Part 2: Unto Deliverance
The Jew/Gentile Dilemma
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles” (Romans 1:13).
One of the things to look for as we read through the book of Romans—and this will be very important later on—is this difficult issue that was going on between the Jews and the Gentiles in the Roman Empire. There was all this confusion about what it meant to be a Christian. It was an especially difficult issue in Rome, not only because there was a huge problem with polytheism, but also because there was a strong Jewish contingent in the city and many people were being converted to Christianity. Because of this, confusion and difficulty came in: Do you have to be a Jew first in order to become a Christian? What’s the place of the Jew? Is Christianity an extension of Judaism, or is Christianity something separate from Judaism? How are the two related?
Of course in our culture today, Christianity is totally separate from Judaism, but back then, it wasn’t so clear. In their minds, Christianity was Judaism with all the prophecies about the coming Messiah having been fulfilled. “The Messiah’s come! Hallelujah!” So if I was a Gentile, was I becoming a Jew with a Messiah who had just come? Or is this a totally separate entity? It’s monotheism, but is it two different things—Judaism and Christianity? How do I understand this? So you can see how this was a problem in their era. Even twenty-five years after Pentecost it was still a difficult issue—especially in a foreign land where Judaism and Christianity coexisted. There was definitely some confusion.
The reason this issue comes into play is because of the very controversial and difficult part of Paul’s letter you read later in Romans 9-11. The letter to the Romans can really only be understood in light of the Jewish/Gentile dilemma that was going on there in Rome at the time. Those scriptures are about God’s sovereign choice as it relates to the Jews and the Gentiles and the fulfilling of His purposes. So as you read “Romans,” be watchful as you see Paul back and forth addressing the Jews and then addressing the Gentiles. He’s holding out what the gospel is to the Jews as well as what the gospel is to the Gentiles. He’s answering the question: What value is there in being a Jew if we are justified by faith? All these different things are going on and Paul is trying to unravel the difficulties for them.
It’s not my heart or hope to be overly technical in discussing all this—that’s not my intent. But I do want to lay forth something of the counsel of God, so you can have the same thing happen in your heart that happened to Paul when he was discussing these things. In Chapter 11 he was saying, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be the glory forever! Amen.” There was an explosion of Paul’s heart as he had just been considering the immense Wisdom of God. Not only had God chosen a people for Himself, but now He’s also grafting in the wild branches of the Gentiles! The prophecies had been there all along about grafting in the Gentiles, but the Jews just didn’t see them. Because they hardened their hearts, God cut Israel off, in a sense. Then to the Gentiles Paul says, “Who are you to gripe and complain when He grafts in the natural branches to their own olive tree?” Who are you to gripe with His original intention to form what in Revelation could be referred to as the Two Witnesses? All these things are very important for understanding the Last Days and the part we play in it all.
Power Unto Deliverance
Paul makes this statement to his friends in Rome throughout his letter: “Hey guys, the Law was granted to you. You were given a set of do’s and don’ts, folkways and mores from the Most High God. Okay, that’s all well and good. But those things are meant to point you to consider the deep, deep depravity in your own heart and understand that there is no way out except Jesus of Nazareth. You have no hope and no ability to abide by a set of laws and rules to please God. No one can do anything for you, and you’re powerless to do anything for yourself that will free you from this body of death. But praise be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! You can be set free from this body of death! You can be delivered from the law of sin and death and everything satan would ever throw at you. But, it won’t happen by adding more knowledge, more striving, or better this or better that. The solution is a total devotion to and an implicit trust in Jesus of Nazareth in every circumstance of life. And then the power of God unto deliverance will be seen in your lifetime.”
“I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to proclaim the good news also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the good news, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the good news a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:14-17). For everyone who puts their full weight on the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus…for everyone who utterly trusts to an extreme, it is the deliverance, for both the Jew and the Gentile.
In the first several chapters of this letter, Paul is wrestling with these questions: Who is the Jew? Who is the Gentile? Who has God justified? He makes it clear again and again that justification comes by an utter belief in the fact that the Father loves the Son. And our ability to apprehend that the Father loves us is based entirely on the fact that the Father loves the Son and we’ve been clothed with Him. This righteousness is totally apart from the law—apart from our ability to believe the “right things” and do the “right things.” Our righteousness in God’s sight is based on an utter trust that Jesus is the “Yes” and the “Amen” to all the Promises of God. That’s the issue Paul keeps driving at with these people.
