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

The Just Justifier (Romans 3:21-26)

Finally, the good news! For two whole chapters, from Romans 1:17 to Romans 3:20, the apostle Paul has pounded away at our pride and self-sufficiency. God has driven the sword of His Word into our hearts, showing that no matter what our background, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard of obedience. Whether you’ve grown up around Christianity all your life or hardly been exposed to it at all until recently, your problem is the same – your sins have separated you from God and you need His help. Now, in today’s passage, we see the solution that God offers us.

The great riddle of the Old Testament was this: How can God be both just and merciful? We know that God is holy and must punish sin. He cannot just ignore or overlook it like we do. The blood sacrifices showed Israel and us that the penalty for sin had to be death. Yet God is also rich in mercy and loving kindness. The whole history of Israel from Abraham to the prophets is filled with examples of God showing grace and forgiveness to people who had sinned and disobeyed Him many times. How was this possible?

The answer is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God punished His own perfect Son on our behalf, so that “all who believe” in Him are “justified freely by His grace” and receive His righteousness credited to us (Romans 3:22, 24). Jesus was put forth as a sacrifice for us; His precious blood paid our sin debt so that we would not have to spend eternity in hell (Romans 3:25). In this way, all the sins of people that God had seemed to overlook were actually never forgotten at all. Instead, they were nailed to the cross with Jesus. At the cross, God satisfied His demand for justice while at the same time justifying or making us right with Him without having to destroy or condemn us (Romans 3:26). He proved Himself totally righteous and totally loving. Look to the cross of Jesus today and marvel again at what God did for you. He is the Just One who justified you, the unjust sinner, because of His amazing love.

The Text (Romans 3:21-26)

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had a teacher or other adult leader who allowed kids to get away with being bad? How did it make you feel?
  2. Do you care about justice? Why or why not?
  3. What would God be like if He was loving but unjust? How about if He was just but unloving?
  4. Do you both fear and love the God of the Bible? Why or why not?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

All Have Sinned (Romans 3:9-20)

All have sinned. No one is good in their own strength (Romans 3:10-12). The human heart is corrupt and selfish. On our own, people do not seek to love and glorify God. Instead, we naturally seek to glorify ourselves in all that we do. All people everywhere for all time have been sinners who need to be forgiven and redeemed by their Creator. We are all born with a broken relationship with God that can only be healed by the blood of Jesus. People left to their own without the intervening influence of God’s grace will become wicked in their words (Romans 3:13-14) and deeds (Romans 3:15-16).

Today’s passage from Romans 3 is the clearest, most direct teaching of the doctrine of original sin all the Bible. Yet we notice that Paul is putting together several Old Testament verses, which shows that the universal problem of our sin nature is taught throughout the whole Bible. And let it sink in, Paul is still addressing the Jews, the religious people of his day. Like them, we might be tempted to see the sin in other people’s lives but be blinded to its power in our own lives.

So how should we respond to such an honest description of our sin problem? With humility before God. We stop talking and get on our faces before the just Judge of all the earth (Romans 3:19). We repent of our evil ways and ask God to forgive us. And we turn to Jesus in faith each day, pleading for His mercy and grace to sustain us and keep us from evil (Romans 3:20). “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). I would rather have God’s grace in my life than Him be against me. How about you?

The Text (Romans 3:9-20)

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;

11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.

12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”;

14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17 And the way of peace they have not known.”

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Questions to Think About

  1. When do you first remember being humbled by your own sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness? When was the last time that God taught you a lesson in humility?
  2. Do you think that our culture acknowledges or denies the doctrine of original sin? How can you tell?
  3. Have you ever been near a place or group of people that felt so truly evil that you just wanted to get away? What happened?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

He is Faithful and True (Romans 3:1-8)

