By Lloyd Ellefson

Astronomers are busy searching the heavens to learn more of the vastness of the universe! As they communicate their findings, we too are amazed at the magnificence of the solar system and the greatness of our God who has created all things according to His wisdom! But His wisdom is not confined to the seen realm!

What God has done in Jesus Christ is even more awesome! The more we grow in Christ, the more tremendous and exciting this knowledge becomes! It exceeds our reasoning ability to such an extent that we may even have trouble receiving it by faith. As we believe what God says, we come into the joy of receiving all He has for us! If we try to prove that God's word is true by our circumstances, we won't enjoy His kingdom realities.

The kingdom of God is in the unseen realm! The Jews did not understand this. Obviously it bothered Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, to hear that the Jews had a king! When Jesus was on trial before him, he had the opportunity to question Jesus about His kingship. Pilate was surprised when Jesus answered and said, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) Since Christ's kingdom is not of this world, do you think it can ever become a kingdom of this world? Do you think it would be to our advantage if the kingdom of God would become a kingdom of this world - a kingdom that could be seen? Which is greater, the seen realm or the unseen realm? Since the unseen realm is greater, it would lose its excellence and lofty position if it were transferred to the seen realm. We thank God that this will not happen! We also thank God that the rule of God in us will manifest itself in the fruit of the Spirit being evident in our lives.

"Therefore Pilate said to Him, `So You are a king?' Jesus answered, `You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.'" (v.37) Do you realize the magnitude of the statement, "Every one who is of the truth hears My voice"? Pilate and the Jews heard His audible voice, but Jesus was not referring to that voice. He was referring to His spiritual message! Only those who desire truth will hear His voice! That is why it is impossible to force people to hear His message. Only those who are of the truth will hear Him! It seems a lot easier to listen to people, pastors and human wisdom, than it is to hear Christ in the Spirit!

In Mark 7:1-16 the scribes and Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus were not keeping the traditions of the elders. The Pharisees were very keen on the ceremonial washings of cups and pitchers and copper pots, etc., so they thought they had a legitimate accusation against Jesus. But Jesus told them that they were missing the point, the most important ingredient. He said, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: `This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me'...neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

Their traditions had taken the place of God in their hearts! They thought their traditions were God-honoring, but they weren't! Their zealousness was impressive to people; it brought glory to themselves but not to God. In reality they were repudiating or invalidating the word of God by their traditions which had been handed down. They weren't getting at the real issue, because it was easier and more comfortable to blindly follow the traditions of men - just as it is now. All the washings they were observing could only cleanse the outside. But they were so fascinated and captivated with the outside, with making a good impression, that when the precept of God, the Word of God came, they rejected God's word in favor of men's traditions. Paul's reminder to obey the traditions he had laid down, were not traditions of men.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction." (Rom. 3:19-22) Let us forget about law for a minute - about all the "thou shalt nots", about the knowledge of sin, the sin-consciousness and condemnation it brings - and let us get our minds on the righteousness of God through Christ's faith.

This righteousness has nothing to do with the law, nor with our works, nor with condemnation! It is a new type of righteousness! It is for all who believe - there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile! Everyone is in the same category, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. (v.23) Everyone has sinned, everyone has failed; all of humanity is totally depraved! In spite of all our failures, sin, and sin-consciousness, God makes us new and gives us His righteousness! This is the greatness of our God!

"Being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Whom God purposed for a propitiatory shelter, through faith in His blood, for a display of His righteousness because of the passing over of the penalties of sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God)." (vv.24-25 Concordant) How did sin come into this world? It came through the first Adam. God allowed it to come, but He did not promote it; He warned Adam of the consequence of sin! Yet, in the midst of the garden He placed a tree from which they should not eat. He also allowed a crafty serpent to enter the garden to tempt them! God knew the consequences of this situation; He knew sin was going to enter His beautiful creation and bring untold sorrow. At the time Adam and Eve sinned they lost the righteousness they had in God. They now needed God's mercy, and God was prepared for this emergency! It says that God purposed Jesus to be a propitiatory shelter - meaning mercy seat. Propitiation means to conciliate or to regain the good will or favor of the one who has been offended. Jesus Christ is the mercy seat! He has conciliated us and now is our shelter for the propitiation of our sins.

We are justified by the grace of God! The word JUSTIFIED has been wrongly used so often that we fail to catch the significance of it. We think of it as pardon instead of justification. Do you suppose it means that? Is justification pardon? No, it isn't! When a criminal is pardoned, he walks away a pardoned criminal; but he is still a criminal! Justification does not mean being freed from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself! Justification means just as though we had never sinned; we are freed from all blame and guilt and absolved from everything we have ever done! Do we dare believe this? Our natural mind says this is impossible! How can we become just - in spite of everything that has happened - in spite of all our sins and the penalty we deserve? Look, if we are justified by Jesus Christ who was called the JUST ONE, then we are just, aren't we?

