No Longer Condemned! (Romans 8:1-4)

The word “condemned” means “to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil, usually after weighing evidence and without reservation” and “to pronounce guilty” or “sentence someone,” usually to “die” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). The gospel of John gives us this solemn truth about all people’s eternal destiny: “He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Simply put, if someone has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, God’s just punishment for their sins awaits them after they die. They will get the horrors of hell and that punishment will be deserved because they have rejected the grace and mercy of God and chosen sin and self instead. It is awful to think about and should burden all of us to pray hard for the salvation of our lost family, friends, neighbors, and teammates.

But for those of us who have repented of our sin and trusted in Jesus as Lord and God, we read awesomely good news today in Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Through your faith in Jesus, God has declared you forever forgiven and “not guilty.” How is this possible, knowing all of the bad things that we have done and thought both before and after becoming Christians? How can God let us off the hook and still be a God of justice who punishes wrongdoing? Through Jesus taking our place with His death on the cross. The law of God, the commandments, could not save us; they could only show us how far we had fallen short of God’s perfect standards (Romans 8:3; Romans 8:23). In this sense, the law was “weak,” not because there was anything wrong with the commandments, but because simply telling us how we should live did not give us the power to actually live that way. In other words, the law of God called us to be holy and obey the Lord, but because of our sin nature, we not only could not obey, but before our salvation, we did not even want to obey! But praise God, He sent His own Jesus to take on flesh like one of us and to suffer our condemnation for us (Romans 8:4). He absorbed the full penalty of our sin. But even more, Jesus has given those of us who believe in Him the gift of the Holy Spirit to live inside us. The Holy Spirit has given us “life” and empowered us to be “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). This means that as Christians, we are not only forgiven for failing to obey God’s commands, but we now also have new hearts that want to keep those commands that we once hated!

Jesus takes our sin and judgment, and we get God’s forgiveness and righteousness. It’s the deal of all deals! Can we ever stop praising God for that beautiful truth: “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”? May it be at the front of our thoughts all day and every day!

The Text (Romans 8:1-4)

8 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Questions to Think About

  1. Can you think of a time when you got in trouble at school or home and you had to wait a little while for your punishment? What happened and how did you feel?
  2. Can you think of a time when you knew you had done wrong and deserved to be punished, but a parent or teacher or coach let you off the hook and you received mercy instead? What happened and how did you feel?
  3. Why is it important for Christians to know that they are no longer condemned by God for their sins? How can knowing and believing that help you in your daily walk with Christ?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Redeemed Relationships (Ephesians 6:1-9)

A relationship with Jesus Christ changes all of our other relationships. As we saw in the end of Ephesians 5, marriage for the Christian is not about getting what we want from our spouses but about learning to love and serve another person more than ourselves. So, too, with the parent-child and worker-boss relationships, the redeemed versions are supposed to model humility and justice rather than rebellion, pride, and selfishness. Jesus shed His precious blood to repair our broken relationships with God the Father. But He also died to fix our broken relationships with each other. Christians can pursue love, joy, and peace in their homes and workplaces by letting God instead of sin and the world shape their thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. If you do what God says, He can redeem (buy back, restore, heal) your current relationships with your parents and prepare you to enjoy redeemed relationships with your spouses, children, bosses, and employees in the future.

Children must obey their parents. Period. There are no qualifications or restrictions given for this commandment other than that your obedience should be done “in the Lord.” Now, this does mean that you should not obey your parents if they tell you to sin against God by breaking clear commandments of Scripture (stealing, lying, hurting others, etc.). But it also means that with all commands that don’t violate Scripture, your obedience should be from the heart as if you are obeying Christ Himself. By learning to trust and obey your parents’ commands with a humble and respectful attitude the first time those commands are given, you are learning how to trust and obey other authorities (like teachers and later bosses). But more importantly, you are learning how to trust and obey God. True, parents, teachers, and bosses will not always be right. But, God has placed them in authority over you, and in His wisdom He also knows that they will usually be right more often than you. If you question and argue with your parents rather than obey them, you are disobeying God and removing yourself from His umbrella of protection. That is not a good place to be. If you keep on challenging and bucking the counsel of your parents and teachers, the damage to your life will eventually become really serious. If you look at the lives of people in their twenties who are suffering from the bitter consequences of their sin, you will often see a history of rebellion against parents in their childhood and teen years.

God’s blueprint for redeeming our relationships is easy to understand but hard to do; we need to depend on Christ each day to help us live out His plan for our lives. Submitting to authority does not come natural to most of us. We want to do what we want to do. We want what we want when we want it and we want it right now! Once you are older and become parents and perhaps bosses yourselves, leading others with fairness and kindness will be tough, too. Our sin nature likes to lord authority over others and take advantage of power. The bottom line is that we need to ask Jesus each day to help us honor Him in our relationships with each other. But He will help us if we seek Him with all of our hearts. God would not command us to do something without giving us the power to do it through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

The Text (Ephesians 6:1-9)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Questions to Think About

  1. How are you doing right now with obeying your parents? Is it a struggle? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think of obeying your parents and teachers as a way to obey Jesus? Does that mindset help you when you don’t want to obey? Explain.
  3. How can students whose parents are not modeling obedience to the Lord still obey today’s teaching? How can these students humbly obey their parents while still taking a stand for Jesus in their families?

