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.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Is God Unjust? (Romans 9:14-18)


Romans 9:14-18
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.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 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.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.


I think saving faith in God is more than just the belief that He exists. Even the demons believe, and shudder! (James 2:19) No, the kind of faith that saves us also goes to the character of God and our willingness to put ourselves in His hands no matter the circumstance. (See Philippians 4:11,12) So we don't understand why children have to die, why I lost my job, why a friend or relative died of cancer. I do not let that shake my belief that God is in control and has all things in His hands, and that in the ultimate end, he does work all things for good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose.

What if Calvin was (mostly) right? What if Arminius was (mostly) right? What if they were both wrong? What if you get to heaven, and grandma is not there, like the preacher at her funeral said she would be? Do you want to leave now? One of the things that I find ironic is people who do not believe in God because He does not do things the way they would do things. That is like when the 5 year old screams and says, "I do not love you!" because he has to eat beans instead of ice cream with his meal.

Faith, love, and trust all go hand in hand. To follow Jesus is not only to believe that He exists, but also to love and trust Him. Are you willing to let Him lead, and follow wherever He takes you? God is not unjust, but sometimes we might not be able to comprehend His justice. That does not make Him wrong, it makes us wrong. Like the 5 year old.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

God's Choice? (Romans 9:6-13)


Romans 9:6-13
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”


There is a lot of disagreement as to how Romans 9 should be interpreted. I myself have my thoughts, which may or may not be correct. But I think the real question is, are we willing to accept whatever the answer is"

I recall listening to a preacher tell about a child who was ill. I don't remember all fo the details, but the child died. The preacher made the statement, "God did not do that. I could not worship a God who would kill a baby." While I do not relish the idea of a baby dying, that is not where I draw the line of my faith. I am not God, and I cannot put myself in His place. I will not draw a line that says "I will not worship a God who..."

I recall a story from the Old Testament. David had sinned, and as a result his son would die. David fasted and prayed, but the child died. What did David do? Those around him were afraid, for they saw how David responded while the child was still alive. But here is what David did, he worshiped God. (See 2 Samuel 12) Apparently, David did not place limits on what God could do.

As I said earlier, Romans 9 is a controversial chapter. Does God elect those who are saved, or do we have a choice in salvation? Would I say that if I am wrong, I could not worship such a God. Short answer: No.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Read Carefully (Romans 8:28-29)


Romans 8:28-29
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.


This is a great passage, and one that it quoted often, at least verse 28. But what we don't talk about are the qualifiers that this verse lays out. We love the idea that God works all things together for good, but for who? According to this verse, there are 2 qualifiers. The first is found at the beginning of the verse, where it says, "for those who love God." But what does that mean? Does it mean for those who have prayed a prayer of salvation? Does it mean for those who have been baptized? Does it mean for those who go to church on Sunday? Or is there a deeper love that is meant? Only God knows. Then there is the second part, which is found at the end of verse 28. It says "for those who are called according to his purpose. So is it possible that you could love God and not be called? Again, only God knows for sure, but it does offer some food for thought before claiming this verse.

And then there is Paul. Paul loved God, and I think it is obvious that he was called by God. In fact, Scripture teaches that God knew Paul was His man before he was born (Galatians 1:15). How did Paul's suffering, imprisonment, beatings, etc. work out for his good? Yes, in his salvation! Yet he still had to go through those trials and tribulations.

Then there is verse 29. Foreknew? Predestination? Those are words that divide many in their interpretation. So perhaps that whole discussion is best served another time, but are we willing to accept what God has done however He does it?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Mindset (Romans 8:5-6)


Romans 8:5-6
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.


Scientific research shows that our minds have a powerful affect toward our ability to accomplish a goal. The more likely we believe we can do a task, the more likely we are to get it done. It is called "growth mindset," and directly affects our ability to learn, and therefor e to grow.

In this passage, Paul seems to be discussing mindset. We have a choice, set our minds on things of the flesh or things of the Spirit. Setting your mind on the flesh leads to death (failure), while  setting your mind on the Spirit leads to life and peace. I think this also goes to the idea of what God desires when He calls us to repentance. It is not a matter of turning your back on sin, which for may it would seem is focusing on the flesh and on what we should not be doing. It is more about turning to God (and the Spirit of God), and seeing how His grace will enable us to be successful.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

No Greater Verse? (Romans 8:1)


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


Perhaps there is no greater verse in the Bible than this one. This verse affirms and sums up the gospel in 13 words.

