Living on Credit

Bible Book: Romans  4
Subject: Redemption; Salvation; Faith; Rigtheousness
Introduction

A wise guy once said that the modern American is a person who drives to a bank, in a financed car, over a bond-financed highway, with gasoline bought on a credit card. Yes, we know a lot about credit and debt in America - mostly we know how to get into debt without knowing much about how to get out of it.

I heard about one lady who told her friend, “I shop like a bull.” Her friend said, “What do you mean when you say you shop like a bull?” The first lady said, “I charge everything in sight.” It appears a lot of us are doing that these days. Do you have any idea how much debt Americans have accumulated through 2016?

According to NerdWallet online, Americans owe over $700 billion dollars in credit card debt in 2016, and that adds up to $15,000 per household. Our mortgage debt as Americans is $8.2 trillion dollars - yes, I said eight-point-two trillion dollars of debt in mortgages! Americans owe over $1 trillion dollars on automobiles. Altogether, Americans owe over $12 trillion dollars in debt, and that doesn't include the $19 trillion dollars our government has borrowed, or the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that are promised to Americans in the future. Yes, we know a lot about credit and debt in our country. But, believe it or not, there is a greater debt than that which can be described in dollars and cents. I want us to consider that additional massive debt in this message today.

The greatest debt in this country, and in the world for that matter, is the debt held in sin. Most people do not think of sin as a debt, but that is exactly what it is. Colossians 2:14 speaks of the debt of sin that is owed and the manner in which it may be cancelled.

God created us to live in fellowship with Him, but our sins separated us from Him and left us owing Him something we cannot pay. How are we to deal with such a debt? Be assured that one day we will answer for this debt and unless it is paid the consequences are eternally dire. What are we to do about this awful debt toward God? That is the subject of our inquiry today as we look at Romans 4.

The Bible tells us that Abraham had his account (his great sin debt toward God) credited with the righteousness of God. In other words, Abraham's debt toward God was paid and removed - but, how did that happen? Has it happened to you? Can it happen to someone here today? Can every sin and wrong you and I have ever committed be removed from our accounts with God? Let's look at see what the Bible teaches us on this subject.

I. The Means of Having Your Account Credited

Every person owes God a perfect life, but not one of us here today has a perfect life to give Him. In Romans 3:23 we read that we have all sinned and we all fall short of His glory. That means we have all failed to meet God's standard. Now, understand this, you may not like God's standard but that is not a decision you get to make. Rules are rules. An inch is an inch, you can can't change the measure of an inch to fit your fancy. So, you want to play basketball for the Atlanta Hawks and you need to be 7 feet, 3 inches tall, but you are only 5 feet, 11 inches tall. You merely change the measurement of an inch to fit your desire and proclaim yourself 7 feet, 3 inches tall. Great idea, right? Wrong! Just show up a training camp and see if you fit the true standard used by the NBA to measure the height of their players. You see, it doesn't matter what you call an inch, and inch is still an inch. God's Law is like that. You can sin and call it okay if you want to, but that does not change God's standard. You are a sinner, no matter what you call yourself, and being a sinner makes you a debtor to God. So, how are you going to pay the debt of giving God a pure life - especially since you don't a perfect life to give!

A. Those things which do not Credit our Account

To grasp the means by which we can have our account credited with the righteousness of God, we must first understand those things which cannot and will never bring about our justification before God.

1. It is not through Conduct

Paul writes in Romans 4:1-8 that our conduct and behavior will not change a guilty verdict before God. In this passage, Paul also refers to David who said in Psalm 32, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Since we are all sinners, the real blessing is having our sins forgiven and covered. We can't un-sin, but there is a way to never have our sins count against us. In order for that to happen, someone has to pay the debt for our misconduct - our sins.

Paul uses a play on the word “credit” or “count” to make an important point regarding the means of being righteous or forgiven. He reveals that a person is truly blessed when God does not credit his record with the filthy, putrefying, ugly sin he has committed, but has his record credited with the pure, sterling righteousness of God! Abraham did not have his record credited with righteousness because of his own works, nor could he. He believed God and God credited his account with divine righteousness. When we read this we are led to exclaim, “O the depths of the riches of God’s grace and love.” How amazing, that God is willing to look at our debt of sin and place His righteousness on our account. As we will see later in this message, God did not do that simply with a wink and a nod. Someone had to pay the awful debt that Abraham could not pay!

2. It is not through Ceremony

In Romans 4:9-12 Paul further reveals that a person cannot have his record credited with God’s righteousness through adherence to some religious ceremony. In this passage Paul refers to the rite of circumcision. He points out that Abraham had his record credited with the righteousness of God before, not after, he was circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of his faith, but not the provider of his righteousness. No outward obedience to ceremony can make one righteous. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and a thousand other acts combined cannot grant a person entrance into heaven. Such acts may be a  testimony of our faith but they do not bring results of faith. Trusting in ceremony and religious activity leaves one far short of God’s standard for salvation.

