Devotional Blog

Romans 9. Grace Means We Are God’s Children.



Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

You can listen to this devotional here:



Romans 9

We all have blind spots. Don’t you find it ironic when you can see something about someone else’s life but they cannot? That’s how Paul feels about the people of Israel. He notes that the Jews are God’s chosen people, but they are so strict at following the Law, they are often blind to see His grace.  We all can be that way.  Paul gives a couple of Old Testament examples. Here is one about Jacob, the second-born twin of Rebecca:

“What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative.” (v 12, MSG).

God’s grace and mercy are not dependent on anything WE do. He loves us. Period. Just because we are His kids.

He’s in charge of compassion and mercy. I’m thankful for that. He extends His kindness and we can trust Him. He leads us and we can follow Him. He cares for us and we can rest in His arms. He protects us and we can be certain the enemy will not defeat us. He provides for us and we can be assured that we’ll always have more than what we need. Just because He’s that kind of Father. He’s that kind of God. The One True God. He keeps His promises. Always.

And no matter where we are or what we’ve done, that kindness, that mercy is ours. Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s such a good place to be on the receiving side of His grace! The emphasis here is that God is God. And it is a privilege to be called His children. Why? Like we read yesterday, God is crazy in love with us. After all, He created us.


He cares for us and we can rest in His arms.



Paul quotes one of the minor prophets next:

Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I
’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.

In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.” (v 25, MSG). Hosea 2:23

Paul then quotes Isaiah:

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus. (v27-28, MSG). Isaiah 10:22-23.

And arithmetic need not be our focus either. Things don’t always add up in life. As long as we keep our focus on God and His grace, we don’t need to worry about anything else! We are His children. He’s got this!

Paul concludes his thoughts on the subject:

How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way. (v30-33, MSG).  Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16.

That’s a promise that I want to fully embrace! He is walking with us. Following Jesus is not a stumbling block! He doesn’t slow us down. Following Him is not an obstacle or wall to be climbed over. He is the stone that leads us along the path. I think when we fully embrace that He is with us “on the way,” we can have an amazing confidence that wherever we walk, we will be okay. We have nothing to fear.  In fact, we will be more than okay, because the very presence of God is with us! 


Remember this:

“At the place where they yelled out “You’re a nobody!” they are now calling you “Children of the living God!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

RichlySpeaking.com


Today, I’m attaching this worship song from Bethel Worship because it mirrors our text. 


https://youtu.be/XxkNj5hcy5E











 

 

Romans 8. Part 2. There is Hope Because There is Love.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8:18-39

We all love a good story of suffering, don’t we? Aren’t we quick to tell others about the time it rained every single day of the vacation? Or about the widow down the street who is going through one misfortune after another following the death of her husband? Why is that? I can think of at least two reasons. The first is that we all go through pain and affliction in our lifetime. It comes with being human. We can all relate. Secondly, I believe that we all have a deep-seated hope for happy endings, for the triumph that follows defeat.

Paul opens this passage with the confirmation that there is glory and victory ahead, not just for us, but for all of creation.  “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.” (Romans 8:18-19, MSG). Doesn’t that paint a picture of what we all have experienced this year? We can’t wait for the end of all this bad news. The Word assures us of eventual freedom ahead.

_________________________________________________________________________

God’s love will triumph over death and life’s troubles.

_________________________________________________________________________

And what a joyous freedom it will be! We are told the Holy Spirit of God, the very presence of the Father in the absence of the physical body of Jesus, is with us in our weakness. He even prays for us. (Now that’s a deep theological thought which we might ponder all day.) And through it all, God is in control, even when things seem to be total chaos.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV). This is where I hang my hat. This is why I trust God completely. No matter the calamity, no matter the strife, no matter the horrendous situation you might face, God is at work. He’s not sleeping. He hasn’t turned His back. He is orchestrating what is best for each one of us. “All things” means all things! Even during a worldwide pandemic.

This chapter offers one beautiful gift, one beautiful promise, after the other.  I am thankful for God’s goodness, His grace, and that we are His children. He works for our good. He calls us by name. He stays with us to the very end, gloriously completing what He has begun.

