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112716 - Romans 4b - Grace or Works
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November 28, 2016 11:12 AM PST
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Romans chapter 4 highlights, Pastor Scott Keller

We finished Romans chapter 4 last week. Today, we’ll go into a little more detail on a few points in that chapter.

As a reminder, we ended chapter 3, and opened chapter 4, with the idea, that it is faith in God, that makes one right with Him.
Therefore, no one can brag or boast.
No one can be proud or arrogant in their standing with God…

God credits righteousness to people who Trust Him.

One who works is owed their wage… to withhold it is a crime, because it is rightfully theirs…
A gift cannot be a gift if it was earned…
Crediting someone with something, in this Biblical context, is a gift given, not a wage paid.

The slide says, “Happy / Thanks / Giving.” I like Thanksgiving separated out into two words to emphasize the giving of thanks.

Thankful, grateful, appreciative people are humble people… they are precisely the type of people God blesses… Both James and Peter quoted the Old Testament, “God is actively opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Matthew 23:12, James 4:6, I Peter 5:5).

Arrogant pride in one’s standing with God is contradictory, yet ubiquitous.

This boastful superiority in your favored position with God based upon your personal goodness is the opposite of what God favors.

not only is that foolish because doing religious works can 1never impress a perfect God… NOT only is it foolish because 2doing religious works diminishes the complete Salvation in Christ that comes by faith in His blood. BUT it is also foolish because 3the pride that comes from accomplishing religious works is a grievous sin in itself, that would negate all the good religious work anyway.

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded…” Why? Because all are “Justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” So, says the Bible.

We have seen time and again, that mercy, forgiveness and grace trump (no pun intended) justice, every time.

The gist is that the message of the Old Testament was never about the salvation of a narrowly chosen race of people by means of their performance in keeping the Law.

To prove that point, Paul brings up the original forefather of the Jews… The “Father of Faith,” the ultimate Patriarch of the human “Family of God.” Abraham, who God promised, would be the head and founder of many nations blessed by God.

And while he was at it – just for good measure, Paul threw in King David – the greatest of all Jewish Kings.

By bringing up Abraham and David, Paul demonstrated that salvation was always intended to be a gift from God to all people who would trust Him.

The Jewish race chosen from an old Mesopotamian dude who was probably Sumerian, or perhaps Akkadian… wasn’t because he had a superior genetic makeup.

It wasn’t that God was particularly awestruck with that bloodline. He wasn’t raising Thoroughbred horses or Border Collies.

The Jewish race serves a profound purpose, BUT the purpose was never to isolate God as the God of only a tiny racial line of people to the exclusion of all other races.

They were also never meant to demonstrate that human beings could impress God and gain His favor by their performance.

God is the God of all people and the Law came to Israel more than 500 years after God’s promises to Abraham.

So, Paul rightly concludes in the middle of chapter 4, that IF the promises God made to Abraham… long before there was Circumcision or the Law… Are now, dependent upon the observance of both…

NOT only is faith NOT righteousness and God is not the Savior, BUT God has gone back on His promise… God in effect has reneged on the deal He initiated!
Adding new stipulations makes God fickle and unreliable…
Because He would be, essentially, a liar and a cheat.

That’s obviously inconceivable, so the only possibility is that God will be true to His promise made to Abraham. A promise based upon God being the Savior and Abraham and his descendants being made right with Him through faith in Him.

Just as Jesus pointed out in quoting the Old Testament Prophet Hosea 6:6, twice in Matthew’s Gospel… “I want mercy and not sacrifice. I want you to recognize me as God instead of bringing me burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6 NIrV).

Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord. The Lord accepted Abram because he believed. So his faith made him right with the Lord.”

In other words, “Faith was credited to Abraham’s account as though it was righteousness.”

Then Paul asked the rhetorical question, was this before or after he was circumcised?

Circumcision was instituted in Genesis chapter 17… A minimum of 14 years after God had credited Abraham with the righteousness of faith.

Paul’s point is that if God’s promise to Abraham was contingent on the requirements of Circumcision or the Law then it was no longer an honestly fulfilled promise from God.

Why institute those things and why don’t they work to make one righteous?

Verse 15 is an incredibly important verse because it is vital to understanding the argument and yet it is very easily misunderstood. or more commonly, ignored.

Let’s take the passage, verses 13 through 15,
13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
15For the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

Notice that each verse begins with the word “For.” What that means is that each succeeding verse is giving the reason the preceding verse is true. It’s like saying “Because.” Joe is a great hunter, BECAUSE he puts so much time and energy into it, BECAUSE, it is very important to him.

So, verse 13, is explaining the reason verses 9 through 12 are true… Abraham received the promises of God long before he was circumcised and more than 500 years before the Law was established… What does that mean?

It means (verse 13) that the promise was never predicated or based on obedience to the Law – it was always predicated or based on faith in God that He credited to Abraham as righteousness.

What does that mean – why is that true?

Because (verse 14) IF the promise is fulfilled to those who perform under the Law, then faith is meaningless and therefore the promise originally made because of faith, has been nullified, reversed, invalidated… God’s promise would be worthless.

Now, the critical issue… Why does the keeping of the Law that God gave not work to make one righteous?

This is the big “WHY.” We can easily understand that IF the promise is nullified that makes God’s promise worthless and makes God a fickle liar… Which we all agree cannot be the case.

We get that… BUT, “WHY” does the Law of God make faith in God meaningless, null and void, why does it render faith empty and meaningless?

Because (verse 15) the Law for human beings is only able to produce God’s wrath… never our righteousness.

It says, “For the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

Let’s start with the easy part, “Where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

Does that mean, there was no sin before the Law or that the Law creates sin? Paul would (and actually did) say, “May it never be.”

Let’s say that there was no law in Montana against hunting on private property without the owner’s permission… just hunt where you like, cross all fences, disregard all obstacles, traipse wherever you wish for as long as it suits you and completely ignore the rightful owner of the land.

Without a law, there is no violation of the law, because you can’t obey or violate what does not exist.

Most hunters would love such a deal. Even so, is it right and good to use what does not belong to you without so much as a by-your-leave?

Just because no written law was violated it doesn’t mean that it’s right – in fact, if you were a hard-working rancher, I know with complete certainty you would see it as a crime.

For hunters that thought, “I’d like that,” did you realize that would allow hunters to hunt on your property as well? How would you like it if a hunter set up a tree stand next to your house? Made a ground blind in your backyard?

When we aren’t sure if something is right or wrong, all we need to do is put the shoe on the other foot.

Without the formal Law established by God through Moses there is no violation of that Law… BUT, that does not in any way mean every action is okay… that there is no sin.

The Law makes the sin that was already there obvious. It takes away the “Let me apply this to myself and discern whether it is good or bad.” The Law makes it plain and it simultaneously establishes a basis for prosecution of a crime along with the basis for conviction and punishment.

So, Paul’s point in verse 15, is not simply something lending general support to his argument… He’s not just reaffirming that, IF right-ness before God, came from keeping the Law, it would “Nullify the Promise.” He’s saying the Law establishes once and for all that it is impossible to become right by our activity.

That’s what the first part of the verse means by saying, “For the Law brings about wrath.”

The Law brings about nothing, in itself, other than formal recognition of what constitutes inappropriate behavior…

Paul does not say, “The Law brings about justice.” He says it “Brings about God’s wrath.” Wrath only comes when the Law is violated… It is breaking the Law that results in wrath.

The Law becomes a tangible proof that no one can live up to the standard established and so therefore anyone who tries to be “Blessed by God,” through activity can only ever receive God’s divine “Wrath” instead.

We pass the Law that no one can hunt on private property without landowner permission and after we do a violation is no longer just bad character… it is a crime that has an established punishment.

God’s Law cannot be kept by anyone, and so it proves that everyone is under God’s righteous judgment – His Holy Wrath!

That’s the point and purpose of the Law… to point people to God’s mercy, love and forgiveness through faith in Him.

There were Jews of Jesus’ time who, like King David before them, knew they couldn’t please God with their performance but instead trusted in God’s mercy through the blood sacrificed each year, thanking Him for the annual Day of Atonement.

And they were always looking forward to the true Day of Atonement when God would save them once and for all… through the Messiah He would send.

Those Jews were humble and like, Abraham before them, trusted in God to provide… those were the one’s willing to be baptized by John… those were the ones who became the first followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can you see the difference between the humbleness of the Jew who realized the Law only pointed out their utter inability to please God and the Jew who was so pompously arrogant they thought they could and did please God through their personal excellence?

Can you see that the first group would rejoice at Jesus, while the second could only revile Him and plot to kill Him?

Can you see that little has changed in 2,000 years? How we today, are in precisely the same boat in that there is a difference between the humbleness of the person who realizes their performance only points out their utter inability to please God and the person who is so pompously arrogant they think they can and do please God through their personal excellence?

Can you see that the first group would rejoice at Jesus, while the second could only revile Him?

Someone would object by saying “I do please God with my performance and I don’t REVILE Jesus.”

Well IF diminishing His completed work on the Cross by thinking you contribute to your own salvation isn’t reviling Him, I guess I don’t know what is…

We have Christian churches the world over, full of people who think they are right with God because of their performance.

Such people are truly the Pharisees of Christianity.

If being right with God was all about humble trust in His provision, before Christ came, how much more is that true, now that He has?

If the Jewish Pharisees, who were the greatest legalists of all time, couldn’t please God through their performance, what in the world, makes people today think they can?

Woe to the Christian who forgets that His complete salvation rests in “Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone.”

Because God’s dealings with Abraham prove that God honors true faith as demonstrated by a person’s actions over any legalistic religious performance.

We see that so clearly in verse 21, “Being fully assured IN what God had promised, Abraham was able also to perform.”

His ability to perform was due to his full assurance in God’s promise… His ability to sacrifice Isaac was due to his complete faith that God would make it right because God had promised that Isaac would live.

This is where the Salvation through Faith of Paul, and the Salvation through deeds of James, collide.

The only activity that pleases God, flows naturally from a person who has been transformed by the Holy Spirit through faith in God… Likewise, everyone who has that kind of faith in God is transformed by the Holy Spirit and so must act in accordance with that nature.

Abraham’s performance that both Paul and James use as the basis of proving their point… is a performance solely based upon faith… Paul stresses the faith side of the equation while James stresses the performance side… Together we get a complete picture of the reality that our actions both flow from our faith and simultaneously prove our faith.

Faith is the key, because where our effort, work, activity and sacrifice produce boasting… Faith in God and His love, grace, forgiveness and mercy… produce humble gratitude… that acts.

Because Abraham’s actions flowed from, and proved, his absolute faith, verse 22 says, once again, God credited his faith as being the same as actual righteousness.

You see, even sacrificing the son he loved was not going to make Abraham good enough to measure up to a perfect and holy God…

You could be the most meticulously perfect person who has ever lived – never once violating any law – but once you do – you are a lawbreaker.

Be wonderfully law abiding, BUT just one time, murder someone… Do they dismiss the charges because you’re normally so good?

It wasn’t the offering of Isaac that pleased God – it was the faith and trust in God that it demonstrated.

Verses 23 through 25 bring it home for us today.

We who believe in God, we who through faith completely trust Him no matter what happens, no matter what He asks… we are righteous in the same way Abraham was righteous.

Completely rest in Jesus our Lord – His death for your sins and His resurrection for your justification – depend on Him for the entirety of your right standing before God – the whole of your eternal salvation.

Then act from that place of assurance AS a child of the Living God.

112016 - Romans 4a - Faith
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November 23, 2016 08:13 AM PST
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Romans 4:1-25, Pastor Scott Keller

We finished Romans chapter 3 and just to remind you it closes with this thought…

Since, a person is, “Justified,” before Almighty God, “By faith apart from works of the Law,” we can see that God shows “No partiality,” and He makes “No distinction,” because He is the God of all people and “Will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”

That presents a potential argument… IF it is as you say, what was the purpose of the Law?

Paul said the Gospel is the fulfillment of the Law and justification by faith establishes and upholds the Law (Romans 2:11, 3:20, 3:22, 3:27-31).

To fully grasp what Paul will say next, it is important to understand the Old Testament themes and characters related to his argument.

