Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

Romans 14:9-12

In Romans 14:9-12 Paul reminds us of a very important fact – Jesus died and defeated death to live again – which makes Him Lord of all.  “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” There is no one else who comes close to being Lord of the dead and the living because no one else came from God nor conquered death to return to God to sit on His right hand. Jesus alone is Lord of Lords and King of Kinds and has conquered both death and life. And between the time God sent Him to earth and the time He defeated death, He went to the Cross with our sin to offer us grace and victory over our sin if we believe in Him.

Jesus offers us grace for all the places we fall short, yet we struggle to do the same for others when they fall short or do something that wrongs us. We are not the judge. God alone holds that place. That attitude of judgment is wrong because we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, not sit on the throne and judge those in our patch. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? But beyond that, we also don’t have any right to despise those around us and feel superior or more worthy than they are. God did not put us here to compare our lives with each other, but to live together in peace and harmony.

The reality is that there is only one judge we will truly face – God Himself. We will stand there and be asked to give an account for how we have lived and will have an outcome of falling short. We will fail to meet God’s requirements for eternal life with Him as sin will disqualify us from that place. So if we don’t have the blood of Christ to cover our sin, we’re falling short and spending eternity apart from God. For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Every person on the planet will stand before God and call Him Lord.

Paul is telling us to “Stop worrying about your brother. You have enough to answer for before Jesus.” Scripture is clear on this point. It won’t matter who you are, where you are, what you think or believe, how you have lived, or anything else we or anyone has done. It will be us and God. All will have to appear before God in humility, and give account of themselves before God. “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We won’t be represented by our parents or pastor or priest or any other human. It will be us and God and we’ll stand there completely transparent giving an account of the choices we have made and the life we have lived. And unfortunately, our sin will be obvious and clear. We need Jesus to overcome that.

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Romans 13:3b-5

In Romans 13:3b-5 Paul begins by reminding us that we are called to do what is good. Paul’s idea is that Christians should be the best citizens of all. Even though they are loyal to God before they are loyal to the state Christians should be good citizens because they are honest, give no trouble to the state, pay their taxes, and – most importantly – pray for the state and the rulers. “Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.” How much are you praying for our leaders. Paul describes them as ‘God’s servant’ because they have a place in the plan and administration of God, just as much as church leaders do.

Every leader should remember that they are only servants, and not gods themselves. Sometimes people that are placed in leadership allow power to go to their head and pride takes over. Scripture is clear that pride comes before a fall. And if we don’t keep our emotions in check, and not read our own press or listen too much to compliments, we’ll deal with wrath. It is through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check. When a government fails to do this consistently, it opens itself up to God’s judgment and correction.

Paul references the sword which is a reference to capital punishment. In the Roman Empire, criminals were typically executed by beheading with a sword (crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the lowest classes). Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has no doubt that the state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The government not only had the right, but the responsibility to deal with those who were evil.

After laying the framework for God’s plan for government, he makes a very clear statement. “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” We must be subject to government; not only because we fear punishment, but because we know it is right before God to do so. Obedience is never blind or mindless but is driven by our conscience and the Holy Spirit’s influence in our life. It isn’t something we should do grudgingly and fearfully to avoid God’s punishment, but because it is the right thing to do. Our conscience led by the Spirit will lead to us submission and obedience.

Romans 11:22-25

In Romans 11:22-25 Paul makes clear the black and white of God’s design for the world we live in. There isn’t any middle ground – no sort of, kind of walking with God and His plan. The idea that “God is love and surely wouldn’t keep me from eternity with Him” just isn’t true. God has a standard. As humans, we fall short. “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” God is love, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t holy and requires us to be righteous.

So the only option is the plan B He provided through grace where we can overcome our shortcomings and missing His mark through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Plan A would be complete obedience to His will and living up to His requirements. But we can’t do it, so Jesus is our answer. The great news is that we always have access to God’s tree of life through Christ. No matter our age, situation, or any other factor – if we come to faith in Christ God will make us His child and give us the promise of eternal life. “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.”

Paul reminds us that if Israel was “cut off” because of their unbelief, they can be grafted in again if they do not continue in unbelief. God never shuts the door to restoring us to righteousness and holiness. We can’t get there on our own, but through Christ we can go from whatever state we may be in and be grafted into God’s family.  “For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” It’s never over until we have stood before God without excuse or solution.

Paul issues a warning to take this soberly. Christians must not be ignorant of this mystery. We won’t get this on our own. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” God’s purpose in allowing blindness in part to come upon Israel is so that the fullness of the Gentiles can come in. And one day, God will once again turn the attention of His plan specifically on Israel again, so that all Israel will be saved. God wants all mankind to be saved. He opened the door to the Gentiles but hasn’t given up on His people. He’s not done with them yet.

Romans 11:1-4

In Romans 11:1-4 Paul asks about God’s treatment of His people. If Israel’s rejection of the gospel was somehow both consistent with God’s eternal plan and Israel’s own choosing as Paul has just described in the last two chapters, then does this mean that Israel’s fate is settled, and there is no possibility of restoration? He answers the question emphatically with a big NO. It doesn’t mean that Israel has been permanently cast away. “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.”

Paul is clear first of all that he is included in this discussion as one of God’s chosen people. And he is clear that the issue is not a problem on God’s part, but rather the decision of a significant portion of God’s people who have chosen to reject the Messiah. It’s not a surprise. Elijah wrote of the problem generations earlier. This isn’t new to Paul’s day, nor ours today. God has always been faithfully waiting for people to come and receive what He has prepared for them. “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?”

Elijah got to a place where he was so frustrated he actually prayed against his own people. Paul finds himself in a similar place to the prophet. Elijah thought that God had cast off the nation and he was the only one left serving the Lord. But God showed him that there was in fact a substantial remnant – though it was only a remnant, it was actually there. Often it may seem like we are the only ones who are connected to and serving God. But that is never really the case. There is always a remnant. “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”

We often think that God needs a lot of people to do a great work, but He often works through a small group, or through a group that starts out small. God is looking for a group of committed people to use. He doesn’t need an army.  He needs people that will trust and obey. He does all the heavy lifting – we merely need to be willing to follow and do things His way. Though not many Jews in Paul’s day embraced Jesus as Messiah, a remnant did and God will use that small group in a big way. In fact, He changed the world through 11 men who followed the Messiah! “But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” There was a remnant and that was all God needed in Elijah’s day, as well as for Paul and for us today!

Romans 8:29-32

In Romans 8:29-32 Paul continues by connecting the dots to the prior verse where God promises to use all things to work together for good. Why? Because God is working in us and through us to conform us to become like Jesus. This verse tells us God ‘foreknew’ us. Other versions say we are predestined, called, justified, or glorified. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God doesn’t do it for us however. It’s his eternal plan, but we have to participate and do our part.

Smith talks about our being foreknown this way. “Of course I believe in predestination, since it’s plainly taught in the Scriptures. The doctrine could be assumed, even if the word was never explicitly used. It’s a thrilling truth that doesn’t upset me at all. The fact that He chose me and began a good work in me proves that He’ll continue to perform it. He wouldn’t bring me this far and then dump me.” God helps us conform to Christ’s image with our cooperation. He doesn’t do it for us. He doesn’t do it to us. He will do it with us. And that gives us quite a great outcome. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

If all we had were the first few chapters of the Book of Romans, some might believe that God was against us. Now that Paul has shown the lengths that God went to save man from His wrath and equip him for victory over sin and death, who can doubt that God is for us? “ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Most all men say or think that God is for them – terrorists commit horrible crimes thinking that God is for them. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit guards this statement with an “if,” so we may know that just because a man thinks God is with him does not make it so. God is only for us if we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.

God has already given us the ultimate gift when He sent Christ to the cross.  There should be no question that He will provide all we need be it big or small. God held nothing back when it came to making a way for us to be in an eternal place with Him. He didn’t have to. Our future could have been based on how we lived in comparison to His law. But we would have all failed the test and missed the mark. So He made a way. It cost Him His Son, but He gave it for us gladly. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  We can trust Him to take care of all our other needs based on His faithful love for us.

Romans 8:1-3

In Romans 8:1-3 Paul reminds us of the simple declaration that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It isn’t just a limited condemnation – the word Paul uses here is NO – none, nada, zip. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Since God the Father does not condemn Jesus, neither can the Father condemn those who are in Jesus. They are not condemned, they will not be condemned, and they cannot be condemned. Not a little, not a lot, not at all! If we are one with Jesus and He is our head, we can’t be condemned. You can’t acquit the head and condemn the hand.

The verdict is not “less condemnation.” That’s where many believe they are – thinking our standing has improved in Jesus. It has not been improved, it’s been completely transformed, changed to a status of no condemnation. However, if you are not in Jesus Christ, there is condemnation for you. Spurgeon wrote “It is no pleasant task to us to have to speak of this matter; but who are we that we should ask for pleasant tasks? If you are not in Christ Jesus, and are walking after the flesh, you have not escaped from condemnation.” It’s that black and white – you are either free from condemnation because of Jesus, or you are condemned. Sin will cause that to be true for all who do not know Christ and the grace of His sacrifice.

To be clear, we certainly deserve condemnation. Our freedom from it is not something we earn or work to receive. We are gifted this standing because Jesus bore the condemnation we deserved through His death on the Cross, and our identity is now in Him. As He is condemned no more, neither are we. Jesus death, burial and resurrection sets us free from the penalty of sin and changes the outcome at death. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” As Christ Followers, we are free from the law of sin. Though we inevitably fail, the Christian does not have to sin, because he is freed from sin’s dominion. We are free from the law of death too; death therefore no longer has any lasting power against the believer.

The law can do many things. It can guide us, teach us, and tell us about God’s character. But the law cannot give us the ability to be obedient to God’s standards; it can give us the standard, but it can’t give us the power to please God. That only comes through our heart and the desire to walk in obedience as a Christ Follower. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.”  The law is weak because it speaks to our flesh. But the work of the Spirit transforms us by the putting off the old man and putting on the new man – a principle higher than the earthly body we have.

Romans 7:21-25

In Romans 7:21-25 Paul expresses his desperation around sin, and the perspective that we need to take based on the truth of God’s Word regarding sin. The enemy does not want us to live successfully in relationship to the law and it’s opposite – sin. The more we learn about God’s law and what He desires for us as Christ Followers, the more the enemy is there to tempt us and do all he can to derail us from obedience. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” Good and evil are never far apart. Paul wanted to do right – to please God in every way – but even a man of his spiritual maturity struggled with sin.

What hope do we have? We can learn to do some basic things that give us a better chance of living victoriously in our walk with Christ. Paul was not only in the Word – he took delight in it. He made it part of who he was through reading, study, memorization and meditation. He heard it preached and read. “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Even with those spiritual disciplines, it is a battle to keep the law top of mind and sin pushed aside.

Paul expresses just how hard the battle with sin really is. He is completely worn out and wretched because of his unsuccessful effort to please God under the principle of Law. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The entire tone of Paul’s statement shows that he is desperate for deliverance. He is overwhelmed with a sense of his own powerlessness and sinfulness. We must come to the same place of desperation to find victory. God has provided a way to victory through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary. God knows we can’t make it on our own strength, so He made a way through Christ.

Paul’s perspective turns to something outside the battle he was waging on his own. In the pit of his unsuccessful struggle against sin, Paul became entirely self-focused and self-obsessed. This is the place of any believer living under law, who looks to self and personal performance rather than looking first to Jesus. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Paul shows that even though the law is glorious and good, it can’t save us – and we need a Savior. Paul never found any peace, any praising of God until he looked outside of himself and beyond the law to his Savior, Jesus Christ.

Here is the reality for us regarding salvation as written by David Guzik:

  1. You thought the problem was that you didn’t know what to do to save yourself – but the law came as a teacher, taught you what to do and you still couldn’t do it. You don’t need a teacher, you need a Savior.
  2. You thought the problem was that you weren’t motivated enough, but the law came in like a coach to encourage you on to do what you need to do and you still didn’t do it. You don’t need a coach or a motivational speaker, you need a Savior.
  3. You thought the problem was that you didn’t know yourself well enough. But the law came in like a doctor and perfectly diagnosed your sin problem but the law couldn’t heal you. You don’t need a doctor, you need a Savior.

You need Jesus. Have you invited Him into your life?

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