Sunday, October 30, 2011

Does Your Life Please God? - Romans 12

In the early chapters of Romans Paul emphasized the universal plight of sin in the lives of both Jews and Gentiles. Then he presented the provision of salvation by grace through faith, and not law and works; then [in 9-11] he explained how the Jews had rejected the salvation plan and suggested that their rejection was used by God to reach the Gentile nation. This has been a heart warming theological discussion of God’s plan for man. Beginning in chapter 12, Paul moves from the theological study to the practical use in individual lives.

Paul begins in verse one by making a challenge to all listeners and readers. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” When Paul uses the word sacrifices here he is making reference to the sacrifice of animals in the OT, but God and Christ have made it clear that obedience from the heart is much more important than the sacrifice of bulls and goats. God is looking for a committed life. Are you committed? If your answer is yes; do your actions prove it? Have you become as a little child in your faith and trust?

For some reason it is very difficult for adults [especially men] to think like and emulate children in their daily life. Jesus knew this was the condition of adult hearts and in Matthew 18:2, he was dealing with the problem when he called a child, had him stand in front of the people and said: “Remember this! Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” What did he mean? He was simply saying that if we want to please God we must obtain and maintain the attitude of a child that normally has inherited an abiding faith in their parents and a strong desire to be accepted by both parents and others such as teachers, ministers, and anyone in a guardian position.

Children desire to please their parents in order to receive their approval. Young students try to please their teachers not just to make good grades but they crave recognition and respect. A child has an implicit trust in a parent; so much so that they will stand on a high platform and jump into the arms of the father—believing that they will be protected from harm; a child who can not swim will jump from a diving board into a pool of water if dad is there to catch them…that is faith in action. Their action demonstrates their love for the one that will save them. Love at this magnitude has no hypocrisy in it; and it is important that we realize this for in 12:9, Paul tells us that “Love must be without hypocrisy, detest evil; and cling to that which is good.”

God is our Heavenly Father, and he wants us to offer ourselves [not dead animals] but a living soul as a daily sacrifice through our obedience. Do I believe in the “Security of the Believer?” Yes I do. But I also believe that there are some who may believe that they are saved when they may not be. How can one know for sure? DOES YOUR LIFE PLEASE GOD? You are pleasing God when you continually and willingly trying to do what Paul is telling us here that we must do. We must be constantly aware that our obedience must be rendered because of our love for Him, and what Jesus has already done for us. [Christ died for all and saved us when we trusted him] and our constant and willing obedience is the living proof that we are PLEASING GOD.

The acts of obedience are legion; too numerous for me to list all, but Paul listed some in this chapter and there is enough here to help us know whether God is pleased with us or not. We have different gifts: no man has all gifts but each person has a gift that he can use to obey. We are to use the ones we have; if it is prophesying—use it. If your gift is serving others, then you must serve. If you are an encourager, a contributor, a leader, or can show mercy, then you must do what God has enabled you to do. All acts of obedience must be done out of a heart of love and not for gain. I can not think of any other two words in the bible that are more important than the words ‘love’ and ‘obedience.’

Paul tells us that “our love must be sincere.” He said, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” One gift does apply to all of us, and there is no excuse for our neglect because we can all “Be faithful in our prayer life.”

Do you really care whether or not YOUR LIFE PLEASES GOD? If you do, then you will read the twelfth chapter of Romans. Paul tells us what our personal responsibility entails and it is easy to understand. However, it is not necessarily easy for us to do. You will find the order given in verse 20 to be the most difficult [at times it is for me]. We are to love our enemies, feed them when they are hungry; and give them water when they are thirsty. We are living in a world where people prefer to sue for what they can gain rather than forgive. We are not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It is imperative that you realize that before you can even think about pleasing God through the life that you are living each day—you must first accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and Lord of your life. If you have been redeemed from a life of sin, I believe that you can read this chapter, obey where you have the gifts to do so and really know that YOUR LIFE IS PLEASING TO GOD. If you are still young—accept Him now while you have time left to lay up many treasures in Heaven; and if you are growing old, surrender your life now, today, because you don’t have much time to spare.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

God's Plan - Romans 9 - 12

You will note that I have entitled this lesson as GOD’S PLAN. Plan is singular by intent; because only God could have organized one plan that could and did cover everything that exists today; or has ever existed, or ever will exist in all of Heaven, earth and in the universe. In previous lessons I have established that God is SOVEREIGN; [has always exited and is the one and only supreme ruler]. God is OMNIPOTENT [has absolutely no limitations] and is OMNIPRESENT [has always been everywhere] and He is IMMUTABLE which means that He has never and will never change.

