Romans 8:31-39

A Love That Cost, And Lasts.

Romans 8:31-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. – Romans 8:39 NLT

How great is God’s love for you? This seems to be the gist of Paul’s point in the closing section of chapter eight. He reminds us, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31b NLT). God is on our side. He has chosen us, sent His Son to die for us and, as a result of Christ’s substitionary death of the cross, restored us to a right relationship with Himself. All as an expression of His great love for us. So if God loved us that much, what could ever stand in His way when it comes to Him finishing what He has begun in our lives? “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32 NLT). In other words, won’t God complete His ongoing act of transformation in our lives? Peter assures us that the answer to this question is a resounding, “Yes!”

“By 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 his marvelous glory and excellence. And 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” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). God loves us too much to leave us like we are. He loves us too much to allow us to try and live the Christian life in our own power and at the mercy of a host of enemies who would love nothing better than to destroy and defeat us. They can accuse and condemn us all they want, but their efforts are in vain. Because God loves us and His Son sits at His right hand interceding and pleading with God for us.

Nothing and no one can ever separate us from the love of our Father and our Savior. But the problem is that we tend to view God’s love based on what is going on around us. We judge His love according to how well things are going for us. If life is going well, we assume that God must be pleased with us. But let something go wrong in our lives, and we automatically assume that God is upset with us – in other words, He has fallen out of love with us. But Paul would argue against such a conclusion. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35 NLT). Paul answers his own question: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:36 NLT). Paul was convinced that absolutely NOTHING could ever separate God’s children from His love. God’s love for us is unlimited. It transcends time and space. He loves us just as much in life as He will love us after death. His love for us is as great today as it will be in eternity. Our location can’t diminish or influence God’s love. Our circumstances can’t determine God’s love for us. The presence of opposition or the reality of difficulties are not determiners of God’s love for us. Paul reminds us, “not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38 NLT). And here’s the really amazing thing. We can’t separate ourselves from God’s love either! You cannot cause God to fall out of love for you. His love is not fickle and fleeting like ours. He doesn’t love you one day and not the next. His love is constant and unchanging.

As we live out our lives on this earth, we must constantly remind ourselves of God’s unwavering love for us. Even as we progress toward Christ-likeness, we will fail and at times, fall away. We will continue to struggle with sin and sometimes give in to the desires of our sin nature. But at no point will God fall out of love for us. The degree of His love was reflected in the death of His Son. He loved us so much that He sent His own Son to die for us. But He raised His Son back to life as a vivid reminder of the kind of power He has at His disposal to finish His complete transformation of our lives. God’s love encompasses our salvation as well as our ultimate glorification. But is also includes our current sanctification. He is loving us even as we live out our lives in this fallen world. We may not always recognize it or feel it, but His love is there nonetheless. And nothing we encounter in this life has the capacity to ever separate us from that love. God will complete what He began. He will love us all the way to the end. “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:37 NLT).

Father, it is so hard to imagine the kind of love Paul is talking about. I tend to judge Your love based on human standards. I fall in and out of love with people all the time. My love is fickle and fleeting. But Yours is constant and unwavering. You love me in spite of me. You love me consistently and constantly. You love me all the time and my circumstances are not an indicator or barometer of that love. Give me the capacity to recognize and appreciate Your love regardless of what is going on around me. Help me to rest in Your love, even when I have done something that I believe might cause You to “un-love” me. I want to live in Your love. I want to rest in Your love. I want to rejoice in Your love – every day of my life. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 8:18-30

In the Meantime.

Romans 8:18-30

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. – Romans 8:23 NLT

As believers, we live in what Paul Tripp refers to as “The Gospel Gap.” it’s his simple, yet memorable way of referring to that somewhat mysterious and sometimes confusing period of time that began at the point of our salvation and will end with our future glorification, when we die or when Jesus comes to take us home. As believers, we tend to put a great deal of weight on those two ends of the spiritual spectrum – our salvation and glorification – while minimizing what is commonly referred to as our sanctification – the ongoing transformation of our lives into the image of Jesus Christ. We had nothing to do with our salvation and we will play no part in our future glorification. And the reality is, we have nothing to do with our growth in Christ-likeness – our sanctification. It is all a work of God. What happened in the past, at our salvation, was the gracious gift of God, provided by the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. What will happen in the future will also be an incredible gift from our heavenly Father, in fulfillment of His Son’s promise to go and prepare a place for us. Eternal life is the ultimate outcome of our faith in Jesus Christ, and it awaits us in the future.

