No One Is Good, We All Need Jesus (Romans 3:9-20)

No One Is Good, We All Need Jesus (Romans 3:9-20)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21, 2021

Mercedes is just over 9 years old now, and so over the last 9 years God has drastically changed how I view things. Having two young children means that when I hear about crimes involving children, I want to go ballistic. I cannot tolerate the thought of how someone would harm a child.

What makes someone bad? What makes someone wrong? What disqualifies someone from good? Romans 3:9-20 discusses this.

Romans 3:9-20:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

My theme and application is:

We must recognize that no one measures up to God’s standard. We all need Jesus.

Our sin nature causes wrong desires, wrong speech, wrong paths, and wrong vision.

This is the end of the first section of Romans and Paul ends with Scripture. This is all a quote from the Old Testament. Paul was writing to a primarily Gentile congregation, so he concluded (rather than began) his argument with an appeal to Scripture. Contrast the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who took the opposite approach when he addressed a primarily Jewish readership. The collection of passages Paul used, both affirmed the universality of sin (vv. 10-12), and showed its pervasive inroads into all areas of individual and corporate life (vv. 13-18).

  • My first point is that we as humans have wrong desires.
    • The text says that none of us will seek after good. We just won’t do that. Now we know that as Christians we can seek good because of the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. That is the only way.
    • It is true that people can be good and not be Christian. But there is a difference between doing good and being righteous. One sin separates us from God. This is like one drop of cyanide killing someone.
    • John 3:12 talks about Nicodemus not understanding how you can be born again. Think about a time when you couldn’t understand something. Jesus says you can’t understand the spiritual things without the Holy Spirit.
    • Notice verse 9: Paul says that the Jews are not better off. He is saying that they are not better off than the gentiles.
    • Then verses 10: “no one is righteous…” This is from Ps 14:1–3; 53:1–3.
    • What do we seek after? What are we raised with as people in western culture? We are raised with the goal of a job, a spouse, kids, etc. None of these are bad, but we must think about God’s will.

Pastor Timothy Keller paraphrases an analogy originally used by C.S. Lewis (in his book Mere Christianity) to demonstrate the nature of sin in our hearts.

Now if you want to know if there are rats in your basement, you don’t walk to your basement door, clear your throat, and say, “I think I’ll go down and see if there are rats in my basement,” then jiggle the knob, open the door and in a very leisurely way turn on the light, clear your throat, and walk down the steps loudly and slowly. When you get to the bottom you look around and say, “Well, what do you know: I have no rats in my basement.”

If you want to know if you have rats in your basement, you sneak up to the door, silently open the door, flick on the switch, jump to the bottom of the steps, and look around and they’ll all be scurrying away. And then you’ll know if you have rats.

Based on this analogy, Lewis wrote:

The excuse [for most of my sinful moments] that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard [like a rat who didn’t get enough warning] … Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?[1]

Application: Recognize your wrong desires.

We must as Christians help people to understand. We must pray for God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

  • We as humans have wrong speech. Our throats are open graves.  This is verses 13-14.
    • Just think how many of us have been hurt by words?
    • At this point Paul is quoting from Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 10:7.

The next section shows that humans have wrong paths.

  • In verses 15-17: Humans are on the wrong path.
    • Verses 15-17 come from Isaiah 59:7-8.
    • Our feet are swift to shed blood, is that true?
    • Ruin and misery are in our paths.
  • In 2009, I was serving as an associate pastor. The main part of my job was youth and children’s ministry. On one particular evening we were going to have a children’s lock-in at the church. I arrived at the church early to do some setup. Our church had an office building next door. I looked up at the office and saw an upstairs door opened. I entered the building and heard people in the basement. I walked down there and saw two kids, around 13 and 14 years old, playing with a fire extinguisher. These young teenagers broke into the church office building at about 5:00 pm on a Friday in the summer. Interestingly enough, when I spoke with them, they said the door was opened. I said that the police may want to talk with them. I called the police and a trustee from the church. They did not run, they waited for the police. The police spoke with them and had me go down to the office and write-up a statement. The police asked me, “How did you get them to stay?” I said that I told them the police may want to talk to them and they stayed.
    • What makes young teenagers do such a thing?
    • Sin, sin causes us to do these things.
    • We need redeemed.
    • As a follow-up to the story, the following Monday the father of one of the kids called me and left me a message. I thought, “Great, he is going to say my kid would not do that!” I was so wrong. He owned up to it and wanted his son to serve volunteer hours. Over the next few weeks, he and his son came to the church to volunteer. He told me that he had adopted the child and they had some disciplinary issues. I went to court for both boys and the judge ordered the other young man to serve volunteer hours, but since the one already had served, he was cleared at that point.
  • MacArthur shares: The expression rendered “devastation and destruction” or “ruin and misery” literally means “shattering calamity.” The idea is more than mere wretchedness (though it certainly includes that.) It signifies actual, painful, physical suffering. And there’s no denying that man-made calamity and self-inflicted misery have always been at the center of human experience. In his classic commentary on Romans, early nineteenth-century Scottish commentator Robert Haldane wrote, “The most savage animals do not destroy so many of their own species to appease their hunger, as man destroys of his fellows, to satiate his ambition, his revenge, or cupidity [inordinate greed].” [1] As Paul summarizes, “The path of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:17).[2]
    • We do not know the path of peace.
    • I was in a cornfield maze once and got lost. For a few hours the group I was with thought we would never get out of that maze. If you are not seeking and following after God you are on the wrong path, just like I was. You may search for hours and get nowhere.

We as Christian must guide the world to the right path.

  • Humans have the wrong vision: look at verse 18:
    • This comes from Psalm 36:1.
    • There is no fear of God before their eyes. This means they do not have a fear or a reverence of God.
    • Do we fear God?
    • Do we desire to follow God?
    • In this case to fear means to revere which has the idea of extreme respect.
    • If we revere God, we honor Him. Do we honor Him?

But what about the law? Doesn’t that make humans righteous?

  • Romans 3:19-20 answers the question about the law. Does the law make us righteous?
    • Verse 20 answers the question. Through the law no human being will be justified. To be justified means made righteous. The law gives us knowledge of sin.
    • We needed someone to fulfill the law and redeem us and that was Jesus.

Closing:

Can we fix ourselves?

In 2006, Yoko Ono placed a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for December 8—the anniversary of John Lennon’s death—to be made a global day of healing.

“One day we will be able to say that we healed ourselves,” Ono promised, “and by healing ourselves, we healed the world.”[3]

As I look at the world, it is just getting worse.

We need Jesus.     

Around 17 years ago there was a woman that I worked with at McDonalds. She was another manager just like me. One day she didn’t show up to work. We all thought she probably found another job and that was her way of quitting. We didn’t think much of it because another manager had done that in the past. Then just a couple days after that had happened the police found the body of a woman in a dumpster. The police called on McDonalds because her tie was on the blanket she was wrapped in. The person who killed her had thrown her in the dumpster and tried to burn the dumpster.

The day this came out on the news it was very difficult for many of us at McDonalds. Many were crying at work. I was thinking about my last conversation with her. We were friends and got along good. However, the last day I worked with her was a busy spring Saturday. She came in at 3:00 PM and I had been there since 4:30 AM. I was ready to go; however, she forgot her glasses and  had to go home to get them. I tried not to let her until one of the other managers got in. When someone dies close to you it makes you think about things.

We all thought many different things during that situation. We all agreed on one thing: The person who did this was evil, bad, wrong, sinful! How could he???????? She was such a nice person. She was innocent, sweet, loving, kind! He was bad!!!!

This passage teaches us that we all need a Savior. We may not all be killers, but we all need a Savior, and His name is Jesus.

Prayer


[1] Timothy Keller, Sermon, “The Two Great Tests” (1-23-2005); Submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

[2]https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200814?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=gtyblog

[3] “Good Week for…All Humanity,” The Week (12-8-06), p. 4

God’s Righteousness Upheld (Romans 3:1-8)

Many years ago, I was talking with someone about what ethnic group had faced more than any other ethnic group. What ethnic group faced more hardship, more genocide, more slavery, etc. The person I was talking with thought the African Americans have faced more than anyone else. I admit that it is true that the African Americans have faced unbearable crimes against them. They were enslaved in the American colonies starting in 1619 and going until 1865. They faced another 100 years of systemic racism, and of course other issues since. I cannot imagine having my children ripped from me for the purpose of slavery. I cannot imagine being taken across the Atlantic Ocean to be a slave. I cannot imagine what went on with the slave trade. John Newton wrote Amazing Grace because he ran a slave trade ship. He recognized how hurtful his sin was and how great God’s grace on him was. Still, I do not think the African Americans faced more than any other ethnic group. I think the Jewish people faced the most. What advantage was there, or is there, in being Jewish? That is a question Paul begins to answer in Romans 3.

