His Perfection On My Account

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“Am I good enough?” It’s a question that haunts a lot of us. At the end of the day, we want to know if we quality. Am I cool enough, smart enough, good looking enough, athletic enough, moral enough… whenever we start feeling good in one area, we realize we’re loosing ground in another. This feeling usually comes after comparing ourselves to others, but what about when we compare ourselves to God? I think Romans 3 can help us answer this “good enough” question this morning. We’ll look at it in two parts.

The Field is Level (Romans 3:9-20)

Verses 1-8 talk about how the Jews being the keepers of God’s Law is a good thing. We are glad we have it! Knowing God’s Law helps us in a few ways, but the first thing it does is level the playing field. Paul says it like this in verses 19-20:

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. [20] For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20 ESV)

Every mouth is stopped. In other words, no excuses, not talking your way out of it. Without Jesus, every one of us in trouble because of our sin. I’ve heard the law described as a chain where every link is one law. One end of the chain is fixed above us and the other has the weight of God’s judgment hanging over our heads. How many links have to be broken for his judgement to fall on us? Just one. This means when we look around, we shouldn’t think about who is a little better than us or who we’re a little better than. We should remember that we have all broken God’s law and deserve punishment.

We Are Accepted in Jesus

We started by asking, “Am I good enough.” We know the answer. According to God’s Law, no. But here’s the really great news. Jesus is good enough, and he freely gives us his goodness.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—[22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24 ESV)

This is the crazy beautiful truth of the gospel. We have “fallen short” of God’s standard. We are not good enough. But Jesus gave his life so that we could not just be “good enough” but perfect in God’s sight. We have the righteousness of God. This is called “imputed” righteousness. That just means that it isn’t righteousness or perfection that came from us, it is a perfection that is given to us when we trust Jesus.

These truths should both humble us and lift us up. We can’t look at anyone and think we are better or more accepted by God. All of us fall short. But we also know that every moment of every day, even when we fail, God totally accepts and loves us because we are so much more than “good enough” in Jesus.

Questions for reflection:

How does Romans 3 help you think about others? How does it help you when you are tempted to look down on people? How does it help you when you are tempted to feel inadequate around others?

What does this idea of “imputed” or “given to us” righteousness do to your worship, prayer and relationship with God? Is there ever a time when you should just hide from God because you messed up too much?

I pray you can remember how much God loves you as his child today. He sent is Son to save you and in his Son you have perfect acceptance by him as your Father. Live in that joy today!

Grace & Peace.

God’s Standard

rom2Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Romans 2.

I recently started wearing glasses (for the 4th time in my life, but that’s another story). I got them last Wednesday afternoon before church, so day one of wearing them I saw a lot of people. While most feedback on my new specks was very kind, I did have one humorous encounter. I walked into one of the student rooms at my church and the first word I heard was, “NERD!!!!!” It came from one of the two students sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room. Before I could respond, the other student on the couch shouted, “Yeah, NERD!” The great irony? Both were wearing glasses. Now these two were just joking with me, and I take no offense. In fact, I am quite settled in my nerd-ness. But we do this with more serious things don’t we? I was raised right. I know right from wrong. This means I’m exceptionally gifted at noticing other’s flaws. Knowing right from wrong, however, does not mean that I’m all that good at doing right and avoiding wrong.  This is the big idea of Romans 2. Romans 1 teaches us that we all know we should worship God, and yet we fail to as we put other things in his place on the throne. Romans 2 teaches us that knowing God’s law doesn’t fix our problem. Only perfect obedience from the heart could do that.

Paul is addressing a Jewish audience in Romans 2. There was a temptation among the Jews to be a bit smug towards everyone else. They had God’s law, they obeyed God’s law, God accepted them. This is what they thought, but would the real law abider please stand up? Paul wants them to know that having God’s law is great, but our failure to obey it just condemns us that much more. Here’s three ways we condemn ourselves with God’s law:

We judge others for breaking laws we couldn’t keep. (Romans 2:1-11)

Paul starts the chapter by saying:

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. [2] We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. [3] Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3 ESV)

Ouch! The Jews are the only people who have done this are they? We hold others to a standard we could never keep, then we feel extra righteous because we’ve rightly evaluated someone else’s life. What about your own life? Your judgement of others just further judges you!

