Raised to Walk in Newness of Life

Chapter 6 in Romans is exhilarating even though it’s main focus is death. But when that death results in life and freedom, it’s a different story.

When your favorite team wins the big game you want to read and hear all about it. Recounting the scores and big plays allows you to relive the experience. It begins to set in that your team is the champion!

Same goes here, only our champion has made us part of his team. As he suffered death to rise to new life, through faith in him we too have died and been raised, with him, from the dead.

When I read this passage the joy is overwhelming.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

We can express this experience once and for all in baptism by immersion, publicly testifying to that victorious day when we died and rose again to walk in newness of life.

Now then…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

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The Free Gift–Romans 5:12-21

Name a gift you received in your youth that’s still working, and getting better. Moreover, name a gift from long ago that still functions better than anything that’s ever come down the pike. Everything I can think of is in a landfill somewhere.

The gift Paul mentions five times in this passage will be the best you’ve ever received. It’ll get better every day, every hour, every minute, you’ll think, but it was already as good as it would get right out of the box. It’s both sufficient for your needs and more than you need. What’s more it will save your life! That’s right, save your life. I’m talking about the free gift of God’s grace.

The first man Adam sinned and triggered death for all with one bite of the forbidden fruit.  From that time on there was “none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10) and one tragic end for all humankind–death. But because he loved his creation, God sent one man–his son Jesus–to give his life for all. And he made this life available as a gracious gift, not something you’d need to beg, borrow or steal to get.

But here’s the catch. There’s always a catch! You need to receive it. The strings? There are none. Stick out your hand and take it by faith alone! (James 2:24) It’s just that simple.

Since you know now how much this gift keeps on giving, and in fact will save your life, and how easy it is acquire, why would you refuse it? It’s free for heaven’s sake!

As the saying goes, there’s no certainty in life except death and taxes. We’ll do everything we can to avoid paying taxes, but what about the bill you’ll never be able to pay? The hardest thing that you’ll ever have to face, and for all eternity the Bible says, I might add—death—can be avoided by accepting this free gift.

So ironic how so many refuse it! When given the simple choice, many allow death to continue to reign in their lives, when they could be lavished with abounding grace.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8

 

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Over His Dead Body–Romans 5:6-11

To this day I remember my exit interview with the president of the bank. I went in to shake his hand, as I’d just accepted a position with another bank in my hometown. I just wanted to thank him for hiring me. He said bluntly he didn’t want to hire me in the first place, and adding insult to injury, he wanted to fire me at  least three times. On that pleasant note I set off to self-actualize!

Looking back, while the guy in the paneled office scorned me, there were key officers who promoted me.

In this passage we are told the honest truth about our performance as a religious person, that we were heading out the door before Jesus stood in the way. We were helpless and ungodly, not good or righteous enough, and in fact enemies of the only one who could save us.

Yet in this woeful, sinful, miserable state, Christ died for us, justifying and reconciling us, saving us from the wrath to come.

We’ve heard the saying, “it’ll be over my dead body” this or that happens. In our case, it was over Christ’s dead body that we’ve now received “the reconciliation.”

I think God had me hear those “encouraging words” early in my career to keep me humble and thankful. Here it’s much the same thing. The Lord reminds us that things could’ve been much different without the strong grasp of his saving hand.

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Hanging Tough–Part 2 (Romans 5:1-5)

How does one hope against hope? (Romans 4:18) This is being in a hopeless situation yet hoping all the more. Well it’s not done in our own power. It’s only possible if at peace with God, standing firmly on his grace (Romans 5:2), with his spirit coursing through our veins. It’s expecting his glory to be manifested somehow someway.

We don’t hope in this fashion right out of the box. This kind of hope comes from consistently exulting in and persevering through, i.e. staying under, the pressure of our tribulations.

A truly hopeful—proven under fire—person not only appreciates going through times of testing, but stands apart from them and sees profit not pain. It’s counter-intuitive for sure to act this way, but it’s a mark of a person trained to expect God to be glorified in every situation, one who knows good things will come from trials. The truly hopeful also knows that they will not be disappointed in the outcome of life’s almost unending tests.

If you’re constantly fretting and hand wringing each and every time things get hot, you might be spending your waking hours trying to get out from under pressure rather than standing pat on his grace, exulting in the expectation—not the manifestation—of the glory of God. The latter is one with proven character.

Hoping against hope is the default position in the Christian life. Might as well dig in!

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Hanging Tough

Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:19-21

As we wander through life’s wildernesses, without growing weak or wavering in our faith, we honestly assess our predicament. Even though our situation may appear hopeless, in faith we don’t worry about his provision, but wonder how God will deliver on his promise.

In hope against hope he believed. Romans 4:18

Our wandering is always within the limits set by a sovereign God. The enemy wants us to waffle and wilt. The adage that the Lord won’t give us more than we can bear is not biblical. He wants us in “hope against hope” situations!

The more dire our circumstances the more miraculous his deliverances will be. For “God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” Psalm 68:20

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Bad to the Bone

If the Jews could not pull off righteousness as the Chosen People then no one could. Fact is, nobody’s righteous, no, not anybody! (Romans 3:10)

Paul even breaks it down by body part (throat, tongues, lips, mouth, feet, eyes) in Romans 3:13-18, and there are no free agents in our constitution pursuing goodness and mercy.

13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

I hesitate to use the term “total depravity” here, but in reading this indictment is there any choice? I’m happy and relieved that Paul goes on to pave the “Romans Road” to salvation (starting at 3:23), taking us out of this dismal state, because things look pretty bleak from this vantage point.

It’s good to know for starters that even in this deplorable condition, “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Actually he “so loved the world” (John 3:16)  that he sent his son to fix this problem once and for all; to do a total makeover.

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All Men are Liars!

“I said in my alarm, all men are liars,” lamented the Psalmist in Psalm 116:11. This is not a revelation to me or anyone who studies politics. Veracity is not a virtue. Possessing a cunning double-tongue is.

The father of lies set the pattern early on, showing how it’s done in the Garden (Genesis 3:1). His deceptions were brought to an art form in the wilderness as he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1). Weaving in scripture, what he said sounded plausible and compelling, but was nothing more than sugar-coated venom. Jesus did not fall for it—literally.

Paul’s words (in Romans 3:4) would have been an adequate commentary on that standoff: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written (of the Lord), ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.’” He will be found true!

David did the calculation in Psalm 119:160 and came up with this result, that “the sum of your word is truth.” If the Bible says it, we have in our possession , as it were, “the oracles of God.”

But are we to accept what it says blindly? “May it never be,” as Paul was fond of saying. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) we are to study the word to be sure. But our efforts, even then, will be in vain without illumination from the Spirit within us.

Listen to this (John 16:13): “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” So the spirit sheds the necessary light.

Again, we default to this principle, all men are liars, but God will be found true.

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