So Paul reminds us that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18 NLT). In that one sentence, Paul sums up the reality of life as a believer. We suffer NOW. But there is something glorious that is coming LATER. There is a future day coming when “God will reveal who his children really are (Romans 8:19 NLT). What we look like, act like, feel like and think like NOW, is nothing compared to what we will truly be in the FUTURE. Our transformation or sanctification will one day be complete and we will be glorified. As God’s children, we will experience “glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:21 NLT). Our bodies will “be released from sin and suffering” (Romans 8:23 NLT). So in the meantime, we “wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:23 NLT). This is the hope that was given to us at our salvation. There is a glorious future in store for us. But again, in the meantime, we groan. We suffer. We wait patiently and confidently. Or do we? Oh, most of us groan and suffer quite well. We have that part down. But it’s the waiting patiently and confidently that throws most of us for a loop. We struggle with the here and now. We wrestle with the circumstances of life and wonder how in the world our faith in Christ can make a difference in this lifetime. Our salvation becomes a distant memory and, our future glorification, a nebulous, difficult-to-comprehend hope. When we read the well-known words of Paul in verse 28, we roll our eyes and shake our heads, questioning the validity and veracity of his statement. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:23 NLT). Really? EVERYTHING? For our good?

This verse reeks of the here-and-now. It is all about life in the Gospel Gap. It gives us a way of looking at life and interpreting the circumstances of life as we experience our ongoing conformity to the Son of God. God called us at salvation with a distinct purpose in mind. And it was NOT just to take us to heaven! If that had been His purpose, He would have done so at the point He saved us. But instead, He left us here. Why? Because His purpose was that we “become like His Son” (Romans 8:29 NLT). God had a plan for us, and that plan included our salvation, our future glorification, and our ongoing sanctification as we live out our lives on this planet in the meantime. But we need to know that God is using any and everything in our lives – the good, the bad, the ugly – to transform us into the likeness of Christ. He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God – in other words, us. God can use our mistakes. God can use our hurts. God can use our darkest moments and brightest days to conform us into the image of His Son. He can use tragedies and victories, gains and losses, joy and sorrow, to achieve His ongoing purpose in our lives – our sanctification. He has given us His Spirit to assist us, comfort us, convict us and guide us. The Spirit intercedes for us, prays on behalf of us, and constantly seeks to motivate us toward our pursuit of God’s purpose for us – our spiritual transformation into the image of His Son. If God plans on completing His work in our lives by someday glorifying us and establishing us as permanent residents in His heavenly Kingdom, then we have to trust that what He is doing here on this earth is part of His divine plan for us – regardless of how it looks or feels. Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NLT). God finishes what He starts. He completes what He begins. Our time on this planet has a rhyme and reason behind it. There is method to God’s seeming madness as we suffer and struggle our way through this life. He is at work in our life, just as much now as He was at our salvation. His purpose is just as clear now as it was when He saved us. He is constantly, faithfully, and lovingly making us more and more like His Son, with each passing day. And some day He will complete His work project in our lives. But in the meantime, we must learn to wait patiently and confidently.

Father, I want to learn to wait patiently and confidently. I lose hope far too often and easily. I run out of steam. I get confused by the circumstances of life and end up seeing them as setbacks, rather than as opportunities and the tools You are using to transform me into the likeness of Christ. Give me the perspective Paul had. Let Romans 8:28 become a verse that I cling to and hope in. Continue to show me the reality of the statement that You really do cause all things in my life to be instruments for good and opportunities for my ongoing transformation. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 8:1-17

Life Through the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-17

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. – Romans 8:5 NLT

Paul had a sin nature. You have a sin nature. I have a sin nature. Every person who has ever lived or is alive now has a sin nature. Even those of who are in Christ. But Paul has made it clear that, because of Christ’s death on the cross, we have been set free from having to live like a slave to sin, constantly giving in to the sinful disposition of our sin natures. While at one time we were totally enslaved and incapable of resisting our own sinful nature, we now have a choice. We have been given the Spirit of God, who resides within us, equipping and empowering us to live lives that are pleasing to Him. He can and will produce a host of good deeds through us and godly fruit within us. But we have to choose to live under his control, rather than willingly giving in to our own selfish sin nature.

