Sin

Love Demonstrated (Romans 5:6-11)

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We sinned, Jesus died. Why did Jesus do this for you and me? Could it be that we were somehow worthy of this incredibly selfless act? Paul is at pains to show that we did not merit this act of selfless love. He describes the state we were in at the point when Jesus chose to die for us in four ways;
– we were utterly helpless, unable to help ourselves (vs6)
– we were ungodly/wicked/irreverent (vs6)
– we were sinners entrenched in our rebellion against God (vs8)
– we were the enemies of God (vs10)

How worthy were we of this selfless act on the part of Jesus?
Totally unworthy!

Jesus died for us ‘at just the right time’. Waiting any longer would not have helped matters. We were not going to improve our situation with more time none of the four characteristics Paul used to describe us would have changed with more time. But, what made it just the right time?

Jesus’ coming was preceded by the entire history of the people of God, the choosing of Abram, the covenant and the promises, the formation of a people, the exile, the giving of the Law & the system of atonement for sins & worship, the journey to the Promised Land, Israel’s rejection of God as King followed by one failed king after another, Israel’s continued cyclic disobedience and God’s grace & mercy and forgiveness & God’s sending multiple prophets to speak to His people of another era to come & more specifically of the coming Messiah God’s King of kings – all this made the timing of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death & resurrection just the right time.

Jesus’ coming to die in our place for our sin wasn’t just at the right time it was the primary demonstration of the love of God! (vs8)

The cross of Christ is the zenith of the demonstration of God’s love for you and me. Yes, we feel loved when there is an answer to some prayer of ours, or we feel God’s protection or provision or blessing. But these are secondary demonstrations of the love of God; nothing can compare with the cross as the ultimate expression of His love for us. Later in the letter, Paul will use this same argument, saying if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how much more will God not then also along with giving us Jesus give us all these other little things we need (Romans 8:32).

Don’t ever wonder whether God loves you – Jesus died on the cross for you! He did this while you were still an ungodly, helpless, sinner, who was His enemy! And now that you are no longer ungodly but righteous, no longer a sinner but a saint, no longer an enemy but a reconciled son or daughter of God & now that you are no longer helpless but have the Holy Spirit as your Helper – how much more will God not pour His love into your life (vs6)?

So when circumstances appear to shout that God doesn’t love you when your enemy the deceiver shouts God doesn’t have your best interests at heart (just like he did to Adam and Eve) – don’t listen, look again at the cross of Christ. Ponder what Jesus did for you while you were his enemy. Know that He loves you with an everlasting love and that this tough or confusing situation can’t mean that God doesn’t love you because nothing can unravel the zenith of God’s love demonstrated for you on the cross.

Friend, the future is impossibly bright for the believer. If you consider how God treated you while you were His enemy, can you imagine how God will overwhelm you now with His love since you have been reconciled back into right relationship with Him! (vs 9-11)

To underline his point, even more, Paul contrasts the results of the death of Jesus and the life of Jesus. Since the result of Jesus’ death that we were reconciled back to a right relationship with God, how much more shall our lives be healed & restored and our relationship with God be deepened as a result of Jesus’ resurrection life! Jesus resurrection life is what makes Jesus what Hebrews calls, the guarantor of a better covenant;

“This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25)

Because of Jesus’ eternal life, He is able to save us to the uttermost, to save us completely. And because of this, we rejoice!

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The Bad News (Romans 3:1-20)

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Remember that the apostle Paul is helping this multi-cultural church in Rome deal with their unity in diversity. In Romans 2, Paul argued that God shows no partiality, all people are equal before Him (Romans 2:11).

So the question arises in Jewish Christian’s minds potentially – is there any value in being Jewish anymore? (Romans 3:1).

Oh yes! Replies Paul to his rhetorical question. “Much in every way.” (3:2)

After all, the Jewish people were entrusted with the word of God, with the prophecies of God – they were God’s special people. Now if you know the story, Israel had a bad history of unfaithfulness to God, but God is faithful, and so God will still be faithful to His promises made to His people (3:3-4). In one sense, the unfaithfulness of God’s people helps one to see the contrasting faithfulness of God (3:5)!

But then could one say that God is unrighteous in holding people to account for their sin since their sin shows off his righteousness? (3:5)
“By no means!” (3:6) Such talk is silly and hollow – says Paul.

