Faith is Hearing!

Romans 10

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romand 10:1-4 ESV) 

This chapter also starts with Paul’s heart for the Israelites. He lets it be known that it is his his “heart’s desire” and that he prays for them to know God. He also says here they are a zealous people for God, but he is pointing out that they are religious and that well they are legalistic. They work hard at keeping the law but they do not believe in Christ who is the fulfillment of the law. 

As the chapter goes on he is talking to them about how Moses wrote about the righteousness based on the law. That doing the commandments and living by them was how a person would obtain righteousness. But that is not righteousness based on faith. Righteousness based on faith does not have to work at it but only has to believe and confess. 

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-9)

I found it interesting that Paul mentions confessing with your mouth before he mentions believing in your heart. The two go hand in hand but they definitely go together. I know people who proclaim to be a christian but they don’t necessarily live as if they believe in their heart. For example they may worry and fret over something to the point of making everyone around them miserable but they say they are a Christian and yet they do not exercise faith that He is leading and guiding them in a situation. (I’ve been guilty of that for sure)  Or they may say they are a christian yet they are allowing a lot of stuff into their mind and heart that is not very Christlike. 

“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:10)

Salvation is a matter of the heart and of the mouth. It is not about keeping the rules and checking off the list and making sure that you do this or that you don’t do that. It’s not how hard you work at it. I do think that as you fall in love with Jesus and as you let Him lead you that He has purpose for us all. And we will work for Him, but that work is not compelled out of a worry of not getting it right, but out of love for Him. And for others, wanting them to know what we found. 

The last part of this chapter is about taking the Word to others, about preaching the gospel Paul is asking and observing that preachers must be sent out both by God and by the community of believers. 

“And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:15)

The thought that crossed my mind is that God takes very seriously those he calls to preach His gospel. Which in a way is all of us. We may not all be called to stand in a pulpit and preach but we are all preaching His gospel in our own way if we are believers. By the way we live our life, by the way we talk, by the faith we exhibit. We must be putting in His word to build our faith in order to let our lives preach the way He would have us to. 

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

We have to, they have to hear the Word of Christ to build faith!

Paul finishes this chapter again lamenting over Israel. He points out the prophet Isaiah who prophesied that they would miss it. (vv 18-21)

Do you have someone that it is your heart’s desire that they would know Him? Let’s follow Paul’s example and keep on praying for them. And then let your life preach to them. And then confess things, good things, good news with your mouth to them. And keep praying that they will come to faith in Him. Build our faith so that we may show them the way to theirs. 

It’s all about Faith

Romans 9

Paul took us to the pinnacle of God’s glory in chapter 8.  He has convinced us that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that He works for our good! But now, Paul is lamenting in chapter 9 over his fellow Israelites. Namely that the Israelites for the most part have missed Messiah. He had even gone so far in v. 3 to say I would cut myself off if only it would mean they would accept Christ. Paul is highly upset that the Israelites have so much going for them yet they missed it.

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)

He is clearly upset that they had all the signs and wonders and are God’s chosen people yet they do not believe. Paul goes on to point out though that it is not that God that has failed the Israelites but that the Israelites were the ones not believing God. They had the opportunity but they just didn’t get it. 

“This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:8)

The commentary I read pointed out that that one meaning of the name Israel is “governed by God”. What Paul is saying here is that those who are not governed by God are not really the children of God. This is where the children of the promise comes in. The children of the promise are the ones who are governed by God. Paul is showing that merely being a descendant saves no one. Hmm. I know that Paul is talking about the Israelites but could this be translated to today also? In that just having christian parents or a christian background does not mean you are saved.

Paul also points out that God chose Jacob over Esau even though Esau was the firstborn. God told Rebecca this would be the way things were even before the children were born so this has nothing to do with the actions of Jacob and Esau. 

We can’t understand God’s choices any more than Paul could. However, Paul was hanging on to who God is for his understanding.  

“What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” (Romans 9:14-15) 

God does what He does and shows mercy or raises up or whatever for His glory. We can’t think or know or understand why He does what He does. This reminds me of Isaiah 55:8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.’ 

