Thursday, May 28, 2009

A New Light on an Old Problem- Romans 6

these posts are on my blog:

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Individuals have gone through some real agony throughout the history of the church to rid themselves of sin, the sting of condemnation, and the fruit of consequences that result from a life apart from God..

Some of us are familiar with the practice of mortification: The old belief that if a person mortified (destroyed) the flesh they could save the soul. This doctrine came out of a mis-application of texts like “cut off the hand”- “gouge out the eye”- or “you haven’t resisted to the point of shedding blood”.

Monastic Orders were set up to arrest sin by severe lifestyle changes and extraordinary vows of pain and discomfort. The problem is this… it doesn’t work. A man can take vows of silence and chastity and still find evil lurking in the depths of the human heart.

John Calvin comments on this practice of mortification:

There are some good and holy men who when they saw constant overindulgence wanted to curb and correct it, but thought there was no other way than to allow men only the bare necessities. This is godly advice but unnecessarily severe, because it binds our consciences in closer fetters than they are bound by God’s Word. Necessity, according to them, meant abstinence from anything desirable, so that bread and water was the rule.

We now come back to Paul’s glorious comment on gospel truth and application. He first gives the imperative ’Do not let sin reign’- this indicates an active participation by the believer in the process. We believe in a salvation by God alone (monergistic), however we also believe in a cooperative sanctification (synergistic).

This is the battle of the believer. When we are slaves to sin, we think we are free, but we are dead. We run away from becoming a ‘slave to God’- but ironically, this is where true life and liberty is found.

So how do we find success in this battle against sin?

It is not in mutilation… it is found in re-dedication.

Our society simply says to ‘Say NO- and ‘Education is the key”- but the Bible recognizes the emptiness of this message. We don’t simply say ‘NO”- we learn to say “YES’ to Christ and we need His Spirit to win.

Are you struggling with pornography? Don’t destroy your computer… re-dedicate it. Use the time to honor God. Set up accountability, of course. But use the time to seek out positive info.

Are you weighed down with an unhealthy addiction? Don’t destroy your body.. instead push your addictive nature into the things of God.

Ask yourself the obvious question in verse 21- What benefit does sin ultimately give you?

We, of course, need to address another foolish fix the world suggests- REMOVE GUILT. Some liberal sociologists and others suggest we remove the standard. They say, “We need to stop saying these things are wrong, just get rid of the guilt” Just remove the shame. Come on now! Please!.. No matter the semantics, we know how we feel when we let someone down or fail in our own pursuits.

Verse 19- When you offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity you are lead into ever increasing wickedness (this is the ‘handing over’ in Chapter 1).

So what do we do? Everyday offer yourself to Christ. Get up and say, ”Lord, take me today. Read His Word. Walk around your house and give Him everything. “Take this Lord and use it for Your glory.” Give Him your heart, your dreams, your pain- let Him be the boss for a change.

In the middle of the day, stop and pray. “Lord, show me how to give it all to You”. Share this with someone you trust. Ask them to help you in your desire to live for Him.

At the end of the day- review. You will see how you messed up. Pray “Lord, forgive me, I need You to take me, help me be dedicated to You”. Preach the gospel to yourself’ I am saved by grace” Read, watch, and pray.

Begin again tomorrow. Be patient. This change happens in fits and spurts- 1 step forward- 2 steps back- 3 steps forward- 1 step back. Spiritual change takes place in decades.. not days.

After a while, I promise, you will begin to see a change… from the inside out. Sanctification begins with a new dedication- it is a new direction.

I am confident in this “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completeness in Christ Jesus”.

Write me and let me know how you are doing:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Logical Question- Passionate Answer -Romans 6

Paul asks a legitimate question in response to this gospel of salvation by grace alone.
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
Doesn't this thought creep into our minds? Our human propensity to manipulate, twist, and justify works inside all the time.

Paul's answer contains a tone of repugnancy.

2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

See his reasoning about the cost and truth of the gospel:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Have you come to the point in your life that you discover that conflict comes after conversion? Salvation is an interesting thing: Our war with God is over, our war with the old man has just begun!

A couple of closing applications:
Paul's point is clear... the true response to the gospel results in a new life.
It is illogical and unthinkable to continue in sin. Faith begins a process of wrestling with the old nature.

We have a great gospel indicative: WE ARE UNDER GRACE AND FREE
We have a great gospel imperative: DO NOT LET SIN REIGN

This is not a 'frozen chosen life'- the new life has an active and powerful will. We should be feeding the new nature and killing the old.

Finally, how do we kill the old? It is an amazing observation for the next lesson. Not a mutilation but a re-dedication. Look for it later in Ch 6!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Great "OUN" Romans 5

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The greek word for "Therefore" is "OUN"- And Paul uses it like no other. It brings weight to the truth of God- "This is true, THEREFORE... WE HAVE OR WE DO THIS"- If you were to go through all of Paul's writings and just take the "Oun" statements- you would have enough to chew on for a lifetime.

The phrase 'we have peace' is a military context...THE WAR IS OVER. Look down to verse 10 "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son".

As enemies- we were deserving God's wrath, but he was patient, providing an access to God through the sacrificial death of Christ. Lay down your arms and run into God's arms- the conflict is over and you can find peace!

2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

There is a saving grace and a sustaining grace- we are saved by grace and we stand by grace. It is all a gift from Him!

"the glory of God"

We have talked about this before but the glory of God is the greek word "doxa' where we have the root of doxology. It represents a shining on God, giving him a reverent 'weightiness', and honoring His name. In the Old Testament we see God's glory in creation, in the shekinah glory of the tabernacle and later the temple. In the New Testament, we see the glory of God in Jesus- where is God's glory today- Paul says in Colossians "Christ is you is the hope of glory".

3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

"This is an awesome passage- Christ is our example of rejoicing in suffering. Hebrews 12 says that Christ endured the cross- 'for the joy set before him'. Have you walked with Christ long enough, in hard times, that you have seen this full cycle? rejoicing in suffering- God is in control- and we get endurance- and we find strength of character- and we latch onto hope- and we discover the vast ocean of God's love... our hearts are full. We often want to protect ourselves and loved ones from pain- but pain is a tool in the hands of a beautiful surgeon!

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

This is God's 'agape' love. Who can understand it? Jesus did not die for sanitized, good, law abiding citizens- He died for the lowly criminals. In the times in my life that I hated God... he loved me... and He died for me!

Oh My- WHAT a reconciliation... How can we ignore this gospel?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Paul: "I'd like to enter into evidence two items..." Romans 4

Right after the glorious unpacking of the gospel in Romans 3:21-26- Paul begins to immediately anticipate the questions and 'push back' and he is already armed with ammunition.

There is no doubt that the theme of Romans is the gospel. However, it is important to see Paul's ministry is stemming the great difficulty that is taking place where the gospel is going. As beautiful as the message it- it is revolutionary and causes problems where it takes root.

Jesus talked about this in the gospels:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." Matthew 10:34-36

The gospel saves, but it also condemns. The gospel heals, but it also wounds. The gospel is reconciliation, but it also divides. Such is the power of God as it works contrary to our broken condition as illustrated in Romans 1.

So, a great part of Paul's ministry was unifying a divided church in the midst of outright enemies. Inside the church were those who embraced the gospel message, but were still wrestling with deep issues. Gentiles, who were from a background of pagan worship and immorality, and converted Jews, who had the legacy of the law, were struggling to find a coherent unity of life.

Outside the church were Roman rulers who were distressed over the lack of conformity of these 'Christ followers' to emperor worship (and their lack of full participation in the immoral practices of trade guilds and the like) AND Jews who saw the new churches as heretics and apostate.

Paul never shrank back from this impossible task. He never wavered in the gospel, he never stopped confronting the 'judaizers' , the false teachers, and the immoral ones inside the church. He never flinched in his proclamation to the nations. He never lost his message or his hope.

So- in Chapter 4 Paul presents evidence to the Jews who do not believe that works no longer merit salvation (and never did merit salvation) and hope for the gentiles.

Paul's Evidence #1 - FATHER ABRAHAM- there you go- use the big dog! Genesis 15:6 says Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness. By the way, this trust in God was after the call of God and after the promise of God. This saving faith came after Abram had followed God in his call. This faith came after Abram had lied to protect himself and his wife. This faith came after he let Lot choose first. This faith came after he fought for lot's rescue. This faith came after he he tithed to Melchizedek. This faith came after God clarified the promise.

It is interesting that God instituted the Abrahamic covenant after Abraham's saving faith and in response to the question: 'How can I know that I will gain possession of it?'

By the way- I'm not trying to make some big theological point about a timeline of faith and salvation- We see this salvation as past, present, and future like all the elect- but I do think it is clear in this example that FAITH IS NOT A WORK- AND WORKS DO NOT MERIT SALVATION.-

Let me go a little deeper:

Abraham was wicked. Read Romans 4:3-5 together.

3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Remember, Abraham was called out of a region of pagan idolators and the evidence suggests that his region participated in child sacrifice.

Abraham did nothing to initiate the process of faith.

Abraham stumbled along the way- his faith had to grow.

Paul's Evidence #2 - KING DAVID- Big dog #2. Paul quotes Psalm 32:1 as a prooftext of his gospel. This is in the context of forgiveness.

Paul's statement- things that make you go 'hmmm'. He asked a couple of leading questions: Is the blessing only for the circumcised (the Jew)? Didn't the promise and the crediting of righteousnes happen before the sign? So Father Abraham (the fatherhood of saving faith) is a Father to the Jews and Gentiles who demonstrate a trust in God.


ROMANS 4: 18” In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.’”

A quick note: If there are no tough circumstances, there is no opportunity for great and growing faith.

Abraham grew in his ability to trust God. It took a long time of experience to follow the Lord this way. God was always faithful to His promise and Abraham learned to put stock in God.
When the pressures of doubt came, Abraham clung to his trust in God and refused to let go. He did not know how or when God would come through, he just knew that He would do as he always promised.

God’s Kingdom is always victorious and the gospel is never hindered. In the darkest moments of final despair is when God most wants to show up and conquer. God is a hero, and all He wants from us is to just keep swimming, keep swinging, keep praying, keep loving , and …..never, never , never lose hope.
It is important to note that Abraham had to grow in this faith, as we do. Jesus asked the question, "when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" I believe He is referring to this type of faith- if we have anxiety, fear, or are overcome by circumstance- aren't we implying that we really do not trust God to keep His promises?

WHAT WE GET OUT OF IT! Look at the last 3 verses of Romans 4- READ IT AGAIN!

"23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

As we close Romans 4: Let's make a few points of application:

1) Faith is not a work, it has an object. Saving faith is not "Believe"- Saving faith is "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". That is why the amount of faith is not the deal. Faith as small as a mustard seed is powerful, because it is the object of faith that unleashes the power of faith.

2) We are in the stream of God's great plan regardless of our background or ethnicity IF we come to God on His terms. The terms are repentence and faith. We must turn from ourselves and turn to Him. Do it now! Respond to the call of the Spirit right at this moment!

3) Father- give me Abraham's faith. "You don't know what you are asking". "Why? Great faith can only come in hopeless circumstances." Yes, Lord, but I do believe You- help my unbelief !"

Next lesson: Romans 5 - ANOTHER BIG 'OUN'

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Greatest News- Shout it From the Rooftops!

ROMANS 3 "21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

We could spend a long time on the above passage. Read it again!

This is the gospel in Romans 1:16,17 in a more expanded version. Think about this- when this was written around 55 AD can you imagine anything more world changing? Have you ever wondered as you drive down the street and see crosses everywhere, how this could have happened.

Consider... in 2009, in Nashville TN- I see the spread of Christianity everywhere. I bet there are 500 crosses in a 5 mile radius. I go on facebook and see pictures of my friends travel around the world... and what do I see? Crosses- on mountains, trails, church steeples, jewelry- in every land and people group.

In 55 AD, there were no crosses in middle Tennessee. There were trees, wildlife, and Native Americans. Something happened- and the above passage explains it.

'NOW'- This is an amazing word. We see it in verse 21 and 26. Verse 26 literally means 'in the now time". There is a linear story here:

PAST- In the past God was separated and storing up wrath- man was in darkness. God began the healing by introducing a tutor- His holy law- which is by it's very nature designed to kill us- shut up our excuses, and shine light on our shadows of sin and shame. But there were also promises- the prophets talked of a savior. It all pointed to the cross.

PRESENT- because of the cross and resurrection there is NOW a righteousness that comes from God. He is not requiring us to measure up... He has come down.

Today is the day of salvation! Why are you delaying? What are you waiting for? It is the NOW time!

"through faith in Jesus Christ to ALL who believe"- If God required money, only the rich could be free. If he required knowledge, only the intelligence. If he required deeds, only the disciplined. He wants you to simply trust HIM. He paid it all! You don't even trust your faith- your faith is in HIM! Paul will expand on faith in Chapter 4.

"All have sinned"- this is an archery term. If you hit the target- you have "pinned it"- but you missed ("sin" is to miss the mark). All your best efforts have failed. You start over again and again- but you can't keep God's standards- Heck! You can't even keep your standards.

"Fallen short of the glory of God"- there are three ideas of glory ('doxa') in the Bible. I will cover all three in detail in a later blog- but in God there is brightness, a radiance. There is also a weightiness, He is solid. And there is an honor- worthy of reverence.

Our lives should bring illumination, weight, and honor to the name of God.... but we are pitiful in that duty. Instead, without Him, our lives are dark, fragile, and shameful. We missed by a mile.

But we:
'are justified'- LEGALLY CLEARED- You have no record of wrong
"freely'- No payment can be made- all debts are paid
"by his grace'- a gift- G.od's R.iches A.t C.hrist's E.xpense
'through the redemption'- redeemed means a payment was made for you-you were on the chopping block- worth nothing- and God paid a ransom to free you!

Finally, this will blow you away- CHRIST AS THE ATONING SACRIFICE
Verse 25- God presented Him- God initiated this whole deal. The image here is the mercy seat of God being brought out from behind the veil for all the world to see. The reason you see the cross everywhere is because God presents it. It is an invitation to enter this story of great news.

"a sacrifice of atonement" The death of Jesus takes the wrath of God and swallows it whole. This was pictured in the Old Testament sacrifices: the blood on the doorposts during the passover- the lamb slain on the day of atonement- the suffering servant in Isaiah 53- John the Baptist "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!"