He then comes back to the theme of Romans 1-2, that all of humanity is in the same terrible predicament before the Holy God – “both Jews and Greeks (and all other people), are under sin.” (3:9) In fact;

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (3:10-12)

What a bleak pronouncement! God is Holy, and we are not! No one, not even one person is holy. Everyone has turned aside from God, rejected Him. Our words are like poison, and we are prone to horrific acts of violence, we are on a miserable path away from God having no fear or proper respect for Him. (3:13-18).

More than this, no one can say anything in their defence regarding this dreadful pronouncement. There is no hope outside of the law, and there is no hope in trying to keep the law because no one can keep the whole law and hence be justified in the sight of the Holy God (3:20).

Now unsurprisingly, passages like this are not our favourites. But to disregard them is to undermine the majesty of our salvation and the wonder of God’s grace.

That’s because it’s only against the dark backdrop of our terrible sin, hopelessness and the wrath of God that’s coming against such sin (Romans 1:18), that the grace and mercy of God in salvation can be seen in all its wonder and glory.

So what does a passage like this mean for you and I today? See yourself there included in the “all” who have sinned, in the “no ones” of vs 10-18 and then thank and praise God that Jesus lived the perfect life you and I can not live and then died in our place for our sin! Praise Him for stepping in as the substitute, thank Him that you will never face the wrath of God that is coming against sin because He did for you…

Tomorrow we will begin to explore the wonder of God’s solution.

The Slide to ungodliness (Romans 1:18-31)

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Here at the beginning of Romans, Paul is going to outline the BAD NEWS. Essentially, God is holy, and yet we are not. Such is the universal problem of humankind, which is described in Romans 1:18-32, and this is my paraphrase of it.

God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness & wickedness in humanity. (vs18)

Humans in their wickedness have suppressed the truth about God. To suppress something is to know something and to hide it or bury it, to suppress something is not ignorance but an active decision. (vs18)

No one has any excuse; no one can claim ignorance since there is enough revelation in creation about who God is – God’s eternal power & divine nature – ‘so they are without excuse’. (vs19-20)

Rather than acknowledge God, although they knew about God, they have not honoured God as they should, more than this; they have also not given thanks to Him as they ought to. (vs21)

The result of this ungodly thinking is that those who suppress the truth about God become futile in their thinking. After all, all thought that denies God is ultimately empty and meaningless. The flicker of light that was in them, allowing them to see, has been snuffed out and replaced by darkness (vs21).

Although they claim to be wise, they have, in fact, become fools because of their active suppression of the truth about God that they knew. (vs22)

And like fools, they went further and exchanged the authentic glory of the immortal God for pathetic images of mortal human beings and other created things! It’s a choice that makes no sense at all. (vs23)

And so as a result of this suppression of the truth and this voluntary exchange of God’s glory for pitiful things – God responds by giving them over to the very things they have pursued. God allows them to follow the trajectory they have chosen. (vs24)

Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. The rejection of the truth and the rejection of the one true God as Lord results in a rejection of God’s morality. This rejection then leads to lustful impurity & the dishonouring of their bodies with one another. All of this happens because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie & worshipped that which is not to be worshipped rather than worshipping the One who ought to be worshipped. Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. (vs 24-25)

And so God gave them over to dishonourable passions, God allowed them to follow the moral trajectory they had chosen for themselves resulting in all manner of distortions to sex and sexuality the way God had intended for it to be. (vs26-27)

And since they chose to ignore God totally, God gave them up to a depraved way of thinking, which leads to a depraved way of behaving. As a result, they began to do what ought not to be done. So, they slid into all manner of sins; “covetousness, malice… envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness… gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (vs29-31)

Such people behave in such despicable ways even though they know what God has declared; that those who practice such things deserve to die. They act as though God never said that or that it will never really happen and so they not only do such things but give approval to those who practice them. (vs32)

These words written in the first century AD are as fresh and as relevant today as they ever have been. May you and I never be those who suppress the truth that we know about God, may we be those whose thinking is shaped by the timeless authority of Scripture and not by the transient fads of culture.

Temptation (James 1:12-15)

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In James 1, trials of any and every kind have been in view. One specific type of trial is the trial that comes through the temptation to sin.

We are prone to blaming others when we face difficulty, Eve did it, Adam did it – James urges us not to blame God when we feel tempted (vs13) but to realise that the temptation we are feeling comes from within us.

Temptation comes from our enemy (Luke 4:2&13), but his temptation is targeted at a pre-existing desire within us. We know this to be true from personal experience. What is tempting to one person is not tempting at all to another.

