Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

Living New Life

Romans 6:1-14

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

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

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

Who am I?

Have you ever thought about this question?

“Who am I?”

This, I think could be the most fundamental and important of questions that a person can ask him or herself

Who am I?

When I strip away all the clutter in my life, all the expectations, all the ambitions, all the dreams, what lies at the root of my existence?

Who am I?

I have a friend who was asked this very question, and as he thought about it, as he looked down deep into his soul, after everything was stripped away, he answered, “I am a child of God”

I don’t know if my friend knew the significance of his statement at the time – I don’t know if he knew how fundamental this was – But I do know that he was clear on it – This was not a grey area in his life – This wasn’t something that he thought twice about – This was something he believed, something he owned, something he lived – And is still living today!

Who am I?

The apostle Paul is asking us the same question, “Who are you?”

Or perhaps a better way to put it is, “Who do you think you are?”

In chapter 5 Paul is talking about the amazing power of God’s grace – The fact that sin can never out-do grace!

The grace of God is so powerful, so amazing, that it has the ability to cover any amount of sins that I commit

God’s grace can never be out-done!

And so now, he’s asking us the question, “Who do you think you are?”

Do you think of yourself as a sinner, or do you think of yourself as a child of God?

The reason I ask this question is because our lives will always follow the perception that we have of ourselves

Think about a person with low self-esteem – What does a person like this do?

When they ask themselves the question, “Who am I?” What do they answer with?

It’s usually something like, “I’m a no good person, I have nothing good to say, I’m horrible”

Then what happens?

Their lives usually show what they have concluded in their hearts – Because when they continually tell themselves that they are “no good,” “have nothing good to say,” and “horrible” they actually begin to do those things

It’s what psychologists call the “self-fulfilling prophecy”

Listen to this definition:

“The self-fulfilling prophecy is a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original conception come true”

In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is me having a false idea about myself, which leads me to act differently because I have implanted that false idea in my brain, which leads to the false idea coming true

I believed a lie, and now the lie has come true

Please don’t understand me, I am not talking about “positive/negative thinking” or “name it and claim it” type things – I am only talking about false perceptions that we have of ourselves

I am talking about truth and lies – There are truths that the Bible teaches, then there are lies that Satan continually bombards us with

Are we believing truth, or are we believing lies?

Paul says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [LIE] By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? [TRUTH] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”           Romans 6:1-4

Paul is saying that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have died to sin – Just like Jesus died to sin

The Bible teaches that Jesus had temptations just like any of us, yet he did not give in to those temptations, but instead considered himself dead to them – In fact this is exactly why he came to earth – To die for sins – To pay the penalty for sins

Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus had a choice to sin, but every time he was faced with that choice he always chose not to indulge in it – He always chose the right thing because he knew who he was, and he knew what his mission was

When he asked himself the question, “Who am I?” the answer was, “I am the Son of God and I have come to take away the sin of the world”

And this is precisely what kept Jesus from sinning – Because he held on to the truth and rejected lies (think about the temptations in the wilderness. Matt. 4:1-11)

What did Satan say to Jesus? – If you are the Son of God…”

Satan was tempting Jesus to sin based on how Jesus saw himself – There is no doubt that Jesus saw himself as the Son of God, but Satan was saying, “Prove it, prove that you are the one that you think you are”

Satan was trying to get Jesus to believe a lie (this is exactly what he did to Eve)

Well, Jesus knew who he was, and he wasn’t going to fall for Satan’s schemes

And this is what Paul is telling us in Romans 6 – He’s saying, “Wake up Christians, don’t you know who you are?” – “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Paul is telling us who we are in Christ – He is telling us what God did for us through his Son Jesus Christ

Jesus died to sin, now we too ought to die to sin

He’s saying that because Jesus has triumphed over sin, that is why God raised him from the dead, showing to the world who he is – And now when we live for him, we become identified with him – So, just like Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4

What Paul is saying is, “Because we have died with Christ, we now have new life just like Christ”

Well, what does all this mean?

