Faith is Our Victory
February 7, 2015
The Book of Romans, one of the most powerful books in the entire Bible because it strengthens our faith, it draws us near to God and it's also filled with some of the deepest theological truths in The New Testament. Some of our deepest understandings of who God is and what He's done for us. Especially when you get to Romans Chapter 9. There have been many books written just about this one chapter, many debates in Christian history really about this chapter. But, when you look at this chapter, really the most helpful way to understand it and frankly, all chapters of the Bible is to understand the book as a whole which is why it's so important that we're going through verse by verse, chapter by chapter because it's the best way to understand any part of it. And it's really an amazing book so we really want to understand because chapter by chapter. Paul has been building up to the capstone the highlight of this book really which is Romans 8. And it there he's giving us evidence and encouragement that we could be victorious. Yes, we live in an broken an evil world, we know that but we do not have to be discouraged or defeater. ''God is for us, so who can be against us?'', the scripture says. We have this flesh of ours, that's true, but it does not have to master us.
We do not have to be defeated. Yes, we're born with it and we're going to die with it but we can be victorious. That's the whole point. We can be victorious because God is our Abba, our Father. Beautiful picture for us, He send us Holy Spirit to ignite the soul that we would walk and have life and have it abundantly. Beautiful picture for us. And the capstone I think of the entire book is where Paul says: ''In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us, I am convinced, I am persuaded that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord''. In other words, he doesn't just want us to be victorious, he wants us to have surpassing victory, like a lot sided victory, like Seattle Seahawks when they beat Denver Broncos last year. I was hoping to use this year Superbowl as an alliteration but that didn't work out so well. Can someone just run the ball one yard? Just one yard? In Romans 9, it actually begins by Paul expressing his deep sorrow and his unceasing grief in his heart because his own brethren, the Israelites do not have this surpassing victory.
And he so wants them to have it. They're still stuck in the law, they're still trying to obtain righteousness through their own efforts rather than receiving it. That's a gift. Paul knows all about the frustration of living under the law, he himself was one of their leaders. There was a Pharisee of Pharisees, trained under the great Gamaliel. He knows, the law is no help, it doesn't make a man closer to God and in fact only makes the flesh worse. No surpassing victory is for those who have faith. Faith is such a key here in our relationship to the Lord. Those who believe God and will take him at His word, who will take hold of the promises that God gives us, all the promises, so abundant, he makes the point that it's always been about faith. Going all the way back to the beginning. God's promises are not received by the flesh, no, they're received by faith. That's how we have surpassing victory. Let's read Romans 9 beginning in Verse 1: ''I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bear with me in the Holy Spirit, I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart for I wish that I myself were accursed''. This is huge when he states right here. This is absolutely a huge statement. ''I wish I myself were accursed, separated for Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh, who Israelites to whom belong''- he's going to make this case ''they have so much'', ''to whom belong the adoption, their sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the temple services and the promise whose are the fathers and from whom is the Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever''.
But, it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel, who are descended from Israel. He's making his case here. Neither are they all children because they're Abraham's descendants. But through Isaac your descendants will be named. He's the son of promise. It is not their children of the flesh who are the children of God but the children of the promise or regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise that this time I will come and Sarah will have a son, though she is old and barren. And not only this, but there was Rebecca also. When she had conceived twins by one our father Isaac for through the twins, for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good about, in order that God's purpose according to his choice might send, not because it works but because of him who calls. He said to her the old, they will serve the younger. Does that as it's written, Jacob I loved but Esau I hated, literally loved less. But what shall we say? There is no injustice with God, is there? Nay, it'll never be. For he says to Moses: ''I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I have compassion''. So then, it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the scripture says to pharaoh, he brings up him: ''For this very purpose I raised you up do demonstrate My power into you that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole Earth''.
So then, He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardened whom He desires. You'll all say to me then: ''Why does he then still find faults for who resists his will?''. On the contrary, who are you all men to answer back to God? The thing molded would not say to the molder: ''Why did you make me like this?'', will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known and do it with much patience, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so. In order that he might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy. Which He prepared before him for glory. Even us whom He also called not from among Jews only, but from among the Gentiles.
