Romans

Safely to shore

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This does not mean God has abrogated His moral law (Romans 3:31, Matthew 5:17-19).  The law is good, holy, and righteous (Romans 7:12, 1 Timothy 1:8), but it cannot be kept, so it curses.  Since it cannot assist anyone to keep God’s moral standard (Romans 7:7-11), it can only show the standard and thus rebuke and condemn those who fail to keep it.  But the believer is no longer under the law as a condition of acceptance with God – an impossible condition to meet and one designed only to show man his sinfulness (Galatians 3:10-13) – but under grace, which enables him to truly fulfill the law’s righteous requirements (Romans 7:6; 8:3,4).

Commentary from the MacArthur study Bible, notes for Romans 6:14.

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Through One Man

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Adam’s sin brought universal death – exactly opposite the result he expected and Satan had promised: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).  Christ’s sacrifice brought salvation to those who believe Him.  Unlike Adam’s act, Christ’s act has – and will – accomplish exactly what He intended (Philippians 1:6), i.e., spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5).

Commentary from the MacArthur study Bible, notes for Romans 5:17.

Causes of rebellion

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~Romans 6:12-14~

In God’s eyes, anyone who sins is rebellious, and Scripture tells us we’re all guilty (Romans 3:23).  Now, it makes sense that an unbeliever would choose to act apart from biblical teaching.  But what about those of us who have committed to follow Christ – what would cause us to stray from the will of our heavenly Father?

There are two powerful human tendencies that lead to disobedience: doubt and pride.  Both can be dangerously misleading.

  1.  Doubt is a mental struggle over whether or not to believe God’s promises.  From our limited perspective, we cannot understand how the Lord works.  Sometimes His way does not feel like the right path, so in order to obey, we must step out in faith.  Then it can feel as though we are jumping off a cliff and trusting God’s invisible rope to hold us.  If we listen to our doubt, we will surely transgress.
  2. Pride is the sin that caused Satan to fall from heaven, and it is a deceptive obstacle for believers as well.  Pride has to do with thinking that our way is best, putting more faith in our ability than God’s promises, and desiring praise.  Anything we do out of pride is rebellion against the Lord.

Whatever the cause, sin never leads to the Lord’s best for our life.  God’s way is the only road resulting in fulfillment and peace.

The enemy wants to lure us with doubt and pride – both feel right and are easily justifiable from our human perspective.  But believers should follow Joshua’s wisdom instead:  “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch devotional, November 21, 2017.

Not By Human Effort

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The Bible speaks of times when God chose to be silent – to an individual or to humanity as a whole.  David cried out to Him but discerned no answer (Psalm 22:2).  Then there was Job, who must have felt the Lord had abandoned him (Job 34:29).  And during the gap between the Old and New Testaments, God had no prophet for 400 years.

We don’t always hear from the Lord when we expect to.  Sometimes we’re so caught up in the world and our own interests that we simply can’t detect His voice over all the noise.  There are also other reasons for His silence – He may be choosing to remain quiet because…

He wants our attention.  We can’t expect God to answer simply because we’ve summoned Him.  Perhaps He is reminding us that He is in charge.

There is unconfessed sin in our life.  When we’re willing to deal with our sin, God is ready to talk to us.  To continue living in sin, however, communicates that we’re not interested in His will for us.

We’re not ready.  If we’re doing our own thing and are unwilling to walk in obedience, God might be waiting for us to make up our mind to follow Him.

He’s teaching us to trust Him.  If we’re motivated to love God only when there’s indication that He’s listening, our relationship with Him is based on feeling rather than faith.

He’s teaching us to distinguish His voice from others.  When God speaks softly, we listen more closely and eventually recognize His voice better. 

Whatever the situation, we can be certain of one thing:  God’s quietness is always for our good.

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Devotional, October 7, 2017.

 

Build Something Beautiful

Profiting from Perseverance

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People can be easily discouraged in the face of adversity-like John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas at the start of their first missionary journey.  As they prepared to enter the difficult region of Asia Minor, John Mark left and returned to Jerusalem.  John Mark had not yet learned that “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

If you are thinking of quitting something that is difficult, think of the character and hope you will forfeit if you do.

“Genius, that power that dazzles mortal eyes,

Is oft but perseverance in disguise.”  Henry Austin

Commentary from the Pathways devotional, by David Jeremiah, May 18.

Releasing the Holy Spirit’s Power

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{Romans 8:26-27}

God’s Spirit indwells believers at salvation, which means His power is available from that moment (Eph. 1:13).  God created a simple way for us to access that strength every single day.

First, we must accept the truth that in and of ourselves, we are powerless to live out God’s will.  No matter how capable we may be, our own strength and wisdom are insufficient.  Sometimes Christians become prideful about the good they have done or the number of years they’ve been saved.  Imagine how much more we could serve the Lord if we would humbly get out of God’s way and let Him work through us.

Second, we surrender our entire life to the guidance and governing of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, we choose to conduct our spiritual walk – as well as our vocation, finances, family, and relationships – as God desires.  His Spirit is not going to release supernatural power into a life that is continuing in rebellion.

Third, we exercise faith, which means demonstrating belief and trust in the Lord.  Faith is the “switch” that releases the Spirit’s power.  It’s like saying, “I believe You’ve got a plan, God, so I’m going to trust You to give me what I need in order to do Your will.”  Then He will move heaven and earth to provide for your need, whatever it may be.

Merely memorizing and reviewing the steps isn’t enough.  Instead, commit to these principles as a way of life.  Get used to thinking, I can’t but God can – I’ll submit to His will because His plans are for my good and His glory.  That’s the kind of life that overflows with the Holy Spirit.

Commentary from the In Touch devotional, by Charles Stanley, June 30, 2017.

Not Sometimes, But Always

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God hates gossip.  He wants our speech to be pleasing to Him-and He certainly does not consider idle talk or mean-spirited words pleasant (Col. 3:8).  Sadly, gossip is practiced so freely that even some believers participate and try to justify their chatter.  But hearsay has no place in a Christian’s life.

Romans 1 contains one of the Bible’s lists of sins.  The book’s author-the apostle Paul-is reminding believers that God has revealed Himself to all mankind.  Those who reject Him and chase after idols are turned over to their evil worship and the immoral practices that go with serving self (vv. 24-25).  Gossip appears in the middle of the list; God despises it because malicious talk destroys lives whether the stories are true or false.  The person who is targeted by the rumor often loses the respect of those who listen to it.  Hurt feelings may not be the only negative effect; a job or relationship could be lost as well.

Those spreading tales also face destructive consequences.  People who refuse to control the tongue reveal evil motives or, at the very least, a lack of discipline.  As a result, believers and unbelievers alike will often avoid such untrustworthy individuals.  For a Christian who spreads rumors, there’s potential for even worse damage.  Not only can the credibility of one’s witness be compromised, but fellowship with the Lord might also be harmed-animosity toward another person and intimacy with God can’t coexist in the same heart.

Gossip achieves no good in anyone’s life, which is why the Lord warns against it.  Instead, our words should build up, comfort, and encourage others.

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Devotional, May 8, 2017.

Becoming Whole

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Romans 8:33-39

Modern society has many “solutions” for unhappiness.  For example, a lot of people turn to prestige, love, or various substances to counteract emotional emptiness, but the happiness these things offer soon drains out again.  Only God’s transforming power can change someone with a broken spirit into a content Christ follower who understands his or her value.

To find wholeness, a person must start by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior-the sin that stands between him and God has to be removed.  Then, with the Holy Spirit’s strength, he will be able to find the courage to confront past disappointments, hurts, and sins that may have contributed to his feeling unworthy of the Lord’s love.

Someone with a sense of wholeness feels satisfied with life.  He knows he is loved, which leads to a good self-image and the ability to love others.  Hardship is inevitable in this world, but it doesn’t devastate him or cause him to grumble or cast blame.  Why?  Because the born-again believer knows that God has promised to work everything out for his good (Romans 8:28).

In contrast, someone who feels fragmented or empty often has the opposite experience.  He may look okay on the outside while struggling within.  This can be the case with Christians who haven’t learned to experience God’s love.  In fact, I (Charles Stanley) was a pastor for several decades before I really felt the Father’s love for me; only then did I become truly complete.

The Lord will make His love known to believers who ask.  And through it comes the wholeness they have been seeking.

Commentary from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Devotional, March 26, 2017.