Friday, September 30, 2016

Great patience

Read Romans 9

Paul has taken his readers in Rome and us a very long way in these first 8 chapters of this very comprehensive letter.

·     Paul longed to visit Rome.
·     He insisted that everyone should know there is a God by the evidence of creation itself.
·     We have all fallen short and have no excuse that will hold water with God.
·     The Jews had more instruction but they didn’t do much better than the gentiles.
·     While we did not love God, he went the extra mile to love us by giving his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.
·     Our part is to receive this fantastic gift of salvation by faith—the same faith that justified Abraham.
·     In this faith we know peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
·     We are made new.  It is as if we died with Christ and now have been given life with him.
·     Surely we are to be dead to sin and alive in Christ.
·     Having received this gift of salvation—undeserved forgiveness for all of our sins—should we continue in our sin so we could know even more grace? No!  That’s not who we are any more.
·     Sin is still here in this world we might just have to wrestle with it.  It cannot alter our eternal destination so it will try to mess with our abundance in life in the here and now.
·     Even when we fall, we do not despair for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.
·     We are God’s kids.
·     We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
·     We are joint heirs with Christ.
·     We are led by God’s own Spirit.
·     God’s Spirit doesn’t need our words to communicate.
·     God’s Spirit speaks for us.  Jesus makes intercession with the Father for us.  Yes, this is the same Father who will never stop loving us.  The full trinity is engaged in our well-being.  This is good stuff.
·     God is for us!  It doesn’t make a hill of beans who is against us.  God is for us!
·     We know that God takes everything that happens to us, within us, or around us and works it to our good.  We love him.  We have answered his call.  We can’t always figure everything out but we know that he’s got this.
·     God knew what we would look like when he got through with us before we emerged from our mother’s womb.  We would look like his one and only Son, Jesus.  We were destined, predestined if you will, to be like Jesus.
·     We are conquerors—more than conquerors—in that the suffering and hardships that we know now will seem like nothing at all when everything is reconciled to God through Christ—like nothing at all.
·     When God comes in his glory we will forget everything that seemed so insurmountable in the here and now—pain, loss, and suffering of all sorts. 
·     And we left off at:  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That was just the first half of Romans.  That’s a lot of theology.  That’s a lot of very powerful affirmations of God’s love for us.  And these are just the highlights.

Most should sound very familiar to you, not just from Romans.  Paul has touched on many of these things in his other letters.  The letter to the Romans is just a bit more comprehensive than any of his others.

So we come to chapter 9 with great anticipation and Paul gives us great anguish.  What is going on with this man?  He builds up his readers for 8 chapters and then with some substantial hyperbole says that he would give up this wonderful gift of life from Jesus just to bring his people into the light, just to give them eyes to see, just to bring them their own road to Damascus experience.

Paul tells us that he is hurting because his own flesh and blood people—at least most of them—missed the truth that he knows so well.  Remember that as Paul brought the good news to the gentile world, he would first stop at the synagogue in each new city to share this fantastic gospel.  He was often disappointed at the reception and then turned to those who worshiped false gods and brought them the truth; but Paul always sought out his people—God’s chosen people—first.

But Paul is not throwing his own personal pity party.  This is part of the story.  This is part of the story for those who follow Jesus.  The Roman believers needed to understand and everyone who reads Paul’s letter to this congregation, need to understand that in Christ we became a part of a much bigger story.

The story is about flesh and blood people but it is less about the cutting of the flesh or the purity of the blood and more about the promise given to people whom God selected to be very special to him. 

The promise goes back to Abraham and comes through Isaac, and the sovereignty of God’s selection of Israel as his people become clarified in the twin whose name would be changed to Israel—Jacob. Jacob was second out of Rebecca’s womb and contrary to the tradition of the day, would be the senior.

The story of God’s selection of a people continued to Moses.  Three months out of Egypt, the Hebrew people arrived at Sinai and Moses went up the mountain for the first time.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Why does Paul need to share this with the Romans?  This story is now a part of their story for one.  Mostly Paul reminds the Roman believers of God’s sovereignty.  God is sovereign.

God selects.  God chooses.  God’s mercy brings us to the life we know in Christ Jesus.  God is sovereign!