For he says in Hosea. He brings up this prophecy: ''I will call those my people who are not my people; and her who was not beloved beloved''. And it shall be in the place where it was said to them ''you are not my people'', they shall be called sons of the living God. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, now listen to this: ''Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is only a remnant that is saved'', for the Lord will execute His word upon the Earth thoroughly and quickly just as Isaiah foretold. Indeed, except the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, a remnant, we would've been like Sodom, we would've been like Gomora. What shall we say then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attained righteousness even the righteousness which is my faith. But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. Just as it is written: ''Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence''. That's Christ. ''And he who believes in him will not be disappointed''. Now, you can see, those are some really amazing truths, deep, amazing truths.
I. Receive Promises by Faith
I want us to understand the point though is faith and in fact here's really how we need to apply it to our lives. Receive promises by faith or the promises of God. Paul says: ''Oh, what grief, what a sorrow'' he has in his heart because the Israelites did not receive those promises by faith. He's responding to an accusation. Somebody might say: ''Paul, are you against the Jews or something? Are you kidding me? I'm not against them, I'm for them. Oh, I so want them to receive the good gospel, I myself'' - this is amazing - I myself would be willing to be accursed, cut off from Christ if my own brothers would just receive the promises by faith''. That's love, that is real love. And any father or mother knows that love. If you have a child at all, you have that same kind of love. I would kick my child's pain on me any day. I remember when our daughter Nicole was nine and she had the Kawasaki syndrome, this painful syndrome, every joint in her body was racked with pain and she had a 106.5 fever and we were in a hospital and I just stayed with her in the hospital hour by hour. For a father to watch his daughter just bearing the pain, many times I prayed: ''God, if it were possible, I would take all of that pain upon myself''. If you love your kids, anyone who loves his kid would say this same thing. And now that we're raising her daughter as our own, I have the same love. I would give my life, I would take all of her pain if I only could. Amen. But see, that's just my love.
A. Israel had great promises
Can you imagine how much greater is God's love? Isn't that the picture of the gospel? That's the love of God. Verse 32. Israel had such great promises but they didn't pursue it by faith, they stumbled over the stumbling stone. The stumbling stone is Christ, God's promises found in it. As he hears his point [inaudible 00:12:24.05] Israel had such great promises. If they could've only seen what they had, if they could've only known and take in hold of those promises by faith, it says they have the adoption in their sons. He's referring to here to Israel as a nation, is Exodus 4:22 ''Israel is my son, my first born''. Also in Hosea 11:1-3 ''When Israel was a youth I loved them and out of Egypt I called my son''.
That's interesting because that's a quote referred to Christ Jesus there. ''It is I who taught him to walk, I took him by his arms and they did not know that it was I who healed him''. If they could've only seen it. And it goes on: ''Israel had the glory, the presence of god is seen in this glory, and the presence of God has been his heart from the beginning. Adam walked with God in the cool of the evening''. What a beautiful picture of relationship and friendship with God and intimacy. And then when Moses - I mentioned this last week - when Moses was on Mount Sinai in the presences of the Lord, God's glory was evident upon his face when he returned because he was in the presence of God. When Israel had the tabernacle in the temple, the presence of God was visibly seen in the Shekinah Glory. It's always been god's heart that his glory would be known his presence among the people. Isaiah 60:1 ''Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you''. Ezekiel 43:4-5 ''The glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east and the spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court and behold the glory of the Lord fill the house''. So what they've had, Israel had the covenants, Abraham, Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, the giving of the law, the temple service, the promises from whom is the Messiah. He's Jewish. All of these were unique to Israel. God chose them amongst all the nations on the Earth. What they had. Deuteronomy 7:6 ''The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the Earth to be His people, His treasured possession''. They had so much. But they wouldn't receive it because it's by faith. It's by faith. See, here's what we need to see for ourselves.
B. We have even better promises
We have even better promises. You look at what they had, we have even better promises. How tragic that Israel had such amazing promises but would not receive them by faith, yet we have even greater promises, what an even greater tragedy if we do not receive even greater promises by faith. Reminds me of a story. Tim Urban writes a story I want to share it with you. It really is a classic. Let me just read it for you. A few years ago a group invited me to speak to their annual leadership conference in Europe and included my family on the trip. A month or so before our departure and told me about a lifelong dream to visit Portugal and wondered if we could stop in Lisbon on the way to the meeting. A travel agent told her that our air fare would change only slightly so I said somewhat distractedly ''Fine with me''. And agreed to make the hotel arrangement so I moved the departure date on my calendar. The hotel confirmation arrived a few days before we left and I went into shock when I saw the exorbitant charge. I asked and with visible irritation how can we do this, there's no way we can afford this day in this hotel. And calmly explained that she was upset too but it was the only hotel that had space available. Then she shared her plan, her plan to save money by taking our food with us. She had brought down an old blue suitcase from the attic and filled it with food for our three days in Portugal.
