“A Love Story” 1 Samuel 25

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On the surface, it has all of the elements of a traditional love story:  1) Boy meets girl  2) Boy and girl fall in love  3) Boy and girl get married  4) They live (somewhat) happily ever after.  However, this Biblical love story has a few non-traditional twists.  When boy and girl first meet, the girl is already married to someone else.  And, when boy and girl first meet, the boy is on the way to murder the girl's husband!  It sounds like a sick and twisted soap opera, but it is the Biblical story of David and Abigail.  Abigail was "a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance" (1 Samuel 25:2)   She was locked into an unequal yoke of marriage with her husband, Nabal, a "harsh and evil" man. (1 Samuel 25:2)  On the positive side, Nabal was rich!  But he was a terrible person and a disastrous husband.  Nabal did not deserve the wise and beautiful Abigail.  And, Abigail certainly did not deserve such a foolish husband as Nabal.  When Nabal's harsh and evil ways provoked David and his warriors, it led to an inevitable clash that would certainly destroy all of Nabal's household.  Everyone knew it except Nabal.  He was drunk.  His servant had to warn Abigail.  And Abigail swiftly and diligently took steps to save her own foolish husband.  Imagine the scene as David and his 400 warriors descended down the hill breathing out violent threats against the insolent Nabal, intent on eliminating every male of his household.  Suddenly, the angry David was confronted by a beautiful woman bringing a caravan of food and gifts for David and his men.  She humbly bowed before them and assumed responsibility for her husbands irresponsible behavior.  With kind words, wisdom, and a fervent appeal to God's purpose, she deescalated the inevitable conflict.  She turned her enemies into her friends.  And, she caught the eye of David.  He recognized her godly character, her courage (for a woman to confront 400 armed men by herself!), and her wisdom.  The next day, her clueless husband with a hangover had a stroke.  Ten days later, he died.  And, you know the rest of the story.  Abigail's first marriage was based on money.  That did not turn out well.  Abigail's second marriage was based on God's will.  That is the most enduring kind of love story.  And, it is a picture of Christ's love for us.  We were the ones who were hopelessly lost in our sins, lashing out at everyone around us, and ready to take vengeance upon those who hurt us.  It was Christ who miraculously confronted us (his enemies!) and humbly took our sins upon Himself.  He forgave us and invited us into an eternal relationship with Him.  He saved us from certain destruction, and He loves us unconditionally.  That is the greatest Valentine's day love story ever!


Romans 8:5-27 “Spiritually Minded”

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There is a long tradition of people who emphasize the power of positive thinking.  Norman Vincent Peale really popularized the concept with his book by that title back in the 50's.  Robert Schuller preached a similar message for many years from his crystal cathedral.  And, a few years ago, Rhonda Byrne published "The Secret" which adds a new-age twist to the old theory.  "The Secret" lies in the "law of attraction."  In other words, if you think positive thoughts, you will attract positive people, things, and events into your life.  If you think negative thoughts, you will attract negative people, things, and events into your life.  Peale, Schuller, and Byrne all had tremendous success spreading their message because there is a nugget of truth in the otherwise selfish and incomplete world-view.  The nugget of truth is this:  it really does matter (a lot!) what you think.  Your mind-set is critically important.  That is exactly what Paul was preaching in Romans 8.  He encouraged Christians to "set their minds" on spiritual things rather than fleshly things.  (Romans 8:5)  And, the contrast is stark:  "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."  (Romans 8:6)  The "positive thinkers" want wealth, fame, pleasure, and beauty.  Actually, that sounds a lot like "carnal" thinking.  In contrast, Paul promises the "spiritually minded" life and peace.  And, it is not just an empty promise based on wishful thinking.  It is a guarantee from the Almighty God.  No amount of positive thinking can give you that!


Romans 8:1-4 “No Condemnation”

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Romans 8 is one of the most glorious chapters in all the Bible.  One writer put it this way, "If Holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans a precious stone, chapter eight would be the sparkling point of the jewel."  Another writer also uses picturesque language to describe this chapter, "In this surpassing chapter, the several streams of the preceding arguments meet and flow in one 'river of the water of life, clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb', until it seems to lose itself in the ocean of a blissful eternity."  Suffice it to say, that this is an awesome chapter of God's Holy Word!  And, it starts with "no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."  (Romans 8:1)  Jesus did what the law could not do.  The law points out our sin and condemns us.  Jesus became a man and took on our sins upon the cross.  He became sin for us and bore the awful punishment.  He died so that we could live.  He bore our sins so that we could be forgiven.  He was condemned upon the cross so that we could be justified.  God has already condemned my sin in Christ.  There is no more condemnation left for me!    This sublime chapter begins with the fundamental truth that a Christian is free from condemnation.  The Christian is not freed from condemnation so that he can continue in his sin.  The Christian is freed from condemnation so that he can become more like his Savior.  That is the process of sanctification.


