Friday, 31 May 2013

How will they hear?

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!...So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10.14-15,17

The situation is pretty clear. There are vast numbers out there you have never exercised faith. They have never believed. They have never called on the Lord.

So what is the problem?

How can they call unless they have believed?
How can they believe unless they have heard?
How can they hear unless there is a preacher to tell them?
How can a preacher go unless he is sent?  

The problem is that somebody has to go, they have to carry the message, folks have to hear, and they have to believe. Guess who gets to go?

Jesus has already said that just as He was sent out by the Father He sends out those who are truly His disciples. I love the picture that those who carry the gospel of peace and ‘glad tidings of good things’ have beautiful feet. The beauty comes in the message they carry.

What they do they have to hear? Faith comes by hearing…the word of God. It is not our great debate skills that are going to save men. It is not our reasoning. It is not our persuasive personalities. It is the word of God.

The fact that the Bible has gone out of vogue doesn’t change the fact that it is the only hope for salvation.

How are our feet? Are people hearing because we are carrying the gospel? Are we faithfully sharing?

Are they those around us who have not called because they have not believed because they have not heard because we have not gone? 

Thursday, 30 May 2013


For "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." – Romans 10.13

There are a lot of words that I associate with salvation that I love. Words like free, grace, mercy, faith, without works, gift, justified, glorified, redeemed, and many others spring to mind.

Yet, with all of those wonderful words something is missing. It is not the whole package. There is a word that takes vague theology and makes it real, personal, and applicable. All of those things are great, but they mean nothing unless they mean something to us.

To whom do all those words apply?

And that is where another word comes in – ‘whoever.’ Or as, as the King James translation put it, ‘whosever.’

‘Whoseover’ makes it all mean something. Who can have all the blessings of salvation? The answer is simple – anyone. Rich and poor, good and bad, popular or unknown, prince or pauper, the most upright acting person alive or the those considered the ‘dregs of society,’ saint or sinner, anyone, whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The best thing about ‘whosoever’ is that whoever means me.

I can’t help including the great old song by James McConnell when I read those words. Enjoy and be blessed.

I am happy today, and the sun shines bright,
The clouds have been rolled away;
For the Saviour said, whosoever will
May come with Him to stay.

“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
Surely meaneth me, oh, surely meaneth me;
“Whosoever” surely meaneth me,
“Whosoever” meaneth me.

All my hopes have been raised, oh, His Name be praised,
His glory has filled my soul;
I’ve been lifted up, and from sin set free,
His blood has made me whole.

Oh, what wonderful love, oh, what grace divine,
That Jesus should die for me;
I was lost in sin, for the world I pined,

But now I am set free.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Lord is rich

For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. – Romans 10.11-12

There is so much to see here. We have already looked at the idea that 'whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.' There is also the marvellous that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. Salvation is open to all people. God is not a respecter of persons.

But the verse continues – ‘...the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.’

Everybody would like to be rich, wouldn’t they?  Wouldn’t we all love to have more?

The church at Laodicea thought they were rich. They had it made. They didn’t need anything. But John wrote that they were missing the boat. They had plenty of stuff – but what about what counts in the long run? John had the answer – ‘Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— ‘

When we read that ‘the Lord is rich to those who call upon Him’ he is not talking about stuff. Sure, His riches allow us to trust that He will provide all our needs, according to those riches, but that is not the kind richness that counts for eternity.

We are going to see a little more detail about just how deep these riches go in a few days. My thoughts today are on what these riches are.

All the stuff we have ever had, have now, or will one day have is temporal. One day it is all going to be gone. It is going to rot or rust or burn up It all seems so important now, but one day it is going to all be gone – and then what.

Jesus spoke of this during His ministry. He tells us not to be so worried about we have or what we are going to eat or what we are going to wear. He tells us that if we seek to serve God’s kingdom first He will take care of all the rest.

He owns that cattle on a thousand hills. He owns the hill. Surely His richness is enough to take care of me. All I have to do is trust Him. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

With the heart

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. – Romans 10.10

It has often been said, at least I used to hear it, that far too many people miss heaven by a mere 18 inches (I know that is about 45cm, but it doesn’t sound near as pithy that way). That is said because a lot of people can give mental assent to the gospel, but never make the move to turn it into heart belief.

It is easy to have head knowledge. Loads of people know the facts of the gospel, that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Those are the facts. It is pretty cut and dry. It is pretty simple.

