Part 8: The Worshiper Can See It
Before we go on to consider what Paul has to say in the upcoming chapters, we first have to consider an important backdrop. If we want to understand the vastness of God, the magnitude of His Glory, and comprehend what Romans 9, 10 and 11 even mean, it’s very important that we are worshipers. If you are really going to find GOD in these chapters—and not just parse and conjugate, and divide and slice it all up and create some doctrine out of it—you have to be a worshiper. Otherwise, you’ll not understand it. Sure, you might be able to “quote scripture” and cross reference it to death all day long, but you will never comprehend God’s heart about it unless you are a worshiper FIRST. So, let’s be worshipers as we face the God of heaven and earth and consider His thought and His mind in these chapters. If you can enjoy who God is, first and foremost, then you’ll see the magnificent scope of His heart and His mind in Romans 9 and following. That’s why in chapter 11 Paul just bursts into song about the unsearchable riches of Christ: How vast is His glory and the magnitude of His heart and His life! “Oh! the depth of the riches of God!” “From Him and through Him and to Him all things!”
So, take a minute sometime very soon, and go outside and look around…
Look around…look up…Enjoy God and His incredible vastness! See the awesome and infinite scope of His Love, His heart, His magnitude. Take the time…be like David who raised his hands into the Glory of God. He stood among his flocks of sheep and reached out his hands for Abba, Father. That wasn’t “hyper-spiritual.” He was experiencing God’s Love in the testimony of creation itself—God’s eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1). “All of creation groans…” as Paul said in Romans 8. “The stones themselves along the road could just burst into praise!” Jesus said.
If we are ever going to be a people of faith, we have to get past all the ceilings that man has created—not just the ones in our hearts, but also the physical ceilings of the abodes we live in and the places we work. We have to see right through the ceilings—right through the infrastructure of man, into the heavens, as David did.
Take the time and have the humility and the vision to look out with the eyes of your heart, past the ceilings that men have built. We’ve built a world full of physical barriers between us and the heavens and earth God has created and all of His marvelous handiwork. Look past those ceilings, as well as the ceilings of your own previous experiences, your own fears and failures. Look beyond what people have always told you or beat you down with, or even the junk you’ve said to yourself.
Be willing to be fool enough at times to lift up your eyes and absorb the world around you. I don’t mean some weirdo pantheism where God is “in the tree” and “in the bush” and “in the waterfall.” You know I don’t mean for you to do something that would draw your attention away from the Person of God. I’m just saying that all the things of creation are meant to be panes of glass through which we SEE GOD. They are not something we would focus on, in and of themselves. “Oh, God’s in this, and God’s in that.” Rather, we see God through creation’s “panes of glass.” Let your eyes see past the panes of glass and into the very heart and mind of God. Explore that possibility, okay? Let your heart be open and look toward the heavens and find God. Find HIM in the little cotton balls of clouds, in the majesty of a sunset, and in the crash of the ocean waves.
Again, I am fully aware of the idolatry that takes place when people fix their gaze on “things” and find the wrong kind of pleasure in created things. This isn’t about worshiping nature and creation. We may not always have the privilege of beautiful scenery anyway. We need to be just as able to see God’s heart and experience His love in a damp, dark prison cell with sweaty, concrete walls and rats and grime and the excrement of man and beast! We need to be able to find God in that, just as easily. Paul and Silas worshiped God in their prison cells…and the doors swung open.
So, have a worshipful heart, where the eyes of your heart see past the limitations of what your physical eyes can see. Find GOD. Be worshipers who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. And, even if your IQ was 46, if you were a worshiper, then you could understand Romans 9, 10 and 11. The rudiments would be very clear and precious to your heart. This is not a mind game Paul is launching into. This is a testimony of the vastness of God’s glory and the magnitude of His mind, and it ought to humble us, not make us proud. If we really comprehend what Paul has said here, it ought to humble us in the basest way before God and man—not make us proud, or make us judgmental or defiant. It should build no walls between believers. In fact, if we truly understood it, it would humble us to the point that there would be no remaining walls of hostility, no judgments, and no proud statements of, “I understand this, and you don’t.” Or, “I know something you don’t know about God’s sovereignty.”
The truth is, you don’t understand anything about God’s sovereignty as expressed in Romans 9 through 11 if it makes you proud and makes you build walls. That is NOT what this is about! Paul wrote those things because there were already walls between Jew and Gentile, and he was bound and determined to rip them out by the roots, as he displayed God in His magnitude and vastness and stripped away their pride. And yet people today have used these exact same scriptures to judge one another and build walls. They look down their noses at others, “Well, I know God’s sovereignty better than you do. So there.” That was exactly the opposite of Paul’s intention. Do you see that? Let’s be worshipers first and foremost, as we face the God of heaven and earth and consider His mind and heart in these chapters that Paul wrote. Okay?
Sing, O Barren Woman
Yesterday afternoon, I felt very inclined to go back and read Isaiah 53-56 as a backdrop to comprehending the majesty of God and knowing Him as a Husband who has chosen us and bought us and loved us. Then today, I checked my phone messages and one was time-tagged from yesterday afternoon. A brother had been reading Isaiah 54 with some other brothers, and he wondered if it might be appropriate to read that in conjunction with what we’ve been looking at in Romans.
This is so important because you’ve got to comprehend, as best as you are able, the magnitude of God’s heart and the vastness and the fullness of God’s plan and the way in which He deals with us—this miniscule creature called man. You’ve got to see the vastness if you want to move forward in the book of Romans with understanding and a heart of humility and wisdom. You’ll recognize Chapter 53 as being a discussion of the Messiah:
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)
In other words, “What I’m about to say is almost incomprehensible—unfathomable!” This Messiah that is coming, the Creator of the universe will humble Himself and become like a man. Not only will He become like a man, but He will be a man that will be rejected by men. He won’t be a hero amongst men, but rather He’ll be despised and rejected and crucified by men. It would even appear as though the Father, God Himself, had rejected Him. “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” Who would believe such a thing? Who would believe such a message about a Messiah that’s supposed to come on a white horse with shining armor and set us free from the Roman Empire and from all of our woes and pain and agony? Who would believe that He Himself would come with His own woes and pain and agony? That He would even be crucified in weakness, as Paul said, but raised in Power and Glory? Who would believe such a message?
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:2-4).
Now he begins to speak of what we find in Romans 1, 2 and 3...
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53: 5-6). There is no one who does good, no one who does right…not even one. Our mouths are as open graves (Rom. 3).
“…And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
“Yet it was the Lord’s will—delight or pleasure—to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:6-12).
“‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1). This is about the descendants of Abraham, through Sarah—the descendents that came from a barren womb. In Galatians 4 Paul quotes those same verses in regard to the rest of Jesus’ offspring and their triumph over the power of sin and the grave. This quote now refers to us!
God will raise up a nation born from a barren womb—born of “the promise of Abraham,” not born of the physical lineage of Abraham. As we will see in Romans 9, physical lineage is not the issue. It’s about those who are born of the faith of Abraham and therefore born of the promise of Abraham. The One who would be Abraham’s seed has been born—Jesus Christ! The man who would be born of a woman and who would crush the serpent’s head has been born. “Sing, O barren woman! Your descendants will be as numerous as the sands of the seashore. Even though you are barren now and your body is as good as dead, your descendants will be more than that of a fruitful woman. If you will sing and express the faith of Abraham in your heart, O barren woman, God will bring forth the fruit of supernatural life from your loins, from your barren womb.” God Himself will do this miracle!! Laughter will come forth out of death; Isaac will be birthed out of Sarah and Abraham’s total inability to birth anything.
“Enlarge the place of your tent…” (Isaiah 54:2). Go ahead and make plenty of room for all the children you’re going to have! In spite of your barrenness and in spite of your inability to live a “sin-free life,” and in spite of your inability to testify about Jesus in the workplace, and your inability to have any decent relationships…Live in faith and “Sing, O barren woman!” Cry out to God and sing out of the joy in your heart for the miracle that God has promised. Go ahead and “enlarge the place of your tent” and add on to your house, because God will bring forth fruit from your barren womb, from your body, which is as good as dead. “Give glory to God, being fully persuaded.” That kind of heart will bring forth the promise of Abraham. The seed of Abraham, the Messiah, will be birthed in your heart in a spectacular way and live His life through you, making His descendants through you more numerous than the sands on the seashore.
“‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
“‘Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.
“‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.
“‘To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
“‘O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
“‘See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the LORD.
“‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare’” (Isaiah 54:2-17; 55:1-2).
Lord God, we ask you to open our hearts to comprehend Your majesty. We know that faith is believing that You are “I AM” and that You are the great God who covers the heavens and the earth with Your Splendor and Glory and Majesty. Faith is believing You are a Great Victor. You’ve conquered Your foes with one word from Your mouth, with one breath from Your lungs. You’ve destroyed every enemy of the Cross of Jesus, and every enemy of ours. No weapon formed against us shall ever prosper. Our God, You’ll bring us into desolate cities, to possess them and to conquer all the enemies You’ve laid out before us. And You will soon crush satan under our feet, as You promised at the end of this letter to the Romans that we’ve been reading.
Our God, please help us be worshipers of You. Not because we know how to sing songs, and we’ve trained ourselves to be upbeat and we know a lot of choruses or any such thing. Help us be worshipers because we can see that You’re a God who IS, and that You’re a rewarder of those that diligently seek You. Father, grant us that kind of Faith. Without that, it’s impossible to please You. God, open our eyes to see who You are. If we can see Your magnitude, Your Glory and Your Power, and if we can see that You have plans to prosper us and not to harm us, we’ll be worshipers. Please, by Your Word, open the eyes of our hearts. We will then comprehend a little bit more of Your plan for the nations of the earth and peoples great and small of every tribe and tongue, who will stand before You.
Please open our hearts to comprehend these things! We can’t even speak of them with an intelligible tongue or think about them with an intelligible thought, apart from You. These things are too great for us, and we acknowledge that before You. We ask You to please help us so our faith would increase, and so our testimony would live and our lives would change to Your Glory as we believe Your promises without doubting. The fig trees and even the mountains are cast into the sea by a relationship with You and by the word that comes forth from Your Word, “Be cast into the sea.”
God, help us to see these things. We know that it’s Faith—believing that You Are who You Are, and You’ve done what You’ve done, and You’re going to do what You’re going to do. It’s that kind of faith that throws mountains into the sea. We do believe You, but help our unbelief. Amen.
Who are Abraham’s Children?
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—”
Paul wants to make a point here and he wants to see to it that we believe him. “I’m not lying, this is the truth, my conscience confirms it. You’ve got to believe me…”
“…I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:1-5).
Up to this point, Paul has been speaking heavily about what life is like in the Spirit of God—a life of faith. But now he steps back to a theme he presented a little bit earlier in this letter, about this battle between the Jews and the Gentiles.
He’s saying to these Jews, “God is my witness—I have nothing against the Jews. That’s my ancestry, too! That’s Jesus’ very own ancestry! Believe me that I’ve not been opening up this way of Glory, this way of fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost because I have a heart to reject the Jewish heritage. That’s not my attitude. With God as my witness, and with my conscience and the Holy Spirit bearing it out: I have no ax to grind with the Jewish people. Theirs is a glorious history. Theirs are the patriarchs, the temple worship, the sacrificial system—all this awesome magnitude and wisdom of God. Yes, Moses went through the Red Sea with God’s people, and there are all these wonderful things God has done throughout history. They are wonderful beyond belief! They are for our learning, in order to expand our hearts, so we can comprehend the mysteries of God and the power of God, and the magnitude and awesomeness of God. These things are not small!”
