Devotional

The Place Of Sin In The Christian’s Life

Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

–[Romans 6:1-2]

What place should sin have in a Christian’s life? Paul said in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Paul was a champion of grace. Grace is the theme of the book of Romans. Our righteousness is not based on works or ritual; it is based on the grace of God we receive through faith. That was Paul’s message of grace.

Because Paul was a champion of grace, he was continually battling the enemies of grace. Among the enemies of grace were those who denied grace. Paul was dealing all the time with people who said God’s grace was not enough. They said people needed God’s grace plus works or rituals or keeping the Law. So Paul spent the first five chapters of Romans saying, “We are justified by grace apart from the works of the Law.” Why does God refuse to allow us to have anything to do with our salvation? Because if our salvation were a result of our works or our rituals, then salvation would be a reward that God owes us rather than a gift He bestows upon us.

Other enemies of grace Paul did battle with were those who abused grace. These people said, “If I am saved by grace and my salvation has nothing to do with my works, then why shouldn’t I keep on sinning as a Christian? After all, if my sin causes God to pour out His grace, and if God is glorified when His grace is poured out, then shouldn’t I keep on sinning?” That was why Paul asked the question: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:2).

Today we hear the same thing. Many people accuse those of us who teach salvation by grace as promoting easy believism. They say, “You are making it too simple for somebody to be saved.” Or they say, “If you are saved by grace and are eternally secure, then why not keep on sinning? The once-saved, always-saved doctrine encourages disobedience to God.”

But Paul said a true understanding of grace does not encourage sin; it encourages obedience to God. In Romans 6:1, he asked, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” If we are truly saved, how could we continue to habitually sin? He answered in verse 2, “May it never be!” This Greek phrase is the strongest refutation in the Greek language. Then he asked a follow-up question: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” It is impossible. In 1 John 3:9, the Apostle John wrote, “No one who is born of God practices sin.” That word “practices” means “habitually participates in sin.”

This does not mean that Christians do not occasionally stumble, but sin is the exception in our lives rather than the rule. When you become a Christian, you are exposed to a new way of living. Why in the world would you ever go back to the old way? Sin has no place in a Christian’s life.

Contrasts Between Adam And Christ

The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

[Romans 5:16]

In Romans 5:16, Paul pointed out contrasts between the condemnation that came from Adam’s sin and the salvation that came from Christ’s obedience.

One contrast is this: condemnation came after one sin, but salvation came after many sins. Verse 16 says, “The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.” If you want to know how intolerant God is toward sin, just look at what He did to Adam in the Garden. One measly sin, and God condemned the entire human race. Isn’t that an overreaction? Why can’t God be more tolerant? We often think God is just as indifferent toward sin as we are. We continue to sin and think nothing of it. We do not understand the absolute holiness of God. God has zero tolerance for sin. It just took one sin to bring God’s judgment against all mankind.

Here is the grace of God: condemnation came after one sin, but salvation came after many sins. After Adam’s sin, mankind kept sinning and sinning and sinning and sinning, but all those sins did not cause God to withhold His grace. After thousands of years of people sinning, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atonement for our sins. That is a testimony to the grace of God.

This is a message of hope for those who think, “God could never forgive me because of what I have done.” Notice what Paul said in Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” That word “abounded” literally means “super-abounded.” As the sin of mankind increased, the grace of God increased even more. The good news of the gospel is that you cannot outsin the grace of Jesus Christ. His blood is sufficient to cover all of your sin.

This is not an excuse for a Christian to keep on sinning. One man said, “Of course God is going to forgive me; that’s His job.” No. Paul said, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (6:1). In other words, if I enjoy sinning, and God enjoys forgiving, why don’t we both have a good time? Paul answered, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:2).

As Christians, we are to have the same attitude toward sin that God has–zero tolerance for it. But Romans 5 is a passage that talks about before we become a Christian. You cannot outsin the grace of God. Condemnation was a result of one sin. Salvation came after many sins.

Devotional

What Difference Does The Resurrection Make?

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

[John 6:40]

What difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make to you and to me? It answers the all-important question that Job asked: “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14). When I close my eyes for the last time here on earth, do I just slip into nothingness, or is there something on the other side of the grave? The resurrection of Jesus answers that. The resurrection of Jesus was not just an isolated event. The Bible says His resurrection was a prototype of the resurrection of all who trust in Him for salvation. Jesus promised that the resurrection He experienced, you and I will also experience one day if we place our faith in Him. Death will not have the final word.

We find that promise to Jesus’ followers all throughout Scripture. Jesus made a bedrock promise that those who trust in Him would have eternal life. I think of John 5:24. It was my dad’s favorite verse. He had it put on his gravestone. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Or John 6:40. Jesus said, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” Or John 11:25. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” Because Christ lives, one day those of us who trust in Him will live again as well. That is what the resurrection means to us.

