11.05 Romans – Freedom

Paul concludes the chapter and our study this week by returning to where we started at the beginning of the week.  As a person who has accepted the gift of salvation of Jesus Christ you are free to choose the path you walk each day.  You choose whether to reflect God’s love or to hide it.  You choose whether to invest a tithe of your time in His word and in prayer or believing that you know all the answers on your own.  You choose how to use your body, your lips, your eyes, your hands.  You choose where your feet take you and what you choose to think, say and do.

But we are also free to choose God.  We are free to love Him and give Him thanks.  We are free to be shaped in holiness through His Spirit and His Word.  We are free to shine His light into the dark world to help and save others with His power.

The biggest freedom we are given is to choose whether we want to be judged and measured by the work we produce or the work Jesus produced for us.  If we choose our work, which we have the freedom to do, then we receive our due wages.  Paul makes this clear, the wages of sin is death.  Period.  How much death would you like to earn today?

But, if we choose God, then instead of wages we receive a gift.  The gift is eternal life, bought, packaged and delivered through Jesus Christ.  You can’t buy the gift, you don’t earn the gift.  It is a gift.

We have the freedom to respond to that gift in any way we choose.  I choose to give thanks and praise to God for the gift of Jesus.

My Answers:

Free from obedience, from work, from following, from a leader, from a master, from a creator, from obligation, from praise. Because in order to not be under these things means to live a lie in which we do not have a creator, that there is not consequence of sin, that we are masters of ourselves and in control, that the universe is an accident. It is not freedom, it is a depressing lie

A slave to sin is to hammered down and oppressed, a slave to God is to be lifted up and welcomed as family

I feel the deterioration of the body, I have loved ones who have died, I have seen death of the unsaved and the lack of hope that exists and the sadness, I have also seen the death of believers and the peace that is found in their faith by their family.

An attitude of joy and trust, a behavior to learn and share and serve my God in gratitude. A joyful giver.

11.04 Romans – Choosing to Obey

We think of obedience as being forced to do something we do not want to do.  There are all these rules and each rule limits our freedom, removing something we can do and maybe want to do.

But that thinking is a lie in respect to a loving, benevolent God.

If I go to the doctor, whom I have chosen and who has my best interests at heart, and am prescribed medicine, wouldn’t I be wise to take the medicine?  If my body is thirsty, shouldn’t I stop and take a drink?  If my body is sleepy, shouldn’t I stop driving and give it rest?  If a sign warns of a danger of a sharp object or high voltage line, am I not wise to heed its warning?  Even if someone says, watch your step, do I bristle at obeying them?  Of course not.

We spend great portions of our life seeking out others to give us guidelines to obey.  We call them teachers, parents, coaches, counselors, doctors, trainers, spouses.  We welcome their guidance and work hard to follow.  Because they have our best interest at heart.

The idea that obedience is restriction is only true if the recommended path is not the optimal path.  If the direction we are given produces the optimal, best, maximum result, then following any other path would be to follow a path that yields less.  This type of obedience is not a restriction, it is optimization.

God’s commands do not offer us less, they offer us the most.  Following the path of obeying God doesn’t oppress us, it maximizes our joy.

To understand God’s desired relationship as one of perfect love for each of us yields no logical path but to obey what He commands.  Anything else would yield less and would be foolishness.

My Answers:

I do not obey God simply out of guilt or fear or obligation, I do so because I appreciate and love Him.

That Christ has paid the price of sin for all and we are no longer captives to it. That He is alive so that we may live.

Life, hope, joy, confidence, peace

11.03 Romans – Not in Charge

We can easily get hung up on Paul’s slave analogy.  The word slave carries a lot of baggage with it because we see it only within the history of human masters.  Slavery on earth has always been an oppression of one human by another human for the benefit of the human master of the slave.  It is wickedness.  It is immoral and neither do we want to be a slave nor do we accept that anyone else should be enslaved by anyone else anywhere on the earth at any time in the present or future.

I get all that, but here is the deal.  If our focus is on the slave, then we have completely missed the message Paul is trying to convey.  The message is not about the slave, the message is about the master.  And, the hard, cold, truth is YOU ARE NOT THE MASTER.

Let’s face it, most of us are barely in charge of ourselves.  We do not have control of our spouse, our children, our parents, our neighbors, our co-workers, customers, partners, friends, enemies.  And those are just people in our immediate vicinity, much less across the world or the people who have not yet even been born.

Despite the lie Satan told in the garden that sinning would “make us like God”, you and I are not gods.

So, if we are not leading (which we aren’t) then we are following someone.  Again, Paul presents only two camps to follow, sin or righteousness.  We are obeying either sin or we are obeying God each moment of each day as we walk along one path or the other.

