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For the last year or so I have been slowly working my way through the book of Romans. It has been at times one of the most humbling studies, while at others the most encouraging and up lifting. Let me share some of the hightlights of my last year of study.

  1. Foolishness. For a long time I attributed the foolishness of sin to the harmful effects that it has, such as hurting ourselves or others, but ultimately offending God. After considering Romans 1:22-23, I would suggest that the foolishness of sin does not stem from the consequences of sin, but rather from the surpassing value that we forsake in the act of sinning. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man …” Notice that folly is connected with the exchange of the glory of God for something else. A series contemplation of sin should lead us to realize the vanity, not to mention the offense, of it. We exchange the worship of insurpassible worth of God for the worship of worthless things – or rather things that must derive their worth from the God. We exchange the eternal enjoyment of God for the fleeting pleasure of sin. We exchange Him who is of infinitely good for the partaking of that which is infinitely destructive. No matter how you cut the cake we are fools for having abandonded the God who created us for the creation.
  2. Fear of God. While this shouldn’t have really seemed to be such a profound topic, I am some what slow to catch on sometimes. When on considers what the fundamental root of all sin is most people would say pride, the exultation of self, which seems like a fair assessment. But let me suggest we look at it from a different perspective – that the root of sin is ultimately the lack of fear (or reverence) for God. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (3:18) Now if we see God rightly, I think it would total change our perspective on everything. If we saw how holy and righteous and just God is would we not come to hate our sinfulness and rebellion against Him. If we saw how patient and kind and tolerate and gracious and merciful He is toward us would it not lead us to repentance (2:4) and to strive more diligently after personal holiness and devotion to God. If we saw how powerful and wise and good He was would we question His providential workings in our lifes or would we praise Him even in the days of trials and suffering. The way then to deal with sin is to behold more clearly the character of God.
  3. Soveriegnty of God and Justice. By far one of the most humbling passages to study was Romans 9 as Paul lays out the sovereignty of God is salvation. “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (9:16) It is an extraordanary thing to consider that ones eternal destiny is not in ones own hands. Or rather that if left to my own will or running that results would be eternal condemnation and God would be right and just and fair in carrying out my sentence. But yet what great encouragement it is to think that my eternal well fair is the hands of an ever faithful and loving God.
  4. Great Mercy and Great Love. Let me end with this last consideration, over the last year as I have contemplated the love of God particularly in light of Romans 5:1-11 and 8:28-39, I have been utterly amazed that God’s would show such love and compassion, such mercy and grace, toward one such as I. As I have contemplated this amazing reality even today, I am yet aware that I have only begun to scratch the surface of the “depths of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” It is my hope and prayer even for the years ahead that I would be more amazed at who Jesus Christ IS that would cause Him to do what He DID, so I may tell others about this great God and Savior.
  5. Christ and the Cross. Ok, I lied, I am compeled to add one more. I have come to realize that the glory of God is not simply found in the Cross (i.e. what Jesus did), but also in the Character of the One who hung upon it (i.e who Jesus is). Without Christ, the God-Man, the Cross is simply and instrument of dead. For it was the very nature of the One who hung on Calvary that gave the cross its meaning. It is Christ who turns a simply blood stained piece of wood into a vibrant demonstration of the glory of God. And without the Cross, we would never have seen the vibrancy and beauty of the glorious God in the person of Christ. For it was by means of the Cross that Christ manifest the glory of the Father in such a way to us that we might come again to fear and adore the one who we had foolishly forsaken. So Christians let us seek to stir one another up not only to love and good deeds, but to the beholding of the glory of God in the Person of Christ and in the Cross of Christ.
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“An act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereignty” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 670) 

Five Conditions of Election from Romans 9 

Before giving consideration to this chapter of Romans it is important for us to realize why Paul begins the argument he does in verse 6. Paul has just finished expounding the major tenants of the gospel. He began by showing the depravity and sinfulness of all man kind, both Jews and Gentiles (1:18-3:21), making particular reference to the fact that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly …but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Rom. 2:28-29). Then Paul made known the great doctrine of justification by faith alone using Abraham as the example for all who would follow in Romans 3-4. 

