Sunday, July 5, 2020

Chosen by Grace (Romans 11:1-6)


Romans 11:1-6
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.


The whole "foreknew" verses "predestined" thing sometimes drives me crazy. If God foreknew, did He not know before we were created? And if so, is there really much difference between His foreknowing and predestination? I'm glad I don't have his job with my limited knowledge.

Either way you feel about the above subject, the point of the passage is that God does not desert those destined for salvation. That is what grace is all about. God gives grace, we don't earn it. So if God selects or foreknows of your salvation, you are secure. That is different from your knowing about your salvation, because many of us believe lies. So while we should have some assurance of salvation, there is also the element of testing our faith, making sure it is in line with the gospel. That is a tough enough job in itself.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hear Me or Not (Romans 10:20-21)


Romans 10:20-21
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”


This is an interesting passage to me. What does Isaiah mean when he says that "I have been found by those who did not seek me." What does Paul hope to show by quoting it? I think the answer to the second question is Paul is seeking to validate his words from the previous chapter about the gentiles, "who did not pursue righteousness have attained it." They were not looking for it, did not seek it, but God has shown it to them. Whereas Israel, those who had the law of righteousness, who pursued it not through faith but on their own merits, failed.

I often wonder, are we the now new Israel? Have we deserted faith and are again seeking to obtain grace through our own merits. I think back to a church we attended. Every sermon was about doing better and trying harder. Every activity sought to lift up the church itself. Go, pick up trash at the river on community clean up day, and before you go, be sure to get your church shirt with the church logo and a cute saying about service on it. Not that this is a bad thing, but if done to obtain God's favor, it is just another filthy rag on the pile. Not quite an acceptable offering. Jesus told us, "Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," but if some there happen to see those shirts, they will know where you came from. And if the media picks up on this, all the better. Soon, we will have a group of good people doing good things. But if that is the gospel we preach, I fear we have missed the mark. It's not that we do good things to merit God's favor, it's that because we have God's favor we do good things. To some, it seems like splitting hairs. Others might not even see the difference. But God know. After all, He has to keep cleaning those rags off the altar.

Parable of the Virgins?? Some brought enough (?), others brought more.

Child: I did what you told me. Exact words.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Obeying the Gospel (Romans 10:16-17)


Romans 10:16-17
How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.


Yes, beautiful are those who preach the gospel, keeping in mind, that not all who preach, preach the gospel. He goes on to say, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." Is he talking about the preachers or the hearers? I think, because of the context brought in by the next sentence, he speaks of the hearers. Hearing is not enough. Hearing must be coupled with belief. Faith comes from hearing, but hearing alone is not a guarantee that faith will come.

Here is a tough thought: If we do not hear the truth, we will not believe the truth, yet I believe that we are responsible for believing the truth. So what about those who do not hear the truth? Are they only accountable for what they have been told? Perhaps their fate is the same as those who never hear at all. Yet if Jesus is the only way to salvation, it appears that those who never hear will also not be able to attain salvation.

But again, this is an instance where I must put my faith in God. My human heart questions if it is fair that those who never hear are still accountable. But my understanding of the Bible is that they are. I can question God, but I must also accept His answer, one that I might not hear this side of eternity. But if those who hear really believe, then many will hear. But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Context!! (Romans 10:5-10)


Romans 10:5-10
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.


I tend to hear the latter part of this section a lot. To me, it is the closest you can come to the "say a prayer and you're saved" thinking of some. All you have to do is confess Jesus, and only once! All you have to do is believe, if only for a moment! But what about the larger context?

In this section, Paul is apparently referencing Deut. 30:11-14. He is reminding the reader that God's commandments are not our of reach, and sharing the importance of the fact that a life of faith does not use the excuse that we cannot live a sinless life, so God does not expect that from us. Then Paul speaks of believing in our heart, not a one time belief or statement, but a belief that has changed us (repentance). Confession, likewise, is not a one time statement or action, but the result of our belief. This is for all, not just the Jew. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. No, we will not attain perfection this side of eternity. If that were true, then there would have to be a point when our sanctification stopped, because we had achieved perfection. But we strive, we keep pressing on, we do not give up. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Zeal is Not Enough! (Romans 10:1-4)


Romans 10:1-4
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 (recognition, full discernment, acknowledgement). 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.


