Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Romans 8:15 – 39
“Life on the wings of a promise”

The story is told of a plane on a long trip. At one point the pilot announces that one engine is in trouble. “Don’t worry,” the pilot announces, “the plan has three engines and we can easily fly on one if we need to, but we will be a half hour late.” It wasn’t much longer before the pilot made a second announcement, “We are experiencing problems with another engine and we will be about two hours late.” At this point, one passenger turned to another and said, “I hope we don’t lose the third engine or we’ll be up here all day!”
Some of us have been flying on one engine and its been in trouble for a long time. Paul has just taken us through a very difficult concept; sin in the believer and the necessity for sanctification. Before going on, he pauses to encourage us. [Source: Unknown]

I. The hard times we face now do not compare to what is promised.

A. Why do we face hard times now?

1. [v 20] All creation is held back by the Curse.

a. The Curse is a result of sin.

b. Around us and inside us we have “impurity, deformity, and infirmity” [Matthew Henry]

2. Individuals, by nature, are separated from God.

a. The Bible says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23]

b. Sin is the root of EVERY problem, misery, and pain.

3. Others may hurt us.

a. We are abused by sin.

b. As instruments of sin, we abuse others.

4. There is systemic evil that drives nations, corporations, and denominations.

a. e.g. The greed for riches.

b. e.g. Pride which drives us for prestige.

c. e.g. Unwillingness to humble ourselves before God.

B. The believer has patience and confidence in hope.

1. The believer longs for full deliverance from sin, suffering, death, and decay. [v 21]

a. At the moment everything is effected.

b. At the moment we are in process. [v 22]

1.) Wesley, “Our salvation is now only in hope. We do not yet possess this full salvation.”

2.) The Bible expresses salvation in three tenses: “we have been saved,” “we are being saved,” “we will be saved.” There is a “already but not yet” quality about salvation.

3.) The ideal track is to move us from sin to salvation and into sanctification and service.

2. The believer joyfully expects to gain the promise in Jesus. [v 23]

a. [v 25] The promise of full rights of adopted children.

b. [v 25] The promise of new bodies that are incorruptible.

c. FACT: This world will not continue in depravity, misery, and meaninglessness.

II. We are not alone in our weakness. [v 25]

A. The Holy Spirit helps us. [v 26]

1. We do not know how/what to pray. [v 26]

a. It doesn’t matter!

Matthew Henry: “The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.”

Paul asked to be healed. Instead he got something else.

b. The Holy Spirit knows us and our condition. [v 27]

c. The Holy Spirit knows God’s mind and will. [v 27]
The Holy Spirit directs our prayers. BTW, not all prayers use words...

2. We do have a promise. [v 28]

a. God’s intention is for us to be in harmony with His will. [v 27]

b. Thus, God works in the circumstances of our lives. [v 28]

c. God has purpose for us! [v 28]
Rick Warren: nothing will revive/renew a person or church more than finding a purpose.

B. God the Father is helping us. [v 28]

1. He decided to shape our lives to be like Jesus. [v 29]

a. “Predestined” means God decided in advance.

b. The pattern is Jesus.

2. The idea is to RESTORE what was lost to the Curse.

a. It puts God on our side, again. [v 31]

b. In fact, God did everything for us. [v 32]

c. When God justifies, all accusations are answered. [v 34]

III. Have you noticed we still struggle?

A. God does not promise to remove us from the struggle.

1. The promise is for us to be “more than conquerors.”

a. A conqueror is some who wins the war and is celebrated.

b. A conqueror may lose many battles on the way to winning complete victory in the war.

2. The struggle is good for us.

a. It is part of the shaping process.

b. It draws us deeper into dependence on God.

c. It draws us deeper into relationship with God.

B. God does promise that NOTHING (person, circumstance, or problem) will ever separate us from His love. [vv 35, 38 – 39]

1. No human generated instance can separate us from God’s love. [v 35]

a. What about social or legal threats? [Paul spent many years in jail.]

b. What about government oppression? [Nero’s persecution.]

c. What about war and poverty? [70 A.D. Fall of Jerusalem.]

