Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Grace and Truth
Pastor Steve Schell
Does the Creator have the right to tell His creatures how to live? Should He be able to decide for us what’s good or bad, what’s clean or unclean, what’s beautiful or ugly? Just because He made us does that give Him the authority to tell us what to do, to set boundaries around us or to forbid us to do something we enjoy? The answer to this question might seem obvious at first. Most of us would be inclined to say, “Well, of course He does. He’s the Creator!” But in practice, this is the place where we humans struggle with God. In certain matters we don’t take “no!” easily.

According to the Bible, God created us in His own image, and gave us authority over all the living things on earth. It says He created us male and female, and commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it and rule over every living thing. He didn’t create us because He needed us, and He wasn’t lonely, yet He carefully designed us in such a way that we can know Him as a person and love Him, and He chose to give us a free will so we could obey Him, and in doing so become good like He is.

The Creator’s plan (Ge 1:26-28; Ps 8)
God’s desire that humans would have many children is spelled out in Genesis 1:26-28, but David prophetically reveals a spiritual purpose behind that command. In Psalm 8 he says: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger.” (Ps 8:2)

David is telling us God gave humans authority so we would serve as His deputies, and through us He would silence the devil (the enemy and the avenger). As humans had babies and filled the earth, a world which was already inhabited by the devil when we arrived, would become God’s righteous kingdom. Obviously we failed our assignment, but that destiny still awaits us. With Christ as our Head, redeemed humans will silence the devil in the regeneration (Mt 19:28).

The war against children
There is a spiritual war going on against children. The devil, knowing God’s desire for us and His glorious plan, seeks to prevent or destroy children wherever possible. The attack comes in different forms, all aimed at babies:
• Disease
• Hunger
• Contraception
• Abortion
• Homosexuality

The Creator’s standards (Lev 18)
If the God of the Bible is our God, then He has set very clear boundaries on our sexual activity. I’ll read some, and paraphrase most of this chapter:
• vs22-25 God does not want us to do what unbelievers do.
• vs26-28 The land will become defiled and spew you out (protection will be lifted)
• Leviticus 20:13
• Acts 15:20 “…that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.”

Sins believers may not practice:
• 1 Corinthians 5; 6:9, 10 (“inherit the kingdom,” 1Co 15:50)
• Galations 5:19-21
• Ephesians 5:5

Notice, homosexuality is only one sin in a long list of sins. None of these can continue to be practiced if a person is to participate in the resurrection of the righteous. The problem with all forms of sexual sin is that they are highly addictive. People try to stop but find they can’t. Spiritual threats only serve to terrify them, but are powerless to free them.

The Romans 7 person (Ro 7:15-25)
In this passage, Paul describes someone who sincerely wants to obey God, but whose body constantly produces appetites and impulses so strong he or she literally becomes a slave to his or her own body.

Some have assumed this chapter of Romans describes the internal struggles of an unbeliever, but the person Paul describes sincerely desires to obey God. That’s not the heart of an unbeliever. This person’s heart “joyfully concurs with the Law of God in the inner man” (v22). This person hates their sin and longs to obey but is helplessly out of control and miserable. That’s not the picture of an unbeliever, that’s the picture of a believer whose spirit is right with God but who’s unable to bring their body into submission to their spirit. This is a frustrated child of God. Listen:
• Romans 7:15-25

His basic point is this: A believer’s body is still rebellious even though their spirit is not. Without God’s help, our body is simply too powerful and will control us.

The answer (Ro 8:1-14)
In chapter 8, Paul carefully explains God’s answer. Here are key truths to which he points:
• (Ro 8:1) God understands the helpless condition of the Romans 7 person. Though we are not obeying Him, He knows we want to, therefore He gives us mercy while we are learning to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (8:13).
• (Ro 8:2) God has provided the power we need to walk in holiness. The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the indwelling Holy Spirit who comes to us in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
• (Ro 8:3) Jesus’ death on the cross atoned not only our spirit but our physical body as well, so the Holy Spirit is now able to dwell inside us. Our bodies become clean temples in which God dwells.
• (Ro 8:4) This presence of the Spirit makes it possible for us to obey God and live holy lives.
• (Ro 8:10) Though cleansed spiritually so God can dwell in us, our bodies are not yet redeemed. That will happen at the resurrection. Until then, our flesh remains rebellious and separated from God (dead), yet our human spirit is in complete union with Him (alive).
• (Ro 8:11) The power which dwells within the person who is baptized in the Holy Spirit is far greater than the power of our flesh. Our spirit is now able to bring our bodies into submission to God’s standards.
• (Ro 8:12) We are no longer slaves to our bodies.
• (Ro 8:13) We must learn to put to death the “deeds of the body,“ by choosing to draw on the Spirit’s power on a daily, situation by situation, basis.