Preaching and teaching the Word of God is hard work. There is the studying. You spend time reading and rereading a passage of the Bible, asking God to open up the text to your mind and let its truths get down into your soul. You also spend time reading what other students of the Bible, great scholars and preachers from the past, have learned about the text. Then there is the preparation for the audience. You spend time thinking about your different listeners. You think about where they are in life and in their relationships with God and others. You pray for God to show you their spiritual needs and the practical challenges they will face in trying to apply the Bible passage to their lives as you are trying to do to your own life. The preacher asks God for His Spirit to reach the hearts of the audience with His Word and give them faith to believe it and do what it says. Every time before I preach in chapel or at church, teach my homeroom the morning devotion, teach the children on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, and lead lunchtime discipleship, I ask God for my message to have three things: conviction, clarity, and compassion. I want my listeners to know that I really believe what I am asking them to believe, I want them to clearly understand what the Word of God is saying to them, and I want them to know that I love and care about them and their walks with the Lord.

But the hardest part of preaching and teaching God’s Word is not the preparation or the delivery. The hardest part is knowing the aftermath. The hardest part is knowing that even if you preach lights out, even if you hit a grand slam and know that God was in the message with great power, not everyone will believe and obey the Word of God. Some and sadly sometimes many students, children, or adults will walk away totally unchanged by the sermon or lesson. That really hurts. You want so bad to see people put their trust in God, do what He says, and enjoy the blessings of eternal life with Christ. But a lot of them don’t. They go right back to life as usual, living as slaves to sin and unbelief. Does that mean that the preacher or teacher has failed? Does that mean that God’s Word has failed? Does it mean that God Himself has failed? Paul tackles that question in the beginning of Romans 3 and will revisit it in Romans 9-11. The short answer is – “NO! By all means, no!”

You see, Paul was a Jew by birth and he had a burning desire to see his fellow Jewish countrymen come to faith in Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah and Savior. But most of them had not believed. They wanted to keep trusting in their religious rituals like circumcision and their heritage as physical descendants of Abraham. He says that those things are great blessings, especially the fact that the Jews had received the “oracles” or revelation of God through the Old Testament of the Bible (Romans 3:1-2). But the reality was that “some” or in truth most of the Jews had not believed their own prophecies and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But their lack of faith did not mean that God had failed to be faithful and true (Romans 3:3-4). God had never promised to save all of Israel, but only those who believed and trusted in Him. Today, God does not promise to save every student who attends a Christian school or every adult or child who goes to church. God saves those who want it and are willing to pay the price of following His Son. God’s Word has always been able to spiritually save and protect and prosper everyone who hears it and responds to it with obedient faith. But to those who refuse to believe and obey, God is totally justified in letting them perish in their sins, both in this life and the next (Romans 3:5-6). We must never blame God for man’s sin and unbelief. God is not the author of sin. Though He loves to show mercy and grace to repentant sinners, He never encourages people to sin so that He can forgive them. As Paul says, such an argument is absurd and shows no understanding of the character of the God of the Bible (Romans 3:7-8).

The bottom line is that even if many people are faithless, God remains faithful and true no matter what. People love their sins and they love their idols, and they don’t give them up easily. Many people take the easy road in life and are too spiritually lazy to put in the hard work of following Christ. But even if every single person ignored every sermon and Bible lesson they ever heard and took the wide path to hell, God would still be just and faithful and true. The fault would not be His. Fortunately, not everyone ignores God’s Word. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower, some people hear the Word of God and really believe it. When they hear sermons and Bible lessons, they are listening. They receive messages in faith and let the Word take root in their souls. Their lives are being changed and shaped by the Word, and they bear spiritual fruit for God. They experience God’s joy, love, and peace as they trust and obey Him. May you be that kind of faithful hearer of God’s Word. And don’t lose heart if people you care about aren’t listening right now. God specializes in the impossible. Keep praying for them – God may yet open their hearts to listen. But even if He doesn’t, never forget that our God is always faithful and true. His Word says it, so let’s believe it.

The Text (Romans 3:1-8)

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,

And may overcome when You are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

Questions to Think About

  1. When did you first begin to listen and believe during sermons and Bible lessons? Are you still listening to God right now?
  2. Have you ever felt disheartened by other people’s lack of faith and unwillingness to obey God’s Word? How does today’s passage help you deal with that emotion?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel