Saturday, March 28, 2020

Practicing the Presence of God In The Midst of "Pandemic Panic" (Spiritual Maxims by Brother Lawrence)

It is a frightful time that we find ourselves in as I write this in March, 2020. Just a few weeks ago the stock market was riding high, we here in the United States had the best economy in recent memory with full employment, and the world by and large was at peace. Then came the coronavirus, properly known as Covid-19. We have just in the last few weeks seen our entire society upended. The stock market has plunged 10,000 points or more. Millions of people have lost their jobs as the government has been forced to close many businesses (in my state, all non-essential businesses are currently closed), our houses of worship are empty as we all are being asked (essentially ordered) to practice "social distancing", a phrase virtually no one had heard of only a few weeks ago but is now on everyone's lips. As I write this, over 600,000 worldwide have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and here in the States we have the dubious distinction of having the most infections of any country in the world. We just passed 100,000 infected and 1,700 deaths.  The really frightening thing about this is that we are by all accounts still in the early stages of this pandemic. We seem to be "holding it all together" but not by much.

Rather than seeing this as "gloom and doom" however, I see this as a call from God to turn to Him. In times of prosperity, it is our natural tendency to turn away from God. From time to time, in His mercy, He afflicts us in the hope that we will turn to Him. This, I believe, is one of those times.

I was drawn earlier to read from the writings of a lowly French monk of the 17th century by the simple name of Brother Lawrence. This man of little education worked in a small monastery preparing meals for other monks. While doing his lowly kitchen duties, he developed the practice of living always in conscious awareness of God. "Despite his humble position in the community, his reputation attracted many visitors from the outside who sought spiritual guidance from him. The practical wisdom that he shared became the basis of his book, 'Practicing the Presence of God'" (From the Forward to the book). This book has been a source of great spiritual wisdom for many for over three centuries.

I read this morning Brother Lawrence's "Spiritual Maxims" from that book. I believe in this time of "pandemic panic", his words are exactly what we need. I share a portion of these with you here. (Italics and bold print are mine)






SPIRITUAL MAXIMS

MEANS FOR ATTAINING TO THE PRESENCE OF GOD 

1. We are to practice honoring God and His Glory in everything that we do and say. This is our goal: to offer to God a sacrifice of perfect worship in this life and throughout eternity. We should firmly resolve to overcome every difficulty that we encounter in reaching this goal by the grace of God. 
2. When we begin the spiritual life, we should do a thorough inquiry into our human nature, probing to its deepest depths. We will find that we are unworthy of the name of Christ. We are subject to all sorts of difficulties and weaknesses. These trouble us and damage our spiritual health. They cause us to waver and be unstable in our emotions and attitudes. We are creatures chastened and humbled by God through countless sufferings and adversities, inside and outside. 
3. We must steadfastly believe, and never doubt, that all suffering is for our good. God is disciplining us. His Divine Providence permits our souls to pass through many difficult experiences and times of trial. We are to endure various sorrows and sufferings for the love of God, for as long as He deems it necessary. Without submission of the heart and spirit to the will of God, devotion and perfection cannot exist. 
4. The higher the spiritual state to which a soul aspires, the more it is dependent on grace. The grace of God is necessary every moment, for without it the soul can do nothing. The world, the flesh, and the devil join forces and assault the soul directly and relentlessly. Without humble reliance on the ever-present assistance of God, they drag the soul down in spite of all resistance. To rely on God’s help seems difficult, but grace makes it easy, and it brings joy.


NECESSARY PRACTICES FOR ATTAINING TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

1. The practice of the Presence of God is the most holy, the most all-encompassing, and the most necessary practice of the spiritual life. It trains the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship. At all times and at every moment, it engages the soul in humble and loving communion with Him, without rules or methods. This is practiced in all circumstances, in times of temptation and tribulation, spiritual dryness and apathy, and even when we fall into unfaithfulness and sin. 

2. We should commit ourselves unceasingly to this one goal: that everything we do be little acts of communion with God. This must be natural and not artificial, coming from the purity and simplicity of the heart. 

3. We must do everything thoughtfully and mindfully, without impulsiveness or rashness, which indicate an undisciplined mind. We must go about our daily activities quietly, calmly, and lovingly, asking Him to bless the work of our hands. By keeping our heart and mind fixed on God, we shall bruise the head of the evil one, and cast his weapons to the ground. 

4. When we are busy meditating on spiritual things, or doing our daily devotions, or even raising our voice in prayer, we ought to stop every once in a while to worship God in the depth of our being. Taste Him as if in passing. Touch Him, as it were, by stealth. Know that God is with you in everything you do. He is at the very depth and center of your soul. Why not pause for a moment from time to time in the midst of your busyness, even during the act of prayer, to worship Him within your soul? Why not praise Him, ask for His help, offer Him the service of your heart, and give Him thanks for all His loving-kindnesses and tender mercies? 