Instead of assuming everyone has that knowledge – I’m going to give a cursory overview. For some, it will be new information. For others, it will be a much-needed refresher, and for most of you, a simple, but hopefully pleasant review.

After the world-wide Flood, Noah, his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, along with their wives, began rebuilding. God established what is called the Noahic Covenant, He promised never to destroy everything with water again, and gave the rainbow as the sign of His Covenant (Genesis 9:13).

Less than 300 years after the Flood, a dude named Abram, moved from his hometown of Ur, to Haran. Ur is about 200 miles southeast of modern-day Bagdad, in Iraq. Haran, is in modern-day, southeastern Turkey on the Syrian border).

In Genesis chapter 12, we find God telling the 75-year-old Abram, to move into the Land of Canaan – modern-day Israel. It’s the “Fertile Crescent,” from what was then a coastal city on the Persian Gulf – following the Euphrates River upstream to Haran and then the Rift Valley of the Jordan downstream to Shechem in Canaan – the Land of the Canaanites who were the “Cursed” descendants of Noah’s son Ham (Genesis 9:25, 10:6).

When Abram arrived, God told him that He would give all the surrounding land to Abram’s descendants. The problem was that Abram and his wife Sarai had no descendants.

Well, Abram does a bunch of dumb things and a few good things over the next 20+ years…

Probably his brightest moment was giving Melchizedek, the King of Salem “A tenth of all.” (Genesis 14:20) Salem means peace and was the city-state of Jerusalem. Melchizedek is literally, “My king is צַדִּיק (tsä-dēk).” Sedek means righteous.

Most people interpret that to mean that he was the King of Righteousness… I think it means, that as both a king, and a priest of Almighty God, it means just what it says… I am the King of Jerusalem and my King is righteous.

Many people think he was Noah’s blessed son and forefather of Abram… Shem. After that, God formalized His Covenant with Abram and in Genesis 15:6, it says that Abram “Believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Probably Abram’s dumbest moment comes after God reaffirmed His promise to Abram that his own descendants would inherit the land… BUT Abram and Sarai are acutely aware they still have no descendants.

Chapter 16, details how Abram and his wife tried to help God out by their human reasoning… She essentially says, “My Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, could bear us a child as a surrogate mother.” Abram essentially says, “Ah, okay.” And so, his son Ishmael was the result.

When Abram was 99-years-old and his wife was 89. God appeared to him again.

He told him in no uncertain terms that Abram would have a child with his wife Sarai and that their kid would be the child of promise and would father a whole nation… In fact, in Genesis 17:5-7, God says to him, “You will not be called Abram anymore. Your name will be Abraham, because I have made you a father of many nations. I will give you many children. Nations will come from you. And kings will come from you. I will make my covenant with you. It will last forever. It will be between me and you and your children after you for all time to come. I will be your God. And I will be the God of all of your family after you.”

God then gave Abraham a sign of the Covenant – Abraham and all his male descendants would be circumcised.

After detailing the sign of circumcision, God went on reaffirming his promises to Abraham and, also, changed his wife Sarai’s name to Sarah… Genesis 17:19, “Then God said, “I will bless Ishmael. But your wife Sarah will have a son by you. And you will name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him. It will be a covenant that lasts forever. It will be for Isaac and for his family after him.”

Even though Sarah scoffed… a year later at the age of 90 and Abraham at the age of 100, she gave birth to the Son of Promise and they named him Isaac.

Isaac was obviously a miracle and obviously the one through whom God would fulfill His Covenant.

Now here’s where Abraham does something especially relevant to our study today in Romans.

Genesis chapter 22 tells the story. By then Isaac was probably somewhere in his 20’s (if that freaks you out because you have a bias that he was younger… Don’t get hung up on that… that’s not the point. The point is to realize that whatever his age, Isaac was strong and agile enough to carry all the firewood and other supplies on his back up the mountain.

And his dad, our friend Abraham was, for certain, well over 100 years old… To make it explicit… Abraham is not going to get Isaac to sit still for what comes next without Isaac’s cooperation.

Abraham trusted God and Isaac trusted both God and Abraham by willingly submitting.

Submitting to what? Well, human sacrifice. Genesis 22:1&2, “God said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” Abraham replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son.
He is the one you love.
Take Isaac.
Go to Moriah.
Give him to me there as a burnt offering.
Sacrifice him on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Abraham got up early the next morning and set out with Isaac… Three days later they arrived.

Genesis 22:7-13, “7Then Isaac spoke up. He said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said. “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
The two of them walked on together. 9They reached the place God had told Abraham about. There Abraham built an altar. He arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son Isaac. He placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then he reached out his hand. He took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven. He said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” Abraham replied (the same reply he’d given when God first called to him… it is the response of all who trust God fully… it was the response of Samuel and Isaiah… “Here am I.” Lord God “Send me” Isaiah 6:8.).
(The angel of the Lord – I believe the pre-incarnate Jesus, who would one day be sacrificed – said), 12“Do not lay a hand on the boy,”
he said. “Do not do anything to him.
Now I know that you have respect for God.
You have not held back from me your son, your only son.”
13Abraham looked up. There in a bush he saw a ram. It was caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram. He sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Many Americans and other westerners are appalled that God would ask such a thing and even more appalled that Abraham would attempt to go through with it…

To kill Isaac, for personal convenience just prior to his birth is easy to applaud… BUT to obediently trust God in this way is insane and it’s evil.

Here’s what such people don’t know… By then, Abraham knew God. He stated unequivocally that “God would provide.”

He didn’t know how God would provide, BUT he knew – he trusted with every fiber of his being that God would provide…

God had repeatedly promised that this particular son would be the father of all of Abram’s chosen descendants… Of course, God would supernaturally – miraculously intervene again, just as he had with Isaacs conception and birth.

Hebrews 11:17-19, further amplifies the concept… “17Abraham had faith. So he offered Isaac as a sacrifice. That happened when God put him to the test. Abraham had received the promises. But he was about to offer his one and only son. 18God had said to him, “Your family line will continue through Isaac.” Even so, Abraham was going to offer him up. 19Abraham believed that God could raise the dead. In a way, he did receive Isaac back from death.

God trusted Abraham to trust Him. And He gave him a test to physically prove that reality to all beings, for all time. It was proven beyond doubt that Abraham trusted God… obviously, so did Isaac.

All this prefigures and foreshadows Jesus and the actual sacrifice our Heavenly Father did make. God did indeed provide once and for all on a Cross.

Isaac became the father of Israel – a people blessed, if for no other reason, because Almighty God honors the faith of Abraham.

About 1,000 years later, Israel was given David, their greatest king. He was, “A man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

David was an unbelievable warrior. As a young man, he killed both Asiatic Lions and Syrian Bears. In I Samuel 17, David petitioned King Saul to fight the Giant Goliath, who was the Philistine Champion.

The Philistines were at war with the Israelites and were willing to put the outcome of the war in the hands of their champion. It wasn’t just a deal where the two would fight each other for bragging rights… it was a fight to the death and whoever lost – their nation, would be defeated, and would serve the other nation.

Saul was skeptical and David said, while tending my father’s flock, I have killed both lions and bears… God delivered me from their paws… God will deliver me from this Philistine who dares to blaspheme His Holy Name.

They did have both lions and bears back then…
SLIDE: SYRIAN bear ~ related to Alaskan brown bears and our own grizzlies… now mostly in the mountains on the Turkey-Syrian border.
SLIDE: Asiatic lions ~ related to African lions… now mostly in the mountains of Afghanistan to India.
SLIDE: Assyrian Lion kill relief c. 650 B.C.

David did kill Goliath and eventually went on to become king himself.

Although David was zealous for the Lord and did many great things he was also a ruthless warrior, a poor father, a lousy husband, an adulterer and a murderer.

David was a mess, BUT he loved God and sincerely repented in sackcloth and ashes begging God’s pardon. He is responsible for about half of the Psalms.

Part of which is Psalm 32:3-5, from the NLT,
“When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
5Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me!
All my guilt is gone.”

King David understood how much better than justice; mercy and forgiveness are… So, taking all of that into account, along with the reminder that Paul has just said… in verse 28, “We firmly believe that people are made right with God because of their faith. They are not saved by obeying the law.” then, verse 31, “Does faith make the law useless? Not at all! We agree with the law” (Romans 3:28–31), let me read the fourth chapter.

ROMANS 4:1-25 ~
1What then
shall we say that Abraham,
our forefather according to the flesh,
has found?
2For if
Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3For what does the Scripture say?
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
5But to the one who does not work,
but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is credited as righteousness,
6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also?
For we say,
“Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10How then was it credited?
While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised?
Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11and he received the sign of circumcision,
a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised,
so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,
12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law,
but through the righteousness of faith.
14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16For this reason it is by faith,
in order that it may be in accordance with grace,
so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants,
not only to those who are of the Law,
but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17(as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”)
in the presence of Him whom he believed,
even God,
who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
18In hope against hope he believed,
so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken,
“So shall your descendants be.”
19Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body,
now as good as dead
since he was about a hundred years old,
and the deadness of Sarah’s womb;
20yet, with respect to the promise of God,
he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
22Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
23Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24but for our sake also,
to whom it will be credited,
as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

John 6:28&29, records what could be the most important message people can hear today…
“Then they asked Jesus, ‘What does God want from us? What works does he want us to do?’
Jesus answered, ‘God’s work is to believe in the One he has sent.’”

Faith – Trust – Belief, my friends… Everything including love, flows from this.

The work God absolutely requires is total faith in the One He has sent… The Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12, “You can’t be saved by believing in anyone else. God has given us no other name under heaven that will save us.”

111316 - Romans 3d - Salvation Has been Provided
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November 14, 2016 08:02 AM PST
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Romans 3:25-31, Pastor Scott Keller

We have Baptisms, Communion and a Missionary to Congo today.

Last week in the first service we left off about ¾ of the way through verse 25 in Romans 3.

We’ll re-read the passage starting in verse 24 for flow and since I read it all last week from the NASB, today I’ll read it from the children’s Bible for ease of understanding.

ROMANS 3:24-26 (NIrV) ~ 24The free gift of God’s grace makes all of us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free. 25God gave him as a sacrifice to pay for sins. So he forgives the sins of those who have faith in his blood. God did all of that to prove that he is fair. Because of his mercy he did not punish people for the sins they had committed before Jesus died for them. 26God did that to prove in our own time that he is fair. He proved that he is right. He also made right with himself those who believe in Jesus.

5 times, in 3 verses, we have the word family of δίκη (dē-kā), the verb, δικαιόω (dē-kī-ŏ-ō), the noun δίκαιος (dē-kī-ŏs), the adjective, δικαιοσύνη (dē-kī-ŏ-sü-nā), all meaning justice and therefore righteousness.

Each time our passage used the word “Right,” or “Fair,” it was this idea of righteousness. “God is righteous in all His judgments,” as Psalm 19 states, “The fear of The Lord is pure, enduring forever. His judgment is completely trustworthy and righteous” (my translation Psalm 19:9).

This is boldly proclaimed in Revelation 19:1-6, in what is called the Fourfold Hallelujah. In part it says, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged…”

God will judge and in doing so He will justify Himself and His children… those refusing to repent and be saved by His righteous mercy will be damned by His righteous justice.

The end of verse 25, “Because of his mercy he did not punish people for the sins they had committed before Jesus died for them.” and then all of verse 26, brings a new twist to the argument and has been the basis for some weird beliefs over the centuries.

Of course, God judged sin before the Cross… of course people were accountable for their sin prior to Jesus paying for them… just like sin existed before the Law was given… Romans 4:15 states, “Where there is no Law, the also is no violation.”

We could erroneously take that to mean that before the Law there was no sin, BUT that is NOT the point God’s making in that place… Just like He’s NOT saying here that sin was ignored before Jesus.

What this means is that while there are consequences to sin in this world, the Judgment Day comes at the end of time, rather than immediately.

God could have simply condemned everyone at the moment of their first sin or even at the end of their earthly life… BUT in His mercy… Because He has a plan… He holds final Judgment in order to give everyone an opportunity.

Paul stood in the Areopagus in Athens and preached his famous sermon recorded in the last half of Acts chapter 17.

In part, he said, 30In the past, God didn’t judge people for what they didn’t know. But now he commands all people everywhere to turn away from their sins. 31He has set a day when he will judge the world fairly. He has appointed a Man to be its judge. God has proved this to all people by raising that Man from the dead” (Acts 17:16-34).