It means that: In Christ we have the power to overcome sin

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, [lit. abolished] so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:6-7

What Paul is saying here is that those of us that have given our lives to Jesus, those of us that have accepted him into our hearts – Made him Lord and Savior – The moment we did that, we died to our old self – The old me died that day, and the new me was born

This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” John 3:7

You see, the Bible teaches that the old self is corrupted, that’s why it’s so easy to sin – But this is exactly the reason why the old self must die, and a new self be born in its place

And Paul is telling us here that we have died, and we are now living a new life

So live the new life that is yours!

We are no longer slaves to sin, because that was part of our old self – We have been delivered from that – Now, live the new you!

Well, what does this new life look like? What are some examples?

The new life looks like a man who has been addicted to pornography but has stopped indulging in it – But he didn’t stop because the temptations went away, rather, he stopped because he continually puts to death those temptations

The new life looks like a woman who all her life wanted to be like someone else, she always struggled with envy, always comparing what she has to what they have, and then hating them because she doesn’t have it – But now she suppresses those feelings knowing that they are destructive – Instead, she begins to praise God, thanking him for what she has, and praising him for his goodness to those around her – How He blesses those around her

The new life looks like a man who all his life struggled with greed and selfishness. He never gave when people asked of him, never helped out a friend – Instead he always found an excuse not to give or to lend to them. He only thought about himself and his own well-being – But now he recognizes that all that he has is because of God, so he suppresses his natural reasoning and does away with his excuses – He begins to give and not expect anything in return

You see, what Paul is telling us is that we are no longer slaves to sin, because we have died to sin – And now we live in the power of God that has overcome sin

We have the power not to sin

This is what Jesus has done for us – He has given us new life in his Spirit and now he commands us to live the new life

Verse 10 says, “For the death he [Jesus] died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”Romans 6:10-11

In other words, “Count, Think, Judge, Consider yourselves dead to sin – And alive to God” – “Do it, count on it, because this is the reality, this is the truth! – This is who you are!”

We have the power in Christ to overcome sin, because we have died to sin – We do not belong to sin anymore, we belong to God!

So, “Who are you?”

Are you a sinner, or are you a child of God?

Are you living in the lie that says, “I can’t help it, it’s just who I am”

Or are you living in the truth that says, “I have all the power to overcome this sin – In fact, I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead available to me, this is the power that lives in me, yet it’s not my power, but God’s power, and He has given it to me”

Will I believe the lie, making it true – Or will I believe the truth and live in victory?

Life's enjoyment

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The Incarnation

Matthew 1:18-23

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 

23  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, 

and they shall call his name Immanuel” 

(which means, God with us).

 

С Раждеством Христовым!

Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again – Like it or not, here it is

Everywhere you turn, Christmas is being celebrated

The radio is playing Christmas carols, houses are covered in lights, we see Christmas trees in windows, shoppers at the malls, presents, Christmas cards etc. etc. etc.

Christmas is in full swing!

Like it or not, here it is, again!

If you ask me what I think about Christmas – I would say, I have mixed feelings about it

I say this because Christmas (to a large degree) has lost its meaning

It’s no longer about the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but something else

Jesus has been replaced by Santa Claus – The incarnation has been replaced by gifts, the nature of the Christmas story has been replaced by consumerism, by parties, and by food

So, I felt the need to talk about the real meaning of Christmas – Or more specifically, Jesus Christ Himself

The Bible says that He is our example, and that we ought to look to Him, to learn from Him, and to follow Him

So, what I want us to consider tonight is the incarnation – And if you’ve never heard this term, or perhaps heard it but never really knew what it means, let me tell you

The incarnation simply means: The divine, embodied in human form – It’s God becoming a human (a man)

We Christians believe that Jesus is God in the flesh – That He is “Immanuel” “God with us” Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

