For Sinners Like Us (Romans 5:6-11)

Would you give up your own life to save the life of your mom or dad? How about your best friend? Would you die so that they could live? Maybe so. I know when I ask myself this question, I believe that I would lay down my life to save my wife and children. And maybe a few other people I care about, too. But would I die to save a stranger? I don’t know. To push the topic further, would I die to save a bad stranger who had hurt many people, including me and the people I love? I think not. For a good person that I love I might die, but not for someone who had shown me nothing but hatred and scorn. Friends help friends, not enemies. A good person should not die for a bad person – it does not make sense.

But this is exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. Today’s passage in Romans reminds yet again that we did not deserve the mercy and grace that God showed us on the cross. When Jesus gave His life for you and for me, it was not a just good man, but a perfect man, God in the flesh, laying down His perfect life in exchange for ungrateful sinners (Romans 5:6-8). When we did not love Jesus, when we did care about His kingdom and His will, when we loved only ourselves and our selfish desires, Jesus chose to die in our place. He took upon Himself the full burden and penalty of all our evil words and thoughts and actions. In His own body on the tree of Calvary, God’s one and only Son took all our sins upon Himself so that we could have a fresh start with God. He died so that we could live. He did not give His life up for good people, for in truth no one is good but God. No, Jesus gave His life up for sinners like us.

And because Jesus died in our place, we no longer have to fear God’s punishment for our sin in this life or the next. We were His enemies, but now we are His friends. When we put our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross, His blood made us “justified” or right with God, forever protecting us from God’s righteous anger and wrath (Romans 5:9). Jesus “reconciled” us with God, which means that He made peace between us; His blood ended the awful conflict that our sin had created (Romans 5:10-11). Jesus gave sinners like us life and peace and joy that we did not deserve. He gave us back the relationship with God that Adam and Eve had lost us in the Garden. How can we not love and serve Him forever in return?

The Text (Romans 5:6-11)

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever thought about whether or not you would sacrifice your life for someone else? Have you thought about who you might be willing to die for? Hopefully, none of us will ever face such a situation, but thinking about the question may help you realize how truly amazing it was that Jesus should die for you.
  2. Has someone ever done something nice for you that made you feel bad because you had not been nice to them? What happened?
  3. When did you first become aware of how bad your sin problem really was? In other words, when did sin become truly sinful to you and wake you up to your need to be saved?
  4. Has your appreciation of Christ’s death in your place grown since you first accepted Him as your Savior? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Peace with God (Romans 5:1-5)

Peace with God. That is what our faith in Christ has given us. We were born God’s enemies, rebels against Him because of our disobedience to His commands. But then we laid down our weapons and surrendered ourselves to Jesus as Lord. By trusting in His death and resurrection on our behalf, our sin debt was cleared and the conflict between us and God resolved. His just wrath against us was satisfied by the Savior’s blood. Now we have peace forever with our Creator (Romans 5:1).

This means that we also have access to God’s ongoing grace and hope in our lives (Romans 5:2). God’s love now lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We can endure every trial because God is with us and on our side. He is working to use the hardships and struggles of our daily lives to shape us into His image. The tribulations teach us to persevere or endure (Romans 5:3). Over time, this process of learning to respond to difficulties with faith and godliness builds the character of Christ into our souls (Romans 5:3). We learn to set our hopes in God instead of the comforts of this world. That type of hope will never let us down because it is grounded in a God who is eternally and perfectly good, wise, and powerful (Romans 5:5).

This world is filled with conflicts and trials. We will never enjoy perfect peace with our circumstances in this life. But to know that we have an unshakable peace with God can give us the strength to endure every challenge and sorrow. Peace with God gives us hope in God, a hope that will never disappoint us. Those are the blessings of this grace in which we stand as Christians.

The Text (Romans 5:1-5)

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Questions to Think About

    Did you experience a sense of God’s peace after accepting Jesus as your Savior? Explain.
    Why is it important for Christians to understand that God is no longer their enemy?
    Can you think of some trials that built perseverance and character into your life? How did that work?
    What other places do people look for hope besides God? Why are those other sources of hope doomed to fail?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Faith of Abraham (Romans 4)

Note: This is a long devotion intended to be taught over the course of two days. It will be the only blog post for this week. Chapter 4 of Romans is really one big passage with one main idea – the example of Abraham’s life for how we must be saved by faith. There was no good way to divide the chapter, so we will deal with it as one text with one message.

