2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Romans 16:25-27 Pauls Doxology

Romans 16:25-27
Pauls Heart for the One True God

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the very last few verses of Paul’s letter to the early churches in Rome. Chapter 16. Well, we did it. We made it to the end of Romans! This is the 46th message in our series and today we finish. And if you have read this mornings passage ahead of time, what a finish Paul has to end this letter with.
Before we get to the end, lets review. Paul wanted to come see the churches in Rome, but had so far been unable to get there because God was using him further east to srpead the Gospel, plant and develop churches and to disciple those who did come to Christ.
He went through and wrote the most comprehensive systematic theology that hwe have in the Bible. Covering everything from sin, that we all know God instinctively, but suppress the truth and reject God, to One People and one plan of God, both jews and Gentiles. He showed that none of us are rightoues, none of us seek God according to our own will, and none does good on their own. We looked at the who Jesus is and how he secures our slavation. He spoke on the processes of regeneration, and justification. He spoke on the process of sanctification and his struggle with sin.
He looked at the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the role he plays in our walk with Christ. We looked at glorification and our security in our eternal destination. We looked at the Gentiles being grafted into the people of God and we looked at the practical application of all this theology; submitting our lives to God as living worship, setting aside our differences to unite in and by love. We put things in the right priority. Jesus first, others second, ourselves last.
Paul spent a couple of chapters make that point and how it looks practically and then pours his heart out in these last two chapters; his heart for Gods Gospel, for sdiscipleship, for missions, for unity, for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for protecting Gods people against false teaching and finally, as we look at these last couple of verses, his heart for worshipping the One, True God.
So, before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this weeks text, the last three verses in Romans. Romans 16:25-27. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your prefferred translation. Romans 16:25-27, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit finishes his letter, writing:
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

So, real quick, before we move on, some astute readers amy have noticed that we didnt cover verse 24 last week or this week. Your Bible should have a note in it about Romans 16:24. It should be bracketed or italicized or something and the note will say that This verse is not Included in some earlier manuscripts, or something along those lines. Others of you, the verse wont be in the regular portion of the text, but instead will be printed in the footnotes, saying something along the lines of, some manuscruipts include… and then put the verse. Romans 16:24 says The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen
There is no theological impact to whether this verse is in there or not and the truth is that if my Bible had the verse in it with the rgular verses and then a footnote that mentioned it, instead of putting it in the footnotes, I would have included it last week and probably made little mention of it. As it is, I mostly just want to acknowledge it so that in case any one wondered. If you have questions about verses like this, I really do recommend our Bibliology class Sunday nights. We will be going over how we can trust the Bible, he we get our translations, all those different sorts of things.
But, moving on to this weeks text, We see Paul pour his heart out in worship in these last lines of the letter and show who and how important God is in our hearts and minds and our lives. This section is likely given the sub heading of the Doxology in your Bibles. The definition of a Doxology, broken down from its original greek wording is Glory or Splendor Words. It is a formula of Praise to God. The occur occasionally throughout the New Testament Letters, this obviously purposely put together as, not just a prayer, which we also see in scripture, but instead almost like a psalm or a hymn, specifically lifting up praise and worship to the Glory of God.

Lets look at what Paul says here in this Doxology. It really is powerful and awesome. And it brings together and brings to a culmination everything tha Paul has written so far. And as a conclusion, Paul draws all attention off of everything else and straight on to God Almighty. “Now, to Him who is able…” God is able. God is completely able to do anything and everything, and specifically God is able to strengthen us. Both the NASB and the King James say that God is able to establish us. God is able to establish us! Paul has spent quite a bit of time showing his readers and us that we need to be established and that we are not able to do it ourselves. He can establish us justified before him. God and God alone can do that.
And Paul has shown throughout this letter that none of it is through us, our works, our thoughts, our national, familial or spiritual heritage, none of it is through our own rightouesness. Instead Paul showed us that it is Christs and Christs alone rightousness that is able to stand up against the holy and rightouesness judgement of God. And it is God alone who can transfer, or impute as Paul puts it, Christs righteousness on to us.
Paul has already share how God has designed to do it. It is Gods grace that allows us to be clothed in Christs rightouesness. He chooses to pour out his grace in a specific manner and through specific methods. Faith is the vehicle which He Chooses to deliver his saving Grace.
Paul already shared in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” We also see in Ephesians 2:8,  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, So not only is grace a free gift, delivered through fatih, but the faith itself is a free gift from God. And God has decided to deliver it through the hearing of the Word, through the Gospel as Paul says here in the Doxology, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through preaching, teaching, reading and hearing of the very words of God, the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.
This next part is interesting, looking at the last part of verse 25, and verse 26, Paul mentions the mystery that was a secret but has been disclosed through the prophetic writings, which is another word for the Scriptures. The Scriptures, the Bible, the Word of God, they have revealed to all of us and all nations the truth of the mystery revealed, the Gospel, the life and works of Jesus Christ. IT was a mystery to those in the Old Testament and to many in New Testament times, thats why Paul, Peter, the other apostles are writing these letters and the Gospels. Sadly, its still a mystery to many today even though we have it revealed to us in the Bible. One of the sayings that you will here Ron Sallee say often in our Bibliology class is that, speaking of the Old and the New Testaments or Covenants, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed.”
Again, even with it being revealed, its still a mystery to many. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
All throughout the Old Testament, starting in Jesus 1, Jesus has been present. Starting in Genesis 3, God promised the coming of a savior, a messiah. Those who were looking forward to his coming didnt exactly know who they were looking for. The coming Messiah was expected to be a mighty warrior, one who came down and militarily, politically overthroew all who were against the nation of Israel and especially those who were oppressing them. He would set himself up as a physical King on the throne and rule over the physical nation of Israel, Gods chosen and loved people.
Thats not how Jesus came, however. Look to Isaiah 53 to see some descriptions of the coming Messiah that would apply to Jesus that were not corporately expected. Jesus is God, truly God. Eternal and not created. Part of the perfect, eternal, holy trinity. One God, three persons. Before the creation of time, the trinity, co-equal, determined a plan that would rescue us, save us, redeem us, justify us from our sins and reconcile us back into perfect fellowhip with God.
And God foretold it all throughout the Old Testament, they were all looking forward to him. And he came down, still God, born a human baby, with no earthly father, so as not to inherit our sin nature. He grew up, lived a perfect, sinless, life. He taught truth and clarity where there had previously been confusion and unknownness. He called out sin where people thought they had none. He pointed out that we have no rightousness of our own and that the needed rightousness was more than we expected. He pointed us to a correct understandingof the Law given in the Old Testament, challengeing our assumotions and traditional understandings. He was sentenced and put to death on the cross, paying the wages for our sin. He died, was buried and then, on the third day, was raised from the day, in accordance with the scriptures. It is his sinless life and his work on the cross that forgives sin and defeats death. By the grace of God and through the faith that God has given us in that very work of Jesus, we are able to be called Children of God. When we become a part of the whosoever shall believe in Jesus, we gain forgiveness of sins, and we are adopted into his family and we get to spend eternity back in perfect relationship with God, worshipping him and glorifying him forever.
And all of that is free! God gives it graciously and generously. Faith in Christ allows us to recievethe gift of eternal life, again, the forgiveness of sins. But what do we do with our lives after we come to faith and we repent of our current and past sins?
Paul mentions here the obedience of faith. I mentioned last week what our purpose is here on this earth. What we are created to do in this mortal life. We are created to bring glory to God. All things are to be done to the glory of God and to the glory of God alone.
Again, Paul is using this Doxology, this praise and worship of God at the close of this letter and it brings the themes from throughout this letter into it. Notice we see this phrase, the “obedience of faith” back in the very beginning of the letter. Lets read again, Romans 1:1-6:
Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Familiar, parallel themes include that this is done for ALL nations, something Paul has been quite clear on through out the letter. We also know that it is for Gods name and glory among the nations, that he gets ALL the glory. And we see the obedience of faith.
Many churches, many Christians today dont want to think this. They dont want to believe this. Todays American Gospel is cheap, free grace. Grace that gives us everything we ever wanted and requires nothing from us. Gods gift of grace is indeed free, but that is very different that saying it doesnt require anything of us.
Faith brings about obedience. Obedience is one of the main aspects of sanctification. Sanctification is the process, after justification, after we come to faith in Christ, whereby God, specifically through the works and ministry of the Holy Spirit, works on making us Holy.
We kill the sin inside of us, no longer gratifying the desires of the flesh. Instead we work on being conformed to the image of Gods Son, Jesus Christ as Paul writes in Romans 8:29. The process of sanctification is a necessary part of being adopted into the family of God. Our identity when we are born is that of fallen man, of sinners seperated by God. God, who has the right, seeing as he created us, changes our identity when we are born again, or born of the spirit. We are now called “Saints” by God. We are forgiven, we are redeemed, we are set apart and we are now waiting for our glorification, when our sanctification is complete and we leave this life to enter our perfect bodies in Gods perfect presence and perfectly worship and glorify him for perfect eternity.
But that we all want ot skip right to that part. We want the end result without going through the work that it takes. We want to be iron that is sharpened, without the hammer banging us against the anvil and without being purified through the refining fire.
Ultimately, our actions, our lives give testimony to who we see God as and how we see his character. Got Questions.org say:
Prior to salvation, our behavior bore witness to our standing in the world in separation from God, but now our behavior should bear witness to our standing before God in separation from the world. Little by little, every day, “those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV) are becoming more like Christ.
Paul writes in Galatians 5 the difference between the two. The works of the flesh contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit. We should be seeing both an incredible, drastic change inn our lives before and after Christ, but also a gradual growing and maturing of our faith and obedience in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 5, verses 19-24:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The work that happens, the refining fire, the process of discipline that Father lovingly doles out on his children. It doesnt always make sense. It often hurts. We can easily question what the purpose is or why God is putting us through this. Of course we see that in many instances in the Bible, but Paul ends this Doxology, by calling God wise, to the only wise God, as a matter of fact. God knows all. He created all. He is in all times at the same time. And so, he is wise beyond all of our understanding. Our God is a God of wisdom.
Paul draws the entire letter of Romans into this praise and worhsip of God and lifts up to him all Glory and sums up so much here. Lets read it one more time, as a whole:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen indeed! Now, we mentioned Jesus being the key, the lynchpin on which our faith hangs. His sinless life, his death on the cross. His resurrection. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

