*Norah’s autonomic nervous system, the part of her that controls involuntary body processes does not react to a shortage of oxygen and a buildup up of carbon dioxide…so her body can forget to breath.
*When Norah is off her vent for short periods…its called “sprinting”…her mom is watching her play and reminding her…”breath Norah…”
*You and I don’t walk around saying “remember to breath”…all day and all night without our awareness…our body is continually correcting the balance.
*Norah has a mutation in the PHOX2B gene. That small breakdown in her “coding” means she has to have a machine help her live…and a nurse stay up and watch her sleep at night.
*There are countless such things that can go “wrong” with us…and indeed unless the Lord returns in your lifetime…something will go wrong with you in a final way.
*And if your physical body made up mostly of: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus is cremated…the ashes will weigh about 5.3 pounds…about what a pair of men’s boots weigh.
*The most physically strong…someday won’t be.
*The most physically beautiful…someday won’t be
*The most brilliant, famous…someday won’t be
*We are humble stuff…we humans…that doesn’t mean we live with humility…most often we don’t.
*Your nose can remember 50K different scents
*You have 100,000 miles of blood vessels: Rodney, Jim, Me…have more than enough to reach the moon.
*If the human eye was a digital camera it would have 576 megapixels
*We are amazing stuff, we humans…but we did not make ourselves…so we cannot take credit.
*The prevailing view in the academy (world of science and education) is that we are the accidental outcomes of time and chance.
*Doug Axe, a molecular biologist in his book “Undeniable: How Biology confirms our intuition that life is designed” demonstrates (once again…its been done over and over)…how undesigned life is impossible.
*He describes how much of the prevailing view in the academy is not based on science but rather on a commitment (faith) to a worldview.
*He quotes an honest atheist from New York University, whose book, which challenged the prevailing view has caused waves…because it came from an insider…a true “believing unbeliever”
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism (science as a faith or religion) and reductionism(over simplifying the complex) of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.”
*Axe, himself is a Christian and has credentials and writes in a winsome way (though I found his book challenging).
*And his basic premise is simple…it is that we need not be intimidated by the claims of scientists who tell try to tell us something that common sense and experience knows is not true.
*They tell us that although the world appears to be the result of intelligent design…it is not.
*He counters that our common sense is in fact true…designed things have a designer.
*He backs up his “common sense” claims with science…but again…just like last week I said that the complexity of Romans could be summed up in “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
*In the same way, the truth of cosmology, geology, and biology can be summed up in what children know is obvious…”He’s got the whole world, in his hands…he’s got you and me…in his hands.”
*Barkley psychology professor Alison Gopnik described the ongoing challenge for teachers of evolution like this…”By elementary-school age, ” she wrote, “children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them–even children brought up as atheists.”
*It has been found that even highly trained committed atheistic scientists are unable to fully rid themselves of the innate impression that there is purpose underlying the living world.
Eccl. 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
*The result of our ongoing attempts to deny what is undeniable… is that Humanity tends to to be bi-polar in its self-assessment…insecure and proud.
- Insecurity: We are nothing really…the difference between me, a dust mite in that carpet, and that chair is the way out matter is arranged.
- Pride: We are really something…we are really smart, really important, really special, really strong.
*What is real is that we are created by God…a certain God, not just any old God.
*The God revealed in the Bible and ultimately made personally known in the person of Jesus.
*When this reality is embraced the dual outcomes are (imperfectly but helpfully): Humility and Confidence…rather than arrogance and insecurity.
- Humility: I am created, I am contingent being, dependent on my creator.
*Having a Creator: Means by definition it is about him not about us. We are contingent upon him for existence and for meaning.
*We will get to this later in Romans…but imagine the Pot saying to the Potter…”You do know it is all about me, right?”…its a silly thought…but not uncommon.
*Without God we would not exist, without reference to God our existence lacks purpose.
*Some will dispute this and attempt to find meaning without him…but this sense of meaning will be illusion and denial of the facts.
