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God Is For Us

January 13, 2015 Leave a comment

God-is-for-usWhat then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

How many ways can it be said?

  •  God is for (He is on our side, in our corner.) 
  • God is for us. (The all-powerful Creator of the universe is the one who is on our side.)
  • God is for us. (He is on the side of sinners saved by grace; of the believer in Jesus Christ, whom he has reconciled to Himself.)

 Since God is for us, we are assured of everything we need. After all, He did not spare Jesus in giving Him for us, so why would we ever conclude that He would withhold any legitimate need from our lives?

Since God has justified us, how could we ever think that an accusation or charge against us would hold any water with Him? Jesus died for us, rose from the dead for us, ascended and was exalted for us, and who is constantly praying for us. God has proven Himself; He will not bring charges against the believer.

Who or what could ever separate us from this kind of love … the love of our Lord Jesus Christ? The resounding answer is NO ONE can separate us from His love. NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Human beings cannot separate us. Extreme trials, persecution, or perils cannot separate us. Death cannot take us out of God’s deep love. Angels could not do it even if they wanted to. Demons or the devil cannot do it. Nothing created can ever separate the believer in Jesus Christ from God’s great and eternal love. Which means that nothing that exists… apart from God Himself … can ever separate us from God and His love for us. And we know that will not happen, because God sent His Son (John 3:16).

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end
1

For Further Review

1.  What kind of confidence is produced in the life of a person who is absolutely convinced that God is for him?

2.  In your own life, what have been some obstacles that have kept you from gaining solid confidence that God is for you? How can you move past those obstacles into confidence and assurance?

3.  God’s love demands worship. Why not express your heart of worship to God in any way that seems fitting (in writing, by song, or in prayer), as a response to His great love for you in Christ Jesus.

 1 Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise)


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Redemption’s Highest Heights

January 12, 2015 Leave a comment

The_Unbreakable_ChainAnd we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

How do we know that Romans 8:28 is true? The answer is grounded in the timeless truths of the gospel of God, described in Romans 8:29-30. 

Like the pinnacle of the highest mountain, this passage brings us to the highest of heights of God’s revelation. God has done awesome things … things so gracious and merciful they are hard to even fathom. The implications are for both time and eternity. 

He foreknew us. He knew what would happen before it even occurred. This speaks of His omniscience (of the fact that He knows everything). In fact, there is nothing that can be known that God does not know. He is infinite in His understanding (Acts 15:18; Psalm 147:5). 

He predestined us to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Those whom God saved have a certain destiny; He has one goal for each and every one of us. That goal is to become more and more like His eternal Son. This is His goal because He wants more sons and daughters, and thus more brothers and sisters for Jesus. In other words, God desires to always increase the size of His family. Eternally, He has the best possible Son, the perfect Son. He wants more that are like Him. This is that He might love them in His kingdom just as He loves Jesus. 

He called (invited) human beings to come to Christ, who is the firstborn—the preeminent One—of those who have come out of death and into life. The invitation was to believe the gospel … and for as many as do that, they become children of God (John 1:12-13). 

Those whom He called and who responded to the gospel, He also justified. He made a declaration that they are now righteous in His eyes, fully exonerated and wholly acceptable to Him. Just as Jesus is righteous, so the believer in Christ has been declared righteous (1 John 4:17). We have the same righteous standing as the Son of God. 

Those whom He justified, He also glorified. He made them full of glory. They look nothing like they did in their bodies of sin on earth. Rather, they are glorious as Jesus is glorious (1 John 3:2; compare Revelation 1:10-18). 

Note that each of these amazing declarations of redemption is revealed in the past tense. That means that in the mind of God, it is as though they have already happened. Seeing things from His eternal vantage point rather than from the limitations of time, God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), and therefore views all believers in Christ—past, present, or future—as already being in their gloried state … with Him in eternity. 

This is how we know Romans 8:28 is true … God does work all things together for good, for those who are the called according to His purpose. If God can bring the believer out of sin and into glory, then surely He is able to use everything that comes into our lives for His ultimate plan. God cannot be stifled or waylaid in His eternal purposes.

For Further Review

1.  What is the foundation of the truth of Romans 8:28? In your own words, describe what God has done for the believer.

2.  How has Romans 8:28 been misquoted? What is wrong with the various misquotations? How have they changed the intended meaning of the verse?

3.  What is God’s ultimate plan and purpose for every Christian? How does that purpose affect the way we live our lives in the here and now?