Our knowledge outsizes our obedience. (Romans 2:12-24)

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. “(Romans 2:12-13 ESV)

Paul keeps going on this theme by reminding the Jews that their knowledge of the Law should just sharpen their knowledge of their need for God’s grace. The Jews aren’t the only ones who struggle with this though. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ll hear a great sermon, and I’ll start believing I’m good at whatever the pastor is calling us to do just because I understand it now. What about doing it? That reality is what drives us to Jesus! Paul is reminding the Jews and us that our ability to perfectly recite all the rules doesn’t make us right with God. If we want to be made right be obedience, we’d have to perfectly OBEY all the rules.

We don’t obey from the heart. (Romans 2:25-29)

“But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” (Romans 2:29 ESV)

Paul reminds us that God never wanted a bunch of judgmental rule followers. He wanted people who loved and obeyed him from the heart. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t read “love your neighbor” and then check it off the list. We need transformed hearts!

Romans 2, like Romans 1, is driving us to Jesus. Without God’s rules, we’re condemned because we should worship the God who made the universe. With God’s rules, we’re further condemned because we judge others, don’t fully obey them ourselves, and don’t obey from the heart. We need grace! Romans 3 will introduce this big idea!

Questions for reflection:

Do you find yourself tempted to judge others by a standard even you can’t keep? Do you think there are truths about the gospel that you are forgetting when you do that?

Have you ever sat down and thought about your obedience to your own convictions? Do you find that you aren’t as consistent as you’d hope?

Do you find that even when you do obey, sometimes it’s just to impress others or make yourself feel better? Have you ever done a really great thing and looked back and seen some pretty dark motives?

Paul is being pretty tough on us in Romans 2. He’s doing this to point us in the right direction. We can’t save ourselves. We need Jesus! He is the only one who has obeyed every law from the heart.

Grace & Peace.

The Backdrop

Rom1

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Romans 1.

I pray our time together in Romans is helpful and that you are blessed by it! I wrote a brief intro to the book to get us started. You can read that here.

 

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

What’s so great about the gospel? What does it have to do with my everyday life? Romans powerfully and practically answers those questions for us! Romans 1:16 & 17 set the tone for the rest of the book.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, and he’s about to preach it to us in a really powerful way over the next few weeks! These two verses bring up three big themes that we’re going to see over and over again in this book:

1) The gospel is powerful! Paul will remind us that we can’t save ourselves, we need the power of God’s grace through the gospel in our lives.

2) The gospel is for everyone. There was some struggle in the early church when “new folks” started showing up. The Jews felt they had the inside track on relationship with God and now the Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming in droves!

3) The righteous (saved people) live by faith. We don’t live by being really good so God will love us. We are really good because God has already loved us. The gospel isn’t something we do one time. It’s the power of God in our lives on a daily basis.

Our Sin

Paul doesn’t waste any time in this book. He jumps right into the meat in Chapter 1!  Verses 18-23 set the stage for “scene 1” of the gospel story: Our Sin

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23 ESV)

The good news us Jesus is sweetest to us on the back drop of our sinfulness. Paul reminds us that, before our Creator, every one of us has failed to “honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Not only that, we’ve put other things in his place. Maybe it’s people, things, accomplishments, or even self; all of us have pushed God aside from his rightful place on the throne in our hearts and placed something else there. Verse 18 says that because of this, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…”

Romans 1 serves as a humbling reminder of our sinfulness and need for Jesus. We have received so much grace. This passage helps us remember just how much.

Questions for reflection:

  • What is something you have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” with? Are there things in your life that are taking priority instead of worshiping God?

 

  • How does the gospel impact your life right now? How can the gospel help you overcome that are taking priority in your life?

