Stories and News
Bible Studies For Life
May 10, 2020
Matthew 18:21-28; 32-33
A farmer friend of mine showed me his bleeding, bandaged hand. It seems he managed to rope a wayward horse, which then proceeded to drag him topsy-turvy across the pasture, the rope tearing the skin off his hand the entire time. “Why didn’t you just let go of the rope?” I asked. His reply was classic. “Once I caught him,” he said, “I wasn’t about to let him win.”
And so it is too often with us when it comes to forgiveness. Once we catch someone who has offended us, we aren’t about to let them win, even if it hurts us more than it hurts them.
In his conversation with Jesus, the apostle Peter thought he was being very generous in offering to forgive “as many as seven times.” Jesus used the opportunity to teach his disciples exactly what biblical forgiveness looks like. The story unfolds in three scenes.
The proposition (vv. 21-22). The question posed by Peter in verse 21 had no doubt been spawned by Jesus’ comments in the preceding verses regarding the restoration of one who has “sinned against you” (v. 15). Surely there were limits to such things! Tradition says that the Jews of antiquity agreed to forgive a person for up to three offenses, and Amos 1:3 suggests at least four. Seven, which represents the number of completion, might have seemed to Peter to be the upper limit of one’s grace when it comes to forgiveness. Jesus’ counter of seventy times seven is obviously not literal, but rhetorical. As often as one confesses and truly repents, forgiveness is to be granted.
The illustration (vv. 23-34). Knowing that the disciples no doubt shared Peter’s wondering, Jesus illustrated what divine forgiveness looked like using a parable. It’s noteworthy that the emotional and spiritual aspects of an intangible attitude of forgiveness are described in the harsh, tangible language of settling accounts and slave-debt. In so doing, Jesus made the concept not only understandable, but serious.
In the first segment of the parable, the slave had been working off an immense sum (10,000 talents; v. 24). When the master surmised that no amount of work could settle the account, he forced the man and his family into destitution (v. 25). But the impassioned pleas by the slave for mercy brought a change of mind and heart on the part of the master. Moved by compassion, the master not only freed the man, but forgave all that he owed (vv. 26-27).
In the second segment of the story (vv. 28-31), the one who had been freed and forgiven refused to do the same thing for another servant who owed him a much smaller amount (v. 28). The appalling hypocrisy of his actions was obvious, noted by everyone around them, and brought to the attention of the previously gracious but now infuriated master (v. 31).
The application (vv. 32-35). Parables are earthly stories with spiritual meanings. In this case, the spiritual application is pretty easy. How could those who have been forgiven so much (followers of Christ) refuse to pass on the same kind of mercy and grace to others? (v. 33; see also Matt. 6:14-15). Verse 34 is troubling at first glance. Does this mean that we can be freed and forgiven for our sin, only to be dragged back before God to be punished for it after all? Thankfully, Jesus answered that in verse 35: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” In other words, only those who genuinely forgive others with their whole heart have experienced God’s gracious forgiveness. And vice versa, only those who have genuinely experienced God’s forgiveness are able to offer it to others.
May 17, 2020
Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10
Galatians is all about being freed from the law no one could keep (Gal. 2:16). But being free from the law places us in bondage to Christ (1:10), and under His law (6:2). Our lesson this week points out one aspect of what that means.
Service with compassion (vv. 13-15). At first glance, Christian liberty sounds a lot like permission to do whatever we want. But freedom in Christ is not doing what we want but doing what we ought. Paul suggested that the enthusiasm believers feel at being released from a legalistic system of petty “do’s” and “don’ts” should be turned from selfishness into service. And as Christ-followers, the motivation for serving one another is not obligation (something required), but rather love (something freely given) (v. 13). In verse 14, the apostle directly echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 22. When asked which commandment was greatest, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” So central is the command to love, that Jesus added, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands” (Matt. 22:37-40). The lesson? Christian liberty frees us to serve one another with the purest of motives: because we love one another.
