Paul’s Secret

Philippians 4:11-13 (NKJV) 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me..

This week we have been looking at the end of Romans chapter 8. In this chapter, we found five underlying beliefs that enabled Paul to walk in faith through tremendous opposition. In the end of his life he was able to declare before God and the world, “I have run my race, I have finished my course and I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Given what we read about his life in the Book of Acts, this is a powerful testimony.

In recent years, there has been a focus in much of the church on the temporal aspects of life. I believe that there is great truth in teachings about prosperity and healing. I believe God wants his children to be successful in every area of life. In the past, a point of view took hold among many Pentecostal and Charismatic believers that there was somehow something spiritually noble about sickness and poverty. This is not what the bible teaches.

To say that we are really serving God if we are unsuccessful, sick or poor cannot be supported by the bible. Many of the great characters of biblical history were tremendously successful and wealthy. Throughout the Old Testament God makes promises concerning healing such as the one in Psalm 103.

If poverty and failure are somehow spiritual, the ghetto should be the most spiritual place in any city. We all know that the opposite is true. Wherever people are bound in poverty and failure, sin will abound. That is a spiritual principle.

When we come to the understanding that God wants to bless us and that the curse is from the devil, we can interpret trials as God withdrawing that blessing from our lives. If I am going through a difficult time and if it is true that it is God’s will to bless me, I must be out of God’s will. I must be doing something wrong or I would be healed. I must not have enough faith or I would be able to pay my bills. Paul looked at trials and understood that none of the things he suffered were a result of God withdrawing anything from him. When we define the will and blessing of God solely on outward things, we will fail to be able to trust God through the trial.

As a father, I want my children to be successful. I have greater joy seeing them get nice things than I do getting them myself. I would gladly sacrifice my own wellbeing to secure theirs. If I go through sickness, I do not like it very much, but I would rather be sick myself then see them sick. That is the essence of John 3:16. God so loved the world, his wayward children, that he gave the best he had, his only begotten son, so the world could be free of the dominion of the devil.

The Father delights in blessing you just as I delight in the blessing of my children. However, there is one thing that makes me happier than even the blessing of my children. It makes me truly happy when I see them fulfill their calling and have an impact on the world. If they go through trial in order to do that and are successful in their faith, that is what really makes me proud of them. God wants to bless us but it is even more important to him that we be productive adults in his Kingdom.

What helped Paul become fully persuaded that no matter what happened he was secure in God’s love? What caused him to see trials as evidence that he was more than a conqueror and not that he had somehow fallen from favor with God? What caused Paul to be so able to keep the kind of faith that he became a blessing to so many over such a long time? I believe Paul found a secret that we must find today.

In today’s scripture, we read what seems to be a simple statement. Paul had just received a gift of provision from someone who loved him. He appreciated the gift and was thankful for the provision. However, he makes a statement that could be construed as not appreciating what these Saints had done for him. He says, “I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. I know how to have enough and I know how to suffer lack. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This knowledge is a major key to what we read in Romans 8. We use the verse that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” to mean that we can work miracles, heal diseases or raise the dead through Christ. That is true enough. We use this statement to preach that we have a big God and we should believe for big things. This is also very true. It is just not what this verse means.

The things Paul could do by the strength he found in Christ were to enjoy plenty and endure lack with the same faith, joy and peace. He had learned that neither outward blessing nor outward trouble were reliable gages to his standing with God. If the work of God required that he go through shipwreck, so be it. He would trust God to have his way in the shipwreck. If the work of God caused a caring people to bless him in abundance he did not see himself as any more loved by God than he was in the shipwreck.

Paul’s message to us is that he has learned that no matter what his outward state might be it has nothing to do with how much he is loved by God. He has learned how to prosper and he has learned how to go through trials. Both kinds of knowledge are equally important.

I believe that there are those who have never learned how to prosper. They have never learned how to believe God and see him meet a need. They have been taught to think that poverty or failure or sickness is somehow pleasing to God and so they stay poor, sick and in failure.

On the other hand, there are many who have learned the principles of how to believe God for blessing, but they have never learned how to be blessed. They have never learned the secret that outward blessings are temporary and not the real indication of pleasing God. When trial comes, since outward blessing is the sole gage of faith, they have great difficulty enduring to the victory faith wants to give them.

