Part 4: Abraham's Footsteps
The Playing Field is Level
“What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew [or a person that knows all about the commandments], or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1,2).
Sure, being a “vessel for God’s Word” has value in that God chooses to use you as an envelope to deliver the message to others. But that’s the only value that comes from it if your own heart hasn’t changed. So what if you get to be a vessel for God’s Word? That doesn’t mean you keep His commandments! That doesn’t mean His Word has had any real effect on your life from the inside. Even if your outward man has kept the law, your inward man could still be wrecked.
“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:3,4a). In other words, God’s Word stands true, regardless of what anybody does with it. “As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right in your words and prevail in your judging.’ But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing His wrath on us? (I’m using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases His glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner? Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—‘Let us do evil that good may result?’ Their condemnation is deserved” (Romans 3:4b-8).
We start playing this game, “Well, God’s righteous, and I’m not righteous. I’m just a ‘sinner saved by grace,’ and so I’ll just go on sinning so that grace may abound. That would just make God look all the better because He’s saved someone as dark and depraved as I am.” If you desire to play that game and want to keep on sinning, it’s clear that you deserve your condemnation!
But that’s not what God wants for us! Through His kindness, tolerance, and patience He’s turning us towards repentance—not towards boasting in our sin. The nature of God’s Spirit inside of us is that we cannot continue to sin, and if we do, our condemnation is deserved. 1 John 3 is a proof of that, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). If the Spirit really lives inside of you, if you really did receive the Good News, then you won’t continue to sin. If you can keep on sinning, crucifying Jesus afresh, and even boast in your sin, saying, “Oh, well, just put that on Jesus’ account,” then your condemnation is deserved. You don’t have the Spirit if you are callous like that to your own sin. If it doesn’t just break your heart, then you don’t have the Spirit at all. You need the Good News—the Good News that teaches us to say “NO!” to ungodliness, as Paul said to Titus (Titus 2:12).
The proof of God’s grace, His forgiveness, and His love—the proof that His Spirit is inside of us is that we want to say “No” to ungodliness! It’s our desire to turn away from sin, and what we do that’s against God’s righteousness, we hate (Romans 7, Titus 2). We don’t want to do it. We don’t try to excuse it. Paul is saying that it is the wrong covenant if we try to excuse our sin based on some imputed righteousness. In that case, we don’t have His Spirit at all. (Only when we admit that we do have sin does Jesus’ blood continually cleanse us from all sin, 1 John 1.) If our attitude is, “Hey, we haven’t really missed the mark. It’s not our problem, it’s Jesus’ problem,” then we have no conscience about our sin. If we dismiss sin based on our theology (or maybe we don’t even have a theology, we just blow it off based on our seared conscience) then there’s a very good chance that we’re not walking in the New Covenant or the forgiveness of sins at all. The Spirit of God teaches us to say “No!” to unrighteousness. It teaches us to turn away from sin. We feel it in our heart and in our bones. There’s something inside of us that says, “No! I don’t want to live that way. I’m not a pig. I don’t want to live in the pigpen like the prodigal. I’m not a pig—I’m a son. I’ve got to get myself out of this mud.” That’s the cry of God’s Spirit inside of us when we’re in sin.
“What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all!” (Romans 3:9a) Do you have that phrase in your vocabulary? “NOT AT ALL.” Are you any better than anybody else? Not at all. If you don’t have that phrase in your vocabulary, you don’t understand the Good News. Are we any better? Not at all.
“We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin” (Romans 3:9b). So, you’re a Jew? Well, you had the law, but you never kept it in your heart. You were powerless to keep it. So, you’re a Gentile? God made His will known to you, too, even without the law. Jew and Gentile alike, you are both under sin. We’ve leveled the playing field here, boys! You are all the same. Apart from Jesus, you are all the same. Are we any better? Not at all.
“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Romans 3:10-18). Are you the exception to that? Do you think you do good or have some sort of merit or worth in yourself? You think you’re not so bad? I wouldn’t start there if I were you! You will never have Jesus if that is your mentality.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).