The argument is that now that God has provided a way out for mankind through His Son all sin can be judged fairly.

It eliminates the argument that God is not just if he created us and then condemns us for being how He created us.

That is NOT a valid argument against God, BUT it is in fact a very common complaint.

Homosexuals often claim that God made them with a same-sex attraction, so how could He possibly be so evil as to condemn the behavior He essentially created?

The Truth is, it’s the rebellion against God, NOT God Himself, that has led us to the fallen nature where everything is corruption, decay and death.

God has no obligation whatsoever to help us out of our predicament… BUT He DID!

Now that He has, provided a Way to Salvation people are doubly without any excuse.

For those who have heard the Gospel and then rejected it… and let’s be honest here… rejected Jesus… there is nothing left. “27But a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries… 31It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:27&31).

So, while it gets very technical and therefore tedious the main point is that the Cross is where both God’s righteous justice and His righteous mercy collide.

The Father poured out His righteous justice upon Jesus – in order to lavish His righteous mercy upon us – it proves that He is both just and merciful.

God is patient with sinners because He has a plan… it is a plan to give them every opportunity to accept His payment.

Those who accept His Way – His Plan – His Payment are “Made right,” or are “Justified,” as being righteous because as verse 26 closes, God is the “Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

What’s required? Faith in the Blood – Faith in Jesus.

ROMANS 3:27-31 ~ 27Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

God has done it all – It was the Father’s plan – His WAY… Jesus the Anointed One, the Word of God made flesh IS the WAY and the Holy Spirit of God points us to Him – to the only Way.

Ephesians 2:8&9, “God’s grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn’t come from anything you do. It is God’s gift. It is not based on anything you have done. No one can brag about earning it.”

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded.” Of course, it’s excluded… IF, I actually believe, that God saved me. Religious arrogance is always the result of thinking that I save myself at least to some extent.

I look down on sinners because I’m so much better than they are in doing right and pleasing God… It is works… it creates pride.

When I am convinced that it is only the “Law of faith” that has saved me – I am GRATEFUL – I am therefore humble before my creator and my fellowman.

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, I Peter 5:5, etc.).

Verse 29 is one of those verses that prove Christianity is an all-inclusive, worldwide, timeless Truth… Of course, God is the God of all people.

Why then did He make a special covenant with the Jews – why did the Jews receive the very Oracles of God and all the promises contained therein?

Because God established the Law in order to fulfill it in Jesus.

Just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

Again, the Jews, a wrong assumption about the purpose of the Law… the Law was never meant to make men righteous before a perfect God – it was always to show the necessity for a Savior and the reality that the Savior had to be God Himself!

BAPTISM PRELUDE:

Last week we heard the Gospel preached… many of you were here… And many of you didn’t need to be here, because you have heard it more times than you can count.

My guess, is that everyone in this room, knows the Gospel – the Good News – the Message of Jesus – the Plan, the Way, the Path of Salvation.

Yet, let me ask you – let me put you on the spot. Explain to me, that Gospel Message.

Right now, take a moment and in your own mind tell me what it all means… Explain to me the Gospel… Where do you start? What is your central focus? What is the reason for it all? How are we saved? Why are we saved? What are we saved from?

These young people, Abigail, Jeremiah & Benjamin, are here today to be Baptized… We do that.

We sing songs, we have Communion, we host missionaries, we teach and preach the Bible. We call ourselves Christian, we claim Mercy, Forgiveness and Grace. We declare God as Good and proclaim He is Love. We say we are Regenerated, Adopted, Justified, Sanctified, Reconciled and Redeemed… In other words, that we say that we are Saved by way of the Gospel…

What does it all mean? Please explain it so I can understand.

The beauty of God’s economy is that no one will ever be able to plumb all the depths of God’s perfect character or fully grasp every nuance of His plan… BUT at the same time, all that is required to start is the simple faith of a small child.

When I present the Gospel to non-Christians they get very nervous… NOT because they fear me or fear that the Gospel is false… What they are terrified of is acknowledging what they already know intuitively and what will require them to change.

They always, inevitably, in every case, come to a point of decision and want to delay – postpone… they say, I just need a little more time to think, just a little more evidence to process, before I commit.

Wrong, I say. You’ve spent enough time – you already have enough evidence. What you need, is to realize the urgency and the stakes and recognize that temporary enjoyment of sin is a fool’s errand. What you need is a little more child-like faith to take the plunge.

The Gospel in its simplest terms is that you are a criminal (a sinner), because you have broken God’s law.

God is a perfectly just Judge and can do nothing other than find you guilty and sentence you to the Eternal Lake of Fire.

God is a perfectly loving Creator and at the greatest personal cost provided a way out of your predicament.

Jesus the Eternal Uncreated Word of God took on and became flesh and blood. Fully God, fully human, Jesus allowed the Father to transfer your sins, past, present and future to Jesus’ account.

Jesus who was perfect, accepted your sins as though they were His in order to pay the debt you could never pay and to redeem you from sin and death.

When you truly turn from sin and embrace Jesus as your Savior you enter in to God’s Grace… You are mercifully forgiven… And made right with God – justified. You are adopted as a child of God to live as a member of His family reconciled to Him.

You have taken your place as part of the Bride of Christ and taken His name Christian. As a Christian now filled with the sanctifying Holy Spirit you are born again – Regenerated to live for God.

As a Christian you take your place in the Body of Christ – in the one true church by being Baptized into that community of Believers and by partaking in Holy Communion that symbolizes our unity in Christ.

How can you not sing His praises, fellowship with the saints, learn and in-turn, proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Today we Baptize three young people into the Body of Christ as full members of the church universal with all rights, privileges and responsibilities as Christians in their own right.

So what does it mean when we say a 9-year-old is a Christian in her own right?

It means the same thing as for a person in their 80’s. Christians are all required to submit themselves to the proper authority over them as established by God.

A, 9, 11, or 13-year-old, is commanded to honor and obey his or her parents.

What changes then? After today we recognize that these three people, Abigail, Jeremiah and Benjamin are honoring and obeying their parents because they are Christians, not because they are children.

They have each decided to follow Jesus as their Lord and their Savior… They have each decided to make that decision public through the declaration of obedience to Christ in water Baptism.

We Baptize them in a public recognition of what God has already ordained.

Baptism is like a wedding.

The parents have given their children to Jesus to be His own possession – part of His Eternal Bride.

It is a joining of them with Jesus done in the sight of God and the company of these witnesses.

As evidence of this union they are given a pledge, like a wedding ring, of everlasting union by the deposit of the Holy Spirit.

In acceptance of this they each take the name of Christ, their perfect groom… Christian.

110616 - Romans 3c - One Way
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November 06, 2016 03:08 PM PST
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Romans 3:23-26, Pastor Scott Keller

Anyone miss the transcript?

103016 - Romans 3b - Freedom for What?
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November 05, 2016 03:28 PM PDT
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Romans 3:19-22, Pastor Scott Keller

102316 - Romans 3a - God is Ever Faithful
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October 24, 2016 07:24 AM PDT
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Romans 3:3-18, Pastor Scott Keller

Last week we finished with Paul’s answer to an obvious, if unspoken question…

Since all people, both Jews and non-Jews, are equally condemned as unrighteous… What was the point of establishing the Jewish nation? What advantage was there to living as a Jew, trying to follow the Law, participating in the religious ceremonies and offering sacrifices to God?

After chapter 2, we would fully expect Paul to say, “None! There is no advantage at all!”

But his answer in chapter 3 surprises us because he says, “There is great value in every way! First of all, the Jews have been given the very words of God.”
They were the recipients and keepers of God’s divine revelation of Himself… The possessors “Entrusted with the oracles of God.”

That’s amazing and it is wonderful that the Jewish people received the whole divine revelation from God’s dealings with Abraham through the Sinaitic Covenant through Moses to the New Covenant through Jesus.

Here’s what’s far more amazing and wonderful than being the stewards of God’s Holy Oracles…

It is what those oracles say, what they reveal, what they guarantee.

What the Jews are, as a collective whole, is the Covenant people of Almighty God… As such they were promised future salvation by God Himself.

This is extremely important to understand for several reasons, but not the least of which is the ability to comprehend the argument presented here in Romans.

ROMANS 3:3&4 ~ 3What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.”

You see, these verses and honestly the whole flow of this argument woven throughout the letter don’t mean anything, IF we don’t grasp the value or advantage of being a Jew.

Within Christianity, there are different schools of thought, concerning the Jewish people, the Old Covenant and Judaism as a religion.

Covenant Theology or Federalism is about 400 years old and is traditionally held by Calvinistic or Reformed Churches. Their view is that there is only one Covenant of Grace. Each subsequent agreement between God and man, after the Fall, basically starting with Noah after the Flood, is only a modification of what’s already been given and is really more like a progressive revelation. The New Covenant in Jesus is just an expanded continuation of what was promised before.

Dispensational Theology or Dispensationalism is about 200 years old and is widely held by Fundamentalist Protestants. It views history as separate dispensations – usually 7 special periods, where God dealt with people uniquely. They don’t agree on what those 7 periods are, but each period stands on its own. They all, pretty much, agree, that we are in the “Church Age Period” now.

New Covenant Theology or Christocentrism is only about 75 years old and is a return to what the Bible actually says as opposed to working out a systematic scheme that fits with denominational ideas and doctrines. NCT, as it is abbreviated, takes some of the strongest points of both Dispensational and Covenant Theologies, but again the overriding principle, is what the Bible actually says, rather than denominational interpretation through the ages.

Proponents of all three of these views appeal to writings of the Early Church Fathers to say that they have merely recovered the original correct understanding and so they would each say that their own view is actually 2,000 years old.

Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism, actually is about 2,000 years old and is held by Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. It was the original idea Christianity espoused starting with Justin Martyr in about 135 A.D. and was almost universally held by Christians for the first 1,500 years.

It is the belief that the Jews who refused to believe in Jesus, the promised Messiah, 2,000 years ago effectively chose to abandon God and so God abandoned them… The Old Covenant, has been replaced by the New Covenant and the Jewish nation has been replaced by the Christian church.

From that moment forward the Jews were condemned forever and all the promises were transferred to Christians. That’s how so-called Christians could persecute Jews… They were cursed by God for killing Jesus.

There is another group that holds this belief… Muslims – yes, Muslims.

While Catholics and others believe the Jews went astray and lost their place… The Muslims believe both Jews and Christians went astray and lost their place.

It’s very easy to understand the thinking of early Christians if you remember history.

At Jesus’ trial the Jewish people, did, in fact, shout, “Crucify Him,” and “His blood shall be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:22-25).

In 66 A.D. the Jews revolted against Rome and in 70 A.D. Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple destroyed. A million Jews were killed and an untold number forced into slavery – in fact the great Roman Coliseum was built with plunder and slave labor provided by the defeated Jews. This was seen as divine judgment against the Jews and Biblically… it was.

They rebelled against, the Emperor Trajan in the Kitos (kē-tōs) War of 115-117 A.D. and then for the third time against the Emperor Hadrian in the Bar Kokhba War from 132-136 A.D. Nearly 600,000 Jews died and again many were enslaved.

The difference the third time around was the Emperor felt betrayed and was furious.
He had visited Jerusalem in 130 A.D. and promised to rebuild the city and the Temple for the Jews.
They revolted because of the unthinkable blasphemy that pagan Romans would rebuild. Hadrian didn’t understand the problem, and so ended up despising the Jews.
After the war, he leveled what was left of Jerusalem, symbolically had the city plowed under and burned what remained.
Then he did rebuild Jerusalem as a completely pagan, secular, Greco-Roman city named Aelia Capitolina on top of the ashes.

Instead of a Jewish Temple, He built a temple of Jupiter/Zeus on the Temple Mount.

In addition, Hadrian expelled all of the Jews from the area on pain of death. It was an exile that lasted 600 years. He outlawed Jews from practicing their religion publicly, instituted the death penalty for circumcising their children and changed the name of the entire region from Judea to Palestine.

For the next 18 centuries the Jews were without a country and no one could have imagined that they would ever be a nation again.

