FORE-LOVED

Rom.8:29,30 – For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

One of those hard to understand things about God is this; part of His creation is time and space. If God created time and space He lives outside of them. The implications of that may speak to why He calls Himself “I am”. He has always been, He is eternal. In today’s verse Paul mentions the foreknowledge of God. Before time was created the Lord knew those who were His. I didn’t say He knew about them, He knew them. He knew them intimately, you could say He loved them personally before they were brought into existence. Paul’s point was that those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to His image.

Some folks think this foreknowledge thing is just the Lord knowing what I would do which would determine what He would do. God knowing me is much stronger than that, He knew me, He knows me, and He will know me. I have always been His before I knew it and before I existed. Here is how R. C. Sproul describes this passage.

“Now, why labor this when we are talking about a particular text in Romans 8? We do so because it is the root of the term that starts the Golden Chain: “For whom He foreknew [prŏginō], He also predestined.” The full import of the word includes not mere cognition on God’s part but a redemptive knowledge that is spiritual and affective (affective – dealing with the emotions)—not effective in this case, but affective. Therefore, we could reasonably translate this text, “Those whom he fore- loved [those whom he knew in a personal, intimate, redemptive sense from all eternity] he predestined.”

I really, really love that. “Those whom He fore-loved, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” Sooooo, I am fore-loved by the Lord before the foundation of the world. He loved me not because of anything I had to offer Him, He loved me despite by ungodly behavior, He loved me with my faults and determined to call and pursue me. Today He is working on the conformed part, He is chiseling away the flaws, making me more and more like His Son.

DO I HAVE A FREE WILL ?

Rom.8:6,7 – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.

How free is your will anyway? Do you always get to decide everything that your “will” wants? I know children have to have their will subjugated to their parents or really bad things would happen. Everything from eating way to much sugar to falling off the house and breaking a leg comes from bad choices from an unrestrained will. I remember watching a young boy at a restaurant eat an entire bowl of butter without a correcting word from his parents. His will needed to be reigned in. Maybe you don’t eat bowls of butter but without the intervention of Christ our fallen will seems to make many bad choices in life. Actually, the main result of the fall of man has to do with his free will. What happened? Our wills became ensnared by the fall; the result? We no longer had the moral capacity to make good spiritual choices. We were hopelessly separated from our Creator with unspeakable ramifications. Here are some thoughts from R. C. Sproul on our fallen will.

“When John Calvin was engaged in a dispute over free will with his opponent Pelagius in the sixteenth century, part of the debate concerned the nature of the human will. Calvin agreed with a definition of free will which holds that even in our sinful condition we have the power and ability to choose what we want. He did not agree with the definition of free will as the ability to choose from indifference, because we are all held captive by the propensity to sin. Calvin agreed that we do have free will in the sense that we have the ability to choose what we want, but that ability to choose is not only mildly influenced but is radically conditioned by the human corruption of our hearts, out of which flow the choices we make. In other words, we make evil choices not from indifference but from a prior inclination to wickedness.”

So what do we do about that “prior inclination to wickedness”? The will is obviously effected deeply by the things we love and enjoy. This is where the secret to freeing that will lies. What we love and desire in life has to change. That’s where grace comes in. The incredible attraction of the love of God is what brings us freedom from enslavement. What do I mean? When Christ comes into our lives we start loving different things. We love the Bible, and Church and worship. The foolish pleasures that had us ensnared suddenly lose their attraction.

WHAT A DEAL !!!

Rom.8:4 – so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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Paul goes to great depths in the book of Romans to help us see the implications of the fall of man and the redemption available to us in Christ. Our old life, our fallen nature, had no ability to follow God or live a righteous life. As Paul shared in the first chapters of Romans, all of us were born helplessly ensnared in sin. It effects every part of our lives. Our sins were in need of forgiveness but much more than that. Forgiveness alone never changes us. We find ourselves hopelessly trapped in the cycle of returning to our sinful ways. That’s why the gospel is so necessary and so powerful. Salvation includes the whole man. Christ Himself enters inside of us and liberates our will. He begins to work in us and through us in the power of this new life. All the requirements of living a holy life are no longer a burden. We joyfully yield to Jesus and His blessed new life. WE live a righteous life now empowered by His Spirit. Here is how Jonathan Edwards explains this.

