4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: (Isa 26:4)
We have a natural tendency to attempt to add our own works to our salvation. We like to think that there HAS to be something that we contribute to justification.
Popular theologians will sometimes separate initial justification from final justification, trying to preserve the reformation doctrine of sola fide and at the same time bring human effort back into the final judgment. This shows how strong the pull is to revert back to our natural religion.
Our natural religion says that we aren’t as bad as God says we are. That we are at bottom pretty good people who just made a few mistakes along the way. Natural religion also views God as a harsh judge to others, but far more lenient with US and those just like us. The first priest of the natural religion was Cain.
But the Bible doesn’t allow us to fudge on the holiness of God. God as a just judge should rightly cause us to tremble in terror, because we are on the wrong side of that justice, and we all know it.
But Christian doctrine is as opposed to natural religion as east is from west, as oil from water. Christian doctrine places God’s acceptance of us in the righteousness of another – Jesus Christ. It is only His righteousness that can stand before the judgment throne. God does not now and never will accept “good intentions” in the place of perfect righteousness.
Not even a game show host will accept “I was just going to say that” in the place of the correct answer. How much less will a perfect, holy God accept “I was just going to do that” instead of perfect righteousness?
But God has provided that perfect righteousness. It is found in only one place. He sent forth his Son, made of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were born under the law (Galatians 4:45).
And here is an important implication of this doctrine, which will affect everything that you do:
We are called to trust in the Lord with all of our heart. We have no other place to stand. Doctors fail, with a 100% failure rate – eventually. Politicians never bring change. Horses won’t save us. Princes won’t save us. Knowledge and science won’t bring peace to our souls or stave off death.
The wisdom of the world changes every few years. The opinions of men cannot even settle what kinds of foods are healthy and what are not, how much less can they tell us how to be accepted by the Holy One of Israel?
Men and women, above all, battle a ferocious enemy whose weapons are fear, shame and guilt. He drives humanity to extreme cruelty, extreme despair, extreme illness, extreme mistrust and hatred.
And this enemy is far, far too powerful for us. Where will we turn for salvation? Where will we stand when all around is sinking sand? Where will we find rest? Who will take away our distress?
And here is the kicker: You cannot trust anyone if you are not fully persuaded that they are actually on your side.
Israel mistakenly believed that Assyria was on their side. It cost them their lives and their inheritance. Judah falsely trusted Babylon and Jerusalem was destroyed. Syria, Babylon, Assyria were on their own side, and looked out for their own interests.
How much more damaging is trust in a God who isn’t actually on our side? Can anything be more terrifying than this pronouncement from God?
4 Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
5 And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
6 And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.
And these are the words spoken to Israel. How can you trust in the Lord if the Lord Himself is against you?
And here is the problem with all schemes that seek to put even one little work back into the plan of salvation. If I have to prove to God that my faith is genuine, if I have to add one little thing to the perfect work of Christ, if I have to love or desire God as a condition for my salvation – then how on earth am I supposed to trust him? What if I didn’t do enough? What if the law still thunders its curse at me?
What if I fail? What if the water I give isn’t cold enough, or my longing for the face of God is too sporadic and changing, what if my love isn’t worthy of the beauty of the object of my love?
What if my sacrifice isn’t enough? What if my submission isn’t enough?
Did I miss something?
And then I realize that I am not actually SURE that God is on my side, because a holy God cannot dwell with sinful man and the more I examine myself, the more I see just how corrupt I am.
So how can I trust God to do me good if God’s view of me depends upon me – even a little bit.I don’t even like me all that much, how can God?
This is why trust in God is always based on only one thing: the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no fault found there. There is no failure or mistake, lapse in the perfect Son of God made flesh for us and for our salvation.
I can completely and absolutely and without reservation commit my salvation, my health, my livelihood, my retirement, my daily bread, and the forgiveness of sins into the hands of the one who did not even spare his own son for me and for my salvation. THAT is trust. Even my prayers are made in the name of Jesus, for apart from that name, God isn’t actually on my side and I have no reason to trust that he will hear me.
Because of Jesus our righteousness is perfect, complete and finished – now and forever. And since this is true, we can boldly say,
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:31-39 KJV)
If our salvation isn’t actually finished and certain, then how can we possibly say this and where will our souls find rest?
Come to Jesus who is able to clothe you perfectly. His garments cover your nakedness and shame. His blood makes you acceptable to God as his dear child. His righteousness has you covered forever. Only when you know this can you actually trust God, and love and joy and peace flow from there.