Notes

  • The promise of happy, long lives to those who obey their parents in verses 1-3 comes from the Ten Commandments (found in Exodus 20). Like the promises given in the Psalms and Proverbs and other parts of the Bible, it should be taken as a general promise of earthly blessing that is normally but not always true. Sometimes, God takes very godly and obedient people home to heaven at a young age. And sometimes, God allows very wicked men and women to live longer lives than we think they deserve. But we must remember the perspective of eternity. A short life lived well for Jesus is better than a long life of sin and selfishness because the first leads to eternal joy and peace while the second leads to eternal suffering and misery. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 (the passage that Mr. Reel applies with the 4 chairs illustration).
  • Notice that parents (“fathers”) and bosses (“masters”) are expected to live out redemption in their God-ordained roles, too. They should be fair and kind and stay humble before their heavenly boss – Jesus. Wives, children, and workers are to model the obedience of the church to the Lord while husbands, parents, and bosses are to model the Lord’s wisdom and justice in His treatment of His people. This is not a perfect analogy because we are all sinners and only God is perfect, but in practice families and workplaces can help us to picture our relationship to Christ when they follow His plan.
  • The command to train children up in the knowledge of the Lord in verse 4 should definitely be understood as applying to both fathers and mothers. However, it is important to see that the role of the father in discipline and spiritual instruction is critical. Church research has long shown that when only the mother is an active Christian (i.e. a Bible-reading, praying, church-attending Christian), there is a 50% chance for each child that he or she will follow the Lord as an adult. But if the father is an active Christian, the chance improves to 90%! Simply put, as Dad goes spiritually, so goes the family.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Equal Yet Different (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Men and women are spiritual equals. Both genders are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 tells us this plainly: “So God created man[kind] in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” As Christians, both men and women are saved by the blood of Christ and neither is better than the other in any way. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we are given examples of godly women whose faith the Lord recognized and honored (Ruth, Deborah, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Priscilla, to name some of the most famous). Jesus always valued women during His earthly ministry and broke many cultural expectations when he approached them as spiritually significant individuals, such as His bold conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Clearly, the Bible shows that every man, woman, and child matters to God, who shows no partiality (favoritism) based on gender, ethnicity, or money.

So what is Paul talking about in today’s passage? He tells wives to “submit to” and “respect” their husbands. He tells the husbands that they are the “head” of their wives and that they must “love” their wives sacrificially. He likens the relationship to Christ (the husband) and the church (the wife). Paul writes that husbands ought to “nourish and cherish” their wives in the way that Jesus does His church, while wives are to be “subject…to their own husbands in everything.” Does this teaching contradict the teachings of the other verses above?

No, they work together in harmony. What Paul is describing is different functions or roles for husbands and wives in family relationships. God made Adam first as the leader of the family and Eve next as Adam’s helper. Neither is better than the other in essence or spirit, but the husband was given the job of head of the family. He should lead his wife lovingly and graciously, while she should respectfully follow his lead. This is similar to (though not exactly the same as) the different roles of children and parents that will be discussed in Ephesians 6:1-4 and the different roles of servants (employees today) and masters (bosses) in Ephesians 6:5-8. No one is spiritually or essentially better than anyone else in God’s family, but people are given different roles and responsibilities so that businesses and families will run smoothly in ways that honor the Lord.

The Text (Ephesians 5:21-33)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Questions to Think About

As middle and high school students, you are not yet married. However, now is the time for you study God’s teachings on marriage and the family. It is also time to allow God to train and prepare you for your future biblical roles in your own families.

  1. Do you have any questions or concerns about today’s teaching from Ephesians? Have you talked to your parents, teachers, or youth pastors about the issues of marriage and gender roles?
  2. What are you doing right now to begin preparing to be a godly husband or wife as described in today’s passage?
  3. What kinds of conflicts might occur in a marriage when husbands do not show love to their wives and when wives do not show respect to their husbands?
  4. Are there any Christian couples in your life who model biblical manhood and womanhood as taught in this passage? Are you taking the opportunity to learn from their examples?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Building or Destroying? (Proverbs 14:1-3)

Faith proves itself over time. How you live will show what you really believe. In Proverbs 14:2, the Bible observes that a person who “fears the Lord” will be someone who “walks in his uprightness,” while the person who acts wickedly shows that they actually “despise” or reject the Lord. The godly woman (and man) will build a strong family knit together by Christian love (Proverbs 14:1). But the ungodly person destroys their own home with their words and actions. In the same way, the foolish man (or woman) brings hardship into their life through complaining, lying, and gossiping, but the wise person actually protects their life by seasoning their speech with grace and kindness.

