No Longer Bound

S (Scripture) – Romans 7:1-6

“Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?  For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.  Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You don’t want a bunch of self-professed Christians walking around as zombie-like robots going through the motions of church life, saying empty prayers, giving money to the poor, going about this life one-hundred percent in their own strength apart from You, and trying to be good people.  If we try to keep the requirements of the Law in our own strength, we will fail.  We will feel guilty, and we will constantly be aware of our insufficiency.  Our sinful nature is incapable of perfection, and will always default to serving our own self interests.  When we come to know You personally, we die to self.  We are crucified with Christ, and it is no longer us who live, but Christ in us (Galatians 2:20).  You graciously provide us with Your Holy Spirit to reside within us so that we can be empowered by Your grace as we live our lives for You.

A (Application) – We are no longer bound to the imperfection of our sinful nature.  The sinful things we used to do gradually become unappealing.  You are constantly maturing us into the likeness of Jesus, despite our missteps along the way.  What’s important is that our hearts are in tune with You, and we are quick to confess our shortcomings and desire nothing more than Your guidance, forgiveness, and grace.  Are there any habits, hangups, addictions, or behaviors that we feel we just can’t break away from?  For some it might be alcohol, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, or sexual in nature.  For most others, it is much more subtle – irritability, anger, fear, anxiety, worry, jealousy, or bitterness.  We are no longer slaves to these things.  By the power of Jesus, we can overcome as He overcame.  Greater is He who is in You, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).  Once we confess that we have been holding on to such things, we must be still, and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

P (Prayer) – Lord, You know the issue in my heart I am dealing with right now.  I pray that You would calm my soul.  I trust You.  I trust Your timing.  I trust Your plan for my life.  I pray that I can overcome these emotions and remember what it means to rest in You and in You alone.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

S (Scripture) – Romans 6:8-14

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lustsand do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” NASB

“Could it be any clearer?  Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!  What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.  We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end.  Never again will death have the last word.  When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.  That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives.  Don’t give it the time of day.  Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life.  Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, our hearts without You are broken, hurting, longing, and led by our emotions and lustful desires.  We are born with the default setting of sinful, selfish, and self-sufficient.  A sinful person cannot simply wake up one day and try hard enough to stop sinning against You.  We will fail miserably day after day and then feel shameful and guilty about our failed attempts to clean up our act.  Getting right with You is not about trying really hard to do what we feel is right and good in every situation.  Getting right with You involves a spiritual heart transplant, and actually being born all over again.  This is all made possible by the gift of Your grace through what Jesus has done for us.

Ezekiel 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'”
You promise to make us brand new…
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
With this new heart and life, we realize that we are no longer enslaved to our old way of thinking.  What used to bring us pleasure no longer does.  Instead, You ignite the fire within us that only wants to burn for You.
A (Application) – This truth can be applied to so many areas of our lives – the parent who is frustrated because she finds it impossible to change her child’s behavior needs to realize that true and lasting change comes from God’s grace and a transformed heart.  It is our jobs as parents to guide our children into a loving relationship with our Savior – showing them the condition of their hearts without Him, explaining the need for Him, and discipling them for the rest of their lives as we show them how to live a life worthy of this calling.  The addict who is feeling helpless to stop taking the pills, drinking the liquor, watching the women online, smoking the whatever…most attempts to break away from such behavior without the strength of the Lord and a changed heart that longs to please Him more than please our lusts will result in futile efforts.  Trying to police one’s behavior – either our own or of another – will ultimately end up with us feeling very frustrated.  Even if we temporarily receive compliance…it’s only a matter of time before the behavior reverts back to what it was.  When there is a true life transformation thanks to the work of Jesus, the person is now in tune with the Lord and taking direction from Him one-on-one. Jesus is with us always, and is much better at working a person through the process of sanctification and maturity than we could ever be alone.
P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for this never-ending journey of growth and grace.  If my family had tried to police me into good behavior, it would not have resulted in what we have together.  Why then do I think that my efforts to police my children’s behavior will lead to lasting change?  Help me to see them as You do.  Help me to be an ambassador of Your grace to them, and to lead them into a loving relationship with You where they will be forever transformed by Your love.

Christ Died for the Ungodly

S (Scripture) – Romans 5:6-8  “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, You came as the Great Physician to heal those who were sick.  We are all born into this world in a sinful state.  No one has to teach a child how to be selfish, lie, steal, be foolish, and worship created things rather than the Creator as well as seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God.  Instead, parents are supposed to help children recognize this and realize their need for change.  Sick in our own sin, we need You to save us from ourselves.  It is impossible for me to “clean up my act” and make myself righteous enough to make my own peace with God.  If that were possible, You wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for me.  Rather, while I was far away from You and worshiping pleasure while I wallowed in my own self-sufficiency, You died for me.  While I was seeking the world’s approval, thinking and acting like an utter fool, and looking out only for my own interests, You died for me.  You took the penalty I deserved for my choices, and instead, You invited me into a relationship that I didn’t deserve.  In growing to know You more, You have shown me who I really am.  As a result of knowing who I am, who You are, and what You’ve promised me, I want to submit to Your authority.  I am empowered by Your Spirit to walk in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

