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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.

090411 - Romans 1d - Wrath
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September 11, 2016 05:19 AM PDT
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Romans 1:18, Pastor Scott Keller

ROMANS 1:16&17 ~ 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Last week we talked about the fact that God is always Right. Not just that He has the right answer, which incidentally He does, BUT that everything He thinks, says and does is always right, just, fair and good.

That “Right-ness,” is “Righteousness.”
God imputes His righteousness to us as though it was ours, even though none of us is righteous in ourselves.

It is a most foolish delusion and dangerous fallacy to believe that we HUMANS are somehow good. That we, in and from our own nature, produce anything righteous… we never have and we never will.

I think it is extremely vital that we all get this point – that we all embrace the ramifications of this Truth.

You and I, have never and will never, INDEPENDENTLY, do anything that is good or righteous… when compared to God.

We want to say, “Well, yes I can, I’m a good person. I’m certainly better than those people over there.” Not only is that human pride welling up like a backed up sewer – it is relative righteousness.

Certainly, you may be more righteous than another person, BUT the righteousness of another person isn’t relevant for eternal fellowship with a perfect God. I’m not the standard… Mother Teresa is not the standard… God is the standard.

The most righteous person on the planet is nowhere near perfect and that is the minimum acceptable standard. Jesus stated it simply in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s all you have to do…

God alone is able to give us righteous standing in His court. How else could it possibly be done? Perfect righteousness before the heavenly court is what’s required to be saved from judgment. Only He can grant that and that is why, “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8).

How does an imperfect person go about receiving this declaration of perfection from God?

According to our verses it is given “To everyone who believes.” It is bestowed on those who “Live by faith.”

There is a human element that is obvious and unmistakable. Only by dismissing the entire Bible could we think otherwise.

IF it is nothing but fate, puppets-on-a-string, preordained destiny that no one can affect, why would it be necessary for God to tell us about Himself? Why would Jesus tell us we must be born again? Why would every prophet, apostle and preacher, from the beginning of time until the end, exhort and admonish and cajole us to serve and obey the Lord? IF it is all already set in stone… what’s the point?

The “Righteousness of God” is imputed to a person’s account because they believe and live out that belief… faithfully.

That’s two different, BUT linked points… FAITH and FAITHFULNESS. Belief producing conformation.

You see IF you are a Christian spiritually, you must necessarily be a Christian physically as well… A Border Collie is a breed of dog… how do you judge whether a particular dog is of that breed genetically? By the degree of conformity, the dog exhibits to the standard for the breed… the Conformation of the dog is what’s evaluated in the ring.

We saw in James that a lack of faithfulness as a Christian was due to a lack of faith. Likewise, Paul constantly associates faith with actual conformity to the faith exhibited in external faithfulness.

So then the “Righteousness of God” that is imputed to us has an effect on us… Transforming us into a person who desires to be righteous and who grows to be more and more righteous in their thoughts, words and deeds.

It is a righteousness discernable in the physical world. It is not manufactured independently, BUT dependently upon the Spirit of God that indwells the Christian.

The external righteousness manifests itself in such a way as to draw others to Christ, which is to God’s great glory.

The danger is to forget how we are righteous both positionally and transformatively… To think that we as Christians are good.

It is that same human pride human welling up as before and it doesn’t smell any better this time around – it is self-righteousness.

Whatever good we have as Christians is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and so there is nothing for us to brag about, EXCEPT that God is good! (Romans 3:27, I Corinthians 1:26-31).

We recognize we’ve already been declared righteous and so there is nothing to prove, nothing to earn, nothing to do to gain God’s love and acceptance… We have that!

What remains, is to embrace the righteousness given and allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to that righteousness because we love and trust our God and Savior.

Verse 17 finishes with a quotation from the Old Testament, ĉhavoc-kook 2:4. חֲבַקּ֖וּק ĉḥă-văk-kük, in English, is sometimes pronounced, Hă-băk-ük, BUT probably better, Hă-bă-kük, which is closer to the original. The New Testament quotes this verse 3 times – in, Galatians, Hebrews and here. (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38).

Each time it is “The righteous will live by their faith.” It is taken from the Greek version of the Old Testament. The Hebrew version has “The righteous will live by their faithfulness.” As you see on the slide.

When you read Habakkuk, you see very clearly that the faithfulness to God is the result of faith in God. While faith and faithfulness are two different things, for Habakkuk, Paul, James and every other Bible author… For God, faith and faithfulness are two sides of the same coin… you cannot have one without the other.

Faith can be talked about using various terms like trust and belief… Faithfulness can likewise be discussed using other terms and one of the most common, BUT also misunderstood is OBEDIENCE.

IF you remember, back in verse 5, we talked extensively about the fact that the goal of Christianity… the target that we’re trying to hit… is God’s Glory.

We get confused and distracted about that because we keep shifting our focus to ourselves and our ideas of how things should be…

BUT as I said before, the goal of Christianity is not the pursuit of personal growth and maturity… It’s NOT becoming more spiritual… It’s NOT gaining mystical knowledge… It’s NOT operating in supernatural gifts… It’s NOT EVEN becoming a better Christian… and it’s certainly NOT enjoying more health, wealth and happiness… NONE of those things is the goal – none of them is the target we are supposed to hit.

The target is God’s Glory.

God is glorified by us, His beloved children, when we trust Him enough, to actually demonstrate that trust by our obedience.

Verse 5, “To bring about the obedience of faith… for His name’s sake.”

I said “Obedience” is a common, BUT misunderstood synonym for faithfulness. That misunderstanding may very well be the biggest obstacle to living a fruitful Christian life.

We think it means following the rules… which leads us to a 1self-righteous legalism if we’re good at following rules. Or to a 2self-loathing legalism if we wish we were better at following rules than we are. Or to a 3self-serving libertinism if we reject rules.

The natural reaction to the very idea of obedience is to make it about 1the rules and the 2easily measurable degree to which they are kept.

Please think about this for a moment… When we talk about obedience we are spring-loaded to concentrate on, FIRSTLY, the rules.

Those commands, orders or hoops we are supposed to jump through. We can think of it as the obstacle course (technically this is a confidence course) that has been set up for us…that we are supposed to navigate.

Secondly, the performance in getting through that obstacle course that is easily evaluated and so, easily compared to others.

Obedience inevitably becomes about only two things… The rules and the performance following them…

1God is completely unnecessary to the process…
2The human desire to embrace the intent of God’s commands is irrelevant…
3Actual relationship between God and human is superfluous…
4The power of the Holy Spirit is not required or even needed.

All we need are the rules as clearly defined as we can make them and the self-discipline to follow them…

What that means is the more defined the rules the better we can perform… It doesn’t matter how athletic or strong you are, if you don’t know the rules, you will fail the obstacle course.

So, we must define the rules to ever increasing levels of exactitude… Like the Jews of old, we endlessly define and clarify the rules. Infinitely adding to the mountains of burdensome man-made regulations to ostensibly perform better, BUT in actuality to enhance the power of the oppressive leadership and create loopholes.

IF we’re not performers, then the opposite is our goal. Where we grossly generalize the rules until they have no meaning or application at all.

Either way, we distort God’s actual Word.

Let me give a concrete example. I have not met the Christian who takes God’s Word precisely as it exists on the topic of human sexuality.

If you think you do, I’ll just say, it would shock me.

Everyone I’ve ever encountered either makes God’s Word more restrictive or they make God’s Word less restrictive.

Can you see that either way, it is a distortion of what God actually said and, in fact, becomes what you say instead?

The second thing we do once we have the rules defined the way we want them is to follow them by sheer force of will and then compare ourselves, NOT against God, NOT even against the rules, BUT against each other.

I could go on with the insanity that blooms from this understanding of obedience that is so pervasive among Christians.

Instead, let’s examine what it really means.

The obedience God is looking for is very simply the natural byproduct of trust in Him as God. I better say that again, the obedience God is looking for is very simply the natural byproduct of trust in Him as God.

We could trust that God knows more than we do and so we should follow His plan. We could trust that God is wise and good and so we should follow His plan. BUT the goal is more than that… It is a trust based not only upon logic and respect, BUT upon love and relationship.

God wants you and me to trust that He loves us – to trust that through Jesus He will save us – trust because we know Him and we believe Him and we love Him in return.

The evidence of trust is not what we manufacture… NOT what we try to do to earn anything… The evidence of trust, is the natural outflow of trust.

IF a person genuinely trusts God, it is impossible for them to keep that a secret. Other people may choose to ignore it, BUT the evidence will be obvious and abundant.

Trust is a belief that someone is trustworthy. If someone has let you down in the past it is far more difficult to trust them in the future.

So trust is the result of belief… really it is the result of faith. Belief or faith are the result of a certain perspective. “I trust Donald Trump.” “I do not trust Donald Trump.” Each position is based upon a person’s perspective… the way they think.

In this letter, God will tell us that He has given Christians the Holy Spirit and that IF we will allow it, the Holy Spirit will “Renew our mind…” the power of God Himself will alter our thinking, change our perspective allowing us to more genuinely trust in God.

The concept of obedience occurs well over 100 times in the New Testament alone. The underlying word used here in Romans 1, is ὑπακοὴ (hü-pä-kŏ-ā).

The word ὑπακοὴ, is a combination of the preposition ὑπό meaning under, in this case undergirded, and ἀκοή meaning to listen. Taken together it means to be undergirded and established by what you hear and understand. It is to think, speak and act based upon the basis of your understanding.

I tell Katie’s dog to sit, she hears me, understands my desire, and then sits. She does what she believes is what she should do based upon a trust in me the one telling her to sit.

Interestingly, disobedience is παρακοή
(pä-ȑä-kŏ-ā), the same word to listen, now with the preposition παρά. It means to hear, but refuse to listen… disobedience is a refusal to listen to God’s actual Words… IF we won’t listen to what He wants obviously we won’t do what He wants.

The point is that actual faith cannot help but express itself in actual faithfulness… Likewise genuine, obedient, relational faithfulness cannot exist without the underlying faith that produces it. Two sides of the same coin.

We think of sin as the various things, that are bad… “Harboring evil thoughts, murder, cheating on your spouse, sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage, stealing, lying, gossiping… etcetera.” These things, and things like them, are sins. I mean that’s what Jesus said in Matthew 15:19.

Jesus’ point was deeper. The things flow from the heart.

One of the things that irritates me is the focus of western medicine on treating symptoms, instead of working on the source of the symptoms. “Doctor, I have a headache.” “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” WHY do I have a headache?

I’m NOT blaming doctors – they and we are all a product of our society. We are spring-loaded to address symptoms, NOT root causes.

The same goes for our understanding of sin. Murder isn’t the sin. The sin is the underlying reason a person would murder another person… That’s the sin. The actual murder is a symptom of evil.

Evil is always, always, always, a failure to trust God.

IF a person completely trusted God they would never be the person who would “Harbor evil thoughts, murder someone, cheat on their spouse, engage in sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage, steal, lie, gossip… etcetera.”

Obedience to the Gospel is trusting in God and it provides right standing in His court as well as a Holy Spirit enabled relational growth of ever increasing trust so that there is no longer a desire to serve oneself out of fear.

ROMANS 1:16&17 ~ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness

We start with the word, “For,” meaning that this ties directly back to verses 16&17 which are the thesis or summary statement for this entire letter.

We are talking about the Salvation God has given and now we will discover NOT only why it was necessary, BUT also how unimaginably important it is.

There is a thing called “The wrath of God.”

Hebrews 10:26&27 says, “If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
Then verses 30&31, “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

God is Love, people say… It seems everyone wants to talk about that. The reason, of course, is that we all want to indulge our own lusts and desires without feeling like God is opposed… How grumpy could God possibly get with us… After all, He is Love.

We’ve talked at great length about the “Righteousness of God.” What makes God, God is that He is eternal, without beginning or end and is therefore immutable, unchanging and unchangeable. That makes Him completely trustworthy, fair and honest… He’s other than anything else and so God is Holy.

That means His Truth is absolute… His justice is perfect and therefore His judgment is faultless.

God’s perfect righteousness would not be perfect righteousness if he overlooked a refusal to listen to Him.

Sin must be punished or God is just as fickle, capricious and unreliable as we are.

Yes, God is Love. He loved so much in fact that “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

That’s the point of verses 16&17. Now beginning in verse 18 we find out why God’s plan for our salvation required the Eternal Word of God to take on humanity and personally experience the very worst, so-called, humanity had to offer.

Why did Jesus have to be savagely brutalized and viciously murdered?

Because God’s justice requires satisfaction and His love requires Him to provide a way out for you and me.

Both, God’s righteousness and His wrath are revealed in the Gospel… The righteousness is intact and the wrath has been expended upon God Himself so that no one needs to experience what Jesus experienced… no one needs to experience the righteous wrath of God… IF, IF, if you will turn to Him in trust and be saved.

The question is; what will you do with that Truth?

Paul is keenly aware that salvation comes from hearing the Truth, the Gospel, the Word. Understanding it and accepting, or we could say obeying, it…

What obviously stands in the way is hindering that process. IF you were an enemy of God and His plan of salvation, the easiest, and perhaps most effective, way to combat Him and His Salvation would be to attack the Gospel Message that reveals both.

From the beginning of mankind, the supernatural forces opposed to God, have called God’s Words and intentions into question.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan persuaded a human being to sin for the very first time by distorting God’s Words and intentions.

To this day, Satan’s most common and effective attack is to warp, twist and thereby destroy the Truth of God’s Word.

How can people be saved if they believe the plan of salvation is a completely unreliable fairy tale?

Here’s the real kicker though… This suppression of the Truth is ultimately what each individual does in their own life.

We want to blame Satan, the demonic host, evil men, nefarious religions… BUT the Truth, my dear friends, is as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Often people complain about why God would allow Satan in the Garden of Eden. Look Satan didn’t force Eve to eat, he didn’t put a gun to her head, he didn’t threaten her in any way shape or form!

Satan’s lies were just what her heart wanted to hear all along… she knew better, BUT chose to suppress God’s Words and follow a distorted view of Him and a twisted understanding of His plan.

All humans do the same… we know better, yet we suppress God and His Word in order to do what we want.

Instead of obeying God’s perfect plan we obey our own lust.

We will delve in much deeper as we proceed in this chapter, BUT for today, I want you to simply reflect on the reality that EITHER you are the god of your life and eternity, or God is… That choice belongs to you, and you alone, because God loved you so much He provided you a way out, at maximum cost to Him.

082816 - Romans 1c - God's Righteousness
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September 10, 2016 06:34 AM PDT
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Romans 1:16&17 detail, Pastor Scott Keller

ROMANS 1:16&17 ~ 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Last week we talked about the fact that God is always “Right.” Not just that He has the right answer, which incidentally He does, BUT that everything He thinks, says and does is always right, just, fair and good.

That “Rightness,” is Righteousness.

God imputes His righteousness to us as though it was ours, even though none of us is righteous in ourselves.

It is a most foolish delusion and dangerous fallacy to believe that we are somehow good. That we, in and from our own nature, produce anything righteous… we never have and we never will.

I think it is extremely vital that we all get this point – that we all embrace the ramifications of this Truth.

You and I, have never and will never INDEPENDENTLY do anything that is good or righteous… when compared to God.

