“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” –Romans 5:1-2
The love of God in you says this: It’s not what you do that makes you important, it’s not what you have that makes you important, and it’s not what people say about you that makes you important. It’s just the simple fact that you’re God’s beloved child. He says, “I love you and I’m well pleased in you. I take pleasure in you. All of this is for you, your brothers, and sisters, whom I love and adore.”
It seems too simple. I know God loves me. Well, I suppose he loves me…if I do this, if I accomplish that, or if I have this. He loves me if I’ve completed enough things on his love list.
But, it’s not like that, my friends. That’s what grace is – the unmerited love, pleasure, and favor of God on you, regardless of what you do, what people say about you, what you have, what you accomplish or don’t accomplish in your life.
Nothing brings peace like God’s grace-filled love in our lives.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the love you have for me – unearned favor from you that has nothing to do with my accomplishments or my failures. I have peace through your grace-filled love in my life. Amen.
Devotion: Peace is mentioned in this devotion. What other feeling, thought, or emotion do you experience as you think about God’s love for you?
Augustine of Hippo was born in North Africa to a pagan father and a devout mother. He grew up a prodigal who reveled in drunkenness, lewdness, and lust, but his mother kept praying for him. One day as Augustine sat in a garden, he overheard a voice chanting, “Take up and read!” Picking up a Bible, he opened it to Romans 13. As he read that page — especially verse 14 — a light streamed into his heart and, as he later said, all the darkness of doubt fled away. Augustine went on to become one of the greatest thinkers in Church history.
It’s remarkable how Bible verses become shafts of light to illumine the darkness of our souls, and then afterward they illumine the footsteps of our ways. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Any good work arising from our commitment to the Word of God brings honor to the Lord and overcomes the attacks of the enemy. Let’s constantly “take up and read” the Bible, resolved to always walk in its light.
One of the most beautiful doxologies in Scripture comes from the apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36. Leaving Paul’s doxology in context begs the question, What caused Paul to burst out in these words of glory to God at this point in his letter?
The doxology begins in verse 33. Looking back at verses 30-32 which precede the doxology, we find one dominant theme: the mercy of God. Paul mentions mercy four times in verses 30-32. In Romans 11 Paul is talking about how the wild branches of the Gentiles have been grafted into the root stock of Israel. And in verse 30 he says that all who receive mercy from God do so in spite of their disobedience, Jews and Gentiles alike. And God is committed to such mercy because “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (verse 29).
God’s promises are made on the basis of His character, not on the basis of our worthiness. God’s mercy is always a good reason to offer praise and worship to Him.
Who shall the LORD’s elect condemn? ‘Tis God that justifies their souls, and mercy like a mighty stream O’er all their sins divinely rolls.
Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not readwhat David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).
The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.
The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!
“We are therefore Christ‘s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” –2 Corinthians 5:20
Jesus’ goal during his time on earth, and still today, is to create clones of himself. Paul, especially in Ephesians, Romans, and Corinthians says, “We are the body of Christ.” We may think that’s a metaphor, but the early church really believed that we filled the role of Jesus until his return and that God was actually in our skin. God, who used to feel distant and far away on a cloud somewhere, because of Christmas, now that same God dwells in your body. Wherever your body goes, so does Jesus go. Because of that, you carry with you a responsibility to live like Jesus, to love people – especially your enemies, those who hate you, and those who say evil things about you – and to do good. You’re called to live a different kind of life, one that’s remarkable.
That’s not just an encouragement but also a responsibility – to be called ambassadors. We’re called the temple. We’re called all sorts of things to show that wherever your body goes, so does Jesus go. Wherever your body is, if you’re a believer, Jesus is there, too. This means that, as you live your life like Jesus to people around you, they experience Christ. When people experience love, they experience God. When you put your hand on the shoulder of someone who’s suffering, you say, “I’m there for you,” and he or she experiences Jesus, not just you. When you say to someone, “I love you and I wish you the best,” or you bless someone with a gift, or you speak an encouraging word, or you pray that Jesus is blessing them, they experience Jesus encouraging them. It’s because of those relationships that people are able to experience Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to be an ambassador of your love to others. Help me welcome all I meet into a relationship with you. Amen.
