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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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Thanksgiving is behind us, and Christmas is right around the corner. You don’t have to know me very well to know how much I love Christmas and the Christmas season. My with bemoans how early Christmas decorations appear, and I start listening to Christmas music on the first of October.
The Christmas classic, “It’s beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” excites me just listening to it.  The repeated line, “It’s beginning to look a lot lie Christmas everywhere we go,” puts a smile on my face. I am into Christmas trees, tacky decorations, the giving and receiving of gifts, well, you get the picture. As much as I like the stuff of Christmas, however, it is the true reason for the season that excites me most.
When I was growing up, Christmas was a sure time I could get family to go to church with me. Christmas Eve service has always been a time to remember and celebrate my Savior’s coming. Still, it has also been a time when I have been able to get those who typically don’t give God or church a thought to consider Him and perhaps come participate in a Christmas Eve service.
The stuff of Christmas is great, but if allowed, it can distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. This causes us to drift off course from genuinely celebrating Christ.  After all, Christmas literally means the celebration of Christ.
I am challenged by these words found in Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2).
As we look at those who have completed their race (see: Hebrews 11), let’s grasp hold of the baton handed off to us.  Let’s run in the strength of the Lord and the encouragement of their witness. We are to “lay aside every weight.” Even good things, like the stuff of Christmas, can hinder us. We are also to lay aside sin. The very nature of sin is to entangle us. Sin is an obstacle, not a spur to those of us running the race for Christ. By the way, the race we run is not a sprint but a marathon. So, we need to run with Spirit enabled endurance.
How do we run? We run “looking to Jesus.” As a runner concentrates only on the finish line, we, believers, set our gaze on Jesus. Jesus has already crossed the finish line and is waiting while running with us through His Spirit, who indwells us. Christ has already done everything necessary to ensure that we, too, may cross the finish line if we continue in faith.
Let me encourage each of us this Christmas to enjoy the holiday, but even more, keep Christ the center of our celebration. Let’s not lose the reason for the season amid the stuff of the season. With that said, I am so thankful it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Present Pain, Future Glory

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As I look at the Bible as a whole and see the progress of redemption laid out from God’s creative work at the onset of humanity, the account found in Genesis, to the triumphant second coming of Christ, written in Revelation, I am blown away. There is a scarlet thread of salvation woven throughout Scripture, leading to each and every one of us. This is a beautiful reality we call the gospel, the good news.
When Paul wrote Romans 1-8, he laid out the gospel in great detail. God inspired him to write of the first facet of salvation, justification (being made right with God), in chapters 1-4. Then, in Romans 5-8, Paul writes of the second facet of salvation, sanctification (becoming more and more like Christ). In the second half of Romans 8, Paul writes of the third facet of salvation, glorification. Glorification is the final act of God in salvation. Occurring at Christ’s return, when the believer receives a glorified, imperishable body (never to wear out or become sick), glorious (beautiful, perhaps radiant), powerful (not superhuman but at full strength), and spiritual (dominated by God’s Spirit). This is a wonderful future reality for all of us in Christ. In the second half of Romans 8, Paul teaches us how to live as those being sanctified, yet to be glorified, and does so wrapped in sure hope and glory.
Paul declares in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Think about it. No suffering amounts to anything compared to the Way who is Christ (I was lost, but now I am found). No sufferings amount to anything compared to the Truth, who is Christ (I was seeking truth, but now I know the One who is the Truth). No sufferings amount to anything compared to the Life who is Christ (I was dead, but now I live) (see: John 14:6). Here is the good news. No amount of suffering can compare to what I have in Christ, or what I will have in Christ when He returns, and I leave this world of suffering behind and spend eternity with Him in Glory. How do we endure present sufferings? We do so by placing our hope in future glory. We are to live by faith right up to the gates of paradise.
