Category Archives: God’s Glory

Passing on the Faith

Title: Passing On the Faith

Text: Psalm 78


Psalm 78 is a song about discipleship: passing on God’s mercy to our children. In times of duress and stress, it is so important that our Children know of God’s goodness.

There are times in our lives that we’re just like the people in the Bible: we walk away from what we know is best. We fail, we fall, we sin, we rebel. In those moments of disobedience, God will not bless us in our sin. I think that’s a hard and fast principle we could write down. God will not bless us in our sin and rebellion.

But we look at it differently, for some reason it seems God has abandoned us. And that just isn’t the case. There are numerous passages in the Psalms we could choose from to learn these principles. They’re often called Wisdom Psalms (1; 14; 37; 49; 53; 73; 78; 112; 119). Of these, we’ll be in Psalm 78 today.

I’ve chosen the 78th Psalm because it had an impact on my purpose statement.

When I was in Seminary, from 90-94, I had a professor who challenged us to write out a purpose statement for our lives. He said that it might change some through the years, but that it would probably stay pretty consistent. I worked hard on the project and came up with the following:

I will strive with skillful hands to build and equip leaders

To accomplish the Great Commission

By being an example of service,

An effective communicator of God’s Word

And a faithful and loving husband and father

As I work daily to conform to the character of Christ.

That first part of the first line was inspired, I guess I should say, by Psalm 78.72. I read it in the NIV, which was my choice of Bible Versions in those years. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

Two parts: the heart and the hand. Now, there is a lot information in Scripture on these two parts the person. Let me ask you from Psalm 24:

  3    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

And who shall stand in his holy place?  Answer:

   He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to what is false

and does not swear deceitfully.

   He will receive blessing from the Lord

and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

The idea I think is two-fold: it’s who you are on the inside and what you do on the outside. This was David – a man after God’s own heart.

And now you see where I was going in this Psalm. In reviewing this recently, I was reminded of the purpose of the whole Psalm. So, what is the make-up of this whole Psalm? It ends with this statement about David and this two-fold dedication to the Lord and the Lord’s people. How did we get here? Remember: Context is King.

The Psalm is broken up into three main sections:

  • God’s Call to Instruction and it’s purpose.    
  • Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion.
  • God’s Choosing: Rejection & Election

But there is one that expresses the need for discipleship and the goodness of God, in spite of our failures; Ps 78; look there with me…

I. God’s Call to Instruction (1-11)

exp.: I mentioned earlier that this is what is referred to as a Wisdom Psalm. Some scholars call it an Instructional Psalm. I think both terms work well because Wisdom is what you do with the instruction you’ve been given.

ill.: I was working on the hub that houses my breaks on a Subaru some decades ago. I called Grandaddy long distance to ask him about what I was doing. He asked where I was in the process and what I’d done. I told him and he told me to stop. If I did one more thing, the housing would fall out onto the ground in 78 different little pieces. Then, I’d never get it all back together without the help of a mechanic. Had he not stopped me, I’m sure I would have destroyed that housing unit and it would have cost me a fortune to get it all fixed.

Now, it’s one thing to act in ignorance, but another to act with knowledge. I would say I acted wisely and left that housing unit alone! Wisdom is what you do with the knowledge you have.

exp.: if you think about it, foolishness is the same equation: What if I told Granddaddy to take a hike and then proceeded to destroy the housing? That would have been foolish. It all comes down to what you do with the instruction – the knowledge.

app.: That’s what this Psalm is all about. Acting wisely with the information you receive.

Exp.: rd v 1; this is the call to wisdom and instruction; rd v 2-4; Let us teach our children of God’s goodness and grace in order that they might trust him and walk with him, too. So, there is the call, then there is the purpose behind the call. That’s clarified even further in v 5-8; rd 5-8; v 7 – so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; Derek Kidner calls this a “three chord strand of faith”:

  1. The Heart A deep abiding personal Trust in God.
  2. The Mind – never forgetting the works of God; Informed thinking.
  3. The Will – An exercised and obedient will – lived out before others.