We want to say, “Well, yes I can, I’m a good person. I’m certainly better than those people over there.” Not only is that human pride welling up like a backed up sewer – it is relative righteousness.

Certainly, you may be more righteous than another person, BUT the righteousness of another person isn’t relevant for eternal fellowship with a perfect God.

The most righteous person on the planet is nowhere near perfect and that is the minimum acceptable standard. Jesus stated it simply in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

God is solely responsible for giving us righteous standing in His court, which is what’s required to be saved. “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8).

How does an imperfect person receive this declaration of perfection from God?

According to our verses it is given “To everyone who believes.” It is bestowed on those who “Live by faith.”

There is a human element that is obvious and unmistakable. Only by dismissing the entire Bible could we think otherwise.

IF it is nothing but fate, puppets-on-a-string, preordained destiny that no one can affect, why would it be necessary for God to tell us about Himself? Why would Jesus tell us we must be born again? Why would every prophet, apostle and preacher, from the beginning of time until the end, exhort and admonish us to serve and obey the Lord?

The Righteousness of God is imputed to a person’s account because they believe and live out that belief faithfully.

Then the Righteousness of God has an effect on the Believer transforming them into a person who desires to be righteous and who grows to be more and more righteous.

It is a righteousness discernable in the physical world. It is not manufactured independently, BUT dependently upon the Spirit of God that indwells the Christian.

The external righteousness manifests itself in such a way as to draw others to Christ, which is to God’s great glory.

The danger is to once again think that we as Christians are good.

It is that same human pride human welling up again and it doesn’t smell any better than before – it is self-righteousness.

Romans

How do we become will ever be anywhere near righteous enough compared to God.

Isaiah 26:2 NLT ~ Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter.

I said, “How we understand verses 16&17, determines how we understand the whole letter and the Christian faith.”

I asked you to study those two verses along with this statement… We must recognize who we are and act appropriately for the Glory of God. That’s a two-fold reality that will come up again and again.

ROMANS 1:16&17 ~ 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Today we are simply going to work on this… we’re not going any further afield than what we’ve already heard… Relax, settle in, and get ready to see some nuance and subtle distinctions that will serve us well in the coming months.

First, Paul is not embarrassed by Christ or by proclaiming His Message, no matter what anyone else might think, because it is God’s salvation of all who are obedient through and to faith.

Let’s really understand what that means…

First, have you ever been ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable because of your affiliation with Jesus?

When Mariah and I were first married and starting our Christian walk in earnest, we were at the IGA in Bigfork shopping. It was summer and the place was packed with tourists. Someone from our church spotted us and shouted over the crowd, “Hey Keller’s, it me, so-and-so, from church…”

I felt like everyone in the place was looking at me and I was uncomfortable with all those strangers knowing I was a goody-two-shoes Christian.

My question. Does such a concern make any sense whatsoever?

Let me ask this… If you were in a room with 100 preschool kids who all fervently believed in Santa Claus… would it make any sense for you to be ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable because you don’t?

Few pilots are aerodynamicists. All of them know a simplified version of flying physics that’s good enough, but isn’t precisely accurate. I’ve never been ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable around pilots that don’t have a thorough understanding, just because I do… why would I?

If you have the Truth, why would you ever be even the least bit ashamed, simply because the majority of people are IGNORANT?

In other words, it was the non-Christians at the IGA who should have been embarrassed… not me! But like the 100 kids, the under-informed pilots and every non-Christian on planet earth… they’re the ones in the dark – they’re the ones who are deceived – so why would any of us feel weird about being right?

It’s like the smart kid in school, who the dumb kids tease… It makes no sense to accept their assessment of the situation… they’re dumb!

When you truly know that you have the correct answer you never need to prove anything to anyone and you certainly have nothing to feel “Ashamed” about.

Paul knew to the core of his being that the Gospel he preached was the Truth from the Burning Bush and was wise enough to then realize, he would be awfully childish, insecure and foolish to ever be ashamed of that Truth.

That TRUTH is the Gospel, it is εὐαγγέλιον (ü-än-gĕ-lē-ŏn), meaning the Wonderful Message, sometimes called the Good News. The first bit, the εὐ part, is the superlative meaning great or wonderful and the rest, the αγγέλιον part, means a message – ἄγγελος is a messenger and gives us our word… angel. The Gospel, Good News or Wonderful Message is a revelation from Almighty God to mankind, and as such, it is a Communication that contains within it precisely what God wished to disclose to us.

God could have given us more… He could have given us less… He could have given it to us in a different way… The Gospel, now contained in the Bible, is what we have, because it is what Almighty God has provided to us.

It drives me crazy when I hear people say I believe the original writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit, BUT the Bible has been copied and translated so many times it cannot possibly be accurate anymore.

First, it’s simply not true, second, how foolish to think that God has the power to give humanity His Divine Message, BUT doesn’t have the power to preserve it for subsequent generations.

Anyway, the Gospel is God’s plan of salvation and so results in Christianity. Therefore, it is also used metonymically to mean all of Christianity as a whole.

The Gospel then is not just the information about salvation, it is the divine power of God to accomplish the goal of that information. It is God’s sovereign will revealed… A salvation by the Father, through Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, by means of true acceptance of the plan given to us in the Gospel.

It is God’s sovereign will revealed and activated and my friends… Nothing in heaven or on earth can possibly thwart His power to save those He chooses to save.

Who can stop God?

Calvinists will say, no one, and therefore, everyone God chooses to save will be saved and everyone who fails to be saved, are those God chose for that fate.

Who can stop God?

Arminianists will say, anyone can… by choosing to disobey, whether before or after they are genuinely saved, thus taking themselves, out of God’s salvation.

The first is a complete absence of free will and the second is nothing but free will.

I have close friends in each of those camps. I know they love God and serve Him as pastors doing their very best to teach the Truth.

I know that some of you stand firmly in one of those two camps as well. I know others are confused and I know still others simply don’t worry about it.

In our study through Romans you will get an answer IF you carefully follow along and what you will find is that the entire argument on both sides stems from emphasizing some verses while minimizing others.

It is, and please hear me, it is an utter impossibility to use a consistent, contextual hermeneutic and arrive at either extreme. Religious dogma and denominational programming keep the extremes alive, but if we are daring enough to look at things afresh and willing to expend a little effort and give a little care we will find the beauty of the Scripture and have an even greater appreciation for God and the salvation He provides.

Let’s simply find out what God has to say in His own words.

According to this passage the ones God chooses to save are ALL of those who believe.

It is God who chooses to save and the ones He chooses are the people who believe the Message He sent. The Message from the prophets of old… the Message in human form, the Son of God… the Message in the preaching of Paul, now codified in your Bible… and I dare say the preaching you are hearing today…

God’s revealed sovereign choice is to grant eternal salvation though His unchallengeable power to everyone… that’s everyone… who believes Him.

Believes is to hear and then to hearken and then to trust enough to accept.

Acceptance of the Gospel is a faith in God – it is a yielding to the Holy Spirit – most of all, it is an embrace of “Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith” (Hebrews 12:2), as the sole source of our salvation.

IF that is real inwardly, then it is immediately followed by an outward conformity to that new paradigm. Put simply there is an immediate desire to obey. It may be subtle at first – there may be missteps and stumbles – BUT there will be an unmistakable desire to serve and please God.

The Jew first and then the non-Jew. Those are two classes of people that includes every person who has ever or will ever live… You are a Jew or you are not a Jew… that pretty much covers it.
1No one, except perhaps Jewish people believe it means the Jews first qualitatively as in they are the best. 2Many experts say the Jew first, temporally – in time, they received the Gospel first. 3Some see it dispensationally, as it used to be the Jews, and now it is the non-Jews.

I think it is the true Jews from Abraham through John the Baptist. Those of faith and dependence upon God living under the Old Covenant who will accept and transition into the New Covenant… They will accept Jesus as Messiah as soon as they get a chance and so in a sense they can be called Christians as an old pastor of our used to do. They, then were obviously first…
Joining those believing Jews of ages past are, in a sense, the new Jews. Non-Jews who likewise believe in God’s salvation. In that sense, Father Abraham can be called a Christian and we can be called Jews.

The universality of “Everyone who believes,” is made more certain by the addition of Jew and non-Jew. God is the God of everyone and so no one is left out.

Verse 17, literally says, “Righteousness of God in it is revealed.”

The BLUE “In it,” is the Gospel – the WONDERFUL MESSAGE…

Revealed (ORANGE) is ἀποκαλύπτω (ä-pŏ-kä-lüp-tō). Giving us, Apocalypse, the Apocalypse itself has nothing to do with calamity or the end, it simply means revealing or the revelation. The last Book of the Bible is called Revelation, because it is God revealing the end, which just happens to be the most calamitous thing imaginable.

In the Gospel God reveals, discloses or makes known the, YELLOW “Righteousness of God,” δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (dē-kī-ŏ-sü-nā Thĕ-ü).

Paul uses that exact phrase, “Righteousness of God,” 5 times in this one letter. He uses slight variations of the phrase a few more times, he uses the specific word δικαιοσύνη, “Righteousness,” 33 times, just here in Romans. In addition, Paul uses variants of the word “Righteousness,” more than 30 other times … all of that in this single letter.

It is vital that we have a firm grasp of the concept… Here in verse 17, the phrase, “Righteousness of God” is identical in construction to the phrase, “Power of God,” in verse 16.

We can translate the latter as the power that belongs to and comes from God… More precisely, it is the power that makes salvation effective in human lives… the power of God becomes a power the Believer has been given by God and they now possess.

It is not a power we ourselves manufacture, produce or wield… It isn’t a power of ours in the way it is a power of God’s – for us, it is a passive power we simply enjoy.

We could say that the power that is inherent to God – part of His nature – who He is – the power that emanates from Him – is imparted to Believers as they believe… in this case, the power to be saved – to be made right with God has flowed from God to the Christian.

That’s the “Power of God,” Therefore, the “Righteousness of God” is likewise, the righteousness that belongs to and comes from God. It is His righteousness because He is the definer and definition of “Righteousness.”

Again, more precisely, it is the righteousness that makes salvation effective in human lives… the righteousness of God becomes the righteousness that God has given to Believers and the righteousness we now possess.

It is NOT a righteousness we ourselves manufacture, produce or wield… It ISN’T a righteousness of ours in the way it is a power of God’s – for us, it is a passive righteousness we simply enjoy.

We could say that the righteousness that is inherent to God – part of His nature – who He is – the righteousness that emanates from Him – is imparted to Believers as they believe… in this case, the righteousness to be saved – to be made right with God has flowed from God to the Christian.

The righteousness at this point of my description is purely forensic… it is God’s to give as He chooses and once given, it is effective or actual – it is real.

Great! What exactly is righteousness and is there anything else going on here?

Righteousness, as I mentioned, is δικαιοσύνη
(dē-kī-ŏ-sü-nā). It means to be and therefore to do what is right. That’s the very best easy answer, so let me say it again, it is to be and therefore to do what is right.

1) What is right must be determined in some way, by someone. 2) What is right is then a legal code defining morality and can be judged.

“You can’t legislate morality.”

For us, right can be done without the inner character of rightness. We can choose to obey a law without agreeing with the law.

For God, He never does anything out of His character… He always does right because He always acts in accordance to His nature and His nature is right.

So, who decides what is right? Initially you would say, your parents, but soon realize it’s a whole host of people in positions of authority… Actually, even for an infant, the one who decides what is right is the individual for themselves.

You may pay a high price, BUT we all decide for ourselves what is right and you can thank your many-times great-grandmother Eve for that privilege.

Just because we decide what’s right; it doesn’t mean we are right.

The ants think they make the rules for their ant farm, BUT whatever form of government they institute, whatever laws and statutes they impose, whatever passes for socially acceptable behavior… the 8-year-old kid holding the farm in his hand has the hammer.

God is called the Lawgiver, NOT only because He created everything from nothing, NOT only because He actively holds it all together, NOT only because He has the hammer… God is the Lawgiver, rule-maker, ultimate, perfect judge of all, because He is eternally unchanging and unchangeable. He is Truth itself. He is Love itself. He is Life itself. He cannot be swayed, coerced or corrupted… He is.

What God says is right, is right, period. Now, please understand this point… What God says is right is NOT what He decides is right… God doesn’t think about a situation and determine what’s right and wrong, like a human judge would.

God simply is right and so what He thinks – what He says and what He does is always perfectly right. We as humans have only two choices, we can either recognize the folly of disagreeing with Him or stupidly continue to think we know better than He does.

Why is all sex outside of Biblical marriage a sin, why is getting drunk or stoned a sin, why is gossip, pride, greed or laziness sins?

Why does the baby die, why does the teen get addicted to drugs, why does the spouse cheat, why does ISIS exist?

Why is full acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior the only way to be saved?

Ask God. Whether it makes sense or not, whether you agree or not, the bottom line is… you can either decide right or you can recognize right.

If you choose to recognize right you will see that it is the opposite of bad, evil, selfish, unfair, hurtful or unjust behavior. It is uprightness as determined by God’s divine legal standard.

Now the idea of justice that’s been lurking around the issue all along is made clear – Right is JUST. It is the opposite of what is unjust as determined by God’s divine legal standard. The idea of true, and we would say blind, JUSTICE is central.

A justice that is perfectly applied no matter who a person is, how much money they have or what kind of influence they wield – it is perfectly applied justice and is therefore never unjust, never wrong, never bad, never evil in any way at all.

Justice is what actually enables and enhances true reciprocal loving relationship. It is vital – it is essential to healthy relationship with each other and with God.

Show me a relationship where justice does not exist and I will show you a relationship that is mercenary… the parties are only “Friends” in the ἑταῖρος sense, but not in the φίλος sense we discussed last week. They are each in it for what they can get out of it… Manipulator and enabler.

Justice is essential to a good marriage, a good family, a good society. Imagine relationship where no one ever took unfair advantage of anyone else and everyone could be counted on to do what was right.

You see justice is fairness and equitableness… it is right and to be that way, to do that is righteousness, δικαιοσύνη. The root is Δίκη (dē-kā), originally, the Greek goddess of justice, moral order and fair judgement, dating back about 3,000 years. As the Greeks got more and more sophisticated, intellectual, political, scientific and philosophical, the goddess transformed into the ideal of perfect justice from God.

It was an ideal of a perfect Lawgiver who would have perfect rules and would perfectly judge and so everyone would enjoy perfect harmony and justice without even a hint of partiality or prejudice.

The Greek ideal fit perfectly with the Jewish concept of the true God’s perfect justice.

God’s righteousness, or perfect justice, is proof, evidence and the natural expression of His holiness.

Remember holiness means set apart and God’s otherness, is seen in His perfect justice… He is infinitely pure and so must be opposed to all that is NOT right – to all sin and injustice.

Human beings – not so much, and that proves that God is holy – He is different than everyone else partly because He is perfectly righteous.

