The Need for Righteousness: Obedience of Faith

Why is Romans first among the letters written in the New Testament?  It doesn’t seem that chronology is the reason.  Galatians and the Corinthian letters were more than likely  written at an earlier date.  However, its placement in the New Testament makes perfect sense.  I have just finished preaching through the last half of Acts surveying the life of Paul.  Acts ends with Paul in Rome.  He was transferred as a prisoner from Jerusalem to Rome.  Jerusalem and Rome are central to the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the first century Jewish and Gentile peoples respectively.  Jews and Gentiles constitute all people.  There is no other category of people.  Either one is a Gentile or a Jew.

Romans reveals God’s nature and eternal purpose for all mankind (Romans 8.38-39), of the Jew first and also of the Greek (cp. Acts 28.17-29).  Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Romans teaches that the incomprehensible power of God to salvation is for everyone who believes (Romans 1.16).

Paul wrote to Christian brothers and sisters in Rome.  Some were Gentiles and some were Jews.  Some of them had been saved and filled with Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Acts tells us that people from Rome were present at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2.10).  Indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they went back to Rome with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul said that the faith of Roman Christians was spoken of throughout the whole world (cf. Romans 1.8).

Romans is written to provide a theological understanding of the fullness of God’s plan of salvation for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike.  Romans demonstrates that the plan of salvation is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Romans is filled with close, connected reasoning.  It is so tightly packed, that much is overlooked when simply surveying the book during Bible reading time.  The other danger is becoming too myopic when studying the book. It is a letter that should be read straight through. Individual paragraphs should be read within their context.

Significantly, Paul quoted from the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) when citing the many passages of the Old Testament Scriptures in Romans.  He did so because his audience was primarily a Gentile or Greek-speaking audience.

As already mentioned, Galatians and both letters to the Corinthians were written before Paul wrote Romans.  But the confrontations with the churches of Galatia and Corinth governed the content of those letters.  Romans is a cool, calm statement of the salvation of God for everyone who believes.  It is a universal book for a universal audience.

I am hesitant to say that one must master Romans, because it is impossible to master any book of the Bible.  I would say especially this book.  However, I do think it is important that you know its basic content, memorize portions of it, and know it very well.  For instance, until a Christian studies in detail Romans 5 – 9, I believe that they will struggle immensely with the Christian life.  I do think it is important for you to read Romans many times and meditate on it contents.  Romans, more than any other book of the Bible in my opinion, clarifies one’s understanding of the righteousness of God and the salvation of mankind.  My former pastor and seminary professor would say that instead of you mastering Romans, Romans should master you.

Very important questions will be addressed throughout the book.  Paul may state the questions explicitly, or the questions are implicit derived from factual data in the book.

  • If one is justified freely by faith alone, how can God be just?
  • How does the Gospel relate to the Old Testament Law?
  • How should a Christian view the Law of Moses?
  • What is the Christian’s relationship to the Law?  Does grace give us the right to ignore the Law?  If not, does one need to keep the Law in order to be saved?  Do we need to keep the Law to please God and advance in the Christian life?
  • Since God’s grace abounds even more than our sin, what will keep the moral fabric of our lives in tact?  What incentive does Romans offer to NOT sin?
  • What about Israel?  Has God cast Israel off forever?  Does the Church replace Israel?  Are the promises of God made to Israel fulfilled in Christ?  Will they be fulfilled at a yet future time?

These questions are all answered by Paul in Romans.  Paul calls himself the least of all saints and the chief of sinners.  He is a Pharisee of the Pharisees and yet an apostle to the Gentiles.  God led Paul deliberately through the Old Testament Scriptures.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught Paul.  Paul paid the price for identifying with our Lord’s teaching and suffering.  Still, his overarching desire was to know Christ and be found in Him.

God breathed out this letter to Paul.  This is called the process of inspiration.  But inspiration is mysterious in so many ways.  God communicated through Paul’s experience, suffering, vocabulary, background, and education.  There are both divine and human aspects to the inspiration of this letter and of all Scripture.  The result is a masterpiece, a foundational document for the whole of Christianity.  How do we approach such a letter?

There are three major sections in the letter according to one of my favorite writers, J. Sidlow Baxter.  Baxter sees a doctrinal section (Chapters 1 – 8), a national section (Chapters 9-11), and a practical section (Chapters 12 – 16).  Some commentators divide the book into five sections dealing with the topics of sin (Chapters 1 – 3), salvation (Chapter 4), sanctification (Chapters 5 – 8), sovereignty (Chapters 9 – 11), and service (Chapters 12 – 16).  This division provides a good, memorable and alliterated outline.  Verses 16 – 17 provide the central thrust and theme of the book.  Paul reasons:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith'” (Romans 1.16-17).

What is revealed in salvation according to Romans 1.17?  The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  That is, we are growing in our understanding of God’s righteousness as we read and study Romans.  Our faith grows.  We live out of a vibrant and growing faith in the righteousness of God.  This is an eternal quality of life that enables our acts of righteousness through the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.  So the core doctrine in Romans is the righteousness of God.  The outline of the book I am using reflects this.  It is an outline modified from my reading of Romans and several other outlines of the book.

