The Life God Uses To Build
By Pastor Kola Taiwo
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Sunday 6th September 2015
I am sharing this message as a response to recent events here at New Wine. Pastor Michael concluded a two-part series about ‘Getting the Best Out of Church Life’ in celebrating 10 years of the Cell Group Network, and in helping us to connect with the house of God. God builds His house, by nurturing the life within the members of His house – the church. We cannot overemphasise the truth that we (the church) are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, established in the grace of God – we’ve had a couple of Maximise Life sessions and one Sunday morning service devoted to this theme.
Also, since the middle of January, we have been studying the book of Romans at the Cell Group meetings. This message will be a brief recap and summary of what we have studied so far, with the aim of encouraging some of us to consider joining in these studies, going forward.
So in starting up, let’s establish this truth: God wants a house, but He wants more than a house. As we go through this message, I desire to explain the mystery behind God’s purpose and the reasons why this mystery exist. I am hoping that as I round up this message later on, each of us will be able to respond appropriately with these words: ‘Praise the Lord!’
Here is our foundation scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in the Amplified Version, which reads; ‘Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action)’. So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Our scriptural theme for this year in Genesis 17:6 on ‘Excel’ has formed the basis for most of the teachings that we’ve had so far this year. So it is fitting to remind ourselves of this theme, once again. God’s promise to Abram and by inference, to us reads: ‘And I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you’. In order to experience the reality of these words, we must trust in God, solely.
So here is the full list of God’s desire for His church, which I intend to focus on today with some scriptural references: God wants a house (Ephesians 2:21-22), a family (Ephesians 2:19), a body (Ephesians 4:12), a bride (Revelation 22:17, Ephesians 5:22-25), a new man (Ephesians 2:15), a kingdom (Ephesian 2:19) and He wants a warrior, as highlighted in Ephesians 6 where Apostle Paul encouraged the church to clothe the corporate body with the armour of God. This list encompasses God’s longing for the corporate global church.
Having highlighted the mystery of God’s desires for the church with the various scriptural references listed above, the question to ask is this: How does God intend to bring this to fruition. These scriptural references, when read in context all point towards the ministry of the Holy Spirit in bringing these to pass.
So let’s spend some time studying the book of Romans, as we examine Paul’s epistle to the Church in Rome. He begins in chapter 1 mentioning the inclusiveness of the gospel to both cultured intellectuals, like the Roman church and the Barbarians. Romans 1:16-17 gives us an insight into Paul’s confidence in the efficacy of the gospel: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek’. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Even though Paul was brimming with confidence about the worth of the gospel, he was not unaware that some will still reject the message. For these people, Paul had this to say: ‘God’s wrath is being revealed on such ungodliness and unrighteousness’ (V. 18) because they have suppressed the truth, exchanged the truth for lies (V. 25), and abandoned God (V. 28). These words written by Paul reflect what we are experiencing in our world today.
In Romans 2, Paul begins by posing a challenge to believers. The elusive tendency to approve what has been publicly condemned among unbelievers will not be condoned by God. Here are Paul’s words: ‘Or do you despise the riches of His goodness (or the mercy), forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?’ (V. 4). His argument was as a result of the underlying tensions between the Church in Rome and the other Gentile churches whom had just re-established connections with them, after the political mayhem of those days. Here is Romans 2:28-29, summing up Paul’s thoughts on this issue: ‘For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people’ (NLT).
In Romans 3, the big point of this discourse moves away from Jewishness to humanity as a whole, with this question: ‘How can I be sure that I am a believer?’ Paul answers by saying: Salvation is procured by what Christ has done on the cross and by a believer embracing the law of faith. Here is verse 27 - 31: ‘Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law' (NLT). We will keep that phrase ‘the law of faith’ as it will surface again later on.
In Romans 4, the question to answer is this: ‘How does the law of faith operate?’ Paul answers simply: by believing! Using Abraham as a case study, Paul emphasizes his (Abraham’s) faith in God that stood him in good stead as a believer. Conversely, we cannot place our trust in long prayers or fasting as it plays no role in procuring our salvation. Our salvation is as a result of believing in what Christ has already done and concluded on the cross. And this is the starting point. Here is Romans 4:5 ‘But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners’. Our faith in Christ as our Saviour, justifies and makes us righteous. It is no longer about our personal efforts but simply by the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts. Here is the testimony of St. Paul about Abraham in verse 20 – 25: ‘Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God’ (NLT). When clueless on how God will solve a particular difficult situation in our lives, our responsibility is to trust Him and be rest assured that He will provide a solution. Instead of worrying, go ahead and praise Him.
