Who Can Be Against Us?

Thursday, September 28

Romans 8-31b

 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31–34)

There is nothing that we can be accused of or any shame we can ever bear that Jesus has not interceded for on our behalf. Jesus was condemned in my place, and my only hope is to plead his righteousness. Jesus himself is my one defense.

In the gospel, I have found the beautiful, glorious, freedom that comes with knowing that my righteousness is settled. I have freedom to confess any sin, accept forgiveness, and deepen my love for the One who forgives. I don’t have to fear condemnation or shame because of Jesus Christ who took on the punishment of sin. We serve a God who loves us and who is for us. Who can be against us?

-Jennie Montgomery

 

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Learn a Lesson from the Lions

Romans 8 12,13

Tuesday – Romans 8

 

When I was a kid, I saw adorable baby lion cubs at the zoo and ever since, I have tried to convince my parents to let me get a pet lion. Because my house was not suited for a large dog, much less a 500 pound cat, my parents of course said no, but many people have actually gone about raising an exotic animal like a lion cub. However, many times, they become national news after their precious baby lion cub ends up attacking them. Surprised, they question why something that they played with, dressed up, and nurtured one day attacked them out of the blue? You know why? BECAUSE IT’S A LION. It is in its nature to grow up, get big, and attack no matter what setting it is raised in. A lion is TRAINED to kill.

 

I can’t help but think this is true about sin in my life. I start by thinking that small sins, like a lion cub, are harmless and cute and then I play with it and nurture it and one day it eventually attacks me. I buy into the lie that some sins are okay and will not do much harm, but soon enough they turn on me like sin is created to do. Sin is created to DESTROY.

 

So in turn, we must be diligent about destroying our sin. Paul speaks on this idea of killing sin in Romans 8:12-13 as it reads, “So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Paul calls us to live by the Spirit and put to death our fleshly desires.

 

John Piper, in “How to Kill Sin,” Pt. 1, on DesiringGod.org explains, “Putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit – the daily practice of killing sin in your life – is the result of being justified and the evidence that you are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law.” He adds, “If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.” The idea is this: the more we delight ourselves in the Lord, the more diligent we will be about killing our sins. We must starve the flesh, but at the same time we must also feed the Spirit.

 

So rather than making our walk with God about the “don’t”s, we should make it about the “do”s. Do spend time in the Word. Do spend time in prayer. Do surround yourself with Biblical community. Do get plugged into a church. And when we grow in doing these things, we will be so delighted in the Lord, we will have no appetite for sin. The more we walk by the Spirit, the less we will live in sin.

 

My prayer today is that the Lord would be our ultimate delight. As we spend time in scripture and in prayer, let’s ask the Lord to feed our Spirit and starve our flesh.

 

-Jennie Montgomery

 

 

 

 

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!

A True Friend

PROVERBS 27 – Monday

Prov 27 17

Verse 6 reads “faithful are the wounds of a friend…”  In this context, the wounds of a friend appear to be necessary.  Friends who love us enough to be honest with us, even when it hurts, are the best kinds of friends.  I can remember multiple times in my life in which I didn’t enjoy the truth that I was told, but my friends and family loved me enough to tell me anyway.  We often think that allowing people their momentary happiness is a kindness, but if someone is in sin, it is our duty to tell loved ones the painful truth.  Just as iron sharpens iron (verse17) by chipping away the outer bits of metal, honest friends sharpen each other by helping each other to turn away from sin and helping to recognize the things that are keeping us spiritually dull.

 

Finding a friend or a group of friends who can be open enough with each other to share this kind of love is invaluable.  Someone told me that a friendship that lasts 7 years is a lifelong friendship—if you can make it 7 years, you can make it forever.  I don’t particularly like the idea that a length of time is necessary to determine true friendship; I think that real friendship is proven by friends who can be brutally honest in love.  I was close to a girl in college for 4 years, but I could never tell her hard truths.  It weighed on me when I saw things that needed attention, but I was too scared of upsetting her to be a forthright friend.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Don’t be afraid to confront your people when you see them in or approaching sin.  We need each other to keep us accountable.

-Megan Bryant

Say Yes

Revelation 20-22Revelation_22-12

Saturday, July 22

The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face.  The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God.  They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame.  The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.

Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15.  One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil.  In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).

The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore  and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God.  In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.

Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized.  The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end.   Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ.  Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done.  Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem.  Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death.  (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation).  Death has to be destroyed.  Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon.  God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it.  Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.

For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction.  Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life.  The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3.  God will again make his presence here upon the earth.  The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth.  This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger.  The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.

For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope.  Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity.  Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life.  The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition.  Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed.  But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth.  We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed.  Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.

If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings.  Say yes to God, you can do it right now.  And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism.  And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.