The one characteristic of God that is especially important in your ability to understand this lesson is that God is OMNISCIENT [knows all things]. God knew a trillion years ago [or when God was] that I would be writing this lesson today and He knew that you would be reading it; and He was then… and still is very concerned about how well you will understand his purpose for your life and the mercy he has shown toward you; and that you never give up, but always remember that He is a patient God. You were given free choice, however, because of his fore-knowledge; you must understand that He has always known what your spiritual condition would be this day—He has always known you! And He has always known where you would spend eternity—because he knew what choices you would make.

Now, please stop for one moment where you are and try [as best you can] to visualize the entire universe including the sun, moon, stars, galaxies and the known world. You live here on earth and know something about what is happening here; so emphasize your study of the earth and all its wondrous beauty and complexities, including the mountains, rivers and oceans, night and day and how the earth hangs in space, held by gravity. Now think about all the living things, plants, animals, and people, with organs, tissues, cells, which have many parts, including a wall, protoplasm, nucleolus, genes, and even DNA]. All of these things that we know about are only a ‘dot’ on the map of His total creation which includes the many galaxies that only the scientists have discovered, and think they know about.

Only God in his total majesty has the ability to design a plan of this magnitude! Therefore, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God’s plan included the life of each and every human being, from inception to the grave, and encompasses all eternity. In his plan He decided to give each of us the freedom and responsibility to choose our eternal destination. That is, he planned a heaven and a hell, and gave you and me the privilege to choose where we would spend eternity, and He has challenged each of us to “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” There is no gray area; you must either choose God and righteousness or Satin and evil. Jesus says that we are either ‘for’ Him or ‘against’ Him, and that simply means that there is no middle ground; no fence to ride. You must make a choice; if you do not choose him, you automatically choose to stand against him.

God created a perfect world and also man with his help-mate, knowing that man would choose to disobey Him. Therefore, his original plan also included his plan of redemption and salvation, [a way for man to be forgiven and be able to return unto Him in a perfect state, [as though he had never been lost]. The plan resulted because of his grace, free and un-earned, without merit on man’s part, and because of his Mercy which you can learn about in 9: 1-29. We have assurance that we can participate in this plan as explained by Paul in [9:30-10:21]. We know that we are sinners and that we do not please Him throughout much of the life we live, but we can be assured that He will be patient with us and that he is a God of second and third opportunities by studying [Romans 11: 1-36. Our lesson today is ALL ABOUT GOD’S PLAN.

Many of those [especially the Jews] that heard Paul preach opposed him. Because of his message he was rejected and persecuted, run out of town, stoned to near death and actually thought to be dead, because of Jewish opposition [see 2: Cor. 11:22-27]. Please read this passage; it is amazing that the Jews could treat Paul the way they did and for him to still love them and care for their future. One might think that he would seek revenge and either mislead his enemies or withhold the truth from them; but he did not. Paul forgave them and spent his life trying to reach them and bring God’s Plan to them and all posterity [Read 9: 1-5]. Paul seemingly tried to emulate the life of Christ by saying that, if it were possible, he would be willing to be cursed and cut off from Christ if it would save his own race—the people of Israel. In other words, Paul was willing for God to condemn him—if by so doing, that would save his people of Jewish descent. Then in verse five, he reminded them that Jesus became the Messiah [The one and only God over all] and that the Messiah descended from Jewish parents.

Primarily, Paul is dealing with a group of Jews. God had told them that, since Abraham, they were His chosen people. He gave them the law, and made them many promises, and for about six thousand years they had believed in God and trusted him to keep his promises to them. And now Paul is telling them that salvation is by grace through their faith and not of law or works—and it is easy to see why they were upset. His answer starts in verse six: you must read it. He says the word of God has not failed; but some of you have failed because you are not in total obedience…which is required. He said that “Not all of you who are descendants of Israel are Israel.” What does this mean? The word Israel generally applies to the people living there that are doing God’s will; therefore if they are disobedient they are really not considered a part of the recipients of his promises. Then Paul gives examples of what he means; he used Abraham and his sons, Isaac and Ishmael to explain.

God promised Abraham that he would father a great nation. When his wife Sarah could not bear children—they took things into their own hands and tried to help God’s promise come true by having Abraham sire a son, Ishmael, through his maid servant…not his wife. Later Sarah had a son, Isaac, fulfilling God’s promise. Ishmael was the oldest and should, by law, be the one to succeed his father; it was a promise—God changed the rule and declared the younger son Isaac as the seed of Abraham. Thus not physical descent, but the will of God determined the inheritor of the promise. It may not be written anywhere in the bible, [but I personally think that someone may have ask Paul if God did this—[“Could he possibly be honest and fair? And did God go back on his promise?] If they did not ask the question—then Paul just knew what they were thinking, because he answered the question in verse 14. “What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? ABSOLUTELY NOT!”