A common misunderstanding of the Old Testament is the belief that God’s people, Israel, were justified or made righteous by their obedience to the law. Actually, that is still a common misunderstanding about God’s people, the church, today. Many people think that Christians are good people whom God has accepted because they are good. The idea is simple to our natural minds: God has given us these commandments, or rules, and if we just try to follow most (or some) of them most (or some) of the time, then He will be happy with us. He will somehow overlook all the times that we didn’t obey his commandments, both outwardly in our words and actions and inwardly in our thoughts and desires. If we just try to be good when we can, then God will bless us in this life (or at least not bother us with punishments) and then eventually let us into His heaven when we die as long as our good deeds outnumber our bad ones.

Well, I hope that you’ve seen by this point in our study of Romans that the popular mindset I’ve just described, what the Bible calls “justification by works,” is not true at all. Salvation by works doesn’t work! It won’t work for us, and it never worked for anyone in all of history. Instead, as we read in Romans 4, God’s people have always been justified by faith alone, not by religious works or good behavior. Abraham, the father of Israel, was not made right with God by his works (Romans 4:2). No, the Bible tells us in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham was declared righteous by God when he believed His promises to give him a son, a land, and many descendants, including the most important descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 4:3). Abraham was a sinner like us before and even after God called him into the faith. He came from Ur, a pagan city, where he probably worshiped the same false gods and idols as his neighbors. He twice lied by covering up the identity of Sarah as his wife because he feared the wrath of foreign kings. Abraham doubted God and committed adultery by fathering Ishmael with his wife’s servants, Hagar. Abraham was a sinful person like us.

Yet in all these things, Abraham was a man of God-given faith. He had a relationship with God founded on God’s grace. And true enough, because Abraham’s faith was real, it led him to eventually obey the Lord with the overall course of his life even though he had periods of doubt and disobedience. Real faith always leads to obedience, but obedience does not cause faith. Because Abraham believed God’s promise to give him a land, he moved his whole extended family and business to Canaan. He became a sojourner or wanderer for His God. Abraham maintained hope that against all odds he would have a natural son by Sarah, even though she was 90 years old or “as good as dead” regarding her ability to bear children (Romans 4:16-22). Because Abraham believed God, he was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord’s command, believing that God could raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 11:17-20). Abraham and His descendants were physically circumcised in obedience to God’s command, but that was only intended to be an outward sign of the inner circumcision of the heart by faith that God required for their salvation (Romans 4:9-12). In the same way, as Christians we are baptized to show our faith in Christ, but that baptism is not what saves us. Our faith, our trusting belief in Christ, that is what makes us right before God’s holy standard of judgment.

The relationship between faith and works can seem confusing to many, but it is very important that we understand it. Faith in Jesus Christ, in His death and resurrection, is what saves us from the punishment of hell and brings us into an eternal, loving relationship with God (Romans 4:23-25). Abraham had that kind of faith, as did all the Old Testament saints like Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Hannah, and David. They all understood that the greatest blessing that we all need from God is to have our sins forgiven by repenting of our evil ways and trusting in His grace (Romans 4:6-8). Yet their faith was proven to be genuine by their works. We know that Abraham had a saving faith because his life showed it (James 3:18-20).

As your teachers, our great prayer for our school is that all of our students would come to a sincere, saving faith in Jesus Christ that then becomes clearly evident in the holy lives that they live at school, home, church, and wherever they go. We labor in teaching you the Word and in praying for your souls for that you might become mature, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. May we all have the faith of Abraham.

The Text (Romans 4)

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,

And whose sins are covered;

8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 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, 12 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.

13 For 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. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 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 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Questions to Think About

  1. Why do you think that God chose to offer us salvation by faith instead of by our doing of good works?
  2. How would you explain the idea of “faith” to a nonChristian?
  3. How can we see that Abraham’s faith was real?
  4. Can other people see that your faith is real? How?
  5. In what ways is God calling you to follow Him in obedient faith this school year? Are you doing what He is calling you to do?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Why I Read My Bible (Rom. 12:2; Ps. 1:1-3; 1 Peter 5:7; Ps. 119:105; Philippians 3:10)

I wanted to take a quick break from our study of Romans to clear up a possible misunderstanding for some of our students. By now, every student in grades 6-9 knows that Mr. Reel is always talking about the importance of reading the Bible. But I am afraid that some of you may not understand why I am always saying this.

I am not saying and never have said that we should read our Bibles to earn God’s love and approval. God loved us while we still sinners (Romans 5:8), and His love for us as Christians does not change based on how often we read His Word. Once you are God’s child, you belong to Him forever. He is the shepherd and as Christians we are His sheep; we know His voice and we are safe in His hands for all eternity (John 10:27-30). When someone has truly accepted Christ, they have been sealed or marked by God as His own possession by the placement of the Holy Spirit inside them at the moment of their salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). That is God’s guarantee of our place in heaven. That change of heart that you experienced when you received Christ was you becoming a new creation, and the Bible teaches that you can never go back to being lost and dead like you were before (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you have really become alive in Christ, then remain alive in Christ both now and forever.