So His holiness is central to who and what He is – likewise, His righteousness, because it flows from His actual holy nature is AGAIN, as I said before, NOT a choice God makes.
I love the way A.W. Tozer put it, he said, “It is sometimes said, ‘Justice requires God to do this,’ referring to some act we know He will perform. This is an error of thinking as well as of speaking, for it postulates a principle of justice outside of God which compels Him to act in a certain way. Of course there is no such principle. If there were, it would be superior to God, for only a superior power can compel obedience. The truth is that there is not and can never be anything outside of the nature of God which can move Him in the least degree. All God’s reasons come from within His uncreated being. Nothing has entered the being of God from eternity, nothing has been removed, and nothing has been changed. Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation. . . God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity, and when He sentences evil men or rewards the righteous, He simply acts like Himself from within, uninfluenced by anything that is not Himself.”

As I say, God defines what righteousness is and He is the living definition of it. Therefore, He is the only one who is righteous… The only one who is righteous because He is, who He is, and that “Is,” is holy and righteous.

It is what’s RIGHT.

More simply, we will get to Paul saying in Romans 3:10, concerning humans, “As it is written (in the Psalms), ‘There is none righteous, not even one.’”

This “Righteousness of God,” then, is His and His alone. It is the right in a justice sort of way and is what God by His nature must judge… an act, a thing and more importantly a person is right before the court – before the judge – or they are not.

God is compelled by His very being to perfectly judge in perfectly executing justice and implementing the consequences.

God simply cannot overlook sin. IF He did – He would NOT be righteous and would Not be Holy.

Now, my dear friends, this is where it gets interesting… The Bible is talking about, “Righteousness of God,” in relation to human salvation from sin and death.

God’s Righteousness is revealed in the Gospel because the revelation is that His justice and His loving mercy had to result in His terrible sacrifice on our behalf.

His Righteousness required that justice be served – it required that sin and rebellion be atoned for – paid for – and so He paid for us by sending His One and Only Son.

God is so perfectly Righteous He sent Jesus to die for sin and break the curse and defeat death to “EVERYONE who believes.”

The guilty verdict each Believer was under has been removed and placed upon Jesus… in its place is the righteousness of God imputed to our account.

We are seen as perfectly righteous in God’s sight through Jesus – that’s salvation.

You can see that righteousness for us is NOT of our making – it is His and it is given and it is forensic.

However, once the “Righteousness of God” is applied to our case… we are transformed, we are born again, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are saints. Set apart as new creatures to do His will and so the “Righteousness of God” is also TRANSFORMATIVE.

We must recognize who we are and act appropriately for the Glory of God. That’s a two-fold reality that will come up again and again.

I want you to think long and hard about the meaning of the verses and the statement I’m attaching to them… wrestle with it, pray about it, discuss it, learn it and work to understand the nuance of meaning found there.

How much effort will you put in this week trying to better understand God and His plan?

082116 - Romans 1b - For God's Glory
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September 10, 2016 05:08 AM PDT
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Romans 1:8-17, Pastor Scott Keller

As Paul introduces himself to the Romans he points out that his purpose in life, as the slave of Christ Jesus, is “To bring about the obedience of faith… for His name’s sake.”

The goal of all Christian ministry is “To bring about the obedience of faith… for His name’s sake.”

I was talking to a pastor friend the other day and he said we need to get a better handle on the target we are shooting for as Christians.

The target, as I said last week in relation to Paul’s opening here, is not the pursuit of my personal growth and maturity… It’s NOT becoming more spiritual… It’s NOT gaining mystical knowledge… It’s NOT operating in supernatural gifts… It’s NOT EVEN becoming a better Christian… and it’s certainly NOT enjoying more health, wealth and happiness… NONE of those things is the goal – none of them is the target we are supposed to hit.

The target is God’s Glory.

He is glorified by us, His beloved children, trusting Him enough, to actually demonstrate that trust by obeying His commands… especially when it is difficult.

The goal of the Gospel is to bring forth, in those who accept, “The obedience of faith for His name’s sake.”

Obedience is the proof of trust… We trust God with our eternity enough to obey the Gospel Message and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

We then, filled with the Holy Spirit, trust Jesus enough to actually live for Him, rather than for our own self-interest.

God is glorified by you as you accept His salvation and He is glorified by you as you allow yourself to be conformed to that salvation.

The greatest thing God ever did as it relates to our physical universe was NOT the speaking the universe into existence, NOT the creation of the fabric of space-time itself, NOT filling it with unimaginable energy and matter. It wasn’t the creating of life… NOT even the sentient human life in His own image.

What comes close is the access God granted human beings… God made us to enjoy Him as He would also enjoy us… relationship with tiny, seemingly insignificant creatures so utterly helpless by comparison… true friendship and loving familial relationship… that’s glorious… BUT still NOT the greatest thing.

What’s greater than that? How about being so truly loving that God gave humans the freedom to walk away?

God gave us complete autonomy to choose Him or to choose ourselves. You know the old saying, “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back it was always yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

The point is that a truly loving relationship requires both parties to love each other… God loves us, but He had to let us go so that we could determine whether we loved Him…

Do you realize how great that is… how glorious that is… that God would give us the ability to say no?

Still, that’s NOT the greatest thing. The greatest thing God ever did in this physical universe was to enter it, NOT as a divine god, NOT as a powerful king, NOT as a mighty warrior, NOT as a grand wizard, NOT as a leading priest, NOT as a perfect prophet or even a gold medal athlete… God entered our world as one who was easily dismissed, ridiculed and yes, ultimately murdered.

The Father sent the Word… The Word became flesh… He lived a fully-human life of perfect obedience through the power of the Spirit and He died for any and every one who chooses to accept.

That’s the most glorious thing God ever did in this physical universe and when someone accepts that unimaginable sacrifice, God is glorified.

When such a person, now themselves filled with the Holy Spirit, worships Him in spirit and in truth, God is glorified.

When such a person proves the truth of the Gospel by living a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, a life of obedience established by faith and accomplished by faith, God is glorified.

We exist to bring glory to God so that others might see His glory in us and they would in-turn bring God glory as they accept His salvation and live in “The obedience of faith.”

Be intentionally, actively conformed to Jesus by obeying what you know to be right… let that prove your position in Christ and prove His glory to others that they might be saved… “For His name’s sake.”

The word “Called,” κλητός (klā-tŏs), is used 3 times in the opening sentence. God “Called” Paul, God “Called” the Roman Christians and then specifically, in verse 7, God “Called” the Roman Christians to be, “Saints.”

God calls or invites, and those who accept His call or invitation, are described by the RELATED adjective, ἐκλεκτός (ĕk-lĕk-tŏs), κλητός, ἐκλεκτός. It gives us our word eclectic – meaning something that is selected or chosen because it is special, rather than because it simply goes with the décor or matches something else. It is then, God’s elect – those who are chosen by God as His children.

Paul frequently designates the Elect, simply as the, “Called,” κλητός. There is a subtle nuance though. When Paul uses the word “Called” in this context, what he means is the people who have positively responded to God’s call.

The nuance is that their status as God’s Elect will be discovered after they finish their course. That will determine whether they were the Elect of God all along or whether they only seemed to be the Elect for a time.

The “Called” are those who claim Christianity – claim they have accepted Christ. They were “Called” to accept and now they are “Called” to live for Christ.

In verse 1, Paul said he was, “Called as an apostle, set apart…” The call was not just to accept Jesus, BUT to live for Jesus as one who is “Set apart” for His purposes and glory.

Likewise, the call for the Roman Christians was to NOT only to accept Jesus, verse 6, “Called of Jesus Christ,” BUT also to live for Him, verse 7, “Called as saints.”

Saints, ἅγιος (hä-gē-ŏs), meaning “Holy.” It is a religious word many people don’t really understand. It is what is holy, sanctified or saintly, and what it means is just what we’ve been saying, something, a person, in this case, who is set apart for God’s purposes.

That’s what holy or sanctified or saintly means… the sanctification process we talk about is the growing as a Christian in conformity to Christ… what it technically means is becoming more and more separated out, more and more set apart, for God’s use.

It applies to us all. My friends, every true Christian person is filled with God’s own Spirit and set apart, sanctified, for His use… Every, Born-again, Spirit-filled, true Christian has been “Called,” and will prove at the end of time to have been God’s Elect all along.

Every true Christian then has also accepted the call to be a “Saint.” Since that is true, perhaps we should act like it’s true.

That is the goal of the Gospel Message and the target Christians must shoot for… Allowing God to transform us into “Saints” devoted to doing His will, for His glory…

It is said so beautifully in II Peter 1:3-11, NLT3-10, 3By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of (as a manifestation or demonstration and proof of) his marvelous glory and excellence. 4And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (that’s God’s part and now our part… verse 5…).
5In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 8The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins (forgetting who they are in Christ – forgetting that they are no longer sinners, but have been made SAINTS – the chosen, elect, children of the Living God). 10So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11NETFor thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.”

We must recognize who we are and act appropriately for the Glory of God. That’s a two-fold reality that will come up again and again.

Please understand how important it is to be an actual Christian striving for obedience in all things rather than a person who claims Christ for your own purposes.

I wasn’t going to go into this any deeper, but talking with my dear brother Justin, I think it’s worth it. So, I will ask for your indulgence and expand on this idea a little more.

Jesus told a parable recorded in Matthew 22:2-14,
2“The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3When the banquet was ready, he sent his slaves to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come! 4“So he sent other slaves to tell those invited, ‘Behold, the feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet!’ 5But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8And he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10So the slaves brought in everyone they could find, good and evil alike, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The King is the Father, the Son is Jesus, the slaves are the prophets of old and now the apostles, evangelists, preachers and ultimately every Christian who shares their testimony.

The invited guests are the hardened people of Israel and now the hardened people throughout time. While that’s true, we miss a nuance when we extrapolate it out.

Originally, the invited guests were people who were religious. They were supposedly friends of the King, but they had better things to do than celebrate what the KING wanted to celebrate.

They figured it was no big deal, but they were wrong… dead wrong.

The people who actually gathered for the feast are the people who fill Christian churches today and who even more often do something else, but still claim to be part of the universal church.

They are very often people who participate in the banquet on their own terms.

In verse 11, the King sees “A man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes.”

Here’s the most important thing in the entire parable and it is completely lost in translation.

The King said to the man, “‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’”

The word “Friend,” is very misleading.

In Greek there are two words for friend. The first is φίλος (fē-lŏs), obviously related to φιλέω (fē-lĕ-ō), meaning to love another with a brotherly kind of love. It is to be a devoted friend because you actually care about the other – you want the best for them.

The word the King uses here is NOT φίλος, it is ἑταῖρος (hĕ-tī-ȑŏs). I never do this, BUT there’s a first time for everything… The Complete Word Study Dictionary does such a great job of explaining ἑταῖρος in relation to φίλος - I’m just going to read it to you.

The verb ἑταῖρέω hĕ-tī-ȑĕ-ō basically means to keep company with or to establish and maintain a meretricious (now, if you don’t know what that means, it’s someone who seems wonderful, but in reality they have no substance, no value or integrity. So again), the verb ἑταῖρέω hĕ-tī-ȑĕ-ō basically means to keep company with or to establish and maintain a meretricious, pretentious, ostentatious, deceptive, and misleading friendship. True friendship is expressed by the verb φιλέω fē-lĕ-ō, to befriend which means to appropriate another person’s interests unselfishly. The noun is φίλος fē-lŏs, friend, and the quality that brings two people together to share common interests is φιλία fē-lē-ä, friendship.
The corresponding word to ἑταῖρος hĕ-tī-ȑŏs is ἑταῖρεῒα hĕ-tī-ȑĕ-ē-ä which has come down from Classical Greek to Modern Greek… Today it means a company or corporation which involves people who associate together for the primary purpose of making money or for personal interest through corporate design. The study of the word ἑταῖρος hĕ-tī-ȑŏs causes us to conclude that it could not be used as synonym with fē-lŏs, a true friend who seeks the other’s good. Ἑταῖρος Hĕ-tī-ȑŏs is one who only projects his own interest. The inference, therefore, is that ἑταῖρος hĕ-tī-ȑŏs means a selfish acquaintance, one who seeks his own interests above the interests of others. He is a partner in a company, not necessarily for the good of others but primarily for his own advantage. The good of others is acceptable only when it promotes his own well–being.

This is the word Jesus used for Judas Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemane. The point Jesus is getting at in the parable is that there are people at the wedding banquet of the Son who only have mercenary intentions – they are in it, for what they can get out of it…

Such people seem to be true friends of the King, BUT they are NOT. They do not possess or wear the wedding clothes provided to them… They do not wear the Righteous Robe of Christ.

The man is ejected into the outer darkness.

Jesus finishes with the terse statement… “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

As we already saw in II Peter 1:10, “So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen.

A defining characteristic of Western Christianity is what’s in it for me… That attitude will not do, no matter how much a person participates.

Because we are called to be “Saints,” we are called to “The obedience of faith… for His name’s sake.”

ROMANS 1:8 ~ First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

What is this other than Paul – a true friend of God – being thrilled that God is glorified “Throughout the whole world,” because salvation through Jesus is effective in the capital city of Rome?

It causes Paul to be overjoyed that people in Rome have accepted God and His plan of salvation and conformity to that plan, thus proclaiming in actual physical reality, for all to see that, God is good.

Our pastor’s group continually prays for revival and I am certain none of us do that because we care about filling seats… Ultimately we care about our great God being glorified by human lives transformed!

That’s why we’re pastors in the first place.

We all – all of us Christians – we all must be filled with a greater hopeful expectancy… a greater belief that God is real and active and will move supernaturally among His people.

For miraculous healing, unnatural patience and peace of mind as well as supernatural strength.

We must have a greater hopeful expectancy… a greater belief that God cares about the choices we make, the things we say, the things we do and fail to do… We must hold ourselves to a higher standard of obedience to God for His glory.

We must pray for the persecuted Christians and for new Christians being saved – the faith it shows is to God’s glory.

ROMANS 1:9-15 ~ 9For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Here Paul adds to verse 8, and his opening sentence to establish that he is, in fact their Apostle even though he didn’t personally found their church.

Paul was appointed by Jesus Himself as an Apostle to the Gentile world and he makes it clear that he accepts the responsibility for those in Rome as part of his mandate.

He has taken them under his wing and looks forward to ministering to them and to being encouraged by them.

ROMANS 1:16&17 ~ 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Paul is a preacher and every Christian is called by God to be preachers as well… we are all to proclaim the Gospel, in our own way, as best we can. and then allow the Holy Spirit to take it from there.

Since he brought it up in verse 15, Paul elaborates on preaching the gospel and how we understand these two simple little verses determines how we understand the whole letter and the Christian faith.

I know that sounds like an overstatement, trust me it’s not.

The whole Reformed Theology versus Dispensationalist Theology – the whole Calvinism versus Arminianism hinges on our interpretation of these two verses.

If you are hard wired to a particular camp and refuse to budge, you may find our study in Romans difficult.

If you are ready to listen very carefully to what the Bible actually says and alter your ideas to conform, this may be the best study ever.

It’s about pride and stubbornness versus humbleness and openness to what God has for you.

I’m only going to scratch the surface today because this will be a recurring theme throughout Romans.

The Gospel Message IS the means by which God communicates His only method of saving people… Everyone who hears the Gospel and truly believes will be saved.

Without further ado, I’m going to repeat what I said earlier and I encourage each and every one of you to read and reread verses 16&17 along with this statement.

