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10 Practical Ways to Love

1. Listen without interrupting

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” –Proverbs 18:13

Many times we interrupt someone because we are more concerned about “winning the argument” instead of really listening to understand and work together for a resolution. Interrupting is a mechanism many use to keep control of the conversation. God has not called us to control; He has called us to love. We are seeking peace and resolution with our spouses. Therefore, be patient and listen to the full matter. Lay aside any pride and work together on the issue, instead of winning the debate. 

2. Speak without accusing

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” -James 1:19

Scripture tells us that the “accuser of the brethren” is the role Satan took when he chose to rebel against God (See Revelations 12:10) and was cast out of Heaven. When we lend our mouth to accusation, we invite Satan to use our life for his evil purpose. Avoid partnering with the enemy in your speech and speak from the position of grace and forgiveness, which is the seat Jesus gave us authority to sit in as His representatives. Remember that we were forgiven when we were still sinners, so treat others how Jesus treated you. Don’t accuse and shame. Forgive, rebuild trust, and move on.

3. Give without sparing

“Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” -Proverbs 21:26

God’s nature is giving, and as His children, we ought to reflect Him in generosity. Many times we are tempted to withhold from our spouses because we fear they will take advantage of us. However “perfect love expels all fear” (See 1 John 4:16) and in order to really love, we must trust first. Instead of spending time worrying about a spouse’s motives, give because that is who you are—refuse to allow fear to rob you of the joy of giving. A giving heart is a greater treasure than any material thing here on earth.

4. Pray without ceasing

“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” -Colossians 1:9

I once heard a story of a husband and wife who came to see their pastor for marriage counseling. When they arrived at the church to meet the pastor, he greeted them at the door on a Monday afternoon and then walked them into the empty sanctuary of the church. The pastor said, “Both of you spend one hour in prayer for your marriage, and then I will meet with you to council you.” The couple was a bit upset, as they just wanted the pastor to tell them what to do. However, they obeyed his request and began to pray. The pastor returned an hour later to find the husband and wife embracing one another, weeping, and apologizing to one another. The pastor never had to said a word to the couple. Through prayer, they rediscovered the power of God’s love, wisdom, and peace. Remember that prayer gives us access to the Holy Spirit and all the power to walk in God’s ways (See Galatians 5:22).

5. Answer without arguing

“If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.” -Proverbs 1:17 NLT

An argumentative person is a trap that most people will quickly learn to avoid. Be mindful of your tone and your motive. If you are upset, that is okay. But before you speak, be wise and take time to make sure your heart is in the right place and your motive is rooted in love. Agree to take some time to pray, cool off, and recalibrate your approach to how your loving Savior and Lord would have you respond.

6. Share without pretending

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” -Ephesians 4:15

I once saw a funny sign that read, “The first rule of passive aggressiveness is … you know what, never mind. It’s fine.” Marriage ought to be a safe place to express how we feel and not have to hide. “Speaking the truth in love,” means that we should not be afraid to say what needs to be said when motived by love and resolution. So share and speak without pretending. Be real, be genuine, and set aside any masks that hide who you really are and how you really feel.

7. Enjoy without complaining

“Do all things without complaining and disputing,” -Philippians 2:14

Complaining is the ugly offspring of pride and unbelief. As the people of God, we know that “contentment is great gain” (See 1 Timothy 6:6), and that thanksgiving is the very way we invite God’s presence into our lives and marriages. Stay thankful. Look for the good. Celebrate the small things and stay faith-filled and positive. I have heard it said, “to complain and compete is to live in defeat.” Be thankful and win with people.

8. Trust without wavering

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” -1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT

I recently read a study lead by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite that found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Furthermore, they went on to conclude, that in these cases, there was no evidence that unhappily married people who divorced were any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married! Could it be that the benefits of quitting on marriage has been oversold? Trust is a big part of love. Trust is also established in the patience and waiting for love to do what love will do … if given the proper time and effort. Don’t give up!

9. Forgive without punishing

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” -Colossians 3:13

This is huge! Let us never forget that our own salvation is in jeopardy every time we decide not to forgive. Jesus said, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). We enjoy God and the promise of eternal life because while we were still sinners God forgave us. God simply asks us to now do the same for others. In scripture, He gives us this beautiful picture of casting our sin into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), to remember them no more. If that is how He forgave our mistakes, then let us not continue to punish people for their past errors by bringing them up again and again. Forgive to the uttermost, because that is what Jesus did for you!