Why? Why does God do this? Why does He care? Because He loves us so incredibly much.

Jesus is crazy in love with you! He’s in God’s throne room right this very minute asking the Father to take care of you, to meet your heart’s needs. He’s continually praying for our triumph! Our victory! Not just our survival or our just getting by. But for us to TRIUMPH! Wow!

“With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” (Romans 8:31, MSG).

How much does He love us? He gives us what we need to be not just conquerors, but Paul says we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37, NIV).

We can trust God because His of His love.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! (Romans 8:38-39, TPT).

How do we respond? Paul encourages us just a few chapters later: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV). We are victors today! Even in the midst of our present suffering.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans8_14

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8. Here we go!

We concluded the previous chapter discussing our addiction to sin, caused by the Human Condition. Paul swings the door of God’s grace wide open here. Can it be any clearer than this: “If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, CEV).

A new power is in operation! The Spirit clears the air and frees us! Jesus took on the mess of the world… and the mess that is our life. We embrace what the Spirit has done, and is doing, in us. God didn’t tinker around when He came up with the plan to redeem us. He sent Jesus to put sin to death permanently and completely. God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.” (Romans 8:3-4, MSG).

Continue reading Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans 7. Only Through Jesus Can We Make Sense of the Contradictions of Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 7:1-6

This is a bit of a confusing, yet at the same time, encouraging passage. Paul is talking about the law and using the example of marriage and remarriage after a spouse dies. I found some clarity in The Passion Translation.

Verses 5-6:

When we were merely living natural lives, the law, through defining sin, actually awakened sinful desires within us, which resulted in bearing the fruit of death. But now that we have been fully released from the power of the law, we are dead to what once controlled us. And our lives are no longer motivated by the obsolete way of following the written code, so that now we may serve God by living in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 7:5‭-‬6, TPT).

We are dead to what once controlled us! We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

That’s a freeing picture! Go find a fresh breath of God today as you worship Him!

 

Romans 7:7-25.

As a youth pastor back in the day, I referred to this as the Frank Sinatra passage… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good..” Do be do be do… (Romans 7:15-16, NIV).

Again, The Passion Translation is helpful here:

“I don’t understand my own behavior — I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me. For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it!” (Romans 7:15-18, TPT).

We all struggle with behaviors that we know are not healthy. It’s not just the addict. It is the Human Condition. Paul is saying a life not controlled by the Spirit, is a life controlled by sin. The struggle is real. And the reality is what Paul says later in Ephesians, that our fights are not against flesh and blood and the people with whom we love. Our struggles are against the ruler of the air, who wants to take us all down (see Ephesians 6:12).

I can relate to how Paul feels when his actions fail to match his heart’s desire: “What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.” (Romans 7:24-25, CEV).

 


We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is only through Jesus that we can begin to make sense of this life of contradictions… this life where we want to serve Jesus with all our heart, and yet our human nature gets in the way. We are distracted. We are selfish. We are lazy. We are greedy. We let our guard down. And at the same time, we can be giving and loving and serving and caring. We have especially seen during this season that there are so many things in our life that we cannot control.

Yet, Jesus… Let’s go back to the beginning of Chapter 7. There is a fresh life for those who embrace the power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom Jesus gives to us freely.

This sets the stage for what many believe is the greatest chapter in all of scripture: Romans 8. Paul outlines the full measure and assurance of the grace of Jesus! “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Jesus!” (Romans 8:1, NIV).

We get to embrace that beautiful truth together tomorrow.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com.

 

Romans 6. Part 2. God’s Gift is Eternal Life!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6:15-23.

Another stop for us on the Romans Road today. The Human Condition is that we are human. Logical, right? We are not God. We don’t work our way up to being God, or being a god. We are man and woman. We are sinners. Each and every one of us. Sin separates us from holy and righteous God. And in God’s view, sin leads to death.

“For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a, NIV).

And that’s just that.

If that was all there was to God’s economy, there would be no reason to hope, no reason to live.