Sometimes, that is a tough pill to swallow, especially when you get words like predestined and foreknowledge thrown in the mix.  Those make for good discussions but Paul is leading his readers to a point that he wants to confirm.  It is a place that we have visited many times.  It is one that we know so well.  This was just a more circuitous route to get us there.

Our salvation is not by our own works.  It is by the grace and favor of sovereign God.  It is by the mercy and compassion of sovereign God.  It is all of God’s choosing and doing.

Our gift is received by faith and not by works and most of Paul’s flesh and blood relatives missed this and were not open to the gospel of life in Jesus Christ.  And Paul had great anguish that all of Israel did not have its own road to Damascus experience, but he was not finished with his letter.  Don’t give up on Israel just yet.  There is more in store for them.

So as we come to the end of the chapter but not the end of the story of Israel and the gentiles, we should consider the sovereignty of God.  Everything is his, he spoke it into existence, but out of everything he chooses some to do special things or be something special or receive special gifts.

Israel was chosen by God to receive an identity as a special people—a treasured people if you will.  The men were chosen to receive a sign in the flesh.  The entire nation was chosen to receive God’s law.  Paul even called it a trust.  These same people were chosen to receive a land promised long ago to them.

We need to understand that these chosen people are also chosen for the faith that we as Christians live in, but that chapter has not come for the entire nation of Israel.

We may ponder the why of this, but we know with clarity one benefit that we have received because of this.  God’s salvation has reached the world.  It has gone beyond his chosen people.  It is for everyone.

Paul explained to the church in Rome and now to those of us that want to understand more fully, that God’s heart desires all to repent and come to him and Jesus is the way to do that.  This story did not begin with Jesus dying on the cross or rising from the dead.

This story began long ago with a Sovereign God who from the beginning knew that his ultimate act of sovereignty would be to take the sin of the world upon himself for us.

We should know with certainty that God is sovereign. He reigns.  He alone reigns. There is no authority above him or beside him or even close to him.  We must know this.  Sometimes it is tough to be the clay, but that’s what we are.  God is above all things.

Potter and clay may seem too simple an analogy, but it hits the mark for sovereignty.

He will do with us what he knows needs to be done.  He is sovereign.  We are his.  We must know this with certainty.

We should be thankful that our sovereign God is a loving God who in his purest form we know simply as love.

Our human nature sometimes prompts us to say, “Well I can’t believe in a God who would…”  You fill in the blank. People have put plenty of qualifiers in that blank over the centuries.

Paul makes this point to his readers.  God is God.  That is that.  He is sovereign over all.  That includes your salvation.  It was and is his to give.  It was never yours to earn.  This should come as a relief if you really think about it.

We need to understand this point.  It was never ours to earn.  Our free will, our ability to choose, is not given so we can earn our salvation or right standing, but so we can receive it and take the fullness of life that we know to bring glory to God.

His own people didn’t get that, at least most of them anyway.  They made the mistakes of believing that their genealogy or their works took care of everything.

Paul is bringing these new followers of Jesus into the greater story of God’s sovereignty and his love.  We need to understand this as well.

There is one more thing to chew on here.  In God’s sovereignty, he saw fit not only to be true to his character in love but also in patience.  God is patient. 

Glory and wrath are real.  Some will know the glory of God and forget about anything and everything they ever suffered.
Some, contrary to God’s heart and his deepest desire, may come to know his wrath, but:

·     God’s heart prefers mercy over sacrifice.

·     He longs for reconciliation over wrath.

·     He practices patience but gives us a mission of urgency.

Paul shared that he had great anguish over his people’s blindness to the truth of the gospel but he also knew that he served a God of great patience and the story was not quite complete.

We need to understand that Peter and Paul are very much in sync here.  They just use different words.  The Lord is not slow in coming as we define fast and slow.  The Lord operates in his own time.  As sovereign God, he owns time too.

What we might call slowness, we should come to understand as patience.  His heart longs for all to repent and come to salvation in Jesus Christ.

We should be thankful for the Lord’s great patience.  How would you feel if God sent his Son to claim his children—those who had received the wonderful gift of salvation—the day before you were ready to profess Jesus as Lord.

We might just want to think in the terms or phrases of the prophet Joel for a moment.  He described a day that will come for all as the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Great and terrible—now that’s a combination!