"in His forebearance, he had left the sins beforehand unpunished"- God is a God of great patience. Peter wrote about this in II Peter 3 "
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."
All people Old Testament and New Testament now have a sacrifice for sin- the death of the perfect God-Man, the Son, The Savior- Jesus Christ.

God as 'just and justifier'- God Himself has taken this on. He hinted to it in the Old Testament when Abraham slept and God walked through the slain animals- He took on the terms of the broken covenant. We broke it- He paid for it. God solved the problem of our freedom, rebeillion, and His holiness. He solved the dilemma without even a stain on His name or character.

What a salvation! What a savior! What a passage!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ROMANS 3- Paul’s Point Becomes More Precise

Romans 3 represents the last of the ground preparation for the beautiful gospel proclamation in 3:21-26.

The passage begins with Paul’s technique of asking questions and incorporating the technique of a type of Hebrew midrash. Paul anticipates the questions from seekers and opponents to this ‘salvation by grace through faith’.

The questions are good and valid:
Does this gospel oppose the Old Testament law and break its promises to Israel?
How do good works apply to this gospel of faith?
What was the whole Torah and Israelite history all about?
Who is in and who is out?

It is interesting that Paul only hints at answers in Chapters 1-8. He waits until Chapters 9-11 to develop his personal apologetic of answers. He does this by the way by means of his deep personal involvement of both law and grace- but we will hit that much later.

Chapter 3 is all about the final death nail: ALL ARE UNDER SIN (VS 9). The singular ‘sin’, not sins speaks of sin as a dominating power. We are under a severe bondage. It is not just doing things- our whole thought patterns, will, desire, are chained to a condition. Our sin nature is as natural as our skin. The power and dominion of sin produces sins- but we are all in it, all the time.

Paul then links together some Old Testament passages (the Holy Scriptures of Ch 1) to illustrate. Dr. Know Chamblin mentions that verses 10-12 have Gentile sins in view and verses 15-17 have Jewish sins in view.

I am most impressed by the linear pattern of this corrupted nature. Starting in verse 9 we see a scope and sequence of sin’s mastery over the human race.

All infected in verse 9
Understanding warped in verse 10
Attitude of rebellion and hiding in verse 12
Resistance in 12b
Words of deception and poison in verse 13/14
Actions of violence and destruction in verse 15
Consequences of misery in verse 16
See the human condition? Thoughts- attitude- rebellion- words-deeds- death.
The language suggests sin as having a compounding and intensifying effect.

Verse 19 shuts the tomb- “every mouth is silenced and the whole world is accountable”. The law is not for self righteousness, it is supposed to drive us to God in need of mercy.
The NIV translation of ‘conscious of sin’ in verse 20 does not capture the Greek work ‘epignosis’ very well. The law gives us a precise knowledge of where we have fallen short of God’s Holy Standard- we are undone.

This relates back to Chapter 2:12-16 where Paul uses the idea of conscience as proof that the gentiles are just as knowledgeable of their sinful state as those who know the law.
The Bible uses conscience as proof of God’s divine image on all humans. It means we are not animals- we are image bearers. But our consciences are fallen and sometimes seared beyond help. C.H. Dodd says that the conscience is not a different law on the heart of man, but it is less precise. Charles Hodge confirmed that the ‘ungodly’ have a strong sense of obligation and duty and an inner awareness of what is right. C.S. Lewis called this ‘oughtness’ and used it as proof of the existence of God.

Here’s the point:
Paul has taken 3 1/2 chapters to show us that we are under slavery to sin. We cannot stand up to the severe wrath of God. Do you really want to walk up to the heavenly altar with no covering or plan? God sees you and knows your secrets- do you think your righteousness will appease His unswerving, unrelenting, non-compromising holiness?

If you are overwhelmed right now in disgusting darkness and anguish- congratulations! You are ready for the incredible gospel.

Read Chapter 3;21-26 and cry Hallelujah! Amen! with tears of joy!

I can’t wait to write my next blog…. Life changing light of grace and peace….FREEDOM IS UPON US!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Most Sinister of Sinners – A Look at Romans 2

It might help to read Romans 1 and 2 before reading this blogpost.

Romans Chapter 2 is a more stark expose’ on the human condition than Romans 1. Romans 1 includes all people- but Romans Chapter 2 narrows the scope a little.

Romans 1 shines a light on all humans who hide from God in shadows of sin and shame. Romans 2 puts a laser beam on those who hide from God in the light.

Romans 1 speaks to people who know the truth about themselves and suppress it. Romans 2 shocks people with truth that they ignore about themselves.

Romans 2:1 “You, therefore (oun), have no excuse.” Who is the “you” here?

Romans 2 is an indictment on the worst kind of sinner- the moralist- the sanitized and technically sound religious person- who believe they are so righteous that they can actually condemn others in their sins.

These are the ‘judgers’- and we have to be careful here. There is a standard that we appeal to in order to admonish and encourage each other. But this reference to judging is an attitude of condemnation and accusation.