Over and over again in this passage, Paul reminds us that we have the “power of the life-giving Spirit” within us. He has freed us from the power of sin that leads to death. He empowers us to no longer follow our sinful nature. But there is a choice that has to be made. We have to want to allow the Holy Spirit to control our minds and our lives. When He is in control, we will tend to think about the things that please Him. When our flesh is in control and our sinful nature raises its ugly head, we will find ourselves thinking about sinful things, inappropriate things, that don’t honor God or reflect our relationship as His sons and daughters. Paul emphasizes that the Spirit that lives within us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. If that power can restore a dead man to life, it can restore us from spiritual death to new life. That incredible power can be tapped into in order to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature. It can allow us to live new lives – NOW – not just in eternity. We are God’s adopted children right here and now, not just some time in the future. We are heirs to His promises now, not just when Christ returns or He calls us home to heaven. We are beneficiaries of His life-transforming power now, not just at the rapture or when we experience our future glorification.

But Paul makes it clear that, while we will some day enjoy a future glorification and ultimate transformation into Christ-likeness, we are going to go through a period of suffering here and now. We will do daily battle with our sin nature, experiencing the same conflict and struggle that Paul expressed a few verses earlier. “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15 NLT). Christ suffered in His life on this planet. He had to do battle with sin and death, and so do we. We must constantly wage war with our sin nature and the enemy who seeks to kill and destroy us. We must wrestle with our inner desire to live for Christ, and the constant call of our sin nature to live for self. We are in a spiritual war zone as long as we live on this earth. But we have a power inside us that can equip us to live differently right here, right now. It will be difficult at times. It will be painful. But it will always result in our ongoing sanctification and ultimate glorification. We must rely on the Spirit of God to provide us with the power from God so that we can live lives that bring honor to God. This life-giving Spirit has not only freed us from sin and death, but empowers us to continue to live in freedom all the days of our lives – as long as we remain under His control and committed to living according to His power and not our own.

Father, thank You for providing Your Holy Spirit and placing Him inside me. I confess that I don’t always acknowledge His presence or tap into His power. I try far too often to live in my own strength and not in His. I do things my way, then wonder why things don’t turn out quite like I had hoped. Continue to show me how I might have victory over sin, not because I work hard at it, but because I have learned to rest in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 7:14-25

The Solution to Sin.

Romans 7:14-25

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:24-25 NLT

I have always taken comfort from this passage. Here is Paul, the great apostle and a veritable icon of spiritual virtue and Christian integrity, wrestling with the very same issues that plague me as a believer. Even as a great man of God and powerful spokesperson for the cause of Christ, Paul still struggled with the effects of sin in his life. Like me, Paul still had a sin nature. There was that part of him that was still susceptible to falling back into slavery to sin – even though he had been set free by Christ. Remember what he wrote in chapter six? “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT). It’s a simple matter of choice. You can choose to obey God or you can choose to obey sin. And it results in a daily struggle for most of us. Paul said, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15 NLT). In other words, in his heart he desires to do the right thing, but his sin nature leads him to do just the opposite. The problem with Paul is the same one that we face. He had an active sin nature. “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18 NLT).

Paul describes in simple, yet stark, terms, the all-too-common theme of my life. “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t” (Romans 7:18-19 NLT) The important thing to remember in reading these verses is that Paul is pointing out our inability to conquer the presence of indwelling sin through self effort. We may desire to do what is right with all our heart, but our flesh is inherently sinful and incapable of living up to the righteous standards of God. Which Paul describes as a principle of life that manifests in the following way in each of our lives. “…that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong” (Romans 7:21 NLT). It is as if there are two persons living in the same body. One wants to do the will of God, while the other seeks to resist that will and pursue a life of sin. It reminds me of the image of the demon and the angel, sitting on opposite shoulders of an individual – alternately whispering into the poor person’s ears, providing contradictory counsel about what to do in a given situation. Paul describes it as “another power within me that is at war with my mind” (Romans 7:23 NLT). The result for Paul was misery, which caused him to call out for deliverance from this daily, ongoing battle with sin in his life.