Romans 7 “It’s Complicated”

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In Romans chapter 7, Paul explains the relationship between the New Testament Believer and the Law.  It is a relationship that is difficult to explain.  The believer in Christ has an awkward relationship to the law of God.  In a word, it's . . . well . . . complicated!  The believer has been set free from the letter of the law like a wife whose husband dies. (Romans 7:2)  A "widow" is no longer a "wife".  The woman is still alive, but the "wife" died with the husband.  Likewise, a believer "dies" with Christ (Romans 6:3-4), and is released from the demands of the law.  However, the believer enters into a personal relationship with the Jesus Christ which transcends the law!  So, the believer is freed from the letter of the law, but falls in love with the Law-Giver!  Inasmuch as the law reflects the moral nature of the Law-Giver, the believer desires to please God by keeping His moral law.  The law is "holy and just and good." (Romans 7:12)  However, the law is limited.  The law reveals our sin (Romans 7:7), but the law can not save us from our sin.  The law condemns us to death (Romans 7:10), but it can not give us life.  The law displays God's holiness, but it can not make us holy. (Romans 7:14-20)  There is only One who can accomplish all of that.  Jesus does what the law can never do.  Jesus saves us from our sin, gives us new life, and begins His sanctifying work in us.  Having been saved by the sacrificial blood of Christ, the believer enters into a new life and a new relationship.  The believer loves God so much, that he embraces God's law, even though he has been set free from the legalistic demands of that law.  We obey God's moral law because we love Him, not because we are obligated.  I guess it's really not that complicated!


Romans 5:1-2 “Access to God”

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You have heard the wise saying, "You get what you pay for."  It means that if it is inexpensive, it is probably cheap too!  And, if it is free, it definitely is not worth having.  The saying usually true.  But, God's free gift of salvation is the exception to the rule.  It is received by faith.  It cost nothing!  Yet, it is the most valuable gift ever given or received.  Paul spends some time in Romans 5 proudly declaring all of the wonderful benefits of salvation.  Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God and access into His grace.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Your whole life was a battle with God, a struggle against His eternal truth.  Then, when you received His gift of salvation, the battle ended and you are now at peace with God.  Not only is the war over, but you now have access to God's presence.  Contrast that to the Old Testament.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, and God expelled them from His garden.  When God came down on Mt. Sinai to give His law to Moses, He gave an important message to the people:  STAY BACK!  The people were forbidden from approaching the mountain because God was there.  When the tabernacle and the Temple were built, the Most Holy Place was shrouded by a veil.  No one was allowed to enter the presence of God except for the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.  Walls and veils separated the people from God.   The Old Testament is the story of separation from God.  When Christ died on the cross, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  We now have peace with God, and there is no more separation.  God is approachable.  All we have to do is come to Him, and he is always available.  Not bad for a free gift!


Romans 3:9-20 “Under Sin”

romans Paul uses a loaded phrase to summarize mankind's sinful condition, " . . . they are all under sin." (Romans 3:9)  It is a phrase that is packed with profound meaning.  He did not say "they all sin."  It is certainly true that all sin (Paul will say that later in Romans 3:23).  But, there is more.  It is true that we all commit sin.  We all sin.  We are all sinners.  But it is worse than that.  If we just stop there, it might not sound like a big deal.  Hey, everyone sins!  We are all in the same boat!  Nobody is perfect!  So, sin can be seen as a common, inescapable, even acceptable condition.  Maybe it is part of being human.  But, there is more.  So much more.  Paul insists that we are all "under" sin.  The crushing weight of sin is felt by every human being.  It is not alleviated by the knowledge that everyone else is in the same predicament.  There are many biblical, theological terms that come to mind when we consider what it means to be "under sin."  It speaks of our guilt.  The burden of our guilt weighs down upon us.  It means that we are condemned.  Apart from Christ, there is no escape from the punishment of sin (Romans 6:23 "the wages of sin is death").  It means that we are under the wrath of God.  Our Holy God cannot countenance the tiniest sin.  Under sin, we feel the burning heat of God's holy wrath.  So, concepts such as guilt, condemnation, and wrath are all wrapped up in one little preposition, "under."  We are not just sinners.  We are all UNDER SIN.  This terrible news sets us up to receive the wonderful news a few verses later, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed . . . through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe."  Praise God, He did not leave us under sin, He sent a Savior to deliver us.  Through faith in Jesus Christ, you can be saved from the guilt, condemnation, and wrath.  If you are IN CHRIST you are no longer UNDER SIN!