Forgotten truths
Sadly, what I’ve just described are largely forgotten truths. Over the course of time the church lost this knowledge. So most believers remain in a Romans 7 condition. The promised transformation, the victorious life we hoped for, is not there, so different attempts have been made to correct the situation:
1) In some cases church leaders try to frighten people into holiness by warning them they will go to hell. The goal is to encourage people to exercise more self-control. But Paul himself couldn’t stop “coveting” (lusting) (Ro 7:7-11). In fact, the more he tried, the worse it got.
2) In some cases, church leaders assure people they will go to heaven even though they haven’t stopped, either because once you’re saved God has to let you in, or because grace means He doesn’t care what you do.

Yet, people intuitively know when they’re separated from God, and they know when God is with them (Ro 8:16). A person can sense something is wrong, and that insecurity is very frightening. We can’t live with that inner turmoil indefinitely, we have to find relief. So desperate people come up with different ways to cope:
• Some decide they won’t believe in God anymore. If He doesn’t exist, at least they’re not in worse shape that anyone else.
• Some seek the approval of others, particularly religious leaders. They want assurance that what they’re doing is okay with God, and they need a lot of assurance because their heart is telling them they’re not.
• Some claim the Bible really doesn’t say it’s wrong. In other words, they’ve been made to feel guilty because they’re victims of misinformed attitudes.
• Some in exasperation give themselves over to their flesh and try not to think about what will happen when they die.

Grace and truth (Jn 1:14-17)
The Greek word for “truth” actually means “not forgotten.” In other words, those who walk in God’s truth don’t forget what He told them to do and faithfully continue to obey. The Greek word for “grace” means God’s “undeserved favor.” He has mercifully chosen to forgive us if we’ll repent. In this passage John shows us who Jesus really is. Many false things had been said about Jesus by the time John wrote this gospel and he wanted to correct those lies. He says he and the other disciples “beheld” Jesus and that He was “full of grace and truth.” Not just grace, but grace and truth. Jesus shows us God’s merciful love for us, but He also calls us to obedience to God’s holy standards. He promises us mercy when we fail, but He doesn’t expect us to fail continually, because He’s given us the power to become free. And while we’re learning, He keeps washing our sins away. In Jesus, God’s standard of holiness hasn’t been lowered, it’s been raised (Sermon on the Mount). Now we’re commanded to become like Him.

What if
What if… knowing all I’ve just told you in order to take pressure off myself, in order to gain the approval of our society, I said, “Go ahead and practice the deeds of the flesh. These things are just a matter of interpretation anyway, sincere people can disagree…” knowing in my heart what will happen to you if you do. In other words, I’m willing to deceive you and let you perish. Have I loved you, or have I proven how much I love myself?

Our response
So, what should our response be? Here are some suggestions that involve both grace and truth:
1) Humbly acknowledge our own battle with the flesh (Gal 6:1). Never speak from a position of superiority. Always speak as someone who also has to daily put to death the deeds of the flesh.
2) Gently, clearly remind them that God requires us to become holy, like Him. His standards never change.
3) Explain the forgotten truths of Romans 7 and 8, assuring that person that no matter how powerful their addiction has become, God has made available the power they need to obey Him.
4) Assure them that when they fail God will forgive their sins, and His grace does not run out.
5) Sincerely offer to pray for them and help them in any way you can, as they learn to walk in freedom.

1) Have you learned to walk in freedom from some sort of addiction? What lessons did you learn?
2) When you’re struggling, how do you get close to God? 

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