Romans 1.1-15 provide an introduction to the letter.  Verses 16-17 state the theme of the letter.  Then the body of the Letter is divided three major sections:

1.    The Revelation of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 8)

2.    The Vindication of the Righteousness of God (Romans 9 – 11)

3.    The Application of the Righteousness of God (Romans 12 – 16)

Here are the three major sections along with a break-down of their sub-sections:

The Revelation of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 8)

1.    The Need of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 2)

2.    The Gift of the Righteousness of God (Romans 3 – 4)

3.    The Benefits of the Righteousness of God (Romans 5.1 – 11)

4.    The Contrast to the Righteousness of God (Romans 5.12 – 21)

5.    The Demonstration of the Righteousness of God (Romans 6 – 8)

The Vindication of the Righteousness of God (Romans 9 – 11)

1.    Election:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Past (Romans 9)

2.    Rejection:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Present (Romans 10)

3.    Restoration:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Future (Romans 11)

The Application of the Righteousness of God (Romans 12 – 16)

1.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Duties (Romans 12 – 13)

2.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Support (Romans 14)

3.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Obedience (Romans 15)

4.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Fellowship (Romans 16)

While righteousness is the theme of Romans, this theme poses quite a problem for all mankind.  The reason this is true is because we are ungodly and unrighteous people.  Romans 1.18 states that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  Our problem is that we must be godly and righteous, but we are ungodly and unrighteous.  God has revealed His wrath from Heaven against all mankind for this reason.  Our default position is “condemned already.”

Therefore, Romans is a study on evangelism.  It explains how the ungodly and unrighteous become godly and righteous.  “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1.17).  The Gospel or Good News is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1.16).  It is only by faith that the ungodly and unrighteous become godly and righteous.

Thus, we begin with The Revelation of the Righteousness of God in Romans 1 – 8.  Our first series of messages will key in on our need for righteousness as it is communicated in the first two chapters of the book.  This first study, examines the first seven verses of Romans 1.

Romans 1:1–7 (NKJV) — 1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These seven opening verses identify who Paul is, what the gospel of God is, and what obedience to the faith is all about.

The Identification of Paul (Romans 1.1)

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…” (Romans 1.1)

He is a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

Paul identifies himself as a bondservant or slave of Jesus Christ.  It is a privilege to be a slave of Christ.  While it was a great honor for a man or a woman to be a slave in the household of the Caesar or some other great dignitary at the time, how much more so to be a slave of the One for whom all things were created!  But, as a slave…

He is called to be an apostle.

Apostle literally means sent one.  However, it is used in an official sense in our text.  Paul is called to be an apostle.  Paul was called in the sense that he was invited to be God’s messenger of the gospel.  The understanding of called includes an invitation.

It certainly would have never occurred to Paul to reject this invitation or calling after his experience upon the Damascus Road.  As an apostle, he would witness firsthand the resurrected Christ.  All apostles must do so.  This is one reason why there are no apostles in the Church active today.

Paul brought forth teaching from the Lord Jesus in order to establish the Church.  Again, this apostolic doctrine or teaching was received by Paul firsthand.  It was then ‘enscripturated’.  As a bondservant, Paul lived out his function as an apostle for the sovereign will and purpose of God.  Paul was a bondservant, an apostle, and…

He is separated to the gospel of God.

What is the gospel of God?  It is the good news of God’s salvation for everyone who believes (1.16).  It is the righteousness of God which comes through faith (1.17).  Paul was set apart for communicating the gospel of God.  Paul is a bondservant, an apostle, and he set apart for the gospel of God.

Once you choose to believe on Christ alone for eternal life, you are choosing to become His bondservant or slave.  Once you belong to Him, you are not permitted to choose for yourself in life.  You cannot pick and choose what you will obey in the Scriptures.  The true attitude of a Christian is one of complete devotion (Romans 12.1-2).

The Identification of the Gospel of God (1.2-4)

“…which [this relative pronoun refers to the gospel of God] He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1.2-4).

Verse 2 indicates that the gospel of God was promised beforehand through the Old Testament prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The gospel of God also concerns His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Again a connection is made with the Old Testament.  We are told that Jesus Christ was born of the seed of David as the incarnate Son of God (v. 3).  The Holy Spirit powerfully declares Jesus Christ as the Son of God or God the Son through His resurrection from the dead (v. 4).  The gospel’s two necessary components are the death and resurrection of Christ.  

These verses remind us that the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is complex.  He is beyond our ability to explain.  He is fully man as the words “according to the flesh” indicate, but He is also the “Son of God with power.”  He is fully God the Son.  We cannot understand how it is true, but we believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  He is the son of David and the Son of God.  Born a baby in a manger, Jesus came in the weakness of human flesh.  Raised from the tomb, He broke the power of sin and death.  He died for our sin and was raised for our justification (4.25).

The Scriptures are God’s gift to us, and they all speak of the power of the resurrected Christ.  If we are to benefit from that power we must search the Scriptures.  All Scripture testifies of Jesus Christ.  All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Jesus said that religious people search the Scriptures because in them they think they have eternal life.  However, they fail to understand that the Scriptures testify of Christ.  They are not willing to come to Christ that they may have life.

John 5.40 does not teach that Son of God is unwilling to give people like this life; therefore, they do not come to Him.  No, Jesus teaches they were not willing to come to Him believing so that they may have life.  God is willing; man is unwilling.  We must search the Scriptures for the resurrected Christ!  See John 5.39-40.

Remember too that the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is our Lord as v. 3 plainly states.  If Jesus is Lord, we must obey Him.  You are not your own, but you’ve been bought with a price.  You are God’s unique possession.  As such, you must glorify Him in your soul and body, which are His.  This is the Gospel of God according to Romans.  Finally, we seek…

The Identification of Obedience of Faith (Romans 1.5-7)

There are five aspects to our understanding of the phrase “obedience to the faith” in these verses:

Obedience is an expression of God’s grace (1.5).

