Tagged: Romans

He is Ready to Forgive

When He died…I did not exist…

except in His mind.

I was just another unborn sinner with a lifetime of future offenses.

But I was known.

He knew the lost and broken soul.

And He was ready to forgive my sins before I had done any of them…

on the morning I first drew breath…

before I felt the dark stains in my soul.

Listen…

His is an ancient readiness to forgive.

Because He loves me…

And you.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Day 13: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

13But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.Romans 5:8-10

Peter Miller pastored a Baptist church during the American Revolution at Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Coming to the area in the 1730’s, Peter originally pastored Bethany Church, a German Reformed congregation. At the request of his friend Thomas Jefferson, he translated the Declaration of Independence into seven languages to help the world understand hat was happening in the colonies. He was well-known and deeply respected.

Michael Witman, a deacon at Bethany church, was deeply troubled and angered at Miller’s exit to become a Baptist preacher. Witman routinely harassed Miller and his congregation. He ridiculed them. He spread lies about them. One time Witman hit Miller in the face; on another occasion, Witman spit on him. Miller did not retaliate or respond. In fact, he never said anything bad about Witman’s abuse… he just took it.

Witman owned the local hotel and tavern. One evening during the winter of 1777-1778, two men came in to stay the night. Outspoken as always, Witman began expressing his loyalty to the British crown to his guests, without realizing they were American spies. Although he tried to escape by jumping out a window, Witman was captured and tried for treason before Gen. George Washington. He was sentenced to death on the gallows.

When Miller learned of Witman’s sentence, he grabbed his cane and walked sixty miles through the snow to Valley Forge, seeking a pardon for Witman from Washington. Washington told him that his friend would have to die.

“My friend!” said Miller. “I have not a worse enemy living than that man.”

Washington was stunned, changed his mind, and wrote out a pardon. Witman’s property would be confiscated, but his life would be spared. Miller hurried to West Chester, fifteen miles away, the site of Witman’s imminent execution.

Miller arrived as Witman was being led to the scaffold. When Witman saw him, he said, “There is old Peter Miller. He has walked all the way from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today seeing me hung.”

He was wrong. Miller shouted out to stop the execution, waving the pardon document. Observers later reported that the two men embraced each other. The former enemies walked home to Ephrata as friends for the rest of their lives.

Miller understood the love of God.

God sent His Son into the world to die… while we were enemies. Unbelievable love… demonstrated forever as part of the Christmas Revolution!

Source for this story: Steinmetz, Hiram E. “Peter Miller – Michael Witman.” Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster Historical Society VI.1 (1901): 46-49.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 12: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

12For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:3-4

The real story at Mount Sinai was that God wanted to dwell among His people. Listen to how He describes His actions to the Exodus generation:

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” – Exodus 19:4-5

He wants to be with us, but intimacy is costly: He requires that we obey (depend on) everything He says. Sounds simple enough. Receiving the Law at Sinai, God’s people believed for generations that they had everything they needed to please God. Although numerous prophets and psalmists knew better, generation after generation concluded wrongly that God was preoccupied with a solid, external effort to keep the Law. Like many people today, they believed that God was primarily interested in changing their behavior.

They couldn’t have been more mistaken. He wants to do far more than reform our behavior, He wants to recreate and capture out hearts.

As much as God loves us, His holiness requires us to reflect inner purity and moral perfection before we can draw near. So, the demands of the Law were not optional, but essential to intimacy.  The Law was also designed to show us what life looks like as God intended it to be lived. The Law is a reflection of what we should do and want… naturally. The Law is good. The problem is that we are not.

Paul said the Law was “weak through the flesh.” Although someone might conform outwardly to the Law, on the inside, in the heart, he remains a wide-eyed, self-centered rebel. You might avoid murder, but hate reigns in the heart. You might remain faithful to your spouse, but adulterous fantasies continue to cloud your mind. You might appear righteous, but you know on the inside that nothing is right.

Enter, once again, the Christmas Revolution!

Jesus was born “in the likeness of sinful flesh” but nothing inside Him was dark or wrong. He depended on the Father for everything. He was a walking demonstration of the Law, reflecting the Life that His Father had for each of us to live, but none of us could… or would.

The Gospel or good news is this: everything required for intimacy with the Father has been accomplished by Jesus, then credited to the ones who have placed their trust in the Son. I can approach God as freely as the Son He sent, when I lose myself into the life of the Son.

And there’s more! The “walk” of the believer is like the Son’s “walk“: an overflow of the activity of the Spirit within the heart. The Spirit enables a new way of life, prompting and empowering cooperating believers to become and to do everything God had envisioned for us in the Law.

In the seventeenth century, John Bunyan, Baptist pastor and author Pilgrim’s Progress penned these lines to describe this entirely new way of living:

“Run, John, run”
The law commands
But gives me neither feet nor hands
Tis better news the Gospel brings
It bids me fly
It gives me wings.

Have you found your wings? The Christmas Revolution… God sending His Son so our hearts could be transformed!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

growing faith

Romans 10:17 “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Be careful what you pray for. When I first married, I asked God to make me a man of faith. I thought that was the thing to do. Then…

  • … he allowed us to experience a deep financial crisis;
  • … he led us to serve twice in places that couldn’t support us;
  • … he allowed us to lose children in three pregnancies;
  • … he allowed me to be unemployed on 3 different occasions; and
  • … he allowed me to enter a surveilance mode for cancer (though still clear after 6 years).

And there’s more. But you’ve got the picture.

Faith didn’t arrive because of those experiences, but faith in God was enlarged as He led us through those experiences. In each circumstance I found myself driven for direction and comfort in God’s Word. And on each occasion God spoke to me in new ways even when reading familiar passages.

Faith cannot be exercised until we know what to trust God for. We can read the Bible and not hear God. But when we turn to the Scripture with a burning thirst for direction and help, He speaks!

Faith is a response to what God says. Hearing results from the word (literally “utterance”) that God impresses on your heart as you pour over the pages of the Scripture.

When God speaks, my life changes, even though my circumstances may never change to my liking. Would I pray again to become a man of faith?

In a heartbeat! I would not have wanted to live those experiences without a vital faith rumbling around in my soul — a faith driven by encounters with God in His Word.

Grieving for the Lost

Romans 9:2-3 “…I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren…”

What makes you really sad?

Imagine a circle of relationships around your life. In the middle of this circle is your life. For most of us, our response grows more intense the closer tragedy strikes. Troubles on the fringes of our world (like slavery in Sudan or persecution in India) do not concern us as much.

Paul loved those close to him. But he grieved continuously for those outside of Christ. His circle of compassion ranged wide and far. Tears were shed. Cries were made to heaven. A burden was borne.

Do we cry over the people next door who don’t know Christ? Do we groan under the weight of spiritual concern for the men and women we work beside? Do we weep for our lost employer? Do we ask God to light up the darkened souls in our city and in our world?

To be like Paul means drawing the circle of our love and compassion to include anyone with a spiritual need. To have a heart for God will lead to God’s heart. Are you ready?

Chosen

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

How can I know for certain that I am a Christian? God wants you to know your salvation as a fact. More than that, He wants to write that truth on your heart.

When our oldest daughter was four she disobeyed and was scolded. Afterwards I could see that she was not feeling very good about herself. In fact, she was devastated. For a moment I could see a lifetime of self-doubt trying to climb its way into her soul.

I took her by both shoulders, looked her in the eyes and said, “You know what? If I could pick any four-year old little girl in the whole, wide world to be mine, do you know who I would pick?”

I could see the question loom large in her eyes as she wondered. Who would Daddy choose?

“You!” I said with a smile and a hug. The clouds lifted from her face and her soul. That exchange became a game we played for years — she needed it.

So do you. The Bible says that when we trusted Jesus’ death on the cross to save us from our sins, we were saved. Period. The Bible tells me so. But that’s not all. There’s more…

John tells us in his first letter that we can look at our daily life. Can you see a change? People who have been born again change over time. You may look at your life and see objective evidence that your life is different. But that’s not all. There’s more…

The Holy Spirit lives within. He wants to convey to your heart an experiential knowledge of your sonship. As He moves you to cry “Father”, He wants to open your spiritual ears to voice of God. Listen to a father’s heart: “You are my child. And of all the people in the world I could bring into my family, I choose you!”