10. Promise without forgetting

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” -Proverbs 13:12

A promise plants hope in our spouse because of the inherit guarantee found in our words. That hope gives life to all sorts of plans, actions, and good things. However, if we continue to violate (or forget) our word, we will eventually trample all overe hope and its outcome. The result of breaking promises is the rotten feeling of disappointment, and the eroded integrity and character of the person who broke their promise. When making promises, ensure that it aligns with your true desires. Then be responsible to uphold your word without forgetting and without wavering. The nature of a promise is made valid by its guarantee.

Getting YOU Out of the Way!

Wk 5 Romans | Getting YOU Out of the Way!

Sunday, March 17, 2019 | Kevin Berry

Introduction: Getting YOU out of the way

One of your biggest growth moments in life will be when you get YOU out of the way. The difficulty with the Jewish believers Paul addressed was that they were standing in the way of being right with God. They were relying on themselves, their Jewish status, smarts, and works, when they needed to rely on the Spirit’s work within them.

Every person can get “themselves” out of the way. How?

Paul moves from “they” – the corrupt, depraved Gentiles, to “you” – the moralist, to talking to the “Jew.” – The Jew would have likely responded something like this: “Well, certainly Paul, you can’t possibly treat us Jews like we are no different from the Gentiles. Have you forgotten that we have been given the Law of God, that we have been circumcised? We have the revelation of God and the sign of covenant with God. Don’t you see that this distinguishes us from all the nations of the world and protect us from God’s judgment?”  Paul replied by saying:

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:17-24 ESV)

The church in Rome was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. The Jews had been kicked out of Rome, then allowed back in. This resulted in the church, that was at one time primarily Jewish, being primarily filled with Gentile believers at the time Paul wrote his letter. The unseen problem that Paul is addressing is the same problem that has plagued the church throughout history – hypocrites.

Many of the Jews thought of their Gentile neighbors as barbarians who lived in ignorance. The Torah was for Jews the embodiment of knowledge and truth. Paul’s words burst the balloon of Jewish pride and, perhaps our own pride too, as he attempted to help them get out of their own way and receive salvation through Christ, not through themselves.

Stop leaning on YOU.

Now, you claim to be a Jew because YOU lean upon your trust in the law and you boast in your relationship with God (Rom. 2:17 MSG).

Aramaic can be translated, “you take comfort from the law.”

You call yourself a Jew who: Relies on the law:

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb (Ps. 19:7-10).

Ancient Jewish writings include statements like this:

In your law we have put our trust, because, behold, your Law is with us, and we know that we do not fall as long as we keep your statutes. We shall always be blessed; at least, we did not mingle with the nations. For we are all a people of the Name; we, who received one Law for the One. And that Law that is among us will help us, and that excellent wisdom which is in us will support us.

You call yourself a Jew who: Boasts in God:

This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. 24 But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jer. 9:23-24)

As Paul addresses the Jew, boasting in God was not the problem… that was a good thing. But as we will see, the problem was boasting in God, while at the same time dishonoring Him with your behavior.

We are made to desire approval, to want acceptance – it’s why a father or mother can affect our lives so much. Everybody wants to feel like they matter, that they have worth. For the Jew, it was all about being Jewish, being God’s chosen people, they were entrusted with God’s laws… so instead of that just being a blessing, it became something they leaned on to find worth and approval in the eyes of God.

We are hard-wired to want approval and acceptance. What have you leaned on, in order to find approval? 

Teach yourself and start living what YOU know.

You know His will, convinced that you are a guide, a teacher – do you teach yourself?

If YOU are sure that YOU YOURSELF… (see Rom. 2:19):

– Know His will – see Ps. 119:105

Wow… we know more than just about who God is, we know His will, how He desires that we live, how we treat one another…

– Are instructed in the law

– Guide the blind

– Light those in darkness

– Instruct the foolish

– Teach children

The problem is they do not live up to their knowledge. Possession of the law means nothing if you don’t obey it.

We reproduce not what we know, but what we do.

Is it possible that you currently know more than you are living? That you know more about what you should be doing, than you are actually doing? What are you going to do about that? 

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach” (Matt. 23:1-3 NLT).

Jesus was always upping the game. Jesus said:

If you withhold something that is rightfully theirs, you are stealing (Mk 7:9-13).

If anyone looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has committed adultery (Matt 5:27-28).

Beware of the destructive power of pride.

Your biggest problem in life isn’t somebody else, it’s you!

Having a teachable attitude wins over being a teacher any day. Being a “teacher” can make you look smart; being teachable makes you smart.

Most people are all about getting in life. They ask, “What can I get out of this job, this relationship?” The teachable are asking, “What kind of person do I need to become?”

What is your big dream in life?  What kind of person do you need to become to live that kind of life? 

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things” (Matt. 23:23 NLT).

Become a mirror that reflects God more than YOU.

You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.” (Romans 2:23-24 NLT)

The Jews were supposed to be a light to the Gentiles, a representation of who God is on the earth. But because of the way that they lived, instead of living a life that reflected God’s goodness, their lives reflected the wickedness that was in them.

What do people think about God as they watch your life?

Often the worst enemy to the gospel (or God’s honor) is the sin in the lives of those who profess to be believers.

Your authentic obedience is what matters.

What if every day your life could reflect the nature of God? What if your life was a mirror of His kindness, His compassion, His laughter, His joy, His empathy?

You will not reflect head knowledge about God; you will reflect a heart experience with God, or a lack of that.

I’m convinced that our world—that you and me—that we—need to be reflections of who God is to each other and to all those around us. Paul’s scathing rebuke of the Jew who knows one thing, but lives something else, is a healthy reminder for every one of us today.

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[a] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically[b] uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code[c] and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God (Rom. 2:25-29 ESV).

First Paul said, “Just because you have the Law of God, doesn’t mean you are right with God;” it’s your obedience that matters! Now he says, “Just because you are physically circumcised, as an outward sign of covenant, doesn’t mean you are right with God; it’s your inside, your heart, that really matters!”

Circumcision was the mark of covenant relationship with God (see Gen. 17:9-14).

Rely on the inward work of the Spirit, not your outward works, to qualify YOU to be in God’s family.

Already in the first century A.D., the sign of circumcision had replaced the significance it represented, and was regarded as a “passport to salvation” and being in God’s family.

In contemporary Judaism, we find such statements as, “The circumcised do not descend into Gehenna,” or “at the last Abraham will sit at the entrance to Gehenna and will not let any circumcised man of Israel go down there.” To the average Jew, circumcision seemed to have carried an unquestioned pledge of security.

Paul parted ways from his fellow Jews on this issue. For them circumcision was the covenant; for him it was the sign of the covenant!

Its value depends on fulfilling the substance it signifies, i.e., the covenant of obedience, similar to wedding rings today that have meaning only so far as the vows or commitment symbolized by them are fulfilled.

The ultimate sign of membership in the covenant of God is neither circumcision nor possession of the law, but the obedience which both circumcision and the law demand. This is not salvation by obedience, but obedience as the evidence of salvation.

What Paul writes here about circumcision and being a Jew could also be said about baptism and being a Christian. The real Christian, like the real Jew, is one inwardly; and the true baptism, like the true circumcision, is in the heart and by the Spirit. It is not in this case that the inward and spiritual replace the outward and physical, but rather that the visible sign (baptism) derives its importance from the invisible reality (washing from sin and the gift of the Spirit), to which it bears witness. It is a grave mistake to exalt the sign at the expense of what it signifies.

The Bible warns against replacing obedience with ritual.

The inward work of the Spirit, not outward works of people, makes our heart right.

It will be an inward work of the Holy Spirit, such as the law as an external written code could never affect, that will transform a person. Paul is giving us a taste of what is coming in Romans 8 – life in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit or being led by your flesh.

An inward work of the Spirit will result in outward works… and not the other way around.

 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.[a] 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ez. 36:26-27 NLT).

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil. 2:13 NLT).

Do you trust in the Spirit or yourself? It all comes back to the condition of the heart, by the Spirit, not the letter.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.[b]And because we[c] are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”[d] Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.[e] And since you are his child, God has made you his heir (Gal. 4:4-7 NLT).

You Need To Hear This – Part 2

Wk 4 Romans | You Need to Hear This, Part 2

Sunday, March 10, 2019 | Kevin Berry

Introduction – Life is full of good news and warnings… and the truth is, we need both of them.

Luke 3:18 – speaking of John the Baptist: John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News. GOOD NEWS AND WARNINGS GO TOGETHER!

There are certain things we want to hear—good news. Spring is coming! Warm weather is coming! We want to hear things like: You are going to get through what you are going through; I know it hurts, I’m so sorry; You might not see it now, but you are going to be okay.

Then there are those things we need to hear—warnings. Renee and I will be heading to Florida soon, and on the plane we are going to hear these words, “In case of a water landing…” and very few will actually listen. I’ve heard it all before; I’ve actually plugged my ears because I didn’t want to hear it again. The problem is, it’s not just that we don’t want to hear warnings… we often ignore them.

It seems like we used to give more attention to warnings. As kids, a tornado warning meant we headed to the basement every time. But now, we have executives that actually pay to go with storm chasers to “relieve stress.” CRAZY! They are ignoring the warning!