All the laws of God are in place simply to make us see how much we need Jesus. That’s the point he is making here. These laws are not here to make us feel good about ourselves. In fact, we’re not honest about them if they make us feel good about ourselves! You could think, “We have the law. We keep the commandments. We know what ‘church’ is. We know what discipleship is. We know what God expects.” The truth is that if you really knew what all of that was about, it would make you desperate for Jesus’ life. If you really understood and believed it in your heart, you would realize what deep trouble you’re in. Sure, like the rich young ruler, you think you’ve kept a few commandments. From “the time of your youth,” you’ve been wonderful, you think. But in your heart do you cling, like the rich young ruler, to one thing (or two or three or four), and refuse to let go? If you’ve refused to let go, you can’t have Jesus, just like the rich young ruler couldn’t have Jesus.
You’ll never have Jesus if you refuse to let go of your “right” to have opinions about people and things; or if you refuse to let go of your “right” to object violently when someone brings light into your life; or if you refuse to accept authority in your life from whatever source that may come. If you defend and hold on to your rights, then you can’t have Jesus. The law of God decrees that any of these things makes you unrighteous before Him—just lacking one thing is all it takes. Like the rich young ruler, it doesn’t have to be thirty-eight things. “One thing you lack” is sufficient to make you worthless in God’s sight.
If you’re honest with what God says and what His requirements are of you—if you look in the mirror candidly for just one second, and judge yourself compared to the Word of God, instead of judging others, you will know how incredibly needy you are. The Word of God is the Standard. And that’s what Jesus said will judge YOU on the last day (John 12:48). He said, “I didn’t come to judge the world but to save it. My Word will judge you.” If you let the Word judge you, you’re in a LOT of trouble—a HEAP of trouble! Think about that. If you let the Word judge you, you’re in a lot of trouble! The law was given to make us conscious of sin. Unless you read and see that Romans 1, 2 and 3 are talking to you, you’re not ready for the Good News. You need to be conscious of the sin in your own bones, and see how desperate you are for deliverance—a deliverance you cannot bring yourself and a life you cannot grant yourself by anything you say or do. It has to come from God—“not of natural descent or human decision or a husband’s will,” but it must be born of God (John 1:13). Until you understand that, you’ll not find the True and Living God—the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You’ll not find His life, and you’ll only find a form of godliness that’s without power (2 Tim. 3:5). You will be miserable. You will abide alone. You’ve got to face who you really are, by yourself. No one can do it for you.
I’m emphasizing all this because I want you to have the Life of God. And you cannot have the Life of God apart from facing Him in the mirror—without pride, without self-justification, without comparison to others, and without any claim of your own good deeds or merit. You can’t have the Life of God until you come clean. There’s no one who does right, not even one. Not me, not you…No one who does good.
Will you please face God some time very soon with this? Will you do that, as an individual? Don’t treat this like some sort of teaching that can be injected into your head. Don’t turn around to others and say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got that. Yep, I heard that. Romans 1 through 3—I understand that. Hey you, you better let God dress you down!” Please don’t do that! What I’m saying is: YOU face God and acknowledge before Him, with tears in your eyes, your total, absolute unworthiness to even breathe a breath of air or know an ounce of peace, let alone go to heaven. “God, I deserve hell. Every fiber of my being is condemning me—I deserve hell. I DESERVE HELL!” Until you’re willing to face that, there’s really not much hope that you will find the Life of Jesus.
That’s why Paul is dressing down his friends and leveling the playing field. He’s saying that religion won’t save you. He’s making it clear to the Jews, “Yes, the Gentiles needed religion desperately, like you thought. But look at yourselves! You had religion and it didn’t do you a bit of good.” The playing field is level. No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing any externals. Rather, through our lack of meeting externals, and our lack of internal life and righteousness, we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).
Guilty As Charged
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22).
“But now…” Paul has come to the turning point: “But now, a righteousness from God” apart from anything that we say or do has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. If you’ve read about it in the Old Testament, now is the time to believe it! Righteousness comes through total dependence, total faith, and total trust in Jesus Christ to all who believe—to all who put their whole hope in Jesus and His righteousness, in their daily lives as well as for their initial salvation. There is no one who does right, no one who does good. There is no one who is capable of anything. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. But now there is a righteousness apart from externals, available through total dependence on Jesus Christ. The Father doesn’t love me—the Father loves the Son! So I’d better hide my life in Him. The Father loves the Son.
The Father loves the Son! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not be damned to hell, but have everlasting life. If we put our full trust in Jesus because the Father loves the Son, then the Father will redeem us. He will buy back those who completely and totally trust the Son of God for any measure of righteousness they ever have had or ever will have. That is a key for many of us who have functioned according to the externals and relied on our “knowledge of truth.” We’ve depended on those “things” as our righteousness instead of Jesus alone. But the only peace that God ever grants comes when we trust the Son and hide our lives in Him.