While Jesus was here, during his life, he knew what was coming. He knew what his mission here was. He warned his disciples, and promised his disciples that not only would his death take place, but he also promised that he would return. On the night before his death, we see recorded in Matthew 26:26-28,  Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
We are called to come together as a church family and celebrate the LORDs Supper. And we are called to come together and remember. Dustin Benge is a Pastor in Kentucky and he walks through the different aspects of communion. He says:
The Lord’s Supper is an act of: 1. Obedience “In remembrance of Me” 2. Thanksgiving “When He had given thanks” 3. Representation “This is My body…My blood” 4. Examination “Examine yourself” 5. Proclamation “You proclaim the Lord’s death” 6. Anticipation “Until I come.”

Now, We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins. So take the time we are passing the elements to reflect on our sins and Gods grace and forgiveness.
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Romans 15:14-21 Pauls heart for the Gospel

Romans 15:14-21

Paul’s heart for the Gospel

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Romans chapter 15. If you do not have a Bible, please grab one from the back table and consider that our gift to you.

We here at Bangor Community Church believe that the Bible is Gods written Words. The Bible is his revelation to us, how He speaks to us today. And it is our passion, our calling and our commitment to get he Bible into the hands of as many people as possible.

In that, our method of preaching and teaching is to go through books of the Bible. Systematically, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line. This is important in order to see the context in which these words were written. It is also important because there are chunks of scripture that most pastors, most teachers, most churches would just skip over, for a variety of reasons.

In all honesty, much of the end of Romans is easy to just skim over if you’re not paying attention and not focused on this being the very words of God. But when we slow down, look line by love, verse by verse, when we focus on what God has said, we see that this is a treasure trove of richness, wisdom and revelation.

One of the things that we see throughout Pauls letter to the churches in Rome, and especially in our passage here this morning is that he pours out his heart to these people. We see his heart here and we see whats important to him and what he wants to do through and for Christ and that is the Gospel, Christ and him crucified.

So let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Romans 15:14-21. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version, please follow along in which ever translation you are holding in your hands. Romans chapter 15, verses 14-21.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes:

 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers,[a] that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul’s heart is just absolutely poured out to the churches in Rome. His heart is for the LORD and it is for the teaching and the spreading of the Gospel. And we are going to see both of those here in this passage. Both Evangelism and discipleship. Both are so vital and one with out the other leaves half a church.

Paul starts in v 14 by encouraging the readers of this letter. RC Sproul, in his commentary on this verse writes:

Paul graciously assures the Romans that his lengthy exposition of the Gospel is not intended to raise doubts about their spiritual understanding. Their knowledge and ability to apply it practically in mutual admonition is not in question.

Its like this. How many people here have heard the Gospel, know the Gospel and know how to act, at least in most situations? If you spend anytime in the church regularly and especially if you are a Christian, every one of you should be raising your hand.

So, if all Christians, or regular church attenders already know these things, why does Paul say them? Why do pastors get up every week and preach the Gospel? Paul answers that question in verse 15. He says, on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder. We need to be reminded of what we already know. We forget easily.

All the scriptures, and especially in the New Testament, we see continually references to us forgetting and needing to be reminded.

A few examples of this, certainly not exhaustive, that go along woth what paul is saying here:

2 Peter 1:12, Therefore, I will always remind you of these…

1 Corinthians 15:1, I would remind you brothers and sisters

2 Timothy 1:16, Therefore I remind you…

Jude 1:5 I want to remind you about what you already know…

And one we will refer to at the end of the sermon, Luke 22:19, Jesus says about the LORDS Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We, as human beings, need to constantly be reminded. We are a forgetful people. From back in the times of ancient Israel, Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness and they immediately forgot the negatives about their slavery in Egypt. We see this as a pattern in the Old Testament. We are going through the book of Judges in the Wednesday morning prayer meeting.

And the book of Judges is an incredible example of the people of God forgetting his good works and his powers and his commands and they go on and do their own thing. They forget and God goes to great lengths to remind them.

We forget and we need to continuously be reminded. There is a great anecdote, that is commonly attributed to Martin Luther. A church member asked Luther “Why do you preach the Gospel to us week after week?” Luther replied, “Because week after week you forget it.” This is all of us.

Yes, we need to be reminded, often and clearly. But we also already know, back to verse 14 for a moment. Paul says that, you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. If you need to be reminded, then that means that you already knew. And it’s not a forget, as in you don’t have the knowledge anymore. It’s still in your head, you still have the knowledge. But instead, when we forget, we forget in the practical sense. We don’t live out our knowledge, we do not act full of goodness and we don’t instruct one another.

There is a challenge in there. Can you briefly share with someone else, can you articulate clearly your testimony or your salvation story? Specifically, can you share out not based on and focused on emotions, though your emotions can be in there, but focused on what the scriptures say. How did God change your life as we see written down in scriptures?

Maybe more pointedly, or what our testimonies should be focused on, can you clearly and scriptural present and explain the Gospel in a brief conversation with someone? You have the knowledge inside you. If you didn’t before, its been shared over and over again over the past year plus. You receive a book at Christmas that clearly and scriptually explains salvation and the Gospel. You own a Bible. It’s your responsibility to be able to walk through the scriptures with someone and show them the Gospel.

Now, you don’t have to be a bible scholar to do this, but you have the knowledge inside you and you have the leading of the Holy Spirit and many other tools at your disposal to guide you through the scriptures.

Just like anything else, if you don’t practice sharing or explaining the Gospel, you wont be any good at it. If you don’t constantly focus on remembering it, you will forget.

Paul says that he has written some things boldly. If you’ve read through the book of Romans, you know that’s a understatement. Or 1 & 2 Corinthians, Or 1 & 2 Timothy, or especially Galatians. Paul is not afraid to lay things out and say it like it is.

But, as we have seen over the last few chapters, he knows what to fight for. Sometimes it is right to fight for unity, to show love to each other in spite of our differences, to set aside our differences for the purpose of fighting for the things worth fighting for. That is the Gospel. That is Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done. That is that Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation, for both Jews and Greeks, for everybody. These are the things worth fighting for, worth speaking boldly over and worth dividing over.

As Paul goes on, we see in verses 16-19 that the trinity is on clear display here. Listen to what Paul writes:

 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;

We see in this, that though some argue that the word “Trinity” is not used in the Bible, that it ois clear throughout. IN these couple of verses, we see clearly, God the Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ & God the Holy Spirit of God. Not three gods. Not three personalities. But one God, Three Persons. Confusing and often a stumbling block to those who don’t know God, who have not had the truth of scripture reveal to them, but truth as reveal in scriptures nonetheless.

And in that, in all that Paul is saying, He says something here that we need to remember most of all. In verse 17 he writes,  In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

Our motivation, our reason for doing everything that we do, is by, for and through Christ. It is too easy to do the right thing but do it for the wrong reasons. And anything we do, whether right or wrong, if it is done outside of Christ.

We see the Bible talk about the world’s moral, good deeds. We see good, upstanding people, living moral lives. We saw our own country used to be a moral country. Lives based off of the outward behavior prescribed in the scriptures. Lives that Jesus called “Whitewashed tombs.” (Matthew 23:27) They look good and right on the outside, but are dead on the inside.

