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So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. (Romans 4:16, NLT)
What is God looking for? What is He interested in? It is very easy to fall into the trap of seeking to win God over by good works and ‘trying hard’. There may be nothing wrong with good works in themselves (although they can become a point of boasting!), but our human efforts are not what catches God’s eye.
God is on the lookout for faith. He is acutely sensitive to it, and He always responds to it. God is so blessed when He finds those who are willing to put their trust in Him, willing to hold onto His promises even when (or especially when) their fulfilment seem to be impossible.
Like us, Abraham was not perfect, but he certainly had faith. It was not his gender, or his nationality, it wasn’t his ancestry or even the physical mark of circumcision that set him apart; he was set apart by his faith. His faith in God made him righteous (Romans 4:3). He was righteous before he did anything because his faith preceded his actions, but that same faith led to action. His faith ensured that he obediently did all God asked of him.
All we do must be initiated, underpinned and finished by faith, a certain and confident trust in the promise, and (more importantly) in the Promiser. Faith sets us apart and places us into a prestigious family line that runs all the way back to Abraham, the father of faith!
“Heavenly Father thank You for Your unfailing love and faithfulness. Thank You that Your promises are backed by all the honour of Your name.
Help me to live by faith every. Today I choose to put my faith in You again and to act on Your promises. Thank You that this blesses You, makes me righteous and enables me to do great things for Your glory!
I commit my day and my week to be one of action, power and living faith.”
03/12 – 09/12: Chapter 3
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Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26, ESV)
It is hard for us to understand what sin really is, because we were born into it. We were quite used to it, by the time we heard God’s good news throwing us a lifeline to be free of it. Sin is, quite simply, toxic. It cannot be ignored; it cannot be accommodated; and it is relentless. It will not co-habit with anything or anyone else that seeks to bring it into submission. Sin is, in essence, independence from the Creator, who is the Author of life. It is the notion that we are better off without Him. And it is an act of pure suicide, from which there is no coming back. At least, not by our own efforts.
The central theme of Romans is God’s righteousness. Again, having been those used to sin, it can be hard to see what the big deal is here. However, if God were not righteous then all reality would collapse in on itself. If He were not utterly consistent in all He does, then all that exists could not be ‘upheld by the power of His word’ (Heb 1:3). His integrity sustains us all, saint and sinner alike. He cannot stop being righteous, just because He loves us so much. But attributes are never in conflict.
So now we get to the hub of the matter. How does God rescue us from sin, whilst not compromising who He is? The answer is here in these verses. Jesus became the ‘propitiation’ (which is a ransom payment, atonement) taking sin upon Himself, so that which is toxic could be dealt with properly. Not sweeping it under the carpet; not turning a blind eye, which would not have dealt with the problem. In this way, God remained just and the justifier of us all.
That being said, it is often asked why God was able to tolerate sin before Jesus came to die for us? We know that the system of sacrifices under the Old Covenant were insufficient to deal with sin; like putting a plaster on a fatal wound. Paul answers this for us by using a legal term when he says that God had passed over former sins (v.25), which is ‘pretermission’. It means to be left out of a will; to be passed over and miss out on an inheritance. Our rightful inheritance was eternal separation from God, leading to death. But God deferred this punishment until the propitiation was made. Now instead we share in the glorious inheritance of God’s faithful Son!
“Lord, today as I consider Your total answer to mankind’s total need, I want to thank You that You did not, and could not overlook sin, but that instead you dealt with it, once and for all. I pray this week that You would reveal to me more fully the rich inheritance I now have in your righteousness through Jesus. Help me Holy Spirit, to live this day in the freedom He purchased for me by His blood.”
26/11 – 02/12: Chapter 2
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“No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Rom 2:29, NLT)
In this chapter, the Apostle Paul deals with the sticking point of sin and judgement. He points out that we all have a sense of moral guidance even before we are saved. He outlines the pitfalls that we can all stumble into; of condemning others failings when we ourselves are also failing, and of trying to make ourselves right with God by comparing ourselves with others, or by our own human effort, self will and ‘trying harder’. Yet we are all in sin and will be judged and punished for it.
Paul clearly states that each one of us will be called to give an account before God for our life, ’Christ Jesus will judge everyone’s secret life’ (2:16). Our only hope to be made right with God and continue to live right before Him is to have our hearts circumcised. Circumcision was a physical act to be performed on all Jewish boys, where the foreskin (a part of the male body that was regarded as ‘unclean’) was removed to show obedience and allegiance to God, to represent being separated to Him as His people. However, what God was ultimately looking for is not an external operation (circumcision), rather an internal transformation.
Paul tells us that becoming part of God’s own people has nothing to do with our race, our ancestry, or a religious physical act. Rather it is only by faith in Jesus Christ, that our hearts are totally changed by the Holy Spirit. When we repent and put faith in Jesus, our hearts are cleansed, circumcised, made pure; and then it is by the Spirit that we live to please God above all others!
“Father, I thank you that you have saved me. Thank you for Your Son Jesus, thank You for Your Holy Spirit. I surrender my heart to You again today. Holy Spirit I ask that You would ensure that my wants, my desires, my thoughts and my will line up with Your wants, Your desires, Your thoughts and Your will. Help me to keep my heart surrendered to You, guard my heart I pray. Lord Jesus, I say again that I am here to live for you, God I want to seek your praise above all else. Amen.“
19/11 – 25/11: Chapter 1
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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes … a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last” (Rom 1:16-17, NIV)
In this opening chapter, the Apostle Paul makes an unassailable and uncompromising statement. The gospel he took out into the world is God’s total answer to man’s total need. For Paul, there is no question that the gospel offers salvation to every man and every woman; no question that all are in need of it; and no question that it can only help us, if we embrace it by faith, letting go of our own efforts to be righteous before God.
Paul’s writing style often involved making bold statements like this, and then spending time explaining them. In the following verses (vv.18-32) he goes on to explain that men and women have repeatedly turned their backs on God, choosing to rely on, and look to, created things, instead of the Author of Life itself. They burnt their bridges with Him, and with no way back have only sunk deeper and deeper into the sin that consumed them
The gospel is (literally) ‘good news’, because it announces what God has done to give us a way to come back home, to His loving arms. It requires nothing of us, no efforts to make it home, no immediate change in our character, or even our actions; we need only accept that He has already done it all for us, and surrender to Him.
“Father, I thank you that you made a way for me to come back home to you. Thank you that the righteousness Jesus has given me requires nothing from my own efforts. I pray that this week you will reveal to me afresh the power of the gospel to continually save me from myself, the old me, and bring me into the liberty that comes from being freed from my own efforts to please you.”