“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22b-24a). “Justified freely”—what does that mean? Does that mean I am innocent? No! It means the penalty has been paid. You need to understand the meaning of that in your personal daily walk with God. Justification comes freely by believing in Jesus and it means that justice has been served—somebody needed to die and it should have been you, but Jesus died instead of you. He paid the price for your sin. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent. You are, in fact guilty.
Suppose I went to court for a crime that I did commit. I could spend the rest of my life saying, “Not guilty! Not guilty!” But the fact is, I did commit it, and I am guilty. Now in order for Jesus to pay the price of eternal death for my sin, it’s imperative that I say, “Guilty as charged.” You’ve got to start there. Depraved? Yes. Wicked beyond belief? Yes. Empty beyond understanding and comprehension? That’s me! Dead in my transgressions and sins? Yes. Guilty as charged. I will take the accusation at face value and admit my guilt before a Holy and Just God. Only then does justification take place, by faith in Jesus. Justification doesn’t mean that we’re innocent. It means that the price has been paid; justice has been served. The death sentence has been carried out. “Guilty as charged. I deserve hell.” I face God and I say from the heart, “I deserve hell, oh God! I am wicked. I have no holiness. My mouth is an open grave. There is nothing good in me. Guilty as charged. Send me to hell.”
Only as we face our sin can we then face our Redeemer. As we fall on our face as a dead man like John did, Jesus puts His hand on our shoulder and says, “I was dead for you. Behold, I’m alive for you. As the first Adam brought you sin and death, so now all the more I bring you Resurrection Life and Power. As he brought you the penalty of sin, all the more I bring you freedom from its death sentence. As he bound you under the slavery of sin until you were wracked with its pain, still more I bring you freedom from its bondage. I bring you an abundant life that’s truly free. I cause my life to live inside of you, so that you can live in resurrection power—the power of an indestructible life.”
As we face the fact that we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we can then understand justification in Christ. We are justified freely by His grace, by His free gift. We are not innocent, but rather, “Guilty As Charged.” We turn to Jesus and humbly let Him wash us and cleanse us and die for us. Why do we need someone to die for us if we’re not guilty? Is there still pride in our hearts? Are we not yet poor in spirit? If we don’t see ourselves as guilty, we don’t need someone to die for us. No death sentence is necessary. If you don’t face the curse and face the death sentence, then Jesus fulfilling that death sentence as a free gift is unnecessary. He doesn’t offer it to those who won’t turn to Him, having faced their own sinfulness. Please, I beg you to let this get through to your heart.
“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” He is our atoning sacrifice by faith in His blood—dependence, totally, on His blood. “He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26). Why did Jesus have to die? Because death was the only thing that could bring about justice. It should’ve been us—we are the ones who DESERVE to die. The death sentence is fully applicable because justice required that someone must die. God didn’t overlook our sin, but He instead justified us freely by letting the Lamb of God take away the sins of the world.
“Where, then, is boasting?” Do you get the idea now? Where is the boasting, hot shots? Are we any better? Oh, no! Certainly not! Where now is the boasting, oh wise Christian soldiers? “It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? (Or doing good “Christian” things?) No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law (or externals). Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law” (Romans 3:27-31).
In The Footsteps of Abraham
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him’” (Romans 4:1-8).
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” If we face this dressing down and come to Him poor in spirit, then our sins—because of the life of Jesus and the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus—are never counted against us, no matter what. Through thick and thin, through high and low times, our sins are never counted against us if we are really living by faith in Jesus.
“Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!” (Romans 4:9,10) Did Abraham’s circumcision—his obedience to God—bring him to righteousness before God? When was he “credited with righteousness”? It was not after he received the sign of circumcision, but before. So for the Jewish person with pride, understand this: Abraham’s justification wasn’t based on his good deeds. His circumcision didn’t make him an Israelite and it didn’t justify him. He was justified before he was circumcised. “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them” (Romans 4:11).
Living sinless lives, or keeping the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses with its sacrificial system, never justified anyone. It is our faith that always has and always will justify us, whether we are circumcised or uncircumcised; in the law or apart from the law; good deeds or no good deeds. I’ll even go so far as to say…holiness or no holiness. It’s our faith that makes us true Israelites.
