Here is Love: Romans 8:37 For Your Consideration

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

All of the questions, pushbacks, and opposition that Paul was facing with teaching this one particular truth of God as a through but simple exposition of Christ’s own words when He said:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 1

Now you would think that people, especially devout Christians, would welcome this bold and declarative statement of our own Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with great affection upon our hearts and great peace for our souls. Sad to say, there are many Christians today who would vehemently contend that, yes, it is certainly possible for one person to lose their salvation.

Why would one teach such a thing when the Bible teaches something, not that. When I read the Bible, I don’t see that at all. In fact, in the face of great tribulation, distress or persecution, I see Christians who hold fast to Christ. I read about the martyrs of our faith, who have murdered for refusing to proclaim anyone else but Christ is Lord and that all started with the Apostles themselves who all (but John) died horrific deaths at the cost of the gospel.

The world calls that insanity or delusional.

Christians know this not as a truth that can be selected from a multiple choice test of truths but rather absolute truth. It is not a mere “what is true for you is only true for you” but rather Jesus Christ, who lived, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, is in fact ruling and reigning over all of creation demand everyone and everything to repent from their sin and put all of their trust in Him alone.

Now, some of you who know Christian history know for every martyr burned at the stake, many did deny Jesus to save their own lives. What about them?  Did you know that one of the discussions in the church were whether or not to allow these people back into the fellowship of believers? Now, what each individual church decided, I do not know. However, just as Christ said:

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 2

and further prophecies that Peter himself would not just deny Christ once but three times 3, but it was the same Christ in John 21 who called and confirmed Peter not once but three times.

So what about now? We have so many people who grew up in churches who then decide to turn away and live their lives as their own.

And we would say, “I have seen them move in the power of the Spirit. How can they be not saved before?” To which I would state that the author of Hebrews already addressed this:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 4

to explain what Christ said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 5

I say this never to say “once saved always saved.” I am not even going to try to explain it away by giving the excuse of “perhaps they were not saved, to begin with” as though I had the God-alone power that searches and knows the hearts and minds of every person in the world because I do not.

I would say with my own testimony that I know this to be true.

I was saved by God back in 2007.  It was in a realization of God’s love he had for every person I have ever known including my mother who abandoned me, my father who sexually abused me, and my stepmother who aided in that abuse all up to and including this young woman I watch in a porn video not 15 minutes before God saved me. God at that moment gave me a new heart and his Spirit and among so many things, freed me from a crippling addiction to pornography.

But not ten years later, after going through additional emotional abuse that included manipulation, coercion, co-dependency, and attempts to control, I was prepared to spend the rest of my life as a lukewarm Christian. That is, doing what I want and barely participating in his work. Even when God had granted me sweet peace from this abuse, I simply was content to walk away and live the rest of my life not pursuing and even desiring God.

But you see, God is Father. And being that He is our Father, He alone is Perfect. The logical conclusion is that the perfect Father in heaven does not lose his kids. In that same vein, God sent three saints (I call them ‘prophets’) to come after my soul. I call them ‘prophets’ because God the Father send them out with the Holy Spirit within them called out three things in me. One, God has healed your mind, heart, and soul. Two, if you go in the direction you are going, you will head into despair. And three, God has called you to stay where you are at and continue the good work of healing and restoration that Christ has started in you.

When I heard my dear lovely friends’ sweet words contending for my soul, I repented. I repented of my sin, lust, foolishness, and destructive behavior and yet once again, I turned to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

Now, I don’t necessarily need to hear any other testimonies and stories to know that all of us Christians are weak. Weak in faith, weak in the spirit, and weak in our flesh. We even sing this in little children’s song, to which I correctly sing, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, we are weak, but he is strong.”

But if that is being the case, the fact that we are weak, how on earth does Paul call us not only ‘conquerors’ but ‘more than conquerors.’ To add even further insult to injury, the term that Paul uses here ‘more than,’ he uses one other time in 2nd Corinthians 4:17-18 which some translations use the phrase “beyond all comparison” or if you grew up with the King James Version, those translators use the phrase, “far more and exceeding.” Yes, the Apostle Paul has the audacity to call us, little weak children, “far more and exceeding conquerors”! How can this be?

My friends, we do not wage war against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 6 This is not a battlefield that you or I have ever seen in wartime nor even in history books nor video games. It is a war that God started not with a warhorn blasting through the sky but with a simple righteous declaration of redemption and restoration:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 7

And when the saints of God, after going 400 years without hearing a prophet of God, heard the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, “Make the straight the way of the Lord!”

And then the final battle cry that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, who commanded and marched toward the final decisive battle, to the place, Golgotha, the place of skulls, where the fate of the world rested on the outcome.

Jesus makes his intentions well-known:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 8

Jesus Christ, the Commander of the Most High, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, begins his perfect, unbeatable, unstoppable, conquering juggernaut not towards overthrowing some pitiful Greco-Roman empire but rather to His cross where he died for each of those whom he predestined, called, justified and glorified.

His path to the cross was paved with the mounds of defeated demons to his left and his right. It was at the foot of the cross where Satan was removed from power once and for all. More than that, it was at the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where our sins were buried and Death itself received the fatal death-wound.

Jesus Christ is the Almighty Conquerer who loved us.

Jesus Christ did all of that but then audaciously declared that every one of his followers who would have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, we would go on to do greater works than the works of the Almighty Conqueror.

It is not because we are strong that makes us more than conquerors.

It is only because of God sovereignly and graciously calls us by the power of the Holy Spirit through the bloodshed body of Jesus Christ our Lord that we behold the title, “Far more and exceeding conquerors through Christ who loved us!”

Notes:

  1. John 10:28–30
  2. Luke 12:8–9
  3. John 13:38;  18:25-27
  4. Hebrews 6:4–6
  5. Matthew 7:21–23
  6. Ephesians 6:12
  7. Genesis 3:15
  8. Matthew 10:34

Here is Love: Romans 8:36 Sheep to the Slaughter

Romans 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

So what if a little “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” 1 comes our way? God promises suffering for his saints. There is no way around it.

Just in case you are at odds with the rest of the authors of the Bible and only want the “red letter edition”, let us consider the words of Christ himself:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 2

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 3

Right away, you know that choosing Christ as your God and Savior and Lord might put you at odds with your own flesh and blood. I have had normal visitation with my oldest son since his mother and I separated and divorced when he was about two years old. Today, he is 16 years old. And as much as I have tried to get him into church and share as much as I can with him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, he calls Christianity “a mythology”. My faith puts me at odds with my son who says it is impossible to know if there is life after death. This is the same young man who passionately wants to be in control of his own destiny (until death), make choices for himself, accepts the rewards and consequences of his own actions but for the life of him, cannot figure out why he has always felt like he is in shackles.

And that is just one example in my own life.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 4

We could forsake everything like Peter and the world will persecute us.

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. 5

Jesus Christ even promised the “laying on of hands”. My Charismatic friends, that is not the good kind but the the opposite of good–“bar fight with a bunch of drunk dudes at 2am in the morning” kind of laying of hands.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 6

The Gospel authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all testify that Christ said these words.