Paul knew that he had been set free from slavery to sin by the death of Jesus on the cross. He knew he was a new creature and a new creation. But he also knew, from experience, that he still had a formidable sin nature that waged ongoing war with his new nature. As long as we live on this earth and in these bodies, we will do battle with sin. Jesus’ death did not eradicate sin. He simply ended its strangle hold on our lives. We no longer have to live as unwilling slaves to its influence, obeying its every command and fulfilling its every wish. We have been set free. But sin still remains. And if we try to conquer sin on our own, we will always fail. If we attempt to rely on our own strength, we will always come up short and unsuccessful. Which is why Paul exclaims, “Thank God! The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25 NLT). Jesus is the answer for not only our salvation, but our ongoing sanctification. It is He who gave us victory over sin and death, providing us with a way to made right with God. And He continues to do it throughout our lifetimes. He gives me the strength to say no to sin. He has provided me with the Holy Spirit, as a powerful ally in my daily struggle with sin. I need to recognize that it is Jesus who saved me, but who continues to save me from the effects of sin on my life. He alone can deliver me from a life dominated by sin and death. The presence of sin in and around me, should drive me to a greater and greater dependence on Christ and His Spirit within me. I should know from experience that my flesh is weak and incapable of winning the battle alone. But I have Christ on my side and the Holy Spirit within me. I have a resource that provides me with the capacity to do what my heart desires. Paul goes on to describe this capacity as “the power of the life-giving Spirit” who has “freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:2 NLT). Jesus has provided us with eternal life. The Spirit provides us with the ability to live righteously in our daily lives – here and now. Thank God!

Father, there is a daily battle going on in my life that I far too often fail, because I am attempting to do it all on my own. Continue to show me my daily need for Your Son’s saving power. He didn’t just save me and then leave me on my own, but He gave me His Spirit. I just need to learn to rely more and more on the Spirit’s power and less and less on my own. As I grow increasingly aware of my sin nature, drive me to Your Son and Your Spirit’s indwelling presence in my life. I have the power to live the life You’ve called me to live, and it comes from You, not me. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 7:1-13

Free To Be Fruitful.

Romans 7:1-13

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. – Romans 7:4 NLT

Paul continues his diatribe about the law and its role in the life of the believer. He is having to instruct the believers in Rome, just as he had to do with those in Galatia, that the law is holy and its commands are holy and right and good. But there were those who were trying to say that keeping of the law was also a necessary requirement for salvation. This was a teaching that had cropped up in the early days of the church and had been following Paul in his missionary journeys throughout the Gentile world. Some Jews who had come to faith in Christ in the days immediately following the events at Pentecost, were convinced that conversion to Judaism was a required next step in the process of becoming a follower of Christ. For them, the law of Moses was still in effect, as was the requirement of circumcision for men, and the keeping of all Jewish religious festivals and rituals. So they were attempting to convince Gentile converts that their conversions were incomplete unless they became card-carrying Jews and kept the law of Moses.

As a former Pharisee and expert in the law of Moses, Paul knew exactly what the requirements of the law were. He had lived most of his life attempting to keep the law in order to attain a right relationship with God. But since his conversion to Christ, he had grown to understand that the law was never intended to save him. It was given to reveal the righteousness of God and the sins of man. And when Christ died on the cross, He paid the penalty that God required for sin, because the wages of sin is death. His sinless life was what was required to satisfy the just demands of a holy God. He became the blameless sacrifice required to atone for the wrath of God against sinful mankind.

Paul loved the law and understood that it was given by God. But he also understood its purpose. “It was the law that showed me my sin” (Romans 7:7 NLT). The law revealed God’s righteous standard and exposed man’s inability to keep it because of his sin nature. But Christ’s death provided a way for us to escape the condemnation of the law. The law can no longer condemn us because we died with Christ. Our old man was crucified with Christ and we have been given new lives and a new power to live holy lives. Which is why Paul says, “We can produce a harvest of good deeds for God” (Romans 7:4 NLT). Not in our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. Paul gives us the wonderful news that “we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:6 NLT). WE CAN SERVE GOD! Not through our own feeble attempts at trying to keep some written code or standard. But through submission to and reliance upon the Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to indwell us and empower us. We have a new power and a new capacity to live lives that are pleasing to God. But it requires that we come to grips with the painful reality that our self-effort is still inadequate to satisfy a holy, righteous God. If we allow ourselves to fall back into some form of rule-keeping, we will fail. We will become defeated and demoralized. The law is a constant reminder of our own tendency toward self-righteousness. We somehow want to try to measure up. We want to perform and earn God’s favor. We are prone to becoming spiritual over-achievers. But Paul wants us to know that spiritual fruitfulness is a byproduct of living in the power of the Spirit, not our own flesh. Only the Spirit of God can produce fruit that is pleasing to God. Only the Holy Spirit can produce holy people. And as soon as we realize that the life God is looking for in His people is of divine origin and not the product of human achievement, the sooner we will experience the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring.

