Christianity 201

March 16, 2017

Feeling Condemned? Romans 8:1-4

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Condemnation is in the air. Every day in law courts across this land verdicts are reached and sentences given. Whether fiction or reality, tv is full of stories of condemnation. Then there is the condemnation that shows up in our personal relationships, from friends and enemies alike. There is also the self-condemnation many of us face when we either step in front of a mirror or step onto the weigh scales. All too often we wear false verdicts as life sentences.

Perhaps this is the reason why many people are not bothered with church. “Just another place to face more condemnation.” Perhaps this is the reason why many people do not want to think about their relationship with God. “More condemnation.” Yet if we think one hundred years or so into the future, which verdicts will still matter? Will the condemnation we have faced from others, or even ourselves, matter? One verdict will matter. God’s. One sentence will matter. God’s. His verdict is a just verdict. His sentence is an eternal-life sentence. Given the supreme importance of that verdict, what can be said about it? Let is turn to the book of Romans to find out:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The ‘therefore’ of Romans 8:1 points us back to consider what has been said earlier in the book of Romans. A thousand sermons could not do the first seven chapters of Romans justice, so let us attempt a quick summary. As we look back we find there is some good news, some really bad news, some really great news, some more really bad news and some more really good news.

So first the good news: God has given us the law as a gift. Without law society, and life along with it, devolves into chaos. God has given two kinds of law. There is the law that is written on the hearts of all people (Romans 2:14,15). That sense of conscience, of the difference between right and wrong. Further, to give a shining and clear example, The law was given to a specific group of people, the Hebrew people, through Moses. This was good news since this law helped people thrive together and was a proper yardstick for measuring up.

Now for the really bad news: As wonderful as it is to have this yardstick, God’s law just confirms that could never measure up.

What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; Romans 3:9-10

Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20

If you think that God has reason to condemn you. You are correct. That is really bad news.

Now for the really great news:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Why?

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

There is a lot to unpack in those few verses, but suffice it so say here that in the blood of Christ we have forgiveness of sin. The verdict has been arrived at, the sentence has been served by Jesus. This is a gift of God’s grace. Receiving that gift is a matter trust.

But now for some more really bad news: There is a second kind of sentence to deal with; a sinful life. To understand this we can think of a drug addict who has served time for being in the possession of hard drugs. A verdict has been reached, and the sentence has been served in the eyes of society. However, the addict is still that, an addict. Addiction can be a life sentence, and for some that life sentence is worse than jail time. It would be an awful thing if we were given assurance of a positive final verdict before the judgement seat of Christ, yet nothing changed for us in this life. Though looking forward to freedom, we would still be serving a life-sentence to a life in the service of evil in the here and now. Paul speaks about this problem in the very verses that precede Romans 8:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:21-25

And now for some more really good news: we are freed from this sentence also!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

To say that sin was condemned “in the flesh” is akin to saying that the full sentence of the addict was served, not just the jail term, but the life-sentence of bearing the disease of addiction as well. The addict’s identity would be forever changed, no longer being known as an addict. Likewise, our addiction to sin is broken, our identity changed forever, as we are now “in Christ,” people who walk “according to the Spirit.” Paul has more to say about this in the verses to follow, and so will we next week.

We are guilty sometimes of speaking of salvation as if it is only a matter of what happens at the judgement seat of Christ. It is more than that. Because of the love and grace of God in Jesus there is no condemnation for those who belong to Him, neither a guilty verdict at the judgement seat of Christ leading to an eternal-life sentence, nor a life-sentence to  slavery to sin here and now. God rescues us from both. That is really great news!

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

Clarke Dixon is a regular midweek contributor to C201 whose material can also be seen at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

February 14, 2016

God’s Commands: More on The 613 Commandments

Today’s post by Russell Young is a response to the February 3rd post, The 613 Commandments.


ten_commandments

There seems to be a great deal of confusion over whether or not the believer needs to obey God’s commands. This should not be so because the Word is quite clear if it is examined.