We discover in Romans 8:18-21 that those in Christ place their hope on the Spirit for a future complete release. In fact, we are told in Romans 8:22-27 that those in Christ are actually helped by the Spirit to overcome our weaknesses. The Spirit who makes us holy, more and more like Christ, gives us what we need, even intercedes on our behalf, to lead us through this fallen world to the finish line, where we see Christ face-to-face. We even receive this precious promise: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).  We can be confident that nothing can hurt God’s people so deeply that God cannot turn it around for His glory and our good.
In Roans 8:29-30, we learn what God has done for us. We can be sure of this. If we have placed our faith in God, we have been called. If we have been called, he has predestined us for complete salvation. He has justified us. Right now, our Lord is sanctifying us, making us more and more like Christ. If God is sanctifying us, He will one day complete the work He has begun and will glorify us.
In Romans 8:30-31, Paul concludes by declaring that we in Christ are more than conquerors. We learn that those in Christ respond reasonably to God’s love. Along with the previous seven, these two verses provide a conclusion of God’s plan for His people. It is a summary of sorts of Romans 1-8. The final nine verses of Romans 8 are so wonderful that every Christian should be thoroughly familiar with them. Paul declares that God is for us and that no one can succeed against us. Paul didn’t simply ask, “Who can be against us?” The answer to this question would be many. Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God is for us in Christ, and we will share in His victory. Paul declares, “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (Rom 8:39).
Yes, we will face hardship. God’s people have always faced hardship. However, nothing will separate us from God’s love. Not only can no one or anything alienate us from our God, but we are actually more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love and the ultimate victory we will share in Him!
I pray you have decided to receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. I hope you have chosen as a believer to focus on Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus. I implore you to find hope in future glory. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Rescued by God’s Spirit

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My favorite chapter in all of Scripture is Romans 8. The first portion (vv. 1-17) speaks of the believer being rescued by God’s Spirit. Paul concludes Romans 7 by declaring that our battle with sin is won through Jesus Christ. Paul writes in the first half of chapter 8 that the believer can be delivered, through the Spirit, from the control of sin in this life.
Paul begins by sharing that a Christian is freed by the Spirit from sin (Rom 8:1-11). Paul shares two blessings believers have in Christ. First, there is no condemnation; the believer has been justified (saved). Then, the believer has been set free through God sending His Son. Jesus came and took upon His divinity humanity. He died in our stead on the cross. He died for our sins. In so doing, He paid the righteous requirement of the law in full, being resurrected for our salvation.
As if this work of Christ was not enough, He has gifted us with the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and whose work in the believer’s life is to make her holy. Holiness is Christlikeness. When we look back to Romans 7, Paul describes how we cannot keep the law because of our indwelling sinful nature. Then, in Romans 8:4, he explains that we can become like Christ because of the indwelling Spirit.
The Christian must surrender to the Spirit’s leading. This is often determined by our mindset (Rom 12:2). There are two predominant mindsets. One mindset is on natural desires and leads to death. The other mindset is set on the Spirit, bringing life and peace. John Stott notes: “We would more eagerly pursue holiness if we were convinced that it is the way of life and peace.
Paul does not only share that the believer is freed by the Spirit from sin (Rom 8:1-11), but is obligated to the spirit for life-giving power (Rom 8:12-17). When we allow self to lead us and strive for self-indulgence, we are alienated from God; this is spiritual death. However, when we allow the Spirit to lead us and are empowered by Him to deny self, we find real life in Christ. The Spirit enables us to live such a life as God’s children. By the way, a Christian is assured through God’s Word (the Bible), godly fruit in his life, and the witness of the Holy Spirit that we are indeed God’s children.
It is good news that we are children of God, and as such, have access to the Spirit who bears witness to this truth and empowers us to live like His children. Francis Schaffer offers this insight:
“On the day when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, wonder of wonders, we became the children of God. But if we truly became the children of God, we were at that moment indwelt by the Holy Spirit; and if we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, surely there will be some evidence of this in our lives.”
Consider that in Romans 8:1-17, there is no mentioning of the witness of the Holy Spirit as something reserved for some Christians, nor that something more needs to be required for His indwelling a believer. Actually, the whole of the passage describes what is common and available to all believers. The Spirit’s workings may differ in degrees of intensity in a believer’s life due to surrender, but all believers are indwelt by Him and given His witness too.