Having established the foundation of the faith, he then masterfully deals with outworking of grace in the life of the believer (sanctification) in chapters 5-7. But Paul continues his discussion of this amazing grace by bringing to its ultimate fulfillment in Romans 8, where he assures the Christian of the restoration of the creation and the final glorification of the saints. And He ends it with the great statement of Romans 8:38-39: 

“For I am convinced that neither death, no life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

An informed reader should find themselves at some what of a dilemma. If God chose Israel and loved Israel, then how can Paul assert that some Israelites are outside of salvation? Has God’s love failed? Has God’s word, His promises to Israel failed? Paul’s response shows us not only God’s basis or condition for choosing Israel, but for choosing all those who would be His people. 

  1. Conditioned upon the promise of God (9:6-9)

“That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but rather the children of promise are regarded as descendants.” (8) 

As his first illustration of God’s choosing people, he calls upon the example of Isaac and Ishmael. Here you had two sons from one father Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish faith. Yet it was not the son who was conceived by means of human wisdom and human effort (Gen. 16), but the son who was conceived by divine intervention that was regarded as the true beneficiary of the promises of God. 

It is significant to notice that God’s promise in Romans 9:9, which was made in Genesis 18:14 preceded the actual birth of Isaac. Thus God’s choice could not be based upon anything in Isaac, but rather Isaac was simple the offspring who fulfilled the divine purpose and proved the faithfulness of God’s word to both Abraham and Sarah. 

  1. Conditioned upon the calling of God (9:10-13)

For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, but because of Him who calls (11) 

In keeping with the line of patriarchs, Paul moves from Isaac to his sons Jacob and Esau. One might tempt to argue from the previous example that God’s choice stemmed from the condition in which they were born, Ishmael being born an illegitimate son of Hagar and Isaac being the legitimate son of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Yet the example of Jacob and Esau eliminates that possibility for they were both born to the same mother, Rebekah.  

However, God demonstrates his independence in choosing Jacob the younger brother over Esau. And in doing so God has established a condition that is contrary to the natural order of heredity. How could God declare before either of them were born or had done anything that the blessing and birthright that rightly would belong to the older would come to the younger? It is here we see that reality of Romans 8:38-39 begin to come to life. Why did Jacob prevail? It was because God loved him. 

  1. Conditioned upon the compassion of God (9:14-18)

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (16)

“So then, He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.” (18) 

In response to the possible object that God cannot indiscriminately choose whom ever He desires, Paul appeals to mans need for mercy. As Paul has made clear from the first 3 chapters of this epistle all of mankind stands in need of compassion and mercy from God.  God is not some how unjust because he does not extent mercy to someone. In fact, if there were a reason why God was indebted to show someone mercy, then it would no longer been an act of grace. Those who are truly God’s people are not those who have done anything, but rather simply those who discover the mercies of God. 

He here appeals to the example of Pharaoh as one who did not find mercy. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, he had already determined that His instructions to Pharaoh would not be accompanied with mercy, but rather demonstrations of God’s power. As a result of God’s revelation to Pharaoh, his heart was hardened and he was eventually destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea. It is interesting in midst of the discussions about living a Purpose Driven Life; I have never found many people who discuss the purpose of Pharaoh’s life. It seems that people are all too eager to presume that God who never allow them to suffer the same fait as Pharaoh. Yet Hebrews 3-4 contain serious exhortations to us to avoid the hardening of our own hearts. 

  1. Conditioned upon the will of God (9:19-26)

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (19)

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory,” (22-23) 

Using the imagery of a potter molding clay, Paul presses home the point that God’s choice depends upon God’s will and God’s purposes. This potter fashions from one lump of clay two different types of vessels: the one a vessel of wrath and the other a vessel of mercy. So too God fashions from the masses of humanity to distinct groups of people: those upon whom He will demonstrate His wrath and His power and those upon whom He will make known the riches of His grace. And just as the potter is sovereign over the clay, God is sovereign of mankind. 

We must also be willing to accept the reality of this verse as well. God has created some people who will not be saved, who will not experience His mercy, but upon whom He will glorify Himself through the demonstration of His wrath and revealing of His power. Yet at the same time we must recognize that the focal point of eternity will not be those who suffer wrath, but those who manifest the riches of His glory. Yet let us note with what patience God deals with those “prepared for destruction,” and let move us to bear with unbelievers patiently as well. 