“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Rom. 9:6). Paul is redefining what Israel is. He redefines it for the sake of the truths he talks about from the very beginning of this letter. “You Jews better cut the Gentiles a break! Many prophecies say that the Gentiles will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Read your own “Bible”—it’s in there. The government that will be on the Messiah’s shoulders will reach even into Galilee of the Gentiles. God will welcome the Gentiles; an extension of mercy will be granted, even to the Gentiles. It was foretold through all the prophets. You guys just better not be so proud about your heritage because you never kept the law anyway! Yes, you were given a rich heritage, but you never obeyed God. You didn’t live up to what God foresaw could be your inheritance.”
Remember that it wasn’t the first covenant that failed; it was our sinful nature that failed. The Hebrews writer makes that clear and so does Paul in Romans 7. God did not let us down. There wasn’t a problem with the law—the problem was us! It was our sinful nature that created this problem that made the first covenant obsolete and fading away (Heb. 8:13). God’s Word hasn’t failed a bit. The testimony of God and the Covenant He made with His people did not fail. That’s not been the problem. The real problem is that we’ve not defined Israel properly. Not all of Israel is Israel. And neither have all of the physical descendants of Abraham, the historical lineage of Israel, been entirely cut off. That hasn’t fallen apart either.
“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children” (Romans 9:6,7a). You are not necessarily Abraham’s child simply because you are his physical descendant. Is that very clear? You are not a son of Abraham simply because you came out of a physical lineage. That was not what God meant, back when He spoke of Abraham’s offspring.
“On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’”
It’s not the natural children who are God’s children, but it’s the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. He’s explaining why the Gentiles are let in. It isn’t just a random thing God decided to do. There was a Wisdom in it that was far greater than anyone had ever comprehended. God made this mystery clear to Paul (Ephesians 3), and because of that call on his life to make these mysteries known (to be the apostle to the Gentiles), Paul expands on what the Jews always knew—the promises were for the descendants of Abraham.
But the Jews were so narrow and limited in their understanding. Paul said, “I’m not asking you to reject the law from Mt. Sinai, temple worship and the sacrificial system as not being from God. No, they are all well and good. But there’s an issue here that you must understand. The magnitude of God’s wisdom far supersedes a mere physical plot of ground and a lineage based on passing on physical seed. The scope of God’s wisdom goes far beyond that.” The Gentiles have been permitted into the Kingdom of God because the lineage is through Isaac, the child born of the promise. He was not a child born of sperm, but a child born of the promise. The child born in the logical way (Gal. 4) will always persecute the child born of the Spirit.
Just as Jesus was born of the Spirit, so also Isaac was born of the Spirit (Gal. 4). Just as the Holy Spirit came upon the peasant girl Mary and birthed a Messiah, so also Isaac, the first in a long line of sons that came forth from Abraham, was born of the Spirit. He was born of the promise believed. The child born of the promise and the child born of the Spirit are one and the same. Abraham believed, and it was “credited to him as righteousness,”—therefore he received descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the stars in the sky. Abraham birthed a son—not of physical lineage, but a child out of a barren womb, born of the Spirit of God. How was this child born of the Spirit of God?? A man believed a promise from God, and the Holy Spirit joined with that faith and that promise and birthed offspring. Abraham birthed a son in the Spirit (Gal. 4), just as surely as Mary birthed a son of the Spirit. “Be it done according to your Word.” Mary’s heart and her attitude were to believe the promise of God, and therefore it was so. That’s why there’s creative power—nothing of our own power, but GOD’S creative power.
He is free to do miracles in our lives when we believe the promise!! When we believe, when we have FAITH—miracles happen! That’s why we’re discussing this again and again and again. You need to BELIEVE GOD if you want to see miracles in your life. A child born in the Spirit and a child born of the promise are the same thing. The Spirit of God joins with our faith that believes the promise of God…and babies are born. Miracles happen out of barren wombs.
“Sing! O barren woman. Sing! O desolate woman.” Sing, woman that’s without a child. Believe God’s promises and you will see miracles happen in your life and through your life. There is no other way—that’s the economy of God. That’s the basis on which we approach God and on which He works through us. That is the whole economy of God—“Calling things that are not as though they are.” That is the Power of God worked through His Holy Spirit—simple creatures that believe His promise in spite of every physical-world evidence to the contrary. “God promised. Therefore I believe.” That kind of heart allows the Spirit of God to bring forth babies—to bring forth miracles out of barren wombs. To “cast into the sea” mountains that can’t be moved in any other way! No dirt-moving equipment ever created by man could ever move a mountain the way God’s promise and our faith in His promise could move it in an instant and cast it into the sea. As believers of Jesus, that Truth must be the “air that we breathe.” That’s how Jesus lived every day of His Life. That’s how He walked on water, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, healed the lepers, and walked through walls without falling through the floor. That’s how He forgave sins and still forgives sins. He believed the Father’s promises, therefore it was so.
Grab hold and comprehend every promise of God. Sort and sift and diligently search the Scriptures to find out what His promises are (1 Pet 1). Find Jesus in the middle of every promise that God ever made. “Draw near to God that He would draw near to you.” Believe that promise, and in so doing creative life springs forth. The child of the promise and the child of the Spirit are one. The Spirit of God birthing life out of nothing comes from believing God’s promises. The nature of Israel is not as banal and simple and physical as we thought. Paul’s saying, “Expand your hearts to understand that Isaac is not just the child of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac is the child of a promise that’s been believed—the power of His Spirit bringing forth life out of a believed promise.”
Do you understand? Do you understand how that applies to you in your daily life? How do you expect the miracles you need so desperately in your life to happen? It’s by “calling things that are not as though they are.” Like...“Sin shall not be your master.” Do you believe that promise? If you truly believe that promise from the heart, then the child will be born of the Spirit. It will happen, based on the promise of God: “Sin shall not be your master.” Say it to yourself! Say it to every temptation that hits you in the nose. Say it to every failure and to whatever has happened in the past. “Sin shall not be my master. Based on the power of the Word of God, and the life of the living God, I believe the promise of God.” Therefore the Spirit of God can birth reality out of a barren womb.
“I know my body is as good as dead. I understand that! I know that I cannot overcome temptation and be a spiritual man. I know I cannot have wisdom. I understand all of that.” But it’s okay because “Abraham, though his body was as good as dead, believed God—he was fully persuaded and gave glory to God, knowing that God had power to do what He promised.” And therefore, Life was brought out of death. Beauty was brought out of ashes and fullness out of emptiness.
“Whoever believes…Rivers of living water will flow from within…” This promise is for all who believe (John 7). Rivers of living water, now, for all who believe.
“This is the work of God: to believe on the one He has sent.” This is what allows the work of God to be accomplished—“to believe on the one whom He sent.”
“He has given us his very great and precious promises so that through them, we can become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1). Partakers of the Divine Nature. The Spirit of God births divine life out of those who will dare to believe the promises of God. Therefore there’s a spiritual lineage.
Paul is saying…. “Temple worship? I love God’s wisdom in temple worship! I love the shadow of the sacrificial lamb and the Passover Feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Pentecost that we have celebrated. I love the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. Don’t get me wrong! I love God’s wisdom in all of those things. But let’s see past that—let’s see through those things. Those are all shadows of the reality that is found only in the Body—the soma of Christ” (Col. 1, 2).
What I’m saying is this: God is calling us to be worshipers—calling us to expand our hearts to see the vast domain of His Wisdom and to comprehend His Understanding. He wants us to see that in all of these things—“the just shall live by faith.” All of the power and the Life of God. All of the partaking of the Spirit of God. The ability to cry “Abba!” and the Spirit of God testifying with our spirit. Everything “working together for the good” that we would become like the Son of God—Glorified! Not just sanctified, not just justified, but glorified. That’s God’s Heart for all of us, for those who will live by faith. Rivers of living water for all who will believe the promise of God. Descendants of Abraham—not by physical lineage, but by the fact that Isaac was born of a promise that was believed. And so also the descendants of Abraham, Israel, are those who believe the promise of God—and the Person of the Son of God is their whole heart. Everything they weigh and measure, all of their potential and the way they view themselves…everything is wrapped up in this one focus: Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Beholding Him and being transformed by the Lord who is the Spirit. Transformed from glory to glory to glory as He makes the Glory of God shine forth out of the face of Jesus Christ.
As surely as “Let the light shine out of darkness,” so also the creative power of God changes us from glory to glory to glory. This is Christianity! This is what it’s all about. It’s exciting that God has created this whole realm of existence that is just unthinkable to the natural man and the carnal mind. To the carnal it’s foolishness (Col. 2). “I don’t understand. That’s foolishness. It’s stupid and doesn’t make any sense. It’s a fairy tale.” And unbelief will then become the last nail in the coffin of a mocker.
But for us, God has called us to believe on the One whom He sent and to believe the words that testify of the Son of God. And to believe the Life of God that’s manifested through those who believe. Can you see it a little bit? Or a lot?
Worshipers Can See It
“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).
All the walls between Jews and Gentiles are being torn right down. Because the basis on which we approach God as His chosen people is now based on believing the promise of God. The Jew and Gentile wall is being ripped down right before their eyes. Paul started off talking to them about this Jew and Gentile dilemma, and then he went on to display the GLORY of living in a Jesus kind of LIFE—“putting to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit” as the covenant is fulfilled. Then Paul went on to say that it’s by faith that we are justified freely, whether Jew or Gentile. The gospel is a dynamite unto salvation for all who believe—first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Paul brings forth all of this power, life and exhilaration of reigning in life and what it means to be a child of God—not just a son, but also a co-heir with Christ and with one another. “Once not a people, now a people.” He brings all these riches to the forefront and then he says, “Let’s talk again about this Jew and Gentile dilemma.” You can see now how ridiculous it is to divide between Jew and Gentile based on external lineage—because it’s never been about that. That has never been God’s heart. Maybe there were “types and shadows” for a time because of the hardness of men’s hearts, but it was not so from the beginning. God had a heart that went way beyond that. Worshipers can see it, but not everyone can.
“For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.’ Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:9-13). Be worshipers with humility here—you will need that, to understand this next part. Paul is contrasting the Jews and the Gentiles and he’s saying, “Open your eyes and comprehend: God will do what God will do. The things by which we would limit Him do not limit the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—this Glorious, Awesome God that fills the heavens and the earth with His Glory. Forget all the menial, secondary, superficial things you’ve ever limited God by. Forget all that!” Paul goes on to give examples of how God’s awesome decree supersedes all the walls that we would build. Notice that he is speaking about election, about salvation, about the broad scope of saving the Jewish people versus saving the Gentile people. That has been his theme all the way through this letter, so now he’s saying, “Let me show you just how vast God’s wisdom is.”
Paul goes through several examples that the Jews were already fully aware of. “You guys know the story of Jacob and Esau, and you already understand that Jacob was chosen in a way that doesn’t make sense to the carnal mind. But, you have a big problem with the fact that the Gentiles are being brought in. You don’t like it that all of Israel is not Israel because not all of Israel believes. And you’ve got a problem with the fact that all the Gentiles are not simply Gentiles because some did believe and became sons of Abraham. If you guys don’t believe all that, then read your Bibles, because God did many other amazing things just like that!”