And we see throughout the Bible what God has to say about these so-called good deeds. Isaiah 64:6 says that our good deeds are like filthy rags to God. I’m not going to go into detail, but whatever you picture as dirty rags, the meaning behind this is worse. Earlier in Romans, Paul writes, quoting the Old Testament that none of us do good, not even one. (Romans 3…)

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that we could do many signs and wonders, performing many good works in his name and he could still say to us, “Go away, I never knew you…”

Outside of Christ and outside the purpose of Christ, anything we do that might be seen as good means nothing in the cosmic, eternal view of the only one who is good, God the Father.

But when we don’t do good deeds for ourselves, when we don’t do them to be seen be the world as a success, when we don’t do them to earn karma points or to look good to God, then we do them for another reason. We do them for and in Christ. Watch the order of this. We don’t do good deeds in order to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ by God and then we do the good deeds that God told us to.

And when we do those good things that God told us to and for the reasons he told us to, our success is for the kingdom of heaven and for God rather than worldly success. We do these things and we don’t do them for ourselves and to look good but we do them so that God gets all the glory. Jesus says on Matthew 5:16, , let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 10, verse 17, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And then again, he writes in Galatians 6:14,  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[b] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world

Our testimonies, our motivations, our goals and our actions are not our emotions, they are not our experiences, but they are completely and solely Christ and him crucified. Paul is here to boldly proclaim and remind us of Christ and him crucified. Within the church, to believers, to the early churches in Rome and to Bangor Community Church today, that is what he is saying. We know that’s what he is saying to us because that’s what he was saying to them. John MacArthur reminds us “Whatever the Bible meant in its original context is what it means now.”

So, preaching and reminding the church of Christ and him crucified, Paul also has another mission, finishing up in verses 20 & 21:

thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.

Paul is not just a Shepard, feeding the sheep, as Jesus commands us in John 21. But he is also going out and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded of us. (Matthew 28)

Paul is modeling the idea of being both a pastor and a missionary. The things that Paul is modeling and teaching here are a part of why I am a Missionary Pastor with Village Missions.

Not one or the other, but both. Paul shows the pastoral role in v 14 & 15 here and the missionary role in v 20 & 21. We see through Paul in his letters especially the things that he does that fall under the pastoral role. The sheep need to be fed (John 21), we need to boldly be reminded of the Gospel (Romans 15), Christ and him crucified (2 Cor, 2), the saints need to be equipped (Ephesians 4), he contends for the faith (Jude 2) and disciples need to be made (Matthew 28).

And then we also see in Paul’s writings what being a missionary looks like. He travels and shares the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ. He wrote earlier in Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10). We see that the scriptures are able to make one wise to salvation (2 Timothy 3)

Not all of us are called to be Pastors of course, first of all, we see especially in 1 Timothy 2 & 3 and in other areas, that God has set some very specific criteria for who he may call as a pastor. But even if you are qualified, not every one is called to that role. Ephesians 4 is one of the best scriptures to see the large variety of roles that you may be called to.

But we are all called to be missionaries, the sharing of Christ to those who have never heard. And to share it accurately, succinctly and lovingly, we need to constantly be reminded of that very Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We meet together every sunday, partly to remind each other, and to hear the bold proclamation of the Gospel. We meet during the weeks to learn more about and to be reminded of what the Bible, which is Gods actual words to us. To be reminded of what he says to us.

And the first Sunday of every month, we follow the commands of Jesus and we celebrate communion in remembrance of him. We remember and we celebrate what unites us and brings us together. The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Genesis 15:1-6 God reassures and comforts

Genesis 15:1-6

God Reassures Abram

Good Morning. Lets flip on over in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 15, as we take a short, temporary break from Romans. As we look at a snapshot from the life of Abram, I see things which I think are very relevant to us in this day, especially now. As always, if you do not have a Bible with you, or if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our gift to you.
And so, as a starting point, what do we know about Abram up to this point is the story of Genesis, up through chapter 15?
Well, we know that God chose him. We know that Abram had great faith and trust in God, most of the time. We know that Abram had epic moments of failure, where he leaned on his own plans, his own understandings and did not trust in God and his promises. We know that he and his wife, Sarai, were an older couple who were passed child-bearing years and were barren. We know that God promised to make a great nation of him in spite of his lack of a child.
And we know that Abram just saw, in chapter 14, that when he listened to God and his plans and acted on Gods instructions, that he was blessed. In Chapter 14 Abram takes an army of 318 trained men, and defeated an incredible coalition of 4 kings who took Abrams nephew Lot. Abram followed God and acted on his faith, trusting completely that he and the 318 men could take theses 4 armies.
They did, and in a clear and decisive manner and brought Lot back to Sodom, where he was living. He then worshiped God with a high priest, the King of Salem, Melchizedek. And what we are going to see here this morning is that even in the good times, we still have a need for questions to be answered, to be reassured, to have God answer our questions and, ultimately, to be allowed to question.
We are going to look at Genesis 15, verses 1-6. It’s a few short verses, but it is packed dense with meaning and message and application and truth. I highly encourage you to follow along in your Bible as we read this few verses. So, Genesis 15:1-6 and I’m reading out of the English Standard Version:
Gods Word says:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[a] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

So we start out at some point after the battles, after the worship and experience with Melchizedek, sometime after chapter 14. My guess is that it is shortly after the events of Chapter 14. And what we see is that God speaks to Abram, he comes to him and he encourages him, reassures him, reminds him and comforts him.
Now, why would Abram need this at a time when he had just had such a successful victory following the LORD and such an amazing time of worship with Melchizedek. This should have been the time when Abram was flying highest. He should have zero doubts, no questions, he should feel never closer to God than at that moment up to that point in his life.
And yet…..
And yet, I bet that each and every one of us here can testify to a time like this. Things are going well in our life, more specifically, in our relationship with God. We are doing what we know he wants us to do. We are praying. We are reading. We are giving. We are walking with him and being faithful.
But something is off. Questions pop up. Doubts are raised. We feel far away from him. We wonder IF. Or we wonder WHY. Things just aren’t quite settled like they are supposed to be. The enemy loves to take this opportunity to attack and attack hard.
For Abram, it seems to be that his question or doubt, not sure which, seems to be along these lines. God is proving him self faithful and trustworthy. He is keeping his promises. He is blessing me and my family and protecting us and just being God. But, why is he not keeping this one specific promise. This one promise has not yet been fulfilled. Why? Why is God not keeping this one promise?
The promise Abram is talking about goes back to Genesis 12, where God tells Abram, in verse 2, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great.” This was a great promise. It was a promise that God and God alone could keep, could bring about. But it was a promise that seemed to need to be fulfilled a certain way.
In order for Abram to become a great nation, someone needed to take it over and keep his name going after he would pass on. That meant that Abram needed an heir. Without an heir, whoever took over for him would stake out his own claim, put his own name on it. But if Abram had an heir, his name would continue on.
So Abram is wondering, maybe worrying. “God said he was going to do this. He said he was going to make my name great, but I have no son to continue on my name. I have seen God keep all his other promises, and prove himself over and over, but I’m not seeing it in this.”
And this would happen occasionally in those days. A couple has no child, so who would inherit their possessions after they die? Often times in those days, one of their slaves or servants would become like a son. He would be adopted into the family and he would become the heir. Somebody needed to be an heir and take possession of their stuff.
And that’s what we see here. God appears to Abram and reassures him, responds to his wondering, saying, “I am your protection and I am your reward. I am faithful, I have been faithful and I will continue to be faithful.”
Abram responds, saying, “I don’t even have a son, I need to have my servant, Eliezer of Damascus be my heir.” He is saying, what we often say to God. “I don’t understand and I don’t see you working in this situation. I know what you said, but I don’t see it. This is the only way I can see this promise coming true.”
Lets be clear here. Abram is not sinning here. He is not doing anything wrong. What he is doing is he is being open and honest with God about his struggles. So often we are afraid to be honest with God. We worry that we are going to be ungrateful and demanding of him. We worry that we wont continue to be faithful to be honest with him and what our worries and questions are. Often, we will even worry that others will question our faith or our love for God if we are honest with our questions and struggles.
God calls us to come to him. Adam and Eve, in the Garden it says that they were naked and unashamed. The reference here is not only towards their marriage relationship with each other. But it also has to do with, I think firstly, their relationship with God. Adam and Eve were completely open and transparent with God. They hid nothing from him, had literally a perfect relationship with him. After the fall, the first thing they did was realized they were naked and cover themselves with a fig leaf.
When we look at the passage in Genesis 3, it’s about more than physical nakedness. It’s about our relationship with God, and us putting up barriers between us and him and hiding things from him that we never hid from him before. Our relationship with him was now fractured.
We don’t come to him, we are not honest with him and we question and doubt. but one of the things that God is showing us here is that if we are faithful, if we follow him, if we come to him with honest questions, honest wonderings, he will not hold it against us.
Now his response wont be like they are to Abram right here. Here, he answers Abrams questions. But Gods Word tells us he doesn’t respond in that way anymore. Hebrews 1:1&2: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He has already given us all the promises, all the assurances, all the reassurances, and all the response we need.
Here, He reiterates his promise to Abram and clarifies it as well. He tells him that it will not just be any heir that keeps Abram’s name going, that allows his name to be great, but that God will give him a son. A literal, physical born son.
And his descendants, he says, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, which while there is a literal number to that, we will never be able to count that high or accurately.
But know that sometimes, God’s answer isn’t always so… well, it’s not always what we are looking for. Looking at Job, he questions why God was letting him go through the things he was going through and Gods answer to him was essentially, “I’m God, that’s why.”
And here is the key, Job accepted that answer. Abram believed God. That’s what is important to this story if we are to try to see how it works in our lives today. It’s not wrong to ask God questions, to be honest about your struggles and doubts. But, when we know Gods answers, or when he hasn’t revealed them to us, you need to respond in faith.
Verse 6 is one of the key verses in all the Bible. I don’t think I’m overstating that either. Abram believed God. And what God was promising was not easy to believe. Remember what we know about Abram and Sarai. They were old and they were barren. They had no children and they were past the age where it was possible for them to have one.
There was no earthly, worldly reason for Abram to believe God. But he did. And God credited it to him as righteousness. And that’s good news because Abram had no righteousness of his own. Just like we don’t have any righteousness of our own. All of our righteousness, piled up on each other are as filthy rags to God. Abram’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. This statement and what it means is so important that Paul devotes an entire chapter of Romans, Romans chapter 4, to this verse, which we looked at a number of months ago.
When we wrongly understand this, it is not a good thing. And it’s not a thing of little matter. Hear this. Abram did not earn his righteousness by believing God. That would put Abrams salvation entirely in his own hands. It would take his salvation out of Gods hands. Abram, and each and every one of us, has no righteousness. We don’t have it, we can’t earn it and we cannot be given righteousness of our own.
Well then, what righteousness is credited to Abram, whose righteousness is credited to us? I’m glad you asked. It is called the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. I know, big words. But what they mean is both complicated to explain in some ways, but very simple in other ways.
There are actually two parts to it. First, look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul writes:
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The work of Jesus Christ on the cross is part one. Even though it happened in our linear thinking and experience, long after Gods promise to Abram and Abrams belief in God. God works outside of time. He is at the same time in the past, present and future, all at the same time. His plan from before the world began was for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself God, to be born as a human,live a perfect life and die on the cross.
For our specific discussion, one of the most important parts there is that he lived a sinless life. He had no sin. So what happened? God imputed our sins on to Jesus there on the cross.
Jesus sacrificed and paid the price for sins that he never committed. He did it for the sins that we committed. Romans 3:21 & 22, Paul again writes:
 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:

