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Tag Archives: Paul

An On Fire Christian Can Never Be Stopped

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Steal from them and they will joyfully give you everything they own.

Force them to be your slave and they will happily be your servant.

Smack them on the nose and they will turn the other cheek again and again.

Kill them – it is simply gain.

Don’t kill them – they will simply live for Christ.

Put them in jail and they will use the time to commune with the Lord and write down their revelations which will then turn the world upside down.

An Onfire Christian can never be stopped.

Romans 1.21

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Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

What has led to unrighteousness in the world? Why is the world so wicked? Why does the world ignore the truth of Jesus Christ?

Paul gives four clear reasons for this state of affairs in this verse.

1) They did not glorify God
2) They were not grateful and thankful to God
3) They became vain in their imaginations
4) Their foolish hearts were made dark

I believe this is an utterly comprehensive list. If you want to know why a community or a nation is unrighteous and wicked, it is that they did not glorify God, were not grateful to God, had vain imaginations, and their foolish hearts were dark.

Let’s make it more personal: if you feel far from God, if you feel like you are running on empty, feel confused, unable to deal with sin and conquer it, then I guarantee 4 things:

1. You are not glorifying God
2. You are not being thankful to God
3. Your imagination is out of control
4. Your heart is dark

Or let’s turn it around and make it applicable to you as a Christian who I would assume wants to have a dynamic excitiing relationship with God:

If you:

1. Glorify God
2. Thank God
3. Keep control of your imagination
4. Keep light in your heart

Then you: will always have a dynamic, intimate walk with God and have continual victory in every circumstance in life.

It is that simple. Let’s look at all four of these one by one and give a sentence or two on how to ensure they are active in your life. If you want a deeper study on these things, then I have a four part sermon series called “How Not To Be An Idiot” on our church website, if you click on the media tab, and this series covers each of these four points.

For the brief version, keep reading.

1. Glorify God. This is the Greek word doxa, which means to give weight to. Do you give weight to God? You do realize that God’s promises put on the scales with any of your problems will outweigh them a million times over? That Paul after being whipped, stoned, beaten and shipwrecked and continually persecuted – he called his problems “light”. Why? Because if you give God glory and weight in your life, you will be always praising, always dancing, always smiling. God is bigger than the problem!

2. Thank God. Many Christians spend their whole life thinking and dreaming about what they do not have. I dare you to thank God for everything you do have. It will take longer than you can ever imagine. Gratefulness leads to faithfulness.

3. Keep control of your imagination. Imagine what life would be like if God’s Word was true – NEVER imagine your future without God’s promises. Never imagine yourself sick, dying young, broke, in broken relationships. Imagine yourself healthy, happy, rich, flowing in the Holy Spirit with love and mercy, fulfilling your destiny.

4. Keep light in your heart. In other words, keep in the Word – there is light in the Word. Keep meditating God’s Word.

If you do those four things you will live in assured victory every single day.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.19

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Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Remembering that our last verse told us the wrath of God was revealed against unrighteousness; and that the wrath of God is the judicial punishment of God – not the violent anger of God, then we can see in this verse WHY God is punishing sin.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them – and them here is referring to the people who are ungodly and unrighteous.

God is right to punish the ungodly and the unrighteous, because what may be known of God is manifest in them.

What does this mean?

It means this: every person knows there is a God. Every person knows that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, all-loving being that created them and created the universe.

That is what the Bible teaches. That is why it is correct for God to punish sin, because everyone who sins knows that they have sinned, knows that they have done something wrong.

This “knower” is called the conscience, and it is a great Trojan horse when you are evangelising someone.

It is part of their mind, part of their inner being and it knows there is a God. It knows that God is good and it knows that they have not always kept the standards of this God. Athiest, Hindu, Muslim, JW, whatever – every human has this conscience, this knower.

When you evangelise, ask people if they think they are a good person – if they say no, then ask why. If they say yes, ask them why. Ask them if they know any of God’s commandments and if they have ever broken any of them.

Awaken the conscience inside the person and evangelise them there. You won’t win over someone with an intellectual argument unless you awaken their conscience. As soon as it is awakened, it will start to deal with the person. Let them know what Jesus has done for them on the cross and that Jesus has redeemed them from all sin.

The Bible says in John 16.13 that the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin because we do not believe in Jesus. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, by the way, not to convince us of lying or stealing or adultery, but to convince and convict us of not relying on Jesus, not putting our faith in Jesus, not relating to Jesus, not trusting Him and His goodness.