But, what advantage is there in being Jewish? Listen to this history of the Jewish people.

They were menial slaves in Egypt for some 400 years

They eventually are freed and take the promised land. They eventually face a divided kingdom and then they are conquered. They soon are sent back to the promised land.

Not long after they rebuilt their homeland, they were conquered by Greece, and the despotic Antiochus Epiphanes revelled in desecrating their Temple, corrupting their sacrifices, and slaughtering their priests. Under Roman rule they fared no better. Tens of thousands of Jewish rebels were publicly crucified, and under Herod the Great scores of male Jewish babies were slaughtered because of his insane jealousy of the Christ child. In the year a.d. 70, the Roman general Titus Vespasian carried out Caesar’s order to utterly destroy Jerusalem, its Temple, and most of its citizens. According to Josephus, over a million Jews of all ages were mercilessly butchered, and some 100,000 of those who survived were sold into slavery or sent to Rome to die in the gladiator games. Two years previously, Gentiles in Caesarea had killed 20,000 Jews and sold many more into slavery. During that same period of time, the inhabitants of Damascus cut the throats of 10,000 Jews in a single day.

In a.d. 115 the Jews of Cyrene, Egypt, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia rebelled against Rome. When they failed, Emperor Hadrian destroyed 985 towns in Palestine and killed at least 600,000 Jewish men. Thousands more perished from starvation and disease. So many Jews were sold into slavery that the price of an able-bodied male slave dropped to that of a horse. In the year 380 Emperor Theodosius I formulated a legal code that declared Jews to be an inferior race of human beings—a demonic idea that strongly permeated most of Europe for over a thousand years and that even persists in many parts of the world in our own day.

For some two centuries the Jews were oppressed by the Byzantine branch of the divided Roman empire. Emperor Heroclitus banished them from Jerusalem in 628 and later tried to exterminate them. Leo the Assyrian gave them the choice of converting to Christianity or being banished from the realm. When the first crusade was launched in 1096 to recapture the Holy Land from the Ottoman Turks, the crusaders slaughtered countless thousands of Jews on their way to Palestine, brutally trampling many to death under their horses’ hooves. That carnage, of course, was committed in the name of Christianity.

In 1254 King Louis IX banished all Jews from France. When many later returned to that country, Philip the Fair expelled 100,000 of them again in 1306. In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain even as Columbus began his first voyage across the Atlantic, and four years later they were expelled from Portugal as well. Soon most of western Europe was closed to them except for a few areas in northern Italy, Germany, and Poland. Although the French Revolution emancipated many Jews, vicious anti-Semitism continued to dominate most of Europe and parts of Russia. Thousands of Jews were massacred in the Ukraine in 1818. In 1894, because of growing anti-Semitism in the French army, a Jewish officer named Dreyfus was falsely accused of treason, and that charge was used as an excuse to purge the military of all Jews of high rank.

When a number of influential Jews began to dream of reestablishing a homeland in Palestine, the Zionist movement was born, its first congress being convened in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. By 1914, some 90,000 Jews had settled in Palestine. In the unparalleled Nazi holocaust of the early 1940s at least 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated, this time for racial rather than religious reasons.[1]

Christianity is not about ethnicity, but the Apostle Paul is going to talk about that subject today.

My theme today:

God’s Righteousness is Upheld, God is righteous as a judge, even while we are sinners.

My application:

Remember Jesus is the righteous judge.

  • What advantages are there in being of a Jew or being circumcised (Romans 3:1-2)?

Read with me Romans 3:1-2:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.

  • In this chapter the Apostle Paul answers questions. He uses a rhetorical device called a diatribe in which he has an imaginary conversation with his readers. We will read and study three questions today.
    • Paul asks the question. Remember the previous chapter was pretty much saying that the Jews are not excused. The Apostle Paul focused on the gentiles in chapter 1. In chapter one the Apostle Paul focused on how the gentiles do all these vile sins. Then in chapter 2 Paul zooms in on the Jewish people. They thought they were okay. Paul says that they are not okay. They need the Gospel as well. Paul says that they need a circumcision of the heart. Paul had just argued that a gentile can be a true Jew. So now he answers the logical question of what advantage it is to be a Jew in ethnicity.
    • In verse 2 Paul responds regarding the advantage of the Jew.
    • The Jewish people were entrusted with the Law.
    • The Jewish people were privileged. The Lord communicated to them, and called them out, and blessed them to bless the nations (Deut 4:8; Ps 147:19; Rom 9:4;[2]Genesis 12).
    • We must never forget the privilege of certain positions the Lord places us in.
    • Likewise, we know the Gospel and we should take it to heart and share with others.
  • Will Israel’s unfaithfulness nullify God’s promises (Romans 3:3-4)?

Read with me Romans 3:3-4:

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

  • The question is posed in verse 3. Remember in the previous chapter Paul talked about the unbelief of some. Paul talked about Jews that were Jews outwardly only.
    • Paul answers in verse 4a. God is true no matter what. God is true.
    • Paul strongly rejects their thinking.
    • MacArthur: If all mankind were to agree that God had been unfaithful to His promises, it would only prove that all are liars and God is true.[5]
    • Paul answers from Psalm 51:4 in 4b.
    • The quote in verse 4 is from the time when David is repenting from his sin with Bathsheba. David is saying that God is justified when He judges.
    • That is most critical to remember right now. God is a just judge.
    • Our sin is first against God.
  • If our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness, isn’t He unfair to punish us (Romans 3:5-8)?

Let’s read verses 5-8:

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

  • The question is in verse 5.
    • Paul is considering a false implication. He is using a literary device called a diatribe.[7] The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul does not provide a full answer to the objection here (for that, see chs. 9–11). He shows that the Jewish objector’s position is untenable, for then God could not judge the (Gentile) world either, and no evil behavior would be punished.[8]
    • This question is important, and Paul will come back to a similar idea in Romans 9.
    • Remember that at the end of Romans 3:5 Paul says that he is speaking in human terms. This is a parenthetical apology for blasphemous thoughts of God as unjust.
    • In Romans 7:7 Paul says the law shows us that we are sinners.
    • The reply is in verses 6-8.
    • In verse 6: Paul says that He, God, has to judge the world. Paul uses a reductio ad absurdum argument. This means that he reduces the argument to the absurd. Of course God is the righteous judge. It is absurd to think God cannot judge.
    • Paul strongly rejects this thinking.
    • Paul says that if you follow that kind of thinking you might as well think the more you sin the better it is. Paul has been falsely accused of teaching this very thing—that is, do evil that good may result.[9] Paul strongly rejects this idea. See also Romans 6:1-2.
    • Verses 7-8 seem to be a rhetorical question trying to get them to think logically.
    • Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. They deserve condemned for the things they says that Paul says.
  • Applications: We must understand that there were advantages to ethnic Israel in that the Messiah our Savior, came through Israel (verses 1-2).
  • We must understand that there is a purpose for Israel based on Romans 11 and other passages (verses 1-2 and Romans 11).
  • We must understand that God is faithful (verses 3-4).
  • We must trust the Lord as faithful.  
  • We must understand that God is true (verse 4).
  • We must worship the Lord as the faithful One.
  • We must surrender before Him (Rev 4:8-11).
  • We must understand that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by Him (John 14:6).
  • We must trust Jesus for salvation.
  • We must trust Jesus for our day-to-day life.
  • When all the reports on the news say something different and we do not know who to trust, we must know that Jesus is truth.
  • When the medical advice changes, we must know that Jesus is truth.
  • When government leaders are not trustworthy, we must know that Jesus is the truth.
  • Jesus is the Truth and He is the way to salvation, we can trust Him. He is a righteous judge (Psalm 51:4), we will not be falsely accused, or misrepresented.
  • We can be saved forever through Him.
  • We must never sin that grace may abound (verses 5-8 and Romans 6:1-2).We must seek to grow and serve the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

So, as we can see the Apostle Paul begins to make the argument that God is a just judge. Further, that even if we are all liars it just shows that we are liars and God is the righteous judge. Don’t we yearn for that? Don’t we desire a righteous judge?

Have you surrendered to Him? Are you seeking Jesus?  

Prayer


[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., Romans, vol. 1, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 164–165.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 3:2.

chap. chapter

[4] Edwin A. Blum, “Romans,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1784.

[5] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 3:4.

[6] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1747.

[7] A Graeco-Roman literary style characterized by a question-and-answer structure; used in much literature of the period, including New Testament letters (especially Paul’s). (David L. Woodall, “Diatribe,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

TIC That Incredible Christian)

[8] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2161.

[9] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 3:8.