AND, this is what the Israelites did not do! A three-chord strand of faithlessness: stubborn and rebellious actions (failure to obey), a heart not steadfast (forgetful) and a spirit not faithful to God (and faithless).

Truth: This life that is lived out is what is taught to the younger generation. I think what has hurt us – those of us 55 and older – this is why for many of us, our children don’t want to have anything to do with church or God. What has hurt us is that our teaching hasn’t matched the experience of the younger generation. This younger generation – millennials, they don’t want to hear it, they want to see it. And what they hear doesn’t match what they see.

Personal Question: Do my children and my grandchildren know about God’s Call on my life? Where I was, what he brought me out of? Do they know of His miraculous provision in times of struggle – how he answered prayer in time of need? The time we prayed for a car or money to buy one because we needed it? At Nahalem where God provided miraculously for our mission.

t.s.: Indeed, this is what happened with Israel; and from verse 9 down through v66, the Psalm teaches about the foolishness of the Israelites who rejected God’s Word (9-11) and their forgetfulness, failing remember God’s Works.

II. Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion (12-66)

exp.: In all of these verses – and we won’t read them all – we see God’s Faithfulness on display in spite of Israel’s Failures; This is much of what we see in Acts 8, where Stephen recites the failures of Israel and accuses the current Israelites of being no different. What happens now is the writer preaches a sermon from history (12-32).

  • The Miracles from God are Forgotten: 12-16; note “He did”; mark down everything God did for them;
  • Their Rebellion is expressed through Grumbling and Complaining: 17-20; note “they did”; that’s foolishness; these people just can’t be happy with what God has done for them.
  • God’s Anger is poured out on their unbelief: 21-31; just as faith and trust are displayed through behavior, so is unbelief; ‘therefore’; his wrath was stirred, and “he commanded”, “he rained”, “he caused”
  • Their repentance was meaningless and short-lived: 32-39; 40 is a transitional verse to the next section; like a good sermon, there are examples:

app.: Repetition of Ingratitude: a cycle continues of God’s blessings, how they forget God’s and his Work and choose to sin and rebel and grumble and complain.

  • In the Wilderness
  • In the Promised Land

t.s.: God’s Call to Instruction; Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion; God’s Choosing: Election & Rejection;

III. God’s Choosing: Rejection and Election (67-72)

exp.: He rejects Israel, the Northern Kingdom; He chooses Judah, the Southern Kingdom; He establishes the Sanctuary in Jerusalem; and, He chooses and establishes the throne of David; the last 3 verses are all about David; it is these last three verses that I’d like to spend the rest of our time on:

  1. His Calling: rd 70; His calling is found in 1 Samuel 16; Samuel travels to Bethlehem to visit Jesse. He goes there to find a king – a new king to replace Saul. Jesse’s sons are paraded before Samuel. The first son appears, and Samuel is impressed.

Picking up in v5; And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

The rest of the boys are seen by Samuel, but God chooses none of them. It turned out that the youngest was out working with Sheep.

11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.

Our text in Psalm 78 reads: He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.

  1. His Experience: I love that God used his experience as a shepherd throughout his life to make him the leader he was.

ill.:  In the next chapter there in 1 Samuel, David faces Goliath. When Saul asks him about facing this giant, David takes Saul into his Game Room. Do you guys in the Hill Country know what a Game Room is? I’m talking about a man cave where a man has put all of his trophy deer and elk and whatnot!

David took Saul and showed him his stuffed lion. He also showed him his stuffed Bear. 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

  1. David took those skills and shepherded the people of Israel. He defended them. He led them. He loved them. He did so, it reads, with and upright heart and a skillful hand.

app.: he appears to be an example of the person God is calling his people to be. He is an example of who the Messiah would be.

t.s.: And that’s why instruction is so important – it gives us the foundation we need to trust our God in all things. It points others to Christ.

