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Elk Lick Publishing 2007

Preaching Romans
Gods Plan for Man
By Mark Hardgrove !"Min"

Theology in Homily

Acknowledgements I am grateful to my family, both my birth family and the family of which I am now the father. Both have had a great impact upon who I am and who I am becoming. The family and friends that I have grown up with have colored my life and given me living illustrations of the meaning of God s !ord. I especially want to thank the congregation of the "onyers "hurch of God for allowing me to serve them as pastor. And, of course, as always I want to thank my wife for being my helper in all I attempt.

#able of $on%en%s
Introduction CHAPTER ONE (1:1-6)Saved and Set Apart to Serve (1:7-1 )To Saint! In Ro"e# I Sa$ute %ou (1:1&-17) Read' and (i$$in) (1:1*-& ) +et ,o -' ,od CHAPTER T(O ( :1-16) T.e I"pendin) /ud)"ent o0 ,od ( :17- 1) %ou ,ive ,od# A -ad Na"e2 CHAPTER THREE (&:1-*) ,od3! (ord I! 4' Advanta)e (&:1-&1) Ho5 To ,et To Heaven CHAPTER 6O7R (8:1- 8) T.ree T.in)! T.at A9ra.a" :id CHAPTER 6I;E (<:1-<) T.e -ene0it! o0 6ait. (<:6-11) -ut ,od +oved 7! An'.o5 (<:1 - 1) T.e ,od So$ution to Sin

CHAPTER SI= (6:1- &) :ead to Sin# A$ive A)ain CHAPTER SE;EN (7:1- <) T.e 6ru!tration o0 t.e +a5 CHAPTER EI,HT (*:1-17) T.e +a5 o0 t.e Spirit o0 +i0e (*:1*-&>) So"e9od' !a' ?,$or'2? (*:&1-&1)Covenant Re$ation!.ip (it. ,od CHAPTER NINE (1:1- 1):on3t 4i!tunder!tand t.e P$an (1:&>-1>:8)T.e 6ait. (e +ive CHAPTER TEN (1>:<-1&) T.e (ord o0 6ait. (e Preac. (1>:18- 1) Peac.er! in t.e Hou!e CHAPTER E+E;EN (11:1-&6) Cut +oo!e and Cu$tivated CHAPTER T(E+;E (1 :1- ) A +ivin) Sacri0ice (1 :&-*) T.e 6ait. to 6unction 5it. 7nction (1 :1-1 )T.e C.ri!tian Contra!t %

(1 :1&-16) Ri).teou! Ru$e! 0or Re$ation!.ip! (1 :17- 1) A Ri).teou! Re!pon!e to Evi$ CHAPTER THIRTEEN (1&:1-7) ,overn"ent: ,od I! In Contro$ (1&:*-1>) +ove I! T.e An!5er (1&:11-18) Ca!t O00 to Put On CHAPTER 6O7RTEEN (18:1- &) +i9ert'# +ove# @ t.e C.ri!tian +i0e CHAPTER 6I6TEEN (1<:1-1&) 6indin) 6e$$o5!.ip In /e!u! (1<:18- 1) Po5er o0 t.e Purpo!e :riven +i0e (1<: -&&) T.e Pa!!ion to ,o t.e :i!tance

CHAPTER SI=TEEN (16:1- >) -$e!!in)! and -$e"i!.e! (16: 1- 8) & T.in)! %ou Need to Suceed (16: <- 7)-enediction: -oundarie! and -$e!!in)!

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Introduction

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SAVED AND SET APART TO SERVE


By Mark E" Hardgrove &o'ans ()(*+
( )aul, a bondservant of *esus "hrist, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God # which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy +criptures, $ concerning His +on *esus "hrist our ,ord, who was born of the seed of -avid according to the flesh, % and declared to be the +on of God with power according to the +pirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. & Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, ' among whom you also are the called of *esus "hrist

,-#&.!/$#,.The book of .omans is a powerful and theologically rich book that addresses such sub/ects as sin, grace, /ustification and sanctification. It is an important book in the history of the "hurch, as )aul teaches that we are no longer under the ,aw of 0oses, our works do not save us, but we are saved by the grace of God and faith in the sacrifice of *esus on the cross. It was this book, and the message of grace that so stirred the heart of the great .eformer 0artin ,uther and birthed the )rotestant .eformation. It was a sermon from 0artin ,uther s writings on the Book of .omans, and the truth that 1the /ust shall live by faith2 3(4(56 that warmed the heart of *ohn !esley and sparked the great revival of 7ngland and the holiness revival in America. That revival ultimately birthed the )entecostal movement, of which we are a part. +o, we are in good company as we revisit this book and e8plore the powerful truths that )aul, through the Holy +pirit, lays before us. How many of you have ever written a letter9 I m not talking about an email, but a genuine, pen or pencil to the paper, letter. !hen we talk about the 7pistles of )aul, we are talking about the thirteen letters he wrote under the direction and inspiration of the Holy +pirit.

These letters were collected and read throughout the early churches as an authoritative word from God. :nder the guidance of the Holy +pirit, they were recogni;ed as +cripture in the church and afforded the same authority as the Gospels and the <ld Testament +criptures. It is interesting that the format of writing letters has not changed all that much over the past #,=== years. !e usually open our letters by identifying ourselves, greet the recipient with salutations, address various sub/ects in the body of the letter, and end with some departing remarks. !hen we look at )aul s 7pistles, we find that he and other writers of epistles did the same thing. This letter was one of the first epistles that )aul wrote. In fact, many believe it was the very first epistle )aul wrote. He wrote this letter in the mid to late &= s to a group of believers in .ome, and it was hand delivered by a deaconess named )hoebe 3('4(6. Though )aul knew some of the members of the .oman church, at the time of the letter )aul had never been with the .oman church, but it was a church that he longed to meet and to fellowship with. He made it clear letter that he was not afraid, nor was he ashamed to bring the gospel of *esus "hrist to the heart of the .oman 7mpire. ,ook with me at the first verses in .omans chapter (. I m reading from the >ew ?ing *ames @ersion, as I will be throughout this study.

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P1/L #HE 2E&31-#


( )aul, a bondservant of *esus "hrist, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

His Name He identifies himself with the name )aul, as opposed to his given *ewish name, +aul.

The early believers in .ome may have been *ewish transplants who had been born again under the preaching of )eter on the -ay of )entecost. However, the message Auickly caught on with

Gentiles who also believed in <ne God, but who were not ready to commit to the rigors of the *ewish religion with all its laws, rituals, feasts, and dietary restrictions. +o in addition to *ewish believers, it is apparent 3as we will see later in the letter6 that )aul addresses Gentile believers as well, and in the body of the letter he will e8pound upon the nature of the relationship between *ews and Gentiles in the "hristian faith. B) His Titles After giving his name, )aul provides his title. >otice how )aul identified himself, 1)aul, a bondservant of "hrist *esus, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.2 )aul begins by identifying himself with the Greek word doulos, which is translated 1bondservant2 or 1servant2 in many contemporary te8ts. Doulos it is from a word that means 1to bind.2 It refers to being a slave. +o, )aul begins by identifying himself, not as an evangelist, or a preacher, a man or letters, or an apostle, but as a slave of "hrist *esus. In the first letter to the "orinthians, )aul would write4 (C -o you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy +pirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God9 Dou are not your ownE #= you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 3( "or '4(BF#=6 >obody understood this better than )aul did. It is an aspect of "hristianity often forgotten in a climate of hyperFfaith where God is portrayed as our servant, as someone who e8ists for no other purpose than to /ump and run at our every prayer and reAuest. God is not our servant. !e are His servants. He bought and paid for us at "alvary with the blood of His only begotten +on. !hen )aul met *esus, when he e8perienced the transformational power of grace in his life, )aul became a bondservant of *esus. A bondservant was a slave who had been set free, but who so loved and revered his master that he voluntarily committed himself to his former master.

A slave who became a bondservant was identified by a hole in his earlobe. He would place his ear against the doorpost and an awl was hammered through, leaving a clearly identifiable hole in his lobe that marked him as a bondservant 378. #(4(F'6. !hen someone saw a bondservant, it spoke volumes about the master. It said that the master of that servant was of such character and Auality that even the slaves chose to remain loyal to him after they had been granted their freedom. -oes anyone know what it feels like to be free9 I do. He set me free from sin and shame, guilt and condemnation and now all I want to do is serve Him. All I want to do is love Him. All I want to do is sit here right at His feet. I want people to know that I m free. I m free to serve God. I belong to Him who paid for my freedom with His own blood. I give myself, all of my mind, heart, soul and strength to the service of the ?ing of kings and ,ord of lords. +everal times )aul refers back to that place and that time when he met *esus. He was on his way to -amascus to persecute the "hristians when *esus appeared to, and talked with, )aul from a blinding light. After that encounter, )aul was a changed man. By the time his physical eyes were healed, his spiritual eyes had already been opened. He was redeemed from sin, from the restrictions and regulations of the 0osaic ,aw, and from his former sinful nature. <ld things passed away, and all things became new. )aul was now the bondservant of the one He had once persecuted. !hen we ask *esus to be our ,ord and we become the servants of the 0ost High God, our lives should be a testimony to the world of the goodness and the grace and the mercy of our ,ord. !e are free from sin, and because we ve been set free, we can choose to serve the one who paid for our freedom.

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!hen we come to *esus, when we ask Him to come into our lives, He breaks the grip of sin and we find ourselves in the grip of grace. !e are free from sin, but we want to stay and serve and worship Him. !e are marked by love and the world should be able to tell by our devotion to God that we belong to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. )aul identified himself as a bondservant, and only afterward, as an apostle. An apostle is someone who represents another. The Greek word is apostolos, which is defined as 1a delegate, an ambassador of the Gospel, a commissioner of "hrist2 3Strong's). !e may not have the gift of apostleship as the twelve did, or as )aul did, but we have all been called to be the ambassadors of "hrist, we are His representatives in this world. Grom time to time, each of us should look in the mirror and ask ourselves this Auestion4 If I am the representative of *esus at my /ob, what kind of *esus do the people around me see9 If I am the representative of *esus in my school, what kind of *esus do the other students see9 If I am the representative of *esus in my home, what kind of *esus does my family see9 It was the Apostle )aul s desire to conform to the image of "hrist. )aul wanted people to see the character and the Auality of *esus in him wherever he went and whatever he was doing. )aul declared this desire in )hilippians $4(= where he said, 1That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death2 3?*@6. C) His Call )aul tells us that he was 1called to be an apostle.2 God chose )aul, God separated him out from among the brethren and called him to be His ambassador, dedicated and committed to the declaration of the gospel of God. )aul might have chosen a different gift, he might have

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chosen an easier road to travel or a lighter load to bear, but he accepted the call that God gave him. !e don t get to choose what part we will be in the body of "hrist. I met a man who would have been great small group leader, but he wanted to pastor a church. The problem was that he was the only one who thought that he was called to pastor. He would sit with a small group and converse with ease, but he struggled when speaking to a crowd. If this man had let Him, God would have placed him where he should have been. I met a woman who was gifted with children and would have been a wonderful worker in the nursery, but she wanted to teach an adult +unday +chool class. The problem was that there were no adults who recogni;ed the call of teaching in her life, so she could never get a class going and she was always discouraged. +he wanted to chart her own course, and place her own call, but the Bible tells us that it was God who called Abraham, 0oses, and -avid. It was *esus who called the twelve disciples and it was God who called )aul to this ministry. !e need to trust God. He knows what He s doing. He knows where we will be most effective in the kingdom, and yet we are often guilty of telling God what we want to do and then e8pect Him to bless our will. !hen in reality we should be praying, 1>ot my will, but thine be doneH2 )aul did not call himself to ministry, God called him, and God placed him in this ministry for the good of the church and as a light to the Gentiles.

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#HE 31L,!1#,.- .4 2$&,P#/&E


>ot only did )aul have a uniAue e8perience on the road to -amascus, and not only did

)aul have definitive sense of calling on his life, )aul could back it up with the +cripture. 78perience alone was not enough. <ften people have some sort of e8perience and they want to create an entire doctrine out of their own uniAue e8perience. >ot )aul, he could point to the

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+criptures and confirm the gospel that he had been called to proclaim. +peaking of God s gospel, )aul said # which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy +criptures, $ concerning His +on *esus "hrist our ,ord, who was born of the seed of -avid according to the flesh, % and declared to be the +on of God with power according to the +pirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. If the preacher can t back up the sermon with the !ord, then I might be entertained, I might gain some selfFhelp insights, or I might be moved to tears, but I m not going to bet the eternity of my soul on the opinion or personal philosophy of any man or woman. 0y cry to anyone who stands behind the sacred desk is, 1+how me the !ordH2 0y cry is4 # )reach the wordE be instant in season, out of seasonE reprove, rebuke, e8hort with all longsuffering and doctrine. $ Gor the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrineE but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching earsE % And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 3# Tim %4#F%, ?*@6 ?eep your platitudes and clichIs, keep your emotional manipulation and dime store psychology. Give me the !ord that will birth mountain moving faith in my hungry soul. )aul didn t /ust pull the gospel out of a hat. He didn t go off into the desert alone and dream it all up. He didn t have an angel deliver golden tablets. )aul did what *esus told the )harisees to do, 1+earch the scripturesE for in them ye think ye have eternal life4 and they are they which testify of me2 3*ohn &4$C, ?*@6. Before his salvation, )aul had been blind to the truth that was contained in his own Bible. But after *esus, and after being filled with the +pirit, )aul began to see "hrist on every page, in every type and shadow and symbol. He saw *esus as the second Adam. He saw *esus as the ark that saved >oah and his family. He saw *esus as the seed of Abraham. He saw *esus in every lamb, ram, bullock, goat, dove and pigeon that was sacrificed in the <ld "ovenant. He saw *esus as the bron;e alter at the Temple. He saw *esus as the rose of +haron and as the lily of the valley.

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*esus was there all the time, in every /ot and tittle, but )aul was spiritually blind until he *esus changed his life and opened his eyes.

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#HE G,4#2 5E H13E BEE- G,3E)aul was called by God, it was confirmed by +cripture, and finally it was a gift from God.

Grace is a gift from God, and out of the gift of grace other gifts follow. <nce we are born again, once we have responded to grace, we enter in to a large room, we enter into a relationship with God where other gifts can be given and received. If you have never received *esus as your ,ord and +avior, if you have never responded to God s grace by faith, then you don t even know what you re missing. I implore you with the )salmist, 1<h, taste and see that the ,ord is good2 3$%4B6. 7nter into that large room, enter into the place of grace and let the ,ord begin to pour out upon you a blessing that there will not be room enough to contain. )aul said, 1Through Him,2 that is, through God, 1we have received grace and apostleship.2 Apostleship was not a chore to be performed, or a duty to be completed, it was a gift to be unwrapped. It was a ministry to be embarked upon through obedience and faith so that all the nations might hear the name of *esusJthe very name that the recipients of this letter lifted up as their banner. ,et the Holy +pirit distribute spiritual gifts to you as He will 3( "or. (#4((6, and then en/oy the anointing of God on your life as you follow His will for your life. >ot only will you be blessed, but you will bless the lives of others. Dou might think you know what you want to do and how you want to do it. )aul though he knew until God dropped him in the dust and gave him a new vision for his life. God has a plan, and you can trust Him to know what is best for you, for your ministry and for the body of "hrist. .espond by faith, and by His grace, good gifts will follow.

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$.-$L/2,.If you re here today and you don t know "hrist as your personal +avior, let me invite you today to step into the light. *esus said, 1I am the light of the !orld2 3*n. B4(#6. )aul stepped into that light and his life was never the same. !ho knows what God could do with your life, if you would only surrender to Him9 0aybe you re here and you re struggling with your call. 0aybe you thought you knew what you were supposed to do, but now everything is changing, and you re /ust not sure. ,et me tell you that God knows what He s doing. !e don t always know what God is doing, and that s why we have to learn to trust Him and walk by faith and not by sight. But God knows what He s doing and what He s doing is good and it is right. I know that God has a plan for every life in this building today. God has a place for you to function under the power +pirit in the body of "hrist. !e sometimes want to pick and chose, but instead, we should simply trust and obey, for there s no other way, to be happy in *esus. I m going to pray, and afterward we are going to observe communion. 7ven now our elders are coming and after my prayer they are going to distribute the elements. But before we do this I want you to take a moment and reflect upon this message. If you don t know "hrist, you can make a decision right now to receive Him. If you re here and you re struggling with where you fit in the body, stop struggling and start yielding to *esus. It s going to be all right. He ll get you to where you should be, to do what you should be doing, when you should be doing it. .ela8 and fall into the grip of grace today.

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TO SAINTS WHO LIVE IN ROME, I SALUTE YOU


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans ()7*(2
5 To all who are in .ome, beloved of God, called to be saints4 Grace to you and peace from God our Gather and the ,ord *esus "hrist. B Girst, I thank my God through *esus "hrist for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. C Gor God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His +on, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, (= making reAuest if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. (( Gor I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established J (# that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever met someone, and the entire time you knew them, you couldn t really tell if they liked you or not9 They were polite, but they didn t laugh at your /okes. They would shake your hand, but they rarely initiated a conversation. They would flash a brief smile that never lingered, but faded Auickly into an e8pressionless mask. If you re like me, you want to know where you stand with someone. If they like me, or if they don t, I d like know. It s difficult to relate to someone when you don t know where you stand with them. I pri;e honesty and integrity in people and I don t want a fake or phony show of affection when someone is harboring bitter feeling against me in their heart. It does harm to the relationship and it hinders that person from really worshipping or entering into the presence of God, because if we have ought against someone, we are to make it right with them before we can approach God 30att. &4$#,#%6. I would rather hear an honest e8pression that I can deal with,

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than a veneer of friendship that lasts only past the door until they are out in the parking lot critici;ing me. In this letter to the "hristians living in .ome, )aul makes it very clear how he feels about them. He is ebullient 3ibullyent6 in his e8pression of affection, and it isn t a putFon, this is genuine affection for the people whom )aul knew were living in challenging circumstances. They were living in the belly of the beast, in the capital city of the .oman 7mpire. The ruling "aesar at the time )aul wrote this letter was >ero, who reigned from A.-. &% to 'B. The first few years of >ero s reign were relatively peaceful, but he became increasingly unstable. He Auickly depleted the public treasury and he eventually resorted to e8tortion, oppression and violence to replenish it. In A.-. '% a great fire broke out in .ome that destroyed a large part of the city. It was believed that >ero had the fires set so that he could make room for his new Golden House, a massive comple8 covering (#& acres. 30errill 7. Tenney, New Testament Survey, Inter@arsity, (CB&6. >eeding to deflect attention away from himself as the culprit of the fire, >ero blamed the "hristians. Thus began the period of persecution and martyrdom of "hristians that lasted in various forms and intensity for the ne8t #&= years, ending only when "onstantine declared "hristianity the official religion of .ome. The religious climate of .ome during the life of )aul, was a desperate seeking after God that led the city to embrace any and all gods. There was the temple of @esta, the goddess of the living flame of .ome, as well as do;ens of other temples, including the )antheon, which was constructed to honor all gods 3,. G. -e@ries, Cities of the Biblical orld, Hendrickson, (CC56. !e well remember )aul s sermon in Acts (5 on the unknown god. This was the religious climate that these believers were living in, and their testimony was e8emplary. ,ook at the te8t with me, beginning at verse 5

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P1/L2 G&EE#,-G
5 To all who are in .ome, beloved of God, called to be saints4 Grace to you and peace from God our Gather and the ,ord *esus "hrist. In the opening verses )aul introduces himself to the "hristians in .ome, but in verses 5

through (#, his focus is upon themJ1To all who are in .ome.2 This letter is not addressing every person in .ome, but specifically, all the believers in .ome. He refers to them as 1beloved of God2 and 1called to be saints.2 God loves everyone, but not everyone is beloved. To be a beloved, there is the implication of reciprocity, that is, a relationship. The writer of the +ong of +olomon said, 1I am my beloved s, and my beloved is mine2 3+ong '4$, ?*@6. )aul is addressing people who have entered into a love relationship with God through *esus "hrist. +econdly, )aul notes that they are 1called to be saints.2 !e hear the word saint and we think of someone who is perfect. !e think of someone we know who seems to do no wrong and have no faults and we say, 1He s a saint,2 or 1+he s a saint.2 The "atholic "hurch identifies deceased individuals as saints based upon their criteria of sainthood. But the Greek word for saint 3hagios6 simply means that they are consecrated 3that is, set apart, dedicated6 to God. These believers lived in .ome, but they belonged to God, they were citi;ens of heaven, set apart to serve and worship the <ne True God through *esus "hrist. >e8t, )aul pronounces a blessing over them of grace and peace. This was a common e8pression in letter writing during that time. 7ven .omans who were not "hristians would use this phrase in the greeting of their letters. Gor )aul, of course, grace and peace was more than an e8pression, it was a reality. He had e8perience the grace of God through salvation, and as a result, he was living in peace with God, with himself, and with others. As the beloved of God, set apart unto Him, grace and peace are our birthright. !e don t have to bargain with the devil for them, or beg God for them. The grace that saves and keeps us, and the peace of God that passes all understanding is our inheritance as the children of God. If

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you are a born again child of God then all you have to do is claim what is already yours. Grace and peace be unto youH

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B Girst, I thank my God through *esus "hrist for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. >e8t )aul begins to e8press his gratitude for these believers. <ne gets the sense that their

faith, lived out in .ome, the symbol and the stronghold of pagan religion, inspires )aul and the other believers. It is similar to the respect and admiration we might give to believers who are living in Bagdad or in ,os @egasJwhich is known as 1sin city.2 )aul said, 1Girst, I thank my God through *esus "hrist for you all.2 )aul is thankful for them and for the power of their testimony to inspire other "hristians throughout the world. I think we ought to be thankful for one another in the church. <ften we only notice someone when they do something to annoy us. !e may never once tell someone that we appreciate their faithfulness in church attendance, or their dedication to a ministry in the church, but let them do something that annoys us and we re going to let them know. I remember hearing about a woman in Tennessee who came to church each +unday looking a little disheveled, and with a slight odor about her. +he was as faithful as clockwork and would often volunteer in the nursery, but some in the church were ashamed of her. In their opinion, she failed to portray the image of refinement and Auality that they thought the church should e8emplify, so they went to the pastor to complain about her. !hat they didn t know, and what the pastor proceeded to tell them, was that this woman had a severely handicapped adult daughter at home. This woman s husband, who would not go to church and provided very little help for his wife, agreed to sit with their daughter if his wife would clean, change and feed her before going to church. <f course, this took much time and effort, and by the time she prepared the food, fed their daughter, changed her adult diaper, and

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wrestled clothes onto her, it was all this woman could do to get to church on time. Gor the past thirteen years, this woman had faithfully attended church, had never once complained, critici;ed anyone else, or asked anyone for help or sympathy. Instead, she was willing to volunteer to go into the nursery to help care for the children of the very people who were standing in the pastor s office critici;ing her. The point is, that it is easy to critici;e and find fault. )aul could have analy;ed the theology of the believers in .ome, and if he had )harisaically split hairs and looked for deficiencies, he could probably have found something to critiAue. Instead, )aul thanked God for these men and women who were living in .ome and worshipping the ,ord. !e would all do well to begin to thank God for one another, to thank God for the gifts and talents, for ministry and blessings that others bring to the bodyJeven if they re not perfect. Turn to someone right now, and tell them, 1I thank God for youH2 >otice that )aul didn t /ust say that he was thankful for them, but )aul said that he thanked God for them. It s hard to critici;e someone on +unday that you ve been thanking God for them rest of the week.

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C Gor God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His +on, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, (= making reAuest if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. ,ook at what )aul says in verse CJ1without ceasing I make mention of you always in

my prayers.2 >ot only did )aul thank God for them, but )aul prayed for them. )aul knew what a challenge it was for them to live the "hristFlife in .ome. )aul knew of the sacrifices they were making. He knew the level of dedication that it took to remain faithful to God in a city that e8pected the citi;ens to make sacrifices to the empire as a goddess and to the "aesars as gods. .ome took patriotism to a whole new level where if you claimed to be a patriot to the empire, you would be violating your conscience by recogni;ing the state and the "aesars as gods.

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I am as patriotic as the ne8t guy, my father, my mother, my wife and I all served in the :nited +tates Air Gorce, but whenever loyalty to the state violates my moral code or my commitment to "hrist, I m going with God. ?ingdoms rise and fall, kings and presidents live and die, but God is from everlasting to everlasting. He is high and lifted up, and beside Him, there is no other God. I may pay my ta8es and say the pledge to the flag, but the :nited +tates is not my God. The "onstitution is not my bible. The president is not my pope, and democracy is not my eternal hope. 7dward 0ote said it best in the words of his song 0y hope is built on nothing less Than *esusK blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in *esusK >ame. <n "hrist the solid .ock I stand , All other ground is sinking sandE All other ground is sinking sand. )aul knew the difficulties that they faced in .ome and the trials that they had to endure, so )aul prayed for these believers without ceasing. I don t always know what you re going through /ust to remain committed to "hrist. Dou don t always know what the people around you are going through, but God does, and we can help others most by praying for them rather than critiAuing them. :nfortunately, too many people have the habit of critici;ing first, and only later do they even think about praying. I remember a children s song that said, 1Dou can talk about me /ust all you please, I ll talk about you down on my knees. All my sins are washed away, I ve been redeemedH2 I don t mind you talking about me, as long as you re talking to *esus. Try this, the ne8t time someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, or annoys you a little, look them in the eyes and say with all sincerity and love, 1I /ust want you to know that I m praying for you.2 In ,uke '4#B *esus instructed us to 1bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.2 +ome folks will never share with you the battles that

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they re facing, but for you to tell them that you re praying for them, rather than critici;ing them, will be best for them and for you.

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P1/L2 G.1L
(( Gor I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established J (# that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. In verse ((, )aul e8presses his sincere desire to meet and fellowship with the .oman

believers. )lease notice that )aul s goal was to bring something to them, his goal was to impart some spiritual gift, that is, to allow God to use him in his spiritual gifts to be a blessing to them and in so doing encourage them and build them up in the faith that they shared with )aul. +ometimes we are motivated to see someone, or to go somewhere, because of what we get out of it. 0aybe our focus should be what we can give. )aul s desire was to be a blessing because he knew that being a blessing is like planting a seed. The fruit of our future blessings often lie hidden in the everyday opportunities we have to be a blessing to others. +ome folks wonder why they never get blessed. It is probably because they ve never been a blessing. It is the law of reciprocity that is stated very simply by *esus in ,uke '4$B, 1Give and it shall be given unto you.2 )aul said that his goal was to encourage them, because in doing so, he too would be encouraged. If you re discouraged, then go and encourage someone else. Dou ll find it blesses you. !hen you re frustrated or annoyed by someone, instead of offering criticism, encourage them, tell them you appreciate them, thank them for their gift, their time or their talents. !hen you feel down, lift someone else up, and you be raised with them. If you are feeling ignored, recogni;e someone else. If you are feeling unappreciated, tell someone else that you appreciate them. )lant the seeds of your blessings, in the blessings you give to others.

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$.-$L/2,.If we re not careful, we can find ourselves critiAuing and critici;ing everything and everyone. But instead of that, we should learn from )aul that our blessings, our own encouragement will never be found in finding fault, but in thanking God for others who are willing to work in the nursery, or with our children. Thank God for those who will clean the church or mow the lawn. Thank God those who lead us in worship, or who take the time on Tuesdays to come and pray for their church. !e ought to learn to thank God for the gifts of others in the body of "hrist, gifts through which we are all edified and built up in our most holy faith. !hen someone is doing or saying something that is frustrating or annoying us, we need to pray for them. Ask God to touch them and ask God to touch us so that we might learn to be a little bit more patient and understanding with others. !e have a tendency to make e8cuses and to overlook all our little failures, but we allow the faults of others loom large in our field of vision. Ginally, use the spiritual gifts that God has imparted in you, to be a blessing and to encourage others. In doing this, you will be birthing a blessing in your own life. There are some of you here today who know that sometimes you re a little too negative, a little too /udgmental, a little to demanding of others. Dou know this because someone in your life has told you this. +omeone has suggested that maybe you re a little to rough on others. God has been setting you up for this sermon today and I want to invite you to come and allow God give you a new paradigm for how you look at and interact with others around you. He is going to move you thank Him for them, pray for them, and encourage them through your ministry to them. Those of you who move at this invitation will be planting the seeds for God s blessings in your life.

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This isn t a sermon that is limited to church relationships. The principles of this sermon will work on the /ob and in your home as well. It will improve and strengthen relationships wherever you interact with others. Gurthermore, these principles are seeds that you can plant, and which will bring forth the harvest of blessings in your life.

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READY AND WILLING


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" () (8*(7
($ >ow I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you 3but was hindered until now6, that I might have some fruit among you also, /ust as among the other Gentiles. (% I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. (& +o, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in .ome also. (' Gor I am not ashamed of the gospel of "hrist, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the *ew first and also for the Greek. (5 Gor in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faithE as it is written, LThe /ust shall live by faith.L

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it9 0aybe it was something you wanted to do, somewhere you wanted to go, or something wanted to own. But that thing, whatever it was, became a compelling motivator in your life. !hen you lay down at night, you thought about it. !hen you went slept, you dreamed about it. !hen you were with other people, you talked about it. It was passion for you. -oes anybody know what I m talking about9 Gor some that kind of passion is reserved for a sports team, or a /ob promotion, or a new car, or a new relationship. I remember a girl I liked in !est @irginia and I couldn t get her off my mind, but I didn t have my driver s license yet so I walked ten miles to see her. !hen I got there, she wouldn t come out to see me. I tell you it was ten miles there, but it was fifty miles back. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves so obsessed with things, or people, or positions or money and we will miss the higher calling of God.

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,et me ask you, have you ever felt that passionate about something pertaining to God9 Have you ever been driven by a holy obsession to do, or to be, or to say, or to engage in something that God has put in your heart9 If you have, then you have some insight into the heart and soul of )aul. )aul wanted to go to .ome. He wanted to preach, and teach, and shine a light in the heart of darkness. He was encouraged that there were already believers there, but )aul s passion was to go to .ome and to instruct them in the sound doctrine of the gospel of *esus "hrist. !hat would happen if we were to become that passionate about reaching our own neighborhood, or if not the whole neighborhood, at least our own family9 +uch an obsession would breach any boundary, would endure any hardship, would make any sacrifice, would do any deed to obtain the pri;e, to finish the course, to achieve the goal, to please the ,ord. If people are going to evaluate God based on our passion for the things of God, what value would they place on God, based on our passions9 )aul makes it clear that he has a powerful, pressing passion to preach in .ome. ,ook at verse ($.

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#HE 4&/2#&1#E! PL1($ >ow I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you 3but was hindered until now6, that I might have some fruit among you also, /ust as among the other Gentiles. :p to this point in his ministry, )aul had not had the opportunity to go to .ome. This

passion, this holy obsession had been frustrated to this point in his life. Apparently some were suggesting that )aul was afraid to go to .ome, unwilling to go to .ome, or ashamed to go to .ome and preach *esus "hrist, the *ewish 0essiah, as the +avior of the world. If this is what they thought, then )aul is going to clear this misconception. He said, 1I don t want you to be misinformed, I ve been planning to come to .ome, it is my desire and my

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dream, but up to this point my plans have been frustrated. He said he was hindered. )aul doesn t tell us how he was hindered, or what hindered him, but whatever it was, it kept him from going to .ome as soon as he had desired. The hindrance may by been the result of spiritual warfare. )aul told the Thessalonian "hristians, 1!herefore we would have come unto you, even I )aul, once and againE but +atan hindered us2 3( Thess #4(B, ?*@6. !e need to remember that when it is a God thing, +atan my hinder us, but he can t stop us. )assion finds a way. It may have to climb some mountains, or traverse some valleys, but passion finds a way. +atan can hinder us sometimes, but the construct of the Greek grammar in our te8t suggests that it was God who had hindered )aul from going. +ometimes our passion has to wait for God s timing. I ve seen far too many people try to get ahead of God. They force their way into their future instead of following the leading of God through the Holy +pirit. 3+arah and Abraham6 )aul knew that the harvest fields were ripe in .ome. He knew that there were scores of Gentiles who would respond to the Good >ews and )aul was ready to go get some fruit, ready to reap a harvest of souls, but he had allow the timing of God to unfold in his life. 0aybe some of you feel know what God is calling you to do, but the doors aren t opening yet. Dou have a passion for a ministry, but it /ust ain t happening. Dou can see it by faith, sometimes if feels like you can almost reach out and touch it, but then something comes along and you can t Auite reach it. !ait on the ,ord, wait I say on the ,ord. )erhaps you feel like )aul, you feel as though you are being held back from pursuing your passion at this moment in your life. -on t fret, because passion delayed, does not have to be passion denied. If it s God, then don t give up, don t Auit. +tay faithful and in God s time and right on time, doors will open that no man can close and your passion will propel you into your purpose.

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!hen I was little boy I loved to get up on +aturday morning to go into the living room and turn on our little ($ inch black and white television to the one channel we could pickFup on our antenna, and watch the roadrunner and coyote. The coyote couldn t catch the road runner so he would purchase various items from A"07 products to help him go faster. <n thing he used a lot was a giant rubber band. He would attach it to two rocks and then put himself in the middle and start stretching it backward. He would strain and push to get that rubber strap as tight as he could get it, and then, at /ust the right time as the roadrunner was coming by, he would let go and all that tension would propel him forward, sometimes even passing the roadrunner. Here s the thing, it may feel like you re straining, and that the tension is unbearable as you hunger for and desire to enter into your holy obsession. It may feel like you ve /ust about come to the end of your rope, that you can t go any farther, but at /ust the right time, in God s time, there will be a release and you will go farther and faster than you ever imagined.

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#HE /-4/L4,LLE! !EB#


(% I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. (& +o, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in .ome also. !hy was )aul so passionate about preaching in .ome9 !ell, to begin, he knew that a

great harvest was there. +econd, we knew that he was indebted to the lost. +ome might say that we don t owe the lost anything. In fact, they owe God everything. That s not the attitude that )aul possessed. His attitude was, 1The lost are dying and going to hell and I ve been given the riches of heaven. I owe it to the lost to tell them that *esus died for them.2 If you are born again and on your way to heaven, you owe it to the lost to let them know that there is lifeline to that can pull them out of the miry clay. There is a solid rock that can lift them above the angry waves. There is a +avior who died in their place, and who paid the price so that they can be free.

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-on t ever act like you don t owe anybody anything. There are debts that we never pay off in this lifetime. <ne is the debt of love. !e never payFoff the love debt. !e can never look at someone one say, 1That s it. I ve paid the love debt and now I don t have to love you anymore.2 ,ove doesn t work that way. )aul says in .omans ($4B, 1,et no debt remain outstanding, e8cept the continuing debt to love one another.2 The second debt we never pay off is our debt to the lost. !e owe it to them to tell them the good news. That is our responsibility and our charge from God. .ich or poor, high or low, educated or uneducated, wise or foolish, it doesn t matter, )aul said, 1I am a debtor to them all, and with everything within me, I m ready to preach, even in .ome.2

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#HE /-12H1ME! !&,3E


(' Gor I am not ashamed of the gospel of "hrist, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the *ew first and also for the Greek. +ome might have suggested that )aul was ashamed to preach in .ome. After all, they

had all those educated philosophers, senators, and scholars. But if anyone thought that )aul was ashamed to preach *esus anywhere, to anyone, at anytime, they were mistaken. I remember attending the :niversity of 0aine and most of my professors were atheists or agnostics. I had one professor who presumed evolution in everything he taught. It was evolution this, and evolution that, and finally I /ust couldn t take it anymore so I raised my hand and said, 178cuse me, but I don t believe in evolution.2 He looked at me like I was an idiot, but I didn t back down. I said, 17volution is a faith, not a fact, and I happen not to share your faith.2 After class he came to talk to me. He said, 1I ve got a chapter from a book I d like for you to read.2 I said, 1Alright, I ll read your chapter if you ll listen to a tape.2 I tape of -r. *ames ?ennedy addressing the association of creation scientists and it was a powerful argument against the supposed facts of evolution. <n the tape -r. ?ennedy pointed out that the theory of evolution was losing ground in the face of all the scientific evidence that was being uncovered.

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The theory of evolution, as -arwin proposed it, is no longer the standard. 7very time a fact comes to light to disprove the theory, they /ust change the theory to fit the facts. <n the tape, ?ennedy said that even though the evidence militates against the theory, the atheists insist louder and louder that it is a fact, it is as plain as the nose on your face. It is indisputable and undeniable. Two days later I saw the professor again and gave him the cassette. The chapter that the professor gave me was written by +tephen Gould, a man who was a guru among evolutionists. 3Gould several years ago.6 God has to have a sense of humor. I looked at the author of this chapter and told the professor, 1I ve already read two of Gould s books and they didn t convince me.2 Then when I saw the title of the chapter I smiled, because I knew that this professor was going to hear *ames ?ennedy say that 1evolutionists are like the preacher who had written in the margins of his sermon notes, MArgument weak here. )ound the pulpit. The weaker the argument of the evolutionists is, the more they insist that evolution is a fact.2 And there I stood with the chapter entitled, 17volution is a Gact.2 Two weeks went by and the professor had not mentioned evolution in the class since the day I gave him the tape. Ginally, I /ust had to ask him, 1!hat did you think about that tape.2 He didn t say, 1I don t believe it,2 or, 1It s all a bunch of uneducated nonsense.2 He looked down and said, 1I gave it to a friend of mine, who is a geneticist, to listen to.2 ,isten to me. I m not ashamed. I ve got the truth on my side. I m not ashamed, I ve got God on my side. I m not ashamed to tell the gospel story in crowd of thugs. I m not ashamed to tell the good news in a crowd of lawyers. In fact, I was having lunch with a lawyer the other day and I was curious about his religious persuasion, so I finally asked him where he went to church. He told me that he goes to Andy +tanley s church. I have a Hindu friend who owns the Hampton

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Inn, here in Georgia. <ne day I put a guest in his hotel. I told him that now he has to come my church when he becomes a "hristian. I m not ashamed. I ll tell doctor, lawyer, college professor, or businessman THAT *esus is the "hrist. I remember walking down the street on a Griday night in *unction "ity with >ew Testament Bible and handful of tracks. A young woman was standing outside a bar and she asked me if I had any money. I said, 1>o, but I ve got a Bible I can give you.2 I m not ashamed of the gospel. The old song said, I ll tell it where Mer I go, Gor I want the whole world to know, I m glad that He loved me so, That He lifted me out. !hen you re head over heels in love, you can t be ashamed. I m in love with *esus, and I want to let the whole world see Him through me. )aul said, 1I m not ashamed to preach the gospel of "hrist in .ome.2 )aul wanted to go to .ome, walk into the capital of the 7mpire with her legions of armies and the most modern weapons of war at that time, and preach "hrist. )aul was neither ashamed nor afraid. He knew that real power did not reside with .ome. .eal power, the kind of power that can bring a man out of darkness and into the marvelous light, real power that can set a man free, so that neither shackles nor bars could ever imprison his soul, real power that breaks the grip of sin and liberates a soul to soar into the heavenlies in "hrist *esus, real power lies not with man, but with God. It does not reside in a corrupt empire, but real power was and is in the good news that God became flesh and dwelt among us, that He gave His life in our place, but He rose again on the third day and is alive and well today at the right hand of the Gather where He lives forever to make intercession for you and for me. That s the power that brought me out.

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)aul said, 1for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the *ew first and also for the Greek.2 There is no power created by man or devil that can keep a man or woman from receiving God s grace when they are ready to respond by faith to God s grace. There is power in that message. -on t ever be intimidated, don t ever take a backseat to some obno8ious knowFitFall agnostic or atheist. There is no power in their message. Their message offers no hope, heals no wounds, and gives no life. But the gospel of *esus "hrist can reach from the uttermost to the guttermost. It can take a sin sick soul and make it whole. This message of a cross on a hill and empty tomb on the third day can reach into the emptiness and void of sin and pull out a new life where old things have passed away and all things have become new. There s power in this messageH Dou don t have to have a seminary degree, you don t have to be able to parse Greek verbs, you don t have to be able to speak in ?ing *ames 7nglish, all you have to do is to tell the old, old story of *esus and his love. Because when you do, you are tapping into a power source that has no eAual. Terrorists may have bombs, but we ve got *esus. )hilosophers may have arguments, but we ve got *esus. )rofessors may have diplomas, but we ve got *esus. "ults may have their dogmas, but we ve got *esus. Agnostics may have their doubts, but we ve got *esus. +o to the terrorist, to the atheist philosophers and professors, to the cults and agnostics, I ve /ust got one thing to say . . . take this whole world, but give me *esus. Gor what is a man profited if he should gain the whole world, and lose his soul.

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#HE 41,#H #. L,3E B7


(5 Gor in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faithE as it is written, LThe /ust shall live by faith.L In this gospel message, the righteousness of God is revealed. 0an was a sinner, but God

is gracious and His righteousness covers it all. Grom faith to faith, from faith in God to faithful living for God. Grom faith that saves us, to faith that keeps us. Grom faith preached to faith received. Grom faith to faith, from beginning to end, the /ust shall live by faith. This is the liberating hope of the Gospel. !e don t live by our works. !e don t have to be good enough, or rich enough, or strong enough or smart enough for the power of the gospel to become a life giving reality. All we have to do is believe, and friends, I believe. 0y faith is not in man, or in government. 0y faith is not in capitalism or even democracy. 0y faith is in *esus. 0y faith is in the power of the gospel to pull men and women, like brands, from the fire and set their feet on the solid ground. )aul was not ashamed and he was not afraid because he had first hand knowledge of the power of God to knock a man off his high horse and given him a brand new perspective. )eople that think they can play with God and live with one foot in the world and the other in the church are playing with fire. Ask >adab and Abihu what happens when you play with fire. Ask Ananias and +apphira about playing games with God. >ot me. I know that God s got the power to look out at the vacuum of space and eternity and speak time and matter, universe and life into e8istence. He s got the power and He s not afraid to use it. But thankfully, God will use His power to save and heal those who call on Him.

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$.-$L/2,.!hat are you passionate about today9 -o you speak as readily and as freely to others about the saving grace of God as you do about other things, things that have no power to save or to heal the broken and wounded souls around you9 !e need to be like )aul. !e need to be bold for God and ready to tell the good news wherever we are, and whomever we re around. 0aybe you need to e8perience the power of the gospel in your life today. If you ve never asked *esus to come into your life, today is your blessed day. God brought here today so that He could let you know that He s able. He s able to save you and He s able to keep you. <r maybe you needed to hear this message today because, the truth is that *esus is not longer your obsession. Dou ve let your first love and other things in life are higher on the ladder than *esus. )erhaps you are one of those who feels like you re being held back from launching out and entering into your holy obsession and it is frustrating. !ait on the ,ord, trust Him to release you into your ministry at the right time and place, because when you are launched you will be propelled into your passion with His power and His purpose to support you.

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THE WRATH OF GOD


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" &o'" ()(9*82
(B Gor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (C because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. #= Gor since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without e8cuse, #( because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ## )rofessing to be wise, they became fools, #$ and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man J and birds and fourFfooted animals and creeping things. #% Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, #& who e8changed the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the "reator, who is blessed forever. Amen. #' Gor this reason God gave them up to vile passions. Gor even their women e8changed the natural use for what is against nature. #5 ,ikewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. #B And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fittingE #C being filled with all unrighteousness, se8ual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousnessE full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evilFmindednessE they are whisperers, $= backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, $( undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmercifulE $# who, knowing the righteous /udgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.As a boy, growing up in !est @irginia, our main source of heat was an openFfaced gas stove. I don t know if any of you know what I m talking about, but it s about #% inches high with little ceramic mantles in the front with an open flame inside of those mantles. Those

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mantles will eventually get red hot and /ust glow. In fact, the entire surface of the stove gets pretty hot. !hen I was about ten years old I had a younger cousin 3he was about four or five6 and he was fascinated by that stove. He lived in a mobile home and had a furnace, so he had never seen an open flame like this. The first thing he tried to do when he saw it was to try to touch the stove, but before he could lay a finger on it his mother whisked him up in her arms and said in a stern voice, 1>oH2 +he put him down and wasn t long until he was making his way back over to the stove. Again, before he could touch it, she stopped him, smacked his hand and again said, 1>oH -on t touch it, it will burn you.2 +ure enough, when no one was paying attention, he managed to get over to the stove and put his hand on it. As soon as we heard him scream, we knew what had happened. His mother ran and put ice on his blistered little hand while he cried for the ne8t several hours. But do you know what9 He never touched that stove again. +ometimes, the best teacher for a stubborn child is to let that child e8perience the conseAuences of their actions, as long as it doesn t permanently scar or in/ure them. >ow, look at our te8t with me, beginning in verse (B4 (B Gor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (C because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. By verse (B, )aul is finished with his greeting and begins to enter into the body of this 7pistle. He starts with an attention grabbing statement. It is a statement that stands in stark contrast to the previous verse where )aul affirms power of the gospel, the righteousness of God, and the faith of the /ust. Then he says, 1Gor the wrath of God is revealed.2 As I ve already said, the believers to whom )aul writes were living in the belly of the beast, they were in .ome where paganism was the order of the day. )aul lauds the commitment and faithfulness of the believers,

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but then )aul e8coriates the godless behavior and licentious lifestyle of sinners in .ome. He denounces their behavior in the strongest of terms, warning them that they are living under the cloud of God s wrath. In verses #= through $#, we find four main reasons why the unrighteous in .ome were living under wrath instead of in God s blessings. Girst, they were blind to the ,ordE second, they were in bondage to a lieE third, they were burning in their lustE and last, they were e8periencing the bounty of their sins.

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BL,-! #. #HE L.&!


#= Gor since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without e8cuse, #( because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ## )rofessing to be wise, they became fools, #$ and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man J and birds and fourFfooted animals and creeping things. If some were trying to claim that they could not be held accountable for their sins because

of their ignorance of God or because of the influence of their culture, )aul dismisses their claim as having no merit. )aul says that creation itself virtually shouts out the e8istence of God. )aul says that from creation, from the beginning of time and man s e8istence upon the earth, creation cries out the e8istence of a creator. In fact, )aul says that in creation the invisible is made visible. +pecifically, God s eternal power and godhood are on constant display in creation. )aul said that all men are without e8cuse because everyone has the capacity to witness the power of God in every ma/estic mountain, in every wave of the ocean and in every sunrise and sunset. And yet, they did not 3and many do not6, glorify Him as God, and are not thankful for the world in which we live, but instead become futile in their thoughts, and foolish in their darkened hearts.

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They think that re/ecting God and willfully being blind to the handiwork of God makes them intellectuals who have risen above superstition and fables, but in their willful re/ection of the truth, they become fools. 1The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God2 3)s. (%4(6. 1The fear of the ,ord is the beginning of wisdom2 3)rov. C4(=6. They change the glory of God into a theory of evolution, and God into nothing more than the secular humanistic potential of man himself to gain his own good, and fuel his own pleasure. They reduce the glory of God s creation into an evolutionary process in which a mutation emerged from the primordial soup and transformed over time into humanity, thereby reducing God to a creature, to a fourFfooted beast who is the ultimate creator of life itself. The problem is that people who believe this nonFsense have a blind spot. They think they have clarity of vision, but they don t know, what they don t know. Those of you who drive know about that blind spot. It is that spot in your rearview mirrors where a car can be driving along beside you, but unless you turn around and take a Auick look over your shoulder, you re not going to see it. This is the trouble with people who want to remain blind to the presence and the evidence of God. They will not turn around, they will not repent, and they will not allow God to open their eyes to what they already see, but refuse to acknowledge. They are blind.

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#% Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, #& who e8changed the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the "reator, who is blessed forever. Amen. >ot only are they blind to the ,ord, they are bound to a lie. Because they refuse to see

what is clearly shown and should be known, God gave them up. That is a powerful statement by )aul. !hen I read those words it sends a chill down my spine. They refused to see, they refused

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to glorify God, and they were willfully blind, so God gave them up. The Greek words used here could be translated, 1abandoned.2 +ome translations say, 1God abandoned them.2 If you ve ever been abandoned, then you know that it is a terrible feeling. To be left on your own, to be out there without anyone to call upon or turn when you are in a desperate situation is an awful sinking feeling. I ve been stuck in some bad places before. 0y family and I were stuck on a mountain in !est @irginia one hot *uly day almost ten years ago. It was a scary feeling. !e didn t have a cellFphone, we were miles away from the nearest town or even a house, and to top it off, they sounded an alarm to announce that in twenty minutes they would be stopping traffic to blast rock away from the mountain near where we were stopped. It s an awful feeling to be abandoned, but we weren t alone. I couldn t pick up a phone, but I could call on God. In short while had a towF truck there pulling us to safety, and within a couple hours our van was fi8ed and we were on our way back to Georgia. I shudder to think of being in that predicament without God. *esus promises believers that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but in our te8t, )aul said that God would give them up. <ne commentator said that this truth is powerfully illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son. The son was determined to go, so the Gather let him go. It hurt the Gather to do it, but he let his son e8ercise his free will, and walk away. The son was out there, alone, and the conseAuences of his actions brought him to the lowest depths of depravity that a *ewish father could imagine. But the good news is that if we will, we can always come to our senses and return to the Gather s house. God may give us up, but if we will repent and return, He will let us come home. God gave them up to follow after the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves in se8ually impure practices. )ractices that resulted in venereal diseases that

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disfigured, debilitated, and often ended in death. They e8changed the truth for a lie, and then they become bound to their own lies. Humans have a terrible habit of telling lies, believing our own lies, and then becoming captives to the very lies we invented. !e succumb to narcissism and in our selfish, selfFcentered view of life, we become a god unto ourselves so that we view our own lies as the ultimate truth. !e worship and serve the creature rather than the "reator.

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B/&-,-G ,- #HE,& L/2#


#' Gor this reason God gave them up to vile passions. Gor even their women e8changed the natural use for what is against nature. #5 ,ikewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. They were blind to the ,ord, they were bound to their lies, and they burned in their lust.

>otice that for the second time, )aul says, 1God gave them up.2 He gave them up to their 1vile passions.2 Then )aul tells us what those vile passions are4 1Gor even their women e8changed the natural use for what is against nature. ,ikewise also men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.2 God allowed them to pursue their lusts and God allowed the conseAuences of their sins to run their full course. )aul is specifically speaking to the issue of women engaging in promiscuous se8ual activity, and of men and women engaging in homose8ualityJboth were rampant in .ome at that time. As a result, they received in themselves the penalty of their error. The penalty that )aul is referring to is most likely the diseases that accompany promiscuous or deviant se8ual behavior. Gurthermore, )aul said that the penalty, the diseases they contracted, was /ust, it was due, it was the conseAuence of their own actions.

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I don t think God created AI-+ to punish homose8uals. He didn t have to create it. AI-+ like other se8ually transmitted diseases is the conseAuence of sinE it is the outcome of God letting humanity go to pursue their own lusts. God gave us all free will and God allows us to e8ercise that free will, even when it may hurt us. The sad thing is that e8ercising our own free will often hurts others. I heard a statistic on the news this week that 5= percent of all newly reported cases of AI-+ is occurring among black females. >ot because they are lesbians, but because, in most of these cases 3according to this report6, their husband or their boyfriend is engaged in secretive homose8ual behavior and contracting AI-+ from that lifestyle. Innocent people are being hurt as the natural conseAuence of man s immoral behavior reaches its logical conclusion. 3Illustration4 Getting hit by being in someone s blind spot.6

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#HE B./-#7 .4 #HE,& 2,-2


In verses #B through $# we see the bounty of their sins. That is, the terrible harvest of

sinful behavior. ,ook at verse #B and notice that again it says, 1God gave them over.2 He gave them over to 1a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.2 >e8t, )aul begins to list those things. This list is not e8haustive, but it is certainly sobering4 #C being filled with all unrighteousness, se8ual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousnessE full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evilFmindednessE they are whisperers, $= backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, $( undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmercifulE This sounds a lot like our times. It sounds like the world in the twentyFfirst century. )aul goes on to conclude this section by saying, in verse $#, 1who, knowing the righteous /udgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.2 In other words, the people who are doing these things know that what they are doing is wrong. Three times, it says of them that they e8changed or changed things around to fit their own passions. They changed the glory of God into an image, like that of corruptible humanity.

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They e8changed the truth of God for a lie. They e8changed what was wholesome and natural, for that which was unnatural and ungodly. They knew that it was wrong. They knew that God s /udgment would follow, and yet they did them anyhow. As a result, they deserved the conseAuences of their actions and the wages of sin is death. >ot only do these people practice these things themselves, they approve of, promote, celebrate, and idoli;e others who practice these same perversions. !elcome to HollywoodH

$.-$L/2,.These man and women weren t involved in sin for a lack of knowledge, these weren t sins of ignorance. ,ook at what )aul says4 In verse (C, God was known and shown. In @erse #=, God s attributes were understood. In verse #(, they knew God. In verse, $#, they knew the righteous /udgment of God. The people weren t perishing for a lack of knowledge, but they perished for a lack of will, a lack of obedience and faithfulness to God s righteous standards for life. )aul opens by referring to God s righteous attributes, and he closes by referring to His righteous /udgment. These people knew both the righteousness and the /udgment of God, but they chose to e8change the good for the bad, the truth for a lie, God for the creature, relationship for rebellion, life for death, and reward for /udgment. It wasn t an issue of knowledge, but an issue of the will, and this continues to be the problem of our time. !e live in a country that has is saturated with the gospel. There are Bibles in almost every hotel, motel and noFtell. There are +criptures in prisons and /ails. There is "hristian programming on television and radio, #%Fhours a day. There are "hristian books, maga;ines and internets sites. There are churches on almost every corner of the cities in America, and yet we continue to lunge toward /udgment. !hy9 It isn t a lack of knowledge, it

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is a lack of will. !e live in an age where people believe they can do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want and it won t cost them anything. In the process, they are e8changing salvation for wrath, blessings for curses, hope for hell, and life for death. They are blind to the ,ord, bound to the lie, burning in their lusts, and reaping the bounty of pain that sin always produces. If you re here today and you ve got something in your life that is not pleasing to God, the problem is not in the knowing, it s in the doing. !hy would we trade eternity with God, for the illusion of pleasure here and now9 !hy would we put ourselves in a position where God would say, 1I m giving you over to your own devices and allowing the conseAuences of your actions to descend to their inevitable end9 God does not want to, but He will turn us over to uncleanness, to vile passions and to a debased mind if we will not follow Him. But if we will return, if we will turn around and repent, we will find that God was there all the time. 0ay I suggest to you today that you need to turn around9 Dou need to look over your shoulder at the blind spot and see that God is willing and wanting to bring restoration to you.

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THE IMPENDING IMPACT OF GODS UDGMENT


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans 2)(*(+
( Therefore you are ine8cusable, < man, whoever you are who /udge, for in whatever you /udge another you condemn yourselfE for you who /udge practice the same things. # But we know that the /udgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. $ And do you think this, < man, you who /udge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the /udgment of God9 % <r do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance9 & But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous /udgment of God, ' who Lwill render to each one according to his deedsL4 5 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortalityE B but to those who are selfFseeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness J indignation and wrath, C tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the *ew first and also of the GreekE (= but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the *ew first and also to the Greek. (( Gor there is no partiality with God. (# Gor as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be /udged by the law ($3for not the hearers of the law are /ust in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be /ustifiedE (% for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, (& who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else e8cusing them6 (' in the day when God will /udge the secrets of men by *esus "hrist, according to my gospel. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.Gebruary of (C5# in ,ogan "ounty, !est @irginia was a particularly rainy month. Though many said this was normal for late Gebruary, the Buffalo 0ining officials were concerned about one of the three slag or gob dams on the Buffalo "reek. This creek ran down between the ridges of two mountains above the little mining community of +aunders. <ther little towns with thousands of residents dotted the valley between the dams on Buffalo "reek and the Guyandotte .iver . 3http4NNwww.wvculture.orgNhi+toryNbuffcreekNbuff(.html6

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These dams consisted of nothing more than dust, shale, clay, lowFAuality coal, and other impurities which were piled up to form retaining ponds for impurities, which resulted from coal mining in the area. The third dam, the one that the mining officials were concerned about, was the one farthest up the creek and it ranged from %& to '= feet high. )ittston "oal was the largest mining company in the state of !est @irginia at that time and they e8erted a lot of influence, influence that allowed them to cut corners and to skimp on safety. There was little more than a pile of dirt and coal stacked '= feet high to keep the rising waters from flooding the communities below. As the water continued to rise, it became increasingly apparent that the largest dam might fail, resulting in a domino effect as the other two dams further downstream would likely be wiped out from the cascading water of dam number three. A )ittston official in the area was notified of the danger, but other residents were never informed. Two county deputies tried to assess the condition of the dams, but they were turned away by company officials. +ome of the residents sensed something. Aware of the e8cessive amount of rain that had recently fallen and the fragile nature of the dams in the mountains above them, they moved to higher ground. <n Gebruary #', around B4== a.m., a heavyFeAuipment operator found that the water had risen to the top of the dam, and noted that the dam was 1really soggy.2 Give minutes later the dam collapsed and around ($# million gallons of black wastewater careened down the narrow Buffalo "reek hollow. It was a wall of black water, (& to #= foot high, gushing through the little towns at 5 feet per second. In a matter of minutes, (#& were dead, (,(== were in/ured, and over %,=== were left homeless. Give hundred and two homes and %% mobile homes were demolished and another C%$ houses and mobiles homes were damaged.