The Lord said that He did not come “to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Therefore, they still have relevance; HOWEVER, Christ came to fulfill them. It is the manner in which He fulfills them that has brought on so much confusion. He said, “Anyone who breaks the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

The manner in which the Lord accomplishes the Law and the Prophets is important. It is often accepted that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross provides one’s eternal salvation but this is not so. The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “For this reason [to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death] Christ became the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may [not will] receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he had died as a ransom to set the free from the sins that they had committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV) Accordingly, the sacrifice of Christ relieved the believer from the consequences of the sins that he had committed while under the first (Old) covenant and became the mediator of a new covenant.

The Lord’s “mediation” is not by words only, it is by His life. Paul wrote of a “mystery” that had been kept hidden and was now being revealed and that mystery is “Christ in you [the Holy Spirit], the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) The Christ who had lived a sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary is the same Christ who is prepared, if obeyed, to live a sinless life in the body of the believer. The ONLY passage that references “eternal salvation” states that it comes through obedience. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV) It is common to mistake the need for obedience as an issue of “works” while it is really faith in practice.

To further understand the means in which the Law and the Prophets are being fulfilled, Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4, NIV) That is, Christ is prepared to met the righteous requirements of the law in us. He was victorious in the flesh of Jesus and He will be victorious in the believer but it does demand obedience. His ministry must not be seen as having been completed; He is living personally and intimately in all of those who have confessed His lordship. (Romans 5:9-10)

Are we under the law? Absolutely NOT! We are now servants to Christ however, and are under His lordship. How does this satisfy the law? His convicting work though one’s conscience will lead him to avoid sin or to repent and confess it when sin occurs. What a wonderful Saviour! What a wonderful God! What personal love!

It is those who are led by the Spirit who are NOT under the law. (Galatians 5:18) It is those who are led by the Spirit who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) And, it is those who are led by the Spirit who will reap eternal life. (Galatians 5:7) The Law and the Prophets must be fulfilled, but it will be accomplished by Christ in one. Paul taught that you are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12) and that he was given “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:16)

Those who reject His leadership will suffer judgement for their rebellion and disobedience in light of His provision, starting with the household of God. The One who is in the believer will be his Judge.

The law must be completed but the Spirit enlightens, leads and empowers the obedient for its accomplishment. The believer need not walk around under the oppression of the law because Christ will satisfy it for the obedient. As Paul has recorded, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV)

Doesn’t this make your heart rejoice?

 

February 3, 2016

The 613 Commandments

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a wild ride today!

I always enjoy returning to K.W. Leslie’s blog, but this time around the blog has a new name, The Christ Almighty Blog, and a new location. Clicking the title below will take you to the site, and you’ll want to click through today because we’re only bringing you half of the article, the rest is a list of all 613 commandments!

What, you thought there were only 10 commandments?

ten_commandmentsGod’s 613 commands, and how Christians treat them.

Most Christians are familiar with the fact there are 10 commandments. Ex 20.1-17 Not so familiar with the actual 10 commands, but we do tend to know there are 10 of them, and it wouldn’t hurt to live by them. In fact the politically-minded among us think it’d be a good idea for the whole of the United States to live by them… although it’s a bit of a puzzler how we might simultaneously enforce “You’ll have no other gods before me” Ex 20.3 and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Amendment 1

Some of us have also heard the idea there are 12 commandments. Where’d the extra two come from? Well, someone once asked Jesus his opinion on the greatest command.

Mark 12.28-31 KWL
28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.
Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,
“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:
“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.
30 You must love your Lord God with all your heart, life, purpose, and might.’ Dt 6.4-5
Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Lv 19.18
No command is higher than these.”

Since these two commands aren’t among the 10, certain Christians tack ’em on at the end.

But there’s far from just 12 commands. There’s 613.

Technically there are even more than 613. But when you combine redundant commands—namely all the commands repeated in Deuteronomy, like the 10 commandments Dt 5.1-21 —you get 613 of them. Or at least that was the conclusion of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135-1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews). Moshe listed them in his book Sefer Hamitzvot/“Book of Good Deeds.” He had slightly different priorities than Jesus, which is why he put loving God at 3 and 4 in his list, and loving neighbors at 13.

These commands are mostly for everyone. There are many priest-specific commands, which don’t apply to the general population. (Although Pharisees customarily practiced ’em anyway, figuring all Jews ought to be as ritually clean as priests.) There are also many gender-specific commands, which apply to men and not women, or women and not men.