But just knowing and believing those facts in the head is not enough. Those marvellous truths must be personally applied by whole hearted belief. That belief alone allows Jesus' righteousness to become our righteousness.

Only when head belief becomes heart belief do people come to salvation.

With the heart, not the head, one believes unto righteousness. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

You will be saved

But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your ear" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10.8-9

So the word of faith is near. Hopefully it is being preached. What has to happen with it?

If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart you will be saved.

Last week one of my blogposts stirred up a little Twitter discussion. The same day that I posted that that pope had said that anyone, even atheists, or do good works will go to heaven. It was an interesting discussion. An atheist or two even entered the debate. These are people I respect and often enjoy reading their tweets. But, in this, I had to wonder why were too concerned. If there is no god, then why does it matter about good works or bad works or faith or no faith or belief or no belief?

Well, I have to say, in this case at least, that the pope is wrong. Well, at least his view is incompatible with the scriptures. Doing good works is not even mentioned here. It is a belief that makes the difference. That belief will result in profession. And, though it is not mentioned here, that belief will always produce those good works (Ephesians 2.10).

First salvation – then good works. Vice versa just won’t suffice in this case. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Which we preach

But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): - Romans 10.8

The Jews were still looking for Christ to come. They were reluctant to hear the message because they just could not accept that He had already been. Apparently they were talking about the need to bring Christ closer so that they could accept Him.

But Paul dealt with their question my quoting the Septuagint from Deuteronomy – ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.’ He then makes and application – ‘the word is the word of faith which we preach.’

Paul was telling he Jews that they had all they needed. Christ was near. He was there to be professed and believed. They had the message.

It was the message that Paul preached.

An awful lot of people are looking for something more today. They want something from religion. They want hope. They want an assured eternity. They take comfort when some religious leaders says that anyone who does the right things is 'saved.  But Paul clarifies it - the word is here. It is the word that Paul and his team preached. It is the word of faith. It is that word of faith that is what the Jews needed and that man needs today.

It is the last three words that challenge me personally - 'which we preach.'

That convicts me because I have to wonder how effectively I do the 'which we preach' bit. Am I faithful, like Paul was, of preaching the word of faith to those who need to hear it?

Its right here. We have it. What are we doing with it? 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

My heart’s desire

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. – Romans 10.1

At the core of the matter Paul was a Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a doctor of the law. He had been zealous for the Jewish leaders in trying to purge them of the followers of Jesus who were called The Way. His heart's desire had been to see all Chritians wiped out. He was good at his job. He was dedicated to a purpose. Everything he had was dedicated to that purpose. It was what drove him.

But things had changed since he had been saved. Now Paul had a new heart’s desire. His heart’s desire, the thing that compelled and drove him now was that the people of Israel would be saved. We can see that in everything he wrote. We can see that in his testimony. We can see that in his preaching. Paul was motivated by his heart’s desire.

My thoughts today are somewhat personal, but I think any Christian can apply my thoughts to their lives as well.

We have been in this wonderful and beautiful country for more than eighteen years. I hope that the heart’s desire we expressed when we were on deputation hasn’t changed because of the hardness of this land and the discouragement that comes with it. I hope I haven’t lost that heart’s desire because of the perceived slowness of the work that God has given us.

We are not a singing family. But on deputation we sang a little song. It has a wonderful message that ought to stir me to act on that heart’s desire.

Ireland needs a Saviour
This isle so green and so fair
Is burdened with sin and broken hearts
And few they are who care.
Souls are drifting downward
Precious souls for whom He died
So let’s carry the message to Irish hearts
Of Jesus the crucified

Our heart’s desire ought to be to see our people saved. How are we doing in acting on that desire? 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Not put to shame

As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion and stumbling stone and a rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." – Romans 9.33

I know I am a bit of an old fogey. In fact that word might be so old that people may not even know what it means today. defines it this way – ‘ an extremely fussy, old-fashioned, or conservative person.’

Anyway, I am surely going to come across as an old fogey today. But it seems to me like we live in a time that has lost all sense of shame. Now, before any historians get too upset with me I realise that every generation has felt the same way. But bear with me.

Today’s verse says that those who believe in Christ will not be put to shame. I understand that the primary meaning is that Christians will have no shame for eternity but will instead have confidence in their eternity with God.

But I think there is a practical application for today as well.

