Freedom IN CHRIST

Monday, September 25, 2017

Romans 8-1-2

Romans has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. God speaks through Paul so powerfully and his words paint such a beautiful portrait of the Gospel. Romans 1-7 seems to just lay it all out and to sum it up, he shares the Gospel story like this: holy God, sinful man, coming wrath, perfect Savior, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, justification by faith, sanctification by faith.

Paul drives home his message in Romans 8:1-2.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin in death.”

That’s it. That’s the central, foundational message of God to the world. The message that we preach. The message that we take to the nations and to our neighbors. The message that we lay down our lives for: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because Christ has set us free.

If you have grown up in church like me, we can sometimes get used to this message. We hear over and over again the message of “freedom in Christ” and too often discount the weight of that phrase. Freedom in Christ– this message should never grow stale! Every day that we walk this Earth, we should be reminded of our freedom found only in Christ. We are free. We are free from death. We are free from finding our satisfaction in this world. We are free from the weight of sin, just as we are free from the eternal consequences of sin. And it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we are we are free.

And although we strive to obey God and walk in the Spirit, we will constantly find ourselves falling short. It is at these times that we must remember the beginning of Romans 8:1 that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But because of Jesus’s great victory, there is now no condemnation for believers. Our sins and failures do not cause the Lord to give up on us or to love us any less, because we are secure in Christ.  In this security found in Christ, we live a life of faith and repentance, continually serving the Lord and putting sin to death.

Tomorrow, we will continue to dive into Romans 8, talking about what it means to put sin to death. It is my prayer that today we will rejoice in our freedom that is found only in Christ.

-Jennie Montgomery

 

And, in case you missed Jennie’s Sunday intro video (sorry for that techie glitch) …

Here it is – enjoy!

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Diving into Romans 8

Romans 8-5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

My name is Jennie Montgomery and I am SO excited to study Romans 8 with you guys this week. Here’s a quick video introducing myself and telling you a little bit more about our study this week.

I can’t wait to grow alongside you as we dive into God’s word!

Rom 8-6a.pngRomans 8-6 b

From Jennie…

Commit to Live Wisely

We are all on a journey, a quest.  Somewhere between our quest for truth and facts, and our desire for virtuous character, lies a quality that is rarely considered these days: wisdom. Wisdom is competence with regard to the complex realities of life. It is the ability to know what is the best thing to do in the majority of life situations which the accepted moral rules do not clearly address. The course of our lives is greatly determined by the many daily choices we make, and the Book of Proverbs is a guidebook to help us navigate those choices wisely.

The two major themes which are interwoven and overlapping throughout Proverbs are wisdom and folly. Wisdom, which includes knowledge, understanding, instruction, discretion, and obedience, is built on the fear of the Lord and the Word of God. Folly is everything opposite to wisdom.

I will be taking you through chapters 13-16 and the verse that best encapsulates all of those chapters is Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

What plans are you pursuing and are they on the wise path?  Join us on this path of discovery this week.

~ Andy Cisneros

 

 

 

Beautiful in God’s Eyes – Proverbs 11

pig-with-nose-ring

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”  Can’t you just picture that dirty old barnyard animal running around with an expensive gold ring in its nose?  How ridiculous!  What’s the writer of this Proverb trying to communicate?

You can be a gorgeous woman who catches a man’s eye with your beauty, but if you don’t have the proper judgment and right behavior to go along with it, that beauty is as wasted on you as a gold ring would be wasted on a pig’s nose.  Now, we can flip that if you like.  You can be a strong, handsome, hunky guy, but if you don’t have good character, you’re nothing but a handsome fool and that’s not much good to anyone.

Proverbs 11 has 31 different Proverbs, and I could have chosen any one of them to write about today, but this one jumped out at me.  First, because who doesn’t like trying to picture a 1000 lb hog with a gold ring in its nose (and for good measure, why not add lipstick and mascara?).  Good luck getting that image out of your head.  But even more so, I think it’s important for you to think about something that’s important.  Now, I know some of you who read this are old like me, but for those of you who are younger I hope you are listening.  If you’re 18, or 21, or 25 you are probably as physically attractive right now as you are ever going to be in your life.  You’ve gotten past the awkward teenage years, and you’ve not yet hit the middle age spread when things start to bulge and sag and wrinkle and gray and… oh stop, I’m depressing myself now.

We live in a society that worships physical beauty.  Now, that’s nothing new.  Physical beauty  is culturally determined and can change from generation to generation.  What’s attractive to one culture may be different in another culture.  Just go to an art museum sometime and compare what was considered beauty at one time with what you see today on TV, in movies, in magazines and on the internet.  Beauty is subjective.  Hugh Hefner made large breasts the symbol of desirable female sexuality back in the 50’s and 60’s and women started going and getting breast augmentation surgery.  Then in the 90’s rappers of a certain ethnicity made large female bottoms the new standard for desirability  (Remember, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” ?).  Suddenly, women were going out and having their bottoms increased.