“God with us” – When you think about it, this is a really bold statement

It’s saying that God is “with us,” not “above us,” or “around us,” or “near us,” but “with us” – God is with us – He is in our midst – He is here now

Did you know that this is unheard of in any other religion – Christianity is unique in this – It communicates to us that God is very close – He’s not “out there” somewhere, but, “with us” – He is close

And this is the Christmas story – This is the epitome of what Christmas is all about – The fact that God left heaven to come to earth – So that He could be called “Immanuel” “God with us”

I would like us to consider two questions tonight

  1. Why did God choose Mary?
  2. How did Jesus enter the world?

These two questions are crucial to the Christian life, and questions that each of us need to have answered

So, let us consider the first

Why did God choose Mary?

In Luke’s gospel we read, 26 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:26-27

So, we know from the story that Mary, a young women, a virgin, is chosen to carry the incarnate God – Out of all the young women of Israel of that day, why was Mary chosen and not someone else?

This is a good question, but before we answer it, I want us to consider the incarnation itself

Often times we don’t even consider the incarnation because the story has become so familiar to us – We just rattle it off – “The angel came and told Mary that she will bear a Son, and this Son will be conceived by the Holy Sprit and His name will be Immanuel”

And the whole time we don’t even think about the great significance of this!

Think about it – The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God, Creator of the universe is choosing to become a man

The Lord of lords and King of kings, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’… is becoming a man, and His name will be Jesus

This is the Christmas story – This is the incarnation

God is choosing to enter into the world He created, and the way He chooses to enter it, is by being born just like we are born! This is amazing!

So, back to our question

Why did God choose whom He chose? – Why did He choose Mary and not someone else?

Was it just arbitrary? Was Mary just lucky? Did it really matter who brought the Messiah into the world?

Absolutely!

God chose Mary because Mary was a woman of humility

Luke 1:28 says, 28 And he [The angel Gabriel] came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30

What I find interesting here is Mary’s response, the text tells us that, “she was greatly troubled at the saying” Luke 1:29

In other words, she’s surprised that an angel would visit her

Mary is a humble person – If she were not humble, then she would not be surprised

What are the marks of humility? – What do you look for, if you’re looking for humility?

For example, if there was an all expense paid trip to tour the world – You get to spend one whole year traveling the world, staying in the finest hotels, eating at the nicest restaurants, seeing the most beautiful sights, all for free – A once in a lifetime trip – And it was not something you could buy, it was only given

And after much discussion you were selected – Out of a million people you were the one chosen – How would you respond?

Would you respond with, “Yeah… I mean who else is worthy of this… clearly it’s me, I mean… I work hard, I deserve it, I pay my taxes”

Or would it be,”What?… Are you saying that I was chosen?… That from a million people you chose me?”

You see, the number one mark of humility is when a person does not think about him or herself too much, it’s when someone says, “No, not me, who am I, I’m nothing!”

You see, humility is a disposition that shows itself as putting others above oneself – It’s considering others higher then yourself

Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

This is the attitude Mary had when told she was to carry the Savior of the world

Her response of surprise proves that she was a humble person – She did not count herself worthy  – But it was given to her anyway

A second reason she was chosen…

God chose Mary because Mary was a woman of great faith

After being told the details of her pregnancy – The fact that the “Holy Spirit will come upon” her and the “Most High will overshadow” her, she responds with, 38 “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary has great faith! – So much so, that when told that she will become pregnant (even though she is a virgin), she believes it – She doesn’t argue – She doesn’t reason – She doesn’t say, ‘choose someone else’ – She simply says, “Let it be to me according to your word”

You see, faith is just that – It’s believing someone’s word – It’s trusting what the person told you – And this is what Mary does

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1

Faith means that I have an inner confidence that what I do not presently see, will come to pass – It will happen, it’s just a matter of time

The Apostle Paul, speaking about redemption says, 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25

You see, hope and faith are very similar – Faith is believing – Hope is expecting what is believed – They are intertwined and connected, and we need both

And Mary shows us that she has both, “Let it be to me according to your word” – She believes what the angel says, and she expects it to happen

So, God chooses Mary because she is a woman of humility, and a woman of great faith

What about our second question?

