The Stumbling Stone, Romans 9:30-33

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” – Romans 9:30-32, NIV

The “stumbling stone” was none other than Jesus. Because Jesus did not meet many of the Jews’ expectations for their Messiah, they rejected Him as God’s Son. Although the Jews pursued a worthy goal of honoring God, some became short-sighted and dedicated themselves more to the Law than to God. They either didn’t see—or want to believe—their Old Testament Scriptures that salvation (righteousness) comes by faith, not by human effort (Gen. 15:6).

Paul had reminded his readers earlier in chapter 9 that: 1) The Jews couldn’t earn God’s favor through their national heritage, 2) God’s ways are not bound by human ideas and plans, and 3) The Jews were responsible for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” - Romans 9:33

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” – Romans 9:33

On the other hand, Paul explains that some Gentiles acquired God’s righteousness, but not on the basis of perfectly following the Law. Rather, their righteousness was given from God as a gift because they accepted Christ and His message.

So What?

Like the Jews in Paul’s day, it’s human nature to try and get right with God by being good. This can take many forms: faithful church attendance, church work, giving, being nice, volunteering, good sportsmanship. Although these are worthy pursuits, according to Scripture they won’t make us right with God.

Some people stumble over Christ because salvation by faith goes against all they’ve experienced and been taught. Some think because God is love He will overlook their sins. Some stumble over Christ because He asks for humility and requires obedience.

But Scripture makes it clear: There is only one way to obtain righteousness and become right with God. It boils down to accepting or rejecting God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”   -John 3:36

If you haven’t placed your trust in Jesus, and the work He did for you on the cross to forgive your sins, why not do it now? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And eternal life is at stake. Simply admit to Him your sins and ask His forgiveness. Tell Him you believe He is all He claims in the Bible. Ask Him to come into your life and indwell you through His Holy Spirit. Then follow Him by obeying His commands.

The “Israel” beyond Israel, Romans 9:19-29

Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” - Romans 9:1, NIV

This passage—like last week’s—is difficult to understand.

After Paul attributes God’s dealings of mercy and judgment by using Moses and Pharaoh as examples, he continues his defense as if he is sparring with an imaginary opponent.

Paul writes (of his imaginary opponent): “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?” (vs. 19).

Paul answers: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (vs. 20-21).

In this context Paul asks the hypothetical question in verses 22-24: What if God makes His power known to those He bestows mercy through His judgment on those destined for His wrath?

Paul refers to Old Testament passages in verses 25-29 to show: 1) God will redeem some Gentiles (Hosea 2:23; 1:10), and 2) only a remnant of believing Jews will be saved (Isaiah 10:22-23; 1:9).

So What?
  • Paul isn’t implying that some people are more valuable than others. But his tone does suggest: “God is God. Who is eligible to measure His actions and decisions?” Like the sculpted pottery, our very existence and function depend upon God.
  • God chose Israel to serve His sovereign purposes. Everything in God’s redemptive history can be attributed to His faithfulness to the promise He gave Abraham and his descendants.
  • God has graciously extended an invitation to all people, (Jews and Gentiles), to become part of His family through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s Sovereignty, Romans 9:6-18

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Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss.”
Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I was searching for some profound quote about God’s sovereignty when Matt Chandler’s funny observation caught my attention from goodreads.com. Often asking, why, I relate to his insight— especially with difficult passages like this one.

The first section isn’t too hard to understand. Paul defends God by declaring that His covenant promises didn’t fail, even though the majority of the Jews didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. For the true children of Abraham—“the children of the promise”—are those who trust in God and Jesus’ work on the cross (vs. 6-8).

Verses 11-13 affirm God’s promised blessing through Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac. But the following verses take some sifting:

“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls—she [Rebeka] was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The NIV Study Bible helps connect the dots: “Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau? In Malachi 1:2-3, the statement ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ refers to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers . . . . He did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving Him.”

In God choosing Jacob over Esau before their birth, Shepherd’s Notes suggests: “The selection could not have been based on their doing of right or wrong.”

Paul also anticipated a charge of God’s unfairness in verse 14. He reminds us that God will act according to His will and wisdom, regardless of our desire or efforts. He cites God’s message to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”.

Paul then reminds of God’s dealings with Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (vs.15).

The NIV Study Bible suggests: “God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s sin was to harden his heart to confirm his disobedience, so that the consequences of his rebellion would be his own punishment.”

Because this post is getting long—and my brain feels like a minnow in the Pacific Ocean—I’ll pick up with verses 19-29 next time.

So What?
  • God is sovereign over all creation.
  • Although the Jews took pride in descending from Sarah, (Abraham’s legitimate wife), instead of Hagar, (Sarah’s maidservant), that wasn’t enough for the Jews to be saved. Similarly, no one can claim to be God’s children simply by good deeds, going to church, or from their heritage.
  • The doctrine of election teaches that God saves people by His mercy and goodness. He is not random or illogical. He will save all who believe and place their faith in Him. But He won’t force anyone to choose Him. In judgment, as in Pharaoh’s case, He will allow the hardening of one’s heart as a consequence of rebelling against Him . . . . That is a frightening place to be.

Now Available: When Rocks Cry Out

I’m excited to share that my first children’s picture book is now available in print and e-book. Yea! Here is an ordering link to Xulon Press bookstore: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781498412810

Also, if you are interested in previewing When Rocks Cry Out and writing a short review on Amazon I will send you a PDF file.

Will Joey win the King's favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out! (An allegory of God's grace)

Will Joey win the King’s favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out! (An allegory of God’s grace)

 

 

Fall Update

Hi! I thought this might be a good place to break from Bible Study and give you a brief update. I haven’t been good at this, and will try to post updates more regularly. My study in Romans 9-11 will  continue next week, which is best read as a unit as Paul shares his thoughts about Israel and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

Thank you for being a part of this study/blog journey with me. I appreciate you!

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Enjoying a beautiful ride around Lake Coeur d ‘Alene

It’s hard to believe it’s the end of September! Summer and fall have seemed to blur together on a spinning wheel. My kids are growing like weeds. My boys wrapped up their baseball season last June, (they’re both currently in the middle of football and loving it). July was my family’s visitation month:

  1. Several visits with the nose and eye doctors from my oldest son’s nose break when catching a baseball between the eye and nose while messing around with friends. (I don’t recommend this!) His nose and shiner are now completely healed. :) And thankfully, he didn’t have any serious eye damage.
  2. Visiting relatives in southern Idaho; my kids are blessed to have cousins their age whom they really enjoy.
  3.  Swim and pony lessons for Annie, my mini clone, budding artist, and social butterfly.
  4. Lots of visits to my garden: Our Jumbo King corn is taller than our shed, but not as sweet as some varieties. We had lots of apricots this year, so I canned a lot of jam.

With the kids back in school, I’ve had more time to work on a children’s picture book, When Rocks Cry OutIt has been both fun and challenging. The illustrator is my neighbor and friend, which makes the book even more special to me.  Although this story is geared for younger children, I think adults will appreciate the deeper allegory of God’s grace. I am looking for honest reviews. If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you a PDF copy. The release date should be within the next 45 days. I will keep you posted.

I hope all is well with you,

~ KD

Will Joey earn the King's favor? Buckle your seatbelt and find out!

Will Joey earn the King’s love? Buckle your seatbelt and find out!

God’s Overruling Providence, Romans 8:28-30

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These are some of my favorite verses. I love that God is at work in every circumstance, and that nothing is wasted with Him.

I’m reminded of when my mother-in-law keenly observed—while laughing and pointing to the black, mushy banana on top of my freezer—“some of us look like this, but we’re pretty sweet on the inside.” Yeah, I thought, this also applies to ugly trials and circumstances. God takes those ugly moments and turns them into something sweet; something only He can do.

There’s a catch, however, to God’s promise of working all things together: “For those who love God, and have been called according to his purpose” (vs. 28).

God’s Redemptive Purpose (Romans 8:30)

Paul uses verse 30 to bridge eternity past with his grand summary of God’s redemptive purpose. Shepherd’s Notes defines the following:

  • Predestination: God’s grace at work before the foundation of the world
  • Calling: God’s grace confronting us
  • Justification: God’s grace making us right with Himself in the midst of history
  • Glorification: God’s grace in the consummation of this age
So What?
  • Believers can be assured that God is for us. Everything that happens to us is in His sovereign hand.
  • Although we can’t control our circumstances, or others, God is able to take what happens to us and use it for our future good.
  • God’s ultimate goal is not to make us comfortable, but conformable. That is, to grow us into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2). This is when we discover freedom and fulfillment in the true person God created us to be.

The Spirit’s Ministry of Intercession, Romans 8:26-27

Have you ever been at a loss of what, or how, to pray in a given situation or for someone? While last week we explored hope and how it carries us through difficult times (Romans 8:24-25), these two verses offer another benefit of the new life of the Holy Spirit. This time in the area of our prayers:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us . . . . ” – vs. 26

How does God’s Spirit intercede for the believer? “. . . with groans that words can not express,” (vs. 26).

Perhaps no other Scripture gives greater encouragement in our prayer life. Dale Moody (Broadman Bible Commentary) writes: “The little English verb helps (vs. 26) translates a big verb in Greek. It is used elsewhere in the New Testament only when Martha called Mary to help her prepare a meal (Luke 10:40).”

For all of us who relate to Martha, this is huge encouragement!

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God’s Spirit not only helps when we’re low on faith and/or uncertain what to pray, He also intercedes according to God’s will. And “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit . . . .” (vs. 27).

So What?
  • In the mystery, and sometimes confusion, of knowing what to pray we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us according to God’s will.
  • Because God helps us pray we don’t need to fear coming before Him with our requests.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to intercede “according to God’s will,” then trust Him for the results.

Future Glory, Romans 8:18-25

I hope you’ve had a great summer. The glory of summer is soon fading. I enjoy summer, but I really love the changing colors and weather fall brings. I’m thankful for the changing seasons.

Speaking of fading, my computer’s hard-drive died. I’ve told myself that I will never take my computer for granted again! :)

Since my hard-drive crashed last week I’ve been using the library’s computer. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post pictures. With limited time I will also be posting weekly for a while instead of twice a week.