“For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” (Romans 9:17)  

We were created for God’s glory, plain and simple. Our main purpose is to magnify Him and to make His name famous. And sometimes that is shown through His mercy and His grace and His goodness and sometimes that is shown in hardship and trial and hurt. Unfortunately it is true that not all will be saved. Paul says of Israel only a remnant will be saved (v. 27). 

It all comes down to faith. 

“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why/ Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”  (Romans 9:30-33)

Oh Lord please don’t let us be put to shame. Lord I pray that we live in such a way that your name will be glorified and magnified and proclaimed in all the earth. I pray Lord that my faith will be known in such a way that only points to you! 

Nothing Separates!

Romans 8 

This chapter starts out with probably one of my most favorite verses in the Bible. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Even after you become a christian your thought patterns and your memories can try to convict you. Satan tries to convict you about what you have done in the past. The habits of sin are still there and have to be worked on. I’ve seen people who become a Christian and it’s like Satan “ramps up” his attack on them and the habits and sinful thoughts feel harder to break. That to me is what is so very important about this verse. We have to know that once we are in Christ we are free from the law of sin and death. But we have to walk in that freedom. We have it but there are people not walking in it. I have not always walked in it. Paul explains here that Jesus came to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh (us) and He took care of sinful flesh when He died on the cross. He fulfilled what the law could not fulfill. The law, while a very important guide to us, is weak in that we can never 100 percent follow that law and be wholly reconciled to God. Without the help of the Holy Spirit living in us we would always fall back into the sinful flesh. 

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6) 

What does it mean to live according to the Spirit. Well look at the verse you have to start in your mind. It is your choice what you set your mind to. Are you going to set your mind to things of the flesh or are you going to set your mind to things of the Spirit? It does take a little work on your part. But when you look at the fact that Jesus did the hard work, I mean really look at it. He was crucified on a cross. He took the stripes across His back for us. Then you look at the fact that all we have to do is “tap in” so to speak to what He has already freely given. Set your mind on things of the Spirit. 

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) 

We are adopted into the kingdom, not as outsiders but as sons and daughters of the King. We get full rights as a child of God and we get to call him Abba! Father! How exciting is that?! Those of us who are parents know that our children can do nothing to make us stop loving them. They may do things we don’t like, they may not always follow our teaching the way we would want them to but there is nothing that keeps us from loving them EVER! Well it is the same with God! Once we have become Christians, when we are walking in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit we are living in the full benefit of being a child of God! 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

As much as I love Paul at times, he sure can be a killjoy too. Here he was talking about how we get to call God our Daddy and gets us all excited and he turns on a dime to talk about suffering again. My mind sure can want to shut down. I was all excited and then there is that word suffering coming up again. But the commitment to keep digging kept me reading and this really does lead us to some of my favorite verses. (I guess you’ve noticed I have a lot of favorites.) But what Paul is revealing is that we are all going to have suffering in this life. There are going to be times that we just quite frankly would rather not do. There will be medical diagnosis, there will be job losses, there will be marriages and families who suffer. There will apparently be pandemics, (we didn’t see that one coming did we?) But in Jesus we have hope. 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) 

Have you ever been there? Boy I have! This life is hard and sometimes, actually many times I just don’t know what I am supposed to be praying. What is the end result that I want to come out of my circumstances. Sometimes you just have to pray ~ “God, just be God here!”  Because I know that He sees the big picture and He knows what the end result should be and what would be best for me and what will bring Him glory. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

When you love God and you are walking in His Spirit, you can know that God is going to work things for your good. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good getting there. Sometimes living in the pandemic is not necessarily fun. I am tired of it, I want my normal back, I want to go to sporting events and I want all of my people back at church every Sunday. But I can also look at the blessings I have received from the pandemic and know that God worked some of the things in this thing for my good. This is a go to verse for me when I just don’t see the best way for things to work out, (which is pretty much all the time). 