God did not give the blessing to the firstborn who by ancient tradition should always receive it. God did not include all descendants of Abraham in the covenant. God blessed Jacob, though Jacob had not earned it. Paul is proving that God’s actions grow out of His mercy and grace and not from justice; if this were not true, we would all be damned [see 2 Chron. 19-7].

We find the words predestined and foreknowledge in several scriptures. There is no doubt in my mind that God knew each of us before we were conceived—He has that foreknowledge. At the time He designed his PLAN, He foreknew that many would never accept Him, but he included “freedom of choice” and placed the responsibility on the shoulders of each one to make the choice. Paul explains that responsibility in 10:8-13—you must read this scripture. You must choose; and herein is the decision you must make. Your faith is in your heart and it must be confessed with your mouth. “Jesus is Lord”—when you [must] confess this with your mouth, and believe in your heart [faith] that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead YOU WILL BE SAVED. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. The scripture says, ‘anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, God is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on Him,--for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” You make the choice, God gave you this privilege, however, He has always known which choice you would make.

We owe much to the Jews because God chose them to reveal his coming to the entire world—some of them never believed, or they disobeyed Him. However, He always had a remnant that remained faithful. God never promised that the entire nation would be saved; only those who were faithful to Him [the remnant] were considered true Jews [11:5]. Paul says some were hardened; but this was not punishment for their sin. It was a confirmation of their personal stubbornness and rebellion. The scripture says that God will not always strive with man—and this is an example where God removed their ability to see and hear and repent as the consequences of their rebellion; God did not predestine them to die; they made their own choice.

Verses 8-10 describe the punishment for hardened hearts as predicted by the prophet [Isaiah 6:9-13]. If you [any one] continually refuse to hear the Word, you will eventually not be able to understand it. Paul saw this happening among his people. Do you realize that in God’s plan, he intended for their failures to lead to the salvation of the gentile world? God did not force any Jew to be disobedient; however, in His plan he arranged it so that those that did would make it possible to save Gentiles who would otherwise have never known about the plan of Salvation. God conquered the Jewish spirit and dominant drive in Paul [a devout Jew] on the road to Damascus, and here in this lesson Paul is now trying to get both Jew and Gentile to understand the plan of salvation is by grace through faith and not works and law.

God did not predetermine that any man or woman would go to heaven or hell, but he did predetermine that they would have to choose for themselves, and because of His foreknowledge, God knew which choice they would make.

Note: Predestination is a deep subject; many disagree on its true and total meaning. I pray that I have not misled any one; but if so, that God and you will forgive me. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Security of the Believers - Romans 8

There are some simple truths in God’s word that can not be denied. One of the most important truths is that GOD IS OMNIPOTENT, which simply means that His power is innate; that is, God was not born; He has always been; and there has never been any limitation to the power of God. In Genesis 18:14, the Hebrew language asks the question “Is there anything too hard for the Lord? And the language is so constructed that it means to imply—“Of course not, nothing is too hard for the Lord to do.” Therefore, God has the power to save man from sin and He also has the power to keep him saved. Ask yourself the simple question. Has God ever lost anything that he loved and wanted to keep? He loves you and if you have given your life to Him—He wants to keep it.

All Southern Baptist would like the world to know why we believe in “The security of the believer,” and much of the proof is found in the 8th chapter of Romans, which we study today. By reading Article II of “The Baptist Faith and Message” you will find that we believe that the triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means that he is three persons in one; each one has His own personal attributes, but there is no division of nature, essence or being; in other words, God is one in essence [His fundamental nature] but He is three in personality.

God is OMINIPRESENT; He has always been everywhere. He remained in Heaven while His Son came to earth and lived approximately thirty-three years during which time Jesus Christ [The Son] completed the plan of salvation for man-kind; and after this work was completed Jesus sent The Holy Spirit [third person of the God head] to earth to utilize his plan to save the lost by convicting and leading people to Christ. Our study today is dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all people on earth.

Article II of Baptist Faith further states that The Holy Spirit is the third person in the God Head. He deals with each of us individually and in different ways. He inspired special authors to write the Bible and through its illumination He enables us to understand the truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer in the Body of Christ. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption, The Holy Spirit is not one/third of God; neither is He a third God, but he is God, present and active in your life and mine. In order to get the full picture you MUST READ: His Presence in Romans 8:1-11; His Guidance 12-17; His Prayer Life 18-27; and we will expound more on His Assurance found in 8:28-39.