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The thing is that those dams had been there for years, had weathered many storms, but any engineer worth his or her salt should have known that it was only a matter of time before the dams broke and the fury of the water would be released upon the unsuspecting communities downstream. It was never a matter of if the dams would burst. It was only a Auestion of :hen. )eople living below those dams were living on borrowed time. ,ast week I noted that in chapter (, the Apostle )aul addressed the issue of the wrath of God and the righteous /udgment of God. !hen I think about the world we are living in today, I am convinced that the warning signs are there, and that it is not a matter of if, but only of when, God s wrath against sinful, reprobate, rebellious, pleasureFdriven, GodFdefying, creatureF worshipping humanity will be released. I don t want to be like the mining officials who failed to warn the town that disaster was imminent. I don t want to stand before God with your blood on my hands. >o one that I pastor will ever stand before me, as they are condemned for eternity to hell, and say, 1)astor . . . you never told me about /udgmentH Dou never told me about God s wrathH2 I m here today to sound an alarm, to let you know that the dam is about to burst, God s wrath is about to be unleashed, and we d better get right, or we ll get left. !e see the signs of the increasing depravity of our times all around us. It is in the television shows, in the movies, in the music and maga;ines, in our schools and in our own homes. 3I recently saw that what had been a "hristian bookstore for several years is being converted into an adult novelty store.6 But while the sin has increased in our world, the church has been like the frog in the kettle. As the enemy has been gradually turning up the level of depravity, we ve been blissfully ignorant to the fact that as sin increases, the water of wrath is rising, and the only thing holding back God s righteous /udgment has been God s great mercy and kindness. He has restrained the wrath to

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come to provide us with the opportunity to repent. But, instead of repenting, we have interpreted God s forbearance with indifference and we have been stoking the fires of our own /udgment. How could this happen9 )aul addressed this in our te8t. I only read verses ( through ', but I want you to be looking at verses ( through ('.

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,ooking back at the end of chapter (, we remember that )aul has warned us that nature

itself speaks to the e8istence of God, and if we would follow the clues, He would lead us to Himself. This is the cosmological argument for the e8istence of God. "reation reAuires a "reator who is more powerful than the sum total of the parts and this points to God. Det, instead of seeking and finding God, man has been guilty of pursuing his own pleasures. )aul lists many of those offenses at the end of chapter (. ,ooking at the list, we find sins that were associated with the paganism of the Gentiles. *ews did not practice or endorse homose8uality in any form or fashion. In fact, in the law, a man who was caught lying with a man as he would with a woman was dragged into the streets and stoned. Therefore, hearing this list of offenses many *ewish "hristians, and perhaps even those *ews who were still practicing *udaism, may have thought, 1I m not like those ignorant Gentiles. I m God s elect so I don t have to worry about God s /udgment.2 If this is what they were thinking, )aul proceeds to clear up this misconception. ( Therefore you are ine8cusable, < man, whoever you are who /udge, for in whatever you /udge another you condemn yourselfE for you who /udge practice the same things. # But we know that the /udgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. $ And do you think this, < man, you who /udge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the /udgment of God9 )aul doesn t mince words here. He says, 1Dou who sit in /udgment of others, do you think that you will be e8empt from /udgment92 Instead, those who were seeking to /ustify themselves by /udging others were only adding to their own /udgment.

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,et me give you an e8ample. Homose8uality is a sin, but the sin of homose8uality in others does not lessen the sin of pornography, or fornication or adultery in others. There are people who will look at pornographic material and /ustify themselves saying, 1!ell at least I m not gay.2 But /udging the sins of others does not diminish our own sins, and it adds to our /udgment because of our hypocrisy. I remember when se8ual sins of *im Baker and *immy +waggart were e8posed. I heard many preachers almost gloating over the failures of these ministers, as thought the failures of others somehow elevated those who had never done such things. But the sins of *im Baker and *immy +waggart did not diminish the sins of pride, /ealousy, or envy in the hearts of the people who were so Auick to sit in /udgment of their fellow pastors. If you ever hear the words, 1!ell at least I never . . .2 coming from your mouth, then you d better stop, because you are probably getting ready to /ustify your own sins by trying to point out the sins of others, instead of repenting for you own failures. -oes that mean that we should never speak out against sin9 <f course it doesn t. The Apostle )aul has /ust listed several sins and speaks of the impeding wrath and /udgment of God on those sins. !hat )aul is saying is that we should never try to /ustify our failures by finding others who seem to have more failures than we do. I have an aunt, and I love her dearly, but she has been e8tremely overweight for years. In fact, she now has sugar diabetes and has had one kneeFreplacement surgery. I remember that she would always manage to find someone much larger than she was and she would almost always comment, 1I m glad I m not as big as that woman is.2 However, the weight of the other woman did nothing to stop the health effects of being overweight that my aunt is now e8periencing. The *ews thought that simply by virtue of their race that they were somehow morally superior to the Gentiles, but )aul 3who is himself a *ew6, dismisses this idea.

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Instead of thinking they were somehow morally superior, )aul says that *ews should recogni;e and respond to the mercy of God. ,ook at verse %4 % <r do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance9 This is the dam that is holding back /udgment. The riches of God s goodness, His forbearance and longsuffering should never be misconstrued to mean that God is indifferent to sin. The only reason America has not been wiped off the face of the map as completely as +odom and Gomorrah were is because of his forbearance and longsuffering, and instead of flaunting this fact, we should be on our knees in repentance during this season of grace and mercy. Instead, our country continues to sin and our churches are filled with people and pastors who promote a 1happyFhappy everyone is going to heaven2 message while the dam is drenched in the sins of a pleasure driven culture.

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2#.&,-G /P ;/!GME-#
& But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous /udgment of God, ' who Lwill render to each one according to his deedsL4 5 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortalityE B but to those who are selfFseeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness J indignation and wrath, C tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the *ew first and also of the GreekE (= but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the *ew first and also to the Greek. (( Gor there is no partiality with God. >otice what )aul said, 1Dou are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath.2

,ook at verse & with me.

Instead of seeing and responding to God s mercy, people abuse His patience and increase the level of wrath that is pressing against the dam. !e can either store up treasures in heaven by responding to God s grace and living a life of obedience to His will and His word, or we can store up for ourselves wrath on the day of wrath.

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I ve heard people ask, 1How can a loving God pour out wrath on the people He created92 The premise of the Auestion is wrong. It presupposes that we don t already deserve wrath. !e were born in sin and shaped in iniAuity. It is only by God s tender mercies that we have not already been consumed by our own sinful acts. The Auestion is not, 1How can God pour out wrath92 The real Auestion is, 1!hy hasn t wrath already come crashing down upon us92 The answer to that is that He is rich in mercy and goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. He has been holding back the wrath that we deserve, but instead of falling on our faces in appreciation, we live in a world what persists in filling the lake of /udgment with more wrath. The wicked treasure up wrath and /udgment, but the righteous treasure up eternal life. The fact is that there s going to be a payFday someday. The wrath that the wicked have stored up will be released. The riches that the righteous have been laying up in heaven where thief cannot steal, and where moth and rust cannot destroy will be rewarded. )aul s point to the *ewish audience is that it isn t a matter of race or nationality. There is no partiality with God. !e will all be paid what we have treasured away, whether wrath or blessings, it will not matter if we are *ew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free. There s going to be a payday someday and if we have been born again and lived in obedience to the ,ord, we will hear Him say, 1!ell done. 7nter into your reward.2

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)aul anticipates the response of the *ews. They would say, 1!ait /ust a minute )aul. <f

course we are morally superior because we have had the law of 0oses and all these generations and the Gentiles have not.2 +o )aul, in classic Greek rhetorical style, addresses the argument before it can be asked. (# Gor as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be /udged by the law ($3for not the hearers of the law are /ust in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be /ustifiedE (% for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, (& who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else

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e8cusing them6 (' in the day when God will /udge the secrets of men by *esus "hrist, according to my gospel. >?*@ )aul tell us two very important things here. Girst, )aul concedes that the *ews had the received the ,aw of 0oses. However, the righteousness of the law is not in the knowing, but in the doing, and doing with a right attitude. It was never about the letter of the law, the letter kills, but the spirit of the law gives life. Then *esus told them, 1The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life2 3*n. '4'$, >I@6. He gave us a new covenant of life, but we must put that covenant into practice, we must do whatsoever He has commanded us 30at. #B4(CF#=6. It s not enough to know what *esus said, we have to live it. The *ews had the law, but they had never fully practiced the law. ?nowing about the Bible isn t enough. ?nowing the words of the songs, and knowing the rituals of the church, and knowing the books of the Bible, and memori;ing verses are not enough. !e must be doers of the !ord and not hearers 3or knowers6 only. The blessings of the Bible do not flow into our lives until we put the !ord into practice. The second thing )aul tells us is that while the Gentiles did not have the ,aw of 0oses, God gave them a conscience. God gave them a little voice speaking in their hearts an internal moral code to which they could have listened. In fact, while the <ld Testament *ews would be /udged according to the received law, the Gentiles would be /udged by the internal law, which was written in their heart. This is known as the ontological argument for the e8istence of God. 7volution could not program a moral code. It could only program a survival of the fittest mentality where everything is /ustified if it insures survival. The fact that there is even the concept of right and wrong written in our hearts, points to the e8istence of God as the author of that code.

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7very time a sinner feels a tinge of guilt for wrong committed, it is another evidence of God s e8istence. *ew or Gentile, we will all stand before God someday, and even the sinner who claims to be an atheist and re/ects the very idea of God, has that little tinge, that little nagging voice that will not go away, and it is but another evidence for the e8istence of God which they cannot e8punge from their heart.

$.-$L/2,.In this present age we no longer live by the law, but by faith in God s grace. The /ust shall live by faith. !e are saved by grace through faith, but our rewards as "hristians, or our punishment as sinners, will be determined by our deeds. In this life, we either store up blessings or curses, life or death, /udgment and wrath, or rewards and eternal life and there will be a payday someday. !e have not been called to sit in /udgment of others. Their own sins will condemn them. Instead, we are to run into the highways and byways and tell the people living in the valley below that they have only a short time to turn to God and ask Him for forgiveness. The reservoir of wrath is full and it has only been God s mercy and goodness that has held by the wrath this long, but /udgment delayed, is not /udgment denied. God has been gracious and patient with us all, and in His love He has held back the wrath that America deserves, but how long until the dam bursts9 How long until God e8ecutes righteous /udgment upon the earth9 !e don t know, but we do know that in the mean time, we should be repenting of our own faults even as we call out family, our city and country to higher ground.

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YOU GIVE GOD, A !AD NAME


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" 2)(7*2<
(5 Indeed you are called a *ew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, (B and know His will, and approve the things that are e8cellent, being instructed out of the law, (C and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, #= an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. #( Dou, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself9 Dou who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal9 ## Dou who say, L-o not commit adultery,L do you commit adultery9 Dou who abhor idols, do you rob temples9 #$ Dou who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law9 #% Gor Lthe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,L as it is written. #& Gor circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the lawE but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. #' Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous reAuirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision9 #5 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, /udge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law9 #B Gor he is not a *ew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the fleshE #C but he is a *ew who is one inwardlyE and circumcision is that of the heart, in the +pirit, not in the letterE whose praise is not from men but from God. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever preF/udged a church because of one person or a couple of people that you ve met9 I have. !hen I as in seminary studying for my 0aster of -ivinity degree, I worked at a 0agic "hef +tove factory. It was there that I met a man who drank, made passes at the women, and used bad language, but he was a deacon in the church he attended. In addition, to his moral vices, he was a flaming racist who would taunt me with racist comments. He let me know that he thought it was wrong for me to be married to an Asian woman. I wondered what kind of a church would allow such an immoral man to serve as a deacon. This one man brought a reproach upon the church he attended and in which he held the position of deacon. It may be that he did not reflect the reality of the church. It may be that if the pastor knew what this man

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was really like that he would have removed him from his office. It may be that this was a wonderful, loving "hristian church, but the only point of reference I had with that church, was this one deacon. <ne of the reasons 0uslims hate America is because they believe that America is a "hristian nation, but then the television shows, movies, and maga;ines that they see coming out of America are so repulsive and repugnant to their moral conscious that they would rather die than risk the possibility that their children should ever behave like that. <f course, we know that Hollywood does not represent "hristianity, in fact, Hollywood often attacks "hristianity, but 0uslims do not make that distinction. All they know is that America is a "hristian nation and smut comes from America. Then when they watch soFcalled "hristian television, all they can conclude is that "hristianity is about manipulating God to get more money. It is about the bling, about living large, about making God into the image of some celestial +anta "lause who e8ists for no other reason than to meet every wish and whim of the "hristians. And the people who they see on those "hristian programs are claiming to use the sacred +criptures to prove their points. I fear that one of the biggest hindrances to evangeli;ing the world is a "hristianity that has been abducted by capitalism, democracy, and the .epublican )arty. "hristianity is not tied to one particular economic system or any one political party. And /ust for the record, "hristianity is not ultimately about democracy, but about a theocracy where "hrist is ?ing of kings and ,ord of lords and all the earth bows before His throne. I m afraid that the prosperity driven, feel good, do nothing, "hristianity of the twentyFfirst century has given God a bad name. Those outside of the church are mocking God because of the message they hear the church proclaiming from the pulpits and being demonstrated in the lives of those who claim to be "hristians.

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,ook at your te8t. The *ews were called by God to be evangelists in the earth. !e find this in various places in the <ld Testament, but two of the most obvious statements of this fact are found in Isaiah. Isa %#4'F5 LI, the ,<.-, have called you in righteousnessE I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 5 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. >I@ Isa %C4' he says4 LIt is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of *acob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.L >I@ God chose Israel as his peculiar people 3-eut. (%4#6, so that they would be a kingdom of priests 378. (C4'6, that they, as a nation, would become intercessors between Dahweh and the other nations. But Israel went in the other direction. They became a hindrance rather than a help. Because of their selfFrighteousness and their disdain for the Gentiles 3anyone who was not *ewish6, they separated and isolated themselves, and /udged others by a law that they themselves were not keeping. If we re going to talk the talk, we d better walk the walk. They claimed to represent Dahweh, that is the <ne and <nly True God, and yet, their representation of God caused others to blaspheme the name of God. Two of the main reasons for their failure were pride and an attitude of moral superiority rather than humility and compassion.

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1 P&.BLEM .4 P&,!E
,ook at verses (5 through #=4 (5 Indeed you are called a *ew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, (B and know His will, and approve the things that are e8cellent, being instructed out of the law,

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(C and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, #= an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. In these verses, )aul gives voice to the claims of the *ews. This was a common rhetorical practice where the person making an argument would speak the claims of his opponents and then refute those claims. The main issue for the *ews was religious pride. )aul knew this religious pride because he was once a )harisee and he walked in the same robes of selfFrighteousness as those he is addressing were wearing. He is stating what they believed of themselves. They had the law, they boasted that they were special people of God and because of His word, they knew his will. They could tell you what was right and what was wrong because they had been brought up to know the law. They truly believed that they were leading the blind and ignorant Gentiles, that they were shining a light in the darkness as an instructor of the foolish, teachers of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. +ometimes, if we re not careful, we ll act like we have the achieved such a high level of knowledge and understanding, that we are no longer teachable, and we become filled with pride. Have you ever met someone who knew it all9 I knew a pastor who didn t think anyone had anything to teach him. In the "hurch of God, a person has to go through a time of training before moving from the lowest rank of ministry to the ne8t. He was going to have to go through that training and he let me know that they couldn t teach him anything. He said, 1If I go, I ll go and teach them something.2 )ride prevents us from learning more about God, it deludes us into thinking we are impressing others, when we are only inviting the scorn and derision of those we are trying to reach. >ot only is pride wrong, religious and spiritual pride is particularly egregious. )aul is grieved at the attitude of the *ews. !hether these are *ews that are opposing "hristianity or *ewish "hristians who are clinging to certain aspects of the law and pre/udiced

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against Gentiles is unclear. 7ither way, )aul sees their attitudes and actions as a hindrance to the spread of "hristianity among the nations. +o, to burst their bubble of selfFrighteousness, )aul begins to Auote the law and challenges them to prove that they have not broken the law that they claim gives them morally superior standing before God. #( Dou, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself9 Dou who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal9 ## Dou who say, L-o not commit adultery,L do you commit adultery9 Dou who abhor idols, do you rob temples9 #$ Dou who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law9 Dou can almost see *esus standing before the )harisees who wanted to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery saying, 1Dou who are without sin, cast the first stone.2 They dropped their rocks and walked away. >ow )aul is doing a similar thing here. He is saying, 1If you have kept the law to perfection, then you may be able to claim some moral highFground, but if you are preaching one thing and living another, then you are no better than the people you /udge.2 !e are so Auick to try to remove the speck from someone else s eye, while we have a beam in our own eye. Gor some reason, the faults in others seem more obvious to us than our own faults. But we should remember that while we may be blind to our own failures, others around us see them very clearly. The worst part of all this was that the Gentiles saw the hypocrisy in the *ewish people and the result was that they mocked the God whom the *ews were representing. #% Gor Lthe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,L as it is written. Instead of drawing the Gentiles to Dahweh, they were hindering themE they were causing the Gentiles to mock the God of the *ews.

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The +econd "entury "hurch Gather, )olycarp 3who had been a disciple of Apostle *ohn6 wrote, 1Be all of you sub/ect one to another, having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles Omeaning nonF"hristians hereP, that ye may both receive praise for your good works, and the ,ord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the ,ord is blasphemed2 37pistle of )olycarp, chap. Q6.

,,0 1 M1##E& .4 #HE HE1&#


In verses #& through #C )aul highlights a particular covenant ritual that the *ews had meticulously followed, but the rite itself had become more important to them than the meaning. #& Gor circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the lawE but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. #' Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous reAuirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision9 #5 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, /udge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law9 All *ewish male babies at eightFdaysFold were to be circumcised. It was a sign that God initially made with Abraham. It was a sign of a promise to live by the covenant, and abide by the stipulations of the law. :nfortunately, they had substituted the sign for the substance. They were observing the rite, but they were failing to keep the stipulations of the covenant, so that they were no better than those who had never participated in the rite. Gor the *ews the symbol had become more important than the reality. #B Gor he is not a *ew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the fleshE #C but he is a *ew who is one inwardlyE and circumcision is that of the heart, in the +pirit, not in the letterE whose praise is not from men but from God. >?*@ In Galatians &4' the Apostle )aul writes, 1Gor in "hrist *esus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.2 .eligion has become a bad word in the world today. This is because religions are at war. Give years ago, tomorrow, 0uslims slammed airplanes into the twin towers in >ew Dork "ity, killing over $,=== people,

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and they did it in the name of religion. In the name of religion, "hristians came to America and inadvertently spread disease throughout >ative American tribes, completely wiping out some of those >ative peoples. In the name of religion, >a;is incinerated si8 million *ews in the ovens of Auschwit;, Bel;ec, Treblinka, and others. Thankfully, there is still such a thing as pure religion and undefiled. It is not an issue of rituals and rites, or of outward forms and fashions. It is not about how long it has been since I ve been sick, or how much money I have, the house I live in or the car that I drive. True religion and undefiled is a matter of the heart. It is a place where pride and flesh have been cut away and all remains is a heart that is sensitive to God. It is a place where the +pirit of the law, that gives life, trumps the letter of the law that kills. *ames said that pure religion and undefiled is manifest in selfless acts of kindness and concern. He said that it is 1to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world2 3*ames (4#5, >?*@6. )ure religion is a combination of doing right and living right. It is not about an empty act where the sign has become more important than the substance. Going to church is a sign, but meeting God and entering into His holy presence is the substance and the sign without the substance is meaningless. +ure, I want you to attend church. I believe that it is vitally important to the spiritual health of every "hristian. I ve been in ministry for over twenty years now and I ve seen the same pattern over and over in the lives of people who drifted away from the ,ord. They missed a few services, and then a few more, until attendance became infreAuent and sporadic, and finally they stopped attending church at all. Their relationship with God was placed on the self while they worked to earn more money, or give themselves to their leisure and their hobbies. +ports, washing the car, mowing the lawn, going fishing, or playing golf became more important than obeying the !ord of God, which tells us not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together, but so

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much the more as we see the end approaching 3Heb. (=4#&6. +o I believe in attending church, but attendance alone is not enough. I want the substance. I want to encounter the God through the presence and the power of the Holy +pirit. I believe in giving in tithes and offerings. I believe it is a proper aspect of biblical stewardship. It is a testimony to our appreciation for what God has already given, and faith that He will continue to provide our needs according to His riches in glory. But giving alone is /ust a sign. If we think we can buy God s pleasure with our money, then we are fooling ourselves. This is /ust an outward act. The blessings flow from embracing and believing in the substance of the act itself. I m not /ust giving in the offeringE I am worshipping God, my provider, my *ehovahF*irah, my source and my supply. !hat I m talking about is not a work of the fleshE it is not a ritual or a rite with only a superficial significance. I m talking about a heart thing, a spiritual thing that goes deeper until it captures our being and shapes who we are and how we live. !hen this becomes our reality, then we will not bring shame to His name, but those around us will see the substance and the evidence of the message we proclaim.

$.-$L/2,.If the only concept of God the world has is based upon the testimony of my lifeJand that includes those secret moments, those hidden times when no mortal man is lookingJwhat would the world think of my God9 -oes my walk reflect my talk9 -o I talk about God s love and then fail to love others9 -o I preach about forgiveness and then refuse to forgive others9 -o I speak of holiness, and then e8cuse the moral lapses in my own life9 The world is watching and they are making a /udgment about "hristianity, about the "onyers "hurch of God, based on what they see in our lives.

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How tragic to think that my life and my religion, could give occasion to the world to blaspheme the name of *esus. He died in my place. He gave everything for someone who had nothing, so that someone who had nothing could have everything I need in Him. I owe Him everything. !ithout Him I would be nothing and the last thing I would ever want to do is to give the world a reason to mock Him. I want to live a life that will shine a light. 1The late theologianFapologist Grancis +chaeffer saw a worrisome connection between )aul s words to the *ews and the contemporary American church2 3Boa R ?ruidnier, #===, p.B$6. He writes4 Again we must admit, this is surely how God looks at much of "hristendom today. "laiming to be under the umbrella of "hristendom, claiming to have some sort of special blessing because the bells ring in the cathedrals, because in the :nited +tates great numbers of people go to church, and yet we commit blasphemy against God as we turn from the clear teaching of His !ord. It is a sober truth and we must fact it4 if we have the Bible, if we en/oy all the blessing it brings, and yet by our lives bring shame upon God s name, we are guilty of the greatest irreverence. . . . !hen the man with the Bible treats it as an e8ternal thing only, it causes the man without the Bible to dishonor the God of the Bible. +urely, then, the man with the Bible is /ustifiably under God s wrath 3+chaeffer, p. '(6 3as Auoted by Boa and ?ruidnier, p. B%6.

I don t want to be distraction from God. I want to be an arrow pointing the lost to God. Is that your desire9 It begins when you receive "hrist into your heart. Dou may be one of those who have been turned off to church, and maybe even to God, because of what you have seen in the lives of

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those who claim His name. But even the best among us are only imperfect representatives of the reality. Instead of finding fault in others and then /udging God, look for the best and remember that God is even better than that.

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THE WORD IS MY ADVANTAGE


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' 8)(*7
( !hat advantage then has the *ew, or what is the profit of circumcision9 # 0uch in every wayH "hiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. $ Gor what if some did not believe9 !ill their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect9 % "ertainly notH Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written4LThat Dou may be /ustified in Dour words, And may overcome when Dou are /udged.L & But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say9 Is God un/ust who inflicts wrath93I speak as a man.6 ' "ertainly notH Gor then how will God /udge the world9 5 Gor if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still /udged as a sinner9 B And why not say, L,et us do evil that good may comeL9 J as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is /ust. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever been witnessing to someone, or trying to talk to someone about the ,ord, or maybe you were /ust trying to invite them to church, and then they said, 1!hy should I go to church9 I know sinners that live /ust as good a life as "hristians, and I know members of your church who are /ust as bad as anyone else in the community92 Dou d like to tell them that they re wrong, but you also know people who have never made a commitment to "hrist, yet seem to be living a very moral life. Dou know church members 3maybe not members of this church, but members of some church6 who live immoral lives. Gurthermore, we all know "hristians who have a mountain of faith and are commitment to the ,ord, but who seem to go through one trial after another. +o if you re the world, you might ask the Auestion, 1!hat is the difference9 !hat advantage is there for me, if I become a "hristian92 <f course, the most obvious answer is that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, but most sinners can only relate to the here and now. According to them, heaven can wait. The Auestion for them is more e8istential than it is eschatological.

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!hen we turn to +cripture, we also find that in many respects, at least from all e8ternal observation, it may not appear that the conditions of the lives of believers are much different from anyone else. In 0atthew &4%' *esus said of the Heavenly Gather, 1He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the /ust and on the un/ust.2 If that is the case, then why should we want to be a "hristian9 +urely being a believer means that we have an advantage on everyone else, that we don t have to face the same trials as everyone else. +ome claim that if we are believers that we are somehow e8empt from the toils and troubles of life. They are peddling a religion that says that gain is godliness 3( Tim '4&6. They are selling the idea that if we /ust have enough faith, if we can Auote the right Bible verses, buy the right miracle oil, sew 1seedFfaith2 money into the right ministry, or name and claim and speak the right things, then we will never be sick, we will gain great riches, and will never face the troubles that the rest of the world does. This is a message that sells, and it fills pews in a culture that is obsessed with health and wealth. The problem with that message is that it is not found in the Bible. The Bible teaches that they who live godly in "hrist *esus shall suffer persecution 3# Tim. $4(#6. The Bible teaches that we will be hated of all men because we speak the name of *esus and claim Him as our ,ord and +avior 30att. (=4##6. !e re told that the storms will beat against the house of both those who build on the rock and those who build on the sand 30att. 54#%F#56. This is to say that, those who obey the words of *esus, as well as those who do not, will face storms. !e are told that in the world we shall have tribulation 3*n. ('4$$6. In )salms 5$, the writer saw something that greatly disturbed him. He saw that the wicked were prospering /ust as much as the righteous were. )salm 5$4#F& # But as for me, my feet were almost goneE my steps had well nigh slipped. $ Gor I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. % Gor there are no bands in their death4 but their strength is firm. & They are not in trouble as other menE neither are they plagued like other men. ?*@

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+o what advantage is there to being a "hristian9 I would say with )aul, that we have some wonderful and some powerful spiritual advantages, but we are often guilty of missing out on the blessings that the Bible promises because we focused on blessings that the Bible didn t promise. The real difference is not in what we are e8empt from, but how we make it through. 7veryone will walk through the valley of the shadow of death at some point, but only the believer has God to comfort them and a table on the other side in the presence of their enemies, anointing and a cup that overflows. ,ook at your te8t. In this chapter, chapter $, )aul Auotes, and then answers, si8 Auestions that were being asked by his detractors. He knows what they ve been saying about his message and about him personally. +o )aul addresses their Auestions headFon. If you want to highlight these Auestions in your Bible I ll summari;e them for you. The first Auestion is in verse (, 1!hat are the advantages of being a *ew or of circumcision9 The second Auestion is found in verse $, 1!ill Israel s unfaithfulness nullify God s promises9 The third Auestion is in verse &, 1If our unrighteousness brings out God s righteousness, isn t He unfair to punish us92 The fourth Auestion is in verse C, 1Are the *ews better than other people92 The fifth Auestion is in verse #(, 1How then does God save people92 And the last Auestion is in verse $(, 1-oes faith nullify the law92 3The !utline Bible6. Today I m going to address the first three Auestions, and ne8t week we ll look at the last three. ,et s begin with verse ( and the first Auestion.

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5H1# ,2 #HE 1!31-#1GE=


( !hat advantage then has the *ew, or what is the profit of circumcision9 In chapters ( and # )aul has gone to great lengths to let the readers know that being a *ew

does not make one a morally superior person, it does not e8empt one from God s /udgment, and it does not give anyone a reason for pride, arrogance, or an ethnocentric attitude that views other

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cultures or peoples as somehow inferior. The audience whom )aul was addressing was asking these Auestions. After what )aul states in the opening chapters we can envision the *ewish man scratching his head and asking, 1Then what advantage have we had as a people92 After all, they had been persecuted, killed, carried into captivity, and had felt the force of God s /udgment throughout their e8istence as a people, so if there is no advantage, hasn t it all been for nothing9 0aybe you ve wondered why you should try to live a godly life. !hat s the point9 If I m going to have to face the same troubles as everyone else, if I m going to have to go through the same valleys and face the same storms as that poor schmuck who drinks and cheats on his wife, then why should I deny myself from the sinful pleasures that he or she seems to en/oy9 I look around and like the )salmist in )salm 5$, I see cheaters and thieves who have money and friends, houses and cars. +o why try to live a godly life9 !hat is the advantage to being a "hristian and living according to God s !ord9 To these *ews )aul answered that there was an advantage, but it wasn t the advantage that they were thinking of. They were thinking of position, of some moral high ground, of somehow being better than everyone else. But this wasn t the real advantage that was theirs. ,ook at what )aul says in verse #4 # 0uch in every wayH "hiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. !hat was their real advantage9 It was that they had been privileged to be the vessels through which the !ord of God would be communicated and transmitted to the world. Their advantage was the !ord of God that had been placed in their hands and which they had the opportunity to bury in their hearts that they might not sin against God. >otice that )aul does not say that they were given the !ord of God, but that the !ord 3Gk. logia, meaning spoken

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revelation6 had been committed, or entrusted to them. They were commissioned to be stewards of the revelation of God to 0oses, -avid, and the prophets. The *ews had opportunities to know and serve God in ways that the Gentiles had never known. They were given the oracles of God so that they might become a nation of prophets who could speak that !ord to the world and be a light to the Gentiles. But instead of being prophets and priests to the world, they kept the world at arm s length and maintained their distance from the world that God had raised them up to reach. The real advantage that we have, as believers, is not that if we have enough faith we will never be sick. )leaseH It is appointed unto man once to die 3Heb. C4#56, and I ve never seen a man die of being too healthy. I do believe in healing. I ve seen it and felt it firsthand. I believe that if any among you are sick 1let him call for the elders of the churchE and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the ,ord4 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the ,ord shall raise him up2 3*ames &4(%F(&, ?*@6. I believe in healing, and I believe that God is my provider, but I also know healthy and rich sinners. I believe the real advantage is that we have been entrusted with the !ord of ,ife, we have been entrusted with the Good >ews, and we have the blessing of putting that !ord into practice so that we can en/oy are right relationship with God. !e have the privilege of being 1a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people2 to show out the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light 3( )eter #4C6. This is no reason for pride or arrogance, but instead it should fill us with gratitude and humility. If we re not careful, we ll be so consumed with health and wealth that we fail to reali;e that our real advantage, and our most important blessing, is that we have been entrusted with the !ord of God and have been charged with the responsibility of sharing His !ord with others.

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5ha% 1bou% /nbelief=


$ !hat if some did not believe9 !ill their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect9 The ne8t Auestion that )aul anticipates is, 1!ell, then, if the *ewish people are guilty of

unbelief, of failing to maintain a right relationship with God, if they are under the wrath of God as much as the Gentiles are, then doesn t that make God s covenant promises null and void92 !e face that same Auestion today. !hy speak up9 !hy tell others about "hrist, after all they won t believe. )aul recoils at the very thought. In verse %, )aul says it as forcefully as he can4 % "ertainly notH Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written4 LThat Dou may be /ustified in Dour words, And may overcome when Dou are /udged.L I love this verse. The unbelief and failures of others cannot rob me of my blessings. The pastor may fall, but I don t have to. 0y spouse may not believe, but they can t stop me from believing, and their unbelief cannot rob me of the benefits I have of putting my faith in God. Dou may live or work in an atmosphere of unbelief. There may be people all around you on a daily basis who Auestion everything you believe in, and who flaunt their disregard for God and His !ord, but their unbelief, their lack of faith, cannot nullify the promises of God. +omeone may say, 1I don t believe *esus is coming back.2 But you remember *esus saying, 1If I go, I shall come again2 and all the unbelief in the world will not prevent *esus from splitting the 7astern sky to call His children home. +ome may say, 1I don t believe that God created the universe.2 But you know that 1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,2 and all the unbelief of every evolutionist who ever lived cannot stop the day unto day and night unto night voice and the language of creation from declaring the e8istence of their "reator.

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The ne8t time someone tells you, 1I don t believe in God,2 you need to look them in the eyes and say, 1Dou may not believe in God, but He believes in you, and if you let Him, He can make something beautiful out of your life.2 !hen )aul says, 1That Dou may be /ustified in Dour words, and may overcome when Dou are /udged,2 he is Auoting from )salm &(4%. This verse isn t talking about us being /ustified by our words, but about the fact that God is /ustified in His !ords, and when He is /udged by man, God s !ords trump all their accusations.2 God is as good as His !ord, He will never be proven un/ust in anything He does or says, and His !ord is His defense. !hen +atan tempted *esus in the wilderness, *esus didn t try to defend Himself with anything other than the !ord of His Gather. Gor every temptation *esus simply said, 1It is written.2 His !ord is His promise and He is faithful. 0an may lie. 0an may promise more than he can deliver. 0an may speak things that bear no fruit, but God is not a man that He should lie. I believe His !ordH If you don t want to believe, it don t hinder meH If you don t want to walk in His promises, it won t slow me down. God is faithful, and His !ord is my advantageH

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5H1# 2H1LL 5E 217=


& But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say9 Is God un/ust who inflicts wrath93I speak as a man.6 The third Auestion that )aul answers is that of God s /ustice. The *ews were saying that if

they were not saved by being the offspring of Abraham, if they stand under the same /udgment as the Gentiles, and if they have to repent and be redeemed of their sins /ust like anyone else, then apparently their sinfulness provided an opportunity for the righteousness of God to be made more obvious. Therefore, if their unrighteousness made God look better, then isn t God un/ust in pouring wrath out upon them9

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>otice that )aul reminds us that this is not what he thinks. This is not )aul s argument, this is the argument of his detractors that he answering. !hat is )aul s answer9 ' "ertainly notH Gor then how will God /udge the world9 5 Gor if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still /udged as a sinner9 B And why not say, L,et us do evil that good may comeL9 J as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is /ust. +ome were accusing )aul of saying that we should do evil so that good may come. )aul said that this is slander and completely false. A sin is a sin is a sin. It is true that God is rich in mercy and in grace. It is true that if we sin we have an advocate with the Gather, and the blood of "hrist cleanses us from all unrighteousness, but to suggest that multiplying our sins has the side benefit of multiplying God s mercy and grace is absurd. )aul said of those who were slandering his ministry, 1Their condemnation is /ust.2 !e cannot play games with God and think that we are going to come out as winners on the other side. !e have the advantage of God s !ord, but that advantage is lost when we fail to apply that !ord to our lives, when we fail to share it with others, or when we try to manipulate God s !ord to conform to our own desires. The old song said, 1I stand alone on the !ord of God, the BIB,7.2 I m not building my hope on some secular philosophy, or the latest scientific discovery. I ve seen theories and philosophies come and go. I ve watched the religious fads come to pass. I ve seen the latest and greatest become so five minutes ago. But through it all, in the good times and in the hard times, in abundance and in want, in sickness and in health, there has been one constant, the faithfulness of God. +ome have Auit and gone back into the world. +ome give up on God and say it was all a lie, but that doesn t bother me at all. I ve tried Him for myself and I know that God is true, His !ord is His bond, and if others don t want to endure to the end, it isn t going to slow me down.

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I plan to go all the way with *esusH His !ord is my roadmap, the +pirit is my guide, so if I stray, if I wonder off the path, it s not God s fault, it s mine.

$.-$L/2,.!hat about it9 Have you committed everything to Him9 A believer has the great advantage of the !ord of God, if that !ord is hidden in our heart so that we might not sin against Him. !hen His !ord abides in us, and we abide in His !ord, we have the wonderful advantage of knowing that we can pray in *esus name and He will answer. Dou may be one of those people who live or work in an environment where unbelief is rampant and compromise is common, and today you /ust need a little spiritual boost to empower you to stand tall. If that s you, I want to pray for you today. Dou may be someone who has been told that God doesn t heal anymore, that healing was only a temporary sign that is no longer part of God s blessings for today. ,et me tell you that while I do not believe the Bible teaches that we can reach a level of faith where we will never get sick, I do believe that the Bible teaches that when we do get sick, there is a Healer in the House and by His stripes we were healed. If you need healing, let God be true and every man a liar. The unbelief of others cannot keep you from receiving what God has promised. It may be your marriage, it may be your finances, it may be your children, but if God has given you a promise, if He has spoken logia into your heart and spirit, and that revelation is consistent with His written !ord, then you can stand on that promise. If you have done all to stand, if you are living according to His revealed !ord, if you have put on the spiritual armor, then all that is left for you to do is to stand and see the salvation of the ,ord.

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HOW TO GET TO HEAVEN


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" 8)<*8(
C !hat then9 Are we better than they9 >ot at all. Gor we have previously charged both *ews and Greeks that they are all under sin. (= As it is written4 LThere is none righteous, no, not oneE (( There is none who understandsE There is none who seeks after God. (# They have all turned asideE They have together become unprofitableE There is none who does good, no, not one.L ($ LTheir throat is an open tombE !ith their tongues they have practiced deceitLE LThe poison of asps is under their lipsLE (% L!hose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.L (& LTheir feet are swift to shed bloodE (' -estruction and misery are in their waysE (5 And the way of peace they have not known.L (B LThere is no fear of God before their eyes.L (C >ow we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. #= Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be /ustified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. #( But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the ,aw and the )rophets, ## even the righteousness of God, through faith in *esus "hrist, to all and on all who believe. Gor there is no differenceE #$ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, #% being /ustified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in "hrist *esus, #& whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, #' to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be /ust and the /ustifier of the one who has faith in *esus. #5 !here is boasting then9 It is e8cluded. By what law9 <f works9 >o, but by the law of faith. #B Therefore we conclude that a man is /ustified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. #C <r is He the God of the *ews only9 Is He not also the God of the Gentiles9 Des, of the Gentiles also, $= since there is one God who will /ustify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. $( -o we then make void the law through faith9 "ertainly notH <n the contrary, we establish the law. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.A little boy wanted to know how to get to heaven so he began to ask several different people. He asked his schoolteacher, 1How do I get to heaven92 +he said, 1!ell, I m not allowed to talk about that here, but if you re a good boy, I m sure you ll go.2 That really didn t tell him much so he asked his mother, 1How do I get to heaven92 +he was busily cleaning the house and didn t have time for a long e8planation, so she said, 1"lean your room, eat all the food on your plate, brush your teeth every day, and I m sure you ll make it.2 >ot wanting to clean his room at the moment, he went to his older brother and asked, 1How do I get to heaven92 His older brother was mischievous and a little bit mean so he said, 1Dou gotta die. Are ready to go now92 That night the little boy kneeled beside his bed to pray. He said, 1,ord, I m sorry that I m not always a good boy. 0y room isn t always clean and I never eat all my broccoli, but I sure would like to go to heaven when I die.2 He thought for a moment and then said, 1*esus, you were a little boy once, could you put in a good word for me92 The little boy had a profound insight. He reali;ed that he could never be good enough to get to heaven on his own merit, so his only hope was *esus. The *ews believed that they could get to heaven if they were good enough, that is, if they kept the ,aw of 0oses. The problem was that there were none who ever lived up to that standard, e8cept for *esus. +o while they had the advantage of having the revelation of God, it wasn t the law that was going to save them, it was the Good !ord of *esus "hrist that was their hope.

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1LL 1&E /-!E& 2,C !hat then9 Are we better than they9 >ot at all. Gor we have previously charged both *ews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

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As you may remember, in chapter $ the Apostle )aul is answering si8 Auestions that he anticipates coming from *ewish believers in .ome. In chapter (, )aul makes it very clear that the sinful pagans with practices of homose8uality and idolatry will are under the /udgment and wrath of God, but before the *ews reading this epistle could cheer or allow their chests to fill with pride, )aul goes on to tell the *ews that they too are under the wrath of God. In chapter $ )aul begins to e8plain that while the *ews had the advantage of having the revelation of God as contained in the ,aw, it is that very ,aw which now /udges them and erases their perceived moral and racial superiority. In verse C, the Auestion is, 1Are we O*ewsP better than the Gentiles92 To which )aul answers, 1>ot at all.2 Then )aul does something that must have shocked the *ewish readers, )aul lumped *ews and Gentiles together and says, 1they are all under sin.2 Then to prove this point )aul begins to Auote various passages from the <ld Testament, from the very ,aw in which the *ews felt they had the advantage4 (= As it is written4 LThere is none righteous, no, not oneE (( There is none who understandsE There is none who seeks after God. (# They have all turned asideE They have together become unprofitableE There is none who does good, no, not one.L ($ LTheir throat is an open tombE !ith their tongues they have practiced deceitLE LThe poison of asps is under their lipsLE (% L!hose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.L (& LTheir feet are swift to shed bloodE (' -estruction and misery are in their waysE (5 And the way of peace they have not known.L (B LThere is no fear of God before their eyes.L These passages come from the )salms, Isaiah, 7cclesiastes, and )roverbs. Both the !isdom literature and the )rophets declared that the Israelites had not lived up to the covenant standards through which they were promised life and blessings. )aul was backing up his words with God s !ord. This wasn t /ust )aul s opinion, this was God s !ord through his prophets. I find it interesting, that even though men like )eter and )aul, 0atthew, 0ark, ,uke and *ohn, were speaking and writing under the inspiration of the Holy +pirit as they penned God s !ord,

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they fill their writings with Auotes and references to the <ld Testament +cripture. 7ven God backs His !ord with His !ord. <pinions are like noses, we all have them, but an opinion has no moral force. 0y opinion may be that contemporary "hristian music is better to worship to than +outhern Gospel. That s my opinion, but my opinion has no moral force. Dou may have a different opinion and you have a right to your opinion, but your opinion has no moral force either. !hen it comes to life and death, blessing and cursing, heaven and hell, we d better have more than opinions to back it up. It s a shame that people confuse their opinions and their personal preferences with God s !ill and God s !ord and try to force upon others their own individual convictions. !e need to know the difference between personal opinion and God s !ord. That se8ual promiscuity is a sin, is not my opinion, it is the !ord of God, and His !ord contains a moral imperative that surpasses every opinion of man. !e live during a time of opinionFpollFmorality. The prevailing sentiment in America seems to be that if the ma/ority of Americans accept it, then it must be right. This is the danger of a democracy, that the agenda and the moral code of the country could be set by the ma/ority, or at least by the loudest voices. >inetyFnine point nine percent of Americans may think that se8ual activity outside of marriage is acceptable, but that opinion does nothing to change God s !ord. The Bible is not God s opinion but it is His binding covenant with humanity. It doesn t matter how many have an opinion, and it doesn t matter who it is that holds that opinion, the opinion of a man or woman does not, will not, and cannot supersede the !ord of God. ,et me give you a little insight here. *ust because a person is on television doesn t make them an authority on anything. *ust because someone writes a book, doesn t make him or her an e8pert. I ve talked with "hristians who base their faith upon what their favorite television preacher said. But it doesn t matter who they are, how many people fall down when they pray

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for them, or how big their church is, if what they preach and teach is not consistent with God s !ord, then it is their opinion and it should not be held to the same level of authority as the Bible. <f course, as )aul writes under the anointing of the Holy +pirit, )aul s !ords carry the authority of God s !ord, but for these *ews, the ,aw was the ultimate arbiter of morality and their own ,aw said that they had fallen short. )aul goes on to say, (C >ow we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. #= Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be /ustified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. <ne might ask, 1If God gave us the ,aw, but then no man or woman has been able to perfectly obey the ,aw, then what is the purpose of the ,aw92 )aul says that the purpose of the ,aw was to reveal to humanity our need for a +avior. !e cannot do enough, be enough, give enough, work enough, or worship enough to get into heaven. !e cannot merit heaven by our own works, so our only hope is for an advocate, for a kinsman redeemer. <ur hope is for someone to take our place, for God to do for us and in us what we cannot do for ourselves. <ur only hope is for a +avior. Have you ever had a child that you were trying to help with something, but they wouldn t let you help9 Instead, they would defiantly insist, 1I ll do it myself29 The ,aw brought humanity to the point where we would stop saying, 1I ll do it myself,2 to saying, 1I need helpH2 It is at that point of surrender where we find our victory, it is when we are weak that we truly understand how strong God is.

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H.5 !.E2 G.! 213E=


The fifth Auestion that )aul answers is not e8plicitly stated, but is implied. If the ,aw

does not save, then how does God save people9 )aul has the answer4 #( But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the ,aw and the )rophets, ## even the righteousness of God, through faith in *esus

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"hrist, to all and on all who believe. Gor there is no differenceE #$ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, #% being /ustified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in "hrist *esus, #& whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, #' to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be /ust and the /ustifier of the one who has faith in *esus. The purpose of the ,aw was to bring humanity to the point where we recogni;ed the futility of our works of righteousness. The prophet said that our righteousness is as filthy rags 3Isa. '%4'6. The ,aw was a tutor teaching us that the best we have and give is not enough to meet the righteous standards of God. !e were helpless and hopeless, but then God, who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten +on, stepped into our helplessness and His righteousness was revealed through *esus. !e couldn t, but He could. !e wouldn t, but He did. *esus came and gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, our sinsH +o how does God save9 He is /ust and the /ustifier of the one who has faith in *esus. Heaven is the home of those who have put their faith in *esus. He paid the way, He opened the door, and He invites us to come to the throne of grace boldly to obtain mercy and grace in our time of need. This is not to say that pursuing a godly life is not necessary. If we have put our faith in *esus, if we have become the benefactors of the work of "hrist at the cross, then it should do something within us. The ,aw was an attempt to achieve righteousness from the outside in. But through "hrist, the laws of God are written upon our hearts and not on tablets of stone. Through "hrist, we have been given new desires and passions to please God rather than to pursue the pleasures of sin. God changed my 1want to.2 !hen I was in sin I didn t want to serve God, but now " want to. !hen I was serving my flesh I didn t want to come to the house of God to worship Him, but now " want to. !hen I was pursuing the pleasures of sin, I didn t want to give up my

55

sinful habits, but now " want to. " want to please Him. " want to sing His praises. " want to put Him first in my life. He changed my 1want to2H It is the work of God through "hrist, in us, that makes the difference. *ew or Gentile, salvation comes through *esus and not through works of righteousness which we have done. In light of this, there is no room for spiritual pride or arrogance. ,ook at what )aul says in verse #54 #5 !here is boasting then9 It is e8cluded. By what law9 <f works9 >o, but by the law of faith. #B Therefore we conclude that a man is /ustified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. #C <r is He the God of the *ews only9 Is He not also the God of the Gentiles9 Des, of the Gentiles also, $= since there is one God who will /ustify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

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!. 5E 3.,! #HE L15=


$( -o we then make void the law through faith9 "ertainly notH <n the contrary, we establish the law. The last Auestion that )aul anticipates from the *ewish believers is, 1!ell, )aul if you re

right, then doesn t faith nullify the law92 )aul says, 1"ertainly notH2 This sounds a bit confusing because )aul has /ust said that we are saved by faith in *esus and not through the ,aw. +o what is the point of the ,aw now9 )aul says, in effect, that faith fulfills the ,aw. The ,aw itself anticipates this work of God through *esus. 7very ram, lamb, bullock, goat, dove and pigeon given as a sacrifice anticipated the cross. !hen we put our faith in the work of God through *esus at "alvary, we bring the ,aw to its logical conclusion. !hen we read the <ld Testament, we need to understand that we are no longer under the legal reAuirements of the ,aw. If we were, then we would be committing a sin when we wore clothes made of mi8ed fibers, such as cotton and polyester 3-eut. ##4((6. If we were under the law, we would be sinning if we planted our string beans with our corn 3-eut. ##4C6. !e re no longer

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under the ,aw, but the +pirit of the ,aw remains, and the <ld Testament confirms that *esus is the "hrist and He is our 0essiah. *esus said that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Gurthermore, He said that not one /ot nor tittle shall pass till all be fulfilled 3,k. #(4$#6. *esus is the answer to the Auestion that the ,aw asks. The ,aw asks, 1"an you be good enough to get to heaven92 The answer in *esus is, 1>o you cannot be good enough, but I can, and I will take your place and pay the sin debt for you.2

$.-$L/2,.There are some of you here that are frustrated. Dou re trying so hard to be good, to overcome bad habits, to live a life good enough to get to heaven. The reason that so many people fall by the wayside is that they are still living under the ,aw. 0aybe not the ,aw of 0oses, but a law of their own making, a list of things that they think they have to do to get to heaven. Dou re frustrated because you find yourself failing to live up to your own moral code. Dou don t clean your room or eat all the broccoli on your plate and you re not sure you re going to make it. +ome people /ust stop trying. )aul is telling us that there is a better way. It is to let the righteousness of God work from the inside out. The key to getting to heaven is not in our works, but in our faith. !orks do not create faith, but the fruit of faith will manifest in our works. +ometimes we get the cart before the horse. !e re trying so hard to be righteous, but righteousness is not a work of our will, it is a state of being, it is the outcome of a right relationship with God through *esus. <ur goal should be to get so close to God that His !ill replaces ours, we delight ourselves in Him, and He places His desires in our heart. !hen His desires become our desires, then living a righteous life is no longer forced.

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If we are not hungry for Him then we will never find that place of peace. But if we hunger and thirst after Him, then He will fill us with His +pirit and the natural outcome will be a life lived in peace and rest and /oy. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we shall be filled 30att. &4'6. The real problem is not that we don t try hard enough, the real problem is that our desire for the God isn t what it should be. !e don t hunger for God more than we hunger for the things of the world. God hasn t become our highest priority. Instead, God has become /ust another thing to do on our long list of things to do. If I don t have to do this or this, then I will give God the time He deserves. !e will never find our satisfaction in the ,ord like that. If we have anything more important to do on ,ord s -ay than gather with His people and worship Him, then we should go do it. 0y Auestion is what could be more important9 !e should serve God all week long, but for a few hours on +unday, the church from its inception, has chosen to worship God. !hen we no long hunger for that time with Him, then it is very likely that we have headed down a road that leads away from Him. -on t misunderstand me. !e aren t right with God because we come to church. I know sinners who religiously attend church. !hat I m saying is that a child of God should have such a hunger for God until it is not a law that have to come to church, but a consuming desire to gather with His people and worship Him. It is out of this hunger that righteousness is fulfilled in us through His +pirit working within us. ,et me ask you. Are you tired of trying9 Are you hungry for Him9

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THREE THINGS THAT A!RAHAM DID


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' >)(*22
( !hat then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh9 # Gor if Abraham was /ustified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. $ Gor what does the +cripture say9 LAbraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.L % >ow to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. &But to him who does not work but believes on Him who /ustifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, ' /ust as -avid also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works4 5 LBlessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are coveredE B Blessed is the man to whom the ,<.- shall not impute sin.L C -oes this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also9 Gor we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. (= How then was it accounted9 !hile he was circumcised, or uncircumcised9 >ot while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. (( And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, (# and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. ($ Gor the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (% Gor if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, (& because the law brings about wrathE for where there is no law there is no transgression. (' Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (53as it is written, LI have made you a father of many nationsL6 in the presence of Him whom he believed J God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not e8ist as though they didE (B who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, L+o shall your descendants be.L (C And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead 3since he was about a hundred years old6, and the deadness of +arahKs womb. #= He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, #( and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. ## And therefore Lit was accounted to him for righteousness.L

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#$ >ow it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, #% but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up *esus our ,ord from the dead, #& who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our /ustification. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.!hen I grew up there were certain families in -oddridge "ounty who could trace their roots back several generations, and throughout those generations, it seems that these families were always on a higher rung of the social ladder than everyone else. They always had more money, lived in better homes, and dressed better than us average hillbillies. 0y name, Hardgrove, was from out of town. 0y father was from Indiana, not !est @irginia, so I was viewed as something of an outsider. 0y mother s family could trace their roots back for several generations in the county, but her maiden name, +wiger, had more of a stigma of negativity attached to it than any privilege or prestige. +o I don t know what it would be like to try to use my ancestry to gain any sort of social advantage, but the *ews, they were Auick to let the world know that they were the offspring of Abraham. 7very *ewish child, from before he could even talk, was introduced to the religious heritage and covenantal ancestry they had with Abraham. After all, it was to Abraham that God had made a covenant promising that He would make Abraham s offspring as numerous as the sand of the sea, or the stars of the sky. It was to Abraham and his offspring that a promise of land was given, and to Abraham, God said that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him, and it was Abraham that was called the friend of God 3# "hron. #=45E *ames #4#$6. +o it is understandable, in the face of all the indignities that the *ews had faced in 7gypt, in Babylon, and under .oman rule that they would say, 1!e are Abraham s seed2 3*ohn B4$$6. The problem was that they were claiming as a birthright, benefits and promises that could only be appropriated through faith in the same God who made the promise to their forefather

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Abraham. !hen *ohn the Baptist was in the wilderness calling the people to repentance he told them in ,uke $45FC 5 . . . do not begin to say to yourselves, K!e have Abraham as our father.K Gor I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. C The a8 is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.L The *ews were claiming spiritual superiority over the Gentiles and looked down on them as religiously, if not racially, inferior. The *ews even e8pected the Gentiles to adapt to *ewish cultural and social practices before they could become good "hristians. !e don t do that do we9 !e don t walk around with spiritual pride or claim some religious superiority over other people who may have grown up with a different spiritual heritage than we did. -o we9 I remember as a young boy thinking that if a person wasn t "hurch of God, or at least )entecostal, that they could not get into heaven. <ddly enough, my friend was a Baptist and he felt the same way about the Baptist. <ne day we were talking and we found out how much we agreed on. !e both agreed that salvation was by faith in the work of "hrist on the cross. !e both believed in the +econd "oming of *esus and the rapture of the church. Ginally, both of us, at only around (# or ($ yearsFold had the profound insight that maybe, /ust maybe, people from other denominations than our own might make it to heaven. The *ews would argue that they had the advantage first through the ,aw and second through Abraham, the father of their nation. After all, God made a covenant with Abraham regarding his offspring, and they, the *ews, were the physical offspring of Abraham. )aul doesn t dodge their claim but addresses it head on. His point is that Abraham was chosen by God before the giving of the ,aw, and nothing Abraham had done up to that point in his life merited God s call. It was only by God s grace and

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mercy that He called and claimed a man who lived in a land of idolatry, and whose family practiced idolatry 3*osh. #%4#6. +o how did Abraham merit such a prominent place in the plan of God and what is his lasting significance for the *ews9 That is the very sub/ect that )aul addresses in .omans chapter %. ,0

1B&1H1M BEL,E3E! G.! 3Gen (54(=6


( !hat then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh9 # Gor if Abraham was /ustified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. $ Gor what does the +cripture say9 LAbraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.L % >ow to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. !hat did Abraham do9 He heard God, he believed God, and he obeyed God. )aul is

telling the *ews that the righteousness of Abraham was not through works, but by faith. )aul even Auotes the <ld Testament +criptures to prove this point. Genesis (&4' says simply, 1Abram believed the ,<.-, and he credited it to him as righteousness.2 It wasn t works, it wasn t keeping the 0osaic ,aw, it was simply the fact that Abraham believed God that caused God to credit Abraham as righteous, that is, in right standing with God. God chose Abraham, then known as Abram, before the man had done a thing to merit that call or to deserve the covenant that God made with him. It wasn t through works of the ,aw, because the ,aw had not yet been given. It wasn t through works of the flesh, such as circumcision, because that had not been instituted yet. Abram did three things, and these three things alone allowed God to declare Abraham as a righteous man. Abraham heard God, he believed God, and he obeyed God. In verses & through B, )aul Auotes another venerated figure from *udaism, ?ing -avid. )aul says,

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& But to him who does not work but believes on Him who /ustifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, ' /ust as -avid also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works4 5 LBlessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are coveredE B Blessed is the man to whom the ,<.- shall not impute sin.L Gaith in God, faith that hears God and obeys God becomes the means by which God is able to impute righteousness. This is the e8ample of Abraham, and it is an e8ample that is as important for the Gentiles as it was for the *ews. There are people who are religious, and who do religious works, and who sing religious songs, and who give religiously in the offering plate, and they are hoping that somehow those good works will merit them right standing with God. But all the works in the world will not grant us privileged status before God. !hat is God really looking for9 !hen He looks into the "onyers "hurch of God on a +unday morning, what is it that God is looking for in us by which He can declare that we are in right standing with Him9 )aul is telling us that God is looking for in us, what He found in Abraham. God is looking for a people who will hear Him, because 1faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the !ord2 3.om. (=4(56. God is looking for a people, like Abraham, who will hear Him, who will believe Him, and who will obey Him. )aul says, in verses C through (#, that the blessings of Abraham are not limited to those who are his physical offspring. *ew or Gentile, bond or free, male or female, can e8ercise that same faith and be accounted righteous before God /ust as Abraham was. In this, we all become the spiritual offspring of Abraham. )aul says in verse ((, that Abraham is the father of all those who believe.