The good news Paul writes in Romans 8:1-17 is that the believer is rescued by God’s Spirit. The believer is freed by the Spirit from sin (Rom 8:1-11). The believer is obligated to the Spirit for life-giving power. If you are in Christ, rejoice and surrender to the Spirit’s workings in and through your life. If you have yet to receive Christ as Savior and Lord, choose Him today. Won’t you embrace the work of the Spirit who rescues? Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone).

Battling Sin

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As believers, it is crucial to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the foundational truths of biblical Christianity. Paul lays out the basics of faith in Romans. The study of this amazing book has had a profound influence on my life. Paul’s teaching in Romans 7 has led me to walk in freedom, as well as in Christian victory.
Those who have accepted salvation through Jesus Christ have been justified and are being sanctified. Those in Christ are saints. Positionally we are 100 % righteous, but practically there is still a struggle this side of heaven. The struggle is with the law’s demands or otherwise stated temptation. Paul discusses the struggle and the basis for victory in Romans 7.
In Romans 7:1-6, Paul begins with a wedding metaphor to describe how believers have died to the law and are alive in Christ. Two things happen when people accept Christ as Savior. (1) They become dead to the law (first husband). Paul describes that the marriage vows are “until death do us part.” To be able to marry another and keep the marriage vow, there needs to be a death. The believer has died with Christ. Then, (2) They become married to Christ (second husband). The believer is united with the risen, living Savior, who gives her new life, freedom, and victory.
Then, Paul proceeds in Romans 7:7-13 to describe himself before He became a believer. Paul writes about his life before his bar mitzvah and what happened immediately after. The term “bar mitzvah” means “son of the law.” Before a Jewish boy came of age (around 13), he was not officially responsible for keeping the commandments. In a sense, Paul was “once alive apart from the law” (v. 9) before the conscience awoke, and moral responsibility came in. However, when this occurred (as a result of his bar mitzvah), the innocent stage was over. He writes I was conscious of sin, of violation of the law. Paul declares, “I was dead before, but I did not know. Now I found out that I was spiritually dead.”  The law brought Paul the knowledge of sin and the need for a savior. Therefore, the law is “holy, righteous, and good” (v. 12), certainly not to be blamed. John Stott notes: “The extreme sinfulness of sin is seen precisely in the way it exploits a good thing (the law) for an evil purpose (death).”
Paul then writes in Romans 7:14-24 that, at times, as a believer, he is trapped by being law-focused or self-focused. It is of some importance to note that Paul does not mention the Spirit in this section. The section describes a “Law-focus” or “Self-focus,” which by its very nature prevents a person from focusing on Christ and His salvific work. Therefore, I believe the Christian life described in Romans 7:13-24, although it may be described as average, certainly is not normal. In fact, it’s abnormal. If you were to go through a hospital wing, the average temperature could be 103, but we call this temperature abnormal because we know that a normal temp is around 98.6. Similarly, the passage may describe the average situation you have observed that Christians find themselves in, but this is abnormal. God has a better way, which is normal for the Christian life.
Paul is frustrated that now that he has experienced salvation and is no longer a slave to sin, he finds himself still struggling with temptation and sin. Through Christ, we have become justified before God. The Word of God informs, calls, corrects and encourages us. The problem is that we, in the flesh, are still part of the fallen world. Legally, our problem of guilt before God has been resolved – we are acquitted. However, we still await the full redemption that will occur when Christ returns. We are justified. We are being sanctified. We will be glorified. However, in our present reality, we battle with temptation. The individual described by Paul in Romans 7:14-24 is a Believer who has turned away from focusing on Christ. Instead, he is focused on self and the law, grieving or quenching the Spirit, rendering him impotent. With genuine transparency and honesty, Paul has given us an analysis of this “perspective” as he has sometimes experienced in his Christian life.  Paul cries out for relief from the struggle, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (v. 24)?
Finally, Paul provides the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom 7:25). Paul describes that a believer’s deliverer is and always has been Jesus Christ. The answer to the question of “who will deliver me” (v. 24) is found only in our Lord. There must be yielding to the power of Christ. We must look away from oneself and onto Christ. This “focus” upon either the law or Christ can change from moment to moment. Therefore, it is imperative to be mindful of where your focus is centered. This life of faith allows for the fantastic sanctifying work of God to be established in our lives. For the believer, the issue is our focus. We are to be focused on Christ (NORMAL CHRISTIAN: Christ-focused). We get in trouble when we look to self or law to live rightly (ABNORMAL CHRISTIAN: Self or Law focused). The cure is to stop looking at self or law and focus once again on Christ (NORMAL CHRISTIAN: Christ-focused). Only through focusing on Jesus Christ can we find victory over temptation and a feeling of condemnation, which Paul addresses in Romand 8. Only through focusing on Christ can the believer win the battle against sin. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

United to Christ & Enslaved to God

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Paul understood, like many of us do, the importance of going back to basics. Just like a golfer will return to the basics of a swing to improve their game, a Christian ought to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the fundamental truths of Scripture. Paul, in the Book of Romans, presents the basics of the faith. Its study benefits believer and seeker alike.
We discover in Romans 6 Paul’s foundational teaching on the practical difference, a believer’s new identity in Christ has in and through their life. This identity is the result of a Christian’s union with the Lord. This unity with Christ allows us to be sanctified, separated unto God, resulting in genuine lifestyle change as we become more and more like Christ.
Paul illustrates the believer’s life-changing relationship with Christ in two ways. The first example Paul gives is baptism. Baptism demonstrates that the believer has unity with Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-11). Paul reminds us that Adam sinned, and humanity died; but Christ died, and because He died, we who believed in Him are alive now. This is sealed when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. This is pictured in water baptism that signifies our identifying with the death of Christ, as the believer goes under the water, and our identifying with Christ’s resurrection (new life), as she comes up out of the water.
The believer’s identity in Christ, the Christian’s salvation, rests upon two historical points. A person’s salvation rests on the moment in space and time at which Jesus died on the cross. Their salvation rests on the moment at which they, by faith, have accepted Christ as Savior. Jesus died at a point in history. He was resurrected at a point in history. The believer accepts Christ at a point in history. The Christian will be raised from the dead at some real point in the future. So, Paul asserts, “live like it!”
The second example Paul gives is slavery. Slavery demonstrates that the believer being enslaved to God brings true freedom, not bondage (Rom 6:12-23). For Paul, the Christian life is not absolute independence from a master.  Everyone serves a master, either godlessness or God. The believer now serves God and righteousness (“doing the right thing”) with the same intensity that they used to serve sin – impurity – lawlessness. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). The former master, sin, gives wages for service to him (death); the new master, God, gives a generous gift to His slaves (life).
There are two differences one ought to understand. There is a difference between temptation and sin. Also, there is a difference between not being perfect in this present life and letting sin rule your life. Sin no longer has power in the believer’s life. Temptation continues, but the Christian is not a slave to sin, he can live in victory (1 Cor 10:13). However, the believer is freed from the wage of sin, death, living under forgiveness and grace, being identified in Christ. This ought to make a big difference in how we live. For instance, whenever God calls us to do something, we have three options. We can say, “I won’t do it.” Or we can say, “I’ll do it on my own strength and way.” Lastly, we can say, “I will die to self and allow the Holy Spirit to enable me to do it by the Lord’s strength and in His way.” Obviously, the latter is the right choice for a believer.
As we embrace our identity with Christ, a practical difference is made in our lives as we grow in Christ, are sanctified. When we yield to the Lord, He blesses us so that we can glorify Him and benefit others. I pray all of us will make the right decision right now, by the Spirit’s power, to live the life God has provided for each of us. I hope all Christians will embrace the life God has prepared for you and me, accepting our new identity in Christ, believing we are united with Him, deciding to live as one truly enslaved to Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Peace with God

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Whether a coach, a player or a businessperson, the importance of getting back to the basics is a critical component of doing well. This, too, is true for the believer. It is essential for the Christian to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the fundamental truths of Scripture. Paul lays out the basics of the faith in his letter to the Romans.
For instance, Paul, in Romans 1-4, provides us with a thorough discussion on justification. He answers the how and why of salvation. Justification (salvation) speaks of being made right with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. In chapter 5, Paul turns his attention to another aspect of salvation, sanctification. Sanctification speaks of the continued work of salvation in a person’s life. When we are made right with God, He begins the work of making us Christlike. Specifically, in Romans 5, Paul explains what it means to have peace with God.
Paul, in Romans 5:1-5, declares that due to the believer being acquitted, they have certain hope since they have peace with God.  Acquittal is a legal term meaning a declaration that someone is in the right. Due to sin, people are in the wrong before God. They have broken His laws, and they deserve punishment. The good news is that on the cross, Christ took humanity’s place. When a person puts their trust in Christ, they are declared to be in the right, acquitted, justified, saved. We have peace with God and can live in peace.
Further, Paul explains in Romans 5:6-11 that acquittal allows the believer to experience the result of God’s love that has brought peace with God. How great is God’s love that sustains our hope? God loves us so much that Christ died for us when we were without strength to do anything good, even when we were ungodly (v. 6) and unworthy sinners (v. 8). I like what Francis Schaffer wrote: “The gospel isn’t for ideal people. Ideal people do not exist. The gospel is for people like us.” Christ died for us while we were yet sinners while we were God’s enemies. “How much more,” then, in the present life, having accepted Christ as our Savior, and having a living Savior…how much more can we expect to have everything we need for our present life!
Then, in Romans 5:12-17, we discover that acquittal allows those trapped in sin to receive the gift of life that comes as we have peace with God. The bottom line is that all people are sinners because of the historical Fall of humanity in Adam. But the good news is what we can receive in Christ. This passage presents some essential truths. Death came to all people due to sin. This is bad news since al people have sinned. The good news is all people can be saved. There were two historical acts. Adam’s historical act, where all humanity became sinners, and, parallel to this, the historical act of Jesus, who came to save those who were lost. Paul contrasts two dynasties and the result of who reigns in each of them. In Adam, death reigns. In Christ, righteousness reigns.
Finally, in Romans 5:18-21, the good news is revealed that acquittal brings about the preferred results where grace reigns and the peace of God abounds.  Paul compares and contrasts those in Adam (those under sin) with those in Christ (those who have been saved).  What are the results of a transgression and an upright act? In Adam, we are condemned. In Christ, we are justified. What are the contrasting results of disobedience and obedience? In Adam, many were made sinners. In Christ, many were made righteous. What are the effects of transgression and grace? In Adam, sin increased. In Christ, grace increased. We read in Romans 5:21: “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  What are the contrasting results of the two reigns, sin, and grace? In Adam, death, sin reigns. In Christ, righteousness, grace reigns. In Adam, sin reigns and brings death, but in Christ, grace reigns, bringing righteousness and eternal life. The believer has peace with God. This, indeed, is good news.
I hope we all are found in Christ. This is available to each of us who receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. The good news is that in Christ, all of us can be acquitted and have peace with God.  This living in peace with God ought to make a real difference in our daily living, which Paul addresses more closely in Romans 6-8. For now, I ask, won’t you choose Christ and, in doing so, live in peace with God? I pray, you will. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Forgive Us Our Debts

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Getting back to the basics is stressing fundamental principles. You will hear a coach speak of getting back to the basics or a business leader. It is important because all we do build on fundamental principles. As believers, it is crucial to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the fundamental truths of biblical or orthodox Christianity. Paul lays out the basics of the faith in his letter to the Romans. Starting in Romans 3:27 through chapter four, he speaks of justification by faith and uses Abraham as an example of this blessed gift of God.
Justification speaks of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is a mighty act of God by which He declares sinful people not guilty but righteous instead. God does this by accounting the righteousness of Christ upon the believer. This acquittal and remarkable exchange of the price for our sins (death) for righteousness occurs to all who receive it by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and believing that what He has done is sufficient to make us right with God.
We discover in Romans 3:27-31 some implications of justification by faith. For instance, the believer can’t boast in their own part of salvation since they are saved by faith in Christ’s finished work. The believer is not justified by doing works, but through our Lord’s salvific work (v.27). The believer is not justified because they have fulfilled what the law requires (vv. 28-30). However, justification by faith does fulfill the law through Christ and by pointing to Him and showing how His Spirit is working in our lives, making us more and more like Jesus (v.31). We boast in Christ, not in ourselves.
Paul then uses Abraham as an example of saving faith (justification by faith). Abraham is the father of God’s people. Paul will establish that we can expect to find salvation and be justified by God the same way as Abraham.
Paul explains in Romans 4:1-5 that Abraham was not declared righteous on account of good behavior. If we could come to God on any other basis other than faith, it would mean that God owed us something. All God owes us is the wages of sin, which is death. It is through Christ we receive the gift of life. To stress this point further, Paul in Romans 4:6-8 shows that like Abraham, David (psalmist, one of the kings of Israel, and known as a man after God’s heart) enjoyed forgiveness by faith, not works. Faith is the instrument that allows the ledger sheet (wage of sin is death, but the gift of God through Christ is life) to be reconciled.
Some Jews fell into the trap of believing because they were circumcised, they were right with God. Circumcision occurs as part of the religious ceremony for a Jew. It signified the covenant relationship between God and Abraham. In Romans 4:9-12, Paul describes how Abraham was not declared righteous on account of religious ceremony. In fact, Abraham was declared righteous by faith before ever being circumcised. For the churchgoer, today, communion, baptism, church membership can be seen as somehow bringing salvation. These are religious acts that have meaning, but not the power to save. No ceremony or ritual can administer salvation to us. Only Christ offers salvation to those who place their faith in Him.
Some Jewish teachers taught that Abraham was perfect. They apparently had not read the accounts of Abraham’s life in Genesis. He was a man of faith, but certainly not perfect. So, Paul in Romans 4:13-16 shows how Abraham was not declared righteous by keeping rules. In fact, Abraham is declared righteous before the law had even been given. The law given to Moses was not given until some 500 years later. Abraham was justified by faith, plain and simple. This is a model for all of us of saving faith. Paul strongly emphasizes in Romans 4:17-22 that Abraham was a man of faith, and that made all the difference. Justifying faith is a faith that looks at the problem and believes upon God as the solution. Our faith in God releases His righteousness in our life.
Paul concludes in Romans 4:23-25: “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ (speaking of righteousness) were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Jesus was crucified for our sins and resurrected for our salvation. This is a fantastic reality. I stress the term reality. It is real. It is authentic. We place our faith in a real God and actual work done by Jesus Christ. Like Abraham, we can be justified (saved) by believing God is real and that He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and Jesus was resurrected that all who receive Him in faith will be saved. I hope you have placed your faith in Christ and are saved (in a right relationship with God). If not, consider doing so right now. If you have, celebrate this gift of our Lord and share the good news with others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Unholy Togetherness

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As believers, it is important to regularly get back to the basics and understand the gospel’s foundational truth. This is what allows us to grow as we exercise our faith. Through the New Testament book of Romans, Paul presents the basics of Christianity. Among the many things Paul shares, we discover in Romans 3:9-26 the gospel’s bad and good news.
Paul begins by sharing the bad news beginning in Romans 3:9: “we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.” All humanity is under sin and therefore condemned. Paul declares that the problem is that humanity is corrupt from head to foot. Sin is the truest and greatest leveler of humanity (Rom 3:10-18). We are on equal footing before God. We are guilty. The sentence has been given. But, the sentence has not been commenced (Rom 3:19-20). This leads us to the good news of the gospel.
Paul writes that “now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” (Rom 3:21). The righteousness of God is revealed in His anger against sin (Rom 1:18) as well as in His grace for sinners (Rom 3:21-22). All of humanity has a problem our sin keeps us from a right relationship with God. Our Lord, however, has provided a way to deal with sin justly and offer salvation to all who will respond in faith.
In Romans 3:21-26, Paul explains that God has provided salvation to all who receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Yes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). In the past, all have sinned; in the present, all are sinning, all are falling short. This is indeed bad news. The good news is that God has shown His love for us through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected for our salvation. God has proven Himself to be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). God’s love is seen in Him sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price, to be the covering for all of our sin.
God’s anger toward sin is removed from us as we believe in Christ for our salvation. Since Jesus bore our sin on the cross, He took our guilt and punishment for us, when we place our trust in Jesus, we are found not guilty. Because of the price paid for our freedom, when we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus by faith, we are free indeed.
There are two factors in salvation: the basis and the instrument. The basis is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is Christ alone and not by any work of any person. The instrument is faith. Jesus did the work, and we are called to believe. Francis Schaeffer explains:
“Our faith has no saving value. Our religious works, our moral good works, have no saving value because they’re not perfect. Our suffering has no saving value. We would have to suffer infinitely because we have sinned against an infinite God. The only thing in God’s entire moral universe with the power to save is the finished work of Jesus Christ. Our faith merely accepts the gift. And God justifies (acquits) all those who believe in Jesus for their salvation.”
This is truly good news and an amazing offer.
The gospel’s bad news is that we have all sinned, and this carries with it a death sentence. The good news is that Jesus has already paid this sentence on the Cross, and all who receive Him as Lord and Savior are made right with God. No doubt, there is an unholy togetherness all of us share, but so too is the offer of salvation in Christ. We ought to all jump at the opportunity to be saved. Jesus has died for our sins and resurrected for our salvation. This is good news, and all we have to do is believe in Christ to receive salvation, eternal life, and the divine benefits that our Lord provides to those who place their faith in Jesus. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

God’s Fairness

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Getting back to basics takes concentration on the foundational building blocks. A baseball player may go back to the basics of a swing. An author goes back to the basics of writing. A Christian goes back to the basics of the gospel. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we discover the basics of the gospel that benefits the seasoned Christian, those exploring the faith, and everyone in between.
In Romans 2:1-3:8, Paul presents the case that God is fair by proving that all are guilty. In a court case, evidence is presented to show the guilt of a defendant. The evidence is not to be mere circumstantial, but concrete. Here, in our country, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A person is convicted when they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Paul will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all are guilty, and God is indeed fair.
Paul argues that in Romans 2:1-6, those who are quick to condemn others but slow in judging themselves are found guilty by their own judgment. When we pass judgment one another and declare what should be the penalty, we are usurping God from His divine judgment seat and really passing judgment on ourselves. God judges on a standard of perfection. God’s fairness is seen in that He judges justly.
Then, we read in Romans 2:7-13, Paul’s case to all well-doers that if they could be perfect in every way, they would be acceptable. The problem is that no one can live perfectly. This is bad news. But, the good news is that we are not saved by good works. We are saved as we place our faith in Jesus Christ. However, those who are saved will do good works. The real spiritual power is for those who believe in Christ for salvation and through the power of the Holy Spirit desire to obey it. Therefore, God’s fairness is seen in His just verdict.
Paul further explains in Romans 2:14-16 that the Jews (today’s equivalent of those who have the Bible) have the Scriptures, but they do not live up to it. The fact is that you find some who do not have the Bible living better lives than those who do. The relatively good behavior, not perfect behavior for no person, lives a perfect life, condemns those who have the Bible. How does this even occur? It occurs because “the law is written on their hearts” (Rom 2:13). We all know what it feels like to be accused by our conscience then explain it away. Whether we know of God through special revelation (the Bible) or general revelation (nature), we all know something of God and of what is right and have chosen to sin against that something we know.
Paul then proceeds to address the Jews directly. In present-day terms, he could have spoken directly to people who have a bible. To summarize, he writes to discuss whether or not we who have access to so many Bible translations, who have so many churches to choose from, who live amid a culture of Judeo-Christianity: is this enough for salvation? Paul explains in Romans 2:17-24 that being a Jew or being raised in Christian teaching is not enough to save anyone. Further, we discover that when a person with the Scriptures treats it as something external, not allowing it to be a transforming agent in their lives, the person without the Scriptures is caused to dishonor God and His Word. Paul even dives deeper in Romans 2:25-29 by declaring that religious rites are not enough, in and of themselves, to save anyone. To the Jew, circumcision was the rite Paul writes of specifically. For the person with the Bible today; its baptism, confirmation, church membership, or communion. Paul clearly teaches that these things are powerless without real faith in Jesus Christ to save.
Paul clarifies, in Romans 3:1-8, that there is a benefit to being a Jew or today being raised in the church. However, neither of these things saves anyone. It merely gives a person greater access to the truth of the gospel that leads people to place their faith in Christ, bringing salvation to them.
Paul understood that people often attack God’s character, His fairness, when we speak of guilt. Paul has explained that God is good and just. God’s fairness is seen in that He judges justly, His verdict is just. All are under judgment, but the judgment has not been carried out yet. The sentence has been given, but not commenced. This is good news because God is here. He wants to bless us by working in and through our lives. I pray we will take Him up on His offer. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

A Downward Spiral

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As one studies the first eight chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we discover one of the most precise explanations of the gospel in all of Scripture. It is the basics of the Christian faith and worthy of being explored over-and-over again. All of us need to regularly get back to the basics. Any athlete knows the importance of returning to the basics. This is true of life. So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy. As Christians, we, too, need to regularly get back to the basics and understand the foundational truth of the gospel. Then, we are empowered to grow in the faith and advance it for God’s glory.
In Paul’s introduction, in Romans 1:1-18, he introduces himself as a servant of Christ and one of His apostles. He explains that the substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ, and the scope is everyone (all nations). In speaking of the gospel, Paul explains that the gospel is powerful in that it saves, and reveals the righteousness of God.
Paul then goes on in Romans 1:18-32 to present God as the plaintiff, as in a court case, bringing the charge against humanity of the crime of sin. He explains, in Romans 1:18-19, that God’s wrath is now revealed against sin. God’s wrath or anger is not to be thought of as an uncontrolled tantrum, but the reasonable reaction of a righteous God against unrighteousness.
Paul proceeds to explain in verse 20 that those who claim ignorance of God as an excuse are in error since God has revealed Himself through His creation. All one needs to do is look at nature to see the handiwork of God. The beauty and intricacy of nature do not introduce us to God’s character but does give testimony to His existence. There are two things God wants us to see in nature, His awesome power and His being God. The psalmist writes: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psa 19:1-2).
We realize in verses 21-31 that people rejected God as creator and experienced spiritual devaluation; therefore, God consigned them to sin’s power. God expected humanity to respond to His creation by glorifying Him, acknowledging His greatness, and to give thanks, expressing gratitude towards Him. However, humanity responds negatively by their futile thinking allowing the darkening of their foolish hearts. Humanity has ignored God’s power so clearly revealed in creation. They even have resorted to worshiping idols. They reduced God to the form of a corruptible man and also creeping things.
Lastly, Paul, in verse 32, gives us a summary of sin. We read: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Sin, downright rebellion, is the charge waged against humanity. In the end, nothing keeps people from entering into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ more than denying their need for Him or their reluctance to admit it.
What makes all the difference is how we respond to the charges brought against us and the impact of sin on all our lives. We can deny the charge, but it does not mean we are not guilty. We can refuse to come to Christ for salvation, but then, we are left without hope. What makes all the difference is how we respond to the charges brought against us and the impact of sin on all our lives. The good news, as Paul shares later, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). A person who places their faith in Christ, has been justified and declared righteous by God, once and for all. Now, that is good news. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!