Seasons

As I write about change and seasons I’m reminded of what my pastor said: “Knowing what season you’re in (spiritually) is important.” He suggested that our lives won’t be in perfect balance as we journey here on earth, but we usually have a rhythm in our spiritual growth. Knowing which season we’re in will determine how we respond.

On the tail of verse 17 in Romans 8, after writing about a season of sharing in Christ’s suffering, Paul sets up three reasons for encouragement: 1) the glory that will be revealed (vs. 18-25); 2) the Holy Spirit’s help (vs. 26-27); and 3) all things work together for good (vs. 28-30).

Hope of God’s Final Victory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” –vs. 18-22

Genesis 3:17-19 sets the background for this passage. Paul makes three observations about creation:

  1. It eagerly awaits the revelation of God’s children.
  2. By God’s will, it was subjected to frustration.
  3. It will be set free from decay’s bondage and share in transformation along with God’s children.

Paul ties the believer’s present trials to creation in verses 23-25. Similar to creation, we groan inwardly as we await the full adoption as God’s children that will happen at the resurrection. Our present hope is “the first-fruits of the Spirit”, God’s promise of our total victory with Christ in the end.

So What?

Through sin, all creation is subject to frustration and bondage to decay. But one day all creation will be set free and transformed. Because believers look forward to a new heaven and earth that God promised we can be filled with hope now.

Believers resurrected bodies will be glorified like the body Christ now has in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:25-58; 1 John 3:2). Believers have the down payment, “first-fruits”, of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of being resurrected (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

If you are a believer who is currently suffering, hold on to hope. Ultimate victory is your final resting place through Jesus Christ!

Life Through the Spirit, Romans 8:1-11

“You may go free, not guilty!” What would these words mean to you if you were on death row?

The reality is, we are all on death row because we have broken God’s holy Law multiple times. But thankfully, God has made a way to clear our record, declare us not guilty, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:12

This verse, along with the rest of this chapter, is one of my favorite passages. In a world of condemning voices and pointing fingers, this verse gives reason to celebrate. Jesus liberates the believer from the old bondage to sin and death!

Two laws are cited in this passage:

  1. The Law of Sin and Death. It lurks around every corner, challenging every good motive, enslaving the one who strives to fulfill the Law through self-determination. Romans 7:14-25 describes its havoc.
  2. The Law of the Spirit. Through Jesus Christ, this law defeats the old law’s grip on sin and death, setting people free. Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Twenty-one times in Romans 8 the Greek word for Spirit or spirit occurs. At least 18 of these are references to the Holy Spirit . . . . We have in Romans 8 Paul’s fullest discussion of the new life of the Spirit.” (For more information on our sinful nature vs. our new life in Christ, see 6:6-8; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:3-15.)

Verse 3 not only explains how the Law of the Spirit sets people free, but also contains the following two doctrines:

The Incarnation

God’s Son, Jesus Christ, became one of us. Paul describes Christ’s coming as “in the likeness of sinful man.”

The Atonement

God achieved our freedom from captivity to sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death (“sin offering”) on the cross. Jesus bore the brunt of the world’s sins. The NIV Study Bible notes: “In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the temple. The sacrifices showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin: blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned (see Leviticus 17:11). But animal blood could not really remove sins (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices could only point to Jesus’ sacrifice, which paid the penalty for all sins.”

In verse 9, Paul tells his readers that they are not controlled by their sinful nature, but their lives are guided by the indwelling Spirit (Holy Spirit). The Holy Spirit is also God’s guarantee of eternal life for the believer.

So What?

Christians can rise above sin and experience life through the empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A Christian is anyone who has the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) living in him/her. Jesus promised His Spirit to anyone who sincerely trusts Him for salvation and acknowledges Him as Lord.

Although our feelings come and go, we can stand confidently on God’s promises of living forever with Him. (See also Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14.)

Have you placed your complete trust in Christ?

 

The Law and Sin, Romans 7:7-25

“Is the Law sin?” Paul asked as though repeating a reporter’s question. Given his previous replies, this one shouldn’t surprise: “certainly not!”

Romans 7 paints a small picture of Paul’s spiritual experience. He sets the stage here for the triumphant entry in chapter 8.

In verses 7-11 Paul seeks to explain a relationship he finds between the Law and sin. “I would not have known what sin was except through the Law . . . .” He reasons that apart from the Law sin can’t be labeled “sin,” even though it still exists.

Shepherd’s Notes gives this example and commentary: “There may be dangerous microbes in the air, but unless some instrument detects them, they will go unnoticed. The Law does more than show sin for what it is. It provokes sin. Sin seizes the opportunity and arouses within a person a desire to do evil.”

Question #2

Paul brings up another question: “Did that which is good—that is the Law—become death to me? By no means!” (vs. 13). Paul tells that through the Law he realized just how dark and enormous sin was, even achieving its evil end through something as good as God’s Law so death might be accomplished through it. The Law was never the culprit, just sin.

The Christian’s Struggle

As Paul furthers the relation between the Law and sin, he flips from past to present tenses: “We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” The phrase “sold as a slave to sin” means bought and delivered to sin, as a slave to a master. This same verb was used in Matthew 18:25 to describe a debtor being sold into slavery (Shepherd’s Notes). Paul uses this analogy to show that no matter how much he loved God’s Law, he was enslaved to sin—powerless to completely obey it.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” -vs. 15

More than a tongue twister, Paul’s cry describes the Christian’s struggle against sin, or trying to please God by rule keeping apart from the Holy Spirit’s help.

Verses 21-24 remind me of the children’s book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day with struggling being the common denominator.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs. 24)

But Paul’s conclusion rings with sweet victory: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25)

So What?

Law makes us aware of sin by defining it.

There is a two-sided reality of the Christian life. Although our acceptance with Christ is secure—making believers complete in Him—we still feel the pull of sin. Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Sanctification is a gradual process that repeatedly takes the believer through this recurring sequence of failure through dependency upon self to triumph through the indwelling Spirit.” Although conflict and struggle are part of our earthly journey, despair and defeat are not thanks to the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ who provides power to live freely above sin’s lure and captivity.

How do you deal with this struggle?

Dead to the Law, Romans 7:1-6

I, Jody, take you, John, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse . . . ‘Till death do us part.”

(stylegrace.com)

(stylegrace.com)

Sealed with a kiss, this vow—in the covenant of marriage—is valid as long as the husband is alive.

Paul’s readers understood that a violation of this law would disgrace Jody as an adulteress. If her husband dies, however, she is free to marry another man.

This is the picture Paul gives us to compare Christians and the Law. Not only do believers die to sin, but also to the Law, thus cancelling the Law’s “lordship” or claim over the believer (vs. 4).

Similar to the picture of baptism, death to sin begins when the believer places his/her trust in Christ. By identifying with the crucified Christ and joining in union to Him, the resurrected Christ becomes the believer’s new “husband”. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to produce good fruit for God.

So What?

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the way to God is open through faith. No longer trying to earn salvation through an external code of law keeping or following Christian customs, the believer is free to serve God with a new heart out of love and gratitude.

Slaves to Righteousness, Romans 6:15-23

If a Christian fails morally, it is not because the needed power was not available. It is because it is not appropriated.” – J.W. MacGorman

***

Paul’s reasoning in Romans reminds me of Math, building upon previous concepts.

(properkernel.com)

What’s wrong with this ad? (properkernel.com)

 

If one step of a math problem is wrong, the entire answer will be wrong. I for one need lots of review, even when I think I’ve mastered a concept!

Summary: Three Types of Jewish Law

My last post reviewed three types of Jewish Law found in the Old Testament: Ceremonial Law, Civil Law, and Moral Law. “When Paul says that Gentiles (non-Jews) are no longer bound by these laws, he is not saying that the Old Testament laws do not apply to us today. He is saying certain types of laws may not apply to us” (NIV Study Bible). Although the laws God gave the Jews during Moses’ leadership—Ceremonial and Civil Laws—don’t specifically apply to us, the Moral Laws (Ten Commandments) still apply to us today.

Paul also reminds us that God gave us the Law to point out our sin so that we might seek His forgiveness (Romans 5:20). He never intended for law keeping to be our means for salvation. This leads to the question Paul must have gotten frequently, (which I stated in my last post, but didn’t get very far):

“What then? Shall we sin because we are no longer under Law but under grace?”  (Romans 6:15)

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Using an analogy of slavery, Paul counteracts a leisurely attitude toward sin by contrasting the two masters that everyone chooses from. These two masters lead to opposing freedoms, fruits, and destinies.

The Master of Righteousness

Those who serve this master find freedom from sin, which result in sanctification (holiness) and eternal life. Paul’s use of the terms sanctification and justification (God declaring the sinner not guilty) are closely related.

The Master of Sin

Those who continue in sin will be enslaved to shameful behavior and ultimately death. Their only freedom is freedom from righteousness. Romans 6:22-23 sums up this section.

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So What?

The master we choose—sin or righteousness through Christ—will not only affect our freedom, or lack of, but also our destinies: life or death.

When we were under the Law—striving to keep a perfect record—sin was still our master with the currency of death spiraling out of control. The Law can’t conquer sin or justify sinners. Only Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin and declare us not guilty. He alone can clothe us in His righteousness when we place our trust in Him.

Eternal life is a free gift in Jesus Christ. It is the believer’s choice and responsibility to rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit’s power to say no to sin.

Which master do you belong to?

What is the Law? (Romans 6:15)

Shall we sin because we are no longer under Law but under grace?”  Romans 6:15

Again, Paul answers: “By no means!”

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Source: 2wired2tired.com

Wait . . . Rewind . . . Repeat that again? We (believers) are not under the Law . . . .? I admit, this sounds more like a riddle, especially when you look at passages like Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

It helps to know that this section deals with sanctification: God growing the Christian in holiness. But the question remains . . . .

Which Law is Paul referring to?

The following excerpt from the NIV Study Bible helped me sift through this confusing topic:

Part of the Jewish Law included those laws found in the Old Testament. When Paul says that Gentiles (non-Jews) are no longer bound by these laws, he is not saying that the Old Testament laws do not apply to us today. He is saying certain types of laws may not apply to us. In the Old Testament there were three categories of laws:

  1. Ceremonial Law: This kind of law relates specifically to Israel’s worship (see, for example, Leviticus 1:1-13), its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ. Therefore, these laws were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial laws, the principles behind them—to worship and love a holy God—still apply. The Jewish Christians often accused the Gentile Christians of violating the ceremonial law.
  2. Civil Law: This type of law dictated Israel’s daily living (see Deuteronomy 24:10-11). Because modern society and culture are so radically different, some of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands should guide our conduct. At times, Paul asked Gentile Christians to follow some of these laws, not because they had to, but in order to promote unity.
  3. Moral Law: This sort of law is the direct command of God—for example, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). It requires strict obedience. It reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies to us today. We are to obey this moral law not to obtain salvation, but to live in ways pleasing to God.

