Eggs; the inner egg and the outer shell

In Romans 8.2 we read that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. We are no longer bound by meticulous religious rules covering everything from our dietary intake to our haircut (good news for some…).

This freedom is liberating, we are now bound only to live the life of the Spirit, in the Spirit, for Christ. If we want to mix milk and meat in a meal, that’s fine. If we want to cut our hair short on the sides and round off the corners of our beards, that’s fine. If you want a tattoo, or to pierce your ears, fine too. If the ladies don’t want to wear a head covering in church, that’s fine too. We are no longer under the law as a heavy yoke, which invariably we would break, which leads to sin, which leads to death. Bad. Now we are living under the Spirit of life. Good.

This means, in a strange sort of way, we are like an egg.

We are free to associate with whoever we want, go wherever we want, eat and drink whatever we want, watch anything we want on the tellybox, be friends with anyone we want. Jesus was not concerned with His outer shell or its appearance, was He? He hung out with some pretty down and dirty people during His incarnational ministry (His time on earth living as fully God and fully man, incarnation literally means ‘in the flesh’).

Like a toddler at meal times, Jesus’ outer egg shell was covered with all sorts of things that people thought it should not be; don’t talk to her, don’t touch them, don’t stay at his house…

Jesus trashed His outer shell, ultimately breaking it for us, but never compromised His inner self.

Therein lies the lesson for us; we are free from the law as a heavy yoke and now have a wonderful liberty as Christians. But, as Jesus ultimately broke His body for our benefit, we need to use our liberty for love, for the benefit of others, not to simply have a good time. 

So yes, we are free to eat, drink, watch whatever we want, but the bigger Christian principles still apply; who is being glorified through what you are doing? Things too, like Philippians 4.8,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So, yes, we can dirty up our outer shell, but we must never compromise our inner egg. And, if we are dirtying up our outer shell, let us make sure that it is for the benefit of others, using our liberty for love, not lusts.

Spiritual Depression – Mind, Heart, and Will – Romans 6.17-18/Romans 12.1-2

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

So far in our mini-series on spiritual depression we have looked at the causes of this all-too-common condition. If you haven’t read any of the previous pieces you can do here.

Today we see that there is a whole life response needed to the truths of Jesus to avoid spiritual depression. We know that the whole counsel of God’s Word is needed to communicate the truths of Jesus, and it stands to reason then that our whole lives must be influenced and affected by it.

Romans 6.17-18 points to the whole person, as does Romans 12.1-2, and we read of obedience, the heart, the standard of teaching, and being slaves of righteousness.

We need balance in our Christian life in order to avoid spiritual depression, and to experience all that God has for us.

If we focus on the mind only, we become brainy and insightful with no desire to serve.

If we focus on the emotion only, we become overly emotional in our faith but lack understanding.

If we focus on the will only, we become fired up to serve, but don’t really connect with those we are serving.

The whole truth of Jesus needs a whole life response – mind, emotion, and will, or head, heart, and hands.

Lloyd-Jones speaks into the balance needed to live the fruitful Christian life, and offers this in response to those to focus on only one element of their person,

These are the people who decide to take up Christianity instead of being taken up by Christianity.

He goes on to call them spiritual monstrosities, and says that if truth is not first understood and internalised then the heart and hands will never work properly, so to speak.

The order suggested is this – head, then heart, then hands.

First we must understand what it is we are responding to. Understand why Jesus shedding His blood for you was such a big deal. Understand the huge change that has taken place within you, and the power that now lives in you.

When this is understood, the heart is softened, and the hands are readied.

Lloyd-Jones writes

Truth is received through God’s greatest gift to man, the mind, the understanding.

Simply then, one big step on the road to avoiding spiritual depression is to order the way God’s truth flows into our lives, first head, then heart, then hands.

Let us commit today to understanding and knowing more about our great God, and having hearts softened and hands readied by this wonderful truth.

Spiritual Depression – The True Foundation – Romans 3.28

…For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law…

Romans 3.28

The main take-home point last time was that we must turn to the Word of God when we feel down, when we doubt, or when we feel abandoned. If we rely on our own feelings, these change like the weather and will leave us open to every wind of change that blows past us.

Today, the true foundation, what are we built on? 

Lloyd-Jones writes about Christians who are very interested in Christian things, but don’t seem to be like the believers of the Bible; vibrant, excited, joyful, positive, and hopeful. He calls this group ‘miserable Christians‘.