The Bible tells you more than what you want to hear, it includes what you need to hear!

Paul begins Romans by announcing good news (Rom 1:16-17) and now we find him weaving in words of warning—what they must know… what we must know.

What You Need to Hear: (review from last week) You have no excuse, so stop judging.

Therefore, you have no excuse, you are just as bad (Rom. 2:1).

Again, Paul is making the point that everybody has sinned and everybody needs a savior. Because everybody

has sinned… that means you, too!

God is kind, so repent.

How you view God affects every area of your life.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Rom. 2:4)

God’s kindness is meant to move you. It should move you to be kind to others, it should move to you repentance.

Repent and then times of refreshing will come (Acts 3:20).

Let the Lord wash over you! Remember, He’s the one who makes you clean!

If you pour a cup of coffee in the ocean, did you just dilute the ocean? Of course not; the ocean just swallowed up all the coffee. So it is with the love of God… come to Him and let the love of God swallow up all your sins.

Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest (Matt 11:27).

Jesus was talking specifically to those Jews who were trying to be right with God by their actions… and it wasn’t working out… it was tiring, draining, fatiguing.

You are responsible for your own heart.

Take responsibility for you—for your own heart.

But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:5 NLT).

He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.

There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism (Rom 2:6-11 NLT).

The ESV version puts it this way: He will render to each one according to his works.

“A day is coming” sounds like a warning… like something we may not want to hear, but need to hear. Somebody has to love you enough to tell you, not just what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. The idea of God judging people just doesn’t sit well with everyone.

Everybody will face judgment according to what they have done. 

It’s critical you understand Paul is not telling people how to get saved. We are not saved by works… we are saved by grace, through faith (see Eph. 2:8-9).

Good works show we have saving faith; they do not add to our faith in saving us. For the God-seeking they will be given eternal life:

He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers (Rom. 2:7).

How do you know if someone is really a believer?

Not everyone who says they are a believer really is (see Gal. 2:4). You must prove your repentance by a changed life (Matt 3:8).

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Cor 13:5 MSG).

Christians are looking for more than this world. They have their eyes set on eternity!

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior (Phil. 3:20).

Beware beloved: Don’t get too comfy here… this is not your home. If we are not careful, we will throw ourselves into what this world offers—give our thoughts, time, money, emotion—into this world and forget this is not home! If your passion is not Christ, test yourself to see that you really are in Christ.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world (Col 3:5-7 NLT).

But for those who are SELF-SEEKING and are not followers of Jesus there will be wrath and fury. See Rom. 2:8-9.

God will judge those who did not receive salvation through Jesus. They will give an account for what they have done.

Is Paul is talking about hell? It’s a topic nobody wants to talk about. Some churches will purposely stay away from this one… it’s not popular… yet it is a clear biblical reality.

You are free to reject God, but you are not free from the consequences.

Have you ever been in your house when the lights went out? I remember a time here at the church when the lights went out while I was in the bathroom. I thought, who shut the lights out on me? Then I realized it was the sensors; with no movement the lights shut off. I moved and waved my hands, the lights came on, and it was all good.

A day is coming for some when the lights will be turned out, and there will be nothing you can do to turn them back on. You can wave, you can jump up and down… but there is no movement, no words, no tears, no prayers, no begging that can turn the lights back on. It’s the reality of Hell: the blackest of darkness; utter darkness; a bottomless pit.

I love to talk about the reality of God’ love, His immense kindness, the way that His thoughts about you are more than can be counted, the way He relentlessly pursues us.

I don’t like to think about Hell, much less talk about it. But there it is: The Apostle Paul talked about it, Jesus talked about it, Matthew talked about it, the Apostle John talked about it. You cannot read the Word of God without being confronted with its reality:

2 Peter 2:17—doomed to the blackest darkness Luke 16—fire, torment, anguish that is never ending

Matthew 8:12; 25:46 and Revelation 20:12-15 tell there is a separation process. The saved will enter Heaven and the unsaved will enter Hell.

See the parable of the fishing net in Matthew 13:47-50. Some fish were marketable and put in a pile while others were garbage fish, worthless, and put in another pile. Just as every fish was brought up on shore, so every person will come and stand before the Living God on that judgment day. No one is exempt. At the end of the story, Jesus said, “Do you understand these things?” He was saying, Do you get it? That’s a great question for us today—Do you get it?

Why would Paul talk about Hell to believers in Rome? They—and we—need to be reminded of what we are saved from. If you don’t know the bad news, the good news is just news.

We have to pause now and then and bust out in thanksgiving that we have been rescued! We were guilty as charged! We sinned and had a one-way ticket to eternal damnation. “Don’t forget” is a theme throughout the scriptures. Don’t forget what we have been saved from and what we have been saved to.

Whether you have been saved for 2 weeks or 20 years—if you aren’t enthusiastic about being saved, you are forgetting.

We have been entrusted with the responsibility to rescue others. 

We are invited to be part of the greatest rescue of all time—to reconcile people to Him (see 2 Cor. 5:18-19). Who else can set the captive free?

This Easter, will you invite someone to come with you? Will you pray for that family? Take them out for lunch? Let them know you love them? Will you love them enough to ask them afterward: What did you think about that? Do you know that things are right between you and God? Can I pray with you about anything?

When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life (Romans 2:12-16 NLT).

We are without excuse, but not without hope. 

Everyone will be judged based on what they know. We all are without excuse, but not without hope.

Romans 2:13—Paul is again making a point: you can’t be justified by keeping the law, because nobody can keep the law perfectly. Remember that Paul, like a great lawyer, is building a case that everybody has sinned. Sin void of repentance will be judged.

What about those who have never heard the gospel? Paul said, those who sinned without the law will perish without the law. They are all without excuse and will be judged based on:

  • Creation – Rom.1:18-32
  • Their own conduct – because the law is written on their hearts, Rom.2:14
  • Their conscience – Rom. 2:15, we all have a built-in sense that there is right and

Paul closes this thought with these words in Rom. 2:16, “According to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men.” For Paul, the gospel included the GOOD NEWS of being made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ – specifically faith in what He accomplished on the cross for you! If there was no sin problem… there would be no cross. This is where hope comes into the picture for you.

Put a little differently in verse 16, why does Paul say, “as my gospel declares?” Because God’s just judgment is fundamental to his declaration about God’s Son. Without judgment, salvation has no meaning. Without the reality of God’s present and future wrath, the cross is emptied of itsglory.

We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For we all have sinned; all fall short of God’s righteous standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins (Rom. 3:22-24NLT).

That is GOOD NEWS that you need to hear!

You Need To Hear This – Part 1

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Romans is a book that repeatedly changes the world by changing people.This study together is all about transformation for you, our church, and our community.

Fortune Cookies… why do they give them out? Perhaps because everybody wants to be told that they are going to be okay, that things will work out; they want to hear some good news in their world that’s so full of bad news. Of course, we can’t and shouldn’t take fortune cookie seriously. But, Christians can and must take the Bible seriously. When you see a promise in God’s Word, your heart should leap for joy.

  • For example: Hannah’s deep grief and private prayer to the Lord found in 1 Sam 1 teaches us that God prepares to display publically, what you have prayed for privately.He starts making arrangements in response to what you prayed (1 Sam 1:19 MSG). We should take hold of a verse like that and allow our faith to rise as we expect the Lord to answer, as we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7-8).

However, we can’t make the mistake of reading our Bibles like some read fortune cookies – just looking for the encouraging word. Here’s the thing… Messages in the cookies tell you want you want to hear; the Bible tells you want you need to hear!

A.W. Tozer said, “Nothing less than the whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

Today in Romans 2, we come across one of those passages that we need to hear:

Therefore,you have no excuse, O man, every one ofyouwho judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—youwho judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that youwill escape the judgment of God? Romans 2:1-3 ESV

In last week’s passage, Paul uses the word “they,” “them,” or “their” 20 times and all the moral people in the church would have agreed: Yep – THEY are sinners; THEY do horrible things; You can almost hear them saying a loud “amen!” as the letter from Paul is read. But then Paul gets personal; he moves from saying THEY to YOU!

You Have to Hear This:  

#1 You Are Without Excuse, So Stop Judging and Start Repenting.

To play the judge is to believe that others are worthy of God’s judgment while you are not.Jesus blows apart the finger pointing when he said,“Refuse to be a critic full of bias toward others, and judgmentwill not be passed on you. For you’ll be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own?” (Matt 7:1-3 TPT)

If you don’t understand that you are guilty of sin too, you never stop pointing the finger at others.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5: 21-22). For most of us, it is not too hard to get to the end of the day and say, “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone.” But can we honestly say, “I have not been angry with anyone? Have I treated everyone like they are worthy of the extravagant love of God?”

The greatest danger to our lives is never what’s on the outside, but rather what’s on the inside. The greatest danger to the church is not the immorality that gets spewed into homes on a television, nor is it the corruption that can be found in the political arena. The church will never implode from the sin that surrounds it. No, the greatest danger to you is the sin on the inside of you – the self-righteous attitude that looks down at others, but looks up to self. Remember from last week: When you demote God and promote self, everything gets turned upside down.

  • What are the sins you are tempted to excuse in yourself while condemning them in others?

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 1:4

Today we must know that apart from Christ we are without excuse and we must also know that:

#2 God is Kind.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 1:4 NLT

For most of us we get our idea of what God is like by watching our dads. That can be good for some, and a challenge for others. If your view of what God is really like has been tainted, hear me closely today. Allow me to paint a picture in your heart of who God really is, the way He really responds to you. I would like to tell you about who I know God to be, not what I have read about Him, but about the person I have experienced. As a young boy, I was rejected, and marked like there was something horribly wrong with me. Oh, it’s not that I didn’t have parents… great parents. It’s not like I was thrown out of the house, I just didn’t feel like I fit in the house… I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere. Why was I different? What was wrong with me? Seizures dominated my life during elementary school. But then I met God and He believed in me! He knew that my past was not going to dictate my future. He took all my hurt, rejection, shame, fear … and He gave me wholeness, acceptance, love, and faith. Somehow, He took all the pieces of my life – the good, the bad, the ugly, and He mixed them all together to make something wonderful. He took the scared little boy that I used to be and as a man put me in front of people and gave me a story to tell. God is good, He is kind, He is full of compassion toward you, His love for you is unending and intentional. It is His kindness that pursued you, that came running after you. In His kindness toward you, He knocks on the door of your heart and waits for you.

Forbearance—to cease hostility. We are living in a season of grace, but it won’t be forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. God will judge sin; that day is coming. Now is the time to repent, to turn to Him while there is still time. The intention of God’s kindness is to lead you to repentance. The problem with the self-righteous person is that they think others need to repent… but they do not.

  • What does it mean to repent?
  • How has the Lord shown you His kindness?

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 1:5

#3 You Are Responsible for Your Heart.

Our culture tends to want to make everyone the victim, where everything bad is somebody’s fault other than our own. Yet Paul shows something different: humanity has had an active role in their tragic downward spiral. We see it in Romans 1:18-32 – THEY refused to honor God or to give Him thanks; THEY exchanged God’s glory that is incorruptible for what is corruptible, and THEY said, I don’t care what God has to say, I don’t want His input in my life. THEY thought God was worthless and they were given over to worthless minds. And now getting more personal, Paul moves from “They” to “You”– and says, look what you are doing to yourself! You are responsible for the condition of your heart.

Everybody is in motion today: your heart is getting harder or softer; you are moving toward judgment or life. When somebody does not respond to God’s kindness, their heart gets hard.

  • What does a hard heart look like?
  • What have you allowed in your life that has hardened your heart?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:6-11

#4 God Will Judge People Based on Their Actions.

Paul is not telling people how to get saved. We are not saved by works; we are saved by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Good works show we have saving faith; they do not add to our faith in saving us.

Romans 2:6 tells us that God will judge those who did not receive salvation through Jesus, and they will give an account with what they have done.

I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave[a] gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev. 20:12-15

Romans 2:7 tells us that for the saved there is eternal life.

  • How do you know if you are saved?
  • Your life is all about Him… about HIS GLORY!

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Cor 13:5 MSG).

Romans 2:8-9 – BUT for those who are not followers of Jesus… for you there will be wrath and fury.

Paul is talking about hell, a topic nobody wants to talk about, yet clear biblical reality. You are free to reject God, but you are not free from the consequences.

  • Tribulation in Greek means: a severe crushing, pressing, beating – this fits the description of hell that we see throughout the Scriptures

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:12-16

#5 We Are Without Excuse, But Not Without Hope.

“We” are without excuse. Paul leaves the “You” he was talking with and now includes “All” who have sinned, and that would be all of us! Those who sinned without the law, and those who sinned with the law. Everyone will be judged based on what they know. We all are without excuse, but not without hope.

Romans 2:13 Paul is again making a point: you can’t be justified by keeping the law, because nobody can keep the law perfectly. Remember, Paul, like a great lawyer, is building a case that everybody has sinned. Sin void of repentance will be judged.

What about those who have never heard the gospel? Paul said, those who sinned without the law will perish without the law. They are all without excuse and will be judged based on:

  • Creation (Rom. 1:18-32)
  • Their own conduct – because the law is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14)
    • Their conscience – We all have an in-built sense that there is right and wrong (Rom. 2:15)

Paul closes this thought with these words, “According to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men.” For Paul, the gospel included the GOOD NEWS of being made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ – specifically faith in what He accomplished on the cross for you!

  • If there was no sin problem… there would be no cross.
  • This is where hope comes into the picture for you.

Why does Paul add the words, “as my gospel declares?” Because God’s just judgment is fundamental to his declaration about God’s Son. Without judgment, salvation has no meaning. Without the reality of God’s present and future wrath, the cross is emptied of its glory.

We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For we all have sinned; all fall short of God’s righteous standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. (Rom. 3:22-24 NLT)

 

Turned Upside Down

Romans has been called the most powerful summary of the Christian message in the entire New Testament. In it you’ll find the implications of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for you.

The Good News about Jesus impacts you today, right now, right where you are!

 It may seem that salvation is for some other day, to be experienced in the future, after death. But think about this:

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Ps. 34:8)

Right now, today, taste and see for yourself, God is good… oh, the joys! As a follower of Jesus, joy should be your predominant disposition! Let’s expect transformation as we study Romans together. 

Have you ever felt trapped or like everything normal got turned upside down?

Is there a way off this ride?
When my daughter was young, we went on a carnival ride that we couldn’t get off. How did that happen? I yelled to get off and the carnival guy just laughed and made the ride go faster… yikes!

Paraphrasing what Paul wrote to the Romans, “I’m obligated to go to everyone and tell them the good news… there’s a way off the ride!”

If life is spinning out of control, if it feels like everything got turned upside down, there is hope! Paul lays out the heart of the message of Romans:

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”(Romans 1:16-17 NLT)

The Gospel is the Power of God at Work: SAVING!

The power of God – what does that look like? God spoke and there was light; God spoke and nothing became something; God took some dust and breathed on it… and here we are.

God takes what is no more, what is broken beyond repair, and He redeems, restores. He takes what is without life and gives it life.

Salvation in Greek means to rescue, heal, save.

How? Start in faith and finish with faith – explore this throughout Romans.

Let’s go back to that word:“SAVED.”Saved from what? Rescued from what? That takes us to:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

The wrath of God is probably not up in the top ten most popular topics. But the wrath of God is as much a part of who God is as His love, kindness, mercy, and grace. The wrath of God against human corruption is also the revelation of God. Paul’s goal is not to just proclaim good news, but to show the absolute needfor good news.

Consider: If you don’t know the bad news, then the good news is just news.

Nobody cares much about the news that they have a life jacket, until they are drowning.My brother-in-law pulled a dad and his three sons from the bottom of a lake. Sadly, only the dad and one son survived. I’m guessing before their outing, before two brothers perished, they may have had a conversation about life jackets, but perhaps it didn’t seem like a big deal. But when they were shouting in the water and yelling for help, a life jacket would have been GOOD NEWS.

The self-righteous person who thinks they don’t need anything does the same. It’s not until you are willing to admit your need to be saved that you can be saved.

The word of our day is “tolerance.” Our culture has a problem with words like “sin” and “judgment.” So, the idea of a loving God actually judging people is just intolerable.  However, you can’t pick and choose what parts of God you want to believe in… or what parts of the Bible you want to believe in and discard the rest.

What is the wrath of God?

When we hear wrath, we go to an emotional response that is harsh, irrational, or even cruel. God’s wrath doesn’t mean He is flying off the handle. God’s wrath is His attitude toward sin, His personal emotion toward sin and His active opposition to evil.

The heart of the problem, the “why” of God’s wrath is right here: Some suppress the truth. They reject any truth that goes against their choices, their lifestyle, and they reject that God has the final word. They ignore Him!

…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away fromthe presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thess. 1:7-10)

It would not be loving toward you to avoid talking about the wrath of God and a very real, literal hell, and to ignore judgment. If you don’t know the bad news, the good news is just news.

Although God made humanity free to refuse Him, He did not make us free from the consequences of such a choice.

Paul, like a great lawyer, is building his case that nobody is righteous; everybody has sinned—from the immoral Gentile, the self-righteous moral person, to the Jews, to the entire human race—until he lands on Romans 3:23 which tells us that everybody has sinned and needs a savior.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV)

They “knew” God; in Greek that is not just knowledge about something, but knowledge of it by experience! So Paul was saying every person has experienced God… and could experience Him more! His fingerprints are all over creation!

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. (Ps. 19:1-4)

Have you ever slowed down enough to look at creation and stand in awe of the Creator? Think of the most beautiful sunset… and then also realize YOU are His creation!

For although they knew God,they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:21-23 ESV)

They knew God… but did not honor Him or thank Him. WHAT?

God should have received the highest seat of honor in their lives. They became fools, or literally, they became stupid, insane! They exchanged the glory of God for images. They did what?

Our culture tends to want to make everyone the victim, place blame on anyone other than the one at fault. Yet Paul showed something different – that humanity has had an active role in their tragic downward spiral.

When a person demotes God, and promotes self, everything gets turned upside down.

What is good is called bad, and what is bad is called good.

Once a person refuses to acknowledge God… they enter a downward spiral.

They were saying, “I don’t want your input; I don’t want to hear from you; I don’t care.”

What happens when life gets turned upside down?  This is first seen in worship.

They worshiped the created, not the Creator. (Life is upside down.)

You were created to worship – to know God and make Him known, to taste and see…

Instead of accepting themselves as made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), they tried to reverse the order of creation and make God in their own image. This willful denial of God has left people shipwrecked, with a life that is totally centered on themselves.

Yes, they knew God, but they did not worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was their minds became dark and confused. (Rom. 1:21 NLT)

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom. 1:25)

What is Idolatry? When we make our life about something other than God.

Worship is more than a song. What do you worship? What’s the one thing that is wildly important to you? If it’s not God, it’s an idol. What is it that you have to have to make life worth living?  What do you live for?

This turning upside down continues… this downward spiral…

Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1: 24-27)

First, they invented what they wanted God to be like, to fit their lifestyle. Now here is the consequence: God gave them up. This is not a passive God leaving people to their own choices, rather an active role of God’s judgment. This is God’s judgement not out in the future, but right now!The first distortion of God’s created order was worship. The second was that:

Sexual relationships became unnatural.  (Sex is turned upside down.)

They dishonor God… and now are given up to dishonorable passions. This is a very clear biblical reference about homosexuality. However, Paul brings this up, not so much to make a statement about homosexuality, but to show what happens to a person when they reject God: things get turned upside down. Life gets twisted.

God is the Creator of sex; it was His idea. Sex, as God intends it to be, is the marriage relationship of a husband and a wife. A man and a woman is an upgrade for your life, but sin twists it and perverts it. John Lindell said, “When you reverse the Creator’s purpose, sex no longer upgrades your life, it degrades you.”

In his teaching on homosexuality, Paul was swimming against the moral current of much of his audience. Rome was filled with homosexual lifestyles. Pause here and remember this same Paul, when speaking to the church, had said, “Such were some of you.”

Remember, Jesus came for people that were sick and in need of a doctor. Jesus came and loved people that were doing bad things, and told them to go and sin no more.

You don’t lecture people into the kingdom… you love people into the kingdom.

Dishonoring of God results in the dishonoring of human life.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  (Romans 1:28-31)

There it is again: God gave them up – an act of judgment. They thought God was worthless; they became worthless.God’s wrath is often found in God giving people what they wanted – people saying, “I don’t want you. I don’t want you telling me what to do, how to live. I don’t want to worship you.”

“The sin of omitting that which is good leads to the sin of committing that which is positively evil.”   – Luther

We tend to categorize sins, because then we feel better about the sin we practice. “At least I’m not killing somebody.”God makes no distinction. Any sin, no matter how big or how little you think it is, puts humanity in the path of God’s righteous judgment.

When a person demotes God and promotes self, everything gets turned upside down, and now we see…

They hated those they should have loved.  (Relationships go upside down.)

When I hear a child who is mad at parents say, “I HATE YOU,”it’s shocking. The actions I see today, the way one person treats another with such hate, is shocking. Where there should be love, there is hate. Have you noticed the amount of hate around you? Do you hear it in the news?

The power of love… what could happen if we simply loved more?

Some of you have heard words of hate; some have said those words. God wants to heal your heart today.

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  (Romans 1:32)

Conclusion: Think back to that carnival ride… It was too late to change my mind about getting on that ride, and I could not get off that ride! The good news about Jesus is that He gives us a gift called repentance. It was the first message of Jesus – He came, and through His death and resurrection, paid for the penalty of our sin. We are not stuck on the ride of life that we find ourselves on; we can change our mind!

REPENTANCE – notjust a one-time thing… we get to constantly change our mind!

Clear the stage of your life and make space for the one who deserves it!

Paul’s point: When we were utterly helpless, Jesus came!  (Rom. 5:6)

Song:  Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham – Spotify

We have to clear the stage and make some space for the one who deserves.

Anything I put before my God is an idol

Anything I want with all my heart is an idol

Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol

Anything that I give all my love is an idol

 

Cause I can sing all I want to

I can sing all I want to

We can sing all we want to and still get it wrong

Worship is more than a song