And let’s be honest: There is a double standard in the Law. Women and men may be equal in Christ, Ga 3.28 but not under Law. Fr’instance there’s a test for a wife’s faithfulness, Nu 5.11-30 but no such thing for husbands. ’Cause under patriarchy, men could have sex with any woman in their household. The Law abolished many of patriarchy’s customs—no they couldn’t have sex with just anyone they wished. But though abolishing patriarchy was God’s goal—with men in leadership or service practicing monogamy 1Ti 3.2, 12 and loving their wives like Christ loves his church Ep 5.25 —he didn’t do it outright in his Law. Though certainly the test of a wife’s faithfulness under the Law is considerably better than the previous patriarchal custom: Kills her without any trial. Ge 38.24

How Christians see the Law.

Christians are of three minds when it comes to following the Law. And some of us are of multiple minds: Sometimes we follow one of these practices, and sometimes another, depending on when it’s convenient or advantageous.

  1. Fulfilled. The most common belief you’ll find among Christian theologians is there are three types of commands:
    1. Moral, defining right and wrong. They always apply.
    2. Ritual, defining the religious practices of ancient Israel and ritual cleanliness. In his self-sacrifice, Jesus rendered them irrelevant: We don’t need to sacrifice animals and grain anymore, or practice ritual cleanliness. (In fact, doing so indicates we don’t really believe in what Jesus did for us.)
    3. Judicial, defining the civic society of ancient Israel. They apply to Israelis, not gentiles. Gentile Christians should study them, since they describe God’s will and justice, and adopt their principles in our cultures. But obedience isn’t mandatory; just recommended.
  2. Abolished. The most common belief you’ll find among Christian non-theologians (i.e. everybody else) is every command, of every sort, has been abolished altogether. Except maybe the 12 commandments, and the commands against homosexual stuff, and anything else we’d kinda like to apply. But in general Jesus wiped out sin, freed us from the Law, and we’re no longer under it. We’re totally, absolutely free, to do what we want, any old time. (Scholars call these folks antinomians. Jesus just calls ’em lawless. Mt 23.28)
  3. Advisory. Certain Christian libertarians agree with the antinomians: Every command was abolished, and we needn’t do them. But same as with the judicial commands, the Law still describes God’s will and justice, and they’re a good guideline, a good set of principles to live by. In that spirit, we should adopt those principles as our lifestyle. (But not enforce them on others. ’Cause grace.)
  4. Applicable. Jesus, because he’s the LORD who handed down the Law in the first place—it’s his Law—didn’t abolish any of it. He simply affirmed some issues in the Law are more important, and some issues are less important. Use your head, but follow the Law.
  5. Semi-applicable. Among certain Christian legalists, you’ll find the position that Jesus fulfilled the ritual commands, which no longer apply; but all the others do apply. (They’ll even include some of the cleanliness rules.) Further, these laws ought to become the law of the land.
  6. Applicable to Jews. If you’re a Jew, the Law still applies, ’cause God’s covenant with Israel is an everlasting one. If you’re gentile (like me), we’re not obligated to follow any commands other than the ones God applies to all humanity, as told to Noah:
Genesis 9.1-7 KWL
1 God blessed Noah and his sons.
He told them, “Bear fruit. Be many. Fill the earth.
2 Respect for you, and terror of you, is upon every beast of the earth, bird of the skies;
upon everything which crawls in the dirt, every fish in the sea. They’re put in your hand.
3 Every moving, living thing is for you,
for food like the plants I gave you. All for you.
4 Only don’t eat living meat, or blood.
5 I only demand from your hand your blood, your lives.
I demand it of every living thing; I demand it of humanity.
I demand the life of humanity from your and your brother’s hand.
6 One who spills human blood: Their blood will be spilled by humanity.
For God made humanity in God’s image.
7 And you: Bear fruit. Be many.
Swarm the earth. Be many in it.”

From this, they extrapolate “seven Noahide commands”: Don’t deny God, blaspheme God, murder, have illicit sex, steal, eat live animals; and create a justice system to ensure people follow the above. If gentiles do this, they’re fine with God. This is also called a dual-covenant system, and appears to be what the early Christians endorsed. Ac 15.19-21

My own view? The historic fulfilled view: Moral commands count, judicial commands ought to be taken seriously, and ritual commands are moot.