-Jeff Fletcher

(https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Revelation-22-12_Inspirational_Image/)

 

Victorious God

Revelation 8-12

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Wednesday July 19

Seven is the number of completion, of fulfillment.  The number seven appears repeatedly in Revelation:  seven Churches, seven seals…. and now seven trumpets.  A trumpet is blown to get people’s attention- something important is about to be announced.  The seven trumpets here announce the judgment of God upon the earth.  God is about to bring this evil age to a close to make way for the age to come, when the Kingdom of God replaces fully the kingdoms of this world.
Each of the seven trumpets are blown by an angel of God followed by some great disaster.  There is hail, fire, blood, large burning rocks falling from heaven (a meteor or asteroid).  Then stars fall from heaven, the sky becomes filled with darkness, more heavenly bodies fall to earth opening deep pits in the earth which release demonic creatures.  There are plagues and wars and all manner of destruction heaped upon the earth.  Here it’s important to remember that much of this is symbolic language.  The point is that there will be calamities which bring about destruction on the earth, some are ecological, some are interstellar, and some are man made.  This Summer there’s a t.v. show on called Salvation.  The premise of the show is that NEO object is heading toward earth and is likely to cause massive death or even total extinction.  In real life, under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming there is a super volcano, which, if it erupts, would place nearly all of the continental US under a cloud of darkness that would result in massive famine.  Of course, we hear regularly dire predictions about global warming, rising sea levels, the melting of the Arctic permafrost etc…  And don’t forget the expanding nuclear arsenals of places like North Korea and Iran.  There are any number of ways that global destruction could occur.  This is a part of our human consciousness… and it was a part of human consciousness in the first century as well.  There has always been the understanding that there is much that is outside the limits of human control: drought and famine, earthquakes and fire from heaven.  These events were usually linked to belief that whatever gods that community worshipped were angry.  Destruction was linked to judgment, which was linked to human sin.  The normal response was to bring sacrifices to the gods and a promise to stop doing bad things.
In this section of Revelation, we see that the one true God is behind these disasters, but there is no willingness of the people to repent. In Rev. 9:20-21 the people refuse to repent of their idolatry, of their murder, of their sexual immorality.  The people will not link the calamities that befall them and the earth with their own bad actions that violate God’s word.
Revelation 12 gives another picture. It’s an overview of the history of the earth and it shows the cosmic dimension of the battle that’s taking place.  There is a spiritual warfare. Behind it all is this picture of evil described as the dragon, or the ancient serpent, or the devil or Satan.  Evil is making war on God’s people.  Yet, evil will be brought down and God’s people who refuse to submit to evil will be victorious.  Even though they may be killed by evil, yet will they ultimately be victorious.
Remember, when John received this vision, Christians were suffering at the hands of the powerful evil empire of Rome.  It seemed like a powerful or insurmountable monster that was able to impose his will on God’s people.  Imagine how hard it would have been to stay faithful to Jesus Christ during such a difficult time.  Yet here is a message of hope, a message of victory.  Evil and the human faces of evil will not win.  God has far more power available to him than evil does.  Those whose hearts are turned against God and refuse to repent will not be swayed by these displays of judgment and power, but those who are faithful to Jesus Christ and remain faithful, even to the point of death, will emerge victorious.
There are always events that happen in our lives that tempt us to doubt God or to turn away from Him.  These apocalyptic texts in Revelation serve as a vivid reminder that, no matter how bad things may get in the world, even for believers in God, God will be victorious.  Let us stay faithful and keep trusting God and our faith will not be disappointed.

-Jeff Fletcher

Working On The Weaknesses

Romans 11-13

romans13

Friday June 16

 

When I was younger, I used to forget commitments that I had made and assignments that were due.  It was the worst feeling to fall short!  And then I would be tempted to lie to get out of the consequences of my lack of planning and that just added to my problems!  I also used to be messy and would spend lots of time looking for things.  Where did I put my keys?  I know they are somewhere!  Where is my favorite shirt?  Did I leave it under a pile of clothes?  Hours were lost just looking for things because I was not organized.  Have you ever experienced this?

 

Romans 13:10-14

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.¶

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

 

In verse 14, it says make no provision for the flesh.  At some point in my life, I recognized that I was forgetful and messy.  They were weaknesses of mine and I decided to do something about it.  I started writing myself notes, keeping a planner, and using the calendar on my phone to remind me of all my appointments and commitments.  I started to organize my things and find homes for all the various items in the house.  That way, I could put each item in its home and I would know where to find it when I needed it.  Making these changes had a huge impact on my daily life!  I took stock of my weaknesses and came up with a plan to strengthen those areas in my life and it worked!  Now, I rarely forget what I need to do and I spend way less time trying to find things!

 

I vividly remember a beaded butterfly necklace that I had and loved.  I cherished this necklace and wore it often.  My friend Rita also loved it and told me so.  I felt in my heart that I should give her the necklace but my flesh wanted to hold on tight to it.  It was mine and I didn’t want to give it away! “I’ll never find another one like it,” I thought.  But then, I considered what God would want me to do.  He would want me to give with a pure heart.  So I did!  The funny thing is, Rita was delighted and overjoyed that I gave it to her but after a few weeks, she gave it back.  She said it didn’t suit her as much as it suited me.  God was so good!  He taught me a lesson that I was meek to receive.  I was not to hold on to physical possessions that would burn one day (Dr. Joe Martin did a sermon years ago that I still remember called “It’s All Going to Burn”) but He blessed me with the return of the necklace.

 

We should take stock of our spiritual life and strengthen it!  Where is your flesh weak?  What are the things that tempt you?  If you are tempted to be greedy, than make a conscious effort to give.  If you find that going to parties causes you to sin, then don’t go.  Don’t make room in your life for sin!  If you have friends that are a bad influence, change your circle of people!  Surround yourself with people that will make you better for God and help you to look more like our Lord Jesus Christ!  “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts!” Romans 13:14

 

Ruth Finnegan

 

(photo credit: http://www.knowing-jesus.com/romans-13-14/)