  1. Conditioned upon the word of God (9:27-29)

“For the Lord will execute (make, cause) His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” (28) 

Since God as already laid out the plan of redemptive history in His Word, all that remains is for it to be executed on the earth. So here we see that the real reason why not all Israel is saved is because God has declared that it is only the remnant that will be saved. We as Christians, as those with the mind of Christ, stand in a unique position of being able to watch that which God has declare come to pass.  

This then finishes the argument that Paul began in verse 6, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” No just the opposite is true! The word of God has demonstrated itself to have been successful at what ever purposes God has established. Consider already just in this chapter how many times God’s word has shown itself true: the birth of Isaac, the choice of Jacob, the hardening of Pharaoh, the making of a people out of those who were formerly not a people, and the preservation of a remnant within Israel. 

Implications for Evangelism

  • First and foremost, if we are willing to recognize that the ultimate determining factor in a person’s salvation in God’s choice of them according to his own will, it should drive us to prayer. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” (Rom. 10:1) Notice the connection between the heart’s desire and prayer. Paul recognized that if His heart’s desire was to be fulfilled God was going to have to bring it to pass.

 

  • Second, since God’s calling and election of individuals has come to them through “the word of promise” (8-9), what He has said (12, 15), and the written word or Scripture (13, 17, 25-29), the responsibility falls to us to proclaim the promises of God, to preach the “word of Christ” (10:17). There is only one means by which those how have been chosen come to faith and that is through the word of God. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27) And how will his sheep hear His voice if what He has spoken is not made known to them?

Recently I addressed some of the characteristics of the reign of sin which have plagued the sons of Adam since the fall. Fortunately for us God by His grace through His Son has established another reign, which is not dependent upon the works of men, but rather supernaturally supercedes the sinfulness of men. As Paul puts it is Romans 5:21 “as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We can observe the following ways in which God’s grace triumphs over the reign of sin:  

  1. God’s sovereignty over grace. The sovereignty of God guards the guards the entrance into grace. “For He has said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15, Ex. 33:19). No one comes under the reign of grace unless they are born again by the Spirit and He is said to move where He wishes (Jn. 3)

“[Exodus 33:19] is a solemn declaration of the nature of God, or (which is the same things) a proclamation of his name and glory…It is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what God means to be God. This is his name.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 80)

“God made us alive and secured us in Christ so that he could make us the beneficiaries of everlasting kindness from infinite riches of grace. This is not because we are worthy. Quite contrary, it is to show the infinite measure of his worth. Grace would not be grace if it were a response to resources of kindness. Grace is grace because it highlights God’s own overflowing resources of kindness. Grace is eternal because it will take that long for God to expend inexhaustible stores of goodness on us. Grace is free because God would not be the infinite, self-sufficient God he is if he were constrained by anything outside himself.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 83)

  1. By grace God provides a sacrifice for sin. “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone) (Heb 2:9)
  2. By grace God justifies the ungodly.
    (Rom. 3:24-26, 4:5)
  3. By grace God elects the undeserving. Because of our depravity and our rebellion against God, the very act of God by which He predestined some to salvation in Christ is an act of grace on our behalf. (Rom 9:10-16; 11:5)
  4. By grace God grants promises to the unfaithful. “By His own glory and excellence …He has granted us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 2:3-4)
  5. By grace God promises are guaranteed. (Rom. 4:16)
  6. By grace God gives faith to the unbelieving. (Eph. 2:8-9)
  7. By grace God grants repentance to sinners.  if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Tim. 2:25)
  8. By grace God gives wisdom to the foolish. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (
    Jam. 1:5)
  9. By grace God gives strength to the weak. “After you have suffered for a little which the God of all grace…will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Pet. 5:10, 2 Cor. 12:9)
  10. By grace God edifies others. (Eph. 4:29)
  11. By grace God grants peace to former enemies. (Rom. 8:1)
  12. By grace God bears fruit on formerly barren branches. (Rom. 5:21, 6:22; Eph 2:10)
  13. By grace God gives eternal life. (Rom. 5:21, 6:22)
  14. By grace God answers the prayers of those in need. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