How did Jesus enter the world?

Here we are, it’s Christmas

This is the reason for the season – We are celebrating Christ’s birth – We are celebrating the incarnation of God – God coming to earth, becoming flesh

So, a good question to ask is, “How did this happen?” – “What was the means by which God chose to enter the world?”

Luke chapter 2 says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:1-7

I find it fascinating that this is how it happened!

Of all the places to be born, God chooses to be born in a manger!

This word “manger” literally means, “feeding trough” – Jesus is born in a stable and then placed in a feeding trough

This is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’ – And He is born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough

This is not an accident – This is not just random chance – The events of Jesus’ birth happen precisely how God intends them to happen

In other words,

“This humble birth is on purpose”

“Why?” you ask – “Why would God choose to be born in a stable?”

It’s because this is how He wants us to live – This is a part of God’s “upside-down kingdom program,” so to speak

In Jesus’s earthly ministry He kept talking about the “kingdom of God” – What heaven is like – What God is like – How God works

He said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

He said, “The last will be first, and the first last” Matthew 20:16

You see, God does not look for what the world looks for – The world looks for power, prestige, wealth, beauty – God looks for humility, character, faith, love

I am confident that God does not care about the things we care about – He doesn’t care what kind of job we have, and how much money we make, and what kind of house we live in, what kind of car we drive – What He cares about is people

While we’re preoccupied with stuff, God is working in people’s hearts

While we are striving for wealth, God is striving for humility

While we are trying to make a name for ourselves, God is looking for those that will believe in Him – Believe in Him as Mary did

God is looking for men, for women, for children of humility and faith

And He gives us a glimpse of this in the Christmas story – He shows us (in Mary) that he honors humility and that He honors faith

And He even shows us His own humility by choosing to be born in the way that He does

Paul tells us that this is how we should think, this is how we should live, this is how we should act

Philippians 2:5, says, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus, who is God, chose not to be equal with God, but “emptied himself” and took the role of a servant, and became like us – This is the Christmas story – This is what we should be remembering this Christmas!

So, how does this apply to us?

Here we are, we live in the 21st century – We have been celebrating Christmas for two thousand years

What should we consider this Christmas? – As we get together with family and friends, as we exchange gifts one to another, as we go through our family traditions and rituals – What should be the highlight, what should be the number one thing we do?

Well, let me encourage you to think about Jesus, let me encourage you to think about humility, about faith

When it comes time to eat, don’t be the first one in line

When it comes down to sitting at the table, don’t take the best seat

When it comes time to “catch-up” on things, don’t make yourself sound like someone you’re not

But instead…

When it comes time to wash the dishes, be the one who does it

When it comes time to serve, be the one who volunteers

When it comes time to talk about life, be the one who encourages others

Think about Jesus, think about the incarnation

Think about the amazing truth that is the incarnation – The fact that God Himself did not count Himself equal with God, but emptied Himself and took the role of a servant and was born in a stable (of all places)

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, he says, 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

What he is saying is, “Time is short, you only have one life, make it count, don’t get stuck in worthless pursuits, but live such lives that bring maximum glory to Jesus, just like Jesus lived His life to the maximum glory of His Father – Be humble, have faith”

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Righteousness through Faith

Last time we met we talked about God’s faithfulness

We discovered that God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are

We talked about the fact that God has not failed in any way – Some might look at the Jews and conclude that God has failed them – God has not failed them, rather, they have failed God

We talked about the fact that it is impossible for God to fail anyone, because in His very nature He is faithful – In fact “faithfulness” is His name

He cannot help but being faithful – It’s who He is – He is “YHWH, YHWH” the One “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

This is His “name” Exodus 34:5

We also discovered that there are no innocent people before God

The Apostle Paul tells us that all are guilty – He tells us that everyone has broken God’s law – Even the Jews – Even himself

He tells his readers that “none are righteous” – Not even the chosen people of God – Not even him

In effect, what Paul does from chapter 1:1 to chapter 3:20 is communicate that all are guilty before God and have no excuse

They have no excuse because they either have the General Revelation and the conscience, or they have the Law – Or they have both

Remember what Paul says about the Gentiles in chapter 1?