“And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 4:12). To follow in the footsteps of our father Abraham is to believe on the One whom the Father has sent! He’s the only hope for deliverance from the penalty of sin and our only hope for freedom from the power of sin. You must grasp that! You have to grab greedily onto that fact if you’re ever going to understand God’s forgiveness, and learn to “love much, because you’ve been forgiven much.” If you’re ever going to find Resurrection Power, you must understand the rotting death that’s in your heart. You have to understand the utter wickedness of carnal power—the power of the mind, the power of persuasive ability, the power of hard work and willpower, the power of genius, and the power of charm and good looks. None of that junk will ever justify us before God or bring us to a place of bearing fruit to the Father’s glory. Do you believe that? You’ve got to believe it. If you want to find the same freeing power and life and justification of our father Abraham, then you have to walk in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham. Only then will we become friends of God.
“It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world (wow! The heir of the world!), but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:13-16).
Being “heir of the world” comes by faith—by totally believing God and His Word and His Son. Reigning in life comes by believing God about our own unrighteousness and about the total worthiness of the Son of God as our only hope. And not only is He our hope, but He is the fulfillment of God’s every requirement, and our only reason for confidence. Because of that, we’re not just squeaking by, but boasting in the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ. These things are guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring. And who are Abraham’s offspring but those who have Abraham’s faith!
“As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” (Romans 4:17). Notice this FAITH of Abraham! It is this attitude in the face of disappointment or in the face of a barren womb. It’s this attitude in the face of failure with children or relationships or business dealings. It’s having this attitude of faith again and again and again, in the face of despair and rejection and sin in your life—sin that you’ve fully acknowledged. You’ve said, “I am guilty, oh God. I resented that person when they brought me Your Word. I rejected it because I was pompous. I was haughty and I lashed back and accused. I did not humble myself before You. Guilty as charged, God. I deserve death.”
Not only do we face the facts of our sin and turn to God, humbling ourselves and casting ourselves before Him as guilty, but we also go on to face Jesus as the only fulfillment of all righteousness. In spite of failure after failure after failure, we keep coming back to Him. In spite of defeat, rejection, despair, disappointment, and discouragement, we still face God. We turn our whole heart toward Him and receive His Word that He calls things that are not as though they are. With that kind of faith and heart towards God, we trust God for the forgiveness of sin and for the redemption of a fallen and failed life.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith…” (Romans 4:17-18a)
We too can believe, just like Abraham, against all hope, without weakening in our faith. With courage and humility, we have a despair of our own sin but a deep confidence of our hope in Jesus. We face God, confident of the fact that He’s written His Heart and His Overcoming Life into our genetic code. He’s become our life and so we’ve hidden our life in Him. Without weakening in our faith, we face the fact that our body is as good as dead. We face the facts. We cannot do anything worthwhile. That’s the way it is, and it’s okay. We don’t argue about it.
“He faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God” (Romans 4:18-20). In spite of his failures, in spite of his stupidity, in spite of his weakness, in spite of the death in his inner man, he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God! He was a worshiper, like Job. “Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.” In spite of everything, He was a worshiper! He didn’t have an attitude problem or hold a grudge. He didn’t judge and complain about his circumstances. He didn’t complain to God, or to others or to himself. Instead, he gave glory to God and he worshipped God. He was strengthened in the inner man because he turned his face toward God and called on the Name of the Lord. He had that kind of heart! He wasn’t dealing horizontally, only looking at the seen world. He was “conscious of God” as Peter said. He wasn’t dealing with the junk of circumstances, religion, good deeds, and comparisons. Rather, he had a smile and a twinkle in his eye, and a heart toward God, and he saw the majestic cloud. He saw all of creation crying out to the Glory of God! He saw even the stones along the road bursting into praise! His heart was conscious of the God who created the heavens and the earth.
So then, what do I have to say about my “little ol’ circumstances”? They just aren’t so bad, are they? Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:21). Without wavering, fully persuaded, giving glory to God! Fully persuaded. He didn’t waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith, giving glory to God. Ask me any ol’ time how this is going to turn out, this terrrrrible thing that is happening to me. I’m not going to shrink back as one destroyed! I’m fully persuaded—in spite of all the evidence, in spite of all the history that would prove how bad this is going to be. Fully persuaded. That’s the faith of Abraham—faith that justifies us freely, in spite of our failures and our circumstances. Fully persuaded, that God has the power to do what He has promised!
