Home 2019 October 26 40 Days of Hope Week 5

40 Days of Hope Week 5

(Devotions are written by Pastor Brenda unless otherwise indicated.)

Day 28  Sunday, October 27

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV)

We are in week five of our series on hope.  We began this study recognizing that we build our lives on promises. People do not always keep their promises, but God is a promise keeper. We find hope as we live closer and closer to God. We find hope when we build our lives on God’s promises.

One of God’s dearest promises is our focus for this week- God’s promise of forgiveness. In our 9am SPARK family worship this morning, we shared that God can call for a do-over. God gives second chances. As we dug into this powerful passage from Romans 8 at our other services, the message is clear that God is on your side. God wants you to have victory over your mess-ups.

What failure do you have a hard time believing God would forgive? When was the last time you messed up?  There are the big failures- the broken promise to a spouse, harboring hatred for another, choosing to live for yourself rather than putting God first.  There are all the times we mess up- you promised someone that you would pray for them- but turned on the game and forgot, you promised yourself that you would start donating food items or volunteering – but your focus remains on your own wants and not much thought is given to others.

The truth is that doing the right thing is an ongoing struggle. This is what Romans 7 is about. Leading up to this powerful promise in Romans 8, Paul wrote about how he wanted to do the right thing but kept on doing the wrong thing. He couldn’t be good on his own.

Romans 8:1 is the center of the book of Romans. Romans is Paul’s in-depth look at the grace of God. And Romans 8:1 sums it up. The death sentence, the punishment for our sin, hanging over all humanity has been removed for those who are in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is more than just a moral teacher who can add value to your life and help you live better. The gospel is the good news that God decisively broke through everything that separates us from Him and makes it possible to live the full life intended for humanity. We cannot save ourselves from sin, so God came in the flesh, to pay our debt for us. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for us. We cannot be good on our own, so God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us. We are still not perfect, but when we trust in God’s forgiveness through Jesus, we can get up and improve and try again. We can move forward because God has promised to cover the sin.

“Lord, I long for more hope in my life. Help me trust in Your promises, and specifically to trust in Your promise to forgive me through Jesus. I do not want to have shame and fear and guilt and bitterness robbing me of the joy You have for me. I have messed up. Please forgive me for selfish living, thoughtless words, and ( add here what is on your heart). Help me to believe that You will really forgive me and that Your love is so immense that You choose not to condemn me, but to allow me a do-over. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 29  Monday, October 28

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV)

Modern technology has introduced new words in my vocabulary. One example is the phrase ‘default setting’. I encounter that the most when sending sermons and letters from my computer to the printer. Since I work both from home and church, I use several printers. I have to specifically instruct the computer to send documents to the correct printer.

Of course, this phrase refers to much more than printers. Your refrigerator has a default temperature when you buy it. Your phone has a default ringtone. If you desire for your facebook to be safer, it is likely that you need to check those default settings that allow the entire world to read and see everything you post.

In older usage, we have a ‘default’ personality. Eeyore on ‘Winnie the Pooh’ is gloomy while Pooh is thoughtful and friendly. Our default personality is the way in which we normally behave or react. 

Mark Batterson, in his book Double Blessing, writes that ‘blessing’ is God’s default setting- that God’s first and foremost reflex is a blessing. God wants to bless you beyond your ability to ask or imagine, that God’s deepest desire is to bless you. Before original sin, there was an original blessing. (p.2)

We can start with Genesis 1, the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 1: 28, we read, “28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (NRSV)

This is the most important thing for you and me to believe. God loves us dearly. God has a purpose for our lives, and God has blessings for us that we cannot imagine. We miss out on so many of these blessings because we put our trust in ourselves rather than in God. We think of blessings in secular terms, but these blessings come and go and we find that they do not offer lasting satisfaction.

So God does not bless selfishness or idolatry or greed or envy. And God’s blessings are not the material wealth or secular goals of fame or popularity. God has something better for us. We position ourselves for God’s blessings when we begin to truly trust that God, our Maker, loves us beyond comprehension. We position ourselves for God’s blessings when we humbly seek Him for forgiveness and direction. God’s choice to bless us is a great reason to hope.