At that point it was too late to change our flight so with that a significant penalty so we moved ahead with her plan. After flying all night we checked into the beautiful hotel Estoril de Sol and we ate our first breakfast from the food Anne had packed. I opened a miniature box of cereal and squirted it with room temperature milk form a carton. My father had always described my sons as appetites with skin stretched over them and you can tell from their faces that this blue suitcase plan was not going to work so well. The view of the Atlantic Ocean was beautiful but the breakfast was dreadful. And noted our grumpy moods and suggested we changed clothes and begin our tour of Lisbon. On the way down our elevator stopped at the mezzanine level and as the doors parted we looked straight into the hotel dining room. It looked like a spectacular movie set with the backdrop of the blues ocean I'd ever seen, linen draped tables were lain with magnificent food, large ice swans, flowers decorated the tables as pleasant waiters attentively bustled around. What I noticed most, however, was how happy everyone in the dining room seemed to be. And knew the reason they were happy. They were eating breakfast in the beautiful dining room. Sensing trouble, Anne pulled my arm and let us down the stairs and out into the bright Portuguese sunshine. After several hours of sightseeing, we stopped for lunch in a park with a shady bench overlooking the magnificent bay. Anne handed me a can of tuna fish with a pull toppering and some salty crackers. Our lunch. I felt grateful for Anne's resourcefulness but these mills went off for three days. Our boys boarded on hostility and aggression after being denied their normal intake for that long.
Cereal with warm milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples and tuna fish and crackers, pretty well lost all appeal on the second day. The night before our departure I stopped to check our bill with the front desk clerk and as I turned to leave she said puissantly ''May I make your breakfast reservation in the hotel dining room tomorrow morning before you leave for the airport?''. Not understanding, I asked her to explain. ''Well, of course, all of your meals are included in your room, si''. In a millisecond it became clear to me. The reason the hotel was expensive was because all our meals were included in the price. We had just spent three days eating the most awful food I could remember when we could've been eating in the most beautiful hotel dining room with all the other happy guests. It would be great if I could say I made this story up to make a point. But I didn't. Everyone does stupid things but that Portugal trip has to be on the top of the list. It's a great story and here's why. In life, many people end up eating tuna fish and crackers and are proud of their resourcefulness but they're missing out on all the promises that are included in the price that he pays for. We have so many promises and people are missing out them all with it means we have the spirit of adoption, not as a nation but as true adopted sons and daughters. Each of us can cry out ''Abba'' which means ''daddy'', ''father''. Romans 8:15 ''Israel had the glory of God but we have received a greater glory, a glory that does not fade''.
2 Corinthians 3:7-8 ''If the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones came with glory, how will the ministry of the spirit fail to be even more with glory?''. But glory that Israel receive faded away but the glory we received is inside the soul, the spirit, changing us, transforming us, giving us life from the inside. We have the joy, we have peace that passes understanding, we have a sure and steadfast hope as an inker for the soul. We have better promises, we have better covenant based on better promises. Hebrews 8:5-6 says ''They serve the copy and a shadow of the heavenly things'' but Jesus, he has obtained a more excellent ministry by as much as he is the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises. We had a better covenant, better promises but to receive by faith, with open heart, receive the adoption as sons, have a relationship to God as our father of the promises. You know when we adopted our boys in Russia, we went to Moscow to adopt them and we stood before the judge and it's a good illustration of the very point because we had to stand first and give our testimony. ''Are you offering them to be your sons?''.
Yes we want to be their parents and we're offering them to be our sons, they have a new name. They have everything that comes with me being their father, all the blessings of my life are going to be on them. They share equally in the inheritance and everything that is part of family, they are part of every blessing as theirs. They then had to stand before the judge and give their testimony. ''Did you hear everything they said? - Yes. You understand? - Yes. Do you receive that? Do you want to be their sons? - Absolutely''. There's a part that they play, there's a part that we play. Yes, I want everything that's behind that promise.