“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name…” (Romans 1.5)

Through the resurrected God-Man, Paul and others received both grace and apostleship (v. 5).  Remember that Paul is a bondservant and an apostle set apart for the Gospel of God.  He may only fulfill his work as an apostle by the grace of God.  This grace he received from God.  The apostleship of Paul is an expression of the grace of God.  Paul could not be an apostle apart from the grace of God.  Yet, notice that…

Obedience is an expression of our faith (1.5).

Paul’s grace-enabled apostleship was for obedience to the faith among all nations.  Literally, the phrase in Greek translates “obedience of faith” [see NASB].  Faith is the substance of things men hope for, the evidence of things men cannot see (cp. Hebrews 11.1).  Faith is your personal trust in someone or something.

Obedience is sometimes tied to faith in the Scriptures.  This is because faith submits to its object.  Faith in Christ is giving up the notion that there is another way.  No, He alone is THE Way!  Faith is the realization that God alone gives us righteous and godly lives.  Faith in Romans is submission to the righteousness of God available through His resurrected Son.  Our faith obeys.

Faith is available to all.

Obedience of faith is among all nations.  This fact is not surprising to 21st century Christianity, but it would have been very surprising in the 1st century.  The Gentiles or the nations were considered dogs by the Jews.  But the gospel of God has changed all that.  Paul’s gospel includes the Jews but also every other nation.  He refers to the nations as Gentiles.  He uses the words nations and Gentiles interchangeably.  Thus faith is available to us.  But…

Faith is for His name.

Obedience of faith is among nations for His name.  The name of Jesus Christ must be defined by His perfect character and work.  The name of Jesus Christ is what Paul and all believers live for.  We long to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformation to His death (cp. Philippians 3.10).  Thus, we look forward to our own resurrection from the dead.
 Obedience is a response to God’s call (1.6)

“…among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;” (Romans 1.6)

Paul speaks to all believers in this letter …not just apostles.  We also are the called of Jesus Christ.  We are called in the sense that we too have been invited, and we have come.  We too are obedient just as Paul was.  We too have believed just as Paul did.  Not everyone called will hear, understand, or believe.  But we have.  Many are being called, but few are chosen because few believe.  Many are saying, “Lord, Lord!” but few truly know Him.  The many are not chosen or obedient because they will not believe.

It is important that we obey and believe.  As believers we are urged to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5).  Faith requires obedience.

Obedience is characterized by love and holiness (1.7a).

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1.7).

Verse 7 now brings the letter’s salutation:  To all who are in Rome.  Obviously, Paul speaks of believers.  These believers are characterized as the objects of God’s love and especially set apart for His work.  They are beloved and they are saints.  Love and holiness walk hand in hand when it comes to Christian character.  If we are growing in love, we are growing in holiness.  If there is growth in holiness, there will be growth in love.

Obedience is demonstrated by grace and peace (1.7b).

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1.7)

This verse speaks of two provisions for believers who are loved and set apart.  These provisions come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Again, Christ and and the Father are One in this verse.  They are co-equal, co-eternal, and co-eval (of the same duration – both have always been; there has never been a time when One existed apart from the Other).  The Father is eternal; the Son is eternal; the Spirit is eternal.  Three Persons; one God.

Grace is God’s gift coming to us in many forms.  First, grace is God’s favorable disposition toward the believer and unbeliever alike.  Grace includes all we need in the work He has for us to accomplish.  It is a gift because it is unearned.  God bestows it without partiality to those who believe.  For believers, the grace is God for us; grace is also God in us.  Second, God provides peace.  Peace simply means that all hostility between God and the believer has ceased.  As the hymn writer put it, “It is well with my soul!”

Peace as an objective reality is now a part of our lives.  But the believer may often be unaware of the peace he has.  His condition does not reflect his position.  Nothing can take away the peace of God.  We sin, are chastened, and face great opposition and sickness throughout life.  Peace guards and protects our hearts and minds at all times.  However, we often fail to experience the subjective aspects of this cessation of hostility with God.  But whether or not we experience peace, we have it!

The reason subjective peace is so elusive for us is that we don’t understand that hostility with God has indeed ended.  Peace in its subjective sense is for everyone who works what it good (Romans 2.10).  While we have peace with God, we often find it elusive because of our disobedience, rebellion, and pride.

Unsaved people do not know the way of peace (Romans 3.17).  Peace is a result of being made right with God (Romans 5.1).  But subjectively, believers are often carnally minded.  The Bible calls the carnal mind death.  However, we can be spiritually minded and find life and peace, but only as children of God (Romans 8.6).  The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17).

Paul prays that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13).  At the end of Romans Paul states that ultimately the God of peace will crush Satan under our feet in a relatively short amount of time (Romans 16.20).

So, obedience stems from the grace of God.  Man responds to God in obedience by relying upon that grace through faith.  Therefore, we are called of Jesus Christ because we have responded to God’s grace through faith.

The obedience we offer by faith is characterized by love and holiness.  We know our obedience stems from grace through faith when it manifests the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in our present lives.

Prayer:  Father, teach us that we are your bondservants purchased with the blood of Your Son.  Convince us that Jesus Christ is both fully man and fully God.  Reveal to us the power of His resurrection in our present lives and in eternity to come.  Give us grace for obedience to the faith.  May we be willing to be set apart so that we might reflect your grace and peace to a world that is lost in darkness and at enmity with you.

