June 22, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 1-4)

Submitted by Amy T. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

Please re-read Romans 1-4 and write a brief reflection on the righteousness from God, and your response to it. 

As I thought about the amazing fact that we have received righteousness from God, one thing that is clear is that we cannot understand the concept of “righteousness from God” apart from the fundamental understanding of the state of humanity and of my own heart–that no one is righteous, that all have turned away, that there is absolutely nothing within human capability or potential that is able to achieve our own righteousness.

I think the problem often starts with hoping to find righteousness within the self. The reality that I’ve experienced with my own sin, as well as when I minister to others, is that we have infinite capacity to excuse away our sin or to make justifications regarding why we’re the way we are. A passage I was reminded of was Isaiah 57:10, “You were wearied by all your ways, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.” I think so often this is the problem. That although we have plenty of evidence to point to our sin, the hopeless nature of our sin, though we are wearied by our ways, yet we still keep finding renewal of strength in ourselves, and refuse to see that there is no hope in our own efforts. I think for those of us who have been Christian for a while, these sentiments may not come up so blatantly. But it gets revealed through the way we respond to our sin–either through holding onto our excuses and victim complex of why things happened the way they did and refusing to take full ownership over our sin. Or it’s the other extreme, as we fall into despair and cynicism over the fact that we’re still the way we are, that we haven’t changed, and to be discouraged by the fact of our sin. Unfortunately, both of these responses are ones I am prey to and need to continually struggle against. And I’ve experienced the reality that it’s as I continue to cling to excuses or despair, that I remain in my sin, and only grow increasingly wearied out by my desire to maintain a decent picture of myself or in hoping for a righteousness by my own hands.

Ironically, the only righteousness I can have is when I finally lose total hope in my ability to attain righteousness on my own, and when I finally come before the cross asking God for His righteousness alone to cover me. This process can only happen in my life as I fully own up to the true picture of who I am. The older I get, the reality only becomes clearer as I take full ownership over the different situations and what interactions with people in my life reveal, as I commit to battle against my default nature to excuse or justify myself, as I struggle against my sin of remaining in insecurity and cynicism, and fully embrace the reality of my lack of love, of my selfishness, etc. And it’s been through these realities, that the fact that I can have righteousness through God alone grows so much clearer and all the more amazing.

I think a key point these chapters point to is how we receive righteousness through faith.  I thought about how this is so true. How Satan has really got a hold in this area, wanting me to focus on the reality of my unrighteousness, how I fall short, and how messed up I am. These things are true, and yet Satan wants us to dwell in despair and self-focus rather than cling in FAITH that God knows exactly the depth of our sin, even better than we know. That God knows the very fact of Rom 3:23–that ALL have SINNED and FALL SHORT of the glory of God. And yet His very response to that is not condemnation, rather it is Romans 3:24:  that all “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” His response to our unrighteousness was to present Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement. So in the face of Satan’s lies that we have gone too far, that God is too disappointed in us, that we are a hopeless case, we are called to be people of FAITH–not faith that we’re not that bad or that we can change ourselves. But it’s FAITH that though it is true we are hopeless sinners, sin is not the final word. It’s faith in his blood, it’s faith, through being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what he had promised.  It’s that unwavering belief regarding the promises of God. This is also how I can actually obey. As Chapter 2:13 reminds us, it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who actually obey the law who will be declared righteous. And I know that this is an area I have to be committed to obey each day–to be committed to God’s truth, rather than to be dwelling in my own cynicism or pride.

In response, I need to welcome these opportunities to see the truth of who I am. I need to affirm through daily confession the reality of my unrighteousness, as well as welcome people in my life who can and are willing to point me to truth again and again. And to be committed that regardless of what is revealed, that my response would be in faith, to say and YET I will cling to His promise, and YET I will have faith in His blood, and the fact that God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. To be someone who commits to meditating on these promises, rather than the lies of Satan. Each time I find myself despairing, or coming up with excuses for my sin, these are times I need to quickly confess and repent, and again return to righteousness that can come only from God.

Submitted by Kevin L. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

From Romans 1, I see the utter depravity and sinfulness of mankind. That people exchanged the glory of the immortal God for man-made images, exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. People have become “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful, invent ways of doing evil, disobey their parents, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” As evident, there is nothing good within man, there is no righteousness within us. Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one,” 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

There is no hope in this world, in humanity, because through the law, we become aware of our sins and we are all condemned, because the consequence of sin is death. Just when there is no one righteous, there is this righteousness from God that is revealed in the gospel (1:17). This righteousness, apart from God, has been made known to which Scriptures point to. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, both Jews and Gentiles. God presented His Son as that righteous sacrifice for the punishment that humanity deserves. Jesus Christ came down on earth to die on the cross to take the place of our sin and punishment, bearing the suffering, so that we might live. That is the great news and that is the amazing gospel.

I need to simply be amazed again and again at this truth–that when I was a sinner Christ came to die for my sins. When I deserved sin, death, punishment, banishment, Jesus Christ came to bear my sins on the cross. It is not something I did nor did I deserve but simply out of God’s mercy. I need to humbly acknowledge the fact that I am a sinner and only cling on to God’s righteousness. This is not a reality in my day to day life and this is seen when things don’t go my way, I get frustrated, I still have an entitlement attitude that I deserve such and such in life. When I am confronted with the truth of who I am, I come up with excuses or try to deflect it.

I need to go back to the truth that I am a sinner and that I have experienced forgiveness again and again. As I finished Course 101 (Christian Foundations) with some of the Taiwanese students, I shared that the gospel is easy because of this free gift of salvation, but it is hard because we are so proud. That we have to acknowledge that we can not offer up any righteousness, that we are sinners and simply by acknowledging that God is Lord, we can partake in that righteousness. That is just so mind-blowing and so incredible that this could be true. In life, we’ve become accustomed to needing to prove our worth, to earn things, to get our act together. But the fact is that by our own measures, left to our own broken selves, we cannot attain any righteousness. But the good news is that Christ has already paid it all on the cross. What should be my response? Rom. 4: 2 says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” That is not by works I can become justified or by doing any good deeds, but simply by humbly coming before God, and simply acknowledging the fact of who God is, and who I am before Him, that He is the One who justifies, and that I can be justified by Christ’s death on the cross.

As I look at this world and as I try to minister to people, I pray that I may have that kind of burdened heart for the people God has placed in my life and to really see that kind of brokenness within me and within the people around me. It’s when I see the utter brokenness in and around me that I will have that kind of desperateness to show them that there is hope outside of us, that this hope is made known to us in the gospel. That God sent His Son Jesus to come to die on the cross, and that we need to only accept this truth to be declared righteous.

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