The last part of this chapter is pretty glorious! Paul asks and answers several questions. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33) 

Paul goes on to ask who can separate us from the love of Christ? Not our troubles, not our distress, not our persecution, not famine, not dangers. 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) 

I think Paul just about covered it all here. Don’t you? 

God, praise you that nothing separates us from you. God you know the big picture! You know the end of the story! God please work it for our good! And God thank you that I get to call you Daddy! 

Freedom from the Law

Romans 7

Paul is using the laws of marriage as an example of dying to the law and belonging to Christ. The laws of marriage are only binding as long as a person lives. When a man and woman are married and one spouse dies the other spouse is released to marry again. They are free from that law. In the same way Paul is saying if you have accepted Christ you are no longer bound to the law but you belong to Christ because your old self died through the blood of Jesus. You are released from the law. 

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” ( Romans 7:6)

Many people may not understand this and in some ways it feels contradictory. The law was given to us as a gauge to sin, we have already talked about that. So how do we reconcile all of this thought and rhetoric about the law and sin and what we should and shouldn’t do. I have often said many times. This christian life is not about a list of rules and regulations nor a list of dos and don’ts. Yes there is a Mosaic law that we should pay attention to but the fact is we can never live up to the expectations of that list. The most important thing is Jesus! And that my friends is what Paul is saying here. 

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said. ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7) 

The law was given to us before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins so that the people of Israel could know what to steer from. But in some ways the law is enticing too to our own sinful nature. You know how there are some children you can tell not to touch the hot stove all day long but by golly because you told them not to they are going to touch it. It’s like Eve in the garden of Eden. She had to have the fruit from the forbidden tree just because she was told she couldn’t have it. What do we say about that? Sometimes knowing something is forbidden makes it more enticing to us than if we didn’t know it. But Paul also points out that it is not the law that is sin or bad but what it does is magnify our sinful nature. 

“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

The law itself is good, but it’s what lives inside of us, the sinful nature that is bad and it shows us all of the things we do that are in the flesh and not of the spirit. I listen to a few podcasts. One of them is Annie F. Downs – Annie and Eddie Keep Talking. Annie has coined the phrase on this podcast, “Let me back up and be the person I wish I were.” I have used that a couple of times lately. I confessed that my mouth gets me in trouble a lot. And sometimes it’s because I don’t think before I speak and sometimes it’s because I have been dwelling on something that hurt my feelings or made me mad. At any rate there are times when I spew things out of my mouth that when I think about it later, I wish I could back up and be the person I wish I were. I think that is what Paul may have been feeling when he penned these verses. 

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very think I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15-20) 

Was that confusing enough? Paul is basically saying I know what I want to do but in my human flesh I cannot carry it out. He ends with the question and the answer. 

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25) 

Lord, help me to be the person I wish I was. Help me to control my thoughts and my tongue. Lord help me to think on the things that are yours. Help me to use your law as a gauge but to listen to the Holy Spirit as my guide! 

Wages of Sin

Romans 6

In chapter 5 Paul stated that where sin abounds grace abounds even more. Fearing that some of the christians in Rome would feel that was a license to sin Paul goes on in chapter 6 to explain this further.  “By no means!” I love when scripture puts that in emphatically, I always make sure I understand what the earlier statement was because he has put such emphasis on it. The question in verse 1 was “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” “By no means!” The Passion translation puts it “What a terrible thought!” Yet in Paul’s day that was apparently a problem and it is a problem with some even today. There are people who think they can live however they want even after they have become a christian but Paul shows here and as we unpack it I think we will see that when you have accepted Jesus you may not immediately change your ways but God is not going to leave you alone in habitual sin. 

First of all becoming a christian is identifying with Jesus in his death and it is identifying with Him in his resurrection. We are to crucify our old self so that we are no longer a slave to sin. This doesn’t mean you will never sin again. That can’t happen until we go home to glory with Him. But what it does mean is that you will not be comfortable in that sin. I believe there are people who remain in sin even after they give their life to Christ but the point is they are not walking in the freedom that a life in Christ brings. Sin is not the boss of you!  

