June 20, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 3)

Submitted by James C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Romans 3

Reflection Questions

Romans 3:9-20

·       What does this passage declare about the universal condition of mankind?  How should this affect my view of myself and others?

This passage declares that the universal condition of man is that we’re sinful and fallen, and that we are guilty before God. Whatever we may appear on the outside and to others, the fundamental reality is that we turn away from what is good and true and right. This passage says that no one is righteous and that our sinful selves do not want to seek God or to do his will. The description from chapter 1 about the downward spiral of sin and cravings for base and degrading things—this passage says that this pattern characterize us as “all have turned away, they have together become worthless.” The picture here is not that we have some minor flaws that we can just simply correct or fix, but it paints a picture of people who are utterly corrupt and sinful through and through.

This understanding of myself as a totally helpless sinner should really bring a lot of freedom into my life. Often, I find myself resisting this basic truth about me, and as a result I do so much mental gymastics in trying to justify something wrong I said or did. At other times, I feel very disappointed at myself for the way I still am and how I still struggle over the same sins, and this is because I have this self-expectation that I’m not a total failure. When others don’t make much of me or when I don’t feel respected, I get all worked up and feel indignant. All of these are unnecessary internal conflicts and a waste of mental energy that make me feel unfree and unhappy, when the simple truth is that I am a fallen sinner. Were I to fully embrace this truth, I would be freed from these inflated expectations about myself. And then, I can actually be in a position to appreciate the fact that I’ve been forgiven and accepted by God.

Were I to embrace fully this truth that others are helpless sinners, I would not have unrealistic expectations toward others. Sometimes I expect others should be able to easily change and work on their problems and sins, and feel surprised and frustrated when they do not change to meet my expectations. But if it is true that they are fundamentally corrupt and broken people, I would have more sympathy towards their flaws and sins and be able to show more grace towards them. Also, I would be less easily impressed by others’ outward appearances. I would know that even those who seem to have everything put together and who seem to just handle life and spiritual life with ease, that even they are stubborn sinners who struggle with stubborn sins. It would make me feel less competitive and feel envy or disdain towards others, and instead, to have empathy and even a sense of comaraderie with them as ones who need God’s grace and forgiveness.

·       Every utopian movement in history has degenerated into violence and tyranny because people disregarded the magnitude of human sinfulness.  Are there some ways in which I hold to idealized or utopian views of human possibilities apart from God? 

For me, one way that I may have an overly idealized or utopian view of people is toward human competencies or experience/wisdom that I have gained as a Christian. When I think this way, I’m really undertestimating the power of sin and how it has very destructive tendencies. Even when all seems to be going well, there can be some deeper sin like pride or complacency or passivity that can undo everything.  I need to have a sense of vigilance about my own sins and not underestimate the potential of our sins can quickly affect one another and God’s church. Instead, I should have a deeper sense of dependence on God and His mercy, and be observant and vigilant about sins and temptations and quickly deal with them.

Romans 3:21-31

·       Given the complete failure of human righteousness, what hope is there for any relationship with a holy God?

The only hope that we can have in a relationship with a holy God is in His initiative and His willingness to help us in our helpless condition. For us, it’s difficult enough just to see and admit our sins honestly. But even when we do see it, we find ourselves not having the strength to be able to overcome that. It’s like we’re faced with a bankruptcy and do not have the resources to lift ourselves from the dire situation, and the only hope is for someone greater to bail us out. That greater someone is Jesus, and through the sacrifice of his sinless life, he makes it possible for his righteousness before God to cover over us, and we can be right in our relationship with God. Not that our sins just automatically disappear, but at least we can have a restored relationship with God, that even as sinners, we can know that we are forgiven by God and be His child. It is only through God’s initiative and willing to restore us. The Bible even says that Jesus willingly and joyfully gave himself for us, and to that extent, we can be hopeful of God’s pleasure to forgive us and restore our relationship with him.

·       Reflect on the words “a righteousness from God.”  Where does this new righteousness come from and to whom does it apply?

This new righteousness comes from Jesus and through his sacrifice on the cross. Because Jesus was sinless, he was able to be the atonement for our sins. This righteousness is not given to people on the basis their good behavior, but it is given to people who are willing to trust him and receives this righteousness as a gift. Even though this is the basic Gospel message, it is worth noting again that this righteousness is not given to people for what good they have done, but it is a righteousness given to people who do not deserve it. This scandal of grace, that this grace is given to sinners who are vile and corrupt, is something that really should surprise and shock me again and again because it is so radical. This is not favor given to worthy people but it is amnesty granted to rebels. This is how unexpected and amazing this righteousness from God is.

·       Why would a person who has been “justified by faith” engage in boasting of “observing the law?”  How can I guard myself against this kind of illegitimate boasting before God?

On the face of it, it seems illogical that someone who has been justified by faith would go back to engage in boasting by observing the law. Yet in my experience, this is so easy and all too common, and it attests to how powerful pride is. Even though there may be times in the past when we understand how undeserving we are of God’s grace, but when we grow spiritually and “clean up” some areas of our lives, and we see ourselves serving and trying to obey God, we take pride in the change in our lives. Even though we were changed through God’s grace and the ministry and care of others, we somehow take credit for that, as though we are now better people, and we want to feel good about ourselves because now we are better. We think that we are now different, and our pride kicks in as we think that somehow we are now capable of earning God’s favor through good behavior and external actions, while ignoring the same sinful and broken self that’s very much alive below the surface of things.

