Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The wages of sin

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6.23

When it is all said and done there are only two possible fates for all eternity. There is no in between. There are no maybes. Once the end comes there are no more chances.

The wages of sin is death.

Let's just think about that for a second. Everyone who has ever been born is a sinner. Try as might we can't be good enough to over come that truth. All of our good works can't cancel out wages of sin that we all deserve because we all sin. If we stopped with the first part of the verse it would be very, very, very bad news.

But the gift of God eternal life.

And that 'but' makes all the difference in the world. It is the only 'but' that counts. The wages of sin is death, BUT...

The gift of God is eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…’ Salvation is a free gift because it is so precious that no one could possibly earn.

It cost Christ everything to give us that free gift. May we never forget what it cost Him. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Fruits of holiness

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. – Romans 6.22

So what is the end result of it all for the believer? What is the end result of being set free from sin, a slave of God, and of bearing the fruit of holiness?

At the end is the greatest blessing and reward of all. At the end is everlasting life. ‘Oh what a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. What a joy when I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace. When He will take me by the hand and lead me to the Promised Land. What a day, glorious day, that will be.’

But we are not there yet. We are still here. We have to live in this present world.

So what do we do ‘to the end?’ What do we do while we wait for the joys of everlasting life?

We produce the fruit of holiness as God’s servants.

Holy living is almost a forgotten concept for a lot of Christians. We tend to think we can just go to church, say a few prayers, drop a fiver in the offering, do a few good deeds, and everything is grand.

But God expects more than that out of us. He expects us to not just be holy, He made us that way at salvation, but He expects us to produce fruits of holiness. We are declared holy, but now we are to be holy in our walk and our holiness should be evident.

The sad thing is that some folks are ashamed to be holy. Being holy may mean that we are not part of the ‘in’ group. It may be there are things to do and places to go that we can’t do and go and still show the fruits of our holiness.

I have to ask myself if, when people see my life, they see someone whose life fruit is holiness. Do people see the holiness of God in my everyday life? 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Just as you did before, but...

I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. – Romans 6.19
This and interesting verse and a concept that I think we really need to grasp. It speaks of what we used to serve, how we served it, what we are supposed to serve now, and how.

Formerly, before salvation, we all of our faculties were tools and uncleanness and lawlessness. That lawlessness led to more lawlessness in a seemingly never ending downward spiral. It was a total and absolute dedication.

Paul says he used human terms here because his readers were spiritually weak. He was trying to get it over to them just how important this new life was. He wanted them to know how serious it was that they realise that they were no longer bound to sin and lawlessness, but no were bound to righteousness which leads to holy living.

To parrowphrase this concept let me put it this way – ‘You need to serve righteousness with the same fervency and dedication with which you used to serve sin.’

I have to wonder about my fervency for Christ sometimes. To what do I give my whole body, mind, and soul now? What gets me distracted from my service?

Do I serve righteousness and seek holiness with the same intensity I serve me? 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Present yourselves to God

And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. – Romans 6.13

We are all at least a little concerned about how we present ourselves. We want to make sure our hair is done right, our clothes look decent, and we don't have any food showing between our teeth. There is nothing wrong with a balance concern about our general presentation.

But sometimes we don't worry near as much about our spiritual presentation. Here we are charged, now that we are dead to the power of sin and alive to God, to present ourselves, all of us, every aspect of us to God and His righteousness.

The truth is that God doesn't want a lot out of us. He wants all of us. He wants us to live righteous lives to His glory.

I can't help but be reminded of a verse we will see a little later. 'I beseech you therefore brethren that you present your bodies as a loving sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your reasonable service’

Why is it then that we so often present ourselves to our old boss instead of our new one? Why do we keep showing up for work in the wrong place?

It’s pretty simple. We are not doing a very good job of reckoning ourselves dead to sin. For some reason we keep going back there.

Our task is to stop presenting ourselves to serve sin and instead present ourselves to serve our God and present all that He have for Him to use for His glory. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. – Romans 6.11-12

I grew up in the American South. People have their own dialect and way of speaking down there. One of the phrases that is almost unique to the south is the phrase ‘I reckon.’ We said someone said something like ‘Reckon we oughta get started?’ to which the reply might be ‘Reckon so.’