God, imputed our sins on to Jesus Christ on the cross. He then imputed HIS righteousness, his very own righteousness onto us. But, just in case you misunderstand what I’m saying, not all who live, not all who are born, receive Gods righteousness. There is a specific way, a specific method that God uses to impute his own righteousness onto us. It is through faith. It is through faith alone. Faith, which itself, according to Paul in the letter to Ephesians, is a gift from God. It is through this faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe that Gods righteousness is given, or as said here, credited.
Abram had faith, he believed what God was telling him. In the face of a lifetime of reasons not to belief, a life time of experience that says, “Your not going to have a kid. You haven’t had one yet and now you are too old.” In the face of all this, God says, “Trust me. I will give you a son.” And Abram believed the LORD, and God credited it to him as righteousness.
I know this can get confusing, SO I want to share an example that John Piper gives on how this plays out by giving an analogy from his life.
He says:
Here’s a very imperfect analogy. But I will risk it in the hope of greater understanding. Suppose I say to Barnabas, my sixteen-year-old son, “Clean up your room before you go to school. You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight.” Well, suppose he plans poorly and leaves for school without cleaning the room. And suppose I discover the messy room and clean it. His afternoon fills up and he gets home just before it’s time to leave for the game and realizes what he has done and feels terrible. He apologizes and humbly accepts the consequences.
To which I say, “Barnabas, I am going to credit your apology and submission as a clean room. I said, ‘You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight. Your room is clean. So you can go to the game.” What I mean when I say, “I credit your apology as a clean room,” is not that the apology is the clean room. Nor that he really cleaned his room. I cleaned it. It was pure grace. All I mean is that, in my way of reckoning – in my grace – his apology connects him with the promise given for a clean room. The clean room is his clean room. I credit it to him. Or, I credit his apology as a clean room. You can say it either way. And Paul said it both ways: “Faith is credited as righteousness,” and “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”
So when God says, this morning, to those who believe in Christ, “I credit your faith as righteousness,” he does not mean that your faith is righteousness. He means that your faith connects you to God’s righteousness.

It is only through this righteousness that we are not sentenced to eternal punishment and torment. It is only though this righteousness that we are able to stand before God and have anything to say. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But When we become believers in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, when we are imputed with His righteousness, God doesn’t look at us and see us anymore. By that I mean, he doesn’t see you and me as the sinners that we are, that we were, that we were born as. Instead, he sees us through the lens of Christ’s blood, Christ’s righteousness. That’s what allows us to be adopted into his family. That is what allows us to be heirs to his kingdom and be given eternal life with Him.
This is one of the rewards that Abram is promised of God in Verse 1. Now, there are a couple of other rewards, rewards that Abram would be more in tune with that God is referring to as well. His son, his heir is one and if you continue reading Genesis, you see how big of a deal that is.
But the grand scheme, big picture thing that God is referring to when he says that Abram’s reward will be very great. He is rewarding Abram with himself. He is giving Abram his righteousness. Abram is getting the opportunity to exercise faith, belief, trust. And through that God has chosen to give him his righteousness.
When we believe in him, when we exercise faith, when we put our complete trust in Jesus Christ, God has promised to give us his righteousness. So my question to, are you covered in His righteousness? Are you promised a great reward? Eternal life? There is no other way. No other door leads to eternal life in paradise. Not all who live are getting in. I want you to get in. I love you and I want you to enjoy eternal life, but it’s not going to happen unless you exercise faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, to those of you who are covered in his righteousness, the Christian life is not one to “Set it and Forget it.” It is one of constant growth and trials and periods of feeling closer to God and feeling further from him. Peaks and valleys. The Psalms are filled with songs where David is begging, literally begging God to make him presence felt to Him. This is David we are talking about! And he has times where he can’t feel God close to him.
So you are going to go through those times too. That doesn’t mean your faith is weak, or you are a “lesser Christian,” or there is something wrong. What matters is how you deal with these valleys, these periods of life. Abram went to God, was honest with his questions, listened for and heard Gods response. And he trusted in that response. Job was going through incredible hardships and questioned why God was letting this happen! Today we ask, why God, why?
Why are these fires happening? Why did entire towns get wiped off the map? Why is this country allowing untold millions of unborn babies to die, without being given the chance to live their lives? Why are so many rejecting your Word and your promises? Why are you letting this company take away my job? Why are you letting me go through this health issue? Why are my friends and family letting me down? Why are my friends and family dying?
And it’s not just the questions like that, that we have. It’s also the ups and downs of life itself. As I mentioned earlier, there are times where we know in our heads and our hearts that God is faithful and true and he is without us to the end of the ages. But we don’t feel him. Many of Davids Psalms are asking God why it feels as if he is not there with him. David knew nothing could keep God from him or separate him from God, but that doesn’t always mean we feel his presence. And that can be tough.
Do you all know the story of Horatio Spafford? He wrote the hymn, It is Well. It is a heartbreaking story. He and his wife lost a son at the age of 2. He was financially ruined in the Great Chicago Fire, and then, sending his family ahead of him to Europe while getting their affairs in order, the ship they were traveling on sank and his three daughters drown at sea. His wife survived and while he was going over to meet up with her, as he was passing near where his daughters drowned, he wrote It Is Well.
Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis writes about the Hymn:
How could Spafford possibly proclaim “It is well with my soul” in light of the numerous tragedies he endured, including the loss of his young son to scarlet fever? The song reveals at least two reasons. First, he knew that all of his sins had been “nailed to the cross.” Second, look closely at the final line. It begins with two short words (“Even so”) quoted from the final passage of the Bible. He longed for Christ’s return because he was convinced that he would dwell with His Creator and would be reunited with his precious children.
(https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/it-is-well-with-my-soul/)
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so,” it is well with my soul