“Lord, open my eyes to the blessings You have already poured into my life. Help me to long for the deeper, lasting blessings in life that lead to peace and joy and hope and generosity. Orient my life towards spiritual goals, to the best in my personality that You put there. Teach me how to use my blessings to bless others. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

 Day 30  Tuesday, October 29

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV)

Sunday, we showed the image of the US National Debt Clock at the corner of Avenue of the Americas and West 44th Street in New York City. The amount is so large that I do not even know how to read it….trillions, zillions? Max Lucado ponders in his book Unshakable Hope…  “ If debt is a tidal wave, according to this sign, the undertow is going to suck us out to sea….. What if heaven had one of these? What if heaven had a marquee that measured, not our fiscal debt, but our spiritual one?” (p.93)

The image this conjured up for me was almost too overwhelming…

  • every murder ever committed
  • every lie ever told…
  • every incident where a human being took advantage of another human being
  • every child that was abandoned or neglected or abused
  • every act of oppression throughout history
  • every assault
  • every time a person chose to live selfishly
  • every time a person’s rights were denied
  • every theft
  • every time you promised to pray for someone and never did
  • every time you gave yourself credit for something that was not possible without God’s blessing
  • every time you blamed somebody but did nothing to help find a solution to the situation
  • every act of greed…making sure you have all you want and not giving a second thought or even your leftovers to those with almost nothing
  • every time you envied another rather than being thankful for your blessings

OKAY. Romans 8: 1 is the best news ever! God has chosen to release us from our debt. God has chosen not to condemn us for our sins. It is ALL God. This is hard to believe if you think about it. Ponder how hard it is to forgive someone who has slighted you in even a small way. I think of all the brokenness in families I have known throughout years of ministry- siblings that have not spoken in years or children who have not called home for a decade. We are so adept at harsh words and criticism and blame and guilt. God, however, is the One who forgives, who re-directs, who softens hearts.

It is crucial to receive the entirety of this good news in Romans 8:1. It reads “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To be ‘in Christ’ is to have received Christ into your heart. It is repenting, asking for forgiveness, and believing in the power of God to forgive and save. It is believing in God’s goodness and trusting God’s plan for your life and all of His creation. David Greenhaw wrote, “To believe is to reorient one’s life toward a power greater than oneself.” (Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, p. 232) God is the greatest power. Faith is putting our trust in God and God’s promises. It is knowing that life is found in the One who created life, and thus seeking God through prayer, inviting God’s Spirit into our lives, and studying God’s word.

Lord, Your willingness to forgive and not hold our wrongdoings and mistakes and sins against us is almost too good to believe. ‘Thank You’ is just not sufficient for Your grace. Selfishness haunts me. Grudges and bitterness threaten me. Wanting to make my own decisions and live like I want seems to be my orientation. Reorient my life towards Your goodness and generosity and hope and faithfulness. Send the power of Your Holy Spirit into my decisions and attitudes so that I can be shaped into more of the person You created me to be. Help me to rely on Your power and Your directions. Have mercy on me. I am so grateful for Your mercy. Free me and fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 31  Wednesday, October 30

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV)

Yesterday, I talked about the US National Debt Clock at the corner of Avenue of the Americas and West 44th Street in New York City. The amount is so large that I do not even know how to read it….trillions, zillions? It got me to thinking of the plenteous advice about getting rid of debt. One is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Pay more than the minimum balance each month. Put work bonuses towards debt. Sell unwanted household items and put those earnings towards debt. I remember sharing in a message about the family that sold 1000 household items and did not even miss them afterward. 

And if you want to end the cycle, half your credit card spending or even cut up your credit cards! Reevaluate your wants versus your needs. Spend less. Engage in spiritual reflection about your priorities and if you are putting your security and happiness in material possessions.

Do any of these practices relate to our spiritual debt? How do we pay off our spiritual debt? Is there some minimum penance we can do each month to lower our balance? Can we engage in enough acts of kindness to pay off our debt to God? If we shed some of our bitterness and pettiness, can that contribute towards our debt before God?

The truth is that we cannot earn God’s forgiveness or our own salvation. We can’t conjure up enough self-discipline to think and say and do the right thing at every turn in every situation. In fact, humanity has been responding in endless ways to the weight of the debt we feel deep within us.

Even when we are unaware of it, much of our dissatisfaction and heaviness is the shame or frustration we feel with ourselves. It looks different for every person. We long for a do-over in a relationship that we took for granted. We would give all we had to rewind the clock and not drive drunk that fateful night that severely injured others. We yearn for joy and gratitude and to let go of the jealousy we feel towards the friend who seems to have no struggles.

So we respond by trying to do as much as we can. We work harder and harder to be perfect, still feeling like we need to accomplish more to erase the debt. Or we decide we do not really believe that there is a holy way. We should just live life for ourselves.

Lucado described it like this, “The realization of our moral debt sends some people into a frenzy of good works …Yet deep within is the gnawing fear, what if, having done all that, I’ve not done enough? Other people respond, not with activity, but unbelief. No God would demand so much. He can’t be pleased. He must not exist….Two extremes. The legalist and the atheist. The worker desperate to please God. The unbeliever convinced there is no God. Can you relate to either of the two? Do you know the weariness that comes from legalism? Do you know the loneliness that comes from atheism?” (Unshakable Hope, p. 94)

We have our answer. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus paid our debt. What a glorious reason to hope!