In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, many people feared that his death and the riots that would ensue afterward would undo the civil rights movement. Dr. King’s funeral was a pivotal event. That day, several people gave eulogies. One of those men was named James Bevel. When his turn came, the heavy-set Bevel mounted the podium and said, “You have heard that our leader is dead. That rumor is false. Our leader is not dead. Our leader was not Martin Luther King.” He paused and then continued, “Our leader is the one who led Moses out of Egypt. Our leader is the one who went down with Daniel into the lions’ den! Our leader is the one who walked out of the grave on that Easter Sunday morning. Our leader neither slumbers, nor sleeps. Our leader cannot be put in jail! Our leader is still on the job! Our leader is not dead!”

That is the Easter message! Our leader is not dead! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! And because He lives, one day so shall we! God be praised for a risen Savior.

What does it mean to us that Jesus died and was raised from the dead? It means we do not have to wonder about our eternal destiny any longer. We are all going to die. We are all going to experience death, but we can experience life after death by trusting in Jesus to be our Savior.

The Passion Of Christ – His Resurrection

[Jesus] was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.

–Romans 1:4

Equally important to Christ’s death is His resurrection. You see, unlike people who claim to have near-death experiences where they get to the edge of death, see something, and come back to tell us what they saw, Jesus did not have a near-death experience. He had a death experience. He actually died, and God delivered Him from the grave. Why is that important to us? There are several things about Christ’s resurrection that make it a pivotal event for each of us.

First of all, Christ’s resurrection was prophesied by Christ Himself. The resurrection was not something that was added on by Jesus’ followers decades later to make a good story better. No, it was a part of what Christ taught. Every time Jesus talked about His death, He also talked about His resurrection. His resurrection would be the signal proof that Jesus was exactly who He said He was. Romans 1:4 says Jesus Christ “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection was the proof that Jesus was who He said He was.

Second, Christ’s resurrection was proclaimed by the apostles. The resurrection was not simply a postscript to the apostles’ teaching. It was a part of their core teaching that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In his sermon at Pentecost preached just weeks after the death of Christ, Peter preached to the same people who had crucified Christ earlier. He said in Acts 2:23-24, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” He continued, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (2:32).

Think about this: if Jesus were still in the tomb, that crowd would have laughed Peter off the temple steps when he claimed a resurrection. But they did not do that. Instead, the Bible says they were “pierced to the heart” by that message (2:37). And they said, “What shall we do?” And Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). Thousands of Jews responded that day to the gospel. Why did they respond to it? Because the tomb was empty.

The message of the resurrection was not added on years later; it was a part of the earliest teaching of the apostles. You know, one of the greatest single proofs of the truth of the resurrection is the metamorphosis that took place in the hearts of the disciples in just a three-day period. In the days leading up to the crucifixion, they almost all deserted Jesus, trying to save their own skin. Peter denied Christ three times to save his hide. Then suddenly, overnight, they were transformed into courageous people who were willing to die for what they believed in. What changed them? They saw the resurrected Jesus.

Devotional

The Passion Of Christ – His Death

I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.

–John 10:17-18

Whenever you hear somebody say, “There is no evidence that Jesus actually lived,” you know you are talking to somebody who does not know history. It is a historical fact that a man named Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Son of God. To the Romans, that was treason. To the Jews, it was blasphemy. There is no doubt Jesus’ death historically took place. The real question is, Why did Jesus die? What was the purpose of Jesus’ death?

Let us get something straight: Jesus’ life was not taken from Him. Jesus’ death was not a case of some bad men killing Jesus. Jesus voluntarily gave up His life. In John 10:17-18, Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” Jesus willingly gave His life for us. Why did He do such a thing? Because it was the only way to provide an atonement, a covering for our sin. We all need our sin covered and washed away. That is what the atonement did. The death of Jesus covered our sin.

Second, Jesus’ death was a payment for our sin. Jesus died to pay for our sin to satisfy God’s requirement. God said, “The person who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin creates a debt to God–and somebody has to pay. We can either spend eternity in Hell paying for that debt ourselves, or we can allow Jesus to make the payment for us. To some people the idea that God demands a sacrifice for sin is repulsive. But God is a holy and just God. He has to demand payment for sin. Some people are offended by that, perhaps because deep down they do not want to think that their sin is that big of a deal. But it is. God cannot overlook the sin in your life or my life. He is a holy God. That is why Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” A righteous God must be paid for sin. We either pay it, or we can allow Christ to pay that price for us. That is why 1 John 2:2 says, “He Himself is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

Third, Jesus’ death provides a redemption from spiritual slavery. The Bible says all of us, apart from God, are in the marketplace of sin. We are Satan’s slaves, and he has no good intentions for any of us. But because God loved us so much, He paid the price for our redemption and delivered us out of the marketplace of sin and death into the marvelous kingdom of His own light. In Colossians 1:13-14, Paul said, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” If we are Christians, we belong to God. He purchased us with the blood of His Son.

Morning Devotional

Religious People’s Excuse #1: “Examine My Religious Heritage”

Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

[Galatians 3:7]

In Romans 2, Paul revealed that everyone needs salvation that comes only through faith in Christ. Starting in verse 17, Paul named several excuses that religious people often use to say, “I do not need Jesus Christ.”