Cultivating a Life of Faith:  A Man of Obedience – Genesis 21.22-34 (Pt 12)

It seems apparent that the Abimelech is very powerful.  He controls Gerar, and he has his own commander of his own army.  He acknowledges that the presence of God is with Abraham and that God is blessing him.  But he is also aware of Abraham’s penchant toward dishonesty, Abraham’s power rivaling his own, and the need for both of them to peacefully coexist.

Abraham promised that he would live at peace with Abimelech, but there remained a difficulty between them that needed to be cleared up.  A well of water had been seized from Abraham by the servants of Abimelech.  Abimelech claims he didn’t know about it until that very day when it was finally brought to his attention.

Then something very strange seems to happen.  It seems unusual for Abraham to give sheep and oxen to Abimelech before the covenant is made.  Clearly Abimelech was in the wrong.  Yet Abraham gives seven ewe lambs to Abimelech for a well that was already his in a land that was given to him by God.

It just seems Abraham would live as a nomad in a land that was rightfully his and never personally realize the promise of receiving it.  He would have it only through the eyes of faith.  Which appears to be enough for him.  He plants a tamarisk tree, and calls on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive via his descendants and not receive personally.  “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents …he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11.8-10).

Think back to the beginning of our study of Abraham’s life.  God found him in Ur of the Chaldees.  He commanded him to leave that country, his family, and all familiar to him for a land that God would show him but not give him personally (Genesis 12.1).  What makes this so amazing is that Abraham didn’t even know where he was going.  If Abraham was my brother, I’d tell him he was crazy.  I’d also be hurt and wonder why he’d forsake me and our family and all the while not even know where he was going.  But Abraham went; he obeyed.  No complaints.

Now God does not leave Abraham without hope.

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12.2-3)

Abraham believed in the Everlasting God…

[W]ho gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4.18-21).

Abraham traveled to a land of promise in a foreign country.  He had Sarah.  He had Lot for a little while.  He left his father and brother in Haran.  But he never found a permanent home in this promised land.  He was always the stranger in this land.  Buying wells that were his.  Coexisting with rulers that shouldn’t be ruling.  He looked for a city with foundations …a city whose builder and maker is God. “Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13.14).  The eternal hope and promise led to Abraham’s eternal rest.  Isaac and Jacob were heirs with him of the same promise.  The favor and blessing of God in this life and the next was the anchor of Abraham’s hope.

We tie Hebrews 11.8-10 to Genesis 21.22-34 very appropriately.  We are not asked to leave our family, our country, and all that is familiar to us in the way Abraham did.  However, there are two very clear parallels.  We serve the same Everlasting God and live the same everlasting life.

Everlasting God

God is the Everlasting God; therefore, He has all authority over me.  I don’t see Abraham arriving at his decision through some kind of consensus.  Once he knew the will of God, he obeyed the will of God.  So the real question for us is, “Why are we trying to explain away clear Scriptural commands?”  If we trust in the Everlasting God, we obey the Everlasting God.

We want the fulness of God; therefore, we must obey the will of God.  Jesus said that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him.  We must do this daily.  We shouldn’t ask, “Well, Lord, how far do you expect us to go with this self-denial thing?”  We dare not complain about the weight of our crosses.  However heavy it is, God will strengthen us to carry it.  Our will is do His will.  The goal is that our love for our Lord is so deep that our relationships to family, and even our own lives, seem like hate in comparison.

Everlasting Life

Set your affections on above things.  Set your eyes on a continuing city.  Abraham never personally realized the promise concerning the land, but his seed will.  Abraham reached the heavenly city.  No earthly possession could compare to everlasting life.  Our hope is tied to the coming of Christ, who is our life.  It is not so much the destination as it is the quality of life He gives to us.  It is everlasting life.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4.17-18)

It matters not what I have here in the material, temporal world.  As a matter of fact, God may ask me to give up what I have here.  We must be a people joyfully accepting the plundering of our goods, knowing that we have a better and an enduring possession for ourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10.34).  So we live as fellow-travelers here, and find rest only in eternity.  This is everlasting life from the Everlasting God.

Are you submitting to the Everlasting God?

Jewish Pharisees once proclaimed that Abraham was their father.  Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8.39).  But the Pharisees were not cultivating a life of faith with God.  So, it is a fair question for all of us to confront:  “Are we cultivating a life of faith as Abraham did?”  Remember that Abraham is the father of many nations.  He is “the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised” (Romans 4.12).

What authority does the Everlasting God have when it comes to His words preserved for us in the Scriptures?  Do you seek to submit to His authority through the indwelling Holy Spirit?  Do you follow His leading?  Are walking in the steps of faith?  Is it your will to do His will?

Perhaps the world itself crowds into your life and steals away your allegiance to the Lord Jesus.  If you belong to Jesus Christ, you are in this world but not of it.  Jesus prayed to the Father, “They are not of this world, just as I am not of this world” (John 17.16).  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2.15-16).  We ought to despise that which enslaves and energizes our world.  We ought to find it wholly unsatisfying to live for the world.  Friendship with the world is committing spiritual adultery on God.  It makes us at enmity with the God who gave us peace.  “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4.4).

We walk in the steps of faith by coming out from among those who are of the world and becoming separate from them (2 Corinthians 6.17).  If we fail to stand against the infiltration of the world in our lives, there is the great danger of conformity to it instead of the transformation to Christlikeness by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12.2).  “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6.14).

Are you really walking in the steps of faith?  What about your children?  Are you content when it comes to your example of cultivating a life of faith before them?  Do they see you submitting to the Everlasting God and living everlasting life?  Walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7).

