Final Grace Rests Easily Where Sin Once Sat from Romans, Part 14

Let me conclude this series on grace with an illustration of the truth we have just examined and how this is grace at work in us.

Mitsuo Fuchida grew up loving his native Japan and hating the United States, which treated Asian immigrants harshly in the first half of the twentieth century. Fuchida attended a military academy, joined Japan’s Naval Air Force, and by 1941, with 10,000 flying hours behind him, had established himself as the nation’s top pilot. When Japanese military leaders needed someone to command a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they chose Fuchida.

Fuchida’s was the voice that sent his aircraft carrier the message “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) indicating the success of the surprise mission. Later, he too was surprised when he learned that, of the 70 officers who participated in the raid, he was the only one who returned alive. He had another close call when he was shot down during the battle of Midway in 1942, but despite serious injuries, he survived again.


By 1945 he had attained the position of the Imperial Navy’s Air Operations Officer. On August 6 he was eating breakfast in Nara, Japan,
where a new military headquarters was under construction, when he heard about a bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He flew to investigate, then sent a grim report to the Imperial Command.

On the same day, an American POW named Jacob DeShazer felt moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for peace. DeShazer had been in captivity since 1942, when, as a member of Doolittle’s Raiders, he had dropped bombs near Tokyo and then was forced to parachute into China. While imprisoned, first in Nanjing and later in Beijing, DeShazer had become a Christian. He found his heart softened toward his Japanese captors. After being liberated, DeShazer wrote a widely distributed essay, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japanese,” detailing his experiences of capture, conversion, and forgiveness.

Fuchida and DeShazer met in 1950. DeShazer had returned to Japan in 1948 as a missionary. Fuchida had read DeShazer’s testimony, bought a Bible, and converted from Buddhism to Christianity. DeShazer had recently finished a 40-day fast for revival in Japan when Fuchida came to his home and introduced himself. DeShazer welcomed the new convert and encouraged him to be baptized. While DeShazer continued to plant churches throughout Japan, Fuchida became an evangelist, spreading a message of peace and forgiveness in his native country and throughout Asian-American communities.

Fuchida died on May 30, 1976. Like dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, who wished his legacy to be one of peace rather than destruction, Fuchida wanted the message of his changed heart to supersede the memory of his infamous attack. He wrote, “That morning [December 7] . . . I lifted the curtain of warfare by dispatching that cursed order, and I put my whole effort into the war that followed. . . . [But] after buying and reading the Bible, my mind was strongly impressed and captivated. I think I can say today without hesitation that God’s grace has been set upon me.”  [Elesha Coffman, “Beyond Pearl Harbor,” Christian History Online Newsletter (6-01-01); submitted by Kevin Miller; Wheaton, Illinois]

How does faith come to and grow in a person.  By God’s Word!  Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard by the word of Christ.”

God’s word, given to the unbeliever that does not resist the Word, works in their heart and mind and they come to believe in Jesus and convert to Christ, but that’s not all, the word continues to develop faith as the Word continues in their life.

God’s grace saves, but his grace does so much more than save, it transforms, protects, and develops and grows faith and hope, and life.

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Getting Further into God’s Grace, Part 13

In this next to last installment of Grace Rests Easily Where Sin Once Sat, Paul challenges us to be faithful to God, to employ godliness in our lives, and that it is completely different than the way the rest of the world is.
Don’t Be Like Everyone Else – Romans 12:2a
When Paul writes, don’t conform to the world. What does he mean? There are a couple of things we need to qualify to fully understand what he means.
1st – What Paul means by “the world.” When the Bible refers to “the world” it doesn’t usually refer to the globe that is the earth, but what the way of living is on this world. The world is the way of life, of living; attitudes, actions, thoughts, deeds, methods, hopes, fears – everything that is not of God: Idolatry, atheism, agnosticism, non-Biblical and anti-God philosophies, and of course sin and sinfulness.

The world is the way you were before you were in Christ and received grace. Everything that is against God and contrary to God’s revealed will and ways. That is what is known as worldly.

