Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Romans 7 Continued

Romans 7 continued. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

After having told us that sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace, and after having said that we are not under the law's jurisdiction because of our death with Christ on the cross, he now goes on to examine whether there is something wrong with the law. In Romans 7:7 he asks the question, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?” The answer is “Absolutely Not!” Paul says he would not have known about covetousness if the law had not told him not to covet.

The problem is that sin takes the opportunity that comes about because of the law. Paul personifies sin in this passage and shows that when we hear a commandment, sin uses that as an opportunity to rise up and oppose the law. In opposing the law it is opposing the nature and character of God. The moral law is a revelation of the character of God. So sin, taking the opportunity provided by the law rises up and as Paul wrote, “produced in me all manner of evil desire” (Romans 7:8).

He goes on to explain that apart from the law, sin is dead. He says that he was doing just fine before the law came, but when it arrived, sin came to life and he died. Paul was a Jew and a Pharisee. He had had the law since he was a small child. In Philippians 3:5-6 Paul writes concerning himself, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

So what does he mean in Romans 7 when he says that when the law came, sin revived and he died? I think it means that at some point the spiritual nature of the real law sank in. He realized that the law not only prohibited murder, it meant hatred, anger and bitterness were the seeds from which murder comes and therefore are violations of the character of God every bit as much as actual murder is. He realized that not only was the deed of sexual immorality wrong, but thinking about it and lusting after a woman was also wrong. When that realization hits us, wrongful thoughts and emotions seem to spring up in a constant stream and realize we are doomed. For as Paul says in Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'”

The commandment was meant to bring life. Leviticus 18:5 tells us, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” But sin that has taken up residence in us uses the opportunity of the law and kills us. Paul concludes this section by telling us that the law is holy, just and good. There is nothing wrong with the law in that sense, but there is definitely something wrong with us. God has removed us from the jurisdiction of the law, not because of the law, but because of its affect on sin. We'll find that law was never meant to be the solution of our problem, but was meant to show us our problem so that we could be rescued by faith in Christ. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memorization Monday - Romans 5:9-10

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:9-10

Since Christ died for us while we were still sinners, we have even more benefits in store. Primarily in this passage we have the promise that we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Why is it crucial that we be saved from wrath? Why is there wrath from God? The sinfulness of man makes God angry. He created us for his glory and for his pleasure and yet we have rebelled. He provided for all of our needs to be met by his gracious and loving hands and yet in spite of all of that we rejected this loving care and turned our back on him and his provision. That is why God is angry.

But what did this God do? He entered the world himself in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross to take the brunt of his own anger upon himself so that he might set rebellious sinners free. Which rebellious sinners does he set free?  Those who come to him and believe him when he says he freely pardons from all sins.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love Crucified Arose - Michael Card

Long ago, He blessed the earth
Born older than the years
And in the stall the cross He saw
Through the first of many tears

A life of homeless wandering
Cast out in sorrow's way
The Shepherd seeking for the lost
His life, the price He paid

Love crucified arose
The risen One in splendor
Jehovah's sole defender
Has won the victory

Love crucified arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Throughout Your life You've felt the weight
Of what You'd come to give
To drink for us that crimson cup
So we might really live

At last the time to love and die
The dark appointed day
That one forsaken moment when
Your Father turned His face away

Love crucified arose
The One who lived and died for me
Was Satan's nail pierced casualty
Now He's breathing once again

Love crucified arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Love crucified arose
The risen One in splendor
Jehovah's sole defender
Has won the victory

Love crucified arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Love crucified arose
The One who lived and died for me
Was Satan's nail pierced casualty
Now He's breathing once again

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ultimate Reality

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

He has been appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Because we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being. Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. For it is appointed for men to die once, and after that the judment. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

And they sang a new song, saying: “You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Taken from these Scriptures:
John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:15-17 ; Hebrews 1:1-4; Isaiah 64:6; Acts17:24-31; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 5:9-14

Friday, April 18, 2014

Continuing Thoughts on Romans 7

This is a continuation of my thoughts on Romans 6-8 with special attention to Romans 7. It would be best if you start with Part 1 and Part 2 so that you will have the context.