As a pastor I have seen far too many people learn the principles of faith and use the to climb out of some trial only to have pride in their accomplishments cause them to fall to an even lower state the next time. If what we want is the goal of our faith, we can come to the place that we abandon the faith and relationship when we get what we want. (Deuteronomy 8:18) When outward blessing supersedes inward relationship there will always be a problem.

I believe many have never learned how to be abased or suffer lack without it destroying them. They face trial and they collapse because they think God must not love them. Paul did not think that way. He knew that God loved him. God’s love for him transcended outward circumstances. He enjoyed the good things of life, but he had just as much joy and peace if he found himself in hard times. He could do all things through Christ and therefore could not be defeated by the pride that can come in blessing or by the pressure of trials. He was more than a conqueror and because of that, we remember him not for his great wealth or earthly success but for the great blessing his words and his life have been to countless millions through the ages.

Fully Persuaded

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV) 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have been studying Romans chapter 8 from the perspective that if Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith as it says in Hebrews 12, than Paul must be one of the first field test subjects of that faith. Paul was in most ways a very ordinary man who did extraordinary things. In Romans 8, we see 5 basic attitudes that became a part of Paul’s belief system. I believe that these 5 things enabled Paul to walk by faith through very difficult circumstances. His final testimony is written in 2 Timothy 4:7.

2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

The five things we need established in our hearts as they were in Paul’s are:

1. God is for us so who can successfully oppose us.

2. God did not withhold the best he had, Jesus, so we can be assured he will not withhold anything else we may need.

3. The Father justified us declaring us righteousness and Jesus died for our sins. No one including the devil has a right to bring condemnation upon us. Sin has its consequences but how it is dealt with is between our Father and us. It is none of the devil’s business.

4. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God. Nothing!

5. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We have inward victory long before we have outward victory. Therefore, we can never really be defeated. We also have the assurance of ultimate victory.

I want to look at the rest of this powerful chapter. Here we find the real key to Paul’s great faith. He restates one of the above principles so I think we must conclude that, in his mind, it was the most important principle of all. Nothing could separate Paul from the love of God. Therefore, no circumstance could be interpreted in that way. No matter what was happening in his life, he understood and accepted that God loved him. With that assurance, Paul knew he could never lose.

There is something else in what he says that I think we can apply to all five of these truths and all other truths of the bible. Paul says I am fully persuaded that nothing could separate him from that love. He lists all kinds of things both good and bad but none of them could convince him that God did not love him.

What does it mean to be fully persuaded? I suppose it is obvious that this term means there is no doubt left. The Greek word here means to convince by argument. I believe an argument can only be convincing with evidence to prove it. Interestingly it also carries the idea of making a friend of someone. It means to win ones favor. Paul is saying that all these things have happened to him concerning the love of God.

Let me ask you today, has the Father done enough to convince you of his unfailing love? Has Jesus done enough by paying the price for your sin to earn your trust? Has he done enough for you to consider him a friend as well as the Lord and savior? In Paul’s heart there was no doubt left. He had seen enough in his life to be convinced that God’s love was without end and without fail. Jesus and the Father had made a convincing argument.

One of the more interesting things we must look at from Paul’s life is what kind of evidence convinced him of God’s great love. I am a believer in the goodness of God. I believe God wants to prosper us. I believe he is a healer and that healing is part of our covenant.

I believe God wants to give us success in life and in our relationships. I believe that God is a Father and that everything we understand about good fathers comes from God. I believe he is a perfect Father and as a father myself I would do anything for my children. He will do anything for my good.

When I first heard this kind of teaching, it excited me just as it did many in the church. We found that there was no special spiritual blessing in being poor. We found that God actually delighted in the blessing of his children. This was contrary to certain teachings and Pentecostal ideas popular at the time that we began hearing this “faith” point of view.

As is often the case in the church, the pendulum of understanding did not stop at a balanced position. Instead, it swung past the balanced truth. It became popular to believe that every Christian should be rich. People began to judge faith by what kind of car we drove or what kind of house we lived in. Success in life became the mantra of some in the church.

As I said, I believe in all those things. I also believe that Paul walked in a faith that was probably higher than I have attained. What was the evidence that persuaded Paul of God’s unfailing love? He tells us in these powerful verses. In verse 35, the list includes tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. In Verse 36 he quotes a scripture that I would not want as a promise.

Romans 8:36 (NKJV) 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

If these things happened to us today, would they convince of the unfailing nature of God’s love for us? I have to wonder. I think our list might include success, healing and financial prosperity. There is nothing wrong with that list. There is also nothing wrong with Paul’s list.

Of course, Paul is probably including the thought that God delivered him from all those things, but we cannot escape the fact that Paul’s life is no one’s idea of desirable. What was it that caused him to be fully persuaded that nothing could separate him from the love of God? If it was not a product of his good experiences, then what was it? If we can discover that, we can have the same kind of faith he did. We could be more than conquerors.

I can tell you that it had nothing to do with this life. It had to do with the understanding that everything here, both good and bad, is temporary. It had to do with the deep understanding that he was part of something that transcended what he did or did not have and did or did not do on this earth. Let me close with his own words and we will look at this more tomorrow.

Romans 8:18 (NKJV) 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:35-37 (NKJV). 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 Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

In our study of Paul’s faith, we have been looking at a number of things in Romans 8 that were part of his foundational belief system. Because these things were established in his view of life itself, he was able to stand through trials and finish the course the Lord set before him. We have studied a number of them already.

1. God is for us so who can successfully oppose us.

2. God did not withhold the best he had, Jesus, so we can be assured he will not withhold anything else we may need.

3. The Father justified us declaring us righteousness and Jesus died for our sins. No one including the devil has a right to bring condemnation upon us. Sin has its consequences but how it is dealt with is between our Father and us. It is none of the devil’s business.

Today I want to look at the last two things Paul believed that made him unstoppable. First, he says that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. If we can become established in that, it will be a game changer for us.

Paul lists a number of things that happened to him in his life. None of them are good things. For most Christians, their first response when trials come is, “Why did God allow this. Doesn’t he love me? Have I done something that has made him mad?” There are many variations on this theme, but I think you know what I mean.

If we do not think that way there are usually many people who make sure we know that they think that way. I can hear those people talking to Paul now.

“Paul, you need to be reasonable here. If you hadn’t done something wrong, you wouldn’t be going through all these things. You have done something to displease God. You are not experiencing his love. Not with all these bad things happening!”

I can hear Paul’s response. “Well, there certainly have been many challenges.”

“So you accept the fact that you have you have stepped outside of God’s love?”

“What?” Paul replies. “Are you crazy? Of course I haven’t stepped outside of God’s love.”

You see we tend to interpret our relationship with God based on circumstances. Paul did just the opposite. He interpreted his circumstances based on what he knew of his relationship with God.

If something bad happened, it could not mean he was outside of the love of God. He held that as impossible. It could mean that he was being opposed by the devil. It could mean that he had stepped into sin where God could not protect him. This would require repentance but the love of God provided for that. It could even mean that God was chastening and training him through a circumstance but it could absolutely never, ever mean that God did not love him.

Because he would not accept that circumstances could mean that God did not love him, he was able to continue in his faith walk. We cannot have faith in God if we accept that he does not love us. If that were the case, there would be nothing to believe.

Since Paul knew God always loved him in every circumstance he knew that he would eventually be victorious in the circumstance. Whatever you are facing today do not consider the lie of the enemy that tries to say God cannot love you if such a thing is happening. Do not accept that the trial is there because he has abandoned you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

That brings us to the fifth truth that Paul had established in his heart. He was more than a conqueror. Since there were no circumstances that could separate him from the love of God, he was already a conqueror even before the victory came. He knew in advance that he would win. He may not have known what winning would look like in a given situation, but he would win.

When he suffered shipwreck on the way to Rome, everyone on the ship was in distress but Paul. (See Acts 27) He had fasted to hear from the Lord, but the rest of those aboard were so frightened that they simply could not eat. Once Paul had heard from God, he encouraged them to eat. “You are going to need your strength boys.” He said.

Paul knew there would be a wreck. Many of us would have concluded that God was no longer with us in such a situation. We may not have felt it in so many words but we would have felt it nonetheless. We would have begun to plan on how to get ourselves out of this problem. We would have assumed it was up to us because God was not helping.

The other response we might have had was to give up. We might fall into fear and depression. We might stop praising God because at some level we accept that we were separated from his love. Faith would have become impossible.

Paul did not do that. He knew God loved him. He knew God had a plan for his life. He did not fully understand how shipwreck fit into that plan, but he knew it did not mean God stopped loving him or that God was no longer involved. He just needed to know how to cooperate with the Lord. He did not fast out of desperation because he felt abandoned or afraid. He fasted in faith knowing that God was there and that God loved him. He fasted knowing that he would get the direction he needed at that moment.

Because he already knew God’s love would cause him to triumph, he was a conqueror during the trial. He was never defeated inwardly so he could not be defeated outwardly. He was more than a conqueror!

What does that mean to us? If we establish the first four truths in our hearts, the fifth will result. We will see every challenge as an opportunity for victory. We know that God is for us. We know he did not withhold Jesus so he will not withhold anything we need. We know that the Father justified us and Jesus paid the price for our sin. As long as we keep our heart right with God, sin cannot stop us. We know that this trial cannot mean that God does not love us. Therefore, we know that our faith will produce victory. We are more than conquerors because we have the victory in the midst of what looks like defeat.

That does not mean we will never have a day when we do not feel the victory. That does not mean the victory will always be what we want. I am sure Paul would have preferred to have the ship weather the storm intact. I am sure he did not want to find himself in the water during a storm. In the midst of all those things, he knew that somehow God would make a way. He was more than a conqueror.

The more we cultivate these basic truths the more we will be what Paul was. We may not always have what we want and we may have to endure some things. However, in the end we will win. The final victory will be an eternity spent in the presence of our loving Father God.

Who Shall Bring a Charge Against God’s Elect

Romans 8:33-37 (NKJV) 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Last week we were discussing Paul’s walk of faith as it is expressed in Romans chapter 8. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith according to Hebrews 12. Paul is, what might be called, one of the first to field testers of the faith of which Jesus is the author and finisher. Paul was just like you and me. He had weaknesses and imperfections. However, he “finished his course” by faith. If he could walk in faith successfully, so can you.

In my last post we concentrated on two foundational ideas that Paul had in place that enabled him to be successful. First, we found that If God is for us no one can stand against us. God is for us! If we could grasp that fact, it would change everything. Who is like the Lord? No one is even close! With God on my side and in my corner, how can I fail?

Second, we see that since the Father did not withhold his own son, we can rest assured that he will not withhold anything else that we may need. If God were withholding from us we would have no hope. God will not give us what is not good for us, but if it is good for us God wants us to have it. We do not have to convince him to stop withholding from us. That would be an impossible task. All we have to do is put ourselves in a position to receive. God will do the rest.

Today I want to look at some other things Paul had in place, which gave him the ability to walk successfully through trials. The next thing he mentions is in the form of a question. “Who can accuse God’s elect of anything?” One of the most powerful tools the enemy uses against us is condemnation. If he can cause us to feel guilty, he can cripple us. We do not feel capable of walking by faith. We do not believe God will do anything for us and we believe that whatever the devil does to us we deserve. Paul knew better than anyone did what that was like.

Paul called himself “the chief of sinners.” He had persecuted the church unmercifully before his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul knew that he deserved anything but acceptance by the savior he persecuted. He also knew that he had been made completely clean and “accepted in the beloved” by the blood of Jesus. (Ephesians 1:6)

When Paul writes in Romans 8 and says that no one can lay any charge at the feet of those born again through the blood of Jesus, he knew exactly what he was talking about. His words are very descriptive here. He points out that it is God who justifies those who are in Christ. Our past sin is paid for in full. The bible says that even the handwriting on the charges against us has been wiped away. (Col. 2:14) That was God’s doing. If he chooses to justify us, or make us just as if we never sinned, who has any right to question his judgment? No one!

What about the sins we commit after salvation? It is important to understand that there are consequences to sin even after we are saved. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) That is true before and after salvation. I do not believe the sins we commit after salvation will send us to hell. I do believe they carry consequence and they open the door to the effects of death in our life. 1 John provides a process for dealing with sins committed after salvation.

1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV) 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

If it were not possible for a person who is saved to sin, there would be no provision for forgiveness of sin. Some would ask about the “sin unto death” that Jesus speaks about in the gospels. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the sins every Christian commits in the course of living life. God knows we will fail. He provides for our repentance and forgiveness.

What, then, do these words in Romans 8 have to do with? Let me share an example from a parental perspective. I raised 3 boys and 3 girls. They are all serving God and were, for the most part, good kids. However, they were not perfect. There were times when they did things that were wrong. As the pastor of a church, my children often lived under a microscope. When they did wrong things, everybody saw them. Sometimes the people in the church thought they should have the right to discipline them.

As a father, this was not something I would allow. At times people thought I was excusing my children. If you talked to my children, you would discover that they were definitely not excused when they did wrong. They were chastened and sometimes severely. I held them to a higher standard because they did represent me and the ministry God gave me. However, they were my children and my wife’s children. They were nobody else’s.

If you want to get on my bad side quickly, try to disciple my kids. If you need to tell me that they did something wrong, that is fine. Their discipline is my responsibility and that of their mother. In respect to discipline my children’s sin was no one else’s business.

My sin is my Father’s business. He is the one who justified me. Paul goes on to say that it is Jesus who paid the price for my sins. The devil did not pay the price nor did any person. I do sin at times. So do you. However, we do not have to listen to the condemning voice of the devil when we do. Our Father will deal with us. Of that, you can be sure.

As we walk by faith in the midst of trials, the devil will try to convince us that it is God who is punishing us. If God wants to deal with us, it will not be by hurting us. Now, I am not saying he will not take advantage of trials to teach us. I am not saying that trials might not come because we make bad choices. I am saying that it is God who justified us. Our discipline is his business.

If you have a question as to whether you may have some sin that is contributing to the problem you face today, the answer to that is simple. Repent and receive the forgiveness provided in 1 John 1:8-10. Your repentance must be genuine or it is not repentance. You must be sorry for the sin, and not just for the consequences the sin brought into your life.

Once that is done you can turn to the accuser of the brethren, the devil, and tell him, “I don’t want to hear about my sin. That is between my Father and me. If you want to talk about my sin, talk to him or to Jesus. The Father declared me just and Jesus paid the price. Take it up with them. Right now, you get your hands of my family, my stuff and me. And do it in the name of Jesus!”

One final thought from this section of scripture. The Father justified you. Jesus paid the price for your sin but it does not end there. He is alive right now at God’s right hand interceding for you. When the devil brings a charge against you Jesus whispers in the Father’s ear, “I paid for that.”

Jesus is at the Fathers right hand this moment praying for you. Do not allow the voice of condemnation to cripple your faith. Just point the accuser’s finger at the Father and the Son and see how he does with that!

What shall we Say to These Things

Romans 8:31-37 (NKJV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare 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 bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes 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 Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

This week we are looking at Romans chapter 8. Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Another way to say that might be that he is the prototype of how to walk in faith. If Jesus is the prototype of Faith, Paul is one of the first “end users” of faith.

Where one might say Jesus had the ability to walk in faith because he was the Son of God, Paul was just as imperfect as any of us. Paul had failures; he got discouraged and could be hard to get along with. Yet his testimony from 2 Timothy 4:7 is that he finished his course. He was successful in his faith walk.

In verse 31 Paul asks, “What shall we say to these things.” Verses 18 to 30 tell us what things Paul is responding to. We can boil them down to three things.

1. Something good is coming to the church and to us as individual believers.

2. The Holy Spirit is at work helping us in our infirmities to walk out the will of God for our lives.

3. We are truly and eternally saved. Jesus paid the price for our sin and the glory of God is made available in our lives.

What shall we say to that? What did Paul say to these things? I believe we find five foundational ideas that Paul says we must receive as true because of what is written in the previous verses. If we meditate on these five things, we will find that the same faith that sustained Paul through all kinds of opposition will sustain us in our challenges. We must remember that this faith also caused Paul to be so effective in his ministry that he has touched every generation from his time until today. That is the kind of testimony I want to have.

The first of these truths we need to meditate on and accept is this. “God is for me so who can be against me.” What greater ally could I have in my life than almighty God? Just from the conclusions drawn from verses 18-31 we can see this is true. He has a wonderful future for me. He has given me the Holy Spirit to live in me and he has saved me from my sins. He is for me.