 

From Guilt to Glory!

January 11, 2015 2 comments

WeNOCONDEMNATIONlcome to this devotional on the book of Romans, the book of the gospel of God. This guided study through Romans chapters 1-8 will help you to understand the universal human need for the gospel, the message of the gospel, and the practical implications of the gospel in the lives of true believers.

Every day or two, an attempt will be made to publish the next lesson. In all, there will be 35 individual studies. Feedback or questions are always welcomed.

Get ready … this could be a life changing experience for you!

HOW TO USE THIS DEVOTIONAL

First of all, in order to get a handle on the overall message of the book, read all of Romans.  Be sure to look at the big picture of Romans before you get into the specific passages. Take a moment and actually read through all 16 chapters, which is how the book was meant to be read! This will help you to frame the book and see the forest before you start examining the trees. 

Next, carefully read each day’s Bible passage, in its context. When a Biblical cross reference is given, take the time to turn to that passage and read it as well. Be sure to observe what the passage is saying (its details), to try to understand what a passage means (interpretation), and then to focus on how the passage might apply to your life. 

ABOUT THIS DEVOTIONAL 

This part devotional, part commentary on the book of Romans chapters 1-8 was written by Bill Holdridge, Pastor and Founder/Director of Poimen Ministries, a ministry focused on helping senior (or lead) pastors of churches. 1 

All scripture quoted in this book is from the New King James Version of the Bible. 2 

Some of the material contained in this introduction is from the excellent work by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible. 3 

For Further Review questions at the end of each day’s lesson include all three elements of inductive Bible study (observation, interpretation, application). But the greatest focus is upon application. What does this passage have to do with our lives as believers? What does is speak into my life? This is the ultimate goal of all Bible study and devotions, to learn that we might grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is important to take time to go over these reflection questions and apply them to your own life.     

KEY CONCEPTS IN ROMANS 

The epistles make up the third major section of the New Testament. The Gospels are the Proclamation of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts contains the Propagation of Jesus Christ. The Epistles are the Explanation of Jesus Christ, and the book of Revelation tells of the Consummation of Jesus Christ. 

From the perspective of its human authorship, the letter to the Romans is considered to Paul the apostle’s greatest work, his magnum opus. Its logic, flow of thought, depth of theology and doctrine, and thorough explanation of the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ make Romans the go-to book for discovering the implications of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. Once its message is learned, it provides the interpretive basis for understanding the rest of the New Testament letters. 

To quote author Bruce Wilkinson, “But Romans is more than a book of theology; it is also a book of practical exhortations. The good news of Jesus Christ is more than facts to be believed; it is also a life to be lived—a life of righteousness befitting the person ‘justified freely by His [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). 3 

The epistle to the Romans was written from the city of Corinth near end of Paul’s third missionary journey (55-56 A.D.). He wrote this epistle through an amanuensis (a dictation secretary) named Tertius (Romans 16:22). After it was written, the letter was carried to Rome by a woman named Phoebe, who was a servant in the church in Cenchrea, a city close to Corinth (Romans 16:1). 

The historical importance of the book of Romans cannot be overstated. The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther came to understand the gospel of grace and led Germany and other parts of Europe into true faith in Christ through studying Romans. John Wesley was converted to Christ after hearing a reading of the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. 19th century Bible scholar Frédéric Louis Godet commented that “The probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.”

Paul’s purposes for writing Romans are evident from other places in the New Testament. Overall, the epistle served as a great preparation for his eventual coming to them.

We know from Acts 19:21 that he wanted very much to see this city, the greatest city in the Roman world.

Acts 19:21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

He also wanted to teach the church there and be encouraged by their faith (Romans 1:11). 

Romans 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established…

When in Rome, Paul wanted to win more people to Christ (1:13). 

Romans 1:13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 

He desired that the Roman church help by supported his intended travels to Spain (Romans 15:24). 

Romans 15:24 …whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.

From Romans 15:24 we also learned that his purpose was to enjoy the company of the Roman Christians, at least for a time (Romans 15:24). 

Overall, a main purpose of the book was for Paul to prepare the Roman Christians for his visit by laying out a systematic presentation of the gospel he had been preaching for over 20 years.