So ‘reckon’ is not an unusual word for me. However, the meaning here is quite a bit different. There it just meant ‘I suppose’ or ‘we might as well’ or ‘do you think?’

This English word reckon, just like the Greek word it is translated from, means to calculate. The Greek word comes from a word meaning ‘to take inventory.’

Now that may sound like a very technical way to deal with a spiritual issue, but I think it is key to the problem of ever present sin to the truth that we are dead to.

No one can argue about the reality of sin. No one can argue that we battle it all the time. No one can argue that sometimes we give into sin. Sometimes it just seems so powerful that we can’t seem to beat it.

That’s where this passage comes in. When tempted to sin, and when it seems powerful and dominating it is our job to calculate that it doesn’t have any power over us because we are alive in Christ! Then, we choose not to let sin reign.

In other words, instead of rolling over and playing dead when sin comes knocking we remember that it has no power over us and we don’t submit to its power. Instead we remember that we are alive to Christ and we no longer have to serve it.

A children’s song keep coming to mind that I think fits here.

When sin comes knocking at your door
Say no
When sin comes knocking at your door
Say no, no no

Even better is a quote I just saw trying to google that chorus. I like this even better.

‘When sin comes knocking at your door let Jesus answer.’ 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Free from death

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. – Romans 6.8-9

Death is probably the greatest enemy of all. It is the fear of the unknown. 'After death, what?' is one of the great philosophical questions.  And why would death not have power over man. It is the last enemy. It is the last thing we will ever face. As long as man has lived he has dreamt of and longed for immortality. But death is always there at the end.

But Christians have hope. In Christ death was crushed to death. It lost its sting. The grave lost its power.

Our bodies are going to die one day, sure enough. There is no escaping that. Our bodies are doomed. I am a lot closer to it now. I may have 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 years, but death will come.

But that death has no fear for me because Christ has already defeated death. Sure, my body will die, but I will live on in and with Christ.

Praise God that the great enemy of death is defeated. In Christ it has no power over me. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Crucified with Him

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  - Romans 6.6-7

Sin. Any of us who have been saved for any amount of time know what a terrible opponent sin is. Sin wreaked havoc on our lives before we were saved, and our flesh still draws us to sin today. Sometimes it seems like we just don’t have any power over sin at all.

We just can’t seem to get past it.

And indeed we can’t. It requires to power of the cross to defeat sin. In fact sin is already defeated.

Paul would later write more on the topic when he wrote ‘I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.’

When Christ died He freed me from the penalty of sin. He also freed me the power of sin. As a Christian I am no longer a slave of sin. I no not bound to it. I am free.

That means that when I sin it is not because the devil made me do it. It is not because sin is too powerful for me.

It is because I choose to do it.

Why do we choose to become ensnared with something that has no power over us? 

Monday, 22 April 2013

New life in Christ

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, - Romans 6.4-5

Paul uses a wonderful illustration to picture what salvation is all about. He speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and then us that to picture the reality of the changes in the believer at salvation.

When we were baptised in the Holy Spirit we were baptised into His death. In others words our old life of sin died with Jesus on the cross. It was buried. It was put away.

And because our old life died with Christ we are called to live in a newness of life. The Bible makes it clear that once we are in Christ we do change. There is going to be a difference. 2 Corinthians 5.17 reminds us that if anyone is Christ he is a new creature. Old things pass away and all things become new. There is a new life and the new life is obvious in our lifestyle and behaviour. We change when we are saved.

Not only that but we enjoy the blessings of a new life. Every time I read this verse I can’t help but remember the wonderful song written by John Peterson that describes out new life in Christ. I don’t hear it much any more  I think it only appeared in a couple of hymnals. That’s too bad because it is a wonderful uplifting tune to a great truth.

New Life in Christ abundant and free!
What glories shine, what joys are mine,
What wondrous blessings I see!
My past with its sin, the searching and strife,
Forever gone -- There's a bright new dawn!
For in Christ I have found new life.

Praise God for my new life in Christ. May I walk in its newness and revel in its blessings. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Continue in sin?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? – Romans 6.1-2

So, if grace over abounds where sin abounds cons we just keep on sinning so that grace can keep on abounding?

Sounds like pretty good logic doesn't it? I get to keep sinning, God keeps pouring out His grace, and everybody is happy. Right?

