September 2010


The Jews were still asking, “How can a man enter into the right relationship with God so that he too may inherit this great promise?” Their answer was, “He must do so by acquiring merit in the sight of God through doing works which the law prescribes.” That is to say, he must do it by his own efforts. Paul saw with absolute clearness that this Jewish attitude had completely destroyed the promise. It had done so for this reason—no man can fully keep the law; therefore, if the promise depends on keeping the law, it can never be fulfilled.
Paul saw things in terms of black and white. He saw two mutually exclusive ways of trying to get into a right relationship with God. On the one hand there was dependence on human effort; on the other, dependence on divine grace. On the one hand there was the constant losing battle to obey an impossible law; on the other, there was the faith which simply takes God at His Word.
On each side there were three things:
1. On the one side there is God’s promise. There are two Greek words which mean promise. Huposchesis means a promise which is entered into upon conditions. “I promise to do this if you promise to do that.” Epaggelia means a promise made out of the goodness of someone’s heart quite unconditionally. It is epaggelia tha Paul uses of the promise of God. It is as if he is saying, “god is like a human father; He promises to love his children no matter what they do.” True, He will love some of us with a love that makes Him glad, and He will love some of us with a love that makes Him sad; but in either case it is a love which will never let us go. It is dependent not on our merit but only on God’s own generous heart.
2. There is faith. Faith is the certainty that God is indeed like that. It is staking everything on His love.
3. There is grace. A gift of grace is always something which is unearned and undeserved. The truth is that man can never earn the love of God. He must always find his glory, not in what he can do for God, but in what God has done for him.
On the other side there is
1. Law. The trouble about law has always been that it can diagnose the malady but cannot effect a cure. Law shows a man where he goes wrong, but does help him to avoid going wrong. There is in fact, as Paul will later stress, a kind of terrible paradox in law. It is human nature that when a thing is forbidden it has a tendency to become desirable. “Stolen fruits are sweetest.” Law, therefore, can actually move a man to desire they very thing which it forbids. The essential complement of law is judgment, and, so long as a man lives in a religion whose dominant thought is law, he cannot see himself as anything other than a condemned criminal at the bar of God’s justice.
2. There is transgression. Whenever law is introduced, transgression follows. No one can break a law which does not exist; and no one can be condemned for breaking a law of whose existence he was ignorant. If we introduce law and stop there, if we make religion solely a matter of obeying law, life consists of one long series of transgressions waiting to be punished.
3. There is wrath. Think of law, think of transgression, and inevitably the next thought is wrath. Think of God in terms of law and you cannot do other than think of Him in terms of outraged justice. Think of man in terms of law and you cannot do other than think of him as destined for the condemnation of God.

So Paul sets before the Romans two ways. The one is a way in which a man seeks a right relationship with God through his own efforts. It is doomed to failure. The other is a way in which a man enters by faith into a relationship with God, which by God’s grace for him to come into trust. (Barclay, The Letter to the Romans. 68-69)

We are certainly not as familiar with the original usage of redemption as we would like to think. (Pop culture loves to over use this term; leaning toward payback or comeback). Redemption refers to the practice of buying back prisoners of war out of their captivity. A stronger, larger enemy had them in a foreign land under their power. Their rightful place was in their homeland. They could be restored to freedom through the ‘ransom’. Another use, maybe a little more familiar to us; in reference to the release of a slave by the payment of a particular price.

Doulos of sin. Slave of sin. Paul saw us as slaves. Galatians 5:1, Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 6:20; 7:23.

Redemption: Christ, through the Cross bought us out of slavery and took away ALL our sin and gave unto us His infinite righteousness. That’s redemption……I once was lost but now I am found; blind but now I see…

Leadership…
Sometimes you have to let the game come to you. Take what the defense is giving.
I’m not talking about battling the enemy. When facing Satan we are be aggressive and decisive.

I’m speaking primarily about leading those God has entrusted to our care. As leaders we often have bold and daring visions of what the future must look like. However our people are often happy and content where we are now. They rarely see or feel a pressing need for change.
Casting vision, whether for more compelling and passionate worship or for more doing than hearing only, we as leaders, often must take what our defending congregations will give us. Incremental change is often the greatest path toward the radical future God has graciously impregnated within the leaders soul.
We must trust Gods sweet Holy Spirit to be the agent of change. Forced change, begged change is not true transformational change/lasting change. Only through the revelatory power of the Holy Spirit will true and lasting change transpire.

Leader; see the future, yes. But navigate the present.
Prayer, discernment, wisdom, knowledge and understanding from time I’m His Word and Presence are prerequisites for the journey.

Another thought (not really related but doesn’t have the merit to stand alone as a separate post)…

I have heard a lot about redemption and athletes that have blown it. (Vick and others) I love seeing people get a second chance. I love seeing people making well on these chances. However, I’m not too impressed with Christian leaders using redemption so easily. There is no true redemption without the Cross. I am unaware of these athletes spiritual journey. But, again, redemption cannot transpire without godly sorrow, repentance and the reception of pure abounding grace and the gift of His righteousness. I know, I know, I’m over spiritualizing the use of redemption…but someone needs to. Christian leaders and athletes alike cannot have true redemption/reconciliation without repentance and the Cross. There, I said it… thank you for indulging.