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In verses ($ through (&, )aul points out that the promises God made to Abraham, the

promises that the *ews were claiming as a birthright of ancestry, were not given to Abraham or

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his offspring through the ,aw of 0oses, but 1through the righteousness of faith.2 If the ,aw were a reAuirement for the promise, then the promise would be nullified by the fact that Abraham did not observe the ,aw of 0oses, because the ,aw had not yet been given. +o how did Abraham gain the promises of God9 Dou already know. Abraham heard God, he believed God and he obeyed God. In verses (' through (B )aul reiterates the relationship between faith, grace, and the promise of God4 (' Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (53as it is written, LI have made you a father of many nationsL6 Abraham is not /ust the father of the *ews and the promises of God are not limited to the *ewish people. Abraham is the 1father of us all2, that is all us who believe God. >e8t, )aul begins to highlight the e8tent of Abraham s faith. Abraham heard God, and what God said didn t make much sense. God told Abraham to get up from the land of his ancestry, in :r of the "haldees, and move. God didn t tell Abraham where to go yet, but He /ust said, 1Get up and go, and while you re going I ll show you where I want you to be.2 God also promised this 5&FyearFold man and his senior citi;en wife that they were going to have a child. "ontrary to hope, Abraham believed in hope. He believed in a God who gives life to the dead and a God who calls those things which do not e8ist, as though they did. Abraham and +arah were well beyond childbearing years, but Abraham believed God. If we are going to be the spiritual offspring of Abraham, enter into the blessings and promises that Abraham knew, and walk in the righteousness that Abraham did, then we are going to have to hear God, we are going to have to believe God, and we are going to have to obey God.

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Abraham heard God speak some things into his life that were hard to believe, but Abraham heard and Abraham believed. +ure there were moments when the faith of Abraham was tested and times when his conduct was less than perfect, but somehow, deep down in his soul, Abraham remembered a word from God and Abraham refused to let it go. Against all hope, Abraham believed in hope. 0aybe that s where some of you are today. Dou are trying to hold on to the promises of God, but when you look up you don t see any hope. I d say to you, be like Abraham, hope against all hope, believe that God will keep His promises, and then keep on walking in obedience to God s !ord and will for your life. )aul says in verses (C through ##4 (C And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead 3since he was about a hundred years old6, and the deadness of +arahKs womb. #= He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, #( and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. ## And therefore Lit was accounted to him for righteousness.L ,,,0

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+ometimes we forget who we are. !e are the "hildren of God. !e ve been given many

and precious promises, but too often the people of God live short of those promises, we fail to enter into the fullness of the relationship that God desires to have with us. Abraham was /ust a man, like you and me. He wasn t a perfect man, or a spiritual giant when God found him. He was a "haldean, a Gentile out of whom God formed a nation through which the +avior of the world would come. But Abraham became the friend of God through faith in God. Abraham entered into a right relationship with God because Abraham heard God, he believed God and he obeyed God. If we aren t where we should be with God, if we aren t seeing the promises of God unfolding in our life, then we are probably missing it on one of these three things4 hearing, believing, or obeying. 0aybe we no longer hear God, that is, we cannot discern His voice when

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we read His !ord, or sit under the teaching or preaching of His !ord, and we /ust don t hear Him anymore. The problem is not that God has Auit speaking, it is that we aren t taking time to hear Him. God is still speaking, but if we aren t listening, then how can we believe. Gaith comes by hearing, so the first challenge for us is to hear God. To tuneFin to Him and tuneFout the world and hear God speak His will and His way into our heart. The second challenge is to believe God. I remember fretting about how I was going to live as a pastor. I assumed that I would have to be a biFvocational pastor and I was enrolled in a nursing program so that I would have a way of earning a living while I pastored a church. Then the factory I was working at changed its hours and it became clear that I would not be able to continue in the nursing program and earn a living while I was in college. I was an8ious and fearful over how I would take care of my family when I entered into pastoral ministry. <ne night as I was working the third shift at the Hardwick +tove foundry, God spoke into my spirit. He asked, 1-on t you think I can take care of you92 !hat could I say9 I said, 1Des, ,ord, I do believe that you can take care of me.2 I heard Him, I believed Him, and then I Auit the nursing program and went to seminary. God has never failed me. He s never let me down. All I can say, is I am blessed. !e have to hear Him, we have to believe, and we have to obey. If we believe, then we must live our lives in obedience to His !ord and His will for our lives. Gaith without works is dead. If we believe, then we will obey. Abraham believed God. He got up and got out of :r. Abraham was looking for 1a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God2 3Heb. ((4(=6. Abraham never saw the complete fulfillment of the promises of God during his lifetime. He never owned all the land that was promised, he never saw a nation from his offspring, but

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Abraham believed God, seeing by faith, those things his natural eyes would never behold. His faith in God s promises never wavered.

$.-$L/2,.There was no spiritual superiority for the *ews based on the ,aw or on their ancestry, and yet, there is a spiritual advantage for everyone and anyone who will e8ercise the kind of faith that Abraham possessed. He is the spiritual father of everyone who will hear God, who will believe God, and who will obey God. Are you walking in your spiritual privileges, are you claiming the promises of God that were given by His grace and are taken into possession by our faith in Him who can call those things that are not, as though they are9 If you re here today and you re having trouble hearing God, I want you to stand where you are. If you re here today and you re having trouble believing God, I want you to stand. If you re here today and you re having trouble obeying God, I want you to stand. .ight where you stand, right there, I want you to sing standing on the promises of God. !e re going to observe communion in a couple minutes, but before we do, I want to give someone an opportunity today to stand on your promise. I want you to hear God, to believe God and to obey God. Then when you leave this place, I want you to walk by faith and not by sight.

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THE !ENEFITS OF FAITH


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans @)(*@
( Therefore, having been /ustified by faith, we have peace with God through our ,ord *esus "hrist, # through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and re/oice in hope of the glory of God. $ And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseveranceE % and perseverance, characterE and character, hope. & >ow hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy +pirit who was given to us.

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever thought about the benefits we have, right now, as a child of God9 +o much of the !ord of Gaith stuff revolves around what we can get from God, but I believe I could shout right now /ust thinking about what I have already been given as a child of God. In the first chapter of .omans the Apostle )aul highlighted some of the moral failures of the Gentiles in .ome who were given to paganism and the immoral behavior that it engendered. In chapters # through % )aul goes to great lengths to show that, the *ews need God s grace and mercy as much as the Gentiles. >ow, here in chapter &, )aul celebrates the benefits that every believer, *ew or Gentile, has through faith in the work "hrist. I don t believe that being a "hristian means that we have to walk around all day like we been eatin sour persimmons. The /oy of the ,ord is my strength. God has already blessed me beyond measure. If He never answered another prayer, if He never healed me of another ailment, if He never supplied another nickel, God has already done enough to keep me worshipping Him and praising Him for rest of my life. Too many "hristians have a relationship with God that is constantly asking, 1!hat have you done for me lately92 Instead, we ought to be thanking God for everything He has already done. !hat has He done9 !ell, let s talk about it. ,ook at our te8t with me.

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( Therefore, having been /ustified by faith, we have peace with God through our ,ord *esus "hrist, )aul begins this section with the word 1therefore,2 which points back to what )aul has

already said. !e are not /ustified by works of the 0osaic ,aw, and we are not /ustified by our genetic connection with Abraham. !e are /ustified by faith. That word 1/ustified2 is powerful word. The Greek word is di#aioo 3dikFahFyo Fo6, which means 1to be considered innocent.2 Dears ago I read somewhere that a handy way to remember the meaning of /ustified, was to pronounce it, /ustFasFifFI d never sinned. !hen we come to God by faith in the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of *esus, God /ustifies us by our faith in His grace. Because we believe in God through "hrist, then God the Gather treats us /ust as if we were innocent. And because we are /ustified by faith, we have peace with God through our ,ord *esus "hrist. Because we have been /ustified, we no longer stand before God as a guilty sinner, but as a redeemed son or daughter. Because we are /ustified, we are no longer living under the burden of a guilty conscience. "alvary has wiped the slate clean and erased the list of transgressions that were against us. I don t know what that does for you, but if you knew where *esus brought me from, to where I am today, then you would know that reason why I praise His name. I was raised in church, but I walked away from God. The problem was that God would not walk away from me. >o matter how far I went, or how much alcohol I drank, or how much dope I smoked, God would not leave me alone. ". +. ,ewis referred to this aspect of God s love as the hounds of heaven. 7verywhere I went He was there. 7ven when I made my bed in hell, as the )salmist said, He was there. !hile I was running from God, I had no peace within. !e are created for fellowship with God and as long as we are out of fellowship with Him, we will not have peace in our mind,

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in our soul or in our spirit. There is unrest, a state of turmoil, in the heart of every man or woman who is not where they need to be with the ,ord. But )aul tells us that when we are /ustified by faith, we are given peace with God though *esus. If you re here and you don t know "hrist as your personal +avior, then you don t have peace with God. I sometimes hear people who have not given their lives to God say, 10e and God have an understanding.2 And I think, 1Des, He understands that you are a sinner, lost and lonely, and without hope. He understands that you need to arise and return to the Gather s house. He understands that you are miserable and conflicted within, and you need to gain the peace that passes all understanding by coming to "hrist in faith.2

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# through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and re/oice in hope of the glory of God.

$ccess by %aith into &race In verse #, )aul tells us that through our ,ord *esus "hrist we have access by faith into

this grace of peace with God. I like that phrase, 1access by faith.2 !e do not gain access through anything but faith in His grace. By faith we have access. If we have no faith, our prayers are powerless because faith is the key that unlocks the door into the peaceful presence of God. And it is that powerful God who moves mountains, it is that powerful God who can call those things that are not as though they are, and it is that great and mighty God who has all power to work miracles in our life if we can believe. +ome folks approach prayer like playing the lottery. They feel that if they toss up enough reAuests to God then some of them will come true. But powerful prayer is the fruit of a personal relationship with God. And a personal relationship with God can only happen through faith in His grace, grace that was on display through "hrist on the cross. It is not through works of the

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,aw, or through what church we are a member of, or who we re related to, but our relationship with God is the result of faith in God s grace. B Stand and Rejoice !e don t 'ust gain access, we don t come crawling in and crawling out, barely able to make it. )aul says that through grace we s%and and reAoice. In 7phesians )aul said, 1Having done all to stand, stand.2 !e re not standing in our own strength, but we are able to stand because of God s sustaining grace. I m not standing in my on strength, or by my own will. I can stand only by the grace of God. If it had not been for the grace of God, I d be face down in a gutter. If it had not been for the grace of God, I would have fallen to rise no more. But thank God, His grace is sufficient and when I am weak, He is strong. +ome of you may feel like you ve done all you can do to stand, and yet you don t think you can stand. ,et me /ust tell you that it is by faith in God s grace that you can stand. ,et the power of the Holy +pirit rise up within you and pull you up to your feet to take your stand on the .ock, "hrist *esus. But notice that )aul didn t say we would only stand. He said that by this grace we can stand and re/oice. I m not standing like some forlorn grim faced figure with my back to the wind. I m standing in victory, I m facing life head on, and I can re/oice because I have peace with God through faith in my ,ord *esus "hrist. If you re dragging through life like some sort of tragic figure, walking around defeated, deflated and discouraged, then your faith needs to reach up a little higher, get a hold of the grace that can pull you to a higher place. I ve been made to sit in the heavenlies in "hrist *esus. I can re/oice because God is source and my supply, He ll never leave me, He ll never let me down. All I can say is I am blessed.

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In the Hope of the Glory of God !e have access, we can stand and re/oice, and we have the hope of the glory of God. In

chapter $ verse #$, )aul said that 1all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,2 but now by faith in His grace we have the hope of glory, that is, the hope of being restored to that state and place where God designed humanity to en/oy in His presence. !e were not created for trouble, turmoil and tribulation. God created humanity for relationship with Him. God created us in His image and likeness, but through sin, all have fallen short of the glory of God. Through sin, disease, defeat, and death were introduced. Through sin, humanity was alienated and estranged from God. But then came *esus, the e8pression of God s grace, and through faith in Him, fallen man can stand and we can re/oice in the hope of the glory of GodH It may not look sunny today, but I can still re/oice because I have the hope, the assurance, the promise, and the down payment, on the glory of God. It may not look like it to some, but I m on my way to a victory. )eople around me may not see it, or know it, but I ve got glory in my future and I m re/oicing on the way. This isn t some pieFinFtheFsky hope, this is a hope that is sure, that is certain, and it is mine by faith in God s grace. >otice the progression of )aul s argument in this verse4 1we have access by faith into this grace, in which we stand, and re/oice in the hope of the glory of God.2 In Acts chapter $ we have a vivid illustration of what )aul is talking about here. In Acts chapter $ there is a *ewish man, the seed of Abraham, who is crippled. In fact, he was crippled from birth and he came to the Temple every day to beg for handouts from his fellow *ews. This man illustrates the terrible conseAuences of sin. This is not to say that every sickness is the result of some specific sin, but

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that every sickness, disease, and infirmity is the result of the fall of man. The sin of Adam introduced humanity to mortality and corruption. +o, the effects of sin are on display in this man who sat daily at the gate called beautiful, which led into the Temple. The Temple represents the ,aw of 0oses. The Temple was built to carry out the stipulations and reAuirements of the ,aw in Israel. Det, here is this *ewish man and the ,aw cannot heal his condition, and being the seed of Abraham did not prevent his condition. This is what )aul is telling the *ews in .ome. The ,aw can t heal you. In fact, the ,aw of 0oses kept this man outside, because a diseased or crippled man could not enter into the Temple. The ,aw kept this man, this seed of Abraham, at a distance from the very thing he desired most, the presence of God. But then came )eter and *ohn to the Temple at the time of prayer, about three in the afternoon, and they met this man. The crippled man asked for money, but )eter said, 1!e don t have any money, so I ll give you what I do have. In the name of *esus "hrist of >a;areth, rise up and walkH2 Then )eter took this man by the hand and helped him up and his feet and legs were healed. He stood up, and then he re/oiced. He began to /ump and dance, and finally, this man did something that his heart had yearned to do his entire life, that is, to go into the Temple, for it was there that the glory of the ,ord was said to dwell between the wingtips of the cherubim atop the Ark of the "ovenant. He wanted to get closer to the glory. This illustrates )aul s point. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and the ,aw cannot help us up. Being a *ew cannot get us up. But thank God, in the name of *esus we can rise up, we can stand, we can re/oice in the hope of the glory of God. All of humanity has been spiritually, where this crippled man was physicallyJfallen, down for the count, separated from God, living in moral poverty and spiritual destitution. Then

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came *esus, the fulfillment of the ,aw and the light of the !orld and now we have hope where there was no hope. !e have help where there was no help. !e have peace with God, we have access to God, we have the hope of the glory of God, and this hope will not fail in the troubles and trials of life.

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I Wont !it

$ And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance In this verse, )aul is saying that our re/oicing, our glory, our declaration of God s greatness is not silenced in the hard times. If we can only glory in the good times, then we are not walking in the grace that )aul is talking about. This grace will get us through the hard times and in the process of going through, this grace will work in us to prefect us, to cause us to grow stronger in faith and assurance in the power and the presence of God. )aul said, 1!e also glory 3or re/oice6 in tribulations.2 !hy would we glory in tribulations9 Because, we know 1that tribulation produces perseverance2 or, patience. The Greek word is hypomene, which literally means 1to remain under.2 !hen we are walking in this grace, we will prevail under the pressures of life. !e will remain committed when pressured to embrace the idols of the world. !e will remain faithful under the pressure to falter, because tribulation produces perseverance. !hen we are walking by faith in grace, we can glory in tribulations because the tribulations only give us another opportunity to persevere. !hen the tribulations come, grace rises up and we stand to let the world know, 1I won t Auit.2 I might stumble now and then, and I might cry through the midnight, I may go forth weeping, but I won t Auit, because /oy comes in the morning and I m coming back bringing a harvest with meH

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I Wont Compromise %a and perseverance, characterE )aul said that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character.

!e should understand 1character2 to mean, "hristFlike character, or integrity. )erseverance says, 1I won t Auit,2 and character says, 1I won t compromise.2 7very day believers are under pressure to compromise. 7very time we have the opportunity to worship the ,ord in tithes and offerings, our character is on the line, and character says, 1I won t compromise with the tithe, because the tithe is the ,ord s.2 !hen we are tempted to sin, character says, 1I won t compromise my testimony for the pleasures of sin for a season. I won t compromise my integrity to make a few e8tra dollars. I won t compromise my honesty to earn a higher grade in school.2 !hen we are walking in grace through faith, when we are hoping in the glory of God, we cannot Auit and we must not compromise on the things of God. )erseverance produces character. !aiting on God s timing is often difficult, but in the process, our character is being perfected so that we learn to hold fast to the hope we have in God. C I Wont Contemplate "ail!re %b and character, hope. )erseverance says, 1I won t Auit.2 "haracter says, 1I won t compromise.2 And hope says, 1I won t contemplate failure.2 "hristian hope is not like hoping to win the lottery, or hoping to get some gift for your birthday. That kind of hope is uncertainE it even suggests that the likelihood is that you will not get what you hope for. "hristian hope is certain because it is built upon the promises of a God who cannot lie. "hristian hope is the result of faith that has reached up and fi8ed its grip on those promises.

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<nce you ve gotten hold of God s promises, then you /ust need to hold on with all perseverance and faith. This hope is the assurance that what God promised, He shall perform. ,ook at how )aul describes this hope in verse &4 & >ow hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy +pirit who was given to us. )aul said that this hope does not, will not, and cannot, disappoint. It is the hope that *ob had when he said4 #' And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God4 #5 !hom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not anotherE though my reins be consumed within me. 3*ob (C4#'F#5, ?*@6 It is the hope that ?ing -avid had when he said, ( ,<.-, how are they increased that trouble meH many are they that rise up against me. # 0any there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. $ But thou, < ,<.-, art a shield for meE my glory, and the lifter up of mine head 3)s $4(F$, ?*@6 It is the hope of Apostle )aul when he said4 (% >ow thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in "hrist, 3# "or #4(%, ?*@6 "haracter produces a hope that says, 1I will not even contemplate failure because I ve already got Mvictory penned across the pages of my lifeH2 Too often, we are defeated in our spirit before we even begin. But when we walk by faith in God s grace we will have the attitude, I won t Auit, I won t compromise and I will not contemplate defeat because my victory has already been bought and paid for on an old rugged cross. Dou can pack it in and go on home if you want to, but as for me and my house, we re going to follow the ,ord. Gailure is not an option and defeat is not in my dictionary. I ve got hope that does not disappoint because this hope is not built on wishes and whims, but this hope is built on the firm foundation of the rich and pure, measureless and sure, love of God. This love is

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poured out personally by the Holy +pirit, who gives us the power to walk in the victory of His love.

$.-$L/2,.This is a powerful portion of +criptureH If we could /ust get these five verses fi8ed in our spirit, I believe we would all be walking in victory. !e have been given some beautiful blessings in "hrist *esus, and we don t have to work some law to earn them, or be related to some patriarch to claim them. All we have to do is have faith in God, and by that faith, walk and live and have our being in His grace, which gives us access to triumphant living. !hen we are walking in this grace we won t Auit, we won t compromise, and we will not contemplate defeat, because this hope will not disappoint. >ow, let me ask you, do you know this grace9 -o these verses describe your walk with God, or do you find that instead of standing, you are falling, instead of re/oicing you are walking in sorrow, instead of victory you feel as though you live on the precipice of defeat and failure every day. If that is you, let me tell you how to turn it around. It s not more law, or more religion, but it is simply to take the faith God has given you and fi8 it firm on His love for you. He is your source and your supply for victorious living. If you haven t been en/oying the benefits of your faith, if you have been living short of the blessings, and failing to find the fullness of the /oy that is yours by faith in God s grace, then let me invite you to come and claim your promises. This isn t deal or not deal, this is a deal, this is a promise. It s time to stand. It s time to re/oice. It s time to enter into the glory of the ,ordH

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!UT GOD LOVED US ANYHOW


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" @) +*((
' Gor when we were still without strength, in due time "hrist died for the ungodly. 5 Gor scarcely for a righteous man will one dieE yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. B But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, "hrist died for us. C 0uch more then, having now been /ustified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (= Gor if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His +on, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (( And not only that, but we also re/oice in God through our ,ord *esus "hrist, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.The first college I attended out of high school was +alem "ollege in !est @irginia. It wasn t far from my home, and they gave me a football scholarship, so that s the first college I attended. :ltimately, I graduated from the :niversity of 0aine, but for three years, I attended this little private college in the hills of !est @irginia. And, of course, one of the first things I did was to become a pledge in a fraternity. Gor one entire semester, the other pledges and I allowed the 1brothers2 to sub/ect us to many types of indignities, including4 being paddled by grown menE taking one chew of tobacco and passing it around the entire group of pledgesE swimming in water that was so cold that we had to break the ice to get inE and many other forms of depravity that I am not at liberty to speak of from the pulpit of a church. But all of us pledges 3or at least the ones who weren t smart enough to Auit6 were eventually rewarded by being accepted as brothers into the +igma )i GraternityJas long as we continued to pay our dues.

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>ow imagine for a moment that we had to be a pledge to go to heaven. !hat would we have to do, what could we do to merit habitation in that most perfect and glorious place where we would abide in the presence of a perfect and holy God for eternity9 In fact, because of sin, there was a price to pay. It did reAuire indignities, pain and suffering. But instead of us being beaten, mocked, and spat upon, and instead of us being nailed to a cross, *esus, God s +on, took our place. The suffering that should have been ours, He took upon Himself. The price that we owed, He paid. The punishment that we deserved, He accepted in our place. And then, at the end of it all, we are the beneficiaries. Through His sacrifice we are delivered from wrath and we are given access into the Holy of Holies to live and move and have our being in God. In verses ( through & of .omans chapter &, )aul has introduced the concept of /ustification, and he makes it clear that this legal pronouncement of innocence is not the result our efforts, it is not through works of the ,aw, or our genetic link to the *ewish )atriarch Abraham. )aul tells us that we were without strength. !e did not have the capacity or the ability to bail ourselves out of sin and to merit heaven. Instead, God gave us the gift of faith to receive the benefits of what His +on did on our behalf. 0an did not take *esus life, but *esus gave His life as a ransom for humanity, who was held captive, held hostage, to sin. )aul says, 1in due time, "hrist died for the ungodly.2 !e might understand the phase 1in due time2 to mean 1at the right time,2 or even to mean, 1/ust in time.2 That reminds me of the song we sing that says, 1He saved me and it was /ust in time.2 I don t know about you, but for me it was /ust in time. 0y marriage was about to fail, my mind was in turmoil, my body was addicted to alcohol, my hope was gone, my future was dim, but at

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the right time, /ust in time, He saved meH And I m going to praise His name. ,ook what the ,ord has doneH In the last phrase of verse ', )aul says, 1"hrist died for the ungodly.2 As "hristians, if we re not careful, we read that phrase and immediately other people come to mind. The ungodly people, the sinners, the transgressors, the bad people of society, the drunks and the drug addicts, the abusers and molesters, those wicked people 1out there2 whose actions and sins cost "hrist His life. But look at it again. >otice that the great Apostle )aul begins this verse with the word 1we.2 1!hen we were without strength, in due time "hrist died for the ungodly.2 !e would be true to the grammar, if we e8tended the first person plural pronoun to the end of the verse and transposed the word 1ungodly2 for 1us.2J1!hen we were still without strength, in due time "hrist died for us, the ungodly.2 !e should never forget where *esus brought us from. !e were the ungodly that *esus died for. !e are the reason that He suffered on an old rugged cross, and )aul begins to unpack the significance of this fact in verses 5 through ((. ,ook at the te8t with me.

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5 Gor scarcely for a righteous man will one dieE yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. B But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, "hrist died for us. In verses 5 and B, )aul demonstrates the fact that God s love is beyond human reason.

!e cannot find a point of comparison from within the human framework of relationships. )aul points out that it is rare for one man to give his life for another, but then )aul concedes that one might find an e8ample where a man would give his life for a righteous man, for a good man, for someone that was loved and respected.

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Then verse B begins with the words, 1But God2 . . . 1But God.2 There are some e8amples of love which reach the lofty heights of altruism and personal sacrifice, 1but God2 goes beyond those rare e8amples and God does something that is unheard of. +ome men or women might give their lives for their children, but God does more than that. +ome of us might give our lives for our spouse, or for the person we love, but God . . .. !hen I was in 0aine, serving in the Air Gorce, ?aren, a coworker of mine, was already on the /ob when I got there. @ery Auietly and methodically, she was preparing the surgical instruments for the surgeries scheduled on that day. +he had come early and really wasn t saying much, /ust keeping busy. The head nurse of the surgery suite called me into his office and told me that ?aren s brother had died and ?aren had come to work to stay busy. I went back and asked ?aren if she d like to talk about it. +he told me that her brother and his fiancI lived in "hicago. The previous afternoon he and his finance were in a boat on a creek in the "hicago area, but the creek was running higher than usual and the water was a little rough. :nfortunately, neither of them could swim and neither was wearing a life vest. His fiancI fell into the water and the rapid current was carrying her helplessly downstream away from him, so without thinking of the conseAuences, he dove into the water to try to rescue her, and they both drown. !hen people are in love, these types of sacrifices are understandable. But God loved us when we weren t loving Him. It would be as if a man was in the boat with a woman whom he had loved dearly, but this woman had repeatedly been unfaithful, and had treated him with distain and yet when she fell into the water, he leaped in after her, sacrificing himself, even though she held him in contempt.

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But God loved us before we were loving Him, and He displayed this love, 1His own love,2 in the sacrifice of "hrist on a cross. He died for the people who were falsely accusing Him. He died for the men who beat His back bloody. He died for the man who drove the nails into His hands and feet. He died for the ungodly. He died for me.

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C 0uch more then, having now been /ustified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. If God did all of that for us, while we were alienated and estranged from Him, 10uch

more then, having now been /ustified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.2 )aul is not saying that God loves us much more now that we have been /ustified. )aul is saying that if God would die for us while we were still ungodly, then we have the double assurance that once we have been /ustified by faith in His shed blood, we shall escape the wrath of God that is to come as His /udgment upon the ungodly. This is the promise for all who have e8ercised their faith in God s grace and who have been /ustified by faith in the sacrifice of "hrist. But for those who walk in darkness, for those who re/ect the pleading and the pull of the Holy +pirit upon their heart, they live under the dark cloud of the wrath that is to come, a time of great tribulation such as the world has never known before, nor shall ever know again. <nce we have been /ustified we are no longer under the dark cloud of impending wrath, but we re walking in sunshine, and it sure feels good. !e have come out of the darkness and into His marvelous light to show forth His praises. !e have passed from death unto life, and that more abundant. >ot because we deserved it. >ot because we earned it. But simply because He first loved us.

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(= Gor if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His +on, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. ,ooking at verse (=, we see that )aul introduces another powerful theological term related

to salvation, the word 1reconciliation.2 7arlier in the chapter, )aul talked about being /ustified, and now in verse (( he introduces the concept of reconciliation. 0ost of us have some idea of reconciliation. !e use this term to talk about couples being reconciled, which means that an estranged relationship has been restored and their marriage has been saved. The Greek word means to change places, in this case, to change from being an enemy of God to being a friend of God. God said, in effect, 1I will not be your enemy, but I will be your +avior.2 >ow, because of "hrist s death, we can sing, 1I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God, He calls me friend2 In a human relationship, both partners have to agree to be reconciled, but in our te8t, )aul is talking about God taking the initiative, about God through the death of His +on, reconciling us to Himself. >otice the irony. <ne would think that the death of His +on would further alienate us and place us further beneath the angry waves of his wrath, but instead, it is through that very death that we now have access to God, and through the death of *esus, we are invited back into a right relationship with God. How can that be9 It is because by His death our penalty was paid and we were set free to be the sons and daughters of God. !hen we put our faith in this truth, when we put our hope in His hands, then we have the assurance that we are no longer under wrath, but under grace. Think about this, we were all sinners, and as such, enemies toward God when we came to Him for help. Imagine an enemy coming to you, someone who has repeatedly done you wrong, and now this enemy needs a heart transplant to stay alive. !ould you die that He might live9

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!ould you be willing to allow him or her to beat you, spit upon you, nail you to a cross and mock you, and after all that be willing to say, 1!ell, I m going to die anyhow, so I as an organ donor, I d like you to have my heart so that you may live.2 God loved us so much that *esus, God s only begotten +on, died in our place. He took our place and paid our price so that we could live. But how many of you know that *esus didn t /ust die. If *esus had only died, He might have paid our price, but then He would not have had the power to save us. He might have wiped the slate clean through His blood, but we would not have an intercessor at the right hand of the Gather. !e would not have a high priest to stand in the gap and bridge the great gulf between God and man. )aul tells us that we are /ustified by His blood and we are reconciled by His death, but we are saved by His life. Thank God, He got up. The grave couldn t keep Him and death couldn t hold Him, because He is the life and the resurrection. By His life we are savedJsaved from sin, saved from wrath, and saved from /udgment. -oes anybody remember what it felt like when the bands of sins were broken, when the heavy burden of guilt was lifted and you were saved9 -o you remember the place, and do you remember the time, when you knelt down as a sinner worthy of death, but got up a son or daughter of God. Dou went down dirty with the stain of sin, but you got up with robes that were white, washed in the blood of the ,amb9 -oes anyone remember9

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(( And not only that, but we also re/oice in God through our ,ord *esus "hrist, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. How does that make you feel9 How does a person respond to that kind of love9 I ll tell

you what the Apostle )aul did. He said, 1we . . . re/oice in God through our ,ord *esus "hrist.2 That word 1re/oice2 is not some milAuetoast response to God s love and mercy. !hen )aul said,

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1we also re/oice,2 he meant that it s shoutin timeH It s time to lift our voice, clap our hands, sing our songs, and get our praise onH It s time to let the word know that what we ve got in *esus is worth something. It s time we stop walking around like we hadn t ever been blessed. It s time to break out the shout and make our boast in the ,ord. !hen )aul said to that we re/oice, he was telling the church that it s alright get a little giddy about God, to /ump for /oy in *esus, to shout hallelu/ah in the Holy Ghost. And if someone asks you why your shouting, you /ust tell them, 1Because my sins are gone, as far removed as darkness is from dawn.2

$.-$L/2,.>ot long ago, I took my daughter to !alF0art to see a celebrity. I ll be honest, I d never even heard of this woman until about a month ago when "andace told me who she was. Her name is )aula -ean, and most of you men probably don t know who she is, but she s a celebrity on the "ooking >etwork. I don t watch much of the "ooking >etwork. If they had an eating network, I might watch that, but my wife and daughter like to watch cooking and they both knew who this )aula -ean woman was, so I took "andace to see her and to get a cookbook signed by her. I could not believe what I saw when I got to !alF0art. The parking lot was absolutely packed. Inside, the lines of people went up and down the aisles as people waited hours to spend fifteen seconds of time with )aula -ean as she signed each book. 0rs. -ean met with !alF0art associates in the back before going out to the floor so my wife took "andace back there to meet her. I didn t stay, I walked over to the Home -epot and priced twoFbyFfours and bathroom fi8tures. 0y wife told me that when )aula -ean came out into the !alF0art that the crowd began to cheer. I though, (ow dumb is that9 )eople will pack the parking lot of the !alF0art, crowd

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into the store and stand for hours, spend twentyFone dollars of their hardFearned money for another cookbook that they don t need, and then cheer for a woman who does nothing else but cook on television. But then they ll go to church and can t find their voice when to the praises of the +avior, can t find more than a dollar when the offering plate is passed, and complain because they had to stand too long during worship. !e live in a world that is upside down, a world where priorities are distorted and where everyone is distracted by the cares of life. Instead, we ought to step back every now and then and remember that we are /ustified, we are reconciled, we are delivered from wrath and we are saved from sin. That ought to be a reason for /oy. I was lost and alone in my sins, but God loved me anyhow. I was doing wrong and living wrong, but He loved me anyhow. He loved me so much and He loves you so much that He has already bought and paid for our admission into heaven, and all we have to do is put our faith in Him and receive the victory that He offers.

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THE GOD SOLUTION TO THE SIN PRO!LEM


By Mark E" Hardgrove #e6%) &o' @)(2*2(
(# Therefore, /ust as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned J ($3Gor until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (% >evertheless death reigned from Adam to 0oses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (& But the free gift is not like the offense. Gor if by the one manKs offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one 0an, *esus "hrist, abounded to many. (' And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. Gor the /udgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in /ustification. (5 Gor if by the one manKs offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the <ne, *esus "hrist.6 (B Therefore, as through one manKs offense /udgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one 0anKs righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in /ustification of life. (C Gor as by one manKs disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one 0anKs obedience many will be made righteous. #= 0oreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, #( so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through *esus "hrist our ,ord. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.-o you remember being a kid in school and someone in the class did something wrong, but then, when the teacher couldn t figure out who it was she d say, 1>obody gets to go to recess today until the person who did this comes forward, or until someone tells me who did it29 :sually, the entire class would end up without recess because the person who did it already knew that the teacher didn t know who it was, so he was in the clear. Also, it was unlikely that anyone in the class was going to tell on a classmate because no one wanted to be the class tattletale. And

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yet, somehow, it didn t seem right that everyone should be punished for one person s bad behavior. I remember my cousin telling me about a time in his family where one of the four brothers did something wrong and their father didn t know which one it was, so he gave them till the end of the day to fessFup, and then if no one spoke up, they were all going to get a whipping. And friends, when my uncle whipped a kid, that kid knew he d been whipped. >one of the boys would own up to the wrong, and since they all knew they were going to get a whipping anyhow, my cousin told his dad that he did it, even though he hadn t. He /ust couldn t stand the idea of all of them getting a whipping and since he was going to get a whipping either way, he claimed the guilt. <ne brother took the punishment that was about to be given to all the boys. +omehow, that doesn t seem fair either, but if you were one of the other brothers, you would certainly appreciate the sacrifice. Have you ever wondered why God declared all of humanity guilty because of the sin of one man9 I have. After all, I wasn t in the garden. I didn t eat the forbidden fruit, so why am I paying for the sin of Adam9 The truth is that we were all in the garden. Adam represents all of humanity. He shows us what we all would have done, and in fact, what we all have done at some point in our life, and that is, to disobey God. -avid says of himself, 1+urely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me2 3)s &(4&, >I@6. )aul not only tells us all are affected by sin, but he says, 1All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God2 3.om. $4#$6. That phrase translated 1fall short of2 is in the present tense. This means that not only have we sinned and fallen short of God s glory, but this is a condition we continue to combat and our only hope of victory is in *esus. He wasn t guilty, but He took our place, He paid our debt, and He received our punishment.

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)aul said that sin came into the world through one man, and death came as a result of sin, and therefore we know that everyone has sinned, because everyone dies. The reality of our mortality is evidence of the fact that the sin of one man infected and affected all of us. Therefore, everyone ever born of man was born in sin and needs a +avior. The "atholic "hurch teaches that 0ary was born without sin, but 0ary herself referred to the ,ord as her +avior 3,uke (4%56. 7ven she needed a +avior, and she was the vessel God chose to carry His +on. *esus was born without sin, because He was conceived of the Holy +pirit and therefore, while He became fully human, He was born without sin so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The irony is that He who knew no sin e8perienced the full penalty of our sins. )aul tells us that the ,aw of 0oses did not initiate sin. +in e8isted before the ,aw was given, and we know this because people were dying from Adam until 0oses. Humanity was immortal until Adam sinned. -eath is the result of sin. )aul says, 1The wages of sin is death2 3.om. '4#'6. The ,aw did not create sin, but the ,aw helped to define sin, to illustrate the power of sin and the weakness of humanity to overcome sin. 7ven people who had not overtly sinned in blatant fashion e8perienced death. Therefore, the affects of sin were manifest even in people who appeared to be good people. Adam introduced sin into the human race, not /ust as an act, but also as a fact of the human e8istence. !e all know good people, people who never seem to do anything wrong, and who are kind and gracious to everyone around them. Det it still remains that they need a +avior. They need to be washed in the blood of the ,amb and be born again /ust as much as the worst sinner who ever lived. 1There is none righteous, no, not one2 3.om. $4(=6.

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,ook at that last phrase of verse (%. )aul says something that is intriguing. )aul states that Adam 1is a type of Him who was to come.2 !hen )aul refers to 1Him,2 he is talking about *esus. Adam was a type of *esus. How in the world can Adam be a type of "hrist9 It is because /ust as the results of Adam s sin affected all of humanity, the life, death and resurrection of *esus was also for all of humanity. Adam introduced the disease, and *esus came with the cure. Adam imputed sin, but *esus imputed righteousness. (& But the free gift is not like the offense. Gor if by the one manKs offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one 0an, *esus "hrist, abounded to many. (' And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. Gor the /udgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in /ustification. (5 Gor if by the one manKs offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the <ne, *esus "hrist.6 If one man, Adam, could bring curses, death, and sin through disobedience, how much more will blessings, life, and righteousness come by God s grace and by *esus obedience. Adam disobeyed and man fell, but *esus obeyed and picked us back up. However, there is one condition, and that is that, the benefits of *esus sacrifice are only active in the lives of 1those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness.2 This grace is available for all humanity, but it is only active in the lives of those who e8ercise their faith and receive the gift that God is offering us in *esus. ,0

#HE $/&E 4.& $.-!EM-1#,.,ook at verses (B and (C4 (B Therefore, as through one manKs offense /udgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one 0anKs righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in /ustification of life. (C Gor as by one manKs disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one 0anKs obedience many will be made righteous.

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The result of all humanity being brought under condemnation for Adam s sin was that *esus could give Himself 1once for all2 as the satisfaction of the sin debt humanity incurred through Adam. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter (=, verses (=F(#4 (= By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of *esus "hrist once for all . (( And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins4 (# But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of GodE 3?*@6 If God s economy of salvation did not operated as it does, then *esus would have to have died over and over again for each man or woman who repented, and then He would have to die again every time we slipped up and had to repent for some failure or fault in our life. God provided a system of sacrifices in the <ld Testament by which His people could en/oy relationship with Him, but that system was only temporary. It anticipated the ultimate sacrifice, 1the ,amb of God who takes away the sin of the world2 3*ohn (4#C6. In the <ld "ovenant you had to make sacrifice after sacrifice for each time you failed. In fact, the priest who offered the sacrifices also had to offer sacrifices for himself /ust in case he had failed somewhere along the way. Then every day, all day, he would offer sacrifice after sacrifice for the sins of the people. These sacrifices could bring forgiveness for sins committed, but the sacrifices were powerless to take away sin, or to change the sin nature of the people who gave the sacrifices. In *esus, we weren t /ust forgiven, but we were made righteous. !e were condemned under Adam, but we are /ustified in "hrist because *esus is the cure for the condemnation. The guilty stain was cleansed in "hrist and our robes were washed white in His blood. I was condemned to die, but in *esus, I have been given lifeH

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#HE 2.L/#,.- 4.& #HE 2,- $.-!,#,.#= 0oreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, #( so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through *esus "hrist our ,ord. +o what was the purpose of the ,aw9 !hy did God institute the 0osaic ,aw if the ,aw

was not the solution for the sin condition9 )aul said, 1The ,aw entered that the offense may abound.2 !hat9 This is almost the opposite of what the *ewish audience e8pected to hear. The ,aw was not the antidote to sin, but the ,aw actually magnified the e8tent of the sin problem. The ,aw declared the height, and depth, and breadth of sin, but the ,aw did nothing to remedy the problem. The ,aw provided a means to treat the symptoms of sin, but it did not cure the disease. Instead, the ,aw highlighted the futility of all human effort to gain God s favor by our own works. The ,aw showed us how frail and how fraught with failure we really are. !e needed more than forgiveness. !e needed old things to pass away so that all things could become new. !e needed the slate wiped clean, the record e8punged, and a new life under a new covenant. !e needed a +aviorH In contrast to the ,aw s impotence, we see the power of God s grace, for where sin abounded, God s grace did much more abound. Thank God for grace. Thank God that there is no pit so deep that God cannot reach us. There is no sin so severe that God cannot save us. Because of God s grace, no failure is final and no fall is fatal. God s grace is able to lift us up out of the depths of human depravity, clean us up, stand us up, and one day take us up, to live forever in His presence. There is a solution for the sin condition, but it won t be found in a bottle or a pill. Dou can t get the solution on a psychiatrist s couch or from some feel good, do good message of modern popFpsychologists. The solution to sin is not in the repetition of some rosary prayer to

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the @irgin 0ary or in more religious busyness. But there is a sin solution that is more than enough, that is in abundant supply, a solution that reaches to the highest mountain, and it flows to the lowest valley. The sin solution is the grace of God, lifted up like a billboard on an old rugged cross. 1+o that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through *esus "hrist our ,ord.2 +in doesn t win and +atan does not get the last laugh. God had the answer before +atan created the problem. The answer was not to create robots that were preprogrammed to obey. The answer was not to remove every temptation, nor was it to ignore or overlook sin as though it wasn t all that bad. The answer that God had waiting and ready to deliver man from his own failure, was grace. The unmerited favor of God was manifested on an old rugged cross, in the humiliation of His +on that resulted in the reconciliation of humanity to Him. !e were not created for defeat and despair. !e may have fallen, and we may have stumbled along the way, but all we have to do is get up one more time than we fall. !e may feel like we ve failed one time too many to merit God s grace, but grace, by definition, is unmerited and sin does not win, for where sin abounds, grace doeth much more abound. Grace for forgiveness. Grace for victory. Grace for the asking, the believing and the receiving of God s promises for our lives. Grace upon graceH

$.-$L/2,.Dou may feel like you have come to point in your life where there is no answer, no hope, no way out, and nothing left to do but give up. If that s where you are today, then I d say, you /ust need to give up and let *esus take over. Dou need to surrender to grace and let the power of the cross cover you with the love of God. ,et the grace of God do a work in you that will lift you out of condemnation and into /ustification.

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There may be problems all around you. There may be troubles in every side. There may be those around you who are saying, 1There is no hope for you in God.2 Griends, it is when we are at the end of our rope, when we have run out of ideas and out of resources, that God s grace is manifest most powerfully and God does His best work. )eople around you may looking at you and saying, 1It s really getting bad nowH2 Dou need to look at them and say, 1Dou don t know my GodH It s not getting bad. It s /ust getting good. +tand still and see the salvation of the ,ord. God loves me. His grace abounds to me. He sought me and He bought me, and I m not a victim, I am a victor in "hrist *esusH2 God s grace is sufficient, for when we are weak, He is strongH 3# "or. (#4C6. His grace is abundant and it is ama;ingH -on t ever be afraid or ashamed to walk to the altar for another touch of grace. The devil will try to tell you that you ve gone too far, or you ve done too much, but God looks at your situation and says, 1I can fi8 that, if you ll let me.2 !ill you let God fi8 that situation in your life9

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DEAD TO SIN, ALIVE AGAIN


By Mark E" Hardgrove !" Min" #e6%) &o'ans +
( !hat shall we say then9 +hall we continue in sin that grace may abound9 # "ertainly notH How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it9 $ <r do you not know that as many of us as were bapti;ed into "hrist *esus were bapti;ed into His death9 % Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that /ust as "hrist was raised from the dead by the glory of the Gather, even so we also should walk in newness of life. & Gor if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, ' knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 5 Gor he who has died has been freed from sin. B >ow if we died with "hrist, we believe that we shall also live with Him, C knowing that "hrist, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. -eath no longer has dominion over Him. (= Gor the death that He died, He died to sin once for allE but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (( ,ikewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in "hrist *esus our ,ord. (# Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. ($ And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (% Gor sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (& !hat then9 +hall we sin because we are not under law but under grace9 "ertainly notH (' -o you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that oneKs slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness9 (5 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (B And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (C I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. Gor /ust as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. #= Gor when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. #( !hat fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed9 Gor the end of those things is death. ## But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. #$ Gor the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in "hrist *esus our ,ord. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.In the previous chapter, verse #=, )aul makes the powerful proclamation that 1where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.2 This is the promise that grace is always available in abundant supply to overcome sin. The condition to this promise is that one must believe in "hrist as ,ord and +avior, and receive the benefits and blessings of this faith in God s grace. As is so often the case, those who don t want to submit or yield themselves to the authority of anyone, including God, will twist and distort glorious biblical truths and create some ugly doctrine that leads them down the primrose path to destruction. !e humans have a way of turning clear statement into something totally divorced from what was intended. Husbands and wives do this to one another all the time. He says to his wife, 1Dou look very lovely today.2 +he hears him say, 1Dou didn t look so good yesterday.2 +he asks, 1-oes the dress make me look fat92 He hears, 1Tell me I look skinny or you ll be sleeping on the couch tonight.2 I still remember, as a teenager in high school, my best friend and cousin, who had a way of taking anything that anyone said, and making it mean something else. <ne day my mother picked us up from football practice and he got into the car with a baker s do;en of homemade doughnuts. I asked him where he got them and he said, 1The coach told me I could have them me.2 He then gave my mother and me one apiece and proceeded to eat the other eleven. The ne8t day at football practice, the coach yelled out my cousin s name 3along with some e8pletives6 and demanded, 1!here are my doughnuts92 0y cousin answered, 1Dou told me I could have them.2 "oach said, 1I said, MHelp yourself, not take the whole bag.2

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>ow, for most of us if someone says, 1Help yourself,2 it means that we can have a doughnut, but for my cousin, 1Help yourself,2 means, 1)lease take the entire bag of doughnuts that I /ust paid for.2 That s the way humans are. All too often, we hear what we want to hear. )aul had stated a beautiful truth4 1!here sin abounds, grace doth much more abound.2 But )aul knew people, and he knew how they would take a powerful promise and twist it into an e8cuse to live in sin. +o, in chapter ', )aul heads them off at the pass and e8plains what it means to live in grace over sin. He uses two illustrations to make his point4 the first is death and resurrection, and second is slavery. ,ook at verses ( through %. ,0

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( !hat shall we say then9 +hall we continue in sin that grace may abound9 # "ertainly notH How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it9 $ <r do you not know that as many of us as were bapti;ed into "hrist *esus were bapti;ed into His death9 % Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that /ust as "hrist was raised from the dead by the glory of the Gather, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

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Anticipatin# the Response The *ews would argue that if we are saved by grace and not by the law, and if grace

superFabounds where sin abounds, then why don t we /ust go on sinning so that grace may be multiplied through the abundance of our sins9 If we are not under the law, then aren t we free to do whatever we want to do9 )aul anticipates their argument and corrects it before they can propose it. He asks, 1+hall we continue in sin that grace may abound92 B) Reactin# to the Irrational Response )aul re/ects this idea in the strongest of terms. He uses a double negative in the Greek, 3me genoito6. The ?ing *ames @ersion often tries to capture the emotion of this phrase by interpreting it to say, 1God forbidH2 The idea that grace gives the believer permission to live a

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lawless life of sin is anathema to )aul. +hall we continue to sin so that grace may be multiplied, 1Absolutely, positively, notH2 +uch an argument misses the whole point of identifying with "hrist in His death, burial and resurrection. )aul asks, 1How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer in it92 The word translated 1dead2 is a Greek verb in the aorist tense, implying a onceFandFforFall act. If we are really believers then we have died, and are still dead, to sin. The word translated 1live2 is in the future tense, describing a continuing lifestyle. 7ugene )eterson, in his translation of the Bible entitled, The )essage, states it like this4 1If weKve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there9 <r didnKt you reali;e we packed up and left there for good92 C) The Reason for the Response If we have been saved by grace, then we are no longer living in the land where sin is in control. !e have a new sovereign. !e have a new ?ing and ,ord who calls us to a life of righteousness. !e are not under the 0osaic ,aw, but we are not lawless. !e live according to a new law, the law of love. This law constrains us and impels us to live right, not out of fear or according to some checklist of do s and don ts, but because of love. !e are moved and motivated, by our gratitude for God s grace, to live a life pleasing to Him. *ust as all of humanity was in the garden with Adam, and sinned in Adam, every believer was with "hrist in His death. The Apostle )aul told the Galatian believers, 1I have been crucified with "hristE it is no longer I who live, but "hrist lives in meE and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the +on of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me2 3Gal #4#=F#(, ?*@6. !e were with "hrist in His death, but we were also with Him in is resurrection. !e have been raised with Him into newness of life.

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& Gor if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, ' knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 5 Gor he who has died has been freed from sin. B >ow if we died with "hrist, we believe that we shall also live with Him, C knowing that "hrist, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. -eath no longer has dominion over Him. (= Gor the death that He died, He died to sin once for allE but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (( ,ikewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in "hrist *esus our ,ord. In verses & through ((, )aul e8pands and e8pounds upon what it means to identify with

"hrist. It means that /ust as *esus died, by faith we have died with Him. If we have died with "hrist, then we are no longer a slave to sin and sin no longer has power over us. If we died with "hrist, then we were raised with Him as well. !e have been raised up free from sin s dominion over our life. )aul is drawing upon the powerful imagery of water baptism. The early church practiced baptism by immersion for this very reason. It powerfully illustrates the spiritual truth of the death of the old nature, and the birth of the new nature. It symboli;es burial as we go down beneath the water and it symboli;es a new birth when we come up out of the water. )aul said, 1.eckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in "hrist.2 I m convinced that the reason some folks never seem to gain the victory over sin in their lives is because they ve never died with "hrist. They may come to an altar, they may weep under a load of guilt and shame, and they may even /oin the church, but they have never died to sin. They may become religious folk. They may give their tithes and offerings and sing in the choir, or even preach from pulpits, but they ve never died with "hrist. They ve never fully submitted their will. They ve never surrendered their life. They ve never given themselves as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. And because they ve never died to sin, sin still controls them and derails them as they try to live a good life. They don t know what it means to

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be alive in "hrist, because we cannot e8perience life in "hrist until we ve e8perience death to sin with "hrist. If religion is all we ve got, if church membership and a position on a church board is all we ve got, if a solo in the choir, or time in the pulpit, or bible school certificates on the wall, is all we ve got, then we haven t got much. I m talking about life in "hrist. I m talking about /oy unspeakable and full of glory. I m talking about freedom. I m talking about liberty in the +pirit. I m talking about being raised up from the former things, raised up out of the decay of sin and into the light of God s glory and love. I m talking about victory in *esus. I m talking having a home prepared where the saints abide, /ust over in the glory land. -oes anyone know what I m talking about9 Has anyone ever e8perienced that moment when old things passed away and all things became new9 Has anyone here ever knelt at an altar as a slave to sin, and gotten up a free man or woman9 The old song said4 I looked at my hands, and they looked new. I looked at my feet, and they did too. I m in a new world since the ,ord saved meH -on t look for me in the old places I used to be. Dou won t find me in the bottle and you won t find me in the /oint. I m not in the clubs and not I m not in the pubs. And don t go looking for me in the valley of despair, because I m not there. -on t go down to losers lane and call my name, because I won t answer. Dou won t find me where I used to be because that was then, and this is now. I am crucified with "hrist, that old 0ark no longer lives. There s a new name written down in glory, and it s mineH <h yes, it s mineH ,,,0

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(# Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. ($ And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present

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yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (% Gor sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. ,ook at verses (# through (%. )aul said that because we are dead to sin, we are no longer under the control of sin. He said, 1-o not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.2 !hen I was working at the stove foundry in "leveland, Tennessee, I had a boss. As long as I worked at that factory, I had to listen to the boss and do whatever task or /ob the boss told me to do. But when I graduated from seminary and Auit that /ob to become the pastor of a church, that man was no longer my boss. After I left that /ob, I didn t have to do anything that man told me to do. He wasn t my boss any longer. !hen I was a sinner, I was a servant of sin. *esus told the )harisees, 1Dou are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father, you will do2 3*n. B4%%6. If we have not given our lives to the ,ord, then we are slaves to sin and sin has dominion over us. But in "hrist we are free and we no longer have to listen to or obey the voice of sin. ,30

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Again, anticipating the argument of his detractors, )aul asks their Auestion for them.

,ook at verse (&4 1!hat then9 +hall we sin because we are not under law but under grace9 "ertainly notH2 He reiterates his ob/ection and illustrates the point from the perspective of slavery. +lavery was a common practice in the .oman 7mpire, and while it was still an inhumane and degrading practice, it was not like the practice of slavery in the :nited +tates. In the .oman 7mpire, slavery and race had nothing to do with one another. Gurthermore, professionals such as lawyers, teachers, or doctors could become slaves as easily as a peasant who worked the

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vineyard of his master. In fact, when someone found themselves in financial straits they could sell themselves into slavery as a means of repaying the debt. +o )aul draws upon a familiar practice in their culture to illustrate the nature of sin. ,ook at verses (' through (C4 (' -o you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that oneKs slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness9 (5 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (B And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (C I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. Gor /ust as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. )aul tells us that to whomever we present ourselves slaves to obey, we become slaves to that person, thing or habit. There are people who are slaves to sin who never imagined that they would be. They thought they could dabble in sin, that they could play with sin, and commit /ust a little sin, but then the ne8t thing they knew, sin had a ring in their nose leading them around and taking them to places they never thought they d go. The good news is that we can decide who our master will be. In the .oman 7mpire, as well as in America, the slave had no vote in who would be his or her master. +ome masters were considered less abusive, even kind in their treatment of slaves, but others were brutal taskmasters. The slave had no say which one he or she would belong to. )aul tells us that we can decide who we are going to serve, but we re going to serve somebody. *esus said, 1Dou cannot serve two masters.2 Bob -ylan hit the nail on the head when he wrote, 1It may be the devil or it may be the ,ord, but you re gonna have to serve somebody.2 If we give ourselves to sin, the wages is death. But if we give ourselves to God, we are free from sin and alive to righteousness. In light of this, )aul s plea in the last phrase of verse (C is, 1+o now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.2 3.ead vv. #=F#$6.

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#= Gor when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. #( !hat fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed9 Gor the end of those things is death. ## But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. #$ Gor the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in "hrist *esus our ,ord.

