Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
There it is. If you are human, this shoe fits…
We can all feel sorry for ourselves. We can all castigate ourselves. We can all go into a deep depression, but what good will these responses do? It’s a fact: we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Some may respond to this by throwing their hands up and saying, “Since I can’t achieve a sinless life; I will just give up and be a merciless sinner.” Some may distance themselves from the merciless sinners, but that is a joke. Even the most accomplished Christians sin and fall short of the glory of God. It is all a matter of degree. Maybe the most appropriate response is to never give up on trying to live a Christian life.
For the sake of argument, let’s just pretend that we want others to see us a certain way. We desire for others to apply a label to us. And that label is “True Christian”.
What does one have to do to get that label? J.I. Packer is just as straight-forward as Romans 3: “True Christians are people who acknowledge and live under the Word of God” .
Too often Christians measure their degree of belief against others. That is the wrong measuring stick. Certainly there will always be people around us who are more “good” than we are, “submitting without reserve to the Word of God, written in the Book of Truth, believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. Their eyes are upon the God of the Bible as their Father and the Christ of the Bible as their Savior” .
What are their secrets?
First of all, they believe that the commands in God’s Scripture are true. Psalms 119: 151 says “All Your Commands are true.”
Packer boils down the commands into basic ideas that we can all understand. God knows about human nature; “He has a working definition of true humanity.” In that definition, God shows us what we can be if we follow His commands. If we act on His Word, we can learn to be truly human [the best we can be on earth] and we can avoid moral self-destruction.
Packer likes to explain this by discussing the human body as a machine. It thrives on routines: good food, good rest, and good exercise. We don’t have to follow healthy routines; we can thumb our noses at the commands. We can fill up our bodies with alcohol, drugs and poison to the point that we no longer have healthy functioning bodies. Do this over a long period of time and death will occur. God’s commandments are like God telling us of the values of routines for our bodies. Like routines for our bodies, God thinks of our souls in a similar way. He knows we are made to run on routines like worship, keeping His laws, telling the truth, discipline, self-control and regular service to our fellow man.
Here is the upshot of all this. Like following poor health routines can destroy our bodies, not following God’s commands in the care of our souls will progressively destroy our souls. Packer writes that “One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being dehumanized” . Packer sees this as a clear choice, black or white, right or wrong if you will. Human beings can choose to follow God’s commandments or choose to disobey God’s commandments. Either a person is laboring to keep God’s laws or they are not. If they are not, they are in the process of destroying their soul. If they are, they are working toward living the best life a human can live, a life of freedom from the drudgery of sin.
So what’s another way we can achieve that label “True Christian?”
Secondly, true Christians believe God’s promises are true because God keeps them. Hebrews 10: 23 says it all: “He who promised is faithful.”
How might we determine God is faithful in fulfilling His promises? Packer writes “He is a covenant-keeping God; He never fails those who trust His Word” . Abraham proved God’s faithfulness, as he waited in his old age for the birth of his promised Son and millions more since Abraham’s day have continued the covenant Abraham made with God—that his descendants would eventually inherit the Land of Israel.
A covenant is an agreement between God and His people, in which God makes promises to His people and, usually requires certain conduct from them. In the Old Testament, God made agreements with Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Of course Christians base their faith on the New Covenant.
The Christian view of the “New Covenant” is a new relationship between God and humans mediated by Jesus which necessarily includes all people, both Jews and Gentiles, upon sincere declaration that one believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and God.
Christians believe that the promises of God are real and their whole goal in life is to have their lives brought in line with those promises. Packer puts it this way: “The promises are before them as they pray, and the precepts are before them as they go about their daily tasks” .
The “true Christian” knows that God has spoken directly to them in His Scriptures, and God has gone forth to create, control and order all things around them. God’s Word says that “all things work together for their good.” Acceptance of their circumstances under the direction of God can bring them joy. As written above, we all fall short of the glory of God and with that in mind, every human being who declares belief in God must also admit that “I sin and fall short of the God’s glory.” In Packer’s estimation, our human independent streak can cause us to test God’s Word, but the “true Christian” sees Scripture as a touchstone. They can use God’s Word as a way to test their ideas but “they will not touch anything which they are not sure that Scripture sanctions”
In closing, I will refer back to the description of the true Christian and I will use Packer’s own words. “Why does this description [true Christian] fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days? You will find it profitable to ask your conscience and He will tell you.”
Or you can consult His Word and He will show you…