Tribulation, grievous trouble, severe trials, and suffering, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

Distress, great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction and trouble is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

Persecution, judgment, and execution based on one’s faith, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

Famine, the loss of basic necessities in order to live, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

Nakedness, that is, the loss of basic material possessions, is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

Sword, terrible violence,  is coming for those who love, believe, trust and follow Christ.

And it is so easy to be like David in Psalm 44: on the one hand, only God saves but then immediately yells to God, “you have made us sheep to be slaughtered.”

Because we have all let our own circumstances in life determine our faith in God or even more so than that, let the persecutions and the trials and sufferings of this present time dictate just how much love God has for his children. Remember when Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 7? He also said in the verse right before that we are indeed children of God and therefore heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 8

We can take a loss of a job, a loss of a spouse, a loss of marriage or family, a significant drop in income—whatever is your idol—and let that shape your views on God.

Or even one step further: I was the good kid growing up and I did all the right things. So why is my life a total mess right now? God, why didn’t you give me what I deserve? First, let us be careful that we only live a certain way in order to try to put God into our debt because Romans 4:4-5 says that is not going to happen. Second, we know that the world is completely broken since sin entered into it all the way back to Genesis 3.

More so than that: God gave us everything. Why do I know that? Because God gave us Christ Jesus, who:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 9

God gave us Christ to not only live for us and die for us but ascended to the cross in perfect obedience and joy.

Persecution? Trials? Suffering? All of this is to be expected.

But we are not lambs destined to be slaughtered, for Christ is the lamb that was slain.

And because Christ suffered and will receive the reward for His suffering, we are so much more than sheep to be slaughtered.

Notes:

  1. Romans 8:35
  2. Matthew 10:34–39
  3. Matthew 12:46–50
  4. Mark 10:23–31
  5. Luke 21:10–19
  6. John 15:18–25
  7. Romans 8:18
  8. Romans 8:17
  9. Isaiah 53:7

Here is Love: Romans 8:35 What Shall Separate?

And here is love: Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

I am not here to try to define for you what each of these circumstances means. I am 43 years old who lives in the Bible Belt of the United States and have been a believer for a quarter of my life. Because of God’s goodness and sovereignty, He determined when I lived and where I lived. 1 So my life experiences and the full range of possible circumstances are so different compared to someone living in China or Sudan or someone who had lived 50 years ago or even 50,000 years ago that I cannot possibly sit here and define what each of these things means because they might say something different to you.

And you know what, the author Paul didn’t get bogged down in those definitions either. The Apostle Paul, who went from arresting and executing Christians because they were Christians to becoming a man being called by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jewish) and oh yes, write a few books for the Bible. But because of his faith and his fervency for doing what the Lord Jesus Christ told him (and you and me) to do, Paul was stoned (and left for dead), arrested, imprisoned, shipwrecked (consequently bitten by a snake), under house arrest and finally beheaded at the execution of the Roman government.

So tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword look very different to him than it does to you or me. And yet just the same as Paul, we are all commissioned by Christ to go and proclaim the gospel to the end of the earth. And because we Christians do believe in God and trust in God, and proclaim His gospel, we might experience tribulation and distress—not exactly like him for most of us but distress just the same.

But I can tell you one thing: nothing of those things matter—not in the sheer comparison of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, the Lord’s love is strong and powerful and mighty and tender and never-ending and continuously gracious and kind and slow to anger. But we might hear these words, and because of the past hurt and trauma and broken hearts, we tend to think maybe that the Lord’s love is strong, but it is not infinitely strong. Each of us can be fooled into thinking that while the Lord’s love is tender, he might not care about what I went through because I have been hurt too bad and he didn’t stop it from happening. We might hear the Lord’s love is never-ending but why is it when I go my own way and do my own thing, God seems to be so far away from me. Or even better yet, when I did everything that God asked me to do, bad stuff keeps happening to me.

I am here to advise and encourage you saints to live by faith in the Son of God who loved us, gave up his life for us, and more importantly, saved by God the Father who does not lose his children. I don’t care what happens, God the Perfect Father in heaven is not in the business of losing his kids.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 2

There are two distinctions: the unbeliever and the believer. The unbeliever does not believe because they do not follow Christ. “Well,” you might say, “if they could believe later on, would they then belong to Him?” Paul goes on to say in Romans 10:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 3

Hence, the importance of proclaiming the gospel so that they might believe and confess.

But ah, the believer who does confess Jesus Christ is Lord and lives accordingly? That person belongs to Christ, and God marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit forever and ever.

You might say, “What about the ones who said the sinner’s prayer when they were younger and went to church all of their lives but yet, fell away from the faith.” No matter how the world so badly wants to make all the religions the same, we cannot make the same mistake of lumping Christianity in with Judaism or Isalm or Buddhism. You can be a non-practicing Jew. You can be a non-practicing Muslim or Buddhist. But according to the Biblical tenants of the Christian faith, there is no such thing as a non-practicing Christian. You cannot. The two words “non-practicing” and “Christian” are contradictory of terms. You either or. Or you are not. There is no in-between. There is no neutral ground when it comes to proclaiming Christ as your own.

Let me contend one possibility: is it possible that even though they experienced God but their hearts was not changed by God. It happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had the power of God to not only know what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream but actually interpret it. Nebuchadnezzar has a falling out acknowledging logically who God is but then immediately and blasphemously erects a golden statue to be worshipped. 4  “But I saw them speak in tongues and give prophecies and cast out demons.” The author of Hebrews states that one can taste the power of the Holy Spirit and yet fall away from God. We know this to be true because Christ himself declared those who would defend themselves by the works they did in his name as “workers of lawlessness” and they would not even enter the kingdom of God.

And I cannot begin to judge the heart for only God can see and judge the heart.

But those of you are reading these words: you see your heart, at least in part.  You would know your thoughts if you took a moment to be completely honest with yourself if you are not honest with anybody else.

What if you and I just took one minute to dwell and thought through would my heart looked and what kind of thoughts went through my head if there were some technology that put it on display to the world. That’s a frightening concept, isn’t it? And some of you, upon thinking this, stop examining your heart and mind because it was too scary—there was too much wickedness and pain and torment.

God has this power of seeing our hearts. 5 And God is real. And God continually sees your heart and mind. He cannot stop knowing your heart, and he cannot stop paying attention to your heart. God only actively knows our hearts, not passively.  To do otherwise makes Him not God because He is all-knowing. He is omniscient.

What’s your heart reaction? What’s your feeling about what I just said?