God’s Judgment and the Law (Romans 2:12-29, specifically 12)

God’s Judgment and the Law (Romans 2:12-29, specifically 12)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7, 2021

Think with me for a moment about justice:

The traditional view of justice is the picture of the blindfolded statue with the scales in hand, trying to weigh out equity without being influenced by the appearance of anyone.  This idea that justice is blind simply means that justice does not want to take into account anyone’s looks or anyone’s position in life or anything other than the truth itself. 

Years ago in ancient Greece and Rome, justice was pictured not only with eyes that were blindfolded but with no hands, so that justice could not see and justice could not receive.  It could not choose on the basis of appearance and it could take no bribes.  It could not be bought. 

There’s an ancient story of a man who, in spite of all of the passions of a father, had to pass the death sentence on his own two sons for he was the leader of his country and his sons had conspired to overthrow the government.  According to the historian, the youth stood before the man, who was named Brutus the Elder, and they pleaded and they wept and they hoped their tears would be the most powerful defense with a loving father.  The men who sat behind the ruler whispered, “What will he do?  These are his children.”  He said, “To you, the executioners, I deliver my sons.”  And the historian wrote, “In this sentence he persisted inexorable, notwithstanding the weeping intercession of the multitude and the cries of the young men calling upon their father by the most endearing names.  The executioner seized them, stripped them naked, bound their hands behind them, beat them with rods, and then struck off their heads, the inexorable Brutus looking on the bloody spectacle with unaltered countenance.  Thus, the father was lost in the judge.” 

That may be a good picture of how it will be someday with God, who offers Himself as a loving father, but someday the father will be lost in the judge.  And God’s justice is even more inexorable.  God always does what is just.  In Leviticus 19:15, God indicts the people in anticipation, as it were, of their sins of injustice, which will become a part of their life.  He says, “You shall do no injustice in judgment.  You shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.  You shall have just balances, just weights, and a just ephah” – ephah was a measure of grain – “and a just hin” – another form of measure.  “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” [1]

So, as we think about justice let’s let those thoughts stir us as we think about our salvation.

Someday God’s wrath on sin will be manifested and none of us are ready for that. In Romans 2:11 the Bible says that there is no partiality with God.

God is the just judge.

Does anyone get a free pass into Heaven?

Actually, we all do, every one of us…

However, we do not get into heaven based off of birth, country of origin, culture, etc.

So, I want us to look at Romans 2:12 and my theme is everyone needs Jesus.

Here is a personal application:

We don’t get into Heaven simply based off of being “Raised in the Church.” In other words, God does not have grandchildren.

Let’s look at this. We are covering a large section of Romans today so I am only going to have us read Romans 2:12. I will summarize the rest. Still, please turn to this passage in your Bibles so that you can follow along.

Read with me Romans 2:12:

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.

God will be a just judge, there is no partiality with God. We see this in verses 11-13.

We don’t get into Heaven simply based off of being “Raised in the Church.”

I said this already but allow me to elaborate. At some age we must make our faith our own. I believe strongly that some never make their faith their own. Some are still committed to Jesus based off of their parent’s faith, grandparents, or even further back in their heritage. We cannot be saved because of a tradition.

So, your children are raised, and they see that you are committed to the church mainly once a week and maybe a board meeting here and there, but your commitment to Christ is no different than a commitment to a social club. Your children see that you do not open your Bible during the week or spend time in prayer. Your children see that you don’t attend Bible studies, or the deeper things of the church. Your children see that you laugh at the idea of attending Sunday School, yet then you wish to witness. As one church member shared with me:

But it is more than simply not attending Sunday School, it is so much more.  It is being indifferent and having no interest in growing spiritually, no interest in getting to really know Jesus, no interest in working to become the person Christ wants you to be, no devotion to God.  It is believing the lie that, “I go to church and I do this or that for the church and I believe in God … so I’m okay.”  NO!  That is not what the Bible teaches.

The point is that Jesus has to be EVERYTHING to us.  He has to mean more than life to us.  Our only hope is Jesus and the grace He has so freely given us.  So, it’s not about church, Sunday School, good deeds – all good things, yes,  – but it is all about Jesus owning our lives.  It’s about Jesus owning our time, owning our resources, everything we are, everything we have really belonging to Jesus.[2]

People may see that you are committed to a history of religion, not a relationship with Jesus.

You are committed to a history of religion, not a relationship with Jesus.

I know this because I see it to often and in my family.

Then you wonder why your kids don’t go to church.

How does this fit into this passage?

The Jews thought they got a free ticket into Heaven by simply keeping the law.

The Jews thought they got a free ticket into Heaven because they were circumcised.

The Jews thought they got a free ticket into Heaven because they were Jewish.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is why verse 11 says God is not partial.

Just because you are Jewish does not mean that you are Heaven bound.

Or, just because you were baptized as a baby, or dedicated, or raised in the church, or serve on a board, or team, or teach Sunday School, or whatever else does not mean you are Heaven bound.

So verse 12: 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.

The Gentiles are without the law and that is how they will be judged.

The Jewish people have the law and that is how they will be judged.

Later in verses 17-24 Paul turns his attention to the sinfulness of the people of God.

Then in verses 25-29 he focuses on the circumcision.

Many of you know that being circumcised was very important in Judaism. In that day and age the Jewish people would think they had a free pass to Heaven because of circumcision.

One source shares: Some later rabbis even taught that Abraham sat at the entrance to Gehenna (“hell”) and would not permit any circumcised Jew to enter there. By implication, the way you lived made no difference. In a similar way, some Christian groups have believed that the rite of baptism saves, and so baptism was delayed until the end of life to make sure all sins were “washed.” But Paul declared that circumcision (and by extension, baptism) without obedience is empty. Furthermore, Abraham was a man of faith who was accepted by God long before he was circumcised (Gn 15:1–20). The true Jew is one who has a spiritual circumcision … of the heart.[3]

Circumcision is of no value if you do not practice the law.

 Verse 26: if the uncircumcised man practices the law it is as if he is circumcised.

Verses 27-29 are saying that circumcision and being a Jew is about the heart.

We see that God is the just judge. God is impartial and we all need Jesus.

This fits with the overall theme of Romans. Romans is all about salvation. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Where are you at?

Are you committed to Jesus?

Share Jesus with everyone.

I shared the following in the past, allow me to repeat it.

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

The Penalty for our sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
(Romans 10:9,10)[4]

Go and share the Gospel:

Pray


[1] http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/45-20A/principles-of-gods-judgment-part-4a

[2] Member of a past church I served shared this with me

[3] Edwin A. Blum, “Romans,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1784.

[4] http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/about/becoming_a_christian.aspx

God’s Impartial Judgment (Romans 2:1-11)

God’s Impartial Judgment (Romans 2:1-11)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, 2021

In 2001, Tim Goeglein started running the White House Office of Public Liaison, providing him almost daily access to then President George Bush for seven years. Then it all ended abruptly on February 29, 2008. A well-known blogger revealed the startling fact that 27 out of 39 of Goeglein’s published articles had been plagiarized. By mid-afternoon the next day, Goeglein’s career in the White House was over. 

Goeglein, who admitted his guilt, said that this began “a personal crisis unequaled in my life, bringing great humiliation on my wife and children, my family, and my closest friends, including the President of the United States.” 

Goeglein was summoned to the White House to face the President. Once inside the Oval Office, Goeglein shut the door, turned to the President and said, “I owe you an…”

President Bush simply said: “Tim, you are forgiven.” 

Tim was speechless. He tried again: “But sir…” 

The President interrupted him again, with a firm “Stop.” Then President Bush added, “I have known grace and mercy in my life, and you are forgiven.” 

After a long talk, a healing process was launched for Goeglein, which included repentance, reflection, and spiritual growth. “Political power can lead to pride,” Goeglein later reflected. “That was my sin. One hundred percent pride. But offering and receiving forgiveness is a different kind of strength.
That’s the kind of strength I want to develop now.[1] 

Have you been forgiven? Are you trusting in Jesus and His work on the cross for your salvation?

I have some honest questions for you:

  1. When it comes to salvation, does God favor a certain cultural group?
  2. When it comes to salvation, is one more likely to be saved if they live a moral life?
  3. When it comes to salvation, is one more likely to be saved if they have not committed certain sexual sins?
  4. What do you believe and how do you live?

We are going to look at a Bible passage that teaches that everyone needs salvation. There is no partiality with God. I think most of you believe that, but I am concerned that many do not live that way. I think many think God favors the moral person. In other words, many may think that as long as you do not commit certain sins God favors you. I think many may think that God favors Americans, or another country. To be clear, Israel was, and remains, God’s chosen people. But this meant that the Savior came through Israel and God still has a purpose for that country. Everyone needs salvation through the cross.

