We’re all caught. We’ve all sinned. And Jesus said, “whoever sins is the slave of sin.” But because of the amazing grace of God, shown through his Son, we can be freed from sin’s penalty, power, and someday, its presence. The Apostle Paul wrote about how to be set free in his letter to the Romans.
The world around us lives by values that are the product of its dominant philosophies such as materialism (“things” matter more than anything), humanism (we are all basically good without God’s help), and secularism (the majority determines right from wrong without God’s Word). Each of these, and many other false ways of thinking, results in decisions and behaviors that lead nowhere good.
Paul told us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)
He points out that our outward behaviors are merely the fruit of our inward philosophy. Like robots, if we accept the status quo around us, we’ll follow the crowd in our lifestyles. Christians often combat this by focusing on the changing of our external behaviors alone. Do this… don’t do that… stop doing that… But it doesn’t work, does it?
What we really need is a radical change in our beliefs that will produce new behaviors. It starts in the mind. It begins with what I accept as truth about God, myself, and the world around me.
My core philosophy is that…
God is Almighty and I am not. He created me with dignity and value but that I was also born sinful and chose to sin. So God in His love for me and His own desire for glory gave His Son Jesus who was God in the flesh, born of a virgin, who lived a holy and sinless life, died on the cross to atone for sin, and literally rose again. He offers to forgive us and clear us of the guilt of sin through His matchless grace alone and solely on the basis of my faith; that He is coming again to bring the fulness of His kingdom for all eternity. The old me died, and I now have the freedom to explore the riches of His grace and enjoy my walk with Him in every facet of my life.
What’s you’re philosophy? Go ahead. Articulate your own statement of faith!
The “wrath of God” is a touchy subject in our current culture, partly because we have a broken sense of fairness. We have the assumption that what we think we know ought to count in the place of what we really should know about God. In our arrogance, we assume that our postulations and philosophies are so amazing, God should somehow be impressed with the conclusions we’ve made up about Him. And if He is still upset about our lack of response and obedience to Him, then He’s just being unfair.
But the Bible describes says that “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19 ESV) In other words, we CAN know the truth about God’s character because He’s made the truth quite accessible. But because we love sin, we mask over the truth and turn Him into something He isn’t – a God who has no concern for righteousness at all.
It isn’t that people suffer God’s wrath unfairly over something we don’t know. It’s that we position ourselves for His wrath because we suppress the truth about Him so we can go in blissful, sinful ignorance. It isn’t that we can’t know Him. It’s that we typically won’t know Him. We suppress His truth, choose to believe lies, and assume He has nothing to be upset with us about.
Don’t worry, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, immeasurable, inconceivable grace and forgiveness is on the way – on God’s terms. But in this first chapter, He’s building a tight case about our rejection of God, and His evidence is pretty strong. So what should we do? Choose to know Him. Receive the truth about God, believe it wholeheartedly, and trust in Him in complete obedience.
What a way to start a letter! That’s how Paul opened his letter to the believers in Rome, and I think Paul had two meanings in mind when he identified Himself as a slave.
Paul lived in the days of the height of the Roman Empire. Rome would conquer a land and that land’s citizens would become slaves of the Emperor. That’s how Paul identified Himself… conquered! We become God’s children by adoption and we’re treated as children. God doesn’t see us the way a cruel slave-driver sees a slave – as mere property. No, He sees us as a son or daughter. But we should also understand about ourselves that we are conquered by the King. Our spirits should remain broken rather than defiant – submissive rather than rebellious.
There is another word we might apply to the kind of slavery Paul is talking about. In the days of Moses, a law was given that a man who was too poor to live could borrow money from someone wealthy to provide for his family, but he would become the slave of his creditor. To prevent tyranny, the law was modified to allow every slave freedom after seven years of service. But if a man loved his master and wanted to remain under his master’s care and provision, he could become a permanent slave by allowing his ear to be marked with an awl.