Paul used Jacob and Esau as an example for them. The older would serve the younger. That’s not very traditional, is it? That’s not the way we normally expect God to act. It’s not according to a “rational” pattern of behavior on God’s part. But Paul says, “So what?” Isn’t it true that the Messiah came from Jacob? Isn’t it true that God chose something that was totally illogical? In His sovereign purposes He chose Jacob rather than Esau. Will you let God do that? Is it okay with you that He made a choice like that? Of course it is. So it must be okay that He would also bring in whom He would bring in—the Gentiles—and He would reject those whom He would reject. It’s not by physical lineage that you are justified. It’s certainly not by keeping the law, because you could never do it anyway. Let God make His own choices! And He’s chosen that we would be justified by faith. That is the nature of this letter. We are justified by faith. He’s chosen that as THE way to be sons of Abraham. “You better get that straight,” he said, “after all, you already know that he chose Jacob rather than Esau.”
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!” (Rom. 9:14). Is God unjust because he chose Jacob rather than Esau? Or is He unjust because He chose the Gentiles to be part of the kingdom of God? Is it unjust of God that not all of Israel is even Israel—because they didn’t believe that the Messiah had come and receive Him to themselves? Is God unjust? Not at all. For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15).
He’s opening their hearts and minds, and turning them into worshipers. Like Job, “Oh!! I repent in sackcloth and ashes. I thought I knew you, God, but oh!! What a fool I was! I know nothing—absolutely nothing.” Be worshipers, from the heart. Paul says, “Let me show you some more ‘contradictions’ and examples that will just blow your mind about God’s wisdom. Let me show you some reasons why you better be soft and humble—humble enough to understand and bow your knee that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. If He wants to bring in the Gentiles, that’s His business! If He wants to reject those that reject the Messiah, even though they are of the physical lineage of Abraham, that’s His business. YOU, be worshipers. Understand, like Job did. Open your heart and your arms to God and let Him be God. Oh, the depth of the Riches, the Wisdom, the Glory of God!” No wonder Paul burst into such awe of God.
“Open your eyes,” He said. “This is so vast, so great, so amazing!” Be humble before God. Understand that He does things the way He wants to do them. Don’t get yourself boxed in with all these logical, “rational” thoughts in your head. You’re a total fool if you approach God on a rational basis. He’s never been rational, as we’ve understood rational in the past.
“It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).
These things aren’t based on anything external. We can’t “accomplish” something by our own effort or desire. God is bigger than all of that. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:17,18). God is working through this pagan, Pharaoh. “I raised you up for this very purpose…”
So God is saying through Paul, “Do you understand My wisdom, that I am going to accomplish My purpose any way I please? I’m going to do it the way I please and you can’t stop Me. You have nothing to say about it. Don’t forget about Job! You have nothing to say about it. I will do it My own way and I will use the vessels that I choose. I will ordain My purposes the way I ordain them. I will bring the Messiah through Jacob and not Esau. I will bring deliverance through Pharaoh, and I will harden whom I will harden. You better be humble and be a worshiper, or you’ll miss Me. You will have dividing walls of hostility and judgments that are based on carnal reasoning. You will miss Me if you’re not a worshiper. Open your heart to comprehend My vastness and the way I do My business, the way I bring salvation and the way I call My people. You better open your hearts to comprehend Me.”
“One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:19-21).
“If I want to choose Jacob the deceiver, rather than Esau the firstborn, do you have an argument with Me about that? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth, O little man? WHY do you think YOU have a right to question the way I do My business?? Is it a problem with you that I birthed a Messiah out of Bathsheba’s womb? Is it okay with you that Rahab the harlot was a great-grandmother of Jesus? Is that all right with you? Do you have the right to say to the potter, ‘Why did you make me this way? Why did you choose to do things the way you did?’”
“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24). You got that? “Not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.” Stop this foolish, prejudicial stuff—open your hearts! God will choose however He wants to choose, because it’s His business. He’s chosen to justify people, freely by faith. He chose to bring in the eleventh hour worker, not just those who worked hard all day. That’s His business. Be a worshiper, not a judge of God. Please…be a worshiper. Receive what He receives—and let Him make the decisions. Stop being gods that think you know good from evil, and think you have it all figured out with your flip charts and answers for every hard question. Stop being that way! Be worshipers.
He’s driving us down into a place of humble worship before Him to receive what He receives, by the Spirit, and not by external judgments. That’s Romans chapter 8, right? It’s about having spiritual discernment—living in the Spirit of Abba. Let the Spirit of God testify with our spirit and intercede. Make your judgments based on a “mind controlled by the Spirit,” not based on carnal reasoning, your knowledge, your IQ, your accumulated experiences or any of that nonsense. Let God rip all that away from you, because that’s not how He does business. The sooner you understand that, the more you’ll learn to walk in the Spirit and make proper judgments. “Not by the seeing of the eye, not by the hearing of the ear…” “Not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of God.” “We have the mind of Christ,” Paul said, as we’ve emptied ourselves and made ourselves nothing so that God can bring us up into the depth of His riches.
Who knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God? And we have that Spirit! But the carnal mind understands nothing—it’s foolishness to him. But those with the Spirit of God—living by the Spirit—discern all things. He’s bringing us to level ground and to humility as worshipers of the Great God of Israel and the God of the Gentiles of Galilee. He’s bringing us to a place of humility to receive by the Spirit rather than by the mind. Not by our experiences, not by the empty traditions handed down by our forefathers, and not by what we were taught in “Bible school.” We receive as worshipers, approaching Him one day at a time. Not by eating from the tree or reading from the book of the knowledge of good and evil, but rather being humble servants of God, fellowshipping and walking with Him through the garden day by day. That’s why Chapters 8 and 9 are connected. Chapter 9 is not a “new book.” It’s an extension of Chapter 8, flowing right on through from living in the Spirit of God to comprehending in humility these things that Paul is talking about.
The Opposite of Faith…is PRIDE
“The just shall live by faith…” That’s the scripture in Romans 1 that just sent Martin Luther reeling and totally changed his life and marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. For a very long time, Roman Catholicism was the only “Christianity” people knew about, at least in a public way. Many building blocks led to the Reformation, but Luther is credited with being one of the primary people God used to bust the whole thing open. He said, “Let’s take a look at what God said. We don’t have to settle for what our forefathers told us. We can look at what God said and live for that!” And so Romans 1:17 was a truth that awakened him to a whole different way of looking at Christianity. “The righteous—the just—shall live by FAITH.” It was shocking to him and radically changed him when God opened his eyes.
That’s been the theme of so much of what we’ve talked about in Romans. This isn’t about being a Jew or being a Gentile or about good works or about the law. It’s about living by FAITH: believing that God is who He said He is! It’s about totally renouncing everything we have and everything we are and clinging to the fact that God’s Word is true. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” He can be trusted. We can believe everything He said in spite of our experience. Abraham had that attitude of living by faith—and thus became the father, not only of the Messiah, but ultimately of us (who are in the Messiah). Even before obedience—before circumcision, Abraham believed God, and “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
That’s the same thing Paul is trying to say to these “Jewish” Christians. Forget your background. Forget Jew, forget Gentile, forget all the things you think you’ve done for God and all the things you think you know about God. Granted, there is value in being a Jew—much in every way (Rom. 3:1,2). It has value because it ushered in an understanding about God that others didn’t have—much in every way. But, the more you understand about God, the more you realize you don’t have a hope or a prayer apart from Faith in JESUS. Only by being clothed in His Righteousness do we have any hope whatsoever.
We’re justified freely by the gift of God, by faith—period. We are “saved by grace, through faith—and that not of ourselves, lest any man boast” (Eph. 2:8). “The just shall live by faith.” That’s the theme of Romans. Our justification before God is based solely on what we believe God feels about the Son of God—Jesus of Nazareth. Being identified with the Son, hiding our lives in Him—that’s the pleasure the Father finds in us and nowhere else. It’s not in anything we say or do, but simply that we put our whole hope in the Son.
So if you look back to where that quotation in Romans 1:17 comes from (those little quote marks means it was quoted from someone), you’ll find it in Habakkuk 2 in the Old Testament. “Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith—indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.”
Notice the contrast, because you won’t necessarily pick up on it in Romans 1 unless you picture Romans 1, 2 and 3 together. Paul only quotes half of the sentence from Habakkuk, in Romans 1. The other half of the sentence talks about a man who is “puffed up, his desires are not upright…indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.’”
The opposite of “the righteous who live by faith”…is PRIDE. It’s just essential to see that. In order for us to grab hold of and really apprehend in the inner man this revelation that “runs” and that “awaits an appointed time”, it’s essential to see that the other half of that sentence is pride and arrogance. The opposite of faith is drawing men after ourselves, taking people captive, being greedy and arrogant, never at rest, always busy, always conniving, always controlling and reaching. That sort of life is the exact opposite of “the righteous shall live by faith.”
In order to live a life of faith, it’s mandatory that we’re not running after things, not controlling, not striving, not trying to gather people after ourselves. When you consider the whole sentence in the context of Habakkuk 2, a humble attitude of heart is mandatory in order to receive the free gift of God. Haughtiness, pride, arrogance—these things are enemies of faith. If that describes you, then there’s absolutely no chance you’ll ever comprehend or experience in the inner man the “reigning in life” that God promises. You won’t have “the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). You’ll never comprehend or experience that as long as you’re living in the other half of that sentence—never at rest, always striving, desiring to be somebody, desiring to impress people and control situations. The enemy of faith is pride—being haughty, controlling, greedy and never at rest. That sort of thing is the enemy and the exact opposite of “the righteous will live by faith.”
You cannot live by faith in the Spirit of God and in the Promise of God and in the birthing of Isaac, Laughter…if you’re full of pride. The miracle out of a barren womb can never happen to a man or woman with pride. He’s stripping us of all that, as He shows us His magnitude. He’s not just trying to rebuke us into the ground, He’s showing us His great and awesome magnitude! Any fool, then, can see the necessity of humility. We can’t figure all these things out with our brains. Why Jacob instead of Esau? Why was Pharaoh used as a vessel of God, a chosen one of God? Why Nebuchadnezzar?
Why did Jesus allow that particular man to be born blind so that 20, 30, or 40 years later, Jesus could heal him in front of the Pharisees? Why did He allow him to be born blind so he would grow up with his friends all making fun of him? And he would never be able to play kickball with his buddies in the narrow winding streets of Jerusalem? Why did he have to be blind and sit inside and listen to the children play? Why did he have to go through decades of misery? Jesus said it was for this one cause: “That the Glory of God might be revealed in your presence.”
“But why? Oh, why God?”
He’s saying, “Open your fist. Don’t make a fist at Me…open your hand. I will have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy. I’ll display My Glory as I see fit. I understand the purposes that I have. I understand the flow of humanity before My Throne, and I comprehend the mysteries of time, age, the nations and all the natural disasters. I understand the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, and you don’t. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? What do you know??” That’s what Paul’s trying to get across in Romans 9. The only way to walk in the Spirit is to live in the humility of letting God be God and not being little gods ourselves, trying to know good and evil. Do you know that people make flip charts out of this stuff? They judge and get all divided up—all based on the very thing that was meant to make us humble! It’s the very thing that’s meant to drive us, like Job, into the ground saying, “I know nothing. I thought I knew You, oh God. But I know nothing! I have to know You as a person, don’t I? I can’t just know about You, and have anything other than death.”