So, what are our take-a-ways this morning – Conclusion:

  1. God has always been good! His mercy endures forever! This needs to be taught and passed on.
    1. As a church – that’s my job and what we’re doing here this morning.
    1. As individuals – Our failure begins when we forget the miracles of God! His Provision; His Care; His Tenderness; With this in mind, let me ask…
  2. What has God done in your life that you’d testify to?
    1. As a church?
    1. As an individual?
    1. What prayers has he answered that communicate his goodness and grace? That needs to be taught and passed on to the next Generation.
    1. Can I ask, may I be so bold as to ask: Instead of a testimony of the glories of God, do we pass on Murmurs of Unrest? Do we grumble and complain?
  3. Do you have any monuments to God in your home or yard or office? A rock, a chair, a memento from camp, a book? etc.
    1. These are great reminders for us. In those tough times, we remember when God brought us through. We must not forget the miracles of God!
    1. These are great testimonies to others.
    1. We must be careful not to make them idols…
  4. The Lord’s Supper is a great example for us…

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Filed under Christian Living, Discipleship, Evangelism, God's Glory, Psalms, Scripture

The Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God!

Text: Romans 3.1-8

Introduction: What do you do when you encounter two truths in the bible that seem to be contradictory? Surely you’ve crossed some. Surely throughout the time you’ve been reading Scripture, either you’ve encountered it or someone one brought it to your attention – maybe in a dialogue or a debate about something: two immutable truths that contradict each other…at least as far as you can see.

That’s what we have today: something that looks like two irreconcilable truths about God. The question for us this morning is: what do we do when that happens? Here is my answer and the direction I’ll be headed all morning: Your confusion should lead you to the Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God.

In the text today, Paul will introduce an imaginary person to debate with him. I say imaginary. He may have been a very real person from one of Paul’s discussions with the Jews at one time or another. Or maybe these are different arguments raised by various people at different times.

Scripture Reading: Let’s read this short text. Read: 3.1-8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Boy, let that last sentence resonate in the air: Their condemnation is just.

If you’re confused here, join the crowd. This is a tough passage. Tom Schreiner, professor of NT at Southern Baptist Seminary, says in his commentary on Romans that this is the toughest passage in Romans. I hope to make it not so tough by the time we’re through.

To start out, I don’t want you to focus on the relative pronoun their. Typically, I think one would ask such questions as who, what, when, where, why, But let’s take this differently. I want you to focus in on what. What is happening here or what is going to happen?

Someone is being condemned for their behavior, for their actions and God, who does the condemning, is just in this action.

And don’t forget v6 which says God will judge the world. This is where the text is headed: condemnation. That is really where Paul has been headed all along. That’s why he so desperately wanted to preach the gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles. It is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, but for the Gentile also.

But back to the beginning of this text, he’s just been declaring in 2.25-29 (the passage we looked at last week) that God will regard uncircumcised Gentiles who keep the law as circumcised Jews. And, to add insult to injury, circumcised Jews who do not keep the letter of the law (which is impossible) will be judged by those Gentiles. If that is so, Paul’s imaginary friend asks, then what advantage is there to being Jewish? Which is what we see there in verse 1.


Objection #1: what advantage has the Jew?

Paul, you’re wrong. If what you’re saying is true, then there is no advantage in being Jewish. It would appear that Paul is being trip upped here. You’d expect him to say that there isn’t any advantage, but he doesn’t. Instead, he begins a list of the advantages the Jews have. rd v 2; It sounds like he is starting a list here. And, he really is, it just that he only mentions the first item on this list at this time. Turn to chapter 9 in this book where he continues this list. We pick up in v 4: They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Now you know where the list is… let’s get back to our text. 1st off, Paul says, the Jews have the oracles of God (lit.: τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ). So, they have God’s Word and in that Scripture, they have His promises to them.

That is huge! No one else has recorded what God has said. It was given to them. All of his promises and predictions. Their heritage, his love, his intercession.

Transition: Well then, speaking of his oracles, his sayings…with that in mind – if the promises of God are true and Salvation is of the Jews, then what if some of the Jews are unfaithful? What if they never turn to him through the Messiah? He said he would save the Jews – He said the Messiah would come and save them… what if they never do respond? What if they are unfaithful… as the overwhelming majority of them appear to be? Rd v 3;


Objection #2: What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

This sounds like a pretty good question. If the advantage is theirs in every way, then what if some Jews are unfaithful? If 1) salvation is of the Jews, and 2) you can only be saved by coming to Christ, then will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? Yeah, Paul! If indeed the advantage is theirs, then can they jack all of this up by not following God? Does that mess up what God is doing?

Paul, answers quickly in v 4: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Let God be true though every one were a liar! Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter what anyone does – God is faithful, that’s his nature. He can’t be unfaithful. His promises will stand and it doesn’t depend on humans. At All!

Then, to clarify and put an exclamation point on his declaration, Paul quotes from David to back up his statement. His quote comes from Psalm 51. Let’s go there. Rd Psalm 51.1-4 …so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. David is saying that his sin is what God uses to magnify his own glory. David sinned and God now uses that sin to show his own perfection. He alone can judge that sin. He alone can condemn that sin. Do you catch that? He says: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Wow! This is some pretty deep theology here. I act according to the will of God. And God, then, is justified and blameless in his judgment against me.

Here’s the conversation: Paul says the unbelieving, circumcised Jews will be judged by the believing, uncircumcised Gentiles. These Gentiles will get into heaven and the Jews will not. “So, Paul, let me ask you a question then: if that’s true, then what advantage is there in being Jewish?” They expect the answer to be none which they know is wrong. But Paul says what they know to be true. Every advantage! I mean, they have the very oracles of God! The Jews know the oracles of God promise salvation to Israel. They then offer a very real possibility: What if some Jews are unfaithful? Won’t their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? You can’t have it both ways! Paul says: No! It isn’t just if some Jews are unfaithful, but even if every single man who ever lived were found to be a liar, God is still righteous and true and faithful!

Here is what Paul is saying: God doesn’t need man to do anything to vindicate Him. He is vindicated in himself. He is perfectly sufficient in himself.

David, a hero to the Jews, says that God uses this sin of David’s to glorify Himself. David, a man after God’s own heart! God is just to judge his sin of murdering Uriah. He is just and blameless to judge his adultery with Bathsheba.

So, let us sum up what Paul has said to this point:

  • Yes, Jews have advantages, like having the very Word of God entrusted to them.
  • However, that doesn’t bring entitlement. If they are unbelieving, then they will be judged for their unbelief.
  • This action by God does not call into question God’s faithfulness (his truth or his righteousness). Let every man be found a liar and God will still be found faithful!
  • Instead of God being found unfaithful, the sin of those God judges vindicates God in his judgment. David teaches us this truth in his colossal failure. The sin of Israel is the very thing that magnifies God’s righteousness in judgment. God is justified and blameless in his judgment.

Transition: Ok… You’re saying that when we Jews who are the elect of God and have all of God’s promises and covenants, when we sin, God is justified in his action against us.

Contradiction: If God is vindicated in his judgment against our sin and our sin brings glory to God, then what right has God to judge us for our sin? You said it yourself, Paul: we’re glorifying God and you can’t judge God Glorifiers!

This is their third objection. We see it in v 5:


Objection #3: But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?

Paul adds this little parenthetical statement: I speak in a human way. It is his subtle way of saying that the Fear of God fills him just to utter these words – to speak against God in this manner. What person in their right mind would make such an objection!?! But these Jews who debate him utter such words. They say: Paul, if you’re saying that our sin glorifies God, then isn’t God wrong to judge us for the very thing that brings him glory? Paul screams out: μὴ γένοιτο. May it never be! Rd v 6; If that were the case, then God couldn’t even judge the Gentiles (which, of course, the Jews are fine with).