There will be some who disbelieve: you might wall up, go invulnerable, and try to shield your heart away from these hard truths. You might have contempt for these words here and give a thousand excuses trying in a feeble attempt to suppress your knowledge of the just and holy God—just as the Bible said you would do. 6 Yet, there is a cure for your hard heart, and it is not doing better, or start going to church or start reading the Bible or not cheat on your taxes or not scream at your spouse. It is putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Trusting Him and trusting his words which are the Bible. 7

There will be some who do believe but who might have doubt about God: You might say things “I believe in God, but some of the things I read are hard to believe.” My friend, you might be in good company. Let us look at what Peter says about the writings of Paul in 2 Peter 3:

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 8

Peter even says that Scripture is hard to understand, so the leader of the Apostles of Christ gets what you are saying. But the solution is not to dismiss the word of God and not ever to engage with the Scriptures again nor should we “make it up” as we go along but rather do as the Apostle Peter instructs us, “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How do we do that? Start by praying to God because when you believed, God the Father has given you the Holy Spirit, who is God himself, of whom Jesus said, “will bring to remembrance of everything I have said.” 9 and of whom Paul said, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” 10

And there are some of you who feel your faith is so little. You even know the words of Jesus when he keeps telling his disciples “Oh, ye of little faith.” But do you not know that even the saints with the tiniest faiths can move a mountain, see people healed and saved and made whole. For you see, it is not size nor depth nor quantity of the faith that you possess but rather the object of your faith that is Christ Jesus, who alone is mighty to save. Nineteenth-century Baptist pastor, Charles Spurgeon once said, “The gulf between the unbeliever and the ones with the smallest faith is abysmally infinite. However, there is no gap between the ones with the smallest faith and the arms and the heart of the loving Savior.” See how Christ did not correct nor rebuked the father who cried out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”. Christ only responded in love and healed his son. 11

Now, to all the children of God–to those with any amount of faith will do: God has captured your hearts! The Triune GodFather, Son, and Holy Ghost—now dwells in you. Because of this, you are now able to walk in his statutes and obey his commands. Now, because of everything Christ has done from the sovereign grace of the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit, you get to go out and proclaim the amazingly good news that there is the God who loves mightily and is the only ones to save you from your sins and torment. Christians, we get to live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself up for us.

And it is to you, the saints living right now who Jesus adamantly proclaims that you are greater than John the Baptist 12 because you believe and know these things:

One, you know that you were born a sinner and your sins abound.

Two, you trust in the work of Jesus upon that cross and His resurrection from the grave.

Three, because you trust Christ,  your sins are forgiven. Why? His grace abounds all the more.

Listen here: and God didn’t lose any of the saints in the Bible. He did not lose any of this kids. And you are the not the exception no matter how much suffering we experience. God promises we will suffer for his namesake, but that suffering will not compare to the glory that will be revealed to us. Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword can do its worst. My friends, during our worst times, we might fall to the temptation of giving up or even deny Christ. Perhaps even three times:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. 13 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. 14

To deny Christ is a sin. Christ said it himself: So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 15

How do we reconcile this?

There are some who give up once and fall away until their last breath. It can be confirmed then that they only tasted the power of the Holy Spirit as a religious or emotional conversion and nothing more. 16.

Alongside of all the testimonies of the martyrs of our faith, we must also read the accounts of those Christians who, under the heaviest persecution, buckled, gave in, denied Christ to save their lives or the life of someone they love. But what the world would count as a failure, their hearts grieved, kept their faith in God and turn back to the community they once loved.

We reconcile this by Christ alone. Peter denies Christ three times. How does Christ respond? By confirming Peter three times:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” 17

Remember when I talked about how tribulation and distress and persecution might look different to one Christian and another? A teenage girl questions Peter and he buckled like a belt to save his own skin.

Yet, Christ is more gracious than our own lack of faith.  Christ is more love then when we cannot see past our own circumstances. Christ is more powerful than our weakest moments.

There was a very recent time in my own life that I suffered abuse at the hands of someone claimed to love me. And when that person was no longer in my life, instead of praising God for peace, I instead turned to my own ways and purposefully and intentionally went headlong into sin—giving up God, community, calling and my life. How did God respond? He sent three people after me to speak the truth of God’s amazing love. And with each conversation, I began to once again wholly trust God, repent of all of my sins, and started immediately becoming obedient to His voice.

If you think for one moment that it would be far more loving of God to allow me to bury myself into the depths of sin, then repent of your wrong thinking. That is not love and that is not who God is for God is love.

Instead, know that God sees the heart and welcomes only those who come humbly and lowly back to him. We know this because God is love.

Notes:

  1. Acts 17:24-28
  2. John 10:25–30
  3. Romans 10:8–17
  4. Daniel 2-3
  5. Romans 8:26-27
  6. Romans 1:18-23
  7. Luke 24:13-27
  8. 2 Peter 3:14–18
  9. John 14:25-26
  10. 1 Corinthians 2:12
  11. Mark 9:24-25
  12. Matthew 11:11
  13. John 18:15–18
  14. John 18:25–27
  15. Matthew 10:32–33
  16. Hebrews 6:4-6
  17. John 21:15–19

Here is Love: Romans 8:34 Who Can Condemn?

Romans 8:34 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.

Let’s try to find a verse that sums up the whole Bible concerning the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and you will have your choice of a few verses:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 1

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 3

… just to name a few.

But if we contend that Romans chapter 8 is the summation of the gospel of Christ, then I submit that verse 34 is the summation of the chapter itself.

In verse 33, we gave the possibilities of the list of people who could charge you with one wrongdoing or another. But using the theology and logical thought, we have concluded that no one could bring any charge against the chosen of the Justifier.

In passionate rhetoric, Paul immediately asks one question that you might ask and quickly answers it only to follow up with another pertinent question you might ask and directly refutes it.

You see, in this particular case, when you are reading, unless the author instructs the reader to take a moment to think through what they have written, the author expects the reader to continue reading.

But in this case, the questions asked and the answers given are given in such a way to where the person is reading, equipped and filled with any doubts or disbeliefs, would have no time to build a case against the gospel of God.

“But the author does not know what I have done? How can he be so sure that I am not subject to condemnation?” While it might be true that the author does not know you or I and the time he when wrote this a little over 1930 years ago, Saint Paul does know of all the saints of the past because of the Old Testament that was available at that time. And if we have read our Bibles, we can see that no one born of man was good except God alone.

Let us run down the list of the believers before us, shall we?

Noah – Built the ark to be sure but not only was he wicked and continuously had evil thoughts in his heart 4, you should take the time now and read his mess in Genesis 9. (For the life of me, I cannot figure out we don’t get to hear this side of Noah in church.)

Abraham – Ah yes, the father of our faith, who not once but twice pimped his wife out for fear of losing his own life. 5

Isaac – The sins of the father is in full effect here. 6

Jacob – What hasn’t he done? Whose name means “Trickster,” he has stolen his brother’s birthright through lies, dishonor, and scheming against his father. 7

Joseph – The folly of his pride was his downfall (perhaps don’t tell your brothers that they will worship you someday) but by the sovereign grace of God, it was not his ultimate demise.

Moses – Circumcise every male as a sign of the work of God upon our hearts? Check. Except for Moses forgot that little part of the covenant and consequently, God comes to kill him. 8

And that’s just the ancient patriarchs of our faith!