Now when you have shown someone what Jesus did for them, and maybe illustrated it with an example or two from your life, then the Holy Spirit has material to work with.

That person walks off, but the Holy Spirit walks with them… you cannot escape the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit will work at convincing the person that they have failed to trust Jesus. They have to accept redemption from Jesus.

Most Christians seem to think the Holy Spirit goes around saying “sin, sin, sin, repent, you sinned, you are useless, you missed it again, you failed.” No – the Holy Spirit goes around saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, trust Jesus, put your faith in Jesus, Jesus has rescued you, Jesus has set you free.”

Same applies for us as Christians – it is not the Holy Spirit that is harping on about your sins. He harps on about Jesus and His redemptive power!

So, next time you share your faith realize that the person you are talking to, deep down, knows that there is a God. And that if you clearly show them Christ crucified and explain why (see Galatians 3.1), then the Holy Spirit can convince them of this truth and their spirit will bear witness to the Holy Spirit and they will be born again.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.15

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So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

I want to show you this verse in a couple of other translations before I dig into it:

So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News. (NLT)

So, for my part, I am willing and eagerly ready to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. (AMP)

Paul was eager to go to Rome to preach the wonderful, happy, good news. He was also ready to go.

If you read the KJV it says Paul was “ready”, if you read the NLT you find Paul was “eager”. The Amplified does what it does best and amplifies the word to “willing and eagerly ready”.

The word used here is the same word used by Jesus when He says the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In fact, I think in Mark’s gospel it is translated “the spirit is ready” in the KJV.

Paul was willing and ready to preach the gospel. Are you?

I believe that Paul was willing because he was ready. Being ready makes you willing. No one is willing to do something they are not prepared to do.

I believe that because Paul knew the gospel so well, knew its wonderful power and wonderful benefits and knew he could preach and present it powerfully with signs and wonders following – that is why Paul was so eager and willing to preach. What you are prepared to do, you are enthusiastic to do.

If you start praying for boldness, start praying for open doors to preach the gospel, start studying the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews (the three books Paul wrote explaining and defending and outlining the gospel) and start realizing what the wonderful news of our redemption actually is.

I guarantee that as you start getting ready to preach the gospel, you will start being willing. You will start getting excited to preach the gospel, start getting passionate about going and telling people in the street, in your work – even in your church (because not everyone in church knows!) – the good news.

Many people try and pray for willingness. “Oh God, give us a passion for souls.” “Oh God, make me love the lost…”

That is not a prayer God can or will ever answer. God is not going to give you emotional pain to motivate you to do something! That is not the nature of our Father. We are willing to do what we are ready to do.

If you want a passion for evangelism, get ready to evangelise! Study the gospel, study common objections and find Scriptures to counter those objections.

If you want a passion for worship, don’t beg God to force you to worship Him – God is not a forcer, rather get your Bible out and study the concept of worship. You will soon be singing praises to God.

If you want to be willing to give millions into the gospel, get ready. Find out what the Bible says about giving and receiving. Understand what the tithe is and how it functions. Soon enough you will be giving what you have and shouting with joy. You will start a life of financial fruitfulness that will change the world.

If you want a passion for the Word, study it, get into it, get ready to understand it.

What you are ready to do, you will be eager and willing to do.
What you are not ready to do, you will not be eager and willing to do.

So – don’t beg God to make you willing, but get ready, get ready, get ready!

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.14

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I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

In the last verse, Paul says that he would not have the church ignorant. That is Paul’s calling – to educate and provide information about grace and faith to the body of Christ. A very high calling – but it is your calling too.

As an apostle Paul’s ministry was to equip the saints to do the works of ministry (Ephesians 4.11ff). His life was to train the church to do the works of ministry.

We have to, utterly and totally, get away from the superstar ministers that do all the work and get back to the Bible bueprint: the fivefold ministries equipping, training and discipling the church and the CHURCH doing the works of ministry. The church being every single Christian.

We often read statements that Paul makes and we dismiss them as being for superstar ministers. Rubbish – Paul tells us clearly: copy me as I copy Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1).

Why I have said all this is to say this: Romans 1.14 is not just for Paul, not just for Oral Roberts, not just for Billy Graham, not just for Mike, but for every single Christian in the body of Christ. It is for you!

Paul says this: I am a debtor to people. The Greek word is opheiletēs. It means to be bound to someone by duty. Paul’s duty to ensure the church had knowledge bound him to people. So much so that his writings are still rescuing the church from ignorance, generations after he penned them!

