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
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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 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

Justice, Mercy and Faith

justice faith love (1)

Matthew 23

Now that Jesus has turned the tables against the Pharisees in their little word games, he turns his attention to the crowds and his disciples. He begins his final public speech and absolutely destroys the Pharisees. He rips into everything that the Pharisees do, calling them out for their pride and hypocrisy. He acknowledges that these men are the best minds when it comes to The Law; they know The Law backwards and forwards, but they are not good examples. In particular, he calls them out for neglecting the importance and weight of justice, mercy and faith. This is one distinction that sets followers of Jesus apart from followers of The Law.

Justice

Justice is the administration of law. Based on this definition, you would think that the Pharisees understood justice quite well. However, this definition has the connotation of the administration of law on the general population, not just in one’s personal life. What the pharisees got correct was righteousness in their private lives without achieving justice in their public life. Justice is law applied equally to everyone, while righteousness is law applied to yourself. The Pharisees look at themselves, see that they are following the law perfectly and commend themselves for it. The problem isn’t their piety, it’s their pride. God didn’t command them to follow the law so that they might puff themselves up and hold themselves in high regard, but rather to benefit all of society. This is justice. Righteous acts are not righteous because they benefit you alone, they are righteous because they benefit everyone around you.

Mercy

Not everyone can follow the law as closely as the Pharisees. Those men were men who dedicated themselves to the reading of scripture day in and day out. Living the law is the only thing that they know how to do. When they look on the masses and see sin: adultery (John 8:1-11), blasphemy (Mark 14:64), greed (Luke 19:7)…what they fail to see are people. People who fall short. People who don’t live the same lifestyle as the Pharisees. The Pharisees know the scriptures, but they don’t seem to remember how God showed the Israelites mercy time and time again. Instead, they turn their noses up at the sin that they see and tell themselves that they are above that. The truth is, no man is above sin except for Jesus himself. The Pharisees poured over their scriptures to make sure that they washed their hands before meals and tithe even their small incomes. They strained their water for gnats. But they swallowed a camel instead. They failed to show mercy. They failed to show people the mercy that their God showed to them.

Love

Love is at the center of Christianity. Jesus said in Matthew 22 that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love people. Apparently the Pharisees didn’t get that. They were too worried about appearing like God-loving individuals that they didn’t have the time to love God’s people. In doing so, they made all of their love for God worthless. If you only love God, you are neglecting one of the greatest commandments. It is as simple as that. Show your love for God by showing your love to His people.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Don’t Give Up on Them

Matthew 20

for the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus gives a very interesting parable about a landowner who hired some people to work on his land. He hired one man early in the morning, one at 9:00 am, one at 12:00 pm, one at 3:00 pm, and another at 5:00 pm. At the end of the day, all of them received a day’s wage, which they had all agreed to. Understandably, the one who was hired first was upset that he received the same pay as the person who started at 5:00 pm. The landowner simply told him that he agreed to work for that day’s wage and wasn’t being unfair.

 

This parable is talking about people’s salvation. There are some people who have been saved for many, many years; they have dedicated their life to Jesus, served in the Church for years, and made many disciples through their lifetime. Then there are people who come to faith at the very end of their lives, sometimes repenting on their deathbeds. However, in the eyes of God, both those people have the same reward waiting for them: life in the Kingdom of God.

 

There are at least two things we should learn from this parable. The first is that it does not matter when someone comes to salvation; we should rejoice that they came to faith at all! We shouldn’t view them differently than we view someone who has served for years in the church. Everyone who accepts Jesus has received the same salvation, according to Romans 10:9-10. We need to be happy for that individual, not jealous or bitter towards them.

 

The second lesson we learn here is that we should never give up on people. As long as there is still breath in their lungs, we have a shot at blessing them with the gospel. Just because a friend or family member that you know has rejected the gospel right now, doesn’t mean that they will never accept it. There is always an opportunity for their salvation in God’s eyes. Our job is simply to try and plant a seed in their life, and allow God to cause the growth (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). So do not give up on that person you have been working with, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem; you do not know what God could be doing in their hearts.

 

-Talon Paul

Our Hope in the Wilderness

choose joy

This week, we’ve been taking some time to rest and reflect on what it means to wander through the wilderness. Through the complex stories of the Israelites, Elijah, David, and Jesus, we see both the types of wildernesses that we may face in this life as well as the ways that we can ultimately overcome the wilderness and make it out of those difficult seasons.