Let me leave you with the words of Charles Spurgeon as he describes the throne of grace from which God rules over His people:

“If it is throne of grace, all the needs of those who come to it will be supplied. The King on such a throne will not say, “You must bring me gifts and sacrifices.” It is not a throne for receiving tribute; it is a throne for dispensing gifts. Come, then, you who are poor as poverty itself, having no merits and destitute of virtues and reduced to a beggarly bankruptcy by Adam’s fall and your own transgressions. This is not the throne of majesty that supports itself by the taxation of its subjects, but a throne that glorifies itself by streaming forth like a fountain with floods of good things. “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isa. 55:1). All the petitioner’s needs shall be supplied because it is a throne of grace.” (Charles Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, 24)

In Romans 5, Paul shows how in one man, Adam, all were condemned, while in One Man, Christ, all are justified. In the concluding verse of this chapter we read, “as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I have found this distinction between a reign of sin and a reign of grace more and more intriguing as I have been studying the the fact that the gospel is by grace alone this last week. It seems that all men fall into one of two camps they are either being ruled by sin or they are being ruled by grace (Rom. 3:9ff, Rom 5:12-14). In this thread, I want to take a moment and highlight some of the main characteristics of the reign of sin that came to my mind.

  1. Sin sets self as sovereign. Having rejected the rule of God, men seek to establish themselves as sovereign. “In those days there was no king in
    Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judg 17:6, cf. Deut. 18:8, Prov. 21:2)
  2. Sin loves foolishness. Having rejected the knowledge of God, men seek to establish guidance for their lives based on their own speculations about what could be or should be (Rom. 1:21, Rom. 3:10, Prov. 1:7). A quick read the book of Proverbs shows over and over again that fools love folly, and they despise wisdom.
  3. Sin pursues unrighteousness (self-righteousness). Without God or His wisdom to guide them, men are left to pursue a “righteousness” which is defined on their own terms, which is really not righteousness at all. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).
  4. Sin follows paths of destruction and misery. Without God as the greatest enjoyment, they are always exploring looking for new things to satisfy them. In their pursuit of “happiness”, they are willing to use what ever means necessary, including deception and violence. (
    Rom. 3:13-16,
    Jam. 4:1-4)
  5. Sin never brings peace. Because they are always looking to expand their own rule and authority, they are always at war. They cannot have peace until all who stand in their way have succumbed to their own rule. (Rom. 3:17)
  6. Sin brings death. Since all the works of men are tainted by sin, they only serve to earn them death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, to assert that a person must do works in order to obtain salvation is impossible because no one is capable of doing any good works unless they first are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), “whatever is not from faith is sin.”

These things should all serve as a good heart check for all of us. Are we always looking for something more or something new? Do we find ourselves always restless? How do we approach life? How do we decide which path to take? How do we respond when we don’t get our way? If our approach to answering this questions, begins with ourself or worldly wisdom and proceeds to answer them or achieve some ends no matter the cost, then it is likely that our lives are being ruled by our own sinful hearts rather than by the grace of God.

In my reading this last week, I came upon a rather profound statement:

What a mystery, the soul and eternity of one man depends on the voice of another!”

At first thought some of you might think that is a bit of a stretch, especially if your a Calvinist. I mean after all we know that “the soul and eternity of a man” ultimately depends upon God. He is the One who predestines, who calls, who justifies, and who will finally glorify His elect (Rom. 8:28-30). But have we forgotten that God works through human means. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)
I think sometimes those who hold to what some would label as “Calvinistic” doctrine are more likely to fall into what could more rightly be labeled “hyper-Calvinistic.” We don’t see much of a need to act like ambassadors or to make an appeal to other men.

Have we forgotten that the God ordained means of saving people is through the preaching (or teaching) of the Word of God.

“Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)

As I have thought about this the last few days, I have been increasingly aware at how self absorbed we can be (myself included). How often do we tend to our day to day affairs and never stop to consider that if the people in our lives do not know the gospel, if they do not know the God of the gospel, if they do not believe the gospel, they will perish in their sins. It is true that we do not know whom God has chosen for salvation, but should we not preach as though they all were. Or should we assume that God has chosen none and therefore keep our mouths closed.