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse Romans 1:19-20

Then in chapter 2 He says this regarding the Jews, “You have no excuse” because you judge those that don’t have the Law, but break it yourselves

And then in chapter 3 He says, “Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” Romans 3:19

In other words, “You Jews are guilty, the law says you are guilty, in fact, it says that all are guilty”

Well, all this leads to what we will look at today, and that is the good news

We have spent the better part of three chapters talking about the bad news, and now we get to hear the good news – Aren’t you glad?

Romans 3:20-31

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 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: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. 

What I want us to consider tonight is this

Is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?

Well, let’s find out

Paul says in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight” Romans 3:20

Okay, I guess that settles it! We can go home now!

I mean, this is pretty straightforward, right?

Paul says that “No human will be justified by God by keeping the law”

But this is still bad news, and we want to get to the good news, so lets get into the Word, and let the Word get into us

Again, Paul says, in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin Romans 3:20

So, that is why no human will be justified by keeping the law, because with the law comes knowledge of sin

What do you mean?

The Scriptures teach that the law is good, its perfect, its right, but we cannot keep it – And because we cannot keep it, we are guilty

You see, God’s standard is perfection, if you want to get to heaven by keeping the law, then you have to keep every single part of it – You have to be perfect

How many of you are perfect?

The psalmist tells us in Psalm 19 that, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” Psalm 19:7-9

Question is, “If God’s law is perfect, if it is right, if it is pure, if it is true, and righteous then why are we talking as if it’s bad?

It’s not bad – We are the ones that are bad!

You see, the law is God’s standard, and He expects us to meet His standard – But we don’t, do we?

We fall short of it

You see, the law is like a mirror, when we look into it, it reveals who we are – We are seen as dirty, messed up, and broken, but it’s not the mirror that is dirty, messed up and broken, it’s us! – The mirror is just a reflection of who we are

Often times we will look into the law, see our  messed up reflection, but then conclude that that is not really us – We don’t believe the mirror! – We conclude that the mirror is bad, that the mirror is broken!

No, the mirror is not bad! – The mirror is perfect, its right, its true – We are the ones that are not right, not perfect, not true

So, through the law comes knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20

So, there is no way we can become right with God by keeping the law, because none of us can keep it fully – We are broken, we are messed up

But here comes the good news

21 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested [made known] 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. Romans 3:21-22

In other words, God, seeing that we fall short of His perfect law made a way for us to keep it – He made a way for us to be right with Him – And this way is “apart” from the law

So what is it?

It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” Romans 3:22

You notice what Paul says?

He says it’s not through keeping the law, but it’s “through faith”

Faith is the vehicle to righteousness, not the law

The law is only designed to show us our need for faith – Our need for Jesus

So, is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?

I think the Scriptures are telling us that it is better to have faith – But I think they are telling us even more than this – They are telling us that faith is the only way to be righteous before God

Verse 22 says, “For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift” Romans 3:22-24

How much is “all?”

“All” means all – It means everybody! – That means Jew and Gentile, past, present, and future – Just what Paul has been communicating through these three chapters

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

Paul is saying that there is no way around this – God has a standard and we all fall short of it – We all fail – We all don’t measure up

We all took the test, and we all got an “F”

But God made a way for us to retake the test, and this time we will get an “A”  – But we have to be willing to take the test

What is the test?

It is to believe in what God did for us, and accept it

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24

So, we are justified [declared not guilty] by God’s grace as a gift

What do you do to receive a gift?