Which Law do you think Paul is referring to in Romans 6:15?

And What About Grace?

Another analogy found in the NIV Study Bible helped clarify Romans 5:20, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“As a sinner separated from God, you see his law from below, as a ladder to be climbed to get to God. Perhaps you have repeatedly tried to climb it, only to fall to the ground every time you have advanced on one or two rungs. Or perhaps the sheer height of the ladder seems so overwhelming that you have never even started up. In either case, what relief you should feel to see Jesus offering with open arms to lift you above the ladder of the law, to take you directly to God! Once Jesus lifts you into God’s presence, you are free to obey—out of love, not necessity, and through God’s power, not your own. You know that if you stumble, you will not fall back to the ground. Instead you will be caught and held in Christ’s loving arms.”

I hope this makes sense. Although I’m not an intellect like Paul, his teachings challenge me (in a good way).

I hope you’re enjoying summer!

 

 

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ: Romans 6:1-14

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  (Rom. 6:1)

In other words: If God is so forgiving, why change? Why not continue in sin if His grace is indeed greater than the deepest stain of sin? (Rom. 5:20)

Never one to hold back his beliefs, Paul retorts to this distorted line of reasoning: “By no means!” He continues describing the Christian’s death to sin by using the picture of baptism.

Baptism

“In the church of Paul’s day, immersion was the usual form of baptism—that is, new Christians were completely “buried” in water. They understood this type of baptism to symbolize the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolized resurrection to new life with Christ” (NIV Study Bible).

Baptism is a witness to the world that one identifies with Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."  - Colossians 3:1-4

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:1-4

So What?

God’s amazing grace covers all our sins, but His forgiveness doesn’t make sin less serious. Although His mercy and pardon are free, it cost Jesus His very life to pay our ransom from sin. God never intended His unlimited reservoir of grace to be wasted, or become an excuse for immorality.

As long as we are here on earth we will feel the pull of sin and temptation, but through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God frees us from sins’ captivity. If we think of our old, sinful life as dead and buried, we have a strong motive to resist sin and enjoy this new life with Christ. This is the believer’s daily choice and responsibility. (For more on this concept see: Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12 and 3:1-4.)

The Gift of Righteousness, Romans 5:12-21

One man sinned—a whole race suffers for it; one Man lived righteously—a whole race wins life by it. But what about Law? . . . . Law only came in by the way, to intensify the consciousness of guilt.” – John Owen

Summary of Romans 1-5

So far Paul has given us five benefits of justification through faith (God declaring us not guilty for our sins):

  1. A new relationship with God characterized by peace
  2. Access to God through Christ
  3. Hope of sharing “the glory of God”
  4. A new understanding in suffering
  5. A new assurance in judgment

In this section, Paul adds a sixth benefit of justification: the gift of righteousness. He gives us a lengthy contrast between Adam (the first man) and the results of sin and Jesus Christ (the “second man”) and His generous provisions of atonement through life and death.

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Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ (vs. 15-19)

While Adam is a pattern that represents created humanity, Christ represents a new spiritual humanity. Shepherd’s Notes identifies five parallels between Adam and Christ. The first three are contrasts, and the last two are comparisons:

  1. A contrast between Adam’s trespass, through which many died, and the free gift of God’s grace in Christ, which has abounded for many (vs. 15).
  2. A contrast between the condemnation that followed Adam’s trespass and the justification that follows the free gift of God’s grace (vs. 16).
  3. A contrast between the death that reigned through Adam’s trespass and the much greater reign in the lives of those who receive the free gift of God’s grace (vs 17).
  4. A comparison between the condemnation that came to all people through Adam’s trespass and the acquittal that comes to all people through Christ’s act of righteousness (vs. 18).
  5. A comparison between the disobedience of Adam, through which the many were made sinners, and the obedience of Christ, through which the many will be made righteous (vs. 19).
So What?

Although we are all born into Adam’s family line of sin, resulting in separation from God, judgment, and death—God’s grace trumps sins’ rule of death through God’s justifying work in Christ: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 20-21).

Because of Jesus, we can trade judgment for forgiveness. He invites us to choose life by being born into His spiritual family, which begins with forgiveness and leads to eternal life. By faith in Christ and His work on the cross, we can become His children and reign over sins’ power.

Which family do you belong to?

Assurance in Judgment, Romans 5:6-11

I received my gold crown today. Yes, really . . . I did! However, I almost bailed halfway through the process.

I nearly jumped out of the chair when my dentist began prepping my exposed tooth. The unnerving sensation—akin to finger nails on a chalkboard—caused me to impulsively grab my dentist’s hand. That’s when he asked, “Shall I numb the area?”

“Yes, please!”

I’ll be okay now, I thought when my tongue felt fat and tingly after the shot. Yea, I won’t feel a thing now! But one poke of his instrument stole my breath with those unnerving shock waves. So I opted for another numbing shot. While waiting for the novocaine to set in, my thoughts shifted like the wind: This shot isn’t going to do the job either! And when it doesn’t, how am I going to hold still? Should I just up and leave? No, I can’t do that! Do they ever strap their patients hands down? Dear Lord, please help me not feel this, or at least distract me from this pain . . . . And so my thoughts flickered.

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Uncertainty

Everyone struggles with uncertainty at times: decisions, jobs, relationships, etc.

Do you ever feel uncertain of God’s love for you? If so, spend some time soaking in these amazing words:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners. Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified [declared not guilty for our sins] by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”  – Romans 5:8-10

At the perfect time, God orchestrated the unthinkable: sending His sinless Son to die for the atonement of our sins. We don’t—and can’t—get our act together before coming to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sin was poured into Christ at His crucifixion. His righteousness is poured into us when we place our trust in Christ at our conversion.

So What?

God’s love is bigger than our doubts and sin. Because His generous act has provided reconciliation, Christians “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs.11). We can rest and have complete confidence, knowing we will be saved from God’s wrath at the final judgment because Jesus paid our sins in full.

The same love that caused Christ to die is also the same love that equips believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort (John 14:26).

If you haven’t asked Jesus for forgiveness and placed your trust in Him, there is no time like now. Don’t let anything hold you back from coming to Christ.

The Believer and Suffering, Romans 5:3-5

When I’m biking I occasionally see deer grazing on the surrounding hills. I love watching them bound uphill, gracefully jumping over brush. If only I could painlessly leap over problems like that, I think to myself. But that rarely—if never—happens, unless God removes the obstacle(s). It’s not that God doesn’t grant strength, He does when asked. But rough terrain is par for the course during our earthly journey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn fact, the Bible doesn’t promise believers that problems and trials will dissolve once we place our trust in Christ. Rather, God challenges us to embrace suffering as a source of joy (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Why? The results from Christian suffering bring spiritual maturity. This is another benefit of justification (God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins), along with a new relationship with God, access to God, and peace with God.

A New Understanding in Suffering

In this passage Paul—who was no stranger to suffering—outlines a linked-chain process of Christian suffering:

  1. “Suffering produces perseverance” (vs. 3): Suffering translated is pressure, distress from outward circumstances.
  2. “Perseverance produces character” (vs. 4): Character translated describes the quality of being approved. “Endurance brings proof that we have stood the test” (vs. 4, NEB).
  3. “Character produces hope” (vs. 4): Paul tells us that this hope “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (vs. 5).
So What?

My NIV Study Bible says it well: “In the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that will help us grow. We rejoice in suffering not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to grow our character.”

Benefits of Justification, Romans 5:1-2

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” – Romans 5:1-2

Although these two verses are short, they are loaded with significance.

Paul’s opening “therefore” not only connects what he has written in the previous verses, but also summarizes his stance in chapters 1-4.

Peace

The following images come to mind when I think of “peace”. 41ea72419cad64621eb3c86e1169b96b

 

 

 

 

But the “peace” Paul refers to is a new relationship with God where hostility of sin is absent because it has been removed. It is both objective and external.

What are the benefits of justification?

Along with acquiring a new relationship with God when justified by faith (vs. 1-2), we are also blessed with the following:

  • Access to God. Ephesians 2:17-18 says, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” The curtain that sealed one’s view—and denied access except yearly by the high priest—was torn when Jesus died on the cross. This symbolized that all believers may come into God’s presence any time (Mark 15:38; Hebrews 10:19).
  • Hope of sharing the glory of God. We can look forward to our future because God promises to share His glory. In fact, His obedient children are currently reflecting His glory. “This grace in which we stand,” is the utmost privilege. Besides declaring us not guilty, God has also drawn us close to Himself. When we were enemies with Him, He made a way for us to not only be His friends, but also His children (John 15:15; Galatians 4:5).
So What?

Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ can confidently relax in the assurance that Christ paid the death penalty for their sins and are declared not guilty through His resurrection.

Do you have peace with God?

says, “For He [Jesus] himself is our peace . . .”  - Ephesians 2:14

“For He [Jesus] himself is our peace . . .” – Ephesians 2:14

The following link will take you to a short informational video about the Old Testament temple and the veil that separated God from people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDNHoijNO2I

 

The Promise of Many Descendants, Romans 4:13-25

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” – Genesis 17:4-7

Abraham’s name means “father of a multitude”. Israel, the nation that would come from Abraham, was to follow God and influence others. Jesus Christ—born to save humanity— descended from Abraham’s family line. 6fbc418779f48e2f1433a58ed83d578bThrough Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and become His children by being grafted into His family.

As the first Hebrew patriarch, Abraham became a role model of faith. God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants are based on grace, not on their ability to keep the Law. Although Abraham made mistakes and sinned, he believed in God’s power and integrity. His goodness and faith became evident in his actions of surrender, obedience, and complete confidence in God to carry out His promises.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Putting the relationship between God and humans on a legalistic basis invites the wrath of God. Relationships with a legalistic basis require both parties to carry out perfectly both the spirit and the letter of the Law. Failure to do this results in penalties (wrath) to the offending party. Knowing the weakness of human nature as He does, God knows right relationship must be founded on something other than a legal basis.”