$.-$L/2,.!eek after week, we hear of moral failure after moral failure from among our nation s political, business, and religious leaders. Is it no wonder, then, that so many have become so skeptical and cynical. Grom a former president who frolicked through the !hitehouse with an intern like a college boy on +pring break, to "atholic priests molesting young boys, to an 7vangelical leader with a male prostitute, to senators who promoted family values while they emailed vulgar material to teenage boys, to school teachers having se8ual relations with their young studentsJthe evidence of the bondage of sin is all too real. But be sure of this, these things didn t /ust happen in a moment. +omewhere along the way, these men and women gave themselves over to sin until sin became the master and they became the slaves. )aul tells us that there is a better way. There is a way that leads to life, and not to death. There is a way of victory and not defeat. There is a liberty that is found in submission to the ,ordship of *esus "hrist and identifying so completely with Him until we have died His death, and are living His life. -ietrich Bonhoeffer, a "hristian martyr of >a;i German, wrote, 1!hen "hrist calls a man, He bids him, come and die.2 !hen you have given your all to "hrist, when the surrender is so complete until not even the fear of death has any power over you, then you can finally find out what it really means to live. Are you ready to live9 Are you ready to e8perience freedom from sin9 Then come forward today and pray, 1,ord, I want to be your bondFservant, bound to you, committed to you, and free from sin, habits, and attitudes that had me in bondage.2

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THE FRUSTRATIO OF THE LAW


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans 7)(*2@
( <r do you not know, brethren 3for I speak to those who know the law6, that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives9 # Gor the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. $ +o then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteressE but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. % Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of "hrist, that you may be married to another J to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. & Gor when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. ' But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the +pirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 5 !hat shall we say then9 Is the law sin9 "ertainly notH <n the contrary, I would not have known sin e8cept through the law. Gor I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, LDou shall not covet.L B But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. Gor apart from the law sin was dead. C I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. (= And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. (( Gor sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (# Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and /ust and good. ($ Has then what is good become death to me9 "ertainly notH But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become e8ceedingly sinful. (% Gor we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. (& Gor what I am doing, I do not understand. Gor what I will to do, that I do not practiceE but what I hate, that I do. (' If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. (5 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (B Gor I know that in me 3that is, in my flesh6 nothing good dwellsE for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (C Gor the good that I will to do, I do not doE but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. #= >ow if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. #( I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. ## Gor I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. #$ But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. #% < wretched man that I amH !ho will deliver me from this body of death9 #& I thank God J through *esus "hrist our ,ordH +o then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.,et me read verses #$F#& from The *iving Bible+


+o you see how it is4 my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. <h, what a terrible predicament IKm inH !ho will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature9 Thank GodH It has been done by *esus "hrist our ,ord. He has set me free. T,B In the opening chapters of .omans, )aul goes to great lengths to help us understand that our salvation is not through the ,aw of 0oses, but through faith in grace. It is God s grace that liberates and empowers the believer to live a righteous life before God. +ome might argue that the message of .omans is no longer important for the "hristian church because we don t practice the 0osaic ,aw. Det, I would say that we still struggle with the concept of grace and it has been my e8perience that while we may not be under the ,aw of 0oses, too often the church has been guilty of creating its own religious laws of touch not, taste not, do not, and so on. If the ,aw, which God cut with His own finger in tablets of stone on 0ount +inai, is no longer the means by which righteousness is achieved, then how can we believe that creating our own manmade religious laws is going to be any better at making us righteous9 There is a standard, which )aul calls the law of God, there is a life of righteousness to be pursued and a sanctified life to be lived, but )aul s point is that the sanctified life and God s holy standard cannot be forced from the outside in, it cannot be imposed, it cannot be a checklist of do s and don ts. That is why so many fall away from the faith and why there are so many secret sinners and frustrated folks in the church. .eal righteousness is the result of an inner workE it is the life of "hrist in us that liberates us and sets us free to be the man or woman who was created in the image and likeness of God.

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,et s Auickly review where we are at in this 7pistle. In anticipation of his visit to .ome,

the Apostle )aul writes the 7pistle of .omans to believers who were living in the heart of the 7mpire. In this letter )aul addresses two types of believers, Gentiles and *ews, and the relationship between them. The *ewish believers were holding to certain elements of the 0osaic ,aw and were also insisting that Gentiles observe some of these elements as well. +o )aul wa8es theological as he attempts to speak to those two groups. In chapter (, )aul e8plains how "hristianity is a break with the pagan past of the Gentiles. Then, in chapters # through 5, )aul e8plains how "hristianity is the logical completion of *udaism as a religion, as well as the fulfillment and the end of the ,aw of 0oses as a means of righteousness. In chapter #, )aul says that the ,aw was 1an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes.2 The ,aw was teaching humanity, through the *udaism, how weak we are and how holy God is. In chapter $, )aul said no man is /ustified by the ,aw, but is /ustified by faith in God through "hrist. The ,aw did not treat me, /ust as if I d never sinned, but the ,aw defined and highlighted my sin. The ,aw assumed that I am a sinner. In chapter %, )aul shows that Abraham s righteousness was not by the ,aw but by faith. Therefore, Abraham is the Gather of all who believe. In chapter &, )aul e8plains that sin e8isted before the ,aw because all sinned in Adam so that all can be forgiven and made right in "hrist. Then in chapter ', )aul said that a dead person is free from the law. !hen we become believers we are crucified with "hrist and we no longer live, but the life we now live, we live in "hrist. Therefore, we are free from the ,aw. )aul says that we were slaves to sin, but once we

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became a believer, we were no longer a slave to sin and we are no longer under the rule of the ,aw, but now we are servants of the 0ost High God and we have eternal life through *esus "hrist our ,ord.

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1 -E5 M1&&,1GE
"hapter 5 begins with )aul continuing to illustrate that the believer is no longer under the

letter of the ,aw. In # "orinthians $4' )aul said that letter killeth, but the +pirit gives life. !hen the rich young ruler came to *esus asking how to inherit eternal life, *esus listed several of the Ten "ommandments and the young ruler affirmed that he had obeyed these ,aws since he was a child. *esus didn t deny that the young man had kept the letter of the ,aw, but He challenges the young ruler to go beyond the letter of the ,aw. The letter of the ,aw says don t kill and don t covet you neighbor s possessions, but the +pirit of the ,aw is to be concerned with the wellFbeing of others. +o *esus said, 1+ell all that you posses, give it to the poor and come and follow me.2 !e "hurch of God folk were always good at the letter of the ,aw. !e could tell others how long, how short, where to go and where not to go, what to wear and what not to wear. !e were a legalistic people. !e liked to ob/ectify our faith so that we could measure our faith and compare ourselves with others. But )aul tells us that we are no longer bound to the letter of the ,aw. In verses ( through % )aul uses the e8ample of marriage and death as yet another illustration of the relationship between the believer and the ,aw. It s as if )aul is saying, 1If you still don t understand, let me paint you yet another picture.2 He says, 1It s like a woman married to a man. As long as he is alive she is bound to that man by the law. But if he dies, she is absolutely free to marry again.2 The illustration gets a little tangled here, but )aul is saying that when we died with "hrist, when we put our faith in Him, and

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in the sufficiency of His death, burial and resurrection, then we were set free from the ,aw and now we can enter into a new relationship, to be married to Him who was raised from the dead. In this new relationship, we are empowered to bring forth fruit unto God.

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#HE &.LE .4 #HE L15


In verses & and ' )aul reiterates that we are dead to the ,aw and we are delivered from

the ,aw so that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter. )aul again anticipates the response of those who still insist on observing elements of the ,aw. In verse 5 )aul asks their Auestion for them4 1!hat shall we say then9 Is the ,aw sin92 )aul responds with the now familiar, 1me genoito,2 or as the ?*@ translates it, 1God forbidH2 Gar from the ,aw being the source of sin, the ,aw reveals what sin is and this was the purpose of the ,aw. )aul asks, 1How would I have known not to lust, or to desire other people s possessions unless the ,aw told me, Mdo not covet 92 In verses B through (( )aul e8pands upon this thought but concludes in verse (# with this assessment, 1!herefore, the ,aw is holy, and the commandment holy, and /ust and good.2 The problem wasn t that the ,aw was badE the problem is that humanity is sinful. The ,aw revealed sin, but the ,aw does nothing to empower humanity to overcome sin. In verse (%, )aul says, 1Gor we know that the ,aw is spiritual4 but I am carnal, sold under sin.2

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#HE 2#&/GGLE .4 #HE 4LE2H 5,#H #HE L15


Then in verses (& through #& )aul illustrates the struggle of every man and woman who

tries to live by the letter of the ,aw. ,ook at it with me4 (& Gor what I am doing, I do not understand. Gor what I will to do, that I do not practiceE but what I hate, that I do. (' If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. (5 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (B Gor I know that in me 3that is, in my flesh6 nothing good dwellsE

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for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (C Gor the good that I will to do, I do not doE but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. #= >ow if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. #( I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. ## Gor I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. #$ But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. #% < wretched man that I amH !ho will deliver me from this body of death9 >?*@ 0any people identify with this passage. It seems to passionately describe the struggle in every man and woman. But )aul is not using this passage to describe the struggle of a "hristian. )aul is illustrating the struggle of a person who is living under the law. The law tells us what is wrong and we know we shouldn t, but we do. The law tells us what we should do, but we don t do it. !e want to, but we don t. )aul is not illustrating the struggle of believers with sin. He s already said that we are dead to sin and sin no longer rules over us. !hat )aul is illustrating is that the ,aw is powerless to transform us or to empower us to do right and be right. In fact, the ,aw only demonstrates how carnal and driven by desires that humanity is without "hrist. ,ook at verse #%. This is the destination to which the ,aw takes us. The ,aw carries us to the cross, but it cannot plunge us beneath its crimson flow. !hat )aul says in verse #% reflects the struggle of everyone trying to live according to the letter of the ,aw4 1< wretched man that I amH !ho shall deliver me from the body of this death92 )aul is not conceding. )aul is not saying there is no hope, but )aul is saying that our hope is not in the ,aw, and it is not in all of our best efforts to live right and do right. In this flesh we can never do enough to be righteous. 1All our righteounesses are as filthy rags2 3Isa.

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'%4'6. +o where does that leave us9 It leaves us at verse #&. The first sentence of that verse simply says, 1I thank my God through *esus "hrist our ,ord.2 In verse #% )aul asks, 1!ho will rescue me from this body of death92 And then, )aul immediately answers his own Auestion, 1Thanks be to GodJthrough *esus "hrist our ,ord.2 In # "orinthians #4(%, )aul says, 1>ow thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in "hrist.2 By the power of our flesh, that is, our human will or desires, we cannot overcome, but in "hrist, in the power of the +pirit, we can do all things. !here works have failed, faith prevails. !here human effort was fruitless, "hrist makes us fruitful. !here the letter killeth, the +pirit gives lifeH All men are wretched without *esus. That s why *ohn >ewton wrote of Ama;ing Grace 1that saved a wretch like me2. In the flesh, in the ,aw, under legalism, we are stranded in that noFman sFland of knowing what we should do, but unable to do it. In the body of death we find ourselves as frustrated failures. !e find ourselves in verse #% crying out, 1< wretched man that I amH2 But )aul doesn t leave us in failure, )aul presses on and thanks God for victory in *esus. )aul changes the song from 1< wretched man2 to 1< victory in *esus2H !e are not under the letter of ,aw trying to please God by the works of our flesh. !e are dead to the ,aw and alive to "hrist who bought and paid for our victory on "alvary s brow. In "hrist, we are more than conAuerors. In "hrist I can do all things. In "hrist I am always triumphant. The only Auestion I have to ask myself is if I am in "hrist, and if "hrist is in me. If we re not careful we will misrepresent what )aul is saying in .omans chapter 5. +ome will claim that )aul is conceding to sin in his members, that is, in his body, while maintaining a righteous mindset. But if you look at verses ( and # of chapter B, you find that )aul is saying that if we live according to the flesh, then we are bound to the ,aw and the futility of failure.

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But if we live by the +pirit, instead of the flesh, then we will walk according to the +pirit of the ,aw that gives life.

$.-$L/2,.It is true that we will face temptations. It is also true that there will be times when we succumb to temptation and we disappoint our ,ord and ourselves. But the promise of the !ord is that if we remain in "hrist, if we let Him lead us and direct our steps, then we will not fail. "hrist will never lead us to failure. Dou don t have to live in frustration and failure. Dou don t have to succumb to a life of repetitive sin. Dou can be triumphantH But it won t be by adding more laws, and it won t be by trying harder. Dou can t earn it, you can t work it, you can t buy it, and you can t will it. +o how do you become a victor and not a victim9 How do you triumph over sin, failure and frustration9 How do you get out of the place where you are constantly wrestling with the guilt of knowing what you should be doing, and yet not doing it9 <r, knowing what you should not do, but then doing it9 )aul tells us. 1Thanks be unto God, through *esus "hrist our ,ord.2 !e don t have to concede to failure. !e don t have to view our vicissitudes as inevitable. There is an answer to the anguish and that answer is "hrist in you, the hope of glory. It is dying to the desires of the flesh, and finding abundant life in the ,ord. It may sound parado8ical, but our victory is found in sweet surrender, in saying to God, 1I surrender all, I surrender all. All to thee my precious +avior, I surrender all.2 There will still be temptations, but we don t have to succumb to them. There is still a righteous standard, and we can achieve it by letting "hrist live in us and through us. It was a religious fad a few years ago, but I still believe that !!*- is the answer. The Auestion is not, 1!hat does the "hurch of God teach92 <r, 1!hat would my granny do92 The

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guiding Auestion of our life should be, 1!hat would *esus do92 And once we answer that Auestion, to be willing to pray, 1*esus, that s what I want you to do in me and through me.2

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THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans 9)(*(7
( There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in "hrist *esus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the +pirit. # Gor the law of the +pirit of life in "hrist *esus has made me free from the law of sin and death. $ Gor what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own +on in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin4 He condemned sin in the flesh, % that the righteous reAuirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the +pirit. & Gor those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the +pirit, the things of the +pirit. ' Gor to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 5 Because the carnal mind is enmity against GodE for it is not sub/ect to the law of God, nor indeed can be. B +o then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. C But you are not in the flesh but in the +pirit, if indeed the +pirit of God dwells in you. >ow if anyone does not have the +pirit of "hrist, he is not His. (= And if "hrist is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the +pirit is life because of righteousness. (( But if the +pirit of Him who raised *esus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised "hrist from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His +pirit who dwells in you. (# Therefore, brethren, we are debtors J not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. ($ Gor if you live according to the flesh you will dieE but if by the +pirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (% Gor as many as are led by the +pirit of God, these are sons of God. (& Gor you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the +pirit of adoption by whom we cry out, LAbba, Gather.L (' The +pirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (5 and if children, then heirs J heirs of God and /oint heirs with "hrist, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.How many of you remember the day when you were on your own, when you were no longer under the roof of your parents and no longer bound by their rules9 +uddenly you were free to make your own decisions. That is a liberating moment, and at the same time, a terrifying moment. !e have the freedom but we also have the responsibility to establish personal standards of conduct, to set our own goals, to manage our own money, to make our own decisions, to do

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our own laundry, to cook our own meals, to pay our own bills, to mow our own lawns, and to have our own personal relationship with God. Gar from what we may have fantasi;ed as teenagers, we Auickly find two things4 Girst, we reali;e that while we may not be under the law of our parents, their influence continues to go with us. They are no longer standing over us telling us what to do, but they have engraved their words and teaching in our mind and in our personality. +econd, we learn that while we are not under the law of our parents, we are never without rules, never free from boundaries, and never at liberty to do however, whenever, and whatever and we want to do. There is always a law. !e can either establish boundaries and goals that lead a successful life, or we can live without boundaries and without discipline, and find that the law of conseAuences catches up with promiscuity, the law of the land catches up with illegal activity, and the spiritual law of God s plan for humanity will confront us with life and death. There were those who wanted to take )aul s teaching that we no longer achieve righteousness through the 0osaic ,aw, and press it to the e8treme idea that we are no longer under any law at all. This philosophy is called antinomianism, with literally means, 1without law.2 )aul does not teach antinomianism, but )aul is telling us that there is a new law, not a law of do s and don ts written in tablets of stone, but the law of the +pirit written upon our hearts, that is, written into our moral and spiritual programming. ,et s look at how )aul unfolds this idea in chapter B. ,0 #HE P&EM,2E In verse (, )aul states a premise and then defends it through the ne8t si8 verses. His premise is4 ( There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in "hrist *esus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the +pirit.

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That is a powerful verse. The ,aw condemned humanity. The ,aw revealed our faults and failures. Though the ,aw did provide a means, through endless animal sacrifices, to obtain forgiveness, it assumed our guilt and our inability to overcome sin. Therefore, a perpetual sacrificial system had to be instituted. Hebrews C4## tells us that blood had to be shed because without the shedding of blood, there is no remission. !e are no longer under the ,aw because when we are in "hrist *esus, there is no condemnation. "alvary covers it all. !hen we are saved by grace, /ustified, reconciled, and sanctified, our faults and failures are forgiven and the slate of sins that testified against us has been erased. However, there is a conditionE this promise applies only to those who do not live according to the desires of the flesh, but who are guided and empowered and by the Holy +pirit. I love that promise . . . 1no condemnation2. Have you ever been haunted by a guilty conscience9 I have. Dou try to sleep, but your failure won t let you. Dou try to be happy, and to have the /oy of the ,ord, but your wrong deed, your bad behavior, your inappropriate words, suck the /oy out of life and leave you feeling guilty, condemned, and dirty. The only remedy, if we veer away from where we should have been with the ,ord, is to confess our faults, correct our tra/ectory, and come back into a right relationship with *esus. .unning faster and farther in the wrong direction will only make matters worse. <ne lie leads to another, one flirtatious act leads the ne8t, one drink leads to another, and one swear word leads to another. :ntil we are willing and ready to return to *esus and allow Him to forgive us and set us back on the right path, then we will live our lives haunted by the guilt and condemnation of our failures. I ve sat in the congregation of a church knowing that God was well aware of my failures, and hoping that the pastor or evangelist didn t get a word from God and single me out in front of the congregation. Have you ever felt like that9

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As a pastor, there have been times when God has revealed certain things to me, so when I gave the altar call, I knew who should have come to the altar. I ve never singled anyone out, and I would never embarrass or put anyone on the spot, but I can tell when the Holy +pirit is dealing with someone who needs to come, but they continue to resist. 0y suggestion is that when the +pirit is drawing you to the altar, you /ust need to go ahead and come on, because you cannot outrun condemnation for wrongs committed. The only solution is to arise and return to the Gather s House and let Him forgive you. )lease notice, that with the e8ception of verse % 3which is a continuation of verse $6E verses # through ' each begin with the word 1for.2 In these verses, )aul is supporting his premise. The reason there is no condemnation in "hrist *esus is first because, 1the law of the +pirit of life in "hrist *esus has made me free from the law of sin and death.2 +econd, it is because God condemned sin through His own +on, who came in the likeness of sinful flesh and fulfilled the law of righteousness in us who walk according the +pirit. Third, there is no condemnation because those who live according to the +pirit set their minds on the things of the +pirit. ,ast, in verses ' through B, )aul concludes that those who are spiritually minded find life and peace, and this is in contrast to those whose minds are consumed with the things of the world.

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#HE P&.M,2E2
Almost every promise in the Bible is conditional. )aul has promised that there is now no

condemnation to those who are in "hrist *esus. He goes on to contrast the life of those who are focused on the flesh with believers who are living by the +pirit. Those of the +pirit are not under the ,aw, they are not under condemnation, they are not servants of sin, but they are free indeed. <n the other hand, those of the flesh are bound to sin, are under condemnation and are alienated and estranged from God.

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)aul changes from talking hypothetically about 1those2 and begins to bring the message home addressing us personally with the pronoun, 1you2. In verse C, )aul begins to talk to the recipients of the letter, and by e8tension to you and me today. In verses C through ((, four conditional promises are set forth, each with the little word 1if.2 +ome might have asked, 1How do I know that I am in the +pirit and not in the flesh92 )aul says two things in verse C C But you are not in the flesh but in the +pirit, if indeed the +pirit of God dwells in you. >ow if anyone does not have the +pirit of "hrist, he is not His. If the +pirit of God dwells in you, then you are not in the flesh, and if you are not in the flesh, then you no longer have need of the ,aw. If you do not have the +pirit of "hrist, then you are not of God, whether you observe the ,aw or not. !hen )aul says we are not in the flesh, he is not using the word 1flesh2 to refer to flesh and blood, but to refer to a mindset that focuses on feeding the pleasures of the flesh in ways that violate the holiness of God. (= And if "hrist is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the +pirit is life because of righteousness. @erse (= tells us that if "hrist is in us, then we will be able to live a life that can deny selfFcentered desires and passions and focus instead on pleasing God in all we do. The ,aw of the +pirit in our heart provides the boundaries and a new view of life. In the +pirit, we can see and do those things that are of eternal importance. In verse (( have the payoff. If we are driven and controlled by our passions and the desires of the flesh, then we are not of God and we have no claim to the promises of God. But, if we are living according the ,aw of the +pirit of life in "hrist, then we can claim the promise of verse ((. )aul says4

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(( But if the +pirit of Him who raised *esus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised "hrist from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His +pirit who dwells in you.

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#HE P&.-./-$EME-#
!e should remember that it was the sinful desires that got humanity into trouble. It was

the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life that led humanity down the road to depravity and destruction. !e don t owe the flesh anythingH )aul proclaimed4 (# Therefore, brethren, we are debtors J not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. ($a Gor if you live according to the flesh you will dieE The flesh promises pleasure, but delivers death. The flesh entices and seduces us to pursue desires and appetites that are harmful to us physically, financially, spiritually and emotionally. The flesh says, 1Go ahead and do that, drink that, smoke that, watch that, and then you will be happy.2 !hat the flesh doesn t tell us is that the path that the flesh leads us down ends in a lake of fire and eternal punishment. The flesh doesn t tell us that those drugs and drinks will kill us. The flesh doesn t tell us that promiscuity can end marriages and destroy families. The flesh doesn t tell us that lashing out in anger may leave us lonely and alienated from everyone around us. The flesh doesn t tell us that the wages of sin is death. God warns us through His !ord that if we live according to the flesh, we will die.

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#HE P&.3,2,.The ne8t time you feel the flesh rising up to lead you into temptation that will end in

destructionE you need to shout out, 1I don t owe the flesh anythingH But I owe *esus everythingH2 There is another alternative and there is a better choice. )aul goes on to say. ($b but if by the +pirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (% Gor as many as are led by the +pirit of God, these are sons of God. (& Gor you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the +pirit of adoption by whom we cry out, LAbba, Gather.L

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Gor over $= years of my life, I had no one to call father e8cept Gather God. !hen I was discouraged, Abba, Gather put His arms around me and spoke hope into my life. !hen I was afraid, He gave me courage. !hen I was in doubt, He gave me confidence. !hen I didn t have it, He supplied it. I could not pick up the phone and call my earthly father, but I could drop to my knees anytime, anyplace, and always know that Abba, Gather inclined toward me and heard my cry. He adopted me as His son, He gave me His name, and He put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto my God. I don t pray to idols made of man s hands, gods of silver or gold that eyes but cannot see, hands but cannot touch, and ears that cannot hear. I have the +pirit in me, the +pirit of adoption that rises up within me and enables me to recogni;e Abba, Gather. )aul says in verses (' and (54 (' The +pirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (5 and if children, then heirs J heirs of God and /oint heirs with "hrist, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. I do not owe the flesh anything, but I can testify that God has given me everything. The +pirit Himself bears witness that we are the children of God. !hen we are living by the +pirit, we have an internal guide, a witness with our spirit, who tells us that we are the children of God. Gurthermore, if I am a child of God, then it follows logically that I am an heir of God, and a /oint heir with "hrist. I ve heard so many people strip this verse from its conte8t and claim it is saying that as a /oint heir of *esus every believer is guaranteed riches and wealth and health in this world. ,ook at verse (5 again. )aul says we are 1heirs of God and /oint heirs with "hrist, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.2 !e are /oint heirs with "hrist in His suffering, which means we become partakers of His death and His resurrection. If we are willing to share with Him in His suffering then we are promised to be partakers of His

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glory.2 In this world, we shall have tribulation and there will be suffering, but we can still maintain our /oy, our cheer, our celebration, and our shout because we already know that He has overcome the !orld. I am a /ointFheir with "hrist, and He has promised that as a believer the works that He has done, I am to do also. But He remains the elder brother who has the double portion. I will never be eAual to *esus, but praise God, my big brother will always be available to me. If the devil wants to get to me, he has to go through *esus, and he already tried that once, failed. *esus was stripped and beaten, nailed to a cross and crucified, but on the third day, He got up triumphant over death, hell and the grave. !hen the devil comes after you, you /ust need to call out the name of *esus. If I deny the flesh and allow the Holy +pirit to envelope me in God s will, God s power and God s presence, then I am in a position to make the most of my inheritance in "hrist *esus. If I am living beneath my spiritual means, if I am failing to e8perience the /oy of the ,ord, or to overcome temptations, then it isn t because the inheritance is lacking. The problem is that the will of God, the >ew "ovenant, stipulates that I must deny the sinful desires of the flesh and allow the life of the +pirit to lead and direct me into paths of righteousness.

$.-$L/2,.Are you living in the +pirit9 -o you know the /oy of living without condemnation and guilt9 Have you embraced the life that God has given you, and are you living it abundantly9 I still believe in something called sanctification. I believe that you can receive a spiritual breakthrough where the yoke of bondage is broken. Thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in "hrist *esusH !hen we walk in the +pirit, we put to death the deeds of the body that lead to destruction, frustration and failure.

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7very believer can walk in the +pirit if they yield themselves to the Holy +pirit, but I also believe that when we are bapti;ed in the Holy +pirit, even as they were on the -ay of )entecost in Acts chapter #, then the Holy +pirit enables us to hear the voice of God more clearly. In addition, we receive the spiritual power to walk the walk, and not /ust to talk the talk. If you have not received the baptism of the Holy +pirit, then you ought to make that a priority in your life. If you re here and you reali;e that the reason you have not been en/oying the inheritance of the saints in "hrist *esus, it may be that the flesh still drives and directs your life. If you sometimes feel helpless to overcome temptation, then before we observe "ommunion this morning, I invite you slip your hand toward heaven today and invite the Holy +pirit to have complete control of your life. In fact, you may want to lift both hands and say, 1I surrender all.2

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SOME!ODY SAY "GLORY#$


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' 9)(9*80
(B Gor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (C Gor the earnest e8pectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. #= Gor the creation was sub/ected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who sub/ected it in hopeE #( because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. ## Gor we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. #$ >ot only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the +pirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. #% Gor we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hopeE for why does one still hope for what he sees9 #& But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. #' ,ikewise the +pirit also helps in our weaknesses. Gor we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the +pirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. #5 >ow He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the +pirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. #B And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. #C Gor whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His +on, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. $= 0oreover whom He predestined, these He also calledE whom He called, these He also /ustifiedE and whom He /ustified, these He also glorified. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.+ometimes the trouble we are facing seems like it will go on forever. +ometimes the suffering we are enduring feels like it will never end. I know that feeling. I know what it feels like when it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and then when you do see a light, it s train headed straight for you. That s what it feels like, but the truth is that bad times don t last always. The darkest night always has a morning after. The hardest trial comes to an end, eventually. The biggest battles lead to the greatest victories. I ve learned that even when I can t see it or feel it, on the other side of this problem there s a victory waiting. <n the other side of this storm the sun is shining and God is going to get me thereH

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-avid said that on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death, there is a table spread in the presence of his enemies, and there is an anointing waiting to be poured out upon him, and there is goodness and mercy ready to follow him all the days of his life. The only thing -avid had to do to enter into those blessings, was to trust the ,ord to lead him through the valley. There are two kinds of people in this worldJthose who see the problems, and those who see the possibilities. I heard a /oke about a child psychologist who wanted to test two boys. They were the same age, but they could not have been more different. <ne was always negative and the other was always positive. To test whether or not their respective outlook on life was innate or whether it was a response to their environment, they took the negative boy and put him in a room with everything a boy his age could possibly wantJtoys, food, candy, a playgroundJ this large room had it all. Then they took the boy who was always positive and put him in a room with nothing but horse manure and a shovel. At the end of the day the psychologist came back to see if the outlook of the boys had changed to fit their surroundings. He found the first boy still sitting in the middle of the room with toys and food. He hadn t moved and he hadn t touched anything. The boy was still very negative. Astonished, the psychiatrist asked, 1!hy are you so down9 ,ook at all you have to play withH2 The little boy didn t even look up. He /ust said, 1!ell, if I played on the playground, I probably would have got hurt. If I ate the food or candy, I probably would have gotten a stomachache. If I played with the toys, I might have broken one and gotten into trouble. +o I thought I d /ust sit here and do nothing.2

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The psychologist /ust shook his head and went to check on the boy in the room of horse manure. !hen he opened the door, he found the boy e8citedly using the shovel to dig through the manure. The psychologist said, 1!hat are you doingH !hy are you digging92 The little boy wiped a drop of sweat off his brow and enthusiastically said, 1!ell, I figure that with all this horse manure, there has to be a horse somewhere and I intend to find him.2

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#HE G,4# .4 GL.&7


Dou can walk through life depending on your feelings, or you can decide that regardless

of what life throws at you, you re going to keep digging, because there has to be a horse in there somewhere. I believe that the Apostle )aul was a positive man. He had a 1can do2 attitude. He said, 1I can do all things through "hrist who strengthens me.2 ,ook at our te8t. )aul tells us that we may face some trials, we may find ourselves in a situation where we are suffering, but the worse it gets, the better it s going to be, because 1the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.2 !hat glory is )aul talking about9 ,ook back at verse (5. )aul said that we are 1heirs of God and /oint heirs with "hrist, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.2 !e may have to suffer with *esus, we may face some trials and tribulations when we claim *esus as our ,ord and +avior. In this, we are /oint heirs with "hrist in His suffering, but if we are heirs in His suffering, we will also be heirs in his glory. Gurthermore, the suffering we may endure for a night, does not compare with the /oy that comes in the morning when the glory of the ,ord has risen upon us. Here s the deal, because of sin humanity lost the glory. !e were created in the image and likeness of God, we are promised that we will be glorified together with "hrist, and we are

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promised there will come a day when that glory is restored and revealed in us. This gift of glory is a birthright for all who are born again, but it has not yet been fully restored to humanity. !e can glorify God through our praise, through our lives and through our service in the kingdom, but the glory of the ,ord that once characteri;ed humanity 3who was created in God s image and likeness6, has not yet been fully restored. !e are still waiting and longing for the fullness of the restoration that will occur in us as heirs of "hrist. I once someone say something that, when I first heard it, I thought was really reaching, but I ve revisited her thoughts over the years and maybe there was more to it than I gave her credit for. +he said that when Adam and 7ve were in the Garden of 7den before they sinned, they were covered with the glory of the ,ord, that is, with a bright light, a glow of glory that covered their nakedness. !hen they sinned, the glory faded and they saw that they were naked and they were ashamed. !hat )aul says here in .omans may /ust support this thought. Also, in the book of .evelation, the fully restored saints are described as being clothed in fine linen. .evelation (C45FB states4 5 ,et us re/oice and be glad and give him gloryH Gor the wedding of the ,amb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. B Gine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.L 3Gine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.6 >I@ *ohn tells us that he is speaking in symbolic terms here. He said, 1Gine linen stand for the righteousness of the saints.2 It may be that one day, when the suffering of this mortal e8istence has passed, that the children of God will e8perience the fullness of the reverse of the curse and the glory will be returned as the white wedding dress of the Bride of "hrist.

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#HE $&7 .4 $&E1#,.!hen Adam sinned, not only did humanity lose its glory, but creation become sub/ect to

the curse as well. "reation does not e8ist in the state that God originally created it. 7arthAuakes, hurricanes, poisonous snakes, mosAuitoesJthese things, which cause devastation and pestilence upon the earth, are the result of the fall. (C Gor the earnest e8pectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. #= Gor the creation was sub/ected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who sub/ected it in hopeE "reation felt the impact of the fall of man. The entire created orderJfrom vegetation to animal life, to the sky, the earth and seaJall were affected by the sin of Adam. +o creation is waiting for the full redemption of humanity so that the created order itself may be restored to what God intended it to be. )aul said, 1"reation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God2 3#(6. In the meantime, 1creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now2 3##6. "an you hear the cry of creation as it awaits the restoration of the glory to humanity9 The convulsing of the earth in Auakes and volcanoesE the tears of creation in floods and tsunamisE and the desperation of creation in famines and droughts, all reveal that creation is groaning as it looks forward to the day when humanity and the habitat of humanity are delivered from the curse and restored in God s glory.

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#HE H.PE .4 H/M1-,#7


>ot only does creation groan, 1but we, who have the firstfruits of the +pirit, even we

ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body2 3#$6. !e have been born again, we have the down payment, the firstfruits, but the full restoration of glory to our human condition is still a future hope. !e may be redeemed, we may be restored and renewed, but our bodies are still laboring under the weight of the curse. !e still

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face death, we still get sick, we still feel pain, we still suffer in this mortal frame, but we do so with the hope that one day 3and I believe it won t be long6, these present sufferings will be swallowed up in victory. This is not hope, as the world hopes. This is not some pipedream that may nor may not come to pass. This is a "hristian hopeE it is rooted and grounded in the promises of God. !e don t see it, but we received the down payment when we were born again. !e already have the firstfruits, and that is God s guarantee that what He has begun in us, He shall continue to perform, or perfect, until the day He calls us home. And so, in the meantime, 1we eagerly wait for it with perseverance2 3#&6. !e confidently hold on to the promises of God and we keep our eyes on the pri;e. "reation groans and we groan for the restoration of the glory that will return when our hope ends in sight and our faith is fulfilled in the restoration of all things under "hrist. I ll be honest, I find myself groaning for that day. I get frustrated with the frailness of my human e8istence. ,ife is so fragile and fraught with uncertainty. )eople I know one day, are gone the ne8t. Time and age sap the strength from our bodies so that even though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. Thirty years ago, my father was a tall strong man who stood erect and who walked with assurance. Thirty years later, I found a balding man in a wheelchair with shoulders slumped and eyes dimmed. He walks very slowly, haltingly now, with cane in hand. He can t see to drive, or read, and his body is riveted with scars of numerous surgeries. This is the curse of corruption that afflicts the human condition, but this is not the destiny of the children of God. !e are heirs of God and /oint heirs with *esus "hrist. These present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed in us.

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)aul states in "olossians (4#5 that the 1glorious riches2 of the mystery is, 1"hrist in you, the hope of glory.2 As believers, we have "hrist in us here and now, but we live with the hope, the future e8pectation of the glory that will be restored. )aul said in ( "orinthians (&4&(F&$ &( Behold, I show you a mysteryE !e shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, &# In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump4 for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. &$ Gor this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ?*@ The Apostle *ohn said in (*ohn $4$ # Beloved, now we are children of GodE and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. >?*@ +o we groan within ourselves as we look forward to that day when we are completely restored in the image and likeness of God and the glory is revealed in us. But not only does creation groan, and not only do we groan, but the Holy +pirit groans.

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#HE G&.1- .4 G.!


,ook at verses #' through #54 #' ,ikewise the +pirit also helps in our weaknesses. Gor we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the +pirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. #5 >ow He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the +pirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. !hile we remain in these mortal frames, until the day that the hope of restored glory ends

in sight, the Holy +pirit is here to help us, to empower us and enable us to be and do what God has called us to be and do. +ometimes it is difficult, sometimes we aren t sure what we should do, and we aren t even sure how we should pray, but in those times, the Holy +pirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The fact that the +pirit groans, seems to be a continuation of the theme of groaning as we await the completion of redemption and the restoration of glory. God helps us as we walk this

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earth, but God Himself groans within us, intercedes through us, and enables us to have the victory even as we await the glory that will be revealed in us. The groan of creation, the groan of the children of God, and the groan of God through the Holy +pirit in us, all speak to an earnest e8pectation, a desire that has yet to be fulfilled, but which hope anticipates and faith awaits. I was created to soar with eagles, not to live like a turkey. Humanity, created in the image and likeness of God, was covered in His glory, we were clothed in the pure light of undiminished holiness and righteousness, and we were freed from the fetters and chains of the mortality and corruption that sin brought into our human condition. But this present suffering does not compare with the glory that shall be revealed in us. It may feel like a long dark tunnel with no light at the end, but we are waiting for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our +avior, *esus "hrist. Det even in this time of human frailness, we are not alone. The Holy +pirit is our intercessor, interceding for us according to the will of God.

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#HE 41#HE&2 41,#H4/L-E22


!e are weak, but He is strong. !e are frail, but He is omnipotent. !e are limited in

what we know or see, but God is omniscient, and He is working for us on our behalf to insure our triumph over all the trials, tribulations, storms and suffering that this life can throw at us. Gor this reason )aul could proclaim in verse #B #B And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. He didn t say everything we e8perience in life would be pleasant, or good, or en/oyable. !e know better than thatH But what )aul promised, was that God would take everything in our life and work it together for good. The devil may mean it for evil, but if we are called according to God s purpose, if we are pursuing His plans for our life, then God will work it out for good.

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God already knew what you d be facing and He already had the answer ready before you even knew there would be problem. God has designed a destiny for you and if you will follow Him, He ll get you from these present sufferings, to the hope of glory. God has a plan for your life. ,ook at verses #C and $= #C Gor whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His +on, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. $= 0oreover whom He predestined, these He also calledE whom He called, these He also /ustifiedE and whom He /ustified, these He also glorified.

$.-$L/2,.If you are a child of God, then you are an heir of God and a /oint heir of *esus "hrist, and it s /ust a matter of time until God s plan is completely unfurled and the glory of God is released. -on t let these present sufferings slow you down, don t let the attack of the enemy or weakness of flesh rob you of the glory that is waiting. The glory that is waiting will so overshadow and overwhelm all the suffering that you have endured in this life until the deepest and darkest hurt that you ve had to endure will be swallowed up in the glory and lost in the victory. There are some of you here today who feel like you are in that dark tunnel. There are some folks here today who are discouraged and the frailty of the flesh has been a heavy weight upon your faith. 0aybe your struggle is with feeling of inadeAuacy. Dou feel like you re not good enough or talented enough. Gor some that frailty is e8perienced in physical weakness and even sickness. Gor others, the frailty of the flesh is e8perienced in the desires of the flesh, the lust of the flesh for things that contrary to the will and the !ord of God. But whatever the nature of challenge, God sent me by the "onyers "hurch of God to tell you not to Auit, not to give up, because there is glory ahead. There is an inheritance in "hrist *esus that you have only tasted, you ve only e8perienced the firstfruits, you haven t even begun to enter into the harvest.

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If you need to come forward today, and in coming forward declare to the devil, declare to your flesh, testify to the church that even though you have been suffering, even though you ve felt like you ve been in a storm with no letFup in sight, you re walking by faith and you are going for the glory. Dou won t Auit, and the devil can t stop you.

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COVENANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" 9)8(*8<
$( !hat then shall we say to these things9 If God is for us, who can be against us9 $# He who did not spare His own +on, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things9 $$ !ho shall bring a charge against GodKs elect9 It is God who /ustifies. $% !ho is he who condemns9 It is "hrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. $& !ho shall separate us from the love of "hrist9 +hall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword9 $' As it is written4 LGor Dour sake we are killed all day longE !e are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.L $5 Det in all these things we are more than conAuerors through Him who loved us. $B Gor I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, $C nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in "hrist *esus our ,ord. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.In my !ednesday night class, we are studying the concept of covenant as it relates to marriage. !e live in a contractForiented society, but the Bible was written in a covenant culture. If you follow sports at all, you reali;e that contracts are made and broken with ease. A team or university writes and signs a contract with a coach and, in theory, commits to this person for a stated number of years. But when the coach doesn t get the team to the level that the season ticket holders, the athletic boosters or the alumni think the team should be, there is a clamor for a new coach. +o, the coach is let go. They may have to pay the coach off, but the time of commitment to that coach is cancelled and the relationship between that coach and that university is ended.

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:nfortunately, this same contract mentality has entered into marriage, into church, into families, and even into our relationship with God. As long as the spouse meets our demands, we ll stay married, but if he or she doesn t cut it, we cut him or her loose. That s not a covenant. !e ll attend the church as long as our shopping list of church benefits matches our desires, but if we find that a pet ministry /ust isn t measuring up, we write off the relationships we ve build at that church and we move on. If God doesn t answer every prayer the way we want, if we find ourselves in a storm, if we planned on endless blessings of wealth and health, and God isn t paying up, then we stop praying, reading the Bible, or attending worship. That isn t a covenantH God doesn t operate from a contractual perspective. God has entered into covenant with believers. This is a blood covenant. *esus said in ,uke ##4#=, 1This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.2 !e refer to the <ld and >ew Testaments, but we would be more accurate to refer to the old and new covenants. In a covenant, two parties enter into a relationship that is binding and permanent. God chose, through the blood of His only begotten +on, to enter into covenant with whosoever will, with anyone who will believe and receive the gift of grace through faith. !e may be up and down, in and out, here today and gone tomorrow, but God is faithful to the covenant. ,ook at our te8t. )aul couldn t have stated this truth any more powerfully than we find in these eight verses. )aul asks a series of si8 Auestions that are intended to get us to understand the nature of God s covenant relationship with us. )aul had already demonstrated in the earlier chapters, how that this was a new covenant and that the old covenant anticipated and moved humanity into this new relationship with God. A relationship based on grace and faith, and not on works or ritual.

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By faith, we receive the benefits of the blood sacrifice of "hrist upon the cross, and we enter into a covenant relationship with God. I believe that )aul lists the benefits of this covenant in an ascending order of importance. The first is God s protection, the second is God s provision, the third is "hrist as our advocate, and the fourth is God s persistent love. ,ove is the ape8 of this chapter. !e hear much about provision in modern commerciali;ed "hristianity, and I believe in God s provision, but this is not the primary point that )aul is making. It is God s love that initiates the covenant relationship, and it is God s love that binds Him to it and to us. Having said that, let s go back and look at how )aul s description of this covenant relationship progresses from protection to persistent love.

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G.!2 P&.#E$#,.@erse $( asks two Auestions. The first Auestion 31!hat shall we say to these things926,

ties in what )aul is about to say, with what he has already said, namely, that we are heirs and /oint heirs with "hrist. !e are /ustified and glorified in "hrist. These facts open up many considerations. The first of which is rhetorically e8pressed in the second Auestion, 1If God is for us, who can be against us92 A rhetorical Auestion is a Auestion that implies the answer. It is actually more of a statement than a Auestion. !e could rephrase it in the form of a statement to say, 1If God is for us, it doesn t matter who is against us.2 0ost versions of the Bible translate it to ask, 1who can be against us,2 and when phrased like that we find ourselves coming up with a list of namesJthe person at work is against us, the neighbor is against us, everyone driving on the highways around Atlanta is against us. )aul isn t saying that we will never face oppositionE he has already assured us that we will, but what )aul is really saying is that no one who opposes us can defeat us.

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!e should never give upE we should never throw in the towel. God has entered into a covenant with us and in this covenant He has committed Himself to us as our protector. He will walk with us. He will hold our hand. He is the strong tower that righteous run into and they are safe. His is our shield and our sword. He ll take care of us. If God is for us, who can defeat us9 >o oneH !e need to let the enemy know that we can t be defeated and we won t Auit, so he s in a heap of trouble. !e used to sing an old chorus in church that said4 I command you +atan, in the name of the ,ord, )ick up your weapons and fleeE Gor the ,ord has given me authority To stomp all over thee. !e don t come in our own name. !e are the children of God and He is for us, not against us. !e are /oint heirs with "hrist, and we come in the name of ,ord. -avid said to Goliath in ( +amuel (54%&, 1Dou come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a /avelin. But I come to you in the name of the ,<.- of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied2 3>?*@6. !e shouldn t go through life peeking around corners to see if the devil is in the room waiting to pounce on us. The devil ought to be looking out for us. He ought to get nervous when we walk into !alF0art. He ought to be backing into the corner when we visit hospitals and /ails. >ot because of who we are, but because God is for usH !e are the servants of the 0ost High God and He has given us the authority to be victorious.

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G.!2 P&.3,2,.)aul asks another Auestion4 $# He who did not spare His own +on, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things9

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In short, if God gave His only begotten +on for us, then what would God withhold from us9 !hen God gave His +on, He was giving us freedom, victory, salvation, reconciliation, and /ustification. If God gave His +on, then we should never think that we have to earn God s favor to merit heaven. He already gave the best that heaven had to offer, and through Him God gave everything we need pertaining unto life. *esus said, 1If you abide in 0e, and 0y words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you2 3*ohn (&45, >?*@6. God gave His +on and through Him God gave us the wellspring of life. !e don t have to earn it, God gives it freely. !e don t have buy it, God gives it freely. The old song said4 0ercy there was great, and grace was freeE )ardon there was multiplied to meE There my burdened soul found liberty At "alvaryH If you are a child of God, if the !ords of *esus are the roadmap for your life, then you have been promised by God that He will provide.

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#HE 1!3.$1#E 4.& G.!2 PE.PLE


$$ !ho shall bring a charge against GodKs elect9 It is God who /ustifies. $% !ho is he who condemns9 It is "hrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. In verses $$ and $% )aul asks who can condemn us. The only person who has the right to

/udge us is *esus, He earned that right on "alvary, and yet far from being the prosecuting attorney, *esus is our advocate. *esus is on our side and He s never lost a case. He is at the right Hand of the Gather speaking on our behalf. The enemy may try to smear your name, but *esus sets the record straight. )eople around you may spread lies and vicious rumors, but you don t have to respond by getting down on their level, because *esus has already ascended to the right hand of the Gather and He s setting the record straight. There s a saying in the courts that a man who

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represents himself has a fool for a lawyer. !hen I m living in the light of God s !ord, I don t have worry about defending myself every time someone says something. As long as I m doing God s work, I already know someone, somewhere, will be badmouthing me. But *esus is my advocate, so I refuse to get mad or try to get even. 1M@engeance is mine, says the ,ord, MI will repay 2 3.om. (#4(C6. The !riter of Hebrews tells us the same thing in Hebrews 54#& #& !herefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. ?*@ In this covenant relationship we have the assurance that God is for us and *esus is on our side.

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G.!2 PE&2,2#E-$E
@erses $& through $C wrap up this section of .omans. In chapters C through (( )aul will

turn to the relationship between the "hurch and the *ews. But before going there, )aul brings this section of .omans to a rousing crescendo celebrating the love of God. )aul tells us two things about God s love here. Girst, He tells us that God s love is persistent. $& !ho shall separate us from the love of "hrist9 +hall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword9 $B Gor I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, $C nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in "hrist *esus our ,ord. There is nothing that we will face in heaven or on earth that will be able to sever the bands of God s love. The )salmist illustrates God s persistent love in )salm ($C45F(= 5 !hither shall I go from thy spirit9 or whither shall I flee from thy presence9 B If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there4 if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. C If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the seaE

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(= 7ven there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. ?*@ !e use the word love so loosely in our day. It comes and goes, it is alive one minute and dead the ne8t, but the love of God holds on and won t let go. God loves you. The second thing )aul tells us about God s love is that it empowers us to prevail. ,ook at verses $' and $5 $' As it is written4 LGor Dour sake we are killed all day longE !e are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.L $5 Det in all these things we are more than conAuerors through Him who loved us. He doesn t say that we are more than conAuerors because we have great faith. He doesn t say we are more than conAuerors because we so holy. He doesn t say that we are more than conAuerors because we are so talented, or gifted, or spiritual. )aul says that even though we may suffer, we may feel as though we are sheep taken to slaughter, yet in all these things, in the worst of conditions and situations we can imagine, in the most intense times of personal pain and persecution, we are still more than conAuerors through Him who loved us. -eath itself cannot defeat us because to live is "hrist and to die is gain 3)hil (4#(6. As heirs and /oint heirs, we are partakers of the victory that *esus won at "alvary. The Apostle )aul said in 7phesians #4%F' % But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, & 7ven when we were dead in sins, hath Auickened us together with "hrist . . . ' And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in "hrist *esus 3?*@6 !e are more than conAuerors because in "hrist, the victory has already been won, the victory is assured. It doesn t matter what life throws at you, it doesn t matter who comes against you, it doesn t even matter if you facing death itself, God s love makes you more than a conAueror. Because God loves you, your victory has already been bought and paid for. All you

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have to do is walk by faith, trust in God, and let His !ord lead you into your reward. This is the covenant that God has made with those will respond to His grace.

$.-$L/2,..emember, this isn t a contract that God is going to back out of. This is the new covenant in the blood of *esus. This is a covenant that insures God s protection, God s provision, the advocacy of *esus, and the persistence of God s love. This is a covenant in which God is telling us that He is for us, not against us. He s not looking for a reason to keep you out of heaven, but He has done everything possible to make a way for the vilest of sinners to become His child and to become an heir of heaven. In this covenant, *esus is your defender. He s on your side. All you have to do is to pray, one call, that s all. In this covenant, God s love persists and we prevail. 0aybe you grew up to believe that God is looking for a reason to keep you out of heaven. 0aybe you never really understood the height and depth, the length and breadth of God s love. 0aybe you never comprehended the power of God s love to enable you prevail in all things. 0aybe you never understood that you are more than a conAueror through Him who loved us. If that s you, then this is why you re here today and I m preaching this sermon. God is for you, so it doesn t matter who is against you. *esus is on your side, so it doesn t matter what anyone says about you. God loves you, so it doesn t matter what happens, you are more than a conAueror. If you ve never asked *esus into your life, to be your +avior, you don t know what you re missing. <r if you ve strayed from the ,ord, today all you have to do is repent, which simply means, to turn around, and you ll find He s right there, He s been there all the time waiting for you return to Him. He s on your side and He loves you.

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DONT MISUNDERSTAND THE PLAN


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans <)(*2<
( I tell the truth in "hrist, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy +pirit, # that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. $ Gor I could wish that I myself were accursed from "hrist for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, % who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promisesE & of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, "hrist came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. ' But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. Gor they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 5 nor are they all children because they are the seed of AbrahamE but, LIn Isaac your seed shall be called.L B That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of GodE but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. C Gor this is the word of promise4 LAt this time I will come and +arah shall have a son.L (= And not only this, but when .ebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac ((3for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls6, (# it was said to her, LThe older shall serve the younger.L ($ As it is written, L*acob I have loved, but 7sau I have hated.L (% !hat shall we say then9 Is there unrighteousness with God9 "ertainly notH (& Gor He says to 0oses, LI will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.L (' +o then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (5 Gor the +cripture says to the )haraoh, LGor this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show 0y power in you, and that 0y name may be declared in all the earth.L (B Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (C Dou will say to me then, L!hy does He still find fault9 Gor who has resisted His will9L #= But indeed, < man, who are you to reply against God9 !ill the thing formed say to him who formed it, L!hy have you made me like this9L #( -oes not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor9 ## !hat if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, #$ and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, #% even us whom He called, not of the *ews only, but also of the Gentiles9 #& As He says also in Hosea4

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LI will call them 0y people, who were not 0y people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.L #' LAnd it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,K Dou are not 0y people, There they shall be called sons of the living God.L #5 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel4 LThough the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. #B Gor He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the ,<.- will make a short work upon the earth.L #C And as Isaiah said before4 L:nless the ,<.- of +abaoth had left us a seed, !e would have become like +odom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.L >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever been misunderstood9 Dou meant one thing, but someone took it another way. Dou ;igged and they ;agged. Dou meant to encourage, but they left discouraged. Dou intended to build up, but they felt torn down. I read the following story online4 A couple that had been married for &= years and a party was thrown for their golden anniversary. The husband was very moved by the occasion and wanted to tell his wife how much he thought of her. +he was hard of hearing, however, and often misunderstood what he said. !ith family and friends gathered around, he toasted her and said, 10y dear wife, after &= years I ve found you tried and trueH2 7veryone clapped for them, but his wife was a little irritated and asked, 1!hat did you say92 He spoke louder, 1After &= years, I ve found you tried and trueH2 The wife was now visibly upset and shouted back, 1!ell, after &= years I m tired of you, tooH2 3?ent "rockettKs +ermon Illustrations, www.kentcrockett.com6

At this point in the 7pistle of .omans, the Apostle )aul knew that his message might be in danger of being misunderstood. He had been making the point that one could not gain righteousness by the works of the ,aw. He made the point that the spiritual offspring of

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Abraham were not those who were born *ewish, but those who by faith in "hrist were made righteous by the grace of God. Gurthermore, )aul is about to address these facts in more detail in the ne8t three chapters, so he wants to set the record straight. )aul was not an antiF+emite. Indeed, )aul was a *ew, born of the tribe of Ben/amin, circumcised on the eighth day. The Holy +pirit was using )aul to bring a message of hope to the Gentiles, and at the same time send a message of warning to the *ews. They could no longer hope to gain right standing with God through the ,aw, nor could they e8pect to be right by virtue of being born a *ew. It was now an issue of grace and faith in "hrist. This did not mean that )aul had written off his own people. This did not mean that )aul was not sensitive to the plight of the *ewish people. Through years of persecution and servitude at the hands of foreign nations, they had endured generations of suffering, and )aul is aware of this. )aul makes it clear that his heart breaks for his people. ,ook with me at verses ( through $.

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P1/L2 G&,E4
( I tell the truth in "hrist, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy +pirit, # that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. $ Gor I could wish that I myself were accursed from "hrist for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, )aul loves his countrymen so affectionately and so passionately that he says that he

would be willing to sacrifice eternity in the presence of God, and be condemned to eternal punishment, if his sacrifice could purchase their salvation. <f course, he knows that there could be no greater sacrifice than that of the +on of God. +till, )aul doesn t want there to be any misunderstanding, he is not against the *ews, he is not trying to put them down, or to speak ill of them. He loves them. His heart aches for them when he considers the fact that the ma/ority of

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them did not recogni;e their own 0essiah. They were continuing to rely on a religion that had been fulfilled in "hrist and rendered null and void in attaining right standing with God.

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G.!2 G,4#2
)aul points out that they had so much going for them. They had a great advantage over the

Gentiles. The *ews should have been leading the way in accepting and receiving "hrist as their +avior and ,ord. ,ook at verses % and &. +peaking of his countrymen, )aul says4 % who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promisesE & of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, "hrist came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. They had been adopted by God to be His children. They had the glory of God burning like a fire on the mercy seat of the Ark of the "ovenant, in the 0ost Holy )lace of the temple. They had the covenants that God had made with Abraham, with Israel, and with -avid. They had the ,aw of 0oses as a moral guide. They had been chosen to serve God, to receive promises from God and were the offspring of the seed of promise. ,ast but not least, it was through the *ewish people that the +on of God, the 0essiah, had been born to bless all nations. They had so much going for them, and yet the ma/ority of them would not turn to *esus as their ,ord. There are probably people here today who could relate to )aul s grief. Dou ve known people who had so much going for them, but they give it all up. +ome of you watched your children grow up, and you could see their potential, you could see the promise, you could see the talent and gifts they possessed, but they sAuandered it all. They didn t even try. Dou can see that road that they re on is leading them in the wrong direction, but they /ust won t wake up. !hat can you do9 ,ike )aul, you pray, your cry, and you plead with them, but in the end it is between them and God.

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As a pastor, I ve watched people with potential waste it all. I ve felt the frustration of feeling helpless as people were so distracted and their priorities were so distorted until they were no longer able to minister effectively in the church. ,ike )aul, I ve cried many tears, I ve spent many restless night, I ve prayed countless prayers for people that I knew could move mountains in the kingdom, if only they would reali;e how much they had going for them. They have God on their sideE they have brothers and sisters in "hristE they are heirs and /ointFheirs with *esusE and they have every reason to be a blessing and to do great e8ploits for God. But they fail and they fall because they are focused more on what others have and what others are doing than they are on what they could be doing for God. 7ven with all their advantages, Israel had re/ected their own 0essiah. But God had a plan, and His plan unfolds despite the failures of man.

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G.!2 2.3E&E,G-#7
In verses ' through #( )aul goes to great lengths to point out that God is sovereign. In

fact, God is the absolute +overeign of the universe. This means that God doesn t to have to vote on anything and God doesn t have to ask permission to do anything. Gurthermore, everything God does is right. God can choose whomever He wills to choose, because God is God. +ome might say, 1!ell if God picks some for salvation and others for /udgment then God is not fair. )aul puts this very argument in the form of a Auestion, 1(% !hat shall we say then9 Is there unrighteousness with God92 He immediately answers his own Auestion, 1"ertainly notH2 !hat )aul says in these verses must be read against the backdrop of what he has already said. )aul has already pointed out in .oman $4(=F(# (= . . . There is none righteous, no, not one4 (( There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (# They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitableE there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

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The point is that no human ever born deserved salvation through the blood of "hrist. All have sinned, and the wages of sin is death. That is the condition of humanity. To say that God is unfair in not saving everyone is to suggest that all humans deserve salvation. In fact, if God had decided not to offer salvation to anyone, everyone would be getting what they deserved. +o, for God to choose Abraham, Isaac, and *acob, to raise up a people through whom the hope of humanity would be born, is all by mercy. >either human will nor design formulated the plan of salvation. God said to 0oses4 (& . . . LI will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.L (' +o then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Again, anticipating the argument of the *ews )aul gives voice to their Auestion in verse (C4 (C Dou will say to me then, L!hy does He still find fault9 Gor who has resisted His will9L #= But indeed, < man, who are you to reply against God9 !ill the thing formed say to him who formed it, L!hy have you made me like this9L #( -oes not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor9 +ome see here a clear argument in favor of unconditional predestination. There are some who argue that God has predestined some to salvation and others to eternal punishment. Therefore, they say, it doesn t matter what we do, or how we live, because it has all been predetermined. Again, what )aul says here must be understood in light of what he has previously said. In chapter B, verses #BF$= )aul writes4 #C Gor whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His +on, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. $= 0oreover whom He predestined, these He also calledE whom He called, these He also /ustifiedE and whom He /ustified, these He also glorified. God, looking through time, knew who would respond to His call, and those whom God knew would respond, were predestined to be /ustified and glorified in "hrist.

