Archive for November, 2011

Abundant Grace

Lately, I’ve been memorizing and studying Romans 6 with my group of friends. This has been one of the most important chapters in the Bible for my spiritual life and I think it is for many people. So for the next few weeks, this is where I’ll be. I hope you find my thoughts on this chapter encouraging and life giving.

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” – Romans 6:1

The first thing we need to do to understand this verse is look back at the end of chapter 5. Paul’s question in verse 1 is referring back to a previous statement. Romans 5:19-21 says:

”For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I want to focus on the amazing truth that Paul just stated: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Though sin may abound in the world, grace shall be the triumphing force in the end. And though sin may have abounded in the past, grace has overwhelmed it. Even though the patriarchs of the faith were sinners, grace has abounded to them.

This is a crucial point of the gospel that I don’t want you to miss: no matter how heinous the sin, God’s grace can abound much more. You see that when a hater and blasphemer such as Paul comes to Christ; his sin may have abounded greatly, but the grace of God was much more abundant. No matter what he had done before that moment on the Damascus road, Paul’s sins had been taken “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). This is the hope of the gospel, that all our sins up to that very moment when the grace of God captures us are forgiven.

Not only that, but the grace of God redeems our past as well. Past sins can be transformed by God to grow us spiritually or to bless us or even those we have hurt. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” All things means all things, and I believe that means the past as well. I imagine a man I know who was a sex addict to the hilt, even though he was married. Now that he is a believer, he ministers to men who are struggling through the same things in a way that he could not. Does that mean that God endorses that behavior in his past? No – it has simply been redeemed by the power of the grace of God.

It is an amazing thing, this grace that God has bestowed upon His people. But it is not to be taken advantage of or lightly. That’s why Paul asks the question that he supposes could be on the mind of his listeners: “Well, if grace abounds when sin abounds, we should keep on sinning, right? I mean, that’s what we’re used to doing!” Paul responds to this in Romans 6:2 –

“God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

The purpose of grace is not just to forgive and redeem our past, present and future; the purpose of grace is also to free us from the bondage of sin. Paul states that almost as if it should be obvious! “How shall we…?” We, who have been redeemed by the grace of God, how shall we continue living according to sin?

We are freed from sin because we are dead to sin. If you have been redeemed by grace, baptized into Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3), then you are dead to sin. This is a simple yet profound truth that I have discovered. In Christ, I am dead to sin; but sin is not dead to me. By that, I mean this: often I thought being dead to sin meant that I wouldn’t be tempted to sin. It sounds logical. Dead people don’t respond too much, and if I am dead to sin, I must be free from temptation!

Wrong; this idea led me down a path where I believed a lie. I believed that every time I was tempted, I was slave to my desires, and I fell into sin. I thought I was supposed to be free from temptation. Yet even Christ was not free from temptation! Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (emphasis mine).”  As Christians, we cannot expect to be free from temptation; in fact, if we are following Christ like we should, I would almost say we should expect more temptations. However, take heart – you do not have to struggle underneath sin any longer! If you are in Christ, you are dead to sin. You may be tempted, but because you are dead, you do not have to respond to sin.

“Oh, to believe it! Never mind the feelings. Each time I come up against some particular sin, let me there say: I died to that in Christ. If it be a worldly attraction: I am crucified to the world and the world unto me. If it be proud, haughty self, again let me reckon: One died for all, all died. Then I should not, and need not, live unto myself – I am dead to my selfish pride and conceit and haughtiness. Let me do as the two young women who replied to an invitation to attend a ball: ‘We are very sorry, but it will be impossible for us to attend. We died last week. We are Christians.’” – L.E. Maxwell, Born Crucified

Realize, dear one, that if you are in Christ, your past, present and future are forgiven and redeemed. Realize that if you are in Christ, you are freed from the bondage of sin. Revel with joy in the grace of God. And if you stand apart from Christ today, run to Him. He is your only hope, your only salvation from sin. Do not perish in your sins, but run to the cross and let the grace of God overwhelm you.

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A Lesson from the Trees

“Don’t be hasty.” – Treebeard, Lord of the Rings

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. – Psalm 37:7

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. – Psalm 130:5

Recently I finished reading The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. To say the least it is an epic tale. I encourage you, reader, to read these novels if you can, because they are supremely good literature and, if your eyes are open, you will see many parallels and encouragements to your faith. Tolkien was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis, and a firm Christian, so his worldview shines through his writings. That aside, God has been teaching me something, and it is summed up in that one line of Treebeard’s.

I was lying in bed one night, thinking about where my life is now and where it may lead. To say the least, I am not doing many exciting things. God is leading me through a season of waiting for a good deal of things. So I was praying and thinking about this, and in my mind I heard this line:

“Don’t be hasty.”

Now, God has been teaching me to wait on Him for a while now, and I haven’t always done it well. The idea is now stuck in my mind, thanks to Treebeard. Every time I pray for what I should do in the coming months and year, this is what I hear, alongside what, if I may, I call a divine wink. I know God has something planned; it’s just a matter of waiting for His perfect timing. This thought it summed up perfectly in this verse:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD – Psalm 27:14

So often in my life, I find myself so busy that I forget to simply be still and be with God. Up until this point in my life, I always had an assignment, a goal I was striving for. Two years ago it was high school; a year ago it was Ellerslie; three months ago, it was Thailand. Now there is nothing that has been handed me to do. The question is: how will I use this time?

I could (and have, at times) use this time to spiritually stagnate and be a couch potato, wasting time and life on trivial pursuits because I have “nothing better to do”. I could get impatient, take some selfish initiative and write up my own life the way I think it should be. Or, I could use this time God has given me, to do something great; to finish that project I wanted to; to spend many hours in prayer; to study in depth His word; and to draw so near to Him, that when He commands “Go”, I don’t have to shake off the dust. I can wait poorly; or I can wait well.

God sends us through times of waiting to teach us patience and trust. Patience to use the time we have been given today and trust that He does have something planned. Perhaps He is sending you through a time of waiting now for something, whether it’s marriage, school, work, or something else. I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to wait well. Seasons of waiting are God’s doing, not the enemy’s; it is His way of building us up and pruning us to better glorify Him.

Wait on the Lord; and, remember, “Don’t be hasty.”

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