Everyone of us is bound to people by duty. For Paul it was four groups of people: the Greeks, the Barbarians, the wise and the unwise. (Actually the wise and unwise covers everyone!), who is it for you? Who are you bound to by duty?

I used to be in a denomination where pastors moved around all the time, then they found out that you do not build a church by moving around, you build a church when a pastor comes to a people and the people realize that the man of God is bound to them, that he will never leave them or forsake them, that he is there for their good and will keep being there. He may move on like Paul did often, but he will still be there in his heart and still be with them in spirit.

Who are you bound to by duty? Who do you owe your destiny to? There is no destiny that does not involve people. No Christian has a destiny that does not involve them being bound to a group of people by destiny.

No Christian can avoid saying what Paul says here: I am a debtor to people. If you cannot say this and know which people you are in debtor to, go and find out. Go and pray and ask the Lord – go and find out.

I have just entered into the first step of my ministry, but I could not enter it at all if I did not know from the Lord who I am a debtor to.

I am a debtor to the people of London and of Essex, people who have lived there all their lives and people who have moved there from every nation and ethnic group.

I am bound to them by my duty to God. They will rise or fall on my obedience.

It is a weighty matter when you deal with destiny because it is not just a game – it is about people. Every single person is worth an infinite amount because that was the price that Jesus paid for them. Every single person on the planet will in one million years time either be a being of pure light and love, or a creature of torment and hatred.

When I make decisions such as where shall our church meet, when shall it meet, what shall I do this evening, where and when shall I go on holiday, what book shall I read I need to realize I am not a free man. I cannot ever just do what I want. I am bound to London and bound to Essex by duty and by destiny.

I take this seriously and soberly. It is not just enough to know the function of your destiny, you must know the geographical and ethnic boundaries of your destiny.

I will say it again – if you do not know who you are bound to by duty, you must find out. Then act bound!

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.8

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First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

If you were asked right now to pray for your church or to pray for another church or Christian that you know, what would be your opening sentence? What would you start with?

If you are like most Christians I hear pray for churches and for Christians you would first ask for something for them. You would go “God, please help Brother X in ….”, or “Lord, send revival to our church, send your Spirit…”

Now I hope that most of you reading this are enough of a faith bunch never to ask God for something you already have (e.g. health, joy, the Holy Spirit) and I reckon most of you are sensible enough not to ask God for something that He told you to do (“give us 100 converts, Lord” when we don’t witness, evangelise or follow up!), but I still reckon most faith Christians start their prayer times for others with asking.

Paul did not. Paul said this:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all

I have a sermon on thanksgiving on my website which I think everyone should listen to because I think thanksgiving is so crucial to a successful faith life. But look at this: before asking God for anything for the Romans, Paul thanked God for them.

I dare you for everyone you pray for this week to thank God for them first and spend more time thanking God for them than asking for stuff for them. I bet they end up with more stuff than if you had just asked for stuff for them.

And why did Paul thank God for them?

that [their] faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

You might say that the people you are praying for do not have their faith spoken of throughout the world, but why not thank God for something that they do have and then pray for their faith to be spoken of throughout the whole world.

If you cannot find something to thank God for with someone or with a church, you have a problem.

D L Moody made it his business to thank everyone he met or compliment them for some reason. He was determined to see and highlight and enhance the good in people.

One evening he was on a train and a smelly, dirty, drunk was tripping over himself moving from carriage to carriage putting a bottle of whiskey under everyone’s noses and telling them to drink it. When they refused, he yelled at them for not taking it.

People started watching Moody to see if he could find good in this man. When the man pushed the bottle of whiskey in Moody’s face and snarled at him to drink it, Moody said to him gently:

You must be such a generous hearted man, you clearly love whiskey and you clearly have little else, but you are so willing to share it, that is an admirable thing.

The man stopped shouting, sat down and spent the rest of the journey listening to Moody share the gospel.

If you can thank someone in a prayer or in a personal way, you will succeed with that person in a way that asking and telling never will.

If there is someone you are struggling with, or someone you love and are praying for, or if you are just generally praying for your church:

First of all, give thanks.

Hebrews – the Pivotal Epistle (Chuck Missler)

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The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the two greatest theological treatises of the New Testament.1 This letter is, in a real sense, the “Leviticus” of the New Testament, detailing how the Lord Jesus Christ is both the fulfillment and the successor to all that had gone on before.

The extreme dilemma of the Jewish Christians — especially while the Temple was still standing — was their extreme predicament.

They had been drawn from a divinely appointed religion, with divinely appointed priests officiating in a divinely appointed Temple, accomplishing a divinely ordered service, all of which had been ennobled throughout their entire history.