Reflection: How have you served as an ambassador of Christ?
TAKING IT HOME
1. We’ve all found ourselves at some point falling into the trap of not showing gratitude just as the nine lepers did. Which of the following gratitude roadblocks could most likely become a barrier for you?
– Not realizing all I have been given
– Taking for grant …
The idea of the gasoline-powered vehicle to be used for human and commercial transportation is a fabulous idea! In fact, a century of innovations and further inventions have made cars and trucks a permanent part of our life. So why do we only tolerate them instead of love them?
It’s because they break down and need repairs. Rubber wears out, metal breaks down, paint fades, wires break, and we crash these machines into one another. It’s not the idea of the vehicle that is bad — it’s the execution that breaks down. And so it is with the law of God. The law is “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), yet we have a hard time implementing the concept. Vehicles are weak because of their parts and humans are weak because of their flesh — their fallen human nature. If inventors ever create parts that last forever, they will do for vehicles what Jesus did for us: be strong, not weak, in the flesh.
The next time your car is in the shop, thank God that Jesus is a permanent, perfect keeper of God’s law. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.
The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out. Dwight L. Moody
Percolating beneath the surface for a very long time, a significant shift—a new pulse of the Spirit that may never have an identifying name—is now beginning to take shape.
For the last several years, hunger for this new thing has been growing in the hearts of folks I’ve met in my travels. In many cities and nations, a vague but growing sense of disappointment has taken root in the hearts of believers trying hard to feel touched by the noise, the hype and the supernatural promises served up by well-meaning teachers with great ministries and powerful messages that nevertheless fail to satisfy the real hunger.
In the quiet reaches of the heart, these precious saints question, “Is something wrong with me? I’m just not feeling it. There has to be more than this.” They long for something more than what they’ve experienced, something deeper and more substantive than what they see and hear. It’s as though an era is passing, even as it peaks in numbers and prominence, and a lot of good people feel it intuitively, neither knowing nor understanding what they’ve been sensing.
I grew up in the Charismatic Renewal. I was 7 years old in 1958 when my parents received the baptism in the Spirit and became international leaders in the movement. Since then, I’ve been touched by every move of the Spirit that God has sent to bless and energize His people. In movement after movement, God poured the wine of heaven into a flawed cultural vessel that eventually leaked it away until it was gone, or people simply mishandled it until one day the wine lost its savor.
It’s the vessel we boomers constructed so long ago, the foundation for which was laid by our fathers and mothers in the faith before us. Both in and out of the church, we created and catered to a culture focused on self-fulfillment, getting a blessing, having an experience and being fed and touched personally and individually. We became a “me” generation, in contradistinction to a culture of the selflessness of the cross, and then passed that sick cultural orientation to our children, who now suffer for it.
Conditioned by the culture we created, we gravitated toward teachings that told us how to personally prosper, receive a blessing, experience the supernatural and heal the pain that our self-orientation inevitably produced. We ended up with a faith focused in the wrong place, sometimes subtly and in some cases rather blatantly.
Worship became an individual experience to receive and enjoy rather than an offering rising as a pleasing aroma to God for His sake. Inner healing became not a tool to make us more whole for the sake of lives given away in the service of others but more of a means of relieving our pain so we could be “happy.”
Prophetic ministry too often gravitated toward flattering words of great destinies reflective of the content of the hearts of the people rather than life-changing truth. We began to attend conferences for the big names on the roster of speakers, hoping the anointed ones would spark life and impart something into us that would give meaning to our lives or catalyze a supernatural experience.
Jesus, however, came to reveal the nature and character of His Father: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We experienced wonderful years of revelation from great men like Jack Winter and Jack Frost, who convinced us in no uncertain terms that the Father loves us. They brought healing to a generation wounded by the fatherlessness that grew from our culture of self. They fulfilled their callings well, but it was a necessary remedial teaching, focused on receiving something from our heavenly Father to repair damage, heal hurts and fill a deficit.