A Tiny Intro to Romans

 

rom intro

I write these quick daily devotions each day. They are primarily target at the highs school and college Students at Arlington. I try to keep them short so they are easy to read before school or work. Of course, being a nerd, I couldn’t jump into Romans without at least a bit of an introduction.  So…here it is. I’ll also post a devotion for Romans 1 today.

I am really excited to be going through Romans over the next few weeks and I pray the little notes I write down here are helpful to those who read them. While all of God’s Word is powerful and true, Romans holds a special place in the Christian life. Romans has had a major impact on many key leaders throughout church history. Both Martin Luther and Augustine credit their salvation to encounters with the book of Romans. Romans is probably the most complete explanation of the gospel, the transformation that comes through the gospel, and the life we are called to live in light of the gospel that Christians have.

I believe there is value in studying a book like romans at a pace of a few verses each day (or week). There is a lot to see and savor! I also think it can be really helpful to sit down and read a book like this in one sitting to give you a big picture view of everything God is telling us through it. We’re going to fall in the middle. The bad news is, at one chapter per day, we will not be able to dig into every verse. The good news is, by the end of about 3 weeks, we should have a good feel for the major themes in each chapter that I hope is helpful for your future study!

I’ll try to hit 1-3 big ideas from each chapter, and then wrap up each day with a couple of questions for reflection. Take advantage of these. Think them through with journal in hand, or while guzzling coffee on the way to school. Either way, try to reflect. We don’t want to just know God’s Word; we want to live it!

I pray our time together in Romans is helpful and that you are blessed by it! To get us started, here’s some quick take aways on how Paul introduces the book to us:

Greetings!

Romans is written by our friend the Apostle Paul. If you’ve been reading along in Acts, we’ve seen a lot of him lately! In verses 1-5, Paul introduces himself, reminds the people of his calling as an apostle, and greets the Roman church he is writing the letter to. The first chapter moves quickly from introduction to Paul’s passionate discussion about all Jesus has done in the gospel.

A Gospel for All Times

The gospel isn’t just for “really bad people” or even just for the lost. The gospel is something each of us needs to remember and apply to our lives every day! Paul knows this. In verses 8-15, Paul tells the Roman Christians how he longs to come see them. In verse 15, he wraps his greeting up by saying, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Paul knows that there are people in Rome who have never heard the gospel, but he also knows that in Rome there are Christians who need to be reminded of the gospel. There are Christians who need their understanding of how the gospel applies to their lives deepened and strengthened.

 

A Global Gospel

Adobe SparkDaily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 28. We wrap up Acts today, tomorrow we start Romans!

I have really enjoyed walking through Luke and Acts. If you’ve been following along, I hope it has been a blessing for you.  Luke and Acts take us from the birth of Jesus to the global expanse of Christianity. What a story! God’s faithfulness to the early church, through all their trials and struggles, is incredible. Not only that, the fruit he produced through the lives of his people is still being enjoyed today.

I’m going to leave you to read and consider Acts 28 as we close up our study. I want to just point out two small things as we close.

First, Acts ends with an unfinished mission that is still unfinished. At the end of the book, it says that Paul was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31 ESV) What a great legacy to have those be the last words said of you! There are still people who have not heard, so let’s stay busy with the work of proclaiming God’s kingdom with all boldness!

Finally, maybe you are wondering, “Well what ends up happening to Paul?” Maybe the point of Luke’s closing is that “what ends up happening to Paul” isn’t really the point. His story is one many stories that God has used to advance his kingdom and tell the one big story of redemption in Christ.

James Montgomery Boice says this about the end of Acts. I’ll let him close us out.

“The tradition in the church is that Paul returned to Rome after the great fire of a.d. 64. There was such an outcry from the people because of this fire that Nero blamed it on the Christians. Eusebius says that Paul came back shortly after that, in a time of hostility toward Christians, was arrested, and eventually was martyred.

But from God’s perspective and from the perspective of the Book of Acts, there is a sense in which it does not really matter. What happens to his servants does matter to God, of course. The Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15). What happens to you matters to him. But there is a sense also in which what happens to us is incidental to the greater story, which is the expansion of the gospel. At one period of history there may be a great moving of God’s Spirit, and everything will seem to be going well. At other times, times more like our own, the response to spiritual things will be superficial or people will be hostile. But, in a sense, it does not matter.

What does matter is whether we are faithful in the calling to which God has called us. The Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). That end has not yet come. So you and I still have the task of preaching it.

Will we? Will we be found faithful?

That is the final question for us from Acts. The Word is not hindered. We are its messengers. Will we take the gospel to the ends of the earth beginning with our Jerusalem, as we have been instructed to do? If we will, God will bless it to the praise of the glory of his great grace.”

Grace & Peace.

A Parable on Sovereignty

Adobe SparkDaily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 27.

Acts 27 is a really interesting story about Paul’s journey by ship in an attempt to get to Rome. They were sailing at a time of year when storms where frequent and rough, and they got caught in a particularly long and brutal storm during their journey. There are a few things we can learn from this chapter. Certainly we can see God’s faithfulness to Paul in the midst of a storm. We see God’s power to bring him safely through. We learn something about how God brings us through challenging times. Sometimes he may simply calm the storm. Sometimes, like with Paul in Acts 27, he stays with us as we endure the storm and even the shipwreck that follows. Acts 27 also has within it’s narrative an interesting parable on sovereignty. That is what I want to consider this morning.

When I was in college, one of the great hobbies of Christian, college-aged, males was to sit around debating the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. I have zero intention of settling that debate today. Godly men have been discussing all the angles of this issue since the earliest days of the church. I doubt this blog post will settle the debate. However, I think Acts 27 offers us an insightful and practical illustration of how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility play out in daily life.

In the midst of the storm, Paul stands up and tells the crew that an angel has come to him, and then tells the men the good news from the angel. He says this:

“and [the angel] said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ [25] So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. [26] But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:24-26 ESV)

This is really interesting. Paul’s gives two realities. God tells him that all the men with him will be saved from the storm. Only God can say something like that. Only he could promise that everything will be OK and then ensure that it will be. But notice this, Paul doesn’t say, “God said everything will be OK, so let’s just sit here and watch him work.” Paul gives a necessary action from the men, “We must run aground on some island.”

They continue to sail, and as they approach this island that they “must run aground” on, some of the men get scared. They decide to lower the row boats and try to paddle their way to the island. Paul says something interesting. He turns to the commanders of the men lowering the boats and says, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31 ESV) So they cut the boats loose from the ship, everyone stays on board, and they safely ran aground on the island of Malta.

Now no single illustration can ever settle the conversation on a complicated theological issue, but I find this story really helpful. God promised that the men with Paul would be safe. And you know what? They were! Wow! That is power! But, Paul tells the men, “Hey if get out in this storm in that little boat, you’re going to die.” They had to accept the way of salvation God had provided. So who’s ultimately responsible? Well certainly God is, he promised something and it happened. He provided the way of escape and pointed the men toward it through Paul.  He even provided the air to breath while the men were discussing if they would obey or not. God is definitely in control of the situation. At the very same time, not in contrast but in tandem, God commanded something and they had to obey if they were going to live. How do those two things work together? Well, that’s what all the thousands of pages of theology are written about. But in your life today, you can know two simple truths. If God has promised something, he’s going to do it. And if God has given a means to receive his promise, you better obey.

We live in this tension all the time. Your daily decisions absolutely have impact on your future and others lives. At the same time, sometimes we look back, even at silly decisions we made, and realize God was at work. For my theology nerds, I know I’ve left a lot of questions unanswered, but these simple realities provide some helpful boundaries as we dig deeper in the sovereign power of our great God. God is all the way sovereign. We are all the way responsible. Let’s embrace both truths and worship our majestic Savior.

Grace & Peace.

 

A Testimony

Adobe Spark

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 26.