In chapter 6, Paul begins to talk not only about the fact that the stain and guilt of sin has been completely removed; he also talks in a radical way about how our lives are to be so completely transformed, as we trust in Him day in and day out. The work and righteousness of Christ not only affect “where you go when you die,” but they also affect how you live while you are here. When Paul says “the righteous will live by faith,” that means we can apprehend the Power of God in a supernatural way for bringing us to a place of changing us utterly into the image and the character of Jesus. In addition to saving us from death, His power is just as effective for changing our characters and softening our hearts of stone and turning us into the very family likeness of Jesus (Romans 8) and bearing wonderful fruit in our lives to His Glory. That’s Good News! God is just as powerful through faith in Christ to change our personalities and our attitudes, as He was to save us from the penalty of sin. Not by our own works, but by believing God’s promises. He came to save us from the power of sin.
Paul talks about not being ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of deliverance for everyone who believes. He’s not just talking about deliverance from death and the penalty of sin (Romans 1-5), he’s also talking about deliverance from the power of sin and the slavery to sin in our hearts, attitudes and relationships. Understand that God means to deliver us from every form of temptation, every lust, every fear, every issue of pride—even our personality if it separates us from Him and from men. God means to transform us into the very family likeness of Jesus, the full measure of the stature of Jesus Christ (Romans 8, Ephesians 4). That’s a very large and powerful work God means to do!
Maybe you look in the mirror and wonder how in the world you’re ever going to be a different person. How can you ever be free from this “body of death”? You desire to do the right thing and still you fall, and then you fall again. Maybe you even stop wanting to do the right thing and start blaming other people for your failures. You’re tempted to compare yourself to others rather than to what Jesus taught and who Jesus is. Well, know this: God means to deliver us. If we have “faith to be healed,” He will deliver us from every aspect of the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin, which is death.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
Every mortal, every human being, is “without excuse.” Paul uses that exact expression. No one on the face of the earth has any excuse because if you so choose, you could have faith. God’s life and presence is clearly revealed to each of us to enough of an extent that we can believe God. And if we believe God, there will be an obedience of the faith.
So the power of God is for “all who believe,” the Jew and then the Gentile. But the wrath of God is for all who suppress the truth by wickedness. There’s a correlation here between what we truly believe from the heart and how we act. Wickedness comes out of a heart of unbelief. Paul is about to describe all this terrible darkness that comes from those who refuse to believe God. They suppress the truth about God and don’t want to believe Him. They hold an attitude about it and somehow justify themselves by their own good deeds. If you won’t believe God—if you won’t trust him implicitly and let it affect your attitude—you will incur wrath in your life instead of peace.
Unbelief will bring bad news instead of good news. And if you continue to live in unbelief, God will give you over to a delusion and to the fantasies of your heart. If you want to play God—if you’re walking in unbelief as proven by your attitudes in the workplace, toward brothers and sisters, towards God as it relates to obedience in your heart and life—if that’s the way you want to live, then the wrath of God will come upon you. His wrath is being revealed against those who walk in what Paul describes as unbelief, which expresses itself through disobedience.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness…” In other words, His wrath is revealed against anything that is “without God.” That’s the definition of godlessness. People make themselves to be god and therefore God has no effect on how their lives work. His “invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature,” though clearly seen, don’t affect their attitudes. It has no effect on what they look at with their eyes, what they ponder in their minds, or how they view and judge other people. If we don’t let God affect the way we live, it’s godlessness and the wrath of God will be poured out.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” When people choose to suppress or push back the truth by their wickedness, it’s not because we’ve failed to express something clearly or have said it in terms they can’t understand. Their response to truth doesn’t depend on our gimmicks. That’s not the deciding factor. The Scripture says that God has made truth plain to every man. I have to believe that is true. I don’t fully understand how it’s true, but I have to believe that another man’s faith isn’t dependent on my good works, my great knowledge, or my great ability to expound on some teaching. God has made His reality plain to all mankind. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21). They didn’t have a worshipful attitude, really believing that God was God. They suppressed the truth—pushed it back—and didn’t acknowledge Him as God, because like satan, they wanted to be gods. “I want to call my own shots. I want to entertain myself as I please and think about what I want to think about. I want to live unrestrained and want no government except my own. How I choose to interpret God’s government is totally up to me.” Well, that makes it my government rather than God’s, doesn’t it? That kind of attitude suppresses the truth and ends up giving us over to wickedness.