Let me be very frank and to the point. The doctrine of security of the believer does not apply to an unsaved person. Only after you have accepted Christ as your Savior [been born again of the Spirit] are you secure in Christ. As kindly as I know how—allow me to warn you—that if you are still willingly living a sinful life, and enjoying it, you need to re-examine your re-birth experience. If you did not realize that you were a sinner, lost without hope; and if you did not find new hope in The Lord Jesus Christ, believe in Him, trust Him, and repent of your sins, and invite Him to come into your life and save you, and promise to live for Him and through Him—you are not saved! But if you are saved verses 9 through 11 applies to you. Read it.

You are saved now, therefore the outward person that we all can see, touch and talk to is in the flesh, but your soul is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. Without the Spirit, you do not belong to God. It is not unusual for the best of us to wonder sometimes if we are really a Christian but we must realize that this is the work of Satin. Some are waiting for a “feeling” to know…and you will never have a feeling that gives complete assurance. How can you know? Believe God. Trust. Faith. You will know The Spirit has come only because Jesus promised he would send His Spirit to us. When he starts working in you, you will know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ; God’s Son and that eternal life can be obtained only through Him [1: John 6:5]. You will begin to willingly act as The Lord directs you to act [8:5]; your mind will be set on what the Spirit desires of you.

One of the greatest works of the Spirit is his help with our prayer life. Some Christians are so old and ill and this and other family conditions have brought about so many problems that we do not know what or how to pray for the right things. Verses 26-27 are two of my most comforting verses in the bible. I try to think of all my blessings and thank him for the ones I remember and then call on the Holy Spirit to name the rest that I have forgotten. I usually have a special need that is hurting, or that is causing a special concern and I pray for Gods intervention; but what I believe to be even more important is that I ask the Holy Spirit to really decide what my greatest needs are and ask God to provide only what is most important. Do you sometimes have problems wording your prayers? If so, why don’t you place this problem in the hands of the Holy Spirit? He will help you Pray. Ask Him to complete a perfect prayer; one that God can and will honor. Be sure to end each prayer in the Name of Jesus Christ. The Bible directs us to always pray in the name of Christ.

Romans 8:28 is one of [if not] the greatest verses in the Bible. First, you must love God and must have been called by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the purpose that God has for your life. If you meet this condition—then you can be absolutely sure that God will work through all of the things that take place in your life here on earth [good things or terrible experiences] and that He will make the end result something good for you. You may have doubts; you may not always understand; but in God’s time He will work things out for your good. You simply must exercise your faith; you must truly believe that God is faithful, truthful and completely just and will do what he has promised to do for you!!!!

Those who are called are the ones [every one] that the Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ as their savior and Lord. After their conversion, everyone now has a new mind set and a new perspective on life. They do not trust in self, power, position, money, but in God only. In 1 John we find that God’s ultimate goal for us is to make us more like Christ. As we become more like Christ we can discover our true selves and God’s chosen purpose for us. How can we discover and know that we are in his will? We can learn this by studying His Word and examining the life that he lived as a man on earth [with temptations and trials just as we have] and emulating his life through our lives. When we do good works we prove that our faith is strong. God predestined that we do good works; it was not an after-thought with Him, however we do these works to prove we are saved and not in order to be saved.

Christ loved us and saved us and so we are more than conquerors through him who loved us [v-37]. Paul then says that because we have won the battle [become more than conquerors] we can be sure that we have won our battle against Satin. He said; “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [v-38]. Christ is in us and we are in Christ—He holds us in his hands—an no one can pluck us out of his hand [John 10:28].

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's All About Victory - Romans 7

In all history nations [especially the weaker ones] have struggled against the threat of being over run and even destroyed by ungodly governments of the super powers. In our recent studies of Jeremiah. We learned of the demise of Judah and Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. And then in AD 70, Rome destroyed the city again. It has been over 2000 years now, and the total return of a complete country with specific boundaries has still not been re-established. There are literally hundreds of examples of the rise and fall of nations.

I was 18 years old when I graduated from High School in April of 1943 and had already volunteered for the Air Corps, knowing that we had been at war with the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific since they bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and that I was sure to be drafted soon. At my age, my memory is not as sharp as it once was, but I well remember D-Day, June 6, 1944. Things had not been going well for the US and her allies in Europe, and the successful invasion of Normandy [although very costly in lives lost] was the first real glimmer of Victory over our enemies in WWII. This was the largest invasion effort ever attempted in any war and involved over 150 thousand soldiers and more than 175 thousand Marines and Naval personnel. Although battles continued to rage until the war was over in May, 1945, our hope for VICTORY was never as dim as it had been before the invasion.