Nobody likes to be ashamed of themselves or their behaviour. We all like to think that we are okay. In order to achieve that ‘okayness’ we try different ways to make us feel good about ourselves. We try to put shame away by convincing ourselves that we really aren’t all that bad. We tell ourselves that we are not as bad as the next guy. We use our religion as a cover to hide our shame.

Even more common is to change the idea of what there is to be ashamed of. If we can just convince ourselves and the culture around us that things are not shameful then we can feel better about ourselves. ‘See, I’m not so bad! Everyone is doing it now so it must be okay!’

I can see that in my relatively short life time. It seems like nearly everything that was once shameful and embarrassing is now openly accepted and popular. What makes is hard is that not only are these things no longer shameful, but everyone is expected to accept the new shamelessness. When that happens everybody feels better about themselves and everything seems okay.

The truth is that it makes everybody feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t deal with the real problem. Sin is still sin no matter how society feels about it. Wrong is still wrong no matter what new laws and new policies say. Legislatures and governments can’t make wrong right by passing new laws.

And deep down shame is still there.

Yet there is freedom from shame. It comes with freedom from the power of sin. Sure, the believer still sins and will still be ashamed when they do but that shame has no power because it has truly been dealt with and not just legislated away.

Those who believe in Christ, who put their faith in Him find true freedom from shame. Praise God for that true freedom. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Not by faith

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. – Romans 9.30-32

Throughout history there has been a lot of effort by man to connect with God. That is what religion is all about. It is about what man can do to get back to God.

Here Paul speaks specifically to Jews. It must have hit them like a tonne of bricks when Paul wrote ‘The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness while Israel, who pursued the law, don’t have it.’

While this was for the Jews the truth applies to any who are trusting their religion for righteousness. If anyone is going to try and achieve righteousness by doing anything are going to fail. They are never going to make. Righteousness is impossible to achieve because no one has the power to be righteous. We are always going to mess it up. We are always going to blow it.

The problem with these Jews and anyone who pursues righteousness through doing anything is that their pursuit is ‘not of faith.’ The stumble at the stumbling block of faith.

Why is faith so hard? Why is it a stumbling block? I think it is because faith is too easy. It is intangible. It is hard to measure. We always want to do ‘something.’

But righteousness can only come through faith. For by grace are we saved, though faith.  Righteousness is not of works or pursuit. If it were we could surely boast.

Any attempt at salvation that is not of faith will fail. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Love conquers all

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – Romans 8.37
There is a verse tucked into the list of all the things that cannot separate us from the love of God. Right in the middle is this wonderful promise that we are conquerors, yeah, not just conquerors but more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

I also like the fact that our ‘more than conqueror’ status is not based on how spiritual we are. He is not based in our strength. It is not based on our ability. It is not based on our position. It is pure and simple based are the fact that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Taken in the right context that means that the old saying ‘love conquers all’ is a true and powerful statement. We means we have the all-conquering love of God that defeated sin and death on our side!

I could go on and on, but I think I will just let the song writer Ralph Carmichael say it for me:

We are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us so,
The Christ Who dwells within us is the greatest pow'r we know
He will fight beside us though the enemy is great.
Who can stand against us?  He's the Captain of our fate.
Then we will conquer, never fear; so let the battle rage.
He has promised to be near until the end of the age.
We are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us so.
The Christ Who dwells within us is the greatest pow'r we know.

I still love that old song. It is a great reminder of this powerful Bible truth.

As we go out today we don’t go out defeated and despairing – we go out as more than conquerors. Let’s act like it, shall we? 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Who shall separate us?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8.35, 38-39

So just how strong is the love of God? How powerful is it? Is there anything, anything that can separate those of us who are His live from His love?

Paul wants to make sure that we get it. He wants us to that there is no way no how that anything can separate us. He gives us quite a list. Neither tribulation nor  distress nor persecution nor famine nor nakedness nor peril nor death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from the love of God which is manifested in Christ.

In case that's not clear enough Paul adds 'nor any other created thing' can separate us.

Praise God for His great love that overcomes any and every thing. I know that if it were up to me and my faithfulness and my dedication and my loyalty to knee myself in the love of God I would fail, but it is His great love that secures it.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

I am so grateful that my relationship to the love of God is based on His great love in Christ and not my weak insipid copy. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Making intercession

Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. – Romans 8.33-34

Most of us are pretty familiar with what Jesus has already done and what He is going to do. We know He is he Creator. We know He came to earth as a baby. We know that He preached and taught and did miracles. We know that He died on he cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We know He was buried. We know He rose again on the third day. We know He ascended into heaven. We know one day He is coming back for us.