The Insanity of Sin
“For although they knew God…” He gave them a fair shot at it, just like He does us, right? “They neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). This terrible insanity of sin begins to set in if we don’t glorify God as God. If we allow attitudes and judgments to sit, if we allow bitterness, laziness, resentment and compromise into our hearts, then insanity sets in. Futile thinking takes over if we don’t glorify Him as God, turn our face to Him, and trust Him implicitly in every circumstance. When we hurt or when we don’t hurt, when we feel slighted or unjustly treated, we need to turn our face to Him so that our faith rings out. If we don’t function that way, an insanity of sin sets in. It’s an inevitable process: futility of thinking, a darkened heart, and darkened understanding. We become justified in our sin.
“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:22-23). He’s not just talking about stupid idol worship of setting up a stone against a tree and then bowing down to worship it. He’s talking about any man-made object or man-made pursuit filling our hearts. Idol worship is when our affections are toward the created world rather than the Creator.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24).
In the sinful desires of our hearts we can refuse to trust God and refuse to turn our face toward Him and resolve all open issues by faith in Christ. We give ourselves to our own hormones and glands and lustful desires, and then we justify our sin by comparing ourselves to others. “Well, God created this. He made me this way.” When we use the things God has given us for our own satisfaction and self-indulgence, He’ll let our hearts become darkened and our understanding become stuck in a quagmire of confusing issues and doctrines. If we don’t have a simple faith in Christ, continually turning toward Him, He’ll give us over to our own foolishness.
There’s a lot of good news in this letter to the Romans, but something that’s not very good news is what happens in the heart of man when we allow our attitudes to sink us. It is bad news when we tolerate unbelief in our hearts and we form walls against God and other believers. We get into trouble when we don’t see our lives the way God does, and when we don’t see people who truly love Him as washed in the Blood of the Lamb. We begin to form critical thoughts toward ourselves or toward others, and at that point, God gives us over to a delusion.
God does not allow us to stay in the middle, being a Mr. Nice Guy and sorting out life at our own pleasure and discretion. He makes us go one way or the other. By seeking God and the immortality of God, He gives us over to Life. By seeking the flesh, He gives us over to destruction. When we make ourselves to be gods, knowing good and evil, He gives us over to darkened hearts and futile thinking. Though we claim to be “teachers of the law,” we don’t know what we’re talking about or what we so confidently affirm.
This faith in Christ is not an optional extra. There’s no way you can maintain attitude problems and not end up in an insanity of sin. It happens automatically. By faith we’re justified and by unbelief we are ultimately condemned. God doesn’t let us sit in the middle. Faith leads to obedience because we believe God. We believe He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We are thankful to Him. We believe that He is God and He is ever to be praised! We believe Him and so there’s an obedience of the faith. By the same token, there is a disobedience of unbelief that sets in when our thinking becomes clouded—when our hearts become darkened and our flesh begins to run after selfish pursuits. Then we justify our attitudes, our lashing out, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. We begin to justify those things if we don’t walk by faith.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:24-27).
Notice that all this immorality stems from not believing God. The Good News is the power of salvation for all who believe. And by contrast, the wrath of God is poured out for those who won’t believe and who maintain their right to be gods. There’s no way to emphasize this enough. Your faith can ring out in every circumstance of life, or your unbelief can bring destruction into your heart.
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge or intimacy with God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:28-31).
Notice that gossip is right in the middle of the worst wickedness and sin. It’s right in there with murder, homosexuality and every kind of wickedness. All these violations—slander, envy, strife, deceit, arrogance and the rest—are lumped in exactly the same package, because all of them are indicators that we don’t know God. We don’t believe God and we have no fear of God. We’re not conscious of God, and it shows up in our attitudes and actions.