Nothing wrong with that! But it was only part one of a two-part thrust of the Father’s heart. Too many of us wrongly injected that teaching into our self-centered frame of reference. Too many of us camped on “Father loves me!” and there it ended as the wine leaked away through holes in the flawed vessel of our cultural construct.
The new movement of God’s Spirit currently rising as a groundswell is not about receiving from God, although we’ll never stop receiving. We serve a giving God, and one of the highest forms of praise we can offer Him is to gratefully receive what He sends. This new thing, however, focuses not on what we’re receiving but on what we’re becoming. It’s about the impartation of the Father’s heart, nature and character into us until we can truly be called the “sons of God” who, from the deepest reaches of the heart, radiate who our Father is—and that includes His daughters as well.
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” Note the adjectival Hebraism that goes beyond mere genetic descendance or creation by His hand. To be a “son of” or a “child of” something is to resemble that thing in a significant way. As Romans 8:19 says, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”
This movement I speak of is about impartation of the nature of the Father in character, disposition, heart and spirit. It is a time of conformity to “the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). It has nothing to do with religious legalism or performance and everything to do with transformation of character from the inside out until we have the Father’s heart as our own.
We are moving from the remedial to the transformational, from receiving to becoming, that we might exude the nature of the Father so the world might see and know Him by what they see and sense in us.
Here lies the substance we long for. It leads to a greater intimacy with the heart of the Father through Jesus than we have ever known. It is the realization of Jesus’ declaration that it is enough for the disciple to become as his master (Matt. 10:25). When people saw Jesus, they saw the Father. It must be so in us. In the midst of accelerating numbers of scandals and moral failings involving prominent Christian leaders, isn’t it high time people saw the nature of the Father revealed in His sons and daughters?
What are we becoming? Signs and wonders are not the goal. They are the result. Wellbeing is not the focus but rather the outcome. Prosperity is not the pursuit but rather the gift of a loving Father and the fruit of integrity. Glory must not be the longing in our hearts. It is instead God’s response to a people who have become intimate with Him at the level of heart and character.
Hear this cry! The shift that has just begun is more significant and goes deeper than most of us realize.
R. Loren Sandfordis the founder and senior pastor of New Song Church and Ministries in Denver, Colo. He is a songwriter, recording artist and worship leader, as well as the author of several books, including Understanding Prophetic People, The Prophetic Church and his latest, Visions of the Coming Days: What to Look For and How to Prepare, which are available with other resources at the church’s website.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 (NIV)
Isn’t salvation about my past sins and my future in heaven? What does God‘s grace mean for me today? Sin brings with it two long-term consequences—a penalty against us, and a power within us. God saves us from the penalty and the power.
I want to introduce you to three characters to help you understand how He does this. Their names are Hostile, Helpless and Hopeful. Which one do you identify with most?
Hostile: Without desire or ability
“The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Romans 8:7 (NIV)
Hostile has no desire to follow God’s law. Even if he had the desire, which he doesn’t, he does not have the ability. You will meet Hostile all throughout the Bible story:
In Cain’s hostility toward God, he became angry and killed Abel (Genesis 4:8). But Pharaoh’s hostility was more subtle. When God said “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1), he just dug in his heels. Hostile’s greatest day was when Jesus was brought before the crowd, and they shouted “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22-23).
Helpless: Desire without ability
“I see another law at work… waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin…” Romans 7:23 (NIV)
The difference between Helpless and Hostile is that, while Hostile hates God’s law, Helpless loves it: “In my inner being, I delight in God’s law…” (v22), “I agree that the law is good…” (v16). Hostile would never say these things. He hates God’s law.
Helpless knows God’s law is good. He wants to do it, but he doesn’t have the ability. He’s a prisoner in chains, unable to get free. He feels miserable “What a wretched man I am!” and cries out “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v24).