Physically, all you do is stretch out your hand and take it

But like all gifts, you will not appreciate it unless you want it, unless you desire it, unless it is valuable to you

You have to want the gift – This means that in your heart you are longing for what the giver is offering you – It has to be your most precious treasure – And then it will be given to you, and you will receive it with joy

You ask, “How does this all work?”

How can God give me eternal life when I broke His laws – When I am guilty?

How can He let me into heaven, when I am a sinner?

Well, the Bible teaches that God paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine, and for all humanity

Again, let’s read verse 23

23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

What in the world is “propitiation?”

Well, it simply means “to win or regain the favor of” or to “atone”

In fact the NIV uses this word “atonement” here

And what it means is that it’s a “covering”, or a “covering of mercy”

So, you could say that God put forward Jesus as a “mercy covering” over our sins

How did He do this?

He did it through the “blood” of Jesus

You see, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the Bible teaches that God put all the sins of the world, past, present, and future onto Christ – And then punished Christ

2Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” 2Corinthians 5:21

Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” Galatians 3:13

Do you realize what this is saying?

It’s saying that the price that was paid by Jesus on our behalf was Him being forsaken by His Father, and punished for things He didn’t commit – Jesus was innocent, yet He chose to carry our sins and die for them

Why did He do it?

He did it because He loves us – God loves us with an everlasting love – Jesus loves us with an everlasting love

This is the gospel – This is the good news!

And this is the “gift” that is to be received by “faith” – The “gift” is the gospel

And it is a gift of “grace”

What is grace?

“Grace” simply means getting something we don’t deserve – It’s God’s unearned favor

So, salvation and eternal life, is not found by doing good things, it is found in the gift of God that we don’t deserve, but God offers it to us anyway

How do we receive it?

We receive it by “faith”

“Faith” simply means trust

It comes down to trust – Do we trust this? Do we trust God? Do we trust the Scriptures?

If you do, then what’s holding you back?

Well, Paul concludes this chapter by saying, 27 “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:27-28

In other words, “If we are saved by what we believe, and not on what we do, then how can we brag, how could we boast? We can’t, there’s nothing to boast about! We don’t deserve this, but it’s given to us anyway!”

“What becomes of our boasting… by what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” Romans 3:27

You see, faith is the means by which we are made right with God, not good works

“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:28

In other words, there is nothing you can do to please God apart from faith – Not even keeping the law

We are declared “not guilty” before God on the basis of our faith, and not on the basis of our good works

What does that mean?

It means that if I devote my whole life to doing good things, yet reject Christ, I have nothing before God

Our good works only mean something to God if they are done through faith

Because if they are not done through faith, they are being done through effort

And if they are being done through effort it means that we are trying to work our way to heaven – We are trying to earn our way to heaven – And we just discovered that this is impossible – Because God’s standard is perfection, and we all fall short of perfection

That is why our salvation has to rely on faith – There is no other way

Well, Paul finishes this chapter with asking the question, “What about the law? Does this mean that the law is ‘overthrown,’ that we don’t need it?”

He answers with “By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” Romans 3:31

But this will be for another day

Link to Translations


Written on the Heart

In Romans chapter 1 the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Romans reminding them of the condition of the world – The condition of all people

He reminds them that the world is broken – He reminds them that they too are broken – All of humanity is broken

He tells them that although everyone knows that God exists and know that they ought to worship Him – They do not

The creation is self-evident and points to a Creator, but humanity’s natural inclination is to ignore this evidence

Paul tells us that we do this by “suppressing the truth” that is plain to us (Rom. 1:18)

In chapter 2 Paul tells us that not only are the Gentiles guilty before God because of their suppression of truth, but the Jews are guilty as well

The Gentiles are guilty because they suppress the truth that is found in creation, the Jews are guilty because they suppress the truth that is found in the Law

The Jews are guilty because they know what God expects of them (because they have the Law) but they do not do it – Instead they judge the Gentiles and do the same things they do – They are Hypocrites

So, Paul tells us that the Gentiles are guilty because of their suppression of General Revelation (i.e. the creation and the conscience)

And the Jews are guilty because of their suppression of Special Revelation (i.e. the Law and the Scriptures)

Do you see what Paul is doing here?

