Jesus is Our Greater Good Samaritan

This past Sunday I preached on the fruit of compassion in the Christian life. My primary text was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The point of that parable is not first and foremost, “stop being so cold and callous to your neighbors and start being more like the Good Samaritan.” No doubt we are commanded by Jesus to “go and do likewise” (v. 37). But this parable is given in the context of a lawyer (an expert in the Old Testament) who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (v. 25). Indeed, it’s emphasized that he was seeking to justify himself (v. 29). And so, the point of the parable in the first place is to drive people who want to justify themselves by their own works to seek eternal life outside of themselves and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, because Jesus is our Good Samaritan. We fail miserably at loving others as we would ourself and by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:19-26). But if we believe in Him, we already have eternal life and will be raised on the last day when Jesus returns (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:40).

So the parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable of the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). And the parable is meant to drive us to our knees in repentance and to seek our salvation outside of ourselves through faith alone in Christ alone as a gift of free grace. But not only is Jesus our Good Samaritan, he is even greater than the Good Samaritan for us. This is a point that Phil Ryken puts beautifully in his commentary on Luke:

“When Jesus came to our aid to give us life, we were not merely dying but dead, dead in our trespasses and sins. Jesus came out of his way to help us, not just crossing the road, but traversing the infinite distance from heaven to earth. Furthermore, it took him more than a day or two of his time and a couple coins from his pocket to gain our salvation. It cost him the sufferings of earth, the blood of his body, and the agonies of his soul on the cross. Jesus traveled a much greater distance, to help people in much greater need, at much greater cost. He is equally committed to seeing our salvation through to the end, for he has promised to come back and carry us all the way to glory.”

AMEN! Jesus is the Greater Good Samaritan! Indeed, He’s the greatest and the only one who has ever lived who is perfectly good! And so, when Jesus says, go and do likewise to us, it comes to us in a different context. It comes to us not as those who are seeking to justify ourselves by our own good works, but as those who are already justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. We are clothed in his perfect righteousness and we have already passed from death to life through faith in Him. And so, our motivation to “go and do likewise” is “we love because He first loved us” when we were beaten, bloodied and left for dead. And if he had such compassion and mercy towards us, let us show the same kind of compassion and mercy towards others out of thankfulness for God’s amazing grace in Christ!

In the Spirit’s strength and with the gospel fueling every effort, let us love anyone in need, anyone at all, whom in the providence of God we may be able to help, no matter what social status, no matter what religion, no matter what political party, no matter what nationality, no matter what gender, no matter what age, no matter if we like them or not, no matter if they are deserving of our love or not, no matter if its convenient or not to love them, and no matter if they have done us wrong in the past. Every person has been created in the image of God and by reason of their dignity as image bearers and even more by reason of the love of God that has been poured out upon us in Christ, we are to have compassion on them and love them as we would want them to love us if we were in need. But let us always remember that we are justified by faith alone, we have the Spirit’s enabling power, and we love because he first loved us (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 5:16, 22-25; 1 John 4:19).

What is the Difference Between Justification and Sanctification?

I just started a short series at my church on the doctrine of sanctification as we confess this doctrine based on God’s Word in Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 24. One of the first things I talked about this past Sunday is the importance of never confusing justification and sanctification. Both are distinct yet inseparable benefits of our union with Christ. I find Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 77 very helpful in how it highlights the difference between the two in a clear and cogent way yet also confesses that they are inseparable:

“What is the difference between justification and sanctification? Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in [justification], sin is pardoned; in [sanctification] it is subdued: [justification] doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; [sanctification] is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.”

For the sake of our own confidence and assurance in the Christian life, let’s keep these two great benefits of our union with Christ distinct yet inseparable!

Your Real Self


Here are some great quotes from C.S. Lewis that I read in Michael Horton’s book, The Christian Faith:

“What this means is that we who once were curved in on ourselves, seeing the world but not really seeing it rightly, must be called out of ourselves to be judged as ungodly and then dressed in Christ’s righteousness. This is necessary not only for justification but for our sanctification as well. Our identity is no longer something that we fabricate in our bondage that we mistake for freedom. “To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves,'” C.S. Lewis observes. “Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go.” “Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it,” he adds. “It will come when you are looking for Him.” To be in Christ is to be “very much more themselves than they were before.” “He invented–as an author invents characters in a novel–all the different people that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him.” “To enter heaven,” he says, “is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth.” (p. 657; the Lewis quotes are from Mere Christianity, p. 224)

Speaking as Christians in Ways that People, Even Children, Understand

As Christians we can often use theological words that most people don’t understand unless they were raised in the church or study theology in their spare time. These are good words and I am certainly not advocating that we jettison words like justification, sanctification, propitiation, or other words that are in fact found in the Bible (e.g. Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Jn. 2:2). I even use these words in the pulpit, but I usually try to explain what they mean. But we can help others to understand these words better and what they mean for us today if we talk about them not just with theological accuracy but also with words that connect to our everyday experience as humans. I’m talking about translating them into words that anyone can understand, even a child.