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There is an old song that says, 1!hen He was on the cross, I was on His mind.2 Grom the cross God looked down through history and saw my wife and me kneeling at an old fashioned altar at the "aribou, 0aine, "hurch of God. God saw, He foreknew, that we would respond to His call and before I had even heard His call, God had a plan for my life. However, /ust as God had a plan for Abraham, Isaac, and *acob, /ust as God had a plan for all those who would respond by faith to God s offer of grace, God also has a plan for those who refuse the call. God gave )haraoh every opportunity to respond by letting Israel go, but )haraoh hardened his heart, and hardened his heart, until after repeated opportunities to respond, &od hardened )haraoh s heart. God doesn t create people so that He can send them to hell. God isn t looking for a reason to keep the lost out of heaven. God has made every opportunity for whosoever will to respond and surrender their life to God. But if they refuse His gift of grace, God has a plan for that as well. ,30 #HE GE-#,LE2 .PP.&#/-,#7 B33" 22*2>0 Again, some *ewish readers would misunderstand )aul s words. They would argue that for God to bring in the Gentiles now, after all that the *ewish people had been through, was unfair. But )aul tells us that God had a plan all along. God was enduring the wickedness of the unrighteous so that He could reveal His mercy in those whom He called. !ho did He call9 He called those whom He foreknew would respond and therefore predestined them to be His own. In those who respond, God makes known the riches of His mercy. !e all deserved wrath and /udgment, but because we responded to grace, we get glory. That s mercyH !e hear a lot about God s /udgment, and about God s wrath, and there is a hell to shun, but I m still ama;ed at the mercy of God that could reach down into a dirty pit and get a hold of sinner

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like me. I look in the mirror every morning and I m reminded that God is rich in mercy. I didn t deserve one drop of blood that *esus shed on "alvary. I deserved wrath. I deserved to be paid the wages of my sins, but God is rich in mercy. I once read that grace is giving us what we didn t deserve, and mercy is not giving what we did deserve. The Gentiles were idol worshippers. The Gentiles had persecuted the "hildren of Israel. The Gentiles practiced human sacrifice, even causing their own children to be sacrificed by forcing them to pass through the fires of 0olech. The Gentiles did not worship Dahweh. The Gentiles did not have the ,aw of 0oses. The Gentiles did nothing to merit God s grace. They deserved wrath, but they obtained mercy, and that is )aul s point, no one, not even the *ews, merited grace or mercy. Det God has always had a plan for whosoever will. 7ven before the Gentiles knew that God had a plan, God had a plan. ,ook at verse #& #& As He says also in Hosea4 LI will call them 0y people, who were not 0y people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.L #' LAnd it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,K Dou are not 0y people, KThere they shall be called sons of the living God.L Thank God, He had plan for plain ole Gentiles like me. I have no claim to God s grace based on my birth. I have no right to grace based on my good behavior. In fact, nothing in my hands I bring, only to Thy cross I cling. Dou may feel like nobody from nowhere, but God has a plan for your life. Gurthermore, God has a plan for Israel. Though most of Israel have re/ected their own 0essiah, that will not stop God from showing mercy on those who accept "hrist as ,ord. #5 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel4 LThough the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. #B Gor He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the ,<.- will make a short work upon the earth.L

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#C And as Isaiah said before4 L:nless the ,<.- of +abaoth had left us a seed, !e would have become like +odom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.L

$.-$L/2,.The Apostle )aul wanted to clear up any misunderstanding. He was saying, 1I m not disrespecting my own race, my own countrymen. God hasn t given up on Israel, but He has preserved a remnant who do believe and who have accepted "hrist as their own. God isn t unfair in accepting Gentiles into the family of faith. *ews and Gentiles alike, who have accepted *esus as their +avior, are all members of the spiritual Israel of God. As the prophets of old attest, this has been God s plan all along. It may seem like it was a long time in coming, but God had a plan. I always hate choosing sides for a team. Dou know . . . when two people stand and take turns picking people out of a group to form teams. I didn t hate it because I got picked last, because I was rarely picked lastJunless we were playing basketball. But I always hated it because someone had to be last and I felt bad for that kid who suddenly reali;ed that out of all the people standing there, he or she was the last choice, therefore, presumably the least desirable, the least wanted, the final straw. God may let us wait until it seems like we are last so that He can reveal the richness of His mercy. God did show mercy to Israel first, but God had not forgotten the Gentiles. *esus Himself said, 1+o the last shall be first, and the first last2 30att. #=4('6. ,ast is not least, in the kingdom of God. God delights in taking the underdog, the last one picked, the one overlooked and passed over, to do something great with their lives. God has a plan for you. He foreknew, He predestined, He has plans, a destiny for your life. Dou may feel like you re last, but wasn t -avid the last of *essie s sons to be brought before

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+amuel, and -avid was anointed ?ing9 -avid was the youngest, the smallest, the seemingly least significant of *essie s sons, but this was the one God chose. !asn t Isaac the second of Abraham s sons, but Isaac was the seed of promise. !asn t *acob younger than 7sau, but God chose the younger over the elder. God hasn t forgotten you, and God isn t punishing you. God sees potential in you. He sees possibility in you and if you will surrender to His plans for your life, then your destiny will unfold in ways that you cannot ask or imagine. +omeone here has misunderstood God. Dou thought God forgot you, but you are not forgotten, He knows your name. He s about ready to take the last and the least and bring you to front of the line. It may be at work, it may be in your school, it may be in ministry, but do not misunderstand the plan of God. He s rich in mercy. If you re here and you re prepared to completely surrender to the plan of God for your life, then you need to come on. 0aybe you ve been a little mad at God. Dou thought He forgot you, but He sent me to tell you that He see you, and He hears you, and He s about to move you from the back of the line, to the front.

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THE FAITH THAT WE LIVE


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans <)80*(0)>
C4$= !hat shall we say then9 That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faithE $( but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. $# !hy9 Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. Gor they stumbled at that stumbling stone. $$ As it is written4 LBehold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.L (=4( Brethren, my heartKs desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. # Gor I bear them witness that they have a ;eal for God, but not according to knowledge. $ Gor they being ignorant of GodKs righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. % Gor "hrist is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

,-#&.!/$#,.!e hear a lot of talk about faith these days, but I m not sure the average "hristian even has a grasp of what faith is. They believe in the good news, but beyond that, faith remains a mystery. +ome see faith as a tool to get what they want from God. <thers see faith as a feeling that comes and goes. There are those who believe that faith is a doctrine to be debated. +ome think they have faith at a level that places them on a higher spiritual level than everyone else. Then again, some feel like they don t have any faith at all. +till, despite the confusion, the delusions, and the distortions, faith remains at the heart of the "hristian message. !e are told that we are saved by grace through faith, and the very faith that allows us to believe is itself a gift from God 37ph. #4B6. !e are told that God has given a measure of faith to everyone 3.om. (#4$6. !e are told that faith without works is dead 3*a. #4#'6. And we are told that without faith, it is impossible to please God 3Heb. ((4'6.

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+o we can clearly see that faith is essential to the "hristian e8perience, but the problem is that we struggle to understand what faith really is, and we struggle with how faith figures into a victorious "hristian life. The issue of faith was at the core of the problem, and at the same at the heart of the promise, in the relationship between *ews who continued to depend upon works of the ,aw for right standing with God, and Gentiles who received "hrist. Today I want us to look with the Apostle )aul at the issue of faith as it relates to our salvation. Before I do that, let me e8plain that this particular line of reasoning, as e8pressed by )aul, begins in what we refer to as .omans chapter C, verse $=. The Bible was not originally written in chapters and verses. These designations are helpful in locating te8ts, but it wasn t until the si8teenth century that they were added to the te8t as we now know them. +o it is necessary for the purpose of our study today, to begin at chapter C, verse $=, and continue through the end of chapter (=. )aul indicates that he is entering into a new focus in his discussion by asking a Auestion, 1!hat shall we say then92 This Auestion moves the conversation forward to consider the role of faith as the means by which Gentiles enter into covenant relationship with God, and the lack of faith in "hrist is the reason why the *ews, by and large, were failing to enter into covenant relationship with God. Before we engage the te8t, let me e8plain a few things about faith. Girst of all, when the Bible refers to faith, it refers both to the sub/ect and the ob/ective aspects of the word. The Greek word is pistis, and it is a noun referring both to the teachings of the Apostles, or the 1the faith which was once delivered unto the saints2 3*ude $6, and it is referring to the capacity to believe. In fact, the word 1believe2 3pistos6 is the verb form of the same Greek word translated

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faith. Gaith is what we have, and believe is what we do. Gaith is what we believe in, and faith is also what enables us to believe. In this message today, I want to talk about discovering faith, distorting faith, defining faith, and delivering faith. ,ook at chapter C, verses $=F$$4

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!,2$.3E&,-G 41,#H
$= !hat shall we say then9 That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of fai%hE $( but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. $# !hy9 Because they did not seek it by fai%h, but as it were, by the works of the law. Gor they stumbled at that stumbling stone. $$ As it is written4 LBehold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.L The Auestion on the minds of the *ewish believers was how Gentiles could be included in

the covenant community of faith. If *esus came to fulfill the ,aw of 0oses, how could that be of any benefit to the Gentiles who had never been under the ,aw9 )aul has already pointed out that the *ewish race was a race of faith from the beginning with Abraham, so the Gentile were included the same way Abraham was, by faith. To the e8tent that this relationship was build upon believing in, trusting, and obeying God, it was a faith relationship. +uch faith predated the ,aw, and now it would postFdate the ,aw. How could the Gentiles be included9 They were included because they came by faith and faith alone. They had nothing to add to it, and nothing to take from it. It was a righteousness of faith in "hrist. The Gentiles discovered the faith that set them free and those who become believers were righteous through faith in the work of "hrist, and not through works of righteousness which they had done. +ome of us grew up in homes trying to do enough to earn our parents love. +ome of you never felt as though you ever merited your parent s love. )eople grown up like that often live the

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rest of their lives trying to earn the approval of others by what they do. But God doesn t e8pect us to earn His love. His love is freely given and available. The Gentiles believers had discovered in "hristianity, a faith in which they were not /udged by the offerings they brought to the pagan temples, they were did not have to try to appease an angry God who would e8plode like 0ount @esuvius and capriciously cover them in fiery lava. Instead, they found a God, or more precisely, God found them, and in Him they found a God who asks only that they believe in Him. In "hristianity the whole religious world was turned on its head. Both *ews and Gentiles had grown accustomed to making sacrifices. The pagans to their false gods, and the *ews to Dahweh, but in "hristianity they find a God who made the ultimate sacrifice for those He loved and wanted to offer salvation.

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!,2#.&#,-G 41,#H
(=4( Brethren, my heartKs desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. # Gor I bear them witness that they have a ;eal for God, but not according to knowledge. $ Gor they being ignorant of GodKs righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. % Gor "hrist is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Again, the passion of )aul for his people, the *ews, is evident in his words. It was )aul s

desire, and the constant sub/ect of his prayers, that his countrymen would come to the saving knowledge of *esus "hrist. )aul acknowledges the ;eal of the *ewish people, but he points out that ;eal alone is not enough. They have ;eal without knowledge, they refused to see and understand that the works of the ,aw will never make them right with God. It was not what they could do to appease God, but it was about what God had done to receive all people, from all nations, into the household of faith. It wasn t about their sacrifice, it was about His.

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I ve met "hristians who want to give people of false religions some credit for their ;eal. I ve heard people say, 1!ell the *ehovah !itnesses are so sincere, surely God will let them into heaven even if they re misguided. ,ook how they go out and spend their weekends going door to door.2 )aul says that ;eal 3or sincerity6 alone is not enough. !e have to be ;ealous for the right things. !e have to believe in the right things. )aul said that part of the problem with their ignorance was that they refused to submit to the righteousness of God, namely, righteousness through *esus "hrist. They could observe the ,aw until they were blue in the face, they could sacrifice every cow in the .oman 7mpire, but their ;eal and their sincerity alone would never be enough. )aul was praying that they would open their eyes to the truth. The problem was that Israel had distorted their faith to become nothing more than works, nothing more than observation of the rituals of the ,aw. !hat began as faith in God aloneJAbraham leaving :r of "haldea, Isaac reFdigging the wells of his father, *acob wrestling with the angle for a blessing, and 0oses confronting )haraoh with nothing more than a staff in his handJbecame distorted into works and rituals. -on t ever confuse ritual for real faith. I know people who come to church religiously, but church attendance alone does not make one righteous. Going to church week after week does not make one a true believer any more than going to a barn makes them a cow. !e must come in faith, and we must believe that *esus is who the !ord says He is, and have faith that He can do what the !ord says He can do. He can take a sin sick soul and make him whole. He turn a life around and put their feet on the solid ground. He is the ?ing of kings and ,ord of lords. He is the only begotten +on of God, and whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

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As )aul pointed out earlier in this 7pistle, their forefather Abraham did not have the ,aw to lean on. Abraham came by faith. He believed and it was accounted unto him as righteousness. They began as people of faith, but over time, their righteousness was no longer focused on faith, but upon the works of the ,aw. Their faith became distorted. They were trying to gain acceptance by their works, rather than by their faith in God. $.-$L/2,.!hat is the relationship, then between works and faith. After all, *ames writes, 1faith without works is dead.2 !e are saved by faith, and by faith alone. >othing we have done, nothing we can do, will ever surpass the sacrifice that God in "hrist made for us. To try to do anything to add to what "hrist has already done is an insult to the cross. +o our works, our good deeds, our observance of the commands of "hrist do nothing to add to or to merit our salvation. The problem is that some have stopped right there and gone no further in the discussion. !e are not saved by anything we do other than believe and receive what God has done for us, but . . . and this is where so many people stumble . . . we have been saved unto good works. The same Apostle )aul who is telling in .omans that it is by faith alone, is also that one who writes in 7phesians #4(=, 1Gor we are his workmanship, created in "hrist *esus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.2 !e are made righteous by faith in "hrist, and if we are made righteous, and if we are /ustified and sanctified by faith, then we are to live our lives accordingly. If we ve been made righteous, then we will live righteous lives. !hat is a righteous life9 It is a life that conforms to the life of "hrist. It is a life that is being transformed from grace to grace. A /ustified, sanctified, righteous life is a life that is surrendered to the will and the !ord of God.

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It s not enough to say we believe, but if we have entered in that transforming relationship with God, then our lives well reflect that change. *esus said in 0atthew 54#=, 1. . .by their fruits you will know them.2 ,et me give you an e8ample of the change I m talking about. This past week I drove down a oneFway street in "onyers and some carpet installers had pulled the roll of carpet out into the middle of the road and were cutting it there. >o one could go around and it was a long way to back up. They hadn t put out any signs saying the road was closed, they /ust arbitrarily stopped in the middle of the road and started cutting the carpet. I noticed that there was a really wide section of sidewalk right ne8t to them where they could have cut the carpet, so I stepped out of my car and was going to offer to help them move the carpet to the sidewalk. As soon as I got out of my car, one of the two men began to tell me to get back in my car because I wasn t going through that street. I asked, 1-id you consider cutting the carpet over there on the sidewalk92 He said, 1Have you ever tried to move a &== pound roll of carpet92 <f course I knew that if he could drop it in the street, he could have dropped it on the sidewalk. Then he said, 1,isten bubba, /ust get back in your car and back up because you ain t going through hereH2 He said some other things, each time calling me bubba. >ow, I haven t always been a pastor, and I haven t always been a doctor of ministry, and I haven t always worn a suit. I grew up in the hills of !est @irginia with a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. !hen that young man began telling me to get in my car and began calling me bubba, there was a moment there when I felt like showing him how a real bubba handles a situation like that.

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But the Holy +pirit checked me and reminded me that I am a "hristian, I am the pastor of the "onyers "hurch of God, and I will not bring a reproach upon Him or His church by getting into an altercation with this kid. <n the one hand, I didn t want him to think he had intimidated me, or that I was scared of him, but on the other hand it really didn t matter what he thought about me. !hat really matter is what God thinks about me. +o, without saying another word, I got back into my car and me and the other cars behind me back out into a busy intersection and turned around. It wasn t easy to do that. The flesh wanted to rise up and teach this kid a lesson. But I am not my own. I was bought with a price and I will glorify the ,ord in my body and my spirit for they are his. <nce you have received "hrist by faith, as your ,ord and +avior, you must yield yourself to the master s touch. He can do more through you than you can do on your own. He can produce more fruit from your life when you give yourself completely to Him. It isn t always easy, and it sometimes it is a spiritual warfare, but God is honored when we give ourselves, our emotions, our passions, our desires to Him. ,et me ask you today, have you surrendered to God9 Have you emptied yourself and come /ust as you are to Him9 He paid for your invitation. 0aybe you re here and you have an issue with anger. I certainly could and I would if I did not bend my will to God s will. But the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God 3*a. (4#=6. 1It is mine to avengeE I will repay, says the ,ord 3.om. (#4(C, >I@6. I have given my battles to the ,ord. Through the years I ve had people talk about me and tell lies about me. +ometimes someone will say, 1!hy don t you go and tell them off.2 But I have given those battles to the ,ord and friends, He knows how to take care of me.

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To this day, there people who talk about me, and who distort the truth to put me in a bad light, but I can t worry about that. God told me I didn t have to worry about that and I don t have to let anger and wrath ruin my life. *esus is my ,ord and if my life if conformed to His, if His righteousness has been imputed to me, then my words, my walk, my will and my works will all reflect the character of "hrist. >ot to gain my salvation, but as evidence of the fact that I ve been changed, I ve been transformed by the blood of the ,amb. As I wrote this sermon, the Holy +pirit really ministered to me that someone here today would be struggling with anger in your life. It has affected your relationship with your children, or with your parents, or it has affected your marriage or your relationship with the people you work with. If you are born again, then you need to let the character of "hrist be reproduced in you. This is the produce, the fruit that shows the world that you are a child of God.

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THE WORD OF FAITH THAT WE PREACH


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (0)@*(8
& Gor 0oses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, LThe man who does those things shall live by them.L ' But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, L-o not say in your heart, K!ho will ascend into heaven9KL 3that is, to bring "hrist down from above6 5 or, LK!ho will descend into the abyss9KL 3that is, to bring "hrist up from the dead6. B But what does it say9 LThe word is near you, in your mouth and in your heartL 3that is, the word of faith which we preach64 C that if you confess with your mouth the ,ord *esus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (= Gor with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (( Gor the +cripture says, L!hoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.L (# Gor there is no distinction between *ew and Greek, for the same ,ord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. ($ Gor Lwhoever calls on the name of the ,<.- shall be saved.L

,-#&.!/$#,.,ast week we looked at the topic of faith as it relates to salvation and a life that is conforming to the image and likeness of "hrist. !e talked about what a life lived in faith looks like. It is not about how much money we have in the bank, or the car we drive, or the idea that we have so much faith that we never get sick. But faith, first and foremost, is about believing the good news that *esus "hrist is ,ord, that He lived and died and rose again to be our onceFandFforFall sacrifice so that we do not have to earn or merit salvation through our works, but by faith in *esus. In verses & through #C )aul continues this discussion of faith as it relates to righteousness and to salvation. !e are saved by faith, we live by faith, and we walk by faith. As we discussed last week, faith is more than feeling, but faith is trust, confidence, and assurance, in the message of faith as well as in the author and finisher of our faith. <ur victories are not won by some

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circular reasoning where we put faith in faith, and create our own uniAue little doctrines and manmade traditions. The faith that will win the victory is a faith that is place on nothing less than *esus. This is the source and the supply of our salvation, our righteousness and our victories. I dare not lean upon my own strength. I dare not put my faith and hope in a man or a woman, when it comes to where I spend eternity. <n "hrist the solid .ock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. +ome people put their faith in other gods. But not me. +ome people put their faith in Buddha. I ve heard that over in "hina there is a massive statue of Buddha, and if you get sick or have a disease, some believe that if you can get to that statue and rub Buddha s belly, you can get healed. The only other way that you could do this would be if the priests were to lift this statue up, put it on an o8 cart and bring the statue to you. But I don t intend to put my faith in a god that I got to pick him up. 0y faith is in a God who can reach down into the miry clay and pick me up, clean me up, put my feet on the solid ground, and put a new song in my heart. I ve heard that there are people in the +hinto religion who worship the +hinto god. There is an idol of this god that sits on the top of a mountain, and every so often the priests of this religion have to go up and clean the dirt and mud off of this statue. But I don t want to put my faith in a god that I got to clean him up. 0y faith is in a God who can clean me up. 0y faith is in a God who dried me out from an addiction to alcohol. 0y faith is in a God who cleaned up my language and purified my speech. 0y faith is in a God who cleaned me up and imputed righteousness to me.

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There are those in the Hindu religion and in the 0uslim religions that will walk through the streets beating themselves on the back and on the head until their blood begins to flow. But my faith is in a God who took my place and paid my price. Isaiah said4 #b . . .he hath no form nor comelinessE and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. $ He is despised and re/ected of menE a man of sorrows, and acAuainted with grief4 and we hid as it were our faces from himE he was despised, and we esteemed him not. % +urely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows4 yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. & But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniAuities4 the chastisement of our peace was upon hi'E and with his stripes we are healed. 3Isa &$4#F &, ?*@6 This is the God I am going to put my faith inJa God who has already paid the price and paved the way for my salvation. !hat does He ask of us9 He asks us to believe.

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&,GH#E./2-E22 .4 41,#H
,ook at verses & through 5 with me. The people of )aul s time, much like people of our

time, had the attitude that seeing is believing. That is why the works of the ,aw appealed to the *ews. They could ob/ectify their faith. They could go down the checklists of do s and don t s and ob/ectively measure their righteousness. A male *ew could say, 1I was circumcised the eighth day, /ust like the ,aw says. I bring offerings to the Temple at each of the main holidays. I offer only spotless lambs, rams, and bullocks. <f course, I m a good *ew.2 & Gor 0oses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, LThe man who does those things shall live by them.L The problem was that the blood of lambs, goats and bullocks could never atone for sin 3Heb. (=4%6. They were temporary and they anticipated the perfect sacrifice, the ,amb of God who takes away the sins of the world 3*n. (4#C6. All the old covenant sacrifices did, was point to

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*esus. Grom the cross, *esus fulfilled the ,aw and proleptically 3power flowing back through time6 provided forgiveness, even for <ld Testament saints. >ow look at the contrast between the <ld Testament faith and the >ew "ovenant in verse ' and 54 ' But the righteousness of fai%h speaks in this way, L-o not say in your heart, K!ho will ascend into heaven9KL 3that is, to bring "hrist down from above6 5 or, LK!ho will descend into the abyss9KL 3that is, to bring "hrist up from the dead6. I ll be honest, when I first read those verses I didn t get it. These two verses seemed to interrupt the flow of an otherwise understandable argument. !hat are these verses saying. )aul is saying that the faith by which righteousness comes is faith that is 1the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen2 3Heb. ((4(6. This faith doesn t need to bring *esus down from the right hand of God, and this faith 3for those who didn t believe that *esus was resurrected6, doesn t need to produce a living body from the grave. This is faith in the message, faith in the life giving, soul stirring, spirit renewing message that *esus "hrist lived and died, was buried and resurrected, and is today at the right hand of the Gather. The righteousness of faith doesn t say, 1+eeing is believingH2 Instead, it says, 1I believe, I believe, I believe in the +on of God.2 And because I believe, I shall see. 10ine eyes shall behold, and not another2 3*ob (C4#56.

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#HE 5.&! .4 41,#H


,ook at verse B4 B But what does it say9 LThe word is near you, in your mouth and in your heartL 3that is, the word of fai%h which we preach64 The word of faith is not about wealth and health, but it is the message of salvation

through the sacrifice of "hrist. In the Greek, )aul says that it is the rhema of faith. By rhema, )aul is speaking of the spoken word, the preaching of the gospel, the message of 1faith which was once delivered unto the saints2 3*d. $6.

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!hat do you do with this ob/ective faith, this message, this teaching of the life and death, burial and resurrection of *esus9 @erse C4 C that if you confess with your mouth the ,ord *esus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (= Gor with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It is no longer through works of the ,aw, but through faith in the gospel. All that is reAuired, whether one is a *ew or a Gentile, is to confess your faith with your mouth, so that the gospel becomes your word of faith, and second, you must believe in your heart, that God has raised Him from the dead. The resurrection is central to the "hristian faith. But it is an issue of faith because we do not bring *esus down from heaven or produce a body from the grave. Gaith is the evidence of things not seen. It is an issue both of confession and of belief. !ith heart we believe and righteousness through faith is activated. !ith the mouth, confession is made and salvation is imparted. It is both the mouth and the heart. I ve heard people make confessions with their mouth, but their lives revealed that their heart had not believed. It is not enough to mouth a sinner s prayer, but one must believe in their heart. )eople around you may hear you mouth the confession, but only God can see the heart and impart righteousness. I ve known people who claimed with their mouth that they believe, but then with that same mouth they attack and talk about other people. I ve known people who claim to have great faith, but then with that same mouth they gossip and spread rumors. *esus said you will know them by their fruit. *ames said, sweet water and bitter water cannot flow from the same spring. If you know someone like that then you need to distance yourself, because they will infect you and affect you with their bitter water of their own discontent.

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!hen I was in ?ansas, we were building up a wonderful multiFcultural and multiFracial work in *unction "ity. God blessed we grew to become the largest "hurch of God church in the state. But don t you know that when God starts to blessin , the devil gets to messin 9 There was a young African American man in the church who was going through some trials with his ?orean wife. They were separating and the custody of a child was in the mi8. !hen my wife and I met him, he said all the right things. He said he was trusting God. He said that was hungry for God. He seemed appreciative of anything we could do to help him. Gor a while, he was without a home, so we let him sleep on an air mattress in a room in the church. But what we didn t know was that he was a wolf in sheep s clothing. He was saying all the right things to our face, but behind our backs, he was going to the homes of the African American families in the church and telling them that racism was rampant in the church and he was attacking my integrity in the process. By the time I found out about it, three families had left the church. But when I found out the lies, the innuendo, the gossip and rumors that he had been spreading, I hunted him down, I made him go with me to each of the families and say in front of them, what they had been saying about me behind my back. <f course, he lied and tried to wriggle out of it, but each of these families saw for themselves the deception that he had been perpetrating. I was vindicated, the truth will always prevail, but those families had been so traumati;ed by the whole ordeal that the simply couldn t bring themselves to return to the church. )eople who are giving God lip service, without surrendering their heart to God, will be duplicitous, they will say the right things in one conte8t, but then whisper and suggest something else in another conte8t. 0an looks on the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. The writer of Hebrews said it like this4

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(# Gor the word of God is Auick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoFedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the /oints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. ($ >either is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight4 but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 3Heb %4(#F($, ?*@6 That is why, when I preach the !ord, it has a profound way of finding us where we live. If I preach my opinions, or my own personal philosophy, or my politics, then those words will fall flat and be ineffectual in touching hearts and lives. But I m not afraid to stand flatFfooted and preach the !ord and let God do the work that He intends to do in the body of God. And sometimes that includes a spiritual surgical e8traction. If all we are doing is giving God lip service, our sins will find us out and we will be put to open shame. But when we believe in our heart, we will never be put to shame. ,,,0 41,#H #H1# ,2 -.# 12H1ME! ,ook at verse ((4 (( Gor the +cripture says, L!hoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.L If you ve got a Auestion about anything in my life or ministry, you can come to me and ask. I am not ashamed. I remember debating evolution with a college professor at the :niversity of 0aine, and I was not ashamed. In fact, the professor backed up. !hen we believe in our heart, then our heart will always be in the right place. A heart in the right place will always seek to build up, and not to tear down, will be honest in every conversation, will encourage and not discourage. Gurthermore, a heart that believes, will receive the correction of the !ord and will repent when the message of faith has peeled back the layers of selfFdeception and revealed our own thoughts and intents.

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I can tell you that there have been many times when I ve had to come to the altar and weep before the ,ord because the !ord of God touched that sore spot in my heart. I ve had to deal with /ealousy in ministry. I ve had to deal with envy and pride. I ve had to fall on my face before God and melt into a puddle of tears because the !ord revealed to me thing I had hidden from myself. But a heart that believes in the !ord will receive the !ord and allow the !ord to do God s work in our lives. Ginally, look at verses (# and ($. These verses tell me that it doesn t matter who you are. The faith that it bring righteousness, the faith that is both a confession of the mouth and an issue of the heart, applies to everyone. (# Gor there is no distinction between *ew and Greek, for the same ,ord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. ($ Gor Lwhoever calls on the name of the ,<.- shall be saved.L Dou may be a preacher or a teacher, or an elder in the church. Dou may be a charter member. It doesn t matter who you are, faith is the issue. <r you may be a rank sinner, a drunk or drug addict, a prostitute or pervert, an abuser or an adulterer, 1whoever calls upon the name of the ,ord shall be saved2 There is only one God and He will is rich in mercy and grace to all who call upon Him. $.-$L/2,.!hat about it9 -o you need to call upon the name of the ,ord today9 I ve met pastors and preachers who had been holding credentials for years, but who had been deceiving themselves. I heard one preacher confess that he had been pastoring for years before He was truly Born Again. 0aybe you ve made a confession of faith with your mouth, but you d have to admit today that your heart isn t where it needs to be. The devil loves people who make a confession with their mouth, but who have never truly believed in their heart. The devil loves those people because he can manipulate them and use them as wolves in sheep clothing to plant seeds of

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discontent in a local church. !hen it really becomes an issue of the heart, it has entered into the realm of love and love, )aul said4 % . . . is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. & It is not rude, it is not selfFseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. ' ,ove does not delight in evil but re/oices with the truth. 5 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. B ,ove never fails. 3( "or ($4%FB, >I@6 If, as I ve preached this !ord today, the Holy +pirit has used this message of faith to pull back some layers and reveal to you some things that you need to plunge beneath the crimson flow today, then I want you to come to this altar. If you believe, you will not be put to shame, but you will be set free, the chains that bind will be left behind and you will be able to walk without guile, and to enter into the /oy of the ,ord that is your strength.

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PREACHERS IN THE HOUSE


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" (0)(>*2(
(% How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed9 And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard9 And how shall they hear without a preacher9 (& And how shall they preach unless they are sent9 As it is written4 LHow beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, !ho bring glad tidings of good thingsHL (' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. Gor Isaiah says, L,<.-, who has believed our report9L (5 +o then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (B But I say, have they not heard9 Des indeed4 LTheir sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.L (C But I say, did Israel not know9 Girst 0oses says4 LI will provoke you to /ealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.L #= But Isaiah is very bold and says4 LI was found by those who did not seek 0eE I was made manifest to those who did not ask for 0e.L #( But to Israel he says4 LAll day long I have stretched out 0y hands To a disobedient and contrary people.L >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.,et me ask you, do you remember when you first heard the message of salvation9 -o you remember who first told you about *esus and the sacrifice He made so that you could become a child of God9 !as it your parent9 !as it a +unday +chool teacher or a preacher9 +omeone told you, someone shared the good news of *esus with you and faith rose up and said, 1I believe that this is for me.2

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!e kind of take it for granted that everyone in America will hear the gospel from some source. The blessing of "hristian radio and television is that the message is always going out. It is broadcast #%F5. But the blessing is also the curse. If we assume that we are off the hook, that we no longer have to be a conduit through which the message is broadcast, then we are fooling ourselves. I once did a survey of "hristian television programming and found that very little of it spoke to the issue of receiving "hrist as +avior. A #% hour survey of "hristian television revealed that about &= percent of the day dealt with health and wealth, %= percent with selfFhelp related messages, (= percent with relationship issues, & percent with social issues, another % percent with commercials for books, -@- s and ministries, and about ( percent of the programming specifically spoke to the issue salvation. TwentyFfour hours times '= minutes means that there are #,=%= minutes per day, so only about #= minutes a day of "hristian television addresses the way of salvation through *esus "hrist. That means that your lost neighbors and friends have only a ( in (== chance of hearing the message of salvation by flipping past "hristian television stations. The primary source of salvation is not through television programming, but through preachers, and by that I mean, people who are prepared to proclaim the powerful lifeFgiving message of the life, death, burial and resurrection of *esus "hrist.

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,ook at what )aul declares in verses (% and (&4 (% How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed9 And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard9 And how shall they hear without a preacher9 (& And how shall they preach unless they are sent9 As it is written4 LHow beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, !ho bring glad tidings of good thingsHL

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All believers are called to be preachers. Turn to someone and say, 1Hello, preacher.2 The word preacher, as )aul uses it here, is not limited to some elite group of men and women who have received a credential from denominational headAuarters. If you want preaching credentials you can buy them online and have a piece of paper to hang on your wall. But God isn t looking for people with pieces of paper on the wall, God is looking for men and women who will put foot to pavement and proclaim the gospel. God is looking for someone who has the courage and the commitment to be lights shining in the darkness. God is looking for someone who will tell anyone about someone who can save everyone. That s a preacher. )aul asks a series of four rhetorical Auestions in this te8t. The answer is clearly implied in each Auestion, and the end product of these implied statements is that the church must send out preachers. The Greek word translated preacher is #erusso 3kayFroos Fso6, which refers to a public crier, someone who makes a public proclamation, or a declaration, in this case, the proclamation of the message of *esus "hrist. The church should be producing preachers who take the message to the streets. !hat is coming out of our churches9 Are we producing preachers9 Are we eAuipping saints for the work of ministry9 <r are we producing customers, people who are looking for the best entertainment value for their dollar9 Are we producing contented consumers who come and give and go without ever being challenged to be preachers9 1How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed9 And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard9 And how shall they hear without a preacher92 After our worship service each +unday, after the music and the message, after the praise and the prayers are finished, this church should be sending out preachers. Dou, all of you, are God s 1plan A2 to getting the gospel message to the masses. I suppose "hristian television and

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radio are appropriate in their place, but there is no substitute for you. Dou are the preachers. Dou are the people who can take the light to the lost. !e don t need a pulpit to be preacher. All we need is the passion to proclaim a message of hope to whosoever will. Too often we are fi8ated on the pulpit, on standing in front of a crowd e8pounding Biblical truths so adeptly that the people are held in rapt attention. But this fi8ation has more to do with our own ego and our own needs than with the real task of telling a lost soul that there is hope and healing in "hrist. The words podium, pulpit, and "hristian television are not in the Bible. >ot once. )reaching is as much about meeting one woman at the well and telling her about the river of life, as it is about speaking to the multitudes. Some are called to the multitudes, but all are called to the oneJthe one child, the one neighbor, the one workmate who is lost and undone, without God or His +on. )reacher is not a title, it is not a /ob, it is not a vocation, but preaching is a calling that is placed on the heart of every man or women who has been born again. *esus said, 1Dou shall be my witnesses.2 !hen we become the preachers that God has called us to be, and when we go and proclaim the good news, then we won t need to waste our money on pedicures, because God says our feet are beautiful. Dou may have your toenails neatly cut and painted with Grench tips and all that, but there is nothing that makes your feet look more beautiful to God than when you walk over to someone and share the message of God s love and forgiveness with a lost soul.

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P&.$L1M1#,.It may be that some of you have tried. Dou have tried to share the good news with other

and they have not responded. ,ook at verse ('4 (' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. Gor Isaiah says, L,<.-, who has believed our report9L

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7ven )aul and the prophet Isaiah seem frustrated with the failure of the people to believe the message. But the re/ection of some should not silence the preacher or the prophet. If you don t want to shout, don t hinder me. If you won t respond, I ll love you anyhow. I won t pester you, I won t force myself upon you, but I won t Auit preaching and I won t put my light under a basket. I am not ashamed, I am not afraid, and I am not intimidated. I have not been given the spirit of fear, but of love and of power, and of a sound mind. I have been given power over all the power of the enemy. I m a preacher and I intend to tell the good news. The song said4 I ll tell it where Mer I go, for I want the whole world to know, I m glad that He loved me so, that He lifted me out. If all you know is that He s done for you, then you have a message of good news that will touch the lives of others and lead them to same cross where you found your freedom and liberty in the ,ord. In Acts chapter $, )eter and *ohn are going to the temple to pray, and on the way they meet a crippled man begging alms. Instead of alms, they healed the man in the name of *esus. This healing added credibility to the message that )eter and *ohn were preaching. They were giving all the glory to God and preaching about the death and resurrection of *esus as the way of salvation. This worried the +adducees, especially because they did not believe in the resurrection, so they had )eter and *ohn apprehended and brought before the *ewish court known as the +anhedrin. )eter and *ohn did not back down, but began to preach *esus to them as well. The +anhedrin didn t know what to do with them, so they threatened them, and told )eter and *ohn that they were not to preach or teach any further in the name of *esus. I love )eter s response in chapter % verses (C and #=4

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(C But )eter and *ohn answered and said to them, 1!hether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you /udge. #= Gor we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.2 3Acts %4(CF#=, >?*@6. !ill everyone we tell the good news of *esus to respond9 >o. In fact, some may re/ect us with hurtful and hostile words. >ot everyone we proclaim good news to will accept it, but some will, and that s who we re trying to find. It s like sorting through the gravel to get to the gold. Dou may have to go through a lot of nonsense, but if you Auit with the first re/ection, you will never know the /oy of that one who would have believed. ,ook at verse (54 (5 +o then fai%h comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Those who hear and receive the word will have life transforming faith birthed in their heart and life. +ome will hear, some will receive and believe the word of God. )aul turns to Israel and asks4 (B But I say, have they not heard9 Des indeed4 LTheir sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.L +houldn t Israel have known9 +houldn t the *ews have recogni;ed their own 0essiah9 The voice of the prophets should have been enough. *esus told the *ews in *ohn chapter &, 1$CDou search the +criptures, for in them you think you have eternal lifeE and these are they which testify of 0e. %= But you are not willing to come to 0e that you may have life2 3>?*@6. Have you ever tried to witness to someone who should know the truth9 I have family who grew up in church, who attended revivals, some who held offices in the church, but who are now far from God. +ometimes we think there is nothing we could say or do to win them. !hat could we tell them that they don t already know9 !e can tell them what God has done and is doing in our lives.

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They may know the gospel message, but they may not know how powerfully that message has changed our lives, and if God has done this for us, then He will do it for them as well. The /oy that we have, the peace that passes understanding, the authority we have over all the power of the enemy, these are things that whet the appetite of those around us who may know the message, but they are missing the blessings. !e should live a life and proclaim the goodness of God in such a way that we are the very salt that makes others thirsty for God. If we are not making God attractive, then what good are we9 If the salt loses its savor it is good for nothing.

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P&.3.$1#,.,ook at what )aul says in verse (C4 (C But I say, did Israel not know9 Girst 0oses says4 LI will provoke you to /ealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.L )aul is saying that God will use the Gentiles to provoke the *ews to begin to respond to the

good news. The Gentiles will become the salt that makes the *ews thirsty for God and receptive to the gospel. That is what God wants from us all. <ur message and our lives, our proclamation and our witness, should be eliciting a thirst for God in the lives of others. It is a shame that there are people who claim to be ;ealots for *esus, but whose words are hateful and hurtful and whose actions are ugly and abusive to others. They portray "hrist as a vindictive tyrant who is looking for a reason to banish the lost to the depths of hell. >othing could be further from the truth. God s desire is that everyone would come to the saving knowledge of *esus "hrist 3# )et. $4C6. God told 7;ekiel, 1As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wickedE but that the wicked turn from his way and live4 turn ye, turn ye from your evil waysE for why will ye die, < house of Israel92 3 7;ek $$4((, ?*@6.

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<ur role as preachers is to proclaim the gospel, which is a word that simply means, 1good news.2 !e should tell good news with a smile. !e should be living a life that causes others to say, 1I want what you ve got.2 )eter tells believing wives that they will win their husbands by making "hrist attractive to them 3( )et. $4%6. Again, there may be some who simply will not respond, but some will. ,ook at verse #=4 #= But Isaiah is very bold and says4 LI was found by those who did not seek 0eE I was made manifest to those who did not ask for 0e.L By and large the *ews were re/ecting the message of *esus as 0essiah. In fact, it was the religious establishment of *udaism that was instrumental in spearheading the persecution of the church. Grom the stoning of +tephen to the arrest of )aul, the *ewish religious leaders were leading the way in re/ecting the message, but their re/ection opened the door to the Gentiles. )agan people who were worshipping false gods and idols found something attractive in the message of hope that they found in *esus. !e may be surprised at who responds to the good news. )eople we didn t know were watching our lives may be the ones who come and ask us to tell them about *esus. )eople we didn t think would ever respond, people that we had almost given up on, people that the church has not targeted, may be the very people God uses to grow His church. The pastor of another church here in town told me that he and his church were targeting the upperFmiddle class people in the county. By all appearances his strategy is working, but it may be that God uses us to win the lost that they overlook. !e may be the light to least and the last of our community. !e may be called to take the message to the marginali;ed and the triviali;ed people who think that no one cares about them. It may be the people others overlook

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that God uses to grow His church. The people that others have passed by, may be the very people God uses to build a great church in "onyers, Georgia.

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PE&2,2#E-$E
God doesn t give up as easily as we often do. ,ook at verse #(4 #( But to Israel he says4 LAll day long I have stretched out 0y hands To a disobedient and contrary people.L God says that He isn t giving up on Israel, despite their petulance, their repeated

re/ection. He continues to love them and to reach out to them. !e can t give up. !e can t Auit and conclude the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, so why try. There s too much at stake. There s my father, who still needs *esus. There are your sons and daughters. Dour neighbors may not know it or admit it, but they need you to keep shining that light and preaching that good news. How long do we persist9 God said, 1All day long. . .2 It wasn t a Auick 1take it or leave it2 offer. He said, 1All day long I have stretched out 0y hands.2 Those words, of course, illicit the picture of *esus on the cross with His arms stretched out. It wasn t the nails that held Him there, it was His love. !ho is it that God stretches out His arms to all day long9 +urely it must be someone who is running to leap into His arms. It must be the bride that comes rushing toward her husband with love and passion, or the child runs to daddy to greet him at the end of a long day. >o. He said, 1All day long I have stretched out 0y hands to a disobedient and contrary people.2 That sentence grips my heart. I have had to deal with my share of disobedient and contrary people, and I know how tempting it is to write them off and move on, but God says, 1All day long I have stretched out my hands.2 The truth is that I was one of those, disobedient and contrary people who found God s arms wide open.

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)reachers, it takes patience, it takes perseverance, and it takes persistence. If the lost are going to be saved, then you and I are plan A. !e are the preachers and we are the light in a dark world. If God could stretch out His hands all day long, who are we who have tasted of His grace and forgiveness, to do less than our best in proclaiming the message of hope and healing to lost and dying world9 $.-$L/2,.!hen I was pastoring the +uwanee "hurch of God I found that there were about eight or nine young teens that would come to church if someone would pick them up. The problem was that these kids did not come from "hristian homes and they were a rather wild bunch, so no one in the church would agree to drive the church van to pick them up. I finally agreed to be the driver and eventually became the teacher of these young people. I left the adults in the sanctuary to conduct a prayer meeting while I conducted a youth service. I soon found out why no one wanted to pick up these kids. They were wild and Auickly distracted. They made the ride in the church van a time of tribulation and trial. I wanted to Auit. I wanted to give up on them, but I knew that at least two of them came from homes where their parents were professed atheists. They simply allowed their kids to go to church with me so that they could get them out of the house for a few hours on !ednesday nights. I wanted to Auit, but I kept coming back to this thought, "f " don,t preach to them, if " don,t show the love of &od to them, who will- +o right up until I came to "onyers, I was the van driver and teacher for these young teens. It would have been easy to Auit, and no one would have faulted me if I had. But the words of )aul were echoing somewhere in the back of my mind4

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(% How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed9 And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard9 And how shall they hear without a preacher9 (& And how shall they preach unless they are sent9 There is someone in your sphere of influence, maybe in your home, maybe on the /ob, maybe in your school, but there is someone to whom God has called you to be the preacher. It s not about pulpits and podiums, but it is about the passion of the preacher to be willing to go and to proclaim in the highways and byways that *esus is ?ing of kings and ,ord of lords, and there is no other name given among men by which we may be saved. He has called us to be His arms stretched out all day long. How many preachers do we have here today9 !e have a house full of preachers, and God has called you and commissioned you to proclaim the sacrificial death of *esus till He comes. If the church could /ust get this message in their heart, we would turn our community upside down. If you are ready to embrace the preacher within you, if you are willing to be a preacher with a coffee table or a kitchen table for a pulpit, then I want to pray a prayer of commission over you. If you are prepared to be a preacher who isn t looking for a stage, but is looking for the lost, then I want to pray for the anointing of the Holy +pirit upon you. Because if we don t do it, if we don t become the preachers, there is no plan B. There is no T@ preacher or pastor behind a pulpit that can take your place, or reach the people in your sphere of influence, like you can reach them. They will not call on Him in whom they have not believed. They cannot believe in Him of whom they have not heard. They will not hear without a preacher. And the preacher will not preach unless he or she is sent. *esus has already called you, and today He wants to commission

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you to be His witnesses, anointed and appointed you, by the Holy +pirit, to be His arms stretched out all day long to a lost world. This is a commissioning service for those of you who will accept the calling of preacher on your life. >ot as a profession, not as a title, but as an act of obedience and as voice crying in the wilderness. This is an anointing and an appointing service for those of you who know at least one person who does not know *esus as their +avior.

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REMNANT THEOLOGY
By Mark E" Hardgrove #e6%) &o'ans ((
( I say then, has God cast away His people9 "ertainly notH Gor I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Ben/amin. # God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. <r do you not know what the +cripture says of 7li/ah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, $ L,<.-, they have killed Dour prophets and torn down Dour altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my lifeL9 % But what does the divine response say to him9 LI have reserved for 0yself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.L & 7ven so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. ' And if by grace, then it is no longer of worksE otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer graceE otherwise work is no longer work. 5 !hat then9 Israel has not obtained what it seeksE but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. B *ust as it is written4 LGod has given them a spirit of stupor, 7yes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.L C And -avid says4 L ,et their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. (= ,et their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.L (( I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall9 "ertainly notH But through their fall, to provoke them to /ealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. (# >ow if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullnessH ($ Gor I speak to you GentilesE inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, (% if by any means I may provoke to /ealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. (& Gor if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead9 (' Gor if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holyE and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (5 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, (B do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (C Dou will say then, LBranches were broken off that I might be grafted in.L #= !ell said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. -o not be haughty, but fear. #( Gor if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. ## Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God4 on those who fell, severityE but toward you, goodness, if you

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continue in His goodness. <therwise you also will be cut off. #$ And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. #% Gor if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree9 #& Gor I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. #' And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written4 LThe -eliverer will come out of Sion, And He will turn away ungodliness from *acobE #5 Gor this is 0y covenant with them, !hen I take away their sins.L #B "oncerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. #C Gor the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. $= Gor as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, $( even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. $# Gor God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. $$ <h, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of GodH How unsearchable are His /udgments and His ways past finding outH $% LGor who has known the mind of the ,<.-9 <r who has become His counselor9L $&K<r who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him9L $' Gor of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.Have you ever wondered where seedless oranges come from9 I read that the first seedless oranges were a mutation. The problem was that without seeds they could not reproduce. <nce that tree died, the seedless oranges would be gone unless another mutation occurred. +o how do we continue to get seedless oranges9 It began by grafting the limbs and buds of that original tree onto regular orange trees, and that graft, then, continues to live and to produce seedless fruit as it draws its nutrients, its life, from the rootstock. As that limb grows and branches out, cuttings are taken from that limb, and so on.

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The practice of grafting limbs from one tree to another goes back thousands of years. It was common in the time of )aul, so when )aul uses it in chapter (( of .omans, he is using an illustration that his audience could identify with. )aul uses the practice of grafting as an illustration of the relationship between believing and unbelieving *ews, and Gentiles who have come to God by faith in "hrist. I will not be able to cover every verse of this chapter in detail, but I want to summari;e this chapter and illustrate it through the use of these two trees.

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G.! H12-# G,3E- /P .- H,2 PE.PLE


In light of all that )aul has said concerning the fact that salvation was through faith and

not the law, and that it was not by being born a *ew but by redemption in "hrist, some might ask the Auestion )aul gives voice to in verse (, 1Has God cast away His people92 +ome teach that. They say that God has discarded Israel and no longer has any use or plans for them because they forfeited their promises through unbelief. )aul Auickly dispenses with such a view. After asking the Auestion, he answers it4 1I say then, has God cast away His people9 "ertainly notH Gor I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Ben/amin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.2 God could not unFknow His people. He had a plan and He has a plan for Israel. +o the Auestion becomes, what then, is God s relationship with Israel in light of their re/ection of *esus9 Has God replaced Israel with the church9 Is Israel as a nation, no longer of conseAuence to God9 If that were so then )aul himself would have been a castaway, for he was 1an Israelite, the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Ben/amin.2 !ithin national Israel, even when they were rebellious and disobedient, God has had a remnant of people who have remained faithful to Him, and these have been, and are, the Israel of God 3.om C4'6.

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God hasn t given up on Israel. In fact, to this day, there are those *ewish believers who have received *esus as their 0essiah. God has a remnant. In that same light, not everyone who attends a church is a true believer. There are people who come to church week after week, but they know that they re not living for "hrist as they should be and they know that if *esus were to return today, that they would not be ready. They sit stoically through altar call after altar call, too proud to surrender their life to *esus, but too afraid to Auit coming to church. I received an email last night. This person wrote anonymously because, as the writer said, 1I am too embarrassed2 to give name or address. They wrote, 1I thought I had been saved for thirty years, but when I read your sermon, M<hH I want to see *esus, I had to cry out to *esus to save me. Thank you.2 I thank God for that person who reali;ed that while they may have attended church for thirty years, they were not engrafted into the body of "hrist. This is true of churches all around the world. <ne survey said that over &= percent of the people sitting on church pews in America today have never had a lifeFtransforming encounter with "hrist. !e cannot allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that going to a church service is all that God wants from us. He wants our lives to be totally committed to Him. The other danger is spiritual pride. There is a danger that people who have given everything for *esus, and who are committed to "hrist, could become so cynical and so distressed at the lack of commitment by others, that they start to think and believe that they re the only one who is right with God. +piritual pride is as deadly as spiritual apathy. After he had confronted the prophets of Baal on 0t. "armal, 7li/ah began to think he was the only true prophet left in Israel. But God

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told 7li/ah that He had preserved for Himself a remnant, seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. >o 7li/ah, you re not the only one who loves God. There is nothing uglier than spiritual pride. )eople who think they know it all. )eople who think they ve got it all. )eople who walk around with their nose in the air like their feet don t stink. )ride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall, but if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the ,ord, He will e8alt us in due season.

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G.! ,2 ;/2# 5,#H H,2 PE.PLE


In verses 5 through (=, )aul Auotes the prophet Isaiah and -avid to make the point that

God gave Israel the power of choice, and the ma/ority chose to re/ect their own 0essiah. Therefore, God gave them up to their own re/ection and let their rebellion run its course. *ust as )haraoh hardened his heart and hardened his heart against the word of the ,ord until at last God hardened his heart, God gave Israel 1a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day2 3v. B6. +till, as )aul again reiterates, God has not given up on them. He is faithful to His promises. )aul asks in verse ((, 1OHPave they stumbled that they should fall92 The tense of the verb 1fall2 in this Auestion suggests falling to rise no more, a final and complete fall. The Auestion )aul asks is whether they have fallen never again to rise. )aul answers in the emphatic, me genoito, ."ertainly notH But through their fall, to provoke them to /ealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.2 The good news is that God isn t through with Israel. 7ven though they are living in a state of rebellion, God has used their re/ection for good. Through their re/ection, they made a way for the Gentiles to become partakers of grace, and heirs of the promise. >ot only that, but )aul makes a powerful point. If Israel s failure resulted in riches for the Gentiles, how much

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more will the restoration of Israel, the rebirth that will spring forth from the remnant of those who do believe, be an even greater blessing9 It doesn t matter how you cut it, the devil doesn t win. The devil deceives Israel, and the Gentiles are won into the kingdom of God. The believing Gentiles, along with believing *ews then become the remnant that God will use to reach and restore Israel.

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G.! ,2 G&1$,./2 #. #HE GE-#,LE2


The audience to whom )aul was writing was predominately Gentile, and )aul did not

want the Gentiles to look down on or to cop an attitude against the *ews. History tells us, however, that the Gentiles didn t listen very well. !hen "hristianity was in its infancy, the devout *ewish people persecuted the church. They stoned believers, put them in prisons, and they stirred up civil and religious authorities against the believers. Then, when "hristianity became the official religion of .ome, soFcalled "hristians became brutal in their persecution of *ews. )aul wants the Gentiles to understand that their faith is the fruit of the *udaism. The ,aw led to grace, the 0essiah was born of the *ews, and the God they worship is the God of the <ld "ovenant. The faith of the Gentiles was the remnant plucked from the lump of dough. If the <ld "ovenant had been faulty then the fruit of it would have been bad as well. The Gentiles were indebted to the *ews for being the holy root upon which the >ew "ovenant bore fruit.

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G.! .4 #HE E-G&14#,-G


This brings us to verses (5 through #% where the metaphor of the limbs grafted into the

tree are found. TIllustrate this part of the sermon with two small trees. Have them in pots and use them to talk through the points.U

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I want you to look at these two trees. .eplacement theology would say that this tree is Israel, and God has /ust thrown it away and is replacing it with this tree, that represents the church. But remnant theology doesn t say that, and )aul doesn t say that in our te8t. !hat does )aul say9 )aul says that if this tree represents the <ld "ovenant, then the roots of faith continue through this tree. The fruit of the <ld "ovenant was the >ew "ovenant. !hen *esus, the 0essiah, came, there needed to be a shift. He was the promise, He was the one who was giving life to the branches, but the branches that re/ected *esus could not kill the tree. God simply broke them off. >otice that God )aul did not say that God broke off all of the branches, but that God broke off some of the branches. God maintained a remnant of believers even within Israel. He broke off those *ews who refused to believe. >ow look at what happens when God cuts off those branches, it provides an opportunity for new branches to be grafted into the tree. The Gentiles to whom )aul is speaking come from another tree. Their roots are in paganism and false religion. They had to be cut from the wild olive tree to be grafted into the cultivated olive tree. Then, when the wild olive branches are grafted in, they become partakers of the root, the history, the promises, the blessings, the fatness of the olive tree. Again, )aul warns against pride or boasting. He reminds them that they are indebted to the root. The branches do not support the root, but the root supports the branches. The Gentiles might say, 1!ell those branches were broken off, and I was grafted in.2 )aul does not deny this. It was because of their unbelief that Israel was broken off, but )aul warns them, 1If God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.2 In other words, 1If you become unbelievers, you too can be cut off.2

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I know that there are those who teach that once you are saved, you can never lose your salvation, but that s not what )aul is saying here. )aul reminds us Gentile believers that if we become haughty, or if we allow ourselves to be caught up in spiritual pride, God is able to cut us off as well. ,ikewise, if the *ews would turn to God through *esus, they could be grafted back into the vine. I did some research on grafting limbs onto a tree. I read that a branch can be removed during the winter months when a tree is dormant, and then kept in a cool place with the severed end in some moist sawdust or moss, and then in the spring, it could still be alive and grafted back into the tree and live. !e are living during the time of the Gentiles, the time when the wild olive branches are being grafted into the olive tree, but there will come a day, when the fullness of the Gentiles has passed and the natural branches will be rescued and Israel, as a nation, will turn to God through *esus. God s promises, His gifts and calling upon the nation of Israel are without repentance. He hasn t taken back His promise, but it will be through this process that Israel will return.