Some recommended Bible reading for you, I am not going to read it to you this morning, but Read Psalm 77. This one specifically deals with a man going through these times, this depression, and through it all, through this moment in life, he cant sleep, he can’t feel Gods promises there with him. He knows intellectually God, his promises and his attributes, but that knowledge in and of itself does not dismiss the depression. And he says in this psalm, in the Casey translation, I can’t see you, I can’t feel you, but even so, you frighten the things that frighten me. You will bring me through this and you will take care of me and my soul. And he ends the psalm, not cured, or healed or happy or out if his depression in any way. But he ends it, still in his circumstances, but leaning and trusting in the God who promised to take care of him, who promises to take care of us.
We all have these questions. Own it. Face up to it. Ask God your questions. We all have those moments, when we know in our heads, but we feel so far from him, or we can’t see how his plan is working through whats going on, or if we are going through a valley, missing the peace and exhilaration of the peaks. We all have them and they hit in different ways or with different feelings or emotions, but I bet you all know exactly what I’m talking about. And we can’t always know when they are going to hit.
But when you do, there are two things you need to do. Read his word, searching for an answer. He wont always give you the answer you want, and he wont always say it clearly. If we see something we don’t like, that disagrees with out expectation, especially in the bible, we have a tendency to just ignore it and overlook it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there and that he is not answering. Be willing to see whatever the answer is, not matter how unexpected it is.
Second, trust in his answer, whatever it is. Trust in it, accept it, lean on it, depend on it. Cling to it with everything you have. Whether he answers you like he did Abram and say, “your worried about this situation, I’m going to fix this situation the way you want it.” or whether its like Job where he says, “Im God, that’s why.”
Either way, God is God. And he loves us. He has promised us a great reward if we trust in him. Bank on that and accept that. Let it be credited to you as righteousness. Because, in the grand scheme, he promises us something very clearly. If we believe, if we have faith, and if he credits that to us as righteousness, we will have the greatest reward of all. We will receive him and we will enjoy that gift forever into eternity.
No matter what you are feeling. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what is going on in your life, in your heart, in your anything. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever your lot, God has taught us to say, Even so, It is Well with our souls.

Lets Pray.

Romans 8:26-30 God is Sovereign

 

Romans 8:26-30

God is totally Sovereign

Good Morning! Please go ahead and turn with me in your Bible to Romans chapter 8. As always, if you do not own a Bible, if you do not have one, please take one from the back table as our gift to you.
So, Romans chapter 8. We have kind of camped out here for a while. From what I figure, we have this week and next week left in Romans chapter 8. I said when we started this chapter that many consider this the greatest chapter in the Bible. Paul has packed so much in this section of scripture.

Paul wrote this letter to the churches at Rome. He loved the churches in Rome, and he wanted to come to them, wanted to meet them, wanted to spend time with them. As of yet, he had been unable. And so, in this letter, Paul lays everything out here. Everything that you need to know about the human condition, about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Everything you need to know about sin and death and salvation and the cross. Everything you need to know about the promises and assurances of God. Everything you need to know about practically living life as a Christian.

And while there is theory and practical in both sections, Chapter 8 seems to be the crux of that. It is the combination of it all. It brings together everything that Paul has been talking about prior to this chapter and it lays all the groundwork for what is to come.
And what we looked at last week, is an incredible sense of encouragement and assurance from God. There will be suffering, there will be sin and pain, there will be death, but Paul says in verse 18,
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
God promises us that, those of us who are children of God, those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, those who have repented and believed in the [perfect and all-sufficient work of Christ, what is waiting for us in eternity future is so far beyond what we can even begin to imagine that when we get there, the things we are dealing with today will pale in comparison.
God makes that promise and we look forward to the answer, the fulfillment of that promise, we have put our hope in that guarantee that God gives us. That hope, that knowledge of Gods fulfillment of his promise is one of the biggest things that helps us get through today.
So with all that build up, let’s go ahead and look at the passage of scripture we will be studying today. Paul’s picks right up in Romans chapter 8,and we will look at verses 26-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 8:26-30.
Paul writes:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
So Paul here in this section is looking at some more of the specific things that we can take assurance in, that we can hang our hope on and how we can do that. First up is the Holy Spirit and prayer. This first verse here, verse 26 is a verse that I read wrong for a long time.
I read this verse as saying if we happen to not know how to pray in that moment. When you stumble over your words in prayer. In those moments and in those times, The Holy Spirit will pick up your slack. But that’s not what the text says. There is no IF in the text. instead it says simply, We Do Not Know What To Pray For As We Ought.
We don’t. Not if or when. We don’t. We pray as best we can. We pray to petition God. We pray to lay our hearts and our wants and needs out to Him. We pray to align ourselves with his will. We pray to confess our sins. We pray to thank him for his grace and his blessings. Prayer is an expression of all that we think and feel about God. But we don’t pray on our own.
Just like we can not achieve our salvation, we can not receive salvation without God giving it to us. We cannot receive salvation without the Holy Spirit changing our hearts from stone to flesh, without Jesus lifting the veil from our eyes. Just like that, we cannot know what to pray for as we ought, not without the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Our weakness. That weakness which makes God such a great and grace filled, merciful God. Paul recount is 2 Corinthians 12:9, that the LORD said to him,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
We see in scripture that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The same role, the same description, the same wording that was given to Eve in the Garden as the Helper to Adam is Given to the Holy Spirit. We helps us with out walk, helps us with our sanctification, and so much more. And he helps us with prayer.
Now, how often do you go to pray and you find that you just cant. So much is going on. So much that we only get glimpses of, or rumors of. Things that we don’t know what the will of God is.
But the Holy Spirit helps us in that weakness. The Holy Spirit knows what the will of God is because the Holy Spirit is God. And he takes our heartfelt, deep, guttural, internal prayers that we can’t communicate and He takes them and delivers them to Jesus Christ, who is our intercessor, our advocate, THE WAY to God the Father.
The Holy Spirit is who gives grace to our imperfect prayers. The Holy Spirit is who give mercy to our wrong prayers. The Holy spirit is the one who changes our prayers over time. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us in our weakness, which is to help us pray the will of God.
Words are easy to say. To believe and to mean the words that we say, that is hard. It is easy to say, “God, your will be done.” We say it all the time. We pray it all the time. But do we really mean it? Do we really mean, LORD, Not my will, but your will be done.
Because the natural tendency for human beings is to chose to twist Gods will, or ignore Gods will. It is to choose to hear the Gods will is what we already want to do, what we are comfortable with or what we are already doing.
Jesus of Nazareth, as in addition to fully 100% God, was also 100% fully, physically human, was a perfect example that he would rather not do what God the Father was having him do. He says in the Garden, right before he is arrested, says this very thing. He says, Father, I know this is the only way to achieve what we decide needed to be achieved, but if there is any other way, I would rather do that. But there’s not, so not my will, but your will be done.
Perfect submission to Gods will. Thats what we are called to. Thats what the Holy Spirit will help us move towards. And Gods will does not always have to be a mystery towards us. It is in certain circumstances, certain situations, maybe even certain seasons.
But God has perfectly revealed his will to us. He has given us his Word, the Bible. The Bible is all sufficient. It is complete and it is perfect and there is no special revelation from God outside of the scripture. And so, how does the Holy Spirit help us? The Holy Spirit helps us to have a desire to know Gods Word. He gives us a want to know what Gods will is. He helps us to rightly understand the scriptures, so that we can rightly understand from the bible what Gods will is. He opens our eyes, helps us to see things in scripture as we read, as we mature, as we memorize scripture, the Holy Spirit helps us to see things in the scripture that we had not seen before. His glories are new every morning.
The Holy Spirit reveals the meaning of scripture to us as we read Gods Word. And so we have access to Gods revealed will. We can know what his will is in a great many things and situations, IF, IF we are willing to submit to Gods will. Jesus knew. He said it first, he said, I don’t want to do it. But I know its Gods will so I will.
But why? Why would we do Gods will if we don’t want to? Why would we choose to suppress his will? Why would we submit to his will if it isnt good for us? Well, Paul addresses that here too. First, verse 28, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Those that love God, another way of identifying the children of God, genuine, legitimate Christians. For those, Gods will, when it plays out is always for the best. Always.
We could say, and give lip service to we do Gods will because God said so. And that’s technically true. But why does it matter that God said so? Who is God? What are his motivations, his purposes?  We could  try to use human leaders as examples. If King David told us that we were to do something, we know that he was a godly man, a man after Gods own heart. Not perfect mind you, no human example will be. but we can generally trust him to have whats best in mind when he, as King, gives us a command. We can do what he said, because he said so.
But what about the other side. It would be easy to use recent or current American Politics here, but I’ll resist that temptation. Instead, imagine living in Eastern Europe in the 30’s and 40’s. Hitler is reigning supreme. He says to do something. You know that he does not have whats best for anyone other than himself in mind. IF you chose to obey what he says, it would generally be done out of fear, fear for safety or causing waves or being noticed. You may choose to obey, but there is no confidence in the motivations or the purposes behind his commands.
We are shown that God is perfectly Good and perfectly just. God is perfectly perfect. And God works all things together for the good of those who are called, according to his purposes. I shared last week, this does not mean that all things are good. It does not negate the pain, the suffering, the hardships that we are going through today. But it means the same thing Joseph said to his brothers in Egypt back in Genesis 50, verse 20:
 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. God is not the author of sin or evil, but he has authority over it and will use it to bring about his purposes, to bring about good.
Now, many know that verse, Romans 8:28. It’s a popular verse and many know that God works all things together for good. But we also need to remember the context. The verses before and after. So I will often say you can’t read, or maybe more accurately you can’t understand the right meaning of Romans 8:28 without Romans 8:29.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
As we have looked at over the last couple of weeks, we have to go through SOME of the discipline and problems that we go through in order to be sanctified, to work through our sin and to kill the sin that keeps coming back at us. And we see here, some more details regarding that. All those things that God works together for the good of those who are called. The good that is being done is that we are being conformed to the image of his Son, the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.
What our sin means for evil, to tear us away from God, to give in to our flesh. What our sin means for evil, God uses for good. And one of the overarching points, which will become even more apparent in verse 30, is that what God wills, what he willed before the beginning of the world, will come to pass. Period. Whatever God said is going to happen, will happen.
Those whom he foreknew, he also predestined. This can be scary for many people. God knows all. And he knew it all before the beginning of time. He is omniscient. He knows all. But if that was all, then we could not be assured that what he has determined as his will will come to pass, but also, that means that he only knew but didn’t cause it to happen. If he only foreknew, he would be omniscient, but not omnipotent, all powerful. All it would mean is that God could see the future.
But not only can he see the future, but he is in control of all things. He is in control of what happens and so, not only can see the future , but determines it as well. And if he determines it, we can trust in it and we can, as we dealt with last week, put our hope in the future, because we know that God leaves nothing to chance, but works all things together for good.
And so, if you are in Christ, if you are a fellow heir with Christ, you can rest in that, you can be assured of that, secure in that because God determined that it would be so from the beginning of time. And that leads us into verse 30, where we will finish up today.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
And this is where we can stand firm with assurance. This has the same point, different process, different context of what is being talked about, but same point as what Paul is saying in Philippians 1:6,
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
We see a bit of a timeline here in Romans 8:30. First, before the beginning of time, God predestined those whom would be saved. Again, if you struggle with that term, that phrase, that doctrine, Paul points it out as a comfort, as a reassurance, it is designed to give you peace about your salvation.
But that determination by God comes first. Then, at some point in our life, at some point God calls us to him. We don’t start by searching for him, he reaches out to us and calls us to him. sometimes that process takes a long time. Sometimes it starts to take effect, it changes something in us, and we do start searching for him. Sometimes we resist. Sometimes we respond quickly and emphatically. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit ends up dragging us kicking and screaming to God. But those whom he calls will, ultimately respond to that call, and they will be justified.
Remember some of these words Paul has spent time establishing earlier in this letter. Justification is what happens when we respond to that call. It is what happens when we believe, when we are saved through faith alone by grace alone, in Christ alone. We are justified. Our sins make us guilty in the eyes of God. That guilt required blood atonement. We cannot provide perfect enough blood to cover it ourselves. Christs blood on the Cross, his death on the cross covers it for us. When we are justified, that blood is applied to us. And So, when we are justified, we are no longer seen as guilty in Gods eyes, but he sees Christs righteousness covering us and we are declared innocent.
And those whom he justifies, he also glorifies. This is the end. This is when we pass from our broken sin filled bodies to our physical, spiritual, glorified, perfect, eternal bodies. This is when we enter into the eternal Kingdom of God where we will eternally worship and reign with christ for eternity.
It is interesting that the past tense of glorification is used here. We already mentioned Gods omniscience, his omnipotence and now we see his omnipresence. This is the fact of God that he is in all places at once. He is everywhere at the same time. But that’s not all. I feel like an infomercial, But wait, there’s more!
Not only is God everywhere all at once, but he is at all times at the same time. He is outside of time. He created time. That means he is in the Garden with Adam and Eve at the same time he is protecting David from his enemies, at the same time he is telling the crowd at jesus baptism that he is please with his Son, at the same time Christ is crucified, at the same time he is right here, right now, at the same time he is at the end when all will stand before him in judgment and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Which means, for the purposes of this section of scripture, that our glorification is already done. Not in our timeline because we are not in all times, we are not outside of time, But in Gods eyes, we are already glorified. The job is done. It is finished. Nothing can undo it.
And that glorification is when the glory that will be revealed to us will render the sufferings of this present time over and dead. God shows us his revealed will and he gives us all we need to know at the moment, in this time, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13,  
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
God through the Holy Spirits inspiration of Paul, writing this letter, is giving us assurance. If you are a Christian, if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, if you have been justified, if you have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then you will be glorified. You will spend eternity with Christ. As we read earlier, he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Lets Pray