“Lord, help me to believe in Your forgiveness, that You have paid my debt. Help my good works be those that flow from receiving Your goodness towards me. Help my generosity to be that which flows from Your generosity towards me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that will grow me and shape me more into Your likeness. Help me to rely on Your power of the Holy Spirit and quit thinking I can do it on my own…quit feeling burdened but instead feeling free to trust in You and learn to be led by You. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 32  Thursday, October 31

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV) 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1: 9 (NIV)

Confession is one of the things we identify alongside receiving God’s forgiveness. If you are like many people, confession is not one of your favorite pastimes. If I have to confess something, it means I made a mistake or I failed in some way. But it is even harder than that. If I have to confess something, it likely means that I need to change- that there are attitudes or behaviors in my life that need to change or at least be improved. 

How many of you have had to apologize for repeated behavior? This is when I really feel averse to this whole confession process. When I have to confess the same thing again and again, it means that my willpower is weak or that I am pretty helpless to improve myself. Confession is an admission that I need help, I need a greater power.

The good news found in Romans 8:1 is absolutely astonishing. God recognizes that we need help, that we are not going to be the holy, loving, generous, giving people He created us to be on our own. To be ‘in Christ’ is to have available to us this greater power that will walk with us every day. To be ‘in Christ’ is to be part of something far larger than ourselves. We are part of God’s design, and God has chosen to create us in His image, and then help us learn to reflect that image by giving us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. The Spirit that we have ‘in Christ’ is able to do so much more than we are able to do. 

By this phrase ‘in Christ’, we know that we are not constrained by our weaknesses, mistakes, and failings. The Holy Spirit is God with us to help us resist temptation, to grant us courage, to bring new and better thoughts to our minds, to redirect us when we go astray, to comfort us, to give us hope. Our job is to invite Jesus Christ into our hearts, ask His Spirit to be with us each and every day, draw on God’s presence with us, and trust in God.

Lord, fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit. I cannot be good on my own. I do have sins to confess each and every day. Help me to rely more and more on Your power and strength. Grant me new thoughts when my thoughts are out of order. Create a new and right spirit within me when needed. Change my attitude when it is selfish or defeatist or envious. Forgive me, grow me, mold me. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 33  Friday, November 1

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV) 

The SPARK service at 9am on Sunday was designed especially for our children. We want to give children hope and teach them that they can trust God’s promises from the time they are small. 

Children need to know that they are not alone. They need constant reassurances and reminders. These are crucial to their development and their willingness to try new adventures and develop their God-given gifts and talents. They need to know God’s promise to never leave or forsake us.

Children need to know that God is with them and for them….willing to forgive and offer do-overs as we are learning and growing. Children need to know that God does have rules and these rules are for our safety and for us to find a good life.

Every day, the children around you observe what you give your attention to and where you devote your time and energy. They witness whether you speak words of hatred or fear or words of kindness and hope. They notice how much time we devote to material possessions and whether we choose to hoard or be generous. They observe our priorities.

Wisdom shared with me years ago is that whatever you pay attention to, you will get more of.

If you pay attention to gossip, there will be more gossip.

If you pay attention to material things, you will obtain more possessions and spend your time caring for them.

If you give excessive time to entertainment, there will be little time to work towards justice and make communities stronger.

If you pay attention to all the words of fear and ugliness spoken and tweeted, then you will be less likely to listen to the wonderful encouraging hopeful words of promise from God.

In the church….

If we pay attention to guests, we will get more guests. If we greet them warmly and make efforts to get to know them, they will start to feel the welcoming of God. If we invite them to Sunday school or lunch or to an outreach project, we will engage them.

If we pay attention to children, we will get more children. If we are aware of their needs and have more ministries for them, then they will grow in their faith.

If we pay attention to Bible study, then we will offer more small groups and opportunities and mature as we reflect more deeply on God’s word.

If we pay attention to God’s presence and power with us, then we will face the challenges in an un-churched culture with greater intensity, courage, and hope.

“Lord, forgive me when my focus has been everywhere but on You. Forgive me when I have lived so much in the culture that my faith development has been anemic at best. Direct my focus on You and Your promises. Create that longing within me for the greater gifts in life. Grow me so that I will be a better witness to the youth and children around me. Grow me so that I will be a stronger witness at my job and in my neighborhood. Grow me so that I can be a hope-bearer for those desperately in need of hope. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 34  Saturday, November 2

“32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4: 32 (NIV)

25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more
.”  Isaiah 43: 25 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool
.” Isaiah 1: 18 (NIV)

as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us
.”  Psalm 103:12 (NIV)

 “13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1: 13-14 (NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1: 9 (NIV)

 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8: 1 (NIV) 


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