Do you remember our study on legalism and license? All of us have certain tendencies and lean certain ways. If we’re not careful, our assets can become liabilities. What we perceive as strength can actually be weakness.
Some of us lean more towards legalism, and some of us lean more towards license. But if you remember, there is a third way—love. God wants to release us from the never-ending back-and-forth tug-o-war between legalism and license by calling us to simply walk in love.
Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” The entirety of Romans 14 helps us understand what it means to willingly limit our liberty for the sake of love. We can set aside what we have a right to so that we do not provoke others to stumble or tempt them to fall. Rather than making a list of what’s right and wrong in disputable matters, Paul simply calls us all to love and personal responsibility.
There is an old saying that goes: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (or as we would say, love). Think about it—in the essentials, it is important to have unity because there are boundaries to the core components of Christianity. In the non-essentials (the disputable matters), it is important to understand that there is liberty and personal conviction that can vary.
But in everything, there ought to be love. We should receive one another—not to argue or to judge—but to love and to serve. We should be ready to lay down our liberty and our very lives as well—all out of love for one another.
“That they may see…”
The emphasis on application and behavior we read about in Romans has nothing to do with scoring points with God or earning our salvation. It’s so that the watching world would see our good works and be prompted to glorify God.
The world is reading our behavior. As representatives and ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are the only thing they are reading about to learn about Him. So if there is no difference between us and the world—if we’re no different in how we act or behave, if there’s no difference in our conduct and behavior—then there is nothing that would prompt them to ask why we are different.
But when we behave differently as a response to who God has made us, the watching world is intrigued. When our identity is in Christ and we live that out, we demonstrate to the world who Jesus is. The world is looking for something real and genuine, something stable and secure, something rooted and grounded in truth, something that looks like genuine love. The only way they will see this is through our behavior as followers of Christ.
So live a life of love so intentionally and fervently that the watching world would read your behavior and be so captivated by it that they would wonder ‘why?’ which would lead them to ask, “why?” Then tell them about Jesus and what He did for you and what He wants to do for them!
“Give to God…what is God’s.”
There are 3 institutions established by God: the family, the church, and the government. Each have specific roles and responsibilities of contributing to a healthy society.
Our role in the church and in the home is not to enforce the law or distribute justice for breaking the law. As citizens of heaven living on earth, our responsibility is to love our neighbor, even and especially if our neighbor is our enemy. We have a role and responsibility to lead others to Jesus through living out the law of sacrificial love.
But rest assured that God sees what our enemies do to us. And He is not mocked. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will repay. He uses His institution of human government to distribute vengeance and dispense justice.
Do you wish to see change in human government? Lead those around you to Jesus. He can and will transform the lives of those in society from the inside out. This includes leading wicked men and women who currently serve in positions of authority. Change begins once we are more concerned about their souls than the preservation of our own property or our pursuit of happiness.
Whether they know it or not, those who serve in human government are ministers of God. It is important to treat them with the appropriate amount of respect. Say what you need to say, but do it in such a way that does not cause needless offense. It’s entirely possible to be thoroughly and uncompromisingly truthful while at the same time being kind and loving.
And when human government commands us to do something that is clearly contradictory to the revealed word of God, then we must obey God and disobey man. But we can still do this with gentleness and respect, considering the soul of the servants that we are standing before.
There is so much wisdom in meeting someone right where they are because you genuinely care about them and what they are going through. When you communicate that they are important and that you care about them, you’ll find that you’ll be able to better serve them and bring them closer to leading them to the Lord.
But too often, we are guilty of trying to evangelize someone without getting to know them or demonstrating that we genuinely care about what they are enduring. Many times, we’re waiting for them to stop talking so that we can share our great wisdom with them without actually getting to know them without hearing what is on their heart.
Remember that Jesus loves that person just as much as He loves you—which means that He cares about what that person is going through just as much as He cares about what you are going through. So listen. Actually listen. Don’t just wait until their done talking so that you can share your wisdom. Actively listen and ask thoughtful questions. Draw them out. Communicate to them that you actually care about them. Love them as Jesus loves you.