Father, show me how to rely more on the Spirit and less on me. Open my eyes to the impossibility of trying to earn favor with You based on my own self-effort. Keep pointing me back to the futility of trying to earn my way into Your good graces or trying to live up to Your standards on my own. I needed Your Son to save me. I need Your Spirit to sanctify and transform me. Never let me forget that fact. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 6:12-23

Free To Pursue Holiness.

Romans 6:12-23

But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. – Romans 6:22 NLT

For many of us, a life of holiness seems impossible or, at best, elusive. While we may acknowledge and even agree that our “old man” died with Christ on the cross, we painfully realize that we have an active sin nature that results in us doing those things we know are opposed to a life of godliness. The fact is, we still sin – sometimes on a regular basis. But Paul gives us the good news that “when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin” (Romans 6:7 NLT). His death broke the power of sin over our lives. So Paul reminds us, even commands us, “Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires” (Romans 6:12 NLT). Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Sin seems to come so naturally to us. We get angry. We grow impatient. We covet, lust, doubt, lie – even worship idols – at the drop of a hat. But the key word seems to be control. We are not to let sin control the way we live. The Greek word Paul used is basileuo and it means “to exercise the highest influence over, to control.” It was usually used to refer to a king exercising his power. At one time, prior to accepting Christ as our Savior, we were under the dominion and control of Satan and sin. We were slaves to sin. We were condemned by the law of God because it exposed our inability to keep its holy requirements. But Paul makes it clear that “sin is no longer your master” (Romans 6:14 NLT). We live under the freedom of God’s grace, which “has set us free from the law” (Romans 6:15 NLT). Prior to coming to Christ, we had no say in the matter. We were slaves, bound by the requirements of the law, but totally incapable of living up to its exacting standards. The law simply exposed our sinfulness and unrighteousness. It couldn’t save us, but could only condemn us. But Jesus did what none of us could do. He faithfully and completely kept God’s holy requirements found in the law. He lived up to God’s standard and, therefore, became a fitting sacrifice or payment for the sins of mankind. His perfect life made Him the perfect, blameless sacrifice. And His death paid the penalty for our sin and satisfied the just demands of a holy, righteous God. And “when he died, he died once to break the power of sin” (Romans 6:10 NLT). As a result, we should consider ourselves dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

We don’t have to sin anymore. We don’t have to live as slaves to sin, captive to its control and at powerless to resist its influence over our lives. We can do what is right for the glory of God. Yet many of us live as if we are still enslaved to sin. Why? Because we willingly choose to obey our sinful desires. We give in to our sin nature and its constant call to satisfy our own selfish, sinful desires. We become the slave of whatever we choose to obey. But we have a choice to obey God or to obey our sin nature. We can become slaves to righteous living, obeying the call of God to live holy lives, through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. But it is a daily choice. “Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy” (Romans 6:19 NLT). We must choose to obey the will of God for our lives. We must choose to say, “Yes” to the Spirit and “No” to the desires of our sin nature. It is a constant, daily battle. But it is one we can win, because we have the power of God at our disposal. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses” (Galatians 5:16-18 NLT). In other words, as long as you try to do what is right in your own strength, you will find yourself losing the battle with your sin nature. But if you rely on the direction and power of the Spirit of God, you will discover you have the capacity to live the life God has called you to live. You can do “those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (Romans 6:22 NLT). You don’t have to keep on sinning. You don’t have to live like a slave to sin. You will find that you have the power “to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT). You can be holy. But it all begins with a willing submission to the Holy Spirit’s direction in your life.

Father, the life of holiness is impossible – as long as I try to do it in my own strength. When I do that, it is just as if I am trying to keep the law of Moses. I find myself in the same spot as the Israelites, trying to live up to Your righteous standard in my own strength, and failing every time. I become a slave to the law again. But Your Son died to free from the law. I don’t have to do this in the flesh. My old man died with Christ on the cross. I have been given a new life and a new capacity to live differently. Help me to live in the power You have provided through Your Holy Spirit. Show me how to experience Your life-transforming power and enjoy what it means to live righteously in Your strength, not mine. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 6:1-11

New Life In Christ – NOW!