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:10-11)

Paul’s point here is do not let sin reign in your life. It is such a shame that so many Christians are not walking in the freedom that God has for us, but as Paul says it, are slaves to sin. Being enslaved to something or someone means it masters you. If you are enslaved to sin, the Devil will have you thinking that you can’t change or this is just the way you are, the way you were made and you can’t change it. But I also truly believe that if you accepted Jesus you can’t be comfortable in it. Ok, I’m preaching to the choir here. I have things that I struggle with, characteristics that my thought process will head toward immediately in certain circumstances. My mouth gets ahead of me, I can be quick to anger, I talk more than I wish I did many many times. I can’t excuse that behavior even though it is a part of my natural make up. But what I can and what I try to do is to bring it to the cross and ask God to change my thought processes and to fix me. I don’t want to have a short fuse, I do, but that is no excuse if I am walking in the light of His love and what He did for me. It bothers me. He has not let me excuse it as that’s how He made me. I have to bring it to Him and ask His help with it. And when I react in a more loving way I think of that as a little victory. That doesn’t mean I will never do it again, but it does mean that I won a small battle in my human flesh by laying it down. There are other things that someone else may be struggling with. But we do not have to walk in those struggles. We get to walk in His righteousness and to present our bodies and our lives as a living sacrifice to Him. 

The bottom line is you are either going to be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. I for one would rather live as a slave to righteousness. But there are a lot of people who think that is no fun and that being a slave to sin is more fun and where the good times are. However, I know no one who remains a slave to sin that death and destruction do not reign eventually. 

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)

Satan loves to wrap sin up in fun, he loves to make it shiny and bright so that we think that is where we want to live. Jesus gives us grace to just be and to work on things that make us uncomfortable and to serve and love Him. The reward at the end of a life with Jesus is eternal life. I think there are going to be a few people who knew Him but didn’t live in the light of Him who get that. The day to day rewards are what I don’t want to miss out on. The grace, the peace, the hope that walking with Him day to day brings me. 

Lord, help us to live in your grace. Help us to be slaves to your righteousness and not slaves to sin. Show each of us what our next step to walking with you will be. 

The Hope that does not disappoint!

Romans 5 

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.”  Martin Luther 

As soon as I ran across this statement I knew that Romans 5 would have some exciting things to give us.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV) 

The faith we have in Jesus is what brings us peace. That faith is also what allows us to live in His grace and to rejoice in His Hope. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

There it is, one of those times that Paul is telling us to “rejoice in our sufferings”. Kind of like James with “count it all joy” I must admit there is discomfort when I first read passages like this. How can I rejoice in my sufferings? How is it that I can count things joyful when things seem so messed up. Whether it be in my personal life, or in the world at large. Doesn’t it seem crazy to count it joy and to rejoice when suffering comes. Let’s take our children. We would love for them to grow up and never know suffering and to never have a bad day and to always succeed at everything. To always get the trophy so to speak. But we learn and they learn through hardship and through not always winning and through some amount of suffering. Suffering produces endurance. When you suffer at something, when you have to work a little harder at something it produces endurance. You have to keep at it, you have to have discipline. That endurance and the discipline it takes to endure, produces character. Someone’s character is who they are at their core. Wouldn’t it be nice if God just gave us those things without us having to work at them. But God cares more about who we are down deep, our character than to do that and He knows that some of us have to learn these lessons the hard way and some even harder than others. But it produces Hope in us when we do learn the lessons of suffering, endurance and character. God’s Hope, not just a fly by night I hope things turn out okay. When bad things happen and I can look back at the way God has answered past hardships that I have endured I can hope all the more in the present day trials. 

Hope in Jesus does not put us to shame. Some translations say does not disappoint. When we accept Jesus we have the love of God poured into us through the Holy Spirit. We just have to cling to that hope and that love. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. Jesus came to fulfill the law because there was no way that we, in our human flesh, could ever keep the law to the point of staying in relationship with God. We do not have to get it all right in order to become a Christian. He died for sinners. He died for us. We are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus. And in that we do not have to endure the wrath of God. We are saved by Jesus. We have Hope in Jesus that will not disappoint us.