The theme of Romans is the gospel of God (Romans 1:16-17). After having studied the Psalms to discover how one could be saved, the reformer Martin Luther asked the question, “Is righteousness something I must strive for to gain it, or is it something I receive?” It was while pondering this question that Habakkuk 2:4 almost flew off the page at him: “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). This same O.T. verse was quoted by Paul in the key passage of the epistle:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. {17} For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

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1 “Poimen” (pronounced poy-main’) is the Greek word for pastor or shepherd. Poimen Ministries is featured at www.poimenministries.com

2 The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 

3 Talk Thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, © 1983 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Outline of the Book of Romans

January 11, 2015 Leave a comment

outlineHere’s an outline of the book of Romans, which is good to review as you read through the entire book. 

The devotional itself will start tomorrow morning, so this and yesterday’s introduction may serve as adequate introductions to this great epistle. We’ll be studying Romans 1-8 in this series, which will consist of 35 lessons (not counting yesterday and today’s introductions).

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INTRODUCTION 1:1-17  (Paul greets the church with an introduction of himself and his desires for them)

Paul, separated unto the gospel 1:1-6

His addressees: the church in Rome, and his desire to minister to them and they to him 1:7-17

 

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE 1:16-17 (Paul’s purpose in this epistle is to explain the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ, and all of its implications related to how we live)

 

MAIN TEACHING 1:18-16:24

 The universal sinfulness of all mankind 1:18-3:20

  1. The heathen or practical atheist 1:18-32
  2. The moralist 2:1-16
  3. The religious man (the religious Jew) 2:17-3:8
  4. All have sinned 3:9-20

God’s solution to man’s sinfulness: justification by faith 3:21-4:25

  1. Righteousness apart from the law 3:21-31
  2. Old testament examples of justification by faith: Abraham and David 4:1-8
  3. Justification by faith: available to both Jew and Gentile by faith 4:9-16
  4. Justifying faith exemplified in the life of Abraham 4:17-25

Implications of justification by faith 5:1-21

  1. Peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ 5:1-11
  2. The gospel of Christ overwhelms the effects of Adam’s fall 5:12-21

The believer’s relationship to sin 6:1-23

The believer’s relationship to the law 7:1-25

The believer’s victory: the ministry of the Holy Spirit 8:1-27

  1. Life through dependence upon the Spirit 8:1-13
  2. The Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer 8:14-27

The eternal purpose and love of God toward all believers 8:28-39

The problem of Jewish unbelief (or, what about Israel?) 9:1-11:36

  1. Israel in the past, and God’s sovereign decision Romans 9:1-33
  2. Israel in the present: how the Jew can be saved today Romans 10:1-21
  3. Israel in the future: the fulfillment of God’s covenant for the true Israel 11:1-36

 Response to the gospel: living lives of submission and humility 12:1-15:7

  1. Present your body as a living sacrifice 12:1-2
  2. How to live with others in the body of Christ 12:3-16
  3. Overcome evil with good 12:17-21
  4. Be subject to governing authorities 13:1-7
  5. Owing nothing but love to anyone 13:8-14
  6. How the strong and weak in faith should treat and regard each other 14:1-15:7

 Personal words in preparation for Paul’s visit to Rome 15:8-33

 

CLOSING

Paul’s personal greetings, exhortation, and encouragement to the fellowship in Rome 16:1-24

 

Slaves of Righteousness, Not Slaves of Sin

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

freedomWhat then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:15-23)

Believers in Jesus Christ are under grace. That means that we are in a constant state of Divine favor. God has justified us, we have peace with Him, and we have been reconciled to Him. We are not under law. The law isn’t being held over us as a threat of some sort; God is not using the law to keep us in line. We have been justified by faith. Justification is a legal term, having to do with our righteous standing with God apart from the law (Romans 3:21-24).

Since believers are under grace, shall we just go on sinning? Is sin sinful for the believer? The answer: certainly not! We must not go on sinning. And yes, sin is sinful for the believer.

Sin is a violation of the law (1 John 3:4), and sin is missing the mark (Romans 3:23). When the believer intentionally commits sin bad things happen: the purpose of God for our humanity is thwarted, fellowship with God is broken, and the Spirit of God is grieved (Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:27; 1 John 1:5-10; Ephesians 4:30). When sin becomes continual, another form of slavery occurs. This new slavery is slavery to sin. Habits, addictions, and bondages can rapidly form. Even the believer can once again be trapped by sin. The shame and death of past sin resurfaces, and he has once again put himself in the powerful grip of sinful desires. That is not a good thing, ever. As Pastor Jon Courson said, “Sin is not bad because it’s forbidden; it’s forbidden because it is bad.” 