So of course God had abandoned them… of course all the prophesies in Revelation had to apply to the church… of course this passage in Romans doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Whenever we limit God’s Word based upon our experience and human understanding of things we create doctrines that are false.

God promised the Jews a future salvation that included the ability for them to love Him from the heart and regardless of what the Jews have done, God is ever faithful.

So our text says, “What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be!

The imaginary opponent has essentially asked, “SINCE you say the Jews proved to be unfaithful and therefore condemned… doesn’t that make God, who promised salvation unfaithful?”

Paul says “May it never be,” which is his often used phrase μὴ γένοιτο (mā gĕ-noi-tŏ). It is the strongest possible refutation. Paul will have nothing to do with even entertaining the idea that God could ever be unfaithful – it’s blasphemous to even think of it!

It cannot be – NEVER! Because God is True, no matter who that makes a liar – God is TRUE… ἀληθής (ä-lā-thās), of course from Truth… ἀλήθεια (ä-lā-thā-ä) which Paul will actually use in verse 7.

The remainder of verse 4, is a quotation from Psalm 51. It is the Psalm, David wrote after recognizing his sin, in regard to Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.

He starts with crying out to God for mercy… not because he deserves it, not for the sake of the nation, BUT because of God’s faithful, loyal love – His great compassion, His tender kindness… Of course, David deserved the worst possible fate… The supposedly Godly King murdered one of his most trusted warriors to cover his act of adultery with the guy’s wife. How evil can you get?

The quotation is from the section where David admits that God is True and Just to condemn him… BUT he immediately begs for God to help him overcome his weakness to sin and evil and be the man he should.

The remainder of the Psalm is that wonderful song we sing, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me.”

When Paul says that will never be unfaithful – he means He is ever faithful in His loving kindness, mercy, grace and patience… He is ever faithful in keeping His promises… BUT He is also EVER faithful in punishing the unjust…

If you are a parent who actually loves your child more than you love yourself, you will train that child even though it is painful… even though the child may be mad or say vile things or even hate you in return… IF you love them you will discipline them so that they will grow into a functioning adult.

If you have a puppy and that puppy exists to make you feel good about yourself you may not correct him… BUT IF you actually care about the dog, you will train, discipline and punish the puppy even though it is difficult so that he will grow to be a good dog.

God the Father is the perfect parent. He will train, discipline and punish in order to teach you to be Godly.

No matter what happens, God is faithful in ALL His ways… in His righteousness and in His graciousness (Psalm 145:17).

In other words, God established the Jews as His covenant people and promised them a time in the future when the Law would be written on their hearts, BUT that time is not yet…

God will cover the subject in chapters 9 through 11, BUT here’s a taste… Romans 11:11,12,25-27, 11bThe Jews didn’t trip and fall once and for all time, did they? Not at all! Because Israel sinned, those who aren’t Jews can be saved. That will make Israel jealous of them. 12Israel’s sin brought riches to the world. Their loss brought riches to the non-Jews. What greater riches will come when all Israel turns to God! 25bPart of Israel has refused to obey God. That will continue until the full number of non-Jews has entered God’s kingdom. 26And so all Israel will be saved. It is written, “The One who saves will come from Mount Zion. He will remove sin from Jacob. 27Here is my covenant with them. I will take away their sins.” (Isaiah 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33, 34).

When we recognize God’s faithfulness and understand that He is not finished with Israel, then these verses make total sense.

Now, here’s why it is so important for Paul and for us today… IF God had abandoned the Jews because they weren’t perfect… none of us has any better claim. There is no assurance whatsoever that God won’t abandon us.

BUT Romans 8:38&39 says, “I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God’s love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can do that. Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.”

That promise – that Truth – cannot be counted on, IF God abandons His people, because of their lack of faithfulness. I don’t have a hope in Christ IF I can’t count on His love, patience, forgiveness and grace.

My lack of faithfulness will never result in God being unfaithful. May it never be!

As a side-note… I’m not talking Calvinism or Arminianism… I’m talking Biblical Truth. God disciplines those He loves and as Christians we see that in our individual lives (Hebrews 12:6).

Israel is a little different, as it is a nation standing collectively that God disciplines… BUT He does it for a purpose. His purpose is always for restorative. That isn’t to say, that every individual will accept the restoration offered.

ROMANS 3:5-8 ~ 5But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? 8And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.

The imaginary opponent then says, “Well, if our unfaithfulness demonstrates God’s faithfulness in spite of our performance… our unfaithfulness brings Him glory.” “Why then would He punish us?”

The parenthetical comment, “I am speaking in human terms,” is a Jewish Rabbinical way of saying this is such a ridiculously blasphemous thought, I want to make sure everyone, including God, knows I realize that.

Then Paul tops it off with another μὴ γένοιτο. Never should anyone even entertain such a thought.

He starts with a logical reason why it is foolish. Every Jew knew with certainty that God would judge mankind at the end and actually looked forward to when all the wicked people would be correctly found guilty and punished… much like many Christians do today.

If God doesn’t rightly punish the Jew for his sin… how could He judge anyone for their sin? It would make Him an unjust or unrighteous Judge.

Verses 7&8 basically restate the argument in different terms to show how that line of thinking is ultimately arguing that God can’t judge me because my evil deeds reveal His grace.

Wrong! My evil deeds do indeed show God’s unbelievable forbearance and goodness, BUT, at the same time, they deserve full punishment. When they are rightly judged, they also show God’s justice… His just-ness.

Sin is a much more serious thing than we grasp… Sin is such a big deal, it cost Jesus His life.

So, what have we seen in these first 8 verses of chapter 3? I can’t put it any better than Thomas Schreiner, said it… Paul “Has defended the thesis that Israel is still guilty for its sin, while affirming that the promises of their salvation will still be fulfilled.”

ROMANS 3:9-18 ~ 9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13“Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17And the path of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

I don’t know why I chose this picture – I guess sometimes you just need to see a sunglasses wearing Matrix Cat...

In verse 9, he sums up the point of the first 8 verses… that while Israel’s unfaithfulness demonstrated God’s faithfulness it would also demonstrate His righteousness.

The implication then, is that all are sinners in need of grace. He then launches into a 9-verse long catena – a long string of Scriptural references to prove that point…

Many people see this and think they can do the same… They have an idea of what they Think the Bible should say about a particular topic and they string together a bunch of verses to prove that they are right.

It is the reverse of proper Biblical study… Paul didn’t arrive at a theological opinion and then try to back up his ideas by using, out-of-context verses.

The Scriptures taught Paul – the Holy Spirit inspired Paul – Jesus personally confirmed Paul’s understanding… then Paul, in concert with God, formulated the argument here. That’s a very big difference.

So, all people are rightly deserving of God’s wrath because none are righteous…

Obviously… obviously, my friends, that Savior cannot possibly be a human being. No human can be good enough for their own salvation, let alone the salvation of others!

Once again, in a different way, we see that only God can save us.

Here’s the crux of the problem… Throughout the catena and especially in verse 18 we see behavior based upon an attitude that refuses to fear God.

I have talked to so many people over the years who truly hate the notion that anyone should ever fear God… And perhaps that’s why our country is in its present state.

We want to think of God as a big, dumb, teddy bear who is too wimpy to ever punish anyone. We define fear in more palatable terms like regard, esteem or respect – anything BUT fear.

Well the quotation in verse 18, is from Psalm 36, in which David shares a prophetic oracle from God. Essentially, God bluntly states that the reason people do evil… the reason they sin… is because they are rebellious to their core.

Why is that? You might ask, God’s glad you did, Because He answers, it is because such a person “Does NOT fear God.”

Literally, there is no dread of God’s justice – there is no concern for God’s feelings, no worry about God’s opinion, no dismay about God’s judgment, no terror concerning God’s condemnation.

It goes on in verse 2, to say that they are too proud – too full of themselves – too unconcerned about God and His eternal judgment to change. A dismissal of God and/or His judgment is human arrogance.

The Bible repeatedly tells us that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33, Job 28:28, etc.).

We’ll talk a little bit more about some of the nuances in this passage next time, Lord willing, BUT for today… Let’s actually pray for a healthy dose of personal FEAR of the Lord… It is humbling and it will lead us into wisdom in our attitudes and behaviors.
FEAR… Fear God - can’t be saved and sin thinking it doesn’t matter because you are a child of God – a child of God obeys…

Why Catholic came up with purgatory!

Fear is not the answer – Purgatory doesn’t produce righteousness. FEAR is not something held in a tension with grace on the other side… FEAR is the beginning… leading to grace… but real grace received changes us… we WANT to do right!

101616 - Romans 2b - Practice What You Preach
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October 18, 2016 01:08 PM PDT
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Romans 2:12 through 3:2, Pastor Scott Keller

ROMANS 2:12 ~ For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law…

This verse is an expanded explanation of verse 11… the often repeated Biblical principle that God judges justly… “There is no partiality – no unfairness – in God’s judgment.”

God is impartial… that means that “All who have sinned,” will be condemned… whether they are Gentiles (without the Law) or Jews (with the Law).

There’s no denying a basic fact that Paul tries to expound… Every human being is guilty of sin and desperately needs a Savior.

The Gentile pagan simply does not know God or His will and can only do what is natural… what is ultimately self-serving at the expense of God and others.

God rightly judges them because they brutishly refuse to seek God. They won’t be judged by the Law – because they don’t have the Law, BUT they will be judged in accordance with their life choices because those deeds demonstrate their heart.

The Jew, on the other hand, does know God…

The Old Testament shows how and WHY God revealed Himself specially to a 1) particular person and how his 2) household grew into a large extended family. This special family was then 3) isolated in hardship to keep them distinct from others.

4) Once they were of a size to properly be called a nation, they were given their 5) freedom and their marching orders, they were given 6) a far deeper and much more specific revelation of God, called the Law, and they were given the 7) geographic area to establish a true theocracy.

The Law proved impossible to keep from the outset, so animal sacrifice – the spilling of blood – was necessary to atone for their deviation, called sin.

Throughout the Old Testament God told the Jews through His prophets that one day He Himself would provide a Messiah to usher in a new day in which their A) sins would be atoned for once and for all, they would be B) given a new heart and mind to obey and they would C) individually be filled with God’s own Holy Spirit.

God reminded the Jews, time, and time again, that He was their Savior and that the Law was about principles over rules, and about the underlying motivation over the specific performance.

In other words, it is like God said Micah 6:7&8 NIrV, “7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? Will he take delight in 10,000 rivers of olive oil? Should we offer our oldest sons for the wrong things we’ve done? Should we sacrifice our own children to pay for our sins?” 8The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must treat people fairly. You must love others faithfully. And you must be very careful to live the way your God wants you to.” Put another way, “What does the Lord require?” That we, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

It was never rocket science… It is the same message found in the 10 Commandments… the first 4 are about honoring God and the rest are about loving others.

The same message was distilled down by Jesus as He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ This is the first and most important commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, etc.).

For the Jews, who had the Law… it was the Law itself that testified against them.

The net result is that no one is justified and all will rightly, justly, fittingly… perish.

Why? Because… “There is no partiality with God.”

This is a very negative section stretching back to the middle of chapter 1 and extending forward well into chapter 3… Because Paul is building an iron-clad case against any and all humans who think they can somehow manipulate God, or earn their salvation or in any way be good enough, in and of themselves.

So we continue…

ROMANS 2:13-29 ~ 13for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. 17But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written. 25For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

This is a detailed explanation of the basic premise of verse 12… The main point of this entire section is to rationally show that mere possession of the Law does not make one a law abiding citizen.

Few people know American law better than legal professionals. Law enforcement, lawyers, judges, perhaps the pinnacle is law professors… BUT simply knowing the law does not preclude such people from breaking the law.

In fact, sometimes it is the reverse. I’ve seen many people involved in the justice system who think they are above the law. If the system is actually just, that cannot be the case.

Many Jews back then, and even today, reckon that they are righteous before God just because they have been given the Law.

God’s point through Paul was 3 pronged. 1) Possessing the Law did not automatically make them law abiding. 2) Possessing the Law did not reduce the demands of the Law – effectively making then above the Law… it was just the opposite. It was actually far worse… 3) Possessing the Law eliminated all excuses for NOT obeying it… as a person who had the law there was no excuse whatsoever for violating it.