We have a church softball team. If we had some major league baseball player retire and decide to join our church, how good would our softball team be with that kind of ally? If we had a major leaguer for us who could be against us? That is a little like what Paul is saying.

God is on your side in any trial or need you face. His power is available to you. He can do anything you need to be done. He will not always do what you want him to do, but he will always do what you need him to do. With that kind of power available, who can oppose you and be successful. Think about that. Let it become a reality in your life just as it was to Paul.

There is another aspect of God being for you. If someone opposes you, they do not like you. They may speak against you or do things to hurt you. According to Paul’s words, God is for you. That means he is not only working for you but he likes you. He will encourage you and uplift you.

God is for you right now so who can stand against you.

The next thing Paul tells us is this. Since God did not withhold his only begotten son from you, he will not withhold any other good thing. We often think that when things do not go the way we want them to go, God is withholding something form us. This verse tells us that this is simply not true.

As Paul walked through his life, he understood that God would never withhold anything from him that he needed. God had given Jesus. That is the best that God has. If he would not withhold his best, he will not withhold any other good gift.

That does not mean we get anything we want from God when we want it. He withholds no good gift. There are things we think we need that would not be good for us. There are things we may want that would lead to weakness in our lives and not strength. He loves us enough to make keep those things from us. That is not withholding good things it is protecting us from bad things.

There are times when the devil keeps things from us that God wants us to have. Keep believing God. If you think it is God withholding that thing from you, you cannot have faith for it. When you know God is not withholding from you, you can continue to trust God and in the end, the good gift will come to you. If it does not, since God did not withhold it, you know it was not a good gift.

We will look at more tomorrow, but today just take some time to think on the first two. God is for you. He is for you right now. He is for you in the good times and the bad times. He not only loves you, he likes you! He will do whatever he can do see to it that you win. He can do anything! I do not know about you but that makes me feel pretty confident.

He is withholding nothing from you. Do not believe the lie of the enemy that says he is. He gave Jesus. If he would not withhold his son, I know he will not withhold anything else. If he is not withholding a thing from you, than there is no power in hell that can keep that thing from coming to you if it is good for you. Just keep trusting God and it will be yours in the end.

Meditate on those truths and faith to overcome will arise in your heart.

Paul the First Field-Test Subject of our Faith

Romans 8:31 (NKJV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

In our study of Hebrews chapter 12 we found from the first 3 verses of the chapter, that Jesus is the author and finisher of the faith that we have in Christ. Another word is that he is the prototype for how faith in God here on earth should function. He tested the principle of faith all the way through the cross to the resurrection. The test reports were spectacular. Faith in God while going through trials here on earth actually worked!

This week I was praying about our Sunday morning service and the Lord led me to another example of faith in the New Testament. That example is the life of Paul. If Jesus was the prototype, we can look at Paul as the field-test subject for our faith.

Let us think about who this man was. He is possibly the most important figure in the New Testament outside of Jesus. His personal correspondence was so highly thought of by God that the Lord used it for 2/3 of the New Testament writings. However, Paul was far from perfect.

He could be hard to get along with. His dispute with Barnabas concerning John-Mark was so sharp that they separated over it. It could be said that Barnabas was a father in the faith to him. It was Barnabas who vouched for him with the disciples. Barnabas brought him to Antioch where he became part of a revival that probably contributed to who he became in Christ. Paul remained connected to the Antioch church until his arrest and imprisonment in Rome. Yet Paul could allow this dispute to divide them.

By his own admission, he had issues with pride. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that a messenger of Satan was assigned to him so he would not be “exalted above measure.” I have heard arguments about what this actually was and whether God sent it or the devil. One thing that cannot be disputed is that it was in his life because he had a tendency to boast.

He was not considered impressive in his public speaking or in his looks. Apollos, another preacher of the day was the “golden boy.” Everyone wanted to hear him. Paul was unyielding and often unpopular. Yet it is the words of Paul that have been read by every Christian since the church began. Have you been blessed by any of Apollos’ messages?