You can birth Ishmael out of knowing stuff about God, but you can’t birth Isaac out of that! You can have the child born in the ordinary way that rises up and persecutes the child born of the Spirit. You can have Ishmael, based on your logic, your reasoning and your pride, but you can’t have Isaac—the child that comes out of a barren womb. You’ll not see the miracles of God in your own heart or through your heart into other lives. You’ll not see unless you walk in the humility of belief in God, which is fellowship with Him, which is utter humility (Rom. 1, 2 and 3). You’ll not find the power of God flowing through you—the rivers that water the gardens of humanity. You will not find it, and you will die in poverty, prideful and just as sure of yourself as you can be. You’ll judge others, always looking down your nose at them and walking out of fellowship, and having nothing even close to “a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, lands, and possessions, and in the life to come, eternal life.” You’ll not have Zoë life, free life! You’ll never know any of that as long as you approach the whole world through your mind, your judgments and your assessments.
Paul is saying, “Drop to your face in humility. See who GOD is! See the vastness of His riches that extend way beyond your understanding! Humble yourself before Him and then you will have Him. He will give Himself to you and show Himself to you, if you will approach Him on that basis.”
Paul goes on with more examples…
“What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people; and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one,’ and, ‘It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they will be called “sons of the living God.”’ Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.’ It is just as Isaiah said previously: ‘Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.’
“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:23-33).
The basis on which we come to God is purely, simply and solely by believing in the One whom He sent. Period. Whether Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference. He said it again and again and again! If He wants to do business that way, that’s HIS CHOICE. He will do business how He pleases to do business. “So what shall we say then?” The Gentiles are received, but the Israelites are rejected? Well, why not? If that is God’s choice, that He would only receive those who come by faith, and not those who try to come to God by doing good deeds or by keeping the law or some set of rules, then so be it. If God has chosen to reject those who try to come to Him by their own righteous acts, rather than by God’s love and believing in the Son of God who was slain before the foundations of the earth…If God has chosen it to be that way, then so be it. Amen. Leave it alone. That’s God’s choice.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:1,2). He said, “Good, I’m glad you are zealous!” So was Saul when he went around killing Christians, right? But he was kicking against the goads the whole time! In the Spirit, Jesus was saying, “Whoa, whoa, Saul. Stop it.” But Saul kept fighting with the Spirit. His mind was ruling his choices based on what he thought was right, according to what he had been told and what his mind comprehended about the Law of Moses. He was just pushing and pushing, according to his mind. In the Spirit, Jesus said, “It’s hard for you to kick against the goads, isn’t it Saul?” In the Spirit, Jesus was trying to teach him and was poking him with a pointed stick, but he wasn’t listening in the Spirit. He was listening with his mind, and you can’t approach God that way. You are going to make mistakes. No matter how much zeal you have, you’re going to make big mistakes if you approach God on the basis of the flesh and the human mind, rather than on the basis of the Spirit. It’s back to Chapter 8, isn’t it? “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” The mind that’s controlled by the externals is death.
“Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:3,4). That is the theme of Romans 9 (even though we’re technically in Chapter 10 now, according to the way men have put in little numbers): “Christ is the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” That is Israel.
“Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the deep?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…’”
The word is near you! It’s in your mouth! It’s in your heart! “…that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ (Jesus is master, Jesus is the boss of all! If you proclaim that with your mouth) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, (O Israel). For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them? And how can they proclaim unless they are sent by God? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
“But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” And that’s the basis on which Israel will be received or condemned. “Not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’” (Romans 10:5-16).
Remember Isaiah 53:1: “Who will believe this message?” “This is craziness. This isn’t fair, God. I had You all figured out! I had an equation written out that defined who Your people are and who they aren’t. How can You mess with all that, God?”
And God said, “I’ve always been messing with that! Remember Jacob and Esau? Remember Pharaoh? I’ve always been messing with that. This isn’t anything new. I’m God, remember?”
“For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (through the Rhema of Christ, through the utterance of the Godhead, through the current Word of God). But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, ‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.’ And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’ But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’” (Romans 10:16-21).
Do you want to know why Israel failed? It was because they were disobedient and obstinate. Do you want to know why the Gentiles found the Messiah? Not because they’d done a bunch of good deeds, that’s for sure. It was because God chose to reveal Himself to them and they believed the message. They were justified because they believed the message of the Messiah, whereas Israel was hardened in their hearts. They didn’t hear His voice and they didn’t believe Him. “He came to his own, but his own received him not.” They made their choice because they had a better idea of what the Messiah was supposed to be.
Remember Isaiah 53? “Who will believe our report?” “We don’t want a Messiah like that. We don’t want a Messiah that rides on a borrowed donkey, and he doesn’t bring us physical riches and he doesn’t deliver us from the Roman Empire and the oppression. We don’t want a Messiah like that!” “Who will believe our report?” He came in a stable, in an animal trough, to an unwed mother. That is the nature of God coming to man and it is not very glorious. “He had no beauty or majesty that we are drawn to Him.” People don’t like that message.
The Israelites were people who had come to understand that the kingdom of God was coming and their hope was in a Messiah that would come through the golden gate on a white horse. He would blow away all their enemies and bring them peace on earth. But this Messiah…He had “no beauty or majesty, that we would be drawn to him.” They didn’t want to receive this kind of Messiah!
The Gentiles, on the other hand, didn’t have a problem with that. They didn’t have this long history of accumulating baggage about how they thought God would do His business. So when He brought the Good News to them of the forgiveness of sins, they received it! “The common people heard him gladly,” whether Jew or Gentile. He’s the stone the builders rejected. The people who had something to lose, and who couldn’t control Him the way they wanted to, and the people who couldn’t use Him for their own advancement—those were the people who rejected the Messiah. But the people who had nothing to lose except their sins—those people gladly heard and received Him!
It’s the same way today. Who will believe the report of all these things we’ve been speaking of? Who will believe these things? Only those with nothing to lose. If you have an agenda, or you want to control God for your own advancement, then “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” You will reject the Messiah and the deliverance that He brings if you have an agenda. If you are a “builder” that wants to accomplish something and you want to use God for your own end—if there is pride in your heart—then you won’t receive Him in humility. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the king and the kingdom.” If you won’t receive Him on that basis, then you will not know God. Be a worshiper—humble before Him with all your flesh and all your desire to do God some big favor in your lifetime (like Abraham did with Hagar) ripped out. If you won’t approach Him in humility and simplicity, you will never find that worshipful heart and the miracles that are brought forth by the Spirit of God.
“Who will believe our report?” The Gentiles had nothing to lose but their sins. A lot of the builders and the people with the heritage had it all figured out and they had to swallow their pride. So God brought forth a nation that would make them envious. God extended His hand to the Gentiles, which enraged the Jews. They hated that idea.
Remember when Peter first went to the Gentiles, to Cornelius and his household? Even Peter, a fisherman who really had very little to lose, had this big problem. “Surely not, Lord.” He was fighting God! He calls Him “Lord” but he doesn’t want to believe it! He had been so caught up in the teachings of his day about what the Messiah was going to be like, what His kingdom was going to be like, and what all the laws meant (he had it all figured out)…and Jesus was continually scandalizing him. “Well, Jesus, this isn’t the Passover feast. This isn’t how you do it. This isn’t the Sabbath Day—this isn’t how you’re supposed to do it. These aren’t the ceremonial washings the way we’ve always been taught.” People are always offended that God is God. They always have to have a handle on it, to have it figured out, and Peter was no different. Jesus ripped all that away from him and He continues to do that with us, too.
After Jesus was raised to the right hand of God, by the Spirit He lowered the sheet with the unclean animals. Peter said, “I know You are Lord. I saw You raised from the dead. But surely not, Lord. I don’t want to believe You.” Something inside of him just didn’t want to accept the way God was doing business and that He was bringing in the Gentiles. And then when Peter did finally show up at Cornelius’ house after an angelic visitation and a couple of miracles along the way, he said, “I shouldn’t even be in your house. You realize I’m a Jew and this will make me unclean if I come into your house. You realize that, don’t you?” He has this prejudice built up in his heart because of all the baggage. The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household, and Peter said, “How can we refuse water baptism to those that received the Holy Spirit as we did? God has made Himself clear. How can we argue?”
When the other apostles heard that Peter baptized some Gentiles, they said, “What is the deal, Peter? What are you thinking?” And he said, “What could I do? I remembered that Jesus said He would baptize with the Spirit, as John baptized with water. I saw Jesus baptize them. If Jesus baptized them, who am I to fight against Jesus? I couldn’t do it anymore. I understand why you guys are upset with me. But what would you do if you saw what I saw?” God is God, and slowly but surely, Peter is learning that. God is GOD. That’s what Rom. 9, 10 and 11 are about. God is saying, “I’m God. I’ll do it the way I want to do it. Wake up and smell the coffee, boys! I’m going to do it my way.”
He Offers His Hand
The Gentiles received. And as a whole, the Jews didn’t. “Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, ‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation…’” (Romans 10:19). God provokes Israel out of envy and jealousy to rethink this whole thing. The last of the last days will bring forth a change in this whole scenario that we’re talking about right now.
“And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’ But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’”(Romans 10:20-21). God says, “You had my law, and I offered you my hand, but you wouldn’t take it! You thought you could reach Me by all the things you knew and did. If you were honest about it, you know you failed miserably at it. But I extended My hand to you, and you wouldn’t take it.”
It’s the same today. He extends His hand, but a disobedient, obstinate and prideful people want to reach Him in some other way, like they did with the Tower of Babel. They want to build with man-made bricks and build a tower to reach heaven in a predictable, orderly way. They want to reach God in some other way than by the stones God has quarried. They failed miserably then, and they fail now. God confuses them. They fight with one another and are divided amongst the nations and the denominations. “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” “I offered you my hand—Myself—and you still wanted to approach Me with your head.”
Can we make a pact together to be worshipers of a great and an awesome God that does business the way He pleases? That He can receive David and call him a man after His own heart? We’ve read that story so many times that we forget! David was not a man that we would receive. But there was something about him that God did receive. And God’s people somehow understood enough that they still loved him and wanted him to be their king.
There was something in the Spirit that made David special. It’s the same Something that made Jesus special...to an extreme. Jesus lived it out a lot more fully, obviously, but it’s the same Something that made Abraham special to God’s heart. It’s the same special quality that ties all those guys together: David, Abraham, Jacob the deceiver, Moses the rock striker. It’s the same special quality that tied Rahab the harlot and Bathsheba and all these other people into God’s heart. “I will do business My own way,” God said, “and you better line your hearts and minds up with My spirit so that you will judge a righteous judgment. Not by the seeing of the eyes or the hearing of the ears, but by My Spirit.” It’s based on the fellowship in the Spirit that we’ve talked about so extensively. Approaching one another based on spiritual life, Zoë life, not on the basis of our minds. “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
God wants us to approach Him as worshipers, as He extends His hand to us. He wants us to take His hand and be lovers of Him, rather than trying to write down all the jots and tittles of His brain so we can make an equation in order to reach Him like those that made the tower of Babylon.
If you could only catch just the tiniest glimpse of God’s magnitude, His awesomeness, and the vastness of His knowledge and wisdom and mercy and compassion—just the smallest glimpse of that and you would be forever changed and humbled before God.
Let’s really make a pact before God that we are going to be worshipers and find Him as He extends His hand, and let Him find us not as a disobedient, obstinate, prideful and a selfish people, but as a people like Abraham, like Isaac, like Jacob, like David, like Moses, like Enoch. Lovers of the Father, fellowshipping with Him in the cool of the garden. That’s Christianity. Let’s approach Him that way together. Let’s walk hand in hand, all of us together hand in hand in the garden. Approaching Him not through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but through the tree of Life. Okay?