He is showing his readers that no one is righteous before God

God has “revealed” Himself to all humanity in some way – And instead of responding correctly and adequately, humanity suppresses this revealing – And in the process incurs the judgment of God

So, now we reach the second half of chapter 2, and Paul is going to elaborate on this (specifically he will be addressing the heart and the conscience)

We will be asking the question, “What role does the heart and conscience play in all this?”

Romans 2:12-29

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. 

What I want us to consider tonight is this:

Is it better to hear and not do, or is it better to do and not hear?

Paul begins this section to continue what he has been saying in regard to the Jews and the Gentiles

He says, 12 “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” Romans 2:12

In other words, no matter the who you are, either Jew or Gentile you will be judged on the amount of revelation that you were given – The amount of light that you were given – If you have been given the Law, you will be judged by the Law, but if you have been given the creation and the conscience (and not the Law) you will be judged based on the creation and the conscience

What Paul is doing here is telling us that there is no excuse before God

There will not be a single person, past, present, or future that will be able to say, “I didn’t know”

The ones in the jungle will not be able to say, “I didn’t know”

The Gentiles living in Old Testament times cannot say, “I didn’t know”

The Jews are not able to say, “I didn’t know”

And we today, are not able to say, “I didn’t know”

We may live our whole lives ignorant of the Bible, but not one of us can look up into the sky and not consider what God has done in the heavens – In the creation – In all that we see around us

Remember what Paul says in chapter 1, 20 “For his (God) invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived (understood), ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” Romans 1:20

Well, Paul goes on in chapter 2, he says, 13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” Romans 2:13

I believe this is the main verse for this section, Paul is referring to the Jews and he’s saying that just because you have the Law it doesn’t mean you are righteous, and just because the Gentiles don’t have the Law it doesn’t mean that they are unrighteous

What matters is if you do what the Law requires

14 “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” Romans 2:14

In other words, it’s not the Law-holders that are right in the eyes of God, but the Law-doers that are right in the eyes of God

It’s the difference between someone always reading the Bible, but never doing what the Bible says, and the person who does not read the Bible but does what it says

So, is it better to hear and not do, or is it better to do and not hear?

I think what Paul is emphasizing here is that it is better to do – It is better to do what the Law requires than to know what it says

This is the problem the Pharisees had – They knew the Law – They knew it better then anyone  – But they did not do what the Law required

What did Jesus have to say about them?

In Matthew 23 we read of the seven “woes” directed to the Pharisees

Jesus said, 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:23-24

Do you guys know what Jesus is referring to here? “You tithe mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the Law” or “You strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel?”

He’s referring to the fact that the Pharisees had begun to major on the minors, when they should have majored on the majors and minor on the minors

Let me explain, the Law stated that the people were to tithe all of their possessions, this was supposed to be an act of faith – When I (if I was living in those days) harvested my crop I would give the first 10% of it to the Lord – This showed my trust in God for providing for my needs – Since God is the one who has blessed me with the crop, I would acknowledge this, and give 10% of it back to Him

But God doesn’t need anything, so this 10% was designated for the Levites (the Levites were one of the twelve tribes that did not inherit any land, they instead were put in charge of the temple, they were priests, so they had no way of providing for themselves)

You can find this Law in Leviticus 27:30 and Numbers 18:21-24

The Law was intended to supply the Levites with food so that they would not go hungry; it was primarily directed to the “field” – The crops of the field (wheat, barley, etc.)

But the Pharisees went as far as to tithe from the spice gardens

Now this is not bad in and of itself – But it is bad when you neglect the more important things that the Law says to do – In this case provide “justice, mercy, and faithfulness”

You see, what they were doing is “straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel”

A gnat is a bug – Bug’s are small – We don’t like eating bugs! – But according to Jesus they were swallowing a camel (something very big)

They were majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors

Jesus tells them, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” Matthew 23:23

Before the seven woes, in the beginning of the chapter Jesus told his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” Matthew 23:2-3

In other words, do what they tell you,because they know the Law, but don’t live your life like them

It’s better to not know what the Law says and do it, then to know what it says and not do it!

I think this is what Paul is saying here

13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. Romans 2:13-15

What Paul is saying here is that when Gentiles do what the Law says to do (even though they don’t have it), they are doing what God requires of them – They show that the “Law is written on their hearts”

What does Paul mean by this? – Now stay with me, this may get a little heady

Well, when the Bible uses the word “heart” most of the time it doesn’t refer to the organ that sits in our chest – But is talking about something else

It’s the Greek word kardia – Does it sound familiar? This is where we get the English word “cardiology” – The study of the heart – Or the word “cardiologist” – A doctor that specializes on the heart

Anyway, along with “heart” it could also be translated as “inner self” or “inside”

And it refers to three things: 1. The Mind 2. The Will 3. And the Emotions

So, when Paul says, “the Law is written on their hearts” what he is saying is the Law is written on their “inside,” on their “inner self,” – Their mind, their will, and their emotions

If you think about it, these three things comprise who we really are – This is the real us – This is the us without the body

If we were to leave our bodies, we would be conscious, we would be able to make decisions, and we would be able to feel (Mind, Will, and Emotions)

So, what Paul is saying is, the Law is written on the Gentiles true self (inside) – They are able to understand it because the heart thinks – They are able to act, because the heart is able to make choices – And they are able to discern what they are doing, because the heart is able to feel

In other words, the heart is the control center of the whole person

And the conscience helps to make right decisions in the control center – The conscience is what tells us what is right and what is wrong

Paul says that “the Law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” Romans 2:15

So, what does any of this have to do with anything?

I think that God is telling us that He has given us a very powerful tool to make right decisions – And the one big decision that we must make is concerning His Son Jesus Christ

Will we use our heart to seek after Him?

Will we use our heart to live a godly life?

Will we use our heart to do what God has created us to do?

Or will we suppress the truth?

Will we suppress our conscience?

You see, the Jews thought they were okay with God simply because they were Jews – Because they were the chosen people

And what Paul is doing here is telling them that this is not the case, that it doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile – What matters is that you do what God requires

It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside – It’s what’s on the inside that matters

In verse 28 Paul says, 28 “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” Romans 2:28-29

You notice the words Paul uses here?

He says, “No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly (physical), nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart

We see the inside nature here

The Law of God is written on the heart – It’s written on the inside

I think what this passage is teaching us is that all people must have the Law of God written on their hearts – It is not enough to have the Law or the Bible in our hands – It must be in our hearts

It has to move from our head down to our heart – If it never makes it to the heart it will never change us

So, how do we make it come down to our heart?

Well, first of all, before it can make its way to our heart, it must first make its way into our head

How’s this going to happen?

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out –It happens by reading

It’s not going to get there any other way! – If we love God and we want to know who He is then we should be reading His Word all the time – We should be seeking Him with our whole heart

King David is a good example for us – He knew this – He lived this – What is the name that God gave him? – “A man after my own heart” Acts 13:22

In Psalm 119 (the longest Psalm in the Bible) David says these words

Verse 2: “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart

Verse 10: “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments”

Verse 11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”

Verse 34: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart

Verse 36: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain”

Verse 58: “I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise”

Verse 69: “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts”

Verse 80: “May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame”

Verse 111: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart

Verse 112: “I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever”

Verse 145: “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes”

So, I hope and pray that we would be a people like David – A people that follow after God with their “whole heart”

I hope and pray that we would be a people that have our command center totally focused on Jesus – That our hearts would be inclined to the Lord – That all that we do in this life would bring Him glory!

Link to Translations


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