But there’s good news next, thanks to Jesus!  “God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b, CEV).


The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life!

Yes, we are all sinners, separated from God by that sin. But Jesus bridges that chasm at the Cross. His death, and then His resurrection, is what allows us to have communion, connection, and community with God. When Jesus died, He provided access to the Most High.

Look at this: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51, NIV). The significance of this event is that the Holy of Holies, the place where the Ark of Covenant was kept, was now exposed for all. The custom of the day was that only a certain priest would be able to go into this holy place in the temple. But because of Jesus, anyone and everyone can approach Father God directly.

Yet some still believe that a Godly life is constricting. Ironic isn’t it? The life chosen to live without God, thinking one is free, is actually a life that is lived in bondage to sin and leads to a dead-end… to death. It’s worse than ironic, it’s very sad, tragic. Some believe  they’re free because they don’t have to “follow God’s rules.” But yet, they are actually slaves to sin.

“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (Romans 6:22‭-‬23, MSG).

The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life! Whole. Healed. And put-together by God Himself. That’s Good News!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 6. Grace is Freedom!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6.

I have always loved the way this chapter begins. Chapter 5 is all about God’s grace. Now, Paul asks this thought-provoking question: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” (Romans 6:1, MSG). Do we keep on behaving poorly so God can keep on giving us more and more and more of His grace?  Here are a few different translations of verse 2:

By no means! (NIV)
I should hope not! (MSG)
What a terrible thought! (TPT)
Heaven forbid! (CJB)
Of course not! (NLT)
May it never be! (TLV)

I used to be a king at rationalizing. I’m pretty sure that if I was reading the words of Chapter 5 when Paul was writing it, I would have been one of the first to ask that question. It’s a logical one for our human mind. So, I’m glad to see the answer to his own question. It makes me wonder if Paul likely asked it of God and this answer was for the Apostle’s benefit as well as for ours.


Like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives.

To be clear, more sin on our part does not equal more grace on God’s part. Although, Jesus pointed to a woman at a meal at Simon the Pharisee’s home in Luke 7: “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (Luke 7:47, MSG). Our assignment in fully accepting God’s grace is to recognize that we are all sinners, and none of us deserve His grace. And we are to be thankful no matter if the perceived amount of His grace is one ounce or a thousand tons! In reality, we cannot quantify it.

John Newton was a slave trader, British ship captain, and author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He said it this way: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” *

Paul says we get to bury that sinful life in baptism. And just as Jesus was raised to life, we too can live a life of freedom from the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus came! Recall, Jesus said in Luke 4, quoting Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

Our baptism reminds of that. It is a mark on our spiritual journey. It’s a public proclamation that allows us to say, “No, I am going to live differently than I used to live. I am going to live fully embracing the freedom and grace Jesus offers. I am set free from sin. I have been forgiven!

I like walking along the beach. It reminds me, like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives. It never runs out! So, how do we live out this grace each day?  Back to Romans 6:

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”(Romans 6:12-14, MSG).

May the Holy Spirit empower you to”throw yourself into God’s way of doing things” today. And please pray that He allows me to do the same!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

*John Pollock, Amazing Grace: John Newton’s Story (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981. Page 182.

Romans 5. Jesus Came to Give Us Grace and Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 5.

We make a second stop along the Romans Road today. The first signpost in Romans 3 identified the realization that we are all sinners.  Chapter 5 illuminates the hope we sinners have in Jesus as our Messiah. He is the resolution for the human condition. He makes it right for us to have a relationship with God.

Paul begins this portion by encouraging patience in our lives. We can all be impatient, right? Especially when we are facing troubles… struggles like unemployment, or a medical crisis, or a marriage that is balancing precariously close to collapse. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this: “Please give me patience, God. Right now!” I have.

Look at what patience brings:

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5, MSG).

Patience is a virtue and when it is fully developed in us, through trust in God, we can have an attitude of expectancy and hope instead of worry or dread.


What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace.


Here’s the solution to our impatience and every other sin: Jesus.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8, CEV).

