Romans 4: 17

Jeremiah 22, Romans 4


Romans 4:17 (New International Version)

17  – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

This snippet from Romans 4 reveals two great truths. In reverse order they are
(1) God calls into being things that were not
and
(2) God gives life to the dead.
These two truths may be stated succinctly by saying that God is Creator and God is Redeemer.

God is creator. This is evident in the first page of the Bible, the first sentence of scripture: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”; that is, God created everything. It is echoed in the last book of the Bible: “you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”. The creation and continued existence of all things relies on God. God literally “calls into being” – it is by God’s word that things materialise into existence. The answer to the fundamental question of philosophy – Why is there something rather than nothing? – is God.

God is redeemer. God retrieves the trapped, the broken, the lost, the discarded. God revivifies. God gives life to the dead. This aspect of God’s character focuses in Jesus and flows on to us. Paul continues on in Romans 4 to say that God “raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” and expanding further, he says that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”. In Jesus dying and rising we who were dead in sins have been given access to life.

The immediate application Paul gives to these truths relate to Abraham and Sarah, both good as dead when it came to procreation.  Things that were not – offspring for Abraham and Sarah –  were spoken into being by God’s promise, God’s effectual word. Yet the story of the genesis of Isaac from essentially nothing illustrates two of the most significant abilities of God: to generate something from nothing, and to wrest life from the dead.

 

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God always provides a way

Jeremiah 21

There’s a positive outcome to this glum passage. Did you notice it as you read?

As we have learned already in this book, Jeremiah was an exceedingly courageous prophet. He was called to do a very difficult task – proclaiming God’s justice upon an unrepentant and apostate Judah. Over 40 years he was popularly resented and sometimes the subject of violence. He was seen as a pro-Babylon traitor: in fact he was a true patriot.

On the other hand Zedekiah was a weak and indecisive king who was dominated by his nobles. Their pro-Egypt policy resulted in this siege.

Displaying little confidence the king sends junior representatives to the prophet. He’s looking for a miracle to help him out of his predicament. But Jeremiah made it plain that God’s wrath was coming upon them since every aspect of their society was corrupt (v 12, cp. 22:1-9). Not only the Babylonians but God himself was fighting against them.

God did not need to send a plague – an ancient besieged city had public health problems that made this a natural outcome. Even those not succumbing to the plague will be killed by the besiegers. God’s awful retribution for disobedience appears to show no mercy or pity or compassion.

Yet in all this prophesied carnage God does set a way of escape. In this God reveals his mercy and pity and compassion. But it appears to be an act of treason – abandoning the rest of the city to its fate. And yet this cannot be treason as the people fleeing are obeying the direct command of God. It is the rebellious people who refuse to take God’s “way of escape” (1 Cor 10:13).

There is always a choice. Here it is simply life or death. Death if they remain, life if the leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians. Those who left would become slaves. But the core realisation is that those who surrendered lived to take God’s purposes into exile.

Romans 3

This is one of the pivotal chapters of the Bible. It is a reality check. We humans are in a world of trouble. In its bluntest form, all humankind is separated from God by personal rebellion. But in his love God has forged the way to fix the shattered connection.

Here Paul continues the discussion with his imaginary objector.

The Jews did have an advantage. They were privileged to have revealed to them the commandments of God. They were God’s special people. So they could not do as they like: they must do what God likes! Yet time and time again we read that they neglected or ignored these special duties. In fact by neglecting God’s revelation they were worse than their neighbours to whom God had not revealed himself.

But God remains faithful even in spite of their unfaithfulness.

The objector tries again: “So my sin then is really glorifying God!” It’s like saying than an unfaithful husband is proving how much he loves his wife. That insensitive husband is merely covering his desire to do what he likes.

Whatever way it’s looked at, we humans are rebelling against the standard set by our Creator. We deserve God’s wrath – his pure, perfect antagonism to evil.

What a dark picture! There is no way we can be good enough to approach the holy God. As Paul expresses it, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v 23). We imagine an archer aiming at his target … and missing! Even if we aimed at perfection we have all wandered from the law of God.

God’s way of reconciliation is shown in the next verse: “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith” (vs 23, 24).

God’s law remains; it is not pushed to one side. The difference now is that he who accepts Christ by faith willingly seeks to apply God’s standard of living. Yes, he will still fail. But repentance and forgiveness through that faith repairs his relationship with God.

Thank you Lord for providing Jesus as the way out of my predicament.

[Originally posted on 20/10/2015 by Nev]

Bad News and Good News

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 20 and Romans 2.

