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Archive for July, 2008

Mark Driscoll recently interviewed J.I. Packer and one of the topics of discussion was areas of study which should be emphasized by young, Christian leaders in today’s cultural context.  Here is Dr. Packer’s list of four important topics for study:

1) Regeneration.

2) God-centered Theology.

3) Godliness begins at Home.

4) The Doctrine of the Trinity.

Read the whole thing here http://theresurgence.com/node/1091

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Following is a brief quote from J.I. Packer regarding age segregation in the church:

“We have separated the ages, very much to the loss of each age. In the New Testament, the Christian church is an all-age community, and in real life the experience of the family to look no further should convince us that the interaction of the ages is enriching. The principle is that generations should be mixed up in the church for the glory of God. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t disciple groups of people of the same age or the same sex separately from time to time. That’s a good thing to do. But for the most part, the right thing is the mixed community in which everybody is making the effort to understand and empathize with all the other people in the other age groups. Make the effort is the key phrase here. Older people tend not to make the effort to understand younger people, and younger people are actually encouraged not to make the effort to understand older people. That’s a loss of a crucial Christian value in my judgment. If worship styles are so fixed that what’s being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don’t believe the worship style glorifies God, and some change, some reformation, some adjustment, and some enlargement of spiritual vision is really called for.” (J.I. Packer.)

You can read the whole thing (including comments) here http://theologica.blogspot.com/2008/07/j-i-packer-on-worship-styles.html

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Psalm 28 (ESV) – 1 Of David. To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. 2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. 3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. 4 Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward. 5 Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more. 6 Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 8 The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

We don’t know much about the circumstances facing the Psalmist here, but it seems that he was being persecuted by wicked men.  Or perhaps he felt drawn to associate with the wicked and was tempted to follow them down the road of destruction.  Either way, the Psalmist’s well-being (both spiritual and physical) was threatened by evil men around him.

So where does he go in times of trial?  To God… “To You, O LORD, I call” (28:1.)  The Psalmist depends upon God as he faces these trials in life.  In fact, the Psalmist seems to be desperately dependent upon God.  He recognizes that if God does not answer him, then he will “go down to the pit” (בּוֹר – a symbol of the grave, compare to Psalm 30:3.)  In other words, the Psalmist acknowledges that, apart from the grace and mercy of God, he will suffer the same fate as evildoers, which he describes as being (1) dragged away by God (28:3), (2) receiving the just rewards of his wickedness (28:4) and (3) being torn down and built up no more (28:5.)  This is the fate which the Psalmist is hoping to avoid and his hope rests fully in the God of all mercy.

As I pondered this, I thought about how often I forget this.  It is so easy to fall into an attitude of self-righteousness and begin to think that I am somehow better than the ungodly around me.  But this is so untrue.  Apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I am worthy of nothing but damnation.  Praise God for my Savior who stood condemned in my place so that I might be saved forevermore!

The Psalmist seems to recognize quite clearly that his hope rests solely in God.  In fact, despite his circumstances, he is confident that God has heard his cry for mercy (28:6) and his confidence expresses itself in three ways:

1)      His heart trusts in God.

2)      His heart exults in God.

3)      He gives thanks to God in song.

Notice that the internal response of the Psalmist is described first.  He trusts in God and exults in Him “in his heart”… within the inner recesses of his being… and this results in the external expression of praise to God in song.

This response of the Psalmist is grounded in the absolute fact that “the LORD is my strength and my shield” (28:7.)  God is the source of his strength and his protector.  And this is not only true for the Psalmist, but for all God’s people… “The LORD is the strength of His people” (28:8.)  He is the Shepherd of His people and will carry them forever (28:9.)

I can only speak for myself, but too often I am self-reliant.  This can only lead to self-righteousness and pride and all manner of sin.  Apart from the grace and mercy of God, I can do nothing but “go down to the pit.”  God alone is my Rock… my Strength… my Shield.

I need to be reminded of this regularly.  I need to cultivate desperation for God like we see in the Psalmist here… “if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.”

How about you?

What better way is there to remind ourselves of this than to preach the gospel to ourselves regularly?  We all need to be reminded… daily… of our inherent sinfulness and need of a Savior.  We all need to live each moment wholly dependent upon the grace and mercy of God as found in Jesus Christ… lest we go down to the pit apart from God.

Preach the gospel to yourself!  And trust in the God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.  How will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32.)  With this fresh in our minds… how can we not join with the Psalmist in saying “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him!!!?”

 

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The following is a sermon preached at Sunnyside Baptist Church on Sunday morning, July 27, 2008.

What does the church exist to do? 

Why are we here on this sinful rock in the middle of the universe?  Why doesn’t Jesus just snatch us up to heaven as soon as we are saved?  Why does He leave us here on this sinful planet to suffer and struggle in this life?

The only thing that we as Christians do here on earth that we will not do in heaven is evangelism.  Therefore, it seems safe to say that we are here in the midst of a sinful world for one reason and one reason only…to glorify God by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. 

What is the mission of the church on earth?  It is to make disciples of all the nations, resting in the fact that Jesus Christ is with us always… even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) – 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is probably a very familiar passage to most of us.  It is so familiar in fact, that we have a name for it.  We typically call this “the Great Commission.”  But often we only focus on verses 19-20 and, in doing so; we miss out on some of the significance of this passage.  It is my hope that we will be able to see three things in this passage today:

1)      Who this commission is given to.

2)      What this commission entails.

3)      How this commission will be accomplished.

We are told here that the eleven went to Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had directed them to.  We don’t know which mountain this was, but the eleven apostles certainly did.  Jesus had prepared them in advance and told them where He would meet them and they were faithful to His command to go and meet Him right where He told them to.

But my question for us here today… did they go alone?  Is Jesus speaking only to the eleven apostles here?  If so, then we might have a problem, because it could be said that this commission upon which many of us base the ministries of our churches might not be intended for us.  In fact, there are a growing number of people in conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical churches who are saying that.  They will claim that this command is given here by Jesus to the apostles… and by extension to ordained ministers today… but it is not intended for all Christians.  And they might have a point if… and I stress if… the apostles were alone here.

So who is here on the mountain with Jesus?  To answer that question, it is helpful to go back a few more verses to verse 9.  This takes place right after the resurrection and the women have come to the tomb and found it empty and the angel has told them that Jesus is not longer there, for He has risen!  As they leave the tomb, Jesus appears to them…

Matthew 28:9-10 (ESV) – 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Jesus commands them to go and tell His “brothers” to meet Him in Galilee.  Who is He talking about here?  Clearly He is talking about the eleven apostles, but could it be that He is referring more broadly to all those who were His followers?

Although we cannot be dogmatic on this point, there are three reasons which might lead us to this conclusion:

1)      If you trace Jesus’ use of the term “brothers” (δελφός in the Greek) through the Gospel of Matthew, we see that when Jesus spoke of His “brothers”, He typically meant a wider group of followers than simply the apostles.  For example, consider Matthew 12:46-50

Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV) – 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus refers to all those who followed Him as His “brothers.”  (See also Matt 25:40)

2)      Furthermore, both Luke and John record Jesus appearing to the apostles while they were still in Jerusalem before they could travel to Galilee to meet with Him.  Why would Jesus have the women tell the apostles to meet Him in Galilee, and then appear to them in Jerusalem?  If He was going to see them later the same day, then why not tell them Himself?  Unless, of course, the “brothers” described here were more than just the eleven apostles, but is a reference to all those who followed Jesus while He was in Galilee.

3)      In I Corinthians 15:6, the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus appearing to more than 500 brethren at one time.  Most of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus occurred on isolated roads or in upper rooms or deserted beaches.  Where could He have possibly appeared to more than 500 brethren?  Could it be here… on a mountainside in Galilee… where the bulk of His followers could be found at this time?

Again, I stress, that we cannot be dogmatic one way or the other, but I think the evidence suggests that those present with Jesus on the mountain this day were more than just the eleven apostles. 

I bring all this up for a couple of important reasons.  Primarily, I want us to see very clearly that this is not simply a command for “elite” Christians.  This is not a command given solely to the apostles… or to church leaders today.  This is a command given to all types of Christians.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then this commission is for you.

Often when I have taught on this passage of Scripture in the past, I have heard many different excuses from people.  Far too many of us Christians will often say, “Yes… I know this is for me, but you don’t understand.  I’m just not ready.  I don’t know my Bible well enough.  My faith is too weak.  I’m just not confident enough to share the gospel with others…”

I would point you to this passage and say, “Look at the type of people Jesus gave this commission to.”  Look specifically at how they responded to Jesus here.  When they saw Him, they worshipped Him.  This is the appropriate response to Jesus… He is, after all, very God of very God and worthy of all honor and glory and praise.

But also notice that some “doubted.”   The Greek word here is διστάζω (pronounced distazo.)  It is derived from the Greek noun δίς which means “twice” or “again.”   The implication is that they thought twice about Jesus.  They had mixed feelings.  It doesn’t so much mean that they completely doubted Jesus, but they hesitated as they saw Him.  This term only occurs 2x in Scripture, here and in Matthew 14:31, when Peter walked on the water with Jesus for a moment…then he took eyes off of Jesus… and his faith wavered… and he began to sink.  Then Jesus took Him by the hand and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt”… διστάζω.  It’s not that Peter had no faith… he had enough faith to walk on the water for a moment… but then he hesitated.  He had little faith.

Those who came to this place believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God who died for their sin and who rose again.  Otherwise, why would they worship Him?   But their faith was not all it should be.  They hesitated at times.  They weren’t “Super-Christians” who were always confident and self-assured.  They were no different than us.  At times they could be strong in their faith and, at other times, they could be as weak as little children… afraid to engage in the task at hand.

Why do I bring all this background information up?  Because I want us to see that this commission is for people .like us.  Christians who aren’t perfect.  Christians who haven’t “arrived” yet.  Christians who are sometimes afraid.  Christians who hesitate to boldly share the gospel at times.  This commission is for people like you and me… ordinary Christians… who despite our weakness and timidity are entrusted by Jesus Christ to fulfill His mission in this world.

 What is this mission?  Skip down to verse 19 for a moment…“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…  The only imperative here in the Greek is the command to “make disciples.”

What is a disciple?  A disciple (μαθητής) is a learner… a pupil… a follower.  The command here is for Jesus’ disciples, meaning all Christians, to reproduce.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are commanded to take part in encouraging others to become followers of Jesus.  You are to reproduce other Christians and Jesus explains to us how this is done through three participles in the Greek… going… baptizing… and teaching.

The first part of “making disciples” is going.  This is an aorist participle in the Greek and should be literally translated “having gone.”  Jesus simply assumes that His people will “go” and, as a result of our “going”, we will take part in making disciples.

Think about this for a moment… what does it mean to go?  Let’s start by thinking about what it doesn’t mean.  We can’t go if we are sitting at home.  If we hole up inside the safety of our own castle and never engage with those who are unbelievers, then we aren’t “going”, we’re staying.  And if all we do is “stay”, then we will never make disciples.

It is also not sufficient to simply go to church.  We must “go” and be among unbelievers.  Jesus commands His people to, “Go…and make disciples of all nations.”  The word translated “nations” is θνος (pronounced ethnos) and, in the New Testament, it typically refers to Gentiles… those who were outside the people of God.  It speaks of those who were absolute pagans… people who knew next to nothing about the God of the Bible… people who were entirely different than Jesus’ Jewish followers.

This is a command to reach the nations of the earth… the θνος … the people out there who know nothing about God and the salvation which He has provided in Jesus Christ.  Yes… this speaks of reaching the native in the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa.  But it also speaks of reaching the lost soul in the deepest, darkest jungles of your local community as well.  This is not only a command to reach the sinner on the other side of the ocean… but it is also a command to reach the sinner across the street.

If we are never among unbelievers, then how can we take part in them becoming disciples of Jesus?

If we are to “make disciples”, then we must “go.”  We must step out into uncomfortable situations and engage with people who are not like us… people who are apart from God… so that they might be saved.

The Apostle Paul drives home the importance of “going” in Romans 10

Romans 10:13-17 (ESV) – 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Do you see Paul’s point here?  No one will ever come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the hear the good news of the gospel.  And how will hear the gospel unless we go and share it with them.

This is the first step in “making disciples”, but it doesn’t end here.  The second step is “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus is not saying that baptism is necessary for salvation.  Baptism is a symbol of identification.  It is a way of saying that I am with Him.  It is a picture of the fact that the sinner I once was has died with Christ… and I was buried with Him… and I have risen to new life in Him.

But notice here that baptism is described as being in the name… singular… of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As Christians, we are to be baptized… we are to identify with…the Triune God.

There is much that could be said about this, but before we can identify with God, we must know who He is.  We must know and believe that God is the Creator of all things.  We must understand that He is holy holy holy (Isaiah 6:3)…morally perfect in every way.  We must understand that He is a consuming fire (Deut 4:24, Heb 12:29) and that He will one day judge all sin (Rev 20:11-15.) 

This leads us to an understanding of ourselves before Him.  We are not like God.  Whereas He is holy, we are unholy sinners and we deserve His wrath (Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23.)

The only way that sinful people like us can identify with a holy God is through Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6, Acts 4:12.)  He is the only begotten Son of God who died on the cross for our sin, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve for our sin, so that we might be forgiven.  He rose again the third day so that we might have eternal life in Him (I Cor 15:3-4.)

This is the salvation that God offers to us.  It is a free gift, but we must reach out and take it.  We must repent of our sin and trust in Jesus (Mk 1:15, Acts 2:36-38.)  Water baptism is simply a symbol of the fact that we have turned from our sin and are trusting fully in Jesus.

If we are to take part in making disciples, then we must be clearly communicating this truth to those who are apart from Christ around us.  We must share the gospel with them.  We must tell them who God is.  We must tell them that they are sinners and are bound for hell.  We must tell them that Jesus Christ died for their sin and rose again so that they might have eternal life.  And we must call them to repent and trust in Jesus and to proclaim this fact to the world through being obedient to His command to be baptized.

But even after we have done this our work is still not complete, because there is still one last stage in making disciples.  We are to “teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us…

Notice that this is more than simply communicating information to people.  It is training up people to be obedient to God’s Word.  Making disciples is not complete when someone “makes a decision for Christ” and is baptized.  This is simply the beginning.  The Christian life begins here with obedience to Christ through repentance and faith… and it continues with baptism… but this is just the starting point for the Christian life.  This begins the ongoing process of growing to be like Jesus. 

Our commission is not just to get people to pray and prayer and go through the waters of baptism.  We are to continually pour the gospel over one another…and constantly teach the Word of God to one another… and never stop encouraging one another to grow in our understanding and obedience to the Word of God.

Do you see how huge this task is?  There is no way we could ever do this in our own strength… especially given the fact that we… like some of those here on the mountain with Jesus… are prone to hesitancy and doubt.  But we don’t have to do this alone.  We are not called to do this in our own strength.  In fact, the opposite is true.    We often speak of the Great Commission here, but I think we sometimes forget the “Great Comment” that is contained here as well.

All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me…  All authority is His.  He is sovereign over everything.

He is sovereign over everything in heaven… the angelic host, the cherubim, the seraphim and the living creatures… they all bow to His will. 

He has authority over all the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Satan and all his minions, the principalities and powers, they are all under His sovereign authority.

He has all authority over the universe.  Stars and planets and comets all travel in their orbits according to His will.  The black holes and supernovas and solar systems all belong to Him and move according His plan.

He controls all of nature.  The wind, the rain, the seas and everything in them belong to Him.  The mountains shake at His command.  Lightning strikes where and when and how He deems fit.  The thunder rolls when He commands.  Tidal waves and fires and cyclones and volcanoes are all subject to Him.  The fish of the deep and the birds of the air and the wild animals and the domesticated ones all belong to Him. 

The kings of the earth and their nations are ultimately under His control.  You… me… everyone and everything… every atom in this universe is subject to His authority. 

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He says, “…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  He’s got the whole world in His hands.  He’s got you and me brother, in His hands… and He is with us to make disciples until the end of the age when He comes back for us.

Why are we here?  What is our mission as the Church of Jesus Christ?  It is to reproduce… to make disciples.  We do this by going to those who are not like us and sharing the gospel and baptizing those who are saved and continuously teaching them and encouraging them to grow to be like Jesus.

This is our mission and it is awesome in its scope.  It is far beyond anything we could ever accomplish in our own strength, but we don’t have to.  We are sent out by the One who has all authority in heaven and earth.  The King of kings and Lord of lords has commissioned us to do this thing and, no matter how difficult it might be, we can trust that it will be completed, because He is with us always.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves if we are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Are we continuously going to those who apart from God with the message of the gospel?  Are we involved in encouraging others to grow in Christlikeness?  If not… why not?  Have we forgotten that the One who holds the whole world in His hands is with us… always… even to the end of the age?

Remind yourself of this… and remind your fellow Christians as well.  And, as a result, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus Christ has commanded us.