Understanding what Christianity is all about and (for the majority) agreeing with it, the miserable Christian simply assumes that this is enough; to know, to understand, to outwardly agree with the major tenets of the faith. If there are some things you think you have a better handle on than the Bible, then, well, you can just keep quiet about that because you’re doing your own thing anyway…

What is missing for the miserable Christian is an insight into self in light of a relationship with Jesus. 

When we see who He truly is, how He truly is, where He truly is, we cannot help but see ourselves in the cold light of day…and it’s not pretty is it. The miserable Christian doesn’t really see the need for having a Saviour because they think they are not that bad, but, Christianity makes sense to them so they go along with it. 

The believer who has seen himself or herself for who they truly are, a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God, sees the need for a Saviour.

The believer who knows the truth about themselves is aware of their sinfulness and is convicted of their sinfulness. 

The miserable Christian has heard Christ preached and appreciated what was on offer.

The believer has heard Christ preached and has been brought to a point of knowing that this is an absolute necessity for them in their life. 

The believer then sees verses like Romans 3.28 wherein we are reminded that we are seen as right and just and holy by God purely through faith in Jesus and by nothing we have done, are doing, or can ever do. The believer who knows their own sinfulness then responds to this with vibrancy in their life, with excitement, with joy, with positivity, and with a sure and steadfast hope for the future.

Lloyd-Jones writes,

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realise that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again.

Say “It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ”.

It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.

Take that first step and you will find that immediately you will begin to experience joy and a release that you have never known in your life before.

The true foundation for the life that we all so deeply desire is faith in something sure, steadfast, supreme, and sufficient. 

The true foundation is faith in Jesus. 

Romans 1.8-15 – Mutual strengthening

During our weekly worship services at Saar Fellowship we have been studying the letter to the Hebrews and one thing we have taken away so far is that no true decision to live for Jesus, to submit to His Lordship over our lives and our eternal destination, no true decision for Jesus results in the desire to NOT fellowship with other believers.

 

Paul is writing something similar here to the Romans,

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul says he is praying for this new church in such a prime position (your faith is proclaimed in all the world, the Roman Empire was used to spread the Gospel to the entire known world at the time) and he wishes to visit (asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you). 

His reason for wanting to visit, at least the first reason he gives, is to impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you. Now, at first glance maybe we think Paul is some kind of purveyor of spiritual gifts. Perhaps Paul can lay hands on people and he has the inherent power to heal/empower/strengthen. But, if we read the rest of that sentence, we see what he really means, look at it all together without verse numbers,

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 

So Paul wants to see the Romans to be mutually encouraged, him to them and them to him. He wants to reap some harvest, and preach the gospel.

Mutual strengthening. 


Spending time with other believers in spiritual fellowship is imparting your spiritual gifts to them. 


Where we lack, others abound. 

Where we struggle, others soar. 

Where we don’t know, others do know. 

Where we have no experience, others do.

This is why it is so important we are part of a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving fellowship of like minded believers, because what we lack, they will supply, and what they lack, we will supply.

Point to ponder today – Am I part of this kind of fellowship? Where can I add my spiritual gift for the building up of the body?

Romans 1.1-7 – Follower first

Recently I contributed to an online discussion panel about the motivations we have for sanctification, so, why are we willing participants with God in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. All the usual and expected answers came up, things like ‘to be a better wife/husband’, ‘because I know who I was and I don’t want to be him/her again’, ‘to be a better leader in my church/home/job’. Then, one person offered this, 

“It has been revolutionary for me to just focus on being a decent Christian each day, and to see how that has permeated the different roles that I have as a husband, parent, son, minister, teacher, etc.

Each day, as I focus on just trying to be a decent Christian, I find that a first focus on who I am, impacts the roles that I am called to fill.”

The beautifully simple thing about this answer is that the priorities are right – focus on being a believer first and foremost, and that will permeate its way through the rest of our lives. If we focus on being a follower of Jesus, a disciple, then every situation we find ourselves in will be an opportunity for us to be a disciple. 

Romans 1 opens with this, take a deep breath, its a long sentence;

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, right off the bat we see how Paul views himself, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. Servant first. Follower first. Disciple first. This is in itself a noble task, following the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Everything Paul says about himself and about anything else will follow this, first I am a servant of Jesus. 

Paul goes on to make some interesting points, first, that the Gospel is not his to proclaim (the gospel of God), and that the centre of our faith is One who is both fully human (his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh) and fully Divine (and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead). He closes the opening to his letter with a very Pauline blessing, that combines both Greek and Jewish thinking, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

For us then, we need to think like Paul does here, first, I am a servant of Jesus. Follower first, husband, pastor, engineer, doctor, teacher, wife, mum, dad, brother, sister, everything else second. When this happens, we will see God from the right perspective, and, as we said yesterday, we will see ourselves from the right perspective too. 

