Wednesday, March 28, 2012

He Alone is God....Part 3

Romans 14-18

As we continue to wade into Chapter 9, I believe its a good idea to think about who God is...

He is Love; He is Holy; He is Healer;

He is Kind; He is Creator; He is Father;

He is Just; He is Sustainer; He is Mighty;

He Is Ruler; He is All-knowing; He is Forever;

He is Good.....


I wonder what characteristics you came up with that I didn't? Now I want you to do one more thing as we consider who God is, after the word “He” add “alone”. Does that give us a good position to start in? I think so.

Another thing I think we need to do is recognize who we are or better yet “who do we think we are?” This passage speaks of God having mercy on whom he will have mercy and harden who he will harden. That is a hard saying, but here is where we need to have an attitude check. Are you ready to hear it? None of us deserve mercy, but God gives mercy to some, because of his great love! PERIOD. We have no righteous ground to stand on. We might think we're all that because of our over inflated human ego, but as we'll see in my next post, we are just a lump of clay in the potters hands. A loving potter who knows before hand what that lump of clay was made to be.

O.K. Now that we have a proper perspective let's dig in.

Paul begins this section with a question. Is there injustice on God's part? He quickly answers ~ By no means! Paul quotes from Exodus 33:19 where God says to Moses “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” In the NLT I like how it states “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, etc....”

It is because of God's great mercy that “anyone” is saved. It's not a question of “why not everyone?”, but a question of “why anyone?” In verse 16 it states it does not depend on man's will or (from the ESV) “exertion”, but on God who has mercy. The word “exertion” speaks of spending ones strength in performing or attaining something; of those who run in a race course. I get that. When I run I am pushing to go beyond what I feel I can, it's all effort. God is saying here ~ you cannot work hard enough to earn salvation, it's all about me and my mercy. Simple. Rest in that.

Paul goes on to quote from Exodus 9:16 concerning Pharaoh of Egypt and how he came to be. God raised Pharaoh up so that (God's) power might be shown and God's name proclaimed. Many rulers on earth have come to power and have been brought down since the dawn of creation. Not one still stands, except God! He alone sets up rulers and disposes them. I am reminded of Daniel's prayer in Daniel 2:20-23, “He removes kings and sets up kings”. (See also Daniel 4:17; 5:20; Psalm 75:7; and Romans 13:1). It's all God and for God!

In verse 18 it mentions of God hardening those who he wills (desires, chooses). I have gone through several commentaries to help really understand this area, and this is my findings. God hardens those hearts that are already hardened towards him. He gives them over (Romans 1:28). In essence he gives them what they want (ala Rob Bell; my sarcasm inserted here).

I think we often loss sight of God's great mercy, when we are wrestling with the hard truths of scripture. What we always need to remind ourselves of is, who God is (refer back to beginning of this post), who we are (or are not), and trust him.

I think we need to stop there and take up the rest in another post. The more I read verses 19-24 the more I know it needs further study.

Question 1: Do you often find yourself questioning God or his motives?

Question 2: Do you see how great His mercy is towards those who he has “prepared beforehand for glory?”

Question 3: Do you also see his “great patience”?

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Romans Chapter 9 ~ He Alone is God....Part 2

O.K. Here is where we're stepping in it people! This is where it begins to get dicey!

Paul starts out this section stating that even though there are many of his countrymen who do not know Christ, God's word hasn't failed. Why? Because as Paul says “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel”. What? How can that be?

Paul goes on to show how this can be. In simplest terms, God never promised that all Israel would be saved (think remnant). Paul goes on to state the case for this statement. Even though Israel is descendant of Abraham they are not all his children. In John 8:31-36, Jesus has a discussion with certain Jews about this very issue, which of course made them livid. ( You know I have to segway here for a minute ~ In verse 33 of John 8 these Jews say they've “never yet” been slaves to anyone....Um....what? I can remember a few times in history where they've been slaves to one nation or another. O.K. Maybe not technically slaves, but captives nonetheless!) O.K. Let's get back on track here: The true children are not of the flesh, but of the promise, as stated in Genesis 18:10,14. Remember that Ishmael was Abraham's fleshly descendant, but Isaac was a child of a promise made to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. This promise is also further explored in Galatians 4:23, 28.