A birthmark of a true believer is the mark of ownership by Jesus! In other words, we are not only conquered, we are claimed.
I love, I love my Master, I will not go out free,
For He is my Redeemer; He paid the price for me.
I would not leave His service it is so sweet and blessed;
And in the weariest moments He gives the truest rest.
Would you proudly wear the title “slave of Jesus?” That’s a birthmark of a truly born again believer in Jesus Christ. I’ve been conquered. I’ve been claimed – not by a tyrant but by a loving Father who purchased me into His own dear family through the death of His own dear Son Jesus. And while this humbles me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of my favorite little Bible verses might seem somewhat obscure, but in its original language, it’s packed with meaning. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I am eager to come and preach the gospel to you…” (Romans 1:16) The word translated as eager comes from a compound Greek word that means “on heat,” or as we would say it today, Paul was on fire to preach!
Passion is a priceless aspect of leadership. It’s something that can be faked, but only temporarily. We can only keep up the facade of passion for something for so long before people begin to realize we aren’t quite as invested as we’ve acted. Real passion burns inside us. It flares up somewhat uncontrollably and makes us do crazy things, like go to new places with the gospel, get personally involved in the lives of hurting sinners, and push others around us forward even at the cost of our own comfort.
Real Passion Is Cultivated with Jesus
Passion can be derived from reading the latest church growth books, attending conferences, and listening to motivational tapes about leadership. But these generate but a flicker in comparison with the true source of passion in a Christian leader – time with Jesus. Luke records the experience of two apostles shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, “Back and forth they talked. ‘Didn’t we feel on fire as he (Jesus) conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?'” (Luke 24:32 MSG)
Real Passion Is Stimulated by the Holy Spirit
In other words, passion is ultimately cultivated deep within us over time as we get closer to Jesus. His Holy Spirit has a tendency to fan it into flame and keep it alive. I don’t think this has as much to do with a “Holy Ghost revival meetin'” where we all act a little crazy as it does a far more internal combustion in the heart of a believer that absolutely must come out in the form of influencing others with drive and energy.
Real Passion Is Contagious – It Moves Others
As my friend Neil Greenhaw has wisely said, “Passion is the thing in us that breeds followers. What we are truly passionate about, people tend to follow.” And it’s so true. People simply don’t follow passionless leaders, but where you find people following something as a crowd, big or small, you’ll always find a leader passionate enough to boldly invite and empower others for the cause.
Real Passion Is Evident In Our Extra Effort
Commitment will get the job done. Commitment is good. But passion goes further. Passion is what drives us to put in overtime in the areas of life that matter the most to us. Passionate marriages show the evidence of a man pursuing his wife with intentionality. Passionate businesses go the extra mile to provide top notch, beyond normal customer service. And passionate church leaders are always chasing the next possible way to fulfill the Great Commitment in each new generation.
Real Passion Is Rare
Talent is everywhere, whether it’s invested or wasted. But passionate people stand out. There are thousands of great baseball players hanging out on sandlots around the world, but those with real passion make it to “the show.” Great singers are hiding in neighborhoods everywhere, but passionate artists are heard on the radio. And passion isn’t handed out in small quantities. It’s cultivated by choice and determination. It’s yours to pursue as much as you want.
I think the world needs people with talent, charisma, money, charm, wisdom, and a plethora of other virtues and resources. But now, more than ever, the world needs people with real passion. Are you on fire?
photo credit: kaibara87
As we’ve journeyed through some of the “one another’s” of the New Testament, I’ve become more and more convinced that these are some of the Bible’s most difficult teachings to keep. I can look in my own life each week and see examples of times I’ve not honored these principles. But to ignore them will destroy the fellowship of God’s people.
We (beginning with me) must use them as an evaluation tool of our willingness to relate to one another differently than we would if we did not belong to Christ. This week’s “one another” is again really three “one another’s.” In fact, they spread out over two chapters of Romans, and I want to allow James to illustrate the truths. [Read more…]
Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.
In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!
I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!