However, the tentacles of sin and condemnation loudly proclaim that this is too good to be true! Listening to them keeps us in unbelief and from rejoicing in what God has done. Justification is not forgiveness of sins! We can be forgiven, yet remain unchanged! Justification is beyond pardon, forgiveness, washing, baptism, or being excused. If we are justified we are made just! A just person has never done anything wrong!

This brings us into a dilemma. How can we ever be just when we've done so many wrong things? Our confusion is due to the reasonings of our mind which say that this is impossible! Our concept of humility requires us to constantly affirm that we are still sinners. Justification is in complete contradiction to that kind of humility. True humility sets aside the reasonings of the mind and believes what God has said! So when God justifies us, and says that we have been made just, are we going to believe what God says or what our feelings tell us? Whose word will we accept? Faith needs to get hold of our thoughts, otherwise we'll be lost in the complexity of their unbelief. Since it is God who has said it, we need to believe it!

This teaching may be totally against what we've been thinking or hearing. The gospel is very often applied as a club to make us feel guilty and ashamed. We feel like sinners, and resolve to become more zealous for the Lord. Our idea of humility tells us that we should be crawling and grovelling in the dust. This is not God's idea! He tells us that we are just! And God has to be sovereign! If we have been justified, then in God's eyes we have been justified from every sin we have ever committed! Do you believe that? If God has justified you, He has made you a just person!

Since God has announced that we have been justified through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, why do we still go around saying that we are not just? It's because we don't believe what God has said! That is unbelief! The degree of our sin-consciousness has been so great that we do not believe what our true nature is. We don't believe the way God sees us and the way He has made us; we don't believe what God is showing us in Christ Jesus, namely, that we are not sinners! We are just! We are justified, not because of our testimony, for that wouldn't mean much. Anyone can justify himself. But we have been justified by the highest authority - by God Himself!

"For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time" (in the current era - Concordant), "so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (who is of the faith of Jesus - Concordant) In other words, God is just! Can you accept the fact that He is just by subjecting us to vanity and committing sin? If you can't accept what God has done, you can't accept that He is justified in what He has done either. If you are still having trouble with the things which God said are NOT true, then you are setting yourself up as His judge; you are judging God to be guilty of lying. God is JUST and He is the JUSTIFIER! Isn't that wonderful!

We need to hear this word spiritually! He who has ears to hear will hear the Spirit and it will change his life. Trying to justify ourselves by repeating certain words, won't work, because man without Christ is evil, unrighteous, corrupt, etc. It's incredible to think that we can get rid of all that because of what God says, isn't it? It says that God is just and the JUSTIFIER of the one who is of the faith of Jesus! Notice that this is not our faith. This eliminates all boasting!

"Where then is boasting? It is debarred! Through what law? Of works? No! But through faith's law! For we are reckoning a man to be justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (Rom. 3:27-28 - Concordant) In order to be justified, we have to believe these things! Believing them will cause us to accept what is done in Christ, and do away with our consciousness that is filled with the law and self-effort!

"If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth." (1 Peter 1:17) God justifies us by an impartial judgment! No one can influence Him. He made the decision to justify us all on His own. We constantly battle against this truth because it so hard for us to believe that God has justified us! I'm not speaking about pardoning, forgiving, excusing, or washing us. He has justified us! That means that God has justified us from everything we have ever done because He has taken the responsibility for it!

Can we actually be relieved of all our responsibility in regard to our past? Isn't that a cop-out? If it is, it's the best one I've heard! He is judging each one's work impartially! Verse 18 in the Concordant says, "Being aware that not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, were you ransomed from your vain behavior, handed down by tradition from the fathers." We have been ransomed from the traditions of the fathers! Jesus accused the Jews of clinging to their traditions. He said that they repudiated the word of God with their tradition. The behavior handed down by tradition is called vain behavior.

The Jews were teaching the people to be good and to refrain from doing evil things. They were preaching the same things we hear today; they were not to steal, be covetous, licentious, commit adultery, etc.! They were teaching them to be good! Yet this traditional teaching never did any good. Haven't you heard this same teaching of "dos and don'ts"? In spite of all our efforts to follow the rules, it has not accomplished its intended purpose. Christ knew that it could not produce righteousness in us!

We have not been redeemed with perishable things, "but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you..." (1 Peter 1:19-20) This holy, just One was revealed so that we might be put into Christ and conformed to His image! Even as Christ was flawless, so we are predestined to be flawless! The you refers to those "who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." (v.21) Our expectation is to be in God, not in our own ability! We are not to doubt God!