Take, for example, delicious roast beef that has just been removed from the oven, with the crusty bit just shouting out to be sampled before dinner. For some, this would be an irresistible temptation, but for the vegetarian, it isn’t tempting at all but that freshly chopped carrot drizzled in cream cheese dressing is!

This is what James is getting at in James 1:14-15. We are tempted when the devil matches some promise of fulfilment with a pre-existing desire within us. We are enticed, lured into the trap of that temptation by the desire within us that the temptation promises to fulfil or satisfy.

In that sense, the temptation is not from outside of us, but from within us. Ever since Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation in the garden, we have been born with misplaced desires, or with desires that are meant to be satisfied in God alone but that short-circuit and get us into all sorts of pain and trouble when we seek to satisfy them with created things.

The word picture James utilises is that of birth. A misplaced desire looking to be satisfied in anything but God alone gives birth to sinful actions, but when that sin grows up fully, it results not in fulfilment but in death of some sort.

We need to pray not just that we would be able to say “NO” to temptation but rather that our desires would change.

One of the keys to defeating the power of temptation in your life and in mine is to ask God to replace our old desires with new Godly ones. Ask God to redeem our misplaced desires, seeking to be satisfied in God, not other things.

One of the ways we cooperate in this process of transformation is by renewing our minds through a devotion to Scripture which in turn helps us to know what God’s will for our lives is, and knowing what is good and acceptable for us as Christ Followers (Romans 12:2).

Application

  • What are your strongest desires (List your top 3)?
  • How might the devil tempt you, matching something appealing or promising satisfaction for that desire?
  • In what way is GOD the only real person who can satisfy that desire?
  • Pray & repent and or ask God to help you seek to be satisfied in Him alone

Disqualified? Qualified! (John 4:1-45)

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Life is a sequence of many moments isn’t it? Yet not all moments are equal in their importance for our lives. Some of the moments in our lives are what one could call; ‘God-moments’. These are moments, which are often unexpected in which radical change can happen, faith can be birthed or strengthened, in which we can learn something new about ourselves, God or others.

Today, God wants to bless you. This devotion could be a God-moment in your life. God wants to bless you, to encounter you, change your view of Him, to change you, to pour His love into you, wants to heal and restore you…

Back to the story, this woman at the well is about to have an unexpected God-moment in her life as she comes to draw water at the well but finds Jesus there! After some interaction about Jesus’ thirst, Jesus’ offered her water that would satisfy her thirst forever, she then asked Jesus to give her this water so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus knowing everything about her, asks her about her husband, asks her to call him. She didn’t want to talk about these things, it’s too personal, she tries to cover up this sad aspect of her life. We are often like this woman aren’t we? At first she resisted God’s loving, kind advances, and she tries to hide from the King of Glory. But He’s all-knowing, He knows about all 5 of her previous husbands & He knows of her current sinful relationship with the man who is not her husband but whom she is with.

At this point you might expect Jesus to draw back. After-all, she has been exposed and it’s messy. Yet,
amazingly, graciously, God still pursues her as He pursues you and I. Amazingly, what God knows about you and I doesn’t cause Him to re-coil and run from us.

Yet Jesus stays with her keeps pursuing her in this moment and reveals to her that He is the Messiah (vs26). God accepts us as we are, warts and all, God wants to transform us from who we have been and who we are today into worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth!

And so in this God-moment the woman has a revelation of God, a revelation of the grace, mercy & forgiveness of God. What she thinks about God, what she knows is re-written in a moment as God reveals His true character to her in this God-moment…

You might have thought that her past and her present disqualified this lady. And yet actually her mess strangely qualified her to speak to others about who God is and what God is like! Having slinked out of town to come and get water, ashamed, at a time when not many others would be there.

Having met Jesus though she runs back into town effectively shouting; ‘Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did, I think He is God!’ This woman’s shame actually became her proof of who God is! Her shame was what qualified her to testify to who God is and what God is like. In that God-moment, her sin became her God-story of redemption which in turn then showed off the grace, love & mercy of God to her whole town.

In one sense, you and I can’t be entrusted by God to share with others about Him until we have received, encountered, grace from God towards us first. Receiving grace from God qualifies us to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.

God’s grace is that He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. God accepts us not on the basis of our merit but on account of His goodness and His lavish grace and kindness to us in Jesus. Although Jesus knew every sordid thing about this woman, He still accepted her and forgave her! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He didn’t come for those who think they’re doing just fine, stuck in their self-righteousness, He came for sinners like me, like you…?