Jeremiah had a tough gig! From the beginning, God told him he was bringing disaster upon his people – and Jeremiah would bring them the news:

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.
Jer 1:17

In chapter 19 Jeremiah has delivered his latest dose of bad news. There was no repentant response to this news. Rather, Jeremiah is beaten and placed in the stocks. He pours out his heart to the Lord. He feels deceived and overwhelmed – yet he has been faithful in communicating the Lord’s word to the people and will continue to do so.

I pray that we might be as faithful as Jeremiah in the light and momentary trials that we face in our ever more spiritually hardened Australia.

Romans chapter 2 is looking back at chapter 1. Paul is having a rhetorical argument with an imagined self righteous Jew as he opens up this chapter. I like the way the NLT says it:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
Rom 2:1-2

This echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew – not to condemn all judgement (which itself would be judgement – and therefore self defeating) but rather to condemn hypocritical judgement:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Matt 7:1-5

Paul goes on to give more bad news in chapter 2 with only glimmers of hope. But he finishes with this good news for both Jews as well as Gentiles like us:

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision.   No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Rom 2:28-29

We can be so very thankful that God is ever kind, tolerant and patient with us – enabling us to develop changed hearts that seek praise only from God!

[Originally posted on 19 October 2015 by Andrew Zahra.]

The potter and the clay

Jeremiah 18 and Romans 1:1-15 powerfully show the contrast between lives of obedience and disobedience, not just for an individual’s salvation but also for the new creation that is to come.
The earlier passage displays God as being the “potter”, and his people as the “clay”. It is a powerful image as it runs contrary to human nature.  We are not the centre of the universe, either individually or collectively!  In fact, in every way we are created by God and he has known us for all time.
Romans then starts with Paul noting that he had been set apart for the gospel of God, who not only “moulded” him as the clay but delivered on His age-old promise to save many people through a King coming from David’s line of descent.  This passage tells us (using the words of the ESV) that all who are called by God to believe in this gospel belong to Jesus Christ, and through him we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.
What a benefit for all believers, to receive such great free gifts from the Lord – including the obedience of faith. Faith leads not only to forgiveness of sin (which alone is monumentally great), but also belonging to an eternal purpose that has worldwide impact for the glory of His name.  Contrast this with Jeremiah 18, where the people are clearly warned about the consequences of the clay acting in disobedience to the potter.  Verses 11 and 12 are particularly striking – a call to repent, followed by people saying they will follow their own plans, and every person according to the stubbornness of his or her evil heart.
We know that at the end of all things, everyone will be judged whether or not they belong to Jesus.  The former will ultimately be saved by virtue of having their names written in the book of life, while the latter will be eternally condemned (Revelation 20:11-15).   John 3:35 confirms that obedience is a true marker of genuine faith – a distinction between the persons whose names are written in the book of life, and those who are not.  Faith will lead to obedience, and therefore obedience is evidence not only of faith but also of the future life that is to come by virtue of that faith.
The question is how seriously do I/we take this? Is obedience to God I/our central value?  Or do I/we take God’s commandments as guidelines only that we can act in judgement over, like the Jews of whom Jeremiah was writing?  The consequences of being disobedient are stark – not that it is our obedience that saves us.  Rather it is evidence of genuine faith that not only saves but will determine the extent of our status as a good and faithful servant in the judgement that is to come.
I take it from the contrasting passages that Jeremiah’s contemporaries got themselves into so much trouble because they did not grasp their status as God’s creation – but rather considered themselves the makers of their own destiny.  In contrast, Paul did grasp his position of relative insignificance in comparison to God.  This in turn brought about such gratefulness and obedience on the part of Paul in response to the grace shown to him.  We can see from the book of Acts and many New Testament letters what great impact Paul’s obedience had for the gospel worldwide.
As a result, I am praying to more fully grasp how big God is as my maker and how small I am as his creation.  Will you join me in hope that this can only make me/us more grateful for the grace that has been given without any individual merit whatsoever.  May this in turn lead to greater obedience and greater impact for the gospel in our community and the new earth to come.

[Originally posted on 16/10/2015 by Mark Cottom]

How many times must we be told?

Our faithful daily readings today are Jeremiah 17 and Matthew 28.

This last chapter of Matthew reminds me of the number of times I’ve read this passage in parts or whole and I am still amazed of the gracious love of our Almighty God to us and those involved on those days .

Looking backwards from The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) we see God’s gracious care for us as His ambassadors.  Not only are we to go into all the world leading others to Him but He will be with us always.

A few days before this He is hung on a cross and crucified.   Yet even here,  at a most difficult time, when The Messiah is unmercifully killed for our sins, God cares for His children.  An angel is sent to deliver the message of Christ’s resurrection to His followers ,  to calm them and reassure them.  Not only this act,  but also Jesus appears to these same followers and sets up an appointment to meet the group in a few days.