How could believing priests and Pharisees remain “zealous of the Law”? It was, after all, the Jewish world that had crucified Christ and was repudiating Him.

This letter was clearly aimed at the people who were now Christians but had come out of Judaism. It focuses on the background that they came from, and tries to demonstrate how Jesus was a fulfillment of those things; in fact, he superseded those things. Jesus is the very fulfillment of the Old Testament.

Authorship

Who wrote the book of Hebrews? Hebrews is an unsigned book and there are many theories, but the available evidence, we feel, seems to justify a Pauline ascription.

Apollos? Some suggest that Apollos wrote this epistle, although there is not much evidence to support the theory. Furthermore, Apollos was from Alexandria, and yet even in Alexandria in the earliest times the book was associated with Paul. So, if Apollos was the author, somehow he didn’t even convince his own hometown.

Barnabas? Others ascribe the book to Barnabas, but here again there is no evidence to support this theory. There are some spurious writings (that are not regarded as authentic) that were attributed to Barnabas, but their style is so different from the epistle to the Hebrews that if one can conclude that the writings attributed to Barnabas were at all indicative of Barnabas’ style, he clearly didn’t write the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Paul? There are many stylistic reasons that point to its Pauline authorship.

Paul’s Special Mark

If one recognizes that there were apparently forgeries of Thessalonian letters being circulated, then several passages become clearer.2 Thus at the end of that letter, Paul includes a sort of special mark, a token:

The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
2 Thessalonians 3:17

Note how Paul is emphasizing that he has signed the letter with his own hand (most were probably drafted by an amanuensis or secretary). He would include a sign at the end so they would know that the letter was really from him.

So what is this signature or style item that is included in every letter?3

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3:18

And how does Hebrews end?

Grace be with you all. Amen.
Hebrews 13:25

Why is this so impressive of Paul’s style? Because the word “Grace” does not even appear in the other epistles!4

The Trilogy on Habakkuk 2:4

The key verse in Habakkuk is:

The Just shall live by faith.
Habakkuk 2:4

This verse became the primary banner that inflamed the Reformation. It would seem that Paul penned a deliberate trilogy on this very verse.

Who are “the Just”? The Book of Romans answers the question (Cf. Rom 1:17).

How then “Shall [they] Live”? Gal-atians shows how we are to live — called out of religious externalism (Cf. Gal 3:11).

“By faith…” What is the epistle on “faith”? This Epistle to the Hebrews (Cf. Heb 10:38)!

As a former systems engineer and technologist in the information sciences, I tend to favor evidences that reveal an architecture and integrity of design, and it is this unique characteristic of the entire Bible that has been the foundation of our ministry.

Thus, it is the apparent trilogy of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews, dealing specifically on Habakkuk 2:4, that causes us to lean strongly on the inference that Hebrews was authored by Paul.

(If it should turn out that it was by another, then this very design becomes an even more impressive “fingerprint” of the Holy Spirit!)

Other Stylistic Evidences

In Romans 8:35-39, Paul lists a number of things that can separate you from the love of Christ. He lists seven things, and then 10 more, for a total of 17.

In Hebrews 12:18-24 we find a similar list: Again there are seven things, and then 10 more, for a total of 17. And in Galatians 5:19-21 there is also a list of 17 things.

(Again, it is Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews that evidence a similarity of style.)

Paul also favored the Greek word, huios, “sons,” rather than a similar Greek word, teknon, which other writers use, which means “children.”

The “witness of the Holy Spirit,” discussed in Romans 8:16 and Hebrews 10:15 also hints at a common authorship.

In Hebrews 13:18, the writer says, “Pray for us.” There is only one epistle writer that makes that specific request: none other than Paul.

The Role of Timothy

In Chapter 13 of Hebrews, there is a reference that notes that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was accompanied by Timothy.5 We know from a number of epistles that Timothy accompanied Paul.6 We do not have any record of him accompanying anyone else. While that does not mean that Timothy exclusively accompanied Paul, we do not have any evidence of him accompanying any other writer.

Why Anonymous?

So if Paul did write the book, why would he keep it anonymous? From Acts 9:15 we know that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. While the Gentiles were his primary mission field, he also had an intense burden for his own brethren. Looking at Paul’s life, it is clear that Paul would sooner or later write an epistle to the Hebrews.

So why would he write one and keep it anonymous? Because every time he tried to address them there were riots. They were prejudiced against his ministry; he was distrusted by the Jews because he had converted to Christianity.