This is one of the biggest challenges for a pastor when he preaches. And this has sort of been on my mind lately ever since I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller entitled “Justification By Faith” in which he described our justification in such a way that anyone listening to him would have walked away knowing how immensely practical this doctrine is for our life. Justification is really a universal longing to be validated, to be approved, to be accepted by others. But we won’t ultimately be satisfied by the approval of men. Only will we truly be satisfied when God, our Creator, approves of us and says “you are forgiven AND I, I ACCEPT YOU in Christ as righteous.”

As I have been continuing to think in these ways, the following thought popped into my head as I was studying today: At least three of our deepest longings and needs as humans are met in Christ, for those who have faith in Him. In our justification in Christ, we find acceptance (the best kind possible. . . acceptance before our Creator). In our sanctification in Christ we find fruitfulness produced by the Spirit (the best kind possible, fruitfulness that benefits not just myself but others and fruitfulness that will last). In our glorification in Christ we experience the latter two (acceptance and fruitfulness) perfectly in the presence of our Triune God and each other and thus are eternally happy. In sum, in Christ we find acceptance, fruitfulness and happiness (and much much more!). Now we experience all these things as a foretaste by the Spirit but when Christ returns we shall experience them as a consummate reality, all for the glory of God!

I’m sure you could describe our justification, sanctification and glorification all from slightly different angles (e.g. justification=approval, validation, worth, righteousness, in God’s sight; sanctification=fruitfulness, productivity, good works, progressively becoming a better person (by God’s standards); glorification=the whole enchilada. . .your best life later. . .all that we long for and truly need. This is just me trying to translate the benefits we have in Christ (such as justification, sanctification, glorification) in words that most people understand today. Any thoughts?

You Are Risen! (Part 2)

As I said in my last post, a common Christian greeting on Easter Sunday is, “He is risen!,” to which the other person replies “He is risen indeed!” But not only can we say that about Christ, we can say that about each other. Because, as Christians, we are in union with Christ and thus we share in all of his benefits. When it comes to the resurrection, there are three great benefits of being in union with Christ:

  1. Justification: He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25)
  2. Sanctification: We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. Glorification: Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of our future bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

In this post I want to elaborate more on what it means to walk in newness of life and fight the good fight of faith.

SANCTIFICATION (continued)

As I said yesterday, as great as glorification and justification are, we also have sanctification as a great benefit of Christ’s resurrection. If you are in Christ, you are no longer dead in your sins and trespasses but are alive to God. The world, the devil, and the flesh are no longer your masters (Eph. 2:1-3). Your master is now Christ. You belong to him and your new inclination is to follow him now.

And that’s because you have received two great gifts from Christ: his righteousness AND His Spirit. Paul says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). This is why he prays for the Ephesians that they would know, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:19-20). What Paul is saying is that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, namely the person of the Holy Spirit, now dwells inside of every believer, including you (cf. Rom. 8:11). And the goal of our sanctification is to know this power more and more until we know it in glory. In other, words we are to become who we are in Christ. We are to die to sin more and more and live for God, being conformed to the image of Christ.

And what this all means for our ongoing walk with God and our fight against sin is that we are not only motivated by the Gospel to resist sin and obey God in thankfulness, but we are also able to do so. God hasn’t left us to ourselves to fight against sin in our own strength. If He had, we would surely lose! But the good news is that because Christ was raised we know three things:

  1. We fight against sin with a free conscience as those who are forgiven.
  2. We fight against sin in His resurrection power, by the Spirit.
  3. We fight against sin knowing that one day our fight will be over.

Often, when people die after fighting against cancer all their life, we say things like “they fought for 10 years against cancer, and praise God that fight is now over.” But if they are Christians we should also say, “they fought for 10, 20, maybe 50 or 80 years against sin and praise God that fight is now over!”

But in the mean time, how do we fight against sin and not give up before then? It’s knowing these three things, and submitting our subjective experience to God’s objective authoritative Word on the matter. You see, we can often feel like we are powerless against temptation and sin. But we need to resist the thought that we truly are powerless and that we just can’t help but give in to sin. Notice how Paul encourages us in our fight against sin in Romans 6:

Rom. 6:1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

If there is one message that I want to get across to you in this post it’s this: In Christ you are forgiven of all your sins AND you are dead to the power of sin and alive to God as a new creation!