*Like a soldier giving his life in an ultimately pointless battle will seek to find purpose in his sacrifice…but that search (and the emotional relief of believing it to be true) does not in the end make the pointless battle any less pointless…or give his sacrifice any ultimate meaning.
*Deep down…the person living the pointless life…feels the weight of that pointless life.
*Usually when something happens to wash away the sand foundation they are building that pointless life on.
*Humility recognizes my purpose, my meaning is tied to my creator.
- Confidence: I am created, I have purpose that is tied to my creator…so there is real purpose in my life…all of it.
Different worldviews, Different life outcomes:
1.Worldview one: I am the product of random chance (even non-atheists have been infected by this…in that it undermines their own confidence in what common sense and experience clearly tells them.
*Its likely students have been infected…even if you are believer…there is that “nagging voice” in the background of your mind saying…”yeah, but…its been proven…or what if its not really true.
Life outcome: a combination of undue pride, and a perpetual insecurity.
- Worldview two: I am the result of a choice, a creative design. (This fits best both with the physical evidence in the world, as well as what our own intuition tells us, and of course…God’s revelation)
Life outcome: (if truly believed, and applied): A combination of humility and security…God is God, I am not…I exist for his purposes…I have a purpose…it is not all about me.
*Today we start with an application…then move to our scripture.
*I’m doing this so you will see as we move through the passage the implications it is leading us towards.
*This application is aimed at marriage relationships…but it could easily apply to all relationships in our lives.
“See, then, that to wield both the power of truth and the power of love in the life-changing, integrative, balanced way that they should be used, it takes deep humility and yet profound joy and confidence. Where in the world can you get that? The answer is that it must come from outside of this world. Unaided, our human nature is incapable of producing them in combination. Without an experience of God’s grace, people who feel they have succeeded in life feel confident but are not humble before others who are wrongdoers. People who feel they have largely failed in life are humble but not confident and joyful. But the gospel transforms us so our self-understanding is no longer based on our performance in life. We are so evil and sinful and flawed that Jesus had to die for us. We were so lost that nothing less than the death of the divine Son of God could save us. But we are so loved and valued that he was willing to die for us. The Lord of the universe loved us enough to do that! So the gospel humbles us into the dust and at the very same time exalts us to the heavens. We are sinners but completely loved and accepted in Christ at the same time.” Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01).
*Humility and Confidence are found in the gospel…nowhere else.
*Quick survey of where we have been to date.
- The first 17 verses were Paul’s introduction of himself to a church he had not yet visited.
- 1:18-4:25 is the heart of the gospel: justification by faith.
- 1:18-3:20 is the universal need: all people are enslaved by sin.
- 3:21-4:25 is the turning point…the “But Now” a righteousness of God has been made known.
- Last week: 3:21-26: We looked at how in Christ’s death on the cross the “judging and the saving righteousness” of God were satisfied.
- This week: 3:27-31: This righteousness is by faith alone…there is no room for human pride…but there is room for real confidence (con-fide)…a life lived with “faith”
Rom. 3:27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
In this passage Paul is touching on the basic point he intends to develop further with respect to Abraham…namely the place of faith.
He asks the rhetorical question…”Where then is boasting?”
The answer is…it is excluded… there is no place for it in our lives.
Boasting about observing the law is the equivalent of boasting about human accomplishment…all such boasting is nonsense in light of God’s grace (unmerited, freely given favor)
We are created…we are not self-made.
We are sinful…and we cannot be self-saved
Boasting, taking credit for what God alone can do is ridiculous.
- 28…a well known statement of the doctrine of justification by faith…a faith that stands complete apart from human effort to earn God’s favor.
- 29-30…points out a central subtheme of the letter…the equality of all before God.
Since it is true that there is only one God…it is also true(contrary to conventional wisdom)…that there is only one way to God.
The claim of there being only one way, one path to God is often seen as human arrogance.
“So you think you have the right way and no one else does! How close minded, how arrogant.”