2nd – What Paul means by “conform.” Conformity is “going along with.”  It is choosing to become like the world.  So young girls dress like J-Lo, and everyone wants to be on American Idol, and they want to be like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. They are conforming to the morals of the day; that homosexuality is normal and acceptable, that Christianity is silly and that Church is useless, and it goes on and on.

Paul warns us, “Do not be CONFORMED any longer to the WORLD

It is so easy to fall into the trap that the world sets for us. Temptations are always in front of us. The people we encounter at our jobs, or at the Senior Center, or in any number of situations that could possibly influence us may be where the temptations come from.

And of course there is always the media, TV, radio, the Internet, video games, music, magazines, etc.  There is very little available that is Christian on TV, there is some on radio, virtually none that are video games, there is a lot of Christian music, and there are several Christian magazines and books. The media has a huge impact on our lives. Since most of it is not Christian in orientation, we must beware because it is a primary means by which we are drawn into conforming ourselves to the world.

But we have to follow Paul’s instructions from verse 1.  Choose to become living sacrifices.  Lay our lives in God’s hands and live that life.

BECOME THE BUTTERFLY – Romans 12:2b

We know about caterpillars.  At some point in their life-cycle, they go into a cocoon. After a period of time, they cease being caterpillars and become butterflies.

My wife and I saw one that kept landing on the toy golf club our 16 month old grandson was carrying around the yard one day. It was once a crawly critter, but through metamorphosis, it became something completely different.

Paul uses the word “transform.”  That word is the word metamorphosis. There is a change in composition, and structure, and substance. That caterpillar is different in every single way.

We are to be transformed.

Transformation as a Christian means a change in the spiritual and the mental substance of who we are, what we think and the way we think, how we act, and even the way we feel about things, our emotions. Our thinking changes, our values are higher, our motivations are self-less and God-driven. Our emotions are controlled by holiness, and not by feeling, our hopes are eternal and not material.

I think you see the point of transformation and the direction of Godly transformation. But deciding to become this way isn’t enough for it to happen in our lives.  We need help.  And we have it.

Renew your mind.

This is not a brain transplant in the literal sense. It is a brain transplant in the spiritual sense. God changing us from within! How does that happen?

Let me first illustrate renewing of the mind:

       Craig Barnes, a minister in Washington, DC, tells of a time when his father who was a minister brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger, whose parents had died from a drug overdose. There was no one to care for Roger, so Craig’s folks decided they’d just raise Roger as if he were one of their own sons.

At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home–an environment free of heroine-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, Craig heard his parents saying to Roger:

“No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.”

“No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want.”

“No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family.”

And in time Roger began to change.

Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of Craig’s father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.

Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, “No, no. That’s not how we act in this family.” Craig Barnes, author and pastor of National Presbyterian Church; Washington, D.C.; from sermon “The Blessed Trinity” (5-30-99)

We are in the family of God and the way of living that each member of the Christian family is to live is provided in Scripture, empowered by God’s Spirit in our lives, and even the example and encouragement of the other family members in God’s family. We learn, we follow, we obey, we change through practice, by the change in our will, and our own determination, and our hearts, and minds, our ways change, they are transformed, but back to the way we were meant to be at creation, taking us away from the unnatural, the way of sin, of unholiness, into holy and righteous ways of living.

In so doing, we prove God’s word, God’s will, and God’s power to save and give life, because we are being transformed into the image of Christ, who we are told is the image of God. Colossians 1:15-17

Final installment, next week.

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Does America Hate Christians?

     Every week I encounter people who are believers, Christians from varying church backgrounds, Jews, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans (as a religion), people who are nothing, and on occasion someone who is Muslim. I teach the Bible with most of them, talk about faith and life with them, sing songs of faith with them, have discussions about faith with them, and just visit them.

A coupe of months ago Jerry (his name has been changed) made a comment after a teaching and singing time with a group of about 45. He remarked to someone, “How can you believe that stuff. It doesn’t make sense.” He is a skeptic.

Ever since then, when I see the group, he goes out of his way to say hello to me and he enjoys the sessions and is singing with us too. He isn’t against us, but up to now he has not believed and wonders why people would. It seems he is becoming interested in things of faith. Maybe he will become a follower of Jesus Christ too. I hope so, I am praying that he will.

