Slaves to Sin

“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:5-6 NLT

Perhaps we have an image in our minds, of a unified person. Consider a picture of Jesus, and a photograph of ourselves, and then superimpose one over the other. Personally, a unified picture of Jesus and me. How does that make us feel? Good? Apprehensive? Unsure? Yes, all of the above, but that is the reality of the Christian life. Association with Jesus in this way, in true unity, is the only way forward towards our goal of salvation. And Paul’s use of the baptismal imagery continues, with the mental picture of being raised to life just as Jesus was. 

The next thought from Paul profoundly impacts a new Christian’s life. And the older Christian’s too, because we must never forget and slip back into our old sinful ways. When we pilgrims fell onto our knees at the foot of the Cross, a pictorial way of describing how one day we brought our sins to Jesus in repentance, asking for His forgiveness, and believing in Him, we effectively crucified that part of us that was our old life, riven by sin. Now, crucifixion was a terrible way to die. A slow, lingering and extremely painful death. But Jesus went through that to set us free from the dominance of sin over our lives. In fact, the whole process in our spirits was, and is, life changing because we realise that what Jesus did for us we deserved ourselves. Sin has to be dealt with sooner or later. The grace of God is breathtaking, because He allowed His own Son, Jesus, to suffer in this way so that we wouldn’t have to.

Why did Jesus have to go through what He did? There were other forms of capital punishment available to the Jews, such as stoning. That happened to the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Crucifixion was a method the Romans used to put someone to death, and in the process they hoped to deter other people tempted to commit the same crime by attaching a list of their misdemeanours to the cross used. Pilate, the Roman governor who authorised Jesus’ death, ordered that “King of the Jews” was written above Jesus’ head. The Jewish authorities saw Jesus as a threat to their rather fragile relationship with the Romans because He challenged their cosy status quo with His radical teaching and miraculous acts. The people were following Him in large numbers, and, because of their unbelief, the Jewish leaders couldn’t allow the situation to continue. Evil ruled the day but God allowed Jesus’ death to happen because it was all part of His plan of redemption for mankind. 

Because Jesus went through what He did, taking on board our sins, we have been released from their dominance over us. I’m sure we can all think of sinful situations hidden away in our skeleton cupboards, that emerge from time to time to embarrass and harass us. But we don’t have to be slaves to these thoughts anymore, because Jesus has redeemed us from them. The skeletons are buried. Their power to torment us is gone. As Paul wrote, “We are no longer slaves to sin”. We can shut the door on our cupboards and lock them. But it’s up to us now. The question is – what will we do with the key? Hmmm…

Dear Father God. What an amazing and gracious, loving God You are. We worship at Your footstool. Amen.

Joined To Christ

“Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”
Romans 6:3-4 NLT

Paul introduces what must have sounded a bit strange to his Roman readers. He said that they “were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism”. What is that all about? Perhaps we should pause in our journey through this Epistle, and consider what baptism really means. In a Christian sense, the word “baptism” means immersion in water. It doesn’t mean sprinkling a few drops of water on a baby’s head. But liturgies over the years have perhaps tried to make baptism more convenient and socially acceptable. After all it is not particularly easy to have to change clothes and get into a tank of water, or a river, or a swimming pool, and undergo a very public display of being immersed in water.

We read in Mark that John, nicknamed “John the Baptist”, associated repentance from sins with the act of baptism. “All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptised them in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5). And Jesus Himself, even though he was the sinless Son of God, also submitted to the process. We read in Matthew 3:13-15, “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptised by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptised by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptise him”.

Why should Christians be baptised? The main reason is that it is a very visible and public expression of a person’s faith and belief in Christ. So it can only really take place when the person is old enough to know what they are doing and what it means spiritually and practically. The pastor and theologian, David Pawson, who sadly died last year, says that baptism is one of four essential steps in becoming a Christian. The four steps are,
Repentance of sins towards God.
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being Baptised in Water.
Receiving the Holy Spirit.
David’s book “The Normal Christian Birth” is well worth a read.

Paul wrote in Romans 6:3, ”For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism”. The symbology is that we identify with Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and that through the act of baptism, they are washed away and remain in the water, as we emerge a new person “… created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24). Our “old man” has died. Let’s pray that he or she stays that way!

Has anyone reading this today, someone believing in the saving and redeeming grace of Jesus, and has not been baptised? Pray about it. As Jesus said, “we must carry out all that God requires“. And find a church or fellowship that will help you.

