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Death … or Life and Peace?

September 16, 2020 Leave a comment

mind-set-on-the-spirit-is-life-and-peaceFor those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

The mind is a powerful thing, the part of a person that thinks, reasons, feels, and remembers. One’s mindset is his particular way of thinking: his attitude or set of opinions about something (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

Numerous passages in the New Testament emphasize the importance of having the right frame of mind, of filling our minds with the right thoughts, of using our minds to focus on God’s direction for our lives. For examples, consider 1 Peter 1:13, 2 Timothy 1:7, Colossians 3:2, Philippians 3:15, Philippians 2:4-8, Ephesians 4:23, and Romans 12:2.

Here, Paul the apostle writes of two very distinct, disparate approaches to life. One is the mindset of the flesh; the other is the mindset of the Holy Spirit. Each approach or mindset has its own predictable and definite results.

The mind occupied with the things of the flesh is death (or the absence of life, as in Galatians 5:19-21). The flesh life is at enmity with God; it is opposed to God … and hostile to Him. He cannot and will not bless the life which is lived in the flesh.

The mind oriented in the direction of the ways of the Spirit is life and peace. This kind of lifestyle is pleasing to God, mainly because He authored it. The Spirit enabled life comes from God Himself, therefore He recognizes and loves it.

A believer in Christ has the capacity to operate in either realm at any given moment, but never both at the same time. Therefore, we must choose the way we live, either flesh or Spirit. We utilize the means of grace to make a Spirit directed choice; the promises of the Bible, Christian fellowship, the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and believing prayer.

While God loves the believer whether he/she makes the right choice or not, the actual lives we lead are can only be pleasing to Him when we live them His way.

For Further Review

1.  What is the orientation of your own mind? If you were to be honest with yourself, what do you think about and focus on most of the time?

2.  Consider the fruit of the way you are living. What is being produced overall: the fruit of Galatians 5:22-24, or the works of Galatians 5:19-21? What is the root cause of either result?

3.  Think about it: what does it mean to utilize the means of grace to make a Spirit directed choice? How do we do that?

 

Have You Ever Wondered What God Requires? (see note at the end)

September 15, 2020 Leave a comment

righeousnessFor the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4) 

The answer for death is life. The answer for inner spiritual conflict is also life … specifically, the life of Jesus Christ conferred upon us by the Holy Spirit. 

The law was weak and ineffective to make us righteous or more like Jesus. Its weakness was not because anything was wrong with the law; it is holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). No, there is nothing at all wrong with God’s law. But there is something drastically wrong with what the law has to work with … the flesh. 

Remember, God always has a solution. His solution for the law’s ineffectiveness was to send His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. [Note the specificity of the language used; God did not send His Son in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. Jesus never sinned, and did not inherit the sin of Adam.] God, sending His Son to die and be raised for us, did it because of the sin problem. God condemned sin at Calvary, and by extension, in us. 

All of this was so the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. In other words, God wants the law to have a powerful effect on us, but He does not accomplish His wishes by using our flesh to do it. Instead, He fulfills the law in those who walk according to the Holy Spirit. 

What this means is that the primary need for believers is to walk with the Spirit. All sins and failures that happen in our lives are due to this one fact: we have failed to yield to the Spirit and operate by the Spirit’s power. 

NOTE: Title taken from “When You Gonna Wake Up” by Bob Dylan (Slow Train Coming, copyright 1979 by Special Rider Music). “Do you ever wonder just what God requires? You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.” 

For Further Review

1.  What is the righteous requirement of the law? In other words, what is the main thing the law demands? See Matthew 22:34-40 to help with your answer. Use one word to summarize what the law’s requirement is. What one word describes it?

2.  Why is the law unable to produce this righteous requirement in us?

3.  What did God do to remedy this problem?

4.  In your own words, summarize the primary need for believers if they are going to fulfill God’s desires and what the law requires.

 

What Is Justifying Faith Like?

September 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Abraham_Isaac_BornAnd not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:19-25) 

What is justifying faith like? To what can it be compared? How does one know that he or she has exercised saving faith? Again the answer is found as we look into the life of Abraham, the father of faith for us all. 