Stated succinctly in Romans 2:13 NIrV, “Hearing the law does not make a person right with God. People are considered to be right with God only when they obey the law.”

Verses 14-16, are not saying that non-Jews who are basically good people are going to Heaven. The argument here, is not about how people can be saved – it’s about how the Jews, with their full access to God’s revelation, are going to be judged even more harshly, than the pagan Gentiles they despise so much.

When non-Jewish, people do right… as in they don’t commit murder or steal or cheat, etc., even though they do not know God or His Will, they are closer to God and His Will than the Jew who has the status, the upbringing and the rest of the resources, who fails to do right.

We see that principle in Jesus’ teaching that we talked about last week… Luke 12:48, “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much.” (Luke 12:48).

Who had been given more than the Jew, back then? Who has been given more than we, in this room today, have been given?

What do you suppose God required of them and what do you suppose He would require of us?

We have, in our justice system, a principle that it does not matter whether you are aware of a law you violate… Ignorance is no excuse – they say. Break a law, even a law you had no idea was a law and you are still a lawbreaker.

The Bible and especially in these opening chapters of Romans makes that principle valid for God’s Law as well…

However, there is also present here a recognition that the better you know the law you violate the more responsible you are before the judge.

Again, though, I must reiterate, that a person’s instinct or conscience is not a reliable guide in and of itself… Even though anyone’s conscience can help them see the error of their ways – it is God who determines right and wrong objectively, not the individual determining it for themselves subjectively.

Some folks misunderstand verses 14-16, thinking they mean that all you need to do is follow your heart… No. You need to follow Christ.

So there are people who do right and even though that won’t be enough to save them, their right behavior will be a further indictment against God’s people who did wrong.

In verses 17 through 20, he talks about the Jew who has been INSTRUCTED and so is CONFIDENT and can therefore act as a GUIDE and as a LIGHT and as a CORRECTOR and as a TEACHER and as a PREACHER…

Yet, this person is not diligent in their own walk with the Lord.

It becomes worse than meaningless. It makes the person a fraud and as they are a self-appointed representative of God, it gives God-haters ammunition to call God a fraud.

“The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

We see this often in the Old Testament. The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, on and on, over and over, the name of the one true God was disparaged by pagan God-haters because of the unfaithfulness of His chosen people.

Again, I think we can all readily see how the same happens today with self-proclaimed Christians saying and doing the things that misrepresent God.

Just as the Apostle Peter foretold in his second epistle. He said there were false prophets in Israel and in the same way there would be false teachers among Christians. He said many would follow them in their error and in their immorality. The net result? II Peter 2:2 NASB, “Because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned.”

Christianity itself will be maligned, slandered, blasphemed, given a bad name and reputation.

When Christians fail to be Christians, Christianity is disgraced. What does that say about the founder… Jesus Christ?

Paul frequently uses the metonymical word “Circumcision” to mean a Jew. Like we might call a businessman a “Suit,” or refer to the Executive Branch of our government as the “Whitehouse.” You could argue that it is also a synecdoche – being a portion of the whole.

Because Paul doesn’t do it to be clever, or for literary variety… The concept goes beyond a simple figure of speech. Just here, in Romans, Paul uses the term, “Circumcision” 15 times and, “Uncircumcision” 11 times.

Physical circumcision for the Jewish people set them apart from the non-Jewish world and they took pride in that distinction.

In the Jewish Midrash of Genesis 48 it is stated that, “In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance to Gehenna (Hell), and permit no circumcised Israelite to descend therein.”

To the Jew, circumcision was standing – it was status – it was salvation. How many people today think that because they were baptized they will go to Heaven?

Here, God reminds the Jews that physical circumcision, like physical Baptism, was only ever an external sign of an internal truth.

We don’t baptize people in order to get them saved… we baptize saved people as sort of a stamp of recognition and acceptance of that spiritual reality. We are publicly recognizing what God has already recognized.

Like circumcision for many Jews, Baptism for many Christians is seen as salvific… Ask many Jews if they are right with God and they may say, “I’m circumcised.” Ask many Christians the same question and many would answer similarly, “I’m baptized.”

Neither circumcision nor baptism mean anything at all, if they are only external.

A true Jew was one who deeply desired his external circumcision to match an internal circumcision.

A true Christian, likewise, is one who deeply desires her external baptism to match an internal baptism. Verses 28&29, say that, “A man is not a Jew if he is a Jew only on the outside.” Rather, “A man is a Jew only if he is a Jew on the inside. True circumcision means that the heart has been circumcised. It is done by the Holy Spirit. It is more than just obeying the written Law. Then a man’s praise will not come from others. It will come from God.”

It means that the Jew cannot be saved simply because he is Jewish by genealogy – Jewish by physical circumcision – Jewish by upbringing – Jewish by culture – Jewish by geography – Jewish by marriage – Jewish by religious affiliation…

A Jew is saved by recognizing that God is their savior and humbly seeking Him in sincerity of heart… such a Jew… Like Abraham, like King David, will immediately recognize and fully accept the promised Messiah – the Lord Jesus Christ when they meet Him.

We could rewrite those two verses for our purposes today… “A person is not a Christian if he or she is a Christian only on the outside.” Rather, “A person is a Christian only if, he or she is a Christian on the inside. True baptism means that the heart has been baptized. It is done by the Holy Spirit. It is more than just obeying the rules and traditions. Then a person’s praise will not come from others. It will come from God.”

Again, we’re kind of doing 2 things here. We’re looking at the 1) thrust of the argument and we’re 2) applying principles to our own situation.

On the 1st part, the Bible is showing that the Jews were just as guilty as the Gentiles… All people are equally condemned by their lack of genuine surrender to God.

All people are desperate for a Savior… The next logical question is why did God have a people called the Jews, IF there was no beneficial difference?

ROMANS 3:1-2 ~ 1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

God chose the Jews to be His object lesson for all mankind. As such they were entrusted with His revelation.

That turns out to be a double-edged sword… On one edge there is the unbelievable blessing to be God’s kids… On the other edge there is the far greater responsibility to BE God’s kids.

We saw it before – to him who much is given… much is required (Luke 12:48).

When the Jews were about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses had one final opportunity to instruct His people.

The Book of Deuteronomy is essentially Moses reminding the Jews of their incredible and repeated blessings through God’s faithfulness to them. As well as reminding them of their responsibilities under God’s gracious Covenant.

Moses and the Elders established the “Blessings of Mount Gerizim and the Curses of Mount Ebal.” He instructed them to carry out a full ceremony at the actual mountains once the Promised Land was possessed.

Which they did, as recorded in Joshua chapter 8.

What’s interesting is that Moses prophesied that the people would fail to be faithful to God and that the curses would be activated because…

Even though they knew God and had seen amazing miracles, Deuteronomy 29:4 NIrV says, “But to this very day the Lord hasn’t given you a mind (or heart) that understands. He hasn’t given you eyes that see. He hasn’t given you ears that hear.”

It is often repeated in the Bible… Isaiah and Ezekiel talked about it… Jesus quoted them in Matthew 13:14&15 NIrV, “You will hear but never understand. You will see but never know what you are seeing. The hearts of these people have become stubborn.”

A few verses later, in Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses prophetically reveals hope. “The Lord your God will keep your hearts from being stubborn. He’ll do the same thing for your children and their children. Then you will love him with all your heart and with all your soul. And you will live.”

The Hebrew there literally says that “God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Make no mistake about it – God selected the Jews for His divine purpose and while that purpose was terribly difficult for them, it graphically, physically, repeatedly demonstrated 2 undeniable facts.

1) God is faithful in both His righteousness and His mercy. 2) Mankind, in and of themselves, cannot be faithful in righteousness or mercy.

The Jews are the people God chose to prove that beyond questioning to the material and immaterial realms.

As the special people chosen by God for this purpose they are special. They are the recipients of God’s revelation… Not just through Abraham, not just through Moses, BUT also through Jesus Messiah.

Never forget that the first Christians were humble Jews. Why? Because God is ever faithful. He promised a Messiah who would be able to lead the faithful Jews back to God, cleanse them of their sin once and for all and give them a true circumcision of the heart that would enable them to love Him forever.

God delivered on His promise and because of His awesome plan, you and I have a chance to be Christians.

My friends, we are recipients of that New Covenant of cleansing and empowerment – we have no excuse whatsoever for ignoring our great God and Savior.

100916 - Romans 2a - Better Than Them
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October 10, 2016 09:38 PM PDT
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Romans 2:1-11, Pastor Scott Keller

ROMANS 2:1 ~ Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

Last week, I said that the end of chapter 1, was addressed to the Gentile world and that chapter 2, and on into chapter 3, was addressed to the Jewish world.

There are some different ideas about that, but all the evidence taken together clearly shows that to be the case… We could go through all of it, but I think our time is better spent moving forward.

Also, as I said last week, even though this is true, it doesn’t preclude us from making careful extrapolation to our present day circumstances.

Especially, considering that the address to the ungodly Gentiles as well as to the “Godly” Jews was more for the benefit of Christians, than either the unsaved Gentiles or the religious Jews.

To understand the flow of the argument we have to recognize 3 things in verse 1…
1), we start with a “Therefore,” which means this section ties directly back to what we were talking about at the end of chapter 1.

Many people have a hard time seeing that connection and I hope to be able to show you how we can make sense of it in a moment.
For now, recognize that this section flows as a result of the previous section.

2), in 1:20 the Gentile world was, “Without Excuse,” for not acknowledging God and here in 2:1, those who pass judgment on the ungodly sinners, likewise “Have no excuse.”

Both places, it is the same word, ἀναπολόγητος (ä-nä-pŏ-lŏ-gā-tŏs). Not only is it the same word in both verses – those are the only 2 times the word is used in the entire Bible.

We discussed it in detail when we covered it in chapter 1, so we won’t say much now, except to remind you that it is a word that means a person who is completely speechless when asked to defend their attitudes and actions.

They have no defense at all – they are utterly without any excuse whatsoever.

3), The NASB translates verse 1, in a way that we completely miss an important point.

It is, “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who.” In Greek, it is literally, “Therefore… without excuse, you are (I know, sounds like I’m Yoda), therefore… without excuse, you are, O MAN, each and every one who…”

It’s the “O man,” bit that is ignored here for better English. Paul uses the phrase 3 times in Romans and the NASB translates it in the other 2 – one of which is coming in verse 3 today.

What’s the big deal? This “O man,” construction that’s missing from verse 1, tells us that Paul is speaking to an imaginary adversary.

It’s an ancient rhetorical style called the diatribe argument. Paul converses back and forth with a mock opponent to make his point.

The made-up antagonist in this case is a religious Jew who counts on his status as a circumcised member of God’s chosen race to make him holy.

He looks down on non-Jews with disdain and condemnatory judgment… Their way of thinking and their entire lifestyle, is despicable to him and he isn’t afraid to say so… shaking his head, waving his finger, wagging his tongue at all the scumbags in the world.

In the very act of passing judgment on the sinful Gentiles, such a person, not only judges, convicts and condemns them, he simultaneously elevates himself as better than them.

Not only that, BUT he “Practices the same things.” To “Practice the same things,” as in the preceding verse in chapter 1, means to do what is common for you to do… that is similar to what others do.

In the last bit of chapter 1, we find that the final step in the total depravity of man, is when society not only is no longer shocked by sin, BUT actually applauds it as good. “They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

It isn’t to say everyone in the society does the exact same things… they do similar things, BUT give hearty approval to those who take it to the next level.

As an aside… Why do people do that?

At some level they know their own lifestyle is wrong so if they can point to others doing worse things they feel better about themselves. I didn’t do as well on the test as some did, and it wasn’t as good as I was capable of doing, but it was better than some others scored, so I’m okay.

Similarly, while were on it, people relish in bringing down “Good people,” leaders and heroes, because it, again, makes them feel better about their own lives.

Anyway, that same idea is present here in verse 1. The religious, observant Jew, eschews or avoids most of the shocking behavior of the heathen… but their heart is really the same, and it results in, “Doing that which should not be done…” (Romans 1:28).

The imaginary Jew doesn’t do the exact same things the Gentiles do, but he does things that are nevertheless, in the same way, self-serving… He sins.

Sure, his sins are much less obvious, seemingly much less serious, certainly much less shocking. BUT sins, nonetheless.

