Pusillanimous Christianity – Romans 15:1-13

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV).

The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Punctilious Christianity), we learned that Christians shouldn’t let their personal convictions cause someone else to question the legitimacy of their faith.

In Romans 15 Paul continues this lesson on not allowing your personal convictions to cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble.

Paul makes a distinction between the weak and strong Christian and then declares that the primary characteristic of a strong Christian is not to please yourself but to conduct yourself in a way that strengthens your brother or sister.

After all, that’s what Jesus did: For Christ did not please himself” (vs. 3).

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Corporeal Christianity – Romans 13:8-14

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).

The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Convictionless Christianity), we learned that God’s Law is, in fact, relevant and binding on our lives as Christians. So, we serve God through adherence to His commands!

In Romans 12 Paul admonished Christians not to live in conformance with this world but live according to God’s Law and God’s will. Then, in Chapter 13 this admonition about godly living became a stern warning about corporeal Christianity.  Because of the immediacy of our salvation (Christ may come or we may die), we must not live out our lives in this world trying to fulfill our human desires.

Paul said salvation has brought light to our darkened souls so we must cast off the works of darkness–drunkeness, sexual immorality, quarreling and jealousy–and put on the armor of light.

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Convictionless Christianity – Romans 7:4-6

“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6, ESV).

Some interpret these verses and others in Romans 7 describing how the Law aroused sin in our bodies to mean that God’s Law was a temporary or provisional arrangement–a relic of Old Testament times.

They suppose that since Christ came there is no Law binding upon us. (When we say God’s Law we mean the ethics or ethos of God’s character typified in the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament moral and ethical regulations.)

If I may use a theological term, such thinking is a form of antinomianism.

Antinomianism refers to the belief that having received grace, Christians are ethically free to live whatever lifestyle they choose.

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Walking in Freedom – Psalm 119:44-45

freedom“I will keep on obeying your instructions forever and ever. I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (Psalm 119:44-45, NLT).

Don’t laws control you? Then, how do laws set you free?

Psalm 119 is a Hebrew acrostic poem. There are twenty-two stanzas, one for each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses within each stanza begins with the Hebrew letter named in its heading. The unifying theme of the Psalm is love for and obedience to God’s Law or Word.

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Doing What God Does – Exodus 20:1-17

ten-commandments“Then God gave the people all these instructions: I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:1-3, NLT).

This verse is the preamble and the first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus Chapter 20. The Ten Commandments are sort of an executive summary of the expanded terms of God’s covenant with the Israelites in Chapters 21-23.

The terms of the covenant specified the behavior the Israelites were expected to demonstrate if they were to be in a covenant relationship with God Almighty. The first four commandments (vs. 2-11) described what our behavior should be in relation to God while the remaining six commandments (vs. 12-17) described what our behavior should be in relation to other human beings.

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Jesus Inside – Galatians 2:20

jesusinsideI have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

In this powerful declaration, the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians of his own life experience as an example to demonstrate that trying to gain justification by the law only exposes not exonerates sinfulness.

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Religion or Relationship – Luke 6:1-11

LetterOfLawVsSpirtOfLawAnd Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?'” (Luke 6:9, ESV).

Luke 6:1-5 describes how once when Jesus and His disciples were walking through grain fields on a Sabbath, some of His disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain.

Some Pharisees considered plucking grain on the Sabbath as forbidden work and challenged Jesus on the matter. The penalty for profaning the Sabbath was death (Exodus 31:14), so this was a pretty serious charge made against Jesus’ disciples by the Pharisees.

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God’s Moral Otherness – Exodus 3:5-6

“Do not come any closer, the Lord warned. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:5-6, NLT)

Moses was born a Hebrew but was raised by Pharoah’s daughter as her own child. As an adult Moses was aware of his heritage and he killed an Egyptian to rescue a Hebrew slave and had to flee from Egypt. Moses escaped to the southern Sinai peninsula in an area occupied by nomadic shepherds and he became a shepherd also.

About forty years later God revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush and commissioned Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. When Moses saw the burning bush, he was amazed not that the bush was burning, but that it wasn’t consumed by the fire. So he came closer to inspect the bush and when he did, God spoke the words in these verses to Moses.

God informed Moses that the soil around the bush through which He was speaking was holy ground because it contained His presence while the soil on the bottom of Moses’ sandals was common or unclean.

The common or unclean cannot touch the holy without being transformed into being holy or else being destroyed. From this point on, holiness becomes the primary descriptor of God in the Old Testament.

Holy means “set apart” and God made it clear that He was absolutely “other” than his creation.

Moral perfection is also a central idea of the term “holy.”

The one true God is the only One Who truly stands apart from this world and is worthy of being called “holy” in this general sense.

God stands apart from His creation and He is perfectly consistent and moral in his character.

So, here, at the burning bush, God revealed to Moses his otherness. Later at Mt. Sinai when God gave the law to Moses He revealed his moral character.

God’s holiness means God’s moral otherness.

What’s significant about God’s holiness is that God calls us to be like Him. God calls us to holiness. God calls us to moral otherness. God calls us to live distinct from the world, but live righteously in the world.

And there’s a good reason why!

God wants us to be holy so He can enter into a relationship with us…because the common or unclean cannot touch what is holy.

Only what is holy can enter into God’s presence

The Holy One can only be approached by one who is holy!

To receive and live out God’s moral otherness, His holiness, in our lives, we must let our Holy God transform us by the power of the cleansing blood of Christ and the purifying indwelling of the Holy Spirit from unclean and common into people who are holy!

“So also Jesus suffered and died…to make his people holy by means of his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12, NLT)

God’s Better Deal – Hebrews 8:6

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” According to the Hebrews writer the new covenant of Jesus is founded on better promises than the old one. While the Mosaic covenant informed people of God’s moral law, convicted them of sin, and established a pattern of sacrifice and priesthood, it did not redeem sinful people; it only offered a promise of redemption that was fulfilled in Christ. Suppose you go to purchase a new car and the car dealer first offers you a deal that’s not affordable for you and so he comes back with a better deal–more options on the vehicle and a better price that enables you to purchase the car. God has offered us a better deal because it has better promises–it redeems us to eternal life. God’s better deal is Jesus Christ,  Who as God’s Son is the high priest and mediator of this new covenant.