He never recovered the confidence of the Jewish side; they reputed his apostleship and also feared his attack against their ancient rituals and ceremonies.7

Nowhere in the book of Hebrews does Paul assert his apostleship, unlike his other epistles, but instead he builds his entire thesis uniquely from basic Jewish arguments from Old Testament passages. He exalts Christ, not his own apostleship.

There are reasons in the text that we could infer that the book was probably written after Paul’s first imprisonment, but before his second arrest.8 It was clearly written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. The impending destruction of the Temple may have been one of the reasons that God had Paul show them how they needed, as Christian believers, not only to accept Christ, but to come out of Judaism.9

Peter’s Testimony

Peter also seems to allude to this letter in 2 Peter 3:15-16:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you…
2 Peter 3:15

Peter here ascribes a letter written by Paul to the Hebrews. But the other 13 Pauline epistles all went to Gentile churches. So if Hebrews was not written by Paul, then there is a missing letter written by Paul to the Hebrews.

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
2 Peter 3:16

Here Peter is commenting on Paul’s letter, saying that Paul had written some things that were hard to understand (indeed, the difficulties in Hebrews 6 and 10).

Pressing On to Maturity

The primary focus of this letter to believers is to press on to spiritual maturity.10

For anyone serious about their spiritual growth, both the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Hebrews are absolutely essential to thoroughly understand.

And is there any priority or commitment that is more important — or urgent — in your own life? Pray about it.

Run Through Romans (4.14-25)

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Now that Paul has shown us through the example of Abraham that there is nothing you need to do to become righteous but simply believe, he decides that it is important to keep emphasizing that it is important to realize that Abraham was made righteous by his faith:

14For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

Do you realize that if you are trying to impress God by obeying the law you are making God out to be a liar?  You are saying that his promise to justify you by faith alone is worthless and that you need to do something to impress God.

15Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

All the law does is work wrath.  This means that the law only makes you deserving of punishment.  Every time you try and please God by your works and your righteousness, you fail and you put yourself again in a position where you know you deserve punishment.

16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

So we can only obtain righteousness by faith – because that way God gives it to us as a free gift, make available through Jesus completely taking our punishment on the cross.  And this promise is available to all who believe.

17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

This is such a powerful revelation of God.  God calls those things which be not as though they were: you might never have done anything righteous, but because God still calls you righteous.  Abraham had no children, but God still called him father of many nations.  You might not feel healed, but God says that by the stripes of Jesus, you are healed.  You might not feel right with God, but God declares you are righteous.

18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:

20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Paul is taking the opportunity of discussing the fact that Abraham was declared righteous by faith to explain exactly how faith works.

Paul shows us that Biblical faith works with four simple steps:

1. Against hope believe in hope (v.18)

Hope is your vision and imagination for the future.  When we hope for negative and evil things to happen in our life, it is called worry.  Worry is simply imagining all the bad things that could happen to you.  Hope is simply imagining all the good things that could happen to you.  Abraham started to develop his faith by refusing to imagine bad things in his future and deliberately imagining bad things.

Stop imagining your own funeral.  Imagine yourself standing in the front of your church testifying to your healing.  Stop imagining your children on drugs, rebellious, promiscuous.  Imagine them witnessing, laying hands on the sick, worshipping the Lord.

The first step to strong faith is to change what you are imagining.

2. According to what was spoken (v.18)

The next step to strong faith is to focus on what has been spoken.  Get yourself into the Word of God.  Don’t believe that you are going to stay sick – believe by His stripes you are healed.  Don’t believe you are going to go bankrupt, believe that God will supply all your needs.  Get yourself into the Word.

3. Considered not his own body(v.19)

Abraham refused to consider his own body.  He absolutely refused to think about the evidence of his senses that his body could not have a child.  He accepted the Word of God and rejected the testimony of his own senses.

If you are sick, and your body is yelling at you that it is sick: don’t consider it.  If you are in debt and your body is yelling at you to worry: don’t consider it.

Refuse to consider any testimony that contradicts the Word of God – even if it is your own body.

4. Gave Glory to God (v. 20)

One of the best ways to develop strong faith is to give glory to God.  Praise God.  Worship God.  Exalt His name.  If you are sick, don’t beg God to heal you.  Thank Him that you are healed.  Praise Him for being the healer.  You cannot stay in doubt while glorifying God.

Abraham was praising God for his children before he saw them.  Praise God for your healing before you see it.  Praise God for your husband coming to the Lord before you see it.  That is strong faith.  That is how faith works.