II. The Promise comes through His Son
Here's really what we need to see when you look at Romans 9. The promise comes through his son, the promise. The verse 6 says ''It's not as though the word of God has failed, for they are not old Israel who are descended from Israel''. This is important for us to understand. Many Jews believe, convince that they're saved simply because they're descended from Israel, they've got Abraham's blood in their veins. When I was going to Bible school I was serving tables at our restaurant and one day I'm having lunch break and I'm having this conversation with this fellow who's a Jew. And I saw I was interested in striking up a conversation with him so he sat down and we're having our hamburgers and so I said: ''How's your burger?'' and he said: ''Great'', and I said: ''I got a question for you, when you die, why will God let you in the heaven?''. That's a great conversation started right there. ''Hey, how's your lunch? - Great. And if you go to heaven, why would God let you in?''. He looked incredulous: ''I'm a Jew''. ''And? - I have Abraham's blood in my veins''. I said: ''But Abraham was a man of faith and only those who have faith are the children of Abraham''.
Isn't that right out of scriptures, Galatians 3:6-7 ''Abraham believed God and he was reckoned to him righteousness, therefore be sure it is those who are a faith who are sons of Abraham''. Paul then moves from one example to another to make his point. He says ''Only a remnant of Israel will be saved''. Only those who have faith, only those who believe, only those who stand of God's promises and then he applies it to you and me. Have only a remnant, only those who are genuine will be saved. I want to be in that remnant. Anybody else? I want the authentic, genuine, sincere reality of Christ in my life. He goes on to make that point over and over. Interesting, Jesus said something in Matthew 7:20-23, he said it this way ''You will know them by their fruits; not everyone who says to me ''Lord, Lord'' will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven''. Now, that is interesting right there and often misquoted. Let me ask this question. Because when people look at this, they say ''He who does the will of my father who is in heaven, well I want to go to heaven so I want to do the things that look like to the will of my father''. But wait a minute, this is not by self-effort. It is by receiving. For example, he says ''You know them by their fruits''. Here's the question. The fruits, are they the cause or they're the result? They are the result. They are the result of what? Hanging out on the tree? Just receiving from the tree, the nutrients to supply the sap, everything, it just simply hangs on the tree and receives.
A. A promise must be believed
''The will of my father, he who does the will of my father'', is that the cause or the result? It's the result. It's the result of hanging out in the family tree, it's the result of hanging out and having the father bring his holy spirit and the transformation that he does because you're in that relationship. Beautiful, powerful. Because he says ''A promise must be believed''. It's by faith. Paul uses several examples to make his point. It's not simply being born from Abraham, that makes on a son of Abraham and he brings up the case of the two sons. Isaac was the child that God promised and it's only through Isaac is the promise given. Now, remember the story, right? God promised Abraham a son. Problem is, Abraham is old and his wife is old and barren. So how can this be? So Sarah, his wife says ''Maybe what you should do is to take my hand maiden Hager as your wife and have a son through him''. So he does this, he listens to his wife and the result is Ishmael. Ishmael is not the son of the promise. Instead, it is the result of self-effort and flesh and trying to achieve to accomplish by tuna fish and crackers.
And what happens, Ishmael becomes the father of all the Arab nations we see on the Earth today. And in fact, all of the troubles and the difficulties in the Middle East are the result of Abraham's faltering a faith. Later, 13 years later God came to him again. ''Let me be very clear. Sarah will have a son, Sarah will have a son''. Abraham was a hundred years old, Sarah was 90. This was unimaginable. And in fact, when Abraham heard it, he laughed. When Sarah heard it, she laughed. And in fact, God then confronted her ''Why did you laugh?''. Then she denied ''I didn't laugh'' - ''Oh, but you did''. And in fact the boy's name will be Isaac which means ''he laughs''. Interesting. Was he named Isaac as a forever reminder of their lack of faith, their faith that faltered? We know his name, ''he laughed because you laughed''. No, not at all. They grew in their faith when God did the miraculous, when God did the astounding, when God provided the promise in amazing way, they laughed with joy. Hebrews 11:11 ''By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive even beyond the proper time of life since she considered him faithful who had promised''. Faith. It's always about faith. Genesis 21:6 Sarah said ''God has mad laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh with me''. That's beautiful. Amazingly, this is absolutely interesting. Amazingly, Paul takes that story and applies that to you and to me and says ''Like Isaac we are the children of promise''.