2. No spiritual related instance. [v 38]

a. What about death? [“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21]

b. What about uncertainty? [“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Titus 1:12]

c. What about direct demonic attack? [“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9]

3. No natural generated instance.

The Message put it this way: “Nothing fazes us because Jesus loves us... because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

IV. How does one get these things?

A. “You don’t know what you don’t know” if you are without Jesus.

1. Heaven is a free gift, it can not be earned or deserved.

2. As humans we all fall short and are unable, by our own actions and efforts, to reach heaven.

3. God follows His own rules but He also takes the initiative to wake us up so we don’t have to suffer.

4. Jesus, being eternal and Almighty God, paid with His blood to cover all our wrong, all our mistakes, all our short-falls, so we can reach heaven.

5. You have to trust what Jesus did on the cross and at the empty tomb. That means you give up any and all hope of reaching heaven yourself. Instead, you reach for Jesus and let Him take you to heaven.
[based on James Kennedy’s “Evangelism Explosion.”]

B. Use the pain for gain.

1. If you are sick, you go to doctor (or some medical person who knows what they are doing).

a. When you are hurting, go to God! [“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:17]

b. Like a child going to dad. [v 14] (BTW, I used to run to Mom for comfort, to Dad for solutions.)

2. Keep it in perspective.

a. There is NO comparison. [v 18]

Matthew Henry: “The suffering of the saints strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time. . .”

b. If you are a believer (true religion of the heart), God IS on your side. [v 32].

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On evil speaking as distorting reality

“Universal Process of Distortion”

Step one: “leveling”

To make the event/words easier to memorize, details are condensed or left out. Typically this changes the meaning.

We make choices on what details we remember either willfully or unconsciously.
• When we make them deliberately, it may be sin.
• When we make them unconsciously, it may be spiritual warfare (the devil interfering).
• Since we are emotional creatures we hear what we want to hear according to how we feel at the moment. (Selective listening)
• We are also sensitive to context.
• We may not have the skills to listen correctly. (Our background)

It is part of the sinful heritage of this world. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure [desperately wicked]. Who can understand it?”

Jesus was concerned about this! He said, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” [Luke 8:18a]

Step two: “sharpening”

The details that remain are made specific.

We take what we think we remember and begin to interpret.
• This is called “translation.” Since we all filter information, we must take what comes through those filters and translate it into useful information.
• When something does not make sense, we then add filler information. Typically this is judgmental. In other words, we are trying to discover or explain “why” a person would say or do what we think we remember them doing.
• This is called “projection” because the only point of view for judging another’s motives, words, or actions is our own. For instance, when we judge someone’s behavior or words to be dishonest it’s because we would be dishonest if we had done or said what we think we remember.

Jesus put it this way: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Matthew 7:1]

Step three: “assimilation”

The details are changed to make sense. The idea is to interpret significance.

We take information and try to make it mean something.
• Typically this is when we begin to “generalize” what we think we remember. One becomes a representative of all. For instance, someone may have said something wrong in one instance. When we hear it in another instance, probably from a different person, we assume that it is wrong (or intended to hurt).
• These generalizations become part of how we filter information.
• Thus, significance is selective... probably constructed from selective pieces of information that we think we have remembered. In reality we have remembered selectively, shaped things to fit what we (want to) understand, then reinforced them as significant.

God commanded His people, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.” [Deut. 4:9a]

The three steps are from Gordon Allport “The Psychology of a Rumor”
Romans 8:5 – 15
The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

[Based on Wesley sermon #9]

Introduction:

1. Paul speaks to those who are the children of God through faith.

2. Those influenced by fear are not the children of God.

3. The bulk of the “Christian” world does not have either a fear of God or a love of God.

4. Three states to be in:

a. “natural” –> no fear or love of God.

b. “legal” –> under bondage of sin; fear of the wrath of God.

c. “grace” –> Spirit of love.

I. The “natural” state.

A. The person is spiritually asleep.

1. There is no desire to know spiritual things.

2. They are ignorant of God and do not have a concept of holiness.

B. The person is at rest.

1. They do not see the danger. Therefore, they do not have fear.

2. They define things outwardly but do not see the heart issue.

3. They may think Christ came to save people IN sin, not FROM sin. The result is the idea that God wants to bring them to heaven WITHOUT holiness.

C. The person has a false sense of security.

1. This is because they are “utterly ignorant” of themselves.

2. They live in a state of “self-deception” and think there is some level of understanding if they know a couple of facts.

D. The effects of the natural state:

1. There is an illusion of happiness, wisdom, and goodness.

a. Sin has its pleasure, but it is for a season.

b. Some think it is ok if the “do no harm.”