We are walking through Romans and we come to Romans 2. Let’s read Romans 2:1-11 and my theme is the following:

God’s impartial judgment

My application is:

Repent and live for Jesus, then share the Gospel with others

Romans 2:1-11:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who 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—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 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? 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.

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 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.

Remember the context

This passage is the second chapter of Romans.

Romans is Paul’s great treatise on salvation.

In the book of Romans Paul is writing about how we are saved, and who needs to be saved, and the extent of salvation.

In verse 1, Paul addresses some who think they are okay.

Paul addresses people who think they are okay because they are Jewish or practice a moral law.

Paul had just given this litany of sins (Romans 1:18-32) and now he tells them that they are without excuse.

They practice the same things.

It seems as though in Romans 1, Paul is addressing the Gentiles and now he is addressing the Jewish people. There are different views on this. Some think he is now addressing the gentile moralist. That would mean one who teaches a moral law.

One source points out, The NIV misses the force by translating simply “You.” The exclamatory is used to express emotion (BDF , par. 146.1b). “You, sir!” would supply the vitality inherent in the phrase.

MacArthur shares: Having demonstrated the sinfulness of the immoral pagan (1:18–32), Paul presents his case against the religious moralist—Jew or Gentile—by cataloging six principles that govern God’s judgment: 1) knowledge (2:1); 2) truth (v v. 2–3); 3) guilt (v v. 4–5); 4) deeds (v v. 6–10); 5) impartiality (v v. 11–15); and 6) motive (v. 16).[4]

Now, in verses 1b-4 Paul says they do the same things as Paul had written about in Romans 1:18-32.

In the second half of verse 1 Paul says that they do the same things.

One writes: We are reminded of the encounter between David and the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12:1–14). David agreed that the rich man who killed the poor man’s pet lamb deserved to die. But having passed judgment on another, he quickly learned from Nathan that he had judged himself. “You are the man!” declared the prophet. You have taken the lamb (Bathsheba) of the poor man (Uriah) for your own pleasure. In judging another, you have judged yourself. God’s judgment is based on truth. It is impartial and makes no distinction between rich and poor, king or pauper.[8]

Jesus talked about this in Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37

In verse 2 Paul says that God’s judgment rightly falls on those who practice such things. What things? I think this is going back to Romans 1:18-32.

In verse 3: it seems as though there were some who were very hard on others. These may have been Jewish people hard on the Gentiles.

Paul asks them if they think they will escape the judgment of God.

They think because they are moral, or because they are Jewish, they are okay.

But we all need salvation.

The Jewish people would usually be more moral, they would usually not commit much of the sins in Romans 1:18-32, but they still need a Savior.

In verse 4 we see God’s kindness leads to repentance.

Notice the three words in verse 4: “kindness,” “forbearance,” and “patience.” These are riches from God.

In verses 5-11 we see the contrast between the non-believer and the believer.

We see the contrast between the person trusting Jesus and not trusting Jesus.

Notice they have a “hard” and “impenitent” heart.

They are storing up wrath.

verse 5: they are unrepentant. They are storing up wrath for themselves.

Paul is as hard on them as he was on the gentiles and their litany of sins.

They are storing up wrath. There is also a reference to the day of judgment.

Paul says that they have a “stubborn” or “hard” heart. About that word MacArthur shares: The English word “sclerosis” (as in arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries) comes from this Greek word. But here the danger is not physical, but spiritual hardness (Ezek. 36:26; Matt. 19:8; Mark 3:5; 6:52; 8:17; John 12:40; Heb. 3:8, 15; 4:7).[10]

Paul says that their heart is hard and “impenitent” or “unrepentant.” Again, MacArthur shares: A refusal to repent (cf. Rom. 2:4) and accept God’s pardon of sin through Jesus Christ.[11]

They are storing up more wrath through their unrepentance. The day of judgment refers to the final judgment that comes at the great white throne at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:11-15).

verse 6 is from Psalm 62:12; also Matthew 16:27.

Some think this is teaching salvation by works. That is not true, we are saved by faith, but we are saved unto good works (Eph. 2:10).

I like what Mounce writes:…But in the immediate context Paul was not teaching how we are made right with God but how God judges the reality of our faith. Faith is not an abstract quality that can be validated by some spiritual test unrelated to life. God judges faith by the difference it makes in how a person actually lives. A. M. Hunter is right in saying that “a man’s destiny on Judgment Day will depend not on whether he has known God’s will but on whether he has done it.”77 That is why Jesus taught that those who respond to the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner will be rewarded with eternal life; but those who fail in these down-to-earth tasks will “go away to eternal punishment” (Matt 25:31–46).[12]

Beginning in verse 6 we see a contrast between the redeemed and the unredeemed. The redeemed are in verses 7 and 10 and the unredeemed are in verses 8 and 9. We are not saved by works, but we are saved unto good works (Eph. 2:10). The deeds of the redeemed are evidence of salvation, not what saves them.

This is called an ABBA chiastic structure.

verse 7 is about the redeemed:

Paul gives quite a list of nouns that are received by persevering to the end. If the redeem persevere they receive:

Glory

Honor

Immortality

eternal life

There is an emphasis on perseverance of the saints not easy believism.

This is Paul’s first mention of “eternal life” in Romans. It is life that is qualitatively different from the life of this present age.[13]

Verses 8-9 are written about unbelievers. Verses 8-9 show what happens to the person who does not persevere, the non-believers.  

These are those who are selfishly ambitious or “self-seeking” about that Greek term, MacArthur shares: This word may have originally been used to describe a hireling or mercenary; someone who does what he does for money regardless of how his actions affect others.[14]

These are unbelievers, they do not obey the truth, but unrighteousness. They will experience God’s wrath and fury.

Verse 9 shares that they will face tribulation and distress. This goes to the Jew first, but also the Greek.

verse 10 brings back the contrast to the positive.

Now, we are back to the believers. This is about perseverance and doing good. The believers will experience glory and honor and peace, again, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. These are repeated from verse 7 except “peace” replaces “immortality” and “eternal life.”

We must persevere: Remember the Child’s Toy that’s a big vinyl doll with a heavy round weight of sand in the bottom? You punch it, it bounces right up again. Punch it again and it comes back to the upright position. Similarly those Christians in the early church kept bouncing back.[15]

We must be like them.

MacArthur: Just as the Jews were given the first opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel (1:16), they will be first to receive God’s judgment if they refuse (cf. Amos 3:2). Israel will receive severer punishment because she was given greater light and blessing (see Rom. 9:3–4).[16]

Glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good. Again, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

verse 11 There is no partiality with God: Deut 10:17 and Acts 10:34.

Applications:

We must be humble and understand that I need redeemed as much as anyone (verse 1).

We must understand that God does not show partiality (verse 11).

We must understand that God does not show partiality to the Jewish people over the gentiles (Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9-11)  .

We must understand that God does not show partiality to people with a Christian background.

We must understand that God does not show partiality to people who live moral lives.

We must understand that God does not show partiality to Americans.

We must be SO careful about judging while doing the same things (verse 1).

Judging condemns ourselves (verse 1).

We must not be spiritually arrogant.

We must remember that the judgment of God falls on us when we practice such things as from Romans 1:29-31.

We must understand that we will not escape the judgments. Again, God is not partial.

We must NOT think lightly on the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience (verse 4).

We must not trivialize that these are riches. Our salvation comes from God’s riches.

We must not trivialize the “riches” of God’s kindness.

We must not trivialize the “riches” of God’s forbearance or tolerance.

We must not trivialize the riches of God’s patience.

We must repent when we do trivialize these great riches from God. We must repent as we see that God’s kindness is to lead us to repentance.

We must remember that there will be a day of judgment (verses 5-10 and (Rev. 20:11-15) and we must repent now, while we have time.

We must seek Christ now, we must live for His Kingdom.

Prayer


[1] (Warren Cole Smith, “Wins & Losses,” World magazine, 10-23-10, p. 11. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Love and Longing, 5/13/2011)

[2] NIV  NIV New International Version

BDF  BDF F. Blass, A. Debrunner, R. W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament

SBLDS  SBLDS Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series

1  Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995)

[3] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995).

[4] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[5] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[6] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

61 Luther noted that while “the unrighteous look for good in themselves and for evil in others … the righteous try to see their own faults and overlook those of others” (Romans, 36).

[7] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 88.

[8] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 89.

[9] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[10] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[11] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[12] Hunter, Romans, 36. Similarly, Stuhlmacher writes that “in the final judgment, one’s works, as a visible expression of the nature of a person, are evaluated. What is pleasing before God is rewarded; what is evil or was neglected, will be punished” (Romans, 46).

1  Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 91

[13] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995).

[14] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[15] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 437.

[16] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-macarthur-study-bible-esv/id419199195

[17] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 481.

[18] C. H. Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 121.

God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ (Romans 1:18-32)

God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ (Romans 1:18-32)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, January 23 and Sunday, January 24, 2021

In Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Grace he gives real testimonies of:

Racists transformed by God’s grace

Addicts transformed by God’s grace

Murderers transformed by God’s grace

The Abused transformed by God’s grace

The Abusers transformed by God’s grace

I remember jogging listening to one of the “Case for…” books as Strobel writes about a man formerly on death row who had been transformed by Christ and is now a pastor.

How does this happen? How do people change? What is the big deal?

C.S. Lewis writes about our moral law and believes that this is evidence for a God. Without God, how can we know that there really is a right and a wrong?

Two weeks ago, we began a sermon series on Romans. We are still in Romans chapter 1. In Romans chapter 1 we see the Apostle Paul write about the depravity of humanity.

I want to get into a passage about this very thing and my theme comes from Romans 1:18 and is:

God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ

That is my theme. As we look at this passage and the messages over the next few weeks, we will see that we all, and everyone, need Jesus. No one is good enough.

Application:

Trust in Jesus and point others towards Him as well.

I spent time on this passage a few months ago during my worldview series, so I just want to review and add a few things.

Read with me Romans 1:18:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 

  1. First, let’s look at the context of this passage.
    • From 1:18-3:32 the major point in Romans is that being Jewish does not give one salvation, nor does being gentile. No one escapes the consequence of their sins.
    • Remember, Romans is Paul’s great treatise on Salvation. This is called soteriology. This is very important for us to take seriously.
    • As we look at the following verses, we see a litany of sins.
    • As we jump ahead, we see chapter 2 which is directed at the Jews and begins with: Therefore you have no excuse…
    • As we get into chapter 3, Paul begins with Then what advantage has the Jew?
    • In 3:10-20 there is a quote from the Psalms regarding Jewish unrighteousness.
    • Then we come to 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    • But check out verse 24: and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
    • Do you see my point?
    • Prior to looking at these passages we may think, “How legalistic Paul is!” Prior to looking at these passages we may think, “I cannot believe Paul would mention these politically incorrect things!”
    • Realize that Paul is pointing people to Jesus.
  2. I do wish to briefly talk about this passage. First, let’s read it.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 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.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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.

28 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 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.

  1. I walked through this passage a few months ago, so let me just point out a few main things.
    • This list of sins is NOT complete. Paul is showing our potential in sin. Paul is showing that we need a Savior. Paul is also showing that the further we get from God, the more depraved we may be; however, remember that we all have a sin problem and we all need Jesus.
    • Notice:
    • In verse 18 we see two uses of the word unrighteousness — twice. Wrath is coming against our unrighteousness. And we are holding down or suppressing or hindering the truth in unrighteousness.
    • Piper shares, “Surely Paul, in writing those two words, unrighteousness, means for us to connect them with the word righteousness in verse 17. And he wants us to hear that the reason we need a righteousness from God is because we are unrighteous. That’s what he wants us to hear in these words. So, don’t miss that connection.”
    • Further Piper shares: “In other words, you can see right off the bat that the bad news of verse 18 is meant to highlight the good news of verse 17. And if you don’t get your condition as unrighteous, you won’t love the awesome reckoning of verse 17. So, don’t run from these things. Don’t run from the diagnosis.”[1]
    • Verses 19-20 are all about general revelation. God has made Himself known.
    • God gave us morals. God gave us morality.
    • Near the end of WWII, the first town with a concentration camp that the Allied forces liberated was Ohrdruf, Germany. Allied soldiers got there before the Nazis could get rid of any evidence of the camp, and the American soldiers walked into that camp to find hundreds upon hundreds of dead bodies.
    • It is difficult to exaggerate the horrors of these camps. When General Patton arrived in Ohrdruf, he promptly vomited upon witnessing the scene. It was—and is—too horrific for words.
    • Patton knew that the German people needed to know what had happened. He brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to see the camp. He then ordered every able body in the town to dig graves for the bodies, and they held a funeral for the deceased.
    • After the funeral, Patton found out that the mayor and his wife had hung themselves. Before their death, they left a note that read, “We didn’t know … but we knew.”[2]
    • One pastor writes: Suppression, you see, is not the same as ignorance. Suppression means the truth is in there, but you keep yourself from acknowledging it. Like a beach ball you are attempting to hold under the water, it keeps trying to come to the surface, and you keep pushing it down.[3]
    • Verses 22-23 share: Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
    • One pastor gives this illustration: It would be a great folly and a great tragedy if a man loved his wedding ring more than he loved his bride. But that is what this passage says has happened.[4]
    • Imagine that.
    • Three times this passage says that “God gave them over…”
    • Verse 24 says God gave them over…
    • Verse 26 says, God gave them over…
    • Verse 28: God gave them over…
    • Notice verses 28-32: God gave them over to a depraved mind.
    • We are depraved, we need Divine intervention. We cannot save ourselves.
    • This is how Paul begins Romans. He reminds us of our depravity.
    • I recently heard someone share the following: Realize the difference between Passive wrath versus active wrath.
    • Romans 1:18-3:21 are almost all about sin. I like what John Piper shares: And if you try to do an end run around this section and jump from Romans 1:17 to Romans 3:21, you won’t love the gospel. That’s being taught all over the world today in the name of Christianity. “Let’s just jump over this sin stuff. Let’s just jump over this wrath stuff. This is not encouraging; it is not going to make people want to come back to my church on Sunday morning.” I don’t believe that, by the way, visitors, whoever you are. Frankly, I think you’d like an interpretation of death and suffering and moral degeneracy in our society. I think the world is kind of interested in questions like “Where’d death come from? And is there any hope to overcome it?” So, I’m not worried about talking about sin and chasing anybody away. People leave for all kinds of reasons, and people come for the most strange reasons you can ever imagine. God brings you here this morning for this message. You’re here for this message, and I pray that you’ll be listening.[6]
    • We could go into a series and preach on each of the sins listed in this passage, and maybe we will some day, for now, remember that Jesus is Lord, we are depraved and we need salvation. We need a Savior.
    • The sins in this section are real and they are sinful. Also, the deeper you get into a sinful lifestyle, the further you get from God. Repent as soon as you are convicted and get help.
    • The hot topic from this passage is homosexuality. I realize that for some of you that is an emotional issue because you, or someone you know, is in the homosexual lifestyle.
    • The Bible makes clear from Genesis to Revelation that God has a better way. God’s plan is sexual relationships are to be male and female. I believe that human nature teaches that, biology teaches that.
    • But I must add, heterosexuality does not mean godliness. One can be married to the opposite sex and in sin. Purity is the goal and being heterosexual does not mean that one is pure.
    • If you are here and you are heterosexual, don’t be prideful, you must repent of any lust, or pornography, or temptations in any way.
    • We all must repent of our sins.
    • Listen, I am here to help.
  2. Let’s apply this:
    • Trust in Jesus and point others towards Him as well.
    • Who are you trusting in for Salvation?
    • Are you recognizing that you need Jesus?
    • Do you recognize that others need Jesus?
    • Point others to Jesus?
    • Do you know Jesus?
    • Are you dependent on Jesus?
    • Do you need Jesus?
    • Or, are you self-sufficient?
    • Are you confident in your own thinking? Realize that even our mind is depraved (verses 28-32).
    • In this passage we see human pride. Many think pride is the root of sin, which it may be the root of all sin.
    • Regarding verse 18, I recently heard the following “The lack of a thankful heart is when we start departing from the Lord” (Ray Ortlund Jr quoting Francis Schaeffer).

Anthropologists say we are telic creatures –purposed people–who always find some greater cause to live for. We find something to attach ultimate value to; something we determine that without that thing life would not be worth living . It’s like Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, who is

not a Christian, says it: “There are no true atheists, practically speaking. There are those who acknowledge the gods they are worshipping and those who don’t.”[7]

So, as I close this sermon I encourage you to seek the Lord and make sure that He truly is your Lord. Repent of anything that is an idol. Make sure that Jesus is your cause to live for.

Remember, Jesus forgives.

One pastor writes:

When I was a young Christian, it was very popular for youth groups to attend True Love Waits rallies every summer, where thousands of teenagers would commit to abstaining from sex until marriage.

My friend Matt Chandler tells the story of being at one of those rallies, where the speaker was trying to demonstrate the damage sexual sin causes. At the beginning of his talk, the speaker passed out a beautiful rose to someone in the audience and told them to pass it around and notice how good it smelled and soft the petals were.

When it got back to him at the end of his talk, the rose was wilted and drooping, with most of the petals fallen off. He held it up and said, “Who wants this rose?” The implied answer: No one.

I think I get where that speaker was coming from. In an increasingly fluid culture, we need to be clear about what the Bible says about sex. One of our culture’s favorite lies is that sex can be casual. But it never is. Sex inherently unites people, body and soul, so much so that “casual sex” does damage to everyone involved.

But there’s a difference between warning people about sexual sin and heaping shame on the sexual sinner.

Remember: There is a Savior who came and died for those sins. He overcame them through the grave so that he could restore those who have suffered because of their sin.

This is why, when Matt heard the speaker ask, “Who would want this rose?” he wanted to jump up and yell, “Jesus wants the rose!”[8]

Jesus wants to forgive and give second chances.

Prayer


[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-grow-in-wisdom?utm_campaign=Ask+Pastor+John&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=82923175&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–SrVVZcZQQzC_qEc42DhqypkGrl4r23th2F6_S3DqGNeXKzGODaF1tfLwKCRTyPqZ7IWTPOhd8aO_A8tX75iWyCaIYIg&_hsmi=82923175

[2] https://jdgreear.com/blog/dont-know-know/?utm_source=JD+Greear+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8e436bed15-BLOG_DIGEST_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_009733a9e6-8e436bed15-87118783

[3] https://jdgreear.com/dont-know-know/

[4] Devotional excerpted from The Pleasures of God, pages 85–86

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-message-of-creation

[5] https://realfaith.com/ask-pastor-mark/what-is-the-difference-between-passive-and-active-wrath/

[6] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-grow-in-wisdom?utm_campaign=Ask+Pastor+John&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=82923175&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–SrVVZcZQQzC_qEc42DhqypkGrl4r23th2F6_S3DqGNeXKzGODaF1tfLwKCRTyPqZ7IWTPOhd8aO_A8tX75iWyCaIYIg&_hsmi=82923175

[7] https://www.summitrdu.com/wp-content/uploads/sermons/2019/01/4-Romans-1-24-32-Judgment.pdf

[8] https://jdgreear.com/jesus-wants-the-rose/

Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, January 16 and Sunday, January 17, 2021

Please turn to Romans 1:16

I read the following a few years ago.

In January of 1925, Nome was this remote outpost, faced suddenly with a deadly outbreak of diphtheria, and virtually no vaccine to stop it. The National Health Department in Washington concluded “an epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable.” That meant up to 75% of the children in and around Nome could die.

Well, a train brought the needed antitoxin as far as the train could go – to Nenana. That’s 640 miles from Nome. From there, it had to be dog teams, taking the mail route that they called the Iditarod Trail. But that was usually a 25-day trip, and that was way too long to save the lives in Nome.

Knowing that their mission was life-or-death, the mushers and their dogs defied the weather; they defied the odds to do what had never been done before. Like the Pony Express, one team went as far as they could and then handed it off to another musher and his dogs. And history records that the winter of ’25 was one of the worst ever, with temperatures that plunged to 60 below. Then the blizzard closed in around them. The only doctor in Nome said, “All hope is in the hands of the dogs and their heroic mushers.” 

At 5:30 in the morning on January 30, the final musher drove his dogs – and the serum – into the streets of a sleeping Nome. It took twenty men; it took 150 dogs to get it there. Amazingly, they made the trip in just five and a half days, breaking the world record, and more importantly, saving hundreds of lives.

The drama of that desperate race to Nome touches something deep inside me, because it’s a picture of a race for life where the stakes are even higher; a race that began on an old rugged cross 2,000 years ago. Our word for today from the Word of God in 1 John 3:16 and chapter 4, verse 9, says this: “Jesus Christ laid down His life for us that we might live through Him.” The news of His death for our sins and His game-changing resurrection – that’s the only “serum” that can save a person from a hellish eternity and give them heaven instead.

And from generation to generation that life-saving message has been entrusted into the hands of every person who’s been saved by hearing it. And today, it’s in my hands and the hands of every person who belongs to this Jesus.

Getting Jesus’ message to the people within my reach is not some casual, “get around to it sometime” thing. It is urgent beyond words. In the Bible’s words, it’s snatching “others from the fire” (Jude 23 ), it’s rescuing “those who are being led away to death,” it’s holding “back those who are being led away to slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11 ). People I know. People I see all the time. People whose forever depends on what I know about Jesus. They are one heartbeat away from meeting God. Waiting any longer to tell them is gambling with their eternity.

Somewhere along the way, the cause for which Jesus died has become, well, like the Iditarod, a spectator sport, lots of activity but no thought about the lives at stake. But those of us who’ve been saved by the serum of the Gospel are responsible before God to get that serum to those who are going to die without it. Jesus expects that the driving passion of His people and His Church, will be the passion that kept Him on the cross, “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10 ). In a very real sense, we hold their eternities in our hands.

It really is a race for life[1]

So, this is the purpose of Romans. Romans is all about the Gospel. Romans is all about Paul getting the good news of our salvation out to the world. He wanted to spread the serum.

Let’s look at the thesis statement:

Read with me Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

My theme and application:

Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Take the Gospel seriously.

  1. Pray for a passion for the Gospel.
    • Look at Paul’s passion for the Gospel. 2 Timothy 2:10: Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
    • Let’s come back to Romans 1:16-17.
    • Paul says he is not ashamed of the Gospel.
    • Why?
    • The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.
    • Who are saved?
    • Paul says the Jew first. This is likely because salvation came through the Jewish people, through Jesus, and back to Abraham.
    • Paul says, “also the Greeks.” This was a big deal in that time period. Salvation is opened to everyone.
    • Verse 17 references “The righteous man shall live by faith” and this is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4: The Righteous shall live by faith
    • Now, let me talk about these two verses with applications for us:
  2. We must also be eager to preach the Gospel.
    • Paul says that he is not ashamed. If we go back and look at verse 14 he says that he is under obligation to preach the Gospel to Greeks and Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
    • Barbarians would be anyone who did not speak Greek. This is based off of their language.
    • 1 Cor. 9:16 Paul writes: For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 
  3. We must not be ashamed of the Gospel. Let’s make this more personal.
    • We must not be ashamed at school.
      • We must not be ashamed at work.
      • We must not be ashamed in public.
      • We must not be ashamed on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
      • We must not be ashamed at church. At church? You are wondering what I mean by this. Even churches are compromising the Gospel. We are compromising the Scriptures and compromising our Savior.
  4. We must proclaim the Gospel.
  5. We must have a Gospel mindset, always praying, and thinking of opportunities to share.
  6. We must recognize the exclusivity of salvation and the inclusivity of the Gospel.
    • The Gospel is the only means to salvation. So, in that way Salvation is exclusive, only through Jesus. But the Gospel is inclusive, opened to all.
    • John 3:16-18; 14:6
      • 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

So, get this in John 3:18, rejecting the Son means rejecting the Father.

Notice John 14:6: Jesus is the only way.

Luke 9:23:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

We must recognize that the Gospel represents the power of God. I must be compelled to worship our mighty Savior.

We must recognize that God’s righteousness is revealed. We are only righteous by faith in Christ. We are only right before God by faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). This must compel us to worship. 

This passage, this phrase “righteousness of God is revealed” has brought a lot of theological debate. I had a note in my Bible that says “our faith alone for salvation, not works.” I think that is key.

Some would say this is talking about God’s righteousness in the way we are saved. Others would say that we only receive righteousness by trusting in Jesus. I really like both. God is righteous. But we only receive right standing before God by trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Close:

A bazaar was held in a village in northern India. Everyone brought his wares to trade and sell. One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail. He had tied a string around one leg of each bird. The other ends of all the strings were tied to a ring which fit loosely over a central stick. He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle, around and around, like mules at a sugarcane mill. Nobody seemed interested in buying the birds until a devout Brahman came along. He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, so his heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in their monotonous circles.

“I want to buy them all,” he told the merchant, who was elated. After receiving the money, he was surprised to hear the buyer say, “Now, I want you to set them all free.”

“What’s that, sir?”

“You heard me. Cut the strings from their legs and turn them loose. Set them all free!”

With a shrug, the old farmer bent down and snipped the strings off the quail. They were freed at last. What happened? The birds simply continued marching around and around in a circle. Finally, the man had to shoo them off. But even when they landed some distance away, they resumed their predictable march. Free, unfettered, released . . . yet they kept going around in circles as if still tied.

Until you give yourself permission to be the unique person God made you to be . . . and to do the unpredictable things grace allows you to do . . . you will be like that covey of quail, marching around in vicious circles of fear, timidity, and boredom.

Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

People need Jesus.

Do you see the Gospel as healing serum which people need?

Paul was not ashamed. He wanted to preach the Gospel. He wanted to preach to those who have never heard.

Let’s review the Romans road to Salvation:

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  (Romans 3:23).

The Penalty for our sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved  (Romans 10:13).
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9,10).[2]

Go and share the Gospel


[1] https://hutchcraft.com/a-word-with-you/your-mission/the-race-to-nome-6619

[2] http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/about/becoming_a_christian.aspx

Preach to those Who Have Never Heard (Romans 1:8-15; 15:20)

Preach to those Who Have Never Heard (Romans 1:8-15; 15:20)

Theme: An Intro to Romans

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Saturday, January 9 and Sunday, January 10, 2021

We are going to be turning to Romans 1 in a moment. First, allow me to introduce the passage with something I read from Rick Sams, the retired pastor of Alliance Friends.

WHITE OUTS by Pastor Rick Sams

  White outs come in the form of blizzards where you cannot see a thing.

  Then there’s the kind we used before computers. Wite-Out dates to 1966 when an insurance-company clerk named George Kloosterhouse and a guy who waterproofed basements developed a correction fluid for typing mistakes. It was originally called “Wite-Out WO-1 Erasing Liquid.”*

  Have you ever sent a text message that you regretted? Now you can electronically “white it out” by using Apple’s app called “Wiper Messenger.”**

  Don’t you wish we had a “white out” for all your words and actions?

  We try to use white out when we say we’ve “stretched the truth,” but we’ve flat out lied.

  We call it “spin” when it’s actually false reporting.

  “Re-inventing” products is really the same old stuff in a bigger package and bigger price.

  “Revisionist history” is just bad research and recall.

  “Pardon my French” is a cover up for swearing. I’ve heard French and what follows this phrase is not French.

  “Bless their heart,” is often used right after we’ve smeared someone, as if this makes it right.

  “Communication breakdown” is often a cover for laziness or somebody not doing their job.

  “Mistakes” are too often sins.

  “Affairs” are adultery.

  “Issues” are really problems–usually big and bad.

  But the Bible says there really are do-overs and white outs: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18b).

  What a Savior. What a white out.[1]

Okay, that is exactly what we are going to start talking about today. We are beginning a sermon series on Romans. For most of this year we will be preaching through Romans. We will not hit every verse, but instead I will be picking out key sections in each chapter. Romans is all about our great salvation. This is Paul’s treatise on salvation.

Do you think about your salvation?

What are you saved from?

How are you saved?

Are you saved by works?

Can you earn your salvation?

We find a lot of those answers in Romans. 

Today, I want to introduce Paul’s Thesis in Romans and give a little bit of background to Romans.

My theme and application:

Be Gospel Centric as Paul was Gospel Centric.

Read with me Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

Let’s start with the point, person, and time of the writing of Romans.

Over a million people lived in Rome at the time of this writing.

Paul most likely wrote Romans from Corinth around A.D. 57.

The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Christ, God judges sin and yet at the same time manifests his saving mercy.[2]

Let’s think more about Rome.

What are some things that you think of from Rome?

Anyone may answer this.

Has anyone here ever been to Rome?

The Colosseum is estimated to have seated more than 45,000 for gladiatorial spectacles.

Daily life in Rome could be luxurious for the wealthy but onerous for others. Multiple aqueducts and a huge sewer system provided for the immense water requirements of Rome, including the many bathhouses, fountains, and latrines. Food had to be imported to satisfy the needs of this thriving metropolis, and the emperor often directly oversaw the vital grain supply. Luxury villas in Rome were the privileged possessions of the wealthiest families (often of senatorial or equestrian rank) and especially of the emperors, but most of the housing in ancient Rome consisted of insulae (multistory apartment buildings often constructed above first-floor shops). Contemporary authors spoke of a severely overcrowded, loud, and smelly city—a place that provided every virtue and vice known to mankind. The residents of Rome were mostly pagan, although a sizable Jewish population also existed (as evidenced both by 1st-century literature and by later remains of inscriptions). The expulsion of the Jews under the emperor Claudius (a.d. 49) was a limited measure.

Getting into Romans:

Some specific theological topics include

principles of spiritual leadership (1:8–15);

God’s wrath against sinful mankind (1:18–32); principles of divine judgment (2:1–16);

the universality of sin (3:9–20);

an exposition and defense of justification by faith alone (3:21–4:25);

the security of salvation (5:1–11);

the transference of Adam’s sin (5:12–21);

sanctification (chs. 6–8);

sovereign election (ch. 9);

God’s plan for Israel (ch. 11);

spiritual gifts and practical godliness (ch. 12);

the believer’s responsibility to human government (ch. 13); and

principles of Christian liberty “(14:1–15:12).

The Epistle to the Romans is, by popular consent, the greatest of Paul’s writings. William Tyndale, the great English reformer and translator, referred to Romans as

“the principle and most excellent part of the New Testament.” He went on to say the following in his prologue to Romans that he wrote in the 1534 edition of his English New Testament:

“No man verily can read it too oft or study it too well; for the more it is studied the easier it is, the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is, and the more groundly [sic] it is searched the preciouser [sic] things are found in it, so great treasures of spiritual things lieth hid therein.”

Martin Luther wrote the following commendation of this epistle.  “[Romans] is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much…

We find Paul’s purpose written in Romans 1:16-17 and I believe in 15:20:

So, as we look at Romans, that is Paul’s Thesis:

Romans 1:16-17:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We will come back to this next week.

But I see another core belief in Romans:

Now, turn to Romans 15:20:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…

Paul wanted to go to Rome and use Rome as staging point to launch a ministry to Spain, wow!

But as we look at this passage, are you Gospel Centric? Paul was centered on the Gospel.

Next are you sure of your salvation?

Think about “white-out.” Have your sins been whited out?

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

The Penalty for our sin is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
(Romans 10:9,10)[3]

So, have you asked God to use the “white out” on your sin?

Pray


[1] * I read this in Rick’s Ramblings from Rick Sams. He referenced: “Forgiveness Is God’s Gift to ‘Wite-Out’ Mistakes,” John Ortberg, PreachingToday.com 8/5/14 **“Delete Your Conversations from Other People’s Phones,” Kim Komando blog (9-9-14)

[2] ESV Study Bible

[3] http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/about/becoming_a_christian.aspx

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope (Matt 1:18-25)

Jesus, the Gift of God’s Hope (Matt 1:18-25)

Prepared and preached by pastor Steve Rhodes for the Saturday night service at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, December 26, and Sunday, December 27, 2020

They were always waiting for a Savior in the Old Testament. Are you waiting for a Savior? Do you know that you need a Savior?

Watch this clip

Nativity Story: Angel coming to Joseph

Read with me Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

My theme today is: Jesus, the gift of God’s hope

  1. Jesus will be born.
    • They were waiting for a Savior and He was to be born.
    • This is an amazing prophesy to Joseph. Here he has just received the news that his fiancé is pregnant, and not by him, but now he finds out this baby is the Messiah. Wow!
    • Joseph went from gloom to hope.
      • What Does Hope Do For Mankind?
        • Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
        • Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
        • Hope energizes when the body is tired.
        • Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
        • Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
        • Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
        • Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
        • Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
        • Hope endures hardship when no one is caring.
        • Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
        • Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
        • Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
        • Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
        • Hope brings the victory when no one is winning. (John Maxwell from Think on These Things)
    • Joseph had hope and so do we. Jesus is our hope.
  1. Jesus will save us from our sins.
    • What brings salvation?
    • What, or who, are you trusting in?
    • Sometimes we think we don’t even need a Savior. Realize that when we mess with salvation we are trifling with the holiness of God. We need salvation because we sinned against a holy, righteous God. Psalm 51:4: against, you only have I sinned…
    • We need a Savior because of God’s holiness and when we say things such as “Everyone goes to Heaven with or without Jesus,” or we say, “there is no hell.” This means that we are messing with the cross, yes, but we are also messing with the holiness of God. We are changing all of Scripture, we are changing the whole Old Testament. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
    • Jesus saves
  2. Jesus will be Immanuel, which means God with us.
    • Do you ever feel alone? I remember being in 6th grade and I played football. I was dropped off at a game and my parents drove away and then I thought I needed something and it was too late, my parents were gone. I felt all alone. I can go back a few years earlier. I must have watched children cry when my mom dropped my older brother off at preschool. I thought I wouldn’t do that. I always saw the children get dropped off at preschool and they cried and cried and cried. I remember that fear when my mom dropped me off and I cried as well. Fast forward some 15 years. My parents dropped me off at college in Georgia and drove away and I think we all cried.
    • Fast forward another eleven years. I was serving as a pastor of a church with a childcare and preschool. My office was in the main hallway. There were many days I heard children crying as their parents left them those first few days.
    • There is a fear in being alone, isn’t there?
    • A. W. Tozer shares: Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely.[1]
    • What is it like being alone? We are not alone. We have God with us. Jesus is our hope and He is with us.
    • Neil Strait shares: Loneliness is … spending your days alone with your thoughts, your discouragements, and having no one to share them with. [2]
    • You know that in Christ you can share your thoughts with Jesus anytime you want?
    • Think of how amazing it is that God is with us as Christians. The term is Immanuel and the term for God becoming a man is the “incarnation.” Winston Churchill described Russia as “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” That’s appropriate to describe the Incarnation also.[3]

Made Flesh

After the bright beam of hot annunciation

fused heaven with earth, His searing,

sharply focused light went out for a while,

eclipsed in amniotic gloom.

His cool immensity of splendor, His universal grace,

small folded in a warm, dim, female space,

the Word stern sentenced to be nine months dumb.

Infinity walled in a womb until the next enormity,

the mighty.

After submission to a woman’s pains,

helpless in a barn bare floor,

first tasting bitter earth.

But now I in Him surrender

to the crush and cry of birth.

Because eternity was closeted in time,

He is my open door to forever.

From His imprisonment my freedoms grow, find wings.

Part of His body, I transcend this flesh.

From His sweet silence my mouth sings.

Out of His dark I glow. My life,

as His, slips through death’s mesh times bar,

joins hands with heaven, speaks with stars.

Immanuel.

(Luci Shaw, Listen to the Green)[4]

  1. You and I, we are not alone.

Close:

Charles Swindoll:

Christmas comes each year to draw people in from the cold.

Like tiny frightened sparrows, shivering in the winter cold, many live their lives on the barren branches of heartbreak, disappointment, and loneliness, lost in thoughts of shame, self-pity, guilt, or failure. One blustery day follows another, and the only company they keep is the fellow-strugglers who land on the same branches, confused and unprotected.

We try so hard to attract them into the warmth. Week after week church bells ring. Choirs sing. Preachers preach. Lighted churches send out their beacon. But nothing seems to bring in those who need warmth the most.

Then, as the year draws to a close, Christmas offers its wonderful message. Immanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety. . . .

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever (Revelation 22:5)


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 354.

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 354.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 295.

[4] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 296.

God in a Manger

I recently read an author talk about this story:

Soren Kierkegaard, the great Danish theologian of another century, tells a story of a prince who wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love. But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand?

He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor. As you might have guessed, the prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved, into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her.


The author concludes: This very simple, almost child like story, written by one of the most brilliant minds of our time explains what we Christians mean by the incarnation. God came and lived among us. I am glad that this happened for two reasons. One, it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us, that He is on our side, and that He loves us. Secondly, it gives us a first hand view of what the mind of God is really all about. When people ask what God is like, we, as Christians, point to the person of Jesus Christ.[1] 

Let’s read Luke 2:1-7:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

  1. Jesus, our hope is born.
    • “Mommy, Daddy, tell me a story.” Have you heard that recently? What about, “Grandma, grandpa, tell me a story,” have you heard that recently?
    • I love stories. I am drawn to stories. My children love stories. I have some of their books up here. I remember when my children were younger and could barely talk, they would just come and hand me a book. Mercedes would come to me and say, “Can you read Little House on the Prairie to me?” Abigail would come to me and hand me a book and ask me to read it. They love stories too.
    • Still most every night I read to them before bed.
    • It is true that kids grow up quick. I remember when Mercedes was in preschool and she was learning all about books. She liked to play teacher. I heard her at home telling Abigail all about books, “This is the cover and this is the back. This is the spine; the spine holds the book together. Who draws the pictures? The illustrator.” Later, we heard Abigail say the same things. It was great. Of course, now she is in third grade, so she still plays teacher, but she is trying to teach more advanced things.
    • The Bible is full of stories and we can read that Jesus told many stories. In fact, the Bible is mostly stories. The Bible is many short stories with one grand story. We have the grand story of God’s love for us and His plan to save us from our sins. That is the grand story. There are short stories. The short stories tell:
      • How God created us good;
      • How humans sinned against God;
      • How God sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and die on the cross for our sins;
      • How some day God will make all things right.
  2. How is Jesus our hope?
    • This is a true story; unlike the fantasies we like to read (and I love fantasy stories).
    • This is the story of the birth of the Anointed One, that is what Messiah means, Anointed One.
    • Jesus, born of the virgin Mary will save us from our sins, the wrong things we do.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will save us.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will eventually bring peace.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He will restore all creation and He will be the perfect King.
    • Jesus is our hope in that He is called Immanuel and that means God with us.
    • Jesus is our forever hope.

I hope with Christmas we take comfort and great joy in celebrating Jesus, our Lord’s birth. The Hope of the world was born. All through the Old Testament the Bible is filled with stories and all these stories are about people looking for the Messiah and now He has been born. Jesus born in a stable which, was a barn, and laid in a manger, which was a feeding trough, this is the story of how the Hope of the world entered the world. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the story of how shepherds came to worship Him and the angels worshipped Him too. This is God becoming a man.The Hope of the world was born in Bethlehem and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

The Hope of the world was born in Bethlehem and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

Our hope has come and He is Jesus.

I don’t know about you but many times I can focus my hope on things, but Jesus is my forever hope. I just need to keep telling myself that.

I don’t know about you, but I can easily focus my hope on politicians, but Jesus is our forever hope, again, I need to remind myself of this.

I don’t know about you, but I can put my hope in money. This is only temporary hope and Jesus takes care of my eternal, my forever, needs. He is my forever hope.

I don’t know about you, but I can put my hope in people, but there is only One person, Jesus, who will never let me down. Jesus is our forever hope.

These are all good things and there is nothing wrong with money, things, politics, people, but they do not take care of our forever.

Placing our hope in things can overwhelm us.

A few years ago, I was talking with a Christian athlete who was always trying to please the coach. It helped her when she realized that she only needs to please God. It helped her when she realized she plays for an audience of One.

Jesus is our Lord, not money, things, people, or even our boss. Jesus is our forever hope.

Jesus became a human being. In Philp Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew he shares this:

In London, looking toward the auditorium’s royal box where the queen and her family sat, I caught glimpses of the more typical way rulers stride through the world: with bodyguards, and a trumpet fanfare, and a flourish of bright clothes and flashing jewelry. Queen Elizabeth II had recently visited the United States, and reporters delighted in spelling out the logistics involved: her four thousand pounds of luggage included two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and a host of other attendants. A brief visit of royalty to a foreign country can easily cost twenty million dollars.

In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”

For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names. Shepherds had such a randy reputation that proper Jews lumped them together with the “godless,” restricting them to the outer courtyards of the temple. Fittingly, it was they whom God selected to help celebrate the birth of one who would be known as the friend of sinners.[1]

He came to save us. He came to live with us. He came to set us free. He will come again and bring peace and make things right. He is the Savior. This is the story of His birth.

Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth. God became a human being so that He could die for our salvation.

This is good news. I notice recently that all of the news headlines are negative. They are all bad news. Recently, I read about a book titled: “Stop Reading the News” by Rolf Dobelli. He shares the following:

Bad news is perceived as more relevant than good news. Negative information has twice the impact that positive information does. In psychology, this is called negativity bias, and it can be observed in even one-year-old infants. They respond more sensitively to negative stimuli than to positive ones. Adults are no different. A stock falling by ten per cent makes us twice as unhappy as a stock climbing by ten per cent makes us happy. Negativity bias is innate. The news media hasn’t inculcated into us our weakness for negative information; it simply exploits this weakness in expert fashion, delivering a stream of shocking stories that are tailor-made for our anxious brains.

Then he digs deeper:

The news continually stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, a part of our autonomic nervous system. Psychological stressors lead to the release of adrenaline by the hypothalamus. Adrenaline then leads to a rise in cortisol. So, every garish story can lead to the production of this stress hormone. Cortisol floods our bloodstream, weakening the immune system and inhibiting the production of growth hormones. By consuming the news, you’re putting your body under stress. Chronic stress leads to anxiety and digestive and growth problems and leaves us to infection. Other potential side effects of news consumption include panic attacks, aggression, tunnel vision and emotional desensitization. In short, consuming the news puts your psychological and physical health at risk

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, half of all adults suffer from the symptoms of stress caused by news consumption.[1]

So, that is the negative news. But Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is good news. This is good news to believe and to share. Focus on the good news these next few days. Focus on the good news this next year.


One of the most exciting things that you can do while celebrating Jesus’ birthday is to make it your spiritual birthday as well. You can accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation right now.

God’s presence is the gift here, and you just have to unwrap the gift. 

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie, or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

pray


[1] https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-outlines/23567/god-in-a-manger/

[1] Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew (pp. 36-37). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[1] Read this on Dr Scot McKnight’s Blog through Christianity Today. December 10, 2020: https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/december/news-consumption-and-your-health.html