V. 1 – “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) The “Therefore” refers back to Romans 1:18 through Romans 3:20 where Paul explains the bad news. ”Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh (one) will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20) And it refers back to Romans 3:21 through all of chapter 4 – the good news. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26) Throughout the Old and New Testaments God’s Word tells us that those who reject His salvation are His enemies and under His wrath. We see this clearly stated in John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Yet, the wonderful news is that even while we are/were unrepentant sinners and under His wrath, God still loves. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is apathy. Jesus’ righteous (and “loving”) anger led even some of the self-righteous Pharisees to salvation. (Jn 3:1-2; Jn 12:42; Jn 19:38-40; Acts 15:5, 26:5 – Paul) Sometimes God’s righteous and loving anger brings difficult and painful consequences that He intends for our good – salvation. “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C. S. Lewis) “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” (Psalm 119:67)’
“Peace with God” is an objective truth for believers as we move from being God’s enemies to being His beloved children. (1 John 3:1) But peace with God may or may not lead us to the “peace of God” which is a subjective feeling based on trusting God in the midst of trials even when we don’t humanly understand the “why” of the trial. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9) “For He Himself is our peace.” (Eph. 2:14) Happiness is circumstantial but inner joy and peace are relational – they are a fruit of the Holy Spirit; a by-product of our trusting relationship with the Lord.
V. 1-2 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction (access/assurance of acceptance) by faith into this grace in which we stand…” – “The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; 11 and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 19:10-12) The OT emphasized the holiness of God and His separateness from sin and makes us greatly appreciate and enjoy the access and even intimate relationship we can now have with Abba (Daddy) Father (Rom. 8:15) through our Brother Jesus. (Hebrews 2:11-18) “And at once the curtain of the sanctuary (into the Most Holy Place) of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51) This shows that God had opened up access to Himself through His Son (Heb. 6:19; 10:19–22). “Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has [already] ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith in Him]. 15 For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].” (Heb. 4:14-16) Of course this access to the very Presence of God to receive all we need begs the question, why do we go there so infrequently? We even see Jesus knocking on the door to get in to see us! “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me (intimate fellowship with God).” (Rev. 3:20)
I prepared a prayer guide on intimacy with Jesus and noted how David, Mary of Bethany and Paul were all ‘one thing’ people. What can we learn from them about our response to God’s passionate love and His desire to fellowship with us personally?
David – “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:8) “Values (what we truly desire) run deeper and are far more important to a person than any other single factor for our values drive our behavior.” (Leadership Bible) “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” (Proverbs 16:26) “Where your treasure is (values are) there your heart (motivations, behaviors) will also be.” (Matthew 6:21) David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). What he desired and hungered for he determined to “seek after” – the Presence of God.
Mary of Bethany – “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) “One thing necessary” – Mary understood how desperately she ‘needed’ to know the love of Jesus as her first, primary and highest need. And her life has a testimony that reaches to us 2,000 years later as she extravagantly responded to Jesus’ love by pouring out her perfume (worth a year of wages) on His feet. (John 12:1-8) Her perfume could have been her life’s savings (her 401K) but she poured it out in extravagant, uncalculated love and Jesus highly commended her for it though even the disciples (the church) criticized her for it as being unwise and wasteful. Mary’s position (at Jesus’ feet) shows adoration and submission – love and obedience. And shows her teachability, “listening to His word.” But as Mary and the great saints have taught us, the only way to experience this love is much time alone with God soaking in His Presence. We spend so much time seeking peace, happiness, affirmation, and self-worth in so many other places rather than in the one and only place we can find it – in His Presence. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) It is as if the Lord is saying, “Be quiet and rest in My good and sovereign care of your life. Trust Me. I am Your Father. You are My beloved child and I know everything you need. If I gave My precious Son to die for you to give you eternal life will I not take care of your needs in this brief life?” “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Paul – “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14) – Paul’s greatest desire was “to know Christ” intimately and become increasingly more like Him and he considered everything else he had valued in the past or would have to give up in the future as rubbish (dung) compared to this. Like Paul, what is God calling us to “give up,” even profitable things (vv.7-8), in order to know Jesus more intimately and therefore be conformed to His sacrificial life of love for God and man. (v.10)
There are several components of developing a relationship with others and as this applies to deepening our relationship with God we see these five components: desire, willingness, openness/honesty, time, actions/obedience to God. The following questions need to be “discussed” with the Lord Himself (in your quiet time) but it may help us to hear how others respond to these questions and how they may have learned some ways to grow deeper with the Lord.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. Desire – “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek (desire)” – Does your desire to “know God” as He truly is, in all of His glory and wonder and to become more like Him motivate you to study His Word and learn all you can about Him? “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.” (See 2 Cor. 3:18)
2. Willingness – “When You said, “Seek My face, ”My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.” How willing are you to be intimate with the Lord? What hinders your willingness?
3. Openness/honesty – “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10) How open are you with the Lord? How accepting and “forgiving” are you of the Lord? “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) Although God never does anything wrong, do you hold grudges against Him for not meeting your expectations – if not openly, deep in your heart? What can we learn from Job, Jeremiah and the psalmists about sharing even our “grudges” against God with Him in honest heart-felt prayer?
4. Time – “My beloved (Jesus) was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, My dove, my perfect one! And we make excuses:3 “I have taken off my dress, How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, How can I dirty them again? (Song of Solomon 5:2-3) Remember Jesus is always knocking on the door of our heart to spend time with us (Revelation 3:20; Song of Solomon 5:2-8) Like Paul, what may God be calling you to give up in order to know Jesus more intimately and therefore be more conformed to His sacrificial life of love for God and man. (Phil. 3:7-10)
5. Actions – “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:21, 23) In Scripture love is equated with obedience and obedience (not just study) leads to a greater revelation of God and intimacy with Him. Discuss some ways you demonstrate your love to God by your obedience.
6. Happiness is circumstantial but inner joy and peace are relational – they are a fruit of the Holy Spirit; a by-product of our trusting relationship with the Lord. What is the difference between peace with God and the peace of God? Does the former lead to the latter for you? (See Rom. 5:1 and Phil. 4:4-9)