Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Week in Review

This building does not look inviting. If we saw this building we would most likely not go inside.  Why?  Because it does not look like a safe place to be or one that is inviting.  So if we can look at a building at tell if it safe or not, why can't we look at actions and tell the same thing?  Why can't we tell when the actions we do are not safe for our spiritual lives?

“Why are you feeding the dead?”
March 25, 2007
Preached in Wisconsin by Jewel D. Williams

Biblical background – The book of Romans is broken into several sections.
A quick overview in chapter 1:1-18, Paul introduces the generosity of servant hood. He then gives a “diagnosis – The knowledge of God and the sinful fall of humanity” (1:19-3:20). He moves to his 1st prognosis – Justified by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-8:17). He gives the 2nd prognosis – subjected to futility (uselessness), subject to hope (8:18-11:36), here he talks about the glorious freedom of the Children of God, whom God justifies he also glorifies, the mercy of God and the riches of His glory toward all, he then gives his prescription: faithful servants in action (12:1-15:13) he talks about sacrificial worship, humble use of gifts within the body, loving acts of service and hospitality, loving one’s neighbor, living as in the day and not in darkness. Then he gives his conclusion, (15:14-16:27) his purpose for writing so boldly and his final greetings, warnings, and doxology.

The book of Romans is said to be one of the most powerful of Paul’s writings, three historical figures attribute their salvation to the book of Romans, Augustine, Martin Luther and John Wesley. Paul writes this letter to give the people the good news (the gospel). Paul gives the good news because the bad news is so bad, and people are in desperate need of the good news (isn’t that true today). What is the bad news? The bad news Paul expresses is that all people are cut off from God and subject to eternal judgment because of their built-in tendency to ignore who they really are and their refusal to turn away from “self”.

Paul starts this letter off talking about the people of his day. They had an idea of God because they could see the beauty and splendor of God’s hand in nature, but instead of seeking this God, the creator of everything, they worship nature itself. They were indifferent to the God who liberates people from their bondage to evil, pagan rituals, homosexual practices, to sexual immorality and the like. Their minds were warped and their moral compasses were spinning wildly. Murder, malice, deceit, and heartless cruelty prevail. But Paul goes on the say that this bad news isn’t just for the idol worshippers, murderers, and sexual offenders, but he says in verse 3:19 that every mouth is silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Compared to a holy and righteous God, the morally religious person is no better off than the immoral criminal.

All were alike, Jew and Gentile are without hope, because all alike have sinned. This is the stage that Paul letters sets when he gives the diagnosis of man’s plight. He could have been writing to us today. In our day, we are aware of God, we see his splendor in the earth, but there are still those that decide to worship the created instead of the creator. And one of those created things, is ourselves. So we worship “self” instead of the one that created man. Men and women today are still indifferent to a God that will liberate from the bondage of evil, from rituals to “self” and other false beliefs, from bondage to homosexuality and bondage to sexual sin and the like. Our minds today are also warped. And not only is our moral compasses spinning wildly, I think sometimes we have thrown them out the window to the ideas of “what works for me, is good because it works for me” We have thrown away the moral standards of God for the ideas of relativism, how does it relate to me. Murder, malice, deceit and heartless cruelty still prevail today.

So Paul gives the prognosis or cure of what can change man’s standing before God. It is still the same cure you and I need today. He tells his audience that there is hope, hope in Jesus Christ. Christ alone opens up the way for man to be in a right standing with God. This is where we will stop for a moment.

Let us look at the scripture:

Romans 7:15-25 – “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good things: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

There are different beliefs about whom Paul was speaking about. Some believe Paul is speaking about the struggles of the unsaved man. Some believe it is the struggle going on within the saved man, but that Paul is not speaking personally. There is also the belief that it is Paul speaking about himself, using himself as an example. I have no problem believing this is Paul speaking about his own struggles. I do not believe it is the unsaved, because they have not yet been changed so there is no good thing yet inside to struggle against, for the unsaved man is still filled with unrighteousness, yet we know that the Holy Spirit is working to draw the unsaved to the place where they can either accept or reject Christ. But, as of now the unsaved is still hostile towards God. And here Paul talks about the struggle against that which is good, and that which is sinful.