But the danger of all commands is when we try to follow them without taking God’s character into mind—without his love, grace, patience, and forgiveness. When people sin against you, forgive. Lk 17.3-4 Too many Christians “forgive,” but try to exact penalties from people for sinning, and obligate people to earn back their good graces. That may be fine for civic authorities, but wholly inappropriate for Christians.

>>Click here and scroll down to read all 613 commands.

 

September 19, 2015

You Need God’s Love to Love God

Through the blogroll of the author we featured yesterday, we discovered Justin Petrick Ministries. The article below intrigued us, and I think it will you. As always, don’t read the posts here, click the title below to read at the author’s website or blog.

Why You Need God’s Love to Love God

Whether a person is born again or not, the love they not only receive or experience,  but also the love they have to give to others is the love of God.  Love is in this very natural realm, because of God.  Love is the very nature of God because it is God (1 John 4:8).  Therefore, if there was no god there would be no love in this world, for love would not exist.

This is why there is no way to prove love or to see it manifest tangibly, to scientifically measure it or gauge it.  Science cannot prove its evolution nor its origination.  This is because love never had an beginning, for it is God.

Being that love is God, we can only conclude that the only way we are to love others is through the love that we are given from God.  And if we are given love from God, the only way we can love God is by His love.  If you recall, in the Old Testament Law we are told to love others as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18).  However, when God writes His new law on our hearts upon salvation, we are told to do something even greater.  To love others as God loves us.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”   – John 13:34 NIV

God has given us this perfect love of His, that we can not only love others, but love HIm.  So, how do we receive His love so that we can love others, even God?

By accepting His forgiveness.

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” – Luke 7:47 NLT

In Luke 7:47, why did Mary Magdalen show Jesus much love?  Because she knew that she had been forgiven MUCH!  The greatest way for you to be able to love others, is by accepting the purest form of love in the galaxy, the forgiveness of God.  If you believe that you are forgiven little, or sometimes, it will directly affect your ability to love others.  In fact, it will directly affect your ability to receive God’s love, thereby affecting your ability to love even Him.

And this is one of the greatest factors I find in those who are having difficulty with the Christian walk, or feeling distant from God, is they are having difficultly receiving God’s love.  In fact, I believe this is one of the hardest things for us to do, to simply let God love us.  This is laboring to enter His rest.  It is the constant battle to simply allow God to spoil us with His love when at times, it doesn’t make sense to us because we are imperfect.  We beat ourselves over our heads by judging our imperfect actions.  We judge ourselves and assume how God sees us, rather than believing in the perfection of God and His perfect love for us.

This is why the old covenant, or the Old Testament Law was made null and void (Hebrews 7:18), because it depended on man keeping it (Hebrews 9:20), or our ability to be righteous based on being perfect, or following the 10 commandments at all times.  This is why the Old Testament Law did not work, because we are imperfect.  In fact, the only thing it did do was make us conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).  Now, because of the cross, in the New Covenant our righteousness is based on the ability of one man to keep the New Covenant with God, through His perfection and not ours, which is Jesus Christ.  We are made perfect because Christ exchanged His righteousness for our sin, and forgiving us.  That is perfect love.

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. – Hebrews 9:15 NIV

When one understands God sees them perfect and blameless, only then can they truly believe they are forgiven much. And to understand that we are truly forgiven for everything we have done and will do, is when we can truly receive God’s love.  And by receiving this perfect love of God, we are not only able to love others as God loves us, but in fact, we are able to love God through living by faith.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God.” – Hebrews 11:6

April 25, 2014

Death to the Law

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

On Tuesday, a radio preacher described this verse as being #2 — after John 3:16 — in terms of verses every Christian should know. It is a great promise to hold on to, that Christ lives in me and I live life in him.

Galations 2 20

But contextually, Paul is writing about the transition that the new Jewish converts to Christianity must face: From living life under the law, to living life apart from the law.  Here is the context with the verses before and after, and then commentary from Scot McKnight in the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) on these verses as sourced at BibleGateway.com

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” 

 

In converting to Christ, the Jewish Christian finds spiritual life through death, understood here as being crucified with Christ to the law so that the resurrected Christ might grant his new life to the believer (vv. 19–21). Paul says three things in this section.