So if we are saved by God’s grace and not our own efforts, why should Christians read their Bibles? Again, not to check off a box and try to earn God’s approval by completing a ritual. Please forgive me for not recognizing the performance trap that some of you may struggle against. I have no concept of reading the Bible as a chore or something I was supposed to do as a kid or young adult. I did not grow up in the Bible Belt. I did not grow up in a gospel-preaching church. I did not attend a Christian school until college. Nobody ever told me that I should read the Bible. I started reading the Bible before I was saved because I was seeking God. I had met godly, loving Christians from a healthy church. I wanted to know the Jesus they knew. And after I was saved in college, I wanted to read my Bible even more for the same reason. I wanted to know the Lord. No one had to motivate me to read the Bible.

Why did I read the Bible in my teenage years and early 20’s? Why did I start reading my Bible regularly again about three or four years ago in my mid-30’s? For the same reasons that we as your teachers are encouraging you to read the Bible now.

As Christians, reading your Bibles regularly will help you to:

  1. Keep renewing your minds with the soul-saving truths of God’s Word instead of the soul-destroying lies of the world (Romans 12:2).
  2. Gain victory over sin and temptation and find strength to live like Jesus (Ps. 1:1-3).
  3. Keep your eyes on Jesus instead of your circumstances and trials (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. Allow God to lead and guide you into following His will for your life (Ps. 119:105).
  5. And most importantly, reading your Bibles will help you to enjoy fellowship with Jesus! Like the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:10, Christians want to “know Christ” and “the power of his resurrection.” That is our greatest desire of all!

So that’s why I read my Bible and encourage others to do the same. How about you?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Scriptures Referenced (NKJV):

Romans 12:2

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.”

Psalm 1:1-3

“1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

1 Peter 5:7

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Philippians 3:10

“That I may know Him [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

No Room for Pride (Romans 3:27-31)

Grace leaves no room for pride. Pride says, “I can do it myself. I can earn my way to heaven. I am a good person. I am not nearly as bad as so and so. I do this and this and this good thing, and I never do this or this or this bad thing. I can justify myself before God with my good behavior.”

But grace comes us and says, “No my friend. You may seem like a good person compared to others. But compared to God’s standard of behavior, which is perfect obedience to His commands, you fall very short. And furthermore, God demands that not just our behavior, but our motives be totally pure and holy. Only the pure in heart can see Him (Matthew 5:8). No, you are not good enough for heaven. And that is a big, big problem for you and for me and for all of us. But praise God,” says grace, “that there is another way to salvation – the way of faith.”

Faith says to us, “Forget your pride – stop boasting or bragging about how good you are” (Romans 3:27). Faith says, “Your obedience to the law of God cannot save you, but the God who made that law can save you.”

We say, “How can that be? What must I do to be saved from the punishment I deserve for the sinful behavior and evil heart that God’s law has exposed to my conscience?”

And then faith says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Look to Him and live. See the cross where He died for you. See the blood He poured out for all the bad things you’ve ever done or ever will do. Swallow your pride and receive His sacrifice for you. See the empty tomb and believe that Jesus rose from the dead, forever proving that God the Father had accepted His Son’s payment for your sins. Put your hope and trust in Christ alone. No matter what your life was like before, whether you’ve been around the things of God for all your life or just a few weeks, if you will repent and believe in the gospel, you will be made right with God. He will become your God and you will become His child, by faith and faith alone” (Romans 3:28-30).

But what about the law? What about living for God and obeying His commands? Is that no longer necessary since we are saved by faith? Not at all! The law is still of great value to the believer (Romans 3:31). The law now becomes our guide for walking in God’s grace. The law that once burdened and condemned us, the law that once showed us our desperate need for a Savior, now becomes a pattern for how we can live in a way that pleases our loving Father.

So there it is. Where are justified or made right with God by His grace through our faith in Christ, not by our obedience to the law. But once we have been justified, we find that we both want to and can follow God’s commands. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit who now lives in us to both love and keep God’s law. We still sin and fail, but as we will see in the upcoming chapters of Romans, we don’t have to. Praise God, faith can save us from the penalty AND the power of sin. May we experience that power today!

The Text (Romans 3:27-31)

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Questions to Think About

  1. If a person could be saved by their behavior instead of a relationship with Jesus, what would that person do when they got heaven? Heaven is where we will worship God forever. Would a person who earned their way to heaven have any reason to worship Christ?
  2. Why do you think that some people would rather believe that they are good persons than accept that they are sinful and need Jesus to be their Savior?
  3. Have you ever met someone who said that they have accepted Christ as their Savior but did not show any desire to obey His commands and try to do His will? What should we say to people like this? How do we talk to them about faith? How would God want us to pray for them?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel