Thursday, April 30, 2015, 3:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, Move Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 2 (selected vv. ESV).
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. ~ Ro. 2:1-8
Is this an indictment against all judging? I don’t believe so. In context, it is clear this is speaking to those who judge condemningly, hypocritically and arrogantly. These who judge in this way think they are better than those they think are less than them. In context, it appears Paul is speaking to the Jews who looked down on the Gentiles. God, through Paul, was letting them know that they were no better, for they did the same things the Gentiles did. All of us, whether Jew or Gentile by birth, were born into sin. None of us is righteous in our own merit or through our own good works. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can anyone be saved from their sins and be considered righteous in God’s eyes, so not one of us has the right to think we are better than others, especially if we are condemning of them when we do the same things. “There but for the grace of God go I” (unknown author).
This is obviously also addressed to those with hard and unrepentant hearts. Yet, Paul was speaking to “religious” people – the people who had been the children of God, but had rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord and Messiah. Many “religious” (self-righteous) people today look down on those who they think are less than them, because those they deem “less” commit certain sins. But, the self-righteous are really no better, because they, too, have not repented of their sins, and have not believed in Jesus for their salvation. So, although they may dress up on Sunday mornings, and carry a Bible (or not), and go to a “church service,” that does not make them any better than those who do not, and yet they act as though they are better and they snub those they deem as less valuable. So, this is an indictment against them – against hypocritical, condemning and arrogant judging, and against empty religion absent of true repentance and obedience to Jesus Christ.
Not Hearers Only But Doers
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ~ Ro. 2:12-16
Again, the Jews thought they were better than the Gentiles because they had been given the Law of Moses. Many religious people today think they are better than the non-religious merely because they were brought up in the church and they were privileged to have received a copy of God’s Word, the Bible, perhaps from infanthood through adulthood. They also might think they are better because of all the training they have received in the Word or in religion. Knowledge often puffs up. They think they are better, too, because they go to a “church service” on Sunday mornings and they sing songs of praise to God, and because they go through certain religious rituals and practices, and because they don’t smoke, drink alcohol (though some do), or whatever they might believe are “bad” things for religious people to do. Yet many of these “religious” people are just as guilty of sinning as those who are non-religious, and many “religious” people are actually involved in sinful acts just as bad or worse (by human standards) than those who are among the non-religious.
The point of what Paul says here is that we are no better off just because of some religious heritage we have received, which was passed down to us from generation to generation, or because of some privilege we have received because we were blessed to have been brought up in the church and under the teaching of The Word. If we don’t accompany what we know with obedience to the Word, then we are no different from those who were not brought up under the Word at all. In fact, many who were not privileged to be brought up in the church and under the teaching of the Word have more readily obeyed Christ’s commandments (his teachings and instructions) than those who knew the scriptures from infanthood.
James said something similar to this when he said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25 NIV84). The “perfect law that gives freedom” is based in Jesus Christ and what he did for us in dying on the cross for our sins. Essentially, it is the gospel of our salvation. Because of what Jesus did in providing for us the way to be saved from our sins, our faith in what Jesus did for us, which includes repentance and obedience, results in freedom from slavery to sin, freedom to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and the hope of eternal life with God in glory.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ~ Ro. 2:17-29
If we have been saved from our sins, and we truly are in relationship with God, because of his grace to us in saving us, and through faith in Jesus Christ, or if we are under the impression we are saved, although we have never repented of our sins and have not turned to God to walk in obedience to him, we may be guilty of teaching others what we do not practice ourselves. There is much hypocrisy which goes on in the life of the church. Not one of us is perfect, and not one of us will live completely sinless lives, though we should never use our lack of perfection as an excuse for continued willful sin against God. So, this isn’t saying that we have to be perfect, but it is saying that we should not be hypocritical. Especially for those of us who are teachers of the Word, though in some sense we should all be teachers, we should not teach others to not do what we knowingly are doing ourselves. We should not put on a false face pretending to be something we are not and then turn around and sin in the ways in which we are teaching others to not sin.
Lastly, God is not impressed or interested in our “religious” performances or rituals. We can look clean on the outside, and we may even go through all the right motions, and do all the right religious things to do, but if we are not cleansed on the inside by the grace of God in saving us from our sins, through genuine repentant and obedient faith in Jesus Christ, then all our religion accounts to nothing. It is useless. It has no value. It is just a bunch of noise. We need to have hearts that have been transformed of the Spirit of God in delivering us from slavery to (the control of) sin over our lives, and in setting us free to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. This is the working of the Spirit of God in regeneration in our lives, yet we must cooperate fully with his work of grace in our lives. This is what it means to have faith. We must die with Christ to our old lives of sin, and we must be reborn of the Spirit in now walking according to the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh.
Lord, Move Me / An Original Work / October 16, 2011
Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.
Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.
Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.