What offering is more acceptable to God than to, periodically throughout the day, leave behind the things of our outward senses and withdraw within to worship Him in the secret place of the soul? By doing this we destroy the love of self, which can survive only among the things of sense. These times of quiet retirement with God rid us unconsciously of self-love. 

Truly we could give God no greater evidence of our trust and faithfulness than by turning from the creation to find our joy in the present moment in the Creator. I am not suggesting that we completely disregard forever the outward things that are around us. That is impossible. Prudence (wisdom), the mother of the virtues, must be your guide. Yet it is a common error of religious persons to neglect this practice of stopping for a moment in order to worship God in the depth of their soul and enjoy briefly the peace of communion with Him...

5. Our acts of worship are to be prompted and guided by faith. We must honestly believe that God is really within our souls. We must believe that we should worship Him, love Him, and serve Him in spirit and in truth. We must believe that He sees all and that all hearts are open to Him, both our own and those of all His creatures. We must believe that He is self-existent and that all His creatures live and move and have their being in him. We believe that His Perfection is infinite and sovereign, and demands the full surrender of our whole selves, body and soul. It is only right that we owe Him all our thoughts, words and actions. Let us pay our debt. 

6. It is necessary to examine ourselves carefully to find out which virtues we lack most, and which are the hardest for us to acquire. We should seek to discover which sins most easily ensnare us, and at what times and on what occasions we usually fall. In time of struggle we ought to turn to God with perfect confidence, abiding steadfastly in the Presence of His Divine Majesty. In lowly adoration we can tell Him our sorrows and our failures, asking Him lovingly for the assistance of His grace. In our weakness we shall find strength in Him.




Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Romans Bible Study #20 A Non-Calvinist Interpretation of Romans 9 (Part 1: 9:1-13 - Video and Notes)


To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#19), click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Study Notes




"God arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. " John Calvin

Vs. 1-5
  • In Chapter 1, we saw Paul’s heart towards the church, even being in constant prayer to God for churches to which he had never even been. Here we see Paul’s heart to the Jews, his own people, especially towards those who had rejected Christ.
  • Paul here again affirms that the covenants and the promises which were made to Abraham and his descendants belong to Israel. Chapters 9 - 11 should dispel any notion that “God has not rejected His people who He foreknew” (as he will say later in 11:2). God’s faithfulness to Israel over the last 2000 years in keeping them together as a people though they have been scattered all over the world and then finally bringing them back to their homeland is further testimony that God still has a covenant love for Israel.
  • Paul will continue to reveal his heart towards his people Israel (which by extension we would have to believe is God’s heart towards them also) in saying in 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them (Israel) is for their salvation.”
  • Despite Paul’s explicit desire to perish in the place of these hardened Jews, five-point Calvinists teach that Christ does not share Paul’s expressed intentions.[92] One has to assume that those interpreters believe Paul was more merciful and self-sacrificial than the Savior who inspired these very words. It is inexplicable, given Paul’s Spirit-led appeal of self-sacrificial love, to promote a doctrine that teaches Jesus did not intend to sacrifice Himself for these hardened Jews (1 John 2:2; 2 Pet. 2:1).”( Dr. Leighton Flowers)
Vs. 6-8
  • The “word of God” here is not merely the written written word, but rather the spoken word, i.e. “the gospel.” (Chapter 10:8 makes that clear) In vs. 6, he is saying that it is not as though the gospel has not accomplished what it has set out to do.
  • Vs. 6b-7 echoes 2:28-29 (read it). There is a natural Israel and there is a spiritual Israel. There are natural Jews and there are spiritual Jews.
  • Paul has already taught clearly and at length that salvation is intended for those who believe, regardless of their nationality.
  • Abraham had two sons - Ishamael and Isaac. In vs. 7, Paul quotes Genesis 21:12 where God tells Abraham that He had chosen Isaac over Ishmael. Ishmael was the son that Abraham made by His own works (He just decided He was going to help God and fulfill the promise that God had made with him previously). Isaac was the child of promise.
  • What was the promise and how did it come? Read Romans 4:13-16. The promise (in Paul’s shorthand) was that Abraham and his descendants would be “heir of the world.” This would not come by lawkeeping but through faith. This was not a promise of salvation but a promise of blessing.
  • Read Gen. 12:2-3. This is the original promise that Paul was referring to. Israel was to be made a great nation and would be blessed of God. That is the first part. The second part was “you shall be a blessing...in you all the families of the earth would be blessed.” How was that to come about? First of all, the Redeemer Messiah was to come through them. Secondly, it was God’s intention that the good news of the gospel would come through Israel to bless “all the nations of the earth.” This was revealed through the progressive revelation to the prophets of Israel over the course of a thousand years.
  • Jonah was a good illustration of God’s determination to bless the nations of the world through Jewish messengers, even if He has to use a disobedient one! In NT, Paul Himself was a further illustration of this. He was a passionate opponent of the truth of the gospel, but in a blinding light God turned Him into a passionate proponent of the gospel.
  • This is the essence of election (God’s choosing) in Romans 9. When we see “election” we should not always assume that it is choosing for salvation. Many times in scripture, election has to do with choosing for service, i.e. God’s choice of certain vessels to bring the good news to others...to bless others.