“In the Romans 8:4, it is implied that if we walk after the flesh, justification and the reward of righteousness can’t “be fulfilled in us,” but if we walked after the Spirit it would be. The substance and drift of each of these things is the same. If we walk after the flesh, we shall surely come to condemnation. But, on the contrary, if we walk after the Spirit it will surely bring us to life. If we are after the flesh, we shall mind the things of the flesh. The nature of our souls will be carnal, and that will necessarily bring us to death, because to be carnally minded is “enmity against God”, and is not, nor can, be subject to the law of God, can’t please God, and therefore must bring us to condemnation. But, on the contrary, “they that are after the Spirit” do mind “the things of the Spirit”. The Spirit is become a principle of nature in them. The nature of their souls is spiritual, but this naturally and necessarily tends to life.”

What an amazing deal! The Lord makes claims and expectations of how we should live our lives. He then begins to live this new life inside of us. What is the outcome? He receives the glory for my changed life and I receive the joy that comes from this intimacy of having Christ living in and through my life.

THE COSMOS EAGERLY AWAITS

MERRY THURSDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY.

Rom.8:19 “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

There is so much beauty to behold in the creation. Have your ever snorkeled in the pacific ocean? Or hiked through the Smokies? Watched the kangaroos and koalas in Australia? Been on the African safaris? I have done all those things and keep telling about God’s unbelievable creativity with creation. In reality it is a fallen creation that has been given the same blow that man was given. Creation also waits its redemption, in fact creation is eagerly awaiting, sighing, groaning and travailing together with us. Why is that? The cosmos will meet its final purpose when we will be revealed as sons of God. One could almost imagine that it is joining with us in spiritual harmony or dance. To all the earth lovers the best thing we can do to restore our planet back to where it was is to “become sons of God”. This is when all wrong is made right once again.

Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Indeed the whole creation seems to wait with earnest expectation for the period when the children of God shall be manifested in the glory prepared for them. There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which has come upon the creature by the fall of man. There is an enmity of one creature to another. And they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. Yet this deplorable state of the creation is in hope. God will deliver it from thus being held in bondage to man’s depravity. The miseries of the human race, through their own and each other’s wickedness, declare that the world is not always to continue as it is. Our having received the first-fruits of the Spirit, quickens our desires, encourages our hopes, and raises our expectations. Sin has been, and is, the guilty cause of all the suffering that exists in the creation of God. It has brought on the woes of earth; it has kindled the flames of hell.”

MacLarens Commentary mentions the great reversal in the earth, “Earth’s judgments will be reversed by that divine voice, and the great promise, which through weary ages has shone as a far-off star,-’I will set him on high because he hath known my name’-will then be known for the sun near at hand. Many stars will be quenched, but ‘they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.That revelation will be more surprising to no one than to those who are its subjects, when they see themselves mirrored in that glass, and so unlike what they are here. Their first impulse will be to wonder at the form they see, and to ask, almost with incredulity, ‘Lord, is it I?’”

There is so much to look forward to yet so much to experience now as we walk hand in hand with the cosmos as we eagerly await our last redemption.

Groaning and Waiting

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Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Rom.8:23

 

If you stop for a moment and stay real quiet you may hear it. ‘You may hear what?’ You ask. The groaning; can you hear it now? Creation is groaning. It’s not a miserable, painful groan. It is kind of a groan of expectancy. It’s the kind of groan that mixes pain with joyful anticipation. Something really amazing is about to happen and creation is at a heightened state of expectancy. Many of us experienced something like this as children. Don’t you remember the painful, yet joyful, countdown as Christmas drew near? It’s coming was certain, the wait was part of the joy. That’s how it is today as we wait for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Just as we are waiting for Christmas we are really waiting for the real “Joy to the World’, that joy will burst on us suddenly just as His first appearance did. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on the groan that is all around us.