Uh, wrong. No way. No how. Certainly not!  May it never be! The King James translators felt so strongly about this Greek word that they used the strongest negative they could come up with - God forbid! 

Those of us who believe that God's salvation is eternal and irreversible are often accused of saying 'once saved always saved' are giving a license for the Christian to do what he wants.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if we hold a biblical view we contend that there is no excuse or occasion for sin in the believer. It is not the norm. It happens, but it is out of character. Those who are dead to sin have no right to live in it.

Grace and the liberty that comes with it are not occasions to serve the flesh and keep on sinning. Some try to rob us of God's grace by adding on all kinds of man made rules and regulations. On the other hand we are libertarians who tell us that we can just do whatever we want. The truth is somewhere in between. We do have liberty by God’s grace, but to serve one another – not to serve sin. 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Grace abounded

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5.17-21

‘Where sin abounded grace abounded much more.’

I have just started re-reading John Bunyan’s ‘Grace Abounding to the Chiefest of Sinners.’ I highly recommend it to any believer. He spends a good part of the book remembered everything that was involved in his salvation. He speaks of how at one point he reasoned that if one sin was enough to condemn him he might as well sin heartily to get the most enjoyment he could. He speaks of how he doubts that there could only be one way, if that Muslims believed their scriptures to be right how could he be sure they were not right. He writes about how scriptures spoke to him but how he soon forgot them and went on his way. He questions whether he is good enough for God to save.

This kind of thought goes on for page after page. It almost becomes tedious tear him go back and forth between the Spirit's leading and the draw of the flesh. At one point he writes 'oh the diligence of Satan. Oh the desperate ness of man's heart.' He certainly was aware of abounding sin.

I've not finished the book yet. Bunyan is still going on and on about the battle between his flesh in partnership with satan and the drawing of the Holy Spirit. I don't remember exactly what happens when he finally gets saved. Judging from the tile of the book though eventually he realises that the place that sin abounds grace out abounds it.

Sin can't win. It is never too strong for grace. No matter how powerful sin is grace out powers it. The worst the sin the greater the grace.

What that mean is that no sin is too great for God's grace to conquer. No sinner is too wicked for God's over abounding grace.

Praise God that grace is not just grace, but over abounding grace to the chiefest of sinners.

Friday, 19 April 2013

By one man

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. – Romans 5.12-15

One man broke the world. By his sin Adam destroyed everything that what right and good. But it didn't stop with Adam. Sin passed on to every generation because all have sinned.

That broken world is obvious. This week we saw the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon. That got loads of publicity, but in the last year or so more have died in Iraq and Somalia. We are following the news of the abortion butcher in America who killed new-borns by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. This country has been rocked by the scandals of the Magdalene laundries and paedophile priests.

Yes, Adam broke the world – but one man could repair it. Adam’s sin brought death to the world.

If we were stick with Adam we would be in deep, deep trouble. There would be no hope.

But God sent a gift to the world. It came through the grace of God manifested in His Son Jesus Christ. And in that gift the grace of God abounded to many.

Therefore there is hope for this broken world. That hope is not in reforming man – that obviously hasn’t worked. It isn’t in stricter laws or better societies or ‘imagining’ and better world.

The only hope is that man would be transformed by the renewing power that comes through the free gift of grace that one man, Jesus, could provide. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013


And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. – Romans 5.11

Mary and I have always worked with children. We still do. Though many of them are not great theological statements I do like a lot of the songs we sing with children. One of the most popular in every group we have worked with is this:

I have the joy, joy, joy joy
Down in my heart,
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I have the joy, joy, joy joy
Down in my heart to stay.

There are a lot of hymns that talk about joy and the Christian life. I think it is because joy is so integral to Christian living.

I don't think thee can be any doubt that the Christian life is meant to be a joyful life. It is far to easy for us to get down in the mouth about the little troubles and disturbances that are part of life. But here we read about 'rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' There is no room for a joyless Christian.

Sure, we still have to deal with situations and circumstances that may knock us for a loop, but behind that there is the deep abiding joy that God is doing something and that one day this will all be over.