All of these examples, both named and referred to, are mere skirmishes in comparison to the greatest threat ever to invade the world and that would be the invasion of sin into the life of each person that would ever live in this sinful world. The price [or result] of sin is death, and therefore man was doomed until God sent his Son to provide a way of escape…a way to VICTORY. The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross overshadows the deaths of all the soldiers in all the wars of all times and provides each of us a door to complete and eternal VICTORY.

When sin entered the world God gave man a right to choose how he would live his life, however, God maintained complete authority to determine what is right or Godly and what is wrong or sinful. It therefore became necessary for God to provide a way for man to decide or know what was righteous and what was evil, and he provided his law and revealed it through His priest and prophets. The Ten Commandments formed the basis, they were carved in stone and written on scrolls and delivered to His people. God’s laws were never meant to save man from sin; but they were given so that man could know right from wrong. God’s people lived under and by these laws for over 4,000 years and dedicated people came to believe that their eternal life depended upon their keeping of the law.

One of, if not the greatest problem, that Paul and the other apostles and teachers of the New Testament age had was to convince the Jews that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and his grace, through their faith and not of works [and not of keeping the law]. Paul shows that the law is powerless to save the sinner but that the law is not a sin in itself; rather it is the school master that taught him that he was a sinner. He said, “I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘do not covet.’ The sinner is condemned by the law; the law keeper can not live up to it—and the person with the new nature finds his or her obedience to law sabotaged by the effects of the old sinful nature.

Last Sunday our teacher said that he sometimes thinks that many ministers and teachers make the salvation experience sound too easy; just believe on the Lord and be saved…period. Paul surely confirms that belief here because he is saying that we are saved by trusting in Christ but after that there are many things given n law that one must do in order to be obedient to Gods command…Not to be saved; But to be obedient after one is saved. It seems very evident here that ‘keeping the law’ and ‘doing good works’ are both absolutely necessary not to gain salvation but to prove that we are believers.

Paul said that he was a slave to sin. In verse 15 he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Then he said that the confusion comes because he still has the sinful nature that he has to deal with each day. The law only tells him what his sins are and reminds him when he is out of line…and that is the purpose of the law. But when he wants forgiveness for those sins, he must go back to Jesus Christ, who is the only source of forgiveness.

In closing of the lesson, I am made to wonder if there is any way to lead people to see sin as an evader of earth and even more devastating that the invasion of France and Belgium by the Nazis. And then even more important, is there any way for Christian people to lead the world to see the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the one battle that brought victory to the world. We emphasize the importance of the lives of our soldiers that have given their lives for America’s freedom [and we should] but so often we forget the sacrifice our Lord made for our souls.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's All About New Life - Romans 6

We are fortunate in this country; especially here in the greatest state, Arkansas, to have special caring people who have dedicated their life’s work to programs designed to help people in despair find New Life. The Sheriff’s Ranch at Batesville works with young people that might otherwise be in reform school or prison. Southern Baptist support homes for orphans and otherwise neglected children. There are now two homes in Heber that caters to battered women and unwed mothers. A few years ago Bro. Lloyd Blanton, of Heber Springs, dedicated his life to a work with offenders who are serving time for crime and drug abuse, and First Baptist Church, Heber, furnishes them a building to use as their headquarters for work, counseling and worship services. These programs and many more are in many ways about obtaining a NEW earthly LIFE, the title of our lesson for today deals with one obtaining a NEW SPIRITUAL LIFE. It is ironical but a New Spiritual Life is the best assurance one can have of a NEW earthly LIFE.

In each case referred to above there will always be specific circumstances that differ, but generally speaking these unfortunate citizens at one time lived a human life style that was at least not life-threatening; however, every one of us are born into a flawed life style that mandated us to live under the threat of sin. It is sad but sins such as lust, greed, pride, and abuse of drugs; and finally lying, stealing, spouse abuse and even neglect of children crept in creating an unacceptable life style that has only one remedy—each one must create a NEW LIFE. The new life will only be productive or even acceptable when the individual or family commit themselves to following the Roman Road, as recorded in the gospel of Romans. Please read Romans.

Each one of us was borne of man, and inherited the characteristics of our parents. The first man, Adam, was created perfect, but God chose to give him his choice of choosing good or evil, life or death, heaven or hell, and the Genesis story tells us that man chose to disobey God, and he fell from grace. Sin interred the human race at the Garden of Eden on that day. I contend that was the saddest day in human history for because of it all posterity has been born in sin. By one man, Adam, sin entered the world; and then God provided one Man [Jesus] to pay our sin debt and thereby provided us a way for us to obtain a NEW SPIRITUAL LIFE that, if personally accepted, will redeem, save, convert us and make it as though we had never sinned.