But it is only children of our Heavenly Father who walk by faith.  If you are not sons and daughters of God …if you are not walking in the steps of Abraham’s faith, then perhaps you have another father, namely the devil.  This is what Jesus said of the religious Pharisees.  He declared to those who refused the authority of His word:  “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8.44).  If you abide in Christ then you must “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2.6).  Are you submitting to the Everlasting God?

Are you living everlasting life?

Abraham’s faith led to Abraham’s justification before God.  It is the same for us.  We are justified before God by faith.  Our trust in the Father leads to the outworking of righteousness that we already have in the Son enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.  These works of righteousness are Christ at work in and through us, but we are not passive.  We are working because He is first working.  So when Paul says that we are to work out our own salvation, he means that we ought to be producing fruit from righteousness that we already have.  We must live an eternal quality of life.  We are children of God by faith.  We live to glorify God by faith.

But we do not shelter ourselves from the world.  If we did, how would the world see the righteousness of Jesus Christ?  Our faith is in Christ’s precious blood as the propitiation for our sins, and not our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.  Faith truly is the victory that overcomes the world.  Our obedience does not provide eternal life.  Eternal life is a free gift of God made available through the work of Jesus Christ.  It is His perfect redemptive work that saves.  By His death, our sins are gone.  Through His resurrection life, we have the righteousness of God.  Therefore, let us live righteous lives for the glory of God!

Are Fundamentalists Legalists?

I am thankful for good books on Bible characters.  We are going through Charles Swindoll’s book on the life of the Apostle Paul.  However, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything Swindoll has written.  I think we sometimes get lost in a sea of theological extremes and opinions.  The Bible through the Spirit’s illumination needs to pull us back.  Our attitude should be prayerful and God-dependent.  However, we also must clearly stand for truth.

Dr. Dave Doran wrote a two-part article answering the charges of legalism and its connection to fundamentalism by men like John MacArthur and Charles Swindoll for Frontline back in 1999.  It’s worth reading or re-reading.  The only place I could find the article online is at the website for Salina Bible Church.  I quite agree with Dr. Doran.  I am a fundamentalist without apology.  While I have been Pharisaical at times in the past, my last bout with legalism was when I was still a member of the Catholic church.  It is there that I depended upon my own self-righteousness for the salvation of my soul.  I hope you’ll take the time to read these articles.  Also, come join us at a Heritage Baptist Church tomorrow!  Hopefully, you’ll find believers who love the Word and the God of the Word.

Here’s the conclusion, which I hope whets the appetite to read both parts.

While it is unlikely that any Fundamentalists are seeking to earn righteousness with God through the works of the law, it is possible that some Fundamentalists have fallen prey to the Pharisaical spirit that is so controlled by people’s opinions that it perpetuates external conform­ity without internal devotion. However, honest evaluation would reveal that this is not a Fundamentalist problem; it is a humanity problem! God told us 3,000 years ago that “the fear of man brings a snare,” so it should not surprise us to find people continually trapped in the snare of conformity for the sake of approval. It certainly happens among Fundamentalists, but it hap­pens just as frequently among evan­gelicals. The symptoms may vary, but it is the same disease.

God’s grace has provided His right­eousness for us by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the works of the law (Rom. 3:21-22), and that same grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteous­ly, and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-12). As Fundamentalists, we should affirm these truths without apology and live them out without fear of false accusations or surrender to the opinion polls of people.

Are Fundamentalists Legalists?

Are Fundamentalists Legalists (Part 2)?

Cultivating Faith – Part 6

Cultivating Faith:  A Man of Conviction (Pt 6)

Genesis 16.1-16

The descendants of Abraham would number as the stars are numbered in the heaven (Genesis 15).  God is gracious to reveal that Abraham’s future descendants would one day come out of Egypt after about 400 years of affliction with great possessions, great numbers, and a great God.  While God accomplished much for Abraham, what do we read of Abraham’s accomplishments?  We sum everything up in two words:  Abraham believed.  However, the years pile up until…

Conviction is undermined by compromise (Genesis 16.1-3).

The temptation for believers to compromise intensifies when…

        A Problem in Life Presents Itself (16.1)

Compromise of our convictions in the Lord begins when an insurmountable problem presents itself to us.  The temptation is to lift ourselves out of it or access that which cannot be humanly accessed.  We don’t pray or turn to God; instead, we take matters into our own hands.  This is a devastating decision.

The problem is obvious to Sarah at the outset of Genesis 16.  She didn’t have a son, but she had a maidservant.  Certainly Sarah’s plea for her husband to go into her maidservant would be persuasive in more ways than one.  Abraham cared for and certainly dearly loved his wife.  Surely his heart ached due to her barrenness.  Sarah had a solution to a problem that perplexed Abraham.  And one must conclude that what Sarah suggested would have been a great temptation for a man like Abraham, even though quite common in the day in which he lived.  So, the downward spiral continues…

        A Pragmatic Plan is Set in Motion (16.1-3)

Ten years passed since Abraham had come into the Land.  Sarah felt that it was her fault that God was withholding the promised heir from her.  But she would do well to remember that God made His promise with Abraham and not with her.  Sarah had carried a burden she was not meant to carry.  Instead of giving into his wife’s request, Abraham should have comforted and assured her.  He should have reminded her of the power of God to keep His promises.

We are so easily derailed by pragmatism when problems present themselves.  There will always be many options for us.  There will always be many voices or counselors to advise us.  We need discernment and wisdom from God in a sea of options and the cacophony of counselors.  It is important that we do not allow godly convictions to suffer under the corrosion of compromise.  If we fail to listen to the still, small voice of God, then we will quickly realize that…

Compromise always brings devastating consequences (16.4-16).