At this appointed time Jesus is present and is worshipped as is befitting our risen Saviour.  Although some doubt Jesus the passage records His clear direction in verses 18 to 20.

The book of Jeremiah,  particularly today’s chapter 17, reminds us of the divide between those who have faith and respect God and those who may or may not say the words but live lives that disown God.   Lives immersed in idolatry,  wealth creation by evil methods and disregard for God.   Disregard that is unrepentant and self-serving.  Jeremiah continues his difficult role of preaching to the unrepentant and threatening people.  He  too knows his strength and defence comes from the Lord and prays for this.  (v14 to 18)

Today,  after the resurection of our Lord,  we too have a role and the same strength and defence is with us ‘even to the ends of the earth’.

Two passages stand out for me here: Jeremiah  29:11 and Jude 1:17-23.

A prayer Almighty Father,  you gave your own Son,  our Lord Jesus,  as a sacrifice for our sin.  Thank you Father for this extraordinary gift  Your Holy Spirit is now part of our lives.  Grant Father that we will walk in your ways Lord accepting your commission for us to act as Your ambassadors,  to seek out and by your Holy Spirit allow Christ to be seen for those who do not know You.  Keep us strong in faith,  courageous and caring as we witness for you and as we walk with our brothers and sisters in faith.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ.   Amen.

If you would like to read a little more on the missional church in the world and what parts of the Old Testament teach us can I recommend Mark Glanville’s post of 6/10/2015 at https://markrglanville.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/how-does-canaanite-destruction-relate-to-mission-and-justice/

Glenn

[Originally posted on 15/10/2015 by Glenn Murray]

Matthew 27:27-56

Jeremiah 15, Matthew 27:27-56


 

Wollongong churches have recently printed T-shirts and badges and banners with the unfinished sentence “Jesus Is ___”. In Matthew 27:27-56, half a dozen opinions are given as to how to finish this thought.

  •  A whole company of the governor’s soldiers hail Jesus as “king of the Jews” – but they were mocking him.
  •  The written charge against Jesus used the same words: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”. This written charge explains why Jesus was crucified; he was seen to be a king, competing with the Roman Emperor for allegiance, committing treason.
  •  Passers-by hurled insults. They mockingly applied the title, “Son of God”.
  •  The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders also mocked Jesus as “the king of Israel”.
  •  Jesus himself was reported as saying “I am the Son of God”.
  •  The centurion and those guarding Jesus exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God”.

There are six opinions. What’s yours?

GOD’S JUDGEMENT – frees or falls heavily

JEREMIAH 14

RK Harrison in his commentary on Jeremiah helpfully introduces our chapter for today this way:

‘Poetry and prose alternate in a dialogue between God and Jeremiah in which the prophet intercedes earnestly for Judah.’  P101

The scene is harsh – severe drought devastating the land and lifestyle of the people.                                             -dead bodies are not being buried.                                                                                                    -false prophets spreading lies

While Jeremiah is aware that these chosen people are again ignoring God, worshipping man-made gods and are pleasing themselves, he continues, in the tradition of Abraham – (Genesis 18:23-33) Moses –  (Exodus 32:11-13) and Samuel – (1Samuel7:5-9)  to vicariously confess their failure to follow God and to plead for their forgiveness.  He knows that confession leads to forgiveness and longs for God to have mercy and for the people to turn back to God.

However Jeremiah is forbidden to intercede on their behalf because judgement is set.

Our own society is God-forgetful and wilful so let us, like Jeremiah, pray for our people and seek God’s mercy for us all.

 

MATTHEW 27:11-36

Today’s passage from Matthew’s account of the high drama leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion has many challenges for us.  Personally we are finding it hard to read this momentous event in little snippets, though this way has enabled time to focus on each event leading to the ultimate crucifixion.

Today we we look in on Pilate, the Roman governor’s encounter with Jesus.  He is at a crossroad – does he free an inocent man?  He has plenty of support for this action

-his own ‘gut’ feeling

– the conflicting & false charges

– his wife’s warning

Pilate really has a  dilemma – to free Jesus, he will incur the wrath of the people whom he is in the land to govern OR

convict Jesus and betray himself.

He takes the way that I fear that I would also have taken and sadly may be tempted to do in similar situations today –

He washes his hands.  I am innocent.  You do it.  It is your fault.

Do we find it easy to speak up for Jesus and for people who have been wronged by others OR do we too leave it to others and keep ourselves safe?

The other dilema is that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to die to secure salvation.  So from our perspective 2000 years later and with the resource of the Bible freely available to us we know that this death was a deep love-act for humanity and was always God’s ancient purpose.  However, that does not excuse Pilate’s action but could strengthen our will to speak up for Jesus and also for people suffering injustice.

Peter and Elizabeth

[Originally posted on 12/10/2015 by pesmart]