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G,3E G.! #HE GL.&7


At the thought of God s redemptive plan for both Gentiles and Israel, )aul breaks into

praise. In verses $$ through $', )aul /ust has to praise God for a awesome plan that doesn t leave anyone out in the cold. Anyone who wants to come to God through faith in His +on *esus "hrist can be engrafted into the tree of promise. $$ <h, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of GodH How unsearchable are His /udgments and His ways past finding outH $% LGor who has known the mind of the ,<.-9 <r who has become His counselor9L $&K<r who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him9L $' Gor of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

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$.-$L/2,.,et me ask you today, have you been grafted into the lifeFgiving source9 Have you entered into the root and the fatness9 Are you truly living as a child of God9 The truth is that there are people filling church pews who have never made a decision for "hrist. But you cannot be grafted into the remnant, until you have been ripped from the wild. Before a branch can be grafted onto another tree, it has to be cut loose, it has to be liberated from the former things, from the old habits, from the old sources, from the old location and then moved to the new. The reason some church members are not bearing the fruit of righteousness, is that they are still attached to the old tree, but there is root and fatness waiting for those of you who are ready for a change. There are the promises of God to His people, there is an inheritance with *esus, there are blessings wait, but you cannot gain the blessings of the cultivated olive tree until you are prepared to be loosed from the wild tree. Are your ready to ask *esus to cut you lose9 Are you ready for the life of *esus to flow through you and begin to produce the fruit of righteousness in your life9 If you are, it takes a radical decision. It takes a willingness to be removed from the former things and allow *esus to make all things new. It takes a complete change, a (B=Fdegree turn, a new perspective and a new location in *esus. ,et me warn you, that if you remain on the wild olive tree, that tree will be cut down and cast into the fire. <nly those *ews and Gentiles who are in the cultivated tree, the tree that God has been working on and preparing, pruning and cleansing from the day He made a promise to Abraham, only those branches will be planted in beside the crystal river of eternity in the presence of God.

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A LIVING SACRIFICE
By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (2)(*2
( I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. # And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

,-#&.!/$#,.If you ve ever read the <ld Testament, you know that there were a series of animal sacrifices that were reAuired of the Israelites in worshipping God. The thing about an animal sacrifice was that you could come on a feast day, or +abbath, bring an animal for the priest to kill and offer on the bra;en altar, and then go home. Dou had performed your religious duty, now all you had to do was read the scrolls, try not to break one of the commands, say three prayers, and fast once a week, and you were a prettyFgood *ew. <f course, if you were the animal that was sacrificed, it wasn t a very sweet deal. I once heard the story of a +unday +chool teacher who had been teaching the )arable of the )rodigal +on. At the end of the lesson, she asked the class, 1!ho was upset when the )rodigal +on came home92 A little boy yelled out, 1The fatted calf.2 In the opening chapters of .omans, )aul has gone to great length to tell the readers that the <ld "ovenant is no longer the standard for salvation. >either are any of the pagan rituals or religions. Instead, God has brought *ews and Gentiles together as the spiritual Israel of God. God has engrafted the wild olive branches onto the olive tree that God has been cultivating, and the natural branches that do not bear the fruit of faith in "hrist, are cut off. Because *esus was willing to become the once and for all sacrifice, because He was willing to take our place on an

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old rugged cross, the <ld "ovenant rituals are rendered null and void. Instead, *esus paid it all, and all to Him I owe. +in had left a crimson stainE He washed it white as snowH Animals no longer have to die in our place, but that does not mean that sacrifice is no longer reAuired. +acrifice is still needed, but no longer is it a sacrifice unto death, but a sacrifice unto life. ,ook at your te8t with me.

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P1/L2 PLE1
$a I %eseech yo! therefore& %rethren& To beseech means, 1to call, invite, implore, urge.2 It is stronger than begging, but weaker

than commanding. This is something every believer should be doing, but no believer can be forced to do. There is urgency in )aul s voice, not a threat, but an invitation to enter into a fulfilling, GodFglorifying life. The word 1therefore,2 indicates that what )aul is about to say throughout the remainder of the 7pistle, must be understood in light of all that )aul has already said with respect to a new relationship with God through faith in the sacrificial death of "hrist. Because we are God s people by faith, this is how we should live. )aul always follows the theological rhetorical arguments with practical applications for life. $% %y the mercies of God& )aul does not appeal to apostolic authority. He does not threaten with the fires of hell. )aul points to the mercies of God as the motivation for doing the right thing. 0ercy is described as 1not giving us what we did deserve,2 while Grace is 1giving us what we did not deserve.2 !e deserved to die on the cross, but *esus took our place. That s mercy and that s grace. !e deserved God s wrath, but He gave us love. That s mercy and grace. !e deserved hell, but He promised heaven. That s God s mercy and that s God s grace

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If we are not motivated by God s mercy then our obedience is suspect. If we re only obeying because of what we get, then we re missing the point of mercy. If we re only motivated by the opportunity to stand in the spotlight and be patted on the back, then we ve missed the meaning of mercy. 0ercy should motivate us and move us in ways that threats and coercions cannot. I know what I deserved. I know that I was a sinner, lost and bound and on my way to hell, but hell is no longer in my future. I deserved death, but God gave me life. As the old song said, 10ercy there was great, and grace was free. )ardon there was multiplied to me. There my burden soul found liberty, at "alvary.2 $c that yo! present yo!r %odies a li'in# sacrifice& If *esus died in our place, then what is left for us to do9 He died for us, so that we could live for Him. :nlike the animal sacrifices that were killed, we have been called to be living sacrifices. )aul instructs us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The Greek word for bodies is soma, meaning our entire being. >otice that a living sacrifice is not /ust a piece of us. It is not /ust our hands, or our mouth, or our money, but God wants our entire being given to Him as a living, breathing, sacrifice. !e tend to divide our lives into secular and religious segments, but in the kingdom of God, there is no such division. 7verything we do, in church, at home, at school, on vacation, or on the /obJwe should present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. In fact, our body is to be the Temple of the Holy +pirit. !e are not our own, we were bought with a price and we are to glorify God with our body and our spirit for they are His. All we are, all we do, all we say, all we think, everywhere we go, we are to be God s living sacrifice.

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+acrifice is dirty word in this age. I read a survey of college aged young adults and the results revealed that this upFcoming generation is the most narcissistic generation since they ve started doing survey s of this sort, some fifty years ago. !hat this means is that we are raising a generation of people who are more interested in getting than in giving. They look at life as if someoneJtheir parents, the church, the government, the schoolsJsomeone owes them something, and they have no concept of giving of themselves. )eople of the baby boomer generation and older, knew that life would reAuire sacrifice and service. "hurches were built by people who were willing to give sacrificially of their time, their talents, and their treasures. But in this age, we increasingly see people who look at church, not for what they contribute by way of ministry, money, or minutes, but at what the church has to offer them. God is looking for living, breathing, praising, serving, worshipping, sacrifices. In the <ld Testament, once you gave the bullock as a burnt offering, it was done. That animal was gone. Dou could not plow with it, or pull a cart with it. It was dead. But a living sacrifice comes to the altar in surrender to God s will, and then gets up more alive than when he or she when down. !hen a living sacrifice leaves the altar, that individual is ready to put shoulder to the plow and work for the ,ord of the harvest. $d holy& accepta%le to God& )aul said, 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.2 By saying 1holy2 )aul was telling us that we are to be set apart. !e are e8clusively God s property. It means to be consecrated to God. !e may be working as a schoolteacher, a !alF0art employee, a pipe fitter, or a nurse, but we are set apart unto God. All that we do, by way of

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living our lives here and now, we do with the understanding that we are God s property, our body is the temple of the Holy +pirit, and we will live and conduct our lives in a way that is appropriate for presentation unto God. $e (hich is yo!r reasona%le ser'ice) This is not an e8treme reAuest on the part of )aul or of God. This is reasonable, it is logical, considering the mercies of God and the sacrifice of "hrist on our behalf. +ome versions translate 1reasonable service2 as 1spiritual worship,2 but I believe the ?ing *ames @ersion and the New /ing 0ames 1ersion have it right when they translate it to say 1reasonable service.2 The Greek word for reasonable is logi#os, where we get the 7nglish word, logical. If )aul had intended to say 1spiritual2, he would have used the word pneumat#os, which he uses in many other places. )aul is telling us that serving God with our whole being set, apart unto God, is not weird or fanatical, but it is logical, it is reasonable. !hat is unreasonable is to think that God owed us "alvary and now we don t owe God anything other than a thank you and we ll be on our merry way. !hat is unreasonable is to forget God s mercy and act He hadn t done anything for us. !hen *esus healed the ten lepers in ,uke chapter (5, only one came back to thank *esus. *esus recogni;ed and appreciated this man s gratitude. *esus asked, 1!here are the other nine92 It was reasonable to believe that all ten would have come back to praise God, but only ones does, and he was a Gentile. The world thinks that we re strange, but soldFout believers who live their lives consecrated unto God are not the illogical ones. The people who fail to act in rational, reasonable ways are those who live in sin. They are, as *onathan 7dwards describes them, dangling over the open fires of hell by a thread no thicker than a spider s web, and the only thing

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preventing them from plunging into eternal /udgment is God s grace. The rational thing, the reasonable thing, would be to run to the mercy seat and ask God to forgive them of their sins. The reasonable service is to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. !hat is illogical is to continue in sin while dangling precariously over the gapping mouth of eternal punishment. !e live in a cra;y world were sinners flaunt their sins and revel in their iniAuities. !e live in a world that celebrates debauchery and mocks decency. !e live in a world that scoffs at believers, and embraces the skeptics.

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#&1-24.&ME! 1-! #/-E!*,+o how do respond9 !hat do we, as "hristians do, in light of this twisted and upside

down world9 To begin, )aul tells us to resist the constant and unrelenting pressure of this world to conform to their immorality and godless pursuit of selfFgratification and sinful pleasures. *a And do not %e conformed to this (orld& )aul speaks in the imperative here. He beseeches us to become a living sacrifice, but he commands us to refrain from being pressed into the world s model and mindset. It s easy to go with the flow and be influenced by the world. <ver time, if we re not paying attention, we will slowly be poured into the mold of the world until we eventually look like, talk like, walk live and live like the world. )aul tells us not to let this happen. !e must resist it. There is tremendous pressure to conform to this world. In the media, on the /ob, in the schools, the pressure is constant and relentless, but we cannot allow ourselves to conform to this world. *% %!t %e transformed Instead, we must be transformed. !e ve been brought out of the darkness and into God s marvelous light. !e have been brought from death to life. !e have been redeemed and set free from the former passions that were contrary to the will of God. !e are not to be pressed into the

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pattern of this world, but instead we are to become more and more like *esus in every aspect of our lives. How do we do that9 !e don t do it by sitting home in front of a television. !e don t do it by running to the clubs with friends. !e don t do it be reading maga;ines and books that are filled with ideas that are contrary to the will and the !ord of God. +o how do we become transformed9 *c %y the rene(in# of yo!r mind& )aul said that it takes a renewing of our mind. This is an ongoing thing. It is not a one time, e8press service, e8perience. +alvation is a /ourney. It is a process. It is a constant spiritual war. It is a pick 1up your cross daily2 and follow *esus proposition, and the only way to resist conforming to relentless pressure of the world, is by a continual renewing of our mind in the things of God. It takes a persistent and powerful prayer life. It takes a determined devotional life. It takes a willing worship life. It takes a surrendered will and a yielded spirit. To be transformed in how we live, we have to be transformed in how we think. <ur mind is the battleground and we must gird up the loins of our mind and think on things that are pure, things that are praiseworthy, things that holy, and things that are wholesome. This will change way we live, because this will enable us to know the will of God for our lives. The word translated 1transform2 is from the Greek word metamorphoo, from which we get the 7nglish word, metamorphoses. It means to undergo a change in appearance, character, or condition. !hen we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, things changeJhow we think, how we act, how conduct ourselves. !e will become less and less like this worldly environment and more and more like *esus.

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?-.5,-G #HE 5,LL .4 G.!


To renew our mind implies that we must be influenced by new sources. !e cannot

continue in the same old defeated and discouraged patterns of life and e8pect to have a renewed mind. !e cannot be conformed to the world and at the same time know and live the will of God. *d that yo! may pro'e (hat is that #ood and accepta%le and perfect (ill of God) )eople ask me, 1)astor how do I get to know God s will for my life. )aul tells us we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we can 1prove2, that is, to know, to discern, to identify the will of God. Dou cannot get to the will of God from a worldly perspective. As we used to say in 0aine, 1Dou can t get there from here.2 How will you know God s will when you see it9 It will be characteri;ed by three things. 3-on t misunderstand what )aul says here. He is not saying there are three levels to God s will. I ve heard people say, 1!ell, I m not in God s perfect will, but I m in his acceptable will.2 That s bad theology.6 There is only will and it is 1good, acceptable and perfect. Good means that God s will is always is beneficial and it s always the right thing to do. !hen you stay in God s will, it may call for sacrifice, but it will work together for good. God s will is always acceptable, that is, fully agreeable. !hen we are transformed from the world s view to God s view, God s will is not grievous, but is agreeable to our new nature. And last, God s will is perfect, that is mature, it is what is needed at the right time for the right reasons.

$.-$L/2,.In the remainder of the book of .omans, )aul will outline some practical applications of the new life in "hrist. But these two verses here in chapter (# are pivotal to the rest of the book. !e cannot hope to walk the walk or to talk the talk if we are not willing to give ourselves completely to God. >inetyFnine point nine, isn t enough. God wants us to give ourselves as

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living sacrifices, and God wants our minds transformed and tuned in to his good, acceptable, and perfect will. Are you ready to live that kind of life9 It is a great adventure, and I fear that far to few people ever make it to this place, and so they struggle, they stumble, they stray and they live will very little spiritual strength. But there is another way. There is a better way. ( I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. # And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. If you re ready to make a change, if you re willing live a life consecrated to God, and you know you re not there yet, I beseech you to make a decision today .

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FAITH TO FUNCTION WITH UNCTION


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (2)8*9
$ Gor I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. % Gor as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, & so we, being many, are one body in "hrist, and individually members of one another. ' Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them4 if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faithE 5 or ministry, let us use it in our ministeringE he who teaches, in teachingE B he who e8horts, in e8hortationE he who gives, with liberalityE he who leads, with diligenceE he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

,-#&.!/$#,.It is my observation of people that we have a tendency to swing from one e8treme to the other. Gor some reason, we have a difficult time staying in the happy medium. !e either diet and e8ercise with a passion, or we eat like a pig. !e either save money with a miserly tenacity, or we spend it like it grows on trees. 78tremes. This propensity is also found in churches and in the lives of church members. I ve found that while there are some people who have a healthy understanding of their calling and gifts, there are others who either think they are better than anyone else, and can do ministry like no one else, or they believe that they can t do anything for God, so they don t. Dou know what I m talking about. Dou ve met both kinds of these people. Dou ve met the person who believed that they could sing like nightingale, but when they sang, it was more of a nightmare. I knew a man in another church who came to me to tell me that he was called to be an adult +unday +chool teacher. He even had a business card printed up with 1"hristian 7ducator2 as his title. The problem was that he was abrasive and condescending and no one wanted to sit under his teaching.

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I ve also met those people in whom I could see tons of ministry potential, but they had such low selfFesteem, that if someone wasn t constantly propping them up and patting them on the back, they crumbled and Auit, and often never again did anything in ministry. They weren t humble they were /ust e8tremely fragile. God doesn t need superstars, who think they can do it all, and God doesn t need pew warmers who don t think they can do anything. !hat God is looking for is average men and women, /ust like you and me, who are willing to let God release ministry gifts in them. 0en and women who humbly accept the gift, and who give themselves to ministry opportunities in the local Body of "hrist. That s God s plan for growing a church.

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#HE 41,#H
$ Gor I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. In the Greek language, there is an interesting play on words in this verse. The Greek

word for 1to think highly2 is hyperphronein, the Greek word for think is phronein, and the Greek for 1to think soberly2 is sophronein2 The seAuence, then, in the Greek is hpyerphronein, phronein, phronein, sophronein2 It has to do with how we think of ourselves. It goes back to verse # where we told to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. !hen our mind is renewed and we know the will of God, then when we phronein, we will not hyperphronein, but we will sophronein2 The Bible tells us that as a man 1thinketh in his heart, so is he2 3)rov. #$456. If you think you can t you probably won t, but if you believe that through God all things are possible, that changes everything. It opens up all sorts of possibilities and opportunities. The reason we must never think that we are better than anyone else, is that God has given to everyone a measure of faith. The point is not that some folk have more faith than others. The

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point is that everyone has access to faith that can activate and empower their ministry role in the body of "hrist. 7veryone has within them the potential to be used by God in a ministry role in the local church. +ometimes we see someone do something for God and we think, 1<h, I wish I could do that.2 But the only difference between that person and you, is that they put their faith to work for the ,ord. Dou have been given a measure of faith, which means that God has placed within you the ability to believe that He can work through you. It may not be to do what another person is doing, but there is a ministry in you that a measure of faith can bring to life. The warning that )aul issues, however, is that no one should ever think they can do it all, or that they have it all, or that they are all in all. 7veryone around us has been given the opportunity to believe for God to work through them. +ome may never e8ercise that faith, and it may never mature, but the potential for ministry lies within the heart of every believer.

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#HE 4/-$#,.% Gor as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, & so we, being many, are one body in "hrist, and individually members of one another. Here, for the first time in the Book of .omans, )aul uses the metaphor of the body to

illustrate the relationship of believers to one another. It is no longer *ews and Gentiles, but one body, the body of "hrist that is made up of many members. The local church needs for the members of the body to find their function, and to function with unction. The Apostle *ohn said, 1Dou have an unction from the Holy <ne2 3( *n. #4#=6. That word translated 1unction2 in the ?ing *ames @ersion, is the Greek word charisma, which means, 1an anointing2. If we are to function, then, we must function with unction, that is, we must put our faith in the God s anointing upon our life.

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This church is one local body of believers, and for this body to be all that we can be, each member must e8ercise their faith to find and fulfill their function. A church where the members refuse to do this, or where members decide they don t like the ministry gift they ve been given and who try to function outside of their unction, is a church that has a ma/or malfunction. !hen we turn up our nose to the ministry gift God has given, then we become dysfunctional. !e not only deprive the body of the ministry gift God gave us to fulfill, but when we insist on doing what we have not been called to do, then we can actually cause more harm than good. Gor some reason, there is this idea among some, that the only real ministry in the church is the one where you get to stand on a stage, or where you get to draw a paycheck. I despise the terminology that the denomination sometimes uses, referring to some ministers as fullFtime, and those whose church cannot provide a full salary, as partFtime. 0inistry function is not about drawing a check, or standing on the stage, or wa8ing eloAuent from a pulpit. 0inistry function is about allowing God to put you where He wants you, and using your measure of faith to fill that function with obedience, with passion, and with anointing. !e must remember that our ministry function is not primarily about us, individually, but about the entire body. !hen the whole body is healthy, every member of the body benefits. !e also need to reali;e that the body does not e8ist for the members, but the members for the body. ,et me e8plain. I worked my way through seminary at the Hardwick +tove foundry in "leveland, Tennessee. It was a hot, dirty, and dangerous /ob. !ith sheets of raw steel flying across presses, people were often in/ured and cut. <ne night the safety lights failed to operate properly and one of the workers cut off his finger and thumb. I saw him a couple months later and he was still alive. The surgeon reattached his thumb, but his finger was crushed and could

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not be saved. His body did not stop living /ust because it lost a finger, but the finger died apart from the body. If you believe that you don t need the local body to be a healthy functioning member of the body of "hrist, you are fooling yourself. Des the church needs you, and yes, your ministry enriches the local body, and yes we miss you when you re not here, but the point is that every member needs a body, but the body does not revolve around any one member. >ot even the pastor. This church has had three pastors, two pastors stepped down, but the body survived. I ve seen people come to church and act like the church revolved around them. They thought the music should be dictated by their preference. They thought that the church should consult with them on any change in color scheme, or before moving a picture. The truth is that the church revolves around *esus, or it isn t a church, and if someone gets mad and takes their Bible and goes home, the church will survive. *esus said He would build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 7veryone has a function, and that function is an act of God s grace in supplying ministry gifts to body. The body may survive without a member, but it functions better with all the members. The man who lost his finger survived, but the loss of that one member affected him, and it affected him for the rest of his life. ,ook at verses ' though B.

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#HE 4/-$#,.- .4 41,#H


'a Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, The word for gifts is charismata, and the word for grace is charis. The charismata that

are given to the members of the body, are gifts of grace. They are given by God for the benefit of the body. Gurthermore, God has given a diversity of gifts to the church. He doesn t put all pastors in the church, or all teachers, but God has placed many different gifts in the church so

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that when all the gifts are in operating, the church is strong, it is healthy, it is able to be and to do all that God calls it to do. But when the members of the body sit back and cross their arms, when they refuse to allow the work of grace in their life to manifest in charisma, then everyone suffers. +o what should we be doing. )aul said, 1'b let us use them.2 The Auestion is not whether or not you have a gift or function in the body, but the Auestion is whether or not you are willing to allow God to work through you to edify the body and to glorify God. +ince we have different gifts according to the grace given to us, let us use those gifts. )aul begins to list some of those gifts, and he tells us how we should employ our gifts. These aren t all the spiritual gifts that God has given the church. There are other lists of spiritual gifts, and no two lists are e8actly alike. This indicates that )aul never intends to list every single gift that God has given the church. The point that )aul is making is that whatever our gift may be, we need to employ that gift, we need to e8ercise the faith to function with unction. It cannot be halfFhearted, or hoFhum. !e need to be committed and passionate about being involved in building up the church. ,ook at how )aul addresses these gifts4 'c let us prophesy in proportion to our faithE 5 or ministry, let us use it in our ministeringE he who teaches, in teachingE B he who e8horts, in e8hortationE he who gives, with liberalityE he who leads, with diligenceE he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. )aul is simply saying, whatever your gift is, do it. -on t hide your candle under a bushel basket, don t neglect your ministry, and don t think that you don t matter. Dou are important, and God has an important role for you in this church. <n the other hand, we must always embrace our ministry soberly and humbly. -on t think you are more than you are, don t think you are less than you are. Dou are what you are, and what you are is an important member of the body of "hrist.

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$.-$L/2,.There is a principle in the business world called the )areto )rinciple, and it often plays out in the church as well. @ilfredo )areto observed that in almost any business enterprise, or in any human endeavor, B= percent of the conseAuences stem from #= percent of the causes. :nfortunately, this same principle has been found to play out in the church as well. Twenty percent of the people will be doing things, will be teaching classes, will be involved in benevolence ministry, will be prayer warriors, or will get involved in church spring cleaning, while the other B= percent benefit from the labors of others. !hat studies of growing churches have found is that most of these churches have found a way to get every member of the body to understand that they have a ministry, and have helped the members to find and fulfill their function, and to do it with unction. It may be prophecy, which is speaking a word from God. It may be teaching, or e8hortation. It may be giving, leading, or showing mercy, but whatever it is, do it all to the glory of God. It may be serving in the nursery, or helping in "hildren s church. It may be praying with the prayers warriors on Tuesdays, or singing in the choir. Dour gift may be tongues and interpretation, or it may be a ministry helps, but somewhere in this church, there is a place for you to get involved, and until you find and fulfill your function, you are operating in a state of dysfunction. -on t hide your gift, but humbly and soberly ask God to use you wherever He needs you and yield yourself to His good and acceptable and perfect will for your life.

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T%& C%ri'ti(n Contr('t


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" (2)<*(2
.om (#4CF($ C ,et love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. "ling to what is good. (= Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one anotherE (( not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the ,ordE (# re/oicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayerE ($ distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.The Apostle )aul spent the bulk of the beginning of this 7pistle e8plaining that previous religious identities and rituals of *ews and Gentiles are no longer relevant with regards to salvation. The Gentiles never were in a right relationship with God prior to faith in *esus, and for the *ews, their relationship with God was continually impugned because of their own human weakness. They had the ,aw of 0oses, but they did not have capacity to keep the law, to observe and to obey every /ot and tittle. They also needed a +avior. +o while the *ews and the Gentiles were coming from two radically different places with respect to culture and religion, as "hristians they come to the same place in "hrist. All believers are now part of the same olive tree and all of the branches draw life from the same vine. This is a new identity that opens up new realities in our view of the world around us. This new identity, however, is not a continuation of our old life. It is not a slight modification or a tweaking of what we used to be. This new identity as a "hristian whose faith is in "hrist alone, results in a radically new life. )aul said, 1old things are past awayE behold all things have become new2 3# "or. &4(56. In this radically new life, the "hristian stands in contrast to the world.

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In the world, the focus is on self. In the world, it is all about getting ahead. In the world, it is about getting even, about the payFback, the selfFpromotion, climbing the ladder to success and not worrying about who we step on our way to the top. But the "hurch is supposed to be different, and the life of the believer should not look like the world.

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P1/L2 P&1$#,$1L 1PPL,$1#,.-2


The Apostle )aul has a way, under the inspiration of the Holy +pirit, of making the

theological practical. It is not enough to know the right words, and to sing the right songs. The believer also has to do the right things and live the right way. In verses C through #( )aul provides a list of practical applications of the "hristian paradigm and challenges us to live a life that looks like "hrist, and not like the world. ,et s look at these and briefly reflect on each one. +a ,et lo'e %e (itho!t hypocrisy) It is easy to act like we love someone, and then talk about them when their back is turned. This is what the world does. )eople in the world will act like they are your best friend, but then tell everyone else your business. This is hypocrisy, acting one way, but being something else. The believer is different. <ur love is to be real, to be genuine and to be an overflow of the love of God that has been shed abroad in our heart by the Holy +pirit. *esus said, 1By this will all men know that you are my disciples, because you love one another.2 The opposite of this is also true. The worst witness we can give is to be talking negatively about other "hristians. !e may disagree with what someone in the church has done, but the minute we start talking them down and critici;ing them to other people, especially to unbelievers, we are giving +atan the ammunition he needs to turn those people away from "hurch and away from "hrist. If we are going to be like *esus, then our love must be real, without mi8ed motives, and without the attitude that you are going to love them as long as we

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get something out of the relationship. !hat did *esus get for loving us9 He got a cross. !e d better learn to love for the sake of love. +% A%hor (hat is e'il) Clin# to (hat is #ood) The second thing we must be able to do as believers is to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, to abhor, or detest the evil and hangFon to the good. !e live in a world that is attempting to blur the lines between right and wrong, good and evil. !hat we once thought was wrong, some don t think is that bad any longer. !hat "hristians used to stay away from and avoid, many are now embracing. But we have been called out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, and we d better know the difference. There are too many people who live in the borderlands. They try to live on the ra;or s edge between "hristian and worldly. They hope to do enough to make it to heaven, but they won t give up their fascination with the world. God has a name for this. It s called 1lukewarm2 and it makes God sick. !e are not called to be a reflection of the world, but to provide a contrast, an alternative to the evil, the hypocrisy, and the selfishness of the world. :nfortunately, what the world often sees in many churches is more of the same. It is done in the name of God and under the covering of a steeple, but with little discernable difference between the people who call themselves believers and those who do not. $- Be .indly affectionate to one another (ith %rotherly lo'e& in honor #i'in# preference to one another/ Again it comes back to relationships. <ne pastor said, 1)astoring a church would be a great /ob if it wasn t for all those people.2 Being a "hristians would be easy if it wasn t for all those people. But relationship with God and with people is what it is all about.

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How are we going to approach those relationships9 !e can walk around with a chip on our shoulder, or we can be kind and affectionate toward one another. !e can keep our distance from one another, or we can love with brotherly love. !e can constantly push our way to the front of the line and into the limelight, or we can honor and give preference to one another. I guess the Auestion is, !hat would *esus do9 $$ not la##in# in dili#ence& fer'ent in spirit& ser'in# the ,ord/ >ot only does our relationship with one another reflect who we really are in the church, but how we live as servants of God, how passionate and dedicated we are to the things of God, and how willing and committed we are in serving God all speak to our relationship with God. )aul tells us not to lag in diligence. -iligence means persistence and meticulousness. It means that we must not do anything halfFhearted when it come to serving God. >ot only must we be diligent, but we must also be fervent in spirit, that is, on fire for *esus and passionate about serving God. Dou can tell when someone /ust isn t into it. Dou can tell when they re /ust going through the motions without passion. It ruins the whole thing. They may be there with you, but you know they d rather be somewhere else. !ell God isn t interested in /ust going through the motions. !hen we are serving God, He wants and deserves our passion, our diligence and our commitment. !e insult God by giving Him any less. $* rejoicin# in hope& patient in tri%!lation& contin!in# steadfastly in prayer/ How should we respond to the challenges of this life9 The world might Auit, or blame someone else, or blow upJbut not the believer. )aul said that regardless of what is going on around us, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, we must be able to re/oice in hope. !e have hope in *esus and nothing that happens

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can take that away, so we can re/oice anyhow. !e may live in a world filled with evil, with trials and troubles, but we live re/oicing with hope. :nlike the world that thinks this is all there is the believer knows that there is more. !e live 1,ooking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our +avior *esus "hristE !ho gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniAuity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, ;ealous of good works.2 3Titus #4($F(%E ?*@6. !hen we are in times of trials and tribulation, we can be patient. !e don t have throw up our hands and say, 1!hat s the use92 Instead, we can be patient because we know that God is going to turn it around in time and on time and He s going to make all things work together for our good. !e can be patient because we know that for the world, this is as good as it gets, but for the believer this is the worst it will ever be. The Greek word for patience 3hypomene6 literally means, 1to remain under,2 we can remain faithful under the pressure compromise, true when tempted to fail, and committed when pushed to placate. !e can do this because we are different, we aren t like the world, we have a higher power, a higher purpose, and a higher passion. !e are empowered by the Holy +pirit, living for God and in love with *esus. !e can be patient in tribulation. Ginally, we won t Auit. !e continue steadfastly in prayer. The world will give up, but we won t because we can go to God in prayer, day or night, rain or shine, and we know that God will direct our steps and guide us into that place of victory. !e will keep knocking, keep seeking and keep asking because we know that that God is able and that He will respond to His people when we ask in faith. !e continue steadfastly in prayer, not /ust to get stuff from God, but to remain in relationship with God, to stay in contact with God.

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!hen I was a little boy my father went to serve the Air Gorce in @ietnam. As a result I suffered from separation an8iety and would freak out anytime my mother attempted to leave me with a babyFsitter. It wasn t enough for me to see her, I wanted to be reassured by her touch, but her hand in mine. I have a picture of myself as a fourFyearFold at a carnival on a pony ride. 7ven though I could see my mother throughout the ride, it is obvious from the picture that I was crying while the other children were smiling and en/oying the ride. I wanted to maintain contact with her. As long as I could feel her holding mine, I was not afraid of anything. I trusted her to protect me and care for me. <f course, by the time I was si8 and starting school my father was back from @ietnam and the an8iety passed, but when I think about that need for contact, reminds me that I need to stay in contact with God. He said He would never leave me nor forsake me, but I need to feel my hand in His. God doesn t need our prayers, we need prayer, we need to remain steadfastly in prayer, because when we do, we have the confidence that and courage to do what God calls us to do, to be what He calls us to be, and to go where He calls us to go. The world, in contrast, is alone, fearful, and an8ious, despite the bravado, they do not have the confidence that a praying, believing, hoping, patient believer has as we walk through life with our faith fi8ed on *esus. $.-$L/2,.,et me end right here and ask, do you know this hope, do you have this patience, do you pray with this consistency9 If you look at your life today and you reali;e that there isn t much difference between the life you are living, and the life of those in the world who have no hope, then I invite you to let us pray with you to e8perience a transformational encounter with God through *esus "hrist. I cannot imagine what it would be like to walk through this world without that blessed hope. I don t think that I could make it through the tribulations of life without believing that

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God is large and in charge, and working things out for me. And I know that would still be a fearF filled little boy if I did not know for sure that God has His omnipotent hand wrapped around my little insignificant hand. It is His grip of grace that gives my life meaning and hope, patience and passion. If want to know God with in this type of relationship you can know Him today.

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RIGHTEOUS RULES FOR RELATIONSHIPS


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" &o'" (2)(8*2(
($ distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. (% Bless those who persecute youE bless and do not curse. (& .e/oice with those who re/oice, and weep with those who weep. (' Be of the same mind toward one another. -o not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. -o not be wise in your own opinion. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.A few years ago country singer George *ones sang, 1!ell me and *esus we our own things going, me and *esus, we got it all worked out. 0e and *esus, we got our own things going. !e don t need anybody to tell us what it s all about.2 +omeone once said that church would be a great place to worship, if it wasn t for all those people. If it was /ust *esus and me, it wouldn t be nearly so difficult to be a believer. The fact is, that the truest, clearest and most concrete evidence of our relationship with *esus, is revealed in our relationships with others. *esus said, 1In as much as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.2 *ohn wrote, in his 7pistle, 1How can you love God, whom you have not seen, it you cannot love your bother whom you have seen92 The depth of our relationship with God is not seen primarily in how much we shout, or how much we give, or how many times we read our Bible through, or how many hours we pray. The depth of our relationship with God is most clearly seen in how we treat one another as believers, and even how we interact with nonF believers. *esus said, 1By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.2

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)aul continues in the verses ($ through #( to highlight the contrast between believers and the world by addressing an area where we often have the most difficulty, our relationship with other people. !ith that in mind, let s look at how the Apostle )aul instructs believers to behave, with respect to our relationships. ,ook at verse ($. $0 distri%!tin# to the needs of the saints& #i'en to hospitality) !hen it comes to how believers should treat one another, we should learn to view one another as family. !e should be concerned about one another as a family of believers. If we see a brother or a sister in need and we shut up our heart and compassion, how then does the love of "hrist dwell in us9 Believers, like *esus, are moved with compassion and given to hospitality. !e can never look away and act like it doesn t concern us. If one member is in pain, the whole body hurts and the body responds to the pain of that one member. <ur willingness to care for, tend to, to help other members of our church family ought to mark us. It ought to distinguish us from the world whose motto is 1,ive and let live.2 And, 1Dou make your bed, now lie in it.2 $1 Bless those (ho persec!te yo!/ %less and do not c!rse) +ome may find it relatively easy to love those who love us, but how do we relate to those who don t love, who may in fact, despise us, who treat us with distain, with anger and malice9 In the world, that s easyJwe get even. It s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But the "hurch is not the world. !e are in the world, but we are not of the world. !e are the children of God and how we react to those who mistreat us will be the most telling evidence of how much we truly look like "hrist. *esus said that if someone smites us on the cheek, we should offer the other cheek. If they ask us to go one mile, we go two. )aul said, 1Bless those who persecute youE bless and do not curse.2 )aul is not /ust talking about cussing here. )aul isn t /ust saying we shouldn t cuss

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them out. )aul is saying that we should do the opposite and bless them, and not in the country sense of blessing them out. There s no real blessing in that. )aul doesn t /ust say to walk away, or to ignore them, or to run and hide from them. )aul said that we are to overcome evil with good. In fact, we are to bless them, to respond in love to their hatredE to respond in kindness to their crueltyE to respond like "hrist who could say from the cross, 1Gorgive them Gather, they know not what they do.2 $2 Rejoice (ith those (ho rejoice& and (eep (ith those (ho (eep) <ne of the most difficult things for the world to do is to celebrate the victories of others. <n the /ob, if someone else got the promotion we wanted, the world will suggest that he or she got the /ob because they were always kissing up to the boss. <r it was because of politics and favoritism. And, in fact, it may have been, but what separates the "hurch from the world is that we won t go there. Instead, we re/oice with them that re/oice. !e don t see the victories of others as our loss, but as reason to celebrate. !hen we can do that, it will have a profound impact on how that individual looks at you as a believer. >ot only should we re/oice with them that re/oice, but we should be vulnerable and genuine enough in our relationship with others that we can weep with those who weep. 7ven those people who have treated us badly need compassion. !e must never gloat that they got what was coming to them, but we, as believers, should be willing to sit with them in their pain and cry with them. If you want to turn an enemy into a friend, when that person who has mistreated you is going through a tragedy, you be the first person to call, and to let them know that you are praying for them, and it will turn them around.

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In the hyperFfaith religious climate of today, we are often told not to cry, but to name and claim, believe and receive, and everything is going to work out. I believe there is a time to cry, and often it is time to cry with others who are going through grief. !hen *esus saw the grief of 0artha and 0ary over the loss of their brother, *esus wept with them. He already knew He was going to raise ,a;arus up, but *esus was moved by the tears of these two sisters. $3a Be of the same mind to(ard one another) 4o not set yo!r mind on hi#h thin#s& %!t associate (ith the h!m%le) In addition to compassion and patience in our relationship with others, )aul addresses how a believer should carry himself, or herself around others. +ome "hristians are so holy and so selfFrighteous that they could never win the lost to "hrist, because they don t want to associate with, or reach out to them. *esus was called a friend of sinners. *esus went to the homes of those that others re/ected and despised. *esus met and ministered to the people that others avoided. *esus was God in the flesh, and yet no one was too lowly for Him to associate with or to reach out and touch. +o who are we to think that we are too good to reach out to anyone9 !e must never think we are better anyone else. !e may be born again, but God loves the least and the lost as much as He loves me. That s why, if I love God, I will be the instrument He uses to reach them. As the old saying goes, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I know some churches that will say, unapologetically that they are targeting and tailoring their ministry for the upperFclass, and yes the upperFclass need *esus, but we cannot be obsessed with finding opportunities to hobnob with the social elite, or being accepted in the right social cliAues. !hen )aul said 1do not set your mind on high things,2 he was saying not to obsess, or become consumed with the desire to be famous or rich. Instead, we should simply aspire to do our best, and be our best in all that we do, and let God handle the rest.

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I ve known pastors before their church grew to several thousand, and have seen them change once they got there. I ve known and gone to school with people before they were on television or were married to a noted personality, and watched them act like they didn t know me once they got there. I don t know how )hil +tacey will act after his American Idol e8perience. I knew him when he was a teenager in ?ansas. I know his father and family very well. I hope that fame doesn t change him from friendly (%FyearFold kid I once knew running around the ?ansas youth camp. Instead of fi8ating on the social elite, )aul tells believers to associate with the humble. 0other Teresa became famous, not through money or being some television personality, but she became someone who was known around the world because she was willing to be with and to minister to the least and the last. +he associated with the humble, and the ,ord put her in the spotlight. +he never sought it, she never aspired to popular fame. All she did was feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the afflicted, and God did the rest. !hen the world finds a church like that, it will be such a contrast to the world that the world will stop and take notice. $3d 4o not %e (ise in yo!r o(n opinion) >umerous studies show that the vast ma/ority of us think that we are smarter than we really are. <ne study asked people what they thought their IV was and when they tested these people, they scored lower than they thought that they would. Another study showed that people think they are better on their /obs than they really are. )reachers think we are better preachers than we really are. +ingers think they are better singers than they really are. I used to think I could sing until I heard the tape. I used to think I could preach until watched the -@-. If it wasn t for God s grace, and if it wasn t for the power of the Holy +pirit to anoint my efforts, then I d be an ab/ect failure.

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!hen we think we are better than we are, the only person who is fooled is ourselves. !e need to walk in humility and meekness of spirit. 0eekness is not weakness and humility is not the denial of ability, but it is the willingness to do what God has called us to do and to remember that He is our source and our strength and without Him we could do nothing. !hen people see that humility in us, they will be drawn to us, and we will not need to toot our own horn. The evidence of our ministry will be seen in the lives we have touched.

$.-$L/2,.I feel compelled to stop right here and minister to some people who are going through some relationship issues. There are people here today who are dealing with relationship problems or challenges and it is affecting you in your "hristian walk. It may be with children or it may be with parents. It may be with someone in the church or someone at work, but there are some people here today, and you know who you are, that have prayed and cried and fretted and you are still struggling with a significant relationship in your life. )aul has given us some powerful relationship rules. These rules are not like the world, they often stand in contrast to the approach the world would take, but I believer in the power of good to overcome evil and in humility to as a source of strength. I want to pray for those of you who are dealing with relational issues that are causing you emotional pain. "ome on down to this altar and the elders and I will agree with in prayer that God will give you the wisdom, the guidance, and the insight to reach out to bring about health in an unhealthy relationship in your life.

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A RIGHTEOUS RESPONSE TO EVIL


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" &o'" (2)(7*2(
(5 .epay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (B If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (C Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrathE for it is written, L@engeance is 0ine, I will repay,L says the ,ord. #= Therefore LIf your enemy is hungry, feed himE If he is thirsty, give him a drinkE Gor in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.L #( -o not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. >?*@ ,-#&.!/$#,.This past 0onday 3April (', #==56, #$FyearFold +eungFHui "ho walked into a @irginia Tech dorm room and killed a young lady and a resident dorm advisor. Two hours later, he walked across the campus and into an academic building where he chained and locked doors so that no one could escape and then, with Cmm and ##Fcaliber pistols, he killed $= other fellow students before turning the gun upon himself and committing suicide. It is in the light of such evil acts that people inevitably ask some probing Auestions about God, about the nature of humanity and of evil itself. !here was God when this young man was shooting innocent people9 How could one human being commit such atrocities on other humans9 How do we, as believers, respond to such blatant and unabashed acts of evil9 !hat *esus teaches and e8emplifies, and what the Apostle )aul states in our te8t, tends to run contrary to our first, kneeF/erk, reaction. In our humanity, we are prone to react with anger, hatred and malice. !e are prone to find a villain or a culprit, and since, in this case the

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perpetrator committed suicide, the ob/ect of anger will probably be the school president or the local police department for failing to act Auickly enough after the first shooting to secure the campus and prevent the second attack. <ften people want to blame God, and to focus their anger on Him as ineffective or unwilling to do something to stop this violence. Det all the while, the real culprit in such cases is the reality of evil in our world. +ome deny the reality of evil. +ome see the concept of evil as a superstitious or mystical concept that is archaic in our modern age. However, despite the denials of the presence of evil in our world, evil continues to raise its ugly head. <n CN((, evil brought down buildings. 7very day in IraA, evil destroys lives and kills the innocent. In homes, hidden from the cameras and the media coverage, evil thrives as men batter wives, as children are molested, and as drugs ravage our communities. <n one morning, in the Auiet little community of Blacksburg, @irginia, on the @irginia Tech campus, evil enveloped the mind and will of a #$FyearFold young man and killed the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers who could never have imagined such a tragedy would ever strike their family. In a world where God has given humanity the power of free will, the potential for evil to find and fill the heart of empty people is everFpresent. In this present age, evil, personified in +atan himself, e8ists and is always waiting and looking for the opportunity to e8press itself in such hideous manifestations of human violence upon their fellow humans. !here is God9 God is there, and God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, but God never promises that we are e8empt from pain, or from suffering, or from feeling the effects of evil in this world. )eople who preach that if we have enough faith we will never be touched by tragedy are snake oil salesmen. *ob had faith and favor with God, but *ob felt the

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hand of evil touch his life. The Apostles were men of faith, but all of them e8cept *udas 3who committed suicide6 and the Apostle *ohn 3who lived to be an old man6, all of them suffered and ultimately died a martyr s death. The Book of *ob is not about why evil happens, but how to respond to evil and maintain faith in God despite the impact of evil upon our world, or in our own lives. In the remainder of chapter (#, )aul speaks to the issue of how we respond to evil and to those who would perpetrate evil upon us. .emember, )aul is showing us that church is a counterFculture, the church stands in contrast to the world with respect to our response. !hat )aul tell us, runs contrary to our old nature and our carnal inclination to get even for the pain we have endured at the hand of evil. ,ook at verse (5. (7 &eCay no one evil for evil" Have regard for good %hings in %he sigh% of all 'en" !e can respond to evil with more evil and we can allow the evil committed against us to poison our heart and fill us with hatred and rage, but when that happens, evil has won the victory. !hen evil is perpetuated through us after we have been hurt by evil, then evil wins. !hen we repay evil for evil, we have increased the sum total of evil. !e must never stoop to the level of the world, but we must always stand with our feet firmly planted on the .ock of Ages and fight the fires of retribution with compassion and good will to all men. 7vil brought a whip across the back of *esus, but love provided healing from those wounds. 7vil nailed a sinless man to a cross, but love provided forgiveness. Instead of focusing on the evil that has been done to us, we must find the good, we must look for the lovely, we must have regard for good things. !e cannot focus on the bad, but we must overcome evil with good. This isn t always easy to do. ,ook at verse (B. (9 ,f i% is Cossible as 'uch as deCends on you live Ceaceably :i%h all 'en"

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I think I appreciate verse (B as much as any verse in the Bible. There is an implicit understanding that sometimes, even after we ve done the best that we can, after we ve acted with integrity and with "hristian character, some people will not like us. ,ook at the caveats to )aul s statement. The statement is to 1live peaceably with all men.2 But he prefaces this with two conditions. 1If it is possible, as much as depends on you. . .2 -on t you love that9 1If it is possible,2 suggests that sometimes it is impossible. +ometimes there will be people around you who are so controlled and manipulated by +atan that they behave in irrational and hostile ways. !hen I got the letter from the fellow who talked about thrusting a /avelin through me for no other reason than that I m in a mi8ed marriage, well, there s not a lot I can do about that. I m certainly not going to leave my wife to make peace with him. 1As much as depends on you,2 recogni;es that there always two sides to a Auarrel. The only thing we can do is make sure that we have done all we can, from our side, not to engage in hostile acts or attitudes. I already made up my mind that I don t have to attend every argument that I m invited to. The world s response to someone who is hostile is to become defensive, to lash out and to point fingers. <ften there is a desire for retribution, for pay back, to get even. But the believer pursues peace with everything that is within him or her. I was talking with another pastor a couple days ago and he was telling me that he is really en/oying the church he is currently pastoring, and he only good things to say about his congregation, with one e8ception. He said there is one lady in the church who simply does not like him. In fact, she let him know that she holds him in contempt. He said last +unday they had

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a good turnout, the church was full, he had a good word from God, but that lady sat toward the front shooting daggers at him with her looks. He said that he has done everything he knows to do to win this woman over and to gain her trust and respect. He has gone to her home and tried to reason with her. He has talked with her in his office. As much as is in him, he has tried to build a good relationship with this woman, but she will have none of it. I told him that I ve encountered a few people like her in my years pastoring, and as a as a "hristian we do what we know we should do. As much as it is within our control, we do all that we can to make peace with those people. But in the flesh, that old carnal nature really /ust wants to rise up and take over. In the flesh, we /ust want to slap the taste out of their mouth. However, we know that they who live according to the flesh cannot please God. It isn t easy, and sometimes despite our best efforts we will be rebuffed, but regardless of how others respond, we must continue to e8emplify "hristFlike character in every encounter. ,ook at verse (C4 (C Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrathE for it is written, L@engeance is 0ine, I will repay,L says the ,ord. !hen I was living in sin, if I had a conflict or confrontation with someone, I would lay awake at night and fantasi;e about how I was going to get even. +ome dark and disturbing thoughts came into my mind as I tried to think of ways to pay someone back for doing me wrong. >ow that I am a "hristian, I don t have to worry about that, or think about that. I ve given it to God and He has promised that He will take care of me. +eungFHui "ho allowed those dark thoughts to grow in his heart and mind until evil took control and +atan made this man his minion. !hen we allow those dark thoughts to linger, they grow larger, and eventually they will become a controlling force in our life.

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)aul tells us that we can overcome evil by refusing to give in to feelings and emotions of revenge. Through God s love and forgiveness, we have been set free to love and forgive others and to leave vengeance in the hands of God. I used to worry about what others were saying about me or doing to undermine my ministry, but I ve changed. !hen I am critici;ed or talked about, I don t let it bother me as much as I used to. At this point in my life, when I hear the criticism of others, I listen and if their criticism is valid I will repent, and change, and do better. However, if the criticism of others has no merit, if it is merely their own neurosis manifesting in their attack on me, I turn it over to God. He s got my back. God will defend me and I pity the man or the woman upon whom God s vengeance is poured out in my defense. I ve watched my wife at work. !hen she first went to work at the store, she was walking into a beehive of dysfunctional people. There were three or four, in particular, who were working against her. +he and I talked about it, the church has prayed about it, and one by one those people have either changed in their attitude toward +un, or they have been firedJand +un did not do the firing. 0y wife didn t have to argue with them, or get into a name calling contest, or behave in a way that less than "hristian. Instead, +un continued to pray, e8emplify "hristian character, and she left the rest in the hands of God. He said, 1@engeance is 0ine, I will repay.2 !e don t wish harm on them, we don t pray for their destruction, and we don t do things to get them in trouble. All a believer has to do is turn them over to God, and then get a good night s sleep because God is going to work it out. !hen -avid, in the <ld Testament, said, 1Touch not God s anointed,2 it wasn t /ust a statement reserved for kings, priests and pastors. If you are Born Again, a child in the kingdom of God, then you are His anointed and )apa God will watch over you.

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+o if you don t have to try to get even, and if you aren t avenging yourself, and if you give place to wrath 3which is to say, letting wrath pass on by instead of embracing it6, how does the "hristian respond to the people who rise up against us9 !e already know that people will rise up in opposition to the people of God. They that live godly in "hrist *esus shall suffer persecution, so how do we respond. )aul says, 1I m glad you asked.2 ,ook at verses #= and #(4 #= Therefore LIf your enemy is hungry, feed himE If he is thirsty, give him a drinkE Gor in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.L #( -o not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. @erse #= appears to be a parado8. Are we feeding and giving drink to our enemy, or are we putting hot coals on their head9 That phrase, 1Gor in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head,2 must be understood in the immediate conte8t. @erse #= opens with good intentions, and verse #( continues by telling us to 1overcome evil with good.2 !e have been called to persist in doing good, regardless of how bad we are treated. They curse us, we bless them. They persecute us, we do them good. They get hungry and we feed them. They get thirsty and we give them drink. !hat is the result of all this goodness9 It has a way of melting their heart and causing them to become repentant in their attitude. "oals of fire on the head is most likely a reference an ancient 7gyptian practice of a repentant person carrying a plate of hot coals on his head while he walked through the village confessing his error. )aul seems to be saying that when we do good to those who spitefully use us, the hope is that we will win them over. That they will feel sorry for treating us bad and will eventually repent for treating us with hostility.

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<f course, this seems to run contrary to our human nature. !e want our pound of flesh, we want retribution, but all we do when we react like that is to solidify the hostility, reinforce the division, and give evil another victory. However, when we continue to do good, when we continue to bless and not curse, when we feed our enemies, there is the very real possibility that we will lose our enemy and make a friend.

$.-$L/2,.0aybe you are here today, and after looking at )aul s instructions, you reali;e that your life is not measuring up to the "hristian standard to which the !ord of God calls us. 0aybe you have looked into the mirror of God s !ord and you reali;e today that you find it too difficult to bless those who curse you. Dou may have a smoldering anger in you that won t go away. Dou have been wronged and you still want to get even. I believe you can pray today for God to touch your heart and as you turn the battles over to Him, you find that He can do a better /ob with those problem people than you have been able to do. Dou may need to ask that God change you, to make you more like *esus, and let the contrast between you and world become the salt that makes them thirsty for God. !e live in a world were evil is present, and it is very likely that at some point in our lifetime, each of us will e8perience the effect of evil on our lives. !hen we return good for evil, when we bless and do not curse, when we forgive rather than seek retribution, when we turn it over to God instead of seeking to get even, then evil loses and the kingdom of God wins. If it were possible, I think it would be rather satisfying to punch +atan in the stomach. Have you ever been so mad that you wanted to take a swing at him9 !ell, what )aul instructs us to do in the face of evil is a punch in the gut of +atan. !hen we respond to curses with blessings, when we return good for evil, when we feed and give drink to our enemy, evil is

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losing, we are smacking the devil around, and righteousness wins. Are you ready for some victories9 Then I want those of you who want to smack the devil around, but you find that your flesh often overrides your spirituality when confronted by bad or evil people, I want to pray with you that you will learn to put these practical principles into practice in your "hristian walk and begin to win victories for God over evil.

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GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (8)(*7
(,et every soul be sub/ect to the governing authorities. Gor there is no authority e8cept from God, and the authorities that e8ist are appointed by God. # Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring /udgment on themselves. $ Gor rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. -o you want to be unafraid of the authority9 -o what is good, and you will have praise from the same. % Gor he is GodKs minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraidE for he does not bear the sword in vainE for he is GodKs minister, an avenger to e8ecute wrath on him who practices evil. & Therefore you must be sub/ect, not only because of wrath but also for conscienceK sake. ' Gor because of this you also pay ta8es, for they are GodKs ministers attending continually to this very thing. 5 .ender therefore to all their due4 ta8es to whom ta8es are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.In a world where the government appears to be increasingly hostile to Bible based "hristianityE and where the government has passed laws allowing infants to be murdered while still in the mother s wombE and where religious rights in the pubic area are being erodedE and where every reference to "hristian holidays and Ten "ommandments are removed from government buildings and school functions, the church is faced with a very serious and practical Auestion4 How do we respond to government authority in times like these9 -o we re/ect it9 -o we pray for it9 -o we engage and participate in it9 -o we revile it9 !hat should the response of believers be to the authority of the government9 In )aul s day, and especially for the believers living in .ome 3the capital and heart of the .oman 7mpire6, the issue of their relationship with the government was an issue of life and death. Allegiance was pledged by giving sacrifices to the Goddess .oma, and the "aesars were declared to be gods. +ome wanted to re/ect the government, to re/ect the secular laws, and to

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refuse to pay ta8es and customs. )aul reali;ed that blatant rebellious acts against civil authority would bring the church into reproach with the government and make them an even bigger target for persecution. )aul reali;ed that the church would not win the respect or the hearts of political leaders by living in rebellion against laws, authorities, and ta8es. Going back to the previous chapter, )aul has already stated that we must not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good Jeven an evil government.

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( ,et every soul be sub/ect to the governing authorities. Gor there is no authority e8cept from God, and the authorities that e8ist are appointed by God. ,ook at the instruction in verse (. 1,et every soul be sub/ect to governing authorities.2

)aul is talking about the secular government here, and he is telling the church that everyone, believer as well as unbeliever, should be sub/ect to these authorities. That word 1sub/ect2 is from the Greek word hypotasso, which means 1to subordinate, to obey.2 >ot long after )aul wrote this epistle, persecution intensified and the church was challenged even further. In our time, we find ourselves asking, how far to go along with the government before we are forced to make a decision between compromising our morals by obeying the laws, or standing for the !ord and re/ecting civil law. The early church fathers addressed this very Auestion and they concluded that in the event that it came down to maintaining our "hristian obedience to the !ord of God, or violating God s !ord to obey the secular law, God s !ord takes precedence. In Acts chapter &, the +anhedrin 3a *ewish legal governing body6, arrested the Apostles for teaching the gospel of "hrist in the Temple courts. They threw the Apostles in /ail, but God opened the doors of the /ail and set them free. The ne8t day the +anhedrin found the Apostles and brought them before the High )riest. He reminded them that they had previously been ordered

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not to teach in *esus name. In verse #C, 1)eter and the other apostles replied4 M!e must obey God rather than menH 2 3>I@6 There are times, such during the "ivil .ights movement in America, or during >a;i Germany, when the church must stand up, and while maintaining a "hristian spirit of humility and love, must resist the government when it is perpetrating in/ustice on others. However, aside from such cases where it comes down to obeying God, or obeying man, )aul s instructions indicate that believers are to be sub/ect to governing authorities. Gurthermore, )aul points out that God is ultimately in control, and that even secular governments operate under the permissive will of God. 1Gor there is no authority e8cept from God, and the authorities that e8ist are appointed by God.2 0artin ,uther once said, 1The devil is God s devil.2 That simply means, as the book of *ob illustrates, that even +atan can only operate within the boundaries fi8ed by God Himself. God is in control. 7arly "hurch Gather, Irenaeus, wrote of +atan, 1Gor it is not he who has appointed the kingdoms of this world, but GodE for Mthe heart of the king is in the hand of God 3)rov. #(4(6. And the !ord also says by +olomon, MBy me kings do reign, and princes administer /ustice. By me chiefs are raised up, and by me kings rule the earth. 3)ov. B4(&62 3$gainst (eresies, QQI@, ()2 God even uses evil empires and evil men and governments to accomplish His will. !hat +atan means for evil, God uses for good. Indeed, God can make 1all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose2 3.om. B4#B6. It doesn t matter how you slice it, God wins and the devil loses. Therefore, even while we are living in a country where two of the three houses of government are under the control of a political party that endorses homose8ual unions, abortions, and liberal /udges and that want to

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take God off of our money, out of our pledges, and take "hristian prayers out of every government function, God will even use their evil to bring about His good.