But what is He doing now? We know He has gone to prepare a place for us and we look forward to dwelling there with Him.

But Jesus is also at the right hand of God interceding for me against all those who would be a charge against me. He intercedes against all who would try to condemn me. He is my advocate, my lawyer, my solicitor, my defence attorney.

All possible charges against me are useless. They all fall short because Jesus advocates for me. Not only is He my advocate, He covers those sins so that no one hold them to my account.

One of the contributors to the classic prayer devotional guide 'The Valley of Vision' put it this way.

My trespasses are known in the heavens,
and there Christ is gone also,
my Advocate with the Father,
my propitiation for sins,
and I hear his word of peace.

Jesus is today interceding for me. Therefore I have peace with Him and peace in my heart. What better advocate could I want? 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Freely given us

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? – Romans 8.32

We all know that nothing in life is free. Everything cost somebody something.

But things are freely given. That is what a gift is all about. We pay the price for something and if it is a true gift we give it without reservation, freely, without strings. A freely given gift is final. It is not taken back by the giver.

I have known a few situations when a friend gave a gift to another. But, eventually, because they later needed it again they asked for it back. That is certainly not a gift that was freely given. It was a conditional gift.

That is the kind of gift that salvation is. God delivered up His son to the cross for us. When he gave us His son He gave us justification. He gave us glorification. And He gave them to us freely, without reservation, no strings attached. As we would have said when we were children in Alabama (and please forgive my political incorrectness) God is not an 'Indian giver.'

Thank God for my costly, but freely given, salvation. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Who can be against us?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8.31

Sometimes it seems like we have really run up against a wall. We battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. We battle a wicked world system and a lot of folks who oppose God’s work. We face a collapse of righteousness and a rise of wickedness. It seems like there is no hope.

I have been preaching through the ‘minor’ prophets on Sunday mornings. Most of these guys felt exactly what we feel. They saw nations in despair. They saw destruction and sin and wickedness and violence and corruption and evil and bribery and murder and deceit and I could go on and on and on.

I am preaching on Habakkuk tomorrow Lord willing. Habakkuk lived in a time like that, and his solution was simple. God is too pure to even look at evil, the Lord is in His holy temple, so Habakkuk was going to sit down on the watchtower and wait for God to work.

He knew the reality of Romans 8.31. He knew that if God is our side the enemy cannot win. If God is for us who indeed can stand against us? Great indeed is He who is in us that He who is in the world.

Habakkuk’s faith was strong enough that he was going to trust God no matter what the result. He trusted God even if he could not see the results with his own eyes.

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

 Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. If God before us who can stand against us?

Friday, 17 May 2013


Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. – Romans 8.30

It is wonderful that salvation is so simple. It is wonderful that it only requires the faith of a child. I am glad we don't have to fully understand all that is involved in salvation, but there is a lot involved. Here alone we read that predestinated, called, justified, and glorified us.

I get the fact that I was predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. I understand that the Holy Spirit called me to salvation. I am grateful that I have been justified in Christ.

But glorified? Past tense? I have been glorified?

That is a little harder to grasp. I don’t feel glorified. I don’t often act glorified.

But I already am – that’s what the Bible says. I am already glorified.

That lets me know that there is no question about my eternal fate. My glorification is already accomplished. It was done on the cross as I was glorified with Christ. My eternity is secure. Heaven is my home.

That being the case this song should be my theme:

In my life Lord be glorified, be glorified
In my life Lord, be glorified today.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romanns 8.29

We hear and read a lot about predestination. When I was posting on a Baptist Internet discussion board the three topics that stirred up the hottest fights were politics, Bible versions, and predestination. Predestination has been fought over for centuries. People question each other's salvation over the topic. If you walk into a room with more than two Christians you are probably going to have a split of the topic of predestination.

Well I am not going to enter that fight. I am going to briefly address a predestination that I think we can all agree on. (Now as soon as I say that someone is going to disagree and let me know about it.)

Those who God foreknew were going to be saved He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. That’s means that believers are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are predestined to be like Jesus.

John talks about that when he writes that when we see Christ we are going to be like Him. That of course speaks of our total sanctification which is not going to be completed in this lifetime. Because we still have to deal with the flesh so are not going to be totally conformed to Him until we see Him.