My point is simply that Paul was normal just like you and me. We might look at Jesus and say that his faith worked because he was the only begotten Son of God. He was God in the flesh, of course he could believe. However, in Paul, we have a normal human being with all the weaknesses that any of us have today and yet he says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my courses, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)

He could be discouraged and fought depression. He failed at times and yet had great success. His faith did not provide him with a luxurious lifestyle but it did cause him to touch his world during his life and all of Christianity for centuries beyond his life

We can look at many places in the bible to see Paul’s faith at work but I like this section of Roman’s 8. It is not so much an account of any one thing he did as it is a testimony of the underlying structure for what and how Paul believed.

Starting with today’s verse, we are going to look at 5 undergirding principles that made Paul’s faith work. If we will meditate in these things, we can build the same kind of faith Paul had.

Before we can look at these principles, we notice that this verse, like Hebrews 12:1, is connected to what comes before. In this case, Paul says, “What shall we say to these things?” We need to find out what things he is talking about.

In verses 18-30 there are a list of things that Paul gives us that relate to the church’s destiny and also to us as individual believers. For the sake of space, I am not going to include the verses in this post, but you should read them for yourselves. What I want to do here is break these things down into a few areas so we can more easily understand what Paul is saying in the rest of the chapter.

In verses 18 through 25 Paul speaks of things that are yet to come. He describes the creation as groaning in anticipation of them. There is much discussion about all that these verses may mean, but for now let me boil it down to one thought. Something is coming.

This something is in two areas. The creation as a whole is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. What does that mean? I think it means that before Jesus comes there will be a church that walks in the fullness of what Jesus created us to be. It may mean more than that and I could be wrong altogether. What is not up for debate is that, as of the writing of Romans, there was something coming for the church. I believe there still is.

On the personal level Paul speaks of the “redemption of our bodies.” We are redeemed in spirit now. However, I seem to still have some problems with my body. It can still get sick. If I let it, it will still lead me into sin. It does not always cooperate with me. I turned 60 this year. I am quite healthy and still capable. Nevertheless, I do notice that some things hurt that did not hurt before and some things take longer than they used to. That was not the original plan.

I believe there is something coming for us personally that Paul calls the redemption of our body. There will be a day when our bodies will no longer fight us. There will be a day when they do not tend to be dominated by sin. There will be a day when they do not get sick or decay with age. We are not yet at that day, but it is coming.

Point number one in this section of scripture is that something is coming for the church and something is coming for us individually. In verse 18, he says that the present sufferings cannot compare to what is coming.

I see two things in the verses 26 through 30. First, the Holy Spirit is at work in us helping us be effective and victorious until that something comes. He helps our infirmities in prayer. This word literally means the inability of the flesh to produce results. When our flesh cannot be successful in our Christian walk, the Holy Spirit is right there to help us.

Second, he speaks of being predestinated. What are we predestined to be? We are predestined to be conformed to his image. He goes on to speak of how God called us and glorified us in order to bring us to this predestination. Once again, there is great doctrinal discussion about what this means. I am quite sure it means that God saved us and gave us his glory to dwell within us.

So, what shall we say to the fact that the story is not yet over. That God is still working towards a future goal for the church and for me.

What shall we say to the fact that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in helping us overcome in this life and helping us to walk in the destiny, God has planned for us? Could there be any greater helper than the Spirit of God himself?

Finally, what shall we say to the fact of our salvation? Jesus left heaven and took on the form of sinful flesh that he might give us the right to be free of the dominion of death both here in our earthly life and, far more important, throughout eternity. What shall we say to that?

We Must Cry Both “Abba” and “Father”

Romans 8:15-17 (NKJV) 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

This week we have been looking at certain aspects of what the writer of Hebrews calls a “Kingdom which cannot be shaken.” We find this in Hebrews chapter 12. I believe God is revealing in this chapter that he wants us to come to a place where we are unshakable. This chapter tells us some things that must be functioning in our lives to get there.

Today I want to go back to a thought that I shared two days ago. Christianity is, above all else, a family. To understand Hebrews 12 we must see it in that light. I am a father. I want the best for my children. When they were small and living in my house, my primary responsibility was to see to it that they were prepared for productive adult life.

Parenting is about sharing your life with these small people. It is about enjoying the experiences and love of seeing them through each phase of life. It is challenging in ways that nothing else is. It brings the greatest joy and deepest heartache of anything in the human experience.