2. The “opiate of sin” creates an illusion of liberty.

a. The person is free from enthusiasm, superstition, and bigotry... so they think.

b. The person is free from holiness, “religion of the heart,” and from the mind of Christ.

3. The reality is slavery.

a. The person is not troubled by sin, feels no condemnation, and thinks sin is inescapable.

b. The person remains a willing servant of sin, content with the bondage of corruption, and inward and outwardly unholy.

4. This person may be a “scandalous transgressor” or a “reputable and decent sinner.”

a. They may have a form of godliness (but deny its power).

b. But they have never had a conviction of sin or felt a need to repent.

II. The “legal” state (“under the law”).

***** Caution: This is a TEMPORARY state. A person cannot remain here.

A. They are “awakened.”

1. They are awakened, perhaps slowly, maybe suddenly.

2. They understand the true danger and there is fear.

3. They see God as loving and merciful BUT also a “consuming fire.”

B. The meaning of the law of God shows itself.

1. They understand its also about the things they cannot see.

2. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus noted:

a. Hate was murder.

b. Lust was adultery.

C. They see self-effort as inadequate and frustrating.

1. When humans first sinned, we tried to cover our shame with leaves.

a. The exercise of religion is a poor pretense for forgiveness.

b. The excuses for sinning are miserable and wretched.

2. There is a painful awareness of sin.

a. The person knows that they deserve to be cast into the unquenchable fire of hell.

b. The things that drugged them into spiritual sleep become misery and there is remorse as fear sets into the person.

D. The desire to break loose from sin is important.

1. The person “struggles with sin, yet sins on.”

a. The freedom of the will is free only to sin.

b. The more they struggle the more the weight of guilt.

1.) There is outward sin, because we are disposed to it through our nature, customs, or circumstances.

2.) The is always some inward sin, such as an “evil temper” or “unholy affection.”

2. The person cycles.

a. They cycle between repentance and sinning.

b. This is the struggle of one under “the spirit of fear and bondage.”

***** Unfortunately, when people turn back at this point, this is the impression they get of Christianity. *****

III. The state of “grace” which includes love for God.

A. They cry out to God for deliverance.

1. They need to be FORGIVEN and FREED.

2. They find in Christ the glorious love of God.

B. The power of sin is broken at the cross.

1. Galatians 2:20.

2. The person not only fights but conquers because they do not yield as instruments of unrighteousness.

C. Controlled by the Holy Spirit.

1. They love God.

2. They are at peace with God.
Summary:

1. The “natural:”

a. neither fears nor loves God.

b. no light, no conviction, no pain of sin.

c. false peace.

d. sins willingly.

e. neither fights nor conquers sin.

2. The “legal:”

a. fears God.

b. lives in the painful light of the fires of hell.

c. no peace.

d. sins unwillingly.

e. fights with sin but cannot permanently conquer.

3. Under “grace:”

a. loves God. (It is not about what I have to do or not do; its about what I WANT TO do.)

b. lives in the joyous light of heaven.

c. true peace.

d. does not PRACTICE sin.

e. fights and conquers sin because they are yielded to God.

IV. Conclusion:

A. Sincerity is not relevant!

1. You can be sincere in sin or in fear.

2. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith.”

a. What is the principle ruling your life? Is it the love of God? Is it the fear of God? Is it neither?

b. Do you commit sin willingly? Unwillingly? The Bible says “He that committeth (continues to practice) sin is of the devil.”

B. Reality check... there is a frequent mixing of states.

1. The natural mixed with the legal:

a. Few are so fast asleep that they sometimes are more or less awakened.

b. People can be shocked out of sleep, but not for long.

c. However, conviction is seldom allowed to sink deep into their souls because it does hurt.

2. The state of grace with the legal (in essence this is the battle ground).

a. Few who truly reach the state of fear and bondage always remain without hope.

b. God responds to those who desire to break away from sin. We cry out and God answers.

c. Either we will drop back to being asleep or we will find peace in submitting to Go.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Romans 7:14 – 8:5
Moving from Despair to Design

I. Spiritual defeat causes despair.

(NIV = “unspiritual,” KJV = “carnal,” – this happens when we focus on the flesh [v 14].)

A. Spiritually we are divided [vv 15 – 18].

1. Born with a sinful nature that continues to draw us toward sin. [Romans 8:7 states that the “carnal mind” is at war with God.]

2. Part of us wants to do right and avoid wrong, but the task is impossible.
James 1:8 talks about the “double-minded” person being “unstable.” Instability affects everything in life... even if you do not realize it.