Romans 2:17-3:8 “False Assurances”

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The Devil is pretty good at giving sinners false assurance.  He wants sinners to be comfortable!  He does not want them to change or repent.  He wants sinners to be content with the status quo, thinking that everything will be alright.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul warned the Jews about such false security.  The Jews thought that they were special.  In fact they are special!  God had chosen His people and loved them with an everlasting love.  That is pretty special!  But, it is not enough to avoid God's wrath.  Being a Jew has nothing to do with salvation.  The Jews thought that as long as they do a fair job of keeping the law, then they had nothing to fear from God.  However, Paul warned them that the law only makes things worse.  It proves that we are deserving of God's wrath!  It makes us more accountable.  The Jews trusted in their rite of circumcision.  They thought that circumcision was God's way of marking His people, so that you knew who to allow into heaven.  But, Paul cautioned that physical circumcision cannot save.  True circumcision is the spiritual circumcision of the heart, which is genuine faith in God.  In Paul's day, the Jews were resting quite comfortably in their false assurances.  Unfortunately, today there are a lot of religious people who are comfortably resting in the same false assurances.  They are resting in the law ("I live by the golden rule, so God will let me in heaven!") or trusting in their religious rituals ("I was baptized a Catholic, so I have God's salvation!").  The Gospel of Jesus Christ casts aside those false assurances.  All we have left is to trust in the One who shed His own blood on the cross.  There is only one Savior.  His blood is the only thing standing between me and God's eternal wrath.  I am so thankful for the blood of Christ!


Romans 1:18-32 “Truth Suppression”

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"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."  (Romans 1:18)  There is so much truth in this verse, and there is so much suppression of the truth in the world around us!  The word "suppress" is translated "hold" in the KJV.  But, it is not a good "hold."  It means to "hold down" or to "hold back."  God's truth is there, but it is being restrained.  God's truth is written into creation (verse 20) so that anyone with an open eye and an open mind can see the eternal power of God engraved into nature itself.  Yet, the natural truth of God is being suppressed.  In fact, people worship creation, ignoring the Creator!  God's truth is written into men's hearts, so that each person has a conscience, intuitively discerning between right and wrong.  Yet, through repeated sin and rebellion, the seared conscience suppresses God's built-in truth.  In fact, the God-given conscience is inverted.  What used to be universally accepted as morally right is now considered evil.  And, what was once universally considered sin is now celebrated as a moral good!  God's truth is not just suppressed, it is reversed!.  The bad news is that we live in a world that is filled with the suppression of the truth.  The good news is that God's truth cannot be held back forever.  God's eternal truth will prevail, and mankind will be judged according to His Word.


Romans 1:18 “The Good News of God’s Wrath”

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In his letter to the Romans, Paul begins his passionate proclamation of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ with an explanation of God's wrath.  "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."  (Romans 1:18)  It is somewhat counter-intuitive.  God's good news begins with God's wrath!  It may sound strange, but it is true.  And, it is absolutely necessary to understand the totality of God's wonderful plan of salvation.  In order for us to understand what it means to be saved, we must understand what we are being saved from.  The wrath of God is a scary thing, but it is much different from the wrath of man.  When we think of wrath, we think of an out-of-control temper tantrum.  We think of a spontaneous outburst of anger.  With God, it is different.  "The wrath of God is revealed."  It is the present tense.  The wrath of God is being continuously revealed.  It is going on now.  And, it is a slow burn.  Sometimes, it would be nice if God's wrath was instantaneous.  If someone committed a heinous crime, God could send a lightning bolt from heaven to zap the evil perpetrator.  A well-timed meteorite aimed at an atheistic blasphemer would be somewhat satisfying to my humanly flawed sense of justice.  But, that is not how God operates.  His wrath is real, but it is more subtle than that.  It is long-term.  It is designed not just for a lifetime, but for all eternity.  In his poem, "Retribution," Longfellow captured the sentiment perfectly.  "Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, With exactness grinds He all."  We were all born sinners.  We have all experienced the well-deserved grinding of God's wrath.  We all need the good news of the gospel!


Romans 1:1 “Bondservant”

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Paul's letter to the Romans is a beautiful tribute to the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And, Paul begins the letter by identifying himself as a "bondservant of Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:1)  The term "bondservant" is the word for a common "slave" in the Roman empire.  Rome in Paul's time benefited greatly from the oppressive slave labor.  Slaves had no individuality or freedom.  Slaves could not make their own choices in life.  Slaves were mere property of their owner, and could be easily neglected, abused, or even killed.  No one would desire to be a slave.  No one would actually choose to be a slave.  Yet, Paul gladly declares his willingness to be a slave of Jesus.  It is a foreign concept to our 21st century American ears.  In our country, we (rightly) love freedom, and we (rightly) hate slavery.  We champion religious freedom, economic freedom, political freedom, and the freedom of speech and press.  But, there is one area where a Christian has no freedom.  When it comes to our own individual moral choices, we are slaves of Jesus.  Our lives are not our own.  He has purchased us with the price of his own blood.  And, so we refuse to be oppressed or owned by any other human being.  We yearn to be free from any tyrannical regime with unjust laws and regulations.  But, we joyfully offer ourselves as slaves to the One who died for our sins.  That is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!



         

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