(a) The “Jewish Ego,” the privilege Jews thought they had—but had only until Christ—died to the law. This took place when Paul (and Peter) converted to Christ. This they did so “I might live for God.” What Paul is describing here is not some mystical (daily) experience. He is describing the common conversion experience of Jews: when they turn to Christ, they die to the law as the means of salvation. And the law helps in that it runs its course until Christ (3:19).

(b) The life Paul now lives for God is the result of dying with Christ (v. 20). But the life Paul lives (“I”) is the life the Jewish Christian finds in Christ. It is a life of the indwelling Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17) and the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 3:1–5; 5:22–23). When the Jewish Christian died to the law by dying with Christ (who absorbed the full wrath of God that came about because of the law’s work), that Jewish Christian was raised a new person: a post-law Jewish Christian. That person was now indwelt by Christ and the Holy Spirit, who would now guide and control.

(c) In opting for the Christ system, these Jewish believers were not setting aside God’s grace. Here we must infer that the accusation against the Jewish Christians was that they were setting aside God’s grace. Surely for them this grace was understood as the law of Moses. Paul counters: “No, it is not we who are setting aside God’s grace when we leave the law. Rather, you (who do not come with us) are missing the great grace of God in Christ.” In fact, Paul argues that everything in their conversion was for naught if a proper standing before God could be achieved by obeying the law. If that could have been done, there would have been no need at all for Christ. But these Judaizers had indeed confessed that Christ was God’s agent for salvation.

July 29, 2013

If We Claim to be Without Sin

If We Claim to be Without Sin

The phrase that forms the title of today’s thoughts is part of the first chapter of John’s first epistle.  Here’s are some thoughts from other online writers…


Because a biblically-managed life depends on maintaining an eternal perspective while living in a temporal world, we must consistently examine our lives…

Dealing With My Sin

As a believer, the penalty of sin is gone but the propensity to sin remains. We will sin in word, thought, and deed. But the great truth is this: When we confess our sins, He forgives us. We need to confess our sins daily to the Lord.

Read the following passages and then list those sins that seem to continually raise their ugly heads in your life. Confess them to God and experience His forgiveness based on the promises of His Word.

For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 32:4-5

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

~Ron Moore at The Journey


Part of the sickness we can observe in our culture is the need to be good, or to seem innocent where guilt should be admitted.  As long as no one catches us, we tell ourselves we really haven’t done anything bad.  As long as we can find some problem in our background to explain our pain, we act as though we’re not responsible for our lives of addiction and irresponsibility.  As long as some lawyer can find a reasonable judge or a technicality that can get us off, we think we don’t have to worry about the cheating, stealing and assaulting that we’ve committed.  If we deny we do bad things, we suffer on the inside even if our reputation seems to hold together for a while on the outside.  God clearly tells us that one of the great gifts of true goodness is the cleansing we feel after we’ve admitted our faults and our sins.

 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 NIV)

Keeping the rules and checking the “balance sheet” is another favorite method of tricking ourselves into thinking we are good people.  We follow the rules but push and shove anyone who gets in our way while we do it.  We use all the times we’ve done the right thing to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for the rules we break.  We do good things for others and tell ourselves we are “pretty good people” even though we know we have bad attitudes and hidden resentments.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between doing good things and goodness as a character quality.  Jesus taught His follower,

“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.”  (Luke 18:19 NIV)

In spite of the challenges and ethical confusion, as followers of Jesus, we are taught to do good.  Also we are told that one of the signs that God lives in us is that our lives demonstrate “goodness.”   God has created us for good work, flowing from a good heart.  The challenging question for us is:  Are we just “looking good” or are we really good?

~from the blog Partners In Hope Today

“I’m wrong.”

It is hard for these words to roll off the tongue.

Pride doesn’t want to admit it. Fear won’t allow us to admit it.

Our pride tells us we are basically good people. Admitting that we are wrong might sully that good reputation.

Our fear doesn’t want to deal with the “potential” consequences.

Neither is of the Lord.

God calls us to walk in truth. Often times that means admitting we are wrong. The Bible calls this confession. It is simply agreeing with God.

Knowing that Jesus loves us puts our fleshly pride and fear in their place. Trust Him. Walk in truth. Go ahead and say those dreaded words, “I’m wrong.”

It will work together for good, just as He promised.

~Bob Christopher at Basic Gospel


“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:

Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognized, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:

Take time to acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

~Soaring Eagle at the blog Softly Spoke the River

 

November 13, 2012

To Whom Did Paul Say, “For What I Want to Do I Do not Do”?

While we recognize that Romans 7 is New Testament, we often over-Christianize it and miss out on the Old Testament world that shaped the times of the apostles. Scott Lencke at the blog The Prodigal Thought works through this thought, you’re encouraged to read this at source where it appeared (sans soundtrack) as De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.

Everyone know The Police song, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da? If not, you can have a listen and watch here.

Now Romans 7 is difficult enough just on its own terms. But add in the distraction of Sting belting out one of his great hits, well, it’s simply all over (especially after watching the video!).

Why Romans 7 and The Police?

Romans 7 is that chapter where Paul uses the word do so many times. Yes, that chapter! I count 20 times in vs15-20! There we find the famed words,

‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Actually, did you know Romans 7 causes difficulty? Not because of The Police, but rather because people have been debating for a very long time whether Paul is describing the normal life of a Christian or non-Christian.

The popular belief today, at least amongst evangelicals, is that Paul is describing a Christian. For starters, it is argued, if Paul says, ‘For in my inner being I delight in God’s law,’ this cannot be reality for an unregenerate, depraved human. Not only that, but what I think happens even more is that we look at our own lives, evaluate our daily living, and concur that vs15 and vs19 speak very truly about us – ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Now, while some might loathe the idea of utilizing our experience to understand Scripture, I wouldn’t say it’s completely terrible. I’m an advocate of something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral that recognizes we have more than Scripture alone in helping us understand God’s revelation. Rather this perspective takes a more holistic approach, identifying a) Scripture, b) tradition (there is such things as good tradition), c) reason (not ‘objective rationalism’) and d) experience as important in grasping the revelation of God.

So, my point is that understanding Scripture is not completely devoid of our human experience and encounter with God and his truth.

Thus, having said that, those 2 well-known verses (Rom 7:15, 19) might parallel something going on in our own lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was given to describe our situation. You see, this banter about whether Paul is describing the Christian or non-Christian life, I think it might just bring us on an adventure of missing the point. Well, I would concede it’s part of the point. But I don’t believe it’s the greater point of Paul in what is our ch.7 (you know Paul didn’t have chapter and verse divides in his letter).

What I think happens is that we gloss over a vital statement. And I suppose we miss the larger context of the letter and the sweeping thought of chapters 6-8. So maybe we start there.

What in the world is going on in Rome? For this letter was written to a particular church in Rome.

Paul is writing to a church that is extremely divided. Why?

Some 6 to 8 years before Paul wrote to the church, the emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from the area of Italy (see Acts 18:1-2). Thus, the church became strongly Gentile. But the successor to Claudius, emperor Nero, allowed the Jews to make their way back into this area of the Roman empire. So we have a church situation that has become mainly Gentile over a number of years, which means you have a strong group of people mainly disconnected from the Abrahamic faith of Israel. Mix in a strong group of Jews desiring to see their great heritage fall to the wayside and you’ve got a bit of a challenge.

So here is a man with wisdom and pastoral compassion trying to help both Jews and Gentiles. You can sense it right throughout the letter.

But what about the difficulty of Romans 7? How does this fit into the Roman context?

Well, we could work through chs.6 and 8, but let’s come back to that. This is where 7:1 becomes all-important.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?

Who is Paul speaking to?

Jews! Those who know the law.

Yes, Paul does tell us early on in the letter that even those who do not have the Jewish Torah have a law for themselves (see Rom 2:14-15). But, looking at this statement in 7:1, I think it quite clear Paul is speaking to those who know Yahweh’s Torah, as summed up in the Law of Moses.

When you realize that Paul is mainly speaking to Jews, in this little interlude between chapters 6 and 8, I believe it opens up the passage quite a lot.

It’s not so much about whether Paul is describing a Christian or non-Christian, though we can talk about that, and I will. Rather it’s primarily about one who is trying to live under the law.

And so I do believe we can ascribe to a Jew, a good Jew in the context of the first century, these words of Paul: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (7:22).

Paul’s not really caught up in our debates about prevenient or irresistible grace. He is describing a good Jew like himself based right in the tension of the first century as things were strongly evolving into the light of the new covenant in Christ. For someone who delights in the law but tries to live under the reign of the law, that person is going to find herself or himself in quite a pickle. Such a Jew might end up arguing with themselves, like Gollum and Smeagol, as seen here. Such a major internal war!