The exciting alternative is slavery to righteousness … and to God Himself. This scenario is possible due to the freedom with which Christ set us free (Romans 6:5-7; John 8:31-32; Galatians 5:1). When obedience to God is continual, there is slavery to doing what is right; the habits of goodness and the fruit of the Spirit appear in our lives. This new slavery is what it means to be truly free. Freedom to sin is not freedom at all; freedom from sin is the way of joy, love, and holiness. 

All that sin pays us is death; the gift of God is the exact opposite, life eternal through Jesus Christ. 

For Further Review

1.  What does it mean for believers to be under grace and not under law? How does this affect our relationship with God?

2.  Why is sin sinful for the believer? Why is it wrong for a believer to continue in willful sin?

3.  What are the results of continued sin in a believer’s life?

4.  What are the results of obedience to God in a believer’s life?

 

Know, Reckon, Yield

December 29, 2014 Leave a comment

living as ChristianFor if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:5-14) 

The incarnation of Jesus goes beyond His own death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. His incarnation extends to those who believe in Him. We were closely joined to Him in His death (when He died, we died) and in His resurrection (when He rose, we rose). Now Christ is in us, and we are in Him. 

As believers, we know something important about our death with Jesus: we know that what we were in Adam has been crucified. We also know that our crucifixion with Christ renders our bodies of sin inoperative, put out of business. Our bodies of sin (i.e. our flesh) no longer have power over us as they did prior to conversion. We are now able not to sin. We are not sinless, but rather are able not to sin. This is what we know, and are confident in it. 

We are to reckon (to consider as true) that we are indeed dead to sin. We are commanded to remember that sin does not have strength over us as it once had. We also are commanded to reckon that we are alive to God. We are now awake to Him and responsive to Him. Whereas in the first Adam we were dead to God, now we are alive to Him. We can hear His voice, sense His presence, and experience His love and power. We must consider these things as true. It is essential for believers to reckon these things as true, because that is what it means to live supernatural lives as born again believers. 

We must not allow sin to have authority over us. It must not reign, as if it was our master or king. We must not yield any part of our bodies to sin. Instead, we must submit ourselves to God, and each of our body parts to Him as instruments or tools that He can use for His righteous purposes. God is able to use our mouths, our eyes, our ears, our hands, to fulfill His plans in us. We must give Him that opportunity, each and every day. 

To summarize, we are to know, reckon, and yield. These three words, and the concepts behind them, are extremely powerful. They lead us into the experience of the victorious Christian life. 

Note that they are not optional for us; they are Divine commands. Our role is to obey as children of God, and bondslaves of Jesus Christ. 

For Further Review

1.  From this text, write down what we believers know. What are some implications that arise from what we know?

2.  From this text, write down what we are to reckon. What are some implications that arise from what we are to reckon?

3.  From this text, write down to whom we are to yield, and what we are to yield. What are some implications that arise from our yielding in these ways?

4.  In your own words, write out a summary of know, reckon, yield as you might explain it to a new believer, or to a 10 year old child. (This will help you in your own understanding of these truths.)

 

Baptized Into Christ Jesus

December 28, 2014 Leave a comment

dead-to-sin-alive-to-godWhat shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4) 

Paul last told us that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. The logical question then arises: since increasing sin brought even more grace, should we sin more to give grace a chance to show itself? 

The answer is definite. “Certainly not!” the Holy Spirit asserts through the apostle. It’s an absurdity for a true believer; after all, believers died to sin. Sin lost its “oomph” as far as we were concerned. Sin is not alluring as it once was, it’s not as powerful, and it’s not as enjoyable (for a number of reasons). Just as dead men are not drawn to a great steak dinner, so the dead-to-sin believer is not drawn to sin. He died to it. 

The question then, is when did we die to sin? God’s response is that when we were immersed into Christ (baptized into Him) we were immersed into His death, meaning that when Christ died, we who have believed in Him died with Him. When Jesus died, we died. Since Christ died for sin and had no sin, then His death means that we are indeed dead to sin as He was (and is). 

Not only did we die with Him, we were raised with Him as well. His resurrection is our resurrection. His life is our life. A resurrected man has a brand new kind of life, one that is not interested in the things of the world he left behind. 

For Further Review

1.  Why is the rhetorical question of Romans 6:1 the logical question to ask?

2.  Using your own words, describe the answer to that question.

3.  Read the story of Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis chapter 4. Notice especially what the LORD told Cain about sin’s relationship to him. How does the gospel of Jesus Christ alter what God told Cain that day?