“…as much as depends on you…”
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible as much as depends on you live peaceably with all men.”
It is important to do what is right in the sight of all men. And it is important to live peaceably with all men. But sometimes that is not possible. There are those in your life (maybe even now) where it wouldn’t be wise to do what is right in their sight. There are those in your life (maybe even now) where it is not possible to live peaceably with them, and you wouldn’t be a wise steward of your time to continue to try.
Paul knew that these circumstances would hopefully be rare, but the encouragement is true. There is an exhortation to do as much as depends on you to live peaceably with all people. But there is also a release, for there comes a time where you have to admit that you have done as much as depends on you and it is just not possible—for whatever reason—to live peaceably with that person.
That doesn’t mean that you are released to be mean, or that you retaliate or reciprocate hate. It just means that we are not going to be able to live at peace with all people. It’s a reality of life. Some people are always going to be angry or negative or toxic or vengeful or rude. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be.
Remember, this section of scripture instructs us on how to be a good friend to those who treat us poorly. We are to walk wisely and live kindly. We must not retaliate or reciprocate. We leave that up to the Lord (see Romans 12:19). We just get to love like Jesus loves and simply serve.
“Bless those who persecute you…”
If we want to impact the people in the culture around us, it will not be accomplished by shouting louder, reciprocating ridicule, or overcoming evil with more evil.
It will happen by loving others the way that Jesus would love them.
How do we love others the way Jesus loves them? We consider Him. We think constantly of Him. If we are going to be persecuted for being followers of Jesus, it would be appropriate for us to continue to be followers of Jesus in our response to persecution. How will cursing those who persecute us differentiate ourselves as followers of Jesus from those who do not follow Jesus? It will not. How will hatred draw anyone to Jesus? It does not.
So we consider Jesus, “who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself so that we will not grow weary so that we will not lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) We think constantly of Him enduring all that sinful men could say against him so that we will not lose our purpose or our courage to love our enemies.
This doesn’t mean that we turn into doormats. We do not need to compromise our convictions in order to be a good friend to the world. Remember—being a good friend to the world, not of the world, means that we are genuine and honest, while at the same time kind always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect.
It takes a seriously secure person to love an enemy in this way—to pray for your persecutors while they are persecuting you. To bless when it’s so much easier to curse. It takes receiving the love of Jesus to show the love of Jesus.
Be a good friend (like Jesus)
Romans 12:9-13 is loaded with applications for how we are to be the kind of friend to others that Jesus is to us. Because Jesus is genuine, honest, and loyal to us, we ought to be the same to others.
Jesus is genuine. What you see is what you get. He never sends sideways messages. We never have to read between the lines and wonder what He really meant.
Jesus is honest. He is the real deal. He never shrinks back from telling us the truth, even if it’s a tough truth to tell.
Jesus is loyal. He lets us know that He isn’t going anywhere and we can depend on Him sticking around. He knows everything about us—and at the same time assures us that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus! And because we experience His friendship, we want to be this kind of friend to those around us.
Being a good friend who is genuine doesn’t mean that you always agree with or that you always affirm others actions or behaviors. It means you tell your friend the truth while also communicating loyalty and commitment, letting them know that you’re not going to leave or shun them.
This doesn’t come easily. It takes diligence. It takes intention. It takes practice. It takes the Holy Spirit in us to love others the way Jesus loves us. Because, if we’re honest, people are mean and self-centered. People don’t often reciprocate or even appreciate this kind of genuine, honest, loyal friendship. People are flawed and hurt—and hurt people hurt people.
People like this need friends like Jesus: genuine, honest, and loyal. So be to others what Jesus is to you—a good friend!
Let us use them…
When we see and receive God’s mercy, we can’t help but respond. And as we read in Romans 12, our appropriate response in light of His mercy is to offer Him our everything by loving Him with our heart, soul, and mind.
When we do this, we start to mature. As we renew our minds by His word, we see ourselves soberly and honestly as His servants. And as His servants, He is sending us to serve and love our neighbors—to give the people we find around us the gifts that God has given us to give to them.