Paul ends this section reminding us that Abraham’s justification by faith has purpose for us too: for “us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 24) is also reckoned righteousness . . . . Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification (vs. 25).

So What?

God graciously gave His Son, Jesus Christ,8607e1deaa4c56349abdb964bdfba256 to be crucified and raised to life as payment for our sins. All who reach out in faith will receive the power of His forgiveness, eternal life, and abundant blessings.

On what basis did God declare Abraham righteous?

What does it mean to be justified by faith?

Abraham Justified by Faith, Romans 4:1-8

This chapter builds on the previous one: “man is justified by faith apart from observing the Law”. Justification is God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins.

In this section, Paul offers proof that faith—not works—was God’s plan in the Old Testament. Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation, was the first Old Testament model of justification by faith. When Abraham was 75, God revealed that He would bless and multiply Abraham’s offspring through a son. Even though Abraham was childless and didn’t know how God would bring about His plan, he placed his confidence in God. Paul cites Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

In verse 4 Paul reasons that if a person could earn right standing with God by being good then the giving of that gift would be an obligation instead of a free act. Paul also reminds us of King David’s joyous discovery of forgiveness of sins in Romans 4:7-8.

www.pinterest.comSo What?

Like Abraham, we can also have a right relationship with God by trusting Him. God desires dependence, faith, and trust—not faith in our ability—to please Him. Jesus Christ is stronger than our feelings and/or actions. He is  able to completely save those who reach out to accept His generous gift of salvation, even when our faith is small. Justification marks the entry point of our relationship with God in salvation when we place our faith/trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

How do we get rid of guilt from our sin? The NIV Study Bible suggests: 1) quit denying our guilt and recognize our sin, 2) admit our guilt to God and ask for His forgiveness, and 3) let go of our guilt and believe that God has forgiven us.

In view of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, is any sin too big for Him to cover?

Righteousness Through Christ, Romans 3:21-31

If you feel buried with the depressing news of God’s condemnation of our sin, hold on! 8eac46465563cf7c764bde3ab6662c60

Paul brings us great news: We can be declared not guilty—justified—by trusting Jesus Christ to remove our sins.

Paul’s meeting with the risen Christ on the Damascus road radically changed his dependence on the Law and his stance that he was righteous by following the Law (Phil. 3:6). In this passage, he writes of the righteousness found through Jesus Christ.

Attested by the Law and the Prophets

In verse 21 Paul expands on Rom. 1:2 to include the Law with the prophets in bearing witness to God’s saving acts in Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in the New Testament.

Experienced through Faith in Jesus Christ (vs. 22-25)

Paul reminds us of our verdict: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23).

But he doesn’t leave us stranded in God’s just death penalty toward us due to our sins. Instead, Paul affirms that God made available a right relationship with Him by trusting His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sweet Grace

Grace: The free favor of God in salvation. Unmerited, unearned “kindness and love of God our Savior toward us” (Titus 3:4).

I thought my cousin’s picture depicts a great response to God’s grace.

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Paul’s uses three metaphors to illustrate what God has done for sinners through His Son, Jesus Christ (vs. 24-25):

  1. Courtroom: In this setting, we see a condemned person who hears his/her charges have been completely cleared.
  2. Slaves: In Old Testament times, a person’s debts could result in his being sold as a slave. The next of kin could buy his freedom (redemption) and set him free from bondage. Jesus paid the price of our sin, death, so we can go free.
  3. Ritual Sacrifice: The wrath of God has been removed from the guilty person.
God’s Justice

In verses 25-26, Paul shows that God forgave all human sin at the cross, even those who lived before Christ came. Paul argued that God’s timing doesn’t mean He is indifferent to sin and justice, but rather: 1) He is just, and 2) He is the One who justifies—makes right with Himself—those who trust in Him.

The following points sum up this section:

  • Excludes Pride (vs. 27-28): When God’s grace is understood, pride vanishes. Why? Faith isn’t a deed we perform, rather, it exalts what God has done. Faith is based on our relationship with God, not on trying to attain right standing with God by keeping the Law.
  • Affirms God As God of All (vs. 29-30): Paul affirms that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Upholds the Law (vs. 30): Does faith “nullify” (abolish) the Law? As in the opening of chapter 3, Paul answers “Absolutely not!” Faith in Christ fulfills all the obligations of the Law. The NIV study Bible says, “When we understand the way of salvation through faith, we understand the Jewish religion better . . . . Faith does not wipe out the Old Testament. Rather, it makes God’s dealings with the Jewish people understandable.”
So What?  

When God confronts us with the gospel of Christ, we are invited to receive a righteousness and right standing before Him apart from following any legalistic religious code. What God has done through the death of His Son on the cross—providing payment for our death penalty—may be experienced by us through faith.

Why does God desire a relationship with us based on faith in His Son?

What are some results of justification by faith (God’s act of declaring us not guilty for our sins)?

All Are Guilty Before God, Romans 3:9-20

“Get it? Got it? Good!” If the apostle Paul were alive today he might use this blunt lingo with his emphatic questions to the Jewish congregation. For sure, he wasn’t afraid to use repetition as a tool to drill into his reader’s comprehension. This theme wasn’t easy to understand and accept by God’s chosen Jews.

Paul’s “Courtroom Scene”

This passage models a courtroom scene. Shepherd’s Notes identifies the nuts and bolts in the following caption.

The Accusation    (vs. 9)         "Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin." The Evidence     (vs. 10-18)    "There is no one righteous, not even one; . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes." The Setting           (vs. 19)       "Every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." The Verdict           (vs. 20)       "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law; rather, through                                                     the Law we became conscious of sin."

The Accusation (vs. 9): “Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin.”
The Evidence (vs. 10-18): “There is no one righteous, not even one; . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
The Setting (vs. 19): “Every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”
The Verdict (vs. 20): “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law; rather, through
the Law we became conscious of sin.”

Paul hammers his point: The Jews who were under the Law were neither better off nor disadvantaged. Both Jew and Gentile stand equally guilty before God.

Paul weaves several Old Testament passages together in verses 10-17 to create a seamless support for verse 18, his weightiest rebuke: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

So What?

Knowledge abounds in our information age, but wisdom is rare. Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) says, “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” To fear the Lord is to revere, respect, and honor Him. This plumb line of acknowledging and trusting God should gauge our attitudes, principles, and actions.

In respect to God’s Law, its purpose is to guide our conduct. God never intended for the Law to save us through our best efforts and/or goodness. It’s easy to get caught up in a performance mode. I know, I’ve been there. How about you? Are you trying to earn or gain God’s acceptance?

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.

Authentic Jewishness is Inward, Romans 2:17-29

I hope you’re enjoying summer. Mine has been a flurry of baseball games, swim lessons, kid chauffeuring/refereeing, and gardening. Although my weeds are persistent, they don’t argue. :)

Speaking of arguments, Paul continues his to the Jews in this passage: Everyone, including Jews, stands guilty before God.

Jewish Advantages and Pride

In verses 17-20 Paul parallels the Jews’ pride with their advantages:

  • You call yourself a Jew (vs. 17). The Jews were proud of their heritage. 2 Kings 16:6 records the first mention of the term Jew.
  • You rely on the Law (vs. 17).
  • You glory in (brag about) your relationship to God (vs. 17).
  • You know His will (vs. 18). The full revelation of God’s will was given to the Jews through the Law before Jesus entered earth’s scene.
  • You approve what is superior (vs. 18). Because of the Law they knew right and wrong.
  • You are convinced you are a guide for the blind, a light for those in darkness (vs. 19-20). This reveals the Jews’ high esteem for themselves and low regard for the Gentiles.
The Jews’ Inconsistencies

In verses 21-24, Paul strikes out the Jews’ hypocrisy when he expands on his previous charge in Rom. 2:3:

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

Paul’s curve ball comes in the form of five high-thrown questions, dropping over home plate with a pronouncement to each.

  1. You who teach others, do you not teach yourself (vs 21)?
  2. You preach against stealing, do you steal (vs. 21)? This refers to the eighth commandment.
  3. You say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery (vs.22)? This refers to the seventh commandment
  4. You who abhor idols, do you rob temples (vs. 22)? This also refers to those who act irreverently in or against a holy place.
  5. You who brag about the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law (vs. 23)? Hollow praise—bragging about the Law without obeying it—insults God.
Obedience to the Requirement of Circumcision (vs. 25-29)

As a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male. Although this was practiced by other males in ancient times, it held special meaning for the Jews. However, Paul countered that a real Jew was one inwardly, not by the external tradition. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. Instead of mechanically observing the written code, it involves cutting away the old sinful nature.

Questions to Chew On
  • Why does Paul show the Jews’ inconsistencies?
  • What do God’s judgments tell us about Him?
  • What does circumcision of the heart accomplish that observing the Law cannot?
  • How does any of this relate to us today, especially if we are not Jewish?

God’s Righteous Judgment, Romans 2:1-16

High-fives echo in response to the judge’s verdict on the Gentiles: “Guilty as charged.”

166163e41e3c9ac70768869d063e6d8bLike the last passage, I feel like I’m in a courtroom, but this time slinking down in my seat to avoid apostle-attorney Paul’s piercing gaze as his focus shifts from the Gentiles toward the Jews. No, I’m not Jewish, but Paul didn’t let anyone slide. Probably some Jewish heads nodded their approval when Paul pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan Gentiles. Paul lights into their condemning attitude like a firecracker (verses 1-10).

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” –vs. 1

Despite knowing God’s laws, the Jews failed to live up to it. Their sin may have been hidden in more socially acceptable forms. But Paul faults them for having a stubborn and unrepentant heart, treating God’s great kindness, tolerance, and patience with contempt.

Those who patiently and persistently do God’s will, however, will find eternal life (vs. 7). This may sound like a contradiction to his statement that salvation comes by faith alone (1:16-17), but he is stressing that our deeds follow in grateful response for what God has done.

Again, Paul warns of God’s wrath toward: self-seekers, those who reject the truth, and those who follow evil.

Judgment With or Without the Law

All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” – vs. 12

Paul weaves his case: Can the religiously privileged Jews expect special treatment because they’ve been given the Mosaic Law? This gave the Jews greater responsibility for following it.

