“A Vision for Tomorrow” by Pastor Andy Braams

On the last Sunday of each month, we typically take a break from our current series to talk about what we might do as a church, and as a people to truly make this church a hub for ministry. The building, so to speak, is the hub, and we are the spokes that go out, as the church, to live to bring glory to God.

And although the effects of church have changed greatly over the past four months, the essence of the church has never changed. And yet, even discounting COVID, many have left the church, left this church, for a variety of reasons.

And, truth be told, a part of the reason is me. And a part of the reason is us.

Perhaps if we had been more faithful they had not gone out from us. Of those whose names remain on the roll – how is it with us? And what are we doing? Some have moved away into other states or counties. The have been gone – some of them – for years; their names remain upon our rolls as members – to swell the numbers thereof. In reality they are not members. As to the life they are living, God knows. Some of us yet residing here want ourselves members. But we never, or scarcely ever, attend the services of the church. We manifest no interest in its welfare. We take no part in its work. The Sunday school, the prayer meeting, have no existence in our lives. We are strangers to self-denial and sacrifice. And some, a few, are toiling on, as best we can, perhaps; our prayers cold and almost lifeless; yet God in infinite mercy, we trust hears and our answers. Our works imperfect and inefficient, yet the loving Father in infinite mercy as before accepts and blesses to the account of His beloved Son…. (1)

Those words were written about this church in October 1900. They are still true today. But this church overcame the challenges then, and I believe we can overcome the challenges now. How did they do it? I am sure a part of the reason has to do with love.

But before I get to our primary text in Colossians 3, I want to move well ahead in Romans – to chapter 14. We will get to Romans 14 soon enough (next summer?), but while the issues Paul wrote about were different, the premise of his argument is the same. And the premise of that argument weighs heavy on the church today.

Christians within the same church were arguing over what they could eat and when they should worship. Paul says the strong Christian should exercise their freedom knowing they can eat anything and can worship any day of the week. But the weaker Christian feels bound to tradition and thus will not eat meat and must worship on a particular day.

The stakes for the church in Rome were immense. In today’s terms, we would likely be talking about the possibility of a church split. Now, when doctrine is involved, it is necessary to hold the line and if that creates a divide in the church because some do not believe according the to the teachings of the Bible, well, that is an issue that must be addressed.

And frankly, the weaker Christians in Rome (in this case, mostly the Jews) had a point. God said to keep the Sabbath and restricted His people from eating certain types of food. That information was in their “Bible” – they did not have the NT yet, and perhaps only one or two of the Gospels had been written, and they would likely not have had any way to know all of the teachings of Jesus.

So, Paul wrote that the stronger Christians, those who exercised freedom in their faith on what they ate (meat) and when the worshipped (any and every day), should not cause a fellow believer to stumble. Read Romans 14.14-16.

Don’t take verse 16 out of context. Some things are evil. Eating certain types of food is not. But if we feel free to eat something and doing so may cause another to have doubts about faith (in general, or in specifics), then we should refrain. And it is precisely our freedom that allows us to refrain.

Notice verse 20. “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.”

Let me update that to our world in July of 2020: “Do not, for the sake of wearing a mask, destroy the work of God.”

If you saw my Friday preview video, I touched on this, so I will not spend much time here. But let’s face it, in our world today we will argue about anything, and much of what we argue over relates in some way to our freedoms. But we have a false understanding of freedom. Or, at least, most do not have a biblical understanding of freedom.

As Paul wrote in Romans 14.1, these are matters of opinion. All of the individuals involved were living faithfully to the Lord (as they saw it, and Paul did not rebuke them for that thought here). They were dedicated to the Lord, and nothing Paul mentioned here was breaking any commands. It was opinion.

Thus, to be free biblically, is not to feel you must exercise your beliefs, if it causes hurt to another. In fact, to take it further, Paul says to show true freedom is to not exercise your beliefs if it causes someone else to stumble in their faith.

In other words, rather than exercising your beliefs (i.e. what you believe are your rights), exercise love.

And that brings us to our text for today in Colossians 3.12-16. I am not going to exposit the full text, but I want to highlight what we can do. However, let me share that this chapter begins with the command to seek what is above (that is, in the heavenly realms) and to focus our minds on living with a kingdom mindset, rather than an earthly one.

To do that, Paul lists five sins that should be put to death and six others that should be set aside, some of which might be pertinent for our discussion today. But I want to focus on the positives beginning in verse 12.