When we realize that the gifts that God has given us are not really for us but have been given to us to bless and serve others, we begin to grow in our maturity in Christ. He didn’t give us these gifts so that we can draw attention to ourselves or to soothe some personal insecurity that we might have. He didn’t give us these gifts so that we could develop exaggerated ideas of our own importance.
God gives us these gifts to give away. When we all give away the gifts that we have been given, it builds others up so that the body of Christ is healthy, growing, full of love, and maturing.
Keeping His Mercies in View
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
– Romans 12:1
Continually offering our everything to God is our reasonable, rational, and logical response to His mercy. This is one of the reasons why simple Bible study is so important—so that we can see God’s mercies and respond accordingly. It’s the way that the Apostle Paul communicated in his letters—doctrine then application.
But remember, we need to be at the altar, continually in view of God’s mercies because the world is continually distracting us to look away and forget God’s mercies. The world, with it’s philosophy, is competing for our attention and devotion by providing a multitude of distractions so that God’s mercies are no longer in view. And when God’s mercies fade from our view, we forget them and neglect to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.
When that happens, it just means we need a little more time learning who He is, all that He has given us, and all that He has done for us. This response is what worship looks like—a willing, living sacrifice offered in response to just how good Jesus has been to us. It’s this continual process of receiving and responding that is renewing our minds and helping us to know and to do the next right thing.
“The goodness and severity of our God.”
Salvation is either by works or by grace. The deliverance from sin and its consequences is either ALL by your own works or ALL by God’s amazing grace. Going to heaven is either ALL and ONLY a result of your good works or ALL and ONLY a gift of God’s unmerited favor and love.
Think this through: there is no way that it can be a combination of the two. If there was a combo option, Jesus would either wouldn’t have had to die on the cross, or His sacrifice was totally insufficient.
So which is it? By works or by grace?
If you want to earn your own salvation by works, you can try. But there’s a catch—you have to be perfect your entire life without a single slip up, without a single sin.
But since we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standard (see Romans 3:23), salvation is ALL and ONLY by God’s grace. Which means if you continue to try to earn your way to heaven, you will never find salvation. Your good works will not and cannot save you. Only by grace through faith can you have salvation (see Ephesians 2:8). It’s a gift of God that He wants to give you. Receive it today!
The Word became flesh…
Jesus is everything that God wanted to say to the world He loves. Jesus is The Word. He is The Message.
To those who receive this message, God gives them the right to become His children—His totally new creation.
Only Jesus could make this possible. Only Jesus could bridge the gap between a Holy God and sinful man. Only Jesus could pay a debt that He did not owe because we owed a debt we could never pay.
But in order to do this, He must become one of us in every way. In order to bridge the gap between a Holy God and sinful man, Jesus needed to be both the Son of God and the Son of man. God needed to be born as a man. God needed a birth story—the birth story we find in John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
God and Caesar
“And it came to pass in those days…” (Luke 2:1)
The first verse of Luke 2 give us a mile marker in history to understand the time in which Jesus was born. It was during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a remarkable man who many saw as the “savior” they had been waiting for. But just consider the contrast between the man-made messiah Caesar Augustus and The Messiah who is God-made-man:
Caesar Augustus, the man-made messiah, climbed the ladder of power through brutality and force, finally exalting himself as the “sacred one.” Jesus, The Messiah God-made-man, left His throne, gave up His power, and descended to be born a helpless baby in the most humble of circumstances.
Caesar Augustus was the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. Jesus was born to a poor peasant woman, whose pregnancy was surrounded by controversy.
Caesar Augustus would have great pomp and circumstance when he entered a room. Jesus was born in a stable, laid in a feeding trough, and wrapped with ripped pieces of cloth.
Caesar Augustus tried to be a civil savior—providing outward peace through military might—but ultimately his empire crumbled. Jesus was, is, and forever will be the sinner’s Savior, who’s kingdom will have no end. He needed to be made perfect through suffering (see Hebrews 2:10) so that we would be able to say, “Jesus, You know what I am going through. You know what it’s like to be born into poverty and problems, to be an outcast, to be betrayed, to be alone.” He came to purchase and provide what we needed most—inward peace with God.