 

 

“Our sighs are sacred things, too hallowed for us to tell abroad. We keep our longings to our Lord alone. Then the apostle says we are waiting, by which we learn that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah, when they said, Let me die; nor are we to whimper and sigh for the end of life because we are tired of work, nor wish to escape from our present sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan for glorification, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to himself. This groaning is a test. You may judge of a man by what he groans after. Some men groan after wealth-they worship Mammon; some groan continually under the troubles of life-they are merely impatient; but the man who sighs after God, who is uneasy till he is made like Christ, that is the blessed man.”

 

So we are waiting, we are waiting for Christmas but really waiting for something more. This time Jesus will not appear like a lamb, born in a manger. This time He will roll back the sky like a lion. His appearance is imminent, let the groan continue.

Anticipating His Second Advent

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Hag. 2:6 ¶ “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Parris and I are finishing up a ministry trip in Manila, Philippines as I write today’s devotion. Christmas is a big deal in Manila, Christmas trees and decorations are everywhere. Just like we sense in America, there is a conflict in the air as we anticipate the celebration of the Lord’s birth. We see the conflict in the irony of affluence and poverty, sickness and health, joy and sadness as the celebration draws near. This waiting for Christmas pictures what is really going on inside of all of us. Actually the conflict is in creation itself. Creation is groaning in joyful anticipation of the coming kingdom, even in the midst of the conflict and heartbreak all around us in our world. Here is how the Apostle Paul describes this irony all around us from the Message Bible;

Rom. 8:19-21 – “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens”.

That is exactly what I see in the streets of America and I feel groaning in the hearts of the people in the Philippines. Darkness is increasing as our anticipation deepens.

This is the feeling we get when we think about what it was like in Israel before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Matthew described the spiritual climate like this,

Matt. 4:15 ¶ “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

Matt. 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.”

There was an unusual darkness settling in on the world when suddenly the darkness gave way to the light in the birth of Christ. That’s how it feels today, we are grieved by the darkness of our world but the joyful expectancy of something about to happen is growing inside of our hearts. As we welcome another Christmas we are really preparing for the Second Advent of our Lord.

The Spirit Prays

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And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,

because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Rom. 8:27

I was born again during the charismatic renewal and the Jesus movement of the 1970’s. I am thankful everyday for the emphasis on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit evidenced by the heavenly language that was a huge part of the move of God in that season. The prayer language has been a blessing to me everyday for these last 43 years. It has been especially critical in enabling me to access the power and presence of the Lord. Without that intimacy in my life I would be left with only precepts and principles; not nearly enough to sustain and satisfy my hungry heart.

I can remember seasons in those early days at Gods Army in California where we would pray for extended periods of time corporately in our heavenly language. Just thinking about those special times I am brought back to the incredible sense of the glory of the Lord. In those moments there was a sense of safety, peace, power, unity, and revelation. A foundation of depending on the power of God was being rooted deeply in my life.

One of the great benefits of our prayer language is that the Holy Spirit, God Himself prays through us. When we don’t know how or what to pray, He takes over with gushings of the heart that can’t be uttered in our natural language. Here are some comments from Andrew Murray on today’s verse.

“We often do not know what we should pray for, and at times we “do not know how to pray”. Then our inability to pray impedes our prayer and handicaps the faith that is essential to the prayer’s success. But God’s Word gives us true encouragement that at times like these the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in accordance to the will of God. Where and how does the Spirit make intercession for the saints? In the heart that does not know how to pray, He secretly and effectually prays what is according to the will of God.”

It’s disappointing to me how many churches today have deemphasized the moving of the Spirit, especially the beautiful practice of praying in the Spirit corporately. This is the place where God comes down and reveals Himself among us. Without the power of His presence evident in His church what exactly do we have? As for me and our church, we will pray in the Spirit and wait in His presence, and allow Him to make His habitation among us.