While this may seem obvious to an believer with a modicum of maturity, it is still something that we practically forget as we live life disconnected from the will of God.  Do this long enough, and…

        Compromise Breeds Contempt (16.4-6)

Abram went into Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid.  She conceived, and then the contempt ran in both directions when it came to Sarah and Hagar.  Hagar not only looks down upon Sarah, but she fears her.  As for Sarah, she deals harshly with Hagar.  So much so that Hagar flees for her home in Egypt.  Compromise always breeds contempt.

However, all hope is not lost.  It never is for the child of God.  Devastating consequences help us turn the corner.  We learn that…

        Compromise Deepens Conviction (16.7-16)

     The Angel of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Himself, found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness.  The common current of questioning from the Lord finds another place within the historical account of Genesis.  “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”  This is so reminiscent of what we see as God confronts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The Lord commands Hagar to return and submit to Sarah.  He also promises her that her descendants will multiply exceedingly.  They shall be innumerable!  The amazing announcement the Lord makes at this point in the narrative is so clearly aligned with the announcement of our Lord’s birth.  It is uncanny:  “Behold thou are with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction” (Genesis 16.11).  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and declared, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1.23).

Compromise can deepen conviction once we repent and turn to a firm stand based upon firm dependence upon the Holy Spirit.  All of us fall short of the glory of God.  All of us have had times of compromise in our lives.  While we do not need to compromise in order to deepen godly convictions, the raw truth is that such a scenario has the potential to do just that.  The awful, bitter fruit of compromise will goad us back to the Savior and deepen our relationship with Him.  The only other option is to go adrift and rudderless in a sea of sin.

Our text is clear.  The Angel of the Lord names Hagar’s child through Abraham Ishmael, which means “God hears”.  The close parallel with our Lord’s birth announcement to Joseph points forward to His name Immanuel, which means “God with Us”.  It is one thing for God to hear us; it is quite another for Him to be with us.  Ishmael is born because God heard the affliction of Hagar; Immanuel is born because God heard the affliction of the world!

But Hagar named the Lord.  She called Him:  “Thou God seest me”  (Genesis 16.13).  The name of the well is named Beer Lahai Roi (Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me).  Hagar left Abraham and Sarah and fled for a familiar place.  However, something quite unexpected happened to her.  God came after her when Abraham or Sarah did not.  She could leave behind them, but she could not leave God behind.  He pursued her!  He sees.  She saw the God who sees her and learned that she, too, could have Abraham’s God as her own God.

The cultivation of a life of faith necessitates an uncompromising stand upon the truths of God’s Word.  One of those great truths concerns His revealed character.  One powerful meditation concerning His character is that God sees …He sees all.  God knows …He knows all.  When Hagar comes back to Abraham and Sarah, she will become an ensign of their compromise before the Lord.  She will be an instrument that deepens the conviction of God’s revelation and promise to Abraham and Sarah.  He sees and He knows.

Cultivating a life of faith motivates an uncompromising stand for at least three reasons:

    1. God’s omniscience convinces and grieves the compromising heart.  Don’t be among those who say, “How does God know” (Psalm 73.11)?  Don’t think that no one sees; God sees.  He searches the heart.  He knows you.  You cannot hide in darkness from Him (see Psalm 139.1, 12).  This may bring fear and grief, but it is an important step to hope and the cleansing desire to welcome the searching penetrating gaze of God in order to melt away anxiety (see Psalm 139.23-24).
    2. God’s omniscience reaches the thoughts and intents of the heart.  You cannot claim that God is not fair or that He does not judge with righteous judgment every man.  We are finite.  We only see the outward actions of people; God sees the inner man, the soul (see 1 Samuel 16.7).  All the ways of man may be pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit of a man (see Proverbs 16.2).  The only intent that rings true is that which is for the glory of God.  Beg God for the discernment and protection from deceit that is needed due to our easily corruptible hearts.
    3. God’s omniscience heals and comforts the broken heart.  There is hope for those of us who have compromised our convictions.  Don’t run from the harshness of real-time life as desperate and broken Hagar did.  When you are slandered and cannot defend yourself, remember that God sees.  All things are naked and open to the One who will judge righteously (Hebrews 4.13).  His eyes still run to and fro and throughout the whole earth in order to show Himself the strong and all-seeing God that He is.  He reveals Himself to those who humble themselves, submit, and return.

God sees.  This is both comforting and convicting.  When we are hurting, God sees the hurt at its deepest level.  God sees us strive for lives of holiness in the face of those who accuse us of being sanctimonious and legalistic.  God sees when we go to Him yet again, broken and ruined by our sin.  We know that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin!  Even at the most depressing times of our lives, we can put one foot in front of the other and find our way back to Calvary.  God sees.  I know He sees me.

Cultivating Faith (Part 3)

Cultivating Faith:  A Man of Self-Denial

The story of Abraham and Lot is a story of two roads which diverge.  It is a story filled with choices.  While the eternal destination of both men is the same, the ways in which they lived on this earth become a stark contrast.

As we enter Genesis 13, both men led their families side-by-side with unity of purpose.  As long as the interests of both men aligned, they maintained unity.  But a point came when their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together (Genesis 13.6).  The result was strife leading to separation.  The separation became necessary in order to promote stability and peace.  The diverging directions of both men teach us some very important principles.

It is possible to trace the choices of both Abraham and Lot under two main headings.  Both men represent diverging philosophies of could be termed as separation and infiltration.  Abraham separates from the world (Sodom and Gomorrah); Lot infiltrates the world – slouching toward Gomorrah to borrow Judge Robert H. Bork’s title from his 1996 book.  First, Abraham represents the choice of separation…

Choosing to separate leads to the path toward God (Genesis 13.1-9).