As God’s chosen people, who are holy and dearly loved, we are to:

Have compassionate hearts. This begins towards those in the church. The word compassion means to share in the suffering. Suffering can take many forms, but for now just think of the mental suffering people are experiencing due to uncertainty and doubt. We need to set aside our “rights” to help those who are suffering more than we are.

Have kindness. I have shared many times before that the words kind and nice are different. Nice is passive. We can do nothing and be considered nice. Kindness requires action. We must choose to be kind.

Have humility. As it relates to expressing our Christian freedom, here is the hammer. The greatest passage in the Bible about humility is Philippians 2.5-11. Jesus could have demanded His rights as the perfect Son of God, but in His humility, He took time to care for us. We are to have humility as well, loving and caring for others.

Have meekness. I like the definition of controlled power. If meekness is controlled power, then we have the power to do what we want, but we can choose not to exercise that power if holding back will benefit others. That is to live in true freedom.

Have patience. Well, our patience is being tested during this season. But it is showing us that we are not in control – God is. We may not know when this challenge will end (can we be sure it will?), but God is still out in front of this. Maintaining a larger perspective (Colossians 3.1-2) will help us be patient ourselves and can allow us to show patience to others.

Bear with one another. This command is not about others bearing with you, it is about you bearing with others. Yes, that should go both ways. But we cannot control if people will bear burdens with us. And again, this relates to freedom. We have the opportunity to bear or not to bear – regardless of what others choose. But do we do so?

Forgive each other. Uh hum. Church? Do you want to be free? Forgive! When we don’t forgive, we are the ones who are trapped. A lot of times other people do not even know they have offended us – and yet we hold a grudge. That is imprisonment. Forgive and be free.

Put on love.

That is really the essence isn’t it? To love someone is to receive them or to accept them. To do that requires not only us to exercise freedom, but to allow others to do the same. Again, Paul is not talking about sin. Sin should be confronted, but many of the matters we make a big deal about (like whether or not to wear masks) are not sinful. And some that are inherently sinful (racism) get little attention in many churches.

Ultimately, Paul says we’re to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. That word rule has the idea of an umpire making a call in baseball. That is, a pitch is a ball or a strike. A runner is safe or out. Etc. The idea of being in the middle does not exist. The same is true here – Christ either rules or He doesn’t. We are to make the choice to allow Him to rule.

CONCLUSION

So, is the peace of Christ ruling in your heart?

Now, having Christ’s peace does not mean everything is perfect. It does not mean that we do not struggle in life, with people, etc. It does not mean we will always get along. But, if we are to love others, then we focus on forgiveness, and patience, and meekness, and kindness, etc. We need to have conversations with people to try to understand their perspective (bearing one another’s burdens) rather than just thinking we are always right (i.e. we need humility).

So, on this Hub Sunday, what can we do?

Well, if you have watched my videos over the past few months, I have suggested that we need to do, or maybe that is be, M.O.R.E. Let me use that idea as it relates to Colossians 3.

We need to be:

MOTIVATED. We need to be motivated to love our neighbors within and without the church.

OBSERVANT. We need to be observant of the needs around us in order to know who has burdens, what burdens they have, and how we can help bear them.

RESPONSIVE. When we know what others need, we need to lovingly respond. Perhaps the response can be made by one person, perhaps it takes the entire church, or a combination of the churches.

ENGAGED. This last word is the difference maker. We can have proper motivation. We can see what is going on around us. We can make plans to respond, or even begin to respond. But if we are not engaged, then what does it matter? Being engaged is the difference between having good intentions and being intentional.

Church, if we are going to be a church that brings glory to God, then we must be intentional. We must do, and be, more.

Let me end with a reminder. Early this year, before COVID, I asked us all to consider the following question: Who’s Your One?

Who is that one person for whom you will pray, for whom you will love, for whom you want them to either know Christ or to have that person return to faithfully following Him?

As I mentioned then, I am not asking you to even talk to them – yet, at least not about that. If God wants you to do so, by all means, do so. But based upon today’s message, I am simply asking you to do a little bit M.O.R.E. and love them.

A day will be coming, and reasonably soon, that we will have a conversation with them and that we will invite them to church. But for now, it is simply a matter of being motivated, being observant, being responsive, and beginning to be engaged – all for the purpose of love.

Because to truly love is to be free. And as we love others, we can help them to be free as well.

So, who is God calling you to love – and specifically, to love freely? That is, Who’s your one?

As you consider your one, let me read the remainder of the paragraph from RM Rhodes wrote. May this paragraph be an encouragement for all of us to do the work God has for us to do.