Dear God. We want to be obedient to Your Word. Please speak to us about baptism, leading and guiding us in the right paths. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sin and Grace

“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?”
Romans 6:1-2 NLT

We left Romans chapter 5 with the thought, “… But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Romans 5:21b). And Paul continues this theme at the start of chapter 6. Of course we want to see more and more of God’s grace – without it we are a doomed people – but do we need to expose it by blatantly and deliberately sinning? A good question, Paul! He used some strong language here, presumably designed to shock his readers out of a position of complacency. Language not just for his day, I might add. 

When we put our faith in Jesus, we made a decision to not only follow Him, but to also turn our backs on sin. But, as we know, this is easier said than done. We strut away from the Cross, full of our new-found relationship with God, and very soon find that leaving sin behind is easier said than done. We suddenly find that unwholesome thoughts pop into our minds. Thoughts similar to those heard by Eve in the Garden – “Did God really say you must not …?” And before we know it we find that sin has knocked at the door of our hearts and entered, uninvited perhaps, but resident nonetheless. Oh Lord! And on our knees we once again we find forgiveness, covered by God’s “wonderful grace”

Divesting ourselves of sin takes a lifetime. And God’s “wonderful grace” follows us as the Holy Spirit helps us day by day, hour by hour. A new born baby soon learns what sin is all about, and the early formative years shape a personality that finds sin attractive and enjoyable. So in later years, to leave that behind is difficult. When Paul asked the question about a sinful life – ”how can we continue to live in it?” – he knew that it wouldn’t be easy. He knew that it could even prove impossible. But he also knew that we have access to some amazing resources that will help us. And we will read more about them in the next chapters in Romans.

Paul used the expression “since we have died to sin” as though this was a given fact. It is of course. When we believed in Jesus at the Cross, we related to His death, nailing our sins to the Cross in an act of repentance. One of my favourite passages of Scripture is in Ephesians 4:21-24, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy”. It is to me a constant reminder of an old life, hopefully increasingly put behind me into history, and a new life, becoming more like Jesus. The NLT translation from Ephesians 4:22 refers to “old sinful nature”, but the KJV uses the expression the “old man”. The old and new imagery clearly highlights the dichotomy between the two states.

We pilgrims really have died to sin, and with God’s help, every time our “old man” tries to emerge alive again from the coffin we receive the help we need to put the lid back on. And we find assurance in Hebrews 4:16, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most”. God’s resources are always greater than our need. Always.

Father God. Once again we marvel about Your amazing grace. So unmerited but so welcome. We welcome this gift of grace with open arms, drawing it into the very core of our beings. Amen.

God’s Abundant Grace

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:20-21 NLT

Paul finishes chapter five of Romans with an intriguing thought. The more we sin, the more God’s grace will flow to cover it. Perhaps some of Paul’s readers might have drawn such a conclusion, but something within me rebels at the very thought. How could I have the audacity, the arrogance, to think such a thing! But Paul moves on to this topic in the next chapter in Romans.

Paul reminds his readers that the Law is the plumb line. The standard against which we can measure how well we are doing. But the result is depressing. All we find out is how sinful we are. But thanks to Jesus, God’s very own Son, His plan for redeeming people from this sinful world in which we find ourselves involves His unlimited and unmerited grace. Grace so abundant that it more than covers all sins ever committed, past, present and future. And we have this wonderful dichotomy, sin leading to death against grace leading to life. The death eternal punishment. The grace eternal life.

The old Apostle, John, spoke gently and kindly in his first letter. He wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:8-9). God’s grace may be abundantly available, but we must never abuse its provision. Once we become a believer, now that we have put our faith in Jesus, we start a journey. It starts at the Cross, where we find ourselves exposed in a dark place, but illuminated by the light of God’s Son, and it continues throughout our lives as we use God’s light to show us what we need to do to transition from who we were to who God wants us to be. We read in Ephesians 5:8-9, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true”. 

The Law showed God’s people “how sinful they were”. Darkness exposed. Sin brought under God’s spotlight. He allows a particular sin to be brought to our attention, and shows us the way to deal with it. And how patient God is! Are we not relieved and very grateful that He doesn’t expose all our sins at once! But through His gentle whispers, and Holy Spirit inspired nudges through His Word and our fellow Christian friends, He graciously helps us in our journey to become more like Jesus.

Sometimes there is a blockage on the path. A boulder of insurmountable proportions that we are unable to deal with. A problem so great that we cannot see it, or don’t want to deal with it. At times like this He loves us too much to leave us there. We read in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights”. God’s discipline is sometimes necessary to give us a shove, rather than a nudge. A good kick up the backside even, It can be painful, but through it we emerge the stronger in our faith and our assurance about God’s caring love. And we can say with the Psalmist in Psalm 40:2, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along”. What more do we need? 

Dear Lord. Praises and thanks are due to You without limit You, the wonderful gracious God. Amen.


“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”
Romans 5:18-19 NLT

What does “condemnation” feel like? We looked yesterday at the analogy of a prisoner in the dock about to be condemned to an eternal life sentence, but suddenly declared not guilty when Someone stepped forward to take the punishment in our place. But without that gracious act, we would have been condemned. Rightfully of course. The Judge is fair and incorruptible. The evidence of our guilt indisputable. There is only one possible verdict. There is no miscarriage of justice possible. An appeal to a higher court disallowed, because there isn’t one. Without Jesus we have no hope.

The condemned will spend eternity in a place called Hell. It will be a place of eternal torment. A place of fire and heat. The devil will be there, hardly an attractive thought. And God won’t be there of course. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. All glimpses of a terrible place that we can find in the Bible. Most of what we know about hell came from Jesus. But most unbelievers today don’t believe in a place called hell. There is whole raft of expectations, ranging from obscurity and nothing after we die, through to everyone will end up in a place called Heaven. All with little evidence to support their views. Death and what happens afterwards is not a popular topic for conversation down the pub, or on the bus.

But we won’t dwell on such a place. Rather, we focus on what Jesus did for us. “Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone”. The contrast between Adam and Jesus is stark. One brought sin into the world. The Other dealt with it in “one act of righteousness”. The condemned are released into a new life with God. A life we can start to experience here in the time we have left in our natural lives. And after that we have an assurance that we will find a new existence in God’s presence, along with all our brothers and sisters who also put their faith in our amazing Saviour.

Dear Lord Jesus. What You did for us at Calvary surpasses any other event that has ever taken place on this planet. We are so grateful. Amen.

God is My Strength

“Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire You more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.”
Psalms 73:25-26 NLT

Another meander away from the Book of Romans this morning. A dear friend is once again in hospital, this time recovering from a severe infection before having to endure a surgical procedure. I wonder how much more she can cope with through her illness. But her faith is strong and, like the Psalmist, I’m sure she regularly prays these two verses. God is her strength.

My wife has a friend who also has severe health challenges. One chest infection after another ravages her body and occasionally takes her to a hospital bed. The constant physical onslaughts weaken her but her faith is strong. I’m sure she also regularly prays these two verses from Psalm 73. God is her strength.

The Psalmist had previously lamented about how the wicked seemed to prosper more than the righteous. But in God’s presence he soon realised what his true perspective was. And he lifted his eyes up from his apparent dilemma to focus on God in Heaven. The fog cleared. He found what was eternal and turned his back on the temporal. God was his strength.

Occasionally we all get caught up with worldly issues and become anxious. The war in Ukraine. The cost of living. Family problems. Some days the list seems endless. The Psalmist wrote that in spite of his problems, God remained the strength of His heart. He elevated his gaze. A friend of mine often reminded himself that his attitude determined his altitude. We can choose to grovel around in the muck and mire, going down the tubes, or we can allow our loving Heavenly Father to lift us up. And it is then that we realise that we desire him above all else. We find that God is our strength. Always and forever.

God’s Gracious Gift

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:15-17 NLT

We could feel that an awful lot of blame has been dumped on Adam. After all, he committed one sin and then, because of that, he was immediately removed from the Garden and spent the rest of his life fighting thorns and thistles as he scratched a living in circumstances never intended. Genesis 3:17-18. “And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” If that wasn’t punishment enough, the blame game for man’s sin focused on Adam. Paul wrote that Adam’s sin “brought death to many”, “led to condemnation” and “caused death to rule over many”. 

Perhaps it is fairer to empathise with Adam, and put ourselves in his shoes (if he had any at this point). Would we have behaved any differently? Whether it was Adam’s fault or not, we all sin. Of course, we could look at the spiritual connotations of the Genesis account, and see Adam as a spiritual representative of mankind. Fronting up God’s human creation, using Adam as a name for all mankind. We are effectively all Adamites. But whatever our opinion, it would be wrong to use the excuse “It was Adam’s fault”. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. 

But, thankfully, things didn’t end with the human race being doomed through Adam’s sin. God had a rescue plan in the form of a gift. “God’s gracious gift”. Just three words but behind them was a manifestation of God’s love so breathtaking that it has completely turned the world into a sphere of hope. Imagine it. We stand before a Judge, knowing that we are guilty, and just before the verdict is passed a Man steps forward and says to the Judge that He will take the punishment. That would be amazing enough in the natural, but when we find that it is the Judge’s own Son who steps forward we can only stand in amazement and gratitude. Emotions beyond all that we can even experience. That’s “God’s gracious gift”. But what is even more amazing is that most people in our societies will stand before that Judge one day without realising that if they had only accepted “God’s gracious gift” earlier then they would not have had to do the time themselves. And it will be a long time. Eternity.

God’s loving grace is available for all. No exceptions. And we pilgrims, having found a wonderful treasure, can only invite others to take a share. God has a personal gift available for everyone. It has a gift tag attached which reads, “To [put in your own name]. Here is a “gift of righteousness”, a passport to eternal life with Me”. And we reach out and take it, trembling and overwhelmed, knowing that it is totally undeserved. What a Saviour!

Dear Father. What else can we say than thank You. Amen.

Everyone Died

“Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:14-15 NLT

The Jewish Law was delivered to the Israelites by Moses. We read in Exodus 19:1, “Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel”. But what about the time before the Law was given? Between the time when Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden and the time of Moses? Paul said to the Roman Christians that people still died in this period. Until Moses, there were no laws to break. So, strictly speaking, there was no opportunity for sin. Surely, to be a sinner, we need to be a lawbreaker.

But death was then, and still is a reality today. It was, of course, God’s intention that His human creation would live forever. To make this happen, there was a tree in Eden that produced fruit. This was a special tree that somehow had an ingredient that kept people alive. This tree was called the Tree of Life. We read about it in Genesis 3:22, “Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”” We read that God “banished” Adam and Eve from Eden and then blocked any access to the Tree of Life. Genesis 3:24, “After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”. But, that tree never disappeared from God’s plans. It re-emerges in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.” God’s plans will never be thwarted. We are living in an age between the two trees of life.

There are two types of death – physical death and spiritual death. We mostly think of the former, but it is the latter that perhaps is more important, because our spirits will live forever. Both Testaments in the Bible contain references to eternal life. In Psalm 23:6, David wrote, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever”. Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life”. Paul clarified the difference between physical and spiritual death when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord”. The Tree of Life kept Adam and Eve’s bodies alive, but there is only one way to keep our spirits alive and that is through Jesus. 

Paul said in Romans 5:14 that Adam is “a representation of Christ”. How can that be? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 5:15, “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” There is a stark and extreme comparison between Adam, representing mankind, and Jesus, God’s Son, and His representative for a few short years here on Planet Earth. And the two extremes were reconciled at Calvary, where we pilgrims kneel in worship before the saving Christ, Jesus Himself. 

Father God. Even though our ancestry can be traced back to Adam, we thank You that we are now adopted into Your family. What a difference. What a Saviour. Amen.

Adam’s Sin

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.”
Romans 5:12-13 NLT

The word “sin” is not one that is used very much in today’s societies. It is mostly associated with religion, being defined as an immoral act, or when a law is broken. It is one of those words that make people feel uncomfortable, so they attempt to reduce or eliminate the potential pain by calling it something else, or projecting its reality into a treatable illness rather than calling it what it really is. This particularly applies to words defining sin in the Bible. So “adultery” becomes “an affair”. And, perhaps controversially, taking drugs, or stealing, or drinking alcohol to excess, are illnesses. And so on.

A typical dictionary definition of the word “sin” is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”. So without even mentioned God, the definition connects morality with law, and particularly in a way that involves a higher being. So is breaking a secular law a “sin”? Technically yes, but perhaps not in a way that complies with the dictionary definition of the word. It is rare, even unheard of, to hear the word “sin” associated with a traffic offence, for example.

In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. God doesn’t sin. He never has done. So His original intention for mankind, having made them in His own image, just like Him, was that they would be sinless as well. We must therefore consider what it was that violated God’s creation, and why.

