Grace for a Sinner

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5

Have you ever felt like you need to get things straightened out in your life before you can ask for forgiveness?  Or before you can pray?  Or before you can draw near to God?  I know I have felt that way.  Is God waiting for us to get everything straightened out before we seek forgiveness or start a relationship for him?  Let’s look at a few verses that I think answer this question:

6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

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

10 “For if while 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.”

All three of these seem to show that God is reaching out to us and desiring us to reach out to Him while we are still messed up.  These verses say, “While we were helpless”, “while we were yet sinners”, and “while we were enemies”.  This sure doesn’t sound like “after we got straightened out”.

I still feel at times that I need to fix something myself before turning to God and asking for forgiveness.  I also know that sin causes problems in a relationship with God.  However, if we are justified through our faith as we saw in Romans 4, and if we look at chapter 5 closely, we have our order wrong.  We need to turn to God immediately.  We need to accept his grace, and then focus on Him to straighten out whatever our problems are.

Paul closes the chapter with this:

20 “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

No matter what sin we have, no matter what laws we have broken, no matter how far we have turned away, the grace of God is sufficient if we will turn back to Him.  God is seeking us out, and we need to seek Him also, whether things are going well, or everything is falling apart.

– Andrew Hamilton

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Justified by Faith

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say_ “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness

Romans 4

When I think of the old testament versus the new testament, one of the differences I tend to think of is law versus faith.  In the old testament, the people were under the law, and judged by the law.  Then in the new testament, Jesus changed things up so that we could be saved by our faith, with his sacrifice.  No longer were people required to perform sacrifices under the law.

Is that the right way to look at it though?  I’m not sure because I still find scripture that makes comparisons which lead me to the same conclusion.  However, in Romans 4, Paul talks about Abraham being credited by faith.  Verses 2 and 3 say:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ “

Paul goes on to say that David also talks about blessings that are separate from works, or in other words, by faith.  Verses 7 and 8 say:

“ ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been coveredBlessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.’ ”

So, how do I get this to fit with the laws and required sacrifices and such that were required for forgiveness in the old testament.  While the laws were all required to be followed, there had to be faith included with it for it to please God.  I can’t help but think of Matthew 5:17 as I am talking about the law of the old testament versus faith and grace in the new testament.  It reads:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

So, with our forgiveness coming through faith, it does not mean the law has been thrown away.  Instead, it means this is the perfect fulfillment of the law.

Why is this important to us?  Verse 16 says:

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

We are all descendants through the faith of Abraham.  We can also have our faith credited as righteousness.  What a wonderful blessing this is.
– Andrew Hamilton

Guilty, but Justified

Romans 3 23 and 24

Romans 3

In the first 2 chapters of Romans, Paul talks a lot about our actions, and our failures.  Since we have all sinned and failed, these two chapters by themselves would paint a very bleak picture for each of us as individuals.  Thankfully, even though these contain very important teachings, they lead to much more.

Everyone of us is guilty under the law.  Romans 3:9-12 gives us a clear picture of this:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;  as it is written,

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.’ “

So, where does this leave us?  We are all guilty under the law.  We need something else.  We need grace.  This is exactly what we are offered. Verses 23 and 24 say:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

This grace is offered freely to all of us if we accept it and follow Christ.  So, while we strive to follow God’s commands, and honor Him in all that we do, there are times we will all mess up, and therefore the law cannot justify us.  The law condemns us.  God has given us another way out through Jesus.  We have to accept the gift, and follow Jesus throughout our life.

