Three Lenses for Life, Pt. 2
Study Guide February 24, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
I thought we needed to have a very brief introduction to our study today, so here it is: “Part 2!” That’s it…brief and to the point. But what’s the point? The point is that we discovered that God essentially views all of life through three lenses, which are basically three of God’s attributes. In fact, in Jeremiah 9:23-24 God reveals that these three things are foundational things that He wants us each to understand about our God. And we are posting this passage again because if there is one passage we each really need to understand it’s this one concerning what God wants us to understand about Him. So look again: Jer 9:23-24- “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” NASU
In our first part of this study we explored ‘lovingkindness’. Today we’ll explore ‘justice’.
We might start by asking a question. So, just how foundational is this virtue of ‘Justice’ anyway? The answer is: Ps 89:14- “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You.” NASU Since the very foundation of God’s throne is ‘righteousness and justice’ then that naturally implies that our entire lives are also to be built upon this same foundation of righteousness and justice…along with lovingkindness and truth, or mercy and truth going forth with these, as they do with God.
Now, here’s a very interesting thing about the meaning of this concept, or this virtue, of ‘justice’. When we consider ‘justice’ we naturally connect it’s meaning with ‘laws’ or the ‘giving of laws’. And certainly God is the King and Law-Giver of the Universe. The Scriptures are replete with God’s laws and commandments for all people on planet Earth. So justice is certainly oriented toward law and order. But there is another definition of ‘justice’ that just really clarifies the whole concept, and that is: the basic meaning of ‘justice’ is: ‘As it should be’! What’s that? That’s right! ‘Justice’ is all about ‘As it should be’! As what should be? As everything should be!
Just think: God is Himself, perfect and also ‘just’, or, ‘as God should be’. And then God created a Universe and world to be a ‘just’ world, or to be a world ‘as it should be’; a world whose foundation is also righteousness and justice, as is God’s. And of course, that implies a world based upon God’s order, God’s authority, God’s plans, and God’s will. As the ‘Sovereign and Just’ Creator of all things, all things should also then be ‘Just’, or all things should be ‘just as they should be’.
But what we are getting at is that for all of us created inhabitants of God’s world, ‘justice’ simply means that, in light of the fact that we owe our very life and breath and existence to our ‘Righteous and Just’ Creator and Lord, in our character then – we are also to be ‘just as we should be’, and in our conduct – we should also do ‘just what we should do’. That is a foundational principle for all life on planet Earth.
God created the galaxies and the solar system and the Earth and even mankind with a particular order and design, or created them each on the foundation of ‘Justice’ or ‘just as they should be’. Again, remember that in the Scriptures God revealed that all of His laws and all of His commandments simply reflect this very ‘order’ of how all life should be for all of us, and that these very laws and commandments were and are all designed for our good…for our well being…for our happiness, since even these laws emanate from God’s lovingkindness toward us. God simply created a world the way it should be and He created mankind the way all people should be. In other words, from the very foundation of God’s throne of Justice, God created a ‘Just’ world.
But here’s where we go: “Uh ohh!” Ever since the Fall of Man, this world has not been the way it should be, and especially the people of this world have not been the way they should be either. That’s why we needed this: 1 Peter 3:18- “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God…” NASU Christ, the ‘Just’, lived a perfectly just life…a life lived in complete sinless obedience to God; ‘as it should be’. And then He bore the physical and spiritual death penalty that was upon the ‘unjust’, that’s us, so that He could then bring His now ‘justified’ followers into a restored relationship with God.
And that’s the wonder of the Universe right there…of how God, who is ‘just’, or who is the way He should be in holiness, righteousness, and sinlessness, could pardon and then join His eternal life with those who are unjust, or who are unholy, unrighteous, and sinners. Again, there was only one way: The Sinless One, Jesus Christ, had to take the place of the sinner, that’s us, and bear the penalty of sin, which is physical and spiritual death, as a substitute for each one of us.
One glaring thing about sin that much of the world still does not understand is that the central damage to the human spirit has already been done. There is no hope of them ever being ‘just’ or ‘right with God’ apart from forgiveness and new life in the Savior Jesus Christ. The presence of sin in every human being has already killed their human spirit. Now, their soul is still alive, as the soul refers to the mind, emotion, and will…that part of the human being is still active, but the spirit in each human being has been killed, or separated from God’s spirit because of their sin.
That’s why salvation is way past being a matter of behavior or good works. The unsaved spirit is already dead and under eternal judgment. The need is not for rehabilitation of religious behavior, but for regeneration of the human spirit. Remember: The judgment awaiting unrepentant people at the Great White Throne Judgment is not to determine where they will spend eternity. No, that is already decided, as both the Apostles Paul and John have revealed. The unbelievers are already dead in sin and they have already been condemned, or assigned an eternity of separation from God. No, the coming judgment is to determine the degree of their sentencing in that place where they will live in eternal separation from God. This is one of the clearest teachings of the Scriptures, yet has been the most shrouded in false teachings, and strangely enough; this false teaching has come mainly through false religions.
