Thus Justified, We Are at Peace with God

Dallas Willard Part 2 of 7

In 1977 while Faith Evangelical Church of Chatsworth, CA was just forming, the church asked Dallas, who many knew, to step in as their morning and evening preacher for a few weeks. This morning series on the book of Romans is an adaptation of material Dallas had been teaching elsewhere and appears in part in chapter 6 of The Spirit of the Disciplines. [Editor’s Note: We are missing sermons 2-4, dealing with Romans 1-4 and would love to find somebody with copies!]

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Dallas: Thank you, Kim for those lovely words presented so beautifully. They are right on the theme that we have been developing in these times together in the last few weeks.  It is incredible that God should love us and should love us in the way that he does—our little world. It is incredible because we don’t understand God. It is incredible because our minds are formed by a world that for several thousand years has been in rebellion against God. (00:33)

Let me just stop a moment to say that this evening I will be continuing on a theme of the spiritual life and the topic I will be speaking on is The Abolishment: The Abolition of Death. You may not have heard that it has been abolished, so you might want to read 2 Corinthians 1:10 and you might want to read the 11th chapter of John and the 5th chapter of 2 Corinthians as you come this evening—the abolition of death.

Now, next Sunday, I will be speaking on Romans 6:1-2—“ . . . Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How can we, that are dead to sin, continue any longer therein?” [1:36]

When Isaiah the prophet had his vision of God, which is recorded in the 6th chapter of Isaiah, his response was “ . . . Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) As we draw near to the King, the Lord of hosts—as we hear his word, we begin to understand what Isaiah also said in the 55th chapter of Isaiah where God says to the prophet “ . . . my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8 Paraphrased) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Romans 5:9) [2:36]

Now, I read these verses because we can never stress too often the great difference in the view of God, which Jesus Christ presented and the view of God, which is present in the world around us. Jesus was a shocking revolutionary. He outraged the people who heard him. Let me just read you a bit from the 4th chapter of Luke to illustrate this.

In Luke 4, Jesus has returned to his hometown after his temptation and he comes to the synagogue in the 16th verse of the 4th chapter of Luke and he stood up according to the custom of the synagogue. He stood up, which was a way of asking to allow him to read the scriptures and say a few things about the scriptures and they gave him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened to the place where it was written. “The spirit of the lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent me . . . to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (or wounded) and to preach that today is the day when God accepts people.” (Luke 4:17-19 Paraphrased) The old version says, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord”—the year of the Lord’s acceptance. [4:23]

And he closed the book, and he sat down . . . and the eyes of all of them that were in the synagogue were fast upon Him and he said, “This day is the scripture fulfilled in our ears.” (Luke 4:20-21 Paraphrased) And he began to explain on the basis of Isaiah’s words, the Gospel to the poor, deliverance to the captives, healing to the brokenhearted. He began to explain how God loved people and accepted them where they are. He began to present the great and loving heart of God who accepts all people without qualification—just accepts them.

And in so doing, he claimed to have been accepted by God Himself and the response of the people of that time is seen in the 28th verse of the 4th chapter, “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath . . .” (Luke 4:28) It made them very angry. It undercut all of their ways of thinking about God, upon which they had based their lives. They were filled with wrath “and they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him into the brow of a hill—that is a kind of cliff—where upon the city was built that they might cast him down head long.” (Luke 4:29 Paraphrased [5:35]

Now, the English of this is they tried to kill him on the spot. See? They tried to kill him. You must understand the viciousness that was directed at him and why it was directed at him. It was directed at him very simply because it was a holy outrage. What he said was a holy outrage against the way they had viewed God.

Look again in the 11th chapter of Matthew—one of those great passages, which we all know where Jesus invites those who are in need to come to him and lays down no conditions whatsoever. You will notice as you read earlier on in the 11th chapter of Matthew beginning in the 16th verse, he comments on his hearers. They’ve just been talking about John the Baptist and Jesus says in the 16th verse,

“ . . . whereunto shall I liken this generation? This group of people is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and you have not lamented. For John came neither eating or drinking, and they say, he’s crazy. He has a devil and the Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, Look that man is a glutton, a drunkard, a winebibber . . . And then he begins to upbraid the cites in which he had ministered around his hometown.”  (Matthew 11:16-20) [6:59]

And finally in the 25th verse says,

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent . . .”  (Matthew 11:25 Paraphrased)

The wise and the prudent are people who think they know how to make the way of the world work the will of God. There are people who believe that they can take the principles at work in this vicious, fallen world and make those very principles and activities please God. [7:38]

Sometimes when I am completely beat, I will flop down on the couch and watch a movie. Last Friday evening, I was completely beat and I flopped down on the couch and watched a movie called The Blue Max. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Blue Max but I have seldom been moved by the viciousness of human beings to other human beings. I’m sure that occasionally I just have my sensibilities over excited but the evil—just the simple evil in the way people treat one another and yet regard themselves as being somehow alright.