-Andrew Hamilton

Looking Inward

Romans 2 6 (1)

Romans 2

As I read chapter 2 of Romans, I see it as a call to look inward instead of at those around us.  The chapter starts with talking about judging or condemning others.  Verse 3 shows us the danger of looking at others faults instead of our own:

 “But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

So, when we condemn others for their actions, we are actually condemning ourselves for our sins.  It continues that God will judge us each for the deeds we have done.  However, from my reading of this, and other scriptures, those deeds have to be done with the right attitude in our hearts.  Verse 8 talks about those who are selfishly ambitious.  I have met people who do a lot of the “right things”, but only because it helps the way they are seen or because it helps them feel good about themselves.  These people are selfish, and generally ambitious.  I believe these actions will be judged as selfish ambitions rather than service to God.  Because of this, I think we all need to look at the reason behind our actions.  Are we serving God with what we do, and with our motives behind what we do?

Paul then continues by talking about those who have the law and those who are without the law.  In Chapter 1, Paul talked about no one being without excuse about believing in God, since the things around us make it evident there is a god.  So, in the same way, not knowing the law is not an excuse for not knowing the law.  This is clear in verses 14 – 16:

 “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

We will all be treated equally based on our actions.  Obviously, other parts of scripture show that the blood of Christ covers our sins and the acceptance of that gift, and following Christ will be the largest question in that judgement.

Paul’s final points in this chapter are outward things versus inward things.  Both in what we teach versus what we do, and in holding on to the physical following of the law versus the following of the spirit/heart of the law.  Verses 28 and 29 sum this point up:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

Again, are we hanging on to some outward appearance of following the law, or are we looking inward toward following God’s teachings, growing closer to Him, and imitating Christ in our lives.

My takeaway from Romans 2 is to look inward at my own life.  I need to see if I am living a life that shows God in all I do, and when I find areas where I am not, making changes in them.  I am not able to do this all on my own, but I know that God can change me.
-Andrew Hamilton

Belief vs Unbelief

Romans 1 8

Romans 1

As we start to look at Paul’s letter to Rome, it is obvious Paul is writing to the church.  However, in the first chapter we see a message about the believers, and a message about the unbelievers.  Let’s look at both of these.

The beginning of chapter 1 begins similar to other letters Paul has written, with a greeting to the church.  Following that in verse 8 we read:

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

The faith of the church in Rome is being proclaimed around the world.   That is an impressive statement about the church in Rome, and must have been very encouraging to hear that their faith was making an impression to people around the world.  Paul continues with this encouragement in verses 11 and 12:

“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

I love that while Paul wants to see them to impart some spiritual gift to the church and to encourage the church, he also wants to spend time with them to be encouraged himself.  As we know, Paul was spreading the gospel to as many people in as many places as possible. It probably felt like an impossible task, but hearing of the faith of the church of Rome from around the world, it had to be an encouragement to Paul to know that the message would be spread even when he was unable to do it himself.

Paul concludes his message about the church in verses 16 and 17:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’ “

This is an example of how the church should act, both then and now.  We need to live by faith and never be ashamed of the gospel.  We should share it everywhere we go, to everyone we meet.

Then Paul turns his letter to speaking about the unbeliever.  Obviously, there were unbelievers in Rome, as there are unbelievers all around us today.   Paul tells us that there is no excuse for not believing in verses 19 and 20:

“because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

God is evident in the world around us, so unbelief must be a choice. The choice of unbelief is when we don’t honor God or give Him thanks.  Instead we rely on our own knowledge and understanding.  So, even if we admit God is real and in control, if we do not honor him and rely on him, it is still unbelief.  Paul continues to say that those who did not believe were turned over to their degrading passions and depraved minds.  In verse 32, Paul points out that this is all worthy of death.

We are shown two very different lives.  The first is one of faithfulness, and the second is one of unbelief.  The first is one of encouragement and spreading the gospel.  The second is one of sin and death.  We need to each examine our own lives.  Although we probably all belief in God, are we honoring Him, giving thanks to Him, encouraging and uplifting others, and preaching the Gospel?