Spiritual realities cannot be accepted by the natural mind since it cannot understand them, so they do not appear reasonable to it. The natural mind always opposes the Spirit! Our reasonings are anti-Christ; they are an adversary to God's word!

1 Peter 1:22-23: "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." We have been born of incorruptible seed! God has made us a new creation because corruption cannot inherit incorruption. That which is perishable cannot become imperishable! Since we have been regenerated by an incorruptible seed, the seed that is in us cannot be corrupted by sin! That which is growing out of this seed is impervious to sin!

Many people today are casting demons out of Christians, and many booklets are being written on the subject of whether Christians can have demons. Can they? Can those who are dead to sin and alive in Christ have a demon? Of course not! How could Jesus have a demon within Him? Where do demons dwell and on what do they feed? They do not dwell in the mind of Christ - they dwell in other mentalities! Nor do they feed on truth; they feed on lies! Christ is the truth and He does not receive lies! Therefore He does not sin! The mind of Christ only thinks the thoughts of God and always obeys Him!

If we have been born of incorruptible seed, we have an incorruptible life, for no other life can come out of that seed! It is impossible to corrupt that seed! The evil we does not come out of that seed; neither does our unbelief! They do not, nor can they affect that seed! It cannot be corrupted no matter what we do! It's impossible! How can someone whose life is Christ have a demon? Our problem is that we don't believe who Christ is. He is the firstborn of many brethren! Once we understand Who He is and that we have been put into Him, we realize that we have become partakers of His incorruption!

In 1 John 3:4-6 we read, "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him." Christ was manifested to take away our sins! We have to hear God's word; this does not refer to hearing the scriptures read aloud. When we hear God's word, we hear spiritually and it imparts life to us! We abide in Him because He is not only the source of our life, but He is our life! There is no life outside of Him! A branch cut off from the vine dies, for it has been cut off from its life! Abiding in Christ is not like being attached to a life-support system. He is our life and we have become one with Him!

"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous." (v.7) What a statement! It says we are righteous just as He is righteous! Because He is incorruptible He can't sin. It's impossible! He is righteous because He just is that way! It says that he who practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous!

Humanity likes to delve into various shades of right and wrong. We often hear people say (and have probably said so ourselves) that some wrongs belong in the gray area. They are not lily-white, but not really bad either. God is not like that; He deals in absolutes. There are absolutes in regard to sin, and absolutes pertaining to righteousness. The natural man is absolutely sinful and unrighteous, and the new man is absolutely righteous. They do not mix; they do not produce various shades of gray. God has never mixed them! The power of God keeps them separated. We keep finding ourselves on the other side of this line of absolutes.

"The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." (v.8b) Do you believe that Jesus was successful in His mission of destroying the works of the devil? Can anyone say that God failed in His purpose? When we look at all the sin, evil and corruption in the world, it seems as though He has failed. But deep within us we know that He did not fail nor can He fail! That which He said He would accomplish He has accomplished! He has already done it. He has justified those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:26) We were declared righteous by the resurrection of Jesus Christ! This is the declaration of God! It is God who justifies! We're fighting God if we do not proclaim His message.

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (v.9) Identification is very important! When visiting a foreign country, do you identify with being a citizen of that country or with the country of your birth? Our first birth gives us an identification with a country on this planet; it gives us the right of citizenship. Our new birth gives us an identification with the kingdom of God, and gives us the right of citizenship in the kingdom of light. With which citizenship do we identify - the old or the new? Since we have been transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, we no longer belong to the kingdom of darkness! Therefore our identification must be with God, not with the adversary!

If we are always conscious of the evil that we do and excuse it by saying that we are just human, that we are only sinners saved by grace - but still sinners - we are agreeing with the adversary. No sinner is going to be in heaven. There never was any sin in Christ. We were sinners, but we are saved by grace. Paul addresses his epistles to saints, not to sinners! It is grace that teaches us that we are just and there is no sin in the new creation begotten of God. "No one who is born of God practices sin." This new creation that is born of God, which the Word has conceived in us, cannot sin, for he is born of God.

1 John 3:9 reads, "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Now listen to what it says here. It says, "he cannot sin." This is generally explained by saying that he won't habitually sin. It means that he will sin, but not habitually. This is not what it says! People can't get themselves to believe what the scriptures are saying, so they compromise by saying that he is not habitually sinning. According to this verse he cannot sin, for God's seed remains in him, and this seed is Christ! Therefore it is impossible for that seed within us to sin. Christ is never the instrument of sin!

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt. 12:36-37) What is meant by the day of judgment? Day means light, doesn't it? Light casts judgment on darkness and the darkness ceases to exist. If we are living in darkness we will make many confessions according to the degree of darkness that we are living in. When the light comes, it will cast judgment on these confessions.