“This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:22-25). AND for our consecration. In other words, Jesus not only removes the penalty of sin, but He completely obliterates the power of sin in our lives.
Strengthen Your Brothers
Satan desires to sift all of us as wheat. He desires to thresh us and shake us and kill us. But Jesus says, “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you’ve turned, strengthen your brothers.” These words are from the Throne of God. Satan desires to sift each of you as wheat—brutal words! Yet the Son of God, seated at the Right Hand of God, who lives to intercede, says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail.” And when you come through this, view this not as for yourself, but for the sake of others. When the sifting is over, “strengthen your brothers.” Love them as I have loved them. When you’ve been sifted, thrashed and beaten every which way, and the winds have blown and scattered you to the four corners of the earth…when you’re converted, strengthen your brothers. I’ve prayed for you, that your faith would not fail.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We have the mind of Christ. We’re spiritual, but you’re carnal.” The quality of the Corinthians’ lives didn’t demonstrate that they had the mind of Christ and that they lived by the Spirit of God. They were carnal and foolish. They couldn’t even understand a lot of what he was saying. As he put it, “I have to give you milk; you are babies.” When he wrote to the Galatians, he said the same thing: “I’m crucified with Christ, yet I no longer live, I live by faith in the Son of God.” He went on to say, “I’m in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, too.” He wasn’t saying they had been crucified with Christ, he said he had. “I’m dead to the world and the world to me. You have that same inheritance, and I’m in the pains of childbirth until you live in it, until your life demonstrates it.”
You may need to take a hard look in the mirror, and be on your face and on your knees before the full meaning of this actually has any bearing on your life. “I’ve been crucified with Christ, I no longer live. I live by faith in the Son of God.” Paul could say these words about himself, but he wanted to see Christ formed in them, too, because that was their rightful inheritance. They weren’t meant to remain babies, tossed to and fro by every wind, but to righteously live in faith and strength and life, fully persuaded, giving glory to God in every circumstance. It wasn’t their current experience, but it was their inheritance.
So whether you’re experiencing it this instant or not, let your heart just well up from within, “God, help me to know what it means to be crucified in Christ and to no longer live. I’m sick of me! I want You to live in me.” Cry out to Him, and live by the power of the faith of the Son of God—a resurrected, full, free, abundant life. “I came to give you life—in ABUNDANCE!” That’s Jesus’ heart cry for the sheep in His fold.
Satan desires to sift you as wheat, but Jesus said, “I have prayed for you.” Jesus says to you right now, “I am praying that your faith would not fail, and that when you are converted, you will strengthen your brothers.” Do you know why Paul worked so hard, harder than all the rest? He was free to do that because faith and grace were so real to him. That’s not justification by works. That’s not doing good deeds in order to earn something before God. Working harder than all the rest comes from finally seeing and letting God work His power and His faith and His grace through us. As James said, a person who doesn’t work hard or have a demonstration of life and grace, whose life isn’t marked by an evident power of the Spirit in serving the brothers—that person hasn’t experienced true faith. It’s not justification by works, it’s joining ourselves to the works of service that God created in advance for us to do. Before He created time, He had a part for each of us to play in His symphony. Being able to play our part is all wrapped up in the fact that we are saved by grace and faith—and none of this from ourselves. It all crescendos into a symphony of God’s work being done on planet earth.
“I’ve prayed for you that your faith fail not. And when you are finally converted to true faith, strengthen your brothers.” Settle for nothing less than the faith we’ve been talking about. Be fully persuaded and give glory to God with NO attitudes and NO judgments, facing God, humbling ourselves without pride, with nothing to protect or defend. When you’ve finally faced God that way, and your faith has not failed in the midst of turmoil, crisis, or disappointment, or even your own sin—when you are converted, turn and strengthen your brothers.
Take some time and pray for people in a real way. Pray for your brothers and sisters and your children and people all over the city and all over the world who wear His name. Pray that their faith would ring out throughout the world. Pray for those who claim to be God’s people—that they would have true faith in the Son of God. Pray that their life would demonstrate the power of Christ living through them—not just their words, not just their doctrine, but their life would be a demonstration of God’s power. If their life doesn’t reflect God, then they’re not living in grace or in faith. I don’t care what their doctrine says—they’ve not found Jesus. Because if they had, then the result would be that they would be bearing much fruit to the Father’s glory. Abiding in Him will always result in bearing fruit—filling and multiplying the world with the Life of God. So please pray for your brothers right now?