As we’ve discussed this past week, these are the four Wilderness Wandering Lessons that we learned from these stories:

  1. The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.
  2. Remembering past victories can help to steady our heart in the midst of our current despair.
  3. When the desires of our heart lead us away from God, true repentance leads us back.
  4. God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

If you find yourself in a time of wilderness wandering, don’t despair. Many have been there before you and have made it out and used that time as a witness for God’s deliverance. Remember, one of Satan’s ultimate goals, as I mentioned earlier this week, is to steal your joy. One of the primary fruits of the Spirit is joy, and that joy should be evident in your life. The Israelites and Judeans knew what it was like to lose their joy when they were exiled from Israel at the end of 2 Kings. But, as we read in Jeremiah 31:2-3, 11-13, God promised that Joy to the Israelites and Judeans and he promises that Joy to you too.

“This is what the Lord says: They found favor in the wilderness – the people who survived the sword. When Israel went to find rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you… For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the power of one stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant with joy because of the Lord’s goodness. I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief.”

By living our life in Christ, our joy is made complete (John 15:11). When you find the hurt, isolation, or pain of life weighing down on you, pause and remember that we can overcome through Christ. Trade your grief for happiness, your mourning for joy. We can celebrate. We can overcome. Because the joy of our Lord is our strength.

~ Cayce Fletcher

***Click on the following link to listen to one of my favorite songs by Rend Collective called the “Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Learning this song can be a reminder to you to choose joy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2B6Yw0zy70

Lessons from the Wilderness: Jesus

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #4: God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

god's word does.

This week, as we’ve been thinking about our wilderness wanderings, we’ve primarily looked through the lessons from the Old Testament. Today though, we’re going to turn to the New Testament to see an example of a wilderness experience that can teach us a lot about how to make sure this experience makes us and doesn’t break us.

In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted in the desert by the Devil for 40 days and 40 nights before he begins his ministry. This is a familiar story that shows the humanity of Jesus and how he can relate to us, but today, I want to focus on where Jesus was tempted. It says in verse 1 that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” In our time thinking about the wilderness, we’ve focused on the types of wilderness experiences we may have and how God’s faithful love can sustain us. As we look at Jesus’ experience, we can see how to survive and thrive in the wilderness.  

The first lesson we can glean from this passage is that sometimes, as is the case with the Israelites and Elijah, we are led into the wilderness by God. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he fasted 40 days and 40 nights. At this point, Jesus had not begun his ministry, so this time could have been for testing and strengthening Jesus’ faith and dependence on God so that we could learn from it. By asking ourselves during each wilderness experience “What can I learn from this? How can I grow?”, we can better face the times in wilderness with palms held open instead of allowing bitterness to grow in us.

The second lesson we can learn from Jesus’ time in the wilderness is that God’s word is crucial for surviving in the wilderness. In the wilderness, Jesus had to face physical hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. He also was probably emotionally drained in this time as well. This may sound like a description of ourselves when we go through times in the wilderness. How often in these times where we are sad, lonely, depressed and drained – how often do we pause in these moments and stop the spiral of depression and wandering by saturating ourselves in God’s word? By looking at Jesus’ example, we can see how we can stop temptations in their tracks by responding with God’s word, more specifically by aligning our actions with God’s word.

The last lesson that I want us to focus on today is looking at when this wilderness experience took place. Though Jesus had not begun his ministry yet, in the previous chapter, he had just gotten baptized. All too often, we think that if we have committed our life to God that things will go well, that we’ll never have to experience trials or periods of suffering. But, we can look at Jesus’ life to see that this is simply not that case. Aside from Jesus’ experience on the cross, we can look at the beginning of his ministry as well to see that as these periods will happened to him, they will happen to us.

Jesus survived in the wilderness, and he thrived in the wilderness. I’m not sure what Jesus gained spiritually or emotionally in the wilderness, but I know what I can learn from his experience there. In the wilderness, Jesus was able to overcome temptation and suffering, including not only physical trials – but also spiritual trials – through God’s word. God’s word sustained Jesus and allowed this time to be a springboard into Jesus’ ministry instead of something that would have crippled his ministry. Now, we can look at this story and lessen the impact of what Jesus was able to do because Jesus was the son of God. But, Jesus was capable of growth and change, as seen in Luke 2:52. This is what makes him the perfect mediator for us. So, as we close this lesson today, I want to leave you with the words of Jesus as he readied his disciples for the trials they would face during the days leading up to the crucifixion: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). With Jesus, we can conquer the world, including all our days of wilderness wanderings.

~ Cayce Fletcher

spurgeon quote