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.

 

Isaiah 13

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 13.

Lots of judgment, war, doom and gloom. The earth will shake. The stars will stop shining.  Verse 22: “Babylon is doomed. It won’t be long now.” (MSG)

This all sounds horrible, doesn’t it? “I will punish this evil world
and its people because of their sins. I will crush the horrible pride of those who are cruel.” (v11, CEV).

The New Testament writers confirm God will bring His wrath on the nations, especially those nations who have not been kind to Israel.  Matthew, Mark and Luke all note these things will indeed occur.  And then…

“Right after those days of suffering, “The sun will become dark, and the moon will no longer shine. The stars will fall, and the powers in the sky will be shaken.”  Then a sign will appear in the sky. And there will be the Son of Man. All nations on earth will weep when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. At the sound of a loud trumpet, he will send his angels to bring his chosen ones together from all over the earth.” (Matthew 24:29‭-‬31, CEV).

And Luke says: “Then the Son of Man will be seen, coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When all of this starts happening, stand up straight and be brave. You will soon be set free.” (Luke 21:27‭-‬28, CEV).

My heart grieves that if this doesn’t occur in my lifetime some generation down line from me will experience this torment and doom. Someone within my family’s bloodlines, and within yours, will face the peril of the earth. The good news is: “You will soon be set free!” We will all be set free!

This is the hope we all have! Even when we see the words of the prophets seemingly coming to pass on the nightly news, we will all be set free! That’s news that Isaiah 12 says that we are to shout to the nations! “Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (Isaiah 12:6, NIV).

Isaiah later proclaims that God will bring about new things:

“I am creating new heavens
    and a new earth;
everything of the past
    will be forgotten.
 Celebrate and be glad forever!
I am creating a Jerusalem,
    full of happy people.
I will celebrate with Jerusalem
    and all of its people;
there will be no more crying
    or sorrow in that city.” (Isaiah 65:17-19, CEV).

“We will all be set free!”

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

There is freedom in praise!

There’s a new song many churches are singing today during their worship services. It’s called “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music.

For some of us it’s easy to praise God and sing “Hallelujah,” right? You’re going on vacation. It’s summer. The bills are paid. The kids are behaving. Life is good.

But there are others (most of us?) who are just not feeling it. There is pain. There is disappointment. Life is one big slog each and every day. How do we sing in the middle of the storm? How do we even manage a smile when we are feeling defeated?

The answer is this: We can praise God by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in every Believer.

There’s something amazing that happens when we praise God… especially when we offer a praise to God when it’s hard to do so. And we don’t have to have a beautiful singing voice. It might be as simple as viewing an amazing sunset and exclaiming, “Wow, God!”

I believe praise releases God’s love and grace and power and provision in our lives. You may have heard the story of two disciples of Jesus. They were in prison, locked in chains, because they had been sharing the Good News. But they didn’t let shackles hold them back.

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. Acts 16: 25-26 (MSG)

There’s something about praise that sets us free. No matter what is holding you captive, bring it to the Lord in praise.

Let me encourage you to sing, to pray, to exclaim or even lament in the middle of your storm. Tell God how much you love Him. Tell God how much you trust Him.

And believe Him to bring you His freedom and His joy!

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

© Rich Ronald. 2019.