22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Faith like that is what makes you righteous.  If you feel unrighteous, if you realize that you have sinned and your actions are not good, then you need to realize as well that you can be right with God by faith.

Start to imagine the Lord accepting you and welcoming you into heaven.  Start to meditate on Scriptures that say you are righteous (2 Cor. 5.21 is a great place to start).  Don’t consider the sins you have committed – don’t even think about them.  And thank and praise God that you are righteous.

23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

And you, as well as Abraham, can be right with God, can be righteous with the righteousness of God, just by believing that God raised Jesus from the dead.  This is glorious news.  This is the gospel.

Praise His name forevermore!

Ben

Run Through Romans (4.9-13)

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This is some beautiful teaching here from the apostle of grace, Paul:

9Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Paul is taking here about the blessedness of not having your sin held against you.  As I said in the last post, the is the most remarkable blessing.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross in becoming your sin, if you put your faith in him then you will never have your sin held against you.  God will treat you as if you never sinned.  I have heard people say it like this: justified means just-if-i’d never sinned, and that is 100% correct.  If you have your faith in Jesus, you can relate to God as if you never sinned.

Now Paul is asking the question: does a person have to be circumcised to have this blessing?  Some people, often called the Judaizers by scholars, were visiting the new churches that Paul was planting and telling people that they could never be right with God, never enter heaven and never enjoy heaven on earth until they were circumcised.

Now I have never in the 21st century heard someone make such a claim: that unless someone is circumcised that they cannot enter heaven when they die or enjoy heaven on earth.  However, I have heard many equivalent claims and so have you.

How about: “if you quit going to this church you will never succeed on earth”.  Anyone heard that?  It is a lie.  You are righteous by faith and you will succeed on earth because of what Jesus has done.  I was in a church once where people were told they were going to hell because they were wearing sleeveless tops.

What about you have to speak in tongues to go to heaven?  What about you have to not have a certain amount of money?  You have to wear certain clothes to fit into the church?  You have to do certain things on a Sunday, or not do other things?  I remember back when I was a brand new Christian, I went into a B&Q with a friend to buy a screwdriver for a model I was building.  I was only about 17, and it was a Sunday after church.

We were walking in the store chatting away when my friend suddenly grabbed my shoulder and pulled me behind the shelving and into the next aisle.  I was a little shocked to say the least.  When I demanded an explanation, he told me that he had just seen a deacon from our church walking down the aisle we were in.  We were absolutely not allowed to let him see us in the shop!

Even my teenage mind was lightning fast to realize that for him to tell the pastor we were in the shop that he would have had a very obvious question to answer himself, so  I really wasn’t concerned!  But that is the attitude of very many churches.  The fact is that being right with God, being accepted has nothing to do with our actions.

There is actually in several churches a movement to go back to the “Hebrew” roots of the church.  People are dressing in Jewish clothes, celebrating the passover, and adopting Jewish customs and practices.  This is absolutely unnecessary and can be spiritually very dangerous.

If all you are doing is keeping a passover to examine the typology of Jesus and marvel at how the Lord accurately portrayed the death of Jesus to the Jewish people hundreds of years before it happened, then that is fine and may actually be beneficial.  But the second you start to judge people on the days they keep, the festivals they are involved in, the second you think that these things contribute to your righteousness, you are stepping away from the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Paul is pointing out that circumcision cannot possibly be necessary to be righteous because Abraham was declared righteous BEFORE he was circumcised.  This principle is an excellent principle if you want to know if I have to do something to be accepted by God.  All you have to do any time someone says you have to do A, B or C before you are right with God is ask yourself if Abraham did it before he was declared righteous.  If the answer is no, then you do not need to do it before God declares you righteous.

I was in one church that said if you did not read your Bible EVERY DAY, God would not accept you.  In other words, your righteousness was not dependant on the complete work of Jesus but on your ability to read.

Ask yourself the question: did Abraham read his Bible every day before he was declared righteous.  The answer is an obvious no because there was no Bible in Abraham’s day.

The fact is this: Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised, hundreds of years before there was a Bible, hundreds of years before the first church service (yes! you don’t have to go to church to be right with God!), before he tithed, before he saw a manifestation of God’s goodness, before he did anything.  All he did was believe.  It is that simple.  We overcomplicate it, and there are always people who will tell you that you have to pray this long, fast this long, read the Bible this much and go to church this many times to be right with God.

It is the same error Paul is dealing with in Romans.  You do not have to do anything to be right with God.  It is only by faith alone in grace alone.

11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Abraham’s circumcision only happened after he was declared righteous.  We like to put the cart before the horse.  We like to tell people: quit smoking and you will be right with God.  It’s nonsense – quitting smoking cannot make you right with God.  You will just smell a bit nicer and have a bit more money, but you won’t be righteous.

What we should tell people is: you are right with God.  They will then quit smoking.  They were only smoking because of fear and anxiety.  Now they know that they have peace with God and they are enjoying heaven on earth, they forget about the cigarettes.

(Obviously cigarettes is just an example, this works with every situation!)

12And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

And to be like Abraham it is not the outward thing you need to do to be like Abraham, but the inward thing.  You don’t need to look like Abraham, be circumcised like Abraham, but you need to believe like Abraham.

We still copy the externals of people not their heart.  We miss it by so much.  Years ago I loved Derek Prince more than any other Bible teacher.  I listened to him every day.  I started to try and be like him in the pulpit, I would lecture and adopt his mannerisms and his phrases.  I even bought myself a three piece suit because that is what he always wore.

Now I realize I should have followed his faith: the fact that he always simply accepted the Word of God over any tradition and any circumstance, the fact that he was a man of humility and integrity.  I should still preach like me (if you have ever heard me preach, I am not like him in the pulpit at all… well, not in style, I hope in substance I am like him), should still dress like me, and still be me.

If you have spiritual heroes, and there is not a problem with that, we were designed to have heroes, don’t emulate their external behaviours but emulate their faith and their spirit.

13For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Abraham was told by God that he would inherit the world!  If you believe in Jesus, you are going to inherit the world.  Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth.

If you realize that because of Jesus that you are going to inherit the earth, you are going to be promoted, you are going to prosper, you are going to be wealthy, and that your actions will not change your righteousness, that your sin is not and will never be held against you, then you will be a happy person!

Blessed are you forever,

Ben

Run Through Romans (3.22-31)

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So far Paul has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that every human being has the same basic problem: our actions have made us guilty before God. This guilt is called unrighteousness. It means that when we die, we shall be judged by God, found guilty and be sentenced to hell. It also means we shall endure hell on earth as we have life without a relationship with the living God.

It has not been the most positive experience reading and studying Romans up until this point.  This is why many Christians can quote Romans 5 and Romans 8 a great deal, but they simply do not understand the context.  The context is this: Paul shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that you cannot be righteous yourself either by a good life or by religious rituals.

So when Paul now introduces a new way of becoming righteous –  a new way of becoming accepted by God and declared not guilty; a way of going to heaven when you die and enjoying heaven on earth –  when Paul introduces this new way of being righteous we jump at it.

The only way we will jump at righteousness by faith is if someone takes the time to explain and prove to us that we cannot be righteous by works.

Ray Comfort explains this by using the analogy of an aeroplane.  If you give someone on a plane a parachute and make him wear it for the journey, he probably will not because it will be uncomfortable and make the journey more difficult.  If however you take the time to explain to the person that the plane is about to crash and is completely unreliable, he will put the parachute on and be glad to wear it.

If you convince someone to put their faith in Jesus Christ for righteousness, without first showing them that their righteousness by their works and rituals and self-opinion is utterly worthless then they will eventually backslide right out of a relationship with Christ.

Before you tell a person to accept Christ by faith for righteousness, for entrance into heaven, you first must show them that their righteousness is worthless as Paul has done in Romans 1-3.  Some people are already convinced – they know that nothing good dwells in them.  People like that you simply share the gospel with and encourage them to trust the Lord Jesus Christ.  Other people still think that God owes them a favour or that God will judge their deeds with a giant set of scales and they think that the scales are tipped in their favour.  These people need to hear the message of Romans 1-3.  But once they have realize that they are unrighteous and nothing they could ever do will make them righteous, they will ask just one question – though it might be expressed in different forms: how can I be righteous?  how can I be saved?  how can I know God?

21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

After Romans 1.18-3.20, Paul is convinced that people will have realized that they are unrighteousness, that they are guilty before God.  So now, he explains the good news: there is another way to be righteous.  A way that has nothing to do with obeying the law of Moses.  In fact, in v. 21 Paul claims that this way is actually found in the law and the prophets – the Old Testament – which it is if you read it carefully.  Perhaps after we have run through Romans, I will show where the gospel is found throughout the Old Testament.  It is an interesting study to say the least.

22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

This is the revelation that Paul has being building up to – the crescendo of all the evidence that we are unrighteous and cannot be righteous by works – the fact that we can have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  If we place our faith in Jesus Christ, irrespective of our actions, our sins, our lifestyle, we become righteous.  We can stand before God as if we never sinned, as if we lived a perfect lifestly.  We can stand before God and be declared innocent.  We can go to heaven when we die and enjoy heaven on earth.  And it does not come by working for it, it comes by faith.