Or could the Gentiles receive an easier verdict for not having God’s Law? Certainly God’s revelation through the Law made His will more fully known. But God made Himself known to the Gentiles through nature and the inner law of conscience.

Conclusion

Paul concludes that all—Jew and Gentile—are guilty of violating God’s Laws. People are condemned for what they do with what they know, not for what they don’t know. God doesn’t play favorites. God patiently waits for our repentance. But a time is appointed when He will judge everyone’s secrets when we stand before His throne. No one will stand apart from the saving grace found in His son, Jesus Christ. (For more on God’s judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.)

So what?

The sins we’re tempted to point out in others are often the sins we struggle with the most. Like King David, we need to consistently ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin so we can seek His forgiveness.

Ps. 51Those of us who have grown up in Christian families could be considered today’s religiously privileged. Are we focused on living according to what we know? Or are we passing judgment on those around us?

God’s Revelation, Romans 1:18-32

“Guilty as charged!” The judge’s gavel slams down with thundering finality.

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Like a seasoned attorney in a court room, Paul threads God’s general revelation through nature as a convincing argument for the revelation of God’s wrath in His judgment on the Gentiles who rebel against Him. In the following verses, Paul tackles a common objection: How could a loving God send anyone to hell?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – vs. 18-20(NIV)

God’s revelation of Himself through nature gives the simplest grounds of our responsibility toward Him. Through His creation, (although marred by sins’ effects, Gen. 3:17-19), we know God is powerful, intelligent, creative, and a God of order and beauty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoes anyone have an excuse for not acknowledging God?

Although no one will be excused for not believing in God, some will choose not to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks.

Sins’ Downward Cycle

Paul comments about God’s wrath in verse 18 from Romans 1:19-3:20. The downward cycle of sin can be summarized as the following:

  • Rejection of God—arrogance and rebellion; self is placed on the throne
  • Idolatry—One makes up ideas of what a god should be and do; exchanging the truth for a lie to fit one’s lifestyle
  • Fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip are a few mentioned here
  • Hatred toward God—encouraging others to join them
God’s Nature

Although God is patient and long-suffering—desiring to restore the sinner— He will not put up with sin forever. His very nature is holiness.

The Verdict?

God’s judgment of sin and impurity begins by allowing the consequences of people’s sinful choices. Verse 21 speaks of those who refuse to glorify and thank God: “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts darkened”. Verse 24 speaks of God giving them over to their sinful desires, indicating sexual impurity. Finally, Paul lists 21 indictments (negative qualities) against those who abandon themselves to their sinful natures (vs. 29-32).

Following God and choosing faith in Him may be hard, but is choosing not to follow Him easier?

Resisting God may seem easy at first, but this path eventually leads to the worst kind of slavery: slavery to sin.

Gospel Power, Romans 1:16-17

Over lattes, a friend and I found ourselves chatting about our beliefs. Her jaw dropped when I told her I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative truth and revelation to us. She could hardly believe I didn’t rely on any other religious writings/teachings. But at the time, I struggled to give her a reasonable explanation why I thought this. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve since found the following verses in Romans helpful. These two verses clearly state why the gospel is so important while stating a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” – Vs. 16-17

What is the Gospel Power?

God’s effective power, through His Holy Spirit, initiates and leads one to salvation. His inspired words contained in the Bible give us enough information to know Him—His character, purposes, love, and expectations—and also teach us how to have a personal relationship with Him. When we read and heed God’s words, God grows our faith, which is a gift from Him. He also transforms us into His likeness.

Shepherd’s Notes suggest that the salvation Paul describes is more than forgiveness of sins. It includes the big picture of being delivered from the results of our sin:

  1. Justification – Being set right with God; deliverance from the penalty of sin
  2. Sanctification – Growth in holiness; deliverance from the power of sin
  3. Glorification – Ultimate transformation into the likeness of Christ; deliverance from the presence of sin
Three Power Points of the Gospel

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel’s Good News because he experienced God’s saving grace and life changing power in a BIG way. He also knew God’s salvation was available to everyone.

Shepherd’s Notes also observes the following gospel points in Romans 1:

  1. It’s the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 2)
  2. It centers in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 3-4)
  3. It is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)
So What?

When we discipline ourselves to study the Bible and pray, God will lovingly meet us right where we are. God will help us through trials and grow us in Him. He longs to bless us with life both now and forever.

How is your Bible reading going?

Related Posts: The B-I-B-L-E, Why Study the Bible?, Bible Study-The Holy Spirit’s Role

Paul’s Desire to Visit Rome, Romans 1:8-15

My family’s first boating trip this season gave us opportunity to try out our worn, but workable, canopy. Although it kept us from getting soaked by the onslaught of rain, it also blocked the mountainous scenery, which challenged our joy quota. But an hour later, when we docked for lunch, the grey clouds gave way to blue sky and sunshine. We felt rejuvenated! My kids, along with my husband, whooped and hollered while playing “King of the Dock” before tubing behind the boat.

- K.D. Manes

– K.D. Manes

Although the apostle Paul experienced dire circumstances with water (deadly storms and shipwrecks), Romans 1:8 suggests one source of his refreshment as he opens this section with thanksgiving and prayer for the reader.

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”

What a great thing to be known for. These faith filled believers shined brightly amidst Rome’s darkened society. Although this Roman capital was artistic, literary, and wealthy, it also bore the stains of immorality and idolatry.

Why did Paul thank God through Jesus Christ?

The emphasis in verse 8 is on Christ being the only mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5).

  • Love and forgiveness flow from God to us through Christ.
  • Our thanks flow to the Father through Christ.
Paul’s Prayer and Desire to Visit Rome

The bulk of Paul’s prayer is in verses 10-15. He wanted to visit the Roman church to: 1) “impart a spiritual gift”—to mutually encourage and strengthen each other through their faith, and 2) help in the gospel harvest among the Gentiles as he had done elsewhere.

Paul obligated himself to teaching and proclaiming Christ his Savior as salvation to all.

Although Paul had prayed to visit Rome, his attempts were waylaid. When he finally did arrive, it was as a prisoner—slapped, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake (Acts 28:16). God did, however, answer his request for a safe arrival.

Has God ever surprised you with His timing and/or answers to prayer?

He may answer our prayers in unexpected ways, but the One who reigns in power and wisdom is in control of our storms.

God is With  Us

Paul’s Salutation, Romans 1:1-7

While our “Dear John” letters usually include minimal details about ourselves, the ancient letter writers wrote differently. The writer placed his name first, the identity of the reader next, then a greeting.

Romans begins with the author, Paul, following this format. He identifies himself in three ways:

1) A “servant of Jesus Christ”

  • Although Paul was a Roman citizen, he no longer embraced the average Roman’s attitude that being a servant was uncool. Instead, Paul threw his energy into dependence and obedience to his new found Master. Paul’s former zeal for his ancestral tradition had garnered him honor and high ranking in Judaism. As a religious Pharisee, Paul’s fierce intensity targeted killing Christians because he thought they endangered Judaism (Acts 9:1-25). But after his conversion from Jesus’ confrontation, Paul declared himself Christ’s bondslave (Gal. 1:1-14).

2) “Called to be an apostle”

  • God chose Paul’s role. Paul responded by preaching Christ throughout the Roman Empire on three missionary journeys.

3) “Set apart”

  • God set Paul (formerly Saul) apart to serve Him by sharing and spreading the gospel.
Paul’s Purpose for Writing (vv. 2-6)

Paul declares his purpose for writing to verify his apostolic message. God had promised His gospel earlier “through the prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Some of these prophecies about Jesus Christ and the Good News are Genesis 12:3; Psalm 16:10; 40:6-10; 118:22; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 9:9-11; 12:10; Malachi 4:1-6.

In verses 3-4, Paul presents Jesus Christ as the center of the gospel. Jesus, descendant of King David, fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures predicting the Messiah coming from David’s line. Several New Testament passages also verify the Davidic descent of Jesus: Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-30; Revelation 5:5.

In relation to Jesus’ present exaltation, Paul cites “Jesus Christ our Lord” as “the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead”.

Grace & Peace

“Grace and Peace” combined a Christianized form of the Greek and Hebrew greetings (Shepherd’s Notes).

After receiving unlimited, undeserved forgiveness (grace) when meeting Christ on the Damascus road, Paul’s heart received a transformation. Upon following a new leader, Paul strove to fulfill his calling of sharing the Good News of Christ by aligning himself with God’s directives.

So What?

The same Jesus Christ who “set Paul apart” also invites us to be “saints”—set apart, holy, dedicated for His service; whether through formal or informal ministry. It is a great privilege and responsibility to share our Father’s Good News: Forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace—received through faith in Christ—available to all.

I like the following excerpt from my NIV Study Bible: “God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. Are you willing to let God do the same for you? You will never know all He can do with you until you allow him to have all that you are!”

Overview of Romans

In my last poll someone suggested I post a Bible study. Thus begins this journey. Beginning next week I will sequentially list the given Scripture passage. I won’t write out the entire passage, but may quote a verse or two, add interesting facts, expand on a given concept, and/or add poetry about the topic/passage.

The New Testament book of Romans seems a great starting point after exploring “Evangelism”.

Romans In a Nutshell

Sinners are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Sinners are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Like a skilled lawyer, the apostle Paul presents the Good News—we are saved by grace (undeserved, unearned favor from God) through faith (complete trust) in Christ and His finished work on the cross. He further explains how this knowledge and living by the Holy Spirit’s power should affect our daily living.

Paul, like the other apostles, had never visited the church in Rome, but he had taken the gospel “from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum” (15:19). He planned to visit and preach in Rome someday. He also hoped to continue taking the gospel further westward to Spain. It’s unclear if Paul ever reached Spain or if he was executed in Rome after the end of the book of Acts.

roman-empire-map

The church in Rome began by Jews who came to faith during the Pentecost (Acts 2). A great number of Gentile converts also joined this growing church. Paul felt a bond with these Christian Romans, even though miles and obstacles separated them. In his letter, Paul introduces himself before presenting an organized and clear statement of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Statistics Please

  • Author: The apostle Paul
  • Date: About 57 AD, from Corinth near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey
  • Audience: Believers in Rome and believers everywhere
  • Purpose: 1) Paul was seeking support for his planned visit to Spain (15:24,28); 2) Paul sought to encourage the Romans to greater unity (14:1-15:13); 3) Paul wanted to explain his theology to the Romans and apply it to daily life issues.

