Jesus shows him that we never keep each command perfectly and even if we think we are good, there is an area of our lives we still hold onto instead of fully surrendering and following Christ (Matthew 19:16-22).

This is why Romans 3:20 says Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin”

Through His gracious plan to save us, God sent His only Son to dwell among us and die for us upon the cross so we could be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:24-36)

We need God to come save us. While there was the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, it was just pale in comparison to the final sacrifice of Christ. We were in a cycle of sin and sacrifices and we needed help breaking free through Christ, the final atonement and peacemaker of us back to God. Now we need to accept justification by faith alone and not add to it. When we add to our justification in Christ, we are saying that His death and final atonement for our sins wasn’t enough. We’re saying we still want to find a way to rely on ourselves and our moral code for salvation. That we know the law better than the one who made it. Accepting Christ’s justification is made difficult by our stubborn and hard hearts, because at the end of the day, you have to put your wisdom and fleshly desires aside and admit that you need that saving work of Christ in our life. We want to control our destiny, we want to make the rules, we want to say we’re moral and good on our own. It is so dangerous to say you love God but continue to try to earn salvation through works. If the rich young ruler didn’t follow all the commands by not giving up his possessions, then wanting to follow Christ while earning salvation is allowing yourself to continue to sin by not walking faithfully with God and trusting in his rulership and sovereignty. You continue to be proud and arrogant that you know better than God.

Once we embrace fully justification by faith alone, we accept God’s rule in our lives and give ourselves freely to His wisdom, knowledge, justice, righteousness, holiness, love, mercy, and grace. We can pray and pursue scripture to fully know Him more and we can finally fear Him and walk in the way of his commands while bearing fruits of the Spirit. Imperfectly still, but knowing God graciously sent His Son so we no longer had to strive to earn salvation out of our power but could be filled with the Spirit and be reconciled back to God for all eternity.

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