This is why the preceding words of chapter 6 become extremely important. Especially statements like these: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).

The one joined to Christ has been freed from the reign of both sin and law. Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. But living under the reign of grace, as seen and expressed in the faithfulness of Jesus, releases one to ‘serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code’ (Rom 7:6). And Paul reminds us of the delivery that takes place in Jesus Christ (7:24-25). Not only that, but ‘through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (8:2).

‘Ok, then. But what about 7:25, part b,’ one may ask?! It says: So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Yes, a good Jew will want to be a slave (or obedient) to the torah-law. But that person living in light of their sinful nature, the flesh, will become a slave to the law of sin. It’s reality for Paul, for any Jew. Again, Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. This is why Paul could give his list of achievements for being best Jew of the century, but at the same time list his persecution of Christians (see Phil 3:4-6). Living under the reign and lordship of the law is ludicrous, even making one proud of their accomplishments that are contrary to the will of God (and for Paul, that was watching Christians be murdered!). A proper Jew needs releasing from such a view, being drown in the reign of the grace of God in the faithfulness of Jesus.

Now, there is no doubt we could think about the application of chapter 7 for us, Gentiles, some 2000 years later. Though let me remark that I don’t think it completely possible to think like a Jew, even more a Jew from some 2000 years ago like Paul. Still, we can consider the ease of making our own law (not in a Rom. 2 sense, but from an extreme moralistic framework). And, thus, we try and live an overly controlled life under this law, which really ends up wrecking our own hearts and lives, as well as others’. We have to grapple with the practicalities of living under the reign of law rather than the reign of grace.

But Paul is talking about those who know the law, the Mosaic torah. In this extremely divided Roman church, he is taking time to address his brothers and sisters in the fleshly heritage.

And, so, in a sense, Paul is creating a before and after situation. Jews would have once been driven by their commitment to the precious rule of the law (or maybe they still were). But now it was time to live under the reign of grace, under the new way of the Spirit, under the rule of Christ Jesus. That was the glories of which Paul was proclaiming.

This is what Romans 7 is all about, tucked into the middle of a letter to the church in Rome, tucked in between two very telling chapters, that being chapters 6 and 8. I think if we remember this, it will help us continue to understand what God has done for us and in us through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And it will release us to live more and more under the reign of grace, the Jew first and also the Gentile.

~Scott Lencke

March 21, 2012

Rewriting the Epistles in the First Person

Here’s a really cool idea I’ve never seen before. You take a chapter of one of Paul’s epistles and rework it verse-by-verse into a first person declaration.  B. J. Stockman guest posted this at Vitamin Z, and I’m going to give you about half of it, but you’ll have to click through for the whole chapter.  He calls it “preaching to yourself.”  This could also be a great exercise for a small group, Sunday School class or youth group.

Galatians Chapter Three
  • I will not be foolish and be cast under the spell of trading the true Gospel of grace for a different one.  My greatest remedy against false gospels is to be infatuated and continually familiar with the true Gospel.  (3:1)
  • I will not be impressed with preachers that do not focus my eyes on Jesus Christ and whom do not consistently paint the picture of the crucified Jesus before me no matter how clever and inspiring and motivating they are in their preaching. (3:1)
  • I receive the Holy Spirit by faith, not by works.  I desire more of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, and I receive the Spirit by faith in the finished work of Christ not by doing works. (3:2)
  • I will not pursue sanctification by works, but by faith.  I recognize that justification and sanctification are both by faith.  (3:3)
  • When suffering comes I know that it is not in vain, but that the Holy Spirit is still working.  Therefore I trust Jesus for endurance through suffering. (3:4)
  • God generously provides me with the Holy Spirit and works miracles through faith, not works.  I desire God’s gifts of a greater filling of the Holy Spirit and miracles, and I trust Him to provide them. (3:5)
  • I will not despise the preached word, but will believe the preached word that glorifies Jesus and emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  I recognize that hearing the word is critical in building my faith. (3:1-2, 5)
  • I know that God counted Abraham righteous because he believed God.  (3:6)
  • I am a son of Abraham because I believe the Gospel.  My brothers and sisters who believe the Gospel are sons of Abraham as well. (3:7)
  • The Old Testament Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.  Abraham had the gospel preached to him, as all nations are blessed in Abraham.  Therefore I will not ignore the Old Testament, but trust God’s word and God’s gospel in all the Scriptures. (3:8)
  • The blessing of Abraham is upon me because I am a believer like Abraham. (3:9)
  • When I work from law I am returning to the curse because I do not do all that is written in the law.  I refuse to live under the curse that the law brings, because I am now in Christ. (3:10)
  • It is evident that no one is justified by law-keeping, because in the Old Testament God has made clear that the righteous live by faith.  God’s righteousness is imputed to me by faith in Jesus not by law-keeping, and I am justified before God by faith not by law-keeping.  (3:11)
  • I will not live with the idea that the Old Testament was about law, while the New Testament is about faith.  God has always, in the Old and New Testament, said that the righteous live by faith not law. (3:10-12)