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#HE $.-2ED/E-$E2 .4 &EBELL,.# Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring /udgment on themselves. In light of God s sovereignty over even secular governments, )aul warns believers that

1whoever2 3that means believers or unbelievers6 1resists authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring /udgment on themselves.2 If a believer thinks he or she can break the law, or ignore the law simply because they believe the government is corrupt, )aul is letting us know in advance that we d better be ready to face the conseAuences because God is not obligating Himself to bail us out. >ow, again, I m not talking about issues of moral compulsion. I m talking about the general laws of the land. These laws, and the governmental authorities designated to enforce the law, are tools to prevent the spread of evil. That is, things like robbery, murder, rape, and so on. In America we have many civil rights, and though we may feel that some of those rights are being undermined, we can still praise God for the rights that remain and live a life of obedience to the law as representatives of the kingdom of God. ,ook at what )aul writes in verse $F&4 $ Gor rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. -o you want to be unafraid of the authority9 -o what is good, and you will have praise from the same. % Gor he is GodKs minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraidE for he does not bear the sword in vainE for he is GodKs minister, an avenger to e8ecute wrath on him who practices evil. & Therefore you must be sub/ect, not only because of wrath but also for conscienceK sake. God uses the civil authorities as His ministers in e8ecuting /udgment and /ustice upon those in our society who would do others harm. Admittedly, there are times when the government itself is the one doing harm. There are times when the police beat men senseless when they are already down. There are times when

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swat teams burst into the wrong house and gun down a C#FyearFold woman who is innocent of any crime. Des, it happens. +o how does the believer respond9 +hould we riot in the streets and burn down houses and businesses9 >o. )aul tells us that God is in control and the law will catch up even with those in the government who perpetrate evil. Behold your sins will find you out and what was spoken in secret will be shouted from the housetops. )aul tells the believers that God isn t going to protect us from the courts or the law if we are guilty of breaking the law. )aul said, 1If you do evil, be afraid.2 !hen I was a teenager, I was always doing something that could have landed me in /ail or in /uvenile detention. I won t list what those things, but I do know that the statute of limitations has passed on all of them so it isn t likely that I ll be hauled out of here in handcuffs. It is only by dumb luck or the ineptitude of the local police that I was never apprehended. <ne summer day, I remember seeing a police car coming down the dirt road toward my mobile home. 0y cousin and I were looking out the window as the police headed toward the trailer, but before my cousin could turn around, I was running out the back door and up the creek. 0y cousin said he turned around and all he saw were the rings in the water I ran up the shallow creek. As it turned out, the police officer was only campaigning for sheriff, but my guilty conscience didn t wait to find out. )roverb #B4( says, 1The wicked flee when no one pursues.2 )aul said, 1If you do evil,2 that is, if you break the laws and live in rebellion to civil governmental authority, 1be afraid2. Therefore, we are to obey those authorities, not only to avoid wrath, but also 1for conscienceK sake2.

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,ook at verses ' and 5. Based on what )aul writes here, it seems he is addressing a

potential problem. There may have been those who believed that as "hristians they should not

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pay ta8es or tribute to a government that they considered to be pagan and corrupt. If this is what they thought, )aul Auickly corrects them. )aul writes4 ' Gor because of this you also pay ta8es, for they are GodKs ministers attending continually to this very thing. 5 .ender therefore to all their due4 ta8es to whom ta8es are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. In this, )aul was reiterating what *esus had already instructed. In 0atthew ##4(5, the )harisees tried to entrap *esus on the issue of paying ta8es to .ome. They asked *esus, 1Tell us then, what is your opinion9 Is it right to pay ta8es to "aesar or not92 (B But *esus, knowing their evil intent, said, LDou hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me9 (C +how me the coin used for paying the ta8.L They brought him a denarius, #= and he asked them, L!hose portrait is this9 And whose inscription9L #( L"aesarKs,L they replied. Then he said to them, LGive to "aesar what is "aesarKs, and to God what is GodKs.L )aul not only tells us to obey civil authorities, and to pay ta8es and customs, but )aul instructs the believer to pay respect to those whose position should be respected, and to show honor to those whose authority should be honored. !e may disagree with a president, or a senator, or a /udge, but the !ord of God never gives us permission to return evil for evil, or to show disrespect or dishonor. In his letter to Titus, )aul writes4 ( .emind the people to be sub/ect to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, # to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. 3Titus $4(F#, >I@6 Instead of slandering or berating those authorities, we are called to pray for them, and to remember that God is still in control. )aul wrote to the church at "olossae, 1Gor by him Oby *esusP all things were created4 things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authoritiesE all things were created by him and for him2 3"ol (4(', >I@6. The Apostle )eter writes in his first epistle4

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($ +ubmit yourselves for the ,ordKs sake to every authority instituted among men4 whether to the king, as the supreme authority, (% or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (& Gor it is GodKs will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (' ,ive as free men, but do not use your freedom as a coverFup for evilE live as servants of God. (5 +how proper respect to everyone4 ,ove the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 3( )eter #4($F(5, >I@6 I know that there are things that happen in our country and in our government that cause righteous indignation to arise within us. +till, as believers we are called to remember that this is a spiritual warfare. 1Gor we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places2 37ph '4(#, ?*@6. >ameFcalling, slandering, anger, hatred, and malice will not win this battle. )aul tells us emphatically that 1though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh4 3Gor the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holdsE62 3# "or (=4$F%, ?*@6. !hat did God say9 He said, 1@engeance is mine, I will repay.2 The battle is the ,ord s, and we have been called to live right, to act right, and to do this with a spirit of humility and meekness. *esus said, 1Blessed are the meek4 for they shall inherit the earth2 30att. &4&6. 7ither God is true to His !ord or He isn t. I believe that if God said it that settles it. !e don t win by being pushing, brash, angry and obno8ious. !e win when we engage in the systemJwe vote, we tell the truth in love, we obey the laws, we respect and honor those in authority, and we trust God to work out His plan for humanity.

$.-$L/2,.Griends, God is in control. The heart of the king is in God s hand. !e may not always understand what is happening, we may not like it, and we should do everything we can in a spirit of love, humility, and meekness to shine a light in the darkness, but those people who say and do

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things contrary to our "hristian conscious, are not the enemy. They are the victims, the captives of the enemy. <ur war is against the spirit of darkness that is so pervasive in this age. -o you want to make a difference9 -o you want to see revival sweep America and change the cultural landscape as it did during the Great Awakenings9 Then believe God. ?eep living right, keep acting right, keep loving the unlovable and returning good for evil, because the ,amb that had been slain has prevailed and has received the scroll from Him who sits upon the throne. *esus has loosed the seven seal and unfurled the plan of God and ready or not, God s plan will prevail and His kingdom will be established for a thousand year reign of righteousness upon this earth. Are you ready9 Dou may be religious, but are you ready9 Dou may be filled with righteous indignation, but are you ready9 Have you surrendered your will, and your ways to the grace of God and do you trust Him with your life, with your future, and with eternity9 I think that world has seen enough angry "hristians marching outside of abortion clinics. The world has seen enough of the Gred )helps and his followers marching on sidewalks with signs declaring that God hates homose8uals. )erhaps what they need are "hristians who can demonstrate the same kind of love *esus demonstrated when He was called a friend of sinners. 0aybe the world needs to see the heart of the church, and not /ust hear our condemnation. 0aybe those who are captive to sin need to hear a message of deliverance, of hope and healing, rather than hurt and condemnation. Are you ready9 It is one thing to point out the problems with our government, but is another thing to fast and pray and enter into a season of intercession for those who hold those offices. It s one thing to be angry about the erosion of our "hristian rights, but it is another thing altogether to do good to them that despitefully use us, and to love our enemies. "hristianity is not some milAuetoast proposition. It calls the believer to radical faith lived in radical love.

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LOVE IS THE ANSWER


By Mark E" Hargrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' (8)9*(0
B <we no one anything e8cept to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. C Gor the commandments, LDou shall not commit adultery,L LDou shall not murder,L LDou shall not steal,L LDou shall not bear false witness,L LDou shall not covet,L and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, LDou shall love your neighbor as yourself.L (= ,ove does no harm to a neighborE therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.+ome of you will remember the song from the seventies entitled L,ove Is the Answer.L The lyrics for the chorus said4 ,ight of the world, +hine on me ,ove is the answer +hine on us all, +et us free ,ove is the answer That song has been reFreleased several times, once as a country song, and it has also been popular on the local "hristian radio station as well. !ith that song in mind, I want to use the title from that song as the title for this sermon today. ,ove is the answer. Before we get to the meat of this sermon let me ask a couple Auestions. ,et me ask you a Auestion today, and you don t need to respond aloud, but think for a moment about how you would respond if you were called upon. The Auestion is simply this4 Is it difficult to live a "hristian life9 Think about it. Is it difficult, is it hard, is it a struggle to live a "hristian life9 +ome would say that it is. In fact, there are some who would like to become followers of *esus, but they are convinced that it is too difficult and they don t believe they can make it, so they don t even try. They are defeated before they even attempt to live for *esus. I wonder where those folks get the idea that it is a struggle, a burden, a hardship to live for *esus.

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,et me ask you another Auestion4 !as it hard for Adam and 7ve to live in the Garden of 7den9 !e look at their situation and we re ama;ed that they were willing to sacrifice a garden paradise for a taste of forbidden fruit. They could eat anything else. They could go anywhere in the garden. They walked with God in the cool of the day and en/oyed fellowship with Him and with one another. The animals, before the curse were all vegetarians so the wild beasts were their pets. There was no pollution. They could drink out any stream or river they wanted to. There was but one thing, one stipulation, one reAuirement that marked their obedience and their love for God. God said that they must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was the only limitation. +o was it easy to live in the Garden of 7den, right9 !e look at that scene and we would say without hesitation that it was not /ust easy to live in the Garden of 7den, but it was a blessing and a dream that was their reality. <f course, it was easy. They only had to observe one limitation, deal with only one temptation, and en/oy everything else. I ask you againE is it difficult to live a "hristian life9 +ome will protest, 1!ell, -r. Hardgrove, Adam and 7ve didn t have to deal with all the stuff we have to deal with. !e have many more sources of temptation and besides, we don t live in a garden, we live in a cursed world where the elements resist us, we earn our living by the sweat of our brow, and sin is always crouching at the door. Dou can t compare the Garden of 7den with living a "hristian life.2 <thers would say, 1It was easy to live in the Garden, but it is difficult to live a "hristian life. After all, look at all that )aul has /ust told us. He speaks to the depravity of this world, of those who will persecute us, and act with evil intent against us, and that we are to return good for

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evil. !e are to honor and respect a secular government that is increasingly hostile toward the moral values of "hristianity. <f course it s difficult.2 As I looked at what )aul says in our te8t, I see one striking similarity. "hristianity boils down to one thing, and when we get that one thing right, everything else falls into place. Adam and 7ve had to obey one prohibition and everything between them and God was fine. It s always that one thing that gets us. *esus told the .ich Doung .uler, 1Dou lack one thing2 3,k. (B4##6. Then *esus told him to do a series of things, sell your possessions, give them to the poor, and come and follow me. +o why did *esus say it was one thing that this young man lacked9 Because it always comes down to that one thing and that one thing is love. *esus saw a religious man who lacked love for his fellow man. In ,uke chapter (= *esus was visiting the home of 0artha and 0ary. 0artha was busy fi8ing lunch and attending to the guests, but 0ary sat at *esus feet, she remained in His presence and she listened to Him speak. 0artha was busy with ministry, but 0ary was focused on being with *esus. 0artha complained to *esus. +he said, 1-on t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work92 3If you want to look at it with me, it s ,uke (=, verses %( and %#.6 *esus replied, 10artha, 0artha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. 0ary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.2 >I@ -id you see what *esus said here9 He said, 1<nly one thing is needed.2 !hat is that one thing9 0ary had discovered it sitting in the presence of *esus, but 0artha missed it, as she was so busy and worried about everything going on around *esus. *esus doesn t e8plicitly tell us what that one thing is. +ome would say it is worship, others would say it is learning, but I believe it is love. After all, we cannot truly worship God, if we don t first love God.

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In the Garden, that place where most of us think it would have been easy to be have been faithful to God, there was one thing. I am saying that the "hristian life boils down to one thing, and that one thing is how much we love. !hen we truly love God, then loving others will follow. But if we find it impossible to love others, then we do not truly love God. The Apostle *ohn states it like this in ( *ohn %4(CF#( (C !e love because he first loved us. #= If anyone says, LI love God,L yet hates his brother, he is a liar. Gor anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. #( And he has given us this command4 !hoever loves God must also love his brother. 3>I@6

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,ook at the te8t again. >otice what )aul says here. The first phrase in verse B is simply,

1<we no one anything.2 There are other verses and proverbs in the Bible that deal with indebtedness and with usury 3loaning money at e8orbitant interest rates6. The Bible doesn t say that borrowing money is wrong, as long as we can make the payments. The problem is that too many of us have more debt than we have money to pay and it keeps adding up and we fall deeper into the hole until we can see no way out. )aul tells us that we should be able to pay our bills. <ne translation of this phrase is, 1,et no debt remain outstanding.2 !e ought to be working toward being debt free. In America, we are conditioned to believe that being in debt is a way of life. In reality, we should be learning to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and practice saving instead of spending.

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:nlike car loans, or mortgages, or student loans, which we eventually pay off, )aul tells

us that there is one debt that we can never consider ourselves to have paid in full, and that is love. He said, 1<we no one anything e8cept to love one another.2 ,ove is not an event. ,ove is not something we do for a while and then decide that we ve given all we owe, so we don t have

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to love any longer. !e will always owe love to one another, and not /ust other believers. )aul is talking also about those people whom he referenced earlier in this 7pistle. In addition to loving fellow believes, )aul is telling us to even love those who would do us harm, civil authorities, and pagan neighbors. Gurthermore, )aul doesn t use the Greek word phileo, here. That is a friendship kind of love. Instead, )aul uses the word agapao, a word for love that the early "hristians filled with meaning. It means a sacrificial and selfless love. It means loving others even if they don t love us in return. It means loving them, even the worst of them, /ust as "hrist loved us, even when we were at our worst. After all, God loved us while we were yet sinners, and while we were yet sinners "hrist died for us 3.om. &4B6. It was God s love that brought Him to us, and it is God s love shed abroad in our hearts 3.om. &4&6, that will get us to Him. He loved the unlovable and through His love, we can as well. In 0atthew s Gospel, chapter &, *esus gave His disciples these instructions4 %% But I say unto you, ,ove your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute youE %& That ye may be the children of your Gather which is in heaven4 for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the /ust and on the un/ust. %' Gor if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye9 do not even the publicans the same9 3?*@6

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I know that there are those who insist on a long list of do s and don ts. -o come to

church on +unday, do pay your tithes, do read your Bible, do pray, do this and do that and you will be a good "hristian. -on t drink that, don t touch that, don t eat that, don t go there, don t do that. !e claim that we are under grace, and yet we create our lists. The problem is that none of our lists are the same. 3)aul will address this very issue in chapter (%.6 !e all read the same

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Bible, those who are members all agreed to the same teachings of the church, and yet, one will be offended by this, and another will be offended by that. <ne of us will watch the television show #%, and another will say it s too violent. <ne will listen to 5= s contemporary music, and another will say that is a sin. <ne will wear shorts in public, and another will say that it is too revealing. The point is that even though we are no longer under the law, we each become a law unto ourselves and we have a tendency to /udge others by our own rules. That s where "hristianity gets confusing and where there are disagreements and hurt feelings. !e end up offending people, and we may not even know we have offended them because their rules, which they are convinced are straight from the mouth of God, are different from our rules, which of course we know come directly from God s !ord. But the power of love can accept others even when they refuse to live by our list of rules. The Apostle )eter said, 1Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins2 3( )eter %4B, >I@6. Adam and 7ven knew e8actly what they were and were not supposed to do. They were both aware of the rule and yet they both failed. )aul tells us that all the rules can be fulfilled in love, 1for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.2 And then, )aul begins to list some of the laws to illustrate this point4 C Gor the commandments, LDou shall not commit adultery,L LDou shall not murder,L LDou shall not steal,L LDou shall not bear false witness,L LDou shall not covet,L and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, LDou shall love your neighbor as yourself.L (= ,ove does no harm to a neighborE therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

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If we love one another we will not murder them. However, I will say that my mother used to whip the tar out of me and tell me she was doing it because she loved me. And of course, I ve told my kids the same thing. !hippings notwithstanding, if you love one another, you will not steal from them, or lie on them, or covet their possessions. ,ove fulfills these laws. Because )aul is dealing here with our relationships with other people, he lists those commandments that deal with other people, but love is also the fulfillment of the law with respect to our relationship with God as well. In 0atthew chapter ##, a )harisee asked *esus what the greatest commandment was, *esus said4 $5 . . .Thou shalt love the ,ord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. $B This is the first and great commandment. 3?*@6 But *esus didn t stop there. He went on in verse $C, to add, 1And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.2 Then *esus said in verse %=, 1<n these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.2 ,et me say that again. 1<n these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.2 !hat is the active verb in these two commandments9 !hat is the one thing that we are called to do in these two commandments9 It boils down to one thingJlove. *esus said that when we love God and neighbor, we fulfill all the law and the prophets. )aul said, 1,ove is the fulfillment of the law.2 The *ews had become fi8ated on the rules and had lost sight of the centrality of love. They worked hard to keep the rules, but keeping rules without love is ritual. ,ove is not the foundation for religion or ritual, but love is the foundation for relationship. Dou can have religion without love. The *ews did and many people in churches today do, but you cannot have relationship without love.

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!hat *esus and )aul tell us is that when we really love God, when we are in love with God, then love will define us in terms of all our relationships. !hether it is with God, with other believers, with nonFbelievers, or even with those who call themselves our enemies. !hen we love with God s love, we instinctively, automatically, inevitably, and ine8orably fulfill all the law and the prophets, and we become like "hrist who was God s love personified in this world. !e need to remember that people will not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. ,ove is the key that opens the hearts of the most hardened sinners. ,ove is the key to evangelism and outreach. I know that sound doctrine is important. I believe we should earnestly contend for the faith. I believe we must enter the straight gate and walk the narrow path, and that we should count the cost. But none of those things will amount to anything if there is no love. And when we are in love with God, those things are not grievous. The Apostle *ohn wrote in his first epistles, chapter &4 # By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. $ Gor this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments4 and his commandments are not grievous. ?*@

$.-$L/2,.,et me ask the Auestion again. Is it difficult to live the "hristian live9 I believe that the level of difficulty we perceive is directly proportional to the level of godly love in our life. 0uch love, less grievous. ,ess love, more grievous. Is it difficult for us to get up and come to the ,ord s House on the ,ord s -ay9 Is it difficult to be a faithful steward of the ,ord s tithe in our life9 Is it difficult to serve Him, praise Him, or worship Him9

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0aybe those things aren t difficult for you. 0aybe it s the people around you. Is it difficult to return a kind word for a rude one9 Is it difficult to forgive when you ve been done wrong9 Is it hard to turn the other cheek9 Gor Adam and 7ve one restriction proved to be their downfall. Gor the believer, it boils down to one thingJlove. Is it possible that one thing could be our downfall9 Is it possible that we could fail to love as "hrist loved us and in the end, after working hard and enduring long to do the right things, find out that our wrong motives poisoned everything we tried to do9 The Apostle )aul said it like this in ( "orinthians chapter ($4 ( Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. # And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. $ And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. % ,ove suffers long and is kindE love does not envyE love does not parade itself, is not puffed upE & does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evilE ' does not re/oice in iniAuity, but re/oices in the truthE 5 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. B ,ove never fails. ($ And now abide faith, hope, love, these threeE but the greatest of these is love. 3>?*@6 I remember when my oldest son, Timothy, was only about & or ' years old and he heard me preaching about the power of love. In the sermon I made that statement that I would give my life to save his, if that is what was needed. He was ama;ed and overwhelmed at that thought. I remember him asking me, with tears in his eyes, 1-ad, would you really die to save me92 I assured him that I would. That s the power of love, and it is strong enough to make it possible to live a victorious "hristian life. -o you know that love today9 ,ove is the key to the "hristian life.

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C('tin) O** to Put On


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'" (8)((*(>
(( And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleepE for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (# The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. ($ ,et us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (% But put on the ,ord *esus "hrist, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.I had a friend, a ,ieutenant in the Air Gorce, whose nose was very crooked. <ne day I asked him if it had ever been broken and he told me about a time when he was serving as an enlisted man in the @ietnam !ar. He was a grunt in the Army, which means his main function was to march, carry a gun, and shoot the enemy. He told me that had been tasked to serve on guard duty and when he got to the guard post early that morning, he found the man whom he was to relieve, sleeping. A guard who falls asleep at his post can be courtFmarshaled and sent to the stockade. As the guard, you are responsible for the safety of the entire platoon. Dou must stay awake, and to fall asleep at your post is dereliction of duty. 0y friend said he didn t want to get the other soldier in trouble, but he did want to teach him a lesson, so he decided to sneak up on him and give him a good scare. :nfortunately, it worked a little too well. !hen my friend /umped into the fo8hole and shouted, the man immediately woke up and instinctively planted the butt of his rifle fight in my friend s face and broke his nose. !ith that painful picture in mind, look at what )aul has to say in our te8t. Gar from becoming combative and confrontational, and instead of going on the attack as the night is far

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spent and the morning is at hand, we have been called to love. This te8t is a continuation of the previous verses where we are admonished to love. The importance of love must not be lost as the tide of endFtime realities sweep onto the shore of the present. !e cannot become paranoid, or preoccupied, we cannot become distracted by what is going on around us, or allow the evil of these times to distort the truth of who we are and what we ve been called to do. !e cannot allow the anger of the world to infect us with its hatred and animosity. !e must rise above it and prevail with the power of love.

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?-.5,-G #HE #,ME


,ook at the te8t. In verse (( )aul says, 1And do this . . ..2 -o what9 -o what he has

previously instructed in the preceding versesJrespect civil authorities and love everyone. !hy the urgency in )aul s command9 Because he lived with the belief that *esus could return at any moment. It was a belief in the imminent return of "hrist that shaped how he lived his life, and it should continue to be a powerful motivator for the believer to evaluate his or her own life and consider whether our life is conforming to the e8ample of "hrist. )aul said, 1And do this, knowing the time . . ..2 +ome would argue that )aul apparently didn t know the time, because "hrist did not return during )aul s lifetime. But believing in the imminent return of "hrist is not the same thing as picking dates and trying to pinpoint the day and hour. Believing in the imminent return of "hrist is simply acknowledging that He could come back at any moment, and we d better be ready when He comes. As graduation ceremonies across the country begin to take place, many of us will receive announcements and invitations to various graduation ceremonies. <n these invitations, there will be a place, a date, and a time listed. !e know the precise time and place of the event and we can do whatever we want up until about an hour before the ceremony. But all we know about the

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return of *esus is that it could be today and the life we live should be shaped and formed by this reality. !e should always be ready. The Apostle *ohn said in his Girst 7pistle4 # Beloved, now we are children of GodE and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. $ And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, /ust as He is pure. 3( *ohn $4#F$, >?*@6 Because we believe that *esus could come back today, we purify ourselves, we endeavor to follow the e8ample of *esus by living a life that conforms to the will and the !ord of God. !e do not have the option of waiting until the last minute to get ready. He said He is coming like a thief in the night, without warning, without the opportunity to pray a last prayer. !e shall be changed in a moment in a twinkling of an eye and if we have no oil in our lamps, there will be no time to go and purchase any. )aul continues, 1. . . knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleepE for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.2 <ften, when a preacher starts to speak of the imminent return of "hrist, some will /ust tune him or her out. They ve heard it, we ve all heard it for most of our life, and still here we are firmly planted on terra firma. I remember, as a si8 and seven year old boy, hearing preachers preach on the +econd "oming of *esus with such conviction and persuasion until I went to bed each night praying, 1,ord if I ve committed any sins, please forgive me.2 I was sure that *esus was going to come during the night and catch away the believers and leave the sinners behind to face God s wrath and I didn t want to be left behind. +ome would say, 1+eeH *esus didn t return. The preaching was all wrong.2 But I would say with )aul, 1. . . for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far

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spent, the day is at hand.2

I m %= years closer to the coming of "hrist than I was when I was

', therefore, I should be even more aware of the nearness of His return than I was as a child. Gurthermore, my days, like sand through the hour glass, have continued to shift from future to past. >one of us have the promise of tomorrow. As the evening news so graphically illustrates every night, any one of us could have our ticket punched on any given day. ,ast week *erry Galwell went on to be with the ,ord. He was 5$FyearsFold. I heard a recent interview where he was planning to be at his post for another #= years. He was planning for that, but he was never promised that. >one of us are, so we d better be ready.

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$12# .44 1-! P/# .How should this reality affect us9 +hould we be paranoid9 +hould we retreat to a safe

place, should we withdraw from society, should we create a religious conclave where we do not have to interact with or be around those sinners9 )aul never instructs us to retreat, but to be respectful of government and to love everyone. In fact, far from focusing so much on others, we should take a look at our own lives. I believe it is the hypocrisy of the religious world that has hindered and hurt the witness of the church. I m not talking about any one of us individually, but the message on so much of soFcalled religious television, as well as from so many popular pulpits, has watered down and distorted the simple truth of the gospel until the world has stopped listening. Desterday I received a letter from someone stating that God had instructed them to loan me some money. They even included an anointed paper handkerchief. I showed it to my daughter, it was a Qero8 copy of a handkerchief, which had apparently been anointed. +omehow, this paper anointed handkerchief was supposed to insure that I would be blessed by borrowing money from these people, at a hefty interest rate. Talk about idiocy. It was a mass produced letter and probably several people in "onyers received the same letter. If I was a nonF

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believer and I received a letter like that I would have no choice but to conclude that all "hristians are cra;y. A Qero8 copy of an anointed handkerchief . . . they were too cheap to send a real one. At least if they d sent a real handkerchief I could have had something to blow my nose on. >o wonder people aren t listing to the churchH Also, what the world is seeing in the life of believers is often so different from the message they preach that the world simply dismisses it all as hypocrisy. The world knows when our walk and our talk are not aligned. I believe that before the church is going to be effective in getting the attention and gaining an audience with the world, we are going to have to get our own house in order. The Apostle )eter said in ( )eter %4(5F(B4 (5 Gor the time is come that /udgment must begin at the house of God4 and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God9 (B And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear9 ?*@ The Apostle )aul, in our te8t, said, 1(#b Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. ($ ,et us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.2 )lease notice that )aul isn t referring to 1them2 but to 1us2J1let us cast off the works of darkness, let us put on the armor of light, let us walk properly.2 It s not /ust about them, and their problems, and their shortcomings, and their sins. )aul e8horts us to look at us, and to attend to us. !e have to put off and put on. 1,et us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.2 Too many times, we try to put the armor of light on over the works of darkness. !e want to camouflage our failures and to hide our transgressions, but )aul tells us that we cannot simply cover up. !e have to put off before we can put on. "hristianity is not /ust about adding on, it is also about taking away.

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!e live in a world that simply wants to add "hristianity without dealing with sin and deducting their iniAuities. But before we can put on the armor of light, we have to put off the works of darkness. Before you paint an old house, you have to scrape off the old paint that is chipping and peeling, because if you don t, the new paint will /ust chip and peel off with the old paint. +ins have to be put away, laid aside, and cast off, before the righteousness of "hrist can be put on. !e have to cast off works of darkness. )aul lists some of those worksJrevelry, drunkenness, lewdness, lust, strife and envy. !hen this list begins, many "hristians feel pretty good about themselves. 0ost of us aren t out partying, getting drunk, committing acts of lewdness, or succumbing to lust, so we think that this doesn t apply to us. But speaking as a pastor, it is probably easier help people gain the victory over those first four, than it is to get people to cast off the last twoJstrife and envy. 0ost of the time revelry, drunkenness, and lewdness are evident, they manifest in e8plicit actions. But strife and envy linger in the shadows, /ust out of sight. A word here, a complaint there, a pity party there and seeds of strife have been planted. -ivision has been sown among the brethren, and according to )roverbs '4(C, one of the things that God hates is 1he that soweth discord among brethren.2 Also, envy is often hidden in the heart and covered over with feigned humility and false congratulatory words that thinly veil the fact that we think we should be the person in the spotlight, and we should be holding the microphone, and we should have gotten the recognition and rewards. !e don t need more people to stand in the pulpit, but we still need someone to stand at the door and welcome people into the church. !e need workers in "hildren s "hurch and in the nursery. !e need people to help out during spring cleaning, or to be a chaperone during youth outings.

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I ve noticed that we don t often envy people in the trenches. It s the people in the spotlight we envy. !hy9 Because we want the spotlightH !e think we should be behind the pulpit and we should be holding the microphone. But )aul tells us that in light of the reality of the imminent return of "hrist, we should cast off those works of darknessH !e may think we are hiding strife and envy, but in God s eyes, these are works of darkness and we cannot put on the armor of light until we have cast off the works of darkness. Dou are a child of God, an heir and /ointFheir with *esus, but you cannot put royal robes over selfFrighteous rags. The prophet said, 1All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags2 3Is. '%4', >?*@6. !e have to cast off before we can put on. !e have to cast off actions in our life that are contrary to the !ord of God, and which bring a reproach upon the church of God. !e have to cast off attitudes that are poisoning our spirit and are causing us to sit around /udging others while we are convinced that we are doing /ust fine. :ntil we put off the works of darkness we cannot put on the armor that will protect us from the attack of the enemy.

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P/# .- ;E2/2
)utting on the armor of light is synonymous with living our lives in conformity to the

e8ample of *esus. In verse (% )aul says, 1But put on the ,ord *esus "hrist, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.2 Again, the contrast is highlighted. He said, 1. . . cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,2 and here he says, 1. . . put on the ,ord *esus "hrist, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.2 There is a contrast, there is a distinction, there is a difference between a believer and a nonFbeliever. !hen the prodigal son came home, his father told the servant to get the best robes and put them on his son who had come home. After *esus cast the demons out of the demoniac of the Gadarenes, the people came and found the man clothed and in his right mind.

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If we want to put on *esus, then we must be willing to make serving Him our priority. !e cannot be consumed with fulfilling the desires of the flesh. !e cannot become driven by the desire to live high on the hog, and to give in to every want and whim of our flesh. !e may want the newest car on the market. But can we afford it9 <ur flesh may be crying out for attention, but it may be our spirit that is starving. !e must not allow the passions of our flesh, of our ego, or of our emotions to be the controlling force of our lives. Instead, we must put on *esusE we must let Him become the driving passion of our lives. The night is far spentE the day is at hand. Those things done in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Those things done under the cover of darkness, those words spoken behind closed doors, those thoughts and intents of the heart will be revealed when we all stand before the bema seat of "hrist.

$.-$L/2,.And knowing the time, it is high time that we search our heart, that we e8amine our motives, that we check our attitudes, that we become brutally honest with ourselves and if we know that we need to cast off some things, then we need to do it now. The night is far spent, the day is at hand, and *esus is coming back for a bride whose robes are without spot or blemish. !e need to be ready at all times. !e need to put on the armor of light, to put on *esus and to stand with our integrity intact and our witness without blemish. I think the world is very cynical when it comes to "hristians. They turn on the television and see the stupidity being perpetrated under the umbrella of "hristianity, and then they go to work and see the compromises of the people they work with, who claim to be "hristians. They go to the ballgames and hear the language and see the ugly competitive spirit of people who obsess over sports, and yet claim that "hrist is first in their

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lives. They come to church and see envy and hear complaints flying back and forth between members, and we wonder why they don t come to church, or if they do, why they don t stay. Grankly, I don t blame them. !e believers need to clean our own house, we need to put off the rags and put on the robes, we need to cast off the darkness and put on the light, we need to deny the flesh and delight ourselves in the ,ord. This is one of those sermons where the only best response is to pray, 1It s me, oh ,ord, standing here in need of prayer. +earch me, try me, know me, and if there is anything within me, any attitude, any action, anything in my life that does not conform to you, I want to cast it off and put on the armor of light so that I may stand against the enemy and prevail.2 Are you ready to put on the armor of light9 Then we need to come and cast off the works of darkness. !e need to plunge afresh our faults and failures beneath that cleansing crimson flow and leave here with our robes as white as snow.

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Li+&rt,, Lo-& (nd t%& C%ri'ti(n Li*&


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (>
( .eceive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. # Gor one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. $ ,et not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat /udge him who eatsE for God has received him. % !ho are you to /udge anotherKs servant9 To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. & <ne person esteems one day above anotherE another esteems every day alike. ,et each be fully convinced in his own mind. ' He who observes the day, observes it to the ,ordE and he who does not observe the day, to the ,ord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the ,ord, for he gives God thanksE and he who does not eat, to the ,ord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 5 Gor none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. B Gor if we live, we live to the ,ordE and if we die, we die to the ,ord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the ,ordKs. C Gor to this end "hrist died and rose and lived again, that He might be ,ord of both the dead and the living. (= But why do you /udge your brother9 <r why do you show contempt for your brother9 Gor we shall all stand before the /udgment seat of "hrist. (( Gor it is written4 LAs I live, says the ,<.-, 7very knee shall bow to 0e, And every tongue shall confess to God.L (# +o then each of us shall give account of himself to God. ($ Therefore let us not /udge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brotherKs way. (% I know and am convinced by the ,ord *esus that there is nothing unclean of itselfE but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (& Det if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. -o not destroy with your food the one for whom "hrist died. (' Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evilE (5 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and /oy in the Holy +pirit. (B Gor he who serves "hrist in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. (C Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. #= -o not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. #( It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. ## -o you have faith9 Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. #$ But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faithE for whatever is not from faith is sin. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.This is 0emorial -ay weekend, and other than being known as the official beginning of the summer vacation, few of the younger generation even know the meaning of the day. 0ore people associate 0emorial -ay with sales promotions than with honoring fallen heroes. <riginally called -ecoration -ay, it was established as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation s service. The holiday was officially proclaimed on 0ay &th, (B'B by General *ohn ,ogan and was first observed on 0ay $=th of that same year as flowers were placed on the graves of :nion and "onfederate soldiers at Arlington >ational "emetery. +oon afterward, several states adopted the day as a state holiday, until it eventually became a national observance. :nfortunately, recent generations have not been very diligent in remembering the fallen soldiers whose lives were given in defense of the freedom and liberty that we Americans en/oy. Graves go without decorations and the stories of the fallen fade into the unread pages of history. +o, we live with the liberties that others paid for and yet too often we fail to take the time to thank them, to memoriali;e their sacrifice, or honor their memory. To the e8tent that we fail to remember the price that was paid, we diminish the cost and therefore the value of liberty. In our te8t, )aul addresses the nature of "hristian liberty, what we could refer to as the law of liberty. This is a liberty that was bought and paid for by the sacrifice of "hrist, who died on a cross so that we could be free from the law of sin and death. The +on has come to set us free, and he whom the +on sets free is free indeed. As believers, we are to walk in the +pirit, and where the +pirit of the ,ord is, there is liberty. However, we are warned never to use our liberty as a cloak of maliciousness 3( )et. #4('6, which is to say that even our liberty comes with "hristian boundaries that are framed by love. ,ook at the te8t with me.

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#HE L15 .4 L,BE&#7


In verses ( through ($ )aul addresses a situation in the church of .ome that had

apparently become a point of contention. +ome of the believers practiced a vegetarian diet and saw it as the preferred diet for all "hristians. <ther believers felt that because of their new liberty in "hrist, old taboos regarding food no longer applied. They ate meat with little regard to kosher laws, nor were they concerned that some of the meat purchased in the markets of .ome may have been offered to idols. 0ore mature believers understood that the idols were nothing, they were not spirits and they were not gods. Therefore, the meat was /ust meat that they could purchase at a cheaper price. +o what was the problem9 The problem was that the believers with more mature faith insisted on eating meat and they were engaging in disputes with the believers who were weak in faith. )aul concedes that meat is not the issue. In "hristian liberty, he said that it was acceptable to eat meat. It was /ust meat. But there is more to the story than /ust what our rights are. !e not only have rights, we also have responsibilities. !e are our brother s keeper and it would be better to have a millstone hung around our neck and be cast into the sea, than to offend one of these new believers. )aul s instruction is4 ( .eceive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. # Gor one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. $ ,et not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat /udge him who eatsE for God has received him. % !ho are you to /udge anotherKs servant9 To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. !e are not to engage in disputes with believers of weak faith, and the believers with weak faith should not be /udging others. Instead, we are to attend to our own conscience, and to

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do all we can to encourage the spiritual growth of one another. Berating a person of weak faith does not build them up, and /udging one another over issues of conscience is a sin. I know women who refuse to wear slacks or to cut their hair because they believe that is what God s word tells them to do. )aul says that we are to receive them and to encourage them, but not to try to get them to conform to our preferences. ,ikewise, these women should not sit in /udgment of other women who do not have the same conviction on the issue as they do. In addition to the issue of meat, there were those who still wanted to honor certain holy days. +ome believers wanted to worship on the +abbath, or +aturday, and others wanted to worship on the ,ord s -ay, or what we call +unday. )aul says that in our "hristian liberty we are not bound by such rigid restrictions or to special holy days or feasts. )aul says4 & <ne person esteems one day above anotherE another esteems every day alike. ,et each be fully convinced in his own mind. ' He who observes the day, observes it to the ,ordE and he who does not observe the day, to the ,ord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the ,ord, for he gives God thanksE and he who does not eat, to the ,ord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. The point being that whatever you do, do it to honor God and not to glorify self. )aul tells us in verses 5 through C that *esus died and rose again to give us the liberty to make some choices that are between God and ourselves. He said in verse &, 1,et each be fully convinced in his own mind.2 Then in verse (=, he writes4 (= But why do you /udge your brother9 <r why do you show contempt for your brother9 Gor we shall all stand before the /udgment seat of "hrist. )aul tells us that in the end everyone will confess that the ,ord, He is God. !e will all give an account of ourselves to God. !e will all answer to Him for how we lived our lives. I am not your /udge and you are not my /udge, but we all have a *udge, and we will all stand before that *udge one day and give an account. In light of that truth, )aul says in verse ($4

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($ Therefore let us not /udge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brotherKs way. !e must decide that we will not /udge one another, and neither will we do or say anything that would hinder another believer. !e may have liberties that we choose not to e8ercise because the spiritual welfare of other believers takes precedence over my liberty.

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#HE L15 .4 L.3E


In verse (% )aul admits that he doesn t think there is anything wrong with eating meat.

Det, if I feel it is wrong for me, if I feel that it would be an issue of moral compromise to eat meat, then if I eat meat, for me it would be wrong. I would be violating my own conscience. )aul says that believers like this are 1weak in faith.2 They have not yet e8perience the full measure of the liberty that they have in "hrist. Implicit is the hope that their faith will grow stronger through the love and patience of mature believers. )aul tells us in verse (& that if we are offending, grieving, or causing others to stumble because we choose to e8ercise our liberty without regard to others, then we are not walking in love. !e must not compromise our testimony simply because we insist on doing what we want, and everybody else can /ust deal with it. That s not love, and without love our relationship is /ust a show, a faWade that is meant to make us look good, but has no substance. God looks behind the faWade and sees our heart. !e need to remember that the people we offend are people for whom *esus died. Therefore, instead of insisting on getting our way and pushing others around, we should be pursuing 1the things that make for peace and things by which one may edify another2 3v. (C6. -o we have liberty in "hrist9 Is there liberty in the +pirit9 Des, there is, but that liberty is always secondary to the law of love in "hrist. !e should not destroy what God is trying to do

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in someone s life simply because we insist on e8ercising the full e8tent of our liberty with no regard to whom we hurt in the process. )aul says in verse #(4 #( It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. ,ove is willing to voluntarily sacrifice individual liberties to insure that they whose faith is still fragile, is not wounded. However, let me also say that God e8pects every babe in "hrist to go from milk to meat. God e8pects our faith to mature and to grow. There is nothing sadder than someone who has been going to church for many years, and yet their faith is still so fragile that a good puff of wind would blow them over. I ve seen too many people try to use )aul s instructions here as a tool to get their way in church. They want everything to go their way, and they want everyone to acAuiesce to their preferences and their whims. )aul is not telling the church that we have to be spiritual hostages to weak "hristians who should have grown up by now. I can tell you as a pastor that I am worried about "hristians who have been in the way for (= or #= years and yet they have not progressed spiritually. They don t get their way so they cry and throw a temper tantrum. They don t like the style of music, so they pout and lay out of church. They don t get the position they wanted, so they hold their breath and turn blue, or withhold their tithes until they do. <n any given day, I deal with people who are literally standing at death s door, whose days are measured in weeks instead of years. I deal with marriages that are on the brink of breaking. I deal with people who have lost their /obs and they are about to lose their homes. I deal with children who have been abused, and people who are mourning the death of a spouse, a child, or a parent. +o pardon me if I don t have the patience I should when someone doesn t get their way in the music, or sing the special, or stand in the spotlight, or get a visit from the pastor

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every time they get a runny nose. As the writer Hebrews says, they should be on the meat by now, but they re still nursing on the milk. !e all need to be growing in grace.

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#HE L,4E .4 #HE $H&,2#,1,ook at how this chapter ends4 ## -o you have faith9 Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. #$ But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faithE for whatever is not from faith is sin. >?*@ If you have faith, then you will live out that faith before God. If you are convinced, and

your conscience is clear in light of +cripture, and if your actions will not cause the one whose faith is weak to stumble, then en/oy the liberty that God has given you in "hrist. The "hristian life is not some humdrum e8istence where we cannot do anything that brings /oy. It is unfortunate that somewhere along the line, holiness became defined by all the things we could not do as a "hristian. This is far from the truth. !e are liberated to live an abundant life. *esus gave us His word so that our /oy may be full. !hen our heart is where it should be with God, and when we delight ourselves in Him, then we will never be condemned in what we approve. However, if we think it is wrong, if our conscience condemns us, if the Holy +pirit sends up those red flags and warns us, but we press ahead in the name of liberty, then we are walking in condemnation. !hen we do that, when we ignore our conscience, or the warning of the Holy +pirit, or the guidelines of the !ord, and persist in pressing on doing those things, then we are setting in motion actions that will have conseAuences. God has given us a conscienceE He has given us the Holy +pirit to lead us into all truthE and He has given us His !ord as our roadmap. If we cannot engage in those activities that e8emplify love, and which conform to the faith, then it is sin and the wages of sin is death.

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$onclusion
In "hrist, we have been given liberty that operates within the boundaries of love, and this is what it means to have a "hristian life. It is not about demanding and commanding. It is not about /udging others or engaging in endless arguments about things that are of no real importance. It is about being free in "hrist to be a blessing to others and to honor Him by en/oying the abundant live, full of /oy that He paid for on the cross. ,et me ask you today if you en/oying your "hristian liberty within the boundaries of "hristian love. This is the "hristian life. )aul said (5 Gor the kingdom of God is not meat and drinkE but righteousness, and peace, and /oy in the Holy Ghost . (B Gor he that in these things serveth "hrist is acceptable to God, and approved of men. (C ,et us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. ?*@ In addition to being 0emorial -ay weekend, this is also )entecost +unday. I want to invite you to know "hristian liberty, "hristian love, and a "hristian life of /oy in the Holy +pirit. If you have never been filled with the awesome power of the Holy +pirit, then there is an element of /oy in your relationship with God that is missing. Today I invite you to come and let us pray that the fullness of the +pirit will come upon you and fill you with /oy unspeakable and full of glory. If it s been awhile since you have felt the power of the +pirit move up and down the avenues of your soul, I invite you to come and let God anoint you with fresh oil. <n this -ecoration -ay weekend, let God decorate your life with His Holy +pirit so that you may enter into a whole new realm of "hristian liberty, "hristian love and an abundant "hristian life.

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FINDING FELLOWSHIP IN ESUS


By !r" Mark E" Hardgrove 2er'on #e6%) &o' (@)(*(8
( !e then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. # ,et each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. $ Gor even "hrist did not please HimselfE but as it is written, LThe reproaches of those who reproached Dou fell on 0e.L % Gor whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the +criptures might have hope. & >ow may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeFminded toward one another, according to "hrist *esus, ' that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Gather of our ,ord *esus "hrist. 5 Therefore receive one another, /ust as "hrist also received us, to the glory of God. B >ow I say that *esus "hrist has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, C and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written4 L Gor this reason I will confess to Dou among the Gentiles, And sing to Dour name.L (= And again he says4 L.e/oice, < Gentiles, with His peopleHL (( And again4 L)raise the ,<.-, all you GentilesH ,aud Him, all you peoplesHL (# And again, Isaiah says4 LThere shall be a root of *esseE And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.L ($ >ow may the God of hope fill you with all /oy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy +pirit. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.,et s face it, we are drawn to people who are like us. +tudies confirm this fact. It is a well known socioFpsychological phenomena and it is played out in vivid color across America on any given day. Gor e8ample, we see block after block of businesses in -oraville where the signs are written in +panish. In -uluth and +uwanee, there are large communities of ?oreans. In fact, a few weeks ago my wife and I drove up to +uwanee and past the church where we pastored for almost five years and we were surprised to see that it is no longer a "hurch of God church, but a ?orean church. AfricanFAmericans, *amaicans, and Africans, overwhelmingly populate the subdivision I currently live in. To my knowledge, it was a voluntary choice for all of us to live there. At my )h.-. residency a couple weeks ago, -r. )feffer, the dean of the business school of +tanford :niversity, was speaking about this very issue. He said we always look for some point of contact. It may be something obvious like our race, or it may be something less obvious like the fact that we are from the same state, or that our birthday is on the same day, or we cheer for the same football team. !e look for that point of similarity and often when we can t find it, when we feel as though we have nothing in common, we become estranged from one another and engage in selfFsegregation. !e isolate ourselves from one another and we never get to know one another. As believers, we would think that being a born again believer in *esus "hrist would be the most profoundly influencing factor in how we view ourselves, and yet the church remains one of the most segregated institutions in America today. This isn t a new problem. Grom the earliest days of the church, there was a problem with different types of people worshipping together. Girst, there was a divide between *ews from outside of *udea and those from *udea. Dou find references to this schism early in the book of Acts. Then, there was a divide between

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*ewish "hristians and Gentile "hristians. The *ewish "hristians had a real problem breaking from their cultural and racial biases to accept Gentile believers without making Gentiles first become *ewish proselytes.

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G.!2 PL1- 4.& &E$.-$,L,1#,.This divide prompted the instructions of )aul in our te8t. There were certain culturally

cultivated scruples that highlighted the differences between Gentile and *ewish "hristians, and these differences often caused division in the church. )aul s point in this te8t, as in the previous chapter and in other 7pistles, is that we ought to be drawn together by the one overriding thing that we have in common, and that is that we have all come to God by way of "alvary, and we are all the children of God through faith in "hrist. +o how do we live in reconciliation with one another in light of the fact that we are from different cultures, we are different races, and we each have our own view on how church should be done9 )aul tells us in verses ( and #4 ( !e then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. # ,et each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. )aul is telling me that if I can get my eyes off of myself, if I can begin to think about what will build up my brothers and sisters in "hrist, rather than focus solely on what I want, and how I think things should be done, then we can bridge the gap of what separates us, and discover that we can all /ust get along. 0ore than /ust get along, we can become brother and sisters in "hrist. It is easy to find the differences. In the >orth they don t say, 1D all,2 they say, 1Dou guys,2 or in some places, 1Dou s guys.2 In )ittsburg, they say, 1D ens.2 <ften we can pick up on the differences in dialect right away and immediately begin to highlight our differences. !hen I moved from !est @irginia to 0aine, they would tell me, 1<h, I /ust love to hear

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someone preach with a +outhern accent.2 Then, when I moved from 0aine to Tennessee, they said, 1Dou re not from down here are you92 !hen I was in the >orth, they wanted to identify me as a +outherner, and when I came to the +outh, they wanted to identify me as >ortherner. Apparently, wherever I go, I m /ust different. )aul s point is that we cannot allow our different perspectives on various cultural preferences, or traditional religious habits, become points of division. Instead, we should always be looking to build one another up. To back up this point, )aul appeals to the e8ample of "hrist, and to the teaching of +cripture.

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#HE EE1MPLE .4 $H&,2#


,ook at what )aul points out in verses $4 $ Gor even "hrist did not please HimselfE but as it is written, LThe reproaches of those who reproached Dou fell on 0e.L "onsider at the profound sacrifice that *esus made for the world to be reconciled to God.

Girst, in eternity past, before +atan even created a problem, before sin entered the picture, before the earth was created, *esus agreed to be the ,amb, slain from the foundation of the world. +econd, *esus emptied Himself, made of Himself no reputation, and took on the form of sinful flesh. ,ast, *esus endured the indignity, the shame, and the pain of the crucifi8ion to purchase our salvation. He wasn t pleasing Himself in doing these things. In fact, *esus prayed, 1Gather if there is any other way, let this cup pass from me.2 *esus didn t do these things to elevate Himself, after all, He was already God. *esus did all that He did to pick us up, to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified 3Acts #=4$#6. If *esus is our e8ample, then who are we to think that we can be selective and e8clusive in who we will associate with, or who we will invest our love and ministry in9 !e are called to

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build up those who are weak in faith. !e are challenged to change our thinking from, 1!hat do I get out of it,2 to 1!hat can I contribute to it.2 !hen )aul speaks of edification, he is referring to building up others. To edify is to build up. !e live in a world that loves to tear down, to critici;e, and to engage in character assassination. The church should stand in contrast to the world and be a place where we tell people that they can do better, that they can accomplish great things in the kingdom of God, that they can achieve their goals and their God given dreams. !e ought to be able to look at one another and say, 1I believe in youH2 A little boy once built a massive construction using ,ego building blocks. It completely filled and surrounded his room. !hen someone asked him why he decided to build it, he /ust said, 1>o one told me I couldn t.2 !e live in a world that tells us we can t. Doung people can t remain abstinent until married. <ld people can t be productive members of society. "hristian people can t be ob/ective and rational. Busy working people can t get involved in church ministries. !e can t pay our tithes and still pay our bills. And on and on it goes. But in this church, we believe in you, and we believe you can. Dou can do all things though "hrist who strengthens you. Dou can call upon the ,ord and He will hear and answer your call. Dou can claim the promises of God as your own. Dou can live a holy life and still en/oy the life that you re living. Dou can live within your means. Dou can budget your time and your money in a manner that glorifies God. 3Turn to someone right now and say, 1The devil has telling you that you can t, but I believe you can.26 The e8ample of "hrist is that we can get our eyes of ourselves, and begin to see the needs of the people around us and we can make a difference in their lives. <h, yet we canH

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#HE EEH.&#1#,.- .4 2$&,P#/&E >ot only does )aul appeal to the e8ample of "hrist, but )aul points to +cripture. % Gor whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the +criptures might have hope. & >ow may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeFminded toward one another, according to "hrist *esus, ' that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Gather of our ,ord *esus "hrist. The <ld Testament prophets told us that *ews and Gentiles were going to come together

in "hrist, and because of this, we should be able to agree to come together as brothers and sisters. ,ook at verse '. )aul tells us that despite all the differences that we could point to and that the world wants to use to keep us separated, in "hrist *esus was can glorify God the Gather and the ,ord *esus "hrist with one mind and one mouth. There were not to be two churches, one for Gentiles and one for *ews. *esus came to tear down the middle wall of partition so that He could create one body, with one mind, who would glorify the Gather and the +on, in the +pirit, with one mind and one mouth. It is a shame that over #,=== years later we live in a country that is still divided by our differences. But what is even more tragic, is that the church is divided by color and class, by culture and ethnicity, and by theological hair splitting. The e8ample of *esus and the counsel of +cripture all speak against this division.

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GL.&,47 G.! #.GE#HE&


,ook at verses 5 through ($. )aul is making the point, again, that both *esus came to

bring the divided into unity, to make one body of *ews and Gentiles. 5 Therefore receive one another, /ust as "hrist also received us, to the glory of God. B >ow I say that *esus "hrist has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, C and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written4 L Gor this reason I will confess to Dou among the Gentiles, And sing to Dour name.L

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(= And again he says4 L.e/oice, < Gentiles, with His peopleHL (( And again4 L)raise the ,<.-, all you GentilesH ,aud Him, all you peoplesHL (# And again, Isaiah says4 LThere shall be a root of *esseE And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.L )aul is showing the *ewish believers that "hrist came to accomplish what the +criptures had promised and anticipated, and that is that both *ews and Gentiles would worship God. )aul literally says, 1It was written . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.2 *esus is the +avior of the world, not /ust of the *ews. According to Isaiah, *esus is the hope of the Gentiles as well. The point is that we cannot allow racial, ethnic, national, or cultural differences to define us and to divide us. I may be an American, but my citi;enship is already in heaven. I am as patriotic as the ne8t person is but my ultimate allegiance is to God first, humanity second, and country third. +ome people look at Hispanics, particularly 0e8icans, and see people who probably came to America illegally. But I see desperate people who were willing to leave everything they knew, willing to leave their history, their family, their land, and country to come to a country where they are going to be treated as nonFentities, as inferior humans, as intruders and illegals. But they are willing to endure all of that for the hope that maybe, /ust maybe, their children, and their children s children might have a better life. As a parent, I understand that drive and that passion.

#BC

0y connection to them as humans takes precedence over my view of them as illegal aliens. 0y love for them as a "hristian, takes precedence over the idea that they may be getting medical care or an education at my ta8payer e8pense. 0y concern for their welfare is more important than my obsession with my own lu8ury. In "hrist, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians are all one race, the human race, and we are one family, the family of God, and we are all citi;ens of one place, heaven. +ome will complain that those other people, those people who are not like us, will change things. They will change the food we eat. They will change the way we worship. They will change way we look. They will change the church. They will change the country. I ve got news for people afraid of change, change is inevitable. "hange cannot be stopped. >othing stays the same. The world has changed dramatically in the %' years of my /ourney on this celestial globe. I m not afraid of change. If we aren t changing, then we aren t growing, and if we aren t growing, then we re already dead. There have been people who have left this church and their main beef was that we changed. They said, 1It s /ust not the same as it used to be.2 !hat9 <f course it isn t the same as it used to be, and neither are the people who say these things. They used to come and cut the church grass, they used to come to three worship services a week. Des, the church as changed, and so have they. Det, their solution to the fact that the church has changed, is to change churches. "an somebody please e8plain to me the logic in that9 But people who cannot accept others who are different, and people who can t or won t tolerate change, are miserable people. They are miserable because they hate change, and yet they are powerless to do anything to stop it. 0y prayer is always, 1,ord, change me, take me,

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break me, and make anew that I might be who I should be to serve you in a way that brings glory and honor to you.2 $.-$L/2,.)aul ends this section with a blessing. His prayer, in verse ($, is4 ($ >ow may the God of hope fill you with all /oy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy +pirit. >?*@ There is a blessing for the church when we can come together as the body of "hrist, and find unity and fellowship in the midst of our diversity. It is a blessing of /oy and peace, abounding in hope and power in the Holy +pirit. <n the -ay of )entecost, they were in once place and one accord and the Holy +pirit moved upon them in a powerful way, empowering them all to become witnesses for *esus. *esus tells us that the place of unity and agreement is the place of power. He said4 (C . . . if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Gather which is in heaven. #= Gor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 0att (B4(CF#=, ?*@ I don t know about you, but I want my blessing of /oy, peace, and power in the Holy +pirit. I don t want differences to divide, or to keep me from finding a friend and a family of believers in "hrist. !e may be different in color, culture, race, and ethnicity, but we are all saved by the same red blood that flowed from 7mmanuel s veins. If you are here today and you struggle with seeing people through God s eyes, then I want to pray for you. I m not going to call you forward, or ask you to put up your hand, but I d like to ask you all to stand, and before we partake of communion, I want to pray for this church. !e can be blessed if we are willing to overcome our differences, and be one body of "hrist serving as an e8ample of unity to this community.