Some of us whose names remain, with tottering limbs and stooping forms are nearing the western horizon of life, looking forward with some degree of anxiety, without the sense of fear or dread, to release from life’s toils and cares and burdens. Earth has lost its charms. Its pleasures, its pursuits, its ambitions have all passed away. Waiting – patiently waiting – the summons, “Child, come home.” Not only has earth lost its charms; but the grave has lost its dread. In the bosom of mother earth there is sweet repose for the weary body. In the arms of the loving Father there is heaven for the tried spirit. In the coming of the blessed Christ there is reunion of the body and soul glorious, incorruptible and immortal. (2)

(1) Elder R. M. Rhodes (two-time leader of the church – excerpt from History of the Baptist Church of Fairfax, probably written in October 1900. Copied verbatim, including punctuation.

(2) This part was the remainder of the paragraph.

“No Excuse” by Pastor Andy Braams

We’ve all heard, and maybe said, “Because I told you so.” It is not a very good reason, but, we all know what it means. It means we were told something to do and it did not get done. Maybe it was a parent or family member. Maybe it was a boss. Really it could be anybody talking to most anyone else.

At this moment you can probably think of at least one time you heard those words directed at you. You might also think of times when you have said those words to others. The reality is that what awaited on the other side of those words was not going to be pleasant. But, in a sense, in many (most?) cases, the issue was ours. We were told to do something and it was not done. Whether the task was fair or not is another matter as is whether the punishment was just.

But we can all relate because we have all been told to do something and we did not get done what we were told to do. Why? Because we are independently minded. We don’t like to take direction from others. We know what we are to do, but we choose not to because, ultimately, we are sinful people – not just towards God, but towards others.

The desire for self-autonomy is nothing new. It started in the Garden of Eden and it continues to this day. And in between Paul wrote a lot about it, including to the Romans. But knowing to do something and not doing it has consequences as Adam and Eve found out. And that knowledge has been passed down to every generation since.

The consequences of our inaction may be different depending upon the persons and the circumstances involved. But related to God, the consequences of our sin demand justice. And God’s holiness demands justice – and thus, we have the series title, “And Justice for All.”

Proposition: But even as God administers justice impartially, He does not do so equally.

Question: Is that possible? Can justice be impartial and yet evaluated by different considerations? Please understand, the overall standard is the same. This idea may not make sense now, I hope to clarify the matter using Paul’s words in the remainder of this post.

Romans 2 is about judgment. It begins (vv. 1-11, last week’s post) with Paul showing God’s righteousness allows God to judge in ways that man never could. God is objective in His use of truth and in His execution of justice against all people. In today’s passage (vv. 12-16), Paul shows that both Jew and Gentile are judged by one standard, but part of the initial comparison is different. Then, in the final part of the chapter (which we will review in two weeks), Paul challenges the assumption of the Jews regarding their understanding of salvation.

We can think of last week’s message and this week’s message as a two-way mirror, with verse 11 being the actual mirror. Romans 2.11 says that God shows no partiality (in His judgment). Verses 1-10 are primarily written to the Jew who thinks that their knowledge of the Law is sufficient. Verses 12-16 is written about the Gentile who was not given the Law and thus is judged apart from the Law. Thus, verse 11 is the actual mirror with one side reflecting back the Law and the other reflecting back something else (which I will get to in a moment).

Now, it is important to note that when I say “Law” I am not talking about the law of man. I am talking about the laws of God, and specifically in this context, Paul means the Law of Moses. That is, Paul is referring to the 613 laws God gave to Moses for the people of Israel. So, two points we must understand about this.

      1. God gave the laws to the people of Israel.
      2. God did not give those laws to anyone else (i.e. the Gentiles).

The implications of those two points are as follows:

      1. Implication for the Israelites

The Israelites were given the Law. They were to know the Law. And they were to live by the Law.

As per Paul (e.g. Romans 2.12), James (James 2.10), and Jesus (Matthew 5.17-18), breaking one of the given laws was equal to breaking every law. Again, this truth covered all 613 laws known as the Law of Moses. But let’s break it down to just The Big 10 – that is, the Ten Commandments (which are part of the 613, in fact, they summarize them in a way).

So, let’s say that someone commits adultery, even if by only lusting after someone (see Jesus words in Matthew 5.27-28), that one sins can lead to a multitude of others. In committing adultery (Commandment 7, Exodus 20.14):

      • they have likely dishonored their parents (Commandment 5, Exodus 20.12),
      • obviously coveted (Commandment 10, Exodus 20.17),
      • which could have stolen the spouse from another (or at least someone’s virtue, stealing being Commandment 8, Exodus 20.15),
      • may have lied about it (Commandment 9, Exodus 20.16),
      • and caused someone to become bitterly angry and commit murder (maybe not in the literal sense – Commandment 6, Exodus 20.13, but in the figurative sense as Jesus said in Matthew 5.21-22),
      • and in doing any (or all) of these made him/herself a god above God, thus breaking Commandment 1, Exodus 20.3.