Vs. 9-13
  • Paul uses two choices that God made in Abraham’s descendents to illustrate God’s purposes. The first choice is Isaac over Ishmael (which he already alluded to in vs. 7). Isaac was the promised child. Through him Messiah was to come. Through him, Israel was to be blessed and to be a blessing. However, did God care at all for Ishmael, the one through whom the promise did not come? Yes he did! Read Gen. 16:10;17:20. Note also that in chapter 25:12-18, God records Ishmael’s descendents. He obviously cared for Ishmael and Ishmaelites!
  • In Gal. 4:21-31, Paul uses Isaac and Ishmael as an allegory to show the difference in those who come by law and those who come by promise. Ishmael is a type of those who try to come to God by their own works. Isaac, as the child of promise, is a type of those who come to God by faith. (Remember, in Romans 4, we learned that God does not regard faith as a work, but as the opposite of works)
  • The second illustration that God uses is between Jacob and Esau, Isaac’s twin sons. As God preferred the second born Isaac over the first born Ishmael, so God chose the second born Jacob over the first born Esau. Esau was clearly the stronger of the two. He was a hunter....a real man’s man. Yet God chose the second born...even before they were born. Paul tells us that the choice of Jacob was not based upon Jacob or Esau’s works, but “because of Him who calls.” Vs. 12 quotes Gen. 25 in saying that “the older will serve the younger.” One was preferred over the other. Nothing at all is said about salvation, but rather the choice is choice to service.
  • Notice also that it was not just a choice between two people but between two groups of people. The full prophecy that God gave to Isaac’s wife Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 is “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.” This selection or election was of two nations. I believe that Paul is still carrying on the same allegory that he had just used of Isaac and Ishmael earlier in the chapter and also in Galatians. The allegory here is between those who try to come to God based upon their own works (ironically, the Jews of Paul’s day) symbolized first by Ishmael and here by Essau, and those who come to God by faith, symbolized first by Isaac and here by Jacob.
  • Flowers - “The promise given to Abraham is to bring the Word through his lineage so as to bless all those who believe. When God says that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” he is referring to His promise to bring the Word (the Messiah and His message) to all peoples through the nation of Israel. Ishmael and his descendants (Ishmaelites) were not chosen to fulfill that promise. Esau and his descendants (Edomites) were not chosen to fulfill that promise. Jacob and his descendants (Israelites) are chosen to fulfill that promise, and God is just to make this choice despite the fact that all three are direct descendants of Abraham.”
  • ...Esau was the more likely choice of the two brothers given his natural qualities as a hunter and his being the first-born. Jacob was the weaker, or lesser, of the two brothers and certainly not more deserving to carry out this noble purpose. The point is that God did not choose to save one of them and condemn the other prior to their birth, as some attempt to read into this text. Instead, He chose to make His power known through the weaker, less likely candidate (just like He did with young David, 1 Sam. 16:7). We must understand that this gracious Potter most often chooses spoiled clay to fulfill His promises.”
Vs. 13
  • Most Calvinist teach (and I believed) that this verse taught that God hated a baby before he was even born. Yet, that is certainly not what this verse is teaching!
  • Read Luke 14:26. God certainly did not mean hate here as we would commonly use the word. Virtually no one believes this, as it would fly in the face of reason and scripture as well. God would not have us to literally hate our parents when he also commanded us to honor our parents. Instead, this is a Jewish idiomatic expression of choosing one over another for a greater purpose. “Instead, this passage should be understood to mean that individuals must choose to follow God’s will over the will of even the most beloved in one’s life. I In other words, this is the idiomatic way of communicating that one is to choose Christ and His noble purposes over one’s parents and their common purposes.”
  • Where did God say “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated?” Not in Genesis, but 1500 years later in Malachi, when both boys had been dead for many hundreds of years.
  • Read Malachi 1:2, 3 This clearly is talking about the nation of Israel (Jacob) and the nation of Edom (which was the name of the nation made up of Esau’s descendants).
  • Obadiah 1:10 (written against Edom) “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”
  • Both Malachi and Obadiah reflect on Edom’s attacks against Israel throughout their writings, giving a clear cause for God’s declared hatred for Esau, which was directed against his posterity, the Edomites. It is also clear from the original references that individual salvation was not in view, but national blessing (because of the references to Edom’s land and inheritance, rather than an individual’s eternal destiny).’
  • So was Esau himself cursed of God? We have no record of it. Esau and Jacob were enstranged early in life (mainly because of Jacob’s actions!), but were reconciled later in life. Jacob loved Esau and Esau loved Jacob. There is no record that God ever hated Esau, but only preferred his brother (the real meaning of vs. 13) over himself. He hated Esau’s posterity because they opposed Israel. God cursed Edom just as He promised He would in the original promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. “I will curse those who curse you.”