David – This one is a keeper. Whom God called “a man after my own heart,” who cheated on his wife, got the girl pregnant, and then murdered her husband to cover it up. Hence, we get the 51st Psalm 9 out of it.

And yet, look at what Paul says about all the sins of the Old Testament saints:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 10

The old saints were just as jacked up as any sinner who ever lived, but they were not given a free pass. What saved the saints of old is the same thing that saved the saints of the new (including you and me) and that is the cross of Jesus Christ.

The old saints never knew Jesus Christ. They didn’t even know his name. But they knew the explicit promises of God proclaimed by God and his prophets that everything is jacked up, but God will make it right by sending Someone to come and save them.

What the Old Testament saints didn’t know (except John the Baptizer) is that Someone was going to be God himself, becoming fully man and staying fully God, in Jesus Christ His Son.

So, because of Jesus Christ, who lived, died, buried, and rose again to save his people from their sins, His people will face NO CONDEMNATION because of God who loves us.

But you know what? The work of Christ wasn’t all self-contained in his appearances in the Old Testament, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.

First, he is at the right hand of the Father. That might not mean much to you or me. My kids sit at my right hand all the time when we are watching cartoons. But to God, it is everything:

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. 11

And to naysayers who would say, “Nah, I don’t care how obvious the Son of Man reference is. That is not Jesus Christ.” Except, Paul writes:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. 12

So Christ is ruling and reigning over all creation. Cool, cool, cool. Got it.

But secondly, Christ is interceding for us.

Christ is praying for us. Not the world. Not everybody. But praying and interceding, along with the Spirit 13, for the people who he has definitely and perfectly saved once and for all.

Do you think your King and your God and your Lord who is Almighty and powerful and sovereign and gracious and kind and giving and generous and tender and loving knows you to the core of your being and your heart? Do you think that Christ knows all your wicked thoughts and sins and yet, loves you and saves you?

He does because He is God.

And He never stops thinking about you because He loves you.

Notes:

  1. John 3:16
  2. Galatians 2:20
  3. Romans 5:8
  4. Genesis 6:5
  5. Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18
  6. Genesis 26
  7. Genesis 25:29–34
  8. Exodus 4:24-26
  9. Psalm 51
  10. Romans 3:21–26
  11. Daniel 7:9–14
  12. Ephesians 1:15–23
  13. Romans 8:26-27

Here is Love: Romans 8:33 Let The Charges Pile Up!

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 1

This world and its inhabitants, princes, rulers, and principalities crouching, and ready to pounce and devour your heart and soul. They are not always going to do it with outright accusations, but they might resort to that.

“Look at your life! Look at all the mistakes you’ve made! You can’t even stay married.”

“You are a failure! How many times have you switched jobs in your lifetime? Pathetic.”

“Why are you so fat? You are disgusting. No one can love you. No one is going to look at you.”

“Why are you so stupid? You can’t figure out shit!”

“Why even try?”

“Why do you think such wicked and evil thoughts? Why do you call yourself a Christian? Surely, you are not saved.”

“You are a fake and everybody knows it. God knows it.”

I have sinned! I have sinned against countless people. I’ve worked in the porn industry. I have trafficked women for pleasure and profit. Who can out sin me? NOBODY! And if the Bible is correct (bonus: it is), then all of my sins are ultimately against God himself.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 2

Was Paul is the chief of sinners? 3 Try again, chief! Paul couldn’t out sin me on his best day. I stand at the top as the chief of all sinners past and future.  I have brought wickedness, destruction, chaos, hostility, evil, and trespass against God.  I have railed against God. I have warred against the Almighty.  I was the greatest enemy of God because I sinned and continued to sin all the while thinking I am saved by Him while displaying no fruit of that salvation.

And I had Satan, and his demons, and the world to constantly remind me of my failures and sins—those still remain against God alone.

But in his great love for me, God saw my wickedness, my depravity, my continuous evil thoughts and actions, and traitorous acts and definitely and defiantly declared, “That is my son! I want him in my family! And I will do so sacrificing my only begotten Son to make it happen!”

Let the charges pile up. Let the accusations come. I stand accused as the adultress thrown at the feet of Jesus or the prostitute who saw the armies of the Lord approaching her home. I stand charged as Stephen before the Pharisees and an all-approving slayer of Christians. I stand condemned as a man born evil and always has done evil against the only God who is just and right and good.

But in the furious flames of charges that are poured upon me, Christ alone is my Rock of Ages that protects me as I rest on the cool side as His elect.

I have not sinned against the Devil, demons, hell, death, or even the world. I have sinned against God alone! All of my sins—past, present, and future—was a clear statement that I have hated God and his people.

And yet, it was God who saw me in my great evil, depravity, wickedness, and vileness and only because He loved me, He sent his Son to die for me:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 4

And it was God who has chosen me before the world began:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 5

And it was God who stepped into creation, called my name and raised me from the dead:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 6

While I was doing nothing but evil:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 7

And it was God who appeared in goodness and loving-kindness:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8

And it was God who is rich in mercy:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 9

And it was God who gave me grace and faith:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10

And it was God who overflowed his grace with the same faith and love that are in His Son, Christ Jesus, my Savior, and Lord:

… and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 11

And it was God who gave me a new heart and His Spirit so that I can walk in his statutes and obey him by loving Him and loving others:

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 12

I am elect and justified and saved all because what Christ has done for me:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 13

I have sinned against God alone but it is God alone who justifies.

Who is like our God and who compares to Him? He alone is love.

Notes:

  1. Romans 8:33
  2. Psalm 51:4
  3. 1 Timothy 1:15
  4. Romans 5:8
  5. Ephesians 1:3–14
  6. Ephesians 2:1–3
  7. Titus 3:3
  8. Titus 3:4–7
  9. Ephesians 2:4–7
  10. Ephesians 2:8–9
  11. 1 Timothy 1:14–16
  12. Ezekiel 11:19–20
  13. Galatians 2:20

Here is Love: Romans 8:32 God Has Given Us Everything

Romans 8:32 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?

I could sit here and blast you with God’s holy words about God alone provides for us, and we need nothing.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 1

It is more than “I don’t want” like we are monks in Timbuktu living off the land but rather, because God adopted us, we are co-heirs with the One who has inherited all things.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3

But is it that simple? To live in the world that we do now?

As an American, I live in the wealthiest land not only now but of all time. But are these verses right for me as my brother or sister on the poor side of town or in the run-down rural town not even fifteen miles from where I am sitting now?

And we even know that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” 4

There is a disparaging difference between the rich and the poor or how we are finding out now, depending on which zip code you were born and lived. Nevermind the fact that God alone determines what time you would be born but what socio-economical status aka your zip code you would be born into just so that you would seek God. 5

Now, I remembered being homeless just in the last 18 months. But I now live in the most beautiful home I have ever seen in my life. I also remember when I made minimum wage. But I also remember when one year God doubled my take-home pay the proceeded to steadily increase my salary by 20% on average for seven years straight.