What kind of person are you right now? What kind of person are you becoming? Are you building up or destroying your own life? How about the lives of your family and friends? If you focus on loving and obeying Jesus, then you will be a builder and helper in the work of His kingdom. At the same time, you will lay a foundation of righteousness for your future family that will honor your Lord and Savior. The time to begin fearing the Lord with your ways is now, with a lifetime of Christian living ahead of you. Take the yoke of Christ upon you now, in your youth. You will never regret the decision.

The Text (Proverbs 14:1-3)

14 The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly,
    but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you do more building or tearing down of others with your words? Explain.
  2. Would your friends and family describe you as someone who “fears the Lord”? Why or why not?
  3. What are you doing now to lay a foundation for a lifetime of godly service to Christ?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Wisdom, Not Foolishness (Ephesians 5:15-20)

The Bible does not recognize “adolescence” or “the teenage years” as a distinct stage of life. As Dr. David Alan Black has discussed in his book, “The Myth of Adolescence,” the Bible speaks of childhood (birth to age 12), young adulthood (age 12-30), and mature adulthood (age 30 until death). We see this, for example, in the incarnational life of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus as a baby and child, then He is in the temple teaching at age 12, and finally He begins his ministry at age 30. The Apostle Paul writes about how he thought as a child, and then he began to think as an adult and put away childish things (1Corinthians 13:11). The ancient Jews had a special ceremony called a “bar mitzvah” at age 13 to recognize the transition of boys into young manhood (religious Jews today still honor this tradition). For thousands of years, cultures all over the world treated ages 12-14 as a time to begin training young men and women as young adults rather than children. They were given and expected to show increasing responsibility in life. For much of history, 14 and 15-year-olds could start earning real money in a career and even marry (I’m not advocating these things for us today, just pointing them out as historical facts). The idea that ages 12-18 (or even up to age 22 or older!) would be a time of totally carefree fun and irresponsibility is a modern invention that only dates back to the late 19th century AD or perhaps even later. This notion of a long stage of adolescent carelessness has created generations of middle and high school students who are beginning to develop adult desires and interests like finding romantic relationships and meaningful work but lack adequate training in how to prepare for biblical marriage, parenthood, and vocational callings (finding the jobs God wants them to do). Teenagers still want to be adults as they always have but our modern society wants to keep treating them as children.

But today’s challenge from Ephesians 5:15-20 to walk in wisdom and redeem our time for the Lord should apply to teenagers, too! Middle and high school students are old enough to take individual ownership of their walks with Christ. They are emerging young adults. They are old enough to take public stands for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are old enough to start having their own quiet devotional times with the Lord. Teenagers are old enough to start taking responsibility for reading their Bibles and praying on their own. They are old enough to start sharing their faith and testimonies with lost friends and family. And middle and high school students are old enough to start planning their time and using it wisely. They are old enough to say no to alcohol and other substances and influences that might control their minds and souls and to instead learn how to be controlled by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are old enough to joyfully praise Jesus in chapel and church and not care what their friends might think. They are old enough to stand up for the Lord at the lunch table, in the locker rooms, and on the sports fields. And they are old enough to stop living as selfish children and start living lives of sincere praise and thanks to Jesus Christ. For our middle and high school students, it’s time to start growing up in the Lord. And for our parents and teachers, it’s time to start expecting more from our students spiritually and helping them to grow as God wants them to grow.

The Text (Ephesians 5:15-20)

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways do you think and act more like an adult now than when you were in elementary school?
  2. How can treating teenagers as children create problems for their spiritual and overall life growth?
  3. Are you taking increasing responsibility for your own walk with Jesus Christ? How can you tell?
  4. Does your heart sing with praise to God throughout the day? Why or why not?

Notes

  • The word translated as “redeeming” in verse 16 carries the idea of buying back something that was or could be lost. Paul is saying that if we do not plan to use our time wisely, it will be wasted and we may even fall into sin. The old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is not literally in the Bible. However, the underlying principle that laziness often leads to other sins and always leads to lost opportunities for doing good is taught in today’s passage, the book of Proverbs, the Parable of the Talents, and many other places in Scripture. Biblical rest as part of a balanced weekly schedule is good. However, hours and hours and days upon days of doing nothing but streaming videos, playing games, and posting and commenting on selfies is not redeeming the time that God has given us.
  • Note the importance of singing to the Lord in our hearts through different types of worship music. “Psalms” probably refers to songs taken directly from Scripture, while “hymns” refers to songs about who God is and what He has done and “spiritual songs” refers to lyrics about our personal experiences with God. All of these should be sung from our souls out of an atttitude of thanksgiving to God for His many mercies and graces in our lives.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel