Paul’s goal was to explain the meaning of Christ’s coming—to make absolutely clear who Jesus is and what He came to do. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s promise to us.
Hope is first born in our heart through God’s promise. Hope is a catalyst. It’s the great motivator. Hope that God will do as He promised ignites the faith that pleases Him. But faith is much more than a superficial belief in God.
We inherit God’s promise through what the Bible calls the obedience of faith—thriving faith which ultimately is proven genuine by our behavior. The Gospel holds marvelous privileges for us. But the sheer magnitude of God’s promise raises questions as to how Jesus works it all out in our lives. It’s mysterious! Yet getting to know Jesus makes spiritual growth a piece of cake.
The freedom we have in Christ can be a bit confusing. The Bible says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” But don’t you find that a little surprising? We tend to think about freedom from sin only as being liberated from the problem of sinning. So how could being freed from law have anything to do with sin losing its power over us? Well, in fact it has everything to do with it! But if you’re like most Christians, your grasp of this truth is probably a little fuzzy.
Don’t feel alone; you’re in good company! I’ve often asked believers: “How many of you feel like you are truly free from the power of sin?” I haven’t had anyone jump up yet shouting, “that’s me!” Though we may accept by faith the fact that we are free from sin’s power, we commonly don’t experience it as a reality in our daily lives. That’s just the way it is. No worries; there’s a solution to this bewildering problem.
I love Paul’s writings. So practical! So honest! In Romans 7 he exposes what we like to keep as a closely guarded secret. It’s this: “I’m not the model believer I appear to be. There are problems with my heart I don’t even want to admit, or that I blatantly hide in an attempt to appear more righteous than I actually am.” Our inborn pride strongly resists any admission of failure. After all, people might discover what we’re really like!
Paul knew that if we are ever to successfully walk in God’s purpose we must first come to a sound understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And since the gospel impacts every facet of a person’s life, a good grasp of who we are in Christ requires that we be aware of at least three very important things: First of all, God’s purpose and plan for our life. Secondly, our own nature as human beings. And finally, the implications of being redeemed in Christ, but still impacted by a worldly environment dominated by sin.
What Christian doesn’t yearn to be free from the nagging presence of sin? To one degree or another, our humanity traps us in a repetitive cycle of failure—the grinding reality of a redeemed life pitted against our self-serving flesh in a sin-riddled world. Thankfully, God has made provision for our sin! But what did He provide, really?
Many argue that in Christ we possess the power to become holy in our walk with God by choosing obedience over sin. Well, shooting for holiness in this way is a noble pursuit, but the strategy is flawed. Why? Because the purpose of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice is to impart God’s own righteousness to us, in spite of our sinful nature.
Because we now belong to Him, we don’t need to earn God’s favor. We already have it! God showers His grace on us, and in so doing His righteousness becomes our own. By His grace alone we are given the unbridled capacity for intimacy with God, in spite of the weakness of our flesh.
Jesus said His kingdom is like someone who discovers hidden treasure, or a valuable pearl, and immediately recognizes the magnitude of his find. It’s about surrendering everything to gain this amazing salvation, but I think there’s even more to it than that. Why? Because what we first find so precious has the tendency to lose value in our eyes.
One day I was struck by how oblivious the owner of the treasure was to its true worth. Are we like that? Are we like the owner of the field who neglected to notice what was so easily uncovered by some passerby, or akin to the merchant so lax in his trade that he failed to recognize the true value of the pearl he owned?
Have we forfeited our treasure in Christ for something less meaningful? In the weakness of our flesh, it’s not uncommon to fall short of a single-minded pursuit of Christ. There are reasons a zealous heart slips into complacency, and understanding them is extremely helpful in trying to rekindle that lost fire.
As I began to learn about God as a new Christian, I saw that sin is a big issue for believers. The Bible has dozens of warnings about sin, most which point to my personal responsibility to say “no” to it. But saying “no” was the very thing I was having trouble with! The more I learned, the more confused I seemed to get. What really baffled me was Paul’s account of his own struggle with sin.
Yet why not be confused? Regarding human weakness, Paul said, “If I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” What in the world did he mean by that? Could he actually be shirking off personal responsibility for sin? There’s no question that Paul recognized his duty to wrestle against his flesh in resisting sin. He’s not excusing sin, but rather trying to get to the root of the problem in the believer’s life. Shouldn’t we be doing the same?
My behavior was radically impacted when I was born again. But it wasn’t long before a difficult question confronted me: how do I remain strong in my commitment to live in a way that pleases God when Jesus Himself said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak?” Weak indeed! What’s this all about, I wondered? I knew I had been deeply transformed, so why would I have even a remote desire to return to things so destructive in my past?
It amazed me because I knew from experience that sin could never be a source of lasting joy. Yet I was willing to toy with it. Could I really be that stupid? And another issue bewildered me. Why was I now completely set free from some old habits while others sprang back with a vengeance? There they were! Needless to say, the shame that came along with falling into the same old sins was extremely discouraging. The Bible talks about struggling with the old man; for me it was the old Dan!
From Free from the Power of Sin: the Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself
Pride is instinctive to human nature. So boasting, no matter how we may attempt to disguise it, flows from our core as effortlessly as breathing. We simply need to express who we are and what we’ve accomplished—“wise, strong or rich,” as the Lord explains in Jeremiah 9:23,24. Still, there seems to be a place for boasting. God goes on to say: “let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
The key here is to redirect the glory away from ourselves and on to God. Paul makes it all very clear in 2 Corinthians 11 &12, “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.” “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness,” the Lord Jesus proclaims.
What if you were invited to a party of a lifetime, so lavish, so impressive, that everyone who knew you would be green with envy? Why him? What did he do to deserve such an honor?
Maybe you have been asked, but just don’t know it! The truth is, a priceless invitation has delivered by God Himself, not just to you but everyone on earth. Invited to what? To an eternity united with God for an indescribable life you never dreamed possible: the party of all parties!
Yes, whether you are aware of it or not, you’ve been invited. The question is, “Who’s listening?” Are you among those who genuinely seek the truth? And if so, are you asking the right questions? Just what is required of me to be included with those who will enjoy eternity in heaven? Jesus said it best in the Bible: “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Intimacy is what God is really after. We can busy ourselves with all kinds of things in our effort to please God, but if it doesn’t first begin with a meaningful personal interaction with Him, all our serving can end up in vain. While Martha busied herself with serving Jesus, Mary sat at His feet. When Martha complained, Jesus said, “…you are worried about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…Mary has chosen the good part” (Luke 10:41-42).
The woman at the well questioned where people ought to worship—Samaria or Jerusalem. Jesus got right to the point: “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). What does it mean to worship God this way? He asks us to pursue relationship by being what He wants, not simply by doing stuff. Genuine worship begins with getting our priorities straight.