And I tell you, and I promise it wasn’t because I sowed some seed into a ministry. It wasn’t because I was living righteous. It wasn’t because I was paying tithes faithfully. It was none of the pragmatical reasons that you might try to figure out right now. You might think you are asking, “How can I get that?” but if I  know the American mind, what you are truly asking is, “How do I get God to do that for me?”

Let me tell you what exactly I did:

Up until last year, I was in a marriage where I was under constant abused. But unfortunately, I was too emotionally and mentally immature and ignorant to realize it until years later. When I started therapy, I was initially diagnosed as a narcissist but then rediagnosed later with Bipolar Disorder before finally and correctly being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet, the abuse and stress too me to such a dark place that I contemplated suicide. I even placed a chef’s knife against my jugular in front my of then wife and my two oldest children.

But God spared me. And God continued his healing upon my heart and mind.

But then when God did grant me peace, you know how I responded? I ran away from him promising to live a life of apathy and debauchery. (For those keeping score, this was just little over a year ago.)

But God ran after me and saved me again. And not only did God continue his work, but God also finished his work of healing upon my heart and mind.

So, listen to all of the prosperity “gospel” preachers who lie through their teeth and try to tell you that God will give you riches and make you healthy if you would just give money to their ministry. I pray that God would save these people who lie about who God is—otherwise they are twice the children of Satan and the judgment would be far worse if they never attempt to preach one syllable in their lives.

You listen to what they have to say, and then you examine my life when God blessed me in every way.

But you see, if we think of money or houses or jobs or things, then our thinking is so tiny and small.

And I tell you, when my thinking of His perfect provision more right-standing with Him and His word, you cannot convince me otherwise that He has blessed me more than any other person who has ever lived or will ever live.

For you see, my friend, He has given me His Son, Jesus Christ.

You might reject this because it is an easy answer. I assured you when the Father gave up His Son so that His children are saved to Him, that was not easy! We do know that Christ gave up his Spirit and the Father pour his wrath upon His Son—the two most God-awful things that will ever happen to a person. But Isaiah says, “It pleased God to bruised his Son.” 6

And what’s even more incredible than that? Jesus Christ wanted to give his life up for mine.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 7

And Christ went to the cross and hung himself there with great joy for my sake so that I would be set free in Him. 8

Paul speaks all the time about being content. Paul speaks of having everything and nothing and content with just the same. But I think every one of us now has a tough time grasping that concept. Heck, bills have to be paid. Car needs to be gassed. Clothes on kids wear out. We always need food and water. And none of that comes cheap nor easy.

But I hope that we can each pray the prayer of the wealthiest man of all time:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. 9

and pray this for always:

In Christ, you have given me so much that heaven and earth can give me no more.

I hope and pray that we would be content with having everything because we have Christ. And because we have Him, we shall not want.

God has provided all because He is a perfect Father who loves his children.

Notes:

  1. Psalm 23:1
  2. Romans 8:16–17
  3. Hebrews 1:1–2
  4. Matthew 5:45
  5. Acts 17:24–26
  6. Isaiah 53:10
  7. Galatians 2:20
  8. Hebrews 12:1-2
  9. Proverbs 30:8–9

Here is Love: Romans 8:31 The Preeminence of the Love of God

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

The love of God cannot be simply defined by the merest of affections and words that we might share with one another. Is our relationship to our spouse, children, family, co-workers, or neighbor compare to one’s relationship with God? Although our relationships should be held in the light of God’s relationship with us, it is perposturous to think that anybody we know would compare to God is perfect in all things especially when it comes to love.

Yet, if we are not careful or perhaps we just do not know any better, we can let what other people do and say including circumstances and abuse and trauma and failures dictate what love is all about. Nevermind the fact that we sin and we fail and we have fallen short of what is good and right.

John so boldly stated that God is love 1 but we have no right nor authority to redefine what love is in light of our past experiences and current situation. In order to find out what good and perfect love is, we have to go to the One who is love.

How do we do that? How can we go to God and define what love actually is. We can certainly go by what he said. But when it comes to God’s love for us, we see time and time again in the Bible that God does not use just mere words but concretely and certainly backs up those words with real action. Namely:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 3

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 4

Christ’s death is not only the ultimate display of love for any living creature on this earth, it is the fullest display of all the attributes of God. 5 It the absolute proof that God will stop at nothing to save His people and bring them back to himself—even if it meant the death of His Son.

So when we see the question that Paul asks in verse 31, we must understand that question is not merely rhetorically or unspecifically generic, but instead, there is a correct and direct answer that Paul is searching.

Fair enough. Shall we look in the context of the verse in order to get the answer? My friends, I suggest to you it is mere more than just a few verses before or even the chapter 8 itself. Not to be overdramatic, but I think at bare minimum, we have to consider every single thing Paul said in his Epistle to the church in Rome and examine and thinking through these things.

Let us gather and examine:

The Gospel of God – The gospel is the power of God in salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek, and in that same gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for it is written, “the just shall live by faith”. To that end, we are cannot be ashamed. 6

The Depravity of Man – God’s wrath from heaven is revealed against those who surpress the truth of God and by doing so, do not believe in and obey God. 7

Our Stony Hearts towards him and yet His Soft Heart towards us – While our hearts remained hardened towards Him and his gospel, God continues to be slow to anger, rich in kindness and patience and abounding in steadfast love in hopes that we would repent. 8

The Law of God – Those who were born without the law will perish without the law. However, those who were born under the law had every advantage of the nature and being of God and yet perish because they do not seek nor love God. 9

Everyone is Unrighteous – All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 10

We are saved by grace alone 11

There is no boosting – We have done nothing yet God has done everything to save us 12

We do not put God into our debt13

We are saved by faith alone14

God did not save us because we were good but because we were sinners15

We were once enemies of God and now we are reconciled to God16

We were dead because of Adam and because of our own sins but we live because of Christ and what he has done in us17

Where law increased the sin, the grace of God abounded all the more18

Likewise, our old selves are dead and buried in the ground – Because Christ has risen, we have risen with him through faith in him who saved us 19

Futher still, we are no longer obedient to sin but slaves to righteousness20

We are released from the yoke of the law so now we have the ability to obey the law of God freely21

Even still, I struggle with obeying God22

I am wretched! Who will save me?23

Christ Jesus is his name!24

Because I am in him and He is in me, there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for me 25

Once dead, now alive 26

Cannot be saved by the law, can only be saved by Christ alone 27

Christ is the righteous requirement for his people 28

There are only two paths: One, being led by the flesh which does not possess the ability nor the will nor the power to please God which only ends in death; Two, being led by the Spirit of God which only leads to life abundantly and pleasures every more. 29

We are led by the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells within us 30

If Christ is in us, we are alive because of the righteousness of God 31

If the Spirit of Christ who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, the Spirit of Christ will give life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us. 32

We are not debtors to our old selves – We are free from our old dead selves! 33

But if by the strength and might of the Spirit of Christ, if you place your hands upon the neck of your sins and choke it unto death, you will live! 34

If you are led by the Spirit of God, you are a son of God. Period. End of discussion. 35

You are no longer a slave to fear, but you are a son of God who by the Spirit we can call upon our Father in heaven! 36

You no longer have to defend yourself—the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God 37

And because we are sons of God, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with the Son of God who has inherited the whole world 38

Here’s a promise of God: we will suffer but we will receive his glory 39

Even all of creation, which was subjected to death because of our sin, waits and groans for all of the children of God to be finally and completely saved 40

Along with creation, we also wait eagerly to be saved perfectly and completely 41

For it is in the hope that is Christ Jesus that we are saved 42

While we wait and hope, the Spirit of God gives us strength where we are weak; the Holy Spirit intercedes for us 43

The Spirit of God searches hearts, knows the mind of God, and intercedes for us according to the will of God 44

No matter what we go through or what happens to us, all of those things are meant for our good—for it is only for those who are called according to his purpose. 45

To those whom he saw as sinners and extended grace to them, He has decided that he would mold, shape, and nurture his children to look like His Son so that his Son would be the eldest Brother 46

For every single person he predestined, he called. 47

For every single person he called, he justified. 48

For every single person he justified, he glorified. 49

So what shall we say to all of these things?

If God is for us, who can be against us?

But who can actually go against us? We know for sure that it is not the people on this earth. They are not our real enemies. They are prisoners of war and by God’s sovereign grace, they shall be set free!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 50

So if the ONLY ones could go against us would be the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil, then let us see what the Bible says about our real enemies:

Who can go against us?

Definitely not the rulers and authorities of this age, namely, Satan and his demons: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 51

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 52

Certainly not the gates of hell: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 53

Cannot be the sin itself: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 54

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 55

Not even Hell itself nor Death herself: And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 56

God has perfectly and completely conquered the wicked foe! God is the David who flung the single headshot to the vicious enemy of God who is Goliath who only came to kill, steal, and destroy the children of God while we sit and trembled in fear, loathing, and doubt before our mighty Savior. And with that thundering smashing of the pebble against the the skull of the Giant, our David pulled the sword from the sheath, and bared the weight of this own Cross, and sliced open the neck of our enemies once and for all.

The question that Paul asked was never rhetorical.

The absolute answer is that no one can ever stand against us because of everything God has done in us.

Give thanks, for here is love.

Notes:

  1. 1 John 4:7-8
  2. Galatians 2:20
  3. Romans 5:8
  4. John 3:16
  5. Psalm 85:10
  6. Romans 1:16-17
  7. Romans 1:18-32; John 3:36; Ephesians 2:1-3
  8. Romans 2:1-11; Ezekiel 11:14-21
  9. Romans 2:1-3:8
  10. Romans 3:9-23
  11. Romans 3:24-26
  12. Romans 3:27-31
  13. Romans 4:1-12
  14. Romans 4:13-25
  15. Romans 5:1-9
  16. Romans 5:10-11
  17. Romans 5:12-19
  18. Romans 5:20-21
  19. Romans 6:1-14
  20. Romans 6:15-23
  21. Romans 7:1-6
  22. Romans 7:7-23
  23. Romans 7:24
  24. Romans 7:25
  25. Romans 8:1
  26. Romans 8:2
  27. Romans 8:3
  28. Romans 8:4
  29. Romans 8:4-8
  30. Romans 8:9
  31. Romans 8:10
  32. Romans 8:11
  33. Romans 8:12
  34. Romans 8:13
  35. Romans 8:14
  36. Romans 8:15
  37. Romans 8:16
  38. Romans 8:17a
  39. Romans 8:17b-18
  40. Romans 8:19-22
  41. Romans 8:
  42. Romans 8:24-25
  43. Romans 8:26
  44. Romans 8:27
  45. Romans 8:28
  46. Romans 8:29
  47. Romans 8:30a
  48. Romans 8:30b
  49. Romans 8:
  50. Ephesians 6:12
  51. Colossians 2:15
  52. Romans 16:20
  53. Matthew 16:18
  54. Psalm 103:11–13
  55. Colossians 2:13–14
  56. Revelation 20:13–14

Ordo Salutis XII: Our New Body – Spirit’s Power in Our Glorification

Psalm 97:9 For you, O LORD,
are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

And how can we even fathom this glory of God? How can we fully look upon God in his sheer radiance, beauty, and majesty without our minds and eyes and hearts shutting down?

It is sheer madness.

And that is exactly what God wants! He wants to be with him forever and ever. With him. Not “the whole earth is filled with his glory” or even “he dwells within us” type of presence that we are so use to and dare I say, at ease with.

But understand what Christ has done in us for us:

Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,  for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,  so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. 1

He takes away sin. All sin. For the whole world. For all of his people. And when we are with him, finally with him, we will be with him in a place where “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” and “no longer will there be anything accursed.” 2

Because of Christ took away sin, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.3

But then, it is more than removing sin, evil, Satan, demons and death.

He puts in the fullness of holiness, righteousness, love, joy, peace, grace, mercy, and justice. Namely, He puts himself in with us.

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. 4

Can we truly comprehend worshiping our sweet king forever? No! Can we ponder what it is like to worship with the God who saved us? Brother and sister, there have plenty of times I could not manage my own debt nor waistline. So you know I am not even thinking about reigning with him.

But that is what He said we will be.

The same God who made known for me the path of life and therefore, because of all that Christ has done, when I do get to him, I will experience the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. 5

It is only there when we will finally experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.6

It is only there when we will finally “behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” 7

The God who is glorious is the same one who is glorifies his children.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 8

I am not even doing a great job of extrapolating the glory of God. If I had the fullness of the Spirit and the highest IQ and all the gifts of wordsmithing and writing and had infinite time and resources, perhaps, I could tell you a sliver of his glory.

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 9

Well, one day, with infinite light, infinite energy, and infinite worshiping my sweet King, I will attempt to write about his glory.

Until then, I pray:

If Your promises hold true—if You say You will make all things right despite our folly and sin 10; if You say You will bear our iniquities and our trespasses 11 and You will draw near to us just when we think You are so far away 12, then my life and my love is all in Your Word. I have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to.

Who can I trust? Where I can seek refuge in? Where shall I go? For you alone have the words to eternal life. 13

Whom have I in heaven but You? Is there anyone on earth I desire besides You? My heart and flesh will fail but you are my strength and my portion forever. 14

This much is true: for you are my God. You loved me and you are always mindful of me even before you created time and space.

You have shown the awesome worth of your love by sending and giving Your precious Son to me.

You have shown the infinite might of your power by giving your Spirit to me.

So what then can I say?

So what then can I do?

All I can do is simply thank you.

So from the bottom of my heart,
I thank you for giving me strength.
Thank you my Father God.
Thank you my Christ Jesus.
Thank you my Holy Spirit.

You judged me faithful.
You appointed to Your service.
Despite my dishonoring and blaspheming,
Your holy name,
despite my persecution and hatred
those who love you,
despite my perverted and violent opposition
towards you,

Still
I only received mercy
because I was lost
I was lame
I was deaf
I was blind
I was stupid
I was ignorant
I was evil
I was dead
and I was not looking and could not look for you whatsoever.

But Your beautiful, sweet and tender
love, mercy and grace
overflowed for me
overwhelmingly
undeservingly
ill-deservingly
with your unbroken faithfulness
and your relentless love
that can only be by You,
for You,
through You,
my Christ Jesus my Lord my Savior.

These words
out of my heart
are true
and with all of my hope and dreams
and desires and wishes
that these words would be sweet to your ears.

I know
that you came in this world
to rescue your people
to pull them out of despair
to give your people life
to save them from their sins
to bring them to you
evil sinners
at war with you
All of us
And I lead this group.
I am the foremost
I am their chief
I am their victor
I am their champion of those who would face Your terrifying wrath!

Yet,
in this reason
that Your grace abounds all the more
that Your mercy renews every morning
that Your love never ceases
that You
my Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ
might display

Your perfection, beauty, tenderness, quickness,
Your love, mercy, grace, patience
for all of those who You call Yours
and those would believe upon Your holy name for life forever.

This is why I will sing
to the God of the everlasting to the everlasting
the Triune
the Father
the Son
the Holy Spirit
the immortal
the invisible
the Only One
the Creator
the Sustainer
the Merciful
the Peace
the Grace
the Faith
the Messiah
the Immanuel, God with Us
the Blessed
the Living Word
the Christ
the Son of God
the Fellow Heir
the Second Adam
the Kinsman Redeemer
the Beginning
the Means
the End
the Majesty
the Truth
the Way
the Life
the Wisdom
the Teacher
the Rescuer
the Promise
the Calling
the Fulfillment
the Abundance
the Host
the Governor
the High Priest
the Prophet
the Apostle
the Sufferer
the Messiah
the Servant
the Son of Man
the Glorified
the Power
the Gospel
the Guide
the Elector
the All-Sufficient
the Lion of Judah
the Worthy Lamb who was slain
the King of all kings
the Lord of all lords
the Commander
the Ruler above all
the Name above all Names
the Wonderful Counselor
the Mighty God
the Everlasting Father
the Prince of Peace

my Holiness
my Righteousness
my Justice
my Faithfulness
my Mercy
my Grace
my Friend
my Confidence
my Pastor
my Elder
my Brother
my Assurance
my Redeemer
my Rock
my Salvation
my All in all
my Exalted
my Glorious
my Beloved
my Joy
my Song
my Love

my Jesus Christ, King, Lord, Savior and Messiah
my Father, my Father, my Abba, my heart
my Holy Spirit, my comfort, my peace, my gift, my breath.

So I will be so very careful to
worship,
sing,
praise,
glorify,
exalt,
proclaim,
honor,
dedicate,
and love
You alone.

I pray this desperately and joyfully,
in the beautiful,
sweet,
precious,
most tender,
loveliest,
most worthy,
dearest name of
Your Son.

His name is
the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Notes:

  1. Hebrews 9:25–28
  2. Revelation 21:22–22:5
  3. Revelation 21:4
  4. Revelation 22:5
  5. Psalm 16:11
  6. Philippians 4:7
  7. Psalm 17:15
  8. Romans 8:16–18
  9. John 21:24–25
  10. Genesis 3:15
  11. Isaiah 53
  12. Psalm 22
  13. John 6:68
  14. Psalm 73:25-26

Romans 8:30d Glorified

And here is love: “… and for those whom he justified he also glorified.

We look up all of Romans 8:30 as a chain that begins and ends with God. To that end, predestination and glorification are things that our minds cannot fully fathom. But we rest assure that every single person predestined is called is justified is glorified.

There is no whittling or dwindling of numbers as we move along the list, Christ said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.1

The salvation and thus, glorification of the people of God are wholly dependent on the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit alone. This more than an unbreakable chain, to which there has never been a scheme or power by Satan powerful enough to break. This chain is unbreakable by the power of God and the logic of God: for no child saved by God is lost by God.

Do you believe and trust in God? Don’t give me the response, “Well, not perfectly.” But do you ever? Did you ever weep with grief at your sin before God but cried with joy that He is the God who is mighty to save?

“But there is often I don’t seek or chase after him. Am I saved?”

Do you know that his grace is upon grace for you? 2 Do you know that his steadfast love never ceases? Do you know that his mercies never end because they are brand new every morning? Do you how great is his faithfulness? 3

My child, do you know that God is the Prodigal Father who waits patiently and eagerly for your return. Do you know that even those with the tiniest repentance and the smallest of faiths find themselves in the wide open of a sweet and glorious Savior who loved us and died for us?

It is the salvation and glorification is what I call the sheer madness of God. For I try to peer deeply into the brightness of his holiness and redemption and love and above all, glory, that surely I will go mad for it does not make sense.

For you see, it is not just that God thought of us before the foundations of the world. It is not just that he spoke and cut through the darkness of my sin and my death so that I would be fully alive. It wasn’t just that He would send His only begotten Son to live for me, die for me, raised from death for me, and then glorified for me.

No! My Lord and my God, who is the perfect maximum of everything, is completely, all-time, and never ever surpressing Himself, has the wherewithal and the audacity to glorify me with him.

For me, who came into this world naked and helpless. 4

For me, just a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 5

For me, dead in my trespasses and sins  in which I once walked, followed the course of this world, followed the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in other sons of disobedience—  among whom I once lived in the passions of my flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 6

For me, foolish, disobedient, led astray, slave to various passions and pleasures, passing my days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating everybody else. 7

For me, the clear chief of all sinners, a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent, acting ignorantly in unbelief. 8

But for me, God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me,  even when I was dead in my trespasses, made me alive together with Christ—by grace I have been saved—  and raised me up with him and seated me with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus.  For by grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works so that I cannot boast.  For I am his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that I should walk in them. 9

But for me, God my Savior appeared by his goodness and loving kindness, he saved me, not because of works done by me in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on me richly through Jesus Christ my Savior,  so that being justified by his grace I might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 10

But for me, since birth, even when I didn’t know him nor loved him nor trusted him, He has been my God! 11

But for me, I received mercy when the grace of my Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 12

But for me, this is the saying that is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

But for me, I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 13

But for me, God made Christ be sin who never knew sin so that in Him I might become the righteousness of God.

But for me, the Son of God became man so that I might become a son of God.

For the angels, who are perfect in splendor and majesty and stay in the full presence of God would not receive this same glory!

To this end, what can I do?

I give thanks who has given me strength; He is Christ Jesus my Lord because He judged me faithful and appointed me to his service. 14

I can only love the God who has done nothing but rescued me and let me be with him for all of eternity.

He is the Lord, most high above all the earth. I will exalt him far above all other gods. I can only worship the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 15

Notes:

  1. John 10:28–31
  2. John 1:16
  3. Lamentations 3:22-23
  4. Job 1:21
  5. Psalm 22:6
  6. Ephesians 2:1–3
  7. Titus 3:3
  8. 1 Timothy 1:13
  9. Ephesians 2:4–10
  10. Titus 3:4–7
  11. Psalm 22:9-10
  12. 1 Timothy 1:14-15
  13. 1 Timothy 1:14–16
  14. 1 Timothy 1:12
  15. Psalm 97:9, 1 Timothy 1:14–17

Ordo Salutis XI: Our New Lives – Spirit’s Work In Our Sanctification

Isaiah 48:9–11 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

So, God saved us. Some of you might be asking the next logical question: Now what?

What do we do now? This life I was living before: lying, sexual deviances, pride, foolishness, rage, gossip—these are sins that I was dwelling in before, and I know how they are not pleasing to God. So do I go back to the way I was living?

Or maybe you are saying is that I don’t want to go back. This deal that I have received is much so much sweeter than what I had. I have dealt with abuse, addiction, disease, and sickness. I can’t go back.

For both of the newly minted Christians and everyone else in between, let us never forget that when God saves us, we are most certainly changed, but we are not instantly perfect. Like, my circumstances are still the same, and it takes so much effort and energy just to react differently than I did previously. And for some who suffers and had suffered from mental health issues like PTSD (like myself), your circumstances are maybe good, bad, or neutral, but God didn’t instantly heal you of your past trauma. So the triggers might still happen. For me, I was saved for several years and was in an unhealthy marriage where triggers were not stopped.

And just because God saved me didn’t mean everything magically gotten better. For some of us, it got a whole lot worse.

Now, I can throw the following verse at you, and take a moment to highlight the key phrase in verse to make sure you understand the nuance in the text:

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I think most of us get that. All things mean all things. All means good and bad. But exactly does that mean and what does it mean for me?

In other words, I signed up to be a Christian. What should I expect from God now that I am predestined, called, justified, clean, protected, regenerated, and adopted?

What we should expect from God is that we should bank on his absolute promise that we will be perfect in every way. Not “saved but still do some light sinning on the side”. No, we will stand before God, we will look like his Son.

How?

We have a two-fold process. One, it is the wrath-absorbing death of Jesus Christ that produces a spotless robe so that God covers your sin. But it is the blood-drained body of that same Jesus that cleanses you from the inside—yes, even those wicked, sinful thoughts you have in your mind and heart. When you stand before God, you are going to be covered by Christ’s work and you are going to be perfect by the work of the Holy Spirit.

And this will take a lifetime.

For some I know who got saved, they were immediately broke free from crippling addictions. It happened to me. The moment I got saved from a decades-long addiction to porn. But what I learned later is that doesn’t mean the temptations doesn’t come after you. And it doesn’t say you won’t fall. I certainly did. But was the difference between my old self and new self? I got right back up. By the grace of God, I kept getting back up after every time I fell.

Proverbs 24:16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Let us rejoice in the fact that this is not some absolute limit of how many times a Christian can sin before he is let go by God. What it does mean that the righteous ones of God will always get up one more time they all the times they have fallen. That is because of the strength, love, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Which is indeed true but I think we need to flip back over to his previous letter get a stronger point:

Romans 6:1–14 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but grace.

In other words, that old self is dead. When God saves you, Christ took your old self with him when he died. However, unlike Christ who is holy and righteous, your sin, your old self, wasn’t raised from the dead. It remains dead. You are alive in Christ. Live in that!

Ezekiel takes it one step further and declares a complete heart transplant by God the Good Surgeon:

Ezekiel 11:19–20 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Notice the order. First, he gives us a new heart. Next, a new spirit. He does so by removing our stony, hard, cancerous sin-filled hearts and replaces it with a soft, healthy, fleshy heart. But it is only now we have this new heart, we get to walk in his statutes and keep his rules and obey them. 

So you see, this is the work of God in your active obedience to God that He will transform you to the image of His Son. 1

But we just established that this process doesn’t often happen overnight but rather in a lifetime. I think we know our part: we see it in the Bible. But what is God’s part in all of this?

To know God’s part, we have to look at the promises he has for his children when comes to molding, transforming, shaping, growing, and renewing us to look like His Son.

First, he will sanctify, or that is, make us holy by our faith. Look at what Paul says when he gives a testimony of God saving him on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:15-18 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

It is your faith, which is a gift from God 2, that makes you holy. Not only you are declared holy because God is holy 3, you will be holy because of your faith in the God who the angels in heaven declare is “holy, holy, holy!”

You are declared and made righteous because of your faith in God. If you believe in his word and trust his promises, you will live as though you believe. Not to do so is hypocrisy.

It is this very idea that separates the theologies and doctrines of the Roman Catholics and the Protestants: It is not that the little things we do that have no heart and no meaning behind them in order to pay for our sins, but it is that we, Protestants, believe that Christ took care of all of my sins once and for all and now, he sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. We contend that the righteous shall live by faith. 4

Second, he will continue to refine us by allowing us to be put into certain situations or experience certain afflictions so that we would grow and mature. God gave Paul a messenger of Satan to harass him so that “it would keep him from being conceited.”

We might think of that is insanity or even cruel. I am going to use a phrase that only the most serious gym-goer would understand: progressive overload. Progressive overload is the idea that for you to be faster, stronger, and have more endurance; you will need to keep increasing your weights, reps, and your time. In other words, you cannot keep going to the gym, keep doing the same thing over and over again. In fact, if you do, you will become weaker because the body is exceptionally terrific at being efficient.

Likewise, whatever God sends our way, even suffering, will produce not only endurance, and not only a godly character, but ultimately produces a hope that does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 5

Third, when we mess up, He will discipline us as a good parent would.

Hebrews 12:5–6 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

When we mess up, we are given the strength to get up that once more time. But our Father does not want us to suffer the sins that we keep committing. So sometimes, discipline is involved. 

I hesitate to share this story, but I know that this is the clearest example I know of my Father disciplining me. I was dating a gal that I should not been dating. It wasn’t she was a harlot or nothing like that. I  just knew I shouldn’t be seeing her. Despite all of that, I made the mistake of telling God, “Do your work in me”. And I cannot begin to tell you the immense amount of suffering that I endured including loss of job, losing a place to stay until we finally broke up.

 So, what will all of this sanctifying conformation look like?

Some of it will look like suffering. To be heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, we will have to suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him. But we are not to consider the sufferings of this present time to be worthy of comparison to the glory that will be revealed to us. 6

Some of it will look like Israelites wandering in the desert (see the book of Exodus) but know it is God that drew you out in the wilderness but He also is the same God who will be closer than a whisper and will never leave your side. 7

Some of it will look like death as though we are walking through the valley of the stench of death but never forget that Jesus Christ is the lily of the valley whose fragrance smells of life. 8

Notes:

  1. Romans 8:29
  2. Ephesians 2:8
  3. 1 Peter 1:15-16
  4. Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38
  5. Romans 5:5
  6. Romans 8:16-18
  7. Hosea 2:14; Luke 4:1-13
  8. Psalm 23:4, Hosea 14:6; Songs 2:1; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17