God requires a sacrifice, a price to be paid, for our disobedience. Jesus paid that price through His death, and resulting resurrection. Here’s how Paul explains it clearly:

“But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger.
 Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.” (Romans 5:9-10, CEV).

We have life and relationship and even peace with God because Jesus died for us.

And what about the Law, the Ten Commandments and other ordinances God placed before Moses and the children of Israel in the Old Testament? Jesus offers something much better: forgiveness and grace.

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

Grace invites us into a beautiful life, like a flowering cherry tree in the springtime. What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace. I learned so much about grace as a staff pastor under Max Lucado for over ten years. Here’s how he puts it:

“Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
― Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

God wants to put more of Him inside of you. He does that by giving us His heart through His Son.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV).

Will you let God give you His grace? He loves you and wants you to have all that He has for you. He’s ready to pour into your life so that you can patiently endure the hardships of the journey and enjoy the blessings of beauty and joy and love He so desires for you.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Romans 4. Abraham’s Faith Can Be Our Faith Too!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 4.

Your life is a part of God’s overarching story of Creation to Redemption.  The key players in this real-life journey are not just famous names in the Old Testament. Nor are they acclaimed people of faith who have walked since John penned The Revelation. Nor are they prolific pastors or authors in today’s culture. They are “ordinary” people too. Your brother. Your aunt. Your son. Your daughter. You.

“But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” (Romans 4:2, MSG).

Read that sentence again and this time, insert your name where Abraham’s name is:

But the story we’re given is a God-story, not a _______-story. What we read in Scripture is, “_______entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. _______ trusted God to set _______ right instead of trying to be right on their own.

Do you see? Your life is a God-story, not merely your story. We are a part of His work in this world. We are part of the story of eternity. Trusting Him is the turning point! Can you trust Him to set things right in your life? Yes, you can!

Hear this: There is nothing we can DO that will make God love us more or less. Faith is not a “doing” thing. It is a heart thing. This grace that Jesus offers flies in the face of all of us who are rule followers. It is merely trust. Can we trust that God has led us to where we are? Can we trust that He will continue to lead us? Yes. Absolutely! I keep returning to the Romans 2:4 passage from last week. “In kindness, He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into radical life change.”


Your life is a God-story, not merely your story.


Look at Abraham’s life. Even when everything appeared impossible, he believed anyway: “God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations. Abraham’s faith never became weak.” (Romans 4:18-19, CEV).

Wow! How do we get that kind of faith? I’m sure I’m not the only one who says, “God, give me Abraham’s confidence.” But yet, he didn’t have it easy. God told him to leave the land of his youth. Even after he believed and was recognized for his faith, he still had trials. He was challenged to lay it all down for God. He was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. And God continued to guide him and encourage him and bless him… even through those impossible and challenging seasons.

Do we have impossible and challenging seasons? You betcha! The whole country, even the whole world, continues to face its most imposing age. But God has a plan for each one of us. And it starts with death. When I see all that Abraham had to give up, I ponder these words of Jesus: “If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, CEV). What does it mean to give up your life for Jesus? Abraham did it by trusting God. And God responded.

I believe God will do the same for you, for me, for us. So today, my prayer is this: “God, help me to lay down my life, my wants, my desires. Do what only You can do. I will trust You.”

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

 

Romans 3, Part 2. We are Sinners, But God!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans, Chapter 3 introduces us to the beginning of the so-called Romans Road. Paul takes the reader through several stops and outlines the basic plan of salvation. It begins with the definition of the human condition — we are all sinners — and leads us to God’s plan for our salvation through Jesus, the Messiah.

Paul first quotes from the Psalmist, who imagines God looking down from heaven upon mankind: “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:3, NIV).

In his own words, the Apostle says it this way: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NIV).


Jesus freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

On the journey of this pathway to heaven, every single one of us must ultimately make this confession: We are sinners. The word “sin” means to miss the mark, like an archer who’s arrow falls woefully nowhere near his intended target. There is no way that any of us can be as holy as God is holy. Paul is not pointing fingers at other people’s behavior either, for he says about himself in the letter to his pupil Timothy: “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.” (1 Timothy 1:15, MSG).