To guard against this, I think it’s important to be reminded of the Gospel and go through moments of honest self-examination. For me, part of it is just to be all there and engaged during prayer meeting times, as we are often led in times of self-examination and encouraged to confess honestly. When I do engage in specific and honest confession in those times, I find that it helps me to realign my view of myself by focusing on the inner reality of sin in my life rather than just focusing on the externals. Another safeguard in my life is ministry, as ministering to other sinners reminds me of the reality of sin in my life and how I received God’s mercy. As I reach out to lost people who do not know God, I get reminded of how I was like as a freshman entering into college, burdened with guilt and shame from my past, and I am reminded of where I came from. As I help younger Christians grow and struggle against their sins, I am challenged in my own spiritual life to be genuinely struggling with my sins as well. As I engage in the fierce spiritual battles in others’ lives, I am reminded of the deep reality of the spiritual battles in my life and of the power of sin, and all of those help me to see myself properly as a sinner and how I have been rescued by God’s power and his grace.

Submitted by Judy S. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Romans 3

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:20

Apostle Paul must have encountered a lot of proud and deluded people (like me) in the church in Rome because he seems to keep hammering this very simple truth and tries to say it in different ways: “No one will be declared righteous,” or “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Apostle Paul’s emphasis on man’s sinfulness was not just to make someone feel bad over their sins, but to show just how wonderful and glorious is the fact that God made a way out for each sinner, so that sin and death doesn’t have to be the final conclusion.  The gospel is only good news to those who recognize their problem of sin.

I know that this is true in my own experience as well.  I had grown up going to church here and there, and considered myself a Christian, but never seriously thought I was a bad person or a sinner.  I thought because I did what my parents told me to do most of the time, didn’t get into much trouble, did well in school, that I was a pretty good person.  So the gospel, though I could say the right words, didn’t have the life-transforming power that it should have had in my life because I was missing that preliminary step of confessing that I am a sinner in need of a savior.  How often I declared myself righteous in my own sight, based on my own standard of what is right and wrong that I picked up from the media, by comparing myself to other people (even non-Christians).  But in the end, I know that my criteria and my judgment about myself are not going to have the final word.  In the end, I am part of “the whole world held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). This verse gives me a reality check and a proper sense of urgency not to compare myself with other people or care about what other people think of me, but instead to focus on making sure that I am considered righteous in God’s sight.  And I am so thankful that the path of becoming righteous in God’s sight has nothing to do with observing the law, which I have failed to do again and again.  When there were times I could have done something for someone out of love, which required some self-sacrifice, how many times did I look the other way?  How many times have I failed to tell the complete truth because it made me look bad?  How many times have I avoided asking people how they were really doing because I didn’t want to get too involved in an uncomfortable conversation or in someone’s messy situation?  How many times have I made demands on other people to make my life easier, smoother, and more comfortable for me, rather than seeing myself as a servant?  In these ways and countless others I see that I am not going to be declared righteous based on observance of the law, but rather, the law has opened my eyes to become conscious of my sinfulness: sins of selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, pride.  The law opened my eyes to my biggest problem of sin, and it caused me to hunger for a solution, which is given by God Himself, through Jesus Christ.

Only when I fully understand the problem does the gospel stated in Romans 3:21-24 sound like the best news.  Apostle Paul explains that we can achieve righteousness only if we are justified by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ.  It has nothing to do with observing the law and everything to do with God making the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying on the cross in order to redeem me from my sins.  And this righteousness is available to me “freely” and through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is something completely different from this world’s “save yourself” mentality, where nothing is given freely, and everything has to be earned with much effort, striving, and by out-competing others.  But in v.22 it is as if God said that He will call me what I am not (righteous) just by my believing in Jesus Christ.  And by truly believing in Jesus, I am to live out this life as if it is true!  It would be absurd if this happened in any other area of life.  For example, if someone said, “You are now going to be called a lawyer even though you failed the bar exam because you believe in the promise that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will not count any of your legal malpractice against you.  And whenever you do make mistakes, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will pay the fines and penalties for all your mistakes.”  And then I’m supposed to go out and practice law, trusting that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will make good on his promise.  Likewise, having faith in Jesus doesn’t make me perfect, but it gives me the confidence of knowing that though I am imperfect, unable to obey God’s laws, I can try to live a life obedient to God out of gratitude of my salvation, and all the mistakes I am sure to make has been and will continue to be covered up by Jesus.  It also shows me how undeserved and unearned is my privilege of being considered righteous in God’s eyes.  Truly, there was nothing that I did not deserve my salvation!

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I am in awe over the fact that though an honest assessment of me and the way I have lived my life would condemn me, You have provided the path to salvation for me through Jesus Christ.  Lord, I acknowledge that You are the rightful Judge of my life, and You are the Lawgiver, whose standard is the ultimate one, and that though I have failed to live up to Your standards, You do not condemn me.  Thank You for opening my eyes to my own utter sinfulness, so that I can now receive Your grace with the proper sense of humility, desperation, and gratitude.  And Lord, I thank You for not counting all of my sins against me, but instead, justifying me freely by the grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus.  I confess that I did not do anything to deserve such this grace.  I praise You because You did it all through Jesus Christ on the cross, not counting my sins against me, but against Him who was sinless.  Lord, thank You for paying that ultimate sacrifice in order to give me salvation and count me as righteous.  Please help me to grow stronger in this grace that is in Christ Jesus every day, by recognizing that I am a sinner in need of a savior every day, and every day, Your grace does not run out, but You give me the strength that I need in order to do the good work You have prepared in advance for me to do.  Lord, I want to live my life pleasing to You, and in grateful response of the salvation that You have given so freely to me.  Please help me to live my life as a blessing to others so that they can receive salvation from You also.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response