You’re almost halfway through but the best is ahead…. keep reading (click here)

You’ll also find on the same blog examples of Galatians 1 and Galatians 2.

Update, Saturday March 24th: Later on in the week, B. J. added chapters four and five.  We decided to publish both chapter five in the NIV and B. J.’s first person version at Thinking Out Loud in parallel, so you could compare what he wrote side-by-side with the text.

September 17, 2011

Short Devotionals With Big Ideas

Once again today, God totally provided something to be re-posted here through a comment left at T. O. L.   Carley Evans is in her third year of blogging almost every day at Grace Partakers, which is now listed in the blogroll here.  Each day’s devotional title is based on a phrase of the key verse and I appreciate her use of a variety of translations.  I read through about a dozen of her recent posts and a few of her very first, and ultimately decided to give you a sample of two of her most recent; something we’ve never done here before.  Her posts are shorter than some we’ve done here, but she digs into some deep ideas and leaves you with something to consider. 

Don’t rush through these. Perhaps you can take a minute to read each one through a second time. The title of each post is also the direct link to the article.

“Don’t Handle, Don’t Taste, Don’t Touch” ( Colossians 2: 21, NIV )

“Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom,” says Paul. However, “they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23) Instead, these rules calling for you to not handle, not taste and not touch create only a “self-imposed worship,” a “false humility” and offer only “harsh treatment of the body” without any lasting effect on the state of the soul. (Colossians 2:23)

“Do not let anyone,” says Paul, “judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)

People get puffed up with false humility, warns Paul. They go on and on about conforming to rules and regulations, “which depend on human tradition.” (Colossians 2:8) Instead, rejoice that “God makes you alive with Christ. He forgives [you] all [your] sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that is against us and that stands opposed to us; He takes it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He makes a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)

Because God cancels the written code, why then put yourself back under that which has no authority?

~Carley Evans

“We Know And Believe The Love” ( 1 John 4: 16, KJV )

One of the saddest personality flaws is the inability to know and believe that you are loved. Janis Joplin had such a personality flaw; she was incapable of believing people loved her. Despite accolades for her music, she lead a barren existence of self-doubt, self-hatred, and abject loneliness. By loneliness, I am not referring to solitude, but to that feeling of complete isolation in the midst of shouting people — people shouting adoration and respect and yes — love. The loneliest moments for Janis were likely those in the midst of her public admirers. Janis also unfortunately did not know and believe the love of those closest to her, no matter how they tried to convince her. She found herself totally unlovable.

The author of 1 John writes that “we know and believe the love that God has to us. God is love.”

What an amazing statement — read it again. “We know and believe the love that God has to [or toward] us.” Why? Because “God is love.” And if we know and believe God, then we know and believe His love. Like Paul reminds, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) Essentially, assures Paul, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Do not insult God. Do not hold yourself in such low esteem that you fail to realize God is love. Know and believe the love God has toward you! His love does not depend upon you; His love is wholly dependent upon the sacrifice of His Son.

~Carley Evans

Footnote: I want to add something here that I don’t usually share. Writing a post a day like Carley does or like I’ve been doing takes a great deal of discipline; but I am so much richer for doing this, as it has propelled me into considering scriptures and ideas that I never would have previously. 

Have you ever considered doing something like this? Even if no readers showed up — and actually, they will — it would be of great benefit.