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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Catholic came up with purgatory!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we continue…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which they did, as recorded in Joshua chapter 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As an aside… Why do people do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s two different points entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admitting the problem is the first step in correcting it.

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

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

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

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

The Bible is the authoritative revelation that cannot change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLIDE: 7-1x0+3÷3=

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

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

Not only wrong but increasingly wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The devaluation of human life is inescapable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The word “All” applies equally to all 4…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we, here, start the ball rolling?

091116 - 9-11 Remembrance and Romans 1e
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.


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
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
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.


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
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?

081416 - Romans 1a -
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.
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.
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).

032716 - The Resurrection
March 29, 2016 01:57 PM PDT
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Easter Sunday sermon by Pastor Scott Keller

Today we celebrate the single-most glorious and important event in the history of the universe!

Putting the capstone on the Great Pyramid of Khufu in the Giza Necropolis…
Attaching the final brass plate to the Colossus of Rhodes
Building the last section in the Great Wall of China…
Placing the finishing stone on the Sphinx in Egypt…
Planting the final flower in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon…
Erecting the final column in Herod’s Jerusalem Temple Complex.
Painting the last panel in the SISTINE CHAPEL Installing the final statue in the tomb of Mausolus IN Halicarnassus…
Forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede…
Booting the English ARMY out of America… Twice…
Putting the finishing touches on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota…
Or landing Neil Armstrong on the moon (even though he messed up his line).

It is all meaningless in comparison to what we are here to talk about today.

I’m not in any way exaggerating. This is no hyperbole or overinflated, grandiose embellishment to get your attention this morning. I am not only, not, overstating the matter – it is literally impossible to do so…

We simply do not have the words or the emotions to properly express the significance of what we commemorate today.

Those things I mentioned, are merely human achievements… The birth of our universe itself – the original Light out of darkness, the original creating of the heavens and the earth… the original breathing life into the first human… All the way down to the formation of the oceans and continents, the plants and the animals, the expanse of the Grand Canyon and majesty of our own Glacier Park. The beauty of the sunrise this morning… somewhere.

It all pales in comparison to the Resurrection.

Even the celebration of the Lord’s birth at Christmas and the somber remembrance of His death on Good Friday are pointless without the reality of what we celebrate today. Everything hinges on what today represents.

We’ve been talking a lot about PROOF over the last few weeks…

Just last week we talked about how God sending Jesus in actual reality was absolute, sure PROOF, that He loves us.

Before that, we talked about how moments or flashes of unconditional, altruistic, God-love, called Agapê, that manifest in a person was PROOF that that person was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Which is itself PROOF that that Christianity is true and that that individual is a saved child of God.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the most important PROOF of all.

It is the difference between what is Truth from Almighty God and what is just another man-made system of philosophical concepts, along with the requisite rules, rituals and inevitable traditions.

Many people think Christianity is just such a man-made system… BUT my friends, GET this… no one, who has any intelligence at all, can believe that unless they first disbelieve the Resurrection.

It is utterly impossible to rationally disbelieve Christianity, without first disbelieving the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago.

IF you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus and you are not an all-in, sold-out, on-fire, card-carrying Christian… you are at best… crazy… and I hope to show you why.

There is a war that has been raging the better part of 20 centuries… It is a war waged by evil to keep people from eternal life with God.

The war has many fronts, BUT none are more important than the fight to destroy the reality of the Resurrection.

It is done in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes subtle, sometimes fiercely overt, sometimes intentional, sometimes done in complete ignorance, BUT all to the same effect and ultimately all for the same purpose whether those involved realize it or not.

To understand the war and the objective evil pursues, one must fully understand the Truth on the opposite side that evil attacks.

As they say, you don’t teach Treasury Officers to spot counterfeit money by focusing on the fake stuff. What you do, is make them experts in what is real.

That’s the goal of this church – to do what we can, to make you experts, in what is real.

The Resurrection specifically and technically means… That Jesus, who while He was fully God, was also fully man, and so He truly died. His mortal, human, physical body was dead.

Clinically, legally, completely dead.

No breathing, no circulation, no brain activity, no life… stone cold dead, period, end of story.

I make a big deal out of that, because that is one way detractors try to dismiss the Resurrection. They say Jesus never fully died – He swooned. He was, “Only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.” They say…

Well, Jesus was “All dead,” and that is part of the reason He was three days in the tomb… To the people back then, after three days – after that amount of time, nothing could be done – there was no hope of a miracle after that. At that point the person was truly gone for good.

I know what you’re thinking… and yes, that’s why everyone had given up hope for Lazarus and why it was such an incredible miracle when Jesus raised him from the dead…

There was no way possible and yet, Jesus brought Lazarus back.