It is a combination that reminds us to be thankful for our salvation—that we will never know the wrath of God—and for the glorious, abundant, and eternal life that in his sovereignty, God has bestowed upon us.

It is a combination that might also bring us a little anguish if there are those close to us that are blind to the truth.  God has not given us a burden but he has commissioned us with a mission.  Take the gospel to the world.  Start with your own family, then go to your friends, then go to people you don’t even know and maybe don’t even want to know, then just keep on going.

God is sovereign.  He will do what he will do and he will be fully just.  For us, that happens to be great news.  We didn’t earn anything but God in his sovereignty made us his forever.  We are given life and glory and abundance and eternity with him. 

Others are given to us as a mission field.  God has a heart that none perish and all know true and abundant life through Christ.  God has made a way to be right with him.  Jesus has commissioned us to deliver this good news.

God has shown us great patience but given us a mission of great urgency so that we need not know great anguish.  We will hear more on the Jews in the messages to come, but for now be thankful for God’s patience and take his good news to the world with great urgency.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Spirit Himself Testifies

Read Romans 8

Paul wrapped up the 7th chapter with an interrogatory provocation—his specialty—and then answered with an exclamatory affirmation.  He was no stranger to those either. But the expository explanation comes in the next chapter.

Paul was being Paul using his literary skills but he had more, much more to say on these subjects.  That brings us to chapter 8.

What a pitiful person I am that I can’t even live fully for God when I know how much he loves me.  I know that very love in Jesus Christ.  I know it well.  It is very personal and real; yet, it seems that I give in to my human nature time and time again.

My mind which really wants to follow Jesus with everything I have is at war with this physical creature that carries my mind around all day.

Jesus, thank you for saving me.  Thanks be to God for loving me so much that you have made me right with you, because I sure was never going to get there on my own.  And that brings us to the 8th chapter and this point:

In Christ there is no condemnation.  We who have received this gift of life in Christ are not condemned even though our scorecards might say otherwise.  Our hearts and minds are set on following Jesus and they belong to God’s own Spirit. 

Paul said, “Now hear this.  Get this straight.  For those of you still in school, this will be on the test!”

We have an obligation to follow the Spirit’s leading.  We are freed from our rule following, flesh governing law.  That only showed us that we were on the path to death.

But the Spirit of God that brought Christ from the grave to life is with us to bring us to life in the here and now and for eternity.  Our relationship with God has changed.  Perhaps restored is the better verb.

We have moved from being a people who tried to follow rules in order to win God’s approval and we could never get them all right to being sons and daughters of a loving Father.  We are sons of the almighty God.  His Spirit works within us to recognize this relationship as we cry out Abba, Father, Dada.

In this relationship there is no condemnation.  We are God’s kids. 

Think of your own children.  Maybe skip over the terrible two’s and a few teenage years, or not—they are all precious to us.  Some gave us gray hair or hair loss or heart attacks, but our children are precious to us.  We would never condemn them.  We condemned many of the things that they did, but we would never condemn them. We would never kick them to the curb. 

Okay, when they are 40 or 45, maybe they need to move out of the house and get a job.  In today’s economy, maybe wait until they are 55 or 60.  I am being purposefully facetious.  We will never disown our kids.

No matter what they did or what they will do, they are our kids and we love them.  Sometimes we concurrently want to blister their bottoms or put them in time out for life or whatever parents do these days but they are always our children and we always love them.

This is our relationship with God, except in this relationship we are the kids.  We are the kids and we have the best big brother ever.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are heirs with Christ.  This God’s family stuff is just covered in benefits.

Paul was on a streak here:
·     No condemnation
·     Led by the Spirit
·     Adopted as God’s own kids
·     Siblings and heirs with Christ Jesus
·     Share in the glory of God that we know in Jesus

Then he threw in this bit about suffering.  Just as our brother suffered, so we might suffer as well.  Share in the glory—share in the suffering.  Wow, there’s always a catch, at least it seems that way sometimes.

Paul continues and notes that it is not a balanced scale here.  A little suffering now and then a little glory later—no, that’s not what he is saying.  Whatever suffering we have now pales in comparison to the glory to come.  The greatness of the glory that we will know is so extensive that it makes our suffering seem minuscule.  The time will come when we won’t even remember it.