God our salvation…God with us
At the end of the first chapter in Matthew, we read that the Messiah was given two names—Jesus and Immanuel. Two different names with two important meanings, and two answers to two important questions.
Those questions were posed to God by David in Psalm 8: “What is man that You are mindful of him? And the son of man that You visit him?” The two names given to the Savior in Matthew 1 are God’s answers to those questions.
“What is man that You are mindful of him?” God’s answer is Jesus, which means “God our salvation”. God is mindful of us because we so desperately need Him!
“And the son of man that You visit him?” God’s answer is Immanuel, which means “God with us”. In order to save us, He has to be with us.
If God knew that our greatest need was money, He would have sent us a banker. If God knew that our greatest need was health, He would have sent a doctor. But God knew our greatest need was salvation, and that’s why He sent us a Savior. And He has gone to incredibly great lengths to show us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior that we have been waiting for—and He is able to save you!
A Still Small Voice
Ministry can be so discouraging, depressing, and frustrating IF we only rely on feelings. That’s because feelings (although tangible and real) are not always the greatest communicators of truth. When we only rely upon our feelings, we fall into making faulty assumptions about others. And if we entertain those assumptions, we’ll eventually believe the best about ourselves, and the worst about everyone else.
This is such a common occurrence for those who take ventures of faith in serving the Lord—like Elijah.
Elijah was one of Israel’s most powerful prophets. He single-handedly took on 450 false prophets by calling down fire from heaven. Then he received a death threat from the wicked queen of Israel…and things started to quickly unravel for him because he focused on his feelings.
Elijah became so scared and discouraged because of this threat that he ran into the wilderness and asked the Lord to end his life. Elijah went from living out great faith to focusing on his feelings. He became depressed, weary, and (quite frankly) annoyingly cranky.
But instead of immediately correcting him, God provided Elijah with good food, good rest, and time to recover. Then God drew Elijah out with thoughtful questions. Once Elijah was quiet and ready to receive, God firmly but gently reaffirmed his calling, giving him something specific to do. You can read all about in 1 Kings 19.
We can learn an important lesson from this episode in Elijah’s life. When we’re tempted to only listen to our feelings, we need to take our eyes off of what we think, feel, or assume others are doing (or not doing), and put it back on the Lord. The discouraging feelings, frustrating assumptions, and constant criticisms of others that we entertain reveal our own immaturity and keep us from doing the work that God has called us to do. But when we take our focus off of our feelings and put it back on the Lord, He will restore and revive us for the work He has prepared for us to do.
How Shall They Hear…
The public proclamation of God’s word is important—and it’s important that we are faithful to proclaim God’s word. You might not have the opportunity to preach the Gospel to a stadium full of people, but we have all been given the same commission by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We have all been commanded to go and audibly communicate the Good News of what Jesus has done to everyone.
The best opportunity for this to happen is if we develop the discipline of seeking the Lord before and above anything else, talking to Him in prayer, and having Him talk to us through His word. And then, with hearts full of love for the Lord and His people, the watching world would see that love in us and be drawn to Jesus.
Try this—capture whatever comes out of the overflow of your heart during your time with the Lord. Maybe it’s a single verse. Write it down, carry it around, and dare the Lord to bring somebody to you that needs to hear that verse that spoke to you that day. Then watch what He does–you and the person you share it with might be surprised!
Confess & Believe
We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness. We are all in the same position relative to the Lord. No amount of effort will ever make up the difference.
And yet, we try so hard to be a good person, to follow the rules, to honor the rituals, to obey the regulations—hoping that will be enough to garner God’s favor. But after all of that effort, we are still uncertain of our salvation. All of that trying and striving—though zealous and well-intentioned—will never be enough to earn salvation. Any attempt to attain self-righteousness by trying to follow the law is futile.
This reality can lead to discouragement…or to the realization that we can’t earn or deserve salvation. If we could, then Christ had no reason to come to earth to live a perfect life, to be crucified, to die, and to rise from the dead. But He did—and since He did, Jesus is the end of the unnecessary pursuit of self righteousness.
This is the good news! Once we realize that we can’t earn our own righteousness, then we don’t have to climb some spiritual mountain or plumb some unattainable spiritual depth. We can simply believe that Jesus was raised from the dead to give us His righteousness.
If you believe this, but haven’t declared it, simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
Way too often we take God’s mercy for granted. But when we realize that God chooses to be merciful, we cherish the many ways we have been blessed by His mercy. Aren’t you thankful for all the merciful choices that God has made in order to bless us, to serve us, to love us, and to make us righteous in His sight? He didn’t have to—He has the choice to be merciful!
You have a choice too. If you choose to harden your heart after you clearly hear from the Holy Spirit, God is not bound to be merciful to you if you are not in Jesus. God may sovereignly choose at any moment to strengthen your resolve to fortify your own decision and allow you to reap the temporal and eternal repercussions of your decision.
So don’t dismiss the bad news about your sinful condition—or the good news of God’s grace and mercy! He has every right and reason not to show mercy. And that should terrify us and incentivize us to figure out why and when and with whom God make these choices. We should want to learn how we can be in His good graces and how we can be in the middle of His merciful choices.
God is sovereign in His decisions AND we are responsible for our decisions. God sovereignly has the ability to make a choice on who He will have mercy upon. But He tells us plainly that He chooses to have mercy eternally upon whosoever chooses Him. Throughout scripture, we hear that invitation to the whosoevers:
“…whosoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“And whosoever lives and believes in [Jesus] shall never die.” (John 11:26)
“…whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
“…whosoever believes in [Jesus] will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
“For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
“Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (1 John 5:1)
“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whosoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. He has made an invitation to you—choose Him today. Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Call upon Him now. Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. And trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
“Jacob I have loved…"
“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.””
– Romans 9:13
In Romans 9:13, Paul quotes a verse from Malachi as an illustration of the futility of working for God’s favor rather than simply receiving God’s favor. You might have an intense difficultly with what God says—“Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” But if we were to think through this statement in light of all that we have gone through in Romans so far—in light of the holiness of God and His standard of absolute perfection—our difficulty would not be with the fact that God said, “Esau I have hated,” but rather with the fact that God said, “Jacob I have loved.”
The gift of God’s favor has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It has everything to do with God’s merciful choice. Since we cannot merit God’s love and since we have all fallen short of God’s holy standard, it should be logical that God would be in opposition to Esau. It seems entirely illogical that God would love Jacob…that God would love us. But that is God’s merciful choice! He mercifully chooses and calls those who don’t deserve His favor.
Now, you might be wondering if God has chosen you. It’s a good question, but one that shouldn’t lead you to analysis paralysis. Simply choose Him—and you’ll find out that He has chosen you! God sovereignly saves by election, choosing according to foreknowledge from before the very foundations of the world. AND we have the free will—invitation and responsibility—to choose Him. He gives salvation as a free gift to whosoever will come to Him, believing and receiving by faith what His one and only Son has done.
Have you chosen God? Have you accepted the free gift of salvation that’s offered through Jesus? Today is the day of salvation—simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
The Scriptures Point to Jesus
The entirety of the Scriptures—from Genesis to Revelation—are the revelation, the revealing, the proclaiming of Jesus of Nazareth as The Messiah that all of creation was waiting for for all of time.
In Genesis, Jesus is present in creation. He is the seed of the woman who is promised to not only defeat sin and death, but also the sacrifice who will be given in our place.
In Exodus, He is the Passover lamb.
In Leviticus, He is our High Priest.
In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
In Deuteronomy, He is the promised prophet who is greater than Moses and will teach us how to love God with all our other, mind, and strength.
In Joshua, He is the captain of the Lord’s army who brings us salvation and calls us to go and take His name with us.
In Judges, He is the perfect judge and lawgiver.
In Ruth, He is our kinsman redeemer.
In 1st and 2nd Samuel, He is the One about whom every future prophet will speak of, and the covenant promise from the line of David.
In Kings and Chronicles, He is our reigning King who will inherit the throne of David forever.
In Ezra and Nehemiah, He is the rebuilder and restorer of His people and the true temple of God’s Spirit.
In Esther, He is our advocate in the face of destruction.
In Job, He is our ever-living Redeemer who walks on the waves of the sea.
In Psalms, He is the True Shepherd and the One who was forsaken for our sins.
In Proverbs, He is the Word, the true Wisdom of God.
In Ecclesiastes, He is our only hope for resurrection in the face of judgment.
In Song of Solomon, He is the lover of our souls.
In Isaiah, He is the Suffering Servant and the Prince of Peace.
In Jeremiah, He is the righteous branch who is treated wrongly.
In Lamentations, He is the prophet who weeps over the sins of His people.
In Ezekiel, He is the Lord who makes atonement for all who have done wrong.
In Daniel, He is the Son of Man who is sent by the Ancient of Days and who is with us in the fires of life.
In Hosea, He is a forgiving husband who never stops loving His bride.
In Joel, He is the giver of the Holy Spirit.
In Amos, He is the builder of the city of God.
In Obadiah, He is our deliverer on Mt. Zion.
In Jonah, He is the good news that we can be saved from death.
In Micah, He is the ruler of all ages from Bethlehem.
In Nahum, He is our stronghold in the day of trouble.
In Habakkuk, He is the God of our salvation
In Zephaniah, He is mighty to save.
In Haggai, He is the restorer of the kingdom.
In Zechariah, He is our humble king riding on a colt.
In Malachi, Jesus is the Lord who will come in His temple, the Sun of righteousness, with healing in His rays.
And these are just some of the ways that we see Jesus, The Messiah, in the backstory to the greatest story ever told.
But is He a part of your story? In your life, is Jesus Lord? Don’t be mistaken—knowledge alone about Jesus won’t save you. You can have a knowledge of Christ without the reality of a genuine relationship with Him. But we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life. Then, tell others of the love and hope that Jesus freely offers!
The Compelling Love of Christ
The love of Christ compelled Paul to not only be willing to be bound, but to die for Jesus (Acts 21:13). In his letter to the Romans, he goes even further to say that he wished he could be accursed from Christ so his fellow countrymen could be saved (Romans 9:3).
This passion came out of the overflow of his awareness of the mountaintop of Romans 8 (nothing can separate us from the love of God) and the valley of Romans 9 (the realization of the future that awaits those who refuse to receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ). This is how the love of Christ looked as it work its way out of the overflow of the heart of Paul.
Here’s a question for us to consider: what does the love of Christ look like as it overflows in your life? Remember: there is no shame or condemnation for those who are in Christ, but there might be conviction—when we finally say what the Holy Spirit has been saying.
There might be conviction that we haven’t been under the spout where God’s love pours out. Maybe there’s conviction that we haven’t allowed our cup to overflow, let alone be filled up. Maybe there’s conviction that we think more about the things of the world rather than the promises of God.
If we would simply turn from that meaningless nonsense and invest time thinking through and meditating upon the truths of God’s word, then we would find ourselves compelled by the same love that Paul was compelled by. Maybe not to die or be accursed from Christ, but to make an effort to die to ourselves and to serve Christ and others.
That’s what investing time with Jesus in His word will do—it will cause you to care. It will change you from the inside out. It will compel you to live counter-culturally by sacrificially putting other’s interests above your own.
Who can be against us?
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God is for us and no one can be against us. Even if our greatest enemy intends the greatest evil against us, God can allow this for our good. For we know that all things work for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
And what is His purpose? That we would be conformed to the image of His Son—a glorious process, but not one that is without pain. And when the pain clouds our vision and tempts us to question His love for us, the cross remains to remind us that He does love us and He is always good.
He is for us. He is with us. He will freely give us anything that would be of eternal benefit to us. And if He doesn’t, that means that He has a better plan and a better purpose for us. What He is allowing to happen is working out that plan and that purpose in our lives.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.”
The original word that’s translated ‘weaknesses’ literally means “frailty of the soul.” The definition goes on to say, “a soul without the strength and capacity requisite to understand a thing, to do things great and glorious, to restrain corrupt desires, to bear trials and trouble.”
These are the weaknesses that the Holy Spirit helps us with when waiting and enduring has been so draining that is seems like we just can’t understand a thing. He brings us His aid when we can’t do anything—let along great and glorious things. And He offers us His help when we can’t restrain corrupt desires and we just can’t bear any more trials and troubles.
Praise God that we have a Helper to help us in our weaknesses! He is here to help us when our soul lacks strength to understand, to do what we need to do, to navigate temptation, and to endure pain.
God’s purpose conforming us to the image of His son can be a painful process. But one day, that process will be complete. The weaknesses and frailty of our souls will come to an end. Until then, our Helper will be present to help us—even when we are so weak that we don’t even know what to pray for.
This is not home…
One day, we will finally be with the person we were made for, Jesus, in the place we were made for, Heaven. But we are not there yet! So we find ourselves wavering between eagerly anticipating on tiptoes what’s coming, and inwardly groaning because the waiting is excruciating.
Yes, this in-between time, this meantime, certainly is a mean time. The suffering and agony we experience here and now seems tortuous as we long for what’s to come. And yet, no matter the suffering we’re enduring—whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical, it cannot compare to the glory of what will be revealed in us.
In fact, the sufferings of this life (as intense as they may be) are not even worthy to be compared to the glory of what will be. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this promise: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him…” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It’s true! God is preparing a place for us which will include a body that will not only be able to endure eternity, but also able to enjoy eternity. One day, there will be no more decay, no more rust, and no more dust. Everything will be living in glorious liberty, no longer bound to breaking down. But until then, the breakdown is pretty much all we see all around us in just about every category.
That frustration is on purpose by God in hope that we might search for Him and find Him—then look forward to being with Him forever in the place that He has prepared for us—where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.
So until then, may the Lord lift up your head and keep you on your toes as you eagerly await who and what is to come—Jesus and the place He is preparing to be with you…forever!
Suffer With Him…
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read about God’s amazing grace and His salvation that’s available to all through faith. There is nothing we can do to earn it. And yet, Romans 8:17 makes it sound like there is something we must do to maintain it. However, this ‘suffering’ speaks to our identity in Him—a mark of genuine salvation when we begin to become like Him.
When we are a part of God’s family, we begin to experience the same emotion, the same passion as Christ. We suffer with Him as we begin to see things the way He sees things. We begin to see people the way He sees people. We begin to love the way He loves. We’re compelled to live self-sacrificially because of His great love shed abroad in our hearts.
Jesus, living His life through us, compels us with His love to live self-sacrificially for God’s glory and for the benefit of those that we love so much. This is His passion—His emotion. When we suffer with Him, we care deeply about the things and the people that we never cared about before. That can be agonizing at times, but it is the passion of Christ that He is sharing with us and that we share with Him. As we live and love in the same manner as Christ, we are no longer bound by the fear of losing anything because we know we have the greatest thing in knowing Him!
Sow…to the Spirit
Who are you in Christ? Are you a carnal creature at odds with and in enmity against God? No! That’s who you were before you yielded to Him. In Christ, you are a new creation—old things have passed away, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You have been set free from your old nature and you have been given a new spiritual nature. You have been born again by the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God LIVES and DWELLS within you. You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit—if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.
That’s why your identity in Christ is so important. You have been given the Spirit of adoption. You can call God “Abba Father Daddy” because you are one of His children. So don’t permit the world, the devil, or your old nature to convince you that you are still a slave to sin, bound to the muck and bound to the mire. They trick you into sowing to the flesh, bringing serious harm to yourself and others.
If the Spirit of God dwells in you, sow to the Spirit. Keep in step with the Spirit. Cultivate a relationship with Him—beginning with acknowledging that He is here, leading us home, available questions and full of answers. He would love to tell you who you are and who Jesus is. He would love to unfold for you what it means to be a child of God and what it means to be an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. He would love to show you how you can be more than victorious through Him who loves us.
Talk with Him. Spend time with Him. Consume what cultivates an unhindered relationship with Him. Continually set your mind on the things of the Spirit.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends
Strengthened by grace is the Bible Teaching ministry of Pastor Dominic Dinger.
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