Romans 6:1-11

When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:10-11 NLT

Jesus Christ didn’t just die as our substitute, He died as our representative. He stood in our place during His trials and the scourgings that accompanied them. He took the ridicule and verbal abuse that should have been aimed at us. He suffered the pain and agony of having his hands and feet pierced with nails – meant for us. He hung on a cross as a representative of all mankind, bearing the brunt of the penalty for their sins, not His own. That day, we died along with Christ. We were joined with Him in his death. Paul reminds his readers that when they experienced New Testament water baptism, they were symbolically buried with Christ. The very act of baptism is a public testimony of the believer’s belief in and dependence upon the sacrificial death of Jesus on their behalf. But Paul goes on to emphasize that as important as the death of Jesus was, it means nothing without His resurrection. “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Father, now we also may live new lives” (Romans 6:4 NLT). Paul is stressing our progressive sanctification – our ongoing transformation into the image of Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

The real point Paul seems to be trying to stress in this section is that, because of our identification with Christ in both His death and resurrection, we have the capacity to live new lives. “We know that our old sinful natures were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6 NLT). That’s the crux of Paul’s argument. Because of our association with Christ in His death and resurrection, we have been set free from the power of sin in our lives. And we should KNOW that, not just intellectually, but experientially. Our experience should confirm for us that we have a new power available to us that makes a life of righteousness possible. And that power is the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of this life-transforming power later on in this same letter. “The 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” (Romans 8:11 NLT). That’s why Paul can go on to say, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do” (Romans 8:12 NLT). Just as Christ was raised from the dead, never to die again, so too have we been raised to new life, never to have to be enslaved to sin again. Jesus, in His resurrected state, lives for the glory of God, and so should we. Our new lives should be a testimony to the power of God in our lives. Our newfound ability to live holy and righteous lives should be a regular reminder of the reality of Christ’s death and the Spirit’s power. Which is why Paul reminds us, “So you also should consider yourselves dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11 NLT). We have to constantly remind ourselves that Christ’s death paid for our sins, but His resurrection provided the power we need to live free from sin in our daily lives. We have not only been saved, we are being saved every day of our lives as we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us and provide us with the strength we need to put our own sinful natures to death. It is a progressive, ongoing process that will never be complete until God calls us home or Christ returns for His bride, the church. Paul started this section with a simple, rhetorical question that needs no answer. “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 2:2 NLT).

Father, I want to live the life You’ve called me to live in the power You’ve provided to make it possible. I have been crucified with Christ. My sins have been paid for. My debt has been paid. I have been set free from slavery to sin and its rule over my life, but the truth is that I can so easily find myself falling back into old habits and living as if I am still a slave. I don’t utilize the power of the Holy Spirit in my life like I should. I try to live the Christian life in my own strength and it always produces the same ineffective results. Continue to show me how to live in Your power and not my own. The same power that raised Your Son from the dead resides within me and I want my life to reflect His presence and power in my life more and more with each passing day. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 5:12-21

Law Versus Grace.

Romans 5:12-21

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. – Romans 5:20 NLT

Over and over again in his letter, Paul has made it painfully clear that the Law of Moses can’t save anybody. “So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:28 NLT). But that fact does not diminish the importance of the law or in any way provide us with an excuse to ignore it. “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31 NLT). But all of this raises the question, “What is the purpose of the law?” It makes us reconsider God’s reasoning for giving the law in the first place. After all, if God knew that man could never live up to the standards of the law, why did He give it to us in the first place? Paul answers this important question in verse 20: “God’s law was given to that all people could see how sinful they were.”

Michael Horton, in his book, The Law & The Gospel, puts it this way: “The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own ‘righteousness.'” The law can’t save us, it can only convict us. The law gives us the requirements, but without any assistance to meet them. The law gives us the expectations of God, but without any ability to fulfill them. But that was never its purpose. “The law comes, not to reform the sinner nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through personal effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else – someone who has fulfilled the law’s demands. Only after we have been stripped of our ‘filthy rags’ of righteousness (Isa. 64:6) – our fig leaves through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame – can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life. (Modern Reformation, Good News: The Gospel for Christians, May/June 2003).