Now when we are suffering in any form:  physical pain, loss of a loved one, being dejected, homeless, penniless, unfriended on Facebook, or whatever other extremes we might face; that is the biggest thing in our lives at that time.  It many ways when we are going through something it sometimes seems bigger than life.  Paul reminds us that the glory that awaits is so great it will make the worst of the worst of our suffering seem like nothing.

This is not just a promise.  It is something that the entire creation has been waiting for since it’s been broken.  The entire creation yearns for this glory and reconciliation.  And one of the biggest signs of that future reconciliation is us.  The sons and daughters of God will be revealed. 

Those who are led by the Spirit will step forward and be known as God’s children.  We long for the same thing that the entire creation longs for—complete reconciliation.  The Spirit of God within us wants to cry out for this reconciliation and the glory that we will all realize one day.

We hunger for it because God’s Spirit lives within us.  God’s Spirit lives within us.

Sometimes we think that God’s Spirit is there just to tell us what to do.  “C’mon Spirit, do I take the job or not?  I’m counting on you Spirit, do I pay my gas or electric bill or partially pay both?”

When we put the Spirit of the Living God in that kind of box, we miss out on so much.  God’s Spirit is within us and is testifying to his love for us.  Are we listening?  Do we hear the Spirit?  Are we trying to give God’s own Spirit multiple choice questions when his answers are not only narrative but poetry in motion?

Are we looking for the Spirit to participate in the mundane when he lives within us to bring us to the divine?  Of course the Spirit knows what’s happening in our lives—jobs, bills, relationships, stress, 2 losses for the Sooners before conference play even began.  Yes, the Sprit knows everything that we are dealing with.

We need to understand the syntax of the Spirit.  What?  We need to understand that God’s Spirit doesn’t have to have our words to communicate and to testify.

God’s Spirit—the same Spirit present at the creation of the world—doesn’t need our words.  The Spirit is not limited by our lexicon.  It moves in our hearts and minds and causes our bodies to groan as it speaks in God’s own language—love.  The Spirit calls out to Father and Son to begin this divine dance in our lives—this Perichoresis.

The Spirit is inviting us to let God go to work with us—Father, Son, and Spirit embracing us as the crown of the creation that we were made to be.  Sometimes we just don’t want to let go of our carnal nature.  Sometimes we claim the struggle as our own and wont’ let go.

Have you ever not known what to pray?  You knew things were upside down.  You knew you were hurting.  You knew that you didn’t know what to ask for but you knew to come into God’s presence and just let the Spirit take over.

The psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes we just need to close our mouth and shut our eyes and open our heart up to God and let the Spirit talk with Dad and Jesus.  They will do all the talking.  We don’t need to interject.  Our minds need to be set on “receive only” mode.   We don’t need to check things off of a list to make sure they didn’t miss anything.  We don’t need to hashtag any key phrases.

We need to just be still and let the Spirit of God that lives within us handle this end of the conversation.

What happens, and some here know this all so well, is that we realize what Paul realized 20 centuries ago.  Whatever is going on within us and whatever is going on around us  and whatever is happening to us is just grist for the mill for those who love God and have answered his call.

He will take everything—things that we can make sense of and things that make absolutely no sense at all to us—work for our good.  He will take all things and make them work for our good.  This is not a statement for the general population.  This is for us. 

For those of us who have accepted this wonderful gift of salvation, we realize that Christ Jesus is not only our brother, but we are on a journey to be more like him every day.  He is our model.  We are being made in the image and likeness of our brother, Jesus.  On another day, we might take a trip to the potter’s house to enhance this metaphor.

For now, know that we will always be God’s children.  He will never stop loving us.  His Spirit lives within us and knows exactly what we are going through when we suffer.  God takes everything that happens to us and uses it to make us more like Jesus.

That’s bigtime.  That’s not just God’s peace within us.  That’s not just knowing that things will be okay.  That’s not just getting through life.

That’s victory.

That’s the perfect time for another one of Paul’s interrogatory provocations. 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Paul, of course, answers his own questions.  God loved us so much that he gave his Son for us.  If he would do that while we were still alienated from him, how much more will he do now that we are his kids and in right standing with him?  

How much more will he do for us now that his own Spirit lives within us?

Paul loved answering questions with questions.  He gives us this to think about.  The Spirit is with us.  Jesus intercedes for us with God the Father.  What can get in the way of us bearing everything to God?  Really, what can get in the way?