In Romans 5, Paul goes further to highlight the importance of belief in God. A believer stands in a place of grace, from that point when he/she receives Christ into his/her heart. Paul discusses the role of the Spirit in all this. Here is verse 5: ‘And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love’(NLT).
Paul continues by writing about the love of God, demonstrated by the death of Christ on our behalf, when we were weak (V. 6), sinners (V. 8) and enemies of God (V. 10). The question to ask is ‘Why?’ Paul reminds us of God’s purpose of salvation for all men through Christ, to reverse and obliterate the effect of Adam’s transgressions in the Garden of Eden – death. Adam’s transgressions produced sin, which had to be judged by God. The judgement leads to Adam’s condemnation and death (Separation from God). Meanwhile, Jesus arrival on earth was primarily to put an end to this grim finality of life. Jesus obeys God, ushering in a dispensation of grace. This era of grace bestows on those who receive Christ’s work of salvation, the gift of righteousness. So from this point onwards, God sees believers as justified. Justification ushers into our hearts, the life of God. The Spirit’s work in our hearts is as a result of the life of God in us.
In Romans 6, Paul writes from God’s perspective of grace, which seems a bit confusing to many believers. This writing style is also what Paul employs in writing Ephesians 1, 2 and 3. The chapter opens with this question: ‘Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Paul then begins discussing the subject of baptism and its ramification in relation to our salvation. Our baptism symbolises our death and resurrection with Christ. Hence the way God sees His Son, perfect and sinless is also the way God sees us as believers. Paul admonishes the believers in Rome to live in the light of this new life in Christ. Here is verse 12-14: ‘Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace’ (NLT). Paul concludes by writing in verse 22-23: ‘But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord’.
In Romans 7, Paul comes down to discuss our day-to-day lives as Christians. As Christians, even though the power of sin is broken over us, the presence of sin is still real. From time to time, we will experience sin in our lives. Paul also identifies with this problem. The disobedience of Adam’s choice is still within, besides the life of Christ in us. Disobedience and death controls our flesh, while Christ’s life rules our spirit. Towards the tail end of this chapter, Paul writes in verses 21-25: ‘I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin’. His approach to this issue is simple. Our minds are still subject to the deceitfulness of sin from our flesh, occasionally, but as Christians Christ lives within our spirit through the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 8, despite the tension of the flesh warring against his desire to do right, Paul goes ahead and writes in verse 1-2: ‘So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus’. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death’ (NLT). The Spirit within us produces a life-giving law that we as believers now live under. Verse 3 and 4 talks about the law of Moses and its futility in saving us, whereas when Christ died for us, He fulfilled the requirements of the law of Moses and ushered us into the newness of life in the Spirit. Verses 9-16 speak about this new experience in the Spirit. Verse 26 rounds up with these words: ‘And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words’ (NLT). Apostle’s Peter’s story in Matthew 16:13-23 illustrates the tension between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh within each of us. Having revealed Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, he was subsequently rebuked by Jesus for forbidding his death on the Cross.
Paul rounds us chapter 8 with these words in verse 30: ‘Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified’. God’s everlasting love foreknew, justified, glorified and elects us (v 33).
Paul begins Chapter 8 with ‘no condemnation’, and rounds up with ‘no separation’. Here is verse 38-39: ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Nothing can separate us from God’s love because we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
In Chapter 9 as I conclude this message, Paul is saddened by the spiritual state of the nation of Israel. The Israelites had all the ordinances and the law, the prophets and prophecies. Even though Christ came through the Jews, yet the nation still lives in spiritual darkness nonetheless. Paul came to the conclusion as he reviewed the life of Abraham that the work of salvation was simply as a result of God’s choice. In conclusion he writes about God’s mercies in verse 15-16: ‘For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’. Our salvation is simply a result of God’s mercy and for this we must always be grateful to Him.
In this year of excelling, God’s plan for our lives is already done, because of His mercies that we already enjoy!
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