Men, if you want to be desirable to women “you’ve gotta have a six pack.”  That used to be the standard of masculinity.  I’m happy that now having a “dad bod” is becoming more highly valued.  This Proverb holds all of this up to ridicule. (Remember the pig with the nose ring?)

charm and beauty

Here’s the bottom line: what you look like is not nearly as important as your character.  How you live your life matters far more than what you look like.  Now sure, we all want to make sure that we’re physically healthy and well groomed up to a point.  And there’s certainly nothing wrong with honoring other people by making sure that you are well groomed and decently clothed.  I’m certainly not a fan of people wearing their pajamas to shop at Wal-mart or wearing your grungiest jeans to go to church.  No, don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of money and grungy jeans are all you have and can afford then I’d rather you wear them to Church instead of not go to Church at all.  But, at the same time, if you’ve got nice clothes in your closet that you could wear to church, but you decide it’s not worth it, or you want to make some kind of statement by wearing tattered clothes, that’s between you and God.  I think it’s a sign of respect to others to wear decent clothing when you are around other people and to appear modest and presentable.

With all that being said, you can spend way too much time fixated on your appearance, but if you don’t invest time in wise living and godly character, you’re really no better than a pig with a nose ring… you’re not fooling anyone for very long.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Two Roads Diverged – Proverbs 10

If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotion you should go do that now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…..

Ok, Proverbs 9 sets the backdrop for the next several chapters in Proverbs.  Proverbs 9 gives the contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of folly (foolishness).  One way leads to life, the other leads to death.  With that in mind, chapter 10 begins a lengthy section of Proverbs which give a very clear contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness.  These Proverbs are technically known as antithetical which is a very common rhetorical device used in ancient literature to hold opposites next to each other.

Chances are, at some point in your educational journey, you became acquainted with the following poem by Robert Frost.

two roads

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

~ Robert Frost

 

That is poetic and filled with all kinds of metaphorical imagery, and it leaves it to each reader to fill it with its content.  What do the two different roads look like and where do they lead?

Proverbs 10 leaves very little to our individual imagination.  It spells things out like Mapquest.

These are my paraphrases of Proverbs 10:

If you are wise, you make your Daddy happy.
If you are foolish you break your momma’s heart.
If you are lazy, you’re broke
if you work hard, you’ll have plenty of money.

 
If you are wise, you’ll take instructions from those in authority
If you are a fool you’re always running your mouth and you’ll ruin your life because you don’t listen.
If you do things the right way, you have little to fear
but if you cut corners and break rules, it will eventually catch up with you.

 
If you go around spreading hate, it leads to more hate, and fights.
If you love others, it puts an end to the hate and helps bring about peace.
If you willingly accept correction your life will improve
if you ignore correction, you’ll not only hurt yourself, you’ll hurt others too.

 
If you live the right way, you have good things to look forward to.
If you spend your life doing evil things, life eventually becomes a dead end.

 

wisdom verses foolishness

That was fun, putting that wisdom into my own words.

You try it.  Take some of the Proverbs which contrast the way of wisdom with the way of foolishness and put it in your own words.  That’s the practical,  analytical, left-brain approach.

If you are more right-brained, creative and artistic, then write a story or poem or paint a picture contrasting the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness.

And if you’re really into it… try doing both the left and right-brained approach- and then you’ll never forget Proverbs 10.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Don’t Fall for the Bait – Proverbs 7

son this is bait

Imagine the following conversation between a daddy bass and a child bass: “Now son, there are all kinds of delicious things for you to eat down here.  There are bugs and mosquitoes that float up on the surface of the water, and when it rains sometimes big, fat, juicy worms are swept from land into the lake and they are delicious for sure.  But you’ve got to be careful with those.  I’ve seen good friends latch onto a worm and then just shoot straight up through the water and disappear altogether.  One tiny little friend came back and shared the most amazing adventure.  He said he bit on the worm and felt something sharp go through his top lip.  Before he knew it, he was being dragged up faster than he could have ever swum. A huge hand grabbed him and pulled on him, he was held up in the air for a few seconds gulping for air, and then, wham, he was thrown back into the water.  Some of the fish didn’t believe his story, but I saw the scar on his lip and I believe it.  So, before you go biting into a big juicy worm, look to make sure there isn’t anything shiny poking out, and no thin little string going up out of the worm… or you might never come back to us.”

bait stop falling for it

Bait!  It’s the worm we use to trick fish to bite on a hook so we can catch, kill and eat it.  Bait!  It’s the cheese we put into the mousetrap so that a steel rod will smash their neck and do away with them.  Bait is all about predator and prey.  Bait is about seduction.  It’s about getting someone to put down their common sense and natural defenses so that we can lure them in for the kill.

In Proverbs 7, the writer provides a scenario of predator and prey.  In this case, it’s the young man and the prostitute. (I know, pretty racy stuff in the Bible).  The young man goes out onto the street in the evening, on the edge of danger.  Maybe he’s not intending anything bad, but he’s curious.  He’s heard that this is the “bad” part of town.  His parents have warned him to stay away, but maybe his friends have told stories about the fun that’s to be had there.  So he goes out to see.  And out comes the prostitute with her seductive clothing and seductive words as she seeks to lure him back into her house where she promises to show him a good time.