When we add to that, the fact that the Jew has been given the Law and the Scriptures and an upbringing in the Truth… His small sins are relatively much larger.

As Jesus said in Luke 12:47&48 NIrV, “Suppose a servant knows his master’s wishes. But he doesn’t get ready. And he doesn’t do what his master wants. That servant will be beaten with many blows. But suppose the servant does not know his master’s wishes. And suppose he does things for which he should be punished. He will be beaten with only a few blows. “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. Even more will be asked of the person who is supposed to take care of much.”

Even so, the Jew pompously, arrogantly, unmercifully, judges and condemns the vile acts of non-Jews.

He who has the Law and the Scriptures and the upbringing in the Truth, still does evil and yet he spends his time, NOT correcting himself, BUT condemning people who do what they do, without the benefit of the Law, the Scriptures or the upbringing in the Truth.

Now, don’t we do that? Don’t we who are so unbelievably fortunate – so blessed to be Christians that have the whole Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit… don’t we rail against sinners who have none of that?

We judge and condemn non-Christians for their vile lives and yet we who know better do the same kinds of things.

I am disgusted by the sins of others – I can’t understand their thinking, I can’t believe their evil, violent, filthy, depraved lifestyles… they repulse me.

I am so much better than they are – why can’t they be more like me?

Perhaps, if they were Christians who had the whole Bible at their disposal and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, perhaps they would look at me and ask the same question.

The point of the “Therefore,” at the beginning of the verse is to say yes, people serve themselves instead of God and it is despicable… BUT you, “O MAN,” you religious person, you, are in the exact same boat… BECAUSE no one is perfect, no one is without sin, no one measures up to God’s standard.

Go ahead and judge and condemn because as you do you only judge and condemn yourself.

Paul will finish this line of thought in Romans 3:23 NIrV, where he says, “Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.”

It is through God’s unbelievable mercy, grace and forgiveness that we can stand righteous.
To act like that makes us superior to others, is to forget that reality, as we will see, shortly.

ROMANS 2:2 ~ And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.

Verse 2, is very important, because it makes sure we don’t miss the point that even though we all sin – sin is still sin, and it’s serious.

Sin, all sin, deserves condemnation… which is to say… judgment, conviction and punishment. The argument in verse 1, cannot be used to say since religious people do the same kind of things as totally depraved sinners that sin doesn’t matter!

Quite the reverse! All sin matters and all sinners deserve condemning judgment… just not from other sinners!

I was going to tell an actual story – but suffice it to say that many people in church and out of church contend that it is okay that they sin – because everybody does it!

It is essentially, like the saying, “Don’t condemn me simply because my sin is different than your sin.”

Everyone who practices sin… which is to say behaves in a sinful fashion deserves God’s wrath. Sin MUST never be called good by people who claim to love God.

ROMANS 2:3-11 ~ 3But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11For there is no partiality with God.

In general, verse 3, comes back confirming and reiterating the utter folly and real danger of judging others.

While, verse 4, points out an obvious fact… the Children of God, are His, because of “His kindness and tolerance and patience,” NOT because of their superiority.

God’s choice of the Jewish people was based upon His goodness, NOT their goodness. God’s mercy, love and forgiveness was to lead the Jews to Him in humble gratitude and heartfelt adoration.

It was always intended that they, the Children of God, would take that amazing Grace from God, and share it with the world.

That they would be so overwhelmed by God’s glorious friendship that they would want everyone else to share in it as well.

Instead, the Jews took God’s love as a status they somehow deserved. A status that made them better than everyone else… They became pompous and disdainful towards outsiders…

Then they turned their condemnatory judgment upon fellow Jews who were not as serious as they were… Fellow Jews who had messier sins.

The net effect… the Jews, by and large, made it a religion of tradition, ritual, rules and regulations, through the observance of which, they derived their righteousness…

Completely forgetting that God is the only one who can ever grant righteous standing and it can only be because He chooses to accept what is woefully imperfect.

The Jewish nation took their gift from God and turned it into something they earned, something they deserved, and they looked down on those without it, with disgust.

Am I describing the Jews of Paul’s day or am I describing the Christians of our day?

Think about that. Jesus railed against the deeply religious Jewish leaders more than everyone and everything else combined.

He could have spent His time condemning homosexual activity that was rampant in the Roman Empire. He could have railed against the partyers getting drunk, eating too much junk food and indulging in every kind of excess. He could have slammed prostitution, slavery, abortion, war, environmental abuse, political fraud, pornography, bawdy music… Folks, it was all there – it was all happening in Jesus’ day…

He spent His time, railing against the leaders and teachers and self-righteous members of God’s own people.

The uptight, holier-than-thou, goody two-shoes, judgmental, sanctimonious religious people who were always focused on how wonderful they were compared to the rest of humanity who were not fortunate enough to have the benefit of the Law, the Scriptures or the upbringing in the Truth.

Is American Christianity any different than the religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day?

Well, Paul is still talking to his imaginary Jewish adversary so we’ll get back to that, BUT please remember, this letter was written to Christians.

The end of verse 4, mentions that God’s grace is to lead people to repentance. The Jew then, as well as the Christian today, must be repentant.

Remember, to repent is the verb, μετανοέω (mĕ-tä-nŏ-ĕ-ō), here the noun form μετάνοια (mĕ-tä-noi-ä). It is literally to think in a new way – to change your mind – to have a different perspective on things.

We become aware of Christ and we change our mind about living for ourselves and accept Him as Lord and Savior. We continually recognize attitudes and behaviors in ourselves that are sinful and we repent… we change our mind from I think this is acceptable to I recognize that it is not.

Repentance flows from the Holy Spirit renewing our mind and it is the prerequisite for forgiveness.

When Jesus taught us to pray the one element He expanded on was forgiveness.

Forgiveness for ourselves, is directly tied to our forgiveness of others. In Matthew 6:15 NIrV, Jesus goes so far as to say, “If you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Repentance is key… because when I repent, I recognize that I am not perfect and that I desperately need God to be merciful and gracious to me… I need Him to forgive me… AND He has! Through Christ Jesus I am forgiven! Praise God! Thank you Lord!

What should my reaction be towards others who are imperfect? “Wow, we were in the exact same boat and God rescued me… won’t you let Him rescue you, my friend?”

The Jews were supposed to be led to repentance through the goodness of God towards them.

For all those who refused to see it that way. For all those who continued in their pomposity there is only judgment and wrath.

Verse 6, quotes several other Bible verses dealing with the fact that God’s justice is perfect justice… Friends, there are not only no mistakes in perfect justice, there is also no leniency.

Perfect justice is purely factual. The passing score on a test is 85% and you scored 84.999% and you’re a really wonderful person and you want to pass so badly and you tried your very best and you have a bucketful of extenuating excuses… Justice simply says you failed, period.

You don’t want justice for yourself – you want mercy… trust me, if you don’t get that, you are suffering from a delusion of grandeur.

If I recognize I need mercy instead of justice, why do I insist on justice for others?

As I mentioned, verse 6, is an often repeated Biblical principle. Some say it means that salvation must be works-based.

Again, it misunderstands the contextual point being made. As an example, I just said we shouldn’t insist of justice for others. In the context of my statement, that’s true, BUT in the context of fairness to all in this life, we should fight for the rights of all people to get justice.

It’s two different points entirely.

Verse 6, tells us that God will judge everyone according to what they do. The application is for those who have not repented. If a person has not repented there is nothing to judge except what they did… the works or their hands.

Verse 7, adjusts it to those who embrace God… it describes a person who genuinely seeks and perseveres in their seeking to be right with God on into eternity by earnestly desiring to please Him by doing what is right.

In the next chapter and beyond, we’ll find this concept explained in much greater detail as in Romans 3:28 NIrV, “We firmly believe that people are made right with God because of their faith. They are not saved by obeying the law.” As an example.

People are only ever saved by grace through faith (Romans 5:2), but salvation comes with an altered mindset and the indwelling Holy Spirit to continue the process.

A renewed mind leads to a different life course – a different direction of focus – it must result in different attitudes and behaviors or it simply is not real.

The person who has repented and been regenerated is on a course towards “Perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.”

In the verse 8 we have a reiteration and expansion of what we’ve just discussed, while verses 9 and 10, go over the whole argument again in the context of “Jew first and then Greek.”

Capping off the section is verse 11, “For there is no partiality with God.” It refers back to Deuteronomy 10:17, which essentially says, “The Lord your God” is “The great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality.”

So what have we learned? First, God has already built His case against all non-Jews and now He’s building His case against the Jews.

God is driving to the point that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That “There is none who are righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).

To be right with God one must gratefully and humbly accept that they are righteous because God chose to make them righteous in His sight – not because they actually are righteous.

As such a person it should be true that you sin far less than non-Christians both quantitatively and qualitatively… or at least you better hope that’s true… what should also be true is that you are sinning less all the time… BUT you still sin even though you have been given so much… You are a Christian, you have full access to the whole Bible and you have the indwelling Holy Spirit… and after years on this course you still can’t get it right!

When we recognize the advantage we’ve been given as Christians – our small sins are really much bigger than a non-Christians big sins… Fall on your knees. Humbly thank God for “The riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience that leads you to repentance.”

Lift up your voice in praise that He chooses to overlook your sins because you choose to accept Jesus Christ.

I have never talked about judging others in a sermon or other setting where someone didn’t come up to me afterward with a, “Hang on now, preacher.”

In different contexts judging is required. We are often required to judge the fruit – not the person, but the fruit.

In some instances, we need to judge the person as is necessary in the course of your position as a parent, pastor, boss, cop, teacher, etc. A leader must judge performance and render judgment, conviction and punishment with humble justice, when required.

We’re talking about a superior attitude as you judge others thinking you are better than they are… the best example I can think of is the example Jesus used… Luke 18:11 NIrV, “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people.”

100216 - Romans 1f - People are Born Insane
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October 03, 2016 08:58 AM PDT
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Romans 1:28-32, Pastor Scott Keller

Romans 1:16-27 (NLT) 16For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
17This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
19They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.
20For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
24So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

In verse 16, Paul brings up the primary point of the entire letter. It is human salvation from sin and death into relationship and life.

The Gospel Message provides the necessary information to choose God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice which grants one righteous standing and eternal reconciliation with God.

That can be nothing other than actual relationship between God and a human being – further solidified by the Believer being indwelt by God’s own Holy Spirit.

Please think about that… The granting of salvation is for the purpose of an eternal relationship in the future, BUT also an ever-increasing relationship now. Why else would God specially impart His Breath to those who accept Christ?

God promised to live with His people. Jesus was “God with us.” He was the very Word of the Living God who took on “Flesh and dwelt among us.” (Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:23, John 1:14).

Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:21 concerning Christians saying “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

So what did the Father and Son do? The sent the Holy Spirit to live inside Believers – to transform us into people who dwell with God as He dwells in us… I John 4:13 “God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.”

God has bridged the gap – He has provided atonement – He has made his home inside of those who accept – He has done it all in order to have a present and everlasting relationship with us!

That is to God’s eternal Glory and it reveals His perfect righteousness… A righteousness He grants to those who live by faith in Him.

Righteousness, by its very existence as a concept, requires what in NOT righteousness… what is unrighteousness. There cannot exist righteousness without the possibility of what is unrighteous.

For righteousness to be righteousness it has to be distinct FROM and completely opposed to unrighteousness.

The Gospel presenting the revelation of God’s righteousness must necessarily, simultaneously reveal God’s judgment and punishment, so His wrath against unrighteousness.

Unrighteousness begins, as it always has and always will, with a rejection of God’s program, in favor of an acceptance of one’s own program… effectively making such a person their own god.

The original sin occurred when Eve realized the Devil was saying a simple act of disobedience to God’s authority would result in her independence from that authority… She would “Be like God, knowing both good and evil” for herself.

She would not have to rely on God or Adam or anyone else – she, herself, would be wise. (Genesis 3:5&6).

The Bible makes it clear that Adam chose Eve over God. She wanted him to be in the same boat with her and he obliged (Romans 5:12, I Corinthians 15:21).

They both chose to rebel against God’s will… His wise, loving and perfect plan for their lives… They had what they thought was a better plan, because it was their own plan.

