Turn from your self-righteousness to Christ alone

You were not saved by the good work of “turning from your sins,” so don’t lay that burden at the feet of lost people to whom you are preaching Christ. If you are saved, it was by God’s grace alone which you received by faith alone in Christ alone. Faith in Him and His finished work on your behalf is the only way you could have received Him, and if you trusted your works and your efforts to “turn from sin,” you failed to receive Him and therefore do not have Him.
“Straighten up and get your life right and clean, and then come to God to receive His favor” is how a muslim pleases Allah. It’s how an unconverted Jew pleases his rabbi. It’s how a Buddhist seeks to come to peace with the universe. But it is not how a child of the true and living God becomes pleasing to Him.
Tonight’s Bible study will look at Galatians 2, and at how when under pressure, even those like Peter and Barnabas who have a record of standing for the pure gospel message can be frightened into compromising the purity of that message to be pleasing to legalists and “false brethren” who seek to bring men, not to Christ, but into bondage to themselves.
In evangelical churches today, it looks like this: A pastor preaching the gospel for years grows weary of the fact that some profess faith in Christ but show no outward signs of change. His weariness, combined with the critics of his teaching, who say “Your converts aren’t saved because they live like the world,” make him try to alter the message. He starts to preach Christ plus repentance, defining repentance as changed behavior, being good instead of bad now. This pastor is trying to bring about the external result of good works by means of human effort, no longer trusting the Spirit of God to bring about those changes of behavior He works out in all who put their faith in Christ.
But you can’t perfect the people of your congregation through demanding that they turn from their sins, which is something no unregenerated man could ever dream of doing.
Even though we preach and don’t always like what we see in people’s response, we still have to keep the message the same. That Christ alone can save, and that man is irreparably corrupt in heart and nature apart from a new birth that comes about only by faith and never by actions or a determination of the human will.
Repentance unto salvation involves not making oneself good to earn God’s favor, but admitting to one’s hopeless state as a sinner in need of mercy, and coming to the throne of grace to receive such by asking for it in faith in the One who lived a perfect life in our place and died a sacrificial death in our place on the cross. When someone has done this, faith and repentance are present, and Christ is acknowledged by this repentant one as his only hope as Savior and Lord.
Lord-willing, a recording of the study will be posted on this blog afterward, and you’re invited to listen to it online, if you’re not in Cluj and able to attend the discussion in person.

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