But Paul’s writes about conformity when he says ‘Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Another place Paul tells us that our mind should be the mind of Christ – ‘let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.’

Since our destiny is to be one day conformed to the image of Christ why are we so concerned about being conformed to the image of the world? Why do we mind the things of the world instead of minding the things of Christ?

He is our destiny. We ought to be living now in such a way that we reflect that destiny. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

All things

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8.28

I first was made aware of this verse way, way back in the autumn on 1976. I had only been saved a little while and didn't know much of the scripture. I had just transferred from Widener College in Chester, PA (where I was saved) to Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, TN. Back in those days students of the school had to go to Highland Park Baptist Church. The pastor of the church was Lee Roberson.

One of the things Dr Roberson preached that sticks in my mind after these 37 years is the story or Camp Joy. Camp Joy was a summer camp which was a ministry of the church. It was a free summer camp for the less privileged children of Chattanooga  It was a greatly used and blessed ministry, but what really impressed me was the back story to Camp Joy.

Many years before Dr and Mrs Robinson had lost their young daughter Joy in a terrible accident. At the time they were justifiably devastated. They wept and prayed and wondered why. One night the Lord showed them Romans 8.28 – ‘We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’

That gave them great comfort and out of that came the decision to start this summer camp ministry through which great numbers of boys and girls came to Christ.

I think any of us who have been saved any amount of time can identify. Though we may  not have lost a child, we can all look at back at times when we wondered how this could be any good. I look back at all kinds of situations on our lives where we just could not see the good, but in retrospect we can see how God has always worked it out for the good.

But this promise is not wide open. It is for those who love God and are His own.

We may not see it sometimes for years. In fact we may not see it in this lifetime at all. We may not see the goodness until we get to heaven because of our human mindedness. But we can be assured that all things will eventually work together for good.

Praise God for that precious promise. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Helping me pray

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8.26-27

Sometimes things can seem so bad and so overwhelming that we don't even know how or what to pray. We are at a loss. We can't find the words to express how we feel. I certainly know how that feels. Major bad news comes our way, disaster strikes, or maybe we have to make a decision that we just don’t know how to handle.

There is a solution. There is an answer. We don't have to fret when we don't know how to pray because Someone does know how to pray for us. The one who knows our hearts knows what we need and He knows how to pray for us.

When we are at a loss for words. When our prayer need is do real and so intense and so close to heart that we cannot pray the Holy Spirit Wilde our Help. he will intercede for us. He prays with groanings which are beyond words. We never have to worry about not having the words to pray.

Even better, when He prays for us we can be assured that He will always pray according to the will of God. When He prays in the will of God we can have confidence that His prayers are going to answered.

We are weak. We can't always find the words to pray. But praise God that His Holy Spirit is going to step in and pray in our place  

Monday, 13 May 2013

Waiting and groaning

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. – Romans 8.20-23

Waiting. Groan. I hate it. I think I may have mentioned that before. We start being told to wait when we are children and it just gets worse as the years roll by.

But waiting is much more than standing in a post office queue or being stuck in traffic. Waiting is a spiritual matter. It good  to learn to wait. They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength. I will wait for the God of my salvation. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage.

Waiting is better when we remember that there is a reward at the end.

The world is eagerly awaiting something better. It is groaning for that day. It is going to happen. One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The world is groaning and creaking as it awaits the glorious liberty that the believer has.

But we too are groaning within ourselves while we await all that God has in store for us. The great truth is that there is still more in store for us. One day our adoption will be complete and perfect. One day our redemption will be total.

Sure, it is going to be tough in the meantime. It may involve a lot of pain and trials and groaning. But one day it will be all over. Those who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Christ will receive the fullness of the blessings of our adoption. Our redemption will be complete when sin is totally vanquished.

Oh what a day!  

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Earnest expectation

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  – Romans 8.19

There is a lot of confusion about what this verse means, so my view, I guess, is as good as any. So here goes.

The world is looking for something. Most don’t know what it is. All of creation has this ‘earnest expectation’ for something. It is an eager yearning - like stretching to see someone coming. It is like waiting for a famous person to come on the scene. It is the kind of attitude that says ‘I am just dying to see so and so.’

The hard part is that most folks don't know what the 'it' they are eagerly waiting for is. They try to find 'it' everywhere. They try religion, politics, charity, sex, substances, and so many other things. But, sadly, they always seem to come up short.