All those sins are lumped together because they’re all the fruit of making ourselves to be gods. We make ourselves to be gods rather than retaining the knowledge of the true God and loving and worshiping Him, humbling ourselves before God and man. Those acts of sin and evil result when we don’t filter everything through belief that God is God, and that His Son died for our sins, and for the sins of everyone throughout the world who calls on His name. All this evil comes into play, “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil…” Very clever, these people who walk in unbelief. “They disobey their parents…” right there with murder and homosexuality is disobedience of parents! “They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32). These people approve of those who practice rebellion and lead others into the same senseless sin.
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4).
We need to let this stuff really soak in. Vast riches are here, so look at each word and turn your face toward God to find what He has for you in these things.
What God is looking for is repentance that comes from His kindness. In trust, turning your face towards Him. That’s what “repent” means—to turn towards Him. He’s looking for people who turn towards Him and see His character. It’s not about people who can enunciate the laws of God, memorize scriptures, and then read them on the “sabbath day.” God honors people who turn their faces toward Him. Paul is talking to anyone who would attempt to justify themselves by what they know or what they do.
He says to them, “You are mere men and do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:4-8).
Notice the “persistence in doing good…” I think he said this for those who would hold up some sort of stained-glass, “I believe in God, and Jesus conquered everything on Calvary, so I’m free from any need to do anything.” Martin Luther wanted to throw the book of James out of the New Testament because he thought it had too much emphasis on works. But James was only saying what Paul says over and over—there’s an obedience that comes from faith. If you really believe that God is, then you’ll seek “glory, honor and immortality” by persistence in doing good. He will give eternal life to those who really see God for who He is.
But for those who are self-seeking—which is the opposite of faith in Christ—for those who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress, for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. It doesn’t matter what your knowledge base is, whether Jewish or Gentile. What you know about God’s character and can proclaim to babes means nothing if you don’t turn your face toward God in faith and let it affect your attitude and how you live your life. If you don’t do that, you’ll bring judgment, distress, wrath and anger upon yourself, no matter who you are.
“There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:9-16).
There will be wrath and judgment for all who don’t have faith in Christ. Everyone is without excuse, because He puts His law in the heart of every man—including those who have no knowledge of His righteous decrees and teachings that are in keeping with the God of Israel. He allows, “thoughts, now accusing, now even defending.” He was and is still actively working in a serious way to create an awareness of Himself in every mortal’s life.
“Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know His will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who proclaim against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised” (Romans 2:17-25).
A Jewish heritage (or even a Christian heritage) means nothing if you only keep certain parts of the law but don’t keep the entirety of the law. You’re totally guilty before God and man, and in fact make a mockery of God’s will and God’s Word before the unsaved.
Paul is being pretty ruthless, wouldn’t you say? He is talking to a “hall of fame” of hard-working believers who for the most part had been converted out of Judaism (Romans 16). He’s saying, “Whoever you think you are and whatever you think you’ve accomplished for God, you’d better watch out. If you think you’re justified by your knowledge of God’s Word and the fact that God entrusted you with His Holy Oracles—the Ten Commandments, the law of Moses—if you take pride in that, then watch out and look into your own heart.” Paul shows no partiality to the Jews. They think they have some sort of inheritance because of their lineage, because of their knowledge of the Scripture or because of some “spiritual truth.” But, Paul shows them no mercy! “Great! You have the law. But do you keep the law?”
In the first four chapters, Paul demonstrates that “knowledge of the law” justifies no one—it never has and it never will. Knowledge of God’s will, believing some approved set of truths, or hanging out with the right people has no value whatsoever to justify you. If you think of yourself as a teacher of infants, a proclaimer of truth, or a healer of nations because you have a knowledge base of God’s will or because of some lineage, then you’re a fool. If you think that simply having the knowledge of His commands gives you His Power, then you should look carefully in your own heart because you’ll see that you have NO power to do God’s will. No power whatsoever. We’re only fooling ourselves if we think that we’re justified before God or empowered by Him to keep His commandments simply because we know His commands and can enunciate them to others.