Righteousness cannot exist with sin. It is an either or situation, not both and.

B. Sin naturally increases its domination [vv 16 – 23].

1. Sin controls its slaves.

a. [v 17] “it is sin living in me.”

b. [v 18] “nothing good lives in me.”

c. [v 20] “it is sin living in me that does it.”

d. [v 23] “a prision.”

Sin gives us that “out of control” feeling because spiritually we are beyond our control [Romans 8:8] and cause frustration.

2. Sin is like vines which “so easily entangles” [Hebrews 12:1]. They grow slowly around the tree, around the branches...

a. It is a slow process (for some) and we miss what is happening.

b. It creates huge complications and emotional dependence.

As a reality of the situation sets in, we begin to understand the huge cost... when we begin to suspect the eternal consequences... we understand that we are helpless.
“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

C. Spiritually we are totally defeated by sin [v 24].

1. Defeat can cause despair.

a. So we try to get around sin by avoidance tactics.

1.) We “don’t care.”

2.) We “anaesthetize” (“self-medicate” with alcohol, other drugs, amusement, work, family, sex, and the next sin.)

b. We don’t want to admit defeat.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (NIV “beyond cure.”); who can know it?” (The next verse says only God does.)

2. We will lie to ourselves for as long as it takes to ignore reality.

a. But it does not change the fact that we are strapped to “this body of death.”

b. In reality, we are a “wretched man.”

II. The defeated person can be delivered.

A. The source of deliverance [7:25 – 8:2].

1. Go has made two provisions:

a. Jesus Christ made “atonement.”

b. Holy Spirit gives power for every day life.

2. Important to understand we can not deliver ourselves!

Because we cannot deliver ourselves, we must depend on the one who can deliver us. This guarantees us that deliverance is done right and is enough.

B. The deliverance is enough [8:2 – 4]

1. God – the judge – has declared that we are set free from the law (control) of sin.

a. The law – our own efforts – could not set us free.

b. Something other than the law must enter the situation to set us free.

c. God sent Jesus.

2. What happened? Jesus took our place and the result is that God gave us Jesus righteousness.

C. God’s deliverance satisfies the soul.

1. God condemned sin...

2. Spiritual defeat is caused by sin and forms guilt and despair.

God has now condemned sin, freed us from its slavery, He has given us victory. We are delivered from sin but we are delivered to life.

III. God’s design is a dedicated life [8:2 – 5].

A. The purpose of the design: holiness [8:5].

1. What is holiness?

a. It is one of the descriptions of God.

b. It is the quality God asks for most (even more than love).

2. Definition:

a. It means to be separate from the world... in other words, DIFFERENT... like light and dark.

b. It means to be dedicated/consecrated... in other words, WILLING.

c. It means to be filled and used by God.

3. The reason: God wants holy people because He is holy.

God wants holiness that is real, not “projected, pretended, or professed.” (McLaren)

B. The power of the design: mind set [8:5].

1. You chose what you desire, that is a mind set.

2. The mind set of the Spirit filled Christian:

a. ...will not entertain temptation.

b. ...will not give the devil a foothold.

c. ...will not expose themselves to sin.

d. ...will have our mind set, trained with the things of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Romans 7:1 – 12
The Law and its use.

[From John Wesley sermon 34]

The concept of the Law (of Moses, not a general legal code) maybe one of the most misunderstood subjects in theology. In the Old Testament Law, there is a moral, civil, and ceremonial code. Let’s look at what Paul was saying when he talked about the Law.

I. The origin of the Law:

A. The moral Law was established at the “beginning.” It had three components.

1. “Understanding” – The ability to discern truth from falsehood. This came from the Word of God.

2. “Liberty” – The capacity of choosing the one and refusing the other.

3. “Love” – The offering of a free and willing service as acceptable and pleasing to God.

B. The Law is a complete model of all truth.

1. It is intelligible to a finite being. It is clear an not difficult to understand, unless it is corrupted.

2. It makes provision for increasing happiness.

3. It is put in the heart of every person so everyone is “without excuse.” [Romans 1:20]

II. The nature of the Law:

A. What it is NOT:

1. The Law is not the “ceremonial code.”

a. The ceremonial code described the “how to” offer what sacrifice and when to observe what event.

b. The ceremonial code does not show us sin, it imposes a discipline as a consequence of sin.