A (Application) – As we look around and see all of the people that surround us, we must recognize that no one is too far away from God for Him to save.  Paul was a man who intentionally persecuted the followers of Jesus, and ended up not only being saved, but transformed and authored several books within the New Testament, including this letter to the Romans.  A person does not need to become righteous enough in order to go to church or to pray.  All that is required is a heart that understands that it is sinful and willful submission to the authority of Jesus.  He promises to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we confess our sins (1 John 1:9).  That cleansing process does not happen completely in a single moment.  Instead, it is a lifelong journey of being sanctified as we grow closer to Him.  If we have someone in our lives that is far from God, pray for that person.  Speak truth and life to that person, and remember that true life change does not come from attempting to manage sinful behavior, but from the Savior’s working in the heart of each person.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, it is unfathomable for me to think about giving up my life for someone who was evil, lost, and broken.  But, You did it for me.  Thank You for doing for me what I could never do for myself.  As we go about our day, may we have eyes to see those You have placed in our path and be careful not to judge.  You are able to transform even the worst of humanity into redeemed masterpieces if they would only submit to You. Your grace is amazing and is able to do what no human means of behavior modification can do.  Help us to be ambassadors of grace in the lives of others, showing them the love and patience You have shown us.

Unwavering Assurance

S (Scripture) – Romans 4:19-22 “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faithgiving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.  Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.”

O (Observation) – Lord, if anyone has ever truly encountered You and had the experience of watching You come through for them in a mighty way, the result tends to be an unwavering assurance of faith that You will come through again and again.  After multiple testimonies are able to be given regarding Your provision, guidance, and unmistakable fingerprints in our lives, our confidence in Your ability to keep Your promises is so strong that we start to forget what our lives were like before we knew You.

A (Application) – There are many in the world that do not know You and are of the opinion that people of faith are believing in fairy tales and counting on “the Big Guy in the sky” to take care of them.  These people are not “wavering” in unbelief; they are living in it.  In order to help grow the faith of those around us, we should respectfully give You glory whenever possible and help those around us see what we already know.  We should be telling our friends and neighbors what You are doing in our hearts.  We should give You glory when You make a way and there was no way.  We should explain why we are confident about a matter despite the apparent opposition.  We should not be afraid to pray with someone in the moment it is needed, if led by Your Spirit to do so.  Let us not keep our confidence a secret, but let us share our faith with boldness, respectfully and full of grace for those around us who are learning what it means to no longer waver in unbelief.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, You can be trusted.  Your ways are not our ways, and Your thoughts are not our thoughts.  One day, we will be worshiping at Your feet and will have the answers to life’s questions that we desperately seek.  Until then, we have Your promises and Your presence.  Our faith is the key to unlocking even deeper access to You.  Our faith is not just a feeling we have but our actions we take based on our belief.  Help me to walk in faith, Lord, in all that I do.  Help my life be a walking testimony of what You are able to do with a heart fully surrendered to You in faith, without any wavering in unbelief.

The Righteousness of God

S (Scripture) – Romans 3:21-25  “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…”

O (Observation) – Lord, You have rescued me from myself and paid all of my debt in order to proclaim that I am forgiven in Your sight.  You have taken away the penalty I deserve by stepping in for me and enduring it Yourself.  Not only have You shown mercy to me by not giving me what I do deserve (the penalty for sin is death), but You have shown me amazing grace by bestowing on me that which I do not deserve.  I don’t deserve to have Your righteousness credited to my account, but You have done exactly that.  Our debt is forgiven and our accounts are full of the righteousness of God.  Not because of anything “good” that we have done, but because You love us.

A (Application) – I think people can understand and appreciate the notion that our sin was forgiven by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Some people struggle, however, with the reality of the righteousness of God being credited to us by the same events.  Because of past sins and hurts we have caused we think that there is no way that God could ever see us as righteous…especially saying we have the righteousness of Christ!  However, the Word is clear when it comes to this matter – it is because we already have all of the righteousness credit we need, so there is no boasting and nothing we could do to earn more.  Can we just rest in that today?  Instead of striving to make God “happy” with us by doing more for Him, just know that He loves us already and wants to work through us in order to accomplish His kingdom work.  When we understand that our role is to complete the work for Him, and not so that we somehow have to earn His favor, it frees us up to listen and be led by His Spirit as we do it.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Father, for providing Your Son as the perfect One to take my place.  That is a debt that could never be repaid.  You knew that already.  You also knew that we would want to try to somehow take credit for our salvation and earn our way into good standing with You, so You went ahead and gave everyone access to 100% of Your righteousness.  With attempting to earn our rank out of the way, it was just easier for You to get down to the business of transforming hearts and lives.  Thank You for Your grace You provide to walk in victory, knowing that I have Your righteousness.