In this verse is hope. In it is promise. In it is salvation. In it is love. In it is redemption. What more do I need today?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Free to Serve (Romans 7:6)


Romans 7:6
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.


Here is what I want to take away from this verse: We still serve!

I know there are some who say that since we are not under the law, we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Paul handles this thought on several occasions, and the answer can be summed up with the words, "by no means!" But then there is also a group that preaches that we are not under the law, but under grace, who are accused of saying that we don't have to do any good works. Who accuses them? Those who would put them under works. Here, Paul makes it clear that works are still important, we still serve, but in a new way. The old way had a list of rules, laws, commandments, so much so that no one could follow them. The new way was to be in the Spirit. This is not some mystical set of feelings that lead the believer, it is the Spirit of love, the Spirit of grace. It is the Christian's heartfelt response to salvation from God. I always go back to Romans 12:1,2. This teaches that we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice because of (as a response to) the mercy of God. This creates transformation, which in turn gives us discernment as to what God desires from us.

Is there a danger here? Absolutely. If we are not honest with ourselves, we could say what we want when it comes to what God wants from us. Jesus addressed this with the parable of the wheat and tares when he told them not to pull the weeds, lest they destroy some of wheat in the process. He said to let them grow together until the harvest, then let God's judgment resolve the issue.

That is tough to do, but I believe that there is so much wisdom in that.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Don't Misunderstand (Romans 6:1-11)


Romans 6:1-11
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
   For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. 
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  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.


This is not an argument that should come from true Christians. It is an argument of manipulation. Those who would say this are twisting Paul's words to say something else. Or, they do not understand if we give the benefit of the doubt.

Manipulators:  So, Paul, you say it is only faith that matters and not my works. I believe, therefore I can do anything I want, no consequence from God.
Paul:  No, that is not what I said, boys. What I said was faith comes before works. You don't use your works to please God, you use your faith. That faith should then motivate your good works, which are then an expression of your faith and love for God.
Manipulators: But you said, "Our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God!"
Paul: Context, friends. I said, "But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means!" Did you catch that. BY NO MEANS! That is not a valid argument! I also said that those who think such things deserve the condemnation they get.
Manipulators:  But you said, "None is righteous, no, not one."
Paul:  Exactly. Which is why we need faith rather than works. It is only through faith in Christ that anyone can be found righteous before God. Even our righteous acts are nothing before God!
Manipulators:  But you said all fall short of the glory of God.
Paul:  ...and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
Manipulators:  You seem to have an answer for everything.
Paul:  Well, I did write most of the New Testament.
Manipulators:  New Testament? What's that?
Paul:  Never mind. We should have an answer when questioned about what we believe, and that answer should be based on faith, not human desires. That is why I talk about dying with Christ that we may live. That is why I talk about the old self being crucified, that we might walk in newness of life. That is why I speak of dying to sin and being alive in Christ. It is not all prettiness and ease. It is not about you and your best life now, it is about Christ and your best life in Him.
Manipulators:  But that is not what we signed up for!
Paul:  I know. But I would not be a servant of Christ if I did not speak the truth. I pray that you will hear and believe it.
This manipulation was not just for the early church. Remember Jesus's words for those who thought they were doing the right things, "‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:23) Those words should serve to scare and wake up many so-called believers.

God's Love (Romans 5:6-11)


Romans 5:6-11
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


God loves us. How do we know this? We look at what He has done, that is what should convict us of His love. The fact that He would suffer and die in the person of Christ for our sins should be all it takes. It should not be our health, our social status, or any other issue because those all pale in comparison to grace. God does not earn our love through His work, it evidences his love.

God was not under obligation to save us. As creator of the universe, it would be His right to make the universe any way He chose, create us in any fashion, and then do with us whatever He pleases. Do we really understand that? He could have created a much more challenging and painful existence for us. No drugs to combat diseases, no knowledge of technology for us, no balance of nature, etc. It could be so much worse. This does not belittle the suffering of some. Some do have a miserable existence, and I do not know why people get the hand that is dealt to them. I just know that some, even in the darkest of moments, can look up to Him and offer praise. Others, having so much will not even acknowledge His existence. Yet He loves us all. He provides rain and sun for those who suffer and those who can sit in a cool house with the AC on.

I cannot explain why things are created the way they are. Neither can anyone else. I think it is the utmost arrogance for people to think that somehow God needs to answer to their level of understanding. For some, it is as if they could create a better universe if they were God. But they can't because they aren't. We can't even agree on how to manage a country, let alone create a universe where everyone would be satisfied.