2. The Law is not a “dispensation.”

a. Under the Law, a person is justified and lives by faith. Faith is the only dispensation (means of salvation) humans have ever had.

b. The blood of bulls and goats must be constantly repeated. This means the lack of their power.

B. The Law is the “moral code.”

1. It is an incorruptible picture of Almighty God.

a. God is manifested to His creatures AS THE ARE ABLE TO BEAR IT.

b. It is the heart of God, disclosed to us.

2. It is all virtues in one.

a. The original idea of truth and good.

b. It is unchangeable reason.

3. It is a copy of the eternal mind of God.

a. It reflects God’s divine nature.

b. It is rooted in God’s holiness.

III. The properties of the Law of God:

A. The Law is holy.

1. Holy describes the Law’s nature not effects!

2. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all PURE; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” [James 3:17, emphasis mine]

3. It is not the cause of sin, it exposes sin.

a. It exposes sin by taking away the disguise.

b. It eliminates the excuses by insisting, “this is what God wants.”

4. Because it exposes sin, we react AGAINST it [Romans 7:7 – 11].

a. Paul notes that sin “seizing the opportunity...”

b. Sin is deceptive.

B. The Law is just.

1. The Law describes what is right.

a. It describes precisely what ought to be done, said, or thought.

b. It is suited to everyone’s circumstances.

1.) “All people.”

2.) “At all times.”

3.) “Everywhere.” [from Josh McDowell]

2. Problem: We tend to separate “God’s will” from God.

a. The immutable (unchangeable) rule of right and wrong depends on the nature and fitness of things in their essential relationship to one another.

b. The nature and relations of all things depends on God, because God created all things.

c. Sometimes God wills something because it is right in relationship (e.g. children honoring parents).

d. However, it is right (and good) in all things (e.g. “Love your enemies.”)

C. The Law is good.

1. It is good because it is a reflection of God’s goodness (character).

2. It is good because it is an expression of God’s goodness (action).

3. It is good in its effects.

IV. The uses of the Law:

A. The Law convinces the world of sin.

1. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. “By this is the sinner discovered to himself.” [John Wesley]

B. The Law destroys the false.

1. False things are exposed and change is demanded.

2. The Law makes clear we are void of all spiritual life.

C. The Law points to life through Jesus Christ.

1. It serves as a “school master” to drive us by force (if necessary) to the only source of salvation... Jesus Christ.

2. Only love can tear away our confidence in the flesh.

D. The Law keeps us alive in Christ.

1. The Law prepares us for the life of God (vs the “Self-Life”).

a. It deals with the sin that remains.

b. It teaches dependence on God for strength to do what He commands.

c. It gives hope of what is yet to come.

d. It opens the door to receive “grace upon grace.”

2. It allows us to “obey.”

Friday, September 01, 2006

Romans 6:1 – 18
How to know you are sanctified

John Wesley’s five questions:

1. “Have I made a total consecration to Christ?”

***** Is there an identifiable time when you made a complete consecration of everything? This tends to be “the last straw” were the “one” area you didn’t/don’t want to commit/submit to the Lord. Or maybe it is the “one” thing you have not been able to let go that you sense is creating distance between you and God.. *****

2. “Do I have power over willful sin?”

***** Can you say there is no KNOWN and WILFUL sin your life right now? If there is a known and willful sin, then it may block your sense of “assurance.” *****

3. “Have I experienced a distinct increase in love?”

***** Has God changed your orientation toward others? There is cleansing (from bitterness, grudges, malice, ill will, envy, hate, etc...) and freedom (to actually love other people, especially those you would judges to be “unlovable”)? This love is “active love,” where you are pursuing the best for others. *****

4. “Is obedience the consuming passion of my heart?”

***** There is a problem with “perfect” (meaning “flawless”). We fall short of God’s flawless standard of performance every day. John Wesley disliked the word “perfect” because it was egotistical (which is opposite what sanctification is about). “Perfect” gives the impression there is no room for growth or continual maturity, or that the product is finished or complete. The real issue of sanctification is “who is in control.” Is the central force (not a high priority) in life obedience to God? Please note, this is a matter of submission of the will to God, not feeling. Wesley suggested the real need was “perfection of intention” so that one would have an “undivided heart.” *****

5. “Does the Spirit witness to my heart?”

***** This is a question of evidence. Do you know for sure, or is it wishful thinking? It’s like being in love. (See Deuteronomy 15:12 – 17) *****