We must recognize who we are and act appropriately for the Glory of God. That’s a two-fold reality that will come up again and again.

I want you to think long and hard about the meaning of the verses and the statement I’m attaching to them… wrestle with it, pray about it, discuss it, learn it and work to understand the nuance of meaning found there.

How much effort will you put in this week trying to better understand God and His plan?

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September 09, 2016 08:28 PM PDT
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Romans 1:1-7, Pastor Scott Keller

We’ve gone through Romans before… Almost 9 years ago. While the Book hasn’t changed, we have.

I’m so eager to study it again, because Romans is the most comprehensive and detailed explanation of Christianity in the Bible…

Show me a person with a firm grasp of Romans and I’ll show you a person who understands who God is, what God accomplished in Christ and what God wants from His children as they live out their lives as Christians.

It is also a book that discusses mankind… why we do, what we do, how God, in spite of that, laid the foundation of His Salvation in Judaism and how He brings all who obey His call to Himself now.

In our troubled times, there is not a better book to study…

In 386, Augustine was the most brilliant professor in the Roman Empire. and a wild living pagan. He was so accustomed to satisfying his basest desires he no longer found doing so satisfied him. Deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit, Augustine picked up a Bible and read the first thing he saw. It was Romans 13:13&14 NLT, “Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Augustine immediately accepted Jesus and became one of the most influential Christian theologians the church has ever known.

In 1515, an Augustinian Monk and professor at the University of Wittenberg was teaching through the Book of Romans and as he plumbed its depths he was shaken to his core.

He said he was suddenly “Reborn” when he realized that the “Righteousness of God” was not something he had to create in himself, but was given to him by God through faith in Christ.

He was Martin Luther and when he nailed his thesis on the door of the chapel, the Christian church would never be the same again.

Luther said about Romans, “This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul”

John Calvin said, “If we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.”

John Wesley was also transformed by Romans. He wrote that as he read Luther’s commentary on the Epistle. “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine; and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Theologian Gordon Clark said that Romans is “The most profound of all the epistles, and perhaps the most important book in the Bible.”

One of the things I’ve talked about often, is the importance of belief… I’ve said, “What you believe is the most important thing in life.” Second to that is, “How much you believe it.”

Ken Boa put it this way, “One’s zeitgeist (or worldview or belief system) is the bedrock of one’s presuppositions about everything and one’s presuppositions shape perspective and perspective determines priorities and priorities lead to what we practice.”

We are what we believe. Trust me what you believe, and how much you believe it to be true, shapes everything you think, say and do.

Listen to me… IF you’re always late, it means deep down you think it’s okay to be late… IF you are rude to people, deep down you think that’s acceptable behavior… IF you ignore your spouse – you think that’s alright, somewhere deep inside, because I will tell you my friends, IF we truly believe something is absolutely unacceptable we won’t do that thing.

To do what we know is wrong is to first give ourselves permission to do it.

That was just a bonus… My real point is that it is vital to know what you believe and why you believe it and the only way that happens is by understanding the foundations of your belief… that’s what Romans can do… IF we will diligently seek to understand its meaning.

That’s why I chose Romans… Times are perilous and we need to strengthen our faith.

Paul was finishing up his Third Missionary Journey having established and strengthened churches throughout modern-day Turkey and Greece.

He travelled from Ephesus through Macedonia arriving in Corinth in the late winter of 55-57 A.D. There he spent three months, departing for Jerusalem in the early spring.

From Corinth, Paul wrote the church in Rome… which is to say the hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians living in the capital city.

The reason Romans is such a thorough presentation of Christianity is because of Paul’s two-fold purpose in writing.

First, he was on his way to present a substantial offering from the churches to the mother church still in Jerusalem at that time.

He knew he would have to defend his theology to the Jewish Christians who were far more legalistic in their adherence to Jewish Law.

Romans was a kind of rehearsal of how he would present Christianity to them. It was like a speech he wrote in anticipation of his visit there… in a sense it is Paul systematically working through what he would say to his fellow Jewish-Christian brothers and sisters.

It is a defense and explanation of the Christianity Paul taught, as taught to him by Jesus Himself (Acts 23:11, 26:14-18, etc.).

Second, Paul’s plan was to go from Jerusalem after his visit and spread the Gospel where it was still unknown. His stated intention was to travel to Spain (Romans 15:22-28).

But Paul wanted a base in Rome where he could launch his new missionary endeavor. He didn’t really know the Romans and the Romans didn’t really know Paul.

This letter formally introduces Paul to them as an Apostle appointed by Jesus and also outlines His teaching, so as to gain the support of the Roman Christians for his future ministry.

The Christian community in Rome was already flourishing and we might ask how it got started if Paul was not responsible.

The Catholic church claims that Peter established the Roman church.

While Peter did make his way to Rome, it was well after this letter was written. So how did it happen?

In the first few decades of Christianity, evangelism happened through the network of Jewish synagogues.

A Jewish Christian would present Messiah to his fellow Jews and the debate would rage on in the synagogue. Of course it would inevitably end up in a fight between those who accepted Jesus and those who thought it was a blasphemous cult.

According to Acts, on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, Peter, newly filled with the Holy Spirit, preached a sermon on the streets of Jerusalem to the pilgrims there for the festival. Acts 2:10 specifically says there were Jews and converts to Judaism from Rome listening to Peter.

Peter’s sermon in part was…
22“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.
32“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.
36“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

The Bible goes on to say that, “Peter’s words pierced their hearts,” and that, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all” (Acts 2:22-24, 32-33, 36&41 NLT)

Those Roman Jews, now Christian converts took their new faith back to Rome and spread it in the Jewish synagogues of the city where it caused a revival, but also tremendous turmoil.

It created such an uproar, in fact, that the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from the city of Rome in about 49 A.D. The Roman historian Suetonius (Swĕ-tō-nē-üs) reported that the Jews were rioting due to Chrestus. Nearly all scholars agree that it was a dispute among the Jewish population about Christ, Greek Christŏs, Latin Christüs both meaning the Anointed One of God the Messiah – (Acts 18:2).

Claudius died in 54 A.D., and with him, so did his edict. At the writing of this letter, many of the Jews had returned to Rome, but also, by then, the Roman Christian community had a Gentile majority.

Paul’s letter shows that he wants to connect with those Gentile Christians as well as with his fellow Jewish Christians.

He lays out God’s dealings with mankind to build a foundation for explaining the Gospel Message and its implications for both groups.

Because of the deep theological nature of Romans, many people find it complicated and difficult… We will endeavor to present it an understandable way AND, in addition, we will continue to have a class on Sundays where we will go over the previous sermon… I must tell you there is no excuse for not getting a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Come to the Fellowship Hour – enjoy each other’s company, savor the food and discuss the Book… NOW, BUCKLE UP!

Romans 1:1-7 ~ 1Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whew, let me catch my breath… I read it that way because these first 7 verses constitute one, single sentence in Greek. That is the From – To opening of any letter… From Paul to the Christian community in Rome… One sentence somewhat expanded…

That’s a lot of information jammed together. And it’s not like it’s unimportant or uninteresting information, so we’ll go through it a bit…

In verse 1, Paul introduces himself. He says he is a slave, NOT “A bond-servant (… a SLAVE) of Christ Jesus.” As many of you know, I don’t like the softening of the word δοῦλος (dü-lŏs). It means slave, as in, my entire life, my will and my being are my Master’s – I exist to fulfill His desire, accomplish His perfect will and bring glory and honor to Him.
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Look, I want us to recognize that it isn’t just Jesus or isn’t just Paul or isn’t just pastors or isn’t just super-Christians who are to give everything they are to fulfill God’s perfect will.

Every Christian is called by God to give up all of their personal desires, hopes and dreams… hear me know – this isn’t a game – this isn’t something that can be done as you like it… You, Christian person must give up everything, your plans, your career, your family, your friends, your pursuit of happiness… We must give up everything, no matter how precious it is to us, IF it is the Master’s Will.

That’s precisely what He did for us… God gave up the most He possibly could give up… He gave up Himself to be ridiculed and abused and betrayed and savagely murdered by His own… all so you… all so you and I, could be saved.

We want to take that salvation and cheapen it… making it an insignificant, trifling and trivial thing that has little value… By still living our puny, petty lives all for ourselves.

Salvation is free, so we think that’s what it’s worth… shame on all of us and all Christians in America and around the globe… Lord forgive us…

Lord help us to follow the example You set – the example Your Apostle Paul gives us here – Lord help us to be slaves to You.

Help us to see that our entire being must be found in You, for Your purposes, no matter the cost.

That’s what Paul is saying and if you read the Book of Acts and the 14 letters associated with Paul and the references to him in other Bible Books… You will know for certain, that when He called himself the “Slave of Christ Jesus,” it wasn’t an exaggeration.
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He says “Christ Jesus,” in that order, to emphasize the fact that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah and it underscores that the one and only Messiah sent by God is, in fact, none other than the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth.

The remainder of verse 1, establishes that Paul was an Apostle of the Messiah Jesus. That he was handpicked, “Set apart” and appointed by Almighty God to spread the Gospel Message of Salvation that comes through THE Christ to those who did not know and to establish new Christian communities from those who accepted.

Verse 2, boldly proclaims that salvation from God was promised to mankind through many prophets over many centuries as recorded in what we call the Old Testament.

That means that the Christianity of the Christ is not a new religion – it is the fulfillment of the only true religion given to mankind from the beginning.

Verse 3, makes it clear that the salvation of man that God promised was provided by the Son of God made the Son of Man.

The Christ, Jesus, was according to the Old Testament prophesies born as a human in the ancestral line of the King chosen by God, David from the tribe of Judah, “A man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

A very fundamental doctrine of Christianity is demonstrated in verse 3. As already established Jesus, and Jesus alone is the Christ or Messiah and He is the very Son of God and is simultaneously a human being born of flesh.

I John 4:2, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Dropping down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
II John 7, “Those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

It is a core foundational doctrine of Christianity that is non-negotiable. Jesus was both fully God and fully human simultaneously.

As fully human, He experienced everything we experience including physical death. As fully God, He was able to overcome temptation and remain sinless.
Hebrews 4:15 NLT, says that Jesus, “Understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.”

It is a crucial requirement of true Biblical Christianity because it is the only way possible for Jesus to be an acceptable sacrifice to cover the guilt of all humanity. The only way He could be the “Mediator of the New Covenant,” as Hebrews 9:15 puts it.

I Timothy 2:5&6 NLT, “There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message (the WORD) God gave to the world.”

Verse 4, goes on to say about Jesus, the flesh and blood, Son of Man, descendant of King David… that He was declared, authenticated or proven beyond question, to also be the Son of GOD.

How was that proven? By His Resurrection from the dead.

Everyone knows that dead is dead. No one comes back from the dead… unless, of course, God brings them back.

God, not only speaks the universe into existence, He creates and sustains all life… God can bring a dead person back to life if He chooses to do that.

Whether people like it or not, the Bible teaches that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of Man and the Son of God. He claimed to be the Anointed One who would take away the sins of the world by offering Himself as a sacrifice and He claimed that God would validate all His claims by raising Him from the dead.

The fact that Jesus was dead, beyond any doubt and then returned to life, beyond any doubt… Declares, beyond any doubt that God was pleased with Him… pleased to testify that Jesus was WHO He said He was, by returning Him to life.

The Resurrection “Declared (that He was) the Son of God” and therefore, is Jesus, our only Christ, and our only Lord… That means just as we so often say, Jesus is our only Lord and Savior.

The Christ is the Savior – technically, God is the Savior through His method, which is the Christ, the Word made flesh…

We have eternal salvation in Christ alone. Acts 4:12 NLT, says of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name
under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Additionally, Christ is the Lord – again, technically, God is the Lord through His Christ, the Word, Jesus…

We humbly submit our entire selves to His Lordship Hebrews 5:9 NLT, says Jesus, “Became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.”

For all those who prove that Jesus truly is their Lord by their actual obedience to His Will. YES, Lord.

Notice in verse 4, Paul names Jesus as, “Jesus Christ our Lord.” Again, as we’ve seen before there is meaning in the order and substance of the title. Here Jesus the human man is emphasized because God can’t die – the fact that He is the Christ is proven by the Resurrection and both elements taken together makes him our Lord.

Now, please see that the Resurrection that declares Jesus our Lord and Savior does so because it is the opening or start of resurrection for the people of God that He promised in the Old Testament.

What good does it do us IF Jesus was perfect and death couldn’t hold onto Him? So what? He can’t be held by death… Good for Him.

The thing that makes Him Savior and so Lord is that His resurrection is the evidence that He destroyed sin and therefore conquered death for all of us who believe, trust and obey. I Corinthians 15:20 NLT,
“Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”

He has paved the way and opened the gates for all who would follow Him through those gates into heaven.

Verses 5-7, combines the implications of Jesus as Savior – “We have received grace,” and Jesus as Lord – Paul’s “Apostleship.” Paul is saved by Christ and he has obeyed the call as His Apostle, which then transitions into the TO part… To my fellow Christians in Rome.

The role he has been called to, as an Apostle, is the proclamation of the Gospel Message primarily to the Gentile world (this shows the Roman church was predominantly Gentile by this time).

What is the goal of spreading the Message?

It is to, now please get this, it is to bring about obedience to God for His glory.

We obey because we have faith given to us by the Holy Spirit and through that obedience, God is both pleased and glorified… it is “For His name’s sake.”

God isn’t sacrificing Jesus and filling Christians with His Spirit so they can continue to do whatever they want to do. To help them have more money, more stuff, more sex, more intoxication, more health, more fun, more of whatever they want…

I Corinthians 6:19&20 NLT, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. Therefore, you must honor God (glorify God) with your body.

We exist, “For His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

080716 - James 5d - Let's Get it Right
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August 13, 2016 07:58 AM PDT
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James 5:10-20, Pastor Scott Keller

Today we will close out our study in the Book of James… “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”

Last week we looked at how patience is really evidence of love…

James 5:9, says, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

It’s so important to realize that the activity of grumbling and complaining about others… as well as the underlying attitude that produces such antagonistic irritation… is in fact, judging.

Anytime you don’t approve of someone else; you have appointed yourself as their judge.

Plain and simple, that’s a fact.

Sometimes we get confused about an important distinction.
There is legitimacy, in some cases, not all cases my friends, BUT in some cases, it is reasonable to judge behavior, actions and performance…

A parent must, at times, judge the behavior of their child,
just as a policeman must, at times, judge the actions of a criminal
and a teacher must, at times, judge the performance of a student…

BUT in no case, is a parent, a cop, a teacher, or anyone else for that matter, supposed to judge another person as to who they truly are… because that job belongs to THE Judge. And be very careful, my friends, because, “THE Judge is standing right at the door.”

It is just what Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

That’s the thing when we grumble and complain about the pastor, or the Elders, or the Deacons, or anyone else in the church family… it is always judging them as Christians.

God wants us to know that judging is His job and further, He wants us to know that if we insist on doing His job, He will judge us.

So, judge the work, the fruit, the evidence, as necessary, in a constructive way… Always working diligently to build the church and encourage the saints, BUT never judge the person, which is evidenced by grumbling and complaining against them… or else… or else prepare yourself because you will likewise be judged by Almighty God.

The distinction is that one humbly evaluates the evidence and genuinely seeks to help, while the other arrogantly judges the human heart and actually seeks to diminish, dismiss and destroy.

How do we avoid the negative? Well, it’s by love, deep faith, and humbleness, which is all evidenced or proven by being patient.

1Patient with God, 2patient with others and my friends, 3patient with yourself.

In general, we have so little patience it is stunning.

1We are impatient with God so we take the reins of our life and run the whole thing off a cliff.
2We are impatient with others and expect them to be super-perfect Christians without any embarrassing sin the same day they accept Christ.
3We are impatient with ourselves and either make excuses for our failures or are defeated by them.

1God has His plan… trust Him to execute it perfectly by being patient with the timeline.
2God is working in the lives of those around you… trust that they are on their own journey with God and be patient with them as they have the same types of struggles you have.
3God is maturing you as well… trust that He’s got you and will bring you to where He wants you by being patient with your own progress.

You see, IF you are impatient with yourself, you will be impatient with both God and others… Impatience is evidence of a lack of faith, a lack of humbleness and a lack of love.

Patience really is a choice… it’s a choice to trust God.

So as we discovered last week “Be patient,” occurs 3 times in verses 7&8… Each time it is the verb, μακροθυμέω (mä-kȑŏ-thü-mĕ-ō), the same as the patience in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It is a bearing with the program, BUT especially a bearing with others because we know God… we know God and so we trust God… “The coming of the Lord is near” and He is bringing both reward and judgment.

JAMES 5:10&11 ~ 10As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Verse 10, “Patience,” is μακροθυμία (mä-kȑŏ-thü-mē-ä), the noun form of μακροθυμέω… The 4th time in a few verses, reining in one’s negative feelings for as long as it takes, has been mentioned…

James gives us an example of what he’s been talking about. God sent many men to proclaim His Word through the ages and so many of them were abused, brutalized and even murdered, by the very people they were sent to help. For their part though, they patiently endured to the end.

Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of patient endurance, ministering to people who hate the Truth so much they cruelly murdered Him.

The prophets of old, Jesus our Lord and Savior and all the Christians from Stephen in Jerusalem to our brothers and sisters in China, Nigeria, Iraq and Syria, who have been and are being martyred.

It is their steadfast patient endurance that speaks volumes and will bear witness against those who refuse to repent.

That is what is commended by God… Because the way they do it is by trusting God. That’s how it’s done.

How do you keep the faith when there is no evidence of God? Trust… and through trust, there God is found.

We’ve repeatedly seen “Patience” extolled and now in verse 11, James switches to another word for patience. It is translated as “Endured” and “Endurance.”

We’ve talked about it many times before, it is first the verb ὑπομένω (hü-pŏ-mĕ-nō), followed by the noun form, ὑπομονή (hü-pŏ-mŏ-nā). Two words literally meaning to “Remain under.”

It was used of the Greek military formation where the key to survival as the enemy charged was to remain in your position while under tremendous pressure to run!

It is bearing up and standing fast in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds… Facing pain, suffering and difficulty… NOT with Greek stoicism… NOT with Eastern detachment… NOT with military fatalism… BUT with complete trust in the Author and Perfector of our faith.

It is often translated as endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, and my favorite, perseverance.

Job is one of the best examples from the Old Testament.

He lost everything and was in such a pitiable state his own wife told him, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job endured without losing faith in God, through 42 chapters…

Just reading Job, from chapter 4 through 37, requires a certain amount of endurance. BUT in the end, Job 42:10 NLT says, “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”

As we read last week, Jesus said in Matthew 19:29 NLT, “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”

Those who patiently endure with 1God and His program, with 2others and 3themselves – with all the trials and tribulations that entails, will be blessed eternally by the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.

JAMES 5:12 ~ But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

This is a weird verse. It seems totally out of place and it uses language and a concept easily misunderstood today.

Let’s remember one of the most critical rules of Bible interpretation… Context.

While it seems like an isolated command it is really the culmination of what’s been said previously.

The opening phrase, “But above all,” is actually saying as I just said, as a culmination of these things… and that culmination is, “Do not swear.”

First, let’s understand that “Do not swear,” has absolutely nothing at all to do with cussing or profanity as we use the term.

This has everything to do with making bold proclamations and confident assertions promising on oath a particular performance or outcome.

Seen that way we can easily identify it with the command given in last few verses of chapter 4. We say we are going to do this or that, BUT we “Are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” So, “Instead, we ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills.’”

The point is that we have no idea what God has in store for us, so we are to patiently endure as we pray for His will to be done… Instead of making brash statements, promises and claims backing them up with our oath, pledge or personal guarantee that is not actually within our control.

We must, to the best of our ability, be people of integrity… following through on our word, if possible, BUT, simultaneously realizing that the future may unfold in such a way that I cannot do what I said…

Therefore, we should not make promises as though we control the future… We should not make promises we may not be able to keep.

It isn’t to be legalistic about never signing a contract or never making a marriage covenant, etc. It’s about an attitude that recognizes God and His plans.

Yes, I will. No, I won’t. Lord willing. Lord willing, because, I’m not the one in charge.

JAMES 5:13-18 ~ 13Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

“Is anyone among you suffering?” “Suffering,” is κακοπαθέω (kä-kŏ-päth-ĕ-ō) from κακὸς (kä-kŏs), bad or evil and πάθος (päth-ŏs), feelings or passion as in the “pathy,” in sympathy, empathy, or apathy. It is bad feeling and so encompasses all manner of difficulty.

If you’re having trouble… PRAY! On the other hand, if things are going well… PRAISE!

Situation 1: “Lord, I’m struggling here, I’m praying that you will please strengthen me.”
Situation 2: “Lord, you heard my prayer and I’m doing better, thank you so much, I love You and praise Your Holy Name!”

Now, verse 14… This is where I hope to bring some clarity…

Situation number 3: IF you are in the 1st situation and you pray and it isn’t working… in other words, you’re reaching out to God and you’re still struggling… Get help from the Elders.

God has given you a group of mature Christian leaders to help you get through what you can’t get through on your own prayers alone.

Now some people might say, IF that’s the case why does every major English translation say “Sick” twice… “Is anyone among you sick?” and verse 15, “Will restore the one who is sick.”

Sick or ill, is only one very specific form of “Suffering.”

The word translated as sickness in verse 14, is ἀσθενέω (ä-sthĕn-ĕ-ō), and it means weakness, NOT sickness. It is literally the negation of being strong… it means without strength.

No doubt, being “Without strength” is oftentimes because a person is physically ill. And in fact there are several occurrences of this word in the Bible where context tells us it is sickness.

There are many other instances of the word in the Bible where it is clearly “Weakness” of a physical, moral or even spiritual nature and is translated to convey that sense.

An example is, II Corinthians 11:28&29, where Paul says, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?”

What’s more telling, is in verse 15 the 2nd “Sick” is a completely different word. There it is κάμνω (käm-nō), which means weary, tired or exhausted.

It’s true those can be symptoms accompanying sickness, BUT the only other places the word is used in the Bible occurs at Hebrews 12:3, speaking of Jesus, “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

AND the other place is in some ancient manuscripts for Revelation 2:3, “You have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”

James quotes the Old Testament from the Greek version called the LXX. He’s using Job as an example here and so it was no doubt on his mind… The other place this word is found is in that Greek version at Job 10:1, where Job said, “I loathe my own life.” The KJV translates, “My soul is weary of my life.”

So sure, a person can be weary because they are physically sick, but I believe it’s much bigger than that.

In addition, the Bible says unequivocally that the outcome of the prayer “Will restore” the sick person.

If it is sickness and we go through this process, then no one will ever succumb to an illness again. Every sickness will be reversed and no one will ever die from illness, unless we can’t get to the sick person fast enough.

Does that make sense, especially coming from the Book of James?

The word translated as “Restore” here is actually the word σῴζω (sō-dzō), meaning to SAVE! It is the word family used well over 200 times in the New Testament for the Salvation of the Lord.

It is to deliver, rescue, keep from harm – it is to save.

The person will as a matter of absolute fact be saved and the “Lord will raise him up.”

Jesus said in John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

How’s it possible? Well, only with sins forgiven and that’s the third thing that the “Prayer offered in faith” produces.

Let’s consider that for a moment… the prayer is specifically one of faith…

With all that in mind let’s reread verses 13 through 15… “Is anyone among you struggling with bad feelings about anything?
Then he must pray for God’s strength to patiently endure.
Is anyone cheerful? He is to thankfully sing God’s praises.
Is anyone among you WEAK? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will SAVE the one who is weary, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”

The faith of the Elders because of their maturity, experience and wisdom will buoy the faith of the one struggling with whatever kind of trouble has made them weak and weary whether illness or anything else.

If you are struggling and it isn’t getting better through prayer come to the Elders and we will pray the prayer of faith, anointing you with oil and you will be saved, lifted up on the last day and forgiven of your sins.

You may continue to suffer and you may even die… BUT you will be encouraged and strengthened and able to carry on and you will live forever in the Kingdom of Heaven.

That takes us to the verse the Catholics use to justify the confessional. “Confess your sins to one another.” Luther said, “It is a strange name for a priest, this, one another.”

Well, Job, once again, becomes important… Just because bad stuff happens; it does not mean you are doing something wrong… BUT get this… whether we are currently experiencing bad, or good, we’re always doing something wrong.

As righteous as Job was, he found out that he wasn’t righteous at all compared to God. All of us can use trials as times that focus our attention on God and remind us to examine ourselves and humbly ask for God’s pardon where we are weak, because honestly, we need to do that all the time.

It’s not that God hurts us to get our attention – it’s that when we are hurting we tend to be more attentive.

If you know your problems are caused by sin, then confess that sin – own it, repudiate it and turn away from it in a way that will make it real and will help in making it last.

That means confess it to others in the church. That has proven to be very tricky and because of gossip and other forms of immaturity along with a desire for centralized power, the Catholic church made it a private affair between the parishioner and the priest.

In reading this carefully, I think it allows for the complexities of life. Sometimes one only needs to confess privately, IF that is working. IF not, confess to the Elders and seek their prayer, BUT in some situations it will be acceptable to confess to the pastor alone or to another accountability partner.

What is being discussed here specifically, is a person is struggling, they aren’t getting better on their own, they come to the Elders and confess the thing that either got them into the mess or is blocking them from getting out of it.

The phrase “One another,” in this context is the Elders of verses 14&15 as made even more clear by the line, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” The righteous man is most likely talking about an Elder of the church.

Now, the beauty of the passage is that it is ambiguous enough to allow for variations and any person can be a confessor in the right circumstances and pray an “Effective prayer of a righteous man.”

Such open confession and desire to be right with God and the church, trusting the leaders God has appointed and receiving their prayers will result, once again in being “Healed,” in the middle of verse 16.

There “healed,” is another word, ἰάομαι (ē-ä-ŏ-mī). A word also used, speaking of Jesus in I Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (ἰάομαι).” Obviously a metaphor for salvation.

Verses 17&18, use another Old Testament example of Elijah to remind us that prayers in faith produce miraculous results.

The point is not a prosperity Gospel of praying for money and becoming rich, praying for healing and becoming healthy, praying for all you want and becoming happy.

The point is that life is tough and it’s even tougher for Christians who minister to others as they should.

Sometimes it’s so tough you need help… BUT no matter how difficult your struggle, the church family God has graciously given to you will stand by your side and bear you up before the Lord and He will save you.

JAMES 5:19&20 ~ 19My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The premise here is to love one another enough to be engaged with one another. To encourage and pray and comfort and empathize. To listen far more than you talk.

Some people take this as a mandate to dig into other people’s business, judge them and then point a craggy finger at them in mean-spirited, arrogant superiority… demanding instant conformity to their idea of Christianity or else.

When called on their unchristian behavior they say, “I must turn these sinners back to God because it will cover my own past sin.”

That’s not what God has in mind here. God through James is trying to show us how a church family is supposed to work.

We care and we love enough to help others, rather than hinder them.

The concept is made clearer in a parallel found in I Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

Helping a struggling brother or sister by praying fervently for them and by being sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to actually bless them instead of curse them… so that they can get back on the path… Well, my friends, that’s love and it covers a multitude of sins.

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July 06, 2016 03:04 PM PDT
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James 4:1-6, Pastor Scott Keller

So last week we finished chapter 3, and I think we could all see how serious God is about unity in the Body of Christ.

In verse 16, of that chapter it says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

Not really, “Every evil thing,” but every evil practice, deed, activity and work… Jesus said in John 3:20 NIV, “Everyone who does evil (that’s the same phrase… does evil) hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

According to the Bible, “Disorder” in the church is a sure sign of earthly, natural and demonic “Wisdom” at work.

It is people who think so highly of their opinion… they must work, struggle, fight, even destroy, in order to impose it on others.

It creates instability, confusion, divisions and disassociation. Paul addressed the spiritually immature in I Corinthians 3:3 NLT, saying, “You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?”

Confusion, discontentment, instability, negative talk that undermines others… these create quarrels and conflicts and are confirmations of the devil’s work.

So we start with the first bit of verse 1, in James chapter 4…

JAMES 4:1a ~ 1aWhat is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?

Having just said, as the NLT translates it, “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

James, in verse 1, turns to the opposite of peace and rhetorically asks what is the source of anti-peace in the church, what is the cause of “Quarrels and conflicts” among Christians?

We continue with the rest of verse 1…

JAMES 4:1b ~ 1bIs not the source… your pleasures that wage war in your members?

This sounds like a question that could be debated… well maybe that’s it, but maybe not… Remember in Greek, the language of logic and rhetorical argumentation… rhetorical questions can only be answered one way… nothing is left to chance.

Here the answer to the question is a resounding, “YES, obviously, absolutely, of course,” the source is “Your pleasures that wage war in your members.”

What does that mean?

Once again, the NASB translation is perfect at what it does… it translates as close to word-for-word as possible and in so doing often leaves people scratching their head.

The ESV is clearer, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” The NIV may be better than that, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The MSG is clearer still, “They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.”

If a core characteristic of God is love for others, a core characteristic of humans is love for self.

No matter how mature you are in Christ… no matter how much you yield to the Holy Spirit work in your life… self… constantly rears its ugly head.

SELF must be vigilantly recognized, intentionally opposed and actively battled… every day of your life.

Our default position is thinking about ourselves, our interests, our desires, our will done.

That is the normal, native passion, lust, desire within us all and IF we are Christians led by the Holy Spirit we will be at war with that earthly, human, fleshly inclination.

When we lose that battle the devil makes progress in the church.

James expands his argument in the first part of verse 2…

JAMES 4:2a ~ 2aYou lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.

It is a nice mnemonic couplet to enhance and amplify the concept that our human lust for power, longing for acceptance, craving for attention, passion for pleasure, hunger for more than we have, starts out as a mere wish…

It starts by a thought in our mind that we want things to be a certain way… we envy those who seem to get their way… we struggle then to set it right… working to remake the world to reflect our desire and we become bitterly jealous of those who are better at it than we are.

Thoughts give birth to words and words grow up to be actions and actions produce effects just as James said back in chapter 1, “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full grown, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).