Romans 8:1-11, pt 2 The Holy Spirit

 

Romans 8:1-11

The Spirit is Greater than the Flesh pt 2

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 8. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please take one from the back table as our gift to you. After a brief break last week, to look at VBS and our responsibilities to plant and sow the seeds of the Gospel, this week we pick back up looking at Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome.

Two weeks ago, we started looking at this passage. The passage this week is Romans 8:1-11. We started looking at it but we focused on the very first verse. Paul has spent the past 7 chapters dealing with practical and deep theological issues, such as salvation, justification, sanctification, regeneration, Original Sin, total Depravity, a whole lot of big words for clear, sometimes simple, sometimes not, Biblical truths. And he continues here into chapter 8, with this first part, the part we are dealing with this morning. Paul will deal especially the freedom we have in Christ and the Holy Spirit who gives us that freedom. He deals with the difference between the flesh and the Spirit.

He has, most recently, been showing what the law is and is not designed for. And within in that, how we can or cannot keep or fulfill that. And we get some answers here in this section of Romans. Lets go ahead and read the text. Romans 8:1-11, and Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

There is a lot in there, in those 11 verses. We spent the last sermon, two weeks ago, just looking at verse 1. That, IF we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, that we are forgiven and we have been justified, regenerated and adopted in the family of God as His children. IF. And the rest of this section is all predicated on that IF. If you are in the flesh, or if you are in the spirit. That’s the distinction the Paul is drawing here. And then, IF you are in Christ, what does that look like? And he brings in some new elements that he hasn’t truly focused on as of yet in the letter.

Paul here begins to show us the ministry, the power and the role of the Holy Spirit in what’s going on here. Now, Paul has mentioned the Spirit 4 times over the previous 7 chapters. So this is not coming out of nowhere. The Spirit has been a part of Paul’s theology and his writing from the beginning. However, in these 11 verses, Paul mentions the Spirit 11 times.

We definitely see a shift in emphasis here. We will continue to see the Holy Spirit emphasized over the course of, especially the rest of this chapter. And over the course of the next couple weeks, as we look at this chapter of Romans, we will learn a lot of about who the Spirit is and what he does.

To start off, before we start looking at what Paul is saying here, just a couple of introductory bullet points about the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit is God. He is one-third of the trinity. One God, Three Persons. Not One God, three personalities. Not three Gods. One God, three distinct persons. God the Father is not God the Son. God the Son is not God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy spirit is not God the Father. But they are all God and there is only one God.

If you don’t fully grasp this, don’t worry. Theologians have been trying to study this and figure out the specifics and the intricacies of this for 2000 years now. It is something that is described in Scripture enough to know what I just shared, but its also something that is, what’s called an Incommunicable attribute of God. Gods attributes come in two categories. Communicable and Incommunicable.

Communicable attributes are the ones that we can know, not just intellectually, but take part of and share. Of course, not to the perfect extent that God has them, but humans can know them, can experience them. These are things like love, mercy, jealousy, hate, justice, knowledge, and many more. You and I can love. You and I can have mercy. You and I can be jealous, can hate, can have knowledge. You get the idea.

His incommunicable attributes are ones that we can’t identify with, we cant have any part of, we cant experience in any way. God’s Omnipresence, for example. We cant, in any way shape or form, be in more than one place at once, let alone everywhere, at the same time. God’s omnipotence. We cannot do whatever we want. We are bound by physical and intellectual limits. We can be in relationships with others, but we cannot understand the eternal, perfect, equal, relationship of the trinity.

So, you don’t have to understand the Trinity in full. But, this is a key doctrine to Christianity, you must understand that the doctrine is true, You have to believe that the trinity is true, because the Bible says it is, even if its full grasp is beyond us in its totality.

Another bullet point truth about the Holy Spirit, and this is intricately related to the first. The Holy Spirit is a person, He is referred to as a He every single time in scriptures, not as “it.” The Holy Spirit is not some mysterious “force,” it is not the wind, or anything like that. The Holy spirit is a person with all the qualities associated with the personhood of God.

Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in John chapter 16. he says in verse 7, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Then down in verses 13-15,  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

There is so much more to say and share and teach about the Holy spirit and we will get to some more of that in the upcoming weeks as Paul continues to talk about the Spirit. But for now, we will look specifically at what Paul is saying here.

So, we see Paul here differentiate between the law of the Spirt of life and the law of sin and death. This is what we have spent some time looking at over the last few chapters. We have been looking at what the Law does and does not do. We have seen that adherence or obedience to the Law, the moral law that God gave down to Moses back in the book of Exodus, obedience to that Law does not and cannot save us.