Do not loose heart in this.  In the battle that is our lives, we can and will make wrong choices.  We will hear a command and become confused and follow it.  We become weak and allow our bodies to follow an easy path.  We become distanced from our commander by not prayerfully walking by His side and reading His word and meditating on the food of His Spirit and start to listen to the lies of His enemy.  But here is the biggest difference.  With God there is forgiveness.  Sin does not forgive the act of following God… it is distasteful and it desires to dirty it and warp it and remove all joy from it.  But our commander, God, not only welcomes back His soldiers, but He stops and comes and finds us and takes us by the hand to bring us back to Him.

My Answers:

They both discuss the connectivity between sin and grace. v1 asks should we sin more so grace can increase, v15 asks should we sin because we are no longer under the law by grace. in 1, the bar is high but God forgives by grace failing to jump high enough to clear the bar, in15 the bar is removed by grace, but does that mean we should no longer exert effort to jump?

First, it means we are not in charge, despite what we like to think. Second, it means we are in charge of making a choice which master we choose to serve

I am a slave to righteousness. I don’t choose to obey sin, but I do fall prey to its traps and snares

11.02 Romans – Two choices, every moment

Following on his discussion of dying to sin and being reborn into a new family of Jesus Christ from earlier in the chapter, Paul picks up this two-dimensional choice again in our lesson this week.

Paul paints the picture that there are two and only two forces in the world and they are in stark contrast and at war with each other.  Light and darkness, Good and evil, Righteousness and wickedness, God and sin.

Each of us, having been exposed to the truth of Christ and having accepted the gift of salvation then still get to choose.  Do we choose to offer ourselves, our bodies, out talents, our strengths to the kingdom of sin or do we choose to offer ourselves to God?  There is no third choice.

At first, we may see Paul’s argument as overly simplistic, but when we meditate on it we see the truth in what he says.  Adam and Eve were not presented with a multitude of paths and choices, they had 2, obey God or choose to eat from the forbidden tree.  As we look at the history of mankind and even our own lives, we see this same struggle, to do what we know is right or to choose to disobey God and sin.

This is at the heart of Paul’s message.  Even though we have accepted Christ.  Even though we have been saved by grace.  Even though the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  We still, each moment of each day are given freedom of choice.  In this moment, do I choose to offer myself to God or to sin?  In this moment do I choose to take my body and talents and offer them as an instrument to be used to increase wickedness in the world or to increase righteousness?

Only those who know God face this struggle.  Others struggle to not be caught or to not have their deeds exposed because it would not be beneficial to them and the image they wish to portray.  The don’t struggle with the sin, they struggle with avoiding the repercussions of the sin.  Others struggle to do enough deeds or acts, to do enough good works or say enough prayers or be devout enough, to be deemed good enough on their own that they can work their way to be on par with their gods.  All the while they know it is a lie and a façade because they are not ever as good as the lie they portray to others.  It is only those who have seen God’s love and majesty and recognize the sacrifice that God made for us that care enough to struggle.  In that is a message of hope.  If you are struggling, you are a child of God.

Once we accept the gift of Jesus Christ, sin has no hold over our lives, but that does not mean it cannot play havoc with our bodies.  It tempts our flesh, our senses, even our thoughts.  It works to draw just a part of us away from serving God.  Maybe just our lips or speech for a moment to say something that spreads wickedness.  Maybe just a flick of a finger or two to steal from another.  Maybe a lie we tell, maybe one we hear and believe. There is constant temptation to our eyes.  This is where it started in the garden.  Eve looked at the fruit and saw that it was good.  She listened to the serpent.  She believed the lies and repeated them.  She picked, she tasted.  She sinned.

The choice presented to Adam and Eve does not leave us when we choose to follow Christ.  Being in God’s family does not mean He then removes our freewill to choose each moment to follow and obey and love Him or to turn against Him.  If He did not provide that freewill then we would be nothing but objects, things, not His most beloved children created in His image.  We would not have the ability to choose to love Him if we did not always have the ability to choose not to love Him.

But God is all knowing.  He knows we will choose incorrectly at times.  And, when we do, through grace He picks us up and helps us along the right path.  He never will desert us.  We are not judged by our mis-steps and sins, we are judged righteous because of the saving act of Jesus Christ.  He never will abandon us and He will always love us.


My Answers:

The concept of being dead to sin, to having died in that life along with Christ on the cross but having been reborn, like Christ, into a new person in a new family. Paul presented the concept that we received a do-over, released from old family/born to new family… now he is going to explain more about what that means (applications)

Negative – do not: let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desire; offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness
Positive – but rather: offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to live, offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness
God is not an add-on to our life, in Him we begin a new life

My hands that do idle work and don’t do the work that helps the poor and hungry, My eyes that look at things I shouldn’t and don’t see people as God sees them, my mouth that eats things that do not make me health and thus shorten my time to serve Him on earth but instead speak words that don’t build up others, My backside that sits passively instead of getting in gear, my legs that do not stand for righteousness but avoid getting involved.

In the law there is perfection and failure. When sin was my master even it told me I was a failure – even whispering it when things were going well so I did not receive the full joy – but grace is encouragement along a path, grace is a loving coach and guide, who picks me up when I fall and points me back in the right direction.