If you have a job, it is likely your employer offers benefits in addition to wages. These benefits can include a retirement plan, health insurance, and even stock options.
Likewise, having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus comes with benefits. David reminds himself in Psalm 103 to “bless the Lord…and forget not his benefits.”
Those words, “forget not,” have been on my mind recently. Our sinful nature makes us prone to forget the ways God pours out his blessings. Memory, therefore, plays an active role in the Christian’s life. For Paul, memory of Timothy’s conversion served as an encouragement that his own work was bearing fruit. (2 Timothy 1) Likewise, Paul encouraged Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ” so he he would endure all hardships for the faith. (2 Timothy 2:8)
With this in mind, I want to take the time to remind myself and whoever might be reading of some of the many benefits the Lord offers all those who trust him. 3rd Law is a political blog, and this may not be the most political topic. But if David, who was King of Israel, found it worth his time to write poetry to the King of the Universe, it is probably worth our contemplation.
Here are three benefits that come to mind.
The God of the Bible, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, is not a tame deity. His wrath and anger against sin are real, and his will is far above what we can comprehend.
How do we reconcile those passages of scripture that speak to his wrath and holiness with those that speak to his love, mercy, and gentleness? And how can we be sure that his wrath will not be pointed towards us on the day of judgement? (Matthew 7:23)
The answer is Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life and fulfilled all the righteousness God requires. He took the place of sinners and suffered wrath on the cross. As a result, those who have faith in him are counted as righteous before God, even though we are not truly righteous. (Romans 3-4) As Martin Luther put it, we are simil justus et peccator– simultaneously righteous and sinful- because our righteousness before God is not our own. (Philippians 3:9)
The reason we can have confidence that we will not suffer the judgement we deserve (Matthew 5:21-22) is because Jesus already did. As surely as Jesus was punished for the sin we committed, we will be rewarded for the righteousness he completed to perfection. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This justification before God is a free gift that comes through faith. If you don’t have faith in Jesus, I urge you not to harden your heart (Hebrews 3:15), but turn away from your will and turn towards God, who will delight in your repentance and won’t turn you away. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Peace. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Did any beauty pageant contestant ever become quotable by saying she wanted more economic development, or lower infant mortality? All those things are good, but the true desire of humanity is world peace—An end to all strife with others and oneself.
Every time I read Paul’s words in Romans, my heart wells up. God does not deny us the peace we desire, but it can only be found in him. As St. Augustine noted at the beginning of his Confessions, God created humanity to find our delight in praising him and our hearts are restless until they come to rest in him. Through faith, God gives us peace so that we may enjoy him forever. (Psalm 16:11)
This newfound peace means we no longer have to live in constant fear of God’s wrath, which is only he beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10) Instead, we can approach His throne of grace with confidence that he is our father and he will not turn us away. (Hebrews 4:6)
God promised that he will bring his children to glory. (Hebrews 2:10, John 10:28) But the journey is full of difficult circumstances along the way. Even though we are no longer condemned for sin, we still suffer the temporal and natural consequences of sin and our fallen nature. (Romans 6)
Thankfully, we can trust that the circumstances of this life are not random. God, in his sovereignty, plans and gives us situations to discipline us so that we will be more and more like Jesus. (Romans 8:28, Ephesians 2)
These circumstances are not out of spite or hate; they are discipline. Just as parents discipline their children out of love, so God disciplines us so that we might grow and become stronger in his will. As Proverbs 3:11 says,
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.
The author of Hebrews expounds on this text and reminds us that “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Everyone faces difficult situations and decisions in life. They are never pleasant—in fact, they are awful and hurt. But just like creative destruction in an economy, in which old industries pass away and better technologies take their place, so our old character is slowly chipped away as we are conformed to the image of Christ. That is why James exhorted believers to count trials as “all joy” because they lead to stronger faith. (James 1:2)
There are so many other benefits God gives us in order to overcome sin and live in his will. These include the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures, the church, and many more. Remembering his gifts is an important part of loving God and digging into the riches of his mercy. My hope is that this blog will guide whoever is reading it towards the Bible, the deposit of the prophets of old and of Christ’s apostles, who committed the very word of God to writing.