Attempting to earn our salvation, to earn forgiveness, or to live perfectly enough to not need salvation or forgiveness, instead of freeing us, actually binds us to sin and death. When we accept Gods grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, the bondage to sin and death is broken and we are given life eternal through the acts and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God did what the law could not do. The Law, will good and holy and given by God for our good, was then corrupted by our sinful flesh. And so, again, the law cannot and would not save, would not and could not give us righteousness, especially the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus says is required to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so, he sent his Son. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, making the same point as he does here,  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God the Father, sent God the Son, to be born a human, fully man, wrapped in the same flesh we are, though himself sinless, took the punishment of our sin. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law. Jesus showed his perfect righteousness, the righteousness required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God the Father did so because we cannot have our own righteousness by ourselves, but we can have Christs righteousness through the Spirit.

But there is a requirement for receiving Christ’s righteousness. We need to walk, not in the flesh, but walk in the Spirit. So, we need to be good to earn it? We need to do something in order to receive it? No, the Holy Spirit is the Key.

Back to what Jesus said in John 16, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. He reveals the truth of Scripture. He reveals in our hearts and in our minds that Jesus is God, that He is the Christ, the Messiah and that Jesus is the Word. The Spirit is the one who reveals to us, by revealing what Scripture says, how we are to live, how we are to act and how we are to believe. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us from the inside, who changes our heart and desires, who breaks the bondage to sin.

And so we again, see a clear distinction, a clear divide between the many, who reject the Holy spirit, reject Scripture as the all sufficient, and inerrant Word of God, who reject Jesus as our savior and reject God the Father as the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent sovereign deity that created us and those of us who accept and affirm those facts.

One of the things that we pull out from what Paul is saying, is that we will walk with what our minds are set on. We will align ourselves with what we are walking with. So, what is that? Is it the flesh? Or is that the Spirit?

We all start out walking with our minds set on the flesh. We care about man’s acceptance. We see things through the lens of the culture. We seek out the wide and the easy path. We live life as if there are no consequences. We live a life hostile to God. The author of Hebrews writes that, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

But, Paul again, brings up the IF, verse 9,  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If we are in the Spirit, we are in direct opposition to walking in the flesh. God changes us from the inside. He calls us to a higher standard. He does so because he has given us grace through faith, not to get the same grace. The mind set on the flesh does not submit to the Law. That’s what Paul says. Instead of submitting to it, the mind set on the flesh can trick itself into thinking its mind is set on God and it tries to conquer the law, tries to master it and fulfill it.

But the mind set on the Spirit is learning the truth and it will know better. AW Tozer writes, The Holy Spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that. He doesn’t just change the behavior, that wouldn’t be enough. He changes the heart, changes our desires. He changes what we set our mind on and we turn from the flesh, to the Spirit.

How many things can you say that have truly changed your life? What can you talk to any stranger about, whether they are interested or not? Sports, Nutrition, music, kids, work, love, etc Where is Jesus on that list? Where is the Holy Spirit on that list? Where is the Bible on that list?

Because, sure, events, or thoughts, or circumstances or whatever happens when we are focused on the flesh, some of those can change some of our life here and now. Look again at verses 10 where Paul writes,  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11

Paul brings it back around with that big, long, huge word, IF. If Christ is in you. There is no both. Fact one, the body is dead because of sin. That is true either way. Whether you have been saved by Grace through Faith in Christ, or whether you have not. Whether you have a mind and a life set on the Spirit or a mind and a life set on the flesh. The body is dead because of sin. What happens after that?

There are only those two options. Leading to only two different results in eternity. If the Spirit is not in you, than your eternity will be spent feeling the eternal pouring out of Gods wrath on you. Eternity in Hell.

But, Paul writes in verse 11,  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Citizenship in the kingdom of Heaven. Adoption into Gods Family. Fellow Heirs with Christ. New, Heavenly, Immortal bodies. Perfect, sinless bodies. Eternal worship and glorification of God. Perfect communion with Jesus Christ on the throne. No pain, no tears, no hurt, no death. Eternal life.

If Christ is in you, if your mind is set on the Spirt, not only do you get these benefits, the best of them all, but your life today will also reflect it. You will be at odds with the world, at odds with the flesh. You will have to turn away from everything this world has to offer, and say, NO. What you, the world has to offer is death. I choose life. I choose the Sprit, I choose Christ.

And many wont understand. Many wont agree or appreciate it. Many wont see that the choice has to be either/or. “Well, I am a Christian and I still…” How often do we here that. Or, Love is more important than being right. Its not true, but even if it was, it wouldn’t be in the way that they say that. We are to do all things in love. Especially when dealing with people who continue to choose to have their mind set on the flesh. We cant respond back at them how they respond to us.

We are to do all things out of love. And it is loving to warn people that if they do not turn from their life set on the flesh and turn their lives to be set on the spirit, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone.

It is love to have a right doctrine on what the Bible says. It is love to love God first, and to then let the love of Christ flow out of us. We cannot love without knowing Christ.

What do we know about Christ. Romans 5:8. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, we will remember here this morning as we do every first Sunday of the month.

Jesus not only knew ahead of time, the Trinity planned before the creation of the World that this sacrifice, this act of perfect love would be required and how it would take place, but Jesus told his disciples that it was about to happen and instituted this sacrament as a remembrance of it.

We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Romans 7:7-12 The Law is Good

Romans 7:7-12

The Law is Good

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans, chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, we do have a stack of Bibles on the back table that you are free to take as our gift to you. As we continue through Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome, we need to remember a few things. First, context matters. If we looked at last weeks passage and didn’t look at this weeks passage, or this weeks scripture reading (Psalm 19:7-11) or the rest of scripture, then we could make the false assumption that Paul will address here in a moment.

Second, Paul’s analogies, his illustrations are inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are written in the Bible and therefore are inerrant. The illustrations that I am going to share this morning, I believe are helpful and, for the point I’m trying to make, accurate, they are far from inerrant.

Paul is dealing with some very real, very practical, internal struggles within us as human beings and our permanent struggle between our sinful, human nature and our justified, regenerated, redeemed, heavenly spiritual nature.

Again, last week we saw that Paul was telling us that we need to die to the law, just like we need to die to sin. What that was, in essence, is telling us what the law is not. It was kind of like a part 1, to this weeks part 2. Paul showed us that if we are trusting or depending on the law to get into Gods good graces, than we don’t have a saving faith in Christ. We either have faith in our selves and our ability to keep the law, or we have faith in Christ and HIS ability to keep the law. Our lack of righteousness or his perfect righteousness.

This week, Paul shows us what the law is for. He shows us that, despite what we saw last week, the law is indeed good. Lets go ahead and read the text for this week, Romans, chapter 7, verses 7-12. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

So, again, if we take Romans chapter 7, verses 1-6, and we just leave them as is, we could come to the conclusion that the law is bad, that is causing us to sin, maybe even that the law is sin. So Paul puts that to bed immediately. Not So! He says. The law is not the cause of our sin, but instead, the law shows us our sin.

In my studying over the years, in my reading there have been two analogies that I have heard that I think best describe what Paul is saying here about sin. The first is from renowned Bible Scholar, Warren Weirsbe. He likens the law to a mirror.

So think about it like this. You look in the mirror and you see things you don’t like. You may see some gray hair, some wrinkles, some pimples, a spot you missed shaving, whatever it is for you specifically. You look in the mirror and it will point out your blemishes.

Now, are those blemished there BECAUSE of the mirror? Of course not. The blemishes are there, whether you look in the mirror or not. They are there, whether you know they are there or not. Such is sin.

We look at the law, and in that, we see the sin in our lives that are reflected back at us through the law. Is our sin there BECAUSE of the law? Of Course Not! The sin is in our lives regardless. The sin is in our lives whether we see it or not and whether we know it or not. The law is there to reflect back to us that we are sinners. We would have no way of knowing what the sin is in our lives if we did not have the law to reflect back our sin to us.

If you don’t own a mirror, or don’t ever look in it, you may leave the house without coming your hair, without cleaning your face, with out straightening your clothes. And you wont even know it. You might even know that something is wrong, You might have a sense of being disheveled or unkempt, but without a mirror to look in, you wouldn’t know what you have to fix.

But if you own a mirror and look in it, you can then see what’s wrong and then you know what you have to fix. You would see that your hair wasn’t combed, or your face wasn’t cleaned, or as is often the case with me, you would see the coffee stain on your shirt.

Our sins work the same way. The law is the mirror in our life that points out the disheveled sin in our lives. Now, our conscience will also help us to discern when something is wrong, but often, that will only give us more of a general sense, at least without pairing it with the knowledge of the law.