In parallel with the Eden story, a battle raged in Heaven, with an angel called Lucifer trying to take over from God, a sort of Heavenly coup. We read what happened to him in Isaiah 14:12, quoting from the King James Version. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Lucifer ended up in the only place available to him – Planet Earth. And it is here that he introduced his rebellious and wicked spirit, here he introduced “sin”. In the guise of a serpent, he caused Eve and then Adam to break the only law that they had been given by God. We read in Genesis 2:16-17, “But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die””. And we all know what happened next – the sad story is recorded in Genesis 3. Sin started with a rebellious angel in Heaven and in due course infected Planet Earth.

Sin happens when we break laws. And in particular God’s laws. The one overriding law that underpins all others was told by Jesus to a local Jewish religious expert. We read in Matthew 22:36-40, ““Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”” So the root of sin is disobedience to God. These simple laws power all other laws, and those who don’t want to sin must start here. And in so doing, they must bring everything they do under God’s scrutiny to see if they line up with these laws.

Perhaps we wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve had confessed their sin, and were made right again in God’s presence. Their relationship with Him restored. Their sin wiped away and forgotten. But sadly it didn’t happen, and the disease of sin has been with us ever since. A pandemic of all pandemics.

Paul, in today’s verse from Romans 5, states that Adam’s sin became human sin. All have sinned, he said. And it is very true. I don’t know of anyone who has not broken any laws, let alone God’s laws. And all those who sin will ultimately die. That is, unless, they find forgiveness and redemption in God’s presence. Through Jesus we can discover that sins can really be washed away. Forever.

Father God. Only You, the Sinless One, has the power to forgive sins. On our knees today we worship You, deeply thankful for Your amazing grace. Amen.


“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Romans 5:11 NLT

Paul made another statement as though it was a fact. He took it as read, beyond an assumption, that rejoicing would follow the process of belief in Jesus and all that He did at Calvary. Quite a leap for someone in that culture, moving from idolatry, to faith in the one true God. Society wasn’t very kind to those early Christians. But Paul wasn’t being theoretical when he wrote that. He wasn’t living in some different world, divorced from reality. What he wrote to the early Christians in Rome was a perfectly valid statement, designed to set out for them what a relationship with God should be like. A relationship that they could rejoice about. A relationship that was wonderful and new.

We fast-forward to today. If anything, our world is just as hostile a place to Christians as it was in Paul’s day. More so, if we read about the levels of persecution experienced by some. Constant negative news reports wear us down. The hostile spiritual environment where even leaders in the faith struggle and prevaricate rather than act as beacons for God’s ways. Worldly expectations have created a society where God doesn’t exist any more. And here are Christians today who, in spite of all that is going on, are called to rejoice in our relationship with God.

But we pilgrims have made a decision to follow Jesus. Through our faith in Him, believing Him for our future salvation, we do in fact have a “wonderful new relationship” with God. We are indeed His friends, positioned right in the “sweet spot” which He designed for us before the foundations of the earth. We rejoice! It’s not something we can do with one eye on what is happening around us. We do it with both eyes on God, because it is in Him we find a Friend who has overcome the world. We view the natural world through God’s eyes. And in that way we get His perspective. Through prayer we approach difficult situations and relax as God whispers in our ears wonderful words of wisdom and guidance. 

It may have been some years ago that we experienced  the “wonderful new relationship” with God. Perhaps we have taken our eyes off Him a bit. Perhaps we have been worn down by all the information, most of it negative, that bombards us every day. Well there is good news. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “ … Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. Having refreshed ourselves in God’s presence we can experience being friends with God. And that has to be good news. That has to be a wonderful experience. And through it all, regardless of the circumstances, we can rejoice. We look forward to a time when joy is the norm, and worldliness is no more. And because we are God’s children, we can experience that joy right now. 

So if any of my readers are experiencing a lack of joy this morning, feeling they there is nothing to rejoice about, we read these words of Paul. Through Jesus we are friends of God. Meditate on what that means this morning. How amazing is it, that the Creator of the whole universe, wants to be friends with us. That very thought is enough to make even the stones around us burst into praise. It truly is a momentous statement, and one that we embrace through our faith in Him. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” That is not a statement of delusion. It is a fact and one that will never leave us regardless of our circumstances. Join me this morning in rejoicing, because Jesus is alive, and because we are God’s friends.

Father God. We worship You today. You are the source of joy. You are the mighty One, our Lord and God. Amen.