Would you turn in your Bibles this morning to Job chapter 9. Job chapter 9, that's where we'll begin but we will not be there long. That's where we start but we need to also if you wouldn't mind, put a marker in the New Testament book of Ii Corinthians chapter 5 and Romans chapter 3. Job 9, II Corinthians 5, and Romans 3. I will warn you that we are rating this message this morning, just like movies have a rating, I'm giving this a rating. This is a PT message, practical but theological. So we're going to go over some pretty good sound theological truth that will require your full mental engagement. It is basic, it is foundational, it is the most important issue in life that we are covering this morning. So we want to give it a good treatment. You know the thing about Job is he doesn't just deal with suffering but in his suffering all sorts of feelings emerge and thoughts emerge that he articulates and one of them is found in chapter 9 this morning. So Job chapter 9.
Let's begin with a word of prayer. Father, we do pray that as we come with whatever we come with, whatever issues and questions are on our my mind or situations that are in our life, good or bad, whatever they are, you know them. Lord, you have made a way by which we can be right with you and have access to you. And Father, I pray that the truths that we undertake to study today would be very meaningful to us and that we would understand this in a whole new way. And by doing so our factor of joy and peace would go sky high. In Jesus' name. Amen.
IO want to begin by reading an obituary to you this morning. I know that's an odd way to begin a message. This is a very unusual obituary because it's just like really honest. It was put in a California newspaper and it was about the deceased, a seventy-nine year old New Mexico woman named Dolores. Her daughter placed this in their local paper in California and this is how it read: Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say, ‘Her presence will not be missed by many. Very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing. We have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe that at the end of the day, all of us will really only miss what we never had: a good and kind mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family for the family that she spent a lifetime tearing apart." Wow, that's a sad obituary. The daughter who placed that obituary said why she did it. Her mother died and she was reading through obituaries of people who had died and she read the nice things people said about their loved ones and she said, "You know what? None of these things can be said about my mother." And so she wrote this one. So her daughter had only a genetic relationship with her mother, no social relationship, no familial relationship, purely a genetic one. It would be safe to say that mother and daughter were not okay with each other. Now I say that to bring up the issue of all issues, how can a person be okay with God? Right with God, in right standing with God? And perhaps a more personal issue is: Are you okay with God? I mean are you sure?
I was at a funeral this week down in Louisiana and I heard a phrase used a couple of times, one by the preacher and one by a family member about the deceased and said, "He finally made his peace with God." Or, "I know that he made peace with God." Now I know what the preacher meant, I have a pretty good understanding of where he was coming from but I'm not quite sure I understood what all of those in the family meant when they said that. Because what many people mean when they say, ‘They're at peace with God,' and I've heard that, you have to, "I'm okay with God," "I'm at peace with God," what they mean by that is "I feel good about God. I have nothing against God. I feel like deep inside I have a tranquil peace concerning him." And that may be true. Or, or their feelings may not be telling them the truth, they may indeed be deceived. For the Bible says in Isaiah 48, verse 22, "'There is no peace,' says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.'" So peace with God doesn't mean a feeling of peace based upon an emotion. It means the fact of peace based upon revelation. You see, an unbeliever, it's possible that he has a tranquil feeling of peace about God but there is no peace between he and God. You go, "I'm okay. There's no problem here. God and I have an understanding." They might have a tranquil feeling that they're at peace with God when they're not. You know what it's like: If you did something that was a criminal act against the government of the United States, I'm not suggesting any of you here would, but if you did and you had to flee the country to escape arrest and there you are in some foreign country and it's a beautiful spot, you're by the beach and you have this tranquil feeling of peace. My question to you is this: Are you at peace with the government of the United States of America? Absolutely not and I can prove it: try to get back in our country with your passport. You will be arrested, taken to justice. So your feeling of peace may not belie the truth of your not being at peace.
That takes us now to Job chapter 9 as a setup. In Job chapter 9we are well into a dialogue between Job and his friends. They're really his critics. There are three of them and all three of them say the same thing in different ways. They have three points to their ongoing message. Point number one: God blesses the righteous and God afflicts the unrighteous. Point number two, Job is obviously afflicted. Point number three, therefore Job must be unrighteous, ungodly, a really bad sinner. That's their harangue over and over again in Job's ears. None of them have the full revelation that we have in the New Testament. They're all stabbing in the dark. But here's the great issue that we want to cover this morning: How can an alienated man or woman, marred by the fall of Adam, all of us with an inborn nature toward sin, ever be reconciled with a holy God? That is the question at stake. And so this morning we have a question and we have an answer. In this corner is Job and Job comes forward and summarizes our predicament, not just his, our predicament. And in this corner comes Jesus Christ and he answers the question, he secures our pardon. So we'll look at both of those this morning.
Let's begin in Job chapter 9 and see how Job summarizes our predicament. Verse 1, "Then Job answered and said, ‘Truly I know it is so but how can a man be righteous before God? If one wished to contend with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand." God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against him and prospered? Job asks the question: How can a man be righteous before God? But that question was first posed by one of these three friends by the name of Eliphaz, Eliphaz the Temonite, speaks first. And he asks the question, well let's go back and look at it to get context, in chapter 4, let's look at a couple verses. Job chapter 4, just turn back a couple pages, verse 7, Eliphaz says, "Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or, where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish and by the breath of his anger they are consumed." Look at verse 17, ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?" Do you see what he is suggesting? "Oh Job, you have this reputation of being so righteous. I suggest you are far from that, you are unrighteous, you are wicked."
Now go to chapter 8 where his second friend speaks. This is Bildad the Shuhite. Verse 6, one verse only, "If you were pure and upright, surely now he would awake for you and prosper your rightful dwelling place." So both of these guys are suggesting, "Job, you as a mortal man are not righteous before God." And so Job asks the question, "How can a man be righteous before God?" He's saying, "I agree with you guys, you're right. I'm in touch with who I am. I know I'm not perfect. This suffering has brought all sorts of thoughts and words and feelings and I am so in touch with my fallen nature." And so here's the problem: How can a man be righteous before God? Now what Job is asking is actually a problem that has been going on since the fall of mankind. Did you know that the Bible three times blatantly declares, "there is none righteous. No, not one." Note even one. So what's the universal sign for nothing? That's how many people on the earth that God has created. None are righteous. No, not one. Even mankind in his best day when he feels really good about God and really good about himself can't make it. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel were so gung ho to get Moses up that mountain to get the law of god and to come back and tell them what God's law was. And you know what they said to Moses? "Moses, you go find out what God wants us to do and tell us what to do and we'll do it." You know what God said to that? Deuteronomy chapter 5, the Lord said, "Oh that they had such a heart in them that they would fear me and keep my commands." See God recognized, "That's a wonderful desire they have but they don't have what it takes to pull it off. They can't do it. They want to be okay on their own with me but they just can't do it. And I'll tell you why in a moment.
Paul the apostle tried when he was Saul of Tarsus to be right with god by being very very Jewish in his practices. And so he boasts in Philippians the third chapter he says, "Let me tell you about my past life. Concerning righteousness which comes through the law I was blameless." If I start comparing myself with other people, I was pretty good. Of course, he made a mistake, he didn't compare himself with the gold standard which is Christ. But comparing himself with other people, he felt pretty righteous. Of course, Saul of Tarsus was only looking from a human perspective, that is certainly not the divine perspective. Psalm 43 declares, "In your sight, no one living is righteous." In Psalm 130, the psalmist says, "If you Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand?" Do you get that picture? We can never be good enough, nice enough, well-intentioned enough. And if God should ever deal with us like we deserve, nobody could take it. So, what Job noticed and asked is what mankind has always had a problem with. Which brings us to solution that people have come up with to fix the problem. So, if the problem is there's this gap between us and God, if the problem is, "How can a man be right with God, okay with God?" How do we fix that? And there's three basic, and I'm painting with a broom, this I know, but there's three basic ways that people have come up with to fix the problem. Solution number one: Being good. Solution number two which is sort of like the first but a little different: Being religious. And solution number three to fix the problem: Being sincere.
First is being good. And now this says, "Well if my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, if I do more good things than bad things, of course I am the one who says what is good and bad, that will make me good with God. Because," they say, "after all good people go to heaven." Have you heard that before? Good people go to heaven. You've got to know something: That ain't the truth. Good people don't go to heaven, saved people go to heaven. Saved people go to heaven. There's some people in heaven I would never let there. And nor would you. But they're there because they have been saved by the blood of Christ. And that's a different issue. But people say, "Well if I'm good, that'll do it. I'll do good works, good deeds. He's a good person, she's a good gal."
Isaiah 64 knocks that stool out from under us when it says, "all of our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment," declares the Lord. "Filthy rags" is one translation. Why is that? Because salvation according to the same Bible, Ephesians chapter 2 verse 9 says it is not of works lest anyone should boast. You know how boring heaven would be if people got there by good deeds? You'd hear people day in and day out, year after year, brag over and over again telling you how good they were, "I remember, let me tell you what I did to get here." They'd be, it would be no fun. There'd be not testimony in heaven, just bragimony after bragimony. Not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Now, think of it this way: Let's say three of us are playing a dart game. One of us throws the dart and it makes it two inches away from the bullseye. Another one of us throws the dart and the dart lands four inches away from the bullseye. And let's say I'm the third guy and I throw but I completely miss the dartboard, it goes in the next room and hits the cat, that's how bad I am. Question: Which one of us hit the bulleeye? No one hit the bullseye. Some of us may have gotten closer but none of us hit the mark. Okay, god's righteousness is so perfect and God is so perfectly holy, some may get closer than others in what they do or feel like they get closer than others in what they do, but none of us ever hits the bullseye of perfection. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Here's the second solution people come up with: By being religious. This sort of like the first but it has a spiritual component. This is the person who says, "I know how to get good with God." Spiritual disciplines, spiritual rituals, observing laws, going on a pilgrimage or legalism. If I do those spiritual religious things I will be right with God. And every religious system has that kind of an approach. Be it Hinduism with the Karma Marga, the way of works that teaches if you work and you do good things and you do and you do religious duties, you will merit more and more and be like the gods. I can't say God singular but the gods plural. Buddhism teaches the disciplines of right effort and right meditation and refraining from overtly wicked behaviors. Islam teaches the five pillars that every good Muslim should perform, the shahada, the acknowlegement that Allah is God and Muhammed is his prophet. The daily prayers, the month of Ramadan which is going on right now, the monthly fast; the tithe, and finally the hodge or making a pilgrimage to Mecca. If you do those things, you can get good with God. But even then," says the Muslim theologian, "One never knows if he's good with God or not," because their God is arbitrary and may give you heaven but he might feel like giving you hell. And then you have people in Christianity who say this: "I keep the Ten Commandments. That's how I'm good with God." First of all, you don't, you just lied and it says in one of them, "You shall not bear false witness." But they'll say, "I live by the Ten Commandments." Paul has a lot to say about that in the New Testament. Others will say, "I live by the Sermon on the Mount." Really? Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount? I'd like to have a great conversation with someone over that one. All in all a lot of people have tried to turn Christianity into a religion, a self effort, self rithteous, "I'm going to do this and thus earn that" approach. It's all self righteousness. Remember the story Jesus told? I'll remind you of it. In Luke 18 it says, "Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous." And he spoke about a Pharisee who raised his head toward heaven as if nothing to hide. And he said this, "God, I thank you that I'm not like other people. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess." But then there was another guy Jesus said who wouldn't look up, he looked down and he beat his breast and he said, "God have mercy on me a sinner." Jesus said that second guy went away justified, not the first.
A third approach that people have is to be sincere and this is the large majority of the American population. "It doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter what you don't do. It doesn't matter what you believe, it doesn't matter what you don't believe, just as long as you're sincere, that's all you've got to be. Be nice, be true to yourself, that's the big thing,
"be true to yourself, man." Be heartfelt about whatever you're into and it doesn't matter what you're into just be into whatever you're into. Just be sincere, that's all you need." Well the big problem with that is the Bible declares twice in Proverbs 14 and 16, "There is a way that seems right to every man but the end thereof are the ways of death." All of those approaches won't work. How can a man be right before God?
Michael Lohan is the father of Lindsey Lohan, that family has been broken apart as you know in the press. He claims to be a born-again Christian and he told the press that he wants to reconcile his family. And what he said, it was beautiful, he said, "I want all of us just to get right with God."
But still that question is dangling: How does one get right with God? How does one become righteous? That's where Jesus Christ steps in and provides the answer. So, Job articulates and summarizes the predicament. Let's see how Jesus secures our pardon. Turn with me now to II Corinthians chapter 5. I'm going to give you three short descriptions of what the Bible says righteousness is and how to be right with God and three great principles are found in these texts. And here's the first principle: We're righteous by his act not by our acts. By his act, done in history, not by our acts. II Corinthians 5, verse 17, get right into it, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled (keep an eye on that word, it's very important) who has reconciled us to him through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not imputing (keep an eye on that word, that's also important) not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were pleading through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Paul is speaking of a single one-time event. What is that? The cross. The crucifixion. That is what he is speaking of. He uses the word reconcile a few times in this passage. The word is kataloaso, it means to change thoroughly or to turn hostility into friendship. God is in the business of turning the hostility that exists between man and God into friendship. How does he do that? Look at verse 19, "By not imputing their trespasses to them. That's a bookkeeping term, he doesn't put on your account your sins. He puts your sins on Jesus' account and puts Jesus' righteous life on your account. That's how he does it. Now that doesn't mean God just winks at sin. It doesn't mean he just looks down on the earth and all the sin and evil that goes on and he just sort of smiles and ignores it all because "After all everybody makes mistakes." He does not do that. If he did that he wouldn't be just. He has to be just and perfect and right and at the same time figure out a way to justify people who have blown it. So he does it by verse 21, "He (that is God) made Him (that is Jesus) who knew no sin (Jesus was perfect, sinless) to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. So God, using this principle of imputation 9listen) treated Jesus Christ as if he were every sinner who ever existed, putting all of the wrath of sin on Jesus at the cross. I'll put it to you this way: God treated Jesus like we deserve to be treated so that God could treat you like Jesus deserves to be treated. That's the gospel. So, this is the great exchange, what a great exchange it is: Jesus bore our sins so that we could bear Jesus' righteousness. I remember the first time I heard this, I started thinking about this the day I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I was watching Billy Graham on television and he said (with imitation) "You come to Christ if you're lonely," and I'm listening and I'm watching it on a television set and I turned it off. And I started thinking, about this, about this transaction, and I just heard the preacher say that Jesus wanted to take all of my filth and all of my sin onto himself. And in exchange he wants to give me his life and peace and righteousness and heaven to boot. And you know what I thought and I even said to God, "You're getting a bad deal here. This is not a good deal for you." But then I thought further, "But this is a great deal for me. And I would be a flat idiot to pass it up. I am not going to pass this deal up," and it was then that I received Christ. So it's not by our acts, it's by his act. It is once in history and done with. That's the first component.