We’re in the home stretch of the book of Acts. Next week we’ll finish up and start Romans! The end of Acts is primarily the powerful story of Paul and his defense before the Jews in the Roman court system. In Acts 26, Paul gives his famous defense before King Agrippa. The crazy thing about Paul’s defense is…well, it isn’t very defensive.  In fact, Paul goes on the offense with the good news of the Gospel by sharing his testimony. I want to look at four parts of Paul’s testimony and appeal to King Agrippa and think through what we can learn from his example.

A Past

Paul starts by telling who he was before he came to Christ in verses 4-11. For Paul, this was the story of being a faithful, law abiding Jew. In fact, he was so faithful, he persecuted the Christians. Your testimony has a past too doesn’t it? Maybe you were into all kinds of crazy criminal activity and sin. Maybe you were like Paul, a do-gooder who hadn’t met Jesus yet. What is your past? What was life before you came to Christ? Or, on a more micro level, what’s the “before” in your story before the gospel changed something in your life. Maybe you’ve trusted Christ for years but more recently God’s done something in your heart to show you a needed change. We all have a past. It’s an important part of our ability to relate our testimony to people who haven’t met Jesus yet.

An Encounter

In verses 12-18, Paul tells how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there that most folks reading this probably didn’t meet Jesus personally while traveling to imprison Christians. (Please comment if I’m wrong.) But if you are in Christ, you do have a story of encountering Jesus. Maybe it’s a sermon that shook loose your self dependence and you knew you needed Christ. Maybe a friend talked to you about their testimony and it resonated with you that you needed what they had. Maybe you started hanging out with a Christian community just because you found some nice people and then realized slowly over time that you wanted to be all-in as a Christian. Whatever your story is, just like Paul, Jesus stepped into your life and saved you. Then over and over we have stories as Christians where Jesus shows us something new, calls us to something bigger, convicts of something from our past. These encounters are part of our testimony.

A Transformation

In verses 19-23, Paul tells how his life has changed since he met Jesus. He started preaching the gospel. How has the gospel transformed your life? What’s different about you because you’ve met Jesus? We have the great opportunity as Christians to share how our life has been put on mission though Jesus. I read a book for seminary last year that told preachers to always imagine someone in the back of the room looking you in the eye saying, “So what?” This is your “so what.” The gospel’s work in our lives is not irrelevant. It’s life altering.

An Appeal

Paul doesn’t just tell how the gospel impacted his life, he invites his audience to know Christ too.  Acts 26:27-29 says tells the story”

“[Paul said,] King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”  And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”  And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (ESV)

Paul is literally in the fight for his life, yet he’s not defending himself. He’s trying to share the gospel with everyone in the courtroom! Of course we know something about Paul’s thinking on his imprisonment and sufferings. In Philippians (one of the letters he wrote from prison), Paul says, “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

We have the life giving knowledge of the gospel! Let’s be bold in sharing it and inviting others to it! And let’s share it, not as some foreign thing we heard someone say onetime, but as our story. The story of our past, our encounter with Christ, and the transforming work he has done in our lives.

Grace & Peace.

Law & Wisdom

Adobe Spark

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 25.

Often times in life, we have to quickly make decisions that feel complicated and unclear. Paul finds himself in this situation in the end of the book of Acts. He’s having to be his own lawyer, defending his very life in court. What catches my attention is how clever Paul is. He navigates the situation masterfully. This is because Paul didn’t just know a few rules from God’s law, he had wisdom.

Paul keeps “the law.” He stays true to his confession of Christ even when his life is at stake. Yet he does this with wisdom. For instance, he is always very straight forward, but careful with his words. Maybe he knew the wisdom of Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” He “appeals” to Caesar in verse 11; he doesn’t demand a presence before Caesar. Maybe he knew Proverbs 25:6, “Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men.” He always seems to have favor with he Roman officials even though they are holding him prisoner. Maybe he applied Proverbs 25:15, “By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone.”