Thus, in the act of committing adultery, the person has broken commandments 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. That is 6 of the 10, and we could easily extend this example to make the person guilty of all ten.

The problem, as we shall see more clearly in a couple of weeks is that the Israelites thought the Law gave them privileged status. As God’s Chosen People (in part because God chose to give them the Law), they thought that provided some degree of certainty towards salvation. Thus, Paul had to write that it was not enough to simply hear the Law (Romans 2.13), the righteous must do the Law (see also James 1.22-25), and to be truly saved, the Law must be kept perfectly. Thus, hearing the Law (which would have been common) was not an advantage towards salvation as many Jews thought.

On the other side of the mirror, we have the implication for the Gentiles.

      1. Implication for the Gentiles

Only the nation of Israel was given the Law. Now, the Law was not for the Israelites/Jews to keep to themselves necessarily, but people cannot be held accountable for that which they do not know. Thus, how could the Gentiles, a people “far off” from God (Ephesians 2.13), be held accountable for something they did not know.

Because the Jews had the Law, they believed the only way for a Gentile to receive salvation was to bear the yoke of the Law (cf. Acts 15.10). So, Paul says that those who are “without the law” are judged “without the law” as well (Romans 2.12).

Paul does not mean that the Law does not count or is unimportant. It also does not mean that all Gentiles were wildly heathens like some Jews thought (of course, some Gentiles were). We must remember Paul’s background as a Pharisee (Phil 2.5) who trained under the great Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22.3). Paul knew the Law and knew it to be important. But God revealed something more to Paul about Gentiles. Although the Gentiles were “without the Law” they were not without law. That distinction is important. And Romans 2.14-15 makes this point clear.

In this case, “when” means “whenever.” So, whenever a Gentile does something that the Law commands, they are showing that it is not about receiving the written Law that Moses gave to the Israelites, but rather it is the work of the law that is written on their hearts.  (1)

What’s the point?

Well, before I give the point, I shared an example of breaking one law by a Jew. So, let me share an example from a Gentile. If a Gentile is tempted to steal and does not do so, why would he not do it? It is not because he has the law, but because the works of the law are evident. We know inherently that it is wrong to take from someone else. But the Law goes further than what to do and what not to do. The Law – the Law of Moses – includes God. That is the difference.

A Gentile might honor his or her parents (Commandment 5, see verse above), never have murdered (Commandment 6) or committed adultery (Commandment 7). In the example I just shared, the person did not break Commandment 8, although at some point, s/he has likely lied (Commandment 9), but usually s/he tells the truth. And maybe some coveting (Commandment 10) is a part of this person’s nature, but s/he exhibits self-control which mitigates the effects of the sin.

However, the Gentile (in this example) would not know the specifics of God’s commands about God. The Gentile was not delivered from Egypt (Exodus 20.1-2) so s/he does not know to worship the one true God (Commandment 1, Exodus 20.3), might have many graven images (Commandment 2, Exodus 20.4), may use God’s name inappropriately (Commandment 3, Exodus 20.7) and would not have any reason to know about the Sabbath (Commandment 4, Exodus 20.8-11).

But let me restate what I said a moment ago: The Gentile would not know the specifics of God’s commands about God. That is true. But that does not mean that they cannot know God. Nor does it mean that they should not know God. Paul has already made this truth abundantly clear in Romans 1.18-23. Many Gentiles were guilty of suppressing the truth about God (v. 18), not honoring or thanking God who had clearly showed Himself to them (vv. 19-21), and actually worshipping idols instead of worshipping God (vv. 22-23). Thus, Gentiles may not have the Law, but they do not have any excuse for not knowing of God, which should lead to truly knowing God.

Having shared that example, now we are ready to look at Paul’s point. The point is this:

All of us know what we are to do. In doing what we are to do, we are not necessarily fulfilling the Law – how can we fulfill what we do not know exists – but it is being done anyway. Thus, something above the Law must be true. That is, people may not be under the Law of Moses, but they still operate by the principles of that law because we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27). In other words, we are all without excuse.