This is interesting. Galatians 4:24-28, deep theology alert, this is really interesting. Allegorically speaking, these women, Hager and Sarah are two covenants, they represent two covenants. And he says ''Hager represents Mount Sinai where Moses received the law of God''. What? Hager represents the old covenant, the old law? Yes, and like you brother and like we are like Isaac, we're the children of promise. We're all supposed to be saying: ''Wow'' right now, that's amazing. You know last night service gave me more support than that. They said ''wow''. Okay, it was a little late now. But this is amazing. What is he saying? Then Paul brings up Rebecca when she had reconceived twins by Isaac. But before the twins were born she received this promise: ''The older will serve the younger''. That's not the normal way. That order. Here again, God chooses the son through whom the promise will be give according to His good pleasure, that his purpose might stand. And here's the point, the promise of life comes through his son, God's son. God made the heaven and Earth by His great power. He spoke and all things came into being that have come into being? Now if you speak and all things come into being that have come into being, you pretty much get to choose the program that you want. And this is the program that he wants. Faith. This is what I decided. It's going to be on faith.
I'm going to send my son, my only son and he will take the sins of the world upon himself and pay the penalty with his own life that he who would believe on him will receive life and life eternal. That's my son, that's my program. The Jews vehemently object ''I object, I don't like this program, I want it to be by my effort, I want it to be by the fact that I have the blood of Abraham''. Well, that's not the program. It's by faith. Acts 4:11-12 explains it ''They have stumbled over the stumbling stone''. They're offended. Wait a minute. It's his program. It's his son. He get's to decide. He says in Acts 4 ''He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, Israel'', but which became the chief corner stone, the entire building is weight on it. And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Now it's not politically correct today to suggest that there is not other name by which we must be saved. Let's be more politically correct. Let's be more sensitive. Let's be sensitive to all the other religions of the world. ''They've stumbled over the stumbling stone, they're offended that the rock of offense''.
God pretty much gets to choose how He wants the world to be. And He says it this way ''My son, take hold of my son, believe on my son, you'll have eternal life''. ''I don't like it, I object''. Why can't we be sensitive after all? Don't all religions lead to God? You know what I'm going to say? I actually agree. All religions do lead to God. They just have very different results once they get there.
B. Don’t harden your heart
Because God has decided that this is the plan, my son. All will come to this point where they stand before the throne of God. And the question will be ''What did you do with my son? My son, I gave you my son, I gave you my all, I gave you everything, I gave you my son, every promise that I have is contained in my son. What did you do with my son?''. And this is why he then brings up this, brings up pharaoh. And he says it this way ''Don't harden your heart''. He quotes from the Book of Exodus ''I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy'', Verse 16 ''It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy''. God says ''Here's mercy, here's compassion, it's found in Jesus, that's my plan. What will you do with it? Don't harden your heart to it''. See, a person my object to God's way of salvation. All they want at the end of the day, it all comes down to this question. Paul uses the example of pharaoh because pharaoh hardened his heart.
Over and over, seven times he says that pharaoh hardened his heart. Finally, when things got very strong, he began to weaken and weaver. But God is not deceived, He knew pharaoh's heart so He stiffened that hardness. It shows that danger of having a hard heart against God. In Acts 7:51 Steven is really strong and he's speaking to the Jewish leaders of the day and he says ''You men are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears and always resisting the holy spirit, you are doing just as your fathers did''. That is just powerful. Verse 21 ''God made you for honorable use''. God gave your every breath that you breathe, every day that you live God gave it to you as a gift. Live it. Live it to the full but understand that all the promises of God are found in his son. Live through that promise because it has eternal consequence. Why? Why did He make you? It tells us in Verse 23 ''Because He desires to make known to you the riches of His glory''.
I love that picture. If you receive His offer of mercy by faith, don't stumble over the rock of offense, don't stumble over the stumbling stone, don't resist. The word ''stiff-necked'' is a good word. Stiff-necked means you have a stiff neck. You know why? Because you refuse to bow it. It's kind of the picture of God and his powerful right hand, laying his hand of a neck of his son. The right hand represents the power. Laying it on the neck of his son. You and I. We're adopted, right? We're like that son or daughter. He says ''Let me rest my hand upon your neck''. Some people are very hard of heart and stiff-necked ''Don't touch me, I make my own way, don't put your hand on my neck''. Others say ''Place your hand on my neck. The power that resides in your hand, place it right on my neck. Every promise found in your hand, every promise of your presence. Lord, I welcome that. Place your power, place your hand on my neck. Lord, I bow before you''.
There's this beautiful picture in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where he says it this way ''It is as though God were making an appeal through us, therefore he says we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God''. I love that verse because it shows that God is pursuing, God is the one who lays his hand on your neck. He's the one who wants to draw you near and have his hand over your life. Every blessing of God is found through his son. Don't harden your heart but welcome it. Receive every aspect of his presence. Love his as your abba, father. Every promise is received by faith. Let's pray.