Let’s not allow ourselves to get down in the mouth about whatever is going on today. As James wrote, ‘count as all joy’ when we deal with our trials and temptations. We have eternal rest and peace – that should produce ‘joy unspeakable’ because ‘the half has never yet been told.

I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Saviour’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.*

*Written by Barney Warren, 1900

Is that joy unspeakable part of our lives today? 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. – Romans 5.9-10

Just inside the entrance to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is an heavy old oak door with a large vertical slit cut in it. The sign nearby tells us that this is the ‘Door of Reconciliation.’

Here is Wikipedia’s account of the story behind the door.

A dispute between two leading dynastic families of medieval Ireland, the Butlers, (Earls of Ormond) and the FitzGeralds, (Earls of Kildare) was resolved in 1492 by a brave act and a magnanimous response. Black James, nephew of the Earl of Ormond, fleeing from FitzGerald's Geraldine soldiers, took sanctuary in the chapter house of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. Though he had the upper hand, with his soldiers surrounding Black James and his men, Gearóid Mór FitzGerald, Ireland's premier earl, wished to end the bloody feud between both families. He pleaded with Black James through the Chapter House's oak door to meet him to negotiate a peace. Black James rebuffed all requests. FitzGerald ordered his soldiers to cut a hole in the centre of the door. Then, having explained how he wished to see peace between the families, the Earl thrust his hand and arm through the hole to shake hands with Black James. It was a risky venture; any of Black James's heavily armed men could have hacked the Earl's arm off; however, James shook his hand and ended the dispute.

From the first time I saw this in 1992 I have loved this illustration of reconciliation. The two factions were at odds. The stronger side reached out first to make reconciliation possible, and the weaker side accepted and the relationship restored. Though all human illustrations fall short, I think this is a beautiful picture of what Christ did for us.

Man was at war with God because of his sin. God could easily have crushed us. He did not need to offer reconciliation, but He did. Like Black James in the story above man rejects God’s offer of peace. As John wrote ‘Jesus came to His own, but He own would not receive Him.’

So God reached out to man. Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross to offer peace and reconciliation. We are justified by His blood, delivered from His wrath, reconciled to God, and delivered by His life because He reached out His hand to us.

How many will accept the offer of reconciliation and take Jesus by the hand? 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Good showed His love

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5.7-8

Romans 5.8 is one if those verses that ought to be part and parcel of every believers arsenal. God showed his love to us, in that while we were still singers Christ died for us.

What an amazing truth. We didn't have to reform before he loved us. We didn't have to please Him before He would die for us.

A lot of folks think they are too bad for God to save. They think that it is obvious that Jesus may have died for the good people, there is no way He died for them. ‘You don’t know what have done!’ they might claim. ‘I have done terrible things – there is no way that Jesus would die for me!’

But that’s not how it works. Jesus died for the ungodly He proved His love when He died on Calvary. Greater love has no man this, then a man like down his life for his friend indeed, but Jesus’ love was so great that he laid down His life for His enemies.

‘Amazing love. How can it be? That thou my God should die for me?’

‘Here is love vast as the ocean. Loving-kindness as a flood.’

God didn’t just say He loved us. He proved it when Jesus died for our sins.

We can’t be good enough to earn His love. He died for us while we were at our worst.

I am so glad that Jesus loved me – when I was still in my sin. Otherwise there would have been no hope. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

For the ungodly

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.– Romans 5.6

We like to think that we can do anything. None of us like to admit we are weak and hopeless and powerless. That is why religion is so appealing. Religion lets us think that we have the strength to do something about our helpless estate when it comes to our standing before God. Religion gives us the impression that our eternity is up to us.

But even while we were without any strength, despite what we thought, Christ died for us - the ungodly.

I like the way Jamieson-Fausset-Brown explains this verse.

'Three signal properties of God’s love are here given: First, “Christ died for the ungodly,” whose character, so far from meriting any interposition in their behalf, was altogether repulsive to the eye of God; second, He did this “when they were without strength” - with nothing between them and perdition but that self-originating divine compassion; third, He did this “at the due time,” when it was most fitting that it should take place (compare Gal 4:4).'

In other words Christ did exactly what we needed. He died for the ungodly who could do nothing about their ungodliness and He did it at just the right time.

But isn’t that what Jesus always does? Doesn’t He always do just what we need, just the way it needs done, and just the time it needs to be done?