So, Jesus fully dead, and in the tomb, technically for three days.

Then on Sunday morning, Jesus was fully alive again. The full, bodily restoration to life, from the fully dead state. Now, for the final piece… drum roll please… Alive to never die again. Death was conquered by Jesus. Lazarus was raised by Jesus, BUT he died again… Lazarus didn’t personally have the power over death – Only God has that power.
Romans 6:9 says, “Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.”

Somewhere in that process – fully dead – then fully alive and never to die again – somewhere in there, disbelievers in Christianity MUST find a way to change that narrative.

They have a number of theories to dismiss, ignore, minimize, mitigate, malign and marginalize the Resurrection…

Some say he died and they stole His lifeless body, hid it somewhere and made up the stories about His return. Maybe they even hired an actor to play the Resurrected Jesus.

Some say an imposter was crucified, intentionally or perhaps by mistake, in Jesus’ place. There are many other propositions of course…

Too many of them to cover, and like I said earlier, there’s really no point. I just want to make sure we all understand the Biblical Truth because, once again, there is NOTHING in Christianity that is more important than this.

IF we don’t get this right – there’s really no value in getting everything else right… and it grieves me that all Christians don’t grasp that.

Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, suffered and died… He was not mostly, but fully dead.

His human body was devoid of any life for three days and then life fully returned to that same body and he rose from the dead to be fully alive, never to taste death again.

There is no corpse, no mummified remains, no bones, no ashes or dust of Jesus. The Bible says in, Acts 13:34&35, “God raised Jesus from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay…” “As it is written: ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.’”

The Apostle Peter preached to the people in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, “With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed Jesus to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip… it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus” (Acts 2:23&24 NLT).

That is the salient and significant point of today. Any idea that clouds those facts is utter heresy and makes Christianity just another false human religion.

There may be some philosophical value – there may be some moral good or some ethical standard that serves society, BUT without the Resurrection, Christianity is no better than Buddhism.

Actually, it would be far worse because it would make the founder either a pathological liar or a charismatic lunatic or, I’ll add, a foolish patsy for the agenda of others.

No matter how you slice it, the Bible that we base everything upon would be so full of made-up information it would be completely unusable.

No one could determine what was true and what was false… therefore anyone trying to follow the Bible would be a sad, ignorant, fool, only to be pitied.

You don’t have to take my word for it… The great Apostle Paul put it like this…

I Corinthians 15:14-19 ~ 14And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless κενός, and your faith is useless κενός. 15And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless μάταιος and you are still guilty of your sins. 18In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied ἐλεεινός than anyone in the world. (NLT).

Christian preaching and the faith in Christ that results are both “Useless,” absent the Resurrection, that’s according to the Bible. Absent the Resurrection Christians are just clowns.

The word is κενός (kĕ-nŏs), means empty, hollow, vacuous, fruitless, without use or purpose; it is vain, as in… in vain… preaching in vain – faith in vain.

Verse 17, says IF Jesus the Christ has NOT been Resurrected from the dead to never die again, the faith of any and all Christians, is absolutely “Useless.”

This “Useless,” is a different word. Here it is μάταιος (mä-tī-ŏs), similar in meaning, BUT with a greater focus on the outcome or result of empty faith.

As Gregory of Nyssa explained it nearly 17 centuries ago, “It is as, building houses on sand, chasing the wind, shooting at stars and pursuing one’s own shadow.” The “Shooting at stars” bit, would, of course, be with a bow and arrow, which somehow seems even dumber than with a gun, but not really.

It is aimlessness and futility… So, such a person is a fool to be “More… Pitied than anyone in the world.”

Pitied is ἐλεεινός (ĕ-lĕ-ā-nŏs), a person who should be pitied because they are pitiable, wretched, miserable. Such a complete sad sack you just walk by a shake your head.

I go through all of that to stress the futility of Christianity or any other religion, belief system or philosophy IF it is not objectively True.

Whatever such a system claims… it must be true OR it must be rejected as UN-true. Naturally, I, as I hope you know, believe with every fiber of MY being that Christianity is OBJECTIVELY True and therefore Jesus must have been LITERALLY Resurrected.

The point the Bible is making in I Corinthians chapter 15, is that Jesus was, in point of fact, raised from the dead once and for all and that gives the true and reasonable hope that we all will likewise be raised one day as the passage goes on…

SLIDE: I Corinthians 15:20-23 ~ 20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. 21So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. (NLT).

How can we be so sure Paul was right? The Bible also tells us earlier in that chapter…

SLIDE: I Corinthians 15:3-8 ~ 3bChrist died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (NLT).

So, Jesus was bodily Resurrected and because of that fact we all have legitimate hope for life eternal with Him.

Why though? What makes it so critical to Christianity?