One of the clearest signs of false religion is if their teachings indicate that people are basically good and simply need to try to practice the religious deeds instructed by that particular religion, thereby giving them some degree of assurance that they will be considered worthy of going to Heaven.
Understand this: If mankind is basically good, the Jesus basically did not need to die in mankind’s place on a cross. And that is an insult to God and to the Cross of Christ. No, only if mankind was already basically dead in trespasses and sin did Jesus basically have to come as the only sinless person that has ever lived and then take upon Himself the sin penalty of sinners. Only if mankind was basically already condemned to an eternity apart from God in Gehenna Hell did Jesus need to come to Earth on a rescue mission to die in mankind’s place in order to have the dead spirit of repentant people become reborn into new life with Christ by the gift of Christ’s own eternal life that He freely gives to each one who will repent of their sin and trust in His saving work on their behalf. That is the Gospel that Jesus came to Earth to share with the world.
Here is another key issue that false religions stumble over: Even the Law, or the instructions of obedience to God, were given in order to have ‘fellowship’ with a Holy God. They were not given for the purpose of trying to gain eternal life or to establish a ‘relationship’ with a Holy God. Remember what the Apostle Paul said about that? Gal 2:16- “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” 3:21-22- “If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” NLT
Obedience to God doesn’t establish a relationship with God. No, a relationship with God is established through being born again by God’s grace through our faith in receiving Jesus Christ into our lives as our Lord and Savior. A relationship with God can’t be worked for or earned, because a person who is already dead in sin first needs new life in union with God. And new spiritual life can only be received through receiving Jesus and His gift of eternal life.
What a person who is already condemned and is ‘imprisoned in sin’ needs is to be pardoned and released from that prison. And only Christ can grant a person a pardon based upon that person surrendering in repentance and trusting Jesus in faith for taking their spiritual death penalty for them on the Cross. Certainly, obedience to God improves that relationship and prepares us for rewards and privileges of service in the New Heavens and New Earth, but only God’s grace through your faith alone in Christ as your Lord and Savior can establish a new relationship as a reborn child of God’s and a part of His forever family.
Think about it: Obedience by children in a family doesn’t establish their relationship with their Parents. No, only physical conception and birth does that. Obedience makes the relationship and fellowship closer and deeper, but it doesn’t cause their birth into the family. Their relationship is caused when they receive this gift of new life.
What the false religions of the world need to come to understand is that a relationship with God is not based upon behavior, but upon birth…or really, re-birth of the human spirit through union with Jesus Christ’s own Spirit. But note that this is the Bible truth or Gospel that Satan is working overtime to keep covered up…because if he can make people who are already dead in trespasses and sin think that they are actually spiritual alive and basically good…and if he can make people who are already imprisoned in sin and already condemned to spend an eternity in Gehenna Hell think that this decision still hasn’t been decided…and if he can make them think that if they will only try to add some more good deeds or merits to their already basically good nature…well then he will help keep them imprisoned in their sin and keep them from true repentance and faith and being reborn into God’s forever family.
Remember this: People naturally assume, the world over, that either they are going to Heaven because they are a pretty good person, or that the verdict is still out, and if only their good works or merits outweigh their bad works that they will no doubt qualify for Heaven. But both of these assumptions are completely false, as well as, again, an insult to the Cross of Christ. That’s why they need the truth of the Gospel.
Most people the world over don’t really understand John 3:16 because they don’t understand John 3:18. But John 3:18 is why Jesus’ Gospel begins with repentance: ‘Repent and Believe’. Note John 3:18- “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.” NIV That is the startling truth that most of the world does not understand. With everyone you see who has not repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior you can see John 3:18 written across their life: ‘Stands Condemned Already’. That’s why they need John 3:16- “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” NIV
Remember, Jesus came to a world that was already condemned to perish, a world in which the inhabitants ‘stood condemned already’. That’s why each one needed a Savior. Apart from repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ the verdict is already in: Condemned already! And no amount of works or merits or behavior can give spiritual life to an already condemned and spiritual dead person. Only the life of Jesus Christ can do that; and that is a gift received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And in saying this: Let this serve as a reminder to make sure that you are not trusting in your works or merits to qualify you to go to Heaven. We’re all way past any chance of that; for all have already sinned and have already fallen short of the righteous standard of God. No, Make sure you are trusting in the obedient works of Christ and sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ on your behalf for your salvation. Make sure you have opened the door of your heart and asked Christ to come into your life and grant you new eternal spiritual life in union with Him. And then be assured: When you ask Him, Jesus will then unite His life with your dead spirit and make it alive again; born again into the forever family of God. And then you can work and serve and obey your Lord for the rest of your life, seeking to please your God and also prepare for serving Him in His coming Kingdom.
There is a lot more to unpack about this virtue of ‘Justice’, so we’ll press on with that in our next study.