Her body and her words are the bait.  How will it end for the young man?  About the same as it does for the fish who bites the worm or the mouse who goes for the cheese.  It usually ends in death.  Oh, maybe not right away.  Maybe the death is slow.  Maybe it’s not the death of the body, but the death of the heart, the inner person, the death of innocence, the death of purity.  It could lead to the death of a relationship.

As I seek to apply this wisdom to our world today, I can’t help but see the comparisons to this story and pornography.  Instead of physically going to the bad part of town, one needs simply to click on a website.  In fact, there are websites that have ads that pop up on your browser trying to lure you in.  Pornography starts off by looking enticing but ends in death.  It kills purity, it kills relationships. It kills marriages.  Sometimes it kills one’s soul.

Sexual seduction comes in many forms and faces.  How many women are pulled into literary pornography (ever hear of 50 Shades of Gray?- that’s literary porn for women).  Seduction is everywhere and it’s impossible to avoid.  Even on Facebook, I get friend requests at least once a week from young women that I know I don’t know and they are usually wearing something seductive.  They are trying to pull me in.  In fact, there’s a thing now known as catfishing, which seeks to pull people in and then take advantage of them.

I once met a patient in the hospital who had been catfished.  He was in his 60’s and had lost tens of thousands of dollars, his marriage, his home and all his friends and had attempted to commit suicide.  Yet, he was still convinced that this poor little young woman from Russia was going to come and marry him if he could just send her a few thousand dollars more (than the thousands he had already sent her).

Proverbs 7:21 warns: “With persuasive words, she led him astray, she seduced him with her smooth talk.”  Of course, this is targeted at young men.  But young women can also be targets of predators, and often are.  You are never too young or too old to be the target of a predator.  Seducers can be male or female, young or old.  They lure you in with whatever bait they think you will go for.  They look for areas where you are vulnerable.

When the Bible illustrates evil and temptation from the devil (or the serpent in Genesis) it operates in the same way.  The serpent uses the forbidden fruit as the bait and seductive words to convince Eve (and Adam) that God is a liar and that they won’t die if they eat the fruit.  In the wilderness, the devil uses Jesus’ hunger and his ability to transform stones into bread as the bait.

Green Apple In Woman Hands

What can we do to protect ourselves from such seductions from evil?  Jesus used God’s word.  Every time he was tempted he used the truth of God’s word to counter the temptation.  This is where Eve missed the mark.  She didn’t have a foundation of trusting God’s word to help her resist the seductive words of the tempter.  Jesus did, and it made all the difference.  Proverbs 7 begins here: “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.”  When we embed the word of God deep into our hearts by reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, and living it out, we create for ourselves a foundation of truth upon which we build our lives and it will protect us in times of temptation.

Just remember, worms are delicious, but make sure they don’t have a hook hidden inside before you bite.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Imbedded Wisdom – Proverbs 6

The Memory verse for this week is Proverbs 9:10:

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

The book of Proverbs is a genre of literature known as wisdom literature.  Along with Job and Ecclesiastes, Proverbs looks at the world in a slightly different way than the historical books of the Bible or the prophetic books.  In the wisdom books, the sages find information about God throughout the world of nature.  Where God reveals himself directly to Moses and Israel in Exodus and he reveals himself in visions to the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, to the sages who write in Proverbs God often reveals himself in the created world and by observation of human behavior.

Ant Image

In Proverbs 6:6 he writes: “go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”  An ant is a comparatively small and very weak creature when set alongside a human being, and yet, ants are industrious and hard working.  They plan and prepare for the winter by working hard and gathering up their provisions in the summer time.  There is wisdom in hard work and preparation.  The wisdom writer uses this as a way to admonish the person who is lazy and refuses to do the hard work of preparing for winter.  So the wisdom lesson here is “don’t be lazy, work hard to prepare in advance and you will be much less likely to suffer adversity.”

We could then apply this to other areas of life.  For students this means, don’t wait until the night before your test to begin “cramming” for the test.  Work hard at your studies each day in your preparation.  Read your assignments, do your research.  Then, when the harvest comes (the test) you will be successful because you worked hard and prepared.  That’s wisdom applied to life and that’s the value of Proverbs.

Later in Proverbs 6 wisdom is applied to relationships and to marital faithfulness.  He gives a stern warning against the sin of adultery.  He compares adultery to scooping a fire into your lap and expecting not to get burned or trying to walk across hot coals without burning your feet.  As Forrest Gump would say “sometimes things just don’t make no sense.”  Thinking that you can play around with fire and not get burned is foolish… and thinking that you can cheat on your spouse or with someone else’s spouse and not get burned is just plain foolish.  “A man who commits adultery has no sense.”  Instead of the ant, the author uses the jealous husband as the example from nature “he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.”

One doesn’t have to look far to find wisdom.  God has imbedded it in all of his creation and we just need to pay attention- whether it’s the wisdom of the ant in working hard to prepare for Winter, or the wisdom of not fooling around with someone else’s wife or husband, we need to pay attention to God’s wisdom that’s revealed all around us.

prov 9 10

~ Jeff Fletcher