Yes, sometimes it is hard to rejoice, but that is mainly because we have found something to be dissatisfied with. Paul rejoiced in the most difficult of circumstances. Ironic, because from some of the clues given in Scripture, Paul had a vision problem. Perhaps the fact that he could not see with his physical eyes enabled his spiritual vision to be much greater.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Say What? (Romans 5:1-5)


Romans 5:1-5
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. 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.


If we listen to what many preach and teach as the gospel, this passage would never be found. At least not part of it. Sure, we like the idea of being justified by faith, as long as by faith you mean a one time affirmation that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Not if you mean that true belief in that fact necessitates a change in my behavior, because I actually now adore Him for the great sacrifice He made on my behalf. We live in a generation that loves to be in charge, or at least think that they can be in charge. Grace does not play in to that. Grace puts God in charge. Completely. A very scary thought for many. Works, my part, now that is something many can take a strange kind of comfort in, but it holds no weight before God.

There is another part of this verse that you won't hear in what many preach and teach as the gospel either. The part that says we rejoice in our sufferings. For many, God and/or Christianity is supposed to remove our sufferings. Instead of church being a refuge, many see it as a happy place. We should be experiencing our best life now! But if you are not, it is because you don't have enough faith. And by faith I mean works, and by works I mean money, and by money I mean sending it to my ministry. That way, at least someone is having their best life now.

I'll wait while you scratch that itch in your ear. Satisfied now?

It appears that suffering is a part of the process that produces sanctification. Now there is a word that you don't hear very often. Sanctification. If we heard it and understood it, we would understand that faith is not something intended to be a one time thing. It is not something to be stagnant. Look at the early church. They had to hide, as do Christians in many countries today. I guess they just need more faith.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Couldn't Have Said It Better! (Romans 3:21-31)


Romans 3:21-31
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 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, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 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.


Job had it all, and in that life he worshiped God. Satan saw him, and challenged that he only worshiped God because of the fact that he had it all. In fact, Satan challenged that God had placed a hedge around Job, to protect him and perhaps in essence keep his praise and worship. God knew better, He knew Job's heart. So God allowed Satan to peal away Job's blessings, yet Job continued to praise God, although he also struggled with what was happening to him.

That is faith. And righteousness comes through faith. A child-like faith. I want to share something I ran across while reading some old blog posts from a while back.
My 9 year old son and I were driving to the county fair, listening to the radio. A man was on who had witnessed many atheists and those who had given up their faith. He said that in his experience, people who rejected God on a rational basis always had a painful past that led to this attitude. As he spoke, he mentioned one who had rejected God because his fiance had gotten ill, and even after much intense prayer, she died. I was not aware how intently my son was listening, but suddenly he burst out, "That's ridiculous! You shouldn't hate God just because your fiance dies! God can't do everything! Well, He can, but He does not have to. You shouldn't hate God just because you don't get what you want!"
 Faith like Job. Faith even when things don't go our way. Faith even when our prayers are not answered the way we wish. Our righteousness comes through faith, and we are justified by His grace as a gift. This displays God's righteousness. But do you see what works does in this example? It does not earn or lose salvation for the man who lost his fiance, it reveals that his faith didn't really exist. It was evidence, in this case of a lack of faith.

What if his fiance had been healed? He perhaps would have gone on worshiping not God, but the gifts of God. Maybe until some later time when another intense prayer was not answered. Maybe a parent or sibling dying of cancer? God is not righteous because He gives us everything we want. He is proved righteous because He offers salvation based not upon our works, but upon what Jesus did on our behalf. We are not justified by works, but by faith. Not a one time confession or even a one time ritual, but by a life-changing belief that God, through His Son, has given us what we could never have attained through any other means.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Is Paul Now Preaching Works? (Romans 2:5-10)


Romans 2:5-10
But because of your hard and impenitent (unrepentant) heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.


First, think back to verse 4, where God's patience and kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, and not happiness, prosperity, or other such self-centered things. It all goes back to the idea of repentance. When we hear the gospel message of what Christ has done, that He suffered and died a horrific death on our behalf because of His great love for us, that should have an impact. It should change us. It should take us out of our self-centered lives and put us in a life that worships and adores the one who saved us. Repentance!

Now let's talk about verse 6, because this verse confuses some people. He will render to each one according to his works:  What? I thought we were not saved by works! We are not, but works do play a part in our judgement. Think of it this way, according to Jesus, the mere though of wrong doing makes us guilty of sin. (See Matthew 5:27-28 for example) So in standing before God, our guilt is already there. It is our actions that act as evidence, not determining our guilt, but revealing it.