The way I see it we really have two choices:

1) We continue to be self absorbed people who care nothing for the salvation of others and continue to keep the truth about God and His gospel to ourselves.

2) We start acting like ambassadors of the King, who love God and love others enough to declare to all men everywhere the greatness of God and the beauty of the Savior.

Oh, that God would teach us all to be the latter!

It was not to long ago that there was a major debate within evangelical circles over whether a person could have Christ as savior and not have Him as Lord. As I have studied the 6th chapter of Romans this last week, I realized that “Lordship” is really at the heart of the gospel.

In the closing chapter 5, Paul tells us “as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”  (Rom. 5:21). Paul has just informed us of one of the greatest contrasts in history. On one hand, you have sin and death entering into the world through the transgression of one man (Adam), and on the other you have righteousness entering into the world through one righteous act of one man (Christ). Paul wants us to understand that through Adam their came a “reign” of sin, while in Christ their has come a “reign” of grace.

In chapter 6, Paul then sets for this great truth that through Christ their comes a change in the reigning, or lording, influence in a persons life. Paul then develops how this change of “Lordship” takes place on both a theological level and a practical level.

Theologically: First Paul in 6:3-11 shows us that the change of ruling principal in a persons life comes from their union with Christ. Having been united with Christ, they have become shares in His death, so when Christ surrendered to the control of death, the believer did also. However, when Christ rose again in triumph over the reign of death, the believer arose to a new life with Him. To put it simply, the believer has been crucified with Christ and now Christ lives in them. (cf. Gal. 2:20)  As Paul explains later when a person becomes a believer they are not only freed from sin, but are also enslaved to righteousness. Sin is no longer the lord of their life, but God is.

Practically: Paul then devotes 6:12-21 to instruct the believer to act out this truth. They are to present their members as instruments of righteousness, rather than as instruments of evil. They are to act in such a way as will reflect this great truth. Sin is no longer the ruling principal in their lives. It does not tell them how to act or how to think or how to feel, but rather God becomes their sovereign and grace becomes their teacher. So Paul tells us in Titus,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

It seems pretty clear to me that there really is a “Lordship” controversy going on the world today and it has everything to do with salvation. Those who are still under the reign of sin are also under the reign of death. Those whose lives are controlled by sinful desires are likely still in their sins and have not truly come to Christ despite any confession they may have made to the contrary.

But those who are truly united with Christ will show themselves to be no longer under the lordship of sin, but now under the lordship of God. The ruling principal in their hearts will be the grace of God, which was purchased at the cost of God’s only Beloved Son. And as the love of God is poured out in their hearts and the appreciation of this grace grows, they will be more and more conformed into the image of their Savior. And this change orignated in the heart, therefore, it cannot be produced by the will of man or human effort, but only by God effectually changing the heart of the man through His grace.

Having consider the text of Romans 5 and 6 for the last few weeks, I am beginning to realize just how indebted to grace we are. Not only have we been justified by grace, but we have introduced into grace (Rom. 5:2). And this grace is not simple a justifying grace, it has a much greater influence.

You see the problem with sin is not just the judgment that if brings, but the influence over the life a person that it wields. Thus we find in Romans 5 that all men have fallen into sin with Adam, and because of Adam’s sin there has come a reign of sin and death. As Paul has already said in Romans 3:9 “we are all under sin.” Thus the chief problem of the human dilemma is not simply the need to be freed from the penalty of sin, but from sins influence as well. For it is the natural disposition of the human heart to yield to the controlling influence of sin.

But God’s grace as established a new reign, a reign of grace (5:21). It is because of their union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7) that believers have been set free from their enslavement to sin. However, having been set free from the reign of sin, the believer has now come under the reign of grace and as a result has been enslaved to righteousness.

There is however a great danger that has arose through out the history of Christendom. It may be label by various names. Catholicism. Liberal Evangelicalism. Non-Lordship salvation. It is that form of teaching which encourages people to leave off seeking grace, when there is no evidence of grace in their lives. The say, “peace, peace” where there is not peace. They tell people they have been introduced into grace when there is no proven character to show that the love of God has been poured out in their hearts (Rom. 5:1-5) .