Service with humility (6:1-5). Even in service, there lurks the pitfall of pride. Paul mentions two areas where our attempts to help others might trip us up. First, we must guard against pride in our judgement of others (v. 1). How easy it is to point fingers and condemn those who stumble into sin! But rather than condemnation, Paul urges compassion. It’s interesting that he defines spiritual maturity as gently restoring others while carefully protecting one’s self. Second, we must guard against pride when examining ourselves. Service to others is a demonstration of love (see 5:14). But if we somehow think we are “too good” to serve (v. 3), we are deceiving ourselves (see 1 John 1:8) and violating the example that Jesus Himself left for us (see Mark 10:45). The remedy for such pride is harsh self-examination that judges our own works as God sees them rather than comparing what we do with the works of others. Verses 2 and 5 are not contradictory, but complimentary. As compassionate believers, we must sympathize and assist in ministry to others; but as humble followers of Christ, we know that we alone are responsible for our own deeds (see Rom. 14:12). The lesson? We are called to serve others with compassion while critiquing ourselves.
Service with enthusiasm (6:10). The “therefore” of verse 10 refers back to Paul’s final exhortation to serve one another in verse 9: “So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” There is the promise of reward for those who continue to give even in the midst of weariness. The “must” in the main portion of verse 10— “we must work for the good of all”—is not a command, but rather a strong urging. To serve because we are obligated would place us back into the legalism Paul has so adamantly argued against. Instead, we should serve others, out of love, thus fulfilling the law of Christ (v. 2). The heart of the verse is preceded by a condition: as opportunities to serve become apparent, we are to take advantage of them; and is followed by an emphasis: “especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” While the Bible is clear that Christian love, charity, and service are to be directed to all, the primary responsibility is caring for the family of God. This peculiar term “household of faith” properly refers to those of the church, but in common usage included the sphere of influence. Hence, while service should be rendered to all, the church family and those within its influence should come first. The lesson? Believers should serve with enthusiasm and look for opportunities to do so.
May 24, 2020
Philippians 2:1-5, (8-12), 13-15
Philippians is Paul’s most personal letter. Unlike most other epistles, Philippians doesn’t address big issues in their congregation, chastise them for immoral behavior, or rebuke them for false doctrine. Instead, this letter represents an extended “thank you note” for the church’s continued support of Paul’s ministry. His warm affection for the people of the church is obvious throughout.
While there are no explicit corrections offered, the apostle gives some not-so-subtle reminders that peace and harmony in the church must be continually guarded and intentionally nurtured. This deep care for the wellbeing of others is highlighted in chapter 2, with the emphasis on yielding to others in humility. Three distinct characteristics of the humble Christ-follower are given.
Selfless in unity (vv. 1-4). Paul uses the word “joy” five times in his little love letter; “rejoice seven times; and “glad” twice. Here, he suggests that his own joy is fulfilled when the church he loved so much is unified. First, he offers the motive for unity. Christ Himself embodied the great traits of true fellowship: encouragement, consolation, communion, affection, and mercy (v. 1). If these were legitimately lived out by Christ (and they were!) then they ought to be demonstrated by His followers. He then offers the model of unity, four areas where unity is both needed and expected: in their thoughts (“like minded”), in their affections, in their feelings (“of one soul”), and in their purpose (v. 2). Finally, he offers the means of this unity: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (v. 3). While the language uses plural pronouns, the admonition is strikingly personal. Each individual must set himself aside in humility and consider each other person as superior. This willful move from selfishness to selflessness is so counter to human nature, that it can only be accomplished by followers of Christ, who are committed to modeling Christ.
Servant in attitude (v. 5-8). The attitude of humility needed to consider others as better than ourselves (v. 3) is the same attitude of humility demonstrated by Christ in His incarnation. Verses 5 and following are known as the kenosis passage (from the Greek word for “emptied” in verse 7). There is quite a bit of interesting theology in these verses, but taken as a whole, the key idea is Christ’s humility…His willingness to leave His position in glory to become not only a man, but a servant; and not only a servant, but a humble, obedient servant who was destined to die a humiliating death on the cross (v. 8). Such was the attitude of Christ. For the sake of unity and love, Paul exhorted Christ-followers to embrace that same attitude, making it “their own” (v. 5).
Shining in example (vv. 12-15). While the “book” lesson does not include verse 12, I think it’s important for context. Two important concepts are evident. First, Paul affirms them for their continued obedience to God’s word, whether he was there in person or not. The remainder of verse 12 is troublesome if taken out of context. “Working out your own salvation” does not mean that salvation is open to one’s personal interpretation. Nor does it mean that salvation is earned by doing good works. Rather, Paul is encouraging believers to live out their salvation with great determination. What is worked “into” believers by the Holy Spirit (v. 13) must be worked “out” through humble but determined obedience. And this godly effort, while personal and individual, is never to be done with an ungodly attitude (v. 14). The effective combination of the right works carried out with the right attitude is what the world would ultimately notice, and what Paul wanted to see in his quest to have his joy fulfilled in them (v. 2).