Paul goes on explaining how sin came into the world through Adam, through one man. Not through the law. Again, the law was a measure of sin. Death reigned before God ever gave Moses the law. Adam brought sin into the world. However, Jesus and His death on the cross is what justifies us and reconciles us and gives us the gift of peace and the gift of hope and grace!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

The victory of this chapter is in the last few verses. One man, Adam brought sin into the world. We are sinful by nature, babies are born sinful. Sin is something that reigns in our life until we accept Jesus. The Holy Spirit will work in a nonbelievers life to draw them to a saving relationship with Jesus. But once the sinful man is justified through Christ, they can have victory over their sinful nature. 

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21)

Jesus thank you for giving your life for us! Thank you for your Peace! Thank you for your Grace! Thank you for your Hope! 

Hope against hope!

Romans 4

The Jews of those days revered Abraham as the Father of Faith. Therefore Paul used Abraham in his writing to clarify to the Romans his thoughts on faith and works. He brings up Abraham in the first verse of this chapter. 

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Romans 4:1-2 ESV)

In other words, he is telling them think about Abraham. If you know of anyone who can be justified with God because of his works it would be Abraham. He worked for God, he did what God said to do. So he can boast to God about what he did for God, right? Wrong! No one can boast to God about their works. 

“For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”(Romans 4:3)

Abraham is the father of the faith because Abraham believed God. Plain and simple. Not because of his works but simply because he believed God. 

Paul also goes on in this chapter to explain to the christians in Rome that Abraham is the father of faith to all, not just to the Jewish people. 

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12) 

Circumcision was a seal for the Jewish people. It signified that they were a Jew that they were one of God’s chosen people. What Paul is pointing out here is that Abraham was given the seal of his circumcision because of his faith, not so that he would have faith. Therefore he became the father of faith before the circumcision even occurred. Therefore he is a father of all who have faith in God. 

“as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Romans 4:17-18)

This phrase jumped out at me today “In hope he believed against hope”. What do you have today that you are hoping for, believing for, against hope. When Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations, he and Sarah were childless, and because of their age it was not likely that they would conceive and/or that Sarah would be able to carry a child. Yet when God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, he believed him. Do you have something that you are believing God for? That you are hoping for against all hope. Friends you can hope in God. You can believe God. Place your hope in him against any and all hope that you may have otherwise. Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God. 

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’”.  (Romans 20-21)

Abraham chose to believe God when he told him he would be the father of many nations. He may not have known exactly how it would come about, because in his mind, he and Sarah were too old to have children. However, he was fully convinced that God could do what he promised. Grab hold of that, choose to believe God for your circumstances, lay it at the foot of the cross whatever is on your heart today. I can’t promise how God will work it out. But I can tell you that the things in my life that I have laid at his cross and begged him to work out for me, he has done it. It may not always work out like I thought it would before but it works out better than I could have ever thought or imagined. We get to have this faith, that Abraham had also. 

“But the words, ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25

Lord help us as we hope against hope to believe in your promises. Help us Lord to know that you have our best interests at heart and that when we lay those things at your feet that we may have lost hope for that we have this hope in Jesus because of what He did for us on the cross. Lord work those things out for us for your glory and for your good. Amen

Justified by Grace

Romans 3

Paul has sent this letter to Rome to encourage the Romans. In this chapter of the letter he anticipates some of the questions that they may have been asking based on the first 2 chapters. It seems to me that he realizes that some of what he has said may be going over their heads so to speak or confusing them. The Jewish people knew they were God’s chosen people. They were the ones who had been given the law and the rituals to keep and had handed down for generations these practices and rituals. They had some beautiful traditions that in their minds justified them and made them feel closer to God. Paul is preaching to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles and in so doing some of the Jewish people may have been feeling a little torn. Because they were used to the traditions and they were used to the rituals but is Paul saying that none of that is important anymore. “By no means!” Paul points out that the faithfulness of God is not based on our faithfulness nor our faithlessness. 

“By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4

This is such a comfort to me. God is true whether I am living in my faith or struggling in my faith. No matter what is going on in the world or around me. No matter if there is a Coronavirus, or people who do right or don’t do right. God is true! 