Paul is being very ruthless with people he dearly loves. Many were in Christ before he was, and had borne good fruit, even on two continents! Yet he says to them, “I’m not cutting you any slack. If you think for a minute you can be justified simply because you’re not a Gentile and you know a few of God’s principles, then you’re a fool! If you look honestly, you will see depravity and wickedness in your own heart, because God does not empower mere knowledge. He doesn’t empower proclaiming knowledge to the Gentiles.”
Paul had just finished telling them, “Yes, it’s true that the Gentiles rejected what has been made plain since the creation of the earth. Man could’ve sought God. And yes, God has given the Gentiles over to depravity and futility of thinking because they didn’t turn to Him as they could have. God made Himself known, and they rejected Him and made themselves god.” He goes on to give that long list of depraved sin. And then (v. 17) Paul turns to these Jewish believers and says, “All right, so you guys know the law. Big deal! I don’t care what you think you know about God or who your ancestors are. I don’t care if you can teach infants all these things, because that’s really not the issue.”
Let Him Dress You Down
“If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:26-29).
God is looking for something real in the inner man. He doesn’t judge according to the externals of a person, whether Jew or Gentile, and that’s the point Paul is developing. He didn’t like doing it, but he’s raking them over the coals. There have been certain times when I have had to rake someone I dearly love over the coals the way Paul did, and it has broken my heart. But it’s necessary at times to come back to ground zero. It’s very important to come all the way back to the baseline of “there is no one who is righteous, not even one.”
Paul found no joy in raking the Corinthians or the Romans or anyone over the coals and laying them bare. He didn’t enjoy taking people he dearly loved and shoving their face in the fact that their unrighteous lives are no better than anybody else’s. But he had to do it because he wanted to take them back to a place where they could find Jesus.
But you don’t need tolerance from God if you don’t see your own sin. And you don’t need patience from God if you don’t come to grips with your own wickedness. If you’re unwilling to face that because you have some sort of false doctrine in your head… “Wait a minute. I’m justified by faith. You can’t dress me down, Paul!” Well, here’s the man who wrote the book on faith! And he dressed them down because that was the only way they could ever find the true God who would lead them to repentance through His kindness, tolerance and patience. They had based their righteousness on their knowledge and other externals, so they couldn’t see how far away from God they really were. If they couldn’t face that, then they would never really find the true God or have anything to offer anyone else. They thought themselves to be teachers of infants, yet in truth they had nothing to offer anyone.
Allow God to dress you down from time to time, and allow Him to lift you up simply by faith in His Son alone—nothing more than that. Don’t try to lift yourself up by judging others, or comparing yourself to others, or by what you think you’ve accomplished or what you know. No comparisons and no contrasts. Simply face the living God and drop to your knees as you see how unrighteous you are before Him and how desperate you are for His cleansing. Let Paul dress you down. Let others, if God so leads, bring you to that place where you can justify yourself no longer. Whether Jew or Gentile, there’s only one justification, one claim to fame. If we see that properly and correctly, there will be a deep humility in our hearts pervading everything we say and everything we do. There can be no faith and no obedience of the faith if there isn’t a continual brokenness before God day by day by day.
If you have something to whisper in the inner chambers about someone—grumbling, accusation or judgment—then you’re not going to find God. If you know of sin in someone’s life, then talk with them honestly. There certainly is a place for speaking out against sin. God doesn’t tolerate compromise, and He doesn’t desire for the house to be filled with leaven as it is when we just overlook sin. But that doesn’t mean we criticize and judge others when we see something that’s not right. If someone starts getting pompous and full of themselves and critical of others, then that person isn’t recognizing that the only hope he or anyone has is by faith in the Son of God…the Living Son of God. We must see Him for who He is and drop to our face in repentance, and call others to do the same. He won’t be found until we face ourselves first, then face others with humility and faith.
So allow God to dress you down, to expose your attitudes and your judgments. If we don’t come to that point, then we’ll never live by faith from first to last. Our faith cannot ring out. See yourself the way a Holy God must surely see us mere mortals. Let that be preparation for your future. Paul felt the need to plow up the ground with people he dearly loved before he planted the seed of the Hope of Glory in their hearts. Unless you start from a posture of humility, God has nothing to offer you for your future. Start by letting Him dress you down. If you try to skip over that, you’ll never know the inheritance He has for you, and you’ll never be a redemptive force—the power of God—in other people’s lives either. You have to start by letting Him show you who you really are. Paul did that with his dearly beloved friends, with the hope hidden in his heart that if he wrung them out like this, they would stay with him in order to find true hope…the only hope: a total trust in Jesus of Nazareth and all that He lived and died for.