What are some of the confessions that need to be judged? One of the confessions of Christians is that "We're all sinners." There are some interesting statements in the scriptures, which will seem to be contradictory unless we can distinguish between the new man (Christ in us) and the old man (the natural man). "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us...We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him...No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 1:8; 5:18;3:9) It is so important that we see Christ! No one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

Jesus differentiated between His followers and other people. Those who did not follow Him were sinners. In Luke 6:27ff Jesus taught that His followers should have a greater love than the sinners have. He emphasized this by saying, "Don't the sinners do that also?" They love their children; they love those who love them; they are good to those who are good to them! How can people differentiate between Christians and sinners if a Christian's love is not greater than a sinner's? If a Christian insists on calling himself a sinner, he is not differentiating between followers of Christ and sinners. He is standing on the fence, identifying himself as being a Christian and lowering his behavior to the standard of sinners. Since Jesus did not call His followers sinners, neither should we! "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. 8:29) We have not been born again to remain sinners, for what would then be the purpose of the new birth? We have been born again so that we can be conformed to the image of the Son of God!

God's justification is beyond pardon, forgiveness, excusing, washing, etc. It is so great that we cannot understand its vastness! We can only understand it by faith in Christ. God's justification does away with everything we have ever done wrong! We are now justified because of what God has done in Christ Jesus; He has declared us justified!

Paul said, "So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me." (Rom. 7:17) We inherited Adam's deceptive nature and this nature causes us to sin. However our new birth gives us a new nature, and this new nature cannot sin. If we identify with the new nature, we will agree with Paul. Can you see that? As we mentioned earlier, since we are sons of God, our nature of God can't sin. Where is all the sin then? It must be outside the nature of God. It is in the flesh nature of Adam!

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Rom. 8:28-30) What a blessing would be ours if we could comprehend this and grow up in it! The battle that continually rages in our minds is due to the reasonings and deductions of the flesh being so strongly entrenched in our minds!

"`Come now, and let us reason together,' says the LORD, `though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.'" The purpose of God's reasoning with us is to change our ideas. Instead of our sins being scarlet, they will be as white as snow. If we have been listening to God's reasoning with us, what has happened to our sins? In the New Testament it says that our sins are washed away! Those whom God justifies, He also glorifies! What is our response to God's calling us, choosing us, justifying and glorifying us? Will we believe and accept it, or will we believe the reasonings of our own mind?

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" Our enemy is our natural mind, for it feeds us lies! It tells us that God isn't for us, that God's justification of us is not complete yet, or that these statements of fact are only for the future. These are the lies I have experienced!

God's justification is so great that it justifies us from all sin. The degree to which we have sinned doesn't concern God, for He has dealt with sin in Christ. He has taken care of all sin! Therefore His coming again must have a different purpose! The Lord is that Spirit who comes to justify us and to bring us into His nature!

"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (v.32) Since He gave up His own Son, His dearest and best, will He withhold from us that which the Son came to give us? Would He contradict His own purpose? His purpose is to bring us into the knowledge that He has justified us, called us, and glorified us! God never works against His purposes!

He said, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." He is the justifier. All the charges against us will be declared illegal because He has justified us! If we believe what God says, no indictment made against us will bring us into condemnation! This justification does not come from ourselves; it comes from God! Those who have a problem with this, have a problem with God!

If we testify to the fact that we are justified, we will receive a lot of flak from those who do not understand it. It will come from their unbelief. They are not really opposing us - they are opposing God! It is God who has declared it; He is the justifier!

"Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." (v.34) If Christ is raised up, and He's at God's right hand on our behalf, He is for us - not against us! Christ is doing the same thing God does - He is justifying us! God is not against us and neither is Christ!

God loved us when we were still sinners. How much more now that we are His children! Even if the sin that is in the flesh is manifested through us, we can confidently go to Him and know that He is for us; He forgives us and justifies us. He sent His Son to reveal this to us! Why would Christ condemn us if He died for us? There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ! Isn't it wonderful that nothing can separate us from His love?! "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (vv.35,37) We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

We need to understand what God is saying. We need to know who we are in Christ and what He has done for us! Our prayers should not concentrate on asking for help to make ourselves better and to quit sinning. We have to stop concentrating on our old nature; we have to quit trying to do away with the sin that is inherent in it, because we can never overcome all the sin that is in our human nature. We can't win that fight, so it is useless to try! We need to believe that God has justified us, so we can grow in our new nature! Christ has won the victory and we are to live in the victory He has achieved for us! God is telling us the wonderful things He has done in Christ! This is far beyond anything we can comprehend! The love of God is beyond all understanding!

God bless you! Amen.

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