Hopeful: Desire with ability
“Through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 (NIV)
Like Helpless, Hopeful has the desire to live a godly life. The difference lies in their abilities. Paul tells Hopeful to “Put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). Helpless would just say “I’m a prisoner! I can’t overcome this enemy.”
Hopeful is in an entirely different position! He has the desire to fight against sin in his life, but he also has the ability to prevail. Notice that they face the same battle. Hopeful still feels the power of temptation, and he still has failures. But Hopeful’s ability to prevail comes from the Spirit of God who lives in Him.
What God says to you today
To Hostile, God says that He “demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ went to the cross so that those who were once enemies of God could become His friends. God loves you, so repent!
Notice the answer God gives when Helpless asks “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). Christ will rescue you! The Christian life is about the power of God living in you. Ask and you’ll receive. Your heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
What does God say to Hopeful? “Put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The Spirit is in you! So, fight! When you fail, your enemy comes to you saying “You’re so weak. You were never any good. You’re my prisoner.” The only way to answer him is with the truth, and when you know the truth, it will set you free!
From the series by Pastor Colin S. Smith: Unlocking the Bible, Nature, August 26, 2001.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The Apostle Paul likely wrote his letter to the Romans about 25 years after Christ’s death and resurrection (sometime between A.D. 55-57). Throughout the book of Romans, Paul warned of God’s unfolding wrath against the Roman Empire – indeed, all of humanity – for mankind’s embrace and practice of pagan morality.
Approach Paul’s words with a modicum of objectivity and the reader is left with this dreadful realization: The words of Christ’s hand-picked messenger likewise paint an eerily accurate portrait of America, A.D. 2013. The negligible difference is that ancient pagan morality has been sanitized with a new euphemism: postmodern “progressivism.”
It is unbridled hubris that presumes America – lest she depart the wide path to ancient Rome – will not suffer that empire’s same fate.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them,” he wrote. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20).
Of course, an entire book could be written on this passage alone, but, essentially, Paul is noting that knowledge of God’s existence, eternal power, divine nature and moral law are self-evident. His truths are written on the hearts of every man, woman and child – Jew, Christian and pagan alike. Those who deny this reality are “without excuse.”
Yet, excuses we make.
Pull your eyes from your smartphone, America. Look around you. God’s wrath is “being revealed from heaven” once more.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25)
Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. Sexual impurity in all its ugly forms – fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, et al. – is celebrated by these “progressive” “fools.” American culture revels in the degrading of our bodies while purity is mocked. God has given us over to sinful desires.
Furthermore, while good earthly stewardship is a sound biblical principle, the pantheism and idolatry of which Paul warned (worship of creation and/or false idols over the Creator) prospers yet today in its contemporary, totalitarian forms: radical environmentalism and new ageism.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones (lesbianism). In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)
Was Paul rebuking “progressives” on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama, liberals in Congress and other cheerleaders for these “shameful lusts” and “unnatural relations” – or was he just describing the disproportionately powerful and “inflamed-with-lust” homosexual lobby they represent?
Either way, God’s “due penalty” is non-discriminating. America’s official endorsement of “gay marriage,” “gay pride,” homosexualist indoctrination in our schools, “transgender” bathroom bills and bans on counseling to help with unwanted same-sex attraction will not end well.
Ask the Romans.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32)
Where to begin.
We have arrived. Shame on you, America. Our children – our adults – are depraved. They are “occupied” by envy. They attack innocent people, beating and killing them for sport. They murder one another in the streets without love or mercy. They disobey, gossip, slander and hate God. They are insolent, arrogant, boastful “little monsters.” They invent ways of doing evil. Hannah Montana is what America once was. MTV Miley is America today. She “evolved” because we “evolved.” You saw it on display. It’s ugly. It’s Satanic.
Still, though we have become a Romans 1 nation and, absent widespread spiritual revival, will fall as did Rome, those who embrace and follow truth – who is Jesus the Christ – are a Romans 8 people:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)