In verse 15, Paul mentions the conscience. We have to be careful when we think about the affects of the conscience. I have more to say about this than time allows today, but I will share more about our conscience in Monday’s YouTube video. For now, I will say that the conscience is not a good judge – sometimes it accuses us and sometimes excuses us – even on the same matter. Thus, our conscience cannot be a good judge at all.

      1. The Implication for All of Us

So, we have seen that Law is important in judgment toward the Jew. We have shown that Gentiles are not judged by the Law, but have the effects of God’s law within them. Thus, both are held accountable by God. The exact manner for measuring righteousness may be different depending upon what we know (i.e. do we know the Law), but the ultimate standard for that measurement is not in what we know or even what we do; rather, that standard is Who we know. Here, we have the answer to our question at the beginning. God may have differing expectations of us based upon our knowledge of His Law, but we all become equal at the foot of the cross.

Notice verse 16 says that God judges by one standard – by Jesus Christ. And the judgment is made not only by what others see in us, but in what we desire to keep secret. That is why I have said throughout this series (and in times past) that we are not able to make adequate judgments. We will never know the whole story about others and we will never admit the full story about ourselves. But God, who sees what is done in secret (see Matthew 6. 4, 6, 18), will judge according to the only Person who was not only perfect in hearing, but also in doing (Romans 2.13; 3.26; 5.19; Hebrews 4.15; see also Matthew 5.17-18 and John 19.30).

CONCLUSION

This truth is so personal for Paul, so ingrained within him that he calls it “my gospel.” He desires to preach it. How can he do it unless he believes it. And if he believes it, how can he not do it? Again, Paul knew the importance of the Law. But he also knew of a greater importance – the work of Jesus on the cross to cover what we could never do on our own?

What about you?

Have you made the gospel your own? Or are you still trying to earn your way into heaven because of some special insight or something you think you have done? Or perhaps you believe anything religious is petty and immaterial? If that is you, check your heart and see why you do what you do.

Most people consider the greatest of life’s questions to be: What am I doing here? Well, I don’t have your answer for you. But God does. And the gospel that Paul made His own, I have made my own. I know God knows me. And I want to know Him better. And God offers us all the same opportunity, not based upon who we are, but as Romans 2.16 tells us, by Jesus. He judges us by one standard – the standard of Jesus. And if you do not know Him, nothing else matters.

But if you do, you can soon discover the real answer to your question about your purpose in life. So, if you are thinking about it, even a little, do not just be a hearer, do something. Send a comment. Send an email. Send a text. Do something – now, before you get distracted with something else.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

It really could be O, for OBEY because we are to be doers, not just hearers. But none of us can OBEY perfectly. But Jesus did. And thus, once again, the letter is J and the word is Jesus. Remember, He is the standard. Nothing else matters. We will be judged – even our secrets – by Jesus.

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE.  Be doers of the Law and not hearers only (James 1.22). Choose one thing, just one, that you know you are to do and do it this week. Maybe it is something you should be doing regularly, then start this week. Maybe it is just something you are to do and be done. Then do it and be done with it. We all have something we know we could or should be doing. So this week, choose that one thing (at least) and do it.

(1) This comment is similar to Jeremiah 31.33, but it is not the same. That verse says God will write the “law” on hearts. This verse says the “work of the law” is written there. The difference is subtle in wording, but important in principle. The “work of the law” primarily relates to the commandments related to one another whereas “the Law” relates to all commandments (including those that pertain to our relationship with God).

“We’re All In The Same Boat” by Pastor Andy Braams

Take a moment to think about someone whom you know well. What are some things that you really like about that person? Without writing down their name, write down a few of these good characteristics. Now, what is one thing about this person that drives you crazy? That is, what is something, or maybe a couple of things that you cannot stand that this person does? Write this thought (or these thoughts) down as well.

Now, think about the few items you wrote down. Why did you choose the positive items? Why do the negative items bother you? Many times the positives we see in others are what we wish were more true of ourselves. And the negatives…well, oftentimes what we find most troublesome in others are the very items with which we struggle ourselves.

But when we struggle to accept others for their quirks and idiosyncrasies we are not accepting how God made them. But when we condemn them for the actions we do not like, we are truly condemning ourselves.

The danger of today’s message is that some may have interpreted what I have already said to mean that we are not to judge. I am not saying that – at least not as most people think. We are to make judgments, but we are not to condemn. In fact, we could not live life without making judgments, but we must learn to live life without condemning, because, as I have already mentioned a few times in this series, we can never have all of the facts.

But God does. And thus, He is able to be just in His judgments. And that is why this series is entitled, “And Justice for All.” In fact, a clear example of that premise is found in the verses we will review this week.