I also contend that the happiest day in all history for mortal beings, as horrible as it had to be, was the day our Lord was crucified. His death gave all men the right of choice to choose to continue in the old and original life of sin and death, or a NEW LIFE of righteousness and glory. This life on earth is like a vapor, here for a moment and then it vanishes away. For many, it is relative plesant, enjoyable and acceptable; for others it is often harsh, negative and hard to accept. However for all it provides the opportunity to make the right choice regarding where we will spend eternity…forever…world without end. Therefore, it is ALL ABOUT LIFE. If you have lived to the age of accountability here on earth—“Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

In order for you to understand why we are talking about the old life, and the new life in this lesson you must study the content in chapter six. The people had just been told that sin was increasing, but that grace abounded and always remained sufficient to cover the sins of man. The first admonition in the sixth chapter is that people must not think that they can continue in sin simply because God’s grace will increase when they do. Yes, God forgives sin, but that does not make sin any less serious. God does love man, and Gave His Son to die on the Cross to forgive our sin; Our Savior enjoys our acceptance of his gift, but he still hates the sin that caused his death. There is no doubt; the availability of God’s mercy must not become an excuse for careless living and moral laxness.

Paul used the picture of baptism to explain what it means to have a NEW LIFE in Christ. In that day, immersion was the usual form of baptism—that is, new Christians were completely ‘buried’ in water. Even in the baptism of Jesus, the bible says that he went down into the water and came up out of the water…He was buried in water. People understood that this form of baptism symbolized the death to an old life and a resurrection up and into a New Life—and it is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the ‘coming up out of the water’ symbolizes Christ ‘coming up out of the grave’—He was dead, but he arose to New Life.

We must think of our old life [life before being saved] as being dead and buried and as a Christian, we must now have a powerful motive to resist any further sin, and there must now be a deep desire to sin no more. A born-again-believer can enjoy a New Life in Christ because we are united with him in his death and resurrection. Our bondage to sin must now be gone, because our evil desires and love for sin died with Christ. Now, by grace, through our faith, we have an unbreakable fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Savior. We may sin, but we do not desire to sin—and if we do sin, his grace is always sufficient to forgive us of our sin when we repent and ask for forgiveness. Dear friends, this chapter in Romans has a powerful message—please take time to read all 23 verses. This chapter conveys the reason why I believe that if anyone still enjoys sin, they need to re-examine their salvation experience—and ask the question: Am I really saved??? Learn more by reading Ephesians 4:21-24 and Colossians 3: 3-15.

Verse six tells us that the power and penalty of sin died with Christ on the cross. When any person accepts Christ their Old Self or sinful desire dies once and for all, so we are now free from its power. The ‘body of sin’ mentioned here is not the human physical body—but it is our rebellious sin-loving nature that we inherited from Adam as recorded in Genesis. We should not think of our body as being sinful even though it sometimes cooperates with our sinful nature. It is not our body that is wrong but the sinful nature in us leads us to do wrong. Verses 8-10 should make the fear of death mute in our earthly life, for we know that Christ died and now lives and will forever, and Christians are alive in Christ and they too will never die.

Since we are saved for sure and forever can we continue to sin at will? Verse 15 says that “By no means”! You can not! When you accept Christ, you become his helper, his hands and feet…He becomes your Master and you become His slave. While you remain in sin, sin is your master and you are a slave to sin. You can not serve two masters? No. You can either serve God and holiness with the end result being eternal life; or, you can serve sin and evil and earn wages for it, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Have you made your choice? Please remember that life, even four-score and ten years, is so short; it is like a vapor or cloud—here now, and momentarily gone. A cloud appears and then with one small shift in the wind it disappears from our view and is gone forever.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It Is All About Grace - Romans 5:1-21

[See first word in title above] What is ‘IT’? It happens to be ‘salvation’ or ‘being saved’ from eternal damnation and/or eternal separation from God and all that is good. Or the positive picture is one of being forever in Heaven in the presence of God, our creator, His Son Jesus Christ and all of our loved ones who have been saved by Grace, through their faith in His Son. No other inspired writer emphasized this truth more often and more forcefully than the Apostle Paul. There is absolutely no other way to be saved! All mortals who ever become citizens of Heaven will do so because of the Grace of God; and through their active, working faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord. It is not enough to just ‘say’ “I have faith”—faith becomes active and working when you truly believe in the Lord and totally commit your life into his keeping. Example: You can truly believe that a life-raft will save your life from drowning and take you safely to the shore; your belief will only become an active, working faith when you climb on board and fully realize that you are floating safely above the destructive water and breathing life saving oxygen from God’s pure air.