Major Themes in Romans

  • Natural revelation – 1:20
  • The wrath of God – Ch. 1
  • A righteousness from God – Ch. 2
  • Abraham, a man of faith – Ch. 4
  • The benefits of believing – Ch. 12-15
  • Does justification by faith promote sin? Ch. 6
  • Life in the Spirit – Ch. 8
  • The triumph of believing – 8:26-30
  • What about the Jews?
  • Practical Christianity – Ch. 12
  • The obligations of love – Ch. 13

Hope you’ll join me next week!

 

Three Effective Evangelism Plans (Part 5)

Along with Billy Graham’s plan “Steps to Peace with God,” which I posted last week, the following plans have helped millions of Christians share the Gospel in a simple, but effective way.

1) The Romans Road of Salvation
  • Human Need (Rom. 3:23)
  • Sin’s Penalty (Rom. 6:23)
  • God’s Provision (Rom. 5:8)
  • The Person’s Response (Rom. 10:9)

 

2) Four Spiritual Laws (Campus Crusade for Christ)
  • God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16; 10:10).diagram_2
  • Humans are sinful and separated from God. Thus, they cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for their lives (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
  • Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for humanity’s sin. Through Jesus, you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life (Rom. 5:8; John 14:6).
  • We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives (John 1:12; Eph. 2:8-9).
3) Bridge to Life (Navigators Resource/Tool link: http://www.navigators.org/Tools)bridge-illustration
  • The Bible teaches that God loves all humans and wants them to know Him (John 10:10; Rom. 5:1).
  • But humans have sinned against God and are separated from God and His love. This separation leads only to death and judgment (Rom. 3:23; Isa. 59:2).
  • But there is a solution: Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins (the bridge between humanity and God) (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:8).
  • Only those who personally receive Jesus Christ into their lives, trusting Him to forgive their sins, can cross this bridge. Everyone must decide individually whether to receive Christ (John 3:16; John 5:24).

William Brent Ashby’s reference, 24 Ways to Explain the Gospel (Rose Publishing), is also great resource that uses word pictures. He highlights biblical illustrations and metaphors to clarify difficult concepts about salvation in a fold-out pamphlet. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Explain-Gospel-Rose-Publishing/dp/1596363525

This wraps up my Evangelism series. Please come back next week for a new study. Have a fun and safe Memorial weekend!

Evangelism Plans (Part 4)

Although evangelism plans vary, the truth of the message must not. While false teachers flourish, it’s important to know and guard the main doctrinal points of the Bible (1 Tim. 4:1-3, 16). Any tampering with the Bible’s message will be under God’s scrutiny and judgment (Dt. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).

How Many Roads to Salvation?
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."  - Proverbs 14:12

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” – Proverbs 14:12

One hiccup that many people have with Christianity is the “narrow viewpoint” that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Matthew 7:13-14 not only agrees with this narrow viewpoint, but admonishes us to go there: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

Many believe that a loving God won’t turn anyone away who has done his/her lion share of good deeds and/or has achieved much in life. This is a dangerous assumption. A great resource that addresses what’s wrong with this popular theory is Andy Stanley’s book, How Good is Good Enough?

Jesus, the Only Way

Gregory Koukle addresses critics who embrace religious pluralism in his booklet, Jesus the Only Way: “. . . . When a hundred [Bible] passages argue the same point [Jesus the only way] from a variety of angles it cannot be mistaken, only ignored.”

Everyone follows something or someone. When one receives eternal life through Christ, it’s important that he/she realizes that he/she isn’t just saved unto salvation, but also is receiving a new leader—Jesus Christ— to follow.

Billy Graham Crusades Evangelism plan

Billy Graham Crusades “Steps to Peace with God” emphasizes four simple steps:

  1. God’s Plan–> Peace and Life (Rom. 5:1; John 3:16; 10:10)
  2. Humanity’s Problem–> Separation (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Isa. 59:2)
  3. God’s Remedy–> The Cross (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Peter 3:18; Rom. 5:8)
  4. Human Response–> Receive Christ (John 1:12; 5:24; Rom. 10:9)

Billy Graham Crusades also offers free tracts and hosts online evangelistic resources:

  • A downloadable worksheet to help share “Your Faith Story”
  • A customizable downloadable tract
  • Examples of how the Grahams have shared their faith story
  • How God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways
  • Short videos with different styles that share the Good News

You can check out their resources here:

https://secure.billygraham.org/testimony-tract/testimony-tract.aspx?SOURCE=BY120TTCG&gclid=CI-h4s-jlb4CFcuVfgod6D8ANA

Next week, I’ll wrap this series up with some other evangelism plans to check out.

Any thoughts, questions, comments?

My week has flown by with my boys’ baseball games and daughter’s play. It’s been a crazy-busy, but fun week. While driving my kids around, the thought occurred: I’m grateful that most drivers heed the law to drive on the right side of the road, the correct/one way to drive on a U.S. highway. Similarly, I’m grateful God made a way—even though it’s the only way—to receive forgiveness and eternal life through His son, Jesus.

May your week be fun, full and sane!

 

Philip the Evangelist (Part 3)

I’ve always wondered what went through Philip the Evangelist’s mind when WHOOSH, he found himself transported to Azotus via the Holy Spirit. After sharing the Good News and baptizing an Ethiopian treasurer, POOF, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away” (Acts 8:39). He learned first-hand that God isn’t limited in the ways He uses His children. (The entire story is recorded in Acts 8:26-40.)

We’ll probably never share Philip’s means of express transportation; yes, there’s the rapture, but that’s a different subject! However, we can learn from Philip’s obedience to God.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  - John 15:4-5

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5

Acts 8:40 records Philip preaching the gospel in all the towns near Azotus, where God whirled him away. Perhaps God knew He could count on Philip’s obedience to proclaim the Good News.

Philip not only obeyed Jesus’ command to spread the Gospel, but also heeded Jesus’ example of only acting and saying what the Father directs:

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”   -John 12:49-50

Philip’s example offers us several lessons:
  • We have the same Holy Spirit to teach and empower us to be an effective witness for Christ.
  • Upon persecution, Philip went directly to Samaria—a forbidden place to most Jews due to prejudice—and spread the gospel. The gospel is for everyone, not for a select few.
  • In the middle of his successful evangelism efforts, God’s directive for him to go south on the desert road must have first seemed like a demotion. But because of Philip’s willingness to hear God’s voice and obey—going near the Ethiopian treasurer’s chariot and engaging him in discussion—God placed a Christian (the treasurer) in a significant position in a distant country. Perhaps the entire nation was then influenced by the Good News.
  • Interestingly, Philip only used the Old Testament in leading this man to faith in Christ even though Jesus is found in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • Philip met this man where he was—immersed in the prophecies of Isaiah—and then helped clarify the passage as he shared how Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.
  • When sharing the Gospel, a great place to start is where the other person’s concerns and/or questions lie.
  • God finds great and various uses for those who obey Him wholeheartedly.
  • Like Philip, we can take advantage of the opportunities God gives us through active listening and obedience.

Following God may be risky and difficult at times, but I’m sure Philip would testify: It’s worth the ride!

Next week I’ll explore some simple evangelism plans that have helped many Christians share their faith.

Evangelism (part 2)—The Message

Hi friends! I hope this Friday finds you well. The following is a recap from last week’s post:

  • Evangelism is not reserved just for the pastor or professional.
  • The gifts of teaching and evangelism are closely related.
  • Only God can save and transform souls.
  • Although living a quiet, godly life honors God, evangelism requires words—with respect and gentleness—in addition to service.
  • Leslie Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, defines evangelism:

The gift of proclaiming the Good News of salvation effectively so that people respond to the claims of Christ in conversion and in discipleship.”

What is this Good News Message?

The short, but sweet truth: Jesus came to save us!

This message should appeal to both the emotions and intellect. A longer version, such as below, tells of the historic event that can bring incomparable riches both today and in the future:

Jesus Christ—God and man—died on the cross for my sins over nineteen centuries ago. He was buried and rose the third day. If through faith, I receive Christ as my Savior, God will declare me righteous through Jesus’ shedding of His blood. God the Father will accept His Son’s sacrifice as full satisfaction for the guilt and penalty of my sin. This is a free gift, which can’t be earned or deserved. Because I am no longer under the penalty of the Old Covenant’s broken law, I am pardoned once and for all. God also adopts me as His child. He strengthens me through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, which indwells and regenerates my inner being.

What are some Bible verses that speak about our fallen, sinful nature and God’s plan to save/redeem us?

Salvation Verses

The following verses speak about our sin and the wages of sin, God’s grace and justification, provision and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ:

  • Wages of sin: Romans 5:12; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23a
  • God’s wrath & spiritual death toward the disbelieving: John 3:36; 1 John 5:12-13
  • Grace and justification: Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:24; Romans 6:23b
  • Jesus’ provision for our sin: Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:17
  • Eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ: John 3:36a; John 3:16; John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:8-10; 1 John 5:11
  • Confession of belief in Christ: Romans 10:10; Matthew 10:32

Next week I’ll explore more on this topic. Have a wonderful week!

Four Factors in Evangelism (Part 1)

Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples after His resurrection, before returning to His Father in heaven, was to go and make more disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded,” (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18).

With this same authority, Jesus still commands us to tell others the Good News and make disciples for His kingdom. This is His Great Commission.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."      Luke 19:10

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”                     Luke 19:10

Leslie Flynn, author of 19 Gifts of the Spirit, defines evangelism as the following:

The gift of proclaiming the Good News of salvation effectively so that people respond to the claims of Christ in conversion and in discipleship.”

Four Factors in Evangelism
  1. Proclamation . . . . In addition to Christian witness through works, evangelism requires words: explanation of how a sinner becomes right with God; Christ’s historical, redemptive death and resurrection. The gift communicates the gospel with power so people are brought into the experience of salvation with knowledge of spiritual life and death. Hearers may or may not be emotionally moved, but the intellect must not be bypassed. How we proclaim is extremely important. 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
  2. Good News . . . . The word gospel comes from the Greek words, well and announcement, which means “good announcement” or “Good News”.
  3. Effectively Resulting in Conversion . . . . Campus Crusade for Christ defines witnessing success as: “sharing Christ in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results to Him.” Only God can bring spiritual understanding and conversion. There will not be a response every time we witness, but the hearer should understand that a decision must be made: Accept or reject Christ.
  4. Discipleship . . . . Dedicated evangelists and organizations have systematic follow-up plans to help new converts grow in their faith and connect with the local church.