Praise God that He always does the thing we can’t do, just the way they need done, and just the time it needs to be done.

If we can trust Him to save us that way, why can’t we trust Him to do it in everything else? 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Growing through troubles

through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5.2-5

‘Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear…’

These are words from a song called ‘Jesus is Coming Soon.’ I like this verse line because it so well expresses what our lives so often are. Life can be full of trials, tribulations, testings, and temptations.

We have comfort though. We don't have to wait until we go the heaven to enjoy the blessings of our gift of salvation and peace with God. The benefits are for here and now as well as then. We stand in that hope. We rejoice in that hope. And we can glory in our trials.

But how do we glory in trials? we can do it because:

Trials teach us how to preserver
Perseverance teaches us to have character
Character teaches us to hope
Hope in God will never let us down

But look at the little phrase that comes next. I love the visual imagery here - 'the love of God is poured out in us by the Holy Spirit who was given us.'

James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various temptations.  We might not see it in the middle of them, but there is a purpose. They are to make us better people, to develop our character, and to let us experience the pouring out of God's love.

Let us learn to glory in our trials and see them from God's perspective instead of ours. Let’s rejoice in His love being poured out in our trials. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Peace with God

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, - Romans 5.1

Peace. What a wonderful prospect. Poets put peace to verse. Songwriters write of peace and singers sing of it. Politicians promise it is and oraters orate on it. Writers write of peace filled Utopias. Everyone dreams of it.

The problem is that it just doesn't come. ‘Peace, peace, but there is no peace’ comes to mind.

Peace in this world is one thing. It is a worthy and noble goal. Peace is something we should all be working for.

But I think we can see by now that we are not going to pull it off.

There is still hope. Remember what the angels said when they appear at Jesus’ birth? ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

We may never find peace on earth because here we have to deal with other people, and they have to cooperate. Here we pretty much have to make due.

But man has another conflict - a big one. Not only do we have to deal with conflict here in this world, but we are born in conflict with God. Our sin put us at ‘enmity’ with God. Our sin separates us from Him. It creates an unbreachable barrier. Well, at least it is from our side.

But, like the angels said, when Jesus was born peace with God became possible. In Christ all the barriers to peace are broken down. Being justified by faith we have peace with God. What an amazing truth. We have nothing to go to the treaty table with. We have no bargaining chips. We treat from a position of weakness.

That peace comes one way only. It comes ‘through peace with our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Peace with God – what a wonderful gift! 

Friday, 12 April 2013

For us also

Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offences  and was raised because of our justification. – Romans 4.23-25

There was no better example for Paul to use than Abraham when writing to the Jews. Abraham was their Patriarch. He was their father. He was their national and spiritual hero. If the Jews had built monuments Abraham’s would have been right in the centre.

So Paul pointed to Abraham’s example. Abraham’s righteousness was imputed to him by faith. Imputed is a great word here. It means that the righteousness of Christ was reckoned to Abraham’s account by faith. He was still a sinner. He was still guilty. But he was reckoned righteous by his faith in Christ.

But it was not only for him, Paul writes. It was also for all of us who believe because Christ was delivered up because of our offences.

Why did Jesus go to the cross? Because of our sins.

He went to the cross because none of us are worthy to claim righteousness for ourselves and because no one is righteous. He was delivered to the cross because I am a sinner.

Sin is nothing to be trifled with. We are justified freely but it cost Jesus everything.

How dare we take a light view of sin

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Unstaggering faith

And not being weak in faith, he [Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." – Romans 4.19-22

Unwavering faith. What a challenge that is. Just yesterday I was speaking and praying with a dear new Christian friend about some of the challenges her family is facing at the moment. It is in times like that when our faith is challenged and wears tempting to waver. What a joy it was to watch this friend and see faith entrenched instead of wavering as we prayed together.

Here we see Abraham set up as an example of unwavering faith. He was old, really old, about 100 years old. Sarah his wife was about 90. But God promised them that they would have a son.

And yet, because he was not weak of faith he did not waver. The wonderful old King James says ‘he staggered not at the promise.’

Abraham was not staggered at this impossible promise. Instead he was strengthened in faith, gave glory to God, and was fully convinced that God was able to do whatever He promised.

Wow! All I can say is ‘wow!’ Abraham was not staggered at the promise of God. I look at that and remember how many times I am staggered at God’s promises. How many times has something come up in my life that just knocks me back and causes me to stagger in my Christian life? It is in the most impossible times to trust that God is most glorified when we do trust.

I am going to close with the marvellous worlds of Andrew Peterson in his song ‘Canaan Bound.’ The God wore allowed barren Sarah to bear a son is the same God who promised to provide all my needs in Christ. He is the same God who says that He knows what I need. He is the same God who said that when we are seeking the Kingdom of God He will take care of all the rest. How often does my weak faith cause me to stumble? 

May God give me, like Abraham, unstaggering faith.

‘Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come’

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

It is of faith

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all – Romans 4.16

The Jews of Paul's day were pretty convinced that God was only for them. Anyone who was not a Jew didn't have any hope of eternity with God. They thought that God was their's alone and that the only way to please God was to keep the entirety of their Jewish Law. Generations of Jews had lived their lives trying to keep that Law.

They looked back to Abraham as their founder and father. Paul used Abraham to make a point. In their scriptures they had read 'Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Paul points that since Abraham was justified before he was circumcised it could not have been the Law that saved him.

So what did it? 'It is of faith. And it is of faith so that God's promise would be according to grace.'

It is of faith.

Maybe that is what makes it so hard for some people. It is tough to swallow the fact that we can do nothing about our sinful state except to trust God. Religion makes it simple – do what we say and you will be okay. It makes people feel good to think they are doing something on their own.

But God says it is of faith – sola fide.

The old song puts it this way ‘By faith alone, through grace alone, to God alone be the glory.’

It is of faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. 

Praise God - if it were of works I wouldn't stand a chance! 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Where is boasting?

…in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, - Romans 3.25-29

I think that the tendency to boast and brag is somewhere in all of us. We all like to make ourselves look good.  About two years ago I starred walking for health and to lose weight. I keep track of my mileage on an app on my phone. I stared out with modest goals, but they keep getting bigger. I find myself sometimes now extending my distances not so much for health's sake, but to be able to tell everyone how far I have walked and hear them say 'Wow, Roger, that is really good!'

It is easy enough to carry that same problem over into spiritual matters. We can forget that there is nothing just in us - nothing. There is not one of us righteous - no not one. All of our 'justness ' and righteousness and justification comes only from the God who is 'just and he justifier of the man who has  faith in Christ.'

So then what right or cause does anyone have to boast in is spirituality? 'I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't run with them that do' type mottoes really have no place in the body. It reminds of the Pharisee who said 'I thank God that I am not like one of the publicans. I give, I pray, I fast, and I really am okay ' On the other hand we have the publican who said 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'

I have probably mentioned the great 1905 hymn by James Grey before. I love the way it is worded. There is nothing to brag about when we truly remember that we are only sinners saved by God’s grace.

Naught have I gotten but what I received;
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase;
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!

Only a sinner, saved by grace!
Only a sinner, saved by grace!
This is my story, to God be the glory—
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!

Monday, 8 April 2013


being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3.24-26

'if it seems too good to be true it probably is.' Or, as some may put it 'If it seem to good to be true it is.' Those are generally true statements. Anyone who has fallen for some ad on the telly or clicked on some link or replied to some email knows it.

When we were fist married Mary and I joined a 'buyers club' that was going to save us a fortune. All we had to do was pay $500 in convenient instalments and we could save a fortune on almost anything we had to buy. We were going to recoup it many times over.

The problem is that the plan was virtually unusable and we were stuck. It was an expensive lesson. I think by the time we paid the 500 and the 'small instalment fees' it cost us over $600 and we only saved about $50 in our shopping.  We learned our lesson then. Things in life are not free.

But let’s say that someone had bought the membership for us. Let’s say that we got all the benefits without paying the cost. In that case the plan would have been provided freely for us.

And thus it is with justification, being brought into line with God’s standard of perfection. I could never achieve it. The price was heavy, but I could never pay it. So Jesus went to the cross for me. He paid the price.