Paul's heart is for Israel, and he desires that all Israel to be saved. He knows that they have a zeal for God, but he also knows that zeal is not enough. Is that not a frightening statement? But their zeal was misplaced, it was not based on a knowledge of God. He's not talking about some secret, gnostic heresy, he's talking about the truth one finds when God opens their heart to reveal Himself to them. Their zeal was based on what they could earn from God through obedience to the law. Paul has just spent the previous chapters trying to explain that salvation is not through obedience, but through faith. They, Israel, had sought righteousness through obedience, which makes it their own righteousness. God's righteousness comes through Christ, and the byproduct of that faith leads to obedience. There is such a huge difference in God's eyes.

Much like Paul, I think about the church, and how I wish that all could be saved. But my fear is that many in the church have the same issue as the Israelites, that they have a zeal, but not according to knowledge. They may have a different set of laws, but they still are trying to establish their own righteousness rather than submit to God's righteousness.

For some, perhaps the zeal is a result of wanting to be saved rather than wanting to be with God. But salvation is so much more than just not wanting to go to hell.

Christ is the end of the law. He is the end of trying to please God through our own efforts.  The result of trying to establish our own righteousness is anxiety, fear, mistrust, manipulation. Jesus said His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) Relax, trust, then obedience is a natural result, then the relationship will be a genuine relationship.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trivial Pursuit? (Romans 9:30-33)


Romans 9:30-33
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.”


Israel pursued righteousness (as do many Christians today) through the law. It was what they were taught and what they knew. It is also the default condition of the human heart and thought process when it comes to reconciliation. If I did someone wrong, I must make restitution. Our laws are based on this idea. But Israel did not attain their goal, for there is no law that leads to reconciliation with God. There is nothing we can do to reconcile our behavior with a perfect God.

Yet there is hope, because there is a righteousness available that is not based on the law. Instead, it is based on faith. Through faith we are saved because through faith we are forgiven. Think of a child who has committed an act against their parents. Let's say they became angry and threw a rock through one of the windows of the house. Later, they regret their action. They make a card telling their parent how sorry they are, they are sincerely sorry and realize their wrong. The parent forgives them? Why? Was it the card? Could the parent take the card to the store and buy a new window with it? No. Clearly, not enough restitution has been made to forgive the act, yet it was forgiven because of the heart of the child. Grace.

So what happens to the child who is not under grace? They are under the law. They will likely face punishment because of their action. The law and the punishment do not make for reconciliation. Or what if the child takes it upon themself to reconcile, so they go into their piggy bank, take out enough money to repair the window, and gives it to the parents. No apology, no remorse, just hands them the money and walks away. Is there reconciliation? Has the relationship been restored? Not at all.

Jesus is the stumbling stone for those who rely on the law. A rock of offense. That is becuse with Jesus you cannot just pay your restitution and move on with life as if all is well. He requires faith, repentance, genuine sorrow. Basically, with Jesus we cannot fix it through our own actions, but only through faith. And those who believe in Him will not be put to shame, Amen.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Why Am I Guilty? (Romans 9:19-24)


Romans 9:19-24
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 


Perspective is everything when it comes to understanding and to faith. Do we see things from our eyes, or do we try to look at things through the eyes of God. Of course, it is impossible for us to look at things the way that God does, and that it where humility comes in. Sometimes, I just have to admit that I can't do it, or I don't understand, and I just accept.

I believe it is the movie Commando, where Arnold is holding a person over a cliff, questions him, then lets go of his leg. He falls to sure death. When asked later, what he did to that person, he responds, "I let him go." The person thinks that Arnold has freed him with no harm. Arnold knows differently. Did Arnold lie? No. But the other person's perception led them to a different truth.

Who are we to even question God? We are less that ants in the universe. We are clay in the hands of the potter. Legos in the hands of a child. I played with Legos as a child and beyond. Made some pretty cool stuff in my opinion. Then, took it apart and made other things. How could I do that? How could I take apart what I had made, what I liked, what I had put time into? Easy, I wanted to be able to make other cool stuff later. They were my Legos, and they could not question my choices.

Do you know the story of Hosea? Asked to marry a woman of unfaithfulness (some would say a prostitute). God's plan. Hosea obeyed. That's all God asks, trust and obey.