Left unchecked our desire to have it our way ultimately leads to fighting and war and murder… Unchecked, it confirms eternal death in the practitioner as well.

It is so important that we “Take every thought captive” (II Corinthians 10:5). Thoughts produce attitudes… my friends. What we dwell on in our mind produces the attitude we have and it is nearly impossible to speak and act contrary to our attitude.

Philippians 2:3-5 NLT, 3Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

The final bit of verse 2, and verse 3…

JAMES 4:2b&3 ~ 2bYou do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Here we take a little foray into the basic problem… It would seem that I’d be as happy as happy can be, IF I got everything I wanted, when I wanted it…

I don’t get what I want and so I’m unhappy and so I make those around me unhappy.

Why don’t I get my way?

Well I don’t ask God for what I want. I either don’t think about asking God, or I believe God can’t help or I believe God won’t help.

The first is arguably the most common reason… I simply react and try to get what I want on my own without giving God much thought at all.

I see Christians making huge life decisions… Where to go to school, what profession to pursue, where to live, who to marry, how many kids to have… without ever asking God what He thinks.

It’s typically only when a thing becomes a crisis that I call out to God.

If I always ask God for His help in even the most mundane matters it does a few things for me.

1) First, it keeps me connected to God and therefore somewhat disconnected from caring too much about the temporary things of this world. Things that usually won’t matter in 100 days, let alone in 100 years, let alone in eternity.

2) It also provides a bit of a Godliness check… You want to destroy an opponent and it might give you pause when you try to formulate that into a prayer.

3) It also helps me remember something critically important… I am dependent upon God, whether I am aware of it or not, for even the tiniest things I typically don’t even notice.

God makes my heart beat, He makes the sun shine, He makes the air that I breathe, He enables the synaptic connections that allow me to recognize that He is God and that, in itself, is enough.

As I’ve mentioned before, my first professional preaching gig was filling in for a pastor for an entire month. It was a Southern all-black church… I don’t mean Southern Montana and I don’t mean the building was painted black, I mean people talked funny and Mariah and I were the only pale-skinned people for miles around.

I must say it had a profound effect on me and I often wish we could get a little bit of what those wonderful people had here in our church.

I’m certain that on average, they didn’t understand theology as well as our crowd here, BUT they were in love with Jesus and completely unafraid to show that reality in everything they said and did.

One of the things that struck me was a theme that kept recurring. Many times, from many different people, they would say, “I just praise God that I’m in my right mind and can know who He is.”

If God will enable your brain to work well enough to know who He is… it’s enough… that is enough and how often do we thank Him for that?

When I ask for all the things I want, it helps me remember all the things I’ve already got.

4) It helps me remember to be thankful for my abundance and maybe a little less greedy for more.

Yeah, I lost my “Fill in the blank,” but I still have salvation.

5) It also helps me remember that no matter how powerful, smart and hard-working I am… I control nothing.

We love to think we are in control. In fact, the number one reason for stress in our lives, is a feeling of being out of control. In actuality, we’re never in control of anything. We just think we are…

Human control is an illusion and prayer reminds me of that fact.

The next two reasons I don’t ask is I don’t believe God is willing to I don’t believe God is able… He’s too busy, too distracted, too aloof, too exacting to care about little ole me.

However, we frame it, the bottom line is, I don’t believe in the God of the Bible. I don’t believe in the God who cares and who is in control, the God who wants to hear from me and desires my best, the God who is compassionate, merciful and able.

The next problem is… sometimes I do ask God, and He doesn’t answer… Which is to say, His answer is not one I want to hear.

The problem isn’t that God doesn’t answer, the problem is we’re so focused on the answer we want, we aren’t listening for the answer He gives.

What we want is a Genie, not a God. There’s a huge difference between the two. The first is like witchcraft, a way to get my will done.

In our culture today we often hear about a distinction between good witches and bad witches, between white magic and black magic.

All witchcraft, like all magic, like all works-based religion, is about control. If I mix these ingredients, say this incantation, go to that church… then things will go the way I think they should go.

Even if everything I desire is good… it is my idea of what’s good.

It is always about me acting as God, rather than me humbly serving God. Me wanting my will done in heaven, rather than God’s will done on earth.

I “Ask and don’t receive,” because I’m asking for what I think is best, rather than asking for what God knows is best. I “Ask with wrong motives.”

What are the wrong motives? Well, in a nutshell, the wrong motives are motives not aligned with God’s purposes.

Wrong motives are desiring God to move on your behalf so that you can have your way. even when your way is counter to God’s will.

Back in verse 1, we found that the source of strife in the church was our, “Pleasures that wage war in our members?”

“Pleasures” is the Greek word ἡδονή (hā-dŏn-ā), yes, this evolved into English hĕdonism or hēdonism.
Hedonism is the philosophy that the greatest good is the greatest overall sustained pleasure.

Specifically, here, it is what I desire, that takes precedence over what God desires.

Many people confuse their ideas and God’s. Many people create havoc in the church by demanding their own strict interpretation of the Bible… The irony is they destroy the unity God repeatedly commands while thinking they are acting on His behalf.

So, the final part of verse 3, is talking about asking God for what we think is best… what PLEASES us… When God may have something very different in mind.

Now, on to verses 4&5…

JAMES 4:4&5 ~ 4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

This picture represents is the intended effect… Several times James has addressed us as brothers and it is legitimate to say, as sisters, so this is quite shocking.

“You adulteresses,” is a slap in the face. It is to call everyone’s attention to the seriousness of the matter.

Adulteresses is of course in the feminine form because God’s people are often metaphorically equated to His wife… unfortunately, most often, an unfaithful wife. In Ezekiel 16:32, God calls His people, “You adulteress wife.”

James has such passages in mind when he addresses the church here.

Adultery is seeking after a different God. When we do that it always starts because we are dissatisfied… it is always finishes by rejecting God in His role and granting that role to someone or something else.

Therefore, “Friendship with the world is hostility toward God,” in the sense that getting caught up in the world leads us to compromise our loyalties.

Judas was so concerned with Jesus being who and what he wanted Jesus to be, that when he failed to live up to those expectations, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss.

That’s what we are in danger of doing when we want God to be who we want Him to be rather than who He truly is.

It is to be double-minded (James 1:8, 4:8). It is to allow our loyalties to be divided and so we must battle against the tendency. It is essentially what Paul pointed out to the Corinthians where he says, “One who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided”
(I Corinthians 7:32-35).

Please align all of your interests with God’s interests and when you do it will actually make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better sibling, a better friend.

Verse 5, is one of the most difficult verses in the entire Bible to interpret. The basic issue is James clearly quotes two separate passages. The first here in verse 5, and the second in verse 6.

Verse 6 is easy… it is clearly Proverbs 3:34 from the Greek Old Testament. The passage quoted in verse 5 is not clear.

Here’s a perfect example of why context is so important. Because we can’t be certain which Scripture James is quoting in verse 5, we can’t be certain about the quotations original context, so it leaves the meaning open to interpretation.

Everyone agrees on the underlying Greek words, BUT what they mean, without the original context, can vary.

Here’s what I mean and why I bring it up…

NASB “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

That’s God wants relational connection with all of His Own Spirit and a portion of that Spirit dwells in you.

ESV, NIV, NRSV all essentially say, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? That’s God again, BUT now He is yearning for us more than His Spirit in us… God wants connection with our life animating human spirit.

The NLT agrees with a little easier flow, “God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.” That’s again, God after our spirit.

The MSG avoids defining what the subject or the object, simply saying that, “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.”

HCSB says it is, “The Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?” Not God yearning, BUT His Holy Spirit.

NET agrees with the KJV and the older NIV translation by saying, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning.” Meaning that it is our human spirit that’s doing the yearning and so the yearning is evil.

The reason we can have so many different ideas at this place is because each one of them is Biblically possible… If you have a passage that can potentially have multiple meanings and all of those meanings are reasonable Biblically… why choose?

People want to know for sure… they gather information and make a decision. Then they argue and fight with anyone who disagrees.

See the irony? God is talking to us about Christian unity and in the middle of the exhortation we divide and fight over the exact meaning of a single verse.

God put this nebulous verse here for a reason and I believe the reason is to graphically show us just how foolish we can be.

Any of the translations are okay. In fact, when we take all of them together they form a detailed and complete picture of why we fight against God and why He cares.

Yes, we know God desires right relationship with us because He both granted us life with our spirit at the moment of conception and granted us eternal life giving us His Spirit at the moment of Christian conversion.

And yes, God’s Holy Spirit inside a Christian yearns for complete access and perfect relationship with the Father through Christ Jesus.

And yes, our human spirit strongly desires things that are opposed to God’s will.

It’s all true and so any of it is possible… we pass the test when we don’t miss the forest for the trees.

When we don’t get so wrapped up in the minutia that we actually miss the main point of God’s Message.

JAMES 4:6 ~ 6But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Regardless of the intricacies of why there is a disconnect between me and God… He bridges the gap.

When I fail, God gives me greater grace. That is… when I am humble.

What it means is that when I recognize my unfaithfulness to God by pushing for my way I humble myself because I am sorry, I am repentant, I acknowledge my imperfection and that only Jesus can be perfect for me…

I humbly beseech Him for His Grace, His pardon, His mercy and forgiveness… I humbly ask Him to help me… not be a better me… But help me be precisely who HE wants me to be.

That is the opposite of INDEPENDENCE.

Praise God today for our nation’s Independence from tyranny and oppression so that we are free to be openly dependent upon God.

It will not last… make hay while the sun still shines and also prepare for winter.

062616 - James 3b - Can't We All Get Along?
Clean
June 29, 2016 10:37 AM PDT
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James 3:5-18, Pastor Scott Keller

In chapter 3, James is basically saying, as we come together as a church family, we don’t need a bunch of ARROGANT, holier-than-thou, know-it-all, I-have-an-opinion, blowhards always trying to get their views heard and their ideas adopted.

What we need is people willing to check their opinion at the door and humbly work together to get along. To bless God, to encourage each other and to be examples of God’s grace to the lost.

As God teaches in Philippians 2:2-4, “Be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

The meaning of “Be of the same mind,” seems so obvious, yet we have had people in this very church twist that phrase to mean the exact opposite of what context tells us it means.

They think, their mind is right, and so every other person must become of the same mind with them… everyone else must think precisely the way they do… Anyone who doesn’t agree fully is simply and tragically wrong… WRONG about God and so, not only, not led by the Holy Spirit, but probably not a Christian at all. The only thing left for the perfect one to do is to shake the dust from their feet and walk away… judge, condemn and disassociate.

What is more arrogant than that?

The other place this concept about “Being of the same mind” is used is in Romans 12:16, where it says, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind (that’s big-headed, self-important, arrogant), but (instead of that) associate with the lowly (those no one values or respects and who cannot help your ambition). Do not be wise in your own estimation (in other words, do not overvalue your opinion).”

So, my friends, twice in one verse about “Being of the same mind,” we are told not to think too highly of ourselves.

Trust me when I say, none of us… my dear friends, none of us, are nearly as smart as we think we are.
As Paul said, “Live in harmony in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

It is to “Agree wholeheartedly with each other,” as the NLT puts it. Why, because we are so much less important than the reputation of God and the operation of the church.

If your mind is thinking of a way to resist what I’m saying, you are in point of fact, resisting God, not me.

Of course, there’s another side to this coin, BUT there is nothing going on here in this church that comes close to blasphemy… except a refusal to get along with each other.

We need to be humble God-honoring Christians striving to do God’s will and serving one another.

We need to get along as a group and our group needs to get along with other Christian groups as much as possible, because we all collectively constitute the church universal… The Body of Christ on earth.

It isn’t our Body… it’s His. We need to adapt to the Body, not try to force the Body to adapt to us.

You want to be right with God and go to heaven? Be a Doer of Love and start right here in this place.

Because we are all so different, God, in His gracious mercy, has provided several wonderful aids to achieving unity… First and foremost is the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve said before, IF getting along as Christians was easy, we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit. A failure to get along with other Christians is an admission that you are not being led by God’s Spirit.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT), 1Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

Remember, as God tells us through Paul, “Insofar as it depends on you… be at peace with everyone.” It doesn’t matter what others do, nor does it matter how they react to your patient forgiveness… “You do you,” and let God worry about the rest (Romans 12:18).

That brings us to another aid in getting along… the idea of, “Walking in a manner worthy of our calling.” It is to understand, accept and actually conform to the teaching we have received.

Jesus is our master… we follow Him… He has shown us the way… Christian education, understanding Who Christ is and what He has done helps us put aside the pettiness of life and get on with the big picture program.

Another aid is the gift of choice. As I said last week, there are over 100 churches in this valley. Not a single one of them is perfect, but at least 30 of them are good enough.

Each one is unique, each one can be a home to commit to for the long haul.

I dare say that choice in itself can work in the opposite direction. With so many choices it’s hard to decide.

Picking out a paint color, or going to a new restaurant that has a huge menu… it’s hard to decide what to get. Why though… why? It’s only because we are afraid that we won’t pick the best one. We make our selection and worry that a different color would have been better, a different entrée would have been tastier, a different church would be better.

There isn’t a better place to grow in Christ because church is not about the programs and the ambiance and the personalities; it’s about God and you.

Has it ever occurred to you that the reason we are repeatedly commanded to get along in a church group is that doing so is difficult, and that, that difficulty is part of what grows you as a Christian?

Marriage serves many purposes and one of those purposes is to mature the couple through friction.

Sanctification, which is Christian growth, equals struggle… IF you are not struggling, you are not growing.

The final aid I want to share with you today is the freedom to simply focus of Jesus… If you spend more time with Jesus and less time worrying about things you can’t control anyway… You will find that peace that Christ promised (Luke 12:22-32, etc.).

Romans 12:18, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” It’s as simple as that… IF you lack peace with others (especially in the church), have you done everything you can? If so, move on, if not, get busy.

This IS the Christian life… Working out your salvation, each day, bearing your cross.

I’m going to read a long section from the Message, just to give us the context and gist… we’ll go back over it all… Remember, in verses 3&4, James used horse bits and ship rudders to illustrate the point that something very small can control something very large. A tongue is small, but can have a huge effect…

JAMES 3:5-18 ~
5A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. 6A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

7This is scary: You can tame a tiger, 8but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. 9With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. 10Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

10My friends, this can’t go on. 11A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? 12Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

13Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. 14Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. 15It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. 16Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

17Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. 18You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

I hope that helps to get the overall flow of chapter 3… Going back to verses 5&6…

JAMES 3:5&6 ~ 5So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

I know folks, and perhaps you do too, who can cut with their words better than a butcher cuts meat with a knife.

Obviously, the tongue is used figuratively for our speech. Our words can seem innocuous to us, but they can have a profoundly negative effect on others, and on ourselves, especially if we are in a position of authority.

In a fighter squadron 95% of the people are senior lieutenants and captains… all are in a similar boat with between 2 and 10 years as officers, in their mid-twenties to early thirties.

Then you have a couple of colonels who lead the squadron as Commander and his deputy. These guys have about 20 years as officers and are in their early forties. At my last squadron one of our colonels was despised by all the guys. He was considered a total jerk and everyone hated him.