The sword?

We have already overcome all of these things by being right with God.  In Christ Jesus we have been victors over whatever the world might throw at us.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Sometimes we think that everything is out of whack.  Look at the world.  It surely seems to be a complete mess.  But for us, things are just what they should be.

We need to stop trying to get in sync with the world and know that we are right with God, that he will never condemn us, and that the victory we know in Christ Jesus goes far beyond anything that we may face now or in the future.

Why?  For us, there is no condemnation.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus!  We live in God’s love.  We are his kids and that’s forever. When we suffer, we know there is so much more glory in store for us that our suffering won’t even be a distant memory.

We know that God’s Spirit is within us and God is for us.  Even when we don’t know what to say we need to hear God saying, “I’ve got this.”  His own Spirit that lives within us is testifying, “I’ve got this.”

There is nothing that will separate us from God’s love.  We might try to go run and hide from God.  We might try to ignore him, but he is not going away and he is not kicking us to the curb.  We are his kids and even our worst mistakes will be used to shape us in the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.

Joseph told his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God used for good.”

Paul tells us that God will take everything happening to us and everything happening within us and use it to make us more like Jesus.  His love is at work in us.

Paul wraps up this chapter with one of the most declarative statements in all of his letters.  It is worth keeping.  It is not on our memory verse list but you might want to put it on yours or at least bookmark it in your Bible.

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now that is an affirmation that we should hold on to and remind ourselves and each other of every day.  This 8th chapter has been full of affirmations.  It is almost a greatest hits collection in itself.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

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.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s own Spirit is alive within us and wants to testify to us and through us.  Last week we noted that we still have to wrestle with sin, but we don’t have to wrestle with God’s Spirit.

Let his Holy Spirit testify to us and through us.  Let God’s Spirit truly live with us.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

I did not know what sin was...

Read Romans 7

It is good to be a disciple of the Lord.  It is good.

Paul has taken his readers on a journey to discipleship.  He began with knowing there is a God.  It was a simple thing.  “C’mon guys, look around you.  You know this didn’t ‘just happen’.”  There was and is a Creator God at work.  To deny this is to deny the intellect that your Creator placed in you.

Theological statement:  There is a God.  Duh!

The next part was a little tougher.  God had standards, and you didn’t hit the mark.  In fact, everyone missed the mark.  Some were given more instruction than others but nobody could hit the mark.  Everyone fell short.

On top of the fact that nobody had a passing grade, the learning curve was going the wrong way.  Nobody was catching on to doing things God’s way.  It was as if the entire creation was rebelling against God.

But while we were still rebelling against God and surely not doing things his way, God himself made a way for us to be right with him.  It cost him a lot.  God paid the price and made us right with him once again.

God did what we could not do on our own—put ourselves in good relationship with him, our Father, our Creator, our God.

Through Jesus, God did it all.  We are made right in God’s eyes and so it became time to live fully for God in response to his great love.

That brings us to chapter 7.  We have come here without words such as sin and transgression, atonement and grace, righteousness and salvation.  Some of you put those words in my rapid recap of the first six chapters.

We can let him get away with leaving out:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
What shall we say then, shall we go on sinning so that grace shall abound even more?

Paul brought his readers not only to salvation but to discipleship and chapter 7 puts us squarely in the middle of discipleship.  Isn’t it great to live in response to God’s unbelievable love?

You get up in the morning and you set your sights on living fully for God.  You can do this now.  We don’t have to worry about sin and death having a grip on us.  They don’t!  We are saved!

We get to live fully for God and everything just falls into place.  It falls perfectly into place.  We know exactly what we need to do and we do it and God is glorified.

And then the alarm goes off and we have to enter the world again.  It is like, “Wake up!  It is time to go back into the world.  You had better put on the full armor of God because it is a war zone out there!”

So we get our self-talk going: “My eyes are fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith.  I can do this!”

We are free from sin and death.  We don’t carry those burdens around with us anymore.  We can live for God.  We are free to be the people that God made us to be.  We can finally live a life that brings glory to God!

And then we go and do the exact opposite of what we set out to do.

We screamed at or digitally signaled the guy who cut us off in traffic.

We walked around all day with a long face.

We cussed out the dog again.

We made ourselves read the day’s devotion just so we could say that we did.

We lined out the words judge not lest you be judged from out Bibles because that was just too hard.

We put off working out for one more day.  That temple maintenance will wait another day.

We did eat our salad.  We put a pound and a half of bacon on it and didn’t eat that green leafy part but we ate our salad.

It seems that everything that I set out to do I did not do or messed it up so badly it would have been better if I hadn’t done it at all.

All of which brings us back to the law.  What?  The law—I thought that we were beyond the law?

Paul told his readers, I did not know what sin was before the law.  I did not know what it was to covet until the law said, Thou shalt not covet.

But we are not bound by the law!  How does this relate to us?  More than we may ever realize.  Remember that the law is 248 directions to “do this” and 365 regulations about not “doing that.”

“Do this.  Don’t do that and don’t do that either.”  I hadn’t even though about not doing that until the law said not to do it, then I wanted to do that very thing, and I did it or at least the thought of doing it continued to occupy my mind.

But now we are not bound by the law.  Christ has set us free from having the curse of sin which is death hanging over us as a consequence for our transgressions; yet, when we set out to follow Jesus free from the eternal consequences of sin, somehow we do exactly the opposite of what we set out to do.

This is not in everything that we do, but I suggest that it is universal among Christians. We set out to love one another and the next thing you know we are giving someone a piece of our mind instead of God’s love that resides in our heart.


Some would say that the Devil out there and he will get you.  Okay, he is out there but if I know it’s him, I have the name of Jesus on my side.  No weapon formed against me will prevail.  I can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and know that God is with me.

I get that!  I am ready for that.

Some would contend that maybe I forgot a piece of my armor.  Remember Paul’s instruction was to put on the full armor of God.  Maybe that’s it, but sometimes it seems that something is already at work when I am putting on my armor.

Paul told his readers and he is telling us that sin is still at work in the world.  It cannot change our destination.  We are God’ kids.  We are brothers and sisters to Christ Jesus.  

That’s forever.  By the blood of Jesus, he has claimed us and that’s forever but sin is still at work in the work and wants to wrestle with us.

The more that we set our sights on fixed objectives, the more leverage that sin finds.

Thou shall not covet—you name the person, place, or thing. 

These days we don’t covet our neighbor’s goat or ox or donkey very much but we do still covet, especially when reminded not to covet what our neighbor has.

Sin now knows where to wrestle with you and it will.

You have driven by your neighbor’s Ford F-350, 96” wide cut lawnmower two hundred times in the past year and thought to yourself, “Nice mower.  I’ll bet that cost him a pretty penny,” but you just kept on driving without giving it another thought.

But this time when you drive by, your wife remarks, “You are not getting one of those.  Don’t even think about it.”

Well, up to that point the thought of getting such a monstrosity for yourself had not really crossed your mind and if it had been a momentary thought, it vanished quickly as your returned to reality and drove down the road.  But now, oh but now, your mind holds on to that thought.  Why?

You were told that you can’t have one.

What happens now?  You start thinking about what your neighbor has and it would be nice to have one.  Maybe I don’t really need it but it would be nice.

Where there had been no thought before, now we ponder what might be.

I do work hard and need to take care of myself every now and then.  I think maybe I do need this lawnmower.

Now the fact that for the monthly payments that this thing is going to cost, I could hire every kid in town to cut my grass twice a day for the next thirty years gets pushed out of the operating parts of my mind.

I not only need that mower; I deserve it.  I wonder if they have a 104” model?

If it had been offered on Amazon 1-Click that baby would be here in 2 days.  The mortgage, gas and electric bills, and feeding the kids might have to be put on hold for a few years but I had to have that mower.  I gotta have it!

Man, I can see me now cranking that baby up and using it as a hovercraft.  There will be people on the other side of town thinking that a Huey helicopter is coming in at rooftop level.  There are probably a couple Vietnam vets out there who instinctively pop smoke in an open field.

Until your wife said, “Don’t even think about it,” you hadn’t given it much thought.  Now you must have it.

Were her words evil?  No.

Was the law evil?  No.

So what exactly is going on here?  What is this dynamic at work in me, in us?  Sin, seeing its chance, jumped in head first.