“Please separate from me …they separated from each other …the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him” (13.8, 11, 14).

The path to God leads away from strife and toward peace.

“If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will take the left” (13.9).

Abraham knew well the wisdom of his descendant Solomon who wrote, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17.14).  Once water is released, the breach widens as the water erodes it away.  It moves so rapidly that there is nothing we can do to stop it.  Therefore, stop contention before it starts.  Once it begins, you’ll never know when or how it will stop.

Abraham desired peace with Lot.  That governed the choice he made.  So we have his words, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren” (Genesis 13.8).  Abraham was a peacemaker not a peacekeeper.  The path to God leads away from strife and toward peace.  Our endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace necessarily separates us from the world to God.  If our family and friends choose the path to Gomorrah, they will be walking a different path.  But make no mistake:  They have left the narrow way for the broad road.

The path to God leads away from self-assertion and toward self-denial.

It should be clear that Abraham is the elder and Lot the younger.  Abraham the uncle and Lot the nephew.  Abraham was called out of Ur, and Lot came along for the ride and the blessings.  Wouldn’t you think that as soon as Abraham gave Lot the choice of the left or right that Lot would have deferred to his uncle out of respect?  Shouldn’t he submit to Abraham and not the other way around?  Abraham could have asserted his rights, but he practiced self-denial.

People in the world lord their authority over others.  This is the way it is and the way it will be with unbelieving people.  But as Jesus said, “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.26-28).

The path to God leads away from self-assertion toward self-denial.  How can there be strife if one party denies self and assumes the role of a perpetual servant?  How can the self-assertive and the self-denying walk the same path?

The path to God leads away from greed and toward generosity.  

Abraham should possess at least as much as Lot if not more than Lot.  But Abraham was a sieve.  He simply allowed wealth to flow in and out.  Abraham gave; Lot took.  Abraham knew that the plain of the Jordan was fertile, lush land.  He simply deferred to Lot.

Faith reasons that God will take care of us and fight for us.  So if a man demands my cloak, I’ll give it to him along with my tunic also.  If he demands I walk with him one mile, I’ll walk the one and then another mile as well.  If it is within our power to meet a need, we should meet that need.

But greed leads to spiritual deadness.  The heart set on things below is more concerned with the comforts of this life.  Pure and undefiled religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1.27).  It is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

A choice to cultivate a life of faith means a choice to separate, which leads us along the path toward God.  Lot chose differently and serves as a warning to us…

Choosing to infiltrate leads to the path toward Gomorrah (Genesis 13.10-18).

The path to Gomorrah leads away from the eternal and toward the temporal.

“Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan …Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan …Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom …They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom” (13.10-12; 14.12).

We can’t be sure when Lot placed his faith in the God of Abraham.  We know that when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, he is a righteous man.  Perhaps his conversion is a result of the problems caused by this divergent path that he took toward Gomorrah.  But believer or not, he took the path away from the eternal and toward the temporal.

We don’t know for certain, but it does seem that Lot has no problem with separating from Abraham.  Such separation would expose him to the temptations of Gomorrah.  He would be able to infiltrate that world, and gratify his desires.  Perhaps greed and ambition were two of the top desires for him.

Lot saw comfort in the well-watered plains of the Jordan.  The text tells us that the fertile land resembled the Garden of Eden itself.  Worldliness includes a fixation on the temporal and comfort that we desire right now in this temporal life.  Covetousness and a desire to fulfill temporal desires govern the heart of a person slouching toward Gomorrah.  We will learn that Lot gets a position as a judge and leader in Sodom.  His temporal desire far outpaced eternal interests.  The path to Gomorrah leads away from the eternal and toward the temporal.

The path to Gomorrah leads away from the spiritual and toward the physical.

  • The days of Lot are characterized as days when “they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built” (Luke 17.28).
  • “On the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17.29).
  • “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17.32).
  • ‘The LORD turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, and made them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2.6-8).

Lot certainly came to understand what the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were like.  Their sin was out in the open for all to see.  The Bible is right:  “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15.33).  Lot left Abraham and moved toward Gomorrah with little or no regret that we can determine from the text.

We lose so much when we sacrifice spiritual benefit for physical comfort.  We endanger our churches, families, and ourselves when we make this exchange.  We fail to feed on the Word of God and grab at the crust of bread we find in the world.  That crust of bread is a counterfeit form of life.  We need to be brought to repentance when living for this world.  God is merciful enough to do it.

Guard against a love for this world.  You must separate from it not infiltrate it if you are to cultivate a life of faith.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2.15-15).

Lot’s love for the world led to choices that nullified his testimony within it.  Lot only had the world for a little while.  In the end it was all taken away from him.  If you live for the present arrangement of things, then your life will be empty.

Cultivate a life of faith through a compassionate, self-denying spirit.  Look to the Holy Spirit.  Be grateful to God because He has enabled you to sacrifice your own interests for the interests of others.

  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12.10).
  • Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.4-5).

Follow the faith of Abraham.  Walk the path to God instead of slouching toward the destruction of Gomorrah!

The Sensual Invasion

Really provocative and excellent.

Beth Cavete

The other day, I heard a beautiful worship song.  It was penned by a brilliant songwriter, known the world over.  It displayed the poignancy that brilliant songwriting does, that seemingly casual ability to hit on a tune so simple as to be unforgettable, and yet somehow so superior that most of us could never come with anything half as good.  It was gorgeous.