-Andrew Hamilton

Worship as an Identity

John 4 24

Free theme week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: John 4

There are many names and titles that the church is given. We’re called the bride of
Christ, saints, children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ,
disciples of Jesus, and so on. However, there is another reference to the church in
John 4. In this chapter, Jesus and the Samaritan woman are speaking at the well. During their conversation Jesus makes this remark about worship: “But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth” – John 4.23-24. Biblical worship is worship that is so integrated into our life and weaved in through every aspect of our being that worship becomes our identity. We worship. That is who we are. And with being a worshipper we worship God in “spirit and truth”. The phrase “spirit and truth” has perplexed me for a long time. The last few years God has shown me what it means to worship him specifically “in spirit”. We are to worship God by the empowerment of the holy spirit. We worship God in and through and by means of the holy spirit. There is a spiritual aspect of worship that we can gain access to by the spirit. This could be prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, and having a very real sense of the presence of God near you during worship. At the same time we should worship God “in truth”. We should be careful not to let our experiences 100% determine what we believe about God. We should check our experiences with what the Bible says. We should engage our mind and reasoning faculties with God and the Bible. I believe that holistic worship is worship that is executed in “spirit and truth”. Jesus says that God desires true worshippers to worship him in spirit and truth. God doesn’t want a church-goer or someone who is defined by what they do in church. God desires a worshipper to worship him in spirit and truth. God wants worshippers. You are called to be a worshipper. Your identity is to be a worshipper. I pray that God moves on your heart and mine and calls us and teaches us to go deeper in worship. As I said in the beginning, living the best possible life God has for us in this world is inextricably tied to worship. You were created to worship with your whole being at all times in all seasons.
-Jacob Rohrer

Worship God in Every Life Situation

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together

Free theme of the week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: Psalm 34

Worship is a loaded word in the American church. Part of the misunderstanding of
worship today is that “worship” is something that only happens on a Sunday or
Wednesday. On the contrary, worship is something that should happen everyday in
every circumstance we find ourselves in. This may seem as common sense or a basic
thought, however, many Christians only worship God when things are going well in life
or only on Sundays or Wednesdays. Biblical worship is worship that permeates every
season of life including the bad ones. Today’s devotion is to encourage you to praise
God in every life season.
Here are some verses to meditate on for this topic:
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – Psalm
34.1
“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking
to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ to God even the Father” – Eph. 5.19-21
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for your life” – I Thessalonians 5.17
I want to encourage everyone who is reading this that is going through a tough season
that it’s ok to feel sad, upset, frustrated, etc. The Bible tells us just because we follow
Christ that does not mean our lives will be problem free, actually it says the opposite.
Our lives will become harder because as our lives are conformed to Jesus we live
against the grain of culture and our own sin nature. And other times the trouble we have
in our life is self-inflicted. Regardless of the source of our troubles, God is worthy to be
praised in our trouble.
When problems in life arise the best response we can have is to press into God and
praise him. This is so easy to say and so hard to do. You may wonder “what does it
mean to praise God in seasons of trouble?”. Here are some practical suggestions that
you can use to help stimulate praise when life is hard:
1. Tell God and Jesus “thank you” – You can thank God for anything in your life,
the big things and the small things. When we thank God we stop focusing on our
problem and start glorifying God. Being thankful changes our perspective.
2. Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in your life – Remembering how God
has moved in your life is important during times that you may not feel or hear from
God. The Old Testament is full of sections where the people of God remember how
the Lord has been faithful to encourage them during present crises (the Psalms
are a great place to start).
3. Remember that suffering that is brought on by following Jesus is an honor
and suffering for his name sake is the mark of a true follower of Jesus. In other words, your suffering is not in vain or meaningless – Suffering from following Jesus is honorable and does not escape God’s notice. When you experience this type of suffering consider it joy because it means that you’re following Jesus in a deeper way than the people around you. God is worthy of our praise not just on a Sunday or Wednesday or when life is going well. But he desires worship in every season of life. Don’t run from God when life gets hard. Praise and worship him through it.
-Jacob Rohrer