Sometimes we can reduce the Christian life, and God’s word, down to a set of rules. “Do this, do not do that,” becomes the essence of our faith. The problem is, life is more complex than a set of rules can handle. The beauty of life in Christ is that it informs every piece of our lives with the depth to handle all of life’s nuances and complexities. This is one of the reasons we want to stay studying and learning God’s word. In the gospel, we have access to know God though his Word. As we get to know God and his Word, we learn wisdom. Wisdom takes us a layer deeper than “right and wrong.” It helps us ask, “Will this bring honor to God?” “Will this help me flourish?” “Will this help serve those around me in a lasting way?” “Does this decision fit in with the way God has ordered the world to work?” Wisdom will never take us outside of God’s law, but it will teach us how to live a vibrant life within God’s law.

Paul shows us a great example of wisdom in action. There aren’t “three easy rules for navigating the ancient Roman court system.” He needed to know God’s law, and have wisdom from God. James tells us if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us. Proverbs tells us to seek wisdom like a treasure. Let this be one of your great goals in life: To know God and to gain wisdom.

Grace & Peace.

Deadly Procrastination

Adobe Spark

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 24.

I think each of us has a bit of a procrastinator inside us. There is probably a task or two right now that you know you should do, but…it can happen tomorrow. Procrastination takes its toll in our lives in various ways. For me, it means my desk, my inbox, and my brain are often much more cluttered than they should be. Maybe procrastination has even cost you a friendship. Did you put off saying, “I’m sorry.” or “I forgive you.” just a little to long? In Acts 24, we meet a man named Felix who, like us, was a procrastinator. Unfortunately, Felix was a procrastinator of a deadly variety.

In Acts 24, Felix is acting as judge over Paul’s court case. He hears the arguments for why the Jews believe Paul should be executed, and then he hears Paul’s defense. As you read, it feels like a pretty cut and dry case. Obviously there is no evidence against Paul of a crime worthy of death. What does Felix do? He procrastinates. “I’ll make a decision later,” is essentially his reply. While waiting to make a decision, Felix ends up spending some time with his prisoner Paul. Paul, as he always does, shares the gospel with Felix. Acts 24:25 tells us that “Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.'” Procrastination. The chapter goes on to tell us that he keeps having conversations with Paul until he is eventually replaced as governor. He never made a decision about Paul. He never made a decision about Christ.

Sometimes Satan attacks us through the temptation to outright rebel against God. We know right from wrong and we chose wrong. Sometimes we just fade into disobedience. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” we think. The gospel invites us to respond. It invites us to live a new way of life. The gospel reminds us  to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13 ESV) I hope your desk stays less messy than mine, but much more I hope you and I will stop putting off obedience. Let’s obey while the day is called “today.”

Grace & Peace.

God Over Circumstances

circumstancesDaily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Acts 23.

Have you ever had a season of life where it was hard to see God’s hand at work? Maybe you were spiritually dry and no matter where you look, if feels like you are simply at the mercy of a random series of events? Acts 23 continues unfolding the story of Paul’s imprisonment. He has faithfully preached the gospel, he’s lived with passion, and now he is sitting in a jail cell. These were dark times in Paul’s life. I’m sure at times he was tempted to wonder if he had been left alone to the mercy of the Jews and the Romans.

I want to encourage you to read Acts 23 this morning and consider this truth: Our God is sovereign even over our circumstances. Those things that are totally outside of our control are completely within his sovereign hand. Verses 12-22 of this chapter tell the story of one of Paul’s relatives “just so happening” to overhear a conversation about a plot on Paul’s life and warning him just in time. Not only that, at each stage of Paul’s imprisonment, he continues to have the opportunity to preach the gospel in front of higher and higher ranking Roman officials. Was all this an accident? No way! Did it feel like the madness of dark times and hard circumstances? I’m sure it did at times.

Our good friend James Montgomery Boice says it better than I can, we’ll close with his words.

I cannot tell you what God is doing in your circumstances. I cannot see the future any more than you can. But God is doing something in your circumstances. And if you are going through dark times, as Paul was, if you are discouraged, if the way seems dark, if you are weary with the struggle, the message of this chapter is to continue to trust in God and serve him regardless. His purposes for you will be accomplished, the day will brighten, and the will of God will be done. (Boice)

Grace & Peace.