Our first stop on the Romans Road is your problem and my problem too! We are human beings, created in God’s image, but we are not divine. We will never become God. There is nothing we can do to earn our way into His presence. Yet He is fair; He gives us all a choice: “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.” (Romans 3:22‭-‬24, CEV).

We are sinners… But God! Jesus welcomes us all! He sets things right for us. It’s a pure gift, which is undeserved since we are all sinners. But thanks be to God and His grace! HE sets things right! Always! And, indeed, we can be so very thankful! And humbled that He loves us.

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.” (Romans 3:25, MSG).

Yesterday we talked about “dialing in” to God’s frequency; turning our hearts and ears to intentionally listen to Him and His ways for our lives. Like a child who must crawl before he walks and walk before he runs, it begins with this first step. We must admit to God that even our best actions are flawed. As humans we are sinners.

So does this mean we are free to not “do right?”  Paul asks and answers this same question: “Does emphasizing our faith invalidate the law? Absolutely not. Instead, our faith establishes the role the law should rightfully have.” (Romans 3:21, TPT).

Some may ask, why? Why is it that none of our best attempts to follow God’s decrees are good enough for God? I believe it’s because it sets Jesus apart for who He is… 100% man and 100% God. He is the only one who never sinned. So, it is only through the recognition of His sacrifice, only through Jesus that we are truly free.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 3. We Were All Going to Drown. But There is Hope.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 3:1-20.

As the previous Chapter concluded, Paul began to unravel the Law, and make the case that because of Jesus, religion in itself is not where our salvation is found. No, God is truth. And in God alone is our salvation.

“Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same: “Your words stand fast and true; rejection doesn’t faze you.”” (Romans 3:4, MSG). When the time comes to put God’s promises on trial, they will remain steadfast, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.  We can trust Him. We can count on Him. He will guide us. He will direct our paths. He will comfort us — even when we’re faithless. And how much more so when we are doing our best to be faithful, seeking after Him with our whole heart! That is amazing, isn’t it? He loves us when we’re in a tight relationship with Him AND when we’re not.

It helps when we earnestly try to listen to Him, right? Remember the old analog days of radio, when you had to turn the dial just a little this way or that to get the signal to come in loud and clear? Some times, hearing God can be that way too. We need to regularly tune in, removing every distraction, to hear Him clearly. So, my encouragement to us all today is to take time to listen and I’m pretty sure we’ll hear. That’s good news!

Keep your hearts tuned into God!

At the same time, we have to remember that we are going to drown in our sin. You are. So am I. And so is everyone you know.  Following the Law won’t help you, either. Even if you could keep all the laws. Which you can’t. 



He’s the one who is faithful even when we’re faithless.

 


Paul, the accomplished rabbi, knows his Torah. Nine times Paul quotes from the Old Testament.  Nine times we hear that we are all condemned because of our sin. Can you imagine being a Torah following Jew, or even a new believer in Rome (the folks to whom this letter is written), and reading all these discouraging words that Paul quotes here? How did anyone have hope?

“Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, MSG).

And this might have been written about people today: “They don’t know how to live in peace. They don’t even fear God.” (Romans 3:17-18, MSG). Paul is quoting from Isaiah 59 and Psalm 36.

I love how Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase draws a sailing analogy:

“And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” (Romans 3:19-20, MSG).

We’re all destined to drown. That’s a horrific image, isn’t it? Probably one of the worst ways to die. Think about it though, as Jesus spent many of His days around Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we see in our mind’s eye images of fishermen-turned-disciples and storms out on the water. I’m reminded of a story in the Gospel of Mark.

“Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink. Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.” (Mark 4:37-39, CEV).

Under our own efforts, when we attempt to captain our own ship, when we strive to follow all the rules about living life as a Jesus follower, we will surely drown.  Be assured, however, Jesus offers a Good News lifeline to everyone! He offers calm in our storms. 

Yes, here’s the Good News we’ll read more about tomorrow: “God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:22, CEV). I’m so thankful for this live-giving hope!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.