Saturday, May 7, 2016, 4:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Softly and Tenderly.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 15:14-21 (ESV). On Some Points (vv. 14-16) I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. What points may Paul have written to the believers in Rome which might be considered reminders to them, and which he expressed to them quite boldly? And, which are for us, too? For one, he kept reminding them that Jesus saved them out of sin, so they were not to continue in sin. But, he went further than that. He also reminded them that the wrath of God is revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. Along those lines, he also exhorted them that, by faith in Christ, they died to sin, thus how could they live in it any longer. And, he told them quite plainly that if we live according to the sinful nature, we will die in our sins, but it is only those who, by the Spirit, are putting to death the deeds of the flesh who are promised eternal life with God. Yet, he was not teaching works-based salvation. He taught that, if we say we know Christ, our lives should reflect that confession. It is those who are led by the Spirit of God who are the sons of God, not those who merely profess Christ and yet continue living in sin. Then he reminded them, as well, that because of God’s mercy to them, they should give their lives to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is their spiritual act of worship of God. “Holy” means to be set apart from (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Christ. He told them that they should no longer conform their lives to the ways of this sinful world, but that they should be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they can test and approve of what God’s will is for their lives – his good, pleasing and perfect will. And, then he went on to instruct them in holy living. They must love others genuinely (not falsely). They must hate what is evil and cling to what is good. They must share with people in need and not do anything to harm others, and they must be humble and not conceited, etc. In addition to all that, they (we) must put aside the deeds of darkness. We must clothe ourselves, instead, with Jesus Christ, and not think about how we can gratify the desires of the sinful nature; to make no provision for the flesh. The Gospel of Christ (vv. 17-21) In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Paul was a minister of the gospel of God; of Christ. Thus, he made it his ambition to preach the gospel wherever God sent him, both to Jew and to Gentile (non-Jew). So, what was this gospel which he taught? He taught that we are all under sin. We are born into sin, without God, without hope, and destined to eternal torment and eternal separation from God. In and of ourselves, there is not one of us who is righteous apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Not one of us is able to keep the whole law with absolute perfection, either, nor are we able to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Our good deeds will never outweigh our bad deeds. We can do nothing in ourselves to affect our own salvation. All of us have sinned and come up short of attaining God’s divine approval on our own merit. So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth to take on human form, and to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. Yet, praise the Lord, he did not remain dead. God the Father resurrected his Son from the dead. When he was resurrected, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. After about 40 days, I think it was, he returned to the Father in heaven where he is seated at his right hand. Then, he sent his Holy Spirit to the earth, as he had promised, to indwell the lives of those who believe in him as Lord and as Savior of their lives. And, one day he is going to return to the earth to judge all people and to take his bride (his followers) to be with him forever and ever. Through faith in Jesus Christ, and in what he did for us in dying on a cross to free us from our sins, we can be forgiven our sins, be delivered from the curse of sin and from slavery to sin, and we can be set free to now walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We also, through faith in Jesus Christ, are given the promise of eternal life with God both now and forever more. So, what is faith? What does this faith look like? And, how do we get it? When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6). Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Through faith in Christ, our old self (of living to sin and self) is crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with. Sin should no longer be our master. We who have believed on Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior have been set free from sin so that we might become slaves of righteousness. When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This gift, though, is not just salvation from sin, but it includes the faith to believe in Jesus Christ, too. Only by God’s grace can we even have the faith to believe in Jesus. This faith is also continuous. When we read in John 3:16 that whoever believes in him has eternal life, the word “believes” is present tense, meaning “whoever believing in him.” We are not saved on the basis of past belief, in other words. True faith in Jesus Christ is the kind that endures to the end. The Bible teaches us that we are saved (past), that we are being saved (present), and that we will be saved when Christ returns (future). Paul said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. He said that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Jesus said the same thing when he said that if anyone would come after him he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God but we walk in darkness, we are liars, and the truth is not in us. A saved life is a transformed life of the Spirit of God, which turns us away from sin to God, to walk now in his righteousness. So, whether or not we make claims to know Christ, or whether or not we genuinely know Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, if we are making provision for the flesh in our lives, and we are suppressing the truth by our wickedness, and we are not honoring God for the holy God he is, he is calling us to turn from our sin and to follow Jesus in obedience. Not one of us knows if he has tomorrow. Time is running out. God made you to worship him and to honor him and to walk in obedience to him, not to run after the gods of this world. So, trust him with your life today or return to him and make him truly owner-master of your life. Remember that it is those who are led by the Spirit who are the sons of God. Softly and Tenderly / Will Thompson Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me. Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, Pleading for you and for me? Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, Mercies for you and for me? Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, Passing from you and from me; Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, Coming for you and for me. Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, Promised for you and for me! Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, Pardon for you and for me. Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!