Father, I fully recognize there isn’t a word that’s been said that can have any meaning apart from those that receive these words by faith and reach out for Your hand that You would give increase. I understand there are many kinds of soil, and a good and an honest heart hears, and receives and perseveres, that You might produce fruit in him. I ask, Father, that You have mercy on us that we would all, right now, be able to turn the eyes of our heart toward You and extend our hand toward Your hand. You’re extending it to us, that You might touch us and baptize us in Your Spirit by the laying on of Your hand. Please make these things comprehensible. Lord, increase our faith and let us see—not with the seeing of the eyes or the hearing of the ears, but by Your Glory, by Your Voice. Faith comes by Your utterance. It’s the gospel that loosens up our heart and dynamites our foolish pride, and it’s Your Spirit that brings life out of death and light out of darkness and beauty out of ashes. God, do that miracle in each of us. Make us worshipers. God, please help us.
In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to all who believe, let a miracle be done in your heart right now. To all who believe.
Remember what we said before… When were Job’s fortunes restored? When did the Hand of God extend and do miracles in Job’s life out of the ash heap? When he prayed for his friends.
Why was Jesus given a Name above every name? Seated at the right hand of God? Why was He raised from the dead by the power of the Father? Because He gave His life for His friends.
Apply it. Between you and God. Apply it. No matter who you are. Apply it!
Who Really Found Who?
Instead of being a point of worship, Romans 9, 10 and 11 are notorious for creating division. And that division or controversy, in simplest terms, centers around a thing called Calvinism. It’s a doctrine based primarily on Romans 9 in particular.
It’s a doctrine that goes something like this: God has determined, in advance, who will be saved and who won’t be saved. He hardens our heart or softens our heart and gives us salvation or doesn’t give us salvation in a discretionary way that’s totally His option. Nothing we do can change the outcome. God is God, and we are not, and dead people can’t bring life to themselves. Dead people can’t even recognize life. Dead people can’t hear anything and can’t see anything. It clearly says in Ephesians, “We were dead in our transgressions and sins.” How then, can a dead person find God? They can’t. So the reasoning in Calvinism is that everything must therefore come from God and we play no part in it at all. We are depraved—there’s nothing good in us based on Romans 3. Therefore, there is nothing good enough in us to find God in any way or even desire to find God. It’s all a dead-end and God, in His own discretionary way, chooses those who will be able to see Him and everyone else is simply unable to see Him. It’s a choice that He makes, totally apart from any part that we could play. It’s freely grace, “lest any man boast,” so that it’s not by our own works, and man has nothing at all to say or do about it. So, if we happen to have any capacity to see or understand anything, then we give all the gratitude to God. That, in a nutshell, is Calvinism.
Now, there’s a point at which some of that is certainly true. We should never think, for even the slightest instant, that we have any merit or good thing inside us that was able to find God. “I found the Lord.” Well, bless your little ol’ heart, you deserve a pat on the back, now don’t you? You “found” God. And where was He when you found Him? How did you do this “finding God”? What inside of you was able to “find God”? Did you write a formula for Him and somehow make Him come live inside of you? How did you get the God that created the universe to fit inside of you?! How did you do that?
So, certainly the fact that every good thing is in God is worth reveling in. Our capacity to see Him, know Him, understand Him or “find Him”—all of that capacity lies in God’s heart, and mind and Spirit. We surely can’t conjure these things up in ourselves! We’re not “little gods” that make decisions about following a “big God.” It’s not like that! So there was something very true in what Calvin taught about God’s infinite capacity to love entirely unlovable creatures, and to draw them to Himself before they had ever done anything good or bad. They deserved nothing, and were dead in their transgressions and sins, but in spite of that, “While they were yet sinners” He died for them and called them. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Spirit. No one can find or have the Father unless the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Many of these things that this man from Switzerland had to say about life in the Spirit of Christ are true. There were certain things, however, that were inappropriate, and if you followed Calvin and the fruit of his labors, you would find major holes in his life and in the philosophy of life that he taught to others. Jesus said, “Wisdom is proved right by her children.” If you want to know about the wisdom of something, check the babies. See if they are deformed, or spiritually retarded and backwards and whether there is chaos and things not pleasing to God. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness. That will be the fruit when the mark of God is on something.
When Barnabas showed up at Antioch, he saw the Spirit of God and “the evidence of the grace of God” (Acts 11). He didn’t have to check their theology! The grace of God was evident because the Life of God was there. There was something that God was very pleased with. Romans 8 is a testimony to the fact that God confirms those things that are His, by His Spirit. He doesn’t confirm through our heads, and He doesn’t ask our permission, and He doesn’t ask for a checklist of correct doctrines. He confirms His heart, His mind, His will and His Spirit in the spirit. “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” “Wisdom is proved right by her children.” You know a man’s walk with God by the fruit that he bears, not simply by the things he says or how airtight his reasoning is. Life is the issue—we look for Life first. The “life became the light of men.”
“He came to His own and His own received Him not.” Why is that? Because men reasoned through their own minds to find a doctrine that would properly describe the Messiah they expected. They thought He would be a certain, specific way, but they missed entirely, half the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah! They didn’t apply them to the situation, so they blew it—they botched it up. They crucified the Son of Glory because they did not hear “the voice of the prophets” which was read every Sabbath Day. They heard the words of the prophets, but they didn’t hear “the voice of the prophets” which was read every Sabbath Day. (The King James Version rendering of that particular passage.) And so they crucified Him. Can you follow that? They read the scriptures diligently, thinking that by them they would have eternal life, and yet they refused to come to Jesus to find life (John 5:39). They missed the Life because they were pursuing the Light by searching the “facts” and “truths.” They missed the reality. They missed it entirely and even crucified the Reality of God, the Heart of God, the Eternal Life. They murdered Him. In spite of their best attempts to quantify the Word of God, they missed Him.
So as we said earlier, Romans 9 was never meant to be a new place to build a “dividing wall of hostility” over one’s particular belief about God’s sovereignty. It’s a place of worship, not a place of division. It’s a place to expand our hearts before God and His infinite wisdom, His grace, His mercy and His kindness. It’s a place to humble ourselves into the fact that we cannot comprehend the vastness of His wisdom. We cannot take His words that are written down in ink and somehow create an equation that adds up to God. “I figured it out, and therefore I know.”
Remember from Romans 1 and Habakkuk 2 that the opposite of faith is pride, and that is the thing that will draw us away from God quicker than any other single issue. “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” Now, where is that in a Calvinistic theology? If you limit it simply to jots and tittles and proof texts, where does that come in to play? “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble”—we do play a part in this whole deal. Our job before God is to maintain humility before Him, to worship, and to not choose to deliberately forget that God created the heavens and the earth (Romans 1). We must deliberately choose to not worship the created thing rather than the Creator “who is ever to be praised.” We can choose to seek immortality rather than ignore His kindness and His patience, which turn us towards repentance.
Why was it that He turned away from Israel? It was because He held out His hands all day long and they chose to be disobedient and obstinate. God wants us to find in Him a Person to be worshiped and adored. We’re humbled before Him, recognizing His supreme place in anything that we would ever know or think of. We gladly recognize the place that He has in any ability we would have to reason or draw near to Him. It all comes out of His supply, His grace and His kindness. He wants to make worshipers out of us, not prideful contenders with each other over some specific doctrine or idea.
Somewhere in the magnitude of His wisdom, God has put us in a place where our “understanding” of something that He has said will be severely limited by the finite nature of our minds. We’ll have an inability to comprehend His heart and His mind…and that’s okay. If we could all learn the lesson Job learned, then all of these matters would be just fine with us. We don’t have to understand them all, but we can be just fine with whomever God has chosen us to be. We can be fine with whatever part He, by His grace and kindness, has allowed us to play. And that’s a key issue. Whatever part we could ever play is something that He’s allowed us to play, not something that we have earned or deserved.
Every Man Responsible
I want to read a few scriptures to you just to rattle the cage a little bit about this idea that God has predetermined in advance exactly how things are supposed to be, and that nothing can be thwarted in any way, shape, or form and that there is no part whatsoever that we play. The Romans letter doesn’t teach, nor do any other of God’s writings, that man is inconsequential in the whole equation. God created us in His own image, and He has drawn us into a place of responsibility. In fact, the very nature of what He’s doing here is that He’s preparing us to deal in the unseen world, just as His Son Jesus did! Has He rendered us totally as puppets, with no ability whatsoever to see, to know, to understand, or to be able to partake in His work because we are just “preprogrammed”? Are you destined to automatically do whatever He says and that’s the end of the story, because anything more than that would be our own works? If so, then it totally violates the whole purpose of us even being here! He is teaching those of us who are “created a little lower than the angels” to participate in the Work in the unseen realm. He is training us to be an equal yoke for His Son. We are becoming “a habitation of God by the Spirit.” He is drawing us into a place of responsibility in the unseen world. Most certainly it is by His grace—we have absolutely no merit, no rights, no ability, and yet He grants us certain privileges and abilities that then become our choice to walk in, because He’s granted us that choice. You need to understand that.
Here’s something God said to Paul, as Paul recounts this story in Acts 26.
“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
“So, then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
God makes this absolute statement to Paul: “I have appeared to you and now I’m sending you, and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. You are going to turn them from the power of satan to God, so they may receive forgiveness of sins in a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. I’m sending you, and you are going to turn them from their sins.”
Paul’s response to that was, “Now, Oh King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” What does that imply? That implies that God did have a very distinct plan for Saul’s life. No mistake about it. It was no accident that Paul did what he did in the life that he had. “But now, Oh King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven; I proclaimed they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” He was not disobedient to God because he went forward with the message that God sent him with. God had a specific plan for his life. Unmistakably. Paul did not “earn” that and he didn’t choose that. When Paul was in his mother’s womb, God foreknew the plan He had for Paul’s life. However, Paul could’ve chosen differently and was capable of being disobedient to the vision from heaven.
So also as God plans marvelous things for our lives, He’s marked out a way for us. He’s cleared a way for spectacular things that are beyond our comprehension! Spectacular things, for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2). However, we can choose to be disobedient to the vision from heaven. We can grieve the Spirit—no question about that. Remember when Jesus said, “I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.” His full desire and whole heart was to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks. That was God’s will, but they “would not.” They chose not to obey.
Is it not God’s expressed will, that everyone come to a repentance and a knowledge of the truth? God’s specified will, through his servant Peter, was that everyone repent (2 Peter 3:9)—that all men repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. Peter specifically said that. And in Acts, it says that in times past God winked at ignorance, but now “He commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Then why is the road narrow and “few will be those that find it?” How do you explain that? There is certainly no capacity in man except that which God grants him. But if God has granted the capacity for a man to repent and He commands all men everywhere to repent, why is the road narrow and “few will be those that find it?” God’s expressed will is that all men repent. He’s commanding “all men everywhere to repent.” Why would He do that if He’s already foreordained that all men everywhere cannot repent? It’s impossible.
It doesn’t make any sense, except for the fact that God is participating in the cleansing, the regeneration, the sanctification and the glorification of a people who have CHOSEN by His grace to serve Him. The opportunity is opened up in a way that we don’t deserve. Grace is provision for us, but grace is not mandate. Grace is opportunity, but grace is not “we have no choice in the matter.” “Grace” is that apart from man’s ability, man’s will or man’s knowledge accumulation, God has provided an opportunity that they could know Him if they choose to do so.
By His grace, He has granted the opportunity to man and has made everyone without excuse. “Men are without excuse.” They deliberately forgot God because it was their intent to worship the created thing rather than the Creator (Romans 1). They chose to do that. Then came the sovereign issue: “Therefore He gave them over to their depravity.” As they chose sin, as they chose to believe the lie, as they chose to crave the flesh… at that point, God then gave them over to a delusion. God Himself can send a “powerful delusion” (2 Thess. 2:11), when people deliberately “refuse to love the truth.”