So indeed nothing in life is free, but praise God that Christ willingly paid the price for my justification on the cross and gave it freely to me. It is too good to be true, but it is! 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

No difference

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God- Romans 3.20-23

God doesn’t want us to miss the point here. He wants us to be absolutely sure that we know that just being religious is not going to do it. Indeed, as we saw before, God is not partial. All have sinned, everyone, including religious folks, all have sinned and because they sin they fall short of the glory of God. 

Some fall short by a mile. Some fall short by inches. But all fall short of God's perfection.

It is kind of like taking a penalty kick from 65 metres in rugby. One kicker might fall 20 metres short. Another might fall 10 metres short. Still another might fall short by only centimetres. But they all fall short and falling short just isn't good enough.

Some folks might he most obvious and visible and wicked of sinners. Men like Hitler and Stalin and such are obviously no where near close to the target. Some are just your everyday Joe Blogg and he too will fall short. Other might from all appearances be really good and pious people. But no one is perfect and even one sin is enough to keep us all short from God's standard of perfection.  

That is why no man’s work is enough. That is why everyone has an equal chance at salvation. The vilest sinner has the same chance as the most pious person we might meet.

That chance is only in Christ. He is the only one who can bridge the gap where we all fall short.

When we share the gospel let’s remember that everyone we talk to is on an equal footing. No matter how wide or narrow the gap is there is a gap separating man from God and only Christ can span that gap. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Religion is not enough

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.  – Romans 2.28-29

The Jews were confident that just being Jewish was enough. It's kind of like some folks think that being 'Christian' is enough. Paul writes about those who are Jews outwardly.  He might have also written about those who are Christians outwardly.

It is not only the Jews who took confidence in their religion. Many who claim the name of Christ as part of a major denomination also rely on their ‘religion’ to get them to heaven. Just because one is a good Catholic or a good Protestant is not going to get to heaven. Folks still refuse the riches of God’s goodness by judging others and resting in their own ‘goodness.’

So far so good, right? So what does that mean to me? ‘I am not a Jew, I am not a Catholic, I am not a Protestant. I belong a born-again conservative, evangelical, by faith alone, independent, local church. My parents were saved, everyone in my church is saved, I prayed a prayer when I was a kid. So surely I must be safe.’

None of that means anything. Before any of us sit and judge others we had better be sure that we are not despising the goodness, forbearance, and long suffering of God by putting our faith in a prayer or our baptism or anything else like that.

Paul uses circumcision to illustrate this truth the Jews. This, the most important of the Jewish tradition, was their trademark. But God tells them here what He really wants was not a circumcision of their flesh, but of their hearts and spirits. It was not to meet the letter of the law.

The same thing might be said of many who call themselves Christian today. God does not want outward conformity to a bunch of does and don’ts. We may try to measure spirituality that was, but God wants out hearts and spirit to be right. He doesn’t want obedience to the letter, but to His Spirit. By the way, obedience to the Spirit is going to always produce a much better and purer life than just ticking the boxes. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

No partiality

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; but to those who are self- seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honour, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. – Romans 2.5-11

God draws a clear line between those who are going to inherit eternal life and those who are going to see the fullness of His wrath. There are clearly two groups of people in the world – those who belong to God and those who do not. Those who belong to God show it by their good works. Those who do not belong to God show it by their evil works.

There is no partiality with God. No race or nation or group of people have ‘most favoured’ status with God. All that matters is each individual’s relationship with Him.

There seem to be a lot of folks who think that because they were born in a certain place or carry a particular passport that they deserve to be blessed by God. They seem to think that God owes their race or country or people group a blessing because of who they are are.

There is no Christian race. There is no Christian tribe. There is no Christian people group. There is no Christian nation. Races and nations and people groups may enjoy something of a Christian heritage or tradition, but that does not guarantee anyone God’s favour or blessing.

God is not partial. No matter how ‘Christian’ their heritage not nation can expect God to bless them when they carry on in their sin.

Do we really want to serve a God of partiality who blesses nations who reject Him? 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Goodness, forbearance, and long suffering

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,  - Romans 2.4-5

Religious people can get pretty haughty about their religion. these Jews put all their faith in their Jewishness.  Here Paul is point out to them that their Jewishness is not enough. I want to look at the emptiness of religion a little later, but today want to focus on the character of God that gives anyone hope whether their wickedness is obvious, or more hidden, like those who are religious.

God is good. God puts up with a lot. God is patient.