Paul asked the question in 6:15, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” He asked that question because he had just stated that sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under law but under grace (v. 14). We have died to sin and so we should not offer the members of our body as instruments to sin, but we should offer ourselves to God as those alive from the dead. And then he goes right into “For sin shall not have dominion over you...”

One would naturally want to know why sin will not have dominion just because we are not under law but under grace. What does not being under law have to do with it? Before he deals with that question, he wants to make sure that even though we are not under law but under grace, continuing to yield ourselves to sin makes us in effect a slave to sin, even though legally sin has no dominion. And he further tells us that yielding to sin continuously leads to further sin and ultimately death, whereas yielding to obedience leads ultimately to holiness and eternal life. With those warnings given, he turns once again to the law in chapter 7 where he wants to explain what freedom from the law means and how the law and sin interact.

So he begins chapter 7 by using marriage as an illustration to show that the law has jurisdiction over a person until death takes place. It can be the death of a person himself, or in the case he examines here the death of a spouse. When ones spouse dies, the law prohibiting marriage to another person no longer applies. So death breaks the legal hold of the law on a person.

In a similar way, when Jesus died on the cross and we died with him, we are no longer bound to the law but are now free to be “married” to Christ so that we can bear fruit for God (7:4). In 6:21 he had asked, When you were slaves of sin, “what fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?” The fruit of that kind of living is death. The fruit of an obedient life is holiness and eternal life. But the problem that he is going to be addressing here is how that works out. By being separated from the law, we are married to Christ. The natural fruit of that union will be born out in our lives because he lives in us. In another place Jesus compares himself to a vine and we are the branches. The natural result of being connected in that way is fruit (John 15). The same thing is true here.

Beginning in 7:5 then I believe Paul is summarizing what is to come in the next sections of his letter. Verse 5 tells us that when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions were aroused by the law and as a result, the fruit we brought forth was fruit to death. I believe this is what he then explains in much of the rest of the chapter. When was it that we were “in the flesh”? It was before the regenerating power of God brought about the new birth in our hearts.

In contrast, verse 6 explains that now we have been delivered from the law because we have died to it through the death of Christ, and now we serve in the new way based on the Spirit's work and not the old way of mechanical obedience to external rules and regulations. This, I believe is what he gets into in chapter 8, the life governed by the Spirit.

The problem with the law as we shall see is not really a problem with law at all, but a problem with us. We are not capable of keeping the law and instead of helping us, the law gives strength to sin. This is why the Old Covenant was replaced. The New Covenant provides a changed heart, a new spirit, God's Holy Spirit and internal motivation to obey. God gives the strength to obey. It is a joyful obedience that comes from the heart because the heart has been changed.

Look at what Moses tells the people of Israel after they had wandered and complained for forty years: Deuteronomy 29:4 “Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.” Why had they been unsuccessful in following the Lord. God had not given them a heart to see and understand. No law, no list of regulations as good as they may be can provide the new heart and new motivation that is required. But this is exactly what God has promised in the New Covenant.

So Paul has introduced the concept of the law stimulating the sin that was in our unregenerate hearts in verse 5 and the solution to that which is a life of the spirit in verse 6. Next time we'll begin with Romans 7:7 and see how these principles are developed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Did it Have to be a Friend? by Michael Card

Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord
Why did he use a kiss to show them
That's not what a kiss is for

Only a friend can betray a friend
A stranger has nothing to gain
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain

And why did there have to be thorny
Crown pressed upon His head
It should have been the royal one
Made of jewels and gold instead

It had to be a crown of thorns
Because in this life that we live
For all who seek to love
A thorn is all the world has to give

And why did it have to be
A heavy cross He was made to bare
And why did they nail His feet and hands
His love would have held Him there

It was a cross for on a cross
A thief was supposed to pay
And Jesus had come into the world
To steal every heart away

Yes, Jesus had come into the world
To steal every heart away

Lord, Increase our Faith

I spoke last night on Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Jesus said this during Holy Week after he had cursed the fig tree. This is a hard verse because my immediate tendency is to place all sorts of conditions on the “whatever”. Jesus certainly cannot mean that, can he?

Well, it matters why we are trying to put conditions on his statement. There are other conditions for answered prayer in the scripture besides believing. We are supposed to pray according to God's will. We are supposed to pray in Jesus' name. We are to pray persistently and in agreement with other believers. We are supposed to be those who are abiding in Christ and who are living obedient lives before we can claim that God would answer our prayers. So, yes, there are conditions. My normal reason for responding to this “whatever” is lack of faith rather than the other spiritual conditions. When I respond in unbelief, even the one condition of this verse has been denied.

So given the Scriptural conditions mentioned above, let's look at the promise. First there is the “whatever”. God doesn't promise substitutes, he promises to give us what we ask for. All of the promises of God specify the “it” in one way or another. “Whatever you ask, it will be given you.”

Second, we need to ask. James writes, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). It seems obvious, but we do need to ask. And in another case Jesus challenged his followers to be persistent in the asking.

Finally, we must believe. Mark 11:24 writes it this way, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Here he says that we are to believe that we are receiving them. This occurs before the future tense of we will have them. In other words, our prayer needs to have the faith to believe that the answer is on the way even before it actually arrives. Hebrews 6:12 tells us that it takes faith and patience. There is a believing and a patient waiting. But again, all of this presumes the meeting of all the scriptural conditions for answered prayer. But what a promise! Our faith is so weak at times. We pray and hardly expect God to even hear us let alone answer our prayer. Maybe this needs to be our prayer, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

God's Work in Us the Key to Victory

Yesterday, (See article here.) in discussing the last section of Romans 6, I said, “If God has given you the gift of eternal life by regenerating your spirit, he has also given you a new heart, a new spirit, his Holy Spirit and the motivation to live for him (Ezekiel 36:26-27).”

Here's what that passage says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

There's a parallel passage in Jeremiah 31:33-34 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The New Covenant promised to Israel included the grace and internal motivation needed to follow God. His law would be in their minds and hearts. God would cause them to walk in his ways. The motivation to do right would flow naturally from a changed inside. This New Covenant was initiated by Jesus when he offered himself as the sacrifice of the New Covenant (See Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, 12:24). Some day it will be fulfilled in its entirety with all Israel but for now it is revealed in the new birth as that takes place in Jews and Gentiles alike around the world from every tribe and nation.

The point that I'm trying to make today as a follow-up of yesterday's discussion is that the warnings at the end of Romans 6 are real. Yielding to sin leads to further disobedience and ultimately death. Whereas yielding to obedience leads to further righteousness and that leads to eternal life. This should not be thought of as though I can just legalistically obey a certain set of regulations and end up in heaven. We are not saved by works but by faith in Christ. But believing in Christ and trusting him for salvation changes us. We become new creatures, old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The grace that God gives us teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly lives (Titus 2:12). If we don't know or don't care to live righteous and godly lives, we don't have the grace of God at work in us. We are told that God disciplines every son he receives. The purpose of that discipline is holiness (Hebrews 12:10), not the holiness of Christ that we receive positionally, but practical outworking of holiness in our living. The writer of Hebrews tells us that without such holiness we won't see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). But it is a holiness that is generated by God at work in us as we live in faithful obedience. It is God who works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure as we work out our salvation in our lives (Phil 2:13).

So it's important that we understand this. Two extremes need to be avoided. The one extreme is that we receive the gift of righteousness from God. He forgives our sins and now we can live however we want and it doesn't matter. We're secure. We'll get in and so all is well. The other extreme is to say, God will be examining our works and they better measure up or we won't get in. We begin to assume that we can earn our justification by our efforts. That is denied countless times in Scripture. If we would put ourselves under the illusion that we can work our way in by our deeds, we put ourselves under a curse because we must do everything perfectly to get in (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10).

We need to live our lives based on the truth that God graciously forgives us of our sins and at the same time, gently works in us to conform us to the image of his Son. God disciplines us as a father. His goal is to draw us back into his arms in loving obedience. His promises of reward and warnings against sin are both meant to draw us to fellowship with himself. A human father does this imperfectly. Our heavenly father knows exactly what it takes and he will be successful (Hebrews 12:10-11).