When Adam (and Eve) sinned, sin entered the world. It took up residence in the lives of Adam and Eve’s descendants, resulting in generations of men and women who inherited not only their propensity for sin, but the guilt and condemnation that accompanies it. The law was given to reveal just how sinful we really are. Later on in this letter, Paul gives a personal testimony regarding the law and its role in his own life: “…it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet” (Romans 7:7 NLT). Like a speed limit sign on the side of the road, the law simply revealed man’s transgression of God’s righteous standard. Paul goes on to say, “But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died.” (Romans 7:8-10 NLT). The law simply shows us our sin. It reveals to us our unrighteousness. It is God’s holy standard made clear – in black and white. No excuses allowed. I love the way Martin Luther said it. “The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace.…The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior….” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians).

Rather than living under the exacting standards and condemnation of the law, we live within the wonderful grace of God. We have received the righteousness of Christ and the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean the law has become null and void though. Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. And Paul gives us ample exhortations that we are to live lives that are in keeping with God’s standard of righteousness. “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward to the hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed(Titus 2:11-13 NLT). “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.(2 Timothy 1:9 NLT). Those who walk in the Spirit don’t break the law, but fulfill it. They have a power and capacity to do what they could never have done before. We can live holy lives, not out of our own self-effort, but according to the power of the Spirit who lives within us. Paul paints the vivid difference between trying to live according to the law in the flesh, and fulfilling the law in the power of the Spirit. “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:18-23).

Father, I am so grateful that I do not have to keep the law to maintain a right standing with You. But I am also grateful that Your law is a constant reminder of just how holy You are and just how unholy I can be without You. May Your divine, holy, righteous law constantly remind me of my need for Christ. May it make me ever more dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s power and not my own. Thank You for providing me with the righteousness of Christ and the life-transforming power of the Spirit in my life. I have the capacity to live a life worthy of the Gospel and as a citizen of heaven. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 5:1-11

The Ramifications of Justification.

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. – Romans 5:1-2 NLT

We have been justified, or made right with God. And Paul has spent the last four chapters establishing that this amazing reality was accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and accessed only through faith. We are not made right through any effort of our own. And our justification is a done deal, not something we continue to work on through our lifetime. As soon as we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are made right with God, completely and permanently. Paul describes it as a place of “undeserved privilege.” Not only that, he says that our justified state should bring us confidence and joy as we look forward to our future glorification, when Christ returns for us, or God calls us home.

In the meantime, there is the reality of pain and suffering in this world. Yes, we have been made right with God. Yes, we will someday be glorified and spend eternity with Him. But in the meantime, we must go on living in this world and wrestling with our own sin nature. That is the process of sanctification that every one of us must go through. Just because we have been justified with God does not mean that there are things we must work on in our lives. We have the constant need to put to death the deeds of the flesh and to learn to live in the power of the Spirit. But Paul tells us, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (Romans 5:3 NLT). Our justification makes it possible for us to see our problems and trials as opportunities for growth, rather than as set backs in our relationship with God. We are already right with Him, so they are not punishments from His hand. Instead, they are divine appointments for us to allow Him to refine and perfect us. The problems and trials of life develop in us endurance. That endurance strengthens our character, and as we see our character strengthened, we grow in confidence and hope. We realize that our justification has ramifications. It produces results. God is at work in us, doing what only He can do – transforming us into the image of His Son. Paul told the Philippian believers, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT). Our salvation results in our justification, or right standing with God. But it doesn’t stop there. God continues to work in us, giving us the power to live in obedience to Him, doing those things that please Him.

The reality is, as long as we live on this earth, we will continue to struggle with sin. We will battle with our own flesh and wage war with the enemy. But if we truly believe we have been made right with God through Christ’s death on the cross, we must also believe that He has the power to transform and literally “save” us from the effects of sin in our daily lives. Paul puts it this way: “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son” (Romans 5:10 NLT). Christ’s death made us right with God. We have been justified. But we are in the process of being sanctified or set apart for God’s service, by daily being cleansed and purified from our sin nature. Christ’s resurrection reminds us that there is a power available to us that is greater than any power in this world. In a real sense, Jesus is still saving us today. His resurrection assures us that we have a power available to us that is constantly saving us from the assaults of the enemy and the ever-present reality of sin in our own lives. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Colossians 3:5 NLT). Later in this letter, he will write, “if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live” (Romans 8:13 NLT). Our justification has ramifications. We have the Spirit of God within us. We have the capacity to live for God in such a way that it reflects our righteous standing with Him. We can live as what we have been declared – righteous sons and daughters of God.