May 31, 2020
Romans 14:1-4, 13-19
Sibling rivalry and family squabbles are part of growing up. As the “baby” of the family and with two older brothers, I was at the bottom of the pecking order and consigned to third-phase hand-me-downs, all because I was the youngest. For my brothers to yield to my whims was most unnatural and almost unheard of.
But the family of God operates by love, not family status. For this reason, the apostle Paul repeatedly reminded the church to exchange our natural animosity toward the immature with supernatural acceptance. In our passage this week, three actions are called for.
Accept others (vv. 1-4). After giving so much doctrinal instruction, the apostle Paul reminds the believers in Rome not to allow Christian knowledge to be a source of pride and contention. After all, the basis of Christian fellowship is not how much you know, but rather how well you love (see Rom. 13:8-10). For this reason, he admonishes Christ-followers to “receive anyone who is weak in the faith.” Here, to receive is to accept, or even invite. Weakness is characterized by a shallow, not-yet-fully- developed belief system. In our day, we would describe someone “weak in the faith” as spiritually immature. But the important thing is to remember they are still “in the faith,” whether weak or not! For this reason, he reminds mature believers not to bring weaker believers into the fellowship for the purpose of debating who’s right and who’s wrong (v. 1). Verses 2 and 3 illustrate the type of “doubtful issue” Paul is talking about. Believing Gentiles, for instance, were not encumbered with the dietary restrictions inherent in the Jewish tradition. While good arguments might be made from both sides, the point is moot, because God said it is! The phrase “Who are you” (v. 4) is pretty harsh (in our vernacular, we might say, “How dare you!”). No one has the right to judge another’s servant for he has no power over him. In the same way, no man has the right to judge Christ’s servant either. That’s the Lord’s business.
Protect others (vv. 13-15). In Paul’s mind, receiving a weaker brother into the fellowship is not enough. Weaker brethren require protection. It may seem ironic that the person who is “right” must always do the yielding, but it makes good sense that the more mature believer be the most flexible and always take the high road in dealing with less mature believers. Verse 14 introduces the effect of the conscience. While Paul felt no obligation to the Old Testament law, he knew that others did. While God might not hold one accountable to the law, God does hold one accountable to his own conscience. For this reason, Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Therefore, if food makes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat while the world stands, lest I make my brother to stumble.” In other words, my exercise of Christian liberty is not worth the damage it will cause if it offends another believer (v. 15). In the end, love trumps liberty, even if I am “right” and you are “wrong.”
Work with others (vv. 16-19). Besides the more personal warnings to neither criticize nor offend a weaker believer, the apostle adds a more general warning: do not—by nit-picking with one another—give occasion for others to speak evil of the blessing of Christian liberty (v. 16). Few things give more spiteful pleasure to the outside world than seeing strife and animosity within the church (see a similar rebuke in Rom. 2:24). All believers—but especially the mature— are encouraged to rise above petty conflicts over non-essential, peripheral issues of daily life and focus on the central truths of kingdom living that apply to all: the “righteousness, peace, and joy” that are available “in the Holy Spirit” (v. 17). Such acquiescence to one another both pleases God and silences men (v. 18).
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Boasting is received in the world as acceptable. We almost expect it in may circles – business, sports, etc. We almost laud those who are confident and self-assured so much so that it bleeds into every area of our lives, including our relationship with the Lord. Boasting, however, is dangerous in anyone, but none more so than in Christians. Whether Jew or Gentile all stood guilty in our sin before God. We were not just guilty, however. We were guilty and without a way in ourselves to be otherwise. For such people the wrath of God is certain (Romans 1:18). Having established this fact Paul, now, with the darkness of humanity clearly pictured Paul makes a shift in his language about the beauty of gospel.