Bradley R.E. Wright in the latest Christianity Today presents the idea that Americans are alright with Evangelicals in Americans Like Evangelicals After All. He takes his comments further along than I will with by discussing why we worry about it.

Follow this link to read the article. It is worth our consideration: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/august/americans-do-like-evangelicals.html

There is an obvious bias against evangelical Christians. But like some circumstances, it is a small number who are crying the loudest and in some cases responsible for stopping some aspects of faith from taking place or pushing agendas that vary from the beliefs and values that Christians hold, such as; getting prayer removed from schools; making it inappropriate to have a Bible or some expression of faith at your work. As well as pushing for abortion and same-sex values and there is more. It is troubling and we must deal with it appropriately, the way Jesus would have, the way the Bible teaches us.

If America doesn’t dislike us as much as we had believed, what does that mean to us? I can think of a couple of things.

  1. It should alleviate many of our fears about sharing our faith with others. If they don’t dislike us, many people won’t be offended by our expressions of faith and belief.
  2. It should change our attitude about how we encounter our culture. Some Christians are hot under the collar with our culture, some are militant in fighting the culture through litigation and or cultural commentary and condemnation. It seems we should offer grace not grouse. Please understand that I am not condoning immorality and anti-scriptural teaching, but our attitude in dealing with our culture should be a whole lot more gracious in my view. We are to love others.
      I have found in some cases, there are people who though they do not have a favorable view of Christians, when they encounter some of us, are not as resistant to our beliefs and values.
     For instance, Ronnie (not his real name), was very resistant to Christianity. Ronnie claimed to be a pagan, but was more atheist in value. He resisted faith and Christianity and had decent relationships with a handful of Christians. One time Ronnie was dissing pastors when he remembered suddenly that I am a pastor. He stopped, looked at me with a sly smile and said, Jeff, you’re alright for a minister” (I didn’t change my name, LOL).
Ronnie had a brother-sister relationship with one of the young ladies in the group. One time, she shared some things about her faith and encouraged the group of 15-20 that they need Jesus. He took offense at her comments because he felt that she had targeted him specifically. I am sure that she thought of him when she prepared to share that day, but she was considering the whole group, not any particular individual.
A couple of days later, Ronnie and I visited about what she shared and how it upset him. Fortunatel, he was convinced that she hadn’t targeted him and admitted that she had a right to share her beliefs and values with others just like he did.
I haven’t seen or heard from Ronnie for a couple of years, and I know that he checked into a drug and alcohol rehab at one point, so I don’t know if he has changed his view of Christianity, but with the right individual, he will at least talk with a Christian.
What I am saying is that though there are some who really have a poor view of Christians and Christian faith, most are not really hostile toward us and that’s a good thing. I must be honest, I haven’t personally experienced the hostility toward Christians that we read about. The closest to anti-Christian hostility I have personally seen was when the local school in the town where I ministered 18 years ago followed the advice of their lawyers and dropped the baccalaureate service for the high school graduates. The superintendent, being a man of faith, as were most of the school’s board and teachers and other employees, came to me and asked if the churches of our little town would provide the baccalaureate service for the graduates. Of course we gladly and willingly accepted and in a lot of ways it made things better. We were able to make the baccalaureate more personal and more religious in than before.
Is there bias against Christians? Yes. It seems that anti-Christian hostility is not what we thought. Praise the Lord!
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Getting Into This Grace, Part 12

      A family from a remote area was making their first visit to a big city. They checked in to a grand hotel and stood in amazement at the impressive sight. Leaving the reception desk they came to the elevator entrance. They’d never seen an elevator before, and just stared at it, unable to figure out what it was for.

An old lady hobbled towards the elevator and went inside. The door closed. About a minute later, the door opened and out came a stunningly good-looking young woman.

The Dad couldn’t stop staring. Without turning his head he patted his son’s arm and said, “Go get your mother, son.”

It’s just a joke, but transformation is what we’re dealing with today. Not just change, but more than change, transformation, metamorphosis; the conversion of our hearts and minds and souls.

That’s where Paul takes us in Romans. After receiving God’s grace there is still the struggle of living in a holy manner. In Romans 7, Paul discussed the difficulty of receiving grace and not living by grace. “I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I know I should do.” As long as we continue to live in the flesh, we will have that struggle. What’s the solution?

Let’s start with God and the beginning of all things by going back to creation. God made everything and this is God’s estimation of it:

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” Genesis 1:31. (NIV)

“It may seem obvious at first, but this statement is actually quite radical. By claiming that creation is good, the Bible places itself in contrast to a number of religions and philosophies that hold that this earth upon which we live is, at best, irrelevant, or, at worst, evil.

Biblical faith however, declares that the world God has made is good. Creation is very good, not evil.  It is the environment in which God created us to prosper and thrive” (Mark Sayers, The Vertical Self); this is the home that God created for us to live in with him and the whole of creation. Yet, sin removed us from the good and moved us into the bad and as Romans 9:19-22 tells us, the creation is suffering because of human sin as well.

Things were good until sin entered the world and corrupted everything. As we said before, you weren’t born with sin. Sin is not your natural way it’s not in your spiritual or physical DNA. You didn’t inherit it from Adam and Eve, but like Adam and Eve, you had a choice and you chose wrong. You sinned by choice and that is how sin entered the world and how sin became a part of your life, by each and every individual’s choice.

In Christ, through his death and resurrection and by means of your faith, you are freed from sin, and set apart able to live a holy and righteous life pleasing to God. But until we get to heaven, we still struggle with temptation and sin and don’t always accomplish the will of God in holiness.

Paul gives us the solution beginning with chapter 12 through the rest of the book. It’s here that he gets really practical.

CLIMB UP AND BECOME A SACRIFICE – Romans 12:1 “

We are to be “living sacrifices.” That’s kind of a contradictory term. The sacrifice is usually killed and prepared before it is sacrificed. The life of the sacrifice was the sacrifice. Its death was the substitution for the person’s sins it was sacrificed for. But we are to be living sacrifice. What’s that mean?

Begin with this thought: Reconciliation rarely occurs without sacrifice. By giving his one and only Son, God took the initiative in healing our broken relationship with him. He made the supreme sacrifice for us that we might be reconciled to him. Jesus’ death was the sacrifice for your sins, yet he lives. His death makes it possible for you to be saved, to be reconciled to God, to fix the broken tie that sin caused between you and God.

Remember, you were dead in your sins, but in Christ you have life. You were dead and buried in baptism and coming out of the water came out alive, reconciled to God. You are now his child, you have been saved by God’s grace. You gave your life to God; you are a living sacrifice, pure and holy – holy and pleasing to God (as the verse tells us).

That is a decision, an attitude, and a determination.

You can’t be a living sacrifice unless you choose to be. It is your decision. You have to choose to be holy to God. As we will see, he will enact the transformation with your decision and your effort and you will become this living sacrifice and will show God’s holiness.

Unless you are holy, you cannot be a sacrifice to God . . . at all. We see this in the story of Israel. God called his people for a special purpose.  Israel was to be a holy people whose embodiment of God’s values would speak to the nations of the world. He called Israel to be a living example of the way he wanted the world to be.

Christians, the church is spiritual Israel and we have the same purpose in this world, to embody God’s holiness as a witness to the world. Yet, we have to decide to become what God has wanted to do in us all along.

At the same time you have to want to be that way. You can decide something all day long, but if you don’t want to do it or be that way, you either won’t or your heart won’t be in it. And if you do it, you are just going through the motions. It has little or no meaning to you.  You’re just “doing it,” not “being it.”

Your attitude, your motivation matters. It is so much more than doing the right thing, it is having right attitude, the correct motivation just like the Sermon on the Mount teaches us. See if these words capture the right attitude?

  • Thankfulness and Gratefulness
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Harmony
  • Hope
  • Mission and ministry
  • Calling
  • Who you are in Christ

And with the elements of choice, attitude, and determination to become who God wants you to be and calls you to be, while he works in you – you also work through his strength, his gifts, his Spirit, and as we shall see from verse 2, his word.

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