Hearing the Music

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Know Justice

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As we come to Labor Day and the unofficial close of the summer season we are also coming toward the close of our journey with the prophets Elijah and Elisha. This penultimate week we will be looking at II Kings, chapters 9 &10, a brutal portion in the history of Israel but an important reminder that we serve a God who cares about justice. Justice is much talked about in our current cultural moment, though often little defined. We tend to think about justice in terms of equality or getting what you deserve. Whereas the Biblical idea of mishpat goes a step further and claims not only equality and rights, but generosity and pro-active advocacy. One person helpfully distinguishes between retributive justice (which we tend to think of in the west) and distributive justice (justice that seeks ways to sow righteousness); mishpat is both of these. This is most clearly seen through the cross of Christ where satisfaction for sin was made (retributive justice) and a hope-filled, new way was forged through the action of a pursuing, merciful benefactor (distributive justice). Tim Keller has written a very helpful piece that examines current articulations of justice and compares them to a Biblical view of justice. I commend it to you.

In addition, the appearance of Labor Day marks the return of fall programming such as Bible studies for men, women, and college-aged, and other discipleship initiatives. Some of these details you may have already heard, but keep your ears peeled as more information will be forthcoming. 

2020 has been a strange year to be sure. But life continues, a personal God of justice is on His throne, and there is much to be thankful for. 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Content, or Not Content?

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 As I sit at my desk looking out my office window watching some yellowish colored leaves fall from the tree to the ground, I realize something: fall is finally here! My first Michigan summer was awesome. Everyone kept telling me last winter and spring were unusual and just wait for summer. It finally arrived and I was delighted to welcome it. I must admit now, however, I’m looking forward to fall, some colder weather, and even some snow. Ouch! The past few weeks I have found myself getting ready for a season change and excited for it. I got everything up off the ground in my garage so the snow can melt from the undercarriage of my cars and fall to the garage floor. I was given a new snow thrower and I’ve been plotting my route from the garage, down the driveway, and to the street and back again. I’ve even planned for my patio furniture and getting it put away for the winter while cutting back some plants. I’m ready for a change…but I know as soon as it comes I’ll be ready for that to change as well.

        With all this recent activity, I have come to realize something after digging into Romans 7:7-25 in preparation for preaching this Sunday. I’m never content. When it is hot, I’m ready for cold. When it is cold, I’m ready for hot. When it rains, I’m ready for sun. There are times when it’s sunny and I am even ready for cloudy days. It seems whatever place I am in currently, I am ready to move out of it and into another one. Does this mean we should always to be ‘content’ and never be ‘not content?’ Me genoito – no, no, 1000 times no. We are going to look at Romans 7:7-25 this Lord’s Day and I would like to ask you to keep this in mind as we do because, perhaps like many of you, here is where I am completely content. I am content in continuing to live in my sin instead of letting God’s law reveal it for the purpose of lavishing me with more of His wonderful grace. I am content in not using God’s law to shine light into the pollution of my heart in order to run to my Savior who constantly gives more and more mercy. I am content just to keep on going the way I am going and doing the same ole things I’ve been doing. All the while, of course, while complaining about how ready I am for a change in something else! So, content, or not content? The answer is yes, and I pray our time in Romans 7 this Sunday will only seal that to our hearts as we open our ears and eyes. I pray we would never be content to remain in our sin, and we would always be content, even take great delight in, God’s holy, righteous, and good law, for there He seals to us we have been delivered from death and into His marvelous light and life.     

 

Photo by Matt on Unsplash

Personal Renewal Leading to Corporate Change

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We are off and running in our study of Romans. Last week we looked at the theological thread that runs through Romans which presents a clear picture of our need for the gospel and God’s provision mediated through Christ and applied by the Spirit (Romans 1:16,17; 3:23, 5:8; 6:23; 8:1; 12:1,2). As was mentioned, the book of Romans has been influential in the lives of many of the folks God has used mightily to promote the gospel. In August of 1513, a monk named Martin Luther was vexed over the concept of the righteousness of God. Luther was convinced the righteousness of God would keep him from fellowship with God. But as he meditated on Romans 1:17, which says, "...the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'", he had an epiphany. In his words, "I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise...This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.” It was his understanding that sparked what we now know as the Reformation.

Not surprisingly, Luther wrote a commentary on Romans. Interestingly, in May of 1738, a failed minister and missionary named John Wesley, reluctantly attended a small Bible study where someone read aloud from Luther's commentary. He too went on to be transformed through the message of Romans. He says, “While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine.”  And thus was sparked the Great Awakening.

Romans clearly lays forth the gospel. A true grasping of the gospel through the work of the Spirit is world-changing. It is said that personal renewal precedes corporate change. The lives of Luther and Wesley give testimony to that truth.  

The community of people assembled in the Roman church also bears testimony to this idea of personal renewal leading to corporate change. We will encounter these lovely folks this Sunday as we look at the context for this tremendous letter through the lens of chapter 16. It would be hard to overstate just how radical this community actually was, and is. The theological truths Paul expounds has gathered: Jew and Gentile, men and women, aristocracy and slave; and has united them into one. While it may be true that personal renewal precedes corporate change, it must also be emphasized that true personal renewal will challenge our status quo and demand that we walk in uncomfortable places, but, as always, equipped by the Spirit.

 

Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash

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