The end of the story is amazing. One woman’s God-moment, one woman encountering Jesus as the God of grace, results in her sharing her God-story with her town so that Scripture then records that; “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

So what are you ashamed of? What do you feel disqualifies you from being used by God, from being God’s agent for change, His channel of grace and blessing to people? Can your sin potentially actually become a God-story which ends up showing off the God of grace?

Ask Jesus to forgive you, to pour His grace and mercy into your life right now and then go and tell the world how great and good and loving Jesus is! Needing grace, doesn’t disqualify you, it qualifies you to share with others about the incredible grace and mercy and love of God.

Perfect Prophet, Priest & King (2 Kings 24-25)

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By this point in reading through 1&2 Kings it is hard not to feel exhausted by the cyclical pattern of ungodliness in the leadership of Israel and Judah.  But all of this long story of hundreds of years of  cyclical ungodly leadership is to there to tell a story…

A story which started way back when God’s people had clamoured for a human king as recorded in 1 Samuel 8, they wanted to be like the nations around them rather than be lead by God as their king leading them through his appointed prophets/judges.  God had warned them that this rejection of Him would not be a blessing to the people and 1&2 Kings records that it definitely wasn’t a blessing!

In 2 Kings 24-25 we read of the final sacking of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon of Judah, approximately 120years after the Assyrians overthrow and exile of Israel.  2 Kings 24:2-4 expressly makes God the active agent as Chaldeans, Moabites, Syrians and Ammonites and finally the Babylonians raid Judah and finally overthrow it with a siege and burn the city and the temple and break the walls down.

The sad summary statement in 2 Kings 25:21 reads; “So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.” 

The Promised Land is vacated by all except a remnant of poor people, the Temple as the place of worship is ruined and ceases to operate.  

What will happen next?  What has happened to the covenant?  

God’s place – the Promised Land and the Temple lies in ruins, God’s people have been exiled from it.

Israel’s history is littered with priests who failed, prophets who failed & kings who failed.

The people have been unfaithful to the covenants they made and to God’s word to them.

This is the riddle of the Old Testament really.  

  • God is holy, we are not – what can we do, what will He do?
  • God’s people, we need a better, a perfect, an eternal prophet, priest & king.
  • God’s people long for a place where we can dwell with God, where worship is not defiled & never ends
  • God’s people need forgiveness that’s eternal and truly transforming…
  • All this points to the ONE who was to come – Jesus!
  • Our Saviour, our perfect Prophet, Priest & King!

Enough! (2 Kings 17)

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After a period of nearly 200yrs since Jeroboam’s succession from Judah, the northern tribes of Israel are eventually conquered by the Assyrians and deported into exile (2 Kings 17:6).  Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the writers of Scripture are very keen to make it plain as to why this happened.

“And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel…” (2 Kings 17:7-8)

This was an event that came about not because of bad military or political strategy (although the passage reveals there were mis-steps made), Scripture attributes the source of the capitulation and capture of Israel by Assyria as being God Himself as the active agent.

The whole of the chapter reads like a charge sheet being read out in a court room, the list of charges against the accused, the guilty one; 

      • You have sinned against your God who brought you out of Egypt and into this Promised Land
      • You walked in the customs of the nations whom I judged and drove out before you
      • You followed wicked evil kings who lead you into sin
      • You built for yourself your own places of worship, altars to false gods & served idols
      • You did wicked things before me, and made sacrifices to these false gods
      • You provoked me to anger (says God)
      • I warned you again and again through the prophets, but you would not listen and were stubborn (vs13-14)
      • You did not believe
      • You despised my commands
      • You even burned your sons & daughters as worship to false gods provoking me to righteous anger

And because of this the judgement comes; 

18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only… 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. (2 Kings 17:18&20)

23…the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:23)

Yes, God is ‘slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Exodus 34:6) but that does not mean that eventually God will not say; ‘enough!’  God was patient, forbearing with Israel but eventually love for all those sinned against, all those who lost loved ones, love for all those babies sacrificed to false gods looked like God judging sin.  God had appealed again and again, urged them to turn from their wickedness – but they refused to with hard stubborn hearts.

So what can we learn from this for our lives?

May we not ever trust our hearts, which are so prone to lead us astray from serving the living God.  May we hold on to His words, will and ways laid out for us in Holy Scripture.  May we never tamper with His Word and make our own false gods suitable to our fancies and our modern culture’s preferences.  May we repent when and if we have sinned against Him, and may we worship our Holy God with holy reverence and as our loving response to all the love He has poured out to us through the gift of His precious Son, Jesus.