Its lyrics were intimate and personal, and yet so unpretentious.  They called out, “My sweet Lord, my sweet Lord…” with a humble and heartfelt yearning, real praise and a sense of adoration.  That phrase was repeated over and over, and then the yearning expanded with a real cry, “I really want to know you! I really want to be with you!  I really want to see you!”  Not much more to it, that was the bulk of the song, repeating the simple phrases of love and longing…

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Casting the First Stone

All of us have a common problem.  Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.  So much so, that it is not possible for us to know this fact apart from the grace of God.  But there are times during our lives when we clearly find out how sinful we actually are.  We do or say something that we never thought we would.

Some people are fairly open about their rebellion.  Others are hypocritical.  They are pretenders.  Everything looks and sounds right on the outside, but inside these people are very sinful.  Jesus was confronting religious pretenders in John 8.  They thought they were holy, righteous men and acted that part.  They memorized the Word of God.  They kept the Law of God.  They claimed to fear God.  They thought they were doing the will of God.  However, they were going to murder Jesus Christ.

These men didn’t love God or His Word …not really.  They didn’t fear God or honor Him with their lives.  They didn’t even have righteous indignation against the sin of adultery.  They were not living by the grace of God.  They were fueled by their mutual disgust and hatred for Jesus Christ.  So they set a trap for Savior.

Setting the Trap

“…The scribes and Pharisees brought to [Jesus] a woman caught in adultery” (8.3).  Adultery is a very terrible sin.  The most terrible part of adultery is that the person who commits this sin is unfaithful to the one person in all the world they promised faithfulness.  So this woman was a very wicked woman.  There was no doubt that she had not been caring, loving, or faithful when it came to her husband.  She was guilty and according to God’s Law, she should be stoned to death for her sin.

What could Jesus do in this situation?  If He condemned this woman, what of His message of grace, forgiveness, and compassion?  If He told them to let the woman go, what of the Law, justice, and righteousness of God?  The scribes and Pharisees thought they had Jesus trapped.  They were trying to make Him look bad.  How will Jesus respond?

First, Jesus did say anything.  He crouched down and began to write on the ground.  We don’t know what Jesus wrote or even why He was writing.  The Bible says that the religious leaders continued pressing Jesus for an answer.  They just kept on asking Him what should be done about the woman as He wrote on the ground.

Second, Jesus “raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (8.7).  Then, He stooped again and wrote on the ground.  This time the men “who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one” (8.9).  The people who witnessed this woman’s sin had to throw the first stones at her execution according to the Law.  So, Jesus asked the men to throw stones.  But only if they are without sin.  Jesus was not saying that people need to be perfect in order to carry out the written laws of man or even God.  However, that’s not the point.

Third, what Jesus was saying is that these religious leaders were pretenders …hypocrites.  They pretended to hate this woman’s sin while committing great and evil sin themselves.  Jesus stooped the second time to write only after He pointed out the hypocrisy of these men.  He wanted His Words to settle into their hearts …to convince them of their sin …to show them they were wrecked and ruined on the inside.

I believe these men were given a glimpse of how sinful they actually were.  In this moment of time God showed them that they themselves stood condemned.  The men were consumed with the fear of God’s judgment and the exposure of their own secret sin before all the world.  Perhaps they glimpsed their murderous hearts and so they withdrew from the situation horrified by what they saw on the inside of themselves.  “One by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last” (8.9) they went away.

It’s not that these men were themselves guilty of adultery.  That’s not the point of the passage.  They were guilty of murderous intent and religious hypocrisy.  They felt the shame of it.  They had their own burden of sin.  They couldn’t carry through with this woman’s deserved sentence because they deserved the same and in that moment they saw it.  These men fell into the pit that they had dug for the Lord Jesus.

Forgiving the Sinner

It’s interesting to think about what Jesus doesn’t say or do when these men all leave.  He doesn’t give any inclination of self-exultation.  He doesn’t focus on His victory over these supplanters.  Instead, He asks the women where they were now.  They all went away.  They all found the idea of accusing this woman untenable.  So, Jesus told the woman to go as well.

First, He asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you” (8.10)?  When she says that no one has, Jesus responds, “Neither do I condemn you; go…” (8.11).  Jesus said to Nicodemus that His Father “did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3.17).  He was telling the woman to go and use the rest of her life in the pursuit of righteousness in the presence of God.  The mercy shown her must be an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.  Jesus came into the world to seek and save those who are lost.

But Jesus also commanded the woman, “Sin no more” (8.11).  Grace always teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust.  No true believer takes sin lightly.  When God treats us with the grace and mercy that we don’t deserve, our gratitude drives our pursuit of holiness.  We become aware of our suicidal path toward self-destruction.  The hope of grace encourages the soul.  God alone keeps us from falling in order to one day present us faultless before the His presence in glory with exceeding joy.

Do not congratulate yourself.  Do not become satisfied with your own righteousness.  Do not applaud your morality.  Godly men and women abhor themselves.  They repent with godly sorrow.  They learn to loathe the self-righteousness within them.

But self-condemnation is brutal too.  Jesus Christ has forgiven sinners because of His great grace and marvelous mercy.  If He will not condemn you, why do you condemn yourself?  “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1.15-16).

If you have experienced grace and mercy, go and sin no more.  You have not done what God requires of you just because you no longer commit the heinous sins you used to commit.  Pride, self-righteousness, and complacency are evils as well.  Depend upon the grace of God to carry you further than you’ve ever been today!  May God take away our penchant for worldliness and transform our lives into the likeness of His holy Son.  When this happens, all glory belongs to Him!