I think some would consider v 7 another objection, but it appears to me to be a repeat of the previous arguments, only pushed further. Rd v 7;

This can be seen in two ways:

  1. This is Paul’s defense against their accusation. Paul is saying, if you truly believe this, then why do you accuse me of being a liar, and condemn me as a sinner? Why don’t you call me a God Glorifyer? You, are the one talking out of both sides of your mouth. I don’t think this is what he’s doing. I don’t take v 7 this way. Here’s how I see it:
  2. This is a repeated argument of v4, which is their objection and pushed to the extreme. My sin, my unfaithfulness, my lie glorifies God, huh? Then, why am I condemned as a sinner? And v 8 clarifies. Rd v 8; And, if that is the case, then why not sin all the more to bring God even more glory?

Paul’s answer is in today’s jargon: Really?

You see, these are not new objections being raised at all. These are the same arguments, only pushed to the extreme with the hopes of making Paul’s thesis look lame.

Here is their problem:

  1. They think too highly of themselves.

a.They think they’re entitled because God chose them to be his people. And this comes in spite of the fact that they’ve been told that it has nothing to do with them. Deuteronomy teaches us that it wasn’t because they were larger than other people groups. Indeed they were smaller. It wasn’t because they were already successful and independent. They were slaves! They had forgotten from whence they came. They had forgotten the rock from which they were hewn.

b. They think they’ll avoid the judgment of God because they have his law, ceremony and the temple. But this is what that means: They began to love the things of God and not God. They began to love his laws and use them by which to measure his love. They loved their ceremonies – because they were festive and fun and traditional. They loved their rituals, because they were memorized and they followed them so closely. And it all became about them. They thought too highly of themselves!

2. They don’t think highly enough of God. I think it is so easy to replace God with God things. And this is something they were guilty of, too. We have to be very careful… watchful, even, that we don’t begin to love the things of God more than we love Him.

Application: Paul is showing us how great God is, but these people just don’t see it. This is all about God and how Great He is.

  1. God is Good. He has been so good to the Jews to choose them as his own. He gave them an inheritance. He made them into a people, a nation. He gave them his word and his promises. He has, likewise, been so good to us in much the same manner.
  2. God is faithful. Though all humans through all of human history fail God and prove themselves to be liars, their actions would not nullify the faithfulness of God. You can bank on that today. What he has said, he will accomplish. God is faithful and true!
  3. God is righteous. He is righteous in all of his deeds. He is righteous in his judgment. He is righteous in his punishment. He is perfectly righteous in all His ways.
  4. God is sufficient in Himself. God doesn’t need us to do anything to get done what he wants. Sure he uses us to accomplish what he desires, but he doesn’t have to. He isn’t lonely. He didn’t create us because he was alone. Paul will get here in chapter 11. We don’t have any counsel he needs. We don’t have any gifts or talents to bring that makes him say, ‘Oh, thank you, I needed that.’ God is totally sufficient in Himself.

Can I ask you this morning some questions:

  1. Do you think more highly of yourself than you ought? Is it too rude of me to say: Get over yourself! God chose you, but not because there is anything particularly good in you. You don’t have anything to bring him, except this filthy bag of bones and flesh.
  2. Have you replaced your love for him with God things? Is Christian music your devotional material? Do you listen to preachers on the radio listening for sermons that make you feel good about yourself? Motivational Preachers? Or is your first love God and do you run to his word to hear from Him?
  3. Do you see God for the Great God He is? Are you awed by His majesty? Overwhelmed by his mercy? Overcome by his goodness? Swept away by His glory? Don’t let the things you don’t understand push you away from God. Instead, let the things you don’t understand demonstrate your weakness and his profound greatness.

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The Unyielding Glory of God

Text: Romans 2.17-24

Introduction: This morning I’m in two texts: Isaiah and Romans. Turn to Isaiah 50 and mark your place there. Then, turn to Romans 2, beginning in v 17.

Last week we looked the first part of Romans where Paul pulled the ole’ bait and switch. He took a page from Amos and got the Jews riled up and excited against the Gentiles. In Chapter one of Romans, Paul confronts the Gentiles for their gross immorality and their vile idolatry. And the Jews are just lovin’ it. They think they’re safe because they’re Jews. They’re God’s people. They have the law and they have circumcision. They have the Temple of God.