The answer seems to be in the passage above. They are eagerly looking for the 'revealing of the sons of God.' They are looking for us to share the gospel because it is the answer to what they are looking for. It is the ‘it’ that the world needs.

Most of the world still not have found what they are looking for. Are we revealing it? Are we giving the world what they are looking for. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

No comparison

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. – Romans 8.18

Sometimes life can really stink. There are days like Alexander has in the children’s classic ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ when it seems like nothing at all goes right. The author Judith Voirst gives us a taste – ‘“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Job had a day like that. Remember Job chapter 1?

The problems is that sometimes it seems like we have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, or month, or year, or decade, or life.

2009 was a year like that for our children. We discovered that our grandson AJ had an infantile cataract and needed eye surgery. Michelle lost a baby. Matt and Michelle were forced to leave Northern Ireland because of new visa regulations. Then in December we discovered that Michelle had leukaemia. In some ways it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

And that was minor compared to what some Christian families go through in the world today. Death happens. Christians are in jail for their faith. Persecution happens all over the world.

Paul knew what he was talking about. He was beaten, arrested, left for dead, shipwrecked, imprisoned, thrown out of cities, and more.

And yet he could write the words ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us.’

So one day it will be more than worth it all. The glory that awaits more than makes up for what we are going through now.  The hope is there. We need to hold on. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

An heir of God

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. - Romans 8:16-17

A few years ago I had a distant relative die. I think he was my mother’s second cousin. He had no family, so his, seemingly large estate, was divided amongst his living relatives. Since Mom has been dead her share of about $60,000 was divided among her children. Our share was about $10,000. Not loads of money by any means, but a nice little amount which is still in the bank, reserved for when I need it.

Being an heir has its benefits, even in a case like that where it is a distant relative.

One of the amazing aspects of being adopted as a child of God and, as a child, I am His heir. If that weren't clear enough I am not only an heir, but a joint heir with Christ.

This idea of being a joint heir with Christ is astounding and almost beyond our ken. We Christ we shall in His fill inheritance! God’s estate is not divided. Instead of being divided up 104 ways, like my little inheritance was, we have the full measure of God’s inheritance in Christ! And all because we are adopted as His children.

This inheritance is a special one. It is incorruptible. It is undefiled. It does not fade away. It is reserved in heaven for me. As His heir I am kept by the power of God. Nobody is going to take away my inheritance.

I am glad I have that $10,000 put away in the bank. But it really is not all what secure. Anything could happen to it. And, when you think about it, it is really not all that much. It’s just a nice little reserve.

But nothing is going to happen by my inheritance with Christ. It is there for me, as God’s adopted child. Pardon the old southernism for a minute, but ‘ain’t that something?!’

Praise God for adopting me and making me His heir!! 

Thursday, 9 May 2013


For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, - Romans 8.15-16

We use a lot of names and titles for God. God is our Rock. He is our Fortress. He is our very present help in time of trouble. He is Almighty God. He is my Salvation. He is the Holy One who inhabits eternity. He is my Shield. And on we could go. 

All of these are of amazing theological and practical importance. Praise God for each each and very one of them. Praise God for all that he is.

But He is also our Heavenly Father.

If that was our only relationship name it would be enough. For me, born an enemy of God to be able to call Him ‘Father’  would be enough. I would be privileged beyond measure.

But it goes even a little further than that. God has adopted me into His family. Adoption is special in so many ways. Everyone is naturally born to a father and a mother. Natural birth is not always a choice. Sometimes it is just the opposite to some people. It can be the last thing they would have wanted.

But adoption is something a family choose. It is an act of love and choice and openness. In adoption the parents choose to make an ‘outsider’ a part of the family. And that is what God did for us. He chose to adopt those who sin against Him.

We are now free from fear, because we not only have a Father, we have a dad. The word ‘ Abba’ is a transliteration of what Hebrew children called their daddy. It means that we have a papa. We have a daddy. We have a dad. There is a closeness and a preciousness that goes beyond just being a father. Anyone can be a father. It is special to be a dad.

And yet, despite our sin and rebellion and self-centredness when God adopts us He becomes our dad.

Praise God that He has adopted me. Praise God that He is my Heavenly Father. And praise God He is my dad. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sons of God

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. – Romans 8.14

I hope the next couple of days are not too repetitive, but I don't want to miss any aspect of the wonderful truth of our sonship.

‘Sons of God’ of course refers to all children of God. Those who are led by the Spirit are God’s children. In another place Jesus said ‘my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me.’ It is a great blessing to be called one of His sheep, but here we are called His children.

I am challenged by this truth. I was certainly not God's child by birth. I was born a child of sin and the flesh. I was born at enmity with God. I had not rights of a child of God.

But God made me His child when I put my faith in Him. The proof that I am His child is when I am led by His Spirit.

In another place Jesus referred to us as His sheep. 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.' Just being one of His sheep would have been a blessing, but We are also His children. What an amazing truth.

The question I have to ask myself is if I walk like His child. John described it this way ' Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.'

As His children we are to reflect our parentage in holiness and purity.

We are going to fail now - but one day we are going to be like Him. What a wonderful hope that gives us! 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

If you don’t have the Spirit…

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. – Romans 8.9

There is a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit, and there should be. It is impossible to talk about the Holy Spirit too much. In some sectors He is not talked about nearly enough.

But sometimes I think there can be a little confusion about the Holy Spirit, at least from my perspective.

There is a lot of talk about 'getting the Holy Spirit' or getting 'more of the Holy Spirit' or having a extra portion of the Holy Spirit.

Now I will quickly admit that I am not the sharpest crayon in the box, but it seems to me that this verse simply says that anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit is not one of Christ's own.

Now that gives me comfort, but it also gives me a challenge. If indeed I have all of the Spirit how then do I live a spirit filled life?

Since I already have Him I the thing that I need to do is give Him more of me. I need to simply read His word, pray, and yield to his control and power in my life. When I yield to Him He will produce fruit in my life.

Instead of praying for more of the Holy Spirit perhaps we should just get out of the way and yield to Him.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Who walk after the Spirit

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  – Romans 8.5-8

Walking after the flesh or walking after the Spirit. How do we know? Carnal or spiritual, how do we know which we are?

This whole section of Romans uses words in ways that can be confusing. Some say that because this passage speaks of carnal mindedness being death that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian.  They may be right, but I don't see that here and my experience doesn't back it up either. I know I am saved and I know there are times when I make carnal choices.

So what does this mean? I think it is pretty simple in the context of the last couple of chapters.

We are what we think about. When we set our minds on the Spirit we have life and peace. When we set our minds on carnal things we think deathly thoughts. They go nowhere. Carnal thoughts are a dead end.

So what kind of thoughts ought we to be thinking? We ought to set our thoughts and affections are things above, not on things of the earth. We ought to be looking at the things we can’t see because they are eternal. We ought not to set our minds on the things we can see, they are temporal.

What are we minding today? Fleshly things that are a dead end, or things of the Spirit that bring life and peace? 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

No condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8.1

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

So writes Charles Wesley in his amazing hymn ‘And Can it Be.’

'No condemnation' must be two of the sweetest words that could even be heard. Being condemned is a terrible state. few years ago I read a novel about a man on death row. The feeling of being condemned year after year and hearing after hearing was brutal. The man knew, deep down, that he was condemned to die.

We can be so distraught by the 'wretched man that I am' aspect that we can end up is a site of self-condemnation. But, there is no need for that. We need not fear condemnation because Jesus has the power to deliver us from the draw of the flesh.

Those of us who are in Christ are freed from the condemning power of the law and the flesh. Our new life in Christ frees us from all that. The world cannot condemn us, the Law cannot condemn us, the grace robbers cannot condemn us, and we cannot condemn ourselves.

No condemnation, now I dread. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

The struggle

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…Romans 7.15ff

Wouldn’t it be great if at salvation the battle was over and we could just go on with godly living? How wonderful it would be if we could get saved and then live a sanctified and holy life without battles or struggles. Since sin has no power over us everything should be great, right?

Then why doesn't it work? Why do we, like Paul, do the things we don't want to do and not do the things we do want to do?

We all know how that feels. Despite all the best determinations to avoid sin and temptation we mess up. Despite all the best intentions to do right we fall short.

It is a constant running battle. On one hand the flesh cries out for attention, on the other hand the Spirit draws us to Him.

You know the old image of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? You know the one, someone is deciding whether to do right or wrong and the devil says ‘do it’ and the angel says ‘no, be good.’ While that is certainly not great theology the image is not that far off.