3. It is not through Codes

In Romans 4:13-15 Paul further states that one cannot have his record credited with the righteousness of God through the written Law of God. The codes, regulations and laws of God do not serve to save us. In fact, the Bible points out that the written code of God (His Law) serves as a schoolmaster to drive us to God. The Law reveals our wrongs and brings us to a point personal exasperation in any attempt to pay our sin-debt alone. No one us has or can keep all of the Law of God. We have all sinned and we all fall short of the glory (Law and righteousness) of God!

One of the Commandments of God is that we are not to bear false witness against one another, which means that we are not to lie. Yet, we stand before God with a guilty tongue. We cry out, “O God, what am I to do? I have lied. My tongue is profane and dishonest. I declare with Isaiah, ‘I am a man of unclean lips.’” Now, what can you do to have your lies removed from God's record and the righteous of God applied to your account? One thing is sure, once you have lied you cannot un-lie. Even if you later tell the truth, it does not remove the fact that you lied. You cannot make yourself righteous once you have lied! The only way to purify your record is to have the Lord credit your account. Otherwise, you are helplessly doomed!

We’ve seen that which will not credit our account, now let’s look at that which will pay the debt we owe.

B. That which will Credit our Account

To understand this, we need to look at two things: God’s Part and Our Part.

1. God’s Part

What does God do in order to make it possible for our account to be credited with His righteousness and our huge debt to be forever removed? Look at Romans 4:16-17. Here we are reminded of God’s amazing grace. Salvation is by grace. Grace is:

G - God’s

R - Righteousness

A - At

C - Christ's

D - Expense.

Think of the difference between grace and mercy:

i. Mercy forgives, but grace rewards

ii. Mercy forgives, but grace forgets

iii. Mercy blots out the record of wrongs, but grace keeps the record clean

God gives us more than mercy, He grants us grace!

Ponder the following statements:

You may offer like Cain (Gen. 4:3), weep like Esau (Gen. 27:38), serve like Gehazi (2 Ki. 5:20), leave Sodom like Lot's wife (Gen. 19:26), tremble like Felix (Acts 24:25), be zealous for God like Israel (Rom. 10:2), be a disciple like Judas (Acts 1:25), take part in worship like Korah (Num. 16:19), desire to die the death of the righteous like Balaam (Num. 23:10), make long prayers like the Pharisees (Mt. 23:14), prophesy like Saul (1 Sam. 10:10), have lamps like the foolish virgins (Mt. 25:1-13), be a seeking soul like the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:16), be almost a Christian like Agrippa (Acts 26:28), and YET BE LOST! (Source Unknown).

Only the love of God in Christ can save us!

Jesus came to this earth, lived a sinless life, and then died in my place and yours. He alone had a sinless life to give to the Father! He took our sins on Himself at the cross and transferred to all who truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior the righteousness needed for eternal life. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." He paid my debt and yours on the cross that we might have the righteousness necessary to have a relationship with Father in Heaven. When I received Him, He cleared my debt at His expense. What a Savior!

2. Our Part

Now we come to Our Part. Please do not misunderstand the use of the term Our Part as I use it today. Don't accuse me of heresy for using these words. I do not use this phrase to imply that we actually do anything concrete toward having our account credited with God’s righteousness. Saving grace is all God - 100% God. What I want you see when I use the term Our Part is how faith plays a role in our salvation. In verse 16 we are told that the promise of God’s grace comes by faith. But even if we have faith in God, we cannot take credit for it because God has given us the capacity for faith.

Without ears, you cannot hear.

Without eyes, you cannot see.

Without a stomach, you cannot know hunger.

Without taste buds, you cannot taste.

Without God having given you the capacity for faith, you cannot believe.

So, God has given you the capacity to have faith in His Son and to receive the purging of your debt. When a person accepts Christ, he or she is simply responding to His call of God. The ability to believe comes from God, and all we do is accept it. In your heart you use the faith God gives you and you trust His Son. Receiving Christ as Lord and Savior cleanses your record of wrong-doing, removes your debt and grants you a relationship with the Heavenly Father. To reject Christ is to sin against the Holy Spirit, and unless that decision is reversed, it condemns one with an unforgiveable sin.

Someone here today may say, "I just don't believe." Sure you do, you believe in something, even if you believe in nothing. To say you don't believe in God is an act of faith in itself. You statement of unbelief in God's Son is your act of declaring that God does not exist. In order to profess that you don't believe, is a faith decision. You can't prove God does not exist. Often a person will say, "I'll believe in God if you can prove He exists." Well, turn that statement around. I will not believe in God if you can prove that He doesn't exist. Atheism is an act of faith! Everyone has faith of one sort or another. A person may believe in his own works. A person may believe in Nirvana. A person may believe in nothing. Even to believe in nothing is to believe something. Why do we all have faith in something? Because God made us that way. There is a God-place inside every human being and we are never satisfied until that vacuum is filled. Every person tries tos fill that vaccum with something, but the only thing that will ever bring real, last, fulfilling peace, is to accpet Jesus Christ as the Son of God and have your sins forgiven. I can assure you that you will never have peace till you accept the Prince of Peace - Jesus Christ. When you put your faith in HIM, He credits your account with His righteousness and all your sins are erased from the recordbook. How can He do that? Because Christ takes our record of wrongs and credits our account with His pure, perfect life! He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. He takes our debt and credits our account with His precious blood.

i. The Focus of our Faith is not on our goodness but in God’s provision through Jesus!

ii. The focus of our faith is not the Law but in the love of God in Christ.

iii. The focus of our faith is not religion but in the righteousness of Jesus.

Faith has nothing to do with believing in things about God, but rather it is all about believing in HIM. It is placing faith in Christ, the Son of God, who died at Calvary and rose from the dead. In the end, salvation is not faith in a religion but in the Redeemer. When we put our faith in HIM, He credits our account with the righteousness of Christ. It is so simple that many stumble over it!

II. The Majesty of Having Your Account Credited

God made you for something higher than this physical life you are living today. You were made for majestic things - majestic places. You can only experience all that you were created to be by having that awful sin-debt removed from your account. You need to know a couple of things about the majesty of being forgiven.

A. The Certainty of it

God promises to credit the account of all who repent of sin and trust His Son as Lord and Savior. God calls it a guarantee! He promises, and God never breaks a promise. He grants to the believer a “forever” grace. The certainty of His salvation is wrapped up in Jesus. As long as Jesus lives, those who have trusted Jesus are safe. Jesus conquered death and is the first fruit of all who believe. To know Him is to a have a life you cannot lose and a home in heaven than no one can destroy (1 Peter 1:3-9)!

B. The Contentment of it

Romans 5:1 says that we have peace with God! O, what wonder, that God would give us peace in this world even after we have cursed the world He created with our sins and caused His dear Son to be brutally crucified on the cross. The love of God is far beyond our understanding or comprehension. What contentment is granted to the soul that fully replies upon Christ! We rest in Him. We live in Him. We have peace in Him. We are righteous in Him. I truly believe one of the most profound gifts of eternal life is the contentment enjoyed when one is resting in Christ. It is called a peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4). I can't explain it but I have it. Some have described salvation as a sense that a great weight has been lifted from one's heart and shoulders. Yes! That is correct. A great weight is lifted. The sin debt is lifted and removed, and there is a peace beyond expression.

C. The Conclusion of it

We note in our text today that Abraham brought glory back to God and that is what every saved person is to do. God has forgiven my debt through the blood sacrifice of His Son at Calvary. Now, I get to bring glory back to Him for all He has done and is doing for me. I enjoy serving Him in this life and making Him known to others. We are saved through grace, but we have the privilege of honoring our Lord each day. We are to make Him known to the world. He has saved us and commissioned us to be His ambassadors. We must never take this lightly! That is what we are to do. We are to bring glory to His name. We rejoice in our position and in our possession of grace. We worship Him who brought us from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and from eternal debt to glorious riches in His kingdom. We must never be ashamed of the One who gave Himself for us.

Conclusion

Have you ever heard the story of the burglar who was caught red-handed but was released because of being above the law? Let me share this true story with you. In Northville, Michigan, a man reported a diamond ring as missing. The thief was located and a state trooper described the thief as being "small of stature, fleet of foot, and moving with a great deal of stealth." The trooper explained that although the robber had been located, there'd be no arrest. With tongue-in- cheek, the officer said that because of the suspect's age and first-offender status, no charges could be filed. Actually, the thief was a cat - a seven month old kitten had swallowed the diamond ring. This became apparent when a metal detector beeped as it was jokingly waved over the tummy of the seven-month-old kitten. Yes, the cat burglar was a real cat who swallowed the diamond ring! Later, X-rays confirmed that the burglar had been found. Of course, he was not booked because cats live above the law.

Praise God, when the wand of God’s judgment is waved above me, there is no evidence of sin. Why? God has placed me above the Law through the sacrifice of His Son at Calvary. When I trusted Him as my Savior, God credited my account, which was weighed down with an unpayable debt, with a full and complete payment. My account reads: Paid in Full!

How does your account read? You can settle the old account today.

Years ago I heard Dr. Jack Hudson at Northside Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina tell a story from his childhood. He overheard his parents talking about an older couple who lived back in the country. They had bought a little farm place, worked it all their lives and finally paid it off. One day they were sitting on the front porch rocking and a big black car pulled up out front. Two men got out and introduced themselves. What they told that old couple was devastating. It seems that no title search had been done when the couple had bought the home years before. The land, and thus the home on the land, actually belonged to someone other than the person who sold it to them. They were informed that they were required to move out because the family of the original owner was claiming the house. Just think of it, that old couple packing up and leaving a place they worked for all their lives! The had scraped and saved and made house payments for years. The problem was that the real account on the house had never been settled. All their work was in vain!

Has your account been settled? It would be awful to work all your life only to find that your account was not cleared. Only Jesus can clear your account and pay your debt. Why not come to Him right now and accept Him as your Savior.