One excuse that religious people say is this: “Examine my religious heritage.” Romans 2:17 is addressed to those who “bear the name ‘Jew’ and rely upon the Law and boast in God.” The Jew said, “Look at me, I am a Jew. I do not need Jesus Christ.” The Jew thought because he was a descendant of Abraham that he ought to be okay with God. There are many Jews who think that today. They think it is their special relationship to Abraham that ensures their salvation. Now, in biblical times, there were benefits to being a Jew and belonging to God’s covenant people. In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Being a Jew meant that you got to share in some of God’s national blessings to Israel. But being a Jew did not automatically make you a believer. Being a physical descendant of Abraham did not ensure that everything was okay between you and God. Over and over again, the New Testament teaches that it is not a Jew’s physical relationship to Abraham but his spiritual relationship to Abraham that makes an eternal difference.

Paul said in Galatians 3:7-9, “Be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” Salvation is not a result of a Jew’s physical relationship to Abraham but a result of his spiritual relationship to Abraham. Yet, as is still true today, many people thought that being an ethnic Jew, a religious Jew, made you right with God.

There are many people who believe that same thing today, not just about Judaism but about Christianity as well. Many people have the idea, “If you are born in a Christian home, then that makes you a Christian.” There are many Christians who embrace the idea that being in a Christian family makes you a Christian. But being in a Christian family does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. Jesus said in John 3:3, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You have to have an individual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what saves you.

Religious People’s Excuse #2: “Look at My Biblical Knowledge”

You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

[Romans 2:23]

In Romans 2, Paul listed several excuses that religious people use to say, “I do not need Jesus Christ.” One excuse religious people use is this: “Look at my biblical knowledge.” But Paul said that knowledge alone is not good enough. He wrote to the Jews: “If you bear the name ‘Jew’ and rely upon the Law and boast in God . . .” (2:17). The Jews believe that everybody else might need to know Christ as Savior, but not them. Jews believe they have a special relationship with God that automatically makes them right with God.

Paul alluded to that in Romans 3:1: “Then what advantage has the Jew?” If Jews are not automatically saved, then what advantage is there to being a Jew? Paul answered in verse 2, “Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” The Jewish people were entrusted with God’s Word. But the reason they were entrusted with God’s Word was not just so they could share it with others, but so that they might obey it themselves.

Romans 2:18-24 says, “[Those of you who have been] instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.”

The Jews had fallen into a trap that many of us have fallen into as well. We equate knowing God’s Word with doing God’s Word. They are not the same thing. In Paul’s day, the Jewish rabbis said, “It is impossible to obey God’s law completely, so all you have to do is know it.” We laugh at that, but don’t we make the same mistake today as Christians? We equate biblical knowledge with obedience. We think, “As long as I believe that this book is the inerrant Word of God, then I am okay with God.” Let me burst your bubble. You get absolutely no credit with God for believing the right thing. You believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God–you do not get a check mark for that. All you get credit for as a Christian is how you obey God.

Do not misunderstand–beliefs and knowledge are important. It is impossible to obey that which you do not know, but unfortunately you can know a lot of things that you do not obey. The Bible says that it is not our knowledge of God’s Word but our obedience of God’s Word that makes a difference. The Jew said, “Look at my biblical knowledge.” Paul said, “That is not enough.”

Evening Devotional

What Is Natural Revelation?

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

[Romans 1:20]

What does creation tell us about God? First, in Romans 1:20, Paul said that in natural revelation we see God’s “eternal power.” How do you explain the intricacy, the design, the complexity, the vastness of this universe? Chance did not do this. Chance has no power. It is the power of God. It is through creation that we see a testimony of God’s eternal power.

Second, Paul said that through creation we can learn of God’s “divine nature” (1:20). When God came in human form in Jesus Christ, we learned from Jesus many things about God the Father. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). But even apart from Jesus, apart from the Bible, there are some things we can know about the character of God simply from looking at creation. One thing we can know about God’s character just from nature is His kindness. The universe is a testimony to the kindness of God. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey, and they came to Lystra. Because they were able to work miracles, the people started to worship Paul and Barnabas and call them Hermes and Zeus. Paul quickly corrected them and pointed them toward the true God. He said in Acts 14:15-17, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Paul was saying, “Even though you wandered away from God, God still left a witness for Himself.” Everyone in this universe can know of the kindness of God.

We hear the question all the time: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Yet a bigger question is: “Why do good things happen to bad people?” We are all bad. We have all wandered away from God, and God continues to bless everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, with His gifts, whether it be rain, food, family, friendships, or health. God does that as a witness to Himself. These gifts of God are the kindness of God that should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The Bible says we can know from creation about the goodness of God.

No one will go to Hell for rejecting a Christ they have never heard of. Those who go to Hell will go there because they rejected the limited knowledge of God that God sent them through creation. That is what Paul was saying here. Everyone has received the knowledge of God. That general knowledge is not sufficient to save us, but it is sufficient, if rejected, to condemn us.