Let’s say for example it is tax time. There is that chunk of cash income we received along the way. Report it or not?

The flesh tells us ‘don’t worry about it. No one will ever know. Keep it, you can even use it for God if you want.’

On the other hand the Spirit reminds us ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…render therefore to all their due; taxes to whom taxes are due…’

And what do we do? Do we do what we know we should, or not?

That same illustration could be applied to so many situations of our daily life. Sure, I am saved. Sin has no power over me. I am indeed dead to the power of sin. And yet, it still draws me because I still have to live in this body of flesh.

It’s a real conundrum, but there is an answer! We’ll see that, Lord willing, tomorrow. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Newness of the Spirit

But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.  – Romans 7.6

Now that we have it clear that we are delivered form the power and control of sin we need to see how we are to serve our new master.

Like the woman in the illustration we looked at yesterday too often people try to serve within the letter of the law, seeing to dot all their 'i's and cross all their ’t’s just right. They spend their whole life making marks on the tick list of spiritual behaviours. They seem to think that if they can just keep the letter of the law they will be spiritual and really good Christians no matter what is going on in their hearts. Since the start of the church there have been people who have judged others by their adherence to the letter. But Paul speaks here of speaking of serving with a freedom of serving with a newness of the Holy Spirit. It is a spirit of joy and freedom not bound by the law any more.

I like the theology of that, but I also like how it is practically played out.  Like the fact that when a person gets saved they serve in ‘newness’ of the Spirit. I can think of so many people who, after salvation, served with a whole new spirit because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

One of the greatest examples though of this ‘newness of the Spirit’ it was my dad. Before my salvation Dad was a decent guy, but very much a dad of his generation. He didn’t have much time for the kids. He was loving and a provider, but involvement went little beyond that. He never was mean, but because of exhaustion from work and other pressures he tended to be short-tempered, impatient, and grumpy.

But then he came to Christ. ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creation’ was perfectly applied to him. His ‘newness of spirit’ was loving, caring, giving, and compassionate. We became the sweetest guy you could ever ask to meet. He visited us here a couple of times after he was saved and our Irish friends all knew him as the kindest, most gentle, caring, and gracious man they had ever met. The working of the Holy Spirit in him to make him a ‘new spirit’ was obvious. His spirit changed as he was conformed to the image of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Thank God that the newness of the Spirit produces a newness of our spirit as we strive to serve Him. May we always show forth His Spirit.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Married to another

Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  – Romans 7.1-4

Marriage in an integral part of the New Testament. The church is called the bride of Christ. Marriage is called a picture of salvation. Here marriage is used to illustrate man, the Law, and our relationship to God.

Paul writes of marriage. A woman is bound no her husband as long as he is alive. That reminds us of just how serious marriage is. If a woman marries another while her husband is still alive she is an adulteress. (By the way, that same terminology is used elsewhere for an unfaithful husband). I know it a little old fashioned now, and that many would disagree with me, but I think that teaches that marriage is well and truly forever.

But that's not really the point here so I'll leave it for now.

The point is that God uses yet another illustration to show the break with the past when we get saved. Not only do we have a new boss, we have a new marriage partner. We could not just simple divorce the marriage to the Law. Marriage is ‘till death do us part’ so death had to take place to break that bond.

But now, through the body of Christ we died to the Law. It is a new us who is married to Christ. We, as the church of the redeemed, are the Bride of Christ.

I once heard an illustration I think fits here. Pardon the fact that it is ‘old fashioned’ and based on an ‘old fashioned’ view of the home. There was a woman who fell in love with a man. He seemed the perfect husband. At first everything was great. But within a few weeks her husband gave her a list of things he expected out of her. It was an impossible list. Every day she worked as hard as she could, but the work was never done before her husband got home. She was in a constant state of despair and frustration because she couldn’t measure up to his expectations.

Eventually her husband died. Time went and she met another man and married him. Life was a dream, not list of rules or requirements. When she asked him about it he said ‘I am happy enough that you just love me.’

A few weeks later she was tidying up and came across a piece of paper in a drawer. When she unfolded it she saw that it was the list that her first husband had given here. When she was done reading it she laughed as she realised that she was doing everything on the list and more!

Why? Because now she was working out of love, not because she had a list she had to keep. Love motivated her to serve.

And so it goes with the Law and Christ. One binds us to a list of rules, the other frees us to serve in love.

Praise God for being ‘married to another!’