As a quick overview… there is something rather than nothing. Think about that for a moment. If you came to church thinking it was Easter and so the sermon would be generic, insipid and cutesy… You came to the wrong church… there’s no point in hearing a sermon that doesn’t require you to think… even if it is a holiday.

There is something rather than nothing. Some would say, that is true and so we don’t need to think about it, BUT that is intellectual cowardice.

The universe exists – there is something. Everything we understand about science screams that there should be nothing instead.

That is IF there is not a cause that is outside of the physical reality of our universe… a pure being outside of space-time of unimaginable intelligence and power.

A First Cause, as Plato called it, is responsible for creating our Heavens and our earth… more to the point this Creator God is responsible for creating you and me.

It would seem to me, that we would turn to our Creator and out of a sense of love and gratitude for our existence, and all the resources of a planet to flourish, we would say, “Thank you – I’m yours to command.” I’m certain that’s what the angels expected.

BUT, that is not at all how it went… the very first man and woman wasted no time at all in establishing their own independence and repudiated God’s plan and by extension repudiated God Himself.

Again, it would seem to me that, that would be the end of the story… BUT wait… there’s more!

This open refusal to truly honor God by loving Him and obeying Him is called sin.

People say, well sure, God’s wrong to require people to love Him and force people to obey His dictates.

Let’s examine that…

God isn’t asking us to unilaterally love Him… God is asking us to enter into the love He has for us! He is asking, as a parent asks, will you join me in genuine heart-felt relationship?

Jesus quoted the Old Testament when He was asked, “Which is the greatest or most important commandment in the Law?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38).

The obedience thing… examine what it is that God commands.

The entirety of all the instructions, commands and requirements in the Bible boils down to Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Or, how about, Romans 13:9&10, “For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

What a jerk God is for ordering us to love!

Ordering us to all get along with Him and with each other – what a crime!

And so we all refuse – that’s sin. God is looking out for our individual best interests and the best interests of all of us as a whole, BUT we aren’t having any of it.

Sin results in decay and ultimately death. God told Adam that in the Garden… Satan’s argument was that God was all talk – His bark was far worse than His bite. Satan said, “Surely, you won’t die!” Don’t be stupid – of course God’s not going to allow you to die.”

Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin.”
James 1:15, “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

The entire universe was thrown into a state of decay ultimately and inexorably leading to death.

That could have been the end of the story and, for my money, it should have been.

BUT, “God loved the world so much (God loved you and me so much): He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world (as He surely could have, and some would argue, He surely should have), but (rather) to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged…” (John 3:16-18).
John 16:9
9The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.

Jesus repeatedly claimed as much… He was constantly talking about being the One sent by the Father to eradicate the sin problem.

He was going to pay with His life in order to balance the ledger… in order to satisfy righteousness – Truth and propriety on the one hand and on the other… mercy, grace… love.

You see my friends, IF Jesus had died and NOT been resurrected it would mean that death had won and the only way death wins is when there is sin… the cause of death is sin.

The absolutely vital nature of holding firmly to the Resurrection is the Truth that since death could NOT hold Jesus it PROVES beyond doubt that He defeated sin.

The Bodily Resurrection PROVES in actual reality that Jesus was telling the Truth when He said, “I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).

Jesus repeatedly said that He was the Anointed One of God sent to free people from sin and death. How can you free others from sin and death if you yourself can’t overcome sin and death yourself?

The Resurrection puts an end to the discussion – it terminates the debate – it utterly destroys the fear associated with mortality.

Because of what the Resurrection PROVES we can say along with the Holy Spirit… “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57).

I have always said that church unity – the unity of Christians is far more important than we think… Many people will be shocked when they stand in front of Jesus and have to explain why they didn’t take it more seriously.

Of course the problem with unity is that we all have different ideas and we are all just arrogant enough to think our ideas are better than everyone else’s ideas.

I said, the question we should ask ourselves before engaging in a fight is NOT, “Am I willing to die on this hill?” The question we should ask is, “Am I willing to destroy the unity of the church over this issue?”

In other words, there are some things worth fighting about and then there are the vast majority of things NOT worth fighting about.

Well, my friends, the full bodily Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago that we celebrate today is an issue that is non-negotiable and is worth defending to the very end.

Unity without agreement on the Resurrection is NOT Christian unity at all.

Romans 8:11
11The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The proof that God loves us is that He created us – then He let us rebel – then He sent Jesus to give us another chance.

The Proof Jesus was Who He said He was and that He accomplished what He said He would is the Resurrection.

The Proof that all of this is true and that you are actually saved and will have life eternal is the Spirit of God living in you.

The Proof of that reality is the amazing, non-native, unnatural Agapê love of God, being manifested through you.

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