These people seem to be the ‘most righteous’ in terms of looking good and measuring up to outward standards of moral code and law. But there are significant problems: hypocrisy, no self suspicion, stubbornness, no attitude of repentance, self seeking, the rejection of truth, arrogance, using righteous deeds to achieve social acceptance, bragging, (you know the person).

In Paul’s day, these characteristics were most commonly associated with the spiritual haughtiness of the Jews – in particular the Pharisees. Who can forget the blistering statements from Jesus about the oppressive religious leaders of that day- “vipers”, “Sons of Satan”, “White washed tombs full of dead men’s bones”-

I do think Paul eventually narrows to the Jews in this passage, but I also believe these principles apply to anyone who regards their religion in a way that it credits to them righteousness and an air of arrogance, superiority, and condemnation.

When Paul echoes what the Old Testament says about a ‘true Jew’- not outward law-keeping and circumcision, but inward obedience and the circumcision of the heart- the application would be true of those of us who claim to be in the covenant today.

I have paraphrased Romans 2 using the same argument for someone who claims the “Christian” status.

17 If you are an Evangelical, you are relying on a knowledge of God's word for your special relationship with him. You boast that all is well between yourself and God. 18 Yes, you know what he wants; you know right from wrong because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a beacon light for people who are lost in darkness without God. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that in God's law you have complete knowledge and truth. 21 Well then, if you teach others, why don't you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you do it? You condemn idolatry, but do you steal from pagan temples? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, "The world blasphemes the name of God because of you." 25 The Evangelical ceremony of baptism is worth something only if you obey God's law. But if you don't obey God's law, you are no better off than an unbaptized sinner. 26 And if the sinners obey God's law, won't God give them all the rights and honors of being his own people? 27 In fact, unbaptized sinners who keep God's law will be much better off than you evangelicals who are baptized and know so much about God's law but don't obey it. 28 For you are not a true believer just because you were born to evangelical parents or because you have gone through the evangelical ceremony of baptism. 29 No, a true believer is one whose heart is right with God. And true baptism is not an outward show but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people.

Our only hope to escape this state of ‘phariseeism’ is the Holy Spirit, a constant attachment to the gospel, and a group of believers around us to encourage accountability and honest evaluation.

Bottom line: None of us bear up under the Holy light of the Father who sees us as we really are. If we are trusting in anything within us to escape the wrath, we are foolish. If we think by condemning others, we can make ourselves cleaner to the Judge- we are deceived.
The most sinister of sinners are those who think they are fully clean apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

The bad news keeps coming, but be patient- a beautiful salvation is about to be proclaimed!

Monday, May 18, 2009

ONE LAST LOOK- Romans 1:18-32

I have to relate this incredible analogy from Dr. Knox Chamblin on the verb in the phrase "suppress the truth by the means of their unrighteousness" in Romans 1.

We believe simply that means that people are maybe just bored by God or neglectful. Maybe we interpret the idea of just not being inspired by Christianity or more in love with the world.

Dr. Chamblin relates it to someone visiting an art gallery, full of the most beautiful paintings and valuable pieces of art ever assembled. The verb 'to suppress' is not just that person going through the gallery and yawning- it is more akin to them taking a switchblade and spray paint and seeking to destroy the pieces, marring them forever.

We are not just disinterested in the things of God- in our natural, fallen, broken covenantal state- we despise Him.

Martin Luther was honest just before his conversion. He said 'I don't love God.... in fact, I hate Him". We spew and vent and mock and question our Creator to no end. He patiently takes it and offers love.

The wrath of God is His settled and unswerving opposition to all things evil and unrighteous. But His main desire is to let that wrath pour out on the cross and allow us to escape His punishment.

We often use Rev 3:20 "Behold I stand at the door and knock" as a salvation verse. But in context, it really is a repentence verse. We have turned our back in contempt on the Father. He is knocking on the door, just as He was calling out in the garden, "Where are you?" "Please open this door". But we dread it- we do not want to face this shameful meeting.

But what does God do? "I will come in a sup with Him and he with Me."

If we turn to Him now, we find the Father's arms of love. But if we keep hiding and hating, He will have no choice. We have decided our fate.

Review Man's Depravity below- it is time to leave the mud and mire and be cleansed. Is this where we really want to be?

God gave them over: He lets them have their way
Judgment contained in the activity- consequences are there!

Desires- Heart Thoughts- mind Actions- will


Evil is corrupted good:
Insolent- instead of humble and teachable
Sex- good but polluted by deviancy
Arrogant- instead of humble and meek
Envy- good things but not a good god
Boastful- instead of humble and quiet
Murder- killing a Image Bearer of God- destroying life.
Inventors of evil- instead of creators of good
Strife- ruining good relationships
Disobedient to parents- instead of trusting
Deceit- instead of truth
Senseless- instead of good common sense
Malice- hurting instead of helping
Faithless- instead of developing faith
Gossips- whispering evil intents
Heartless- instead of caring
Slander- loud, evil, arrows and darts
Ruthless- instead of giving mercy
God haters- instead of God lovers
Keep going in spite of consequences and encourage the practice in others.