Evangelism is not reserved just for the pastor or professional. Campus Crusade estimates it takes 1,000 laymen and six pastors one year to win one convert to Christ. Philip, the only person called an evangelist in the Bible, was a deacon. And interestingly, the early church grew in numbers by a lay movement (Acts 8).

Teaching and Evangelism are Closely Related

Evangelism is referred to teaching several places in Acts. Hearers wanted to know much about Jesus before putting their faith in Him, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich.). Church historians observe that evangelistic surges throughout the centuries result from sound theological advances.

Even if we do not possess the gift of evangelism, we are told to do the work of an evangelist (Mark 1:17). Some people are more effective in personal evangelism. Others may be most effective in group evangelism—such as Billy Graham—or cross cultural evangelism.

What is your experience with evangelism? Have you shared the Good News with anyone lately? Who shared the Good News with you? How has that impacted you?

*Next few posts: The message and methods in evangelism . . . . Have a great week!

 

Why did Jesus die?

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll two weeks ago. The tallies are in . . . Drum roll . . . The winner? It’s a tie. Looks like all four categories will share the platform:

  • Bible Study . . . . 25%
  • Original pictures . . . . 25%
  • “Surprise me” . . . . 25%
  • Other: Evangelism . . . . 25%

***

I thought on this Good Friday, Jesus’ own words about His death, burial, and resurrection pave the perfect way for studying evangelism, which will be my topic for the next few weeks.

 Jesus Explains Why He Must Die: John 12:23-33 (NIV)

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me . . . . Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! . . . . (vs. 32-33) But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Living in an area surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of wheat, I appreciate and relate to Jesus’ word picture.

Living in an area surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of wheat, I appreciate and relate to Jesus’ word picture.

Unless a kernel of wheat is buried, it will not take root and become a blade of wheat producing many more seeds. Seeds generally store energy. When the seed is planted, the bit of energy within is sacrificed in order to establish the new plant.

Similarly, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice was dying in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death at Easter. Because He is the sinless Son of God who paid our sins’ death penalty, He alone offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him.

In response to His sacrifice, Jesus calls us to follow Him by crucifying our sin and self-centeredness. God is raising a crop of righteousness. Jesus sets the perfect example of service in John 13 as He washes His disciples’ feet—a job that was reserved for the lowliest slave. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, the hard work of transferring control of our lives to Christ by serving God is worth all effort and discomfort. When we embrace Christ and His ways we receive eternal life, genuine peace, lasting joy, and showcase Christ to others.

Is there anything in your life that needs to die in order to experience the fruit of God’s joy and peace?

Benefits of Suffering

KD Manes:

Shannon Moreno’s post, Benefits of Suffering, really ties into the theme of Faith Writers’ book, Trials and Triumphs. Shannon has also written a great inspirational book called: Finding the Light (Prayerful Poetry). You can find it here: http://revelationsinwriting.wordpress.com

But before you read Shannon’s post, a little business is in order: CONGRATULATIONS . . . .
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
You’re the WINNER of:

Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover

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Speaking of trials, I’d appreciate your prayers for our neighbors’ family and community. Our neighbor (a special dad, grandpa, farmer) was recently killed in an ATV accident. Our small community mourns his loss, and has seen more than our share of tragedies in recent years . . . . Thank you.

 

Originally posted on Revelations In Writing:

Trials and troubles touch the lives of everyone, eventually. Often, when the struggles squeeze, people begin to wonder why. Though I know not all the answers, I appreciate the footnotes found for 2 Corinthians 4:17  that speak of the following benefits of our suffering: (1) They remind us of Christ’s suffering for us; (2) they keep us from pride; (3) they cause us to look beyond this brief life; (4) they prove our faith to others; and (5) they give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Not only should we recognize the opportunities presented in our suffering, but also…

View original 349 more words

Trials and Triumphs book give-away

Yes, I promised last week I would give away Faith Writers Trials and Triumphs to a lucky winner.Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover For those of you who would like more information on this book, click on Amazon’s link: Trials and Triumphs. I am privileged to have my testimony included in this anthology along with 39 other writers. Although we are a diverse group, we share a unifying saving grace in the person of Jesus Christ.

But first, will you please fill out my poll? Don’t forget to click “vote”. I greatly appreciate your feedback! (Don’t worry, your name won’t appear when you vote, only percentages.)

Blessings,

K.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”          Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

Every believer has one primary motivational gift

According to the above passage, the seven motivational gifts are:

  1. Prophecy
  2. Service
  3. Teaching
  4. Encouragement
  5. Giving
  6. Leadership
  7. Mercy

Not only does the Bible command the church to lovingly exercise all seven of these motivational gifts, but every believer also needs these seven areas in order to grow as God desires.

Do you know your primary motivational gift? It’s our job to discover what that gift is. Spiritual gift inventories may be helpful, but I’ve found the best way is to jump in and try an area of service that seems fitting, (see God’s Masterpiece & Sublime Design).

Taking a class at church and/or talking to someone who knows you well will also help you discover your primary gift. I really like how our church encourages and gives people permission to volunteer for 90 days in an area of service. By the end of three months, the individual has a pretty good idea if he/she has that particular gift. If it’s not a good fit, we’re encouraged to try another area of ministry.

We are most effective for Christ when we lovingly use the gift(s) He has given us, (see 1 Corinthians 13). But this shouldn’t be an excuse for not occasionally taking out the trash, or lending a helping hand for someone whose primary gift isn’t service.

I love that God shapes us uniquely. Our gifts will look differently in the way they are expressed through a variety of ministry. When we exercise our gifts through ministry, the Holy Spirit is the One who determines what impact another believer will receive (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

How do you know what your primary gift is?

The following indicators result when you exercise your primary gift:

  • Joy
  • Fruitfulness

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 Next week I invite you to take a poll on whether you want to explore more on the specifics of spiritual gifts. Also, I’ll give you the opportunity to win a FREE COPY of Faith Writer’s Trials and Triumphs. So spread the word and come back next Friday! Have a great week!  – K.D.

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God’s Plan for Spiritual Gifts

You are a paintbrush. God uses the paintbrush in your hand (your gifts) to help change and transform others in the body of Christ. And God uses others in your life to make you like Christ.”  – Chip Ingram

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God’s ultimate makeover is to produce the life of Christ

I found Chip Ingram’s analogy of spiritual gifts and paintbrushes interesting (Your Divine Design). This is my paraphrase:

  • Some believers’ gifts are like a paint roller: although they may not be as personal, they are more effective in a large group setting with their broad paint strokes
  • Some believers’ spiritual gifts are more like a refined artist, patiently painting detailed color and techniques on an individual’s canvas/heart.

You get the picture . . . . There are different paintbrushes for specific jobs; God uses different spiritual gifts for His specific purposes.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV) says: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Where does God do His extreme makeover?
  • In His people—the church (Ephesians 2:18-22)
  • In the believer’s heart (Ephesians 3:14-19)
How does God do His extreme makeover?

Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan is witnessed through spiritual gifts in His church (Ephesians 4:7-13).

10 Principles for Understanding Spiritual Gifts

(Source: Chip Ingram)

  1. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts.
  2. Many believers have received more than one spiritual gift.
  3. Spiritual gifts are given the moment of regeneration, but they may lie undiscovered and dormant for a long period of time.
  4. Spiritual gifts can be abused and neglected, but if they are received at regeneration, it would appear that they cannot be lost.
  5. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  6. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit.
  7. Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents.
  8. Some spiritual gifts are more useful in local churches than others because they result in greater edification of the body.
  9. Charismata literally means “grace gifts”. These gifts are sovereignly and undeservedly given by the Holy Spirit.
  10. Gifts are God’s spiritual equipment for effective service and edification of the body [church].

Do any of these 10 principles surprise you? If so, which ones? Why?

Related posts:

God’s Plans—Where? How?

Last week we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10 to find the who, what, and why of God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts: Who and what we used to be without Christ, who and what we are in Christ, and why does God do an extreme makeover in us?

This second post will focus on where and how God does His extreme makeover as a background to spiritual gifts.

Where does God do His extreme makeover?

  • God does His extreme makeover in His people—the church

Ephesians 2:18-22 (NIV): For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

  • God does His extreme makeover in the heart

Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  PENTAX ImageHow does God do extreme makeovers?

  • Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan is witnessed through spiritual gifts in His church

Ephesians 4:7-13: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men. (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

According to Ephesians 2:18-22, what is the church?

Have you ever been helped by someone using their spiritual gift?

*Next week: Principles for understanding spiritual gifts.

God’s Plans—Who Me? What? Why?

Good news! Faithwriters Trials and Triumphs is now available for purchase on Amazon. You can view and purchase the book here:
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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

God—master artist, architect, builder, designer—knows exactly where and how to apply His creative techniques on us, His canvas. I like Chip Ingram’s analogy (Your Divine Design, Living on the Edge): “Believers [in Christ] are in process . . . process of an extreme makeover.”

In order to understand God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts, we need to first understand the context.

Who? What?

Ephesians 2:1-3 explains who we used to be:

  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts [prisoners of the world system].  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

 Ephesians 2:4-6 explains who we are now in Christ:

  • But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Why an extreme makeover?

Ephesians 2:7-10 explains God’s purpose:

  • . . . in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (vs. 10)

Is your life different now because of Jesus? How?

What work is God doing in you?

More to come: “Where and how does God do extreme makeovers?”

Plans – What does the Bible say?

He [God] does have surprising, secret purposes. I open a Bible, and His plans, startling, lie there barefaced. It’s hard to believe it, when I read it, and I have to come back to it many times, feel long across those words, make sure they are real. His love letter forever silences any doubts: His secret purpose framed from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB).”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

f96657d9087eeb784d83297772cb6a9aHow are your New Year’s resolutions going? My exercise/diet resolve has wavered a few times since January 1. But I’m getting back on that horse! Past times I’ve reasoned: If I ditch my plan then I can’t fail! (Yes, this is an area God is patiently working with me on.)