Paul also seems to be pointing out that when unrighteousness abounds that God’s righteousness is magnified. However he also addresses in this that there are some people who might actually try to use that as a means to excuse their own unrighteousness. They, in their thinking may be saying God would be unrighteous to inflict His wrath on us since our unrighteousness shows His righteousness. Again, 

“By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” Romans 3:6

We talked a bit about God’s judgment yesterday and I mentioned that I would much rather fall under God’s judgment than mans. God judges rightly and He is always compassionate, fair and true. One day we will all fall under God’s judgment. We must always be careful not to twist the grace that God gives so freely as a license to sin or to remain the same. Yes God’s righteousness and God’s grace is a free gift to us but the point is to make us better, not to justify us because “I am who I am”. 

The second part of this chapter points out to us that “None are righteous”. What I think and what I glean from reading in several translations and commentary is this. The law was given to the Jewish people and they thought that their possession of the law is what justified them. Paul is pointing out that they are not righteous because of the law, nor are the Gentiles righteous because they don’t have the law (nor the traditions) as their gauge. The law was given to point out sins. It is a measure to use. Verses 10 – 17 show man’s depravity and the many ways that man sins against God. But it is all men, not just the Jew, not just the Gentile, but all men! But also just being a good person and keeping the law will not justify you. 

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

We can’t keep enough rules and regulations to make us right in Him. But there is good news here in the latter part of this chapter. 

God gave us the law and He gave us the prophets in order to bear witness to sin. But God gave us His righteousness through Jesus that through our faith in Him there is no distinction anymore. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

I have known verse 23 for years and have had it memorized and have quoted it, but why oh why have have I not been quoting the whole thought? Yes we all sin and yes we all fall short of his glory but oh how exciting that we are justified by his grace. If you believe in Jesus He has redeemed you! Already! Jesus came to be the propitiation of our sin, by his blood. That word, propitiation just means substitute sacrifice. He was our sacrifice, through His blood on the cross we can have faith. This was to show God’s righteousness and it is to be our justifier if we have faith in Jesus. God is the God of Jews and the God of Gentiles. 

“since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary we uphold the law. (Romans 3:30-31)

Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you for sending Jesus to be my substitute sacrifice for my sins. Thank you Lord for your grace. Lord, help me to uphold the law through the faith I have in you and by the grace you have so freely given. 

A Matter of the Heart!

Romans 2

In Romans 1 Paul laid out some things out for the Romans, that he was afraid they would look at and think well I’m not as bad as this guy so I must be ok. Paul wants to be sure in Romans 2 that they realize that instead of judging others they better be looking at themselves first. 

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” Romans 2:1 ESV 

In Matthew it also warns us that we will be judged by the measure that we use on others against ourselves. (Matt 7:1-2)  I don’t know about you but the more I learn and know about God, I would much rather be “judged” by God than by man. Our measures are imperfect. We will quickly jump to conclusions or in our mind we will choose sides based on friendship and on how we feel about one person or another. But God is the same all the time, He knows the big picture, He knows your heart. God’s judgment is meant to lead you to repentance, whereas the judgment of man is condemning and it leads to guilt and shame. 

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

God’s kindness is so that he leads us to repentance. We are not driven there. I’ve often jokingly said that God had to hit me over the head with a 2X4 for something. But the more I know about God the more I realize that God doesn’t do that. He leads us to repentance. He draws us to himself, in his kindness and his patience and in his loving, gentle ways. He is not going to hit us over the head or to drive us to do anything. Oh make no mistake there is a wrath of God too. And the day will come that all who do and practice evil will fall under the judgment of God. But for those who seek God and his righteousness there will be glory and honor and peace. 