We had six children over 15 years. I know how easy it is to be caught up in whatever stage they are in at any given time. It is sometimes hard to remember that the point is their adulthood not their childhood. You are not really parenting children you are parenting developing adults. I fear this is being lost in our culture.

As human beings, we are all imperfect parents. However, God is not. He is a perfect father. As the title of an old TV show states, “Father Knows Best.” In the case of our heavenly Father, this is absolutely true. He does always know best.

If we are to become the unshakable people God needs us to be, we must realize that God is also not parenting children. He is parenting adults. He is preparing us for a mature walk with him and there are certain things that are necessary if that is going to happen.

In today’s scripture, Paul talks about the spirit that we have received in salvation. It is not a spirit of bondage that is enforced by fear. Unfortunately, too many earthly fathers, and mothers, try to subjugate their children using fear. When this is the case, you can rest assured that the parent in question does not care for his children but is concerned instead about himself.

The other side of the coin is the parent who wants to be their children’s friend. He does not want to offend them or hurt them. She is so concerned about whether her children like her that she will do anything to keep them from being angry with her.

In the first scenario, the home is a place of fear and the children grow into either fearful adults or adults that end up just like their parents. Either way they are not prepared to be healthy adults and therefore healthy parents themselves.

In the second scenario, the children grow up undisciplined and believing that all that matters is what they want. They think they are entitled to everything and do not understand the concept of work. They are also unprepared to be mature adults and society and their own children suffer because of it. I fear that last 20-30 years have produced far too many such children.

What is the balance? It is what Paul tells us in Romans 8. We must understand that God is both Abba, or daddy, and Father. We can come to him like we would come to daddy. We can sit on his lap and he will touch us with his loving presence. In those moments, nothing is required of us except to enjoy him and love our heavenly Daddy in return. This is a vital aspect of our Christian relationship.

However, we must also remember that he is Father. There is a reason Paul uses both terms. There are times when he must bring discipline and training. He must challenge us and even chasten us. Daddy is the simple expression of his love. Father is just as much an expression of love, but it includes training us to be adults.

I have known both the joy of being daddy to my children and the joy of being father. Daddy focuses on love. Father focuses on respect and development. Daddy is essential to understanding Christianity. Father is just as essential. We must have both.

The focus for this thought is verse 15. However, it is what next that helps us understand what this means. It also will help us cooperate with what God is trying to do in us.

Verse 16 tells us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are his children. There is much that could be said about that but let me just focus on one thing. We are God’s children. We are not becoming God’s children. We have always been God’s children in the sense that he is our creator. However, when we received him as Lord and savior, the reality of that relationship was made fully available to us. We are the children of God now.

Look at verse 17. He wants us to become his heirs. Some may say that the children are the heirs of the father simply by the fact that they were born of him. That is true, however they cannot function in their inheritance until they are of age. We are joint heirs with Christ.

We do not get the inheritance unless we walk in fellowship and relationship with Jesus. The more we walk in that fellowship and relationship the more of the inheritance we can access. To walk in the fullness of our relationship with Jesus, the prime heir, we must continue to grow as people and Christians. That becomes the measure of our maturity and fitness to claim the inheritance.

Hebrews 5:12 (NKJV) 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

What is God doing in us? He is training us to be heirs. He is releasing the inheritance to us as we grow in our relationship to Jesus. The bible tells us that Jesus is the “fullness of the Godhead expressed in human form.” (Col. 2:9) We are not all that Jesus is, but he is our example. Whatever our gifts, callings or personality, the fullness of what we each can be is found in the life and Words of Jesus and the bible.

God is working in us to reveal that person that he created. Michelangelo, when asked how he created such great sculptures said, “The sculpture was already there. I just liberated it from the stone.” God created us to be someone. He put in us all that we need to fulfill that life. However, the life he wants for us is trapped in the stone of the flesh. Just as we who are natural parents chip away at the stony things that keep our children from being the adults they should be, our Heavenly Father chips away at the flesh to reveal the person he created.

His goal is that we walk in the inheritance he has always wanted for his children. Ultimately, that inheritance is an eternity with him. While we are on the earth, it is an abundant, powerful and unshakable life. His desire is that we be able to raise both physical and spiritual children who will then take their place as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We cannot do that unless we let God “parent” us even when it is difficult.