Today let us pray this –

Lord, help me to be a believer first, help me to find fulfilment as a follower of Jesus first and foremost. Help me take this position into every other situation and circumstance I encounter today, and help me live the truth of one who has been redeemed by your Son.

Romans; a window to all Scripture

Paul’s letter to the Romans was written around 53-58 A.D., most likely from Corinth (Acts 20.2-3, Romans 16.1, 23). Martin Luther, so often remembered in reference to the reformation of the 1500s called Romans the

‘…chief part of the New Testament…[the] epitome of the Gospel…’.

As we progress through Romans, then, we will talk about God, see about God, hear about God, and learn about God. 


Romans is, essentially, a book about God.


As we move through this wonderful letter maybe a verse at a time, maybe a paragraph at a time, but never less than a complete thought at a time, we will begin to see or to reinforce what we think about God, what we know about God, and what we believe about God. When this happens, when we see God in the right light, so to speak, when we see the truth about God, it is impossible to not start to see the truth about ourselves too.

For example, you may enjoy running in your free time. When you see Usain Bolt running, you realise you’re not that fast. 

You may enjoy cooking, but when you eat at a Michelin starred restaurant, you realise you’re not that great in the kitchen.

You may enjoy playing the piano, but when you listen to Chopin or Beethoven or Mozart play, you realise that you have much improvement to make!

Romans will answer the big questions we have about God, about ourselves, and about the world around us.

As we start to see the truth about God, we will also start to see the truth about ourselves. When these two things happen at the very same time, it will only drive us further and faster into the care of One who can reconcile the difference, One who has created this new covenant family we are all a part of through faith, and the One who provides a true window for us to look through and see God.

29.04.19 – Romans 7.7-12 – Like Little Children

Recently I attended a pastor’s conference in New York and one evening went for dinner with a couple of guys in Manhattan. As we were crossing the road, this convoy approached…

…lots of people stopped to take pictures and videos of New York’s bravest heading off into action, as evidently did I, and I couldn’t wait to get home to show this to Roman, our 4 year old. He loves Fireman Sam, and his face when he saw my video of FDNY flying past was just wonderful. Wide-eyed, open-mouthed, just thrilled to see real life heroes heading into action. As his Dad, seeing him like that brings a tear to my eye.

Today in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul references this exact point in our life; when we lived so simply, so purely, and with awe-struck wonder,

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Paul writes that without the law, we would not know what sin is (v.7), and gives the example of coveting. Nobody knows what this is until someone says, ‘Don’t covet’, or, ‘That is coveting, stop it’. Now we know what covetousness is, Paul writes, we find ourselves doing it all the time, and calling it sin. Apart from the law, he goes on to say,  sin lies dead. What promised to be good and what promised abundant life actually turned out to be a holy and righteous standard (v.12) that we can never actually reach.

But, despair not, there is something in there that alludes to a better way. Paul writes I was once alive apart from the law; do our children know what covetousness is? Do our children know a strict regime of rules, regulations, and laws? Or do our children know that to love one another is good, to treat each other with kindness is good, to show forgiveness is good, to think of others before ourselves is good? 

Do they know that thou shalt not…or do they know that Jesus loves them and they should love others?

Paul writes very clearly that the law itself is not sin, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. The problem is us. Sin corrupts the law, so, as we have talked about in the last few days, we must die to both, to sin and to the law. The law is holy, righteous, and good, but the problem is us. 

We need another way to become holy, righteous, and good

There was One who lived this life. 

There was One who fulfilled, to the last iota, the holy, righteous, and good law. 

There was One who took the consequence of sin upon Himself and put it to death. 

There is One who says ‘Follow me’.

There is One who says ‘I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life’.

There is One who says ‘Abide in me, and I in you.’

The One is Jesus.

He is our way to become alive apart from the law, to live a life of wide-eyed, open-mouthed, and awe-struck wonder.


Point to ponder – Am I alive apart from the law, or am I trying to supplement the all sufficient work of Jesus by keeping rules and laws?


Prayer – Father, we thank you that we have this amazing opportunity to become as little children again, to live with such simplicity, with such purity, and with such awe-struck wonder. We thank you that this is all because of Jesus and His finished work on the cross, and nothing that we can bring. Remind us of that today; more of He, less of me. Amen.