Pastor’s Bible Reading Notes – Feb 25/18

Introduction:  We turn again in our Bible notes to what should be a frequent subject: victory even in our trials – through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the One who won the hard-fought victory, with many tears and agonies (Hebrews 5:7). Because we are united to Christ Jesus by faith, the benefits of His death and resurrection are triumphantly bestowed on us entirely by grace. May we be greatly encouraged to know that our spiritual destiny is secure, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ – even when our conflicts with sin and in this world severely test us.

 

Monday: read Romans 7:12-16 and John 15:18-19. Because of our faith-union with Jesus, we share not only in Christ’s victories, but also in something of His warfare with our sin and against Satan. The world and even misguided Christians can wrongly assume that peace in this world means an absence of conflict – often achieved by seeking to accommodate the world in our own lives or even within our churches. Scripture does not entertain such a policy of appeasement, but instead clearly identifies where conflict with the world lies. It is because the Christian “loves God’s law in his innermost being” (Romans 7:22), and continually confesses God’s law as “good” (Romans 7:12; 14 & 16), that the world, sin and Satan must fight against us. As Romans 8:7 declares, “the sinful mind is hostile to God” and must show hostility to any who seek to honor and love His law. Yet, even when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, what marvelous peace we can have knowing that the world is simply fulfilling the very Scripture that says that they hated Him and will hate us, “without a cause.”

 

Meditate and Pray: The wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit means that we can attempt, as much as it depends on us, to “live at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). But let us also thank Jesus that He himself clearly predicts that the world would hate us in John 15:18-19. Why did he tell us this so clearly? It is so that “in Jesus we might have peace” (John 16:33). “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Tuesday: read Romans 7:14-16. Humble honesty dictates that we never blame the world or Satan for our struggles without at the same time acknowledging the world of sin within us. Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:14-16 is internal, and tied directly to what Bill Harrell calls the “embers” of the sinful old nature within us. Pastor Harrell describes the Christian’s struggle with sin as follows: “There is therefore perplexity and struggle as the new nature emerges amidst the embers of the sinful nature. Such struggle and inconsistency is not a sign of defeated living, but is rather a sign of new life struggling against and gaining ascendancy over the momentum of the old.”

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God for his earnest efforts throughout the Scriptures to help us not to grow discouraged in our fight against sin. He is always the first to refuse to mention our past failures. He knows our frames, and remembers that we are dust. There is no place where our earthly failures have more kindness given than in heaven itself. Even when Satan seeks to accuse us in God’s hearing, the Lord Jesus is there to rebuke him – just as He did in Zechariah 3:1-5!

 

Wednesday: read Romans 7:21 and 8:37-39. Secure in the knowledge that nothing will stop God from being “for us” in all our trials (Romans 8:31), we can realistically face the conflict of the Christian life. Paul would never have us forget that our struggle is against evil powers: “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Rom. 7:21). From the perspective of the last week of Jesus’ life, it was the intense enmity of those evil powers which explains how hard it was for any of the apostles to stand with Him in the darkness of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. But there is hope that God will use such fiery trials and temptations to teach us (as He taught the apostles) memorable ways in which to find his peace and security even in the darkness. This is what Paul teaches us in Romans 7 and 8.

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God the Father that “He did not spare His Son” (Rom. 8:32) from the worst which the city of Jerusalem could inflict upon Him. Because of the most costly of gifts of His own Son, we can be secure in the knowledge that God will also freely give us, along with Christ, all things needful for our salvation and peace. As John Piper puts it: “If God did the hardest thing of all – namely, give up His own Son to suffering and death – then it is certain that He will do the comparatively easy thing, namely, give us all things with Him!”  Let us therefore turn with courage to Romans 7 in the remainder of this week’s notes so that we with Paul learn what it means to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

 

Thursday: read Romans 7:20-23. Paul is careful never to let us forget the fundamental change of status which is now ours in Christ. The power of the sin nature has been broken in our lives once-and-for-all (Romans 6:6-8). Our new nature in us is called “Christian.” Sin is still in us, living as a squatter. Such sin, inspired by the Devil, still seeks to rob us of our peace, but cannot change the fact: “It is no longer I who sin, but sin living in me.” What a change! Whereas the unbeliever sins because he is at heart a sinner, we sin though at heart we are Christians, because the remnants of sin still abide in us.

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the irrevocable title of Christian which has been given to your life. To paraphrase B.B. Warfield: “As the thief breaking in at night can steal the income hoarded in the safe, but cannot steal the capital invested in the land; so the great thief of the universe, Satan, may take away our experience of  peace but never the fundamental peace Christ has earned.”

 

Fri/Sat/Sun: read Romans 7:21-8:1 and Luke 7:38. Do we sufficiently grasp how the peace which we experience as Christians is all the richer because of the humiliating conflicts with sin which it endures? The lower our sense of personal sin takes us, the more God lifts us with his peace! In terms of Romans 7:21-25, being blasted by a sense of our spiritual poverty and bankruptcy in sin makes us look up to Christ alone for deliverance! And it is there, lying low at the foot of the Cross, yet looking up to Christ, like the woman who went as low as to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:38), that we find the peace of sins forgiven, and acceptance with God through Jesus Christ – all that Romans 8:1 means when it declares that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God for his miraculous ability to wrap the sweet gift of his peace in the bitter realization of our sinfulness. God grant us to treasure the lowest place, even as Charles Spurgeon urges us to do in a sermon he preached on Luke 7:38: “I think there cannot be among His people any that would aspire to any higher position than “at His feet” when they think of their sinnership—when they even think of their wanderings since they have known His love, of their shortcomings and coldness of heart towards Him. But if there are any that can take a higher place, I know that I cannot. Oh, if I may but sit forever at His feet! If I may only look up and bless Him, that He loved me and gave Himself for me, it shall be everlastingly Heaven to my spirit! And do you not say the same?”