In fact the belief that there are many ways to God, and I get to choose my preference is human arrogance.
Humility is to submit by faith to God…this is the only path for all to enter into relationship with God.
- 31…Here Paul is addressing a well-known counter argument…”if all this is true (salvation is by faith alone) then the law has no purpose.”
“No” Paul counters…”faith does not make the law worthless…it actually upholds, or keeps the law.”
How is this so?
Again…in Christ’s life and death…God’s saving and judging righteousness were satisfied.
The law is the standard of God’s holiness…it has been fulfilled in Christ.
The law is not done away with or ignored…but rather it has been fulfilled by Christ on our behalf.
We who are in Christ are accounted as having fulfilled the law and have been set free from the penalty of disobedience.
Practically speaking…this freedom from the law’s condemnation puts us in a relationship with God whereby we now have the power and desire to live a life of obedience.
We are not saved by obedience but by faith…but we are saved by faith to obedience.
The law was and is good…it represents God’s character…his will and his ways…faith does not extinguish it from our lives…it allows it to be established in our lives.
“I Have to but cannot obey” has now turned into “I get to and can obey”…not perfection but direction…perfection was accomplished for us, now we can live a life of a settled direction.
I have had many conversations over the years with men and woman who sought a life of freely doing whatever they wanted…free from the requirements of God (and realized after a great deal of sorrow and loss)…that they were not free at all.
Freedom is to be and do what God made us to be and do.
Where then is Boasting? Paul asked… well, It is excluded
Faith is the exclusive entryway to relationship with God…all others ways (that involve opportunities for human boasting) are excluded.
We will still, as believers struggle with boasting but we must see it as the silliness and worse…destructive force that it is.
In fact, it may be that believers are the ones who struggle with it the most…because others often do not see it as a problem to be struggled with at all.
Boasting is normal, common, acceptable for the culture at large…boasting is applauded, a sign of confidence…but it is really a sign of folly.
1 John 2:16 For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.
1 Cor. 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
What does a completely contingent being (like us) have to boast about…what do we have that was not given to us…directly or indirectly?
But there is one legitimate boast…that we know God…we understand that he is God.
Jer. 9:23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD
The damaging effects of our boasting (mind and mouth)
Whether we verbalize or just internalize it (don’t say it, but think it and believe it)…the idea that we have something, apart from God, to boast about has a negative impact on our hearts and lives.
- Negatively impacts our worship
- Negatively impacts our resiliency
- Negatively impacts our relationships
- Negatively impacts our worship
As long as we think, however subconsciously, that we have contributed something to our salvation…in our hearts we will be bigger than we should be and God will be smaller than he is.
This is the opposite of worship…worship means he increases and we decrease.
Worship by its nature must turn attention from ourselves to God.
Its why in worship…we must practice situational awareness…some settings we can express our freedom in one way in another it would be inappropriate…why?
Because in “freedom to worship”…worship, not freedom is the operational word.
Our freedom must not draw attention to us…worship is about turning attention to God.
The truer our worship…the larger God becomes and the more dependent we become…because this is the way things really are.
It’s not likely that someone would think of themselves as God’s equal or superior…though I suppose it is possible.
Its more likely we will think ourselves as his Jr. Partner…he is really smart, and really strong…but I’ve got something to contribute…who knows, maybe he could even learn a thing or two from me.
After all, he’s pretty old, and I’ve got some fresh, innovative ideas.
Seriously…human arrogance and boasting means we come to God with less than a “fall on our faces” attitude of utter dependence.
Not just our public worship but…our private prayer life can become hurried prayers thrown up like tweets rather than reverent supplication offered to a being so vastly superior to us words cannot describe how much greater he is.
When I pray with Mo, no matter what we are praying about…he begins his prayer with a recitation of the greatness of God…then he may ask for some simple thing.
This is not some prayer rule…but praying with him has challenged me…he has a much better perspective of where he stands in regards to God than I have had.
God doesn’t need for Mo to tell him how great he is…Mo needs it himself…I need it.