23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Nearly every Christian knows Romans 3.23 and knows that our sin, which everyone has committed, mean we fall short of the glory of God.  Very very few Christians know Romans 3.24 which says that we are justified (made righteous) freely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Our sin cut us off from the glory of God.  Jesus Christ has now made us righteous if we believe in him, and we are now plugged back into the glory of God.

25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

This is some of the much powerful and beautiful truths in the Bible.  The word propitiation means: a sacrifice that deals with wrath.  Can you understand how powerful this is?  Jesus’ sacrifice has completely dealt with the wrath of God.  The wrath of God is the element of the justice of God that demands that every act of unrighteousness must be punished.  Jesus, on the cross, bore the entire wrath of God, the entire punishment for the unrighteousness of every single human being in the entire world.

If you believe in Jesus you are declared completely righteous – no matter whether you have been religious or not, no matter your background, your history or anything.

26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Remember that the word just means the same as the word righteous.  This verse paraphrased is saying: God is righteous and if you believe in Jesus, God will make you righteous too.

This is not a process.  This is an instant event the moment you place your faith in Jesus Christ you become totally righteous.  You become as innocent as God.  You become as right with God as Jesus was, as right with God as someone who has never sinned.  You will go to heaven when you die, and start to enjoy heaven on earth.

27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

People who are self-righteous, the people Romans 2 was aimed at, boast.  They are people Jesus referred to who pray at night “I thank you I am not like…”.  But people who know the truth that they could do nothing to become righteous, but that they have received perfect righteousness by believing in Jesus don’t boast.

28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

This is Paul’s argument and something that every Christian needs to meditate on: you are not right with God because of any deed or action, but only by faith.  Many Christians still feel that God does not love them because they have acted a certain way – rubbish! You are righteous because of Jesus, not because of your actions.

Many Christians are striving to do this and do that to make God love them, hoping that God will receive them.  Waste of time – God loves you and receives you on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus, and only on the sacrifice of Jesus.  You are righteous because of Jesus.  When you lay hands on the sick, don’t think “well, I have done this wrong this week, and lost my temper this week and done this and that, so God won’t come through” – that is nonsense.  Rather think, “I am right with God because of what Jesus has done, I can live in victory because of what Jesus has done, I can ask and receive because of Jesus.”

The devil and your own flesh will accuse you and pressure you.  To be a good Christian, to get your prayers answered you have to live right, you have to do this and that, and not do that and this.  It is all a lie.  The truth of the gospel is that you are loved and accepted by God and declared and made righteous, totally innocent before God, because of Jesus.  There is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you less; there is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you more.

It has nothing to do with your actions: you are righteous right now if you believe in Jesus.  His shed blood has made propitiation and satisfied God’s wrath.  You cannot and will not be punished in any way for any sin you have committed or will commit.  You are righteous.

29Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

This process of being justified – made and declared right and innocent – is available to the Jew and to the Gentiles.  Whether you have been religious and a goody-two-shoes all your life, or whether you have been the most selfish scumbag who ever lived, you need and have access to the grace of God through Jesus Christ that makes you righteous before God.

31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Does this mean the law is now useless?  No – it means the law is in its right place.  It is not there to show you how to live right, it is there to show you that you cannot live right.  It is there to condemn you and show you that you are unrighteous no matter how religious you are.  It is there to shut your mouth and shut up all your bragging about how wonderful you are and to make you realize that you, just like me, just like every human on the planet, need a new way of being righteous.  The way of faith.

Tomorrow we will follow Paul’s argument as he convinces us from one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament that your actions have nothing to do with your right standing with God.  You are righteous due to the work of Jesus Christ.  You are completely righteous the moment you believe in Jesus and that cannot be added to or taken away from by what you do.

If you realize this truth, the truth will make you free.  Free from striving, free from fear, free from condemnation, free from feeling yucky, dirty and defeated.  Free to walk in truth and love.  Free to pray and know your prayer will be answered.  Free to lay hands on the sick and see them recover.  Free to be as bold as a lion.  Free to enjoy your relationship with God.  The price has been paid, the wrath has been satisfied.  You are declared innocent.

You will be in heaven when you die and enjoy heaven on earth.  Not because of anything you have done or ever will do.  But because of what Jesus has done on the cross 2000 years ago.

Praise His name forevermore!

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