Its Not About Me

wp-1481429297405.jpg

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Romans 9 is not about Jacob or Esau being predestined for salvation or not. It is about the role they were to play. Some of us are given “greater” roles than others, but we must remember, whatever role we are given, there is a greater picture beyond just us. When life becomes challenging, and things don’t go my way I like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise. I want to believe everything is going to work our for me personally. I read about how David faced challenges, but he always came out on top. But I have to admit, I also read some things in the story of David that disturb my “hope” that everything will work out for me personally. In 1 Samuel 22:18 85 innocent priests become co-lateral victims in the friction between Saul and David. in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah is killed for being loyal to his country! How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 apply for Uriah and the priests?

This may shatter the ego of a lot of western minds, but the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was not given to an individual. It was given to a nation. The western mind loves to internalize the Bible, to the point that we actually believe it is all about us! We love to think that we are living in the last days, (which we are!) because that makes our role pivotal in the Great Controversy. After all, how could God win the Great Controversy without me? I have an important role to play in the church you see! With the game on the line and only seconds left in a basketball play off game, star player Scottie Pippin was outraged when his coach had him on the bench for the final play. There are “Scottie Pippins” in the church today, who cannot imagine God winning the Great Controversy while they just “sit on the bench” or rest in their graves.

Yes, Jesus is a personal Savior, and loves us individually, and would die just for you, but that does not make it all about you. Jesus died for the world. Believe it or not, as much as Jesus really and truly loves you, it still is not all about you, or me. In Exodus 32:32 Moses grasped who it was all about when he asked to have his name blotted from the book of life to save a nation. Had Moses been privy to Jeremiah 29:11 he would not have internalized it and made the promise all about himself. He would have realized the promise was given to a corporate nation. Esther may have very well been familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, when in Esther 4:16 she said, “If I perish I perish.” She was not applying Jeremiah 29:11 to herself. She was applying it to the entire Jewish nation it was given to. She was willing to perish to help fulfill the promise to save the nation.

Paul writes Romans in a corporate mindset, instead of the individualistic western mindset. In Romans 3:23-24 Paul writes how we all have sinned and all been justified. In Romans 5 he writes how we all sinned corporately in Adam, and were all saved corporately in Christ. In Romans 9:3 Paul is looking at the big corporate picture when he writes, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” While pointing out that Jacob and Esau had different roles to play, Paul was willing to be totally written out of the play for the greater good of the nation.

I believe the 85 priests and Uriah, will be in heaven. I believe Esther and Paul will be there too, and obviously Moses already is. After all didn’t Jesus say,

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 NKJV

Yes God loves us individually. I am just asking those of us with a western mind to think outside ourselves if we are not already. After a mission trip, my flight home was cancelled. I ended up spending the night, sleeping on the floor in a foreign airport. I asked God why I had to sleep on the floor instead of my nice comfy bed. God asked me, “What makes you think you ever deserved a bed in the first place? People a lot more deserving than you have been sleeping on the floor for years, and you are complaining about one night? Who do you think you are?”

Dear Jesus, I know you love me just as much when I am sleeping on the floor as when I am sleeping in my bed. I know you loved the 85 priests and Uriah as much as you loved David. Forgive me for the times I thought it was all about me, and help me to see the big picture, like Moses, Esther and Paul all saw the big picture. Instead of working for personal prosperity, help me to work for the prosperity of your church.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Romans 3-8; Power!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love Romans! In this book, Paul portrays the power of the gospel so vividly! Let’s take a look.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

So many times we hear verse 23 read when pointing out that we all have sinned, and they stop there. The verse may end but the sentence and thought continues on into verse 24. It says that while all have sinned, all have also been justified. There are no conditions met by man for this justification.

In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” There were no conditions met by me to make me a sinner. When Adam sinned, I sinned in Adam seeing how my flesh was in Adam’s flesh, I sinned in Adam, with no choice of my own. The eastern mind, which thinks more corporately than the western mind which thinks more individually, grasps this concept more easily. In Genesis 25, God tells Rebekah, that two nations are in her womb, seeing how the flesh of millions would come from the flesh of her twin sons. In Hebrews 7 Paul says that what Abraham did, his grandson Levi also did, seeing how Levi came from the flesh of Abraham. Even today, in many eastern countries, when an individual wins an Olympic gold medal, the medal goes to the country and not the individual. The eastern mind thinks more corporately. So, when Adam sinned, we all sinned in Adam and were made sinners, with no choice of our own. Now look what else happened!

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  Romans 5:10

Where we all sinned in Adam, we have all lived a perfect life in Jesus! Jesus took my flesh (Romans 8:3-4) and lived a perfect life with my flesh! We are saved by His life! Friends this all took place and was resolved before we were ever born or made a choice! Jesus has totally undone all the damage Adam caused. We have all sinned and we have all been justified! We do not need to win God to us, He has won Himself to us.

Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Romans 5:18-19

We all understand that in this verse when it says many were made sinners that is means everyone, but when we read that the free gift came upon all to justification of life, we don’t think that means everyone. It does! Jesus totally undid all the damage Adam caused! I hear people say you have to accept a gift before you can have it. Not so! John 3:16 says God gave His son, not offered, but gave. When I worked at UPS I delivered many packages that I had to go back to later and pick up because the customer did not want them. Even though the customer did not accept them, they still had them until they rejected them. Same with justification!

As many as have sinned have been justified. There is great power in the book of Romans. Romans chapter 4 uses Abraham as an illustration. Abraham was promised a son in his old age. First Abraham tries to help God keep His promise by working it out for Him. He takes Hagar to wife, as she is much younger than his first wife. God then has Abraham circumcised so that he can cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh to work out what God had already promised He would do. Abraham realizes, that the child will come from God’s promise and not by the works of his flesh.  Romans 4:21 says of Abraham, “And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform.”  

All God asks is that we trust His promise, and what He can do for us and through us!

Romans 3-8 tells me:

  1. Adam sinned and made us all sinners. Thus we all deserved to die. Romans 3:23, 6:23
  2. My flesh that deserved to die died with Christ. Romans 8:3-4
  3. While formerly I had sinned in Adam, I now have lived a perfect life in Christ. Romans 5:10
  4. If I continue to do like Abraham and try to save myself by the works of my own flesh, I need to do like Abraham and throw away my trust in my flesh and works, and trust that Jesus has already promised and performed my justification. While God did not make me a robot, I am free at any time to throw away the gift that has already been given, but God has given, not just offered, the free gift of justification. 
  5. While Romans 5:10 says I lived a perfect life in Christ, which is my justification; my salvation from the penalty of sin, Romans 8:4 tells me Jesus wants to fulfill in me His law, which is my sanctification; my salvation from the power of sin.

Romans 1; The Power of Grace and Faith

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:  By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:  Romans 1:4-5

Romans brings out the power of grace and God’s unconditional love. We also see in Romans the power of grace. In Romans 1:5 we see that grace gives us obedience.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  Romans 1:17

While grace gives us the power to obey, faith gives us the power to be just and right with God. Many try to teach that faith and grace release us from the obligation to obey the law. If that was true, then this verse would read that the UNjust shall life by faith. It does not say that. It says the Just shall live by faith. Faith and grace are not a license to sin. Martin Luther, the champion of grace and righteousness by faith, beheld sins in the church that he knew did not belong. “At last he beheld in the distance the seven-hilled city. With deep emotion he prostrated himself upon the earth, exclaiming, “Holy Rome, I salute thee!” He entered thecity, visited the churches, listened to the marvelous tales repeated by priests and monks, and performed all the ceremonies required. Everywhere he looked upon scenes that filled him with astonishment and horror. He saw that iniquity existed among all classes of the clergy. He heard indecent jokes from prelates, and was filled with horror at their awful profanity, even during mass. As he mingled with the monks and citizens, he met dissipation, debauchery. Turn where he would, in the place of sanctity he found profanation. “It is incredible,” he wrote, “what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say, ‘If there be a hell, Rome is built above it. It is an abyss whence all sins proceed.”  {Great Controversy, p. 124} Martin Luther knew that grace was not a license to sin. He knew that while grace justifies, and frees us from the penalty of sin, that it also sanctifies and frees us from the power of sin.

As Voltaire said years later, “If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you’re going to have to start looking a lot more redeemed.”

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 4

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In this week’s SS lesson we read, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. “ Romans 3:31

While reading through the Old Testament in my personal devotions I discovered something I had not realized before about when Moses struck the rock. God told him to speak to the rock and water would come out. Instead Moses struck the rock and said must ”we fetch you water”. I always thought that it was a combination of Moses’ anger and pride that got him into trouble. 1. Striking the rock instead of speaking and 2. Saying must “we” fetch instead of God, insinuated Moses was taking credit for the miracle. However, in verse 12 of Numbers 20 I found another clue. God infers that Moses struck the rock because of his unbelief. Maybe Moses did not think speaking would work. What if God does not do His part too? So Moses in striking the rock was doing the work himself in forcing the water out like the last time. Instead of speaking and trusting God, Moses decided to work the entire miracle out on his own.

There are two extremes man has been struggling with ever since sin began. One is that we can produce good works on our own. The other is that since righteousness comes by faith that it is not a real righteousness but rather that God just plays make believe and pretends to make us righteous.

If Moses had obeyed God and believed water would come from the rock just by speaking (notice how believing and obedience go together and you can’t have one without the other) there would have been real water flowing out from the rock. It would not have been make believe water. Likewise when God gives us righteousness by faith, that righteousness is just as real as anything else we get by faith. This idea of make believe righteousness also lead to the erroneous idea that the law is done away with. The law is the character of God which is love. To do away with the law is to do away with love and the character of God. Why would we do that? Psalms 19 says “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul.” Why would God do away with something that is perfect and  a vital part of our conversion?

“But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.  {Desire of Ages 126.1} 

When we confess our sin (That is our part, speaking, just as Moses was to speak) God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God literally forgives and He also literally cleanses us from sin so that we do not have to continue hurting ourselves and others.  By faith, this cleansing from the power of sin is just as real as the water that came gushing from the rock that Moses was to speak to.

In legalism (Which is the works or efforts of the flesh)  or in the gospel, righteousness is the goal. Legalism wants to strike the rock and force that water out ourselves to bring that cleansing from sin. Faith believes if we ask God, He will do His part to make the cleansing water gush into our hearts and souls cleansing us from the guilt and power of sin.

 You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of the Cross.