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T%& Po.&r o* t%& Pur/o'& Dri-&n Li*&


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' (@)(>*2(
(%>ow I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (& >evertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, (' that I might be a minister of *esus "hrist to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy +pirit. (5 Therefore I have reason to glory in "hrist *esus in the things which pertain to God. (B Gor I will not dare to speak of any of those things which "hrist has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient J (C in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the +pirit of God, so that from *erusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of "hrist. #= And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where "hrist was named, lest I should build on another manKs foundation, #( but as it is written4 LTo whom He was not announced, they shall seeE And those who have not heard shall understand.L >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.There has been much discussion over the past few years about the purpose driven life. The book with this title, written by .ick !arren, has had a powerful influence on many people s lives. In the case of Ashley +mith, finding her 1purpose2 saved her life. In #==#, when Brian >ichols escaped from custody and went on a killing spree in Atlanta, he eventually ended up in the home of Ashley. +he said, LI went and got my Bible and a book called The 3urpose Driven *ife. I turned it to the chapter I was on for the day, "hapter $$, and I started to read the first paragraph of it. After I read it, he said M+top, will you read it again9 He said he thought I was an angel sent from God. That I was his sister and he was my brother in "hrist, and that he was lost and God led him right to me.L >ichols allowed Ashley to contact the police and he surrendered without further incident.

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I have not read The 3urpose Driven *ife, but I have read TH7 book, and I read in God s !ord that there is power in the purpose driven life. !hat drives your life9 Is it the pursuit of wealth9 Is it scholarship9 Is it the dream of being your own boss, or being independently wealthy9 !hat drives your life9 !hat gets you out of bed in the morning and propels you through the day9 A life lived without a God given, "hrist centered purpose, is a life wasted. It is a life without a meaningful goal, or a significant reason for being. !ithout that purpose, one day melts into another and nothing of lasting significance is ever attempted or accomplished. The Apostle )aul s life was a life lived with purpose. He knew what his mission in life was, and this knowledge drove him. After God accosted him on the road to -amascus and told him that he was to be a minister of "hrist to the Gentiles, )aul never looked back.

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Pauls $onfidence in %he Believers


)aul has spent most of this epistle speaking to the issue of unity among believers of

different traditions, cultures and nationalities. He knew that it would be a challenge, but in verse (%, he e8presses his confidence that the believers would be able to accomplish this goal. ,ook at verse (%4 (% >ow I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. !e need to learn to believe in one another. This is to say, that we need to encourage one another, and to remind one another that we have confidence in one another. +ometimes we treat people as if we e8pect them to fail, and then we act like we re surprised when they do. !e need tell one our children, our spouse, and our brothers and sisters in "hrist that we believe that in "hrist they can do it. They can be someone of significance in the kingdom of God. They can be

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an instrument of reconciliation. They can live a life pleasing to God. They can make a difference. As a high school wrestler, my coach usually told me that I could beat my opponent. But at one meet he asked me to go up a weight class and wrestle a bigger guy, who /ust happened to be the state runnerFup from the previous year. This was my first year of wrestling, and probably only my fourth or fifth wresting match. This time the coach didn t tell me I could beat this guy. Instead, he said, 1I don t e8pect you to beat him, but I want you to give it your best, and learn something while you re out there.2 !hen my coach told me that, I was already defeated before I got on the mat and I learned something that day. I learned that I didn t like getting pinned and I vowed I would never be pinned again. I never was. !e set people up for failure sometimes because we send them in to teach that middle school class of boys and we tell the teacher, 1They ve already run off three teachers, so hang in there as long as you can.2 Instead, we need to be honest, but we need to believe in one another. !e need to send them into that class with confidence, with the vision of young lives being transformed by the dedicated impact of this teacher. !hen we are willing to embrace our God given purpose, God will set us up for success and not for failure.

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P1/L2 $1LL #. #HE GE-#,LE2


)aul admits that he had given them a big challenge. ,ook at verse (& and ('4 (& >evertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, (' that I might be a minister of *esus "hrist to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy +pirit.

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)aul knew what he had been called to do. He had an unmistakable and unshakable sense of purpose for his life. He also e8uded the confidence that they would catch his vision and be inspired by his e8ample. He reminds them of his purpose4 1because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of *esus "hrist to the Gentiles.2 A purpose driven life inspires others. A purpose driven life has a vision that others can see. A purpose driven life is a life lived in full view with no hidden motives or personal agendas. It is God given and +pirit driven. I believe that God has called me to address the issue of racial division in America. I refuse to believe that believers have to be caught up in the culture of racial division that is so prevalent in America. Gurthermore, I believe that this church is going to lead the way to racial reconciliation in this community and I am confident that you are going to be part of this purpose and that you will be ministers of reconciliation in your schools, on your /obs, and in the community. This is a purpose worthy of a child of God.

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#HE $.-4,&M1#,.- .4 P1/L2 M,-,2#&7


)aul s purpose was audacious, but )aul doesn t claim any fame for himself. This was not

his choice for a purpose. This was a God thing. He didn t ask for any praise or seek glory. In fact, he didn t get much praise from anyone. His only glory is that he knows he is fulfilling God s will for his life. (5 Therefore I have reason to glory in "hrist *esus in the things which pertain to God. (B Gor I will not dare to speak of any of those things which "hrist has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient J (C in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the +pirit of God, so that from *erusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of "hrist. :nlike so many who promote themselves more than they promote God, who love to see themselves on billboards and banners, )aul refuses to parade his accomplishments. He says only

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that God was confirming his ministry and affirming his purpose, in signs and wonders through the power of Holy +pirit. !hen you ve heard from God and you are dedicating yourself to pursuing your GodF given purpose, you will find the power of the Holy +pirit in abundant supply to work through you to fulfill your purpose. The reason there is such a lack of power in so many churches and ministries, is probably due to the fact that believers are not embracing the purpose that God planned for them. They ll go to church, maybe give a little in the offering, but far too few "hristians have embraced a God si;ed dream.

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P1/L2 $.MM,#ME-# #. H,2 $1LL


)aul had a God planned purpose and he was committed to it regardless of what sacrifice

it reAuired. He was will to break up fallow ground and plant seed in the lives of those no one else was willing to reach. ,ook at verses #= and #(4 #= And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where "hrist was named, lest I should build on another manKs foundation, #( but as it is written To whom He was not announced, they shall seeE And those who have not heard shall understand. )aul was committed to his call. He didn t go to *erusalem, where the Gospel had already been powerfully proclaimed to the *ews by Apostles such as )eter and *ohn. )aul went to places like Galatia, to "orinth, and )hilippi. )laces the Gospel had not yet penetrated, and he dug out a new work among those who had never even known the God of Abraham, Isaac and *acob. A purpose driven life doesn t look for the easy road, or the most popular road, or the road that others have prepared. A purpose driven life relies on the power of the Holy +pirit to enable them to accomplish what God has given them to do. A purpose driven life is willing to risk it all and to make sacrifices knowing that God will prevail through them.

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$.-$L/2,.-o you know what your call is9 7veryone is designed with a purpose in the kingdom of God. 0aybe it is to be a wonderful, nurturing, mother who raises God honoring children. That is a powerful purpose. It may be to start a ministry in the church that no one else has ever tried before, and remain committed to that purpose as God empowers you through the Holy +pirit to do more and be more than you ever imagined. God has given a spiritual gift to everyone in the body, and that gift is tied to your purpose. Are you committed to that purpose9 If you are, then God will confirm that call through the powerful works of the Holy +pirit in your life. )eople who never pursue their purpose live bland lives where nothing much happens. They live lives where there is no risk, so they do not need much faith, and they never see much happen. I believe that faith necessitates a life lived with a radical commitment to your purpose. Gaith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen 3Heb. ((4(6. A purpose driven life is willing to step out on nothing and believe that something will be there. A purpose driven life is committed to and dedicated to that goal. )aul was re/ected, beaten, /ailed on a few occasions, and ultimately had his head cut off in martyrdom, but )aul never backed down, never gave ground, and never turned around. He purpose drove him to greatness and resulted in his eternal reward. There is power in the purpose driven life. God made you for a purpose and He isn t trying to hide if from you. "hances are that your purpose is stares you in face every day, but we are often so obsessed with our preferences that we fail to find our purpose. 0y prayer for you today is that you open up your heart and mind to what God desires to accomplish through you. -o you feel as though your life has no purpose9 -o you feel as though you will pass from this life without leaving so much as a footprint in the sands of time9 God sent

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me by to tell some of you, and to remind others of you, that you were created as part of the plan of God, and God has a purpose for your life. !hen you embrace your purpose, and when you embark upon the /ourney of fulfilling that purpose, you will find the power of the Holy +pirit in an abundant supply to drive your life toward significance. If you re here today and you are ready to find and fulfill your purpose, then I want you to come. Dou may say, 1I don t know what my purpose is.2 All I can say is that God is doing everything He can to reveal to us all what our purpose is, but we have to open up our eyes to see, open our ears to hear, and open our heart to obey.

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T%& P(''ion to Go t%& Di't(nc&


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' (@)22*88
## Gor this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. #$ But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, #% whenever I /ourney to +pain, I shall come to you. Gor I hope to see you on my /ourney, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may en/oy your company for a while. >?*@ ,-#&.!/$#,.How many of your remember the song about *ohn Henry9 *ohn Henry, according to the legend, was born a slave in Alabama, was later freed and earned his living by working with the railroads. He is said to have been si8 feet tall, which was a tall man back then. He was a strong man who used a large sledgehammer to drive railroads spikes and to hammer chisels into rock to blast tunnels through hills and mountains. <ne such tunnel that *ohn Henry was said to have helped cut is the Big Bend TunnelJmore than a mile straight through a mountain in !est @irginia. +teelFdrivinK men like *ohn Henry used large hammers and stakes to pound holes into the rock, which were then filled with e8plosives that would blast a cavity deeper and deeper into the mountain. In the folk ballads, the central event took place under such conditions. 7ager to reduce costs and speed up progress, some tunnel engineers were using steam drills to power their way into the rock. According to some accounts, on hearing of the machine, *ohn Henry challenged the steam drill to a contest. He won, but died of e8haustion, his life cut short by his own superhuman effort. 3.etrieved *une #$, #==5 from http4NNwww.ibiblio.orgN/ohnXhenryN6

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I think of the Apostle )aul as a man like *ohn Henry. He cut his way through the .oman 7mpire wielding the !ord of God to cut through the stony hearts of man. -oesn t God say in *eremiah #$4#C, 1MIs not my word like fire, declares the ,<.-, Mand like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces9 2 3>I@6. In the legend of *ohn Henry, that steel driving man wasn t going to let some steam machine defeat him. The song says they placed the steam engine on the right and *ohn Henry on the left and at the end of the contest *ohn Henry beat the machine, then he laid down his hammer and he died. !e don t know the facts about *ohn Henry, or if he even really e8isted. All we have is the legend that was preserved in a song. But we know for sure that )aul was a living breathing human being. !e have the historical written record of his ministry. !e have the letters he wrote and we have written accounts of ancient church fathers who attest to the life and ministry of the Apostle )aul. I bring up *ohn Henry s legend today because I see in the Apostle )aul a similar passion to go the distance. )aul gave everything he had and everything he was to advance the kingdom of GodE to lift up the hammer of God s !ord and to keep swinging and to keep pounding against the resistance of +atanE against the stony hearts of unbeliefE and against the pagan cultures of his time. Toward the end of his life, )aul writes to the young bishop Timothy, 1I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith2 3# Tim %45, >?*@6. 0y Auestion today is whether there are believers in our time who are willing to go the distance, to give our all in a passionate push to advance the kingdom of God. ,ook at your te8t with me and let s break it down.

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P1/L2 P122,.In verses ## through #% we see )aul s BHAG 3pronounced BFHag6. -oes anyone here

today know what a BHAG is9 3>o. It s not your motherFinFlawH6 BHAG is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. *im "ollins, author of two best selling business books, Built to *ast, and &ood to &reat, observed that anyone who ever achieved any measure of greatness was someone who was willing to embrace and pursue big dreams and envision big goals for their company. In fact, these weren t /ust big goal, these were audacious goals. In fact, they were big hairy audacious goals. These were the kinds of goals that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you, as a member of that company, began to think, 1!hat if we could really do that9 In the musical, The )an of *a )ancha, there is the song entitled 1The Impossible -ream.2 The lyrics are inspiring and they bespeak a man with a BHAG4 To dream the impossible dream To fight the unbeatable foe To bear with unbearable sorrow To run where the brave dare not go To right the unrightable wrong To love pure and chaste from afar To try when your arms are too weary To reach the unreachable star This is my Auest To follow that star >o matter how hopeless >o matter how far To fight for the right !ithout Auestion or pause To be willing to march into Hell Gor a heavenly cause And I know if IKll only be true To this glorious Auest That my heart will lie peaceful and calm !hen IKm laid to my rest And the world will be better for this That one man, scorned and covered with scars +till strove with his last ounce of courage To reach the unreachable star

,ittle -avid had a BHAG when he walked into the camp and saw a giant defying the armies of the God of Israel. -avid s BHAG was to kill a big hairy giant. By embracing that goal and defeating Goliath, -avid changed the course of his life and won the hearts of the people.

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The Apostle )aul also had a BHAG. He tells us what it is in verse ## through #%4 ## Gor this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. #$ But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, #% whenever I /ourney to +pain, I shall come to you. Gor I hope to see you on my /ourney, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may en/oy your company for a while. The Apostle )aul was passionately driven to take the gospel of *esus "hrist to the ends of the earth. Because the Americas had not yet been discovered by 7uropeans, the ancient world believed that the southwest border of +pain, which looks out over the mysterious e8panse of the Atlantic <cean, was the end of the world. )aul had preached in *erusalem, *udea, +amaria, and his Holy +pirit inspired soul would never be satisfied until he reached the ends of the earth. I recently heard a graduate of ,iberty :niversity Auote the late .everend *erry Galwell, who freAuently said that the true character of a man is measured by what it takes to make him Auit. The Apostle )aul was a man of great character who never Auit. He intended to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. They didn t have planes, trains and automobiles back then. !hat we consider a short trip, was a long /ourney in those days. !hat might take us hours to travel took them weeks and months. Gurthermore, the /ourney was fraught with perils along the way. Thieves, murderers, and marauders thrived on unsuspecting travelers. )aul didn t let that stop him. He said that he was ready to die, if need be, but he would not turn back, he would not abandon his Auest. He had a God given goal and he was willing spend and be spent, in the pursuit of God s will for his life. !e live during a time of spoiled "hristians. !e have no real concept of what it took 3and what it still takes in some countries6, to live a "hristian life. !e come to airFconditioned churches, sit on padded pews, listen to preachers with doctorate degrees, and en/oy the highFtech production of audio and visual effects. Then go home and complain because the service was too

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long, or someone was sitting in our seat, or the preacher mispronounced a word, or the music minister hit a wrong note on the piano and it /ust knocked the praise right out of us. !here is the passion to go the distance, to bridge any gap, to breach any wall, to run the race with patience, and to persist until the God given goal that has been burned upon our soul has been attained9 +ome ask if )aul ever reached +pain. !e know that he made it to .ome. That might have been a big enough goal for a lot of people. .ome, the seat of the greatest empire on the face of the earth at that time, did not intimidate )aul. !e know he made it to .ome, and the trip was paid for by the .oman government. After being accused of sedition and inciting a riot 3Acts #%6, )aul appealed to "aesar, which was his right as a .oman citi;en. The government had to insure his safety and to provide transport for )aul to get to .ome to make his appeal to the leader of the 7mpire. The book of Acts tells us that the )aul had already effectively been found innocent 3Acts #'4$#6, but the book ends with )aul in .ome under house arrest awaiting his appeal4 $= Gor two whole years )aul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. $( Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the ,ord *esus "hrist. 3Acts #B4$=F$(, >I@6 !e don t know for sure what happened ne8t. 7very indication in Acts is that )aul would be found innocent. There is an early church tradition that )aul did gain release, continued to +pain, and on his way back through .ome was rearrested under the reign of >eroJa time when the persecution of "hristians was in full force. Girst "lement, written in the first century, states that )aul went on to travel to 1the e8treme limit of the west2 3&456, which was +pain. This tradition holds that during his second imprisonment in .ome, )aul wrote the epistles to Titus and Timothy, and was eventually martyred.

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P1/L2 $.MP122,.!e can probably never know for sure what happened e8cept to know that )aul s passion

kept driving him forward as he endeavored to accomplish God s will for his life. )aul not only had a passion for the future, but )aul had a compassion for the founding church in *erusalem. #& But now I am going to *erusalem to minister to the saints. #' Gor it pleased those from 0acedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in *erusalem. #5 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. Gor if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. 3.om. (&4#'F#56 !hen *ews in *erusalem became "hristians, they were despised and re/ected by the *ewish religious community. 0any lost their /obs and found themselves destitute. The church in *erusalem was a poor church so )aul collected resources from the Gentile churches to take back to believers there. )aul said that he was first going to, personally, take the contributions to *erusalem and then he would resume his plan to go to .ome and then on to +pain. #B Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to +pain. #C But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of "hrist. <ur compassion for our fellow man should take precedence over our obsession for our own creature comforts. There are times when we should be willing to make personal sacrifice to alleviate the suffering of others. )aul s compassion for the *ews in *erusalem was matched only by his passion to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. *erusalem represented the historical roots of "hristianity, and )aul had never forsaken those roots. +pain represented the future, the spread of the gospel under the anointing of the Holy +pirit from *erusalem, to *udea, to +amaria and unto the ends of the earth. The future of "hristianity lay, for the most part, among the Gentiles and )aul had a passion for the future, but never at the e8pense of the past. It was a delicate balance, and still is, but )aul pulled it off. In

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every generation, this balance between past and future is played out in the present. +ome will swing either to one e8treme or to the other, forsaking either the past or the future, but I believe that )aul shows us that we can bridge the gap with passion and compassion. ,,,0 P1/L2 PLE1 4.& P&17E& )aul was bold, but he wasn t stupid. )aul knew that there were *ews in *erusalem who hated him, and who had committed themselves to killing )aul. In Acts #=, as he was leaving 7phesus, )aul said4 # And see, now I go bound in the spirit to *erusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, #$ e8cept that the Holy +pirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. #% But none of these things move meE nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with /oy, and the ministry which I received from the ,ord *esus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 3Acts #=4##F#%, >?*@6 God had already revealed to )aul that trouble lay in wait for him in *erusalem, and yet )aul s compassion over the plight of his fellow believers was too strong to turn back. He would get the help to the *erusalem church, even if it cost him his life. In light of this very real possibility )aul makes this plea for prayer in verse $= of our te8t4 $= >ow I beg you, brethren, through the ,ord *esus "hrist, and through the love of the +pirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, $( that I may be delivered from those in *udea who do not believe, and that my service for *erusalem may be acceptable to the saints, $# that I may come to you with /oy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. $$ >ow the God of peace be with you all. Amen. )aul doesn t presume anything here. He doesn t engage in mindless positive confession and a denial of reality, but he does ask for, and believe in, the power of prayer. !ithout prayer, passion is powerless and compassion is nothing more than meaningless sentimentality. It is prayer that empowers both passion and compassion. It is prayer that connects the heart to heaven and gives us the courage to keep going where others have Auit. It is prayer that under girds us and graces us with the hand of God on our lives.

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)aul was a powerfully anointed servant of God, but )aul is always Auick to ask for prayer. 0any of you tell me you praying for me every time you pray. All I can say is please, don t ever stop. I could never have made it this far, without your prayers.

$.-$L/2,.I believe the challenge of this message today is for all of us, and for this church, to be willing to rise up out of mediocrity, to have a God si;ed dream and the passion to pursue that dream. It is the challenge for all of us to have a divine dissatisfaction with status Auo, with mundane, run of the mill, religion and embrace a BHAG that forces us to depend upon God. I believe we should have a passion for God that propels us beyond the front door empowers us, if need be, to go to the ends of the earth to see God s will accomplished in our lives. !e need to be driven by passion and compassion and empowered by prayer to go the distance, to do whatever has to be done, and to even be willing to lay down our lives in service to the king. 0aybe it s your children. 0aybe it s your marriage. 0aybe it s your /ob, or your health, or your own spiritual wellFbeing, but my guess is that all of us are facing, or will face, a circumstance in life that will reAuire us to go the distance, to see it to completion, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause and take back what the enemy stole from us. If you re here today and you need the prayer that )aul needed to go the distance, then I want you to come and let me pray with your today.

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!0&''in)' (nd !0&1i'%&' in t%& 2in)do1


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o'ans (+)(*20
( I commend to you )hoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in "enchrea, # that you may receive her in the ,ord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of youE for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. $ Greet )riscilla and AAuila, my fellow workers in "hrist *esus, % who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. & ,ikewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved 7paenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to "hrist. ' Greet 0ary, who labored much for us. 5 Greet Andronicus and *unia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in "hrist before me. B Greet Amplias, my beloved in the ,ord. C Greet :rbanus, our fellow worker in "hrist, and +tachys, my beloved. (= Greet Apelles, approved in "hrist. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. (( Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of >arcissus who are in the ,ord. (# Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the ,ord. Greet the beloved )ersis, who labored much in the ,ord. ($ Greet .ufus, chosen in the ,ord, and his mother and mine. (% Greet Asyncritus, )hlegon, Hermas, )atrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. (& Greet )hilologus and *ulia, >ereus and his sister, and <lympas, and all the saints who are with them. (' Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of "hrist greet you. (5 >ow I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. (B Gor those who are such do not serve our ,ord *esus "hrist, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (C Gor your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalfE but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. #= And the God of peace will crush +atan under your feet shortly. The grace of our ,ord *esus "hrist be with you. Amen. >?*@

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,-#&.!/$#,.In the body of the 7pistle of .omans, the Apostle )aul addressed two groups of people and encouraged them to find unity in "hrist. He calls *ewish and Gentile "hristians to a new covenant in "hrist. It is no longer a covenant of works, but of grace. It is no longer us and them, but "hrist in us and through us all. As )aul closes the epistle, he also addresses two groups of people. <ne group has been helpful and beneficial to the ministry. )aul mentions them by name and lifts them up as e8amples, as people to be recogni;ed and honored for being a blessing. Then there is a second group of people, who are not a blessing but a blemish. These people are a hindrance, they are divisive and they should be avoided. !hen you look back over your life, do you remember people who blessed you9 "an you remember names and faces of those who had a positive impact on your life9 +ome of them may not even be alive any longer, but their influence lives on in your heart. I could tell you of my grandmother, >aomi, my uncle Gorest, my uncle ,arry, or my cousin Tim. I have never forgotten the testimony of Brother 0akel +eckman. He passed on years ago, but I can still hear his testimony in our little white frame church on the dirt road of 7lk ,ick in !est @irginia. He would always end his testimony by asking us to pray for him to 1keep on keeping on.2 I never forgot that phrase, 1keep on, keeping on.2 I fondly remember these people and my prayer is that there will be people who will remember me, even after I m gone, for the positive impact that I ve had on their life. ,ook with me at the te8t and we ll consider the two groups of people )aul addresses.

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PE.PLE #. P&1,2E
In verses ( through (&, )aul mentions #B people, eleven of which are women. I think that

the inclusion of these women is important because feminists often claim that )aul s theology

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relegates women to an inferior place in the church. This list of names, however, shows that )aul holds in the highest regard, everyone who is willing to be a part of the process of the propagation of the gospel and their gender is irrelevant. As )aul twice states in his epistles, 1there is neither male nor female.2 "onsider the first name on the list, )hoebe. )aul commends her as a 1servant of the church.2 That word translated 1servant2 is the same word from which we get the 7nglish word 1deacon.2 In the Greek language, most words have a masculine or a feminine suffi8 so that the pronouns and ad/ectives agree with the gender of the person one is talking about. Gor e8ample, one would normally refer to a woman as a deaconess and a man as a deacon. In this instance, however, )aul does not refer to )hoebe as a deaconess, but in the Greek, as a deacon. !hy9 I believe it is because she has been such a blessing to the church that she is recogni;ed on the same level as men in her ministry. The conte8t in verses ( and # suggest that she is the one who is carrying the letter to the church in .ome. This is why )aul commends her to the believers in .ome and encourages the .oman believers to be a help to her because she has been a help to many and a help, personally, to )aul. -oesn t the Bible say that you reap what you sow9 )hoebe had sown seeds of

service into the lives of others and now )aul is asking others to bear the fruit of service into her life. I could go down through this list and preach sermons on many of these names. !e are familiar with some, like )riscilla and AAuila, whom )aul calls, 1my fellow workers in "hrist *esus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.2 )riscilla and AAuila became ministry partners with )aul and they were instrumental in instructing the great "hristian preacher Apollos.

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It is noteworthy that )aul lists )riscilla before AAuila. In most correspondences, even to this day, we list the man s name before the woman, but here and in five other places in the >ew Testament, )riscilla is listed before AAuila. This has led many to believe that she was the main ministry personality of the pair. Another interesting note is )aul s mention of *unia in verse 5. +he is listed along with Andronicus, so she is probably either his wife or his sister. There is a Greek phrase that follows their names referencing 1apostles2. The Greek phrase is literally, 1they are noted among the apostles.2 The Auestion is whether this means they are functioning as noted apostles 3that is, as evangelists and church planters6, or is )aul is saying that the apostles have taken note of their ministry contribution. The Greek is ambiguous and might suggest that a woman, along with her male counterpart, is recogni;ed as an apostle. )aul mentions several other names and ends his list with the instruction, in verse (', to 1Greet one another with a holy kiss.2 It was customary, and still is in many cultures, to greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. This is a very personable greeting. In western culture, we typically greet one another with a handshake. The handshake originated as a way for two people to show that they are not carrying a weapon. That s not nearly as personable or relational as a kiss. A handshake says, 1I m not going to kill you,2 while a kiss said, 1I love you.2 That s why *udas betrayal with a kiss was so egregious. I remember going to a small church in the hills of 0aine and seeing two men greet one another with a kiss on the mouth. I suddenly began to wonder if I was in the wrong church. I found out later that they were brothers, but I don t even greet my sister with a kiss on the lips. I don t want anyone but my wife kissing me on the lips.

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The +unday before he passed away, Harrell ,uke hugged me and kissed me on the cheek, and said, 1I love you pastor.2 That was the last time I saw him alive. That meant so much to me and left a much more memorable impression than a handshake would have. !e may not go around kissing one another, in fact, because of abuses with the 1holy2 kiss, believers early on were instructed that men should kiss men and women should kiss women. In our time, we may even need to be careful about that. It is not part of our culture or custom to greet friends or fellow believers with a kiss, but we always need to e8press genuine love and care for one other. After all, we are in this ship together. Have you ever considered how often we use the word ship to e8press relational ideas9 Think about itJfriendship, relationship, fellowship. It s about the ship. !e re in it together, living together, laughing and crying together, and laboring together to get to our destination. !ho are the people you would want on your ship9 Then ask yourself this Auestion4 !ould anyone want me on the ship9 !ould I be a blessing or a problem9 !ould I contribute to the goals and help us get to the destination, or would I sit on my pew and ask everyone else to row the boat for me9 !ould I encourage others or would I critici;e and find fault with how everyone else is rowing or raising a sail9 !ould I bring anything of value to the ship, or would I merely be a consumer, someone who eats but never cooks, someone who drinks but never draws water9

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PE.PLE #. 13.,!
The people )aul mentions in those first fifteen verses are the kind of people you would

want on the ship. But there is that second group of people. These are not the kind of people you would want to go on a long trip with. ,ook at verse (54 (5 >ow I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

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There are some people who have no one but themselves to serve. It is all about them. )aul warns the believers in .ome to be aware of people like this. In # )eter #4($ the Apostle )eter refers to people like this as 1blemishes2. They cause divisions and offenses 3Gk. s#andalon6, contrary to the doctrine of truth. These are people who re/ect God ordained authority. These are people who are more concerned with hearing themselves than in listening to sound doctrine. They are easily offended and they offend others with ease. They teach things that are not in keeping with the teachings of +cripture. !hat should the believer do about such people9 )aul said to be aware of them and avoid them. I ve seen pastors so desperate to keep every single person who walks through the doors of the church that they will try to appease and appeal to everyone. As a result, they keep people that )aul warned them that they should note and avoid. +ome people live in the dumps and the only thing that makes them happy is getting you down in the dumps with them. But that is one ship you don t have to board. )aul said to avoid them. The word 1avoid2 is from the Greek word e##lino which literally means to shun. To shun someone means to refuse to enter into relationship with them. If all they are going to do is bring you down, if they have a negative influence on your life, then don t get on the 1relation2 ship, the 1friend2 ship, or the 1fellow2 ship with them. They aren t headed where you are going. +ome folks would say, 1That s pretty harsh pastor. +houldn t we have fellowship with everyone92 I didn t write the Bible, I /ust preach it. There people in the world and people in the church that will bring you down if you let them. )aul is telling us that we don t have to let them. ,ook at how he describes them in verse (B4 (B Gor those who are such do not serve our ,ord *esus "hrist, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

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They are more interested in themselves than they are in serving God or ministering to others. They may talk a good game, and try to butter people up, but their motive is not the benefit of others. Their motive is to get a following, to gain their own little fan club, and then pull out and divide the church. According to the Apostle )aul there are some people who should never be given the opportunity to stand in the pulpit, they should never be given a platform from which to influence the lives of others. )aul says that 1by smooth words and flattering speech OtheyP deceive the hearts of the simple.2 )aul isn t being harsh here. !hen he speaks of people being simple, he is really referring to them as naYve, as too trusting and too willing to accept what others say without evaluating their words by the +pirit or by standard of +cripture.

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PE.PLE #. BE
In verse (C, )aul notes the character of the believers in .ome. He says, 1Gor your

obedience has become known to all.2 In other words, they were teachable and responsive to instruction. Therefore, )aul knows that they will do as they are instructed and avoid those people who are a hindrance and who cause division, and this is comforting to )aul. He says, 1Therefore I am glad on your behalf.2 God wants His children to be teachable. !hen we can look in the mirror and admit that we have more to learn. !hen we can acknowledge that God has placed preachers, teachers, prophets and evangelists in the body to help us 1grow in grace and in the knowledge of our ,ord and +avior *esus "hrist2 3# )et. $4(B6, then we are the kind of people that brings /oy to the heart of the Gather. Then )aul says, 1but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.2 -oes that mean that )aul wants us to be naYve9 >o. In this verse, )aul uses the word 1simple2 to mean 1ine8perienced.2 It doesn t mean that we are to be ignorant of +atan s devices, /ust the

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opposite. In +econd "orinthians #4((, )aul tells us that we are not ignorant of +atan s devices, we know what they are but we choose not to participate in them. Therefore, we are ine8perienced in them. !e don t listen to, entertain, or sit under false teaching and we refuse to practice anything contrary to a "hristian character. Ginally, in verse #=, )aul gives us a promise. This is the promise for the people of God who are wise in what is good. This is the promise for the people who are obedient to the !ord of God. This is the promise for "hildren of God who do not practice evil. ,ook at this promise4 #= And the God of peace will crush +atan under your feet shortly. The grace of our ,ord *esus "hrist be with you. Amen. I love this verse. It goes along with what *esus said in ,uke (=4(C4 1Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you2 3>?*@6. )aul tells us that God will crush +atan under our feetH The song says, 1He s under my feet, He s under my feetH He s under my feetH He s under my feetH +atan is under my feetH2 @ictory belongs to the people of God, like )hoebe and )ricilla and AAuila, who are ready to advance the kingdom. @ictory is God s promise to those who put His !ord into practice in their lives. @ictorious living is the blessing of God for those who are wise and e8perienced in what is good and simple in evil. +o the Auestion we have to ask ourselves is if we ready for victory or not. Is +atan under our feet or on our backs9

$.-$L/2,.I want to be a .ufus or a Hermas. I want my life to have been a blessing to others and not a blemish in the church. I m not nearly as concerned about being remembered for a book I wrote, or a sermon I preached, as I am that there will be people who can say that I touched their

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life and left a lasting positive impression. I want to be a believer who is wise in the good and simple in evil. And I want to walk a life of triumph with +atan beneath my feet. !hat about you9 !ould people say that you are a blessing or a blemish9 !hat do you want9 Are you ready to get +atan off your back and under your feet where he belongs9 Are you ready to distance yourself from those who do nothing but tempt you to compromise and entice you to do things that are contrary to your moral code9 If you are ready, then God is willing and this church will pray for you.

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T%r&& T%in)' You N&&d to Succ&&d


Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' (+)2(*2>
#( Timothy, my fellow worker, and ,ucius, *ason, and +osipater, my countrymen, greet you. ## I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the ,ord. #$ Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. 7rastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Vuartus, a brother. #% The grace of our ,ord *esus "hrist be with you all. Amen. >?*@

,-#&.!/$#,.The epistle to the .omans ends with )aul e8tending greetings to the believers from his ministry companions and friends. 7ven Tertius, the amanuensis, or the person who transcribed the letter for )aul, inserted a greeting in verse ##. These additional greetings at the end of the letter were from men who were with )aul at the time the letter was written, and therefore their greetings to the .oman church are included along with )aul s. After these greetings, )aul concludes the letter with a benediction, a short prayer for the believers in .ome to whom the letter is addressed. He does two things in this ending. Girst, he acknowledges those who are working with him in e8panding the kingdom of God, and second, he prays for blessings upon the recipients of the letter. I want to use the ending of this epistle to help us consider three things in )aul s life that made him a success. >ow, when I talk about success, I m talking about success from a biblical perspective and not from the perspective of the world, though the two aren t always at odds with each other. +uccess from a biblical perspective comes back to our faithfulness to God s will and God s word for our lives. !e can be a success in a business endeavor, and still be a success from

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a biblical perspective, when we remain faithful to God s will and God s word while we engage in business practices. !hy do I consider )aul a success9 I consider him a success because he was instrumental, if not pivotal, in taking the gospel to the Gentiles. If he had not succeeded, then "hristianity as we know it would not e8ist. I also consider )aul a success because of his own confession in # Timothy. As he was about to face a martyr s death, )aul said4 5 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith4 B Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the ,ord, the righteous /udge, shall give me at that day4 and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing 3# Tim %45FB, ?*@6. )aul was a success and I believe we can attribute his success to three things that we all need to succeed. >ot many people begin their career or their ministry with a desire to fail. 0ost want to succeed, and yet without these three things, it is very unlikely that anyone, in business or in ministry, will ever attain success. !hat are these three things9 To answer that, we need to go back and briefly consider the personal history of )aul.

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P1/L2 $1LL 1-! 1-.,-#,-G


Gairly early in the history of the church, )aul became one of the central figures of

"hristianity, and aside from *esus Himself, )aul is probably the second most important personality in the >ew Testament. However, )aul is always Auick to acknowledge the contributions of other fruitful saints and to warn against the failures of the fallen. )aul sometimes appears bigger than life, but he was /ust a man made of the same stuff that you and I are made of. Det God used this flesh and blood man, who had once opposed the church in violent ways, to advance the kingdom of God. This should encourage us all to engage in wholeFhearted, dedicated, consecrated, and committed service in the kingdom of God. !e could all do much more for God if we would

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embrace the three things in our lives that )aul had embraced in his own. How was )aul able to go from being a persecutor of "hristians, to becoming a "hristian, to commit his life to sharing the gospel with Gentiles, and ultimately to offer his own life in martyrdom9 3Dou need to write these down, or look up this sermon online.6 %irst, he was able to succeed because he had an undeniable sense of God s calling upon his life, he knew his God given purpose. He stated his purpose in .omans ((4($, 1I am an apostle to the Gentiles.2 -o you know who you are in "hrist9 -o you know what God has called you to do9 :ntil you take the time and are Auiet long enough, for God to speak to you, you will never find your God ordained purpose and you will never reali;e your God planned destiny. 0any people are never a success in life because they stumble through life with no sense of purpose or direction. *esus tells us that if we will allow Him, the Holy +pirit will lead us, but we must learn to walk in the +pirit. Second, )aul had an anointing upon his life, the power that the baptism of the Holy +pirit brings to those who are willing to pursue God s plans and purposes for their life. God doesn t bapti;e a believer in the Holy +pirit /ust to dance around the altars and speak in tongues. He anoints His children to accomplish His plans and to fulfill the purpose that He has for our lives. And third, )aul had people working with him to accomplish the mission. !e ll look at this third point in /ust a moment, but first I want you to see the strong connection between purpose and anointing. Turn to Acts chapter C, verses (= through (% and look at the te8t with me. (= >ow there was a certain disciple at -amascus named AnaniasE and to him the ,ord said in a vision, LAnanias.L And he said, LHere I am, ,ord.L (( +o the ,ord said to him, LArise and go to the street called +traight, and inAuire at the house of *udas for one called +aul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. (# And in a

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vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.L ($ Then Ananias answered, L,ord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Dour saints in *erusalem. (% And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Dour name.L )aul, who was still referred to as +aul at this time, was a religiously ;ealous *ew who was persecuting "hristians for what he perceived to be a perversion of *udaism. But one day, as +aul was on his way to -amascus to persecute some more "hristians, *esus appeared to him in a blinding light and spoke to +aul in a thundering voice. There, with his face in the dust, that selfF righteous and proud *ew became a believer. God didn t save +aul /ust to make a point. God was not imposing His will upon +aul. +aul was not robbed of his free will in this encounter. +aul could have refused, but +aul was the kind of man who was willing to accept the truth when it was staring him in the face. +aul s conversion is one the most powerful testimonies to the reality of the resurrected ,ord, because nothing less than this overwhelming encounter with the risen ,ord would have turned +aul from being a ;ealous advocate of *udaism, to being a preacher of *esus "hrist as ,ord to Gentiles and *ews alike. Grom the moment of his salvation, God had a plan and a purpose for +aul s life, and God was going to provide the power to perform that purpose through the anointing of the Holy +pirit. There was a call, then there was an anointing, and only afterward was there an appointing. +ome folks want the position before they even know if it is God s call upon their life, and then they don t understand why they don t have the anointing to see it succeed. !hen we persist in moving outside of God s plan for our life, then we may find that the anointing isn t there. The call and the charismatic anointing to complete the task that God has given us, go hand in hand. If we are in a place and position where there is no power to perform, we may be operating in the flesh and not in the +pirit.

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A few miles away from where +aul the sinner had fallen and +aul the believer got up, God spoke to a devoted disciple named Ananias. He was praying when the ,ord told him to go to +traight +treet, find +aul of Tarsus, and pray for him to receive his sight. At first Ananias resisted, reminding God that +aul was known for persecuting believers in *erusalem, but God knows what he is doing. Have you ever watched God use someone in a ministry that you weren t sure He should use9 Have you ever asked, 1Are you sure about this God92 That s what Ananias was asking, but in verses (& and (' God assured Ananias that He had placed a specific call upon +aul s life4 (& But the ,ord said to him, LGo, for he is a chosen vessel of 0ine to bear 0y name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. (' Gor I will show him how many things he must suffer for 0y nameKs sake.L God clearly had a purpose for +aul s life and He would empower +aul to fulfill that purpose. ,ook at the close connection between call and charismatic anointing, in verses (5F(B4 (5 And Ananias went his way and entered the houseE and laying his hands on him he said, LBrother +aul, the ,ord *esus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy +pirit.L (B Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at onceE and he arose and was bapti;ed. )aul had a call, he had an anointing, and the third thing )aul had were fellowFlaborers. )aul is rarely alone in his travels. In the business world, we talk of networking as a way to build the business. In nature, nothing e8ists apart from relationships. Atoms e8ist only as electrons move in relationship to the nucleus. 0atter e8ists only as atoms bond together. 7verything we see and e8perience is a result of relationships. To the e8tent that relationships break down, there is decay, there is regression and retrograde until families disintegrate, businesses fail, churches close their doors, missions cease and nature itself ends in radioactive particles that no longer sustain life. God has created

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everything to e8ist in relationship and without those relationships, all we have is a good idea but no way to make it come to life and really matter.

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P1/L2 $.MP1-,.-2
God placed precious people in )aul s life to be his fellow ministers in the movement.

Barnabas was the first, and though Barnabas and )aul eventually part company and thereby double the ministry potential to the Gentiles, God always had people whom )aul could call on and count on. +ome deserted )aul in his greatest time of need, but there were those like Timothy, who )aul could count on even when -emas had forsaken him. )aul has acknowledged some of these partners in ministry earlier in .omans chapter (', but in verse #( we read eight more names. )aul usually opened his letters by thanking God for the recipients of the letters, and he often ended by thanking or recommending fellow laborers. These were people working alongside, and closely associated with, )aul in support of the ministry. Their names are forever recorded in the sacred te8t simply because they were willing to help )aul shoulder the load of ministry. #( Timothy, my fellow worker, and ,ucius, *ason, and +osipater, my countrymen, greet you. ## I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the ,ord. #$ Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. 7rastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Vuartus, a brother. <ther than Timothy, we don t talk much about these men, but God always knows who is working behind the scenes, and )aul knew how valuable they had been in the mission. !e live in a culture that tries to tell us that unless we are in the spotlight, then we are invisible, we are insignificant, and we are nobodies. That s why people will do almost anything to get their face on television, to be seen or heard in some conte8t. Det every organi;ation, every ministry, and every growing church needs people who are faithfully working behind the scenes,

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people who are more concerned with the mission than they are in getting their face on the spotlight. "hurches need people who are willing to work for one commendation, that of *esus Himself, who will say, 1!ell done, good and faithful servantE you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. 7nter into the /oy of your lord.K2 30att #&4#(F##, >?*@6. I know that we people like that here. !e have several wonderful people who make calls, send cards, visit people, and minister to others in the church, and they are never on the stage. 0ost of these people never come to me and say, 1)astor I did this, and I did that . . .2 but you /ust do it because you know it needs to be done, and because you know that most important person sees and knows and He will reward you with an everlasting reward. I believe that when we get to heaven and God begins to distribute eternal rewards, many of the people who have stood on the stage, and who have been on the television, and who have received much recognition here in this life, will have to step back as God calls up people whose names we barely knew, people who did so much and asked for so little, people who kept the mission in mind rather than seeking applause of man. At that time, the first will be last, the books will be balanced, and meek will inherit the earth 30att. &4&6. If everybody has to have a title, or recognition, or pay, to participate, then nothing much will ever get done. Thank God for men like Timothy, ,ucius, *ason, and +osipater, Tertius, Gaius, Vuartus, and thank God for women like )heobe, *unia, 0ary, and )ricilla. They never wrote a book in the >ew Testament, and there is no record of great miracles performed at their hands, but they were partners in ministry, they made a difference in the kingdom, and their names are written in the book that will endure forever.

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$onclusion
In this book, )aul has e8horted us to shun pagan practices, move beyond the *ewish law, and follow the e8ample of Abraham who obtained righteousness by faith. !e are told that in "hrist, *ewish and Gentile believers find unity. In "hrist, we all find common ground and common faith as we enter into the family of God as brothers and sisters. !e are told to walk in the +pirit, to live righteous lives, and to love and work with others in advancing the kingdom of God. !hen we do these things, we e8emplify the type of people who bring glory to God the Gather through the work of the +on in our lives as we walk in the +pirit. There is the call to purpose, to anointing, and to fellowship with other believers with whom we work to pull down strongholds, storm the gates of hell, and reach the lost at any cost through the gospel of *esus "hrist. This is your mission if you choose to accept it. It calls for a clear sense of purpose, the provision of power through the +pirit, and the power of unity as we work together as the family of God. It means that we must be willing to work in the shadows, if need be, while others stand in the spotlight. It means that if we, like )aul, are called to a visible position of leadership, that we must recogni;e and honor those whose contributions might otherwise go unnoticed. It means that like )aul we must be willing to spend and be spent, even when the more we love, the less we are loved. It means loving God so much that we know that anything He asks of us is far less than He deserves and we are honored to respond without murmuring or complaining. This is your mission. Are you willing to accept it9 If you are here today and you are willing to partner with me and with the pastoral staff of this church to raise up a great ministry that will be a beacon of righteousness, a harbinger of hope, and a church of care and compassion,

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I want you to stand to your feet as a witness. >ow those of you who are standing, if you are still waiting for your anointing to empower you for your appointing, I want you to come forward. I will pray for God to impart unto you the power to perform that to which He has called you. I am not the source of this imparting, but I am the vessel through which God can impart to you today a sense of purpose and direction and the anointing to begin that /ourney. It may be a business venture, a career move, or a ministry vision, but when you have the three things you need, you can succeed. Dou need to hear God speak His purpose into your life. Dou need the anointing of the Holy +pirit to engage in that purpose, and you need to build relationships with those that God puts in your life who can partner with your to fulfill that purpose. I will be praying for these three things in your life so that you have all that you need to succeed.

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!&n&diction3 !ound(ri&' (nd !0&''in)'


By Mark E" Hardgrove !"Min" #e6%) &o' (+)2@*27
#& >ow to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of *esus "hrist, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began #' but now made manifest, and by the prophetic +criptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith J #5 to God, alone wise, be glory through *esus "hrist forever. Amen. 3>?*@6

,-#&.!/$#,.How do you say goodbye9 !hen I was a child, my grandmother would always try to give us a dollar or something before we pulled away. >ow as I leave, my mother will usually step out on the porch as we drive away, standing there watching and waving until we round the bend out of sight. )eople have different traditions. I know a ?orean woman who would always try to give me something before I left because ?oreans traditionally do this when a pastor visits. I have pastor friends, who are more spiritually sensitive than I am who always pray a blessing over the home before they leave. I like that. In this letter, )aul closes and says goodbye with a benediction and a do8ology. A benediction is a prayer asking for God s blessing, and do8ology is short statement that gives glory to God. He often closes with a benediction. Gor e8ample, )aul closes his +econd 7pistle to the "orinthians with these words4 # "or ($4(#F(% (# Greet one another with a holy kiss. ($ All the saints send their greetings. (% 0ay the grace of the ,ord *esus "hrist, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy +pirit be with you all. >I@ In Galatians )aul closes with the words4

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'4(B The grace of our ,ord *esus "hrist be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. >I@ In 7phesians he closes with this benediction4 '4#$ )eace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Gather and the ,ord *esus "hrist. #% Grace to all who love our ,ord *esus "hrist with an undying love. >I@ I find it interesting how )aul closes his Girst 7pistle the "orinthians. He writes4 ('4## If anyone does not love the ,ord J a curse be on him. "ome, < ,ordH #$ The grace of the ,ord *esus be with you. #% 0y love to all of you in "hrist *esus. Amen. >I@ )aul certainly likes to end by blessing the recipients of the letter, but he is never afraid to confront behavior or beliefs that are contrary to the gospel that he preached. In the letter to the .omans )aul has dealt at length with the issue of righteousness by faith and not by works. +alvation does not come by works of the law, or keeping the letter of the ,aw, but by faith in the life, death, burial and resurrection of *esus "hrist. Det when we look at the benediction at the close of this letter, )aul makes it very clear that while we are not under the ,aw of 0oses, we are still called to live by a standard. !e are no longer trying to work our way into heaven, but we are still called to obey the !ord of the ,ord.

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#HE E2#1BL,2HME-#
,ook at the promise in verse #&. This is an affirmation that anchors this entire

benediction in the grace of God. 1>ow unto Him who is able to establish you . . .2 That word 1establish2 is from the Greek word steri4o, which means to 1set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction.2 There was a time in my relationship with God where I felt that I lived on the edge of falling and failure, but I have found that the deeper I get into the !ord and more I pray and participate in worship, the more steady I am in my faith. The Baptists talk of eternal security, or the preservation of the saints, and by that they mean to say that if you genuinely give your heart to the ,ord, then you cannot lose your

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salvation. They are not saying, as some would like to believe, that a person can continue in blatant, open, and unrepentant sin, and still make it to heaven. They would say that anyone who does that never really gave their heart to *esus to begin with. A few weeks ago, I had a dentist working on my teeth and when he found out that I was a pastor he began to talk at length about religion, about what he perceived to be problems in the Bible, and how he finally became a Baptist. According to him, they believe that once you say your prayer of salvation, you are locked in and heaven is a guarantee. He said, 1If you re going to choose a religion, that s the one to choose.2 !hat did I say9 I couldn t say anything. He put a rubber block on my mouth and he was drilling on my teeth while he talked. Then, as soon as he was finished, he walked out of the room. Talk about frustrating. )entecostals believe that a person can genuinely give their heart to the ,ord, but they can also choose to walk away from what they know is right and go back to their former sinful lifestyle. !e call it, backsliding. 0ost denominations with an Armenian 3as opposed to a "alvinist6 theological perspective believe that a person can forsake their faith, turn away from God, and go back into a sinful lifestyle that will doom their soul to hell. Gor some people this perspective is too precarious. They think it means that the power to stand steady must come from within our own will. That it is all up to us. The problem is that we all know how weak we really are. !e know that even great men in +cripture had their times of doubt and failure, so what chance do we have of making it9 In verse #& )aul tells us that God is able to set us, to confirm us, to establish us in righteousness. This is good newsH +ome would say, 1+ee the Baptists and )resbyterians are rightH God is able to establish us so that we will never fall away.2 And I would say, the Baptists and others who hold the .eformed view of salvation are partially right. >otice a phrase in this

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te8t that is repeated three times9 -o you see it9 It is the phrase, 1according to.2 If you have the New "nternational 1ersion, they translate those two words with one word, the word 1by.2 The Greek word is a seemingly insignificant little word pronounced, #a5tah. However, this word, depending on the construction of the grammar, packs a lot of meaning into four Greek lettersJ kappa, alpha, tau, alpha. It means, that we are established by the gospel, which is the preaching of *esus "hrist, by the revelation of the mystery that has been made manifest by the prophetic scriptures, and by the commandment of the everlasting God 3and here s the key6, 1for obedience to the faith.2 God is able and God will establish everyone who is willing to trust and obey. !hen we are willing to believe and abide by the gospel, and believe and abide by the +criptures that reveal this gospel, and believe and obey the commandment of the everlasting God, then we can be assured that we are established, set firm, oriented and fi8ed with our faith toward heaven. The problem is that if we don t obey, if we don t keep the faith, if we won t abide by the gospel revealed in +cripture as the commandment of God, then we are in peril of forfeiting our faith and abandoning the promises that God has prepared for us. !hat is the secret to success as a believer9 It is believingH To be established means that we will not waver, we believe, and because we believe, we will obey. If a person tells me that they believe in *esus, when they say that they believe in the !ord of God, when they say that they believe in the teachings and the e8ample of *esus, but then live in a way contrary to what God s !ord teaches us, then I can only conclude that they don t really believe it. If they believe in the awesome love of God displayed on a cross through the sacrifice of His own +on . . . if they believe that *esus has prepared for us a room in the Gather s house . . . if they believe that the wages of sin is death . . . if they believe that death and hell are cast into

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the lake of fire where they are and shall be tormented day and night while the righteous en/oy the blessings and the bliss of heaven, then how could they continue to live a life of sin9 The secret to being a believer is believing. !hen we really believe, we will follow through by obeying and living a life that glorifies God. *ames said, 1(B +how me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (C Dou believe that there is one God. Dou do well. 7ven the demons believe J and trembleH #= But do you want to know, < foolish man, that faith without works is dead92 3*ames #4(BF#=, >?*@6. !e are living by faith and not by works, because by works of the ,aw no man shall live, and yet we are not without a standard, we are not lawless religious people pursuing pleasure and believing that our liberty in the +pirit is a license to live a sinful lifestyle. I don t know about you, but I appreciate boundaries. I like the lines on the road that tell me where I am supposed to be and not supposed to be. In my )h- work, I like to know what the professors want from me in the assignments. !hen I play a game, I want to know the rules. I remember taking a correspondence course from ,ee :niversity several years ago, and it was my first theology class. :nfortunately, I d never met or talked with the grading professor and I d never written a theological paper. I wasn t sure what level of resources or scholarship I should employ. I was very naYve. :p to this point in my academic career I d gotten very good

grades on all my written assignments. But when I got this paper back from -r. Bowdle, my grade was a - minus. He wrote in big letters with a red marker, 1totally irrelevant,2 1mindless /argon,2 and 1this is not a theological paper.2 I was crushed. I had stacks of papers with A s on them and glowing remarks from my professors. <ne professor told me that he had given me fully half of all the A s he had ever given on student papers.

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!hat was the difference9 The difference was that for this one professor, whom I had never met or talked with, I didn t know what the parameters were, I didn t know what was e8pected and I did miserably at it. I like clear boundaries. I want to know the standard that I m being asked to live up to. By the way, after the bad grade I received on that paper, I called the professor and talked with him at length about what he was looking for in theological paper and after that I received A s and B s from him as well. As believers, we aren t out there making it up as we go. God had guidelines, standards, and boundaries. These boundaries aren t there to impede our freedom, but liberate us to live within a life that is pleasing to and glorifies God. Those in sin believe they are free, but they are really enslaved by their own lusts. They have the illusion of freedom, but real freedom begins by becoming a servant of the ,ord.

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#HE P.5E& .4 #HE 5.&!


This powerful prayer reminds us of the importance of the !ord of God. ,ook at it.

God s !ord comes in many formsJas the gospel, as the preached !ord, as revelation, through +cripture, and as the commandment of GodJand this !ord in all these forms, is able to establish the believer who believes and obeys. The !ord of God is 1for obedience to the faith.2 It is not /ust a theory, or a good idea, it is God s will for our lives. Through faith and obedience to the !ord of God, we can be turned around and empowered to press forward toward our goal as we fulfill our God given destiny. In this, God is glorified through *esus "hrist forever. As "hrist works in us and through us, as the !ord of God takes us, makes us, and shapes us into vessels fit for use in the kingdom, God the Gather is glorified, *esus is magnified, we are edified, and the lost are evangeli;ed. Isn t that the vision of this church9

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#5 to God, alone wise, be glory through *esus "hrist forever. Amen. )aul closes with this short word of glory. It is carefully worded. )aul acknowledges the

wisdom of God as being so far above all mortal wisdom as to be the only wisdom in of time and space. Gurther, it was through God s infinite wisdom that the plan of salvation through the faith in the gospel was set in motion from the foundation of the earth. It is the theme of the entire Bible, from the seed of woman in Genesis, to 1the .oot and the <ffspring of -avid, the Bright and 0orning +tarL of .evelation. In ( "orinthians (4#=, )aul challenges the wisdom of man with these Auestions4 #= !here is the wise9 !here is the scribe9 !here is the disputer of this age9 Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world9 Then )aul goes on to show the surpassing wisdom of God in the verses that follow4 #( Gor since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. ## Gor *ews reAuest a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdomE #$ but we preach "hrist crucified, to the *ews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, #% but to those who are called, both *ews and Greeks, "hrist the power of God and the wisdom of God. #& Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. >?*@ God s wisdom is unmatched and worthy of glory. It is through *esus that the Gather is glorified and the plan of God is fulfilled and /ustified. 7very time we reali;e what God did for us, what *esus gave for us, and what the Holy +pirit is doing in us, we ought to glorify God. God had a plan that has unfolded through thousands of years of *ewish history to bring us 0essiah, and then through the church to preserve the faith and to pass it on to the ne8t generation. !e are here today as believers, as men and women en/oying the freedom and liberty of salvation because God, in His infinite wisdom, had a plan. If it had not been for God s plan then we might all be 0uslims today strapping bombs to our children and sending them to die in the name of

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*ihad. If God had not had a plan, then there would be no women worshipping here today because according to 0ohammed, a woman cannot pray beside a man, only behind him. In addition, all the women would be covered from head to toe in burkas. In some cases, women would not even be granted permission to go to school. +omebody ought to praise the ,ord because in His infinite wisdom He had a plan in which there is neither male nor female, but all are one in "hrist.

$.-$L/2,.God s plan is still unfolding. He has a day and an hour set to return for His church. >o man knows the day or the hour, but we can rest assured that God in His infinite wisdom has all of history moving ine8orably toward the end of time and the start of eternity. According to that plan we can choose to respond in faith to God s grace and embrace an eternity in His presence, or we can choose to rebel and fail to enter into the rest that He has prepared for us. But God has a plan. God s desire is that we would all respond in faith and obedience to His revelation of that plan, and that in doing so we would all be established, firmly fi8ed in a relationship with Him that will result in eternal peace and /oy and rest. God has a plan, but have you yielded your will to His will and begun to participate in that plan. It is a group plan of assurance that pays eternal dividends. Are you born again9 Have you completely surrendered to His plan for your life9 His ways are higher than our ways and He has a plan for each of our lives. He said in *eremiah #C4((F(# (( Gor I know the plans I have for you,L declares the ,<.-, Lplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. >I@

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God has a plan for your life, but that individual aspect of His plan does not begin to unfold until you are living in obedience to the faith that is revealed in the gospel, the preaching, the revelation, the prophets, and the commandments of the ,ord. It begins when you say, 1I will,2 to *esus and accept Him as your ,ord.

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