Now, the entire reason why he was loathed was because, as a friend put it, he was a captain in colonel’s clothes.

He teased and verbally bashed us just as we teased and verbally bashed each other, BUT the same words coming from him, had a profoundly different effect.

Words have power especially when they come from an authority… that’s why the chapter starts out addressing teachers. For 2,000 years in Christianity and even longer in Judaism, the teachers have been the authority in the local church.

We know about forest fires in Montana… one spark and thousands of acres of forest are up in smoke.

Speech can have an even more destructive effect… Adolph Hitler became the force for evil he was, primarily through his speech.

Practically every vile, despicable, dictator, from Pol Pot to Idi Amin and from Joseph Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came to power because they could convince others to follow them… almost exclusively through their words.

Someone tells you how wonderful they are for long enough and you start believing it’s true… I mean it must be true… right? They keep saying it.

The words we speak can easily set us and others on a course of destruction… Satan uses words to tempt and deceive… and God uses His WORD to save.

Starting in verse 7, James gives us another comparison talking about how the human race has “Tamed” every animal species…

“Tamed,” not in the sense of made pets out of every species, BUT in the sense of having dominion over every species. Tame here means to conquer or have mastery over a thing.

Humans can dominate any and every animal, big and small, BUT they cannot seem to control their own relatively tiny tongue.

The end of verse 8 says our tongue is a “Restless evil” and that it is “Full of deadly poison.” “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

We bless God, sing His praises and pray earnestly with our tongue. We bless friends, encourage the saints and teach the Bible with our tongue. We preach God’s mercy, testify about our experience and proclaim the Gospel to the lost with our tongue.

And with the very same tongue, we revile, denigrate, criticize, abuse, condemn and vilify human beings made by God in His own image.

When James says, “These things ought not to be this way.” We think he’s making a strong recommendation.

The phrase means it is incongruous, incompatible, inconsistent, inconceivable, as in, it makes no sense whatsoever! It is the equivalent of rhetorically asking, “How could this possibly be the case?!?!”

Blessing and cursing from the same mouth… worshipping God and condemning people with the same tongue… It is like… “A fountain flowing with both fresh and bitter water… it is like a fig tree producing olives… it is like a grapevine producing figs…”

It is ridiculous, absurd, illogical, actually unthinkable as in impossible, as in it simply should not happen, ever.

Certain things make no sense whatsoever… It is, οὐ χρή (ü ĉḥȑā), “That’s NOT RIGHT,” emphatically, “It’s just wrong.”

Now let me set the record straight here because a misunderstanding of the concept of cursing actually gives folks the idea that they can curse…

Cursing here is about judgmental condemning words… It is about placing yourself over and against another person whether it is done loudly and profanely or whether it is done calmly and politely.

There are the outraged rants and there are the passive-aggressive jabs that while seemingly innocent are just as vicious.

This is NOT about cursing as in the use of profanity or what we used to call “Curse words.”

I have known people who think they can bash another person so long as they don’t use profanity and don’t raise their voice… WRONG!

When we talk about foul language the best passage is Ephesians 5:4, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.”

So I’m not saying profanity is acceptable, I’m just saying right here, God is addressing something far more serious and that is calling your brother or sister a “Fool.” Jesus tells us that can get you a one-way ticket to the “Fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22).

Then in verse 13, James asks a rhetorical question that essentially states… IF you think you are wise and have understanding prove it by your actions.

IF you want to be treated like an adult, act like an adult.

The mark of a mature Christian who has wisdom and understanding is they will actively display good behavior that treats others gently.

When you are secure in what you know you are able to be kind, patient and gentle… you don’t need to prove a thing.

On the other hand, if as James says, if a person has “Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their heart,” Their so-called “Wisdom” is earthly, not Godly, it is natural, it is demonic because “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

Verse 17 tells us the wisdom that comes from God is first and foremost ἁγνός (häg-nŏs) holy, sanctified, set apart from the common things of this world, innocent and so pure… God’s wisdom is first of all pure because it is His wisdom, not human wisdom.

We see that our arguments come from fleshly human wisdom seeking our way instead of seeking God’s will.

Such wisdom is εἰρηνικός (ā-ȑā-nē-kŏs), harmonious, peaceable… it does not force itself upon those who resist. If a person doesn’t want to know about hunting or flying or physics or Christianity, it doesn’t bother me at all… that’s their choice… I’m at peace… as far as it concerns me, I’m at peace.

Because that is true… The wisdom that comes from God is also ἐπιεικής (ĕpē-ā-kās), gentle, as in tolerant and yielding.

As well as εὐπειθής (ü-pā-thās), compliant or reasonable.

So God’s wisdom is “Full of mercy and good fruits.” That means it presents mercy to people and it is good and wholesome in thought, word and deed.

Finally, the wisdom that come to us from God is both ἀδιάκριτος (ä-dē-ä-kȑē-tŏs), and ἀνυπόκριτος (ä-nü-pŏ-kȑē-tŏs).

ἀδιάκριτος, is a hapax legomenon meaning the opposite of prejudicial… so we are talking about a wisdom that is nonjudgmental, impartial and unwavering… it is what it is, regardless of the circumstances or people involved.

It is Truth from God and so is true always for all people without any hint of favoritism.

ἀνυπόκριτος, meaning the opposite of hypocritical… a wisdom that is without pretense or agenda, and so genuine, true and sincere.

What it all means is that God’s wisdom is God’s wisdom… there is a two-edged sword here.

Because it is God’s wisdom it is pure and true, but at the same time because it is God’s wisdom it is gentle and peaceable.

Verse 18 finishes the thought nicely, “The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

This is a summation of all of chapter 3… and is probably better understood in the NLT rendering… “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The issue was also addressed in I Corinthians 1:10-12, where people in the church were separating into factions by highlighting their differences. Paul wrote that he had heard about their quarrels, that, “Some were saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others were saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Under divine inspiration Paul wrote, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Jesus proclaimed “Blessed are the peacemakers” … Blessed are those who actively overlook the differences and make peace… “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9.

Our country’s problems are due to a wholesale abandoning of God and His ways.

One of those ways we jettisoned was that most distinctively American trait… We were the melting pot of the world… people from all over the globe came and within one or two generations were assimilated into the fabric of our society and were fully American.

America recognized differences and overlooked them, seeing instead what made us all the same.

Highlight differences and individuality takes such prominence we cannot possibly hope to get along.

It is the same in the American church.

We want the young hip church, the old fogey church, the church for cowboys, for gun nuts, for latte drinkers… We further divide our church into young and old, singles and couples, men and women… a program so all the young moms can get together, another for all the divorced people, for all the college students, for the guys who fish and the guys who play golf…

There’s nothing wrong with getting together with Christians that have similar views and tastes – it’s nice – it’s good, BUT you don’t need the Holy Spirit for that.

Church is about a diverse group of people becoming one because the thing that binds them together is so much more powerful and important than that which makes them different. Two avid bow hunters will talk for hours regardless of Christ… big deal. Show me an avid hunter and a PETA person getting along because they both love Jesus and now that is a big deal.

061916 - James 3a - Teaching Position Just Opened Up
Clean
June 29, 2016 09:17 AM PDT
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James 3:1&2, Pastor Scott Keller

Last week we finished James chapter 2, where we talked about the kind of faith that is effective… Effective for salvation and effective for enduring the trials and tribulations of this life.

That effective faith is a faith so real, so honest, so deep that it produces recognizable, tangible, physical, evidence. That evidence is DOING Christian love.

Out of the overflow of a good heart comes good thoughts, words and deeds… the entire conduct of a Christian’s life must necessarily be a life of DOING Good.

Doing comes from being and being comes from true faith… Doing then is the proof that you have effective faith.

That’s the kind of faith that God credits or reckons to a person as righteousness… a righteousness that enables one to be God’s friend.

JAMES 3:1 ~ Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

We were talking about how faith real enough to be effective, will be evident. Then we completely switch gears here in verse 1, with a sentence about teachers and stricter judgment. Then in verse 2, James switches gears again, and talks about talking, for the next 11 verses… “The tongue is a fire,” and “No one can tame the tongue,” and so on.

That’s not how the Bible works. James as a letter is a single cohesive whole that must be seen in that context.

He has just spent an entire chapter helping us understand that it isn’t Christianity and therefore it isn’t the CHURCH, IF we say we believe in Jesus, but still behave like the rest of society.

You cannot conduct your own life in such a way and we certainly cannot conduct multiple lives together in a Community of Believers, called a church, in such a way. It simply will NOT work.

For God to be glorified, we must be conformed to Him. It is the radical transformation of the Believer by the power of the Holy Spirit that actually proves that you are a Spirit-filled, Christ-following, Father-pleasing, Child of the Living God.

A collection of such people constitute a church that functions well, brings honor to God and proclaims the Gospel by our collective activity… by the observed actual impact in the surrounding community.

How can I preach or teach or counsel or pastor, IF everything I say, is unseen, purely hypothetical theory without any physical evidence?

Why would anyone want to become a Christian or to work hard to grow as a Christian, IF there is no evidence that any of it is real? IF Alêtheia is no better than the Rotary Club or the Elks Lodge.

We have all kinds of churches across our valley, big churches, little churches, home churches, single individual standing on a mountain-top churches, all kinds of churches that produce people who claim to be Christians, but other than wearing a t-shirt, or displaying a bumper sticker, or reposting religious tripe on Facebook, or pointing at others in disapproving judgment, there isn’t much about them that is different from the rest of the populace.

James tells us that will not do…

Now, there is an extremely common phenomenon that happens at such a juncture… We tend to think of and judge the type of Christian or Church that I just described.

James has already told us that will not do either.

We don’t want to harshly condemn any other church or any other person because that’s not our role, nor is it within our ability.

We can’t know the heart and we must acknowledge that every devout Christian starts out ignorant and immature and no Christian ever becomes perfect.

What we do know for sure, though, is that we must strive to be people who actually live as Christians… There is honestly no such thing as relative righteousness in God’s eyes… it is completely irrelevant what others are doing – you worry about you… each one of us needs to focus on being the best Christian we can be.

Some will argue, I must be concerned about others… YES! Emphatically, YES! And the very best way you can help others is to BE the best Christian you can possibly be, demonstrated by DOING Love.

IF we are living as Christians we will join together in fellowship to worship God.

Worship Him as a unified family loving God and loving each other in our offering, in our rejoicing, in our prayers, in our service to Him and to each other, in our praise, in our learning, in our reverence and in our going out and being light in this valley.

That’s the point of chapter 2 as it now transitions into chapter 3 and beyond.

For the remainder of the Book, James is addressing the church… every church… our church.

Be obviously, actually, publically, God honoring… both individually and collectively… That’s what the entire Book of James is about and IF I were to pick a single verse as the thesis, or central point, the subject line… or the social media soundbite… it is James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word (that’s doers of the Gospel – doers of love), and not merely hearers who delude (deceive, falsely and fraudulently mislead) themselves.”
Do NOT falsely and fraudulently mislead YOURSELF by failing to act.

The very first thing he says is, “Let not many of you become teachers.” The NET and ESV, have it, “Not many of you should become teachers.” That better conveys the nuance.

It is literally, Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, four Greek words, “Not, many teachers become.” It starts with the word, μή (mā), which is the emphatically negative “not,” as in all capitals, let me have your attention, NOT! (vs οὐ).

The correct force in translation would be, “NOT many of you, TEACHERS, should become,” It sounds like I’m Yoda, so we rearrange it a bit to make better English, BUT in the process lose a bit of the original nuance.

It isn’t a suggestion, it is a command and if you believe that the Bible is God’s Holy Word, it is a command from God, through James 2,000 years ago, to us here in this room today.

The force is, “Who are you, to presume to teach?” What qualifies you as a teacher?

It is truly remarkable the number of Christians who presume to be teachers even if it is only in their own family or their own life… Who are you to presume to be a teacher even of yourself?

Look, ► If you’re not a lawyer, you’d be dumb to represent yourself in a major court battle. If you do you’ll probably end up in jail. ► If you’re not a doctor, you’d be even dumber to treat your own illness. If you do, you’ll probably end up sicker. ► If you’re not a pilot you’d be even dumber than that to go out and fly an airplane. If you do, you’ll probably end up dead.

We get that, for the most part… Although we are a people who love to denigrate the skill and training of others, while simultaneously holding an unjustifiably high opinion of our own abilities. So I imagine, some of you thought, well, I could do that…

Anyway, we understand that there are some things we are not qualified to do… YET, practically every Christian feels totally qualified as a teacher.

My friend Lloyd Pierson tells an incident from a Freshman Bible class. The TEACHER was a distinguished faculty member who held a Doctorate, had served as a senior pastor, had written a couple of books and had now been a college and Seminary professor for decades.

He was teaching about some theological detail and one of the students, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, disagreed.

After a bit of discussion, the student said, “Well I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

The reason we think we are qualified to be teachers is because we have an overinflated sense of self-worth… it means we are arrogant.

God is telling us right here in an imperative command, DO NOT be so arrogant that you think you are qualified to teach.

Those who do, will receive, literally, a “Greater judgment.”

In generations past, that would be sobering to people and they would get the message.

We as 21st century Americans… and Canadians… have such high opinions of ourselves we think, bring it on… I can handle greater judgment… no worries.

If, for even a moment, you think that, well, God help you… Because you are precisely the type of person, God had in mind when He inspired James to write this verse.

So, who is qualified to teach God’s Word? NO ONE! That’s the entire point… No human being is qualified to teach true theology, because God and His Holy Word are flawless and no human being even comes close to being flawless.

As the Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 3:5&6, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.” There are people who are called by God to teach and I think the main prerequisite He’s looking for in such a person is humbleness, a fear really, a genuine apprehension and dread of misrepresenting Him and misleading others.

I am constantly praying, “Lord let me speak Your words, let it be what You want it to be, however I am received, let Your will be done and Your name be honored.” It keeps me up at night. “Lord if I misspeak correct it in the people’s hearing, let them hear what you want them to hear.” At the top of every sermon, I have a reminder to myself… It reads, “Honor the Lord – Love the People.”

I have said that, “I no longer want to be right, I just don’t want to be wrong.” What I mean by that is that I don’t know everything, I will never know everything and that’s perfectly okay…

It isn’t important for me to be right about everything, BUT what is of paramount importance is that I’m not wrong about anything. That’s my concern and my prayer. That what I proclaim on behalf of God would be true and good and correct.

The thing that propels most people to teach is EGO. It is an ambition to be in the spotlight or a desire to be the boss or a love of telling others how to live. It is a pompous pride that says, I know better than you, and it ultimately makes such a person unteachable themselves.

Show me someone who lacks humility and I’ll show you someone who resists being taught. The arrogant are unteachable.

God chooses people who approach the task with trepidation, people who fully recognize that they are representing Him and His wishes as authorities on the matter to other people.

It is just as we find in I Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

There are levels of responsibility as a teacher primarily based upon your position. The position you take is largely the position YOU take.

For the most part, YOU decide how much authority you will wield. I’m NOT saying others will accept that… I’m talking about your attitude about your expertise… I’m talking about your level of arrogance.

You decide, how teachable you are, which is synonymous with how truly humble you are… Truly, because there are all sorts of people who act humble, they appear humble, but their heart is far from humble.