The truth is, from God’s perspective, we get what we deserve. And the flip side of that is that most of us do not get what we think we deserve.

So, if we are going to get what we deserve, then why doesn’t God give us our wages right away? Well, Paul provides an answer for us in our text today. So, let’s look at Romans 2.1-11.

The Sinner in All of Us (Romans 2.1-5)

We have to think back a few weeks to reset our position in Romans, so let me take just a moment to do so. Paul has introduced himself to the church at Rome through this letter. He desires to travel to Rome so that He can proclaim the gospel which He reveals to them is the power of salvation to all who believe – the Jew first and then the Gentile. He includes both groups because the church of Rome is made up of both Jewish and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Jesus. That faith leads to righteousness and that righteousness enables faithful living. But those who choose idolatry and a host of other sins will receive the wrath of God.

As we turn to Romans 2, Paul now says that those who judge have no excuse. Paul is using the form of communication known as a diatribe to “argue” with someone who is not really there. It is difficult to know if this person is Jewish (my belief) or Gentile, or if it is the church in general, but regardless, Paul refers to this “man” (v. 1 and v. 3) who is judging others.

In Romans 1.18-32, Paul starts by identifying sins that the Gentile was more likely to commit in that day (vv. 20-27) before turning to more general sins that we call commit (vv. 29-31). Now, in Romans 2, he is saying that none of us are innocent. Read 2.1-3.

But not only are we guilty of sin, we become blind to our sins. Read 2.5.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Romans 1.18-3.20 is about Paul making the argument that all of us are guilty of sin. Again, in the first few verses of today’s passage, Paul makes this abundantly clear by stating that this man (which could effectively be us):

      • Practice(s) the very same things (v. 1)
      • Practice(s) such things (v. 2)
      • Do(es) them yourself (v. 3, the “them” referring to the things we judge others for doing

But doing such things is only part of the problem. If that was the entire problem, then Paul could skip much of this section. The real problem is that not only are we all sinners, but we are also, in a sense, all Pharisees.

The Pharisee in All of Us (Romans 2.5)

Now, before we misunderstand the idea of judgment in general, let me be clear that in this very passage Paul makes a statement about the need for judging. Read verse 2. Notice the word rightly. Paul agrees with those who know that God’s judgment is right. The Greek is actually much more clear. Instead of saying God judges rightly, it says, “the judgment of God is according to truth.” That statement itself is one of judgment. Paul declares that some things are truthful and some are not. That is a form of judgment. So, judgment itself is not condemned.

The problem then is that we do not judge according to truth. We judge according to preferences and partiality. We saw an example of this in the sports world this week. Blacks have been protesting for justice against racism, and yet an African American football player made an anti-semitic statement (which he says was misunderstood and has since apologized). Even if the quote was intentional, it does not mean that black lives do not matter. Nor does it mean that all people, regardless of color, use hate speech. But it does reveal that we all have biases and are partial. I may agree that equality is important, but I cannot say that I am entirely impartial – towards all whites, blacks, or any color.

But God is. And that is why He can judge rightly.

As one commentary said, “The Pharisee is always present in each one of us” (Leenhardt). Even when we try to help people, we do not start with the premise that we as well as they are sinners needing God’s forgiveness; we simply try to improve their moral conduct. Paul’s point is that we are all involved in a solidarity of sin that embraces the whole human race. He is concerned with the gospel as God’s way for the whole person and for the whole of mankind (not with self-justification or minor moral improvements). (1)

That is, we judge based upon not only what we know, but what we think about what we know. And the starting point for our thinking is that other people need to be improved – more than we do. We want morality from others more than we want salvation for others. We want salvation for ourselves, and are thankful for God’s grace to grant it, but God’s grace is not enough for others – we must fix them, but balk at their attempts to fix us.

And that is the Pharisee that exists in us all.

But a hope exists. And that hope is found in Jesus.

The Possibility for All of Us (Romans 2.6-11)

The last verses of this sub-section help us understand that Jews (and Gentiles) fall short of God’s righteousness. Verse 6 says that God will reward those who do good works. I will talk more about this in the daily videos this week, but Paul does not mean we can earn salvation by our works. It says we are paid according to our works. And as Romans 6 makes clear, the wages of sin is death. And, even our best works mean nothing because we are sinful people. Let me remove the plural. Your (singular) best work and my best work are insufficient to receive the payment we desire.

Any and all of us could earn eternal life with God if we did good works AND kept the law perfectly. But we don’t. And thus, we deserve the judgment of God – a judgment according to truth. So, what is our hope and our purpose? Our hope is Jesus and our purpose is to serve Him – by faith (1.17), because of the salvation God has made available (1.16), which Paul desires to proclaim (1.15). That is, if we profess Jesus as Savior, we should serve Him as Lord.

Our service to God is not only for God; it also serves as a witness to others. As one commentator said, “profession without practice does not please God. Nor does it convince those who observe the lifestyles of religious people.” (2)

We are to keep the law through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is by the Spirit that we ultimately have the eternal life Paul mentions in v. 7. In contrast, those without the Spirit (that is, those who are not born-again), will receive the payment due them – and that is eternal separation from God.

I mentioned earlier that I believed that this portion of the letter was addressed primarily to the Jew. A part of my rationale is verses 9 and 10. But first, let me remind you that in Romans 1.20-27, the Jew would have been happy to hear the exhortation of Paul to the Gentile. The Jewish “judge” would have read (or listened) to the letter and been expressing agreement by saying, “Amen. Amen. Amen.”  But then the tables are turned in the final verses. Likewise, in the passage today, the Jew might have felt superior as one of God’s chosen, but in Romans 2.9-10, Paul uses the same language he used about salvation in 1.16 – the Jew first, then the Gentile, to talk about those who receive wrath and those who receive honor. That is, the Jew had the first opportunity for salvation, but an equal opportunity exists for the Gentile. And the Jew will receive punishment first (because they are to know the things of God), before the Gentile.

God’s righteousness and his wrath are real. His righteousness will be realized by all who choose to live by faith. God’s wrath will be realize by all who choose to live in rebellion.

Jew or Gentile, it does not matter. We all sin.

Jew or Gentile, it does not matter. The blood of Jesus will cover that sin.

Jew or Gentile, it does not matter.  “For God shows no partiality” (Romans 2.11).

CONCLUSION

In my proposition for this message, I said, “The truth is, we get what we deserve. And the flip side of that is that most of us do not get what we think we deserve.”

Is that true? I believe so. Let me explain.

According to this passage, we do get what we deserve.

      • If we choose to live in opposition to God, then we deserve the wrath of God. And because God judges according to truth, we receive the wrath we deserve.
      • If we choose to live in obedience to God (by faith), then we get what we deserve, which is His righteousness because of the blood of Jesus.

But the second part of my statement was this: Most of us do not get what we think we deserve. Again, I think that is true.

      • If we live in defiance of God, or do not believe in the one true God, then we think that when we die, everything will be fine. But that is not the truth. What we think will happen is not what really happens.
      • If we live by faith in God, we know what will happen (life eternal with God), but it is not what we think should happen. To live by faith in God means that we have repented of our sins which requires some realization that we know we deserve to be punished for that sin. Thus, we think we deserve punishment, but that is not what happens because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

And that leads me to answer the question I posed above. Why does God wait to give us what we deserve? The answer is found in Romans 2.4. God is kind and patience with us so that we might repent of what we are doing in order to turn to Him. If we do, we avoid His wrath and receive His righteousness. So, it is for our benefit that He waits. It is because of His love that He waits.

But we must understand that God’s holiness must be satisfied. The wrath of God will be fully realized. That is, his wrath will be paid in full. For those who do not believe in the atoning work of Jesus, they will receive the bill when their life on earth is through. For those who have embraced the gospel – the power of God for salvation to all who believe – the bill has already been paid by the blood of Jesus.

And that is why,…

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

Just because we may be saved, does not mean that we do not have work to do. Again, I will cover more of this in a video this week, but that is what Paul is saying in verses 6-10 of this passage (and particularly verse 7). Jesus did not save us just to save us. His call is to, “Follow Me,” which means we still have work to be done. That is why the idea of JOURNEY is so appropriate. When we choose Jesus, we choose a different path. We choose a different journey. And that path requires us to follow Jesus in order to reach the end faithfully.

NEXT STEP(S):

LOVE.  Again, this message is not telling us not to judge; it is a call not to condemn. Loving others does require us to care for others. Caring will require helping others, and sometimes that help means we must help them overcome some problem in their life. But before we do that, we must first make sure we are right with God – checking the plank in our own eye before pulling the speck from the eye of another (Matthew 7.1-5).

Think about that person you thought of at the beginning of the message. Does their issue(s) require you to help them get right with God or is it just about not annoying you? If they need to get right with God, will you help them? If so, what do you need to do to get right with God first so you can see clearly to help another?

(1) Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 107). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

(2) Pate, C. Marvin. (2013). Romans (p. 47), Teach the Text Commentary Series (Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, General Editors). Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Publishing.

“Easter in July” by Pastor Andy Braams

This week’s post is a little different due to the nature of our worship service this week.

It was that time of year when life generally begins to show itself again. Trees started to bud and flowers began to bloom. People typically began to perk up at the lengthening days and the warmer temperatures. But something about that particular year was different. An unknown and frightening disturbance had recently been exposed. People who had been out celebrating just days before were now locked in their homes wondering if they would die because of recently having been associated with others. The joy of confidence of just a few days prior had now turned into a sense of despair and dread.

But then, after what seemed to be a break from the concern, all evidence points to the fact that people disappeared back into private dwellings not wanting to expose themselves to the risks (even the possibility of death) that being out in public might bring.

You may think I am talking about these last few months. But I am not. I am talking about those first few hours and days between the death of Jesus and His resurrection. And then, the time between His ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Without the resurrection, we would not have the church. We could not be the church. (Take a moment to read Acts 2.1-4 and 42-47.)

We are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus together today because we were not able to meet together on April 12. As was said by many at the time, the church building may have been empty that day, but we did not need to despair because the tomb was still empty as well.

So, we celebrate today – Easter in July. Christmas in July may be a familiar term, but you might not know the origins for that phrase. Of course, most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on the date of December 25. December 25 is in the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. That means that summer has just begun in the southern hemisphere. Thus, in order to make Christmas a winter holiday in the southern hemisphere, many will commemorate Christmas in the month of July. (Of course, we do not know the actual date of Jesus birth, but it was likely not December 25, nor in July, but that is another matter.)

So, if Christmas can be celebrated in July, why not Easter? But as most of you know, I prefer to call the day Resurrection Sunday. My main purpose is not because of what many people consider that Sunday to be, but because of what the day means to me. When I say Resurrection Sunday, I leave no doubt of what the day means to me…it is about the resurrection of my Lord…the resurrection of our Lord…the resurrection of THE LORD.

Now, many may not believe that the resurrection took place, but any Christian, at least, can tell you what the resurrection is. But, like the phrase, Christmas in July, most would likely not be able to define the term.

So, what does the word resurrection mean?

Really, the term is Latin and carries the idea of “resurr-exit.” The “exit” part should make sense to us because Jesus exited the grave. But what about the first part of that word – “resurr?” Well, that word is from the Latin “resurgo” which means “to rise” or “to stand.” And the word is where we get the English word “resurgence.”

And that is what the resurrection of Jesus did. He was raised. He exited. And because of that a resurgence began, not only of His life, but in the work of God. Without the resurrection, we would not have the church. Without the resurrection, we could not be the church.

But now, the resurgence is up to us. The question is, after the pandemic, will we raise up? Will we exit? Will a resurgence of our faith lead us to raise up and exit this place and make the kind of impact that the early church made when they realized the truth and the power that Jesus was no longer dead?

That is the question before us today. That is the challenge that God has placed before His Church in the summer of 2020. And not just for His Church, but for this church. Will we stand? Will we live? Will we commit to following the lead of our risen Savior? If so, I am going to invite you to do something in just a moment to serve as a symbol of rising from the depths and despair that so many have faced (are facing) during this tumultuous year many would choose to forget.

It is not about forgetting. It is about learning and moving forward. That is what the early disciples had to do. That is what today’s disciples have to do as well. The early church rose up to make a profound impact in a world that had seemingly forgotten God. Today’s church can now rise up to make that same kind of profound impact in our world that also has seemingly put God aside.

As we know the church is the people. And another statement made just a few months ago was that we the church might not be able to gather, but that does not prevent us from being the church. In fact, some said that it was our time to truly show that it is not about going to church, it was about being the church. That is, the church was unleashed. But were we? Did we act the part?

Well, as we gather today in the church, let us accept that challenge to be the church! If you will rise up to be a part of the church Jesus is building, I invite you to stand up – right where you are. But before you do, realize that you are putting a mark on yourself. You are saying that I want to stand up with Jesus and I want to stand up for Jesus, come what may. Don’t stand up because the person next to you or in front of you does so, stand up because you are ready for a resurgence (a resurrexit) to take place – in your life, in this church, in this community, and around the world. If you are ready to commit to that, I invite you to rise up right where you are and say to Jesus…I am ready!

To mark this moment, let us sing with heart and with voice – Stand Up for Jesus.

After the song, the rest of the service included people sharing about what God has done to, for, and through them during these past 16 weeks since we last met.

Next week, we will return to our series on Romans.