But to see the specific sins, to know why we are sinners, to know how we are failing to live up to Gods standards, we need to see what sin really is. To see what sin is, we need to see what God has set up as his standard of righteousness and holiness. The mirror of the law shows us what we are supposed to be. The mirror of the law shows us what we are not doing, where we are falling short. The mirror of the law shows us our every blemish and failing. The mirror of the law shows us how we cannot depend on our righteousness and holiness because we fall short. And Because Christ fulfilled the law perfectly, when it reflected back at him, it showed no blemish, no failing and the mirror of the law shows us that we need to depend on his righteousness and holiness.

The second description or analogy I’ve come to love about the law is from Pastor Matt Chandler down in Texas. Now, he describes the law as a diagnostic tool. (Sermon on 02/26/2012, The Diagnostic and the Cure) He described this in a fantastic sermon on Galatians 2, and ill try to summarize, and condense it, but it might be important to know some things about him. 2 & ½ years before delivering this sermon, this healthy, young, I think early 30’s, father of three and husband blackout and collapsed on Thanksgiving morning. He woke up and, long story short, he had stage 3 brain cancer. He was told there that he had two to three years to live. Just as a side note, praise God, that was almost 10 years ago and he is still going strong and preaching the Word boldly.

He tells this story about the MRI and looking at it with the brain surgeon. And here is what he had to say, I want to get this right so its a bit of a longer quote.

Pastor Matt says:

The MRI showed I had a problem, but the MRI was powerless to cure me. No matter how many times I got in that machine, no matter how many times I got scans, it wasn’t going to cure anything. It was simply going to diagnose something was wrong. Now the Law is holy and it is divine in that it is the holy, divine diagnostic tool that lets us know something is wrong, but the law will never heal you.

Skipping ahead briefly, he continues:

Jesus is the cure. The Law is diagnostic but Jesus is the cure…

When we become aware of the kindness of God, our healing made available to us in Christ, it leads us to repentance. We want to line ourselves up with God, the Law, and how God created us to function, because that is all the law is. The law is this diagnostics tool that shows you your need for a savior, and then once you have that savior, once you have that healing, the diagnostic switches and becomes a path for the fullness of life.

Now, I want to come back to that last point in just a few moments. But first, do you see what happens here? What happens when we look in the mirror and see all the sin covering us? When we look at the MRI of the law and we are diagnosed as sinful and broken, what does the scripture continually show us when we are looking to the law?

We cant keep it. That’s first, but there would be no good news if it just ended there. That’s legalism. We think of legalism as strictly acting or thinking that we need to keep the law in order to be saved. But there is another flip side to that. Its that condemnation, that thought in our brain that says, I cant keep the law so I might as well not try, I might as well give up. There is no point in following Jesus because even he cant forgive me of my sins and my brokenness. Its a diagnosis with no cure.

So the mirror and the diagnostic of the law show us that we cant keep it, but it also points us to the one who did. It gives us good news. When the law is given to Israel in the Old testament, it is all pointing towards the one who would fulfill it. Jesus claims in the Sermon on the Mount, that he IS the fulfillment of the law.

And so the laws design, its purpose is to point towards Jesus Christ, so that we may have faith in him who could keep the law, and we could then repent of our own sins. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, our sinful flesh, our sin nature, who is now seen in the mirror, who has now been diagnosed, is not ready to just give up yet. So it tries to manipulate, tries to justify us to ourselves. It makes us think that we are really not that bad. Any chance I get to bring my favorite quote back up, Jonathon Edwards, “The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that made it necessary.”

Its like an arrow in the heart every time.

But we look at the law and we think, well at least I haven’t broken this law or that law. At least I haven’t broken as many laws as the person sitting next to me. At least I hide my sins better than everyone else.

Ray Comfort is a street Evangelist who uses the 10 commandments, the law summed up in 10 points, to point out to atheists and non believers that the cannot and have not been good enough.

The exchange usually goes something like this.

Have you ever told a lie? Yes.

Have you ever stolen anything, or taken something that does not belong to you? Sure.

Have you ever hated any one? Yes. Jesus says that hating someone is murdering them in your mind.

Have you ever looked at another person lustfully? Of Course. Jesus says if you have lusted in your heart, you have already committed adultery.

So, you have just admitted to being a lying, stealing, murdering adulterer.

In that exchange, a person is confronted with the holy standard that God has set. They are confronted with their sinfulness, their inability to keep the law or to be good enough. And then they are pointed to the cure, to the solution, to the Good News, the complete and saving work of Jesus Christ.

There is another way that our sinful nature works to fight back against the goodness of the law. Remember back in Romans 1, Paul show sus that we know the truth but we suppress it and in his list of sins at the end of the chapter, one of the things he lists is that we are inventors of evil. Paul says here in Romans 7 that he would not even know what covetous was if not for the law telling him not to covet.

And so, he have the promise of forgiveness and everlasting life through Jesus Christ. And that, so crystal clearly, through no effort or work of our own, but only through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus tells us, after he has saved us that we are to follow his commandments. Our sanctification, the progression of our sinful nature being transformed in the image of Christ, this process is not a passive process. We have to be very active and intentional about it. And it wont always be easy.

One of the things we don’t always think about, or remember or know, is what purpose the law has AFTER we have been cured, to continue with Matt Chandlers illustration. We have a tendency to look at the law, to look at Gods commands as a sacrifice. We look at them as if God is trying to keep us from enjoying life or from having fun when the truth is, nothing could be further from the truth.

Think back to Genesis 2. God told Adam that he had free reign in the Garden of Eden with one exception. He was not to eat of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam was then supposed to tell Eve. The serpent came and tempted her with a two fold attack. The first and most famous was question Gods Word. Did God really say?

But he also questioned why God said it. God was obviously trying to keep Adam and Eve from becoming like him. He was keeping the good stuff from them.

And yet, we see that God was keeping them from that tree for their good. He set up his laws and his commands for a reason. There is a reason that sin, which is failing to keep the law, is a bad thing. God really does have our best interests in mind. It wuld be pretty cruel of him not to. But we know that God is a good God. Paul also writes in 1 Timothy 1:8 that “we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,”

James Boice says, “True Christianity does not lead the believer away from the law into nothingness. It leads him to Jesus Christ, who, in the person of the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell within him and furnishes him with a new nature that alone is capable of doing what God desires.”

Matt Chandler continues with what we heard earlier, saying, “When the says this is how marriage should work, he is not trying to take from you. He’s trying to give to you. This is how he created it to be. Walk in this. There is more joy walking in it this way than your way.”

That’s why Paul says in verse 12 here, So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. The enemy and our sin nature is trying to turn all that is good and all that is of God, against him, and against what is right and is twisting it, into sin and knocking it of course. Asking, Did God really say? And getting us to wonder what good God is keeping from us.

There is a real battle going on right now, a spiritual battle. Not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, against spiritual darkness. The world is fighting God and his Word on every front imaginable.

In the most obvious ways, Gods Word is being just blatantly ignored and suppressed. People are not willing to acknowledge that God exists, let alone that he would have revealed himself in the way that he has.

Others believe that a god, some sort of higher being exists, but what does that really matter to us? Those are the easy to spot battles. But the more cunning, more dangerous and more insidious attacks on God and his word come fom within “Christendom.”

So called Pastors, so called, churches, so called Christians that teach, preach and believe a different Gospel. Whether its denying the sufficiency of scripture, coming up with ideas that only the letters in Red matter, or that the Bible is a good idea, full of myths and legends and parables, that the book was put together by power hungry men looking to subjugate women and minorities. Theses are all very real ideas and beliefs and teachings that are our there.

There are any number of different gospels and different Jesus being preached. Teaching legalism or licentiousness. Teaching that Jesus is not man or that he is not the one true God. Teaching that we have to do something or keep from doing something in order to earn salvation. Teaching that there is no such thing as sin or that everyone goes to heaven or that we have no reason or need ot repent. These battles are going on in our families and in our churches in even inside of ourselves.

And that’s why we need right understanding of the law, right understanding of salvation and sanctification, why we need right understanding of God and his goodness and holiness. This is why its so important to utilize discernment in who we let influence us with their teaching and their views. This is why its so important to come under biblical teaching, to have fellowship with fellow believers and, most importantly to read, study and know your Bible.

When we talk about this spiritual warfare, these battles going on, God tells us many defenses that we can equip ourselves with. Paul writes about it in Ephesians 6, talking about putting on the armor of God. But what is the one piece of offense that is mentioned? The sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.

The Word, the whole Word and nothing but the Word. Knowing and believing and trusting in Gods Word, his law and his commandments, Knowing that the law is holy and righteous and good.

Ill leave you with one more scripture, 1 John 5:3, John writes, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

Lets Pray

Who is HE?

This video was shown at the end of Pastor Robs sermon a few weeks ago and it has really struck with me. IT is from a conference message from a man named SM Lockridge. Apparently, the SM stands for Shadrach Meshach from Daniel 1-3. It is from the 70’s and apparently no actual video exists from the message, just the audio.

 

Give it a chance and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Casey

2 Corinthians 9:15