- It negatively impacts our resiliency.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges, or in some cases to “keep your shape” when forces are threatening to stretch you or pull you out of shape.
When we are putting illegitimate confidence in ourselves…it most often means things are going pretty well and we are feeling good about ourselves.
But when the inevitable difficult times come…and if our confidence is in ourselves, we find ourselves feeling insecure…unable to press into life.
One day we are confident, calm, assured…the next insecure, worried, and not feeling so self-assured…I have watched this pattern in many lives, including my own.
For a time we are feeling close to God, loved by God, used by God…we are in the spiritual sweet spot…reading, praying, obeying…life is good, God is pleased with me…and I feel pretty good about the whole thing
Then we fail, or life becomes difficult…life is not good, God is not happy with me…I feel pretty terrible.
Now…there is a sense of contentment and satisfaction that comes from obedience, this is a good thing and I’m not talking about that.
I am talking about measuring my relationship with God with a subjective standard (how well I think I am doing) versus an objective one (the gospel…what Jesus has done).
In our hearts the difference between legitimate contentment because of obedience and illegitimate pride is often a razors edge of separation.
We must be vigilant to the problem that comes when we become self-unaware and accept the lie that we have something in ourselves to take pride in.
Live by our own spiritual successes, die by our own spiritual failures.
All our works, however good they may be (and they are all stained to a degree by sin)…are the product of God’s grace, his Spirit working in and out of us.
It is a temptation to measure my relationship with God, his affection for me and acceptance of me…by how I feel I have been doing.
We are to measure by the standard of the gospel…while we were sinners, Christ died for me.
We must not look to our feelings of confidence for our actual confidence…we look to the facts of the gospel.
Clearly this doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what we do…but we have addressed that enough that you should understand what I am not saying…and what I am saying.
Relationship with God is based on his actions not our own…confidence and security are the result of what Christ has done for us.
Our own disobedience can make us insecure and for good reason.
But often, I think, we measure our lives by how we “feel” about ourselves and how we “feel” about how well we are doing rather than by looking in confident faith to what has already been done for us on the cross.
This makes us less spiritual resilient…more susceptible to winds and waves of “feelings and failures” that blow us and push around.
- Negatively impacts our relationships
When we are doing well, it can be easy to forget the struggles we have had and easy to judge others who are not measuring up in some way…we can easily look down on strugglers.
When we are doing poorly, it can be easy to want to hide…especially from those who we think not struggling.
Our shameful judging and our hiding in shame are both bad for relationships…the very relationships that are crucial to our own overall health, well-being and happiness.
Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The parable was aimed at the self-righteous character in the story.
But let’s take a look at both…the proud “I’m so glad I’m not a sinner” and the humble” God have mercy on me a sinner.”
The humble sinner went home justified but suppose the parable took up the story a week later.
If the justified sinner returned to worship the next week…he would likely not “feel” forgiven…he had many years of “feeling” otherwise.
But he could, regardless of how felt…now “look up to heaven” and with real confidence (faith in God’s mercy) give thanks to God.
There would be a problem if after being declared righteous…he continued to come in day after day and “dare not look his head to heaven.”
When we look to our own efforts or failures…we can be the guy at the front full of self-confidence one day and the guy at the back full of self-loathing the next. (even after God has declared us justified”
For those who have been justified by faith through grace…there is no room for boastful self-confidence or insecure lack of confidence.
The whole point of a life of faith…is to live with a confidence in the one who is constant.
The Gospel is the fixed point of reference for our lives…we don’t look to how we are currently “feeling and doing”…we look to what Jesus has done for us.
Doing great…thank God for his grace operational in your life…refuse to look down in any way on anyone else.
Doing poorly…thank God that he has accepted you in Christ…you are his because of what he has done.
One of the goals of our sanctification (the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit) is to transform us over time into people who are more consistently humble and confidence…these two things are based on the constancy of Christ…not on our ability to make life happen on our own.