Father, thank You that Your work in my life is an ongoing reality. You didn’t just save me, but are constantly saving me from the power of sin and the ongoing assault of the enemy. You are transforming me and have given me Your Spirit to provide the power I need to live the life You’ve called me to live. None of this is done in my own strength. It never ends up being about my ability to live up to Your standards. Whether we’re talking about salvation, sanctification or glorification, it is all Your work. I am just the undeserving beneficiary. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 4

Unwavering Faith.

Romans 4

Even though there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” – Romans 4:18 NLT

Paul is still driving home his point that the key to being made right with God is based on faith, not our own efforts. He has established that both Jews and Gentiles stand before God as guilty and condemned because of their sinfulness. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). But he is now attempting to clear up some misunderstandings regarding Abraham, the patriarch of the people of Israel. Paul refers to him as the “founder of our Jewish nation” (Romans 4:1 NLT). In the eyes of the average Jew, Abraham held rock star status. He was worshiped and revered. They knew the stories of God’s promises to Abraham and took special pride in the fact that they were the descendants of this amazing man. But Paul wants them to understand that even Abraham was made right with God based on faith in God, not his efforts on behalf of God. Paul writes, “If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way” (Romans 4:2 NLT). The Jews believed that Abraham had somehow earned his right standing with God through his own efforts. He had obeyed God. He had made sure that all of his men had been circumcised according to God’s command. For the Jews, circumcision was like God’s Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It was His stamp of acceptance. That’s why, even in Paul’s day, as Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ, Jewish converts to Christianity were demanding that they be circumcised. They were requiring circumcision and adherence to Jewish laws and customs as an additional step in the plan of salvation. And Paul resisted this heresy with every fiber in his being.

Referring to Abraham, Paul writes, “Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” (Romans 4:10 NLT). You have to go all the way back to Genesis to read the account of God promising to provide a son to Abraham, and to produce from Abraham and his wife as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. The only problem? Abraham was an old man and his wife, Sarah, was barren. Abraham had resigned himself to the fact that he would have to make one of his servants his heir if he was ever going to have a family. But God had other plans. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir,’ Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!'” (Genesis 15:4-5 NLT). Then we read the words that Paul included in his letter to the Romans, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6 NLT). This event took place long before God gave Abraham the command to be circumcised. It was long before the law was given to Moses. God’s acceptance of Abraham was based on his faith alone. He believed what God had promised. And even when everything looked bleak and as if the promise would never come to fruition, Abraham kept on believing. In fact, Paul makes the amazing and somewhat confusing statement, “And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead – and so was Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19 NLT). And yet, a cursory reading of Abraham’s life seems to reveal a great deal of wavering and weak faith. He tried to make his man-servant his heir. He and Sarah came up with the idea of using her maid-servant, Hagar, as a surrogate mother. There are numerous occasions when Abraham and Sarah struggled with doubt. That is normal and natural for all of us as human beings. But as time passed and Abram watched God work, his faith grew – his confidence in God increased. “In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to whatever he promises” (Romans 4:21 NLT).

Abraham’s life was intended to be an example for us. Faith was the key to Abraham’s relationship with God, and the same is true for us today. “God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over for because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:24-25 NLT). It is belief in the unbelievable that makes us right. It has nothing to do with our vain attempts to keep God’s standards or live up to some man-made set of decrees. God has asked us to believe His promise that we can be restored to a right relationship with Him through His Son’s substitionary death on the cross for us. Far-fetched? You bet. Hard to believe? No doubt about it. But it is no more impossible to believe than an old man and his barren wife producing descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky. But they believed, and God delivered. And if we believe that God can remove the penalty of our sin and replace it with the righteousness of Christ, He will deliver – and make us right with Him.

Father, what You have promised to do for us through Christ sounds incredibly far-fetched and impossible. And yet, You ask us to simply trust You. The only requirement You place on us is that of belief. And like Abraham, the longer we place our faith in You and watch You work, the stronger our faith grows. Our wavering in doubt becomes increasingly less frequent. We see You work in our lives and gain confidence in Your faithfulness to us and love for us. Never let us lose sight of the fact that it is by faith alone that we are saved, not by our own self-effort. Keep us trusting You and not ourselves. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org