So that’s what James is talking about specifically… the problem of people assuming authority over others as teachers… The 400-year-old KJV translates “Teachers” as “Masters” following the Latin translation of over 1,600 years ago. The word is clearly, “Teachers,” but the meaning is the authoritative nature of teaching and so really you can say, “Masters,” in the sense of church leaders.

In those days, the main reason people put themselves forward as teachers was to receive the tremendous honor and esteem the position commanded. Teachers were, by definition, leaders to be respectfully followed.

Today, practically no one respects a religious teacher and many openly revile them… so the primary reason we still have the problem today is that we have people who are completely unwilling to humble themselves and submit to anyone else’s expertise and authority.

If someone refuses to regularly attend church and fellowship with the saints, it is because they are arrogantly full of themselves… period.

You can get mad at me and there’s more I could say, to soften and clarify, BUT really my friends that’s the bottom line. There can be all sorts of reasons and excuses, BUT we have over 100 churches in our very small valley and IF someone can’t find one they can commit to, it is only because they are so arrogant they think their feelings, their ideas and their doctrines are more important than God’s command to assemble together to learn and worship Him.

Such people love to wield authority, BUT never even think about the enormous responsibility that must necessarily come with it.

No one and no thing is perfect, except for the God, who takes pity on us and mercifully forgives us based upon His Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Whatever your particular issue, and I’m mainly talking to people not here today, get over it and get over yourselves… James would say, NOT many of you should presume to lead even yourselves, at least, not until you can submit to authority.

Answering the call to teach under appropriate authority with humility and grace being deeply concerned about the message you share is not the problem… Arrogantly assuming you have the answers is the problem.

The former builds God’s church, while the latter destroys it.

I strongly encourage everyone in this church to become teachers in the appropriate way, the correct time and within the proper level of authority. We desperately need people who are mature enough to understand the importance of the words coming out of their mouths.

That takes us to the remainder of this section talking about talking… Before we go there, let me point out one more thing that ties back to something I said earlier…

I said, there is an extremely common phenomenon that happens when we become aware of something erroneous… We tend to evaluate and judge that thing.

I read verse 1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment,” and without conscious thought, we begin to judge teachers. With conscious thought we justify our judging by interpreting this verse to mean teachers must be held to a much higher standard.

Well, no doubt, BUT nowhere does it say God has given us the job to more strictly judge teachers!

Verse 1, does NOT say, all you Christians, carefully evaluate and strictly judge your teachers… Just like the Bible does NOT say husbands make your wives submit.

We are constantly trying to force everyone else to live up to God’s standard… You better worry about yourself. As Jesus taught in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” As Paul rhetorically asked in Romans 2:21, “You, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”

This is… You teachers be careful because God takes the matter of preaching, teaching and leading His people very seriously.

The position of judge has been filled. God has got the task of judging covered – He can handle it… relax, have a cream soda and let Him do His job.

JAMES 3:2 ~ For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

My proposition is that James is talking about teachers primarily as leaders and the power such people wield to do God’s Will to build the church or the work of Satan to destroy the church.

James included himself in verse 1, where he mentioned ultimate judgment and he includes himself here along with everyone else… “We all stumble…” None of us is perfect in the sense of without fault.

That should give all the teachers a little breathing room… No one has totally got it together, no one, not the Apostle John, not the Apostle Paul, not brother of Jesus, not Augustine, not Luther, not Billy Graham, not David Wilkerson, not you and certainly not me… no one with the single exception of Jesus has ever been faultless, without sin, perfect.

We all stumble and the main point is again about humbleness as a teacher.

The next bit of the verse leads into the next several verses. The gist is the spoken word has immense power… a power to do good or evil… a power to build God’s Kingdom or to destroy.

061216 - James 2d - Faith in Action
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June 29, 2016 08:58 AM PDT
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James 2:18-26, Pastor Scott Keller

Last week we covered James chapter 2, verses 14-17, which exhort us to match our actions with our words… not just talk the talk, BUT walk the walk as well.

It’s about DOING Christianity and specifically, it’s about being a DOER of Love, just as God is a DOER of Love.

We emulate God in His Love for others… In His generosity, grace, kindness, gentleness, mercy, forgiveness, patience… We MUST DO as God DOES.

A nice place to see that point is Luke 6:32-36, where Jesus tells us, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

You see IF you are a loving, good and generous person to those who are the same, you qualify as a human… An imperfect, ultimately self-serving, sinful human being… Congrats, right?

On the other hand, IF you are a loving, good and generous person to those who are unable or unwilling to reciprocate, you are like God. You are acting the way your Heavenly Father acts. You are proving that you are a member of God’s family.

God’s DOING flows from His character, from His nature, from who He is. It flows from His BEING.

Likewise, our DOING, MUST flow from our BEING as well. That means it really isn’t about DOING at all…

It is, as we’ve proclaimed a thousand times in this church, all about BEING.

DOING is a symptom of BEING, just as bleeding is a symptom of a deep cut on your finger. The bleeding is not really the problem… the cut is the problem, BUT the bleeding provides sure and certain evidence that the cut is real.

DOING Christian love is the result of BEING a Christian who is filled with God’s love… it is therefore the proof that you are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the proof that you are a disciple of Jesus and it is the proof that you are a child of your Heavenly Father.

BE the Christian, God wants you to be, and you will necessarily BE a DOER of Love.

That’s what James is on about… IF you have true salvific faith the symptoms will be obvious in how you are and so then, in what you do.

James 2:18-26 ~ 18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

These verses basically amplify, clarify and intensify the argument that true INTERNAL faith can’t help but produce EXTERNAL results.

Verses 18&19, are notoriously difficult to get a grip on grammatically. They constitute a common battleground for scholars.

The way James put it together it’s a bit ambiguous. It would be like me saying, “I know more successful hunters than Rob.”

That could mean that I know more people who are successful hunters than Rob knows. BUT, it could also mean, that I know hunters who are more successful than Rob is.

In addition, to that general ambiguity, the original Greek had no punctuation. That makes it difficult to know where the quotation marks should start and end. Which means knowing if there is, one or two speakers here.

There are different possibilities. The two most common are reflected here in the NASB and NLT translations. It’s fascinating to eggheads as they endlessly argue such things, BUT here’s the beauty of God’s Word and another plug for context…

It all ends up meaning the same thing.

The point is that faith is the thing that is important, BUT that true faith produces evidence… because true faith changes a person… the way we think, and so, the way we speak, and so, the way we act, all conform to our core belief.

The key phrase, no matter whose mouth it comes from is, “I will SHOW you my FAITH by my works.”

“Works,” is ἔργον (ĕȑ-gŏn), from which we get our English word energy. It means activity, action, effort. It is labor, as in physical exertion. Hence “Works,” BUT not in the sense of works-based religion that believes you can work your way into God’s grace… Instead, it is “Works” as in the conduct of life in the physical realm.

Neither “Works,” nor “Good deeds,”
reflected here are great translations because they give the idea of doing specific acts as achievements to be rated and rewarded.

The Good News Bible, which I’m not endorsing, has a better translation at this point… it says, “I will show you my faith by my actions.”
It is really, I will show you my faith by what I do as my normal behavior.

Verse 19, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder,” furthers the argument by demonstrating how foolish it is to think that true salvific faith can be equated to a simple mental assent to the existence of God…

Demons, not only believe God exists, they know God exists, in fact they know God personally. Yet they do not submit to Him, they do not obey His commands, they do not seek to do His will.

They shudder because they are afraid of God… Demons, who are vastly older, wiser and stronger than humans, know well to fear God when outside of His grace.

They obviously believe God exists, yet according to Jesus they will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:41).

This then serves, NOT only to say that a person relying on simple mental agreement doesn’t possess salvation… it says such a person is condemned.

How many people will tell you that they believe in God and in Jesus… BUT bear no discernable fruit? How many claim to be Christians, BUT only live for their own desires? How many people say, “Lord, Lord,” to Jesus… BUT fail to act, fail to obey, fail to DO?

According to Jesus they are deceived. They will go to the judgment throne expecting to enter Heaven and Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you… away from me you evil doers” (Matthew 7:22&23).

You see, a failure to do love is, in itself, a doing of evil. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).

The Message Bible renders James 4:17 this way, “If you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.”

One of the most dangerous errors we make is assuming that there is a middle ground… there isn’t.

You are either a spirit-filled Christian or you are a child of Satan… You either carry the Seal of God or the Mark of the Beast… It is presently one or the other – no one, is an, as yet unmarked person, delaying the mark until they make a decision… delaying IS a decision. A decision to remain in darkness.

Some people think all humans are basically good and that God is so loving and generous that He will simply accept them – they think the default position is Heaven.

An even larger majority of people think the default position is neutral… They think they have to overtly make a decision to move into one camp or the other, and that until they do, they are Switzerland… they are impartial – unaligned – open-minded – peacefully coexisting.

According to the Bible, the default position is condemned sinner bound for the Lake of Fire.

I know that seems harsh and I know some will bristle against it as narrow-minded, judgmental and intolerant.

In our touchy-feely, politically correct, never tell the truth because it might offend someone, society, we fear being honest.

I said, the default position for all humans is condemned sinner bound for the Lake of Fire… Is that Biblically true?

John 3:18, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Revelation 20:15, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Feel completely free to disagree and even to get mad… just remember your disagreement and irritation isn’t with me – it is with the Bible.

According to the Bible, a person must actively move from the default camp of eternal condemnation into the new camp of eternal life.

As I said last week, that means a genuine, core of your being, acceptance of Jesus as your only Savior and surrender to Him as your only Lord.

The point is that such a faith will fundamentally change you into a person who thinks, speaks and actually acts out of that new reality.

You will be a DOER of Love as that activity flows naturally from your new nature in Christ, BEING a Christian.

Verse 20… “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
the Paul Verse. James was absolutely not talking about Paul or his teaching, BUT was talking about those who misconstrued Paul’s teaching.

Again, I must stress that James is NOT saying it is about works… He’s saying that faith without evidence is not faith – at least not useful faith… NOT a faith that can activate Salvation and make one a Christian.

Faith without evidence is a placebo… it might make you feel better about things, BUT ultimately it is a lie.

As I noted last week, both James and Paul used the Patriarch Abraham as an example by each quoting Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul was making the argument that it is not, nor was it ever, obedience to the religious dos and don’ts that save a person.

A point, with which, James would have wholeheartedly agreed. The point James is making is a different one entirely.

James is NOT saying it wasn’t faith… in fact he is saying it was faith… he’s just pointing out that it was a faith that real enough to produce an effect proving the underlying faith.

A DOING that accurately reflected the causal BEING.

We often allude to Old Testament characters and assume everyone knows their story… Today we’ll take a moment to talk about Abraham and Rahab the harlot. Talk about not being politically correct!

A dude named Abram was born about 4,000 years ago in what is believed to have been the largest city on earth at the time.

Ur was a coastal city near the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers on the shores of the Persian Gulf in what is now Southern Iraq.

The Gulf has filled with sediment over the millennia and now the remains of Ur are 200 miles from the coast.

In Genesis chapter 12, God tells Abram to, “Go to the land which I will show you.”

After many years of steps and missteps and God continually dealing with Abram we get to Genesis chapter 17, where God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and promises that he and his wife, renamed Sarah, will have a son to be named Isaac.

Not so shocking until you realize that at the time of the promise, Abraham was 99 and Sarah 89.

But God swore to Abraham that their son, Isaac, would be the one through whom God would raise up a special nation and that his descendants would outnumber the stars.

Just as God said, a 100-year-old man and his 90-year-old wife, had a son… proving precisely what God had rhetorically asked them – “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”

Genesis chapter 22, starts by saying God tested the faith of Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac as a human sacrifice.

Abraham intended to do just that because according to the Bible Abraham believed God – he trusted God – he knew that God would provide for Himself the lamb according to Genesis 22:8 and that even IF Isaac was to die, God would raise him back up from the dead according to Hebrews 11:19.

The entire point is that Abraham believed God and trusted Him by a faith so strong it acted in accordance with that truth.

That’s faith! That’s proven faith. That’s what the Bible means in James 2:22, that his faith was perfected… it was made complete in the sense that it was indisputable… it was real.

That’s the kind of faith that God credits or reckons to a person as righteousness… a righteousness that enables one to be God’s friend.

Rahab the harlot… not a nice way to describe the great-great grandmother of King David and ancestor of Jesus. Yet, like it or not, that where she started.

She was evidently in charge of an inn, which likely functioned as a bar, restaurant, hotel and brothel, in the city of Jericho.

Nearly 3,500 years ago, Moses’s successor Joshua, sent two spies into Jericho in advance of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land.

The spies entered Rahab’s establishment, but were seen by someone who reported it to the king… He ordered Rahab to hand the Jewish spies over, but she hid them instead, telling the king that while it was true the men stopped in, they had already departed.

Later she helped the spies escape.

Why did she risk her life to save a couple of foreign spies? According to the account in Joshua chapters 2 through 6, she believed God was on their side and trusted that if she helped them, she would save herself and her family.

The Israelites conquered the city, completely destroying it, killing every inhabitant and burning what remained.

All except for Rahab, her father, mother and her brothers and sisters… who were welcomed to convert to Judaism and join the fledgling nation of Israel.

She eventually had a son named Boaz, who married Ruth, the faithful foreigner from Moab and the subject of the Bible Book bearing her name. Their son Obed was King David’s grandfather.

Verse 26, summarizes with another example… “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

This is a great summation because it proves what we’ve been saying all along… it isn’t about works and it isn’t about works together with faith… it’s about faith that is real… faith that is alive rather than dead.

True faith in the Father and in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit that is evidenced by one’s entire being and therefore entire doing is the kind of faith that God requires to activate Salvation through Christ.

I talk to people all the time about problems they have… all manner of problems. I say Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems.

It is rare that a person truly believes that enough to make a difference in their situation.

Whether it is life’s problems or fundamental Salvation, it is all about Jesus… all about Jesus… BUT it is personal faith that galvanizes that reality for folks… Personal faith that makes it real to them. makes it effective for them… AND the type of faith needed to accomplish that feat is a faith that can be seen.

It seems to me that the power of God to change lives or change attitudes is somehow far more difficult to capture.

I think it is because we are so self-indulgent. I don’t necessarily mean that we indulge our every desire, although that is not far from true.

I mean self-indulgent in the sense that we think of our desire above all else.

Let me be clear and please understand… we care far less about God’s reputation than our wellbeing. We care far less about the church than our plans for fun. We care far less about others than ourselves.

We are beholding to no one – we are fiercely independent and IF anyone dares to interfere with how we think things should go, well, God help them.

Because we have bought into the idea that the world revolves around us and our plans… we are busy – oh so busy remaking our environment to suit our proclivities. Since we are so busy working so hard we are irritable people, impatient and frustrated with any deviation from our program.

How can we be good – good to God, good to others, good to ourselves in a healthy way when we actively block the Holy Spirit by our lifestyle.

God is so far away; I’ve heard people say. It is true, but not because He’s moved away from us, BUT because we’ve moved away from Him.

You want the power of God in your life? Stop the cycle of living for yourself and surrender to living for Him.

Start by being good as He is good.

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