Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Pondering Romans 8:28-30

Book-of-RomansAnd we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

This passage, probably more than any other as far as I am concerned, epitomizes the free choice/predestination dialogue. I am going to settle that debate once and for all in this post.

Does the Bible say that we have freedom to choose to believe in God or not? Yes! Note verse 28: “…for those who love God…” Love involves choice. I choose every day whether or not I will love God. I choose every day whether or not I will love my wife. I choose every day whether or not I will love my kids. No one is making me love. I love by my own freedom of choice. The Bible absolutely affirms freedom of choice. I choose to love God and place my faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross – therefore, I am saved from condemnation and damnation.

Does the Bible say that we are predestined by God to be saved?  In other words, did He choose me to believe? Yes! Note verse 29: “…those whom He foreknew He also predestined…” I am one of God’s chosen ones. It was His choice that I be saved. He chose me before the beginning of creation to reign with Him in eternity. The Bible absolutely affirms predestination. His choice, not mine!

But are not these two affirmations saying two different things? How can they both be true? I’ll say two things about this:

1) If we were able to explain everything about God and our faith then we would not have a great and awe-inspiring God. We must leave room for mystery and trust that one day God will make that which is unclear to be incredibly clear.

2) The best explanation for this for my puny mind goes like this. From man’s perspective we have complete freedom of choice. From God’s perspective He is the One who does the choosing. Imagine yourself preparing to enter Heaven’s Gate. There is a sign over the gate that says, “Everyone who believes in the Lord shall be saved!”  (Our choice) After you enter you turn around and notice a sign on the other side of the gate that says, “Chosen before the creation of the world.”  (God’s choice) It all depends on your perspective – from this side of heaven or the other side.

You will hear lots of arguments these days about this subject. I choose to say what the Bible says – both are true, even if I can’t completely understand how.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:31-39
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-21

Pondering Extras for Romans 8:26-27

PonderingExtras

“EXTRAS” is a follow up to the Friday Pondering post. It gives insight, commentary, and illustrations from pastors and scholars who also have spent time pondering the passage.

Robert Morgan asks…

What kind of weakness? We are weak in many ways, but in this passage the apostle Paul is specific about the particular weakness he is addressing—our prayer lives. We are weak when it comes to prayer. In what way? Well, we are weak in many ways, but here again Paul has something specific in mind. We are weak in our ability to know what we should ask. Many times we really don’t know what we should specifically pray for. We are not omniscient. We don’t know everything, nor can we see into the future. So we don’t know whether the things we’re asking for will turn out good or bad for us.

An old story illustrates: A Chinese gentleman lived on the border of China and Mongolia. In those days, there was constant conflict and strife along the perimeter. The man had a beautiful horse. One day, she leaped over the corral, raced down the road, crossed the border, and was captured by the Mongolians. His friends came to comfort him. “That’s bad news,” they said sadly. “What makes you think it’s bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” A few days later the mare came bolting into his corral, bringing with it a massive stallion. His friends crowded around. “That’s good news!” they cried. “What makes you think it’s good news?” he asked. “Maybe it is bad news.” Later, his son, while riding the stallion and trying to break it, was thrown off and broke his leg. “That’s bad news,” cried the friends. “What makes you think it is bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” One week later, war broke out with Mongolia, and a Chinese general came through, drafting all the young men. All later perished, except for the young man who couldn’t go because his leg was broken. The man said to his friends, “You see, the things you thought were bad turned out good; and the things you thought were good turned out bad.”

And thus it is with us. We don’t know if the things we want will really be good for us, or bad. We can’t see the future. That’s why James tells to us to pray, saying, “If it be thy will. . . .” But God does know the future. He is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. He knows the end from the beginning, and He knows how all things will turn out. Verse 26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God with intensity, with groanings that words cannot express. And God answers the Holy Spirit’s pleas on our behalf. The result is Romans 8:28! As the Holy Spirit prays for us, God answers His prayers, therefore all the things turn out for our good in the unfolding providence of the Lord.

Pondering Romans 8:26-27

Book-of-RomansLikewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

I love these verses for several reasons…

1) Like the verse says, I do not know what to pray as I ought.

2) I feel very weak and inadequate as a pray-er.

So I take great comfort in the fact that the Spirit can do what I cannot.  I liken it to an experience that I had several years ago. I was in Haiti preaching one Sunday morning and my good friend Pastor Leon Dorleans was interpreting for me. I would say a short little sentence (perhaps 30 seconds worth) and then he would translate my English into Haitian Creole – but he would take about 2 minutes to do so and would add emotion and inflection and passion to what I said. I soon realized that he was saying what I said but he was saying it so much better – and in a way that those who were listening wanted to hear and respond to.

This is what the Spirit does. He takes my weak and ineffectual prayers and translates them in a way that God wants hear and respond to.

I do not have to be the best pray-er that ever lived. But I do need to make sure that I am living by the Spirit and not according to my sinful nature. If I do the former I will be a super(natural) pray-er. If I do the latter I will continue to be weak and anemic in my praying.

That being said, here is a prayer that I came across by John Piper that seems to be Spirit led. May it embolden your soul to pray in the Spirit as it has mine…

“O Father, how we fear the wasting of our years! Forgive us our love affair with empty things and our little love for You. Make us feel the suicidal faith in innocent idols. Give us fresh freedom from all hollow gems. Grant us to bear the weight of glory and become more like Your Son. In His all-sustaining name we pray. Amen”

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:28-30
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-20

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:18-25

PonderingExtras

No Hope But God— by Cindy Hess Kasper: In his book Through the Valley of the Kwai, Scottish officer Ernest Gordon wrote of his years as a prisoner of war during World War II. The 6′ 2″ man suffered from malaria, diphtheria, typhoid, beriberi, dysentery, and jungle ulcers, and the hard labor and scarcity of food quickly plunged his weight to less than 100 pounds.

The squalor of the prison hospital prompted a desperate Ernest to request to be moved to a cleaner place—the morgue. Lying in the dirt of the death house, he waited to die. But every day, a fellow prisoner came to wash his wounds and to encourage him to eat part of his own rations. As the quiet and unassuming Dusty Miller nursed Ernest back to health, he talked with the agnostic Scotsman of his own strong faith in God and showed him that—even in the midst of suffering—there is hope.

The hope we read about in Scripture is not a vague, wishy-washy optimism. Instead, biblical hope is a strong and confident expectation that what God has promised in His Word He will accomplish. Tribulation is often the catalyst that produces perseverance, character, and finally, hope (Ro 5:3-4).

Seventy years ago, in a brutal POW camp, Ernest Gordon learned this truth himself and said, “Faith thrives when there is no hope but God” (see Ro 8:24-25).

Ray Stedman illustrates Romans 8:2324 with this story:

The other day I gave my oldest daughter a driving lesson, and she wanted to start driving the Oldsmobile because it has an automatic shift. But I said to her,

“No, dear, I think it would be better if you would start with the Chevrolet. It has a stick shift, and a clutch, and it is a little bit cranky and hard to operate at times, but if you will learn how to run this car, you’ll have no trouble at all with the Oldsmobile.”

You know, in a sense, God has done that with us: He has given us these old, cranky, balky, pain ridden bodies of ours, and has told us that, if we learn how to handle these, if we will learn how to make these obey, and present these to him as a living sacrifice, then we will grow ready in spirit to receive those glorious bodies that are now being prepared for us. And Paul says that, with this hope before us, we can patiently wait for God to teach all that we need to know. (Romans 8:14-25 The Joy of Being Grown Up)

 

Pondering Romans 8:18-25

Book-of-RomansClick HERE to read the passage.

This passage deals with one of my favorite words in the Bible. Hope. I can’t imagine living without hope. Evidently Paul could not either. I see three things in this passage about hope that are worth thinking long and hard about…

Hope enables us to endure suffering (v.18) – I remember when I had a bout with kidney stones thinking to myself, one day this will all be over and I will be better. Hope. I imagine that the pain of childbirth for women is endurable because they know what is on the “otherside.” Hope. Even the disappointments and despair that comes with living in a fallen world is tempered by hope. Hope enables us to endure. When people lose hope, they lose the will to live. The gospel is gloriously good news because it is a gospel of hope!

Hope helps us make sense of “natural disasters” (v. 19-22) – Not that there are natural disasters – more like supernatural disasters. Even things like earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes and hurricanes are a call for hope as the creation itself goes through “birthpangs” in anticipation of its liberation from the bondage to decay. The awesome wrath that is manifest through these supernatural disasters are nothing compared to the wrath that will be displayed at the judgment. God allows such things in order to call us to the hope that awaits us in Jesus.

Hope fuels us to live with patience and eagerness (v. 23-25) – Because we are a people of hope we can deal with the things that this life throws at us differently than those who are without hope. We know that God is in control and we know that He is with us and we know that this is NOT where we belong – therefore we can display  the character of God to a world that is clueless when it comes to understanding life.

We will get to this verse in a few chapters but I love what Paul says in Romans 15:13 – ” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:26-27
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-19

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:9-17

PonderingExtrasC H Spurgeon writes…

We are regenerated, by the Holy Spirit, and so receive the nature of children; and that nature, which is given by him, he continually prompts, and excites, and develops, and matures; so that we receive day by day more and more of the childlike spirit. Now, beloved, this may not seem to you to be of very great importance at first sight; but it is so; for the church is never happy except as all her members walk as dear children towards God. Sometimes the spirit of slaves creeps over us: we begin to talk of the service of God as though it were heavy and burdensome, and are discontented if we do not receive present wages and visible success, just as servants do when they are not suited; but the spirit of adoption works for love, without any hope of reward, and it is satisfied with the sweet fact of being in the Father’s house, and doing the Father’s will. This spirit gives peace, rest, joy, boldness, and holy familiarity with God. A man who never received the spirit of a child towards God does not know the bliss of the Christian life; he misses its flower, its savor, its excellence, and I should not wonder if the service of Christ should be a weariness to him because he has never yet got to the sweet things, and does not enjoy the green pastures, wherein the Good Shepherd makes his sheep to feed and to lie down. But when the Spirit of God makes us feel that we are sons, and we live in the house of God to go no more out for ever, then the service of God is sweet and easy, and we accept the delay of apparent success as a part of the trial we are called to bear.

Now, mark you, this will have a great effect upon the outside world. A body of professors performing religion as a task, groaning along the ways of godliness with faces full of misery, like slaves who dread the lash, can have but small effect upon the sinners around them. They say, “These people serve, no doubt, a hard master, and they are denying themselves this and that; why should we be like them?” But bring me a church made up of children of God, a company of men and women whose faces shine with their heavenly Father’s smile, who are accustomed to take their cares and cast them on their Father as children should, who know they are accepted and beloved, and are perfectly content with the great Father’s will; put them down in the midst of a company of ungodly ones, and I will warrant you they will begin to envy them their peace and joy. Thus happy saints become most efficient operators upon the minds of the unsaved. O blessed Spirit of God! let us all now feel that we are the children of the great Father, and let our childlike love be warm this morning; so shall we be fit to go forth and proclaim the Lord’s love to the prodigals who are in the far-off land among the swine.

Pondering Romans 8:9-17

Book-of-RomansClick HERE to read the passage

The one verse in this passage that succinctly sums up what Paul is saying is verse 14 – “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

There are eight “if” statements in these nine verses. Paul is helping his readers to know whether they are indeed believers. He spells out a spiritual litmus test – if these certain things are true then you pass the test and you are children of God. His bottom line is this: If you are led by the Spirit of God then you are a child of God.

We live in a culture where people like to say that they are Christians but not act like they are Christians. People claim to be “saved” if they once upon a time mouthed the words “invite Jesus into my life.” Paul is saying that it is much more than this. Those who are truly children of God are actually led daily by the Spirit of God. What does this mean?

John Piper puts it this way: “It is to be moved by the Spirit to kill sin by trusting in the superior worth of our Father’s love. When you fight sin by trusting in Christ as superior to what sin offers, you are being led by the Spirit.”

So… if you are not growing in holiness, if you are living sinfully and selfishly without regard to God or His Word, if you can sin and not feel the least bit convicted – then be sure that you are NOT a child of God… no matter how many times you might have invited Jesus into your life. Becoming a child of God is not a matter of the mouth and saying a few “magic” words. It is a matter of the heart and a work of transformation that God does when He rescues His children out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:18-25
Memory Verses: Romans 8: 1-17

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:5-8

PonderingExtrasJ Vernon McGee says:

“Flesh in believers is incorrigible, my friend. It is in rebellion against God. It has been carrying a protest banner before the gates of heaven ever since man came out through the gates of paradise in the Garden of Eden.”

“The believer has the Holy Spirit to deal with the flesh, that big bully. I learned a long time ago that I can’t overcome it (FLESH). So I have to turn it over to Somebody who can. The Holy Spirit indwells believers. He wants to do that for us, and He can!… It is humiliating but true that the child of God retains this old Adamic nature (THE FLESH). It means defeat and death to live by the FLESH. No child of God can be happy in living for the things of the FLESH. The prodigal son may get into the pig pen, but he will never be content to stay there. He is bound to say, “I will arise and go to my father.”…There is one thing for sure: if you are living in the FLESH (more accurately “LIVING FLESHLY”), and you are a child of God, you are not having fellowship with God. You can’t.”

“The Law was a straitjacket put on the flesh to control it. The flesh rebelled and chafed under the irksome restraint of the Law. The flesh had no capacity or desire to follow the injunctions of the Law. The flesh broke out of the restraint imposed by law and therefore brought down the irrevocable penalty for breaking the Law, which is death.”

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