St. Paul, in these words, had any view to God’s sovereign power, as the ground of unconditional reprobation (the idea that God predestined some to go to hell). And beware you go no further therein, than you are authorized by them. Take care, whenever you speak of these high things, to “speak as the oracles of God.” And if so, you will never speak of the sovereignty of God, but in conjunction with his other attributes. For the Scripture nowhere speaks of this single attribute, as separate from the rest. Much less does it anywhere speak of the sovereignty of God as singly disposing the eternal states of men. No, no; in this awful (awe-inspiring) work, God proceeds according to the known rules of his justice and mercy; but never assigns his sovereignty as the cause why any man is punished with everlasting destruction…The sovereignty of God is then never to be brought to supersede his justice. And this is the present objection against unconditional reprobation; (the plain consequence of unconditional election;) it flatly contradicts, indeed utterly overthrows, the Scripture account of the justice of God.  John Wesley”


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Romans Bible Study #19 "Predestined To Be Conformed..." (Romans 8:26-39...Video and Notes)



To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#18), click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...


Notes...

Vs. 26
  • Connection to previous verses is first in “weaknesses.” In context, this must be “mental weaknesses.” Vs. 24, 25 We do not see to the end, yet we have hope. In the same way, we don’t know how to pray as we should (“we do not know what we ought to pray for” NIV)
  • So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.” (Amplified)
  • 26 And in a similar way, the Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede[a] on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs[b] too deep for words. (Passion)
  • “The Greek word hupererentugkhano is best translated “super [or hyper]-intercede for us.” We can only imagine how many blessings have poured into our lives because of the hyper-intercession of the Holy Spirit for us!” (Passion Translation note)
  • “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (lit. inexpressible)
    • When the Christian’s prayers are too deep and too intense for words, when they are rather a sigh heaved from the heart than any formal utterance, then we may know that they are prompted by the Spirit Himself (within us...wn). It is He who is praying to God for us.” Ellicott’s Commentary
  • Second connection between this verse and previous verses is “groanings.” Vs. 22 is “creation groaning.” Vs. 23 is “believers groaning” for their final redemption. This verse is “the Spirit groaning” in us.
Vs. 27
  • “He who searches the heart” in this context is Jesus Himself. (see vs. 34) He intercedes through the Holy Spirit between us and God the Father. In effect, it is Jesus Himself praying our prayers to the Father for us!
Vs. 28
  • One of the most quoted verses in NT...and misquoted!
  • “God works all things together” not for everyone, but for those who love God, those who He has called.
  • Two different mss readings of this verse...“God causes all things to work together” is better than “all things work together” as some versions state.
  • Connected to vs. 26-27. Those who love God are those who are praying. For these praying saints, whose groans are too deep for words, He works all things in their lives for good.
  • “Called” (Helps word-studies)...”Kletos (divinely called) focuses on God’s general call - i.e. the call (invitation) He gives to all people, so all can receive His salvation. God desires every person to call out to Him and receive His salvation...Unfortunately, many choose not to - but all can; all don’t but all can call out to God for His mercy (not just some)”

Vs. 29, 30
  • Dr. Lawrence Wood (describing John Wesley’s view of predestination)...
    • ”He argued very strongly against (absolute) predestination in which he argued that absolute predestination makes God the author of evil...makes God the author of sin. It makes it (pointless) to preach the gospel if everything is predetermined by God’s will.
    • “Wesley did agree with the emphasis on God’s absolue foreknowledge or God’s omniscience...but Wesley did not believe that that meant that everything ahd been predetermined. Rather, he says that God knows everything, but what causes God’s knowledge is what will be. What will be is not determined by God’s knowledge.”
    • “God doesn’t (literally) foreknow anything. That is a human way of speaking. God simply knows...God knows everything. Everything is instant to God...even our future. (Our future) is nonetheless present to God because God is transcendent.”
  • David Pawson…
    • “If you study predestination in the Bible, it’s not so much that you are chosen for salvation but that you are chosen for service. It is not so much your privilege as it is your responsibility to be one of the chosen people.”

