Today, I read the glorious words: ‘But now.’
Read in the right way, those two words unleash a barrage of relief, joy, gratitude, peace, and freedom. They are the sudden release from all the guilt, shame, and misery that have festered like a pent-up breath in our lungs. We can now breathe freely.
‘But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe’ (Romans 3:21).
The grip of sin and depravity which haunts us at every turn, every conversation, every thought in our head, every action, has been loosened, because ‘God put forward’ Jesus Christ ‘as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith’ (Romans 3:25).
God saw our problem and put forward Jesus to be our saviour. And now, with Paul, we can say the words ‘but now’, and our souls are free.
It is by faith in Jesus that we are saved! But what does this mean? What does it mean to ‘receive by faith’ Jesus’ propitiating blood? Because if faith is the answer, the solution, then I want to know that I’m doing it right, and with all of my being. Right? I want to make sure I know what it is to receive by faith.
To glean more, I read on. And as if guessing my train of thought, Paul gives Abraham as an example. He’s the king of faith. He’s the ‘father of all who believe’ (4:11). So what was so special about his faith?
1) ‘In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told’ (4:18).
Abraham’s faith was the kind of faith that stayed strong despite the many oppositions of this world:
‘He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb’ (4:19).
The world will get us to ‘consider’ many things that might make us want to stop believing in God’s promises: seemingly logical things. Are we going to listen to them? If we do, we might not realise at first. It won’t look like a dramatic change of allegiance, it’s more dangerously subtle than that. If we listen to the world too much it will gradually effect the decisions we make, the shape that our lifestyle takes…we will slowly become dishonouring to God because we’ll stay within the parameters that the world gives us. We will end up believing the world more than God.
And we will become far from God, and useless to God. To me, that is the scariest fate. To be ‘ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus’ (2 Peter 1:8).
The faith that God loves is a faith that is certain of his ability to uphold his promises, despite worldly opposition. It glorifies him and strengthens us.
To make sure we are living with a God-pleasing faith, perhaps a good question to challenge ourselves with is: how much is the world opposing us? If it’s not opposing us at all, then maybe we have a problem.
The second amazing thing about Abraham’s faith was the strength of his conviction.
2) ‘He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised’ (4:21).
He just, simply, strongly, rationally, believed. He believed despite all the world was telling him. It showed that, to him, God’s reality was more real than the world.
Which reality are we living in? From which reality are we making decisions?
In truth, there is only one reality. God’s. The lies that the world spins over us – that we should care about money, about jobs, about houses, about family – those lies create a fake reality that we often live in unquestioningly, to God's despair and satan's delight.
For a very long time, I separated that sort of life-affecting faith to bible characters. I didn’t really see how that faith could be lived out in this current life. But then I read Hudson Taylor’s biography. What a man.
The most striking thing about his life, and all the amazing things he did, was his utter reliance upon the promises of God. He had faith. Strong faith that – often – seemed ludicrous in the eyes of the world. But Hudson Taylor was living in the reality of God, and his life reflected it. It is possible to live like that, here and now!
I am, by the grace of God, inspired to live in the reality of God, to have a faith that pleases him by its opposition to the world, to receive Jesus’ propitiating blood with a faith that simply says: I trust you.
And because God is a loving Father, all I need to do to have that sort of faith, is ask (Matthew 7:11).