Marvel at these things but don’t create a doctrine around them. Certainly it’s to be said that God desires an equal yoke for the Son and this is all a training ground. By His grace and provision, He has foreordained that those created “a little lower than the angels” would be able to search Him out because He has opened the door for them. He’s equipped them and made provision for them, and then allowed them to make that choice—to be obedient or disobedient to “the vision from heaven.”
Look at Abraham…
He’s pleading for Sodom, and…“Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” (That sounds like a very sovereign statement, doesn’t it?) “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:17-18).
Do you see the connection? God foreordained this awesome, unbelievable plan for a very unworthy man. Abraham was totally undeserving, yet God swung open the door for him…if he would raise his children in a righteous and just way in obedience to God, then “the Lord would bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.” “I’ll surely do this for Abraham”… but that “if-then” statement was involved in the whole thing.
“Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has handed him over to me, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’ And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.
“When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod.’ David said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.’
“And the Lord said, ‘He will.’
“Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’
“And the Lord said, ‘They will.’
“So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there” (1 Sam. 23:7-13).
Now God clearly said, “Saul will come” and they will hand David over.
“Will he come, Lord?”
Two verses later, Saul heard that David left and Saul didn’t go! He DIDN’T GO! God just makes worshipers out of us with stuff like that, doesn’t He? There’s something so very vast and marvelous about God! If you try to use your mind and “eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” with these scriptures, you would say that since God said Saul is going there, that it is a definite done deal. It’s done, Saul will go. God said it would happen, so it will. Those are God’s words—period. Will he come? He will. It’s settled forever. Nothing can change that. And then two verses later, boom! Saul didn’t go!! You have to be worshipers! I’m asking you to be worshippers. God is so much bigger than a Calvinistic or an Armenian doctrine. God is much larger than that. It’s so vitally important that we are worshipers in all of these things.
“‘Open the east window,’ he said, and he opened it. ‘Shoot!’ Elisha said, and he shot. ‘The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!’ Elisha declared. ‘You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.’
“Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’” (2 Kings 13:17-20).
The man of God said, “This is great—it’s awesome! You will completely destroy your enemy. NOW—beat those arrows on the ground.” So, the king beat it three times. Did God say how many times to beat it? No. So the king didn’t disobey, right? Not exactly…
Somehow, he didn’t have a heart for the battle of God, and he didn’t listen to the Spirit. He just didn’t have a heart for it. So Elisha said, “Forget what I just said a minute ago. I just finished declaring to you in the Name of the Lord that you will completely destroy your enemy. But now I tell you, you will only defeat it three times. Sorry about that. You didn’t beat the arrow enough times.”
Once again, the issue is clear that these things from God’s heart show that God is very vast. It’s not that God is tricking us, but He’s vast and as He sees our hearts and our minds and as He comprehends what’s happening inside of us, He responds to that. He “sets us up.” Not everything is just so cut and dry as we would like it to be. It’s not like that. You won’t be able to find a formula for God and put Him in a box: “This is the way it always is.”
This passage in Romans 9 brings up so much controversy…
“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Rom 9:10-21)
People take examples from these scriptures that are supposed to “prove” that God sovereignly chooses in advance, exactly who’s going to be saved and who’s not going to be saved. It’s all decided in advance, independent of any man’s involvement in the process.
In verse 12, “‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” It’s so controversial for people. It goes on to talk about the fact that the lump of clay doesn’t have the right to cry out against the potter, “Why did you make me like this?”
And in verse 17 it talks about Pharaoh. “I raised you up for this very purpose that I might display my power in you…” And “Who resists his will?”
From those examples, people conclude that God sovereignly predetermines, apart from anyone’s involvement, who will and will not be saved. (That thought right there defies probably a hundred scriptures.) Romans 9 is not about salvation—that is the point, and you need to know that. Esau was rejected and Jacob chosen not as one would “be saved” and one would “go to hell.” Their salvation is not what this was about. This had to do with God’s eternal purposes to bring forth a Messiah and to bring forth a race of people.
Same with the Pharaoh and God hardening his heart—it is not about Pharaoh’s salvation. It’s not just, “God hardened his heart, and therefore he went to hell, and that is God’s choice. He can harden hearts and make them go to hell, or he can soften hearts and make them go to heaven.” You need to understand—this is not about Pharaoh’s salvation. This is about God’s purposes in setting Israel free from captivity.
The context of this whole thing in Romans 9 has to do with the Jews and the Gentiles and God sovereignly choosing His People in any way that He pleases—apart from any lump of clay’s objection to it all. God’s heart as He’s bringing these things out is, “I am God. I will bring forth my purposes any way I choose.” He is not talking about individual salvation in this passage. That is not the context or the subject. He’s not saying, “I will choose who is going to be saved and who is not.” The book of Romans is not about that! It’s about this: that all who believe, as many as call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved.
All of us are on level ground before God. He’s opened a common door to each of us, and entrance is not based on your heritage. Who among you decided to be born a Gentile or decided to be born a Jew? That was God’s choice, right? He levels the ground and says that it has nothing to do with anything that happened before you were born. God has sovereignly chosen to bring forth His purposes in the way that He’s chosen—to open the door to everyone—to all that would call on the Name of the Lord. Change your heart so you can extend the hand of God to others without a lot of clutter in your head. He wants simple children.
My reason for saying all of these things is not to convince you of a particular point of view, so you can go argue about it—definitely not. My position is to have God’s position, which is to level the ground. My desire is simply to say: Do not approach anything with a preconceived idea of exactly the way God does His business. Don’t you approach Him that way! His desire is that we would soften our hearts, eat from the Tree of Life, watch for Life, be worshipers of the Life of God in Christ Jesus and be soft before Him. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “It’s good to do this, it’s evil to do that, and I can prove it.” That is not God’s way.
We are not qualified to make judgments about what God’s Sovereignty even means! Make the personal application of Romans 1, 2 and 3, okay? That’s His desire for us. Only God can define His sovereignty. You just hush! Be still and know that He is God. HUSH! Quit the debates and the fussing. Humble yourself before Him, and let Him do His business, and “today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” He’s extended His hand to a disobedient and obstinate people—US. “Today if you hear His voice”—you decide—“harden not your heart.” Soften your heart before God so you can hear Him. If you get your head filled with competitiveness and clutter…if you get your mind and heart filled with the vanity of the world and the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye, the boastful pride of life… if you separate yourself from God, then you will grieve His Holy Spirit. Don’t you call what’s good “evil,” and cut yourself off from the Life of God.
He wants to extend mercy, so don’t you limit Him in any way, shape or form! (That’s what he’s saying throughout this letter.) Don’t you stop Him for a second from the way He wants to extend mercy. That’s His job and His decision. If He wants to extend mercy to the eleventh hour worker… HUSH. He’s God. Be still, and know that He is God. That is Romans 9, 10, and 11. It’s His business, so soften your heart. “Today if you hear His voice” you soften your heart. Don’t be so quick to judge others and categorize and make your flip charts. Soften your heart before Him and be a worshiper. He’s your friend and your Father—He loves you!! He will teach you His ways. If you will incline your ear towards Him, He will teach you His ways.
God Chose to Have a People
“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew…” (Romans 11:1-2a).
God chose to have a People before time began. He decided in advance that He would have a People, and He would teach them His ways. He would lead them to build a temple and an ark and He would give them animal sacrifice, the Law of Moses and the whole Levitical system. These were written down for our learning—they were done in advance for us, “on whom the apex or the fulfillment of the ages has come,” Paul said (1 Cor. 10). In His mind and His heart He saw the whole picture from beginning to end before there even was any picture! While the Spirit was still hovering over the chaos of the earth, God Himself foresaw the whole picture of how humanity would play itself out. He chose to have His “people, Israel” that would be the foreshadowing of the Life that would be in His Son. Before time began, God ordered all these circumstances. That is not to say He specifically decided in advance that I would “go to hell” or I would “go to heaven” apart from His beckoning. Today I’ve heard His voice and softened my heart and I’ve not been disobedient to the vision from heaven. Do you see the difference?
“God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:2-6). God has chosen to keep the door open and continues to extend Himself, His hand and His heart. “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did—the chosen ones, did. The others were hardened, as it is written: God gave them a spirit of stupor.”
We are going to talk now about this ultimate plan of God: He chose a people Israel, as a shadow of the reality that’s in Christ. And now, He is allowing a span of time to go by in which the Gentiles will receive the Messiah, but the Jews will not. And then God will ultimately, out of envy, offer the opportunity again to the Jews in a spectacular way. Again, we are talking about people groups, not specific individuals. “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see, and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.’ And David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever’”(Romans 11:7-10).
I read these things, and I just have to emphasize again the spirit of worship that God is drawing us into. You know those times when something inside of you catches just the slightest glimpse of His face on any given day or hour? Or those moments in time when you find that desire inside, to just look to heaven and worship? You SING to this awesome God that you cannot see with your naked eye! Or what about when you’re able, by faith, to overcome temptation in your life, and be a victor in that area? Or those moments when you find just a tiny bit of conviction in your heart for sin and you can look someone in the eye, and humble yourself and say, “I’m sorry.” Let every one of those examples remind you to be still and know that He is God. Let them remind you to be a worshiper of Him. Because you know the war inside of yourself, just to say “I’m sorry” to a person. Simple words, yet almost impossible to say, right? “I—was—wrong.” Three words. Inside your bones you know you ought to say, “I’m sorry….” but you can think of fourteen reasons why you shouldn’t have to. “It’s their problem, and after all they hurt me.” Or, “That circumstance was just too hard for me…” Or, “I have a hormone problem.” “ I didn’t get much sleep.” “It’s all your fault because you gave me these children…” Whatever the excuse happens to be, you know the war that rages inside, between you and those simple words, “I—was—wrong.” Only by His Grace can we even apologize—so THANK Him for that!
Every time you have the chance to worship, to smile inside, to experience peace, to have the capacity to say “I am sorry, I was wrong”…Every time you have the ability to overcome the slightest temptation, thank God and be a worshiper. “You are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, lest any man boast.” We have to look to God in heaven and be worshipers. Do you want to know what faith is? Faith is not something that you conjure up in your mind. Faith is looking at God and understanding His capacity and His love and simply believing that HE IS GOD. Faith is believing “that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” God is God, and God loves. So as we see these small workings in our lives, and the larger ones too, and we turn our eyes towards God, we thank Him and worship Him—that is faith. God is calling us to be worshipers—faith-filled worshipers with a vision of God’s Promises and a vision for His capacity to fulfill those promises. We see His love, and therefore His desire to fulfill those promises.
And so, here we are, 6,000 years later, after this long line of people, beginning with Adam and Eve—and who of us asked to be here? Who decided “who” you would be? Why aren’t you in a bed somewhere as a quadriplegic? Why don’t you have an IQ of 27, like a virtual vegetable? Or blind, or with a fatal disease right now? What merit do you have that has kept you alive all these years? In all the frailty of humanity…why is it that you still exist on this planet? Do you understand how totally puny our mortal flesh is, and how many thousands of ways we could die in any given day? The fact that you’ve existed, all these days, all these months, all these years and even decades…. do you understand how you’ve even managed to make it through to this moment in time to read these words? That you are even able to turn your face towards God, to soften your heart, to hear His voice and “to harden not your heart”? The capacity that God has placed within you and the angelic protection around you, and the Word of His grace He’s spoken into your life to surround you, to turn you towards Him—all these things are marvels to me! They must be MARVELS to all of us, to make us worshipers of Him.