HEIRS OF GOD

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Rom. 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

What is the significance of being an heir? I guess it all depends who you are an heir to. The heir of a king inherits a throne and all that goes with it. The heir of a wealthy man inherits wealth. Even more than all of the possessions, you inherit their name. Today’s verse tells us that we are heirs of God the Father and fellow heirs with Christ. I have heard teaching on this over the years that really missed the whole point. The focus has often been all of the wealth and possessions that we inherit from our relationship with Christ. This aspect of our inheritance pails in comparison to our true inheritance. We have inherited God Himself. We are heirs or have inherited God. Here are some insights from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.
“The Lord himself is the portion of the saints’ inheritance, a goodly heritage. The saints are spiritual priests, that have the Lord for their inheritance. The vision of God and the fruition of God make up the inheritance the saints are heirs to. God himself will be with them, and will be their God.”
Some have focused on heaven as being our inheritance; you know, the gold streets, the foundation of precious stones, wealth beyond compare. All of those things are really lagniappe, heaven is heaven because He is there. Here is how Adam Clarke describes our inheritance.
“It is neither an earthly portion nor a heavenly portion; but GOD himself, who is to be their portion. It is not heaven they are to inherit; it is GOD, who is infinitely greater and more glorious than heaven itself. With such powers has God created the soul of man, that nothing less than himself can be a sufficient and satisfactory portion for the mind of this most astonishing creature. Joint heirs with Christ. Partaking of the same eternal glory with the glorified human nature of Christ.”
If you are born again you are far richer than you can imagine. We have inherited the Lord’s name, His authority and His wealth. More than all of that, we have God Himself as our portion, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Anticipation

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Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

There is something inside of all of us longing for the coming kingdom. Paul himself said that all creation is waiting in anticipation for the return of Christ and the glorification of His sons and daughters. The Message Bible says it like this “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens”. The joyful anticipation is growing and surging inside of His sons and daughters. What we will become and enjoy is beyond our ability to understand or say, the taste we get now is awakening our appetite. If the signs in the heavens are crying out, how about us? Jonathan Edwards often spoke of the coming kingdom; here are some of his thoughts.

“The creature thus earnestly expecting this glorious manifestation and liberty of the children of God, and travailing in pain in order to it, therefore the Scriptures, by a like figure, do very often represent, that when this shall be accomplished, the whole inanimate creation shall greatly rejoice: that “the heavens shall sing, the earth be glad, the mountains break forth into singing, the hills be joyful together, the trees clap their hands, the lower parts of the earth shout, the sea roar and the fullness thereof, and the floods clap their hands”.

The glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, the saints and angels there, that rejoice when one sinner repents, are earnestly waiting, in an assured and joyful dependence on God’s promises of that conversion of the world, and marriage of the Lamb, which shall be when that glorious day comes; and therefore they are represented as all with one accord rejoicing and praising God with such mighty exultation and triumph, when it is accomplished, in Revelation 19.”
This week we were all treated with the rare spectacle of a solar eclipse. The image is stuck in my mind of the moon covering the sun in a line across the entire continent. Every time I think of the precision in God’s creation I am totally astounded. Stunned silence and waves of joy are my response. I agree with Paul, the joyful anticipation depends as the day draws near.

“The Two Cities”

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MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).
The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat

Where it can, it saves and seasons. John Piper
As New Orleans reaches their crescendo in merry making, Christians are reminded that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come”. (Heb.13:14) I, as a Christian, don’t want to live passive or smirk at the “day God forgot” but in Piper’s words, “labor to illuminate and not dominate”. We live between two cities as Augustine said when he wrote about the City of God. He said there was two rival cities shaped by opposing loves and working toward different ends. Romans 2:15 speaks of the law written upon our hearts or as some have called it, a common moral compass guiding Christians through the two cities. It’s this compass that we live by during our time of exile upon this earth. We learn to interact with the world but not identify with it. We have broken hearted joy because we want to see people made whole. We have broken hearted joy because they live on the tastes, sights and sounds of this world. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It has since the fall, and it will till Christ comes. Us exiles join with the whole creation as it groans and we are enlarged in the waiting. The last time I read my bible I read about Corinth, Athens, and Rome in the book of Acts and the Pharaoh of Egypt in Exodus doing what they always have done, for they are of the other city. If there ever was a time for “such as time as this” it is now. We don’t shrug off our callings we run to finish it. Piper says again, “Our joy is a brokenhearted joy because human culture –- in every society –- dishonors Christ, glories in its shame, and is bent on self-destruction. The greatness of Christian exiles is not success but service. We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with brokenhearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.”

“The earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord.”

― Augustine of Hippo, City of God