Now turn with me to Romans chapter 3 and we'll conclude today in Romans. Romans chapter 3. The second component of righteousness is that it is declared not earned. It is declared not earned. A declaration is made. I want you to see this. Romans 3 verse 21 explains, "but now the righteousness of God apart from the law (all of those religious duties embodied in the law) is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe, for there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely." You don't earn it, it's free. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth as a propitiation (or some translations put, an atoning sacrifice) by His blood through faith to demonstrate his righteousness because in his forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.. To demonstrate at the present time his righteousness that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works, no but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." Says Paul, Faith brings justification which gives righteousness.
Now I want to clear up an issue. I bet it's an issue that's been bouncing around in your brain. There's a huge difference between positional righteousness and practical righteousness is what happens to you the moment Christ comes into your life. You are positionally righteous. But you are not yet practically righteous, that's the sanctification process. You come to Christ and there is the outworking of your life, your behaviors, your thoughts, changing over a period of time. Positional righteousness is the one imputed to you by faith in Christ. The moment you turn to Jesus Christ, positional righteousness. But the moment you come to Christ, let's say you can remember exactly when that was, maybe it was even a month ago and you stood up here and you prayed to receive Christ. The moment you did, were you any better practically than you were two minutes before that? Nope. You weren't any better practically, positionally you are, but practically no. You're not any better but you're better off. You're better off and the reason you're better off is because of this word justified. Justification. It's a theological term to describe what happens at the moment of salvation. God takes a sinner, imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to him, declares that person to be righteous and then treats that person as if they were righteous, as if they never sinned. I want to give you an example. I want to give you an illustration. Now I didn't come up with this one. Roy Gustafson who preached here before, he's now in heaven, he was Billy Graham's classmate, used ot speak about this, with justification. He said, "There was a man in America who flew over to England and bought a Rolls Royce at the factory in England. Had it shipped to America. Once in America this guy drove it across the country, that's how he was taking his vacation. Well, the Rolls Royce broke down. And so he called the factory in England and said, "The car I just bought broke down." They said, "No problem." They put their mechanic on an airplane, flew him to America, he got off the plane and rented a car (I always wanted to know what car he would rent) but he rented a car, drove to where the guy was, fixed the Rolls Royce, packed up his tools and left. Didn't give the guy a bill, flew all the way back to England. Well this guy's thinking, "How much is this going to cost me?" I never got a bill, but when he got home he looked, there was no bill. He immediately called the factory and said, "Look my Rolls Royce broke down, you sent a mechanic, I never got a bill." You know what they replied over the phone, they said this, "There is no record that anything has ever gone wrong with any Rolls Royce. It's not on our records. Nothing ever happens with our cars." Well that's how it works, there's plenty that goes wrong with us. There's no record of it. There's no record of it. God declares me righteous and then treats me justified, just if I'd never sinned. Just if I'd never sinned. No record.
So, you know how futile it is to go, "God I'm so sorry, I know I've said this before. But two months ago when I did this (or that)." "What? There's no record of that. It's gone. WE have no record. Because the righteousness of Christ was sufficient when applied to your life to take care of the record.
Third, and we'll close with this, the result is peace and not frustration. Religion will frustrate you. Righteousness brings peace.
One verse and we'll close, chapter 5 of Romans, verse 1. This is the great New Testament result of Jesus Christ's righteousness. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The great enemy of peace is sin, that's what separates people from God, that's what makes people not okay with God. That's why Job cried out, "How can a man be righteous before God?" And because of that problem, religions have been invented, religion is man's way to reach God. Every time a person says, "I know how to rech God," a new religion is born. Religion is man's way to reach God. The gospel is God reconciling with man through Jesus Christ. And that imputed righteousness produces positional peace but also personal peace.
Now just sit back and let me read Romans chapter 5 verse 1 in the Amplified Bible. "therefore since we are justified, that is acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God through faith; let us grasp the fact that we have the peace of reconciliation to hold and enjoy peace with God." I love that. And I wonder how many Christians really know this enough to enjoy it. It's basic foundational stuff. But to know it and to enjoy the grace of God and this position of grace; to enjoy the forgiveness, to enjoy not having to earn it. WE have peace with God, we have aaaahhh with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It's peace and not frustration.