But Wait! There’s More!

Read Romans 8:22-27

Do you recall the famous Ronco commercials? Did you ever find yourself wishing you had a Mr. Microphone, the Pocket Fisherman, the Dial-O-Matic Food Slicer, or the Smokeless Ashtray? Ron Popeil the inventor revolutionized the ad industry with his sales pitch: It cuts, it slices, it dices—but wait! There’s more!

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul is not selling gadgets, but as he teaches young Christians how to respond to the ups and downs of this life, he holds them spellbound: Jesus forgives, He transforms, He guides—but wait! There’s more!

On Pentecost Sunday we remember how Jesus returns to dwell among His people in the Person of His Spirit. In this passage, Paul unveils three ways the Holy Spirit impacts our hearts after He comes to live inside us. His Presence causes me to:

Long for the unimaginable. (vs. 22-23)

In the West, we spend enormous amounts of time and money on our health. We go to great lengths to extend the length and quality of our lives. In the United States, we have succeeded in raising our life expectancy a full ten years ahead of the world average (Source: EarthTrends http://www.earthtrends.wri.org/).

Nevertheless, despite our best efforts to combat our mortality, Paul says all creation “groans” under the weight of sin’s damaging effects (vs. 22). Everything and everyone is vulnerable to illness, disease, injury and death.

Can you imagine life in a body free of frailty, weakness, imperfection, or aging processes? Paul can! He explains that when the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside your body, He births in you a desire for God to hurry up and finish the process of adoption: setting you completely free from everything that interferes or impedes your relationship to God as His child.

Throughout your lifetime, God wants to free you from the guilt and dominance of sin—but wait! There’s more! He also wants to free you from the destructive effects of sin on your physical body (vs. 23). This is the unimaginable final act of redemption that occurs after this life: when God provides every believer with a new body unstained and free from the presence of sin.

Hope for the unseen. (vs. 24-25)

An ad for a small business consultant reads: You work long hours, have no time to relax, no time for your family, you’re often stressed and disillusioned that your dream has turned into a nightmare, and you feel more like a prisoner than a king!

Unfortunately, that describes what often happens when we pursue earthly dreams—they rarely deliver what we expected. It is normal to dream of a place or situation or relationship that could fulfill the deepest longings. We need dreams. They keep us going and they give us a reason to live.

Paul uses a different word to describe our dreams: hope.

The Holy Spirit forms in us a desire to be free from sin’s awful effects in this life. But wait! There’s more! When we were saved, Paul says we were infused with a new hope for ultimate fulfillment (vs. 24)—not here—but there with Jesus in an unseen place and time (vs. 25).

Peter agrees with Paul, explaining that God creates a “living hope” inside every Christian when they are born again. It is a hope for “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled”—it will not be a disappointment. It is a hope that is “reserved in heaven”—it cannot be found in earthly, ambitious, life-consuming pursuits (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Pray for the unknown. (vs. 26-27)

The Holy Spirit fashions in me an unimaginable longing for a new life free from sin and an expectation that one day my deepest desires will be fulfilled. But wait! There’s more! He also helps me pray effectively.

Why is that significant? If prayer is asking and expecting God to do what He wants to do (1 John 5:14-15), how can I pray when I do not know what God wants to do? I need help!

Have you ever had your hands in the sink when the phone rings? Or perhaps you were working in the garage and your hands were too dirty to hold the phone? Did someone hold the phone up to your ear so you could talk?

When you pray with the purpose of asking God to do His will, Paul explains that it is like “holding up the phone” so that the Holy Spirit and God the Father can talk. The Spirit literally joins in to help you pray (vs. 26), but His mysterious, non-verbal intercession is “according to the will of God” (vs. 27).

At the end of a movie I saw not long ago, most of the theater-goers got up to leave as the credits began to roll—but the film was not over! There were several minutes more of humorous outtakes to enjoy!

We may be forgiven, saved, and born again. But wait! The Father is not finished with us. There’s more!