This is why we need to be saved..... the wrath and consequences are MUCH DESERVED!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Supression and Shadows of Sin

Romans 1:18-32 is a sad, but truthful commentary on the human condition.

I would like to trace some of this back to Genesis 3. Genesis 3:1 says the serpent was 'crafty' (Hebrew word aroum )- after the sin 3:7 has the Hebrew word 'ā·rome' ' (they knew that they were 'naked') . This 'exposure of shame' was a direct result of man's autonomy, determining things for oneself- being in control- acting like God.

After this exposure, man immediately formed the first works religion- sewing fig leaves to cover up the sin. And the saddest result of all- hiding from God.

When we get back to Romans 1 we see the same pattern. Crafty deception- human autonomy- covering up of sin- man made worship- and hiding from God.

A few points from Romans 1:

vs 18 says that men suppress the truth by the means of their wickedness. The greek verb for supress is 'katekho' and is a very strong term. It means to 'hold the course'- these men will not be easily swayed. Probably impossible without the power of the gospel and the light of the Spirit.

Romans 1 also says that the evidence for God is clearly seen. This point is quickly debated by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and many other of the hard line atheists. "Why doesn't God give me more evidence?" The problem is not in the evidence- the problem is the foolish and darkened heart of the suppressors and excuse makers.

Remember in Luke 16 the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazurus? "27 And (the rich man said) said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

I grieve over super smart, highly educated people who have pushed God outside their lives. They of all people prove what the Bible says over and over about the arrogance of man and God's opposition to them. Judgment day will be the harshest for the elite intellectuals and the hypocritical moralists and the suffocating and the suppressive religious.

"God gave them over"-
this is an amazing statement. It is repeated three times (vs 24/26/28). When people begin on a course of suppression, ingratitude, and rebellion- God gives them over. In other words, He let's them choose that path.

As a coach, I see this sometimes. A player just does not want to be with us. I try every button and technique, but he responds with every excuse. I plead, they resist. I give reasons, they counter. I use others to help persuade. I know I am right and that they will be full of regret, but eventually I let them go. I know the path will be full of pain and regret.. but it is of no use.

"Darkness and depravity"- once the cycle of sin begins... there is no bottom. These people have futile thinking, dark hearts, and appetites for destruction. They also desire company. Sin seems normal and godliness is despised.

Read the lists of sins:
Sexual perversion, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, etc.

See the progression of sin:
gossips are 'whisperers'- the slanderous speak it out loud.
these people become God-haters and invent ways of doing evil.

See sin as corruption of good:
envy is a lack of trusting God
disobeying parents is neglecting admonitions of love
heartless is killing love

If you think you aren't included in this chapter- there is a special section for you in Chapter 2. But if you are like me, you have no problem agreeing with the final summary, "I am a wicked man."

This is the bad news- but be of good cheer, THE GOOD NEWS IS ON THE WAY!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Revelations and The Great Exchange

Romans 1:18-32 is an amazing passage. Words put down 1900 years ago read as current as the New York Times.

The first thing to notice is the 2 'revelations' in this passage:
vs 17- in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed.
vs 18- the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

vs 18 has the greek (gar) "For" at the beginning which seems to link these two revelations. The word for revelation here is the root "Apocalypse" which is the title we give to the last Book of the Bible- Revelation.

In Revelation, there are two kingdoms at war. You either belong to the Lamb and get the wrath of the Dragon. Or you belong to the Dragon and get the wrath of the Lion. Whose wrath do you choose?

When we see the wrath of God revealed, it should make us run to the gospel of the revelation of God's righteousness and great news of redemption.

Martin Luther did. When he read Romans 17, he wrote in 1517: "Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise through open gates"

We are going to see much more later in the passage. But instead of accepting the offer of righteousness through faith in Christ- we exchange the glory of God for his creation. We stop worshiping God or acknowledging God. But we love to consume and use His gifts and things. We exchange God's simple truths for sinister lies.

The wrath of God is not against our unrighteousness- but against our false religion where we serve ourselves and get deeply entangled with idols.

The new atheists in the bold darkness accuse God of being capricious and showing selfish, childish, temper tantrums. In great mocking tones they throw charge after charge at Him.

So is God at fault here? As we ignore Him, castigate His righteousness, and slander His truth?

In the next lesson, we will see the nature and clear evidence of God's wrath.

But let me end with a question: Of the two revelations, righteousness and wrath, which light do you want to live in?

Father, by and because of Jesus Christ, thank you for letting me live in the light of your righteousness.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Main Meaning of Romans and the Message of Paul's Life

Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

In chapter 1 we come to what most commentators call the theme of the great letter.

To be honest, I cannot capture all that these two verses imply- but I did enjoy having many of the following points drilled home.

"Not ashamed" is a strange way of phrasing this to me. But if you think about it, our culture pushes us into the shadows of shame if we cling to the message of the cross of Christ. The attack of the post-modern culture is to marginalize, trivialize, attack, and ridicule the things of God. Paul was bold in his embrace of Christ. Things were not different for Christian's then, if anything it was worse. The 1st century Christian faced being kicked out of their trade guild, imprisonment, starvation, persecution, and execution. Think how many times Paul was beaten, stoned, left for dead, put in prison- so for him to say he is not ashamed... wow.

"the gospel' means literally good news. Great news! And Paul never leaves the gospel. Sometimes we relegate the gospel to a children's lesson. You sing "Jesus loves me" and move on to issues or doctrine. But Paul preaches the gospel, all the time, in every ocassion, to all people. The gospel is his 'go' juice!

Power of God- I was talking to our chemistry and physics teachers yesterday and they were talking about how physics has uncovered how energy can produce an electron. These two godly scientists see no problem in science and Theism. They said that chemistry and physics has no problem with God, it's the biologists that are closed and clouded. But they said that if you calculated all the 'known matter" (not counting dark matter or unknown matter)- the amount of energy it would take to 'create' all we have now is almost unmeasurable and surely incomprehensible. We have no clue how powerful God is- and His power is manifest in LOVE.

"First Jew-then Gentile"- I'm pretty confident that this is pointing to the linear pattern of God revealing this message through history. It is the story of a promise- a covenant- whereby God prepared us for this glorious story through Abraham, Moses, David----- all the way to today. We will discuss the Nation of Israel later.

"From faith to faith (some versions have faith first to last)"- there a three different interpretations of this. I believe it will be unpacked by his argument that it has ALWAYS been by faith and never merited by works.

"revealed" - the first of two important "apocalypse" - I will refer to this next time.

"The righteous will live by faith"- This is a reference back to Habakkuk 2:4- and the best application of this is that the Hebrews did not seperate faith from faithfulness. The righteous WILL live by faith- this is what we do! This is how we live. This is our normal path.

Have you been gripped by the gospel? Is it your passion and power? Do you unashamedly cling to it and are you excited to share it- no matter the cost?

Over the next few weeks, may God solidly secure this glorious message to our hearts!

So here is the grand theme. The gospel will be unpacked (Romans 3:21-31) and applied. Questions will be anticipated and answered. This was Paul's passion! We look forward to the wonderful message.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paul's Plans, Desires, and Unanswered Prayer

We are a little closer to the big 2 passages in Romans 1. Romans 1:16,17 is the general theme of the letter and Romans 1:18-32 is one of the most crucial passages in all of Paul's argument.

But a few more interesting bits of noteworthy applications exist in verses 8-15.

I am always impressed by Paul's optimism and joy. He is the ultimate energizer bunny in terms of positive energy. This positive attitude comes from His faith in Christ and the joy of salvation. It is the celebration of a criminal set free. It also springs from a heart of gratitude.

I've been thinking a lot about it- and I believe a spirit of thanksgiving destroys a negative attitude. We get negative when we look at our circumstances with thankless eyes. If we would just stop and count our blessings, we would sound like Paul- "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world."

I am also impressed by Paul's prayer life. He mentions in many places about his unceasing prayer. I take that to be a running dialogue with the Father- all day long, in the spirit, just times of spoken and unspoken requests. Formal prayers in the synagogue, private seasons of prayer, small group petitions, cries for help... all together showing a dependence on God. Why does He pray? He prays because God can act and prayer moves Him to do so. It is also great communion with Him, showing a humble reliance on Him.

I am intrigued by Paul's desires. He really wants to see the Roman believers. He so wants to visit with them. He wants to strengthen that flock. I think Paul really sees the church in Rome as strategic. As a Roman citizen, under the influence of that dominant culture, I think he feels a sense of opportunity for the gospel there. If all roads lead to Rome, what a great channel for the story of salvation through faith in Jesus- both for Jew and Gentile, Greek and non-Greek. There is no evidence to say that Paul had ever been there to the point of his letter. Notice the spiritual gift he wants to impart is to establish and encourage one another in this new faith.

Finally, I am encouraged by Paul's unanswered prayer. His plan is to go to Rome, but God has said "No". Verse 13- "I have planned and, so far, been prevented..". Has God ever told you "No", or "Not yet"? How do we handle this?

It never seems to deter Paul's optimism or his faith. He is a great 'yes, Lord" believer. He knows that God's timing and plan is MUCH better than his own. God has Paul's whole heart (1:9) and he is not swayed by delay.

Have we been set free by Christ? Then why live in depression or pessimism?

Do we trust Christ? Then why get frustrated by our circumstances?

Do we have a relationship with Christ? Then why are we not praying to Him unceasingly?