How can a man be righteous before God? Answer: He can't. On his own, he can't. But he can enjoy the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to him whereby God declares and treats and therefore we go, "Aaahhh."
I heard a story about two Japanese soldiers after World War II, they were stationed in the Philippines. They were hiding, the war was over, they didn't know it. They're hiding, they're in position, they're ready to strike, they're watching out for somebody who might attack them. The war's over. They had to be found and informed, "The war's over." They couldn't enjoy the peace treaty because they didn't know the war was over.
And my message to you is if you are in Christ this morning, quite trying to be religious. People say, "Oh, you're a religious person." I laugh, I go, "It's the last thing I am. I am not a religious person. I don't even like religion." I don't. It's divisive, it's wrong, it's man's attempt that never gets at reaching God. God never invented any religion except one and that was Judaism and that's the Old Covenant. Quit trying to be religious. Rather enjoy the righteousness of Christ, that is the gospel. But I've got to say this in closing, if, if you're the person who hasn't trusted in Jesus, if you're not in Jesus Christ this morning, if you haven't placed your full faith in Him, if you're still saying, "Well I'm pretty good, I'm not that bad, I don't know if I'd say I'm a sinner, I still work hard and I try hard." As long as you're there, can I just say, be very troubled. You should be very troubled about this whole issue and troubled about your life. The Bible says in Proverbs, "He who conceals his sin will not prosper. But whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy." Just admit it, confess it, ‘fess up. Quit saying, "I'm not that bad, I'm pretty good." Oh stop it. ‘Fess up. Confess it and then renounce them, do something about it.
Dwight Lymon Moody, a preacher from Chicago a hundred years ago, spoke in Chicago, traveled through the country, also went to England and held crusades. He was on a crusade with another evangelist, they were preaching in some city, a letter came in. I want to read it to you, it's short, "I wish you and Mr. Moody had never come to this city. Before you came I wasn't troubled about my sins. You talk of peace and joy but you've turned my soul into a living hell. I can't stay away from this meetings. But to come to them only makes me worse. You promise salvation but all I find is torment. I wish you'd leave, then I'd get back my old peace." You know what he meant by that? You know what old peace was? The feeling that I'm okay with god and I'm not. The feeling that everything is all right and it's not. It's the same feeling of a criminal who does something against America and flees to a foreign refuge and goes, "I like it here. I'm okay. I feel really peaceful." It's not okay.
So, if Christ is compelling you, if Jesus is drawing you to stop that nonsense and give your life to him and trust in him, he will gladly take, because he's done it, all of your sin and gladly freely give you his righteousness.
Father in heaven, this is the most important issue in life, the most singular issue we face, how can a man be right before god? Many have tried, many still try, many disciplines and beliefs and ideologies dot the landscape and are followed by billions of people. But Jesus said himself, "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." And we pray Father that rather than trusting in human accomplishment, our trust would be in the divine achievement, at the cross whereby the perfect sinless Jesus Christ took upon himself our sin, all of that was accounted to him, imputed to him, and he bore it all. And the full wrath of God is done in Christ so that we can bear his righteousness and be declared and treated as that and enjoy peace.
As you're sitting this morning, wherever you're at, if you were to realize honestly in your life that you haven't received Christ, you haven't trusted him to be your Savior, maybe you're ready to do that. Maybe the Holy Spirit is compelling you to do that and you know it. You want it, you want that peace so bad. Would you just simply enter into that transaction by, right where you're sitting, say this to him, pray this right where you're at, "Take my life Jesus. I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I put my trust in Jesus as Savior and as Lord. I turn from my sin, I turn to him. I believe he died on the cross and rose from the dead and I want to live fo rhim. Help me to do that." In Jesus' name. Amen.