An incident in this notable patriarch’s life demonstrates justifying faith for us … the incident of the conception and birth of the promised son, Isaac (Genesis 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7). It would be a miraculous birth, given the fact that in their old age neither he nor Sarah possessed reproductive potential. God would have to do something! 

So the promise of God came. Abraham believed God’s promise, without reservation. He didn’t look at himself and what he was capable of. Neither did he look at Sarah and what she was capable of. From a human perspective, there would be no child. From the perspective of God’s ability and God’s promise, a child was certain. 

Abraham’s faith grew stronger and stronger as the days advanced. His growing faith brought glory to God, as it honors God when we believe that what He says is true. It shows confidence in who He is. 

As Paul states it, Abraham’s faith is the kind of faith that trusts God’s promise in salvation. Like in Abraham’s case, justification is miraculous. As Abraham could not look at himself for hope of a future son, so we cannot look at ourselves for any hope of eternal life. We have nothing with which to save ourselves. We are empty, bankrupt, hopeless apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Absolutely hopeless. 

Why did Jesus die? For our offenses! 

Why did He rise from the dead? As proof that Christ’s death for us was sufficient, that it worked! Without the resurrection, we’d still be in our sins. 

For Further Review

1.  Read the story of the birth of Isaac (Genesis 17:15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7). In your own words, how is Abraham’s faith a great example to us today?

2.  Look within: why would be impossible for God to declare you righteous?

3.  Look to Calvary and the empty tomb: upon what basis could God declare you to be righteous before Him—without fault, guilt, sin, blame?

4.  Write out your thoughts about your own position with God. Where do you stand with Him? How does He view you? What is the basis for your answer?

 

The Moral Man is Without Excuse

Gods-Case-Against-The-MoralistTherefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4) 

As we look at this passage from the treetops, we see that this entire section (Romans 1:18-3:20) has a singular theme: the Holy Spirit, through the human authorship of the apostle Paul, is proving the universal sinfulness of all mankind. 

God does not do this vindictively; He is interested in leading us to the truth of the gospel. As a doctor tells a patient that he has cancer, his ultimate goal is to lead that patient toward healing. If he performs surgery, or as he orders chemotherapy and radiation, it is so the patient may survive. In the same way, God shows us our sinfulness that we might be led to the only cure: the cross of Jesus Christ, and the life that comes to us through faith in Him. 

Chapter one in Romans was about the guilt of the heathen or functional atheist (the one who lives as though there is no God). Here in chapter two the guilt of the moral man is revealed. 

The moral man is the man who believes that he will be justified by God because he possesses a high moral standard. He is convinced that because he has the ability to evaluate the moral failure in other’s lives, he himself is guiltless. He is a judge, but he is not without sin. He is actually committing the same sins as those he evaluates. As the saying goes, when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointed right back at you. 

King David was incensed by the story told him by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12), but he had committed the same exact kind of sin in his act of adultery with Bathsheba and the cover-up murder of her husband Uriah. His over-the-top anger was a reflection of his personal guilt. Often this is the case with the self-righteous person, he is very upset with the sins he sees in others … which are the same sins he is committing himself. 

The moralist has despised God’s mercy and patience, and has failed to realize that God is being good to him so he might turn from his sin and come to faith in Christ.

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For Further Review

1.  Why is it merciful of God to show us our sin? Why must He prove to our hearts that we are indeed sinners?

2.  Who is the moral man described in Romans 2:1-4? Why is he also guilty of sin?

3.  How, in the past, have you been guilty of the same kind of sins as the self-righteous moral man? Try to get as specific with your answer as you can; then confess it to God that He might cleanse you (1 John 1:8-10).

4.  Where do you see yourself so far in this early section of Romans? Are you a person who has suppressed the truth of God in your rebellion against Him? Or are you the person who judges others, but you have not yet repented yourself? Or are you a person who has trusted Christ and His sacrifice on the cross?