The people in Rome easily could’ve found fault with Paul after reading the first part of his letter and just thrown it down. But they didn’t do that. That’s because it wasn’t a “book” Paul wrote, but a personal letter to his friends. Look at Chapter 16 if you doubt that for even a minute. This letter to the Romans is often considered the most difficult book in the New Testament because Paul seems to leap from thing to thing to thing, at times making it difficult to understand the train of thought. Some things even seem like contradictions to us. But please, for the sake of Jesus, truly lay your life before God, just as these men and women must certainly have done when they first received this letter. They must’ve scratched their heads and asked, “Who’s he talking to? Does he mean me?!” And we had all better answer that question, “Yes, I guess he does.” Paul is talking to us, too. And you’ll never find the Glories of what Paul says later on in his letter if you’re unwilling to accept the dressing down that he throws in your lap at its start. If you won’t receive it, you’ll never know the Glory of the Freedom God has for you in your future.
The Father loves the Son, and that’s all. You’ll never know that until you’re willing to walk in brokenness and humility. Through God’s tolerance, patience, and kindness, we seek immortality by humbling ourselves and by going forward and doing good, rather than hardening our hearts. When our thinking becomes futile, then our hearts become darkened in understanding because we’ve made ourselves to be God. We refuse to thank Him and praise Him in all circumstances—this God who is forever to be praised.
Oh the depth of the wisdom, the riches, the fullness of God! Now ask Him, beg Him, to allow you to apprehend the immensity of His heart. Ask Him to help you understand the despair He feels over the darkness of our foolish hearts. And yet there’s Hope He holds out for us, by faith in His Son—true trust and belief—that affects our attitudes in the course of our daily lives. Let Him expand your heart and mind, so that when you look out into humanity or look in the mirror, your eyes see what He sees. Ask Him to let you see the despair that is our inheritance (chapters 1-3) when we put our trust in anything other than the Son of God as the payment for the penalty of sin and the hope of the future for the power over sin.
No principles will ever replace the Life of the Risen Son of God. Let Him rip you off. Let Him take everything away from you. Don’t pompously, pridefully and selfishly hold on, but let Him take you down to ground zero. Let Him take you to the place Paul wrote of, where you make yourself nothing so God can truly lift you up from the inside.
Let Him make you a vessel of immortality rather than a foolish, futile-thinking, darkened-in-your-understanding, so-called Christian. Let it be immortality that He brings you toward—true Life that’s really, really Life! Let Him take you to ground zero so He can lift you up. I’m not talking about introspection. I’m talking about seeing things exactly the way they are, so that your hope, your trust and your confidence can be in Christ Jesus alone. You glory in Him rather than anything external. Your security can’t be in trying to avoid the “bad things” which make you despair or in boasting in the “good things” which distance you from brothers and sisters. If you allow despair to come in, you’ll also let pride come in. If you allow pride to come in, you’ll also let despair come in. Neither of them are founded and rooted in the Blood of Calvary and the Power of the Spirit of God and the Power of the Risen Lord seated at the Right Hand of God, interceding for us.
Paul asked those in Rome to ‘fess up, and he asks us to do the same. If you won’t admit your need, you will never know the power of God for sanctification. You will never know God’s power because it can only be apprehended through faith, and faith is seeing God for who He is and seeing ourselves for who we are. If people will start by admitting who they are, God will take them a lot farther more quickly, in a supernatural, powerful, miraculous way, than if they kick and scratch and defend themselves. Our faith will ring out when we come clean with exactly where our starting place is and admit how little we have to offer God, and how much we will always owe Him.
2 And there are times for us too, when God will RAKE US OVER THE COALS and take us all the way back to the very beginning. You need to understand that there’s a time and place for God to dress us down through brothers and sisters so we can find a righteousness apart from the law. It’s a righteousness that comes simply by faith in Christ in the inner man, having been led to Him by His kindness, tolerance, and patience. Back