His Magnificent Plan
So again, don’t get bogged down in some narrow doctrinal view. God is God. “Be still and know that I am God,” is the heart cry. Look at the vast lineage of humanity and how He has worked all these incredibly intricate details. Look at what He placed in the ark, for example—the staff of Moses that had budded and the tablets of stone and the hidden manna. ALL of it has extremely unbelievable, deep, rich meaning. The Hebrews writer couldn’t even go into it all, because he didn’t have the time to tell about it! But it is unbelievable! The ark represented Jesus—HE was the ark. “He came and He tabernacled among us.” You see the tablets of stone and the miracles and the authority of God and the rod that budded, and the hidden manna, the bread of life—all of them are hidden in Jesus’ heart. We could go on for years discussing what the Hebrews writer didn’t even give us a hint about! He only made a passing reference to it and said, “Sorry, I can’t tell you any more about it.” All of this stuff happening for ages and generations and all of it for our learning so that we could explore the Heart and the Mind and the Personality and the Magnificence of God.
So here we have Israel and the Gentiles, and the Jewish people in Rome are saying, “I’m frustrated with this. Why not circumcision? Why did you give us this law? What about temple worship anyway? What’s the deal here, God? What’s the meaning of all these things?” And He strips away the Jews’ right to their own righteousness. “You never kept the law anyway, guys!”
To the Gentiles, He’s about to say, “Okay, I received you—big deal. Does that make you some kind of heroes because I received you and I blinded the minds of the Jews for a season? Does that make you heroes or was it I who did all of that?” You see, God’s sovereign plan is that two witnesses would testify in the last days—TWO witnesses, side by side. He wants to raise up the Jews, and raise up the Gentiles, and cause them to walk side by side, declaring the Glory of God in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is the marvel that Paul is talking about in Chapters 9, 10 and 11.
“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. Do you see that God has a Plan in all these things? He sees way past just the obvious and the superficial. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!” (Romans 11:11-12) He says, “I’m talking to you, Gentiles. Don’t be so selfish and so prideful about what I’ve done for you. If their fall has made you great, oh Gentiles—just think of what their fullness will mean for you! Don’t be so jealous.” If Israel’s fullness is worked out in creation and God’s wisdom is brought to bear through the original people that He had chosen, how much more does that mean fullness for all of us! This is not something we should resent, any more than the Jews have any right to resent.
“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my service in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. Notice that: “And save some of them.” For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (Romans 11:13-18) “Who do you think you are?” … Like Paul said to the Corinthians. “What do you have that you did not receive? Your boasting is not good. What do you have that God didn’t give you?” WHO do you think you are? See God! Look at Him, Worship Him, Humble yourself before Him. There is NOTHING you have ever offered to Jesus. The root did not find Life in the branches, but the branches found Life in the Root.
“You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’” The Jewish people were cut off from the inheritance, so I could be grafted into the vine, which is Jesus.” “Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid” (Romans 11:19-20). It’s only by faith that you stand. It’s only because you chose to believe the Messiah and they chose not to believe the Messiah. Their conception of Him was wrong, and their hearts were hard. They chose to desire a fleshly Messiah rather than a Spiritual One. They didn’t want a kingdom that “was not of this world,” the way Jesus said His Kingdom was. They wanted a different kind of Messiah. But even a pagan king knew that this was the King of the Jews! He put those words right on His cross and said, “I’ve written what I have written.” Now there’s sovereignty for you! GOD chose for that sign to say exactly what it said: “KING OF THE JEWS.” Does that mean Pilate was saved because he ordered that to be written? No, but because of God’s sovereign purpose, Pilate said, “I have written what I have written. Leave it alone. I don’t know why I wrote it—I just wrote it.” God chooses the vessels to accomplish His purposes in order that He might work all these things out. GOD was the one who drove the Messiah as a baby off into Egypt, right? I just want you to see on a much larger scale that these things were prophecies to be fulfilled. And God intends that His vast Wisdom would be made known to Jews and Gentiles through the fulfillment of all of these sovereignly foretold issues. God has a Plan here that goes way past just the obvious and superficial.
“For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (Romans 11:21). If you live in unbelief, you will suffer the same fate they did. God did not graft you in “off the cuff,” off the top of His head, apart from your choice to believe Him. If He is capable of cutting off those who walk in unbelief that have a Jewish heritage, He certainly can do it to us too.
“Consider therefore the kindness and the sternness of God.” Be worshipers!
“Consider—think about—the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:22-23). “IF they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in…” It’s all BY FAITH—that’s the issue throughout this book. They believe in the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins, their justification before God, their sanctification before God and their value before the Father. They don’t rely on externals, but they believe God and the Son whom He sent. Those He will justify freely, by His Grace, by the Provision He’s poured out.
“After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” (Romans 11:24) “For if they do not persist in unbelief, they WILL be grafted in.” Stop being arrogant, Gentiles!
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers…” (Romans 11:25a) Paul even says “this is a mystery.” He says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant of it, but it still must be labeled a mystery.” These are just phenomenal things that not even the other apostles write much about. Think about it—Jesus Himself didn’t even talk much about this stuff. You can see little hints here and there, through the prophets, the other apostles, and a hint here and there through James and Mark, and maybe Luke. But these are glorious mysteries that truthfully, if anyone on the face of the earth had a real handle on them beside Paul, they didn’t let on! Certainly we know that Jesus taught these things to Paul—some of it in Arabia probably, and some through revelation as time went on. Probably a large extent of it was revealed as Paul had his pen in his hand. That’s often the way God works. “Do not consider what to say or how to say it, in order that my Father might speak through you” rather than you speaking through your own prejudices, biases and finite mind (Matt. 10:20).
These are glorious mysteries that very few people, if any—other than Jesus—could comprehend during that era. Paul is talking to some unbelievably rich and fruitful saints (see the list in Romans 16), yet even to them, he considered these things to be mysteries. What magnificent statements of the omnipotence and the Glorious Thought and Sovereignty of God! He wants to prepare a People and then cut them off from the natural olive tree. Then He grafts in the unnatural, wild branches and lets those take nourishment from the root and come to life and after that, He will regraft in the natural branches. He will graft those back in who are from Jewish lineage that do not persist in unbelief. These are marvelous things. “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” Unbelievable! How could God DO that? What does that mean? How do we understand this stuff?
Inheritance—It’s ALL Isaac’s
“And so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26a). What is all Israel? Take a look at Romans 9: “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son’” (Romans 9: 6-9). Therefore, he goes on to say, it’s by faith that we become sons of Abraham.
So… “Israel has experienced a hardening in part… and so all of Israel—as defined in Chapter 9—will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’
“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs…” (Romans 11:28).
As far as God’s intent and overall purposes throughout history, they are loved on account of the patriarchs—much in every way. What value does it have to be a descendant of a Patriarch? Much, in every way! God looks at what’s been entrusted to the Patriarchs and His deep love and promises for them and He views that in a special way. Remember Ishmael? He was the son of a Patriarch and God loved him. But He couldn’t bring Ishmael an inheritance. Remember, “Get the slave woman and her child out of my house.” The child who will receive the inheritance is the one who came into the family according to the promise, by the Spirit. Born from the womb of the Spirit, and the promise and faith, without wavering—that is the child that shall receive the inheritance…but God also loved Ishmael. Because of the Patriarch, Abraham, God promised to protect Ishmael in the wilderness with his mother, and to make a great nation out of them as well. Not in the same way, but He did love them and He did meet them. It’s one of the mysteries in God’s heart. Why did He do that? It doesn’t make any sense that He would tell the slave woman and her child to get out of the house and then say, “I love Ishmael, I love Hagar. I can’t give them any inheritance, but I sure do love them and I’m going to protect them and make a great nation out of them.” These are the mysteries of God.
Does God love the religious organizations of our day? Yes, and no. Because of the Patriarchs, He loves them. Because God is God, He has a love for those who even have roots in true Christianity (though generations and even centuries removed in most cases from anything even reminiscent of the Spirit of Christ alive in His People, such as in Acts 2-4). “Get the slave woman and her child (the baby born half of My Plan, and half of worldly wisdom) OUT of My House—there is no true Inheritance for them” and then provision in the wilderness…this is our God. His sovereign will says that only that which is birthed out of the Spirit of God, not out of the flesh of men, can receive the inheritance. Because of His sovereign justice, and the purity of His heart, He cannot give them an inheritance—but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love them. Figure that out! He loves Ishmael, but He will not bless Ishmael and bring an inheritance in the same way He does those that live by the Spirit rather than by the ambitions, the doctrines and the traditions of men.
These are marvelous things, and it’s very important that we not have an attitude like Jonah’s. He sat up underneath the fig tree that God Himself had provided, in order to give him shade and Jonah cursed the fig tree when the worm ate it. God sent a worm, which ate the little shade that God had created, and Jonah had a pity party for himself. God said, “I am trying to teach you a lesson here. You shouldn’t have anything to say about that vine that brought you shade, or about that worm that ate the shady vine. These are not your matters. It’s not your concern. I told you to go to Nineveh and proclaim Good News to them and a repentance that would bring refreshing and a blessing to them. I told you to do that, and it’s none of your business why. There are 120,000 people that don’t know their right hand from their left and their animals are dumb, too. I love them, and that’s My business, not yours. Why are you up here judging them? This is My business. Open your eyes to My sovereignty and My glory, Jonah.”
Later on, God destroyed Nineveh! Look it up—it’s gone. He wiped it out. Who can figure it out? God wants us to marvel at these things, to find His Grace and His Goodness, and to apprehend something of His Mind. “Who knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God,” and “we have that Spirit” and “we worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” We worship Him in His own Spirit in order to apprehend something of His Mind—eating from the tree of Life, not the tree of knowledge.
“For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you” (Romans 11:29-31). He’s saying, “I provoked them. I’ve allowed a hardening in part in order that they might find out how utterly worthless they are. They felt pretty good about themselves when they were busy doing the temple worship, keeping the Sabbath Holy, and keeping all the other things I commanded.” But now that it’s all fallen apart—the ark is gone, the temple is gone, the animal sacrifice is gone—in their own hearts they find they’re not able to keep the laws of Moses. It’s all just a vast disarray. All of a sudden, hey—they might actually need a Messiah! God said, “Their own disobedience is now provoking them to see what you Gentiles knew all along—that you’re worthless and there’s no hope for you. The Jews didn’t believe that, because they were propped up with all these things—the law, the temple, the Sabbath. Now that it’s all been ripped out, and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in—now, the Jews realize out of envy, out of seeing their own hearts, how tremendously needy they are for the same Messiah that the Gentiles needed. So now, they’re not so pompous anymore.”
This picture I’m talking about has not, in large measure, yet come to pass. If you want to see something that foretells the end of the end in a clear way, this regrafting of the Jews will be happening just as surely as the Bride will have made herself ready—the church will become what God intends it to be “without spot or wrinkle or blemish.” The world is waiting on these things and creation is groaning for them, and God said they must take place before His return. So don’t expect Jesus to come bursting through those clouds any minute now. Jesus said that we can comprehend the times and seasons—and as far as we can see, Jesus is not coming through those clouds any minute now. The Jews have not come in and the Bride is nowhere near ready.
