Reflecting on the rest of Romans 6

Any Christian who ever learned the “Romans Road” method of communicating the gospel can probably recite Romans 6:23, “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is an essential and tremendous reminder. We, because we are sinners from the start, deserve the wrath of God. But he has given us eternal life instead.

But it struck me as I reread the entire chapter of Romans 6 repeatedly this week that there is so much more there. It is a stern warning to anyone who would abuse the grace of God to continue sinning. It is a call to obedience and holiness and an admonition to wrestle against our sinful desires, with the confidence that Jesus has already set us free from their power over us!

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Things I Learned About Myself, When I Wasn’t In Church

33496411294_898d69b221_zPerhaps this sounds like a strange admission, but there have been times in my life when I had no church home. While I believe those were legitimate absences, upon reflection, I may have learned more about the need to be part of a church when I didn’t have one than the many years I did.

When I first moved to Washington, D.C., finding a good church was a challenge. It took many visits to find and settle in a church I thought was committed to the truth. Then, after roughly a year there, God opened my eyes to some serious false teachings entrenched there. I was devastated. After trying and failing to make any headway against the teachings, I left.

It was painful and discouraging time in my life. I missed the fellowship, the community, I missed hearing the Bible taught regularly. I missed singing praise aloud to God with other people. But church visit, after church visit, I kept spotting the same problems. And it wrecked me. The discouragement got the better of me and I gave up for awhile.

I was judged by some Christians during that time, which made it even harder to want to find a church again. I want to be clear – I never gave up my faith in Jesus. I didn’t somehow lose my Christianity because I wasn’t attending church on Sundays. During my absence, I also read my Bible and listened to podcasts and sermons when possible. Thankfully, that season did not last forever, and I eventually found churches I could regularly attend again and eventually even consider my home church.

But I learned some things during that season that I think are important and sharing them could help others. Continue reading

Church of Wimps

I read Luke chapter 9 this morning where Jesus reacts to three people who claim they would “follow him” anywhere. A modern mindset would probably expect a reaction along the lines of “Great you have you, buddy!” Jesus instead lays each one of them bare and exposes where their true hearts lie — whether it is in comfort or loyalty to family or something else.

As I continued my morning routine I thought on this. It struck me that the first one in particular chafes against an American mind.  Continue reading

Audio: If Christ Will Return, How Should We Live Until Then?

JMacArthurPreachingShould the expectation of the return of Jesus Christ cause us to live differently than we would otherwise? The answer from Scripture is yes. As Pastor John MacArthur exegetes in this two-part message “Living in Anticipation of Christ’s Return.”  Part 1.  Part 2.

MacArthur says that knowing Jesus will return and grant us eternity in the new heaven “ought to impact your life” as a Christian in matters of attitude and action.

He is teaching from 2 Peter 3:11-18: Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to befound by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,  and regard thepatience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul,according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all hisletters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do alsothe rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore,beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (NASB)

 

Living like the new self

I’m back in Ephesians again this week in my regular Bible reading. I love the description of  new life in Christ found in Chapter 4 and 5, and am greatly convicted at the same time. How often I sin in anger, or say something impure, how often I fail to show gratitude. My life so often fails to look like this:

“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, created after the likeness of God in truth righteousness and holiness. Continue reading

What the Resurrection Means for Your Life Today

Today is the day Christians mark as Resurrection Sunday, in the belief that Jesus was raised from the dead after his crucifixion, death and burial.

We affirm, as the Scriptures tells us, that God raised Jesus from the dead as he had said would happen. (Matthew 28:6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.)

But what does that mean really and how does it relate to you today? Continue reading

Biblical Theology: Who Mediates Between Sinful Men and a Holy God?

Although some religions teach otherwise, the Bible makes it very clear that there is only one mediator between sinners (aka: each and ever person who has ever and will ever live) and the holy and righteous God. It is because of our sin (which we are born in) that we need mediation. We cannot approach God in our sinful state.

That mediator is Jesus Christ. Jesus declared himself to be “the way, the truth and the life,” and said no one comes to God the Father through any other means.

We are separated, until Jesus makes a way. The only way is through faith in what he accomplished on the cross, where Jesus bore the punishment for our sins (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 3, 1 Peter 2 and more).

But even after we’ve been converted by faith, Jesus remains our mediator with God the Father throughout our Christian life. 1 Timothy chapter 2:1-7 makes this very clear as it talks about prayer:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (ESV) [Emphasis added]

Jesus’ blood washes away our sins, his righteousness is imputed to us (by grace, through faith) and even more incredible, Jesus remains our mediator forever — interceding for us at the right hand of God the Father. Romans 8 also speaks to this when Paul writes about those who are “in Christ Jesus.” This beautiful chapter that begins with the assurance that “there is no condemnation” for those who are in Christ, continues with other assurances before getting to this one:

What 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 gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV) [Emphasis added]

The Word: James 1:2-18 and related sermon series

 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Continue reading