FALLING SHORT

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

What is your definition of sin? For some people everything goes unless you hurt someone else. For others, it’s some kind of religious list. I’ll never forget what I found in the pulpit in our first church. It was some kind of list of rules that was concocted by the church who had used the building before us. There were things in there about swimming with members of the opposite sex and certain clothing that shouldn’t be worn. Then there was the Hindu book called Nectar of Devotion that was some sort of list of Hindu rules. The ones that got me were the ones about women not going to the temple when they were “at that time of the month” or the other one that forbade passing gas in the temple. Religion can get really complicated. Here is my definition of sin; sin is what you do when God Himself is not enough for you. Here is how John Piper describes it.

“It also follows that sin is the suicidal exchange of the glory of God for the broken cisterns of created things. Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This is the great insult.”

So what have you replaced God with? Is it like the woman at the well that tried to find her satisfaction in another man’s arms? Or is it like the Pharisees that found their joy from the respect of other men? Maybe politics is your thing, like Simon the Zealot who wanted power in the political realm. Then there is the rich young ruler, his joy was caught up in his possessions. The bottom line is this, only when you taste the sweetest of all joys will you be able to be freed from the foolish pleasures and attractions of this world. Then you will not “fall short”, you will be right in the middle of His glory.

SEEKERS

Rom. 3:10,11 – as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

Its interesting if you think about the reasons many people are spiritual or have a belief in God. For some its a desire to live right, for others it may be some sort of insurance policy to avoid hell. Then there are those who are all about the benefits the Bible promises; folks will pray and attend church for financial favor, marital bliss, or for the sake of the children. Of course there are those who are in health crisis or financial drama who look to heaven as their way out. The funny thing about this endless list, they are all things that the Lord will do for us but none are a reason for us to become spiritual. Notice what Paul says in this verse, “There is none that seeks God”. Did you see what the Lord is looking for? He is longing to have people who seek Him just for the pleasure of knowing Him. All of those other things are the things He does for those who love Him. Here is how R.C. Sproul describes this passage.

“We see people searching for the things that we know can be found only in Christ, but we make the gratuitous assumption that because they are seeking the benefits of God, they must therefore be seeking God. That is the very dilemma of fallen creatures: we want the things that only God can give us, but we do not want him. We want peace but not the Prince of Peace. We want purpose but not the sovereign purposes decreed by God. We want meaning found in ourselves but not in his rule over us. We see desperate people, and we assume they are seeking for God, but they are not seeking for God….. No one seeks after God. How desperately was Paul searching for God while on his way to Damascus to destroy the followers of Jesus? He was no more searching for God than I was when God stopped me in my path one night and brought me sovereignly to himself. I knew then that I did not come to Christ because I was seeking him. I came to Christ because he sought me.”

That is the whole message of Paul in the book of Romans. We are saved by grace through faith. It happened suddenly in Paul’s life, he went from a dogmatic Pharisee to a lover by one touch of God’s amazing grace.

REJOICE WITH TREMBLING #2

Rom.3:18 – “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

“This fear is a gracious habit or principle planted by God in the soul, whereby the soul is kept under an holy awe of the eye of God, and from thence is inclined to perform and do what pleaseth him, and to shun and avoid whatsoever he forbids and hates.”

John Flavel – puritan Pastor who lived from 1628-1691 who died in jail, imprisoned for his faith.

Yesterday we began to look at this powerful statement from a pastor from the 1600’s. We will continue today.

Flavel also said that the fear of God causes an inclination in us to do the things that are pleasing to God.  In Hebrews 11:7 the Bible says that Noah was moved with fear to prepare an ark.  Noah was inclined to obey the Lord because of a Godly fear that came upon Him.  This fear produces not only obedience but like David said a delight.  “I delight to do your will oh God.”  Psalm 40:8

Finally, Flavel said that this fear causes us to avoid behavior that is displeasing to the Lord.  Job was described as one who feared God and turned away from evil.  When we come to Christ, and experience the reality of God in our souls, we have this tendency to flee from evil.  Our heart is changed, we are not attracted to the disgusting practices of the world, and we are strangely attracted to Christ.

David spoke of this strange joy in Psalm 2:11.  He said serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  When the incredible, holy majesty of God comes upon us we are stricken with two things.  We are overwhelmed by His attributes.  We are struck by His holiness, kindness, grace, power, love, justice, sovereignty, and power.  We tremble before this awesome God.  Secondly, we are strangely affected by the joy of heaven.  This supernatural joy fills our souls and overwhelms us.  We begin to rejoice, every part of our being begins to rejoice.  The joy of the Lord becomes ours, our joy is made full.  If you long for happiness, it is available to you.  It is available not in the pleasures of this world, but at the Father’s right hand, pleasures forevermore.

Maybe you have never really experienced this kind of intimacy with God. Try it, after all Solomon said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Maybe its time to get started.

REJOICE WITH TREMBLING #1

Rom.3:18 – “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

“This fear is a gracious habit or principle planted by God in the soul, whereby the soul is kept under an holy awe of the eye of God, and from thence is inclined to perform and do what pleaseth him, and to shun and avoid whatsoever he forbids and hates.”

John Flavel – puritan Pastor who lived from 1628-1691 who died in jail, imprisoned for his faith.

In Romans 3:18 Paul quotes Psalm 36:1 saying “There is no fear of God before his eyes.”  We live in a generation that takes the things of God for granted and has no fear of God anywhere to be found.  Obviously, the lost people have no knowledge of God and cannot respect the Lord.  However, the church is in a different situation all together.  The fear of God is also absent from our congregations today.  I think often about the sorry spiritual condition the supposed Body of Christ is in and I have come to some conclusions.  Apparently, we have been lulled to sleep with a message about the blessings of God in this life and self help messages causing us to lose our moorings.  Christianity is about more than careers, houses, ministries and everything else than has been the focus of “church” for too long.  The normal message today is about success, vision, purpose, church growth, marriage and other topics that pertain to this life.  Where is the preaching about Christ and His Kingdom? I thought Jesus taught His kingdom is not of this world. It is touching His kingdom by faith and drawing close to the King that produces the fear of the Lord in us.

As we reflect on the words of John Flavel, we are reminded of the difference of the church in 1600 to the church of 2000.  Flavel said that the fear of God is planted supernaturally in our soul.  Natural man is afraid of a lot of things, but the fear of God is nowhere to be found.  As we call upon the Lord, and hunger after Him our heart is filled with the fear and majesty of Almighty God. This fear is strangely associated with joy. That’s why David said to “Rejoice with trembling” in the second Psalm. Seek first His kingdom and the rest of our lives will be sorted out.

Continued tomorrow…

CLEARLY SEEN

Rom 3:21,22 – But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

The righteousness of God is what the Bible is all about. It is that righteousness that leads to a relationship with the Lord that we lost at the fall of man. It was cloaked in types and shadows in the Old Testament. It was displayed in sacrifices and symbolic pictures all throughout the scriptures. It is now manifested, or clearly seen, through faith in Christ. Jesus displayed the righteousness of God in His life, offered it to us at the cross, and poured it out on us through the Holy Spirit. It can only be seen and received by faith. Here is how this is explained in the Fire Bible.

“Since we could never deserve his mercy or favor by our own efforts, through his grace God has provided a way for us to be restored to a right relationship with himself. It is a way that satisfied his perfect justice which required a penalty and punishment for our sin—and yet provides forgiveness, freedom from guilt and victory over the power of evil. God’s plan of spiritual salvation saves people from the final consequences of sin and provides them with the gift of eternal life through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. Receiving this gift is what makes a person righteous….. God’s righteousness, as revealed through the NT message of Jesus Christ, is still available to all who accept the forgiveness and new life made possible through Jesus’ personal sacrifice, which paid the full penalty for our sin against God. The power of this message to provide spiritual salvation and to bring people into a right relationship with God is constantly fresh and relevant.”

To some this righteousness is clearly seen, to others it seems invisible. What is the secret to step out of the shroud of secrecy into the light of this brand new life? The secret is faith and that is given only as a gift. It is this faith that opens our eyes to see the righteousness of God that is offered as a gift through Jesus Christ. How do you know if this gift is for you? It is available only to those who want it.

GREATEST CHRISTMAS GIFT

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Rom. 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Most every Christian I know has a similar story, Christianity was not anything like they thought and His love was the biggest surprise of all. He loved us just because. His love was not connected to anything we did; actually, He loved us despite what we did or the way we lived our lives. Salvation came as an absolute gift. Nothing I could do could earn it, nothing I could not do would disqualify me. My righteousness is totally non-related to my life, my salvation can’t be based on my performance. Righteousness and the gift of salvation is simply that, a free gift. It is never earned or deserved. The one requirement; we receive His gift by faith. That’s the easy part and also the hard part, we have to get passed the stumbling stone of trying to do something to please God. Here is Martin Luther’s famous story and how he discovered the just shall live by faith.
“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
This was so shocking to me; I remember thinking, “That’s it, there’s nothing I need to do?” No that is it, there is nothing we can do. We are saved by grace alone by faith alone and that too is a gift from God. So this Christmas let’s celebrate the greatest of all Christmas presents, the gift of God’s love we receive through His Son.

He is the Greatest

Rom. 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

I don’t know if this is accurate but someone quoted Muhammed Ali as saying, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it”. The root of a lot of our problems is pride, thinking more of ourselves than is accurate. If you really think about it the only being this would be impossible for is God, it would be impossible for even God to exaggerate His greatness because His greatness has no end. If that is true, God’s glory is unlimited and deserves all of our attention and worship. Because of this everything exists to display or to show forth His glory, even us.

Today’s verse describes God’s greatest act of love, He vindicates His own righteousness and offers us infinite joy in His presence by His death on the cross. His glory and my joy resulting from one act. What an amazing God. Here is how John Piper describes it.
“Here is another profound reality that transforms the way I think about everything. God’s acting for his own sake and his acting for my sake are not at odds. They are, Edwards says, “not to be set in opposition” but “coincide with one another” and “are implied in one another.” This is massively important. It comes to expression in the cross, where God vindicates his own righteousness in the very act of saving us for infinite “joy at his right hand (Rom. 3:25-26; compare 1 Pet. 3:18; Ps. 16:11). It is the very heart of the gospel. The exaltation of [God’s] glory is the driving force of the gospel. The gospel is a gospel of grace! And grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.”

This is quite stunning, the Lord’s work of redemption was designed to display His love and grace so all of creation could see His glory on display. What are the results? We receive joy unspeakable in His presence. Rather than judgement and condemnation, I receive grace and glory. What a deal! So my point is this, bragging or pride is wrong because it is based on a lie. Since God’s glory is infinite and impossible to exaggerate it is impossible for pride to be an issue with God. He is the greatest.

FALLING SHORT

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

What is your definition of sin? For some people everything goes unless you hurt someone else. For others, it’s some kind of religious list. I’ll never forget what I found in the pulpit in our first church. It was some kind of list of rules that was concocted by the church who had used the building before us. There were things in there about swimming with members of the opposite sex and certain clothing that shouldn’t be worn. Then there was the Hindu book called Nectar of Devotion that was some sort of list of Hindu rules. The ones that got me were the ones about women not going to the temple when they were “at that time of the month” or the other one that forbade passing gas in the temple. Religion can get really complicated. Here is my definition of sin; sin is what you do when God Himself is not enough for you. Here is how John Piper describes it.
“It also follows that sin is the suicidal exchange of the glory of God for the broken cisterns of created things. Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This is the great insult.”
So what have you replaced God with? Is it like the woman at the well that tried to find her satisfaction in another man’s arms? Or is it like the Pharisees that found their joy from the respect of other men? Maybe politics is your thing, like Simon the Zealot who wanted power in the political realm. Then there is the rich young ruler, his joy was caught up in his possessions. The bottom line is this, only when you taste the sweetest of all joys will you be able to be freed from the foolish pleasures and attractions of this world. Then you will not “fall short”, you will be right in the middle of His glory.

DEPRAVITY OF MAN

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Paul included everyone in one huge sweep; all of us have sinned. The reason he could be so sure is that he understood the clear condition of man’s heart. All men are sinners. The scene before Pilate easily confirms this. You see the raucous crowd spurred on by the priests to demand the death of Christ. They chose Barrabas to go free rather than Christ. Barrabas obviously deserved death and Christ deserved freedom. Why did they choose Barrabas? It was obviously because of the condition of their hearts. They were wicked and their wickedness despised the righteousness of God seen in Christ. Their evil nature wanted to kill Jesus. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this dilemma.
“This wickedness that wrought these sufferings of Christ, was but a sample of that corruption and depravity that is naturally in all mankind. The corruption that was in the heart of Judas that betrayed Christ; and the Jews that apprehended him and cried, “Crucify him, crucify [him],” and preferred Barabbas before him; and of Pilate that condemned him; and the soldiers that mocked, and buffeted, and spit upon him; and in all that had a hand in crucifying of him, is the very same corruption that is naturally in the hearts of all mankind. ‘Tis the same wickedness. It all has just the same tendency, and under like circumstances, and without restraint, would act just so: “As in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” So that Christ therein had a view of the sin of his elect that he then died for. Such corruption, such sin and wickedness as this, that put Christ to such ignominy and torment, was that which suffered this ignominy and torment to make atonements for.”
If the truth were known, it was our own wickedness that demanded Christ’s death. So actually it was all of mankind crying out for the Lord’s death that day. We can’t blame the priests, the soldiers, the people, or even Pilate; it was our own guilt that cried for His death. It’s coming to that conclusion, our sinfulness killed Jesus, that is the beginning of our freedom.

In our seeker sensitive, I’m okay and you’re okay world, no one sees themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior. Actually that is the work of the Holy Spirit, He convicts us of our sins and brings us to the place of our cleansing, He brings us to cleansing found only in the blood of Jesus.

JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER

JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER

Just, and the justifier of him which believes.
Romans 3:26

We live in a generation that has moved to one side of the equation of Christ being “just and the justifier”. The modern popular preachers love to expound on and on about grace, favor, blessings: you know, all the stuff God does for His people. That should be preached, after all His grace is limitless. The problem is this, when grace is preached and the message of justice and holiness is ignored, a wrong image of God is portrayed. The end result is not the good news of the gospel. Christ is not only the justifier, He is also just. If The Lord ignores the sinfulness of man He is no longer just, this would violate His very nature. The holiness of God is preserved and displayed beautifully at the cross. God’s hatred for sin, His divine justice is displayed as He judges man’s sin by the death of His Son at calvary. Christ bore the wrath of God; that is what enables the grace of God to be offered to all who believe on Him. Here is how Charles Spurgeon explains it.

“Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of his people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God is just; and this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvelous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change his nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer-having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that his people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Not God, for he hath justified; not Christ, for he hath died, yea rather hath risen again.”

If you are born again, no matter what your past holds, you stand without sin before The Lord. This is made possible by the satisfaction of God’s anger against sin by the punishment of His Son in our place. What a powerful truth that Paul preached, “He is just and the justifier to Him that believes”.