Paul also uses the example of Jacob and Esau. Before they were even born, before either could do right or wrong, God choose Jacob over Esau. He choose the younger one over the older one. He choose Jacob knowing full well who he was and rejected Esau. He did this why? Verse 11 tell us “in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works (we know what a stinker Jacob was in the beginning), but because (OH this is good) of HIM WHO CALLS! (my emphasis added). It's all God and his choosing. Is is not based on one single thing we can do. I think 2 Timothy 1:9 is another great verse that speaks to it being God who chooses and not how well we do things, or who we are. Ultimately it is always God, and ultimately it is for His glory!

I want to go over one last thing in this section. This has been a verse that has always bothered me. It's verse 13 ~ “As it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” quoted from Malachi 1:2-3. I can see it differently now through the lens of God's sovereign call, but did God actually “hate” Esau? In reading my ESV and other commentaries I have come to see it as “Jacob I loved (choose), Esau I hated (rejected). A verse that helped me is Luke 14:26. Does God really want us to “hate” our parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters? No ~ for one he says we are to “obey our mother & father. What he is saying (I believe) is “I must come before any of these”. When it comes to choosing “hate”, “reject”, them for me. Other scriptures that show this contrast are: Genesis 29:30-31 (the account of Rachel being loved and Leah being hated), and Matthew 10:37.

Always there are concepts in scripture that we will struggle with. As we search God's word more and more, he will most definitely make himself known to us. But I also believe that God is so much bigger than what our minds can even conceive. So when we are reading and studying the harder passages we remember ~ He Alone is God.......

Question 1: How do these verses set with you?

Question 2: Do you understand there is nothing you can do (good or bad) that changes God's decision?

Question 3: Is he calling you?

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Romans 9 ~ He alone is God...Part 1

These next few blog posts will try to put into words what God has been showing me in the 9th chapter of Romans. I've been told I am studying "what some consider to be one of the most difficult passages of Scripture." So I sheepishly wade in hoping that I am hearing the Holy Spirit correctly, doing this passage justice, and bring God glory!

We begin with the first five verses.

Paul is very much Jewish. We must remember that. Even though God has given him a passion and calling to the Gentiles, he never loses his passion for his "own race". Paul knew the direction in which the Jewish nation was headed. He saw their obstinate resistance to Christ as Messiah. He desires them to come to know Christ so much so that he writes "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." This was Paul's desire, but he knew there is only One who can be the perfect atonement for man, that is Christ.

I can feel Paul's passion for his people can't you?! Have you ever felt that passion for a loved one? How our hearts desire and break over the spiritual lives of our families. How our hearts also break over the spiritual life of our nation. We wish so much that we could do something, anything to draw them to Christ! We desire for them to know how the truth will set them free! We who are learning to study scripture see the truths that will happen to those who are not in Christ Jesus and we want to save them from that end! Here I am reminded of how Paul was not the first to weep over Israel. Jesus in Luke 19:41-44, wept over Jerusalem and what they failed to see in his coming and also what would happen to them because of their blindness. Oh that our unsaved relatives and this nation would turn to God and seek His truths! But we have to know that not all will come to salvation. God alone knows who will come, it is part of our purpose to speak His truth to all and bring into the fold those whom he has called according to His great mercy.

We cannot forget the Jewish nation was and is special. God set them apart to be the vessels by which he fulfilled his plan. He redeemed them and called them his own. In 2 Samuel 7:23 it says:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God.

The writer of 1 Chronicles says virtually the same thing is 17:21-22. Other wonderful passages that speak to how special Israel is: Deuteronomy 4:32-39;7:7-8; 10:15; 26:18-19; 33:29, as well as so many more! Search them out and see what God says about this nation, elsewhere in scripture.
But here Paul sets forth a list of what is Israels, and the special place they hold. Namely:

The adoption
the glory
the covenants
the giving of the law
the worship
the promises
To them belong the patriarchs,
and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all!

Amazing the heritage they have isn't it!! Israel took great stock in this heritage, so much so that it blinded them to the one who all this heritage pointed too. We will see in a future post how Israel counted on that tradition. They were zealous for the law without knowledge (Romans 10:1-2). They were under the false understanding that it was their heritage and adherence to the law that would save them.

I believe the same can be said today about those of us who have grown up going to church. Our spiritual heritage or denominational heritage become very important, to the detriment of our relationship with Christ. Again we will touch on this more later.

Question 1: Do you sorrow for a brother/sister who is lost? Do you pray over our nation and it's continual falling away from God? We need to speak the truth of God's word in love, leaving the work to the Holy Spirit to convict those whom He has called.

Question 2: Are you one that has all the riches of your ancestral traditions without faith?
Seek out Christ and his truth, and he will set you free from the bondage of tradition, to a life that is full of joy and peace in Him!

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