Plans . . . . Are you a planner? God is. Just as He has purposed to save and sanctify us, He also has specific plans in which He wants to use us—individually and corporately—in His kingdom service. His plans require us to die to ourselves, but when we follow Him, we experience the highest calling, greatest joy, and purposeful living possible.

I’m planning a plan series for my next few posts. Yes I know, it sounds nerdy, but God’s Word is worth exploring this topic amongst others. The following is my rough outline:

  • God’s plan involving spiritual gifts
  • Aligning our plans with God’s purposes
  • Monitoring and adjusting our plans
  • What about when our plans fail?

Have you made any plans lately? How are your plans going? Do you have a specific area you’d like to explore on this broad topic? I’m willing to dive in if you are!

Have a wonderful week!

God’s Works

www.pinterest.comGod didn’t put a small amount of thought and effort into creating the universe and creating us.

Brian Clegg from The Observer wrote (Saturday 26, January 2013): “Many of the most exciting discoveries in all fields of science are being played out in the human body.”

Interesting discoveries about the body (Brien Clegg)

  • An adult is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.
  • Just like a chicken, your life started off with an egg. Not a chunky thing in a shell, but an egg nonetheless. However, there is a significant difference between a human egg and a chicken egg that has a surprising effect on your age. Human eggs are tiny. They are, after all, just a single cell and are typically around 0.2mm across – about the size of a printed full stop. Your egg was formed in your mother – but the surprising thing is that it was formed when she was an embryo. The formation of your egg, and the half of your DNA that came from your mother, could be considered as the very first moment of your existence. And it happened before your mother was born. Say your mother was 30 when she had you, then on your 18th birthday you were arguably over 48 years old.
  • We are used to thinking of genes as being the controlling factor that determines what each of us is like physically, but genes are only a tiny part of our DNA. The other 97% was thought to be junk until recently, but we now realise that epigenetics – the processes that go on outside the genes – also have a major influence on our development. Some parts act to control “switches” that turn genes on and off, or program the production of other key compounds. For a long time it was a puzzle how around 20,000 genes (far fewer than some breeds of rice) were enough to specify exactly what we were like. The realization now is that the other 97% of our DNA is equally important.

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Next time you feel unimportant, remember the One who fashioned you: “You created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”    Psalm 139:13-16

Do you have as much respect for yourself as your Maker does for you? God has a special purpose and plan for your life.

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Power of Love

The power of love is a curious thing. Make one man weep, make another man sing.”

I remember well this catchy tune by Huey Lewis and the News in the eighties. No matter the genre—music or literature—love is the most celebrated, analyzed, and agonized topic. 218187_364190660328477_349698182_nEveryone desires to love and be loved. And there is no shortage of advice about how to love and/or how to be loved. But what does the Bible say about love?

*The following article is used with permission. ©2014 United Church of God, an International Association. Published as a free educational service in the public interest. http://www.ucg.org/booklet/marriage-and-family-missing-dimension/divorce-proof-your-marriage/different-kinds-love-menti/

The Different Kinds of Love Mentioned in the Bible

The Greek language in which the New Testament was written uses several words translated “love.” The first two listed below are found in the New Testament. Understanding their meanings helps us better comprehend God’s expectations of us.

Agapao (verb) is a special word representing the divine love of God toward His Son, human beings in general and believers. It is also used to depict the outwardly focused love God expects believers to have for one another. Agapao (including its noun form, agape ) is “the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the New Testament . . .”

This special type of Christian love, “whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Love”).

Reflecting the fact that human marriage is modeled after the divine relationship between Christ and the Church, husbands are told to love their wives with this kind of outgoing, selfless love (Ephesians 5:25, 31-32).

This kind of love is perhaps best expressed in Jesus Christ’s statement in John 15:13, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus Himself perfectly exemplified this kind of love throughout His lifetime, continually giving of Himself and His time and energies to serve others and ultimately offering up His life as a sacrifice for all of humanity. This is the kind of love God wants each of us to exemplify in our lives and particularly in our marriages.

Phileo (verb) means “‘to have ardent affection and feeling’—a type of impulsive love” (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary , 1995, “Love”). This is the natural, human type of love and affection that we have for a friend and is often defined as “brotherly love.”

In John 21:15-16, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with the agapao type of love and Peter responded that he had the normal human phileo type of love for Him. Later, after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter would be able to genuinely demonstrate agapao -type godly love, serving others throughout his lifetime and making the ultimate sacrifice in martyrdom.

Eros (noun) refers to sexual, erotic love or desire.

True love, as explained in the Bible, isn’t focused on oneself and one’s feelings or emotions, but is instead outwardly focused on others —wanting to best serve and care for them. True love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (NIV). 425239_457108351048200_531874565_n

Trials and Triumphs

Simplicity was a popular trend in 2013, ranging from simplifying gadgets to simple and clean architectural lines. We desire to simplify and understand the why’s in our complex world. For life is anything but simple.

Complexity

How can a person press on despite crippling illness, abusive relationships, the loss of a child, or even the confusion of homosexuality? Does God sometimes forget us, leaving us to maneuver through a muddled painful maze? Or is He near, guiding and supporting us in the middle of the mess?

Trials and Triumphs Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover

I’ve been blessed to be a part of FaithWriters online community. I’m also honored to have my testimony included in their new book, Trials and Triumphs, along with 39 other people facing daily challenges.

In the “Coming to Faith” section, there are stories about discovering the need for a personal Savior. In the “Faith Under Fire” section, you will discover how God helped many people—including me—through various problems.

Trials and Triumphs will be released soon in book format. I will let you know when it’s available for purchase. For information about contributors, author links can be found here: Trials and Triumphs.

Come and journey with us through our challenges, victories, and intimate God-realizing moments. There is hope for the confused, abused, downtrodden, and for those who are suffering.

I hope you have a great week!

K.D.

Growing in Faith

We find God to be the One on whom we can depend to bring us to our destined goal, and One who already in Christ gives us rest for our souls.”

God doesn’t call us to a neurotic dependency on Christ, but rather a simple childlike trust. Rather than automated fulfillment of rules and rituals, He desires that we develop a fulfilling relationship with Him, rooted and ignited in faith (Romans 1:17).

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  – Hebrews 11:1

These two qualities—sure and certain—have a secure beginning and ending point.

Beginning Point of Faith

Receiving Christ as Lord is the seed that contains life with Christ. Our faith and salvation are not drummed up by self-determination. They are gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary . . .
(Napa Valley Vineyard by Jim G., Flickr)

(Napa Valley Vineyard by Jim G., Flickr)

How does your faith grow?

Faith blossoms through the following:

  • Believe in Christ’s Perfect Character: Jesus doesn’t just save us the moment of our salvation, but continues saving us . . . freeing us from captivity to sin, ourselves, and Satan’s deception. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority,”  Colossians 2:6-9.
  • Meet Together: “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25). We all struggle and falter at times. An infant doesn’t start out running . . . . Neither do we spiritually. When one falls down, let’s help each other up.
  • Abide in Christ: John 15:1-10 depicts a vineyard with Jesus as the true vine, God the Father as the gardener, and us as 7ced8b92bf7312392af52a495b28b9d8the branches. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (vs. 5). We remain in Christ by submitting to him through prayer and obedience. Our faithfulness to the will of God in this life will be examined in the next life (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12).
  • Hear God’s Word: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17).

End Point of Faith

Lastly, believing in God’s promises anchors our hope in Him, resulting in life and peace.

Which promises of God have helped you lately?

Peace Through Christ

Whether we’re shopping for insurance, cars, clothes, or a house, we want the best bang for the the buck . . . the complete package.

The Apostle Paul wrote the New Testament book of Colossians not only to combat errors in the church, but also to show believers that everything we need is found in Jesus Christ.

One of the strongest statements about Christ is found in the following reference:

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Jesus—the express image of the invisible God—is equal with the Father. He is pre-existent, omnipotent, and eternal. He not only desires a relationship with us, but also deserves to be our highest priority. Jesus Christ, the fullness of God, is the power source for living the Christian life. He is our leader and the head of the church.

Jesus is the most comprehensive, perfect, and complete package “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Unlike the most expensive car, clothing, or house, He offers us eternal life free of charge. Christ’s gift of salvation and forgiveness covers us now and throughout eternity. We don’t even have to meet a deductible to receive these benefits. This is by far the greatest, most gracious offer ever given.

Salvation by trusting in Christ’s work on the cross sounds too easy for many. But self-effort only leads to disappointment or pride, and then eventually eternal death. I love that Christ’s simple way can be understood by children. His provision is the only way that leads to abundant, eternal life.

Are you connected to Jesus Christ? Have you placed your trust in the One who lacks nothing? I believe this is the greatest decision a person will ever make . . . to accept and follow Jesus Christ, or reject His offer. Eternal life is at stake and the consequences are serious (John 3:15-18, 36).

If you haven’t seen Billy Graham’s second video in My Hope America series, I encourage you to watch the following 30 minute presentation. If you have questions about receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, or about Christianity, please ask in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer. :) Have a great week!

Paul’s Heartache, Romans 9:1-5

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I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish  in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” – Romans 9:2-4 (NIV)

After Paul writes of overwhelming victory in Romans 8, his mood turns somber as he reflects upon Israel and its rejection of Jesus the Messiah.

Chapters 9-11 are best presented as a unit. Each of these chapters start with a lament, but end with a doxology.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: Paul’s stance regarding Israel was similar to that of Moses when Israel sinned by creating the golden calf. “But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou has written!” (Exodus 32:32, NASB)

Although Paul’s primary mission was to the Gentiles, his heart ached for the salvation of his Jewish brethren.

The Jewish Advantages

Verses 4-5 show how tragic the Jews’ rejection of Christ the Messiah was in light of their many advantages:

  • They were Israelites.
  • They received adoption as sons.
  • They experienced God’s glory.
  • They received God’s Law.
  • They were given God’s special covenant.
  • They were given responsibility of Temple worship service.
  • They were descendants of the patriarchs.
  • They had God’s promises.
  • They were Jesus the Messiah’s ancestors.
 So What?

Paul’s concern for his Jewish brothers demonstrated great love and compassion. Like Christ, he was willing to sacrifice in order that they might find eternal life by placing their faith in Him.

Are we as concerned for those who haven’t placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Paul was?