Corrections: Harvard was founded in 1636, not 1836. Also, someone pointed out to me that the Colosseum wasn’t built until after Paul was dead. Sorry about that one.
What is the first thing we look for in anybody we meet? It is quite clear that the first thing that Paul looked for in them was the Spirit that was in them… Remember how, when he arrived at Ephesus, he found certain people who were called disciples and … he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? … That was what he looked for in everybody. He was not interested in the colour of their skin or in their nationality; he was not interested in their social status or standing; he was not interested in the school or university that they had attended. The thing he looked for was this: Is there a brother with the Spirit of God in him? Is there a man with who I can have fellowship because he is in Christ as I am in Christ?Romans, vol. 1, Chapter 18, p. 233-234
What a word for our divisive times. How I need to be reminded that I have more in common with an African believer living in a hut in Kenya than I do with my non-Christian next door neighbor who votes for the same politicians, cheers for the same football team, and drives the same model car as I do.
This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons. All his sermons were recorded on tape, and are available at https://www.mljtrust.org/free-sermons/book-of-romans/
You can, if you like, draw up a profit and loss account; here are the things in favour; here are the things against. You arrive at your total. You work it out. You use reason, common sense, understanding. You may consult other people. You can take other opinions. All that is perfectly legitimate.
Romans, vol 1, ch 15, p 200
Yet I am asserting strongly that… the most important and the most crucial of all is this
‘witness of the Holy Spirit’ in our spirits. I sometimes put it like this: even though you may be satisfied in your mind about a course of action; even though, in general, circumstances may be
agreeing with what you have decided in your mind, if there is a sense of uncertainty or of unhappiness within, then do not move, do not act. There I think is the prohibition of the Spirit.
This jumped out to me because it is so in line with what we are learning together in Experiencing God. Henry Blackaby says that “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.”
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones reflected on Romans 1:13, where Paul says he had “thus far been prevented” from going to Rome, he essentially lays out the same pattern Blackaby does. The Holy Spirit interprets Scripture for us. He helps us pray. He leads us to evaluate circumstances and the advice of others in accordance with God’s will. And following God is really about tuning your spirit to be more sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit.
This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons.
The Martyn Lloyd-Jonas Trust has every one of the audio recordings of the sermons available on their podcast. Here is the one I listened to this morning.
Who did Job think he was, telling God he would “cling to his righteousness and never let it go”?
One of the most rewarding parts of my work week happens on Monday nights from 8:30-10:00, when a group of men gather together for a deep dive into the book of Romans. Some of us are trying to memorize the entire book. Others are memorizing the two or three verses that go along with each session. But all of us are benefiting from the intense, focused study on the book that launched the Reformation and is the foundation for arguably the most well-known gospel presentation, the Romans Road.
The dominant theme of the first three chapters of Romans is that none of us are righteous. Not one of us–no, not one–can stand before God with any shred of righteousness that comes from ourselves.
Which makes the book of Job such an enigma. You know the story. God and the devil make a wager over the life of Job. God gives Satan permission to mess with Job, taking away everything from Job except his life. Job’s friends come to console him, and wind up arguing with him for about 25 chapters. Basically, they all tell him that he is being punished because of some unconfessed sin. But Job’s not buying it. Which leads us to Job 27:3-6:
3 as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, 4 my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit. 5 I will never affirm that you are right. I will maintain my integrity until I die. 6 I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live! [Job 27:3-6 HCSB]
Does anyone else look at this and think that Job sounds really full of himself? Humility is a Christian virtue. All of us have to admit we are sinners before we can trust Christ for our salvation, right?
So where does Job get off saying things like, “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it?” Is this arrogance? Does it fly in the face of Paul’s teaching that “there is none righteous, no, not one?” (Romans 3:10) I don’t think so.
Job’s confidence is not in himself, but in the trustworthiness of God. Job believed in a God whose will and ways could be known. Other gods from other religions were fickle and capricious. You never knew what you might have done to displease the god of the rain when there was drought, so you danced and sacrificed and cut yourself until the blood flowed in an effort to get his attention (remember the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18?) A king wouldn’t know how to gain the favor of the gods so his army would prevail in battle, so he might sacrifice one of his own sons to Molech by throwing him in the flames (Jeremiah 32:35). Or think about the Greek gods we studied in high school. Mortals were constantly subject to the whims and jealousies of the gods. When Zeus and Hades were angry at each other, humans paid the price.
But Yahweh is different. He can be known. He has given us His laws and decrees. We know what pleases Him and what doesn’t. And this is the confidence Job was clinging to. No matter how many times his so-called friends argued, “well, you must have done something wrong to be suffering in this way,” Job stubbornly and steadfastly held on to the idea that he knew what it took to walk with God, and that he had done it. When Job says things like “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live,” he was not expressing confidence in his own goodness, but in God’s justice.
I am so thankful that our God is predictable. He is not capricious, punishing humans on a whim or a lark (I admit, some would argue that’s the whole storyline of Job. I encourage you to watch this excellent animated walk-through of the book of Job from the fine folks at the Bible Project, and then let’s talk.). Don’t get me wrong. There is still none righteous. But Job teaches me that we can trust in God’s unchanging character. In every situation. In every place. For all time. Praise Him!