When He returns to earth, WILL He find FAITH? Pray passionately that He would find faith. Consecrate yourself for your brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Let Your Heart Rest
Take a minute and let your heart rest. Maybe your mind is driving toward this thing or that, but just ask God to let your heart rest before Him. Turn your face towards Him and ponder some of what you remember (or some of what you don’t remember : )). Lift your heart toward Him. The reason David was a man after God’s own heart was that he took the time to look up into the clouds and find God. So let your heart stop racing, and let these seeds settle in. Just ask Him to touch you and help you.
Don’t space out, don’t zone out, and don’t just consider externals. Don’t think about what other people around you are doing, or how you feel about this person or that person. Maybe you had a contention with the way something was said. Don’t get bogged down in what you understand or what you don’t understand. Don’t let your mind and your heart and your flesh race. All of those things will kill you. Contemplate God in a spirit of peace and beg Him to touch your heart and your life. Turn toward God, seated high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple, the angels singing glory to God in the highest. Join them. Let your heart rest before the person of the Godhead right now, the God of Israel. Face Him. Take a moment to do that, please.
God, give us insight into these things. There is no way, apart from Your grace, that we can comprehend the magnitude, the depth of the riches of Your awesome glory and wisdom. We cannot capture this apart from Your help and the power of Your Spirit speaking to us. Jesus, You promised in Your covenant that You would send Your Spirit to the world to convince us of righteousness and judgment to come, of Your condemnation of sin and yet Your power of delivering righteousness to those who will fully trust in You and You alone. Not one whit more, not one inch more, nothing added to the fact that You alone have overcome Satan and the power of sin and death. “Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?” Through the resurrection, You demonstrated the power of sin and darkness and death being overcome. We believe in You as our only hope. We believe in You as the only reason the Father loves us. The Father loves the Son, and we’ve hidden our lives in You.
Father, open our minds. We repent of the darkened understanding and the futile thinking…the junk. The “one thing we lack,” we lay that into Your hands freely, because only You can deliver us from the power of death. Only You can allow the seed to no longer abide alone in our hearts and lives. Only You can make us free.
Father, let our faith ring out. Nothing else has any value in comparison to that. We want to be fully persuaded, giving glory to God in every personal circumstance of life. Help us to completely receive the dressing down that You bring through Paul or any of Your other servants. We want to do this with true humility, without complaint or argument. When Peter heard the words, “Get behind me, Satan!” he could have been bitter. He could have rejected Jesus. There were a lot of reasons he could have walked away, and yet he knew that the words of Life came from the mouth of Jesus. We want to have that same heart, Father.
We want to reign in life, not because we claim “reigning in life” as some doctrine, but because we’ve owned up to the darkness in our hearts and claimed YOU as the only hope. And now that we’ve found that only You can bring hope, we want to be the kind of people that, without wavering, give glory to You, fully persuaded that You are a God who keeps Your promises. You take even our darkened hearts, our futile thinking, our sin and weakness, our stupidity, our emptiness and loneliness—and “You call things that are not as though they are.” You want to give us the very life of Your Son—not just His salvation, but His very life. And God, we are fully persuaded that You want to keep Your promise. We want to be the kind of people that walk by faith, giving glory to You in spite of the competition that satan offers us for faith.
Father, redeem Your people. Bring Your people to a full salvation, a great salvation, a great deliverance, not simply a belief system with a few good deeds and a neat way to live, but a resurrection life in every home! With each look in the mirror, we’ll see, “Not I, but Christ who lives in me. I no longer live by faith in myself, but by faith in the Son of God, because I have died. I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, and I not only survive, but I live mightily by faith in the Son of God!” God, make that a true statement in every single life! Let all boasting, except in Christ, be totally excluded. …..
God, we give You glory as a Keeper of Promises, as Maker of the heavens and earth, and Re-maker of a new creation. That is our hope for everyone who will ever hear or read these words. God, we give You glory as a Re-maker as well as a Maker. We ask these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, the conquering King, the One who is coming quickly for the people who have truly called on His Name. He’s the One who will tread out the winepress of the wrath of God Almighty for those who play religion and don’t humble themselves before You. We welcome Your coming. Come, Lord Jesus! Please open our eyes to all these truths. Amen.