Great stuff in Romans 1 and we aren't even to the good part yet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Essential Truths in Romans 1

It is no wonder that thousands of hours of sermons and tens of thousands pages of commentary have been written on Romans Just in the first few verses of Chapter 1 there is incredible truths that one could dig into for weeks or months.

I'm going to skip the wonderful study of Paul as a servant, Paul as an apostle, and Paul as set apart for the gospel.

Be careful and not miss Paul's reference to the 'Holy Scriptures' in verse 2.

But I wanted to focus on verse 3 and 4. Christ is included in two parallel phrases as 'kata sarka' and 'kata pneuma'- 'according to the flesh' and 'according to the spirit'. Jesus's birth supports His human nature and the resurrection supports His divine nature.

According to Dr Chamblin, there are three events of the gospel: the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection. All three are vital for the gift of righteousness through faith.

The Incarnation: The word becoming flesh- suffering the way we suffer but without sin, He hungers with us, He thirsts with us. He became as us to die for us!

The Cross:What more can be said about that? But I like to think of it personally. I held Christ on the Cross because of my sin and He held Himself there for me!

The Resurection: If you don't think it meant something to Paul, read I Corinthians 15 again. Paul saw the risen Lord and it transformed his life!

Later on, Paul will explore humans according to the flesh and according to the Spirit.

We also have the whole Trinity in place in these opening verses.
Gospel of God- Son of God- the Father in view.
servant of Jesus, the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord- the Son in view.
the Spirit of holiness - the power throufg which the resurrection happened- the Spirit in view.

4 verses and more theology than we could bear!

We have a beautiful God my friends Who has drafted a beautiful story.

May we enter into that story with great energy and enthusiasm!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Refreshed and Restored in Romans

Ok - here we go.

I have been diving into the Book of Romans for the last 4 weeks. This is in preparation for a class I will be teaching next spring called "Romans and Revelation". We will study Romans the first 9 weeks and Revelation the next 9 weeks.

I just finished a 3 year study of the Book of Revelation and taught it in 28 lessons to the "Armed and Encouraged" Sunday School class at my church.

Next week I will begin recording 25- 25 minute lessons on Revelation for the church. Be in prayer for that.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the more interesting points from my study on Paul's Epistle to the Romans. I give great credit to many of my heroes who have taught me in the process. I start with the late James Montgomery Boice and his 4 volume commentary on Romans. It may be the most interesting, informative, and illustrated commentary in history! I also enjoyed commentaries by Ladd, Moo, Calvin (of course), and Charles Hodge.

The highlight was Dr. Knox Chamblin's Romans course found free on I-tunes U from Reformed Theological Seminary.

First comment: WHAT A BOOK! Oh my, each lesson in Romans just feeds meat to the weary soul. No wonder it has transformed so many lives. The Book of Romans caused Augustine to repent of his captive life to sin and sparked Martin Luther to stand firm in the birth of the Reformation.

I still want to investigate the controversial commentary by N.T. Wright and look at a few others: I have FF Bruce and the NIV and IVP commentary series.

I am most amazed at God's plan for the apostle Paul- he was born a Hebrew and a Roman citizen. As a young man under Gamaliel and as he progressed as a Pharisee, God was preparing a man to articulate the gospel like no other.

Rome was on Paul's prayers and in his heart. As Emperors changed throughout the course of his life, God was preparing a cross roads at Rome under Nero.

It seems very likely that Paul penned Romans while staying in Corinth. Later, as a prisoner of Rome he wrote some of the other great epistles that support the theme of justification of all men by faith alone.

I grew to see Paul's humanity captured very creatively by Walter Wangerin in his novel, Paul.

There is a lot of debate about whether the Roman church had more Jews or Gentiles. I don't think it matters, because Paul's ministry was bringing both under the grace of Christ.Paul was a pioneer at taking what Christ did at calary to pave the way for gospel expansion and the exploding kingdom of God. He finds several latch points of community and unity. His most dynamic ministry was being a catalyst to bring the conveted Jews and Gentiles into a harmony under the gospel of Christ.

His letter was preparing them for what he prayed would be a fruitful ministry with them. I do agree that he was planning to end up in Spain. But he did long to be with the Romans.

Why not take the center of the world to plant the power of God in the gospel?

I have also used this study to get back into greek. I praise God for the language of the New Testament. Oh My, it is so vivid, exact, and rich. You have to notice the verb tenses in Romans, and you must struggle with how the English translations have chosen some of the translation decisions.

But in the long run- it is a simple Book with complex doctrine. When Paul said he was eager to present the gospel to the learned and unlearned, cultured and uncultured, he was proclaiming the best news of all. Salvation is not just for the smart, the rich, the religious, the achiever. Salvation is revealed and accessible to all men through faith in the work of Jesus Christ!

What a Book! What a story! What a gospel! What a savior!

I hope you enjoy my sharing little tidbits with you!