So let us always be seeking for grace, lest we be decieved by our own hearts and yet under the reign of sin.

 Romans 12:9-13 is one of those passages that always seems to get under my skin, probably because every time I read it I am reminded of some way that I fail to show love for others. Paul begins this section by calling the believers in Rome to “let love be without hypocrisy,” and then proceeds to give some descriptions of what love without hypocrisy should be like. For the sake of something different, I will present them as ways in which to promote hypocritical love in the hopes that we might better see the ways in which we breed hypocrisy in our lives.

  1. Instead of abhorring what is evil, abhor what is good. The first step to having hypocritical love is to hate all that is good. Just think about the last time someone held the door for you. Can you believe that they had the nerve to do something nice? It would have been better if they would have slammed the door in your face.  
  2. Instead of clinging to what is good, cling to what is evil. This is really just the flip side of step one. Once you have decided that you are going to hate all that is good, it only makes sense that you will want what is evil. I have seen this expressed in my own life, as well as others. It is sad to see those times when a person is so committed to holding onto their sin, even at the sake of their own soul.
  3. Instead of being devoted to one another, give up as soon as possible. If you still are looking for another way to show just how hypocritical your love can be, pail out when those you “love” need you the most. You know when your best friend’s life is like a country song: their dog died, their wife left them, they lost their job, etc, instead of helping them to bear their burden, find the quickest exit and let them handle it on their own.
  4. Instead of giving preference to one another, demand that preference be given to you. Yet another great way to demonstrate a hypocritical love is to demand that you be the center of attention. You know the next time you and a friend want to go to a movie make sure it is the one that you want to seen, because the last thing you would to do is let someone else have their way.
  5. Instead of keeping up with the pack, make sure you lag behind in diligence. I am sure we have all seen this. We are a part of a group and there is always that one person who lets the rest of us to all the work. If you want to have a hypocritical love, make sure you’re that person. Make sure that you sit around and let every one else handle the work that needs to be done. If the 80/20 rule is true that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, then that is clear evidence that 80% of the people are lagging behind.
  6. Instead of being fervent in spirit, be apathetic. That’s right the last thing you want to do is to give someone the idea that you really care or that you really want to help. So when you know someone needs help instead of being excited to help, just pretend like you don’t care. After all someone else will take care of it eventually.
  7. Instead of serving the Lord, serve yourself. Probably the most effective way to promote a love full of hypocrisy is to make sure that everything you do has you at the center of it. Instead of letting service be done for and to God, endeavor to have it done for and to you. (I hope you are beginning to see just how disgusting love with hypocrisy can be, and there are still five to go… )
  8. Instead of rejoicing in hope, act depressed and without hope. I’ll be the first to admit that this one can come pretty naturally to me. Instead of “considering it all joy” as James says, you sulk in self pity, saying, “Woe is me!” Until some someone comes along and is willing to devote their time to trying to cheer you up. 
  9. Instead of persevering in tribulation, give up. Much like #3, only this time the shoe is on the other foot. Instead of someone else being a trial and needing you to help them out, you are the one in the midst of the fire. If you want to promote hypocritical love, then despite all the encouragement of friends give up anyway. I have to say the ultimate example is probably the person who commits suicide. They lack love for others so much that they are willing to give up on life. 
  10. Instead of being devoted to prayer, don’t even think about other people. What another great way to be a hypocrite. Tell someone you care about them that you love them, and then spend absolutely no time asking God to help them. Act like you care when your with them, but then don’t give them another moments thought after you leave.
  11. Instead of contributing to others needs, keep everything for yourself. This is probably one of the most practice steps of loving in hypocrisy in the United States. You go get the best job that you can, and then you come home and spend all your money on yourself. You don’t stop and thing about the needs of other people in the church or in your community at large or even about needs that exist in other parts of the world.
  12. Instead of practicing hospitality, lock yourself in your room. The final step to practicing love in hypocrisy is to simply avoid people all together. Make sure that you never invite anyone over to your house, and be sure to reject any invitations…after all you’re supposed to abhor what is good, see step 1.