There is a HIGHWAY to heaven! To my knowledge no bible has ever been published with a physical map designating the route one must take but the highway does exist. The biblical map consists of verbal instructions, and the best one is called “The Roman Road” which is found in The Book of Romans, it was written by Paul and it tells us how to get from earth to heaven safely. The first thing we must realize is that we need God’s power [and grace] because we have a problem with sin—“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” 3:23]. “Sin” means we have missed the mark; missed God’s intended destination for us—heaven. No one can reach the destination on our own. Your good works will not save you; however as soon as you are saved, you must go to The Book of Peter and learn what he means when he says that “faith without works is dead.”

We can work and earn money, wealth; but sin earns wages as well, the bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift [grace] of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6: 23]. A verbal highway to heaven is found in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To confess Jesus as Lord involves agreeing with God about your sin and your need for salvation. All must repent of their sin and turn around from the direction they are headed. There is only one highway—it has a destination at each end and your future depends upon the direction you are going. To “believe in your heart” is the act of placing your faith in Jesus, trusting that He died on the cross to pay for your sins. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” 5: 8].

This lesson covers chapter five in Romans. The first part elaborates on—or offers a conclusion to—the line of truths found in chapters three and four; and there are two leading thoughts found here. 1. It explains the method of induction into the grace of salvation. 2. It discusses the happy estate of the justified person. There is a doubled-barreled question being answered here. First how do we get into Christ? Then, how does Christ get into you? You can find this concept in John 15-4—“I in you…and you in me” This is where we get the doctrines of Justification through faith…we get into Christ by His grace through our faith. Then Regeneration continues daily because Christ lives in and through us gracefully; we are regenerated, grow, become more Christ-like because He is in us.

The first verse tells us about the happy estate of the justified person. It is very simple “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This peace comes only by faith in Christ and not by works lest anyone should boast. I personally can think of no other condition that can ever surpass the position of any man who has Peace with God.

There appears to be two concepts mentioned in these verses that could cause concern to anyone with a weak faith. The Bible teaches that salvation is a one act seen. We are by grace through faith accepted into the family of God, and Christ says that no one, power or principality can pluck us out of his hand or the hand of his Father. On the other hand we must continue to grow in Christ [we are becoming more like Him]. We are in the world but not of the world. We continually feel the presence of Christ and also the daily presence and pressures of sin. We must realize that only through his power are we able to withstand the darts of the evil one.

Paul started the book of Romans telling strangers that they were sinners because of sin’s nature and origin, and not because God had created them that way. Now in verse twelve today he uses Genesis as his source to remind all of us that sin entered the world through one man and that it has now come to all men, for all have sinned. The most wonderful part of this message is that God also sent the remedy for sin through one man, His Son, Jesus Christ. Just as all men fell because of one man…now all can be saved by faith in what one man [Christ] has done for us. He gave his life’s blood on the Cross so that all who believed in him, repented of their sin, and confessed Him as their Lord would be saved.

We become so discouraged when we realize that trespasses and sin has increased even in our lifetime. What we really should do is rejoice because Paul tells us that when sin increases, God’s Grace Increases even more. We do not deserve it. It is unmerited grace. “Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul gives all believers [all saved people] a sincere warning when he tells us that God’s grace increases even more than sin does. He says that this does not give us a license to sin any time we want to. If one is saved, he/she will not have a desire sin. I realize that it is not ‘politically correct’ for me to tell you this—but if you still have within your heart a true desire to sin—you need to re-examine the experience you had that caused you to think that you were save. [If we say that we do not sin, we lie; the truth is not in us.] However, Christians do not rejoice in their sinning ways; therefore if you do, you are still in a lost condition and have never been saved by grace through faith. The bible exhorts us to examine ourselves and determine which road we are traveling on and which direction we are going.

If you are truly interested in your future and want to find your way, and know what your destination will be—please study the Book of Romans, for it is the best road-map to heaven that has ever been written. There has never been a time in all history when it was more important for people to read God’s Word, study the verbal road map, and start following it daily.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good News to Believe - Romans 3:27 - 4:25

I will paraphrase a message that is covered well by the author of our lesson for today that appears in “Exploring the Bible” published by LifeWay. It is really sad to know that there are older people that have lived great lives and have been a positive force in the lives of many people and have enjoyed being “good neighbors” to so many and are mistakenly banking on their good-works to get them to heaven. They have built an imaginary scale in their mind that weighs good and evil…it is a simple ‘balance board’…and they have placed all their good deeds on one end and their evil deeds on the other, and since the ‘good’ outweighs the ‘bad’ they visualize this as their ticket to life eternal. They only ‘hope’ the plan works, and they have no bible proof that it will. In fact the Bible teaches that it will not work. In fact, the balance board proves that it will not work…because the heavy end of the board “goes down” and not up toward heaven.

The somewhat new phrase “politically correct” has become so popular and accepted by so many that today there are Preachers, Pastors, Church Leaders and Bible Commentary Writers who are afraid to teach the “Whole Truth” which tells us that there is a Hell to shun just as surely as there is a Heaven to gain. Their argument is that if they, as a Bible witness, condemn wickedness strongly, they will not be able to continue to reach their followers, who may be committing some of the sins mentioned and will be turned off, and will not continue to attend and participate. Paul thought that it was necessary for him to teach the truth and that it was his follower’s responsibility to either accept or reject it. In the end, their ‘lost blood’ will not be on his hands.

Salvation has nothing to do with doing what man thinks is correct, [political correctness] nor does it have anything to do with one being good enough to receive God’s approval. Be careful now and do not miss-quote me when I tell you that personal salvation [being saved] is not attained through your belief that there is a God, and that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to redeem lost man. (The Devil believes this to be true and he will never be saved] The Good News is that we MUST BELIEVE…We have been told the truth and we have the opportunity to accept it. This is “faith” and faith is necessary; however one must realize that he/she is lost, and put their faith to work by personally asking Jesus to forgive their sins and to accept them as his redeemed children because of their faith and not because of any good works they have done.

In our lesson today, what is the GOOD NEWS TO BELIEVE and act upon? This lesson emphasizes the truth that God saves people by grace [freely, no pay, or works in exchange] through their personal faith in Jesus Christ; it becomes a “personal relationship” and is not a business deal, and this is the one and only way to make sure that Heaven is your home. Now, some will say that you should not warn people of their sins, it is politically incorrect, and it may offend them and drive them away from you and away from the church. If this is true, then why did Paul spend practically the entire first chapter to the Romans telling them of their sins? He told them they were sinners first and then told them how to be saved. These are people whom he had never met, did not know personally, and has never written to before; and he finishes the first chapter telling them they have degraded their bodies with one another in homosexuality, and are worshipping false gods. He even goes further and singles out the Jews by warning them that all are saved by grace through faith and not by Jewish law. Salvation comes by trusting in what Christ did for us on the Cross only, and has nothing to do with what we have done to earn it Ephesians 2: 8-10].

You may ask why salvation is by faith only. First, it eliminates the pride of human effort because faith is not a deed we do, but a receptive condition of the human heart. Second, faith exalts what God has already done and not what people can do. Third, our faith causes us to admit that we can not keep the law; that we can not measure up to what God demands; we can not reach His standards on our own, without help from Him. And finally and simply faith is based on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not our performance for God.

Paul went to great lengths to explain that God’s laws [including the Ten Commandments] were necessary for all who lived before Christ, setting out the guide for them to go by in their dealings with God, the government and each other. Then he chose Abraham as his example; Abraham was made right because of his belief in God; his faith was credited to him as righteousness. Against all hope, Abraham, in hope believed, and because of his faith, he became the father of many [4: verse 18]. There was no earthly way, at the age of Abraham and his wife that he could become the father of many without God’s intervention. However, Abraham was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised, and he believed [had faith] that God would do what he said he would do…and it was credited to him as righteousness.

This truth [and it was credited to him as righteousness] was not written for Abraham alone, but it was written for us today to whom God will credit righteousness if we only believe [trust, have faith, accept] the fact that God raised Jesus or Lord from the dead and that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. For it is by God’s grace that we are saved, only when we have faith in Him and put our personal life in his hands…for we are dead in our trespasses and sin until he raises us to a new spiritual life of justification. {Justification means: “just as though we had never sinned.”} Further good news is that the Lord “Will remember our sins no more”…there is no double-jeopardy in God’s court.

GOOD NEWS TO BELIEVE is not always plesant new to hear because it is GOOD NEWS to know that even though we are lost, and undone God has given us a perfect plan of salvation that has never and will never fail, and that He has given us a free will to choose between eternal life and death. There are only two roads, one narrow and it leads to Heaven, and one wide and it takes you straight to Hell. You are traveling on the road of your choice as of this moment, so make very sure it is leading you to your chosen destinations.