There are other issues here, too, like the Two Witnesses. It is very apparent that the things about the Two Witnesses that are mentioned in Revelation have not yet come to pass in fullness because the timing is waiting on the Jews. This transition needs to take place where the Jewish people realize their vast need—their tremendous need for the Messiah that they’d always waited for and then murdered on Calvary.
I have to say this, that even amongst Jewish believers, there is a tremendous arrogance. They really want to hold themselves up as being “the cream of the crop.” There is still a pompousness, “Well, I found the Messiah and all these Gentile Christians—they’re all second class citizens.” They wouldn’t necessarily say that, but you sure get that impression by the way they carry themselves, speak of themselves, and carry on the traditions of men. They still hold onto the traditions of men and Jewish traditions the Bible calls “obsolete,” and make null and void the Word of God. It gives them some kind of identity. It is just proof that many of the things we’re talking about have not yet come to pass.
Amongst the Jewish believers, you just don’t see the humility that speaks of people who are truly finding a revelation of the Messiah, and truly falling on their faces before a sovereign, omnipotent, glorious, majestic God and His beloved Son Jesus Christ. It’s not the humility that rips away any claim to anything except just simply faith in His Name as our only calling card. That’s the only lineage that has any value whatsoever. Everything else, as Paul said, is dung. The ultimate Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, the favorite son, a Pharisee of Pharisees, beyond all of his peers said… “Eh—dung.” That was the word he chose. It doesn’t mean anything. The best Jew that ever lived, as far as we know, except Jesus, counted all of that external stuff as having no value compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing in an intimate way the Son of God as a friend. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what God is stripping away from both Jew and Gentile throughout this letter. Lifting them to a knowledge of the sovereign, glorious, awesomeness of God—humbling them just as He did Job. He is saying to both Jew and Gentile, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
Paul’s been saying, “Let God be God!” The basis on which we come to God is purely, simply and solely by believing in the One whom He sent. Period. Whether Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference. He said it again and again and again. If He wants to do business that way, that’s HIS CHOICE. That’s what Romans 9, 10 and 11 are about. He will do business how He pleases to do business. “So what shall we say then?” The Gentiles are received, but the Israelites are rejected? Well, why not? If that’s God’s choice, that He would only receive those who come by faith, and not those who try to come to God by doing good deeds or by keeping the law or some set of rules, then so be it. If God has chosen to reject those who try to come to Him by their own righteous acts, rather than by God’s love and believing in the Son of God that was slain before the foundations of the earth…If God has chosen it to be that way, then so be it! Amen. Leave it alone. That’s God’s choice.
Open your hearts and be a worshiper, not a judge of God! Please…be a worshiper. Receive what He receives—let Him make the decisions. Stop being gods that think you know good from evil, and think you have it all figured out with your flip charts and answers for every hard question. Stop being that way! Be worshipers. Drop to your face in humility. See who GOD is! See the vastness of His riches that extend way beyond your understanding. Humble yourself before Him and then you will have Him.
Oh, the depths 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?
Or 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!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
At the end of chapter 11, there’s this incredible vastness of God’s Wisdom and Glory and Greatness that Paul’s talking about. And then, into what we call Chapter 12, it begins with the thought that’s very familiar to us, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…” But on what basis do we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice? On what basis? The beginning of that sentence is essential if we expect to understand what this thing called “commitment” is. We try to hammer it into ourselves, “We’ve gotta be committed to Jesus, and we gotta offer our bodies as living sacrifices; we have to stop conforming to the patterns of this world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know the good, perfect and pleasing will of God.” That’s all true, but remember the phrase that began that thought: “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” Be worshipers. If you are worshipers and can see just a little glimpse of God’s Greatness and His Glory and His Mercy towards us, it’s really not a big problem to offer your body as a living sacrifice. It’s not a problem to stop pursuing worldly pursuits and sniffing the smells of Egypt like dogs do. It’s not so hard to turn away from sin when you understand the mercy of God. In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices…and that will be a fragrant, acceptable act of worship before God.
You Deserve Worshipers
Our God, Your Name is to be blessed and praised and magnified throughout all generations, and yet, we’ve let You down—our generation has let You down. Maybe other generations have as well. But we look You in the face right now, bowing our heads before You and say, “We’ve let You down…we’ve not been worshipers, as You’ve desired.” You’ve asked very little of us. You’ve simply sought worshipers and called us to be worshipers.
You’ve given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. You’ve built a wall around the vineyard. You’ve dug the winepresses, and You’ve planted the choicest vines, as Your servant Isaiah was told. And yet in spite of all that, we’ve let the thorns and thistles grow in our hearts. We haven’t glorified You as God. Too many times, we’ve worshiped the created things—our own glands and possessions and our own intellects. We’ve worshiped such stupid things. We’ve deliberately ignored the fact that You are God and we have chosen to worship the created thing, rather than the Creator who is ever to be praised.
Our God, in shame, as representatives of the human race, as well as of our own households and our own personhood—our own selves—we bow before You. We’re creatures that are simply lumps of clay, who You’ve caused this seed of Life to live within—this germ of personality, of soul, of spirit, of mind, the vitality of Life that came straight from Your heart, that we have no ability to comprehend. No scientist has ever been able to define “life.” These things are purely and clearly from You, and yet somehow we’ve made ourselves to be “gods” again and again and again—in the way we’ve judged ideas and distanced ourselves from people rather than washing their feet. In the way we’ve cut ourselves off from Your Holy Spirit and seared our own consciences to Your voice, Your life, Your love and to Your liberty. Our God, we repent like Job in sackcloth and ashes.
You deserve worshipers. “From You and through You and to You are all things now and forever, age without end.” You’re worthy to be praised! HOLY, HOLY, HOLY are You! Your riches and wisdom are deep—far beyond tracing out. We’ve complained when we’ve hurt. We’ve complained when we’ve been slighted, or when injustices supposedly have happened to us. What is injustice, oh God? We deserve HELL! What is injustice? Why does a lump of clay complain? We have no right! Why do we do this?? We repent, as representatives of all of humanity, this puny race of people—lumps of clay that inhabit the earth. We repent before You. You’re a Great and a Wonderful and an Awesome God.
You’ve extended mercy to all generations, as You’ve made Yourself clear. Your testimony to the hearts of every human being has been clear. Even in creation itself, You’ve made Yourself abundantly clear that every man would be without excuse. And yet we’ve turned away from You. We’re altogether worthless and You’ve continued to love us anyway. Father, thank You for the provision You’ve extended to an unworthy population, to an unworthy race of people. Surely the deer in the field and the groundhogs and the kitty cats are far more worthy than we are. And yet You’ve loved us and given us a piece of Your very own Life and Spirit. You’ve given us an opportunity—though we’re created a little lower than the angels—to participate with You in the unseen world, in this life and in the life to come.
Glory to Your Name, Oh God! We have no words, but surely in view of Your vast mercy, we can offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We can reckon ourselves dead to sin. We can say to You and to the host of unseen forces as well as to one another, and to Your enemies, “Sin shall no longer be our master.” You deserve our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. “Hear, O Israel.” We want to love You with everything within us, “In view of Your mercy.” It’s our worship of You that calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We do worship You right now. We’re grateful that You’ve given us the opportunity to do that. We want to stop grieving Your Spirit, and we want to hear Your voice and harden not our hearts…maybe for the first time ever. Thank You for Your provision in Your Son, Jesus. And thank You for leaving Your Spirit until the work on earth is done. Great and Most Holy and Magnificent—Worthy of Praise and Love and Honor is Your Name. Amen.
Only God Can Make This REAL in You!
In many ways, I am very, very grateful to God that man is not capable of “giving” you anything that will change your life. And I am certainly far, far, far, from being capable of that. Paul said, “I am so glad that I didn’t have wise or persuasive words, and that I could never say it ‘just right’ so that you would have what I have.” He said, “I know I cannot give you what I have, just with human communication.” The tongues of men and of angels cannot give you what Paul had, what Peter had, what John had, what any other mortal has. Words alone can’t do that—it’s only seed. Only God can give the increase. Paul said, “I’m very glad that I didn’t have persuasive speech, because now it’s between you and God.”
I have absolutely no desire to be dramatic, but I am very frustrated. I didn’t intentionally use any elevated speech in order to inspire or motivate you. I just said what came to my heart in my inner man. And after doing everything that I can to try to express the limited measure of what I see and feel and experience…I am frustrated out of my socks, knowing good and well that there was nothing whatsoever I could really impart to you and give to you that you could actually have. “Okay, I have it now.” It’s not like that. It’s between you and God—that you would find Him, that you would choose to be a worshiper, and you would allow these seeds to dwell in your heart. That the seeds wouldn’t take shallow root, and spring up quickly with great joy, but fail to withstand the heat of the sun coming up with the trials, the pain and the suffering that are yet to come in your life.
The kingdom is entered with much tribulation. If you really want to find the vast storehouse of the riches of Jesus Christ in your own heart, then you need to be like Paul and be willing to carry about in your body the sentence of death, that also the aroma of life might shine forth through your heart and life. It’s not for you, so that you would notice and experience great and awesome things that make you feel good about yourself. Jesus already said it wouldn’t be like that. The Messiah doesn’t come to us in order that we would flex our muscles. He came so that when we are weak, He can be strong through us—in spite of our pain, and in spite of the things that buffet our body on a daily basis, and the messenger from satan that torments us. God allows those things to happen in our hearts so that the surpassing great revelation from Jesus can flow without us becoming conceited.
Welcome the testing of your faith, so that you might grow in perseverance. Welcome it, so that you might grow in character, and grow in your own revelation—something that flesh and blood can never reveal to you. It’s between you and God, is all I’m trying to say. I understand fully that I cannot give you anything. All I can do is hopefully plant a seed in your heart, that you will go out and find God with.
I do understand there’s a part that we play—“the treasure in earthen vessels.” “Faith does come by hearing, and hearing by the voice of God.” “And how can one hear unless someone’s sent to them?” Like the Ethiopian eunuch said, “How can I understand these things unless someone explains it to me?” I understand that you and I will both play a part in other people’s lives. We do plant the seeds, but it also has to be fully recognized that there is no quality of speech that can permanently and supernaturally change a person’s life. Supernatural life and change is between every man and God. It’s for a man, that he would hear the Word, that he would retain the Word and persevere in it, and that he would seek and keep on seeking, ask and keep on asking, knock and keep on knocking. “I will be found by those that search for me with all their heart.” God tells the man who cares.
Be a follower of the Nazarene. Hang on His every word. With the slightest opportunity you have to hear Him—as the birds are chirping, as the thunder and lightening rumbles in the distance, as the conversation happens within earshot, in your living room, in settings like this one—in any environment whatsoever, listen for Him.
Listen, long for, lean into, and incline your ear to the Shepherd’s voice. “Hear it, retain it, and persevere in it.” Cry out to God that He would take these little specks of dirt in your finite mind called seeds, and create supernatural life within you as you choose to believe Him! Live by FAITH and not by sight. Cry out to Him for understanding, as you search for wisdom like you would for gold and silver. If you incline your heart and your ear towards Him, He will miraculously, as you believe His Word, create supernatural life within you. Not necessarily so that you would notice it entirely—this is not for your benefit! It’s for His Glory, for His Testimony. Cry out to Him and for one another that the testimony of the Nazarene, the Master Teacher from Galilee, the Son of God, would shine forth like the stars in the universe, and make a Great Name for Jesus. Not a name for us, not for you, not for me…but for Jesus! Cry out to God for SUPERnatural Life. “Rivers of living water gushing from the inner man” because you believe His Word regardless of circumstances.
Amen means, “so be it.” Amen.