If you have read this far, I hope that you are about as sick to your stomach as I am to be even thing about these things. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us, Christians included, act exactly the way that I described. Our love is seeded with hypocrisy. So let us all take the words of Romans 12:9-13 to heart,

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saint, practicing hospitality.” And may God grant us the grace to live a life of love without hypocrisy.

“but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:12)

As I was studying Romans 4:12 the other day I was struck by the consideration of “the steps of the faith of our father Abraham.” Paul’s point in the argument of Romans here is to make clear that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness prior to the receiving of circumcision (a work). But I had to ask what did the steps of Abraham’s faith look like?

He did not boast about His faith. Abraham never seem to be a man who boasted about having faith. He never went out and said, “Hey, look at me I am a follower of God.” Ironically, when Abraham did interact with those outside his immediate circle, he was at times prone to lie to them (bout His wife). He never went around telling everyone, “Hey, you would never believe the promises that God has made to me.” He seems to have just been an ordinary man whom God saw fit to bless.

His faith was “wordless.” What I mean by wordless is that Abraham did not describe his faith to others. I don’t seem to recall Abraham going around and talking to people about God’s sovereignty or His immutability or His kindness or any other attribute. I should note, however, that Christians today are called to defend “sound doctrine,” which calls for the use of words (see 1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 1:13  and Titus 2)

His faith was “living.” I chose the word living to highlight the use of Abraham in James 2 as an example of someone who did not have “dead” faith. You see Abraham’s faith was primarily reflected in his actions and conversations with God. God calls Abraham out Haran, Abraham goes (Gen 12). God tells him He will have a son, he believes and continues trying to have a son, although with his wife’s maidservant (Gen 15-16). God tells him to circumcise every male as a sign of the covanent, he does it (Gen. 17). God tells Abraham of His intent to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham calls on God to demonstrate His righteousness by preserving the righteous (Gen. 18-19). God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham goes and tries to do it (Gen 22). Abraham’s faith was demonstrate through the life that he lived, thus it was a living faith. A faith that evidenced itself deeds and not merely words.

Let this be a fresh reminder to all of us who claim to believe in Jesus Christ. Does our faith demonstrate itself through our actions? Or just in our words? We talk about a sovereign God, but do we act as though He is sovereign? We say he is omniscient, but do we live as though He knows every thought and deed we have done, are doing, and will yet do? We say he is righteous and just, yet do we live as though the sins we commit will be rightly judged? We say that there is forgiveness with Him and that our sins have been forgiven, but do we act like we have been forgiven?

Over the last few days I have been thinking a lot about Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is a verse probably as well known as the old children’s rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosy.” Many of us I am sure remember playing the game as a child. We would spin around in a circle and then we would “all fall down.” So too it seems that all of mankind though created in the image of God has fallen down…or should I say “fallen short.”

It struck me as interesting as I considered this verse that the verbs were not in the same tense. First, we are told that all “have sinned.” Here the verb is in the past tense, pointing to a already accomplished reality. Each and every person (except Jesus of course) has committed sin. They have violated God’s holy standard. They have rebelled against the knowledge of His revealed character (Rom. 1:18ff). The other verb tells us that we all “fall short”. Here the verb is in the present tense indicating an on going reality. It seems likely that this state is a result of the first. We have sinned and as a result we are short of the “glory of God.” We have become thoroughly unrighteous, while He has remained thoroughly righteous.

Yet what struck me the most though was the consideration of why we don’t realize just how short we fall. We don’t appreciate the depth of our depravity, because we don’t have an appreciation of the glory of God. Romans 1:22-23 says, “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.” It seems evident to me that the reason we don’t see how far short we fall is because, we have replaced the glory of God with the image of a god of our own choosing. Indeed we would rather be the “fool who has said in his heart, ‘There is no God!'” (Ps. 14:1, Ps. 53:1).

It is only when we see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” that we begin to recognize the how far short we fall. With out the revelation of the glory of God through Christ, we would continue to be lost in the futile speculation that resulted from our denial of the Creator as revealed through His creation. Despite what some might think the glory of God manifest in creation will never save anyone, it will only serve as a basis for their condemnation.