THROUGH FAITH (Romans 3:21-24)
Paul starts this section off with the contrast of “But now” (Romans 3:21). There was a moment when all, even the Jews were without the saving hope of the gospel. They were lost and trapped in their own sin and its eternal implications. But now, in Christ, the righteousness that God demands has broken through and is now accessible; not through works, but through faith (Romans 3:22). Having faith means that our eyes must turn away from our achievement, effort, work and activities as the basis for our being one with the Lord. Instead we must focus on the need to place our faith in Christ. Jews have no greater advantage than the Gentiles in this way even with their history of faith. “For there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift…” (Romans 3:22b-24). While we must live holy lives that reflect the glory of God we must never be led to the false belief that our actions establish our relationship with the Lord. Faith, alone does this. Our actions simply prove our faith (see James 2:14ff). As in the Latin orthodox phrase sola fide (faith alone) we have our sins washed away and our eternal destiny shifted from damnation to glorification only when we shift our faith away from self and, singularly, toward Christ.
IN JESUS (Romans 3:25-26)
The anger and wrath of God is a serious reality for those who do not believe in Christ. One might also call this a serious matter to God! The major question Paul is answering in these verses is this: How can God be righteous and at the same time reconcile sinners to Himself? In other words if man is actually in the sinful condition we have read about (Romans 1-3:18) and God is righteous, how can a sinner ever be one with the holy Lord? The answer: Christ Jesus. While the language Paul uses here is rich and beyond the scope of our space let us sum it up in this way. Christ has come to demonstrate what the sacrifices only symbolized in an incomplete manner. Because they were incomplete, in that they did not remove sin, God’s acceptance of them was an expression of divine restraint. Thus Paul says “in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25b). Now, God has “presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time” (Romans 3:25a). In this way, with Christ being the Perfect sacrifice as the God-man, God remains righteous when reconciling sinful men, because their faith in Christ has removed their guilt.
FOR ALL PEOPLE (Romans 3:27-31)
The power of the work of Christ is that it completed the mission of God to have a people who would be from every nation on the globe (See Genesis 12:1). In this way no one, not even Jews, could boast about their relationship with the Lord. Boasting was only to be done in the faith the Lord provided (Romans 3:27-28). This language of Paul would certainly cut to the heart of Jews who saw Gentiles as dogs and second class people. Yet Paul pushes even deeper the implications of the gospel. He says that God is the God of all people and there is a path for the circumcised “by faith” and for the uncircumcised “through faith” (Romans 3:30) in Christ alone. This is a driving text for the priority of missions. God is the God of everyone and therefore, everyonemust hear the gospel!
INCLUDING ABRAHAM (Romans 4:1-3)
This is a shocking truth for Jews to hear. Abraham, the father of the faith, is now counted as one with Gentile believers in that he is said to be justified, not by circumcision, but by faith! Not even the giant Abraham could boast. When he responded to the call of God in Genesis 12:1ff he did so by faith. Circumcision would not happen until later, but Paul says that Abraham became the patriarch of it all, by faith! Now, with this established, it is clear that nothing that has ever been of value has been such because of action. It has all been because of faith.
How powerful a word this is for a busy people who measure our value in achievements? This may be the way of the world, but it is not the way of the Lord. The only achievement that matters to the Lord is that which was accomplished on Golgotha. May we rest, by faith, in that.
One lyrical theologian rapped the following lyrics: “It feels so good to be justified…” (Shai Linne). Wait a minute! Justification is something I can feel? In truth, yes. To be justified means to be made right with God and, if that truth does not produce all kinds of joy and delight in the soul I am not sure that soul is justified. We make Christianity out to be singularly about what we think, etc. Paul shows us in this session that justification produces affections consistent with it. When we truly know what justification we, ourselves, will say: “It feels so good to be justified.…”
JUSTIFIED WITH BENEFITS (Romans 5:1-5)
As I look at this section we can identify these benefits in two categories: relational and character. Relationally, we have and should rejoice in the peace, access and hope of glory we have in Christ (Romans 5:1-2). Peacerefers to the absence of eternal conflict between God and those who have faith. Access speaks to the removal of barriers that once prevented us from nearness to the Lord. Hope of glory pertains to this newfound eternal joy that is now, but not yet fully yet. Now, to understand Paul at times we need to read him backwards. In this light Paul is saying this: because we have a sure and steady hope of glory opened to us through Christ (Romans 5:2b), we now have access to Him at all times (Romans 5:2a) because anything that prevent our peace with Him was crushed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). These benefits are the foundation for our character benefits: afflictions and endurance (Romans 5:3-5). Afflictions relate to those experiences we go through because of our faith and endurance is the internal resolve not to quit or give in. Again, let’s read Paul backwards: because you know that endurance is being fueled by your afflictionsrejoice and do not give up in the tough times. Rather, let the hope, access and peace you have with God in Christ be your focus and joy.
JUSTIFIED THROUGH HIS DEATH (Romans 5:6-8)
What is amazing about the gift of God to us in Christ Jesus is that He gave Christ to and for us “while we were still helpless” (Romans 5:6). Helpless refers not simply to our weakness to do anything that pleased God but also to our resolved will to only do that which offended Him. We are never so weak as when we willingly go against the will of God. That God did this at the right time (Romans 5:6) is not because there was ever a wrong time. Paul’s language speaks to the Lord’s sovereign design to rescue men when He wills; at the time that He determined to do so. To do die for the ungodly is amazing when it is contrasted against the reality that, as Paul says, “For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die” (Romans 5:7). In other words, people would rarely give their lives for another individual who is morally good and doing the right thing. So, who would give their life for those who are actively and aggressively going against them? God Himself!; and He did so without condition – “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and by demonstration – “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We should rejoice, not that the Bible says God loves us, but that He proved it!
JUSTIFIED EQUALS RECONCILIATION (Romans 5:9-11)
Paul begins with a shocking truth: “How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath” (Romans 5:9)? What is both shocking and compelling in this verse is that Paul is saying this: “We are saved by God from God”! How incredibly mind blowing is this thought! God the Son’s blood was shed for us so that we could be saved from God the Father’s wrath! All of this “while we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). It is the life of the Son that saves us as He lives His life through us (Galatians 2:20). If God would go through such extraordinary lengths to reconcile us to Himself, while we were in the heart of our sin, it is assured to us that He will keep us to the end. The Lord has done this for you and I. He has come to the place of our depravity and rescued us who were not seeking rescue. He came and got us and then, in peace, showed us our pit of depravity crushed under the weight of His cross. We can truly be at peace.
What sin are you struggling with now? What thought(s) or past event(s) shake you to the core at the very thought of it? Christ wants you to know that He has won and conquered death and sin…yes, even that one that seems to always shake you. Be at peace in Him.
DEAD TO SIN (Romans 6:1-7)
Sometimes the truth that our eternity is secured by faith in Jesus can lead people to think and behave as if what we do, now, does not matter. If I am saved and secured and if where sin abounds grace super abounds (Roman 5:21) doesn’t my sin bring about more grace? Paul answers this rhetorical question by saying, “Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:2). Another way to say it is “May it never be!” Paul is literally saying that it cannot be that one who is justified by faith would live ungodly. It cannot be since our souls have been united with Christ in a powerful and transformative way such that our lives must follow this newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). This union with Christ is not simply experienced with His death but with His life as well. Yes, Christ died for my sins, but by faith in Him, I – the old self – died too! When Christ rose from the grave (symbolic of death) with life, so too I, when I believed, rose with him in new life. That’s Paul’s point when he says: “For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). To die to something is to have its life taken. When, by faith, we died to sin, we were freed its life and the power of its penalty. Christians cannot (will not) live in that which they died to (Romans 6:7).
ALIVE IN CHRIST (Romans 6:8-11)
To be alive in Christ is to be dead to sin because the power of sin’s penalty, symbolized as death, no longer rules (Romans 6:9). This should not be mistaken to mean that sin no longer has the power to influence our actions and thinking. It does and it can. So being alive in Christ means that the life of God now resides within us but the choice to live by it is ours to make every moment. This is why Paul says that we should “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). This is a powerful statement that deserves our attention. To consider means to reckon or to think a certain way as something that is really true. Paul is saying that believers have the life of God in them and yet we must always keep in the front of our minds: “I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This is not motivational, pump yourself up gimmick to face the challenges of the day, ritual. It is the mindset that believers must always have in order to choose the life of God in the face of sin. What is instructive is that Paul calls us to look at Christ’s example: “because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him” (Romans 6:9). In other words when Christ died, He died once. Death would not take Him again. So, with us, Paul is saying you cannot die to sin multiple times; you died to sin once with Christ. Now we are to live like we are dead to it. So, Christians are not called to die to sin daily. We are called to kill it (Colossians 3:5). If sin is ruling, Christ is not reigning; death is.