In the last part of Romans 2 Paul is talking about the law and God’s judgment that comes through the law. I read this passage over and over to try to gain understanding because I want to always handle God’s word rightly and to the best of my ability. What I gain from this is we will be judged by the matter of our hearts, not just the law. However, if you do know the law and if you teach and if you preach and if you boast in the laws of God and then you break these laws then you are dishonoring God. But let’s say there is someone who does not know the law, back in the days of the writing of Romans Paul was talking about the Gentiles. The Gentiles did not have the benefit of the Mosaic law handed down to them for centuries so what of them? What I think Paul is saying here is that it comes down to the heart. What is in your heart? Are you judging those who do not “keep” the laws and commandments of God based on what you know to be right and wrong? Or are you sweeping at your own back door first and realizing that the law was given to us as a measure but it’s what is in your own heart that God will look at. It’s not my place to judge you or to judge others. It is my place to show the lovingkindness of God to my fellow man. Even if I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with him. God is going to judge my heart by what I know. God is going to judge your heart by what you know. There is so much going on in the world right now and people are quick to be angry and everyone wants their own opinion to be your opinion. My question is what can I do every day to show Jesus love to my fellow man. My job is to show the lovingkindness of Jesus so that maybe it will be something you will see in me that you might want for yourself. I don’t want it to be about religion or about laws. I do want to teach, and I do want to keep the law of the Lord. But I want to do it out of love and I desire to do His will and work for Him out of my love for Him. 

But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God. (Romans 2:29 ESV)

Lord, I pray that I will keep the law based on what is in my own heart. I pray that I will leave the judging to You Lord, as You judge rightly and my measure is imperfect.

I am not ashamed!

Romans 1 

This first chapter of Romans starts out as Paul’s letters do, with a greeting and Paul stating his credentials and then a greeting to whom he is writing. The difference in the letter to the Romans and most of Paul’s other letters is that Paul planted the churches to which he was writing in most of his letters. But he did not plant the church in Rome. It is believed that there were Romans who were present at Pentecost and they returned to Rome and the church was birthed in Rome through those people. Therefore, the faith that came out of Rome was from that movement. Paul only knew of them because as stated in verse 8 their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Paul had been praying to go to Rome but something was preventing him. He tells them in this letter he wants to come to Rome so that they may be “mutually encouraged”. He recognizes however that at the time his main ministry is not in Rome. 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17)

What is the righteousness of God? In my studying I read that the righteousness of God does not describe man as being righteous. The righteousness of God is something that we receive from God. It is a gift from God to man, not a description of man. I think as a human race we tend to think of righteousness in uncomfortable terms. We do not want to think of ourselves as righteous in that we think that would be pious or haughty. However when we realize that the righteousness that we receive from God as a free gift when we become christians it tends to compel us to want to live a more righteous life for God. Living righteously simply means living right in the grace that God has given us. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18) 

There is a wrath of God to contend with when people go on living in ungodliness and unrighteousness. The commentary stated that ungodliness refers to sins committed against God and unrighteousness refers to sins of man against man. When we go on living however we choose, knowing that it is not right living it is suppressing the truth of God. I have heard people often say “this is just who I am” or “I am what I am” but “God loves me for it anyway”. This is suppressing the truth of who God is. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. It is true that we all sin and that we all fall short. However when you just excuse your sins and don’t work on them, lay them down and attempt to change within the power of God that you are given, then you are not living in the truth of who God is and what Jesus came to do for us. Yes God loves you (ME) anyway, however He expects me to work on those sins and to lay them down. This does not mean I will ever become sinless but that I will grow in Christ and some of the sins that I formerly committed will not be a struggle for me anymore. 

Basically, what I see is that we may all be at a different level in our christian walk. This is where in my opinion grace will come in. Someone who is a new christian may have sins that you if you are a more seasoned christian do not have. We must give grace to the one who is growing in their faith. But growth is the key. According to Paul in this first chapter, if you do not honor God nor give thanks to him for what he has done for you, then you have a foolish heart. God may give you over to a debased mind. And before we all get to pious thinking our sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s let’s look at the list. 

“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such tings deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32) 

Ouch! I don’t know about you but my toes are sore. Lord forgive me for the things that are in my heart and the ways I have not honored you. Please help us to recognize what in this list may be ours and Lord, please help me to lay down to you what I need to change in my own life.