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2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (ESV) – 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:17 (ESV) – 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

“…two things are necessary for saving faith to emerge. One is to use our perception and our mind to hear and see and understand and validate a testimony to the truth of Christ.  The other ist that we must apprehend and embrace the spiritual beauty and worth of Christ through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  Without this compelling spiritual taste of Christ’s captivating excellence, a person’s conviction about a testimony may be no more than the devil’s useless assurance that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He ‘believes’ it, but he does not apprehend it as beautiful and precious and wonderfully suited to accomplish good and holy purposes.  He assents in one way, but not with a hearty, or, as the Puritans say, ‘cordial’ assent.  He does not taste Christ as compellingly attractive.  He ‘faith’ is dead because it is not animated by the essential thing: spiritual apprehension of spiritual beauty” (John Piper, “Future Grace”, page 202.)

 

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Erik Raymond has written an excellent post on “how to live a miserable Christian life” over at the Irish Calvinist blogpage.  You can find it here http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=1419

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Psalm 53:1-3 (ESV) – 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

I am often a fool.  We all are.  This is our natural state… to be foolish.

The Psalmist here describes foolishness as saying in our hearts… not necessarily out loud, but in the inner recesses of our being… that there is no God.  Be careful here.  This is not intellectual atheism.  This is experiential atheism.  This is more than believing there is no God.  It is living as if there is no God.

The result of inwardly denying the existence and presence of God is sin.  The fool is corrupt and defiled.  He commits abominable iniquity.  And we are all guilty.  “There is none who does good.”

This is important for us to note. What we think about God matters.  It affects everything else in our lives.  I can only speak personally here, but the times when I stumble into sin are almost always marked by a forgetful attitude toward God.  Or… even worse… my sin is the result of my willful belief that God is either not watching or that He is not going to act against my sin.  (Forgive me, Lord!)

Psalm 139 is clear that we can never get away from the presence of God (just ask Jonah if you are not convinced!)  Here in Psalm 53:2, we are told that God is watching.  He continuously looks down from heaven to see if there are “any who understand.”  The Hebrew verb here rendered “understand” (שָׂכַל -pronounced saw-kal) means to be prudent, understanding or wise (Strongs, שָׂכַל.)  In the parallelism of verse 2, being wise or understanding is described as “seek[ing] after God.”  A wise man, in contrast to the fool, seeks the God he knows is there.  Rather than denying His presence and existence and going his own way, the wise man is constantly pursuing the God who is there.

Unfortunately, there is no one who fits this bill.  We are all fools.  Verse 3 tells us that “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”  Without exception, we are all fools.  Sin is a universal problem because we all lack a true knowledge of God.  We are all sinners because, on some level, we all inwardly deny the God of the Bible and fail to seek Him passionately at all times.  Compare this to Romans 1:19-22

Romans 1:19-22 (ESV) – 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them (i.e. all humanity), 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 (i.e. again… all humanity) 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,

What is the problem described here in Romans 1?  The same as in Psalm 53:1-3.  We know God is there, but we tell ourselves He is not.  The result is foolishness and sin.  (Keep reading Romans 1 and see how corrupt and abominable our deeds become…)

Sin is not only the cause of our separation from God.  Sin is also the result of our separation from God. We are all sinners because, on some level, we all inwardly deny the God of the Bible and fail to seek Him passionately at all times.  Unless God does something gracious and miraculous and changes our hearts and reconciles us to Himself, we can never be right with God.  This is the great promise of the New Covenant purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross:

Ezekiel 36:25-28 (ESV) – 25 I (God is speaking here…) will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is God who overcomes our foolishness.  He changes our hearts and causes us to grow in personal holiness so that we commit fewer and fewer acts of corruption and iniquity (i.e. “walk in my statutes.”)  And the end result of this change of heart is a personal and permanent relationship with God (“you shall be My people and I will be your God.”)  The final result of this inward change produced in us by God is that we do not say, “there is no God”, but we rejoice in the fact that we are His people and He is our God!

On a practical level, this teaches me that my knowledge of God and my personal, ongoing relationship with Him has a direct impact on my life.  When I am actively trusting in Him and acknowledging His presence in, around and through me and seeking Him passionately… then sin will be less prevalent in my life.  I say less prevalent because I will never be able to do this perfectly in this life.  But I can strive for this… trusting in the promise of God to give me a new heart and cause me to walk in His statutes (Ezek 36:25-28.)

I need to remember that naturally… apart from God… I am a fool.  How about you?

 

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