He is also addressing some of the popular believes of his time, for example that the soul struggle is essentially against a specific sin or habit, that human nature is essentially good, that sanctification is by means of the law, and that if one will only determine to do the right, he will be able to do it in his own power. These are some of the misconceptions Paul is addressing with this letter. These are some of the same misconceptions of our time. We believe that our problems will go away if we can only get rid of a particular habit or sin and we are going to be forever without struggles, that we have this inward good that we need to only tap into, and that if we are good upstanding people we will be sanctified, blessed or made holy and righteous because of our ability to want to do good and do it. We believe those “New Age” philosophies of we have the power to become God with our only wanting it to be so.

Reading other letters written by Paul we can know that Paul has no problem with using himself as an example to explain the truths of God. And if you know anything from listening to those that preach, that is how God does. He gives the preacher the message first so that when he or she comes to give it to the people, it is more than just words written on a piece of paper, but words that God has made real within their life. So let’s look a little deeper at one of the messages here in Paul’s letter to the Romans.


What is dictating our actions?

The “Sin” inside –When we were sinners, we had no control over the sin inside we were in bondage to it, and we were lead by it. When Christ saved us, we were set free from the bondage of this sin. Yet we still have to deal with the flesh. When we were changed, our flesh did not disappear. We will contend with it as long as we are here on this side of heaven. What do we mean when we say flesh? The Flesh – is marked by no control over self or pursuit of self fulfilling things and lusts, it is self-sovereign (it’s own god), and it worships a false trinity of “Me, Myself and I” and it battles against…

The “Good” inside – God’s spirit was made alive in us through salvation. God imparted to us his Spirit so that we could live righteously before him. Now the Spirit in us – desires to do what is right before God, the spirit within wants us to flee evil, the Spirit wants control over the flesh, and the Spirit worships the true trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Paul asks the question, “Who can save me from this body of death” – the answer is, Jesus Alone. Paul is acknowledging that he does not have the power in himself to fight the war going on inside. Let me just say this, if I say nothing else, we could learn a valuable lesson from Paul in these verses. If Paul the great Apostle was aware that he was fighting a battle he could not win, why do we keep trying to change stuff ourselves? Why do we think we can work it out, figure it out in ourselves? Scripture tells us not to lean to our own understanding, and that is because our understanding is fleshly motivated and not spiritual and it will only mess things up really bad. You know you are using your understanding because ever sentence you say starts with “I”. That is you working from that false trinity of “me, myself and I”

You say things like I am going to do… I want to do… I won’t do…. What I need…and the list is endless. Instead we need to realize that if we are to be successful in this walk it will be us releasing our selves into God’s hand. We have to move our speech from “I” to saying things like, “God direct me…” “God lead me…” “God give your wisdom in this matter…” When we do we understand what Paul was saying, that Jesus alone will do it. Paul warns us not to think we can achieve through our own works. You or I cannot do enough to get this walk right. Us getting this walk right is based solely on you and I submitting completely to God and from that place we work out our salvation. This was one of those false beliefs I just mentioned that Paul was trying to show as a lie. We cannot just will it so; we must count completely on the Spirit of God in us, to be able to do what is right before God.

Check the Williams Innovative Network website,
 for the second installment of this message.

The Week in Review

As beautiful as the sky is when the sun is setting, it still cannot do justice to explaining the essence of God.  We only get glimpses of him but he is much bigger than what we can see, hear or feel.  Yet, I am grateful to him for taking the time to show himself to us at all.

Writing Assignment #2 – View of God
Jewel D. Williams
Written 2006

The writers of the Bible used different models to represent God. They helped bring the enormity of God to a level the average person could relate to or understand. David was one of those writers that used models to express his understanding of God. One must take a look at the writer, David the king and warrior, to comprehend why he used military models in describing God.

According to Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary David is the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel. David as a youth showed courage and faithfulness as he tended to his fathers sheep. He killed both a lion and a bear that attacked the flock (Nelson 332). David knew the sheep were defenseless without the care of a shepherd. The models David used were those most familiar to him as shown in his writing about God as “my shepherd” (in the 23rd Psalm).

David also referred to God as his fortress and high tower. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2 KJV). The American Heritage College Dictionary defines a fortress as “A fortified place, esp. a large permanent military stronghold that often includes a town” (Gildea 546). “These fortified cities were strengthened by walls towers gates and bars” (Nelson 464). The practice of erecting defensive walls around a city to protect it from enemy attack was not widely used by Israel until the period under David and Solomon. Usually these massive walls were 15 to 25 feet thick and about 25 feet tall. Sometimes several walls were built for more protection of the city. Towers were built on the corners and in places were obvious attack was possible. The tops of the towers often had rows that resembled teeth and they were used to put the archers in a good position to turn back imposing attackers (Nelson 463).

David was thankful to God for being his fortress, the impenetrable walls that protect. A fortress keeps things in and it also keeps things out. God’s protection stopped the enemy’s attack from every direction. David felt pressed on all sides when sought by Saul. God had placed the heavy wall of protection around David and he knew God as his fortress. God as a fortress keeps one safe in his presence, enclosed within his walls or arms of protection. As David writes, “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou has given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.” (Psalm 71:3 KJV). David knew he had to stay in God’s presence to continue to receive God’s protection.

David again gives the reference to God as his fortress and high tower in this scripture. “And he said, The LORD is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower and my refuge my savior; thou savest me from violence” (II Samuel 22:2-3 KJV). In these verses David uses several references to military items when speaking about God. Shields were normally made from hard material like metal. They came in all sizes and shapes. Another word used to represent shield was buckler (Psalm 18:2 KJV). To give another view of this model one can look at the war movies created in our times. In these movies the king’s army is clad in armor and fighting against another kingdom that is shooting arrows, swinging heavy clubs or axes as their weapons of destruction. Those warriors that had a shield were able to go forging ahead and use their shields to push back the enemy and his weapons. David was aware of being pushed against by strong forces. He models God as the shield that helps him to push back the hand of the enemy and continue to go forward. Saul chased David but the hand of God shielded David against everything Saul tried to do.

Looking again at the fortress, it has a high tower, a place where one can easily see into the distance any approaching danger. The watchman that sits in the high tower relays the message to the fortified city and the trumpet is blown to alert everyone to come to arms. Imagine standing level on the ground and then someone being high up in a tower or tall building looking down on the surrounding area. The one level to the ground has a limited visual of what is ahead. As one goes higher, vision increases and limitations are diminished or completely removed. David was aware that God’s vision was not limited as his was. God was able to see all approaching dangers. God as one’s high tower allows an individual to receive the information needed to know in advance of coming danger. God provided David with the information he needed to stay alive as Saul sought his destruction. God, like the watchman in the high tower, saw the impeding danger. David may have also understood that it was his relationship with God that increased his spiritual vision and understanding in the situations he faced. He also understood God as the archer that stood on top of the high tower that could send the arrows to defeat the attacking enemies. Against God’s weapons there is none greater. To see him as a high tower an individual must also see him as the one who has the best vantage point. God is the one that can see in every direction at all times. He is able to see where others are limited.

David refers to God as a hiding place when he writes, “thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 32:7). David sinned and tried to hide it from God. Yet his sin was not hidden at all. In the earlier verses of this chapter, David tells how he felt when he tried to cover his sins. He most likely felt physically ill from the ordeal. He felt the heaviness of his sins, the weight of it (Psalm 32:3-4). Yet when he acknowledged his sins, God was merciful and David was forgiven.

David describes God as the one to go to in order to find forgiveness of the sins that will destroy. David found out you cannot hide yourself from God and the consequences of your sin. David describes how sins negatively affect an individual emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet when there is confession to God, he becomes the only true place to find rest from the sentence of sin. When confession is made, one experiences the relief from the emotional feelings of the separation because of sin. One experiences the relief from the physical effects of the stress and worry caused by sin. Most importantly one experience the relief from the spiritual weight sin has caused when an individual was out of God’s will.

David was now hidden by God’s love from the punishment of his sin. This also gives a glimpse into what Jesus would accomplish with his coming. The blood of Jesus becomes a hiding place when one comes and confesses their sins. Those forgiven sins can no longer destroy because the death sentence that was set has been removed by the crucifixion of Jesus. Isaiah 32:1-2 foretells of this very thing, “BEHOLD, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgement. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”

David was a man very much aware of battle. He took on one of his first acts as a warrior when he killed Goliath. David saw God as a protector, an unmovable force and the one who would keep him in any situations. He also saw God as a mighty leader with limitless abilities and resources. These models are vital today in equipping believers to be able to stand when faced with attack and say as David did, he is “my fortress”.

Works Cited

Alden, Robert L., et al. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.

Gildea, Spike, Ph.D., et al. The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.