Here we are shoulder deep in discipleship and somehow we are still swimming in sin.  We are saved from sin and death and we are wrestling with sin?  Really?


It is still there.  It doesn’t go away.  Sometimes it messes with us and we don’t seem to come out on top.  Sometimes it seems that we do exactly the opposite of what we really want to do.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.  I sing it with all of my heart.  Though none go with me, I still will follow.  I believe this is exactly what I am called to do no matter the cost.  Lord, I will follow you.  You can count on me.

Then suddenly we are in company with Simon Peter as the cock crows and we cry and say “What did I do?  What did I do?”

What a piece of work have I become?  I know what Christ did for me; yet, I live doing things that do not bring glory to his name.  I do not want to do them.  I say that I won’t do them or that I will do something and then I do the exact opposite.

I am singing the world behind me and the cross before me but the next thing I know it seems like the cross is behind me and I am right in the middle of worldly things.

What a piece of garbage I am.  What a miserable, wretched person I am.

Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!  

Thanks be to God!

In the previous chapter, I asked those of you who wrote in your Bibles to draw a line between chapter 5 and chapter 6.  On the chapter 5 side, I asked you to write “Salvation” and on the chapter 6 side to write “Discipleship.”

Now, somewhere in the margins of chapter 7 write, “Salvation realized in Discipleship.”

Until the power that sin and death had over us was removed, we did not and perhaps could not realize how great the gift of life is.

We have been given life and life eternal.  Sin can no longer take that away from us so it targets our life abundant.  We no longer wrestle with sin so we don’t go to hell.  Our eternal destination is secured.  It is a done deal!

We wrestle with sin only because we long to bring glory to God.  We want to live God’s way and sin fights us and it fights like a terrorist.  It will not fight strength to strength.  Jesus wins.  He has won the victory.  Sin will not seek a rematch for it is defeated.

But it will try some cheap shots.  It cannot steal the promise of life eternal, but it will try to steal the abundance of life in the here and now.  Sin targets us where we are weak.  Where are we weak?

We are weak where we seek to comply with a rule or law or direction or directive for we were not created to be a compliant being but to exercise our free will and be an obedient son or daughter of God. 

What!  Are they not the same?

They are not!

Compliance is about following rules to avoid consequences or sanctions or punishment.  Punishment and fear are old buddies and we do not do fear.  God did not give us a spirt of fear!  Obedience is rooted in love.

When we shrink back from the fullness of life into a compliant mode, we give sin a chance to mess up our abundant life.  When we try to comply with good rules, we give sin a chance to mess with our minds.

Now rules are great things for our children, but we who have taken on the yoke of our Master learn from him and find that what he gives us is not a heavy burden.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

When we live in obedience to our Master, our Lord, our King then we find that we don’t give sin a foothold.  We are living fully and obediently for God.  We are fully trusting our God.  We know the rules and the rules can tell us how much we need God’s grace, but our response to his grace must not be just to be better rule followers.  We trust, obey, and love.

But when our life becomes governed by rules, count on doing some wrestling with sin.  It will take every opportunity to steal the abundance in abundant life.

Here is our challenge that comes from chapter 7:  Live in loving obedience to God not in compliance with his rules.  Seek his kingdom and his righteousness first instead of filling out a scorecard on yourself.  Trust in him over your own understanding and see if the wrestling matches don’t become less frequent or at least less intense.

There is another component to this discipleship that helps us fully realize our salvation that we will talk about more the next time.  It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the next chapter contains.  We have talked about God the Father and Jesus the Son, so get ready to bring God’s Spirit into our walk of discipleship as we continue farther into Paul’s letter to the Romans.

For now, when sin turns us upside down and we do exactly what we didn’t want to do, pause and consider how great a gift that we have received in the blood of Jesus, confess to God, and then get back in your walk of discipleship, your race of faith, get back up and press on towards the goal!

When sin tangles you up in a big mess, stop right where you are and thank God for his grace that you now know all the more, confess to him, and get back in your race of faith.

Sin is still at work in the world and sometimes it will trip you up.  You don’t want it to.  You didn’t go looking for it.  You set out to do all the right things.

Do not be discouraged but give thanks to God for how great his grace is.  Cry out to the Lord, “I am a mess.  Thanks be to God for his grace that goes so far beyond my mess!”

It is good, very good, to be a disciple of the Lord.