And yet man refuses God. He refuses to accept that God's goodness is aimed at bringing man to repentance.

The world likes to paint God as mean and vengeful and angry and ready to strike down the sinner. But this passage, and indeed the rest of the Bible reveals a God who patiently puts up with man's sin and calls and waits for man to turn to Him. The Lord is indeed good, and tolerant, and patient.

Not only that but the goodness, and tolerance, and patience of God is described as His riches.

Leaving the rest of the theology aside for a moment it is enough to marvel that God is good and forbearing and long suffering. And yet man still rejects His goodness.

God is good.  God puts up with man’s sin for a time. He is patient and waits for man.

It is up to us to decide what to do with his goodness, forbearance, and long suffering. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgement of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practising such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgement of God? – Romans 2.1-3

At this point a lot of ‘believers’ might be feeling pretty chuffed with themselves. You look at that horrible list of sins and think, ‘hey, that sure isn’t me. I am glad I am safe!’ Those are really wicked people. Surely they deserve God’s judgement.

But then comes the statement ‘you are inexcusable!’ The Jews who read this letter thought God was only going to bring down judgement on the Gentiles. ‘Yeah, God’s going to get those dirty Gentile dogs because they are really wicked sinners!’

God hates hypocritical judgement. Here He is, of course, condemning those Jews who were judging Gentiles for doing the same things. God is going to judge all sin, no matter who commits it!

But I think there is another principle applicable to anyone who claims to be God’s child. It is easy for the believer to sit back and condemn all those people who do the really bad sins. It is also easy to ignore the fact that there are things that God’s people are doing at the same time as they are condemning. We have no problem condemning ‘sexual immorality’ but what about ‘whispering and backbiting?’ It is easy to condemn ‘haters of God’ while we excuse ‘unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful.’

The verse above says that God judges all these things. Does the fact that Christ has faced the judgement for me lessen the wickedness of what I do? Is there any excuse? 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

God gave them over

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgement of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. – Romans 1.28-32

I often look around and wonder how things can possibly be so bad. Just a quick views of the newspapers internet news feeds will show that we live in wicked, wicked times. I realise that this is nothing new; I know it is just more obvious now, but my point is that we live in a wicked broken world. Just look at the list in the passage above. Sound familiar?

The world is broken and we often wonder why. How can people be so evil and do such evil things. Why can't we all just get along? Why has Utopia never been achieved?

Sadly, it is pretty simple. Man chooses to ignore God and God lets man do what he wants. Certainly, some people want to do right and do their best. We can’t deny that. It is obvious that people can manage decent behaviour without relying on God.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we look at these verses and see a picture of the world we live in. Man will never be able to produce Utopia no matter how well intentioned or how well behaved he is because man is a sinner and the world is broken. We are even warned that as time goes on they is going to be more and more acceptance of wickedness.

God doesn’t force Himself on anyone. If man rejects Him God is willing to let man go on without Him. He even warns of the consequences. But man goes on his way. 

Some believers might be feeling pretty smug at the moment. Hold on till tomorrow. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Worshipping the creature

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. – Romans 1.24-25

There is a whole lot to talk about here in Romans 1. Every little term and every little phrase could be examined. No matter how clearly God revealed Himself to man it seems that man is bound and determined to reject Him and turn away from Him. When man rejects God He lets them do it. We are going to look at that a little more tomorrow, but in the list of things that God rejecting man doe is that they 'worship and serve the creature more than the Creator '

That is pretty easy to see in this world isn't it? We find a society that instead of worshipping God has decided to worship what He has created. I am not deriding environmentalism; I think Christians should be the most careful of all in taking care of God’s creation. I am talking about a world that nearly deifies the created stuff while ignoring the One who put it there.

But, that’s not my real point today. My point is that even Christians can be caught in the trap of putting created things before the Creator. We may not give devotion to trees and rocks and such, but we can be guilty of worshipping the stuff God gives us.

It is easy to point fingers and condemn those around us to refusing to worship God. It is easy to call them tree-huggers and such. It is much more difficult to accept that we may be guilty of the same things they do. Paul is going to point that out in just a few verses.

How do we know what we worship? We worship the things we give the most time, energy, and resources to. Those who deny God surely aren’t going to worship Him. What is our excuse?