Have you ever done something that was dumb just to avoid admitting that your parents were right?

So unrighteousness – the rejecting of God’s rule for self-rule, must be declared evil and must result in judgment and wrath.

The vast majority of human beings on our planet would say they don’t do that… Yet… Jesus said, “The gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:14).

This is a stickier wicket than it first appears. It is a concept with profound eternal consequences and so the importance of fully grasping it cannot be overstated.

What is remarkable is the excellent job Satan and the demonic host has done to obscure the reality to the point that almost everyone thinks it’s all okay.

One of the truest sayings in the world is the atheistic play on Genesis 1:27. Instead of, “God made man in His own image,” we have, “Man, made god, in his own image.”

Here’s where it gets so very dangerous… even we, who believe in God, manufacture an imaginary caricature of who we think He is, which, Sigmund Freud would say, is the same as, who we want Him to be.

We need to just admit this in order to mitigate its effects.

We emphasize or deemphasize certain characteristics of God. We project our experiences with our earthly fathers upon Him. We create the God we imagine He is instead of simply accepting Him as He is. We want to put God in a box or our own making.

This might make you feel uncomfortable, but it is so important my friends… so important to recognize that as the Bible says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Admitting the problem is the first step in correcting it.

How can we know, love and serve the true God, instead of a false god of our imagination?

We start with the Holy Spirit. You probably didn’t think I would say that, but it is the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, that makes God known to us… now.

He does that through general revelation as we’ve seen. He does it by illuminating the Gospel He inspired men to record in the Bible. He does it by giving us the initial faith to believe and He does it by indwelling the Believer.

The revelatory ministry of the Holy Spirit to you or me as individuals must be tempered by the non-contradictory nature of God. In other words, what I personally understand about God from the Holy Spirit must conform to what the Holy Spirit has already said about God universally in the Bible.

The Bible is the authoritative revelation that cannot change.

If I dismiss the authority of the Scripture, I dismiss my ability to consistently and corporately discern who God is and what God wants.

My God becomes who I think He is and He wants what I think He wants. My ideas about that will be unique… There will be as many gods, wanting as many things, as there are people thinking about it.

That’s why we have Christians who think abortion is no big deal and who think churches should embrace people who revel in sin as an expression of love and think Jesus is only one of a multitude of ways to reach the “Good Place.”

We make God into something far different than the Bible depicts, which is a rejection of who He really is and therefore a rebellion against Him.

There is, as I said, a profound eternal consequence to that UNRIGHTEOUS choice…

The entire reason we do what we do at Alêtheia and the reason the church is called Alêtheia is to know as much as possible about the one true God… NOT to be smarter than everyone else, BUT to have a relationship with the real God and not some man-made thing.

ROMANS 1:28 ~ And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper

“They did not see fit to acknowledge God,” is essentially the refusal to δοκιμάζω (dŏ-kī-mä-dzō).

We’ve talked about that word a few times. It is to test something to validate its quality. You’re PROVING that someone, or something, is what it is claimed to be… At the end of the test, you can give your personal stamp of approval. Yes, this has been tested and approved. It is the ability to rightly discern the value of a thing.

What we have here is the refusal to do that honestly… What it means is we human creatures, running around like ants on this tiny little planet, have tested God and Skewed the results – falsified the score and declared that He failed. We, finite, mortal, grossly limited humans, have measured and weighed God, and decided He didn’t make the grade – we found Him wanting.

In the second part of that verse it says that because of our judgment regarding God, He handed us “Over to a depraved mind.” A depraved mind is significant for a variety of reasons, but I want to discuss 2 of them for some special insight.

The 1st is that depraved is the very same word we just looked at except here it is the negation or opposite of the ability to rightly discern. It is the noun ἀδόκιμος (ä-dŏ-kē-mŏs) instead of δόκιμος (dŏ-kē-mŏs), the noun form of δοκιμάζω.

Before it was a wrong determination… here it becomes the utter inability to determine.

You have succumbed to a false way of assessing things… you can no longer properly grade any test or accurately evaluate any reality… your mind is incapable of sound judgment.

Why? Because a denial of the most fundamental and essential foundational truth can only lead to further mistakes going forward.

SLIDE: 7-1x0+3÷3=

Start with 7, minus 1, which is the wrong way to begin, and it’s impossible to get the correct answer.

I’ve recently been helping a couple of my kids with advanced aerodynamics and I’ll tell you right now if either of them denied Bernoulli’s equation and how it relates to the basic lift equation, we’re done… there’s no sense moving forward because everything from a wrong foundation will likewise be wrong.

Not only wrong but increasingly wrong.

Our belief about God is the first, most important cornerstone of everything we believe and ultimately everything we do.

That’s why a denunciation of God at the outset results in a complete inability to ever get things right after that.

The correct answer to the problem on the slide is 8.

A repudiation of God leads to macroevolution as an answer to our beginnings and that inevitably leads to nihilism as an answer to our end.

In such a view, if we’re intelligent and honest, life – all life – is meaningless and without purpose.

Life is nothing more than a cosmic accident. A chance mutation of atoms into base elements into living cells into ever greater complexity and voila, a human being.

The devaluation of human life is inescapable.

As humans are simply the byproduct of a mindless process and nothing more than a coincidental arrangement of cells, the ethics concerning human life reflects that belief.

Acceptable abortion, the murder and mutilation of an unborn human life for the convenience of others, is the first step…
Acceptable suicide, the murder of a person for their own convenience is the second…
Acceptable terminations, forced sterilizations, forced enslavement, forced euthanasia, as well as horrific experiments, hideous treatment, inhumane torture and ghastly mass murder for someone else’s convenience is the third.

We can call it eugenics or ethnic cleansing or call it what it is… mass genocide… it was preached and practiced in America in the early twentieth century… Adolph Hitler did what others were already doing, but on a much larger and more committed scale.

It still goes on today… why is Bashar of Syria, unwilling to allow civilians in rebel-held areas leave? Why does ISIS target Shia Muslims along with everyone else who do not believe exactly as they do?

Rejection of the one true God, is ultimately death and more death… it is ultimately as Solomon and Friedrich Nietzsche knew… “Meaningless! Meaningless!” “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

The 2nd thing I want to point out regarding the term “Depraved mind,” is that later in Romans we will see that the way into the light and into life is by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our mind.

We allow God’s Breath to breathe life into us illuminating our thinking so that we can begin again with the true cornerstone of Truth… who is Jesus…

From a proper understanding we can build a belief about everything else that is good and correct and leads us into the light where we can see to make sound judgments with a sound mind renewed by God Himself.

Everyone on the planet is born insane and completely unable to think correctly… until they are receptive to the Breath of God… Choosing to yield to His work leads us into sanity.

A failure to do that results in believing the wrong things which in turn results in doing “Those things which are not proper.”

“Proper,” is literally, “To come down.” It has the basic meaning of “To come together,” in the sense that things fit or work. An Arrow fits together with a bow and together they work.

This, of course, is the opposite of that, so it is “Not fitting,” or “Ought to never be done.” The KJV says, “Not convenient,” which is an example of the limited understanding of the meaning of rarely used Greek words 400 years ago in England.

With today’s knowledge base it is crystal clear that Paul is saying that without an ability to correctly judge… humans do things that any reasonably-minded human would easily recognize as wrong, improper, unfitting.

We see it every morning in the paper and every night on the news… people doing things that are shocking.

2 problems with that… 1st we become desensitized over time and the things that should be shocking to us, no longer are, and 2nd as we go down that road, even we who care about God, do things that are perfectly normal to us, that would have shocked our grandparents.

It is a societal slip into ever increasing immorality as our ethical basis becomes merely that which is expedient… that which is convenient… that which is self-satisfying.

30 years ago no one even considered same-sex marriage as a legitimate issue. 15 years ago the majority of Americans still opposed it… Today, the majority of Americans approve it.

The thing God established in the Garden of Eden as one man, one woman, joined together as one flesh, has been corrupted, and the majority of Americans think it’s great.

I am not picking on homosexuals… it’s just one simple example. We would recognize that everything we do in America, is further away from what is proper, if we all had Godly judgment.

I say we… because even though the Christian mind is being renewed and the Christian person has a much better handle on Godly judgment it is still imperfect and so we Christians must recognize our tendency to drift with society.

We must war against that drift. Because where it leads, is to…

ROMANS 1:29-32 ~ 29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

It is bad enough when God-haters do these kinds of things, BUT incredibly grievous when Christians do them…

The first 4 terms simply describe the whole gamut of ungodliness – the whole range of “Things which are not proper.” Things that ought to never be done.

The word “All” applies equally to all 4…

ALL unrighteousness, ἀδικία (ä-dē-kē-ä), without what is right.

ALL wickedness, πονηρία (pŏ-nā-ȑē-ä), a maliciously evil intent – completely disregarding the rights of others to get what you want.

ALL greed, πλεονεξία (plĕ-ŏ-nĕ-xē-ä). Taking more than your fair share which must necessarily come from someone else’s fair share.

ALL Evil, κακία (kä-kē-ä) from κακὸς (kä-kŏs), bad, worthless, evil, undermining, because κακὸς actually describes a coward who runs from battle – NOT only abandoning his friends to their fate, BUT demoralizing them at the same time.

As I said, all four work together to describe a person who has their interests ahead of God’s and ahead of everyone else… It is the precise opposite of Godliness. And it is endemic to our world.

People are mentally corrupted and we are all pulled by that corruption into ungodliness… While it is vital to understand that Truth, I must remind you that the Christian person has been mentally renewed and as we ACTIVELY allow the Holy Spirit access to every facet of our life we continue to be mentally renewed…

What’s the purpose? What does Romans 12:2 say?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind,
so that…
you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The more we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds the more they are restored to correct thinking about all things – the more our judgment is Godly and the more our actions follow suit.

For those who are unrepentant and therefore unregenerate… Let me just say that again, so that there is no confusion.

An unregenerate person is NOT a Christian – you must be regenerated to be a Christian. An unrepentant person – a person who has not repented – cannot be regenerated. A person who has nothing to confess – has nothing to be forgiven – who already thinks they are good – cannot possibly be repentant.

So again, for those who are unrepentant and therefore unregenerate…

The next 5 things on the list function to fully describe that condition. They are “FULL of envy, FULL of murder, FULL of strife, FULL of deceit, FULL of malice.”

It is the fearful envy… what do I mean by that?

It is seeing that others have what you want and fearing that you won’t get it… So you act out of that fearful envy.

Final 12 vices paint a picture of a society in ruins because fearful envy ran wild – because general sinfulness ruled the heart – because judgment was corrupted – because God was denied.

For such unregenerate people is impossible to make sound, correct, Godly judgments… these are the people we elect to lead us… Unsaved people who cannot possible make good choices because they are still completely insane.

Yes, vote. Yes, do your civic duty. Yes, choose the lesser of the evils, BUT please realize that ungodly leaders will never produce a Godly result!

I would encourage what Keith would encourage… Get involved yourself. Join a committee, run for school board, be proactive, because as a true Christian with some Godly wisdom you can make a difference that would honor God and help our country.

The final step in the total depravity of man is when society not only is no longer shocked by sin, BUT actually applauds it as good.

America is evil, my friends, and the only thing that can save her now is a revival in our land – a wholesale turning to God in true repentance and submission.

Can we, here, start the ball rolling?

091116 - 9-11 Remembrance and Romans 1e
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September 13, 2016 07:34 AM PDT
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Short meditation on the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11 along with Romans 1:18-27, Pastor Scott Keller

Our country was viciously attacked 15 years ago, BUT the threat we face as a nation is far greater today.

We are losing the struggle against wanton debauchery… I’m not really talking about run-away drug abuse, rampant sexual deviation, the nearly complete breakdown of the family, the non-stop protests flowing from an entitlement mentality, the hyper-aggressiveness all around us from road rage to violent crime, etc.

I’m talking about the sin that underlies all those symptoms.

We have jettisoned God like He was so much rubbish and made America a place hostile to the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He provides.

We need a revival, friends… Our country is in far greater danger today than it was on September 11, 2001.

We remember the cowardice of those fear-driven terrorists to murder without warning on such a large scale…
We remember the bravery of those duty-driven firemen, police and ordinary citizens.

I was a few blocks from the World Trade Center the morning before the attack and was back there again, 6 days after the attack.

Every business had its windows covered with photographs of those who lost their lives, makeshift memorials were everywhere. Firefighters and police were being hugged, encouraged and prayed for by everyone.

All of the people were dazed and deeply troubled. Smoke still billowed from ground zero. Everyone felt a tremendous loss and no one knew what the future held, but there was also an unmistakable strength of courage, determination and unity.

Fifteen years ago, I saw firsthand what Admiral Yamamoto is credited as saying right after the Pearl Harbor attack, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

It is strange to think that the death of 2,996 people and the injury of more than 6,000 others that morning, would create a deeply unifying patriotism and a fervent outpouring of prayer and petition to the God, that most people had been ignoring the day before.

It is strange to think that 15 years later we are as fractured and divided as we’ve ever been and have repudiated God more than ever before.

The solution and the only solution to America’s problems is the Lord Jesus Christ… nationwide revival is the only thing that will pull us from destruction…

My friends, pray, pray and pray some more… NOT that America will be great again, BUT that America will be Godly again.

Charles de Gaulle said, “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first. Nationalism is when hate for people, other than your own, comes first.”

So he was saying, that patriotism is based on love and affection, while nationalism is based on rivalry and resentment.

Understood that way, patriotism is a Christian virtue because it creates a feeling of responsibility in its citizens to make the country better… to strive to be good to its own citizens and to the citizens of the world… to lead by example.

Conversely, nationalism is a blind and irrational pride in your country no matter what it stands for, or does… it exists because of an insecure fear that proclaims greatness regardless of the evidence. It creates a feeling of superiority that drives us to control the world by force.

Let us be patriots who remember the sacrifice of so many people on 9-11 as well as all of those before and since.

Countless Americans have served at great personal cost so that we could meet here today to freely praise and worship God… we should be forever grateful.

Let us be patriots who rationally assess what our country stands for and what it does. Let’s applaud the good and work hard to correct the bad while honestly seeking to be a blessing to the world rather than a curse upon it.

I Peter 3:13-17 says, 13Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Let us do this as individuals, as a church and as a nation… I can tell you from painful personal experience it is far better to suffer for doing good, knowing that God is on your side, then to suffer for doing bad, knowing you deserve it all.

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Our next section in our study of Romans basically runs from chapter 1, verse 18, through chapter 3, verse 20… We will take it in small bites.

ROMANS 1:18&20 ~ 18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Last week we talked at length about why the sacrifice for sin had to be so costly to God… Sin is a big deal! If sin wasn’t a big deal, it wouldn’t have cost Jesus’ life.

In verse 18, we see the common sense reality that the salvation God provides to us, through Christ, reveals certain Truths…

It reveals God’s love, it reveals God’s justice, it reveals God’s holiness, etc. Well, it also reveals His wrath.

His wrath, because He is perfect, is not the petty, vindictive wrath of humans, BUT is in His case, the legitimate and justifiable result of His righteousness in dealing with all those who disobey…

Remember, last week we discovered that to disobey was literally a refusal to listen.

It is to “Suppress the Truth.” Now, that’s bad enough when we do it to ourselves and of course is even worse when we do it to others.

Many people object to Christianity’s claim… to Jesus’ claim… that the only way to heaven is through belief in Christ.

They say, “What about those who never hear the Gospel?” Verse 19, makes it abundantly clear that every person knows.

This is technically called general or natural revelation. It is the revelation God gives through the natural experience common to all humans… the physical world, and its life-sustaining order along with human consciousness and conscience.

Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”

The point is that people know – deep down, they know that God exists and they either seek to understand Him – get to know Him as best they can or they suppress that internal knowledge and ignore God.

What’s really important is there is nothing in the Bible that would indicate that anyone is ever saved because of general revelation… people are only saved because they are receptive to the Gospel and accept Jesus.

I personally believe that those who would accept Jesus, IF they had ever heard the Gospel, will have a chance to hear and accept. I think God has that worked out and I’m confident in His justice and mercy.

That’s just my personal belief, BUT, and please get this point, BUT, for all who have heard the Gospel… and that is everyone in this room for sure… for all who have heard the Gospel in this life and rejected it, there will be nothing in the next life, except the Lake of Fire.

Now that part is NOT my personal belief, that part is the clear, unmistakable and unalterable teaching of the Bible.

I see only two types of people. I see those who genuinely seek God and those who couldn’t care less about God.

When the first type hears the Gospel they accept… The second type never will. The second type will be judged and condemned.

God says the reason is that they are without excuse because God has made it abundantly clear through the created order, through our human conscience and through His divine provision.

The everyday experiences of life scream that God exists… DEPENDING on how you interpret the evidence.

Can you see that our perspective determines whether or not we see God in a sunset, a mountain vista, a rainbow, or a starlit night?

Our perception governs whether or not we see God in a sonnet, a song, or a painting. In a mother nurturing her baby, a father protecting his family, a person helping a stranger in distress.

It is our mindset that causes us to embrace the Truth or to suppress it… Pray… pray that God continues to renew your mind. Pray that He moves in the lives of others to change their minds as well.

In verse 20, Paul uses a word found nowhere else in the Bible, except once more, a few verses later in this same letter, at Romans 2:1, where he concludes a point by saying… “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

God teaches that none of us are perfect and so we all need mercy… YET, while we are happy to accept His mercy for ourselves… we desire justice for others.

Jesus said in, Matthew 7:1&2, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

People think it’s okay to judge a person as a sexual deviant because they are not sexually deviant themselves. It’s okay to judge a drunk or an addict or a cheat, so long as they don’t have those particular problems…

Wrong! You are judging another person at their point of weakness and so you will be judged by Almighty God at your point of weakness whatever that is…

We’ll talk more when we get to chapter 2…

Anyway, the word that is used only there and here in verse 20 is ἀναπολόγητος (ä-nä-pŏ-lŏ-gā-tŏs), “Without excuse.” It is a single Greek word translated by two English words and even so, it doesn’t really capture the full impact of the idea. The word ἀναπολόγητος is simple enough, it’s just an idea that requires a little knowledge beyond a simple translation even if it uses two words.

The ἄν (än), bit at the beginning, is a negation, it means the opposite or “Without,” what follows.
The next bit is ἀπολογία (ä-pŏ-lŏ-gē-ä) from which we get the word apology. It is in the older, more formal sense of giving a defense. A branch of theology is apologetics which is a defense or explanation for why Christianity is true.

We’re NOT apologizing, we’re defending. It’s not, “I’m sorry,” as we use it today, BUT rather, it is, “I’m going to explain and defend my position or actions.” It is standing before the judge and justifying yourself… it is your legal reply to the charges against you.

What the word means is that people are completely without any defense whatsoever as to why they chose to ignore God. They will stand before Him and be utterly speechless because there is nothing to say… There is absolutely no possible excuse.

From that rejection of God… flows a predictable and inevitable result in individual lives and so throughout the fabric of society leading to an ever increasing culture of sin and death.

The next 12 verses articulate that staircase descent into debauchery.

ROMANS 1:21-23 ~ 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Once again, according to the Bible everyone knows God… at least enough to begin the journey to know Him better.

Instead, most people choose to dishonor Him as God by ignoring Him, then rejecting Him, and then repudiating the very idea of Him.

Richard Dawkins is one of the most vocal opponents of Christianity. He is constantly warring against even the notion that God exists.

When pushed to prove that God didn’t exist, Richard Dawkins said the most profound and telling thing… He said, “I just can’t stand the idea that there is this being watching over my shoulder judging me.”

It isn’t that Dawkins knows that God doesn’t exist… He can’t stomach the idea that He does. So, like so many others, he refuses to even consider the possibility of God, so that he is free to ignore Him and do whatever feels good.

That very refusal obviously means that one does not thank God. We see in the Bible a correlation between being ungrateful and being ungodly (II Timothy 3:2).

If I don’t recognize God and His generous provision all around me I must come up with another idea to explain it all. If a beautiful sunrise is just an accidental physical evolution – I don’t need to thank anyone.

Deny God and you will speculate. I love science. I think it is fantastic, fascinating stuff. My first two college degrees are in science… I spent 18 years studying science as part of my job, multiple military and civilian schools learning about electromagnetism, aerodynamics and advanced physics.

Here’s the deal though… Science has tremendous limitations that those worshipping at the altar of science refuse to acknowledge.

It is so dishonest and it is the opposite of what science is supposed to be. It ends up going from near certain fact to educated guess to possible extrapolation to human speculation to pure fantasy… BUT all pronounced as scientific Truth!

Why? Because we don’t want God breathing down our neck interfering with how we want to live our life.

Terry O’Neill is the president of NOW, the National Organization of Women. Her highest priority is ending discrimination against women regarding their reproductive health, which means completely free access to contraceptives and abortion on demand.

When asked about, “When life begins in the womb.” In other words, at what point is a fetus a person, she said this… “Take religion out of it and we are not even having this conversation.”

What she means is that the life of an unborn baby, whether human or not, is less important than the desire of the mother.

Remove God and there is no longer an ethical problem – the baby is dependent upon the mother; therefore, it is the mother’s choice as to whether the baby lives or dies.

With that thinking, how long is it before we extend the argument to dependent children under the age of 2, or 3, or 8? How long before we include the disabled, infirm, elderly and otherwise dependent people?

We have been on a God-dismissing, human life is cheap kick for 40 plus years now… is it any wonder why the suicide rate is higher than it has ever been before and now accounts for far more deaths in America than automobile accidents?

Take God out of the equation and you can do anything… there are no limits… there is no such thing as good or evil as Friedrich Nietzsche said.

Remove God and humans will worship something else… health and fitness… nature… art… literature… sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Ultimately though, it is a worship of self.

Last week, I implied that it was selfish to not come to church, because it deprived all of us from being encouraged by your presence… What could possibly be more selfish than killing yourself and depriving the world of your presence permanently?

Maybe the thing that’s even more selfish is killing another person for your convenience…

Whatever the most selfish thing actually is – the fact remains, that it starts by dismissing God.

ROMANS 1:24&27 ~ 24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

(L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.P.D. stands for, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Demisexual)

We worship and serve ourselves instead of God and as we spiral away from Him we abandon His created order.

The final leg on the journey away from God is homosexual activity, both male with male and female with female that is seen by the society at large, as natural and good. The people “Not only do the same (kinds of things), but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).

In the opening chapters of Genesis, God created the Heavens and the earth and all that goes with that. His ultimate act of creation was carefully and lovingly forming man from the dust and then breathing His own breath into the man’s nostrils filling him with life, in what can only be described as an intimate act of care and concern.

God created man in His own image and He then paraded all the other creatures before him to explicitly demonstrate that none of them was compatible with him as his companion.

In Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

God formed woman just as lovingly, just as carefully… Therefore, Genesis 2:24&25, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

And then in Genesis 4:1, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth.”

That is the created order – that is the nature God established and blessed.

All other sin is a refusal to accept God as God and to serve our own interests and desires instead… BUT the penultimate example of that attitude is when we deny the very nature He created.

Violation of the most fundamental and profound human relationship is spitting in God’s face; it is literally, repudiating the Creator of all things. Almighty God.

We are in a fallen world and as such there are all kinds of sexual issues that are real. Certainly there are abundant examples of sexual issues that are contrived or imagined, BUT there are many that are real.

We would be stupid to deny that there are such problems. The Bible never condemns a person for their physical or mental anomalies from Adam and Eve… We’ve all got them in one form or another. Physical imperfections, ailments, sickness, disease, ultimately death. The Bible condemns surrendering to the impulses that go along with them.

Gay flight attendants used to say to me in excusing their active lifestyle, “This is the way God made me.” I used to respond, “Fine, God made me a womanizer, BUT through the power of the Holy Spirit I deny those impulses and stay faithful to my wife.”

Everyone has issues, proclivities, desires that run counter to God’s will… the question is what do we do about it.

I said homosexual activity is the penultimate level of turning away from God and rejecting Him and His created order.

My friends, we will find at the end of this chapter that the final straw – the ultimate ejection of God from our lives, our communities, our nation is when everyone else gives hearty approval.

Even in churches throughout our land today we have Christians who say Love must win, God is love and love must win… it must be okay to let people do anything their heart desires because to hinder anyone is mean-spirited and bigoted.

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