This is no minor thing in Paul’s writings. He tells us this over and over again. He says it in Romans 6 above. He says it in Ephesians Ephesians 2:4-7. He says it in Colossians 2 and 3.

Some of you will object, “but that’s not my experience. I don’t feel dead to sin, I struggle greatly to resist it and I so often fail!” Yes, but God’s Word trumps your experience. God tells you: you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. If you believe your experience above what God’s Word tells you, then you will lose hope. But God’s Word is final on this matter. You must consider yourself dead to sin.

And is there not a desire within you now to hate sin and love God? That’s the Spirit within you (Rom. 7:7-25; Gal. 5:16-17). There is a battle going on inside of you now. The Spirit and the flesh are at enmity with each other. But God’s Spirit must win the battle because He is sovereign. And He is transforming you from one degree of glory to the next. And that’s not an overnight change. It’s a slow and steady process that we can’t just fast forward with a remote control, as much as we would like.

But what we CAN do is actively attend to the means that the Spirit ordinarily uses to change us. What means does He use? Well the Spirit often works in us in a mysterious way. But God’s Word promises us that the Spirit always works with the Word of God. And so, if you long to be more and more free from your sin and more and more like Christ you have to seek out opportunities of being in God’s Word, whether in private devotion or family worship, but especially in public worship on the Lord’s Day. Public worship is the place where the Spirit works through the preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments, which are the Word made visible (signs and seals of his promises).

And so, live out of your union with Christ. Become who you are in Christ. This is what Paul preaches over and over again to us in God’s Word. We are to fight against sin and obey God’s Word on the basis of the fact that we are in Christ through faith. We are forgiven in Christ. We are righteous in Christ. We are adopted as God’s children in Christ. We have freedom in Christ. We have strength in Christ. We have hope in Christ. And based on all the benefits we have in Christ we are to walk. He is our our ultimate identity in this world. If you are struggling with identity issues, Christ is your identity! As Paul put it so beautifully:  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

CONCLUSION: 

Once again, if there is one thing that I want to get across it’s this: In Christ you are forgiven of all your sins AND you are dead to sin and alive to God as a new creation. And so, walk in newness of life. Bask in the benefits of Christ’s resurrection and be bold in those benefits. Christ is risen! Praise God for that truth. But praise God that because Christ is risen, YOU ARE RISEN! Therefore, let us fight the good fight of faith with a free conscience, in the Spirit’s power, and until we die or Christ comes again and our fight is over. May you know the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe! Amen!

(If you’d like you can listen to my post Easter sermon, “You Are Risen!,” here at our church web-site).

You Are Risen! (Part 1)

A common Christian greeting on Easter Sunday is, “He is risen!,” to which the other person replies “He is risen indeed!” But not only can we say that about Christ, we can say that about each other. Because, as Christians, we are in union with Christ and thus we share in all of his benefits. When it comes to the resurrection, there are three great benefits of being in union with Christ:

  1. Justification: He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25)
  2. Sanctification: We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. Glorification: Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of our future bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

GLORIFICATION:

I think glorification get’s the most attention when we think about how Christ’s resurrection benefits us. And praise God for this great and glorious truth that because he was raised we too will be raised bodily on the last day unto eternal glory (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3:20-21; et al.).

JUSTIFICATION:

However, let’s not miss out on the other two great benefits of Christ’s resurrection for us. Because of our union with Christ we also have both justification and sanctification. If you are in Christ through faith, a change has taken place both in your status before God and within you. You are no longer declared guilty in God’s sight. You are forgiven of all of your sins and are declared righteous in Christ by grace alone, through faith alone. And His resurrection assures you of that. If He had remained in the grave it would have proven Him to be a sinner. But because He was raised it demonstrates and assures you and me that God indeed accepted His substitutionary atonement on our behalf. And so, take comfort that you are forgiven and righteous in Christ because He was raised for your justification.

SANCTIFICATION

But as great as glorification and justification are, we also have a third great benefit of Christ’s resurrection, namely sanctification. If you are in Christ, you are no longer dead in your sins and trespasses but are alive to God. The world, the devil, and the flesh are no longer your masters (Eph. 2:1-3). Your master is now Christ. You belong to him and your new inclination is to follow him now. And so, you must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). And on the basis of your new status and your new life in Christ  you are to walk in newness of life.

In my next post tomorrow I will elaborate more on what this looks like to walk in newness of life and fight the good fight of faith. In short it means this:

  1. We fight against sin with a free conscience as those who are forgiven entirely and declared righteous in Christ through faith.
  2. We fight against sin in the power of Christ’s resurrection, i.e. by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
  3. We fight against sin knowing that one day our fight will be over.
To God Alone Be the Glory!

(If you’d like you can listen to my post Easter sermon, “You Are Risen!,” here at our church web-site).