After Paul has pulled them in and got them acting all Pentecostal with Praise the Lord and Amen and Hallelujah! Paul then turns on them and says, Hold on, now, you’re not any different. And then, Paul unloads on them. And yes, he’s pretty harsh.


A Word of Caution:

I think this would be a good time for us to talk about anti-Semitism. These passages and others like them have often times throughout history led people to act hatefully toward the Jewish people. That isn’t Paul’s point. That isn’t his goal.

You’re probably most familiar with the holocaust, but there have many times throughout history where God’s chosen people were targeted and attacked with the attempts to wipe them off the face of the earth. We hear that cry coming from Iran and other Muslim groups today.

But Paul is Jewish. He himself says later on in this letter: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus is Jewish – our Messiah! So, don’t misinterpret what Paul is doing here.

So, what is Paul doing here? Where is he going? At the moment, Paul’s point is that even though the Jews have the Law of God and the Ceremony of Circumcision, they are not exempt from needing the Gospel. He’s already made the point that the Gentiles need the gospel, but so do the Jews. Paul is pointing out the fact that we all need the gospel. And, yes, he’s being harsh, but that is the goal – a shock, effect if you will.


The Goal: The Unyielding Glory of God!  

So the one point of this passage is the honor and the glory of God. And the way we see God dishonored and not glorified is through the bad behavior of our lives.

If you go back to Romans 1.21, you’ll see that Gentiles dishonor God through their behavior; rd 1.24, 26; And last week we looked at this Chiasm presented in 2.7-10, those who honor and glorify God and those who don’t. Paul’s referring to the Jews, who here in 2.23, dishonor God through their behavior. Rd 2.23; 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God. It does not glorify him. And we’re so quick to amen the 1st section about those who through idolatry and immorality dishonor God. We hear about the homosexual, the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender persons in chapter one and we stand behind Paul and shout, Amen!

But he gets our attention when he says such things as, God’s Righteous Judgment is:

  1. Unexpected for those who think their religion makes them exceptional.
  2. Rendered according to each one’s works.
  3. Perfectly impartial.

Application: Bringing it home

For me, this passage hits closer to home than the previous passages. I say closer to home because I’m standing behind Paul eggin’ him on, shoutin’ “amen’s” and “praise the Lord’s”. The offense of chapter one is blatant and in your face. Many today don’t care if their immorality offends. Gay marriage, Cohabitation, Adultery, Fornication…all of these are flaunted today and even encouraged in our society. But for most of us here this morning, we don’t struggle with these very public sins. I didn’t say all of us, but rather, most of us. In reality, we would be classified more in this 2nd group, the Jews (even though most of us here this morning are not Jewish) because it is the principle that is applied.

So Paul has unloaded on the Jews. Let’s read that text together: 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

I’m going to take this passage out of context – for just a moment. I want you to see this like they see it. I want you to read this like they read it. Maybe even to feel a little bit like they’re possibly feeling. See what happens if I read it this way (I’m going to put it up on the screen, follow me in 2.17ff):

17 But if you call yourself a Christian and rely on the bible and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the bible; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the bible the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the bible dishonor God by breaking its teaching.

Paul’s message is relevant for the Church today. We’re being bombarded by messages of moral relativism. The cry is for tolerance – that is we should be tolerating the sinful behavior of people. And, we should tolerate it in our lives, too. And the one argument the world has against us is precisely what Paul accuses the Jews of here: You talk a good game about the Bible, but you don’t live it!

As the Church, we’re doing a pitiful job of preaching the Bible and living it out what we’re preaching. Countless pastors caught in sin; The Catholic Church and the story of its priests and their abuse of children; Pentecostals and their abuse of finances and/or women. Our purpose is to live out the honor and glory of God before a lost and dying world. But that is precisely Paul’s point. This will lead us in turn, as we see is Paul’s goal in chapter three, to rely on the righteousness that comes from Grace.