You see, it is that system of evil, which kills people and crushes the life out of them and makes life hopeless and full of death. It is that system which cannot grasp and understand the message of love, which Jesus brought.  And when he says, the wise, the learned do not understand; babies and people who are not too bright do. And so he turns and says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Simple word—come! But that word does not work in the way of the world. Let me illustrate it. [9:28]

A story I recently heard of a family in which there was a grown son who had been married for some time. He had been raised in a very rigorous home—a good home—no doubt about it. But, now, he’s in an unhappy marriage and he had been unfaithful to his wife and word of this came to his father. And his father said, “I would have rather heard that you were dead than to have heard this.” Now, you see, that kind of thing is based upon a view about God. It wasn’t just that the parent was upset about it, though there was something I’m sure of that too, rather the view was that it would be better before God if you were dead than that you should have done this.

And the world is full of these kinds of lines, which says, “Oh, if you go over that, all hope is lost.” It is full of these divisions of life which we find the righteous on one side and the publicans and sinners on the other and Jesus, when he came, stepped over that line and you will find four different cases in the Gospels recorded in which as a reproach against Jesus, it was brought, “this man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2 Paraphrased) I’ve always enjoyed that last phrase because the fact that he would sit down and eat with them just somehow indicated his utter hopelessness. Perhaps, if he had only spoken to them occasionally, but no, he not only spoke to them, he received them. [11:20]

There is a grand old hymn—Christ Receiveth Sinful Men. Christ receiveth sinful mean. Now, that is the offensive message which, Jesus brought and that is the message which Paul is preaching in the book of Romans. He is saying, “whosoever will may come.” (Revelation 22:17) No conditions! And that’s an upsetting message. The effect of all of the life and death and teaching of Jesus Christ is to show forth the kind of faith in God, which he had, and which enabled him to live as the Son of God, the unique Son of God in this world and the mediation of Christ is to bring us into that same faith in the goodness and acceptance of God so that we will have a new righteousness based upon the presence in our hearts of the same kind of love that makes God right.

Now, Romans 1:5—I’m sorry—Romans 5:1. Romans 5:1—This faith in God—this faith in his unconditional acceptance of all has an amazing effect upon the life of the individual. The effect is to end the war between the individual and God. As Paul says here, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God. [13:27]

Do you know this world has been at war with God ever since that thought stolled into the mind of Eve, which said, “God is trying to keep something back from you; God is trying to sell you short.” Eve picked up that thought; and from thereon, it is war.

But now, let me tell you something so precious. Once you come to understand the loving heart of God, you cannot stay at war with Jesus Christ. You cannot stay at war with God. You cannot fight him any longer. Once you look at the life and death of Jesus, and once you say, “God so loved the world—he so loved the world.” (John 3:16) Underline the so and say it again and again. “He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) [14:41]

Once you see that, you cannot fight any longer. There are some things that the mind of man simply cannot do. There are limits to what the most mean and ornery person in the world can do. No matter how evil a person may be; unless they are mentally deranged, it is impossible for anyone to strike a sleeping baby. There is something in the heart that says, “No, you can’t do that!” There is something that cries out, that screams against it.

No one can understand the love of God towards human beings and still remain at war against God and that’s why peace comes. Being justified by faith—that is having entered in to the life of love which is the very character of God, and having come to understand that the world is in fact governed by love and that love is a power which is every present to hand wherever we may be and cares for our little life in all of its avenues and ways. We cannot fight God. We can only continue to fight God and resists him and that means we can only continue to do evil so long as we do not and insofar as we do not believe that God loves us and cares for us. Being justified by faith, we are at peace with God. The war is over.  No more battle. I’m in God’s hands entirely. [16:27]

Now, what we have to understand is that that is not the whole of the spiritual life. You see, Paul says in Romans 8:32—“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also freely give us all things with him?” (Paraphrased) The doorway of peace to God is a way of access into a life. It is not the end. It is a beginning. It is a beginning in which we say with Peter that “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and to godliness . . . ” (2 Peter 1:3 Paraphrased) but we have to ask how does that come.

Now, one of the great mistakes of the church in our time is to spend nearly 95 or more percent of its time talking as if peace with God were the entire, whole of the spiritual life. But now look at what Paul says in chapter 5, verse 1 and following and you will see that peace with God is only a doorway into a life with God. Life with God now has a definite structure, which we have to understand. It contains parts which work together and function in a definite way and we must be very careful to understand this, to look forward for it, to be open to it, to teach others about it, to know where we stand in that way because in that way, then “all things which pertain unto life and godliness do come into our lives. Let’s watch how it works. [18:26]

“ . . . being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom we also have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand. . . “ (Romans 5:1-2 Paraphrased) Now that I understand God’s loving heart toward me, I see that I have a doorway, an access, an introduction, some of your versions read—an introduction into a large area of grace.

What is grace?  Well, grace is rightly described as unmerited favor. That’s what we experience in our justification is the grace of God, But you see, once we get a taste of the grace of God in our justification, we understand that that justification was but a doorway into a life lived by grace. Now, the life lived by grace is the spiritual life. We live by the spirit, as Paul says in the Galatians 5, and we are also to walk by the Spirit. That is, we are to walk by the constant gifts of grace, which come from God, the great spirit into our lives and give us a new type of life which is eternal life. [20:04]

Now, eternal life and everlasting life is not something you get after you die. Eternal life is a quality of life, which comes to you here and now. This evening, I am going to be enlarging on that some, especially with the verse where Paul mentions that our mortality is to be swallowed up in life. That’s not talking about what happens at death; that’s talking about what happens now. Our mortality, our life restricted to the strengths and powers of the flesh is to be taken off as a new life goes on.

Have you ever seen a person in straightened circumstances change clothes in public? It’s possible to do. There are limits as to what you can do in that direction but it is possible to change clothes without taking all of your clothes off at once. It takes some gyrations, but it’s possible. Now, that is exactly what Paul is talking about when he says, put off the old man and put on the new man—a new person is to come up on us and it’s all in this domain of grace into which we have access by faith through Jesus Christ and we become a new person. Becoming a new person is not a matter of having a new feeling or an insurance policy that says you are going to be really new once you kick the bucket. [22:04]

Becoming a new person is a matter of the transformation of your feelings, your dispositions, your thoughts. That passage, that marvelous passage which I’ve already quoted in Isaiah 55:7—it says, “Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts.” New thoughts! New feelings! New habits! New dispositions! New powers! And that is this domain of grace wherein we stand and because we stand in it, we rejoice and the word there in the old version—rejoice—is really the word “boast.” We boast in our hope of the glory of God. We go around bragging on God. [22:54]

Mary, the mother of Jesus said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (Luke 1:46) Now, what do you do when you magnify something? When I was a little child, my grandfather had a large reading glass which always fascinated me because I had learned that by just placing it over something, you could make it look so much bigger. And I was always fascinated to watch him use it because as I would watch him use it, his eye would become about the size of his head. See?

Magnify the Lord! To magnify the Lord is to make the Lord seem great. If you magnify the Lord—when people see the Lord through you, the Lord looks great.  The Lord looks magnificent and grand and good and we rejoice. We are proud of the goodness and glory of God. We are proud. We boast of that about God, which makes him good. No, that is witnessing. That is witnessing is to present God in such a way that people say, “Isn’t God good? Isn’t He wonderful?” Isn’t it great to be alive in a world with a God like this? We boast on God. [24:31]

And the process continues—not only so, but we boast in tribulation also. We boast in tribulation also. Now, tribulations are hard times. We boast in them. In James 1:4, we read “count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations”—really tribulations—count it all joy. Because, James says, “that temptation works patience.” So, to learn to joy in temptation is something that comes to us as we glory in God—as we believe in the goodness of God. We believe in it so firmly, that we come to believe that no matter what happens to us, somehow, the hand of God can be in it as we surrender it to him—no matter what it is. That’s so important to have it settled that God is on our side. It is so important for us to know that we are at peace with God.

Peace with God is not everything in the spiritual life but it is the foundation of everything. And when I am at peace with God and I am assured of his great love and goodness, then whatever people may be saying about and doing to me—and they will be doing things to you and they will be saying things about you—and whatever my circumstances may be, I will still say, “I know the heart of God. I know his peace. I am at peace with him.” And because of that, I can rejoice in tribulation. And tribulation then works patience. [26:33]

What is patience? Well, patience is just the capacity to live through things without destroying all the good that might come through them. Now, we are impatient with one another all the time. We are impatient with circumstances. We know what impatience is. Patience is simply the capacity to suffer inconvenience without being insulted—without being irritated beyond the limit that we can endure gracefully. Patience is the capacity to endure, to accept, to say, ‘alright’ and keep looking for the good things in the bad moments. That’s patience.

Now, that doesn’t come except by tribulation. You can’t get patience by praying for it or reading your Bible. You can’t get patience by singing songs or having good fellowship. You cannot do it. You see, there is a law of the spiritual life, which says, “tribulation works patience.” [Romans 5:3] Patience comes when we come to know in our tribulations the presence of God. And then we have patience. [27:52]

Now, once we have patience, we move on beyond that to proof. The old version says experience but really it’s something very strong—tried and trueness, if you wish. Patience brings tried and trueness. We know. We are confident. We have tried God in the hard hours. We know what our resources are and because of that, we are constant and steady and we are in trouble.

You see, the person who has patience is not the person who is able to grit his teeth and hang on the longest. And the person who is proven is not the one who is able to make the great effort. It is the person who is able to loosely and simply say, “God is in this place. God is where I am. I know he’s here,” because of what he’s done for me.  [29:05]

And then, experience works hope. Before, we had been hopeful for the glory of God. We had been boastful of the glory of God but this is hope for ourselves because now we have hope that our lives are good—that the goodness of God is not something restricted to him and just a few fortunate people. But having come through this process after peace with God, we now know that there is hope for us. We are hot hoping there is hope for us. We KNOW there is hope for us, because we have the hope. “Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 Paraphrased) But that, dear friends is a mature faith; that is not the faith of the person who has just begun. We must understand that this process of growth is one, which we live through and we become different as we go through it. [30:13]

And the hope we have then finally does not make us ashamed and why doesn’t it make us ashamed? Look at this with me, especially if you forget everything else I’ve said, I’m very anxious that you understand this one verse.  “Hope does not make ashamed; because the love of God” (Romans 5:5 Paraphrased)—well, that’s the righteousness of God, isn’t it? That’s what God’s righteousness is. That is God. God is love. “And hope does not make ashamed because in it’s power and in its rightness, love is shed abroad in our hearts . . .” (Romans 5:5 Paraphrased) That is, it takes over all dimensions of our personality. It runs our life. We don’t run our life. It runs our life. If we have to run our lives, we haven’t been through this process. It is the point at which we surrender and know the takeover by love that we begin to truly experience the hopefulness of the way of Christ for us.

The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. He takes command. He takes control. He removes what is unpleasant and painful and wrong and puts in something good and pleasant and right. Now, because of that, we can then say, ” . . . God commends His love towards us, because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 Paraphrased) This love comes into our life and we can add “much more then, being now justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9) and I hope you are ready now to see that there are two parts to this verse—being justified by his blood—being justified by faith, we have peace with God. That is the beginning. [32:12]

But look at the second part. “We shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9 Paraphrased) What is that wrath we are saved from? That wrath we are saved from is that evil presence in human life that ravages and tears and kills and destroys and makes people miserable and makes people say, “God must be awful. He must be awful” to let something like this go on. That’s the wrath from which we are saved through him. “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10 Paraphrased) Because the life, which is now spread abroad in our hearts is spread abroad from Jesus Himself; it is his life. We are saved from wrath after we come to peace with God through justification by faith. [33:17]

We are going to stand now and sing a hymn concerning love divine all love excelling. Bob is going to come and lead us. Shall we stand together? If there is anyone here who has a need to make any decision connected with their spiritual life, with this church or to simply consult privately with an elder or a minister, there will be someone here to meet you at the front if you care to come and we will go aside and find a place to talk with you with you. Bob, will you come and lead us?

Listen to all parts in this Romans series