TOOLS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 6:12-14)
When I consistently remind myself that I am dead to sin and alive to God I set before me the distinction of right and wrong, sin and righteousness. I call my mind to live in a way that reflects and honors the life of God in me through the powerful witness of the Holy Spirit. I empower my choice for God over my choice for sin and self. That’s why Paul now commands us: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires” (Romans 6:12). Sin is always present in the heart of a believer but its presence in the life of a Christian is based on our giving it permission. We are in Christ with the power of God within us therefore we have control over what has prominence in our souls and, consequently, our actions. Pay tells us to not let sin have a control that your faith in Christ killed. To do so is to wage war against oneself and soul when we use our bodies for things that bring death (Romans 6:13). That is not what believers do. We are alive to God and as such we live our lives as weapons of righteousness. Not the righteousness that comes from the law but that which is from grace. In other words, we live righteous not in order to be saved but because, by grace, we have been saved (Romans 6:13-14).
An old hymn that used to be sung my church when I was younger had these words: “I am free, praise the Lord I’m free. No longer bound. No more chains holding me. My soul is restin. It’s just a blessin’. Praise the Lord, hallelujah I’m free.” May that be our daily anthem!
Chapter 8 of Romans is simply majestic. It is filled with wonder and glory in ways, perhaps more than any other chapter in the Bible, that capture the essence of God’s purpose. It is a tightly packed argument. It sets in context the necessity of a life lived for God to see the salvation of the Lord. It is all by grace, but grace empowers an ethic that reflects His glory. That is the heart of Romans 8.
ETERNAL FUTURE (Romans 8:12-13)
Paul has just masterfully dissected the idea of the mind set on the flesh, in comparison with the mind set on the Spirit (Romans 8:5-11). The flesh leads to condemnation and the Spirit leads to a life of peace. Therefore, Paul says “we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh” (Romans 8:12). The flesh will push and pry and try to figure its way into our lives but with this push, know that you are not obligated to give it expression. Sin shouts so loudly at times arguing its necessity in our lives, but we must hear Paul’s word: we are no longer under its obligatory power! It is not simply that we are no longer under its power that is the reason, however. It is our eternal future that should guide our living. Paul writes that “if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die” (Romans 8:12). Spiritual death and eternal separation from the Lord is the end of those who simply cannot live without satisfying the passions of the flesh. He adds, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:12). Standing in the balance of our lifestyle is the truth of who we are and the proof of whose we are. Our eternal future demands our present holiness.
ETERNAL INHERITANCE (Romans 8:14-18)
Jonathan Edwards’ work, Religious Affections, makes the masterful point that genuine believers will show signs that prove their union with the Lord. Those that do not, prove their allegiance lay elsewhere. When Paul says the “all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons” he is saying what Edward’s said before Edward’s was born: Christians look like Christ! (Romans 8:14). We cannot expect to receive the inheritance that the Son of God will receive if we are living in opposition to the Father. Paul says the we “did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! ” (Romans 8:15). It is intimacy with the Father that we share because of Christ (Romans 8:16) and, therefore, those who profess to be in Christ and live intimately with the flesh will not receive God’s inheritance. Living according to the flesh is often a temptation when we desire to escape suffering that comes with our confession of faith in Christ. Paul says as children of God we are “also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Paul is reminding them and us, that our inheritance, however crazy and odd it may seem, is connected to our endurance in suffering. Heaven is granted to us who believe at the moment of our belief. Heaven, however, will not be entered without pain and struggle and trials. We are encouraged with these words, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Our endurance to gain the eternal inheritance comes, not by looking and focusing on the momentary and light challenges, but in contrasting them with weighty and eternity glory.
CREATION RESTORED (Romans 8:19-22)
The finality of reconciliation - that time in which all will be restored - is not simply related to humanity. Often time we think that reconciliation is about man and it is. But reconciliation is about the whole of God’s creation. Nothing the Lord created should be given over to the flames of evil or eternal hell. All parts of creation were created good but, Paul says, and as such should be seen as worthy of our efforts to bring the kingdom to bear upon it. Everything is awaiting change. But the whole “creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). Creation is waiting on the children of God to be the children of God; to bring the reality of the kingdom upon all aspects of life “that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Romans 8:21). It was Adam whose sin brought chaos to the world and it was the last Adam that brought redemption to it. Now it is the sons of this Adam whose purpose in life is to live in such a way as to bring about the consummation of all things when true, and ultimate reconciliation will take place. Creation groans for this with labor pains, ready for the birth of renewal when Savior comes.
For what do you groan or long? The answer will prove so much. Our lives always reflect and move in the direction of that for which we groan and long.
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.
When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.
Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.