Yes, Grace is so important, but so is the behavior of those who live in God’s Grace. Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God.

And Paul drives this home with a quote from the Old Testament. The quote comes from Isaiah 52.5. Understanding this verse in the context of it’s original use will allow us to understand more of what Paul is trying to drive home for us.

23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Context: to gain context for this verse, we have to that portion of Scripture in Isaiah. The people of Israel were not in exile, yet. But Isaiah is talking to them of future events as if they were currently taking place…in the present tense of future events (i.e.: like it has already happened). He speaks to them this way because he sees it that way. And, they do eventually go into exile. And of course, his prophecy of them comes to pass. In Isaiah 50, 51, and 52, Isaiah has been telling them of their salvation. It sounds in the present tense, but that is to say for them what will be has already happened. For them, they are experiencing the wrath of God as a cup being poured out on them. But, one day – on that day – salvation would come to them. The wrath would end and salvation would be eternal, salvation would be everlasting. That is the hope they have for the exile they will endure. But that isn’t the way it is in that moment of exile.

Rd Isaiah 52.3-6:  3 For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their exile displeases God. He doesn’t like at all. Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “and continually all the day my name is despised.

God is displeased because the Gentiles hold God with no regard. There is no honor. There is no glory. The actions and behaviors of the Jews have sent them into exile. God has kept his promise to do so if they rejected and rebelled against him. They did and so God did exactly what he has always told them he would do: vomit them out of the land! This isn’t God’s fault – No! It is the fault of the Jews who have lived their lives worshipping idols and committing immorality (which if you remember, is the very thing Paul has been accusing the Gentiles of in Romans 1). And it breaks God’s heart that his people are in this position: that their behavior has caused the Gentiles to dishonor Him.

Looking at the Jews in their pitiful state, who would want to worship their God? He can’t take care of them. He can’t protect them. He can’t provide for them. And so God’s Name is despised. God’s Name is blasphemed by the Gentiles.

And really, the Jews are to blame. Their behavior, their actions have resulted in all of this. That’s Paul’s point – and quoting from this passage, Paul brings it all home. Not only have the Gentiles exchanged the glory of God for idolatry and immorality, but so have the Jews. They are no different in their behavior and action. And Paul will conclude in 3.10 – none is righteous, no not one. And in 3.23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God exchanging it for idols and immorality.


God’s Unyielding Glory!

Isaiah 42.8: 8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. God isn’t going to share his glory with anyone or anything. Period.

The context of Isaiah 52.5 is so fitting because Isaiah is telling the Jews how bad it is going to be, but there is hope because they have salvation eternal. But, how – how is this possible? How in the world will God get them there? Turn with me back to Isaiah.

How is this possible? Isaiah 52.13-53.12;

Here’s the thing: where you and I have failed, Christ has been victorious. You and I have reflected the image of God poorly. You and I are sinners and our sin plagues us. But Christ, however, reflects the image of God perfectly. He has restored honor and glory to the Father.

As Paul works his way through this letter entitle Romans, listen to his conclusion in this matter: (Begin Reading in v 4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15.For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Christ came to restore God’s glory and honor among the Jews and the Gentiles because that is what He is most interested in: His Glory.

Application – take-a-ways:

  1. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. That’s a bold statement, but I believe it is accurate. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. And my guess would be that no one here puts God’s glory on the same level of importance that God does. So, let me ask you a question that might help you be honest with yourself: Am I glorifying God with my life and my actions? Let me ask it another way: Do the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart honor and glorify God?
  2. If you’re like me, then you’ll answer no to that question. At some point you recognize your utter failure to glorify God and honor him as you should. Do you know why? Romans 3.23 tells us: Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ came! Remember Romans 15.8? Romans 5.8 tells us that Christ died for us – the ungodly. Isaiah said in our passage this morning: we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Do you understand that is why Christ came? God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us – so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.
  3. Invitation –

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