The Surprising Demonstration of the Wrath of God

August 24, 2020 1 comment

God's love and graceTherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:24-32) 

In Romans 1:18 Paul the apostle wrote that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The tense he used is important … it’s in the present tense. That means that God’s wrath against mankind’s willful suppression of the truth is being revealed presently. It is not only reserved for a future day, but is happening right now.

In what way is God’s wrath being presently revealed? The answer is surprising to many; God’s wrath is presently revealed in the fact that when man persists in his desire to live life without God, then God will let man have his way. In other words, God will honor man’s choice to rebel, and then let him feel the consequences of what that life looks like. He will not force someone to believe in Him or love Him.

Notice the phrases used: “God also gave them up to uncleanness”; “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions”; “God gave them over to a debased mind” … the more man shuts God out, the worse it gets.

How’s that working out for you? God could rightly ask.

Because God is longsuffering (2 Peter 3:9), He will even use the consequences of our actions to reach us in our sin. When man begins to feel the heavy burden of what sin does to his life, he may be [finally] open to the truth.

The lives so many live … the lives so many of us once lived … are lives tormented by these painful consequences. Sexual promiscuity produces heartbreak, relational destruction, physical disease and debilitation. Sexual identity confusion produces psychological disorders and ruined consciences. The myriad of sins we commit against each other create a world which is becoming increasingly unlivable. Life in this world becomes like a nightmare, a nightmare which makes us sick of the world we’ve made for ourselves.

Through it all, God is in control.

If the church of Jesus Christ will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world in times of social darkness, then many can be saved; many will be saved. Even in His wrath, God’s love shines through.

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For Further Review

How would it be if God were not angry about sin? What attributes of God would be diminished if He was nonchalant or disinterested when man lives in sin?

How would you have answered the question, how is God’s wrath being revealed right now?

What kind of pain have you experienced at some point in your own life, due to the fact that you have ignored God and His truth?

In what ways can God’s wrath be a redemptive thing? What might your role be in His redemptive plan?

 

The Deserved Anger of God

August 23, 2020 4 comments

Presentation1For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18-23) 

God does get angry. The Greek word orgē refers to “the temper of God towards sin, not rage, but the wrath of reason and law (Shedd).” His anger is justified because of the ungodliness of mankind (living as though God does not exist), and because of the unrighteousness of man (the failure to live according to God’s righteous standards). Worst of all, mankind is very busy suppressing the truth of God, sort of like standing on a manhole cover, refusing to let anything out. Mankind refuses to allow God’s truth to be exposed or believed.

The evidence for God’s existence is overwhelmingly clear (Psalm 19:1-6). His eternal nature is obvious in the fact that whoever created time must exist outside of time. His all-powerful nature is known by guesstimating the immense power that must be inherent in someone who created everything, and also maintains it. Even some of God’s personal characteristics can be deduced by simply observing what He has made. For example: His faithfulness is on display in phenomena like the consistent rotation of the earth on its axis and rotation around the sun. If either were to vary even in the slightest degree, human life on earth would be impossible. At the very least, every single human being can know that God is eternally powerful and that He exists. 

Even though mankind knows these things, they are not universally willing to acknowledge God or be thankful to Him for all that He is and does. Instead, man’s thinking has become void of wisdom, and human hearts have become blackened by sin. 

Rather than admitting that we were created and that we owe our entire existence and allegiance to God, man has believed himself to be the author of wisdom. This pride has only deepened our foolishness. After all, there is nothing worse than a fool who doesn’t realize he is one. 

Mankind’s folly has mangled the glorious image of God and exchanged it for the ingloriousness of man and animals. This has become literally true in the past 150 years, as we have traded God as the author of life for a random, unproven hypothesis called evolution.

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For Further Review

1.  What is God’s wrath directed against? Why is this wrath more than justified?

2.  Looking at the world and universe in which we live, what evidence can you find for a Creator, an eternally existent Deity to whom we are accountable?

3.  Using your Bible and a concordance, look up the word “fool” or “foolishness” in the scriptures. Cite at least three characteristics of a fool, according to God’s Word.

4.  In your own life, how have you suppressed the truth of God? Take time right now to ask Him to strengthen your heart to love Him more.