Many think of judgement day as a day when all of our actions are set before us, and put on a scale, and if the good outweighs the bad we get into heaven. But the Bible says that even our good deeds are like filthy rags before God. (Isaiah 64:6) So how does that balance out any bad that I have done? Judgement day is not about determining our guilt or innocence, it is about revealing it. God already knows, but I think some people will be surprised on that day. That prayer you said, or that altar call you responded to, or that call to be baptized was not salvation. Sorry, that fire insurance policy has lapsed. Judgement day is when God reveals to us, based on the evidence, whether or not we are guilty. And here's the deal, we're all guilty. Our actions only condemn us. But for those who are in Christ, those whose actions show that they have repented, have turned their lives around and live for Christ, they have an advocate. It's not that we are innocent, it's not that we don't deserve punishment, it's that our advocate has already paid the price by taking our punishment on Himself.

I believe on that day many will say, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" (Matthew 7:22) Or they might say, "I said the prayer, I went to the altar, I was baptized by the preacher," etc, but Jesus will respond, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23) Now look at verse 24. "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Wait! weren't the ones whom He just said He did not know doing? Well, yes, but their deeds, their works revealed that in their doing they were only serving themselves. The real doing that Jesus is talking about is not the actual works, but the heart behind those works, and that is what God judges.

Read Romans 2:6-8 now, and if you are honest, you cannot say that Paul is preaching a works-based faith. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 

The reward awaits (verses 9-10), but it awaits those who believe, those who have repented, those who accept the gospel and are changed by it because one cannot help but truly be changed when they truly hear and understand the gospel. I pray that you have ears to hear.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

God's Kindness (Romans 2:4)


Romans 2:4
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?


God is love. I hear a lot of people say that, and I wholeheartedly agree. But love is not the only quality that God possesses. He is also holy, just, omnipotent, and omnipresent to name a few others. All of these qualities are in the God that we should be worshiping. So the same God that loves us, also requires our holiness.

When God is patient with us, why would that be? Many view that from our perspective, saying that because God loves us, He only wants the best for us. Again, I agree. But what is best for us? Is it a pain free life? Is it health and wealth? I don't think so. I think it is holiness, because without holiness no one will see God. When God is patient with us, according to this verse, it is to lead us to repentance, and repentance is hard! True repentance is to turn from a self-centered life to a life this is focused on God. It is a life that replaces its own goals with goals that focus on pleasing God. Not because God needs this, but because we do. God is almighty, and our sin, while breaking His heart, does not ruin His eternity. It breaks His heart because of what it does to us. If I die in my sins, God is still God. The creator of a vast universe, including a multitude of stars, planets, galaxies and more is not going to be belittled by a fleeting speck of dust not honoring Him.

Repentance. Not just turning away from sin, but turning to God. That is where God's kindness should lead us.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Truth for Today (Romans 1:32)


Romans 1:32
Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


I find a lot of truth in this verse. If you look at what people believe, there is a lot of diversity in belief systems. Yet something that is common in many of these systems is that there are those who also believe that everyone should believe like them. Its not enough for some to practice (insert sin here), but they want everyone else to practice it too. This is true for many Christians too. If we don't believe their brand of Christianity, we are wrong. I think back to a recent post, were a woman was visibly upset that someone was street preaching, because in her view, we just love and that should be enough. She even sought to get the crowd's opinion, as if that should determine what a Christian should and should not do. We want to be right, and the more people who think the way we do, the more we feel justified in our choices. Maybe that is why they say, "birds of a feather flock together."

Paul often swam against the current. He did not bow to the judaizers in Galatians, nor to those who allowed sin in the church at Corinth. Sometimes, the majority gets in wrong. Sometimes following the crowd is not a good thing.

Note: Do you know how are it was not to get political in this post, or talk about Prosperity Theology?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What About Those Who Do Not Hear? (Romans 1:18-23)


Romans 1:18-23
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.


I hear a lot of questions about what is the fate of those who do not hear the gospel. I think this answers that question, it clearly says that those who rebel against God have no excuse. I, too, have no excuse. I am guilty. The message of the gospel is that we do not need an excuse if we know Jesus. That is why the gospel changes people who understand it. The gospel is not fire insurance, paid but hopefully never needed. The gospel is a pearl of great price, found and pursued at the cost of everything. The gospel is a lost coin, list and pursued until it is found. The gospel is a hidden treasure, bought at a price of all that is owned.

More on this in Chapter 10.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Paul's Gospel (Romans 1:16-17)


Romans 1:16-17
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.”


This is quite an amazing couple of verses, when interpreted through Paul's eyes. The first thing that strikes me is the word gospel, which many will quickly tell you means, "good news." But do people really know what the gospel truly is? And how does that match up with Paul's vision of what the gospel is?

Today, many might say, "Well, the gospel is the good news that Jesus died in your place, and now if you give your life to Him you will go to heaven when you die." But is that enough? Because I believe there are many people who have said a prayer or even been baptized and believe that is all it takes. Maybe some go beyond that and go to church, live decent lives, avoid things they deem to be sinful, and think that is the answer. But what was the gospel to Paul?

I think it was a lot of things. One, it was the means of salvation through the blood of Christ. Two, it was Christ's sacrificial death that freed us from not only the punishment of the law, but the power that the law held over us. Look at the book of Galatians. Some wanted salvation, but held on to the idea that we were also still under the law. Paul was not afraid to say that this was wrong, and that Christ's sacrifice freed us from the law. Three, the gospel did demand a response to Paul. But it was not the response of living up to a set of regulations, but rather a response of sacrifice because of what the gospel means to those who are saved. To truly be saved by the gospel, to truly be freed by the gospel, one must have a change of heart (repentance) that affected how that individual would live from that point forward. This does not look the same for everyone, and we must be careful about how we judge another's response, but none the less, a change must be evident. The gospel is God's power, displayed in His gift of salvation, and it is for everyone who believes.

Notice that Paul did not just say "it is for everyone," but added "who believes." That belief is evidenced by the life change that individual then exhibits. Yet it is not just the change that matters, it is the motivation behind that change that is a part of the believing. It is not a change that musters its strength to be a good person, but the change that happens because that person has seen God's mercy and responds to it. (See Romans 12:1-2)

The gospel reveals God's righteousness. If the gospel is reduced to a ritual or a prayer, does that really reveal God's righteousness? However, if the gospel is God's forgiveness of our transgressions through the atoning sacrificial death of His Son, that drips with righteousness. A loving God, but also a holy and just God who made a way to satisfy that holiness is amazing. A God who demanded holiness for the unholy and made it possible, but by faith in His righteousness and not through our works or effort is an amazing revelation. So the response that we have is not to try to do our best, but to live by faith. To respond to His grace and love from a heart that is altered by the realization of that grace and love.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Wrapping it Up (Galatians 6:11-18)


Galatians 6:11-18
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.


Just a few observations regarding Paul's final words in the book of Galatians:

  • He writes about the large letters he uses to write in his own hand. This leads me to believe that the affliction that Paul bore had to do with his eyesight.
  • He talks about those who "want to make a good showing in the flesh." They would force you to live according to the law, and they would not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Sweet deal for them.
  • They also want to boast about their effect on your behavior. Another sweet deal for them. Sounds somewhat like the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
  • Circumcision or uncircumcision is not the issue. The issue is are you a new creation because of your relationship with Christ? How would you answer that?

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bad Karma (Galatians 6:6-10)


Galatians 6:6-10
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


For this section, I want to focus on verse 7. Here it is: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. I want to start by saying this, this verse does not teach karma! I have heard people reference this verse when wanting to say that the Bible does agree with karma, but I wholeheartedly believe that it does not!

Karma:   (car-ma) is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions.

In the idea of karma, one might say, "What goes around, comes around." In other words, if you do good things, good will ultimately be your reward. Likewise, if you do bad things, bad will ultimately be your reward. This takes us right back to the idea of law, and how we must earn our salvation, and even our rewards in this life. (insert upchuck emoji here)

What this verse does teach is that choices have consequences. If you play with fire, you might get burned. If you live in bitterness and anger, expect the consequences of bitterness and anger to be a part of your life. This is different that the idea of karma, which says that if you live in bitterness and anger, and equal amount of bitterness and anger will be your penance.

The motivation for doing good in karma is to receive that amount of good in return, to be rewarded for that good. The cause is how you live, and the effect is what you receive as a result. In Paul's economy, the cause is living by (seeking to please) the Spirit of God, and this is done even if it is difficult or we do not receive a reward for those actions in this life. This is why is says "let us not grow weary of doing good." Our reward, the effect, will be realized "in due season." Our reward will be spending eternity in the presence of God, not because we have earned it via good works, but because of actions we have displayed because of our faith in God. By grace you have been saved through faith! (Ephesians 2:8)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Because I Say So...Not (Galatians 6:1-5)


Galatians 6:1-5
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.


So on the surface, it seems as though Paul is now preaching a type of law based Christianity. But in light of everything he has said prior to this, that does not make sense. I think the critical understanding here comes from how you interpret the word transgression, and who is doing the determining of what a transgression is. I note that Paul says that those who are spiritual should be doing the restoration, so I assume they are also doing the determination of what is a transgression. The ones who are spiritual are those who are led by the Spirit, and not under the law. But just because there is no law against something does not mean that all things are beneficial, and they would know this. So their determination would not be based upon a set criteria or set of rules, but rather on what is most beneficial for the individual involved and the cause of Christ. The danger here is that some who think they are spiritual will also think that they have the authority to tell others what to do. I think this is unavoidable. This is why Paul tells them to keep watch. Not, perhaps that they will be drawn into the sin of the one caught in transgression, but rather that they will get a big fat head seeing themselves as spiritual and able to tell others what to do. Look at the words that follow: Bear one another's burdens (put yourself in the place of the one whom you are trying to restore), and if you think you are something when you are nothing (big head syndrome), you are fooling yourself! Now when he says that each will have to bear his own load, he is not contradicting what he just said, he is simply stating that if you seek to take the roll of helping someone, you had best do it correctly, not in a burdensome way (legalistic), for that is a load that each must bear on their own.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)


Galatians 5:16-26
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.


Everything Paul has been saying in Galatians is the precursor to these verses. Paul has been fighting the idea of those who wanted to put some kind of conditions on salvation in addition faith in Christ. I believe their problem was fear. Fear that telling someone that faith alone is all it takes would lead to some form of licentiousness. Paul answers that fear in verse 16. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not gratify the flesh. Those who walk this way are not under the law. Want to know if you are walking in the Spirit, it should be obvious, but Paul gives some examples of living by the flesh. He then goes on to show what it should look like if we are living by the Spirit. In all of this, Paul does not feel the need to give a list of rules.

Truth is, there will be those who will take advantage of the gospel, who will here only what they want to. Paul knew this could not be avoided. So do I. You will always have your Osteens and Battersons etc. who prey in one form or another on others. Who prey on those who want to hear a particular message because of their own bias or desires. Those whose ears are itching for salvation, but not in the form of the gospel. Their condemnation is still deserved. Those are difficult words to speak and to hear, but I believe that that is exactly what Paul is saying in Galatians. Guard your privy parts!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Really, Paul? (Galatians 5:7-15)


Galatians 5:7-15
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.


Vs 12  Emasculate - to amputate; reflexively (by irony) to mutilate (the privy parts): — cut off.


Couple of thoughts.

One, they were doing good, but suddenly they are not obeying the truth. So this idea of needing the law is not just a poor but excusable choice, it is to not obey the truth. So this is serious stuff! When we follow doctrine that is wrong, sounds like there could be serious consequence.

Two, Paul was persecuted because he did not preach circumcision. Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, faced persecution because they did not like his doctrine and teaching! But I love Paul's response. He wishes that those who preached circumcision would go the whole distance and cut off their privy parts.

Again, he does not leave this without reminding them that he is not advocating following the flesh. He is advocating the only appropriate response to the gospel is to love and serve one another (and in essence, to love and serve God). Any other response will end in self-destruction.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Freedom (Galatians 5:1-6)


Galatians 5:1-6
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.


Christ came to set us free. Free from the burden of slavery to the law. That's right, slavery. Because the law is oppressive, it demands everything from us. To fail at one point of law is to be a law breaker and therefore a failure. Why would anyone who has been set free return to such a burden?

Paul clarifies. If we accept circumcision, then we accept the law, all of it. If we accept the law, we reject the freedom that Christ gives, so having Christ is of no value. I think the hardest part of this teaching is that if we accept the law, if we choose that path to righteousness, we have fallen from grace. So that good, moral person who thinks that will be enough to save him, is outside of grace because he is not living by faith in Christ, but by law. Therefore, he is as guilty as the murderer or thief, etc. who does not turn to Christ.

The freedom found in Christ and the burden of living by the law are incompatible. This does not mean that we are not under obligation however. But that obligation is to live by the Spirit, to walk by faith in the fact that Jesus suffered and died to free us from our sin. That He set us free from the burden of the law to live a life that freely responds to the mercy and grace of God. Therefore, we still do good, but the good that we do is a response to what God has done (in view of God's mercy. Rom 12:1,2) rather than an attempt to earn salvation ourselves.