Kind and Gentle

S (Scripture) – Romans 2:1-4

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” NASB

“Those people are on a dark spiral downward.  But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again.  Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself.  It takes one to know one.  Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.  But God isn’t so easily diverted.  He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.  You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard?  Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook?  Better think this one through from the beginning.  God is kind, but he’s not soft.  In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. The Message

O (Observation) – Heavenly Father, what a journey You have taken me on over the last few days as I dive deep into a book recommended to me by a friend.  In the book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp, some very simple yet transformational truths are applied from biblical principles.  One of the overarching themes in the book so far is the notion of Your kindness.  It’s Your kindness that leads us to repentance.  Not Your holiness, Your righteousness, Your Law, or even Your judgement are what truly creates a changed heart within us.  All of those attributes are absolute reasons for us to want to change our behavior, but what draws us closer into a relationship with You, Lord, is the fact that You are kind.  In looking up a definition of kindness, it led me to the word “considerate.”  In diving deeper into the word “considerate,” it said, “anticipating the needs of another.”  You don’t just stand before us and demand our worship and obedience; You anticipate our needs and fulfill every one of them.  

A (Application) – Worship, thankfulness, and obedience can be the only rightful response to the One who created us, holds everything together by His word, and was so considerate of us that He sent Jesus to take our place because He knew we would not be able to do this on our own.  Another fruit of the Spirit and character quality of God is “gentle.”  The definition of “gentle” I came across is “quiet; not harsh, stern, or violent.”  These two words – kind and gentle – are two that God is working out in my heart…especially with my children.  It’s easy to feel self-righteous about my perceived attempts at obedience in life and feel hurt and disappointment when my children disobey me.  Just as God is my Father and is actively parenting me, growing me, and is so patient as I keep taking step after step, so must I see this journey of parenting as a life-long process of growth.  It is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated with the perceived lack of progress when “bad” behavior occurs.  I’m so thankful God has transformed my thinking.  Sometimes we are so quick to be kind and gentle to strangers, customers, co-workers, or neighbors, but then irritable, impatient, and overbearing with the precious souls entrusted to us by God.  We rationalize that we are hard on them because we love them and want them so desperately to succeed in life.  Our children cannot have their hearts transformed by the law we lay down any more than we can be transformed by God’s Law alone.  It is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

P (Prayer) – Precious Father, I have so much to learn.  Thank You for Your patience with me as I take another step on my parenting journey.  Thank You for growing my capacity to be kind and gentle by the power of Your Spirit.  Help me to continue being a strong figure of authority and effectively disciplining my children whenever necessary.  But, help me to better understand the difference between necessary discipline and a teachable moment that can point them to You.  Help me be the best possible Ambassador for Jesus in the lives of my children, and when they are older and draw parallels between their relationship with me and their relationship with You, may they fondly remember me as a kind and gentle mother that loved Jesus and that made them want to love Him too.

Without Him

S (Scripture) – Romans 1:21-25

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.  Amen.” NASB

“What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.  So God said, in effect, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them – the God we bless, the God who blesses us.  Oh, yes!” The Message

O (Observation) – Father God in Heaven, here Paul is explaining what happens to a person when he or she rejects You and Your authority as Lord.  The preverbial hand goes up in Your face, the person turns his back on You, and walks in a different direction to the beat of his own drum, deciding what is right in his own eyes.  You do not chase the person down and force him to obey You.  You quietly step back and allow that person to experience life without You.  You never take Your eyes off of him, and would instantly reappear if he cried out for You, but You allow him to try and figure things out on his own with his finite capacity to think and reason.  The end result of this experiment is that he will think he is all-knowing and able to function quite well in solidarity.  In actuality, he will slowly sink further and further into his own filth and sin until one day he doesn’t even recognize who he has become.  Thinking he is a well-written scholar on life, it turns out he doesn’t even know the alphabet apart from You.  You made him in the first place, and only want to have the rightful throne of his heart…but instead, You have been rejected.  You wait patiently while he worships anything else in his life other than You.  How You are able to do so astonishes me.

A (Application) – Our children oftentimes sincerely believe that they know more than we do about a matter.  It’s frustrating for me with my own little ones, because I know with 100% certainty that I am better equipped than they are to deal with certain issues, but there are times when it is impossible to convince my soon-to-be-five-year-old that his way isn’t right.  The stubbornness I encounter from him is exactly what we do to God when we presume to know better than He does.  Instead of doubting God’s truth and attempting to craft our own version of righteous reality, let us instead depend on the truth given to us in His word and the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit.  May we yield our own will to God’s will and enjoy the fruit of a supernatural life instead of striving in our own strength.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for Your patience with me.  We have all been there – the place in our lives when we feel that we have it all figured out, we know better, and we take matters into our own hands.  We feel frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, anxious, and afraid, because we are not resting in You.  I don’t ever want to be that person again.  I don’t ever want to be given over to any selfish desires.  Maintain a pure heart within me, Jesus, that I might enjoy the peace that can only come from knowing You as my Lord.