  • Asbury Commentary
    • The word predestined (prohoriz┼Ź) occurs in vv. 29-30. This has been misinterpreted to mean that God arbitrarily determined in advance certain individuals to be saved. This, however, is not the meaning of the word. This word occurs six times in the NT: Ac 4:28; Ro 8:29, 30; 1Co 2:7; and Eph 1:5, 11. In all other occurrences, the context indicates clearly that it has to do with the plan, the design, the condition of some event, or salvation. It is also so used here (Murray, 1:318). Those who participate in salvation are those who love God. They are called according to God's purpose (prothesis, v. 28). In the entire NT when purpose (prothesis) is used of God, it has to do with the plan, the design, or the condition of some event, never with certain persons. God's purpose regarding salvation is that all be saved and none be lost (1Ti 2:4; Tit 2:11; 2Pe 3:9). The call is the invitation addressed by God to all human beings. It is inclusive, not exclusive.
    • In v. 29 the object of predestine is to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. In v. 30 the object seems to be certain persons. These persons, however, are those whom God foreknew, not those arbitrarily chosen by God. Foreknowledge does not cause them to have faith, but rather their faith causes God to foreknow. My knowing does not cause you to do something. But your doing causes me to know. In the same way, God's knowledge does not cause us to do something, but our doing causes God to know. Since, however, God is not bound by time, he can know before we do it.

Romans 8:31-39 King James Version (KJV)

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter
.37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Vs. 37
“More than conquerers” or “overwhelmingly conquer” means “super-conquerer who is completely and overwhelmingly victorious!”



1 And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?


2 'Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel minds enquire no more.


3 He left his Father's throne above —
so free, so infinite his grace —
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me!


4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5 No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own


Friday, September 27, 2019

Romans Bible Study #18 "The Glory That Is To Be Revealed" (Romans 8:18-25...Video and Notes)



To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#17), click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Suffering (vs. 17, 18) -

Three kinds of suffering -

  1. Physical (bodily) - not to be discounted. Though all men suffer to one degree or another, yet historically for Christians many have experienced more physical suffering than the average person (Paul was a good example).
  2. Suffering of the soul (mental suffering) - This can include all sorts of mental illness. Even for those “mentally healthy”, we still struggle with insecurities, worries and cares of this life, difficult interactions with other people. Those who follow Christ are not immune to these (though we can escape much of this by taking all to Christ!).
  3. Spiritual suffering - All human beings share in 1 and 2. However, there is a special kind of inward suffering that those who have been born again must suffer. An awareness of spiritual things brings with it suffering. We may agonize over our unsaved loved ones, as we unceasingly bring them to the Lord in prayer. We see a fallen world around us that others don’t see, and it brings suffering to our spirit. Especially, we have an innate desire to worship as we know that we should, to have the intimate relationship with Christ that we long for...and yet our own flesh so often gets in the way. (The groanings of vs. 23)
... the sufferings and the glory belong together indissolubly. They did in the experience of Christ; they do in the experience of his people also (17). It is only after we ‘have suffered a little while’ that we will enter God’s ‘eternal glory in Christ’, to which he has called us. So the sufferings and the glory are married; they cannot be divorced. They are welded; they cannot be broken apart.” John Stott

There is no comparison between the sufferings that we endure and the glory which follows.

Moreover, the ‘sufferings’ include not only the opposition of the world, but all our human frailty as well, both physical and moral, which is due to our provisional, half-saved condition. The ‘glory’, however, is the unutterable splendour of God, eternal, immortal and incorruptible. One day it will be revealed (18). This end-time disclosure will be made ‘to us’ (RSV), because we will see it, and in us (NIV), because we will share in it and be changed by it. It is also ‘in store for us’ (REB), although the precise nature of ‘what we will be has not yet been made known’.

2 Cor. 3:16-18

Suffering’ and ‘glory’ are inseparable, since suffering is the way to glory (see verse 17), but they are not comparable. They need to be no contrasted, not compared. In (2 Corinithians) Paul has evaluated them in terms of their ‘weight’. Our present troubles, he declared, are ‘light and momentary’, but the glory to come is ‘eternal’ and ‘far outweighs them all’. The magnificence of God’s revealed glory will greatly surpass the unpleasantness of our sufferings.

Vs. 19-22 “Creation” appears in each verse

Vs. 19

The word for ‘eager expectation’ (NASB “anxious longing”) means ‘to wait with the head raised, and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come’. It depicts somebody standing ‘on tiptoe’ (JBP) or ‘stretching the neck, craning forward’ in order to be able to see. And what the creation is looking for is the revelation of God’s children, that is, the disclosure of their identity on the one hand and their investiture (ordained) with glory on the other. This will be the signal for the renewal of the whole creation.

Vs. 20

(Paul) sums up the result of God’s curse by the one word translated, frustration (“futility” NASB). It means ‘emptiness, futility, purposelessness, transitoriness’ (BAGD). The basic idea is emptiness, whether of purpose or of result. I. It is the word chosen by the LXX translators for ‘Vanity of vanities!… All is vanity’,100 which NIV finely renders ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!… Utterly meaningless!’ As C. J. Vaughan comments, ‘the whole Book of Ecclesiastes is a commentary upon this verse’. For it expresses the existential absurdity of a life lived ‘under the sun’, imprisoned in time and space, with no ultimate reference point to either God or eternity.

Vs. 21

Negatively, creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay (21b). (The word translated decay NASB corruption) seems to denote not only that the universe is running down (as we would say), but that nature is also enslaved, locked into an unending cycle, so that conception, birth and growth are relentlessly followed by decline, decay, death and decomposition….So futility, bondage, decay and pain are the words the apostle uses to indicate that creation is out of joint because it is under judgment. It still works, for the mechanisms of nature are fine-tuned and delicately balanced. And much of it is breathtakingly beautiful, revealing the Creator’s hand. But it is also in bondage to disintegration and frustration. In the end, however, it will be ‘freed from the shackles of mortality’ (REB), ‘rescued from the tyranny of change and decay’ (JBP).

Vs. 22

Now he adds that meanwhile, in the present, even while it is eagerly awaiting the final revelation (19), the creation is groaning in pain. Its groans are not meaningless, however, or symptoms of despair. On the contrary, they are like the pains of childbirth, for they provide assurance of the coming emergence of a new order. ...Jesus himself used the same expression in his own apocalyptic discourse. He spoke of false teachers, wars, famines and earthquakes as ‘the beginning of birth-pains’ (NIV) or ‘the first birth-pangs of the new age’ (REB), that is, preliminary signs of his coming.

(Matt. 24:7-8)

The universe is not going to be destroyed, but rather liberated, transformed and suffused with the glory of God.

Vs. 23
First fruits of the Spirit = down payment. Eph. 1:14 tells us the Spirit was given to us as a “pledge of our inheritance.”

2nd “groaning of Romans 8. We long for our eternal inheritance.

2 Cor. 5:1-5

Vs. 4 of “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (John Newton)

Weak is the effort of our heart,

And cold our warmest thought;

But when we see Thee as Thou art,

We’ll praise Thee as we ought,



That day our adoption will be finalized...our salvation will be complete...our redemption will be fulfilled.

Vs. 24-25

Hope is the “eager expectation” of the child of God who awaits the full salvation that we have not yet received.

...we wait for it patiently, that is, for the fulfilment of our hope. For we are confident in God’s promises that the firstfruits will be followed by the harvest, bondage by freedom, decay by incorruption, and labour pains by the birth of the new world. This whole section is a notable example of what it means to be living ‘in between times’, between present difficulty and future destiny, between the already and the not yet, between sufferings and glory. ‘We were saved in hope’ brings them together. And in this tension the correct Christian posture is that of waiting, waiting ‘eagerly’ (23, cf. 19) with keen expectation, and waiting ‘patiently’ (25), steadfast in the endurance of our trials (hypomonē). We are to wait neither so eagerly that we lose our patience, nor so patiently that we lose our expectation, but eagerly and patiently together.

Phillips

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience. -

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Romans Bible Study #17 "Abba, Father!" (Romans 8:15-17...Lesson Notes)




To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#16), click here..

To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Following are my lesson notes for Lesson #17. Unfortunately, the video of this lesson is not available.

Vs. 12 - “under obligation” lit. means “debtors” (KJV, NKJV). We are not debtors to the flesh...Unstated implication is that we ARE debtors to the spirit!

Vs. 13 -
  • “You must die…” cannot be talking about natural death as both those who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit both die. Means separated from the life that is in God…
  • First part of the first corresponds to Romans 7. Paul describes there a man living according to the flesh…
  • Second part corresponds to the first part of Romans 8…”You will live” = “no condemnation” and “set free.”
  • “Putting to death” indicates an ongoing state. Means “to make ineffective.”
  • "...this teaching is Paul’s elaboration of Jesus’ own summons: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’Since the Romans compelled a condemned criminal to carry his cross to the site of crucifixion, to carry our cross is symbolic of following Jesus to the place of execution. And what we are to put to death there, Paul explains, is the misdeeds of the body, that is, every use of our body (our eyes, ears, mouth, hands or feet) which serves ourselves instead of God and other people." Wiersbe
  • We are under obligation “debtors” to the Spirit to do this.

Vs 14
  • “All who are being led” - Grammatically speaking this is “present progressive tense.” Describes something that is ongoing in the present.
  • “‘Being Led by the Spirit’ is virtually synonymous with “walking according to the Spirit.” “Walking” highlights the active participation and effort of the believer. ‘Being led’ (NASB “All who are being led”) underscores the passive side, the submissive dependence of the believer on the Spirit."
  • “Being led by the Spirit” is a sure indication of our “sonship.” How do we know that we really are God’s children? By the fact that we are being led by His Spirit!
  • Note connection between 13 and 14…”Being led by the Spirit” may correspond to “by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the body” in vs. 13 as many commentators think. Seems to me is a prerequisite for “being led by the Spirit” or “walking according to the Spirit.” (in vs 4).
  • How do we know we are being led by the Spirit? Operation of the Spirit in us (internal), freedom from sin (internal), circumstances (external)

Vs. 15
  • “Spirit of slavery” is equivilent to “no condemnation” (vs. 1). We are not slaves to sin any more, but without due diligence we can be brought back under the “spirit of slavery” again. It is characterized by fear.
  • “Spirit of adoption” -“Adoption” means in Greek “Son
placement.” “It is a legal term that in this context indicates that believers have been given the full privileges of sonship into God’s family. Concurrent with this placement into sonship, God places the Spirit of His Son into our hearts so that we become, in effect, His natural-born children.”
  • ”In ancient Rome, an adopted son would possess all the rights of a son born into the family.”
  • Wiersbe - “In NT adoption means “being placed as an adult son.” We come into God’s family by birth. But the instant we are born into the family, God adopts us and gives us the position of the adult son. A baby cannot walk, speak, make decisions, or draw on the family wealth. But the believer can do all of these the instant he is born again.”
  • F. F. Bruce ‘The term “adoption” may have a somewhat artificial sound in our ears; but in the Roman world of the first century AD an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit [sc. not in the smallest degree] inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature, and might well enjoy the father’s affection more fully and reproduce the father’s
character more worthily.’
  • “Abba, Father” - Joachim Jeremias’ researches into the prayer literature of ancient Judaism convinced him that Jesus’ use of this colloquial and familiar term of address to God was unique. ‘Abba was an everyday word, a homely family-word. No Jew would have dared to address God in this manner. Jesus did it always, in all his prayers which are handed down to us, with one single exception, the cry from the cross.’
  • This term would correspond to “Daddy”. Note contrast between this cry of “childlike and joyous assurance” and the attitude of a slave. No slavish fear because He is our Daddy!
Vs. 16
  • Watchman Nee - “It is imperative that believers recognize a spirit exists within them, something extra to thought, knowledge and imagination of the mind, something beyond affection, sensation and pleasure of the emotion, something additional to desire, decision and action of the will. This component is far more profound than these faculties. God's people not only must know they possess a spirit; they also must understand how this organ operates: its sensitivity, its work, its power, its laws. Only in this way can they walk according to their spirit and not the soul or body of their flesh.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”
  • Immediately(when) the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus he is born anew. God grants him His uncreated life that the sinner's spirit may be made alive. The regeneration of a sinner occurs in his spirit. God's work begins without exception within the man, from the center to the circumference. How unlike Satan's pattern of work! He operates from the outer to the inner. God aims first to renew man's darkened spirit by imparting life to it, because it is this spirit which God originally designed to receive His life and to commune with Him. God's intent after that is to work out from the spirit to permeate man's soul and body.
  • “When God's life (which can equally be called His Spirit) enters our human spirit, the latter is quickened out of its coma. What was "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4.18) is now made alive again. Hence "although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness" (Rom. 8.10). What we are given in Adam is a spirit made dead; what we receive in Christ at regeneration is both the dead spirit quickened and the new spirit of God's life: the latter, something Adam never had.
  • God's children receive within them the permanent abiding of God's Spirit...Few are those who know they have been born anew and thus possess new life; but fewer still are those who know that from the moment they believed in the Lord Jesus they have the Holy
Spirit indwelling them to be their energy, their guide, their Lord. It is for this very reason that many young Christians are slow in spiritual progress and never seem to grow...Regardless the dullness of Christians in recognizing the dwelling of the Person of God's Spirit in them, God nonetheless has given Him to them. This is an immutable fact which no condition of the Christian can gainsay (contradict). Because they have been regenerated they automatically have become a holy temple fit for habitation of the Holy Spirit. If only these would claim by faith this part of God's promise as they did the other part, they would gloriously experience both.”
  • Thus are we able to recognize what is authentic spiritual life. It is not to be discovered or experienced in the many thoughts and visions of the mind, nor in the many burning and exhilarating feelings of the emotion, nor in the sudden shaking, penetrating and touching of the body by outside force. It is to be found in that life which emanates from the spirit, from the innermost part of man. To walk truly after the Spirit is to understand the movement of this most hidden area and to follow it accordingly. However wonderful may be those experiences which occur through the components of the soul, they are not to be accepted as spiritually valid as long as they remain in the outward and run no deeper than sensations. Only what results from the operation of the Holy Spirit within man's spirit can be accounted spiritual experience. Hence to
  • live a spiritual life requires faith.
  • "It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8.16). Man's spirit is the place where man works together with God. How do we know we have been born anew and are therefore children of God? We know because our inner man has been quickened and the Holy Spirit dwells therein. Our spirit is a regenerated, renewed one, and He Who dwells in, yet is distinct from, this new spirit is the Holy Spirit. And the two of them bear witness together.

Vs. 17 -John Stott
  • the Spirit is the firstfruits of our inheritance (17, 23). Paul cannot leave this topic of our being God’s children without pointing out its implication for the future. Now if we are children, then we are heirs as well— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (17a).71 At first sight this seems to refer to that heavenly inheritance, which ‘can never perish, spoil or fade’, which God is keeping in heaven for us. It is possible, however, that the inheritance Paul has in mind is not something God intends to bestow on us but God himself. Indeed, ‘it is difficult to suppress the richer and deeper thought that God himself is the inheritance of his children’.
  • “If indeed we suffer with Him…” Here is another way that we can know that we are being led of the Spirit of God. Walking according to the Spirit will lead us into suffering.
  • 1 Peter 4:14-16

Romans Bible Study #16 "As Many As Are Being Led By the Spirit of God..." (Romans 8:3-14...Video Lesson)




To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#15), click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

"Examine Yourselves" (Sermon Preached 9-8-19 - Video and Notes)


Examine Yourselves

Galatians 4:19
19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—
Ephesians 4:11-16
Colossians 1:28; 2:6-7,10; 3:1-4; 12-17
Hebrews 10:24, 25

Taking your own spiritual temperature (Examine Yourself 2 Cor. 13:5)
  1. Am I spending time with Christ daily? (not just punching a clock)
    1. Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)
    2. Am I fully surrendered to His will for my life?
  2. Am I in His word daily? (not just punching a clock!)
    1. Is His word getting in me? (Richly dwelling in me - Col 3:17)
    2. Is it changing my life?
    3. Do I see a difference in my attitudes, my relationships as a result?
  3. Am I “overflowing with gratitude?” (Col 2:7)
  4. Does the peace of Christ rule in my heart? (Col 3:15)
    1. When I come into a room, do I bring peace or strife and contention into that room?
    2. Do I cast my anxieties on Him or do I hold them to myself? (1 Peter 5:7)
    3. Do I experience more inner peace and rest for longer periods of time than I did a year ago? 5 years ago?
  5. Am I rooted in Him? (Col. 2:7)
    1. Am I less able to be “blown away” by circumstances and events around me?
  6. Do I have a heart of compassion for others, especially those who I find difficult? (Col:2:12-13)
    1. Am I holding a grudge against anyone? Is there any unforgiveness in my heart?
    2. If I have found unforgiveness in my heart, have I taken it to the Father and asked Him to cleanse it out of me?
  7. Am I “not forsaking the assembly of the saints”? (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
    1. Am I “stimulating others to good works?” Am I encouraging others in the body of Christ?
    2. If I am not able to attend the assembly as I should, am I willing to lay down things in my life that interfere (including if necessary, even my job)? Am I that “sold out?”
  8. Am I giving financially in proportion to how the Lord has prospered me? (2 Cor. 9:6-8)
  9. Am I praying for my pastors and all those in spiritual leadership? Hebrews 13:17
  10. Am I willing to receive spiritual giftings from the Lord if He were to choose to give them to me, not for my own sake, but for the sake of the building up of the body? (Eph. 4:11,12)
    1. Am I willing to be taken completely out of my comfort zone for the sake of Christ?

Summary - Am I a net deposit or a net withdrawal to the body of Christ? Is the body built up by my being a part or is it being hindered because of my lack of participation?

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