The Fight Within (Romans 6:15–23)
In his book of semi-philosophical and satirical stories titled Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes: “There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. But then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully.”
Isn’t that like most of us? We figure it’s easier to pay the bully than to learn how to defeat him. Sadly, in the same way, we often continue to live in sin rather than to wage war to destroy it. We allow sin to reign rather than dethroning it. We succumb to defeat rather than learning the countermeasures that lead to victory. Before we beat ourselves up too much, we can find comfort in the apostle Paul’s confession that he too struggled with sin. He recognized that he couldn’t escape being a sinner. Yet because sin ultimately leads to death, if he didn’t deal with it his sin would destroy him. He had a fight on his hands, one he waged daily.
How can we win the fight and defeat the power of sin? Honestly, we can’t. We possess neither the strength nor the moral completeness to win such a monumental battle. For victory we must, like Paul, rely solely on Jesus Christ. His sacrifice on the cross, bearing the sins of all human beings, provides our only hope for dethroning the power of sin. Sin is too serious to face alone. Victory over sin requires calling on Jesus, the Victor, all day and every day.
Taken from NIV Men’s Devotional Bible
God Demonstrates His Love
God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Notice that “demonstrates” is present tense and “died” is past tense.
The present tense implies that this demonstrating is an ongoing act that keeps happening in today’s present and tomorrow’s present.
The past tense “died” implies that the death of Christ happened once for all and will not be repeated. “Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Why did Paul use the present tense (“God demonstrates”)? I would have expected Paul to say, “God demonstrated (past tense) his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Was not the death of Christ the demonstration of God’s love? And did not that demonstration happen in the past?
I think the clue is given a few verses earlier. Paul has just said that “tribulations work patient endurance, and patient endurance works proven character, and proven character works hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (vv. 3–5).
In other words, the goal of everything God takes us through is hope. He wants us to feel unwaveringly hopeful through all tribulations.
But how can we?
Paul answers in the next line: “Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (v. 5). God’s love “has been poured out in our hearts.” The tense of this verb means that God’s love was poured out in our hearts in the past (at our conversion) and is still present and active.
God did demonstrate his love for us in giving his own Son to die once for all in the past for our sins (v. 8). But he also knows that this past love must be experienced as a present reality (today and tomorrow) if we are to have patience and character and hope.
Therefore he not only demonstrated it on Calvary, he goes on demonstrating it now by the Spirit. He does this by opening the eyes of our hearts to “taste and see” the glory of the cross and the guarantee that it gives that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).
Abraham experiences déjà vu when he introduces his beautiful wife to the local king. In a situation similar to his experience in Egypt, Abraham is faced with the same decision as before.
Stuck in a Rut
Abraham moved south to the Negev and lived for a while between Kadesh and Shur, and then he moved on to Gerar. While living there as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace.
Although Abraham is one of our heroes of faith, even he repeated the same mistakes. Abraham had used this lie to protect himself before (Genesis 12:11-13). By giving in to this temptation again, he risked creating a pattern. Sin is often a rut created over time. He risked making a habit of lying whenever he suspected his life was in danger. Abraham had his own selfish priorities at heart.
No matter how much we love God, some ruts are especially difficult to resist. These are worn into our hearts with a lifetime of behavior. As we struggle with these sins, we can be encouraged to know that God is breaking up the ground of our hearts just as he did for Abraham (see Jeremiah 4:3-4). But this can be painful. It certainly was for Abraham.
God later tested Abraham when he asked him to sacrifice Isaac. God did not want to watch Abraham fail. He wanted to deepen Abraham’s capacity to obey and thus to develop his character. God wanted to rearrange Abraham’s priorities.
What situation is requiring you to have faith right now? When we are tested, we can complain about the pain, or we can rejoice that God is at work in our hearts. Are you willing to believe that God is at work?
Streams in the Desert – May 3
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered (Joel 2:32).
Why do not I call on His name? Why do I run to this neighbor and that when God is so near and will hear my faintest call? Why do I sit down and devise schemes and invent plans? Why not at once roll myself and my burden upon the Lord?
Straightforward is the best runner–why do not I run at once to the living God? In vain shall I look for “deliverance anywhere else; but with God I shall find it; for here I have His royal shall to make it sure. I need not ask whether I may call on Him or not, for that word “Whosoever” is a very wide and comprehensive one. Whosoever means me, for it means anybody and everybody who calls upon God. I will therefore follow the leading of the text, and at once call upon the glorious Lord who has made so large a promise.
My case is urgent, and I do not see how I am to be delivered; but this is no business of mine. He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it. It is mine to obey His commands; it is not mine to direct His counsels. I am His servant, not His solicitor. I call upon Him, and He will deliver.
–C. H. Spurgeon