The Right Time

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
Romans 5:6 NLT

When was it that we were “utterly helpless”? Surely that isn’t true. But when we look at our humanity in the context of eternity, then we might, indeed should, come to a different conclusion. Being “utterly helpless” is a state of realisation that no matter what we did, we could never achieve God’s gold standard of righteousness through our own efforts. The Israelites, the Jewish nation, had tried for many generations to achieve that state, and had failed. And failed miserably. We see the bright spots in Israel’s history of times when their relationship with God was going well. But then there were the long dark ages of oppression and exile, after and during a time when they abandoned God. We must all realise that without God, we are “utterly helpless”.

We read further in today’s verse and find that “Christ came at just the right time”. But what about all those people who preceded Him? And all those who have never known anything about Jesus? As Old Testament readers find, there is a theme of salvation running throughout the Bible. In Romans 4 we read about how Abraham achieved righteousness in God’s sight by believing the promise that God gave Him. Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The Israelite king, David, was a man after God’s heart, in spite of all his very public sinful behaviour. We read in Acts 13:22, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” There were many prophetic messages about salvation in the Old Testament. A common misconception, held by not only the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, was, and is, that in pre-Christ days salvation came through keeping the Law. But Paul clarified this viewpoint in Galatians 3:11, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” We’re back to the example of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 

Without faith in God we are indeed “utterly helpless”. We will end up in a lost eternity, continually regretting our inability to realise our true status and where, as Jesus put it, “… there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12b). But here’s the Good News. Paul informed his readers that Jesus Himself came at a certain point in history, a time we call the “right time”, to die for all mankind, so that all sin, past, present and future, will be forgiven to those who believe in Him. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2,  “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation“. 

We pilgrims have embraced this truth and we are no longer “utterly helpless” because God has forgiven us and we, like Abraham, are counted as righteous because of our faith. But there are many around us who do not realise how desperate their situations are. We must tell them. Try and persuade them even. Before it is too late. “Today is the day of [their] salvation”. 

Dear Father God. Please help us and guide us as we tell those around us of Your wonderful free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

In the UK at present, in the natural, there seems little to rejoice about. The cost of living has gone up dramatically, impacting a new generation of adults who have never known anything other than very low inflation and interest rates. Energy costs have more than doubled over the space of a year or so and there seems no sign of them returning to the level enjoyed before the Covid pandemic. Eventually, wages will catch up, but “problems and trials” will abound for the foreseeable future. So why did Paul make the statement that the difficulties we are facing into will “help us develop endurance”?  

Paul wasn’t the only early first century Apostle who made such a statement. We read in James 1:2-3, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow”. 

So what is this “endurance”? It is that ability to persevere through “problems and trials” without going under, without giving up, without jumping ship and joining another with less hassles. The Christian life was and is never going to be an easy option. Not only do we have to clean up our own lives under God’s gracious and loving guidance, but we will be largely shunned by those in society around us. In some parts of the world, even the state authorities will be against us. We have many brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith in other countries like North Korea and Afghanistan.

Jesus told His disciples, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”  (John 16:32-33). Jesus was facing into an incredibly difficult situation. He knew He was heading to the Cross and a horrible and painful death. And He knew His disciples would abandon Him to His fate. And here He was, encouraging His disciples with words of comfort. He told them that their future natural lives were going to be full of “problems and trials” and yet, through it all, they would have Jesus with them because, as they would find out later, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would be with them, enabling them to “overcome the world”

There are many Christians who start well, but then become shipwrecked on the trials of life. Perhaps they are in a church that goes through a difficult time with splits and changes of leadership, and they get hurt in the process. Or perhaps a Christian friend is treated badly by another Christian and they decide that they want no more of this faith. So they stop going to church. They stop reading their Bibles. And before long they have failed to endure. 

What do we pilgrims do, when circumstances seem to conspire against us? Go down the tubes? Or rise up above the difficulties? A Psalmist, Asaph, was facing into an inexplicable situation that severely challenged his faith in God. We read in Psalm 73:2, “But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone”. As we read on, we see the gyrations that went on in his mind as he considered how the wicked seemed to get away with their behaviour. Bitterly, he said, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” And then we read, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. 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. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (Psalm 73:17, 25-26, 28). Asaph regained his perspective. There are many other examples in the Bible, of people who faced into trials and problems. We read about a few in Hebrews 11.

But through it all, we have a wonderful loving Heavenly Father who is always there for us. He will always help us through our times of trial. Somehow in His presence, the trials don’t seem half as bad. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. Much truth in that when it comes to endurance.

Father God. Your Son Jesus knew all about trials and problems. We thank You for Your encouragement and guidance when the going gets tough. Through You the world has been overcome. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

Righteousness Through Belief

“And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
Romans 4:22-25 NLT

The story of Abraham in the Bible is remarkable. In a place called Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham (then called Abram) married a lass called Sarai (later Sarah). But Abram’s Dad, Terah, wanted to go to the land of Canaan, and he took Abram and Lot, his grandson, with him. He got half way to a place called Haran and settled there, eventually dying at the age of 205. We can read the story in Genesis 11. But in Genesis 12:1, Abram heard the call of God. We read, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you””. The next few chapters in Genesis relate the story of Abram and how he became Abraham, the father of many nations. The Apostle Paul pointed out to his readers the reason this story was included in the Scriptures of the time was because it was put there for their benefit. And, of course as it turns out, for ours as well.

God made a promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the stars, when he was of an age that was too old for child bearing. Sarah was well into her 90’s, an age considered impossible when it came to having children. But through faith he believed God’s promise. And Paul points out to his readers that they too will be considered righteous if they believed ”in Him the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”. Paul’s explanation as to why was quite simple. Jesus was killed because of our sins, but through believing in Him, His resurrection made us righteous in God’s sight.

This word “belief” is critical. The dictionary definition I found today is spot on, in my opinion. “An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.” So although there is historical proof that Jesus was arrested and crucified, we have no proof that He allowed this to happen so that our sins are forgiven. We have no proof that because of His resurrection, we are now counted as righteous. So we have a “belief”.

But the “belief” Paul was referring to goes much deeper than the superficial meaning. Even the devil believes that Jesus existed. No, our belief in Jesus is life changing. We live in an age where people in society have largely rejected God and His ways. They may believe that a “god” of some sort exists, but that knowledge makes no difference to either the way they live in the now, or will live in the future, even beyond the grave. They may attend funerals and feel a twinge of regret or concern, but that soon wears off at the “wake”, the event scheduled to take place after a funeral service, and in an alcohol-fuelled family get together. 

We pilgrims believe with an intensity that is transforming in its impact. When we truly believe in all that God has done for us through Jesus, then we find ourselves transported to a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God. There, God rules and reigns, and we worship and praise Him, with thankful hearts. About our old lives living in the world, we read in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light”. God’s Kingdom is like that – full of light. 

So, because of our belief, we pilgrims are righteous in God’s sight. That’s what happened to Abraham, and it has happened to us as well. “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, should die for me“.

Dear Father God. We sing that old hymn today, assured of our righteousness through faith in Your Son Jesus. Such love! Amen.

God is Able

“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.”
Romans 4:20-21 NLT

Do we believe that God is able to do anything? After all, He created the universe. He put into place the physical laws that hold our planet in just the right place, near to the right sun, with all the right resources that human belongs need for life. He is truly an amazing God.

But there are some things that God just cannot do. For example, God cannot tell a lie. God cannot violate the commandments He has issued. God cannot stop loving us. God cannot break the covenant He gave us through Jesus. God cannot break His promises. He is constant and unchanging in His absolute being.

Paul wrote that Abraham “never wavered in believing God’s promise”. But we read that in his lifetime Abraham never saw descendants as numerous as the stars. In Genesis 25 we read about Abraham’s life coming to an end. Genesis 25:7-8, “Abraham lived for 175 years, and he died at a ripe old age, having lived a long and satisfying life. He breathed his last and joined his ancestors in death”. In the preceding verses we see that after Sarah’s death he took other wives, and had children, but nowhere near as numerous as God promised. However, he had faith that God’s promise would happen. And happen through his son with Sarah, Isaac.

Paul wrote that Abraham was “fully convinced”. Now that takes faith, to be that certain about something that wouldn’t be realised in his lifetime. For us pilgrims, one of God’s promises is contained in John 3:16. Eternal life. We read, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”. By its very definition, this is a promise that we are not going to see the fruit of in our natural lifetimes. We need to have faith that it will happen. We need, like Abraham, to be “fully convinced”. Or are we not sure?

There is a promise commonly seen on UK bank notes. I look at the wording on my £10 note – “The Royal Bank of Scotland plc promises to pay the bearer on demand…”. Many years ago the value of a banknote in the UK was pegged to the price of gold, so the owner of a banknote could, at least in theory, exchange it for the equivalent sum in gold coins. Today this is an empty promise, because no bank will hand over gold coins if we asked them. But eternal life is a promise far beyond the writing on a UK bank note. Though there have been claims to the contrary, no-one has indisputably returned from Heaven after they have died to tell us what it will be like. And would we believe them if they did? Jesus used the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man to illustrate the point. We can read the story in Luke 16. A rich man in hell (literally Hades, the place of the dead) has a dialogue with Abraham about sending the poor man Lazarus, who is in Heaven, back to the rich man’s brothers who are still alive, to warn them about the horrors of living in hell. And the story ends with this chilling statement from Abraham, ” … If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

At the present time, at least in the UK, there are many struggling to make ends meet, because the cost of living, and inflation, has rocketed skywards. But in response, another promise from God is found in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus“. It’s all very well having faith in something that will happen after when we die, but what about having faith that God will meet all our needs now. Today.

So what promises has God given to us pilgrims? We have many, like the promise of eternal life, in the Bible. A common item in years gone by was a “promise box”, containing rolled up pieces of paper, and on each was written a Bible verse containing a promise. These are general promises applicable to all God’s people. But has God given us, like Abraham, a specific promise for us to have faith in, and be “fully convinced” about? If not, perhaps it’s worth asking Him.

Father God. You are the One who had given us many promises about all the things we need in this life. We thank You for Your provision. Amen.

A Reason to Hope

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.”
Romans 4:18-19 NLT

We read today more about Abraham’s faith. He had been given a promise that, in the natural, was impossible to fulfil. After all, how can someone approaching the age of 100 bear a child in her womb. Without a child and heir, how could Abraham keep on hoping that it would happen one day. There was indeed “no reason to hope”. 

What are we pilgrims hoping for? A new job? A child? A restored relationship? The list of human hopes is probably endless. But are we hoping to see the fruition of a God-given promise, like Abraham, or just something we thought about in the shower this morning? Proverbs 13:12 records the debilitating effects of unrealised hopes. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life”. 

In our natural world, “hope” is something very different from Abrahamic hope. We “hope” to go on holiday. We “hope” to have enough money to pay the electricity bill this month. But in the Kingdom of God, our “hope” for a warm home is based on God’s promises such as Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus”. Another “hope” we may have is to get some relief from the chaotic and clamorous lives that we leave, and the worries that drag us down. Well, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”. And there are other examples of how God has an answer for our “hopes”. You see, Abraham’s hope was based on something that God promised him, and he believed it with something we call faith. We read in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see”. Faith is the glue that joins our hopes to God’s provision. We may never see the answer to our hopes in our lifetimes. For example, we may spend our lives praying for the salvation of a family member, and not see it happen before we pass, but God will still answer our prayer at the right time.

So what do we pilgrims “hope” for. Is it based on something from God? Something like a prophetic word brought to us by a faithful brother or sister? Or a promise we have read in the Bible, a verse that immediately connects with our spirits? Whatever it is, we must let our faith grow, as we pray for the answer that God has promised.

Dear God. We know that only You have the answers to our questions, our confusion. We bring our hopes to Your feet today and look to You for the provision for our needs. Amen.

Death to Life

“So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.”
Romans 4:16-17 NLT

At the time when Abraham ”… believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6), God had just made the statement that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the number of stars. But Paul pointed out that “Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing”. At this point, Isaac had not even been born – that didn’t happen until Genesis 21. But Abraham continued to believe God that He would supply him a family that would be too numerous to count. 

Do we pilgrims believe that God resurrects the dead? There are of course several Biblical examples. Take Lazarus for example. We read in John 1139-43, the incredible account of his resurrection, ““Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”” Every time I read this passage I’m struck by its authenticity. All Martha could think about was that there would be the bad smell of a decaying corpse, which would have not taken too long in that warm climate. But Jesus had His eyes on His Father in Heaven, to God who was the Source of the power Jesus needed. 

But what about bringing the dead back to life today, on 21st Century Planet Earth? There are many Christians today who claim that such miracles died out with the original Apostles. But we mustn’t forget that every time a medic resuscitates a person who has suffered a cardiac arrest, we experience an intervention that would have been miraculous in first century society. However, Jesus gave His disciples an instruction, which we can read from Matthew 10:8, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!” The God I worship is all powerful, and is able to perform miraculous acts both through His people and directly. But the reality is that bringing the dead back to life is an unusual event. There is a book “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” authored by Craig Keener, that sets out an in depth account of miracles throughout the world since Bible days. Worth a read. But if God performed miracles in Biblical accounts, I fail to understand why He would suddenly stop. In the end, perhaps if we all had faith like Abraham’s, miracles would become commonplace. Paul believed that God could raise the dead, so why shouldn’t we believe that as well?

We pilgrims march through life without really knowing all that much about how things will work out each day and how our lives will end on this earth. But we do have a God who leads and guides us on our journey. And the closer we stay with Him, the more light we will receive to illuminate our paths. We are living in a time of much change. But God never changes. And having “faith like Abraham’s” will take us into incredible places, so be prepared! We’ll finish today with Psalm 71:3. David said to God, “Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for You are my Rock and my Fortress”. 

Father God. You’re an amazing God, full of love, grace and good gifts. We worship You today. Amen.


Abraham’s Faith

“Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.””
Romans 4:1-3 NLT

This is obviously Paul, the Jew, speaking here. Like all Jews, he could trace back his ancestry all the way to Abraham. In Genesis 15:5, God spoke to Abram, we read, “Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”” A bit further on, as we read in Genesis 17:4-7, God said, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were very proud of the lineage back to Abraham, and thought that because they were people of the covenant, following the Law, they were safe, with their future assured. But John the Baptist was having none of their religiosity – we read in Matthew 3:9-10, “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the axe of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire”.

The Jewish nation was founded on faith. Abraham’s faith. And that was before the Law had even been given to the Israelites. There’s nothing God likes more than our faith in Him. In fact, He likes it so much that, through faith, we are made righteous before Him. We read in Genesis that Abraham “believed God”. And so it is with us pilgrims. We believe God and all that He has done for us. What we believe is summarised in the Anglican “Apostles’ Creed”. It’s worth including with the blog today. We believe it. And we have faith that through our belief we achieve righteousness before God, as Abraham did all those years ago. But just saying the Creed does not constitute faith. We really need to believe what it says, with all the implications behind it. The “head” knowledge needs to migrate to our “hearts”, where there can be an outpouring of our love and worship for our amazing God.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Only One God

“After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasise faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfil the law.”
Romans 3:29-31 NLT

Paul makes another profound statement in this chapter in Romans. “There is only one God”. Paul wrote this when he was thinking of the conflict between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Roman church. But in today’s world, it has of even greater importance. In recent years we have had to observe the bizarre spectacle of “multi faith” services. Where Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others have come together for a joint worship service. I have a relative who sincerely believes that all religions worship the same God, only in different ways. He reckons that God has different compartments in Heaven, each for one of the worldly religions. I don’t know how he has come to that conclusion but that is what he believes. Many years ago the controversial comic Dave Allen used to end his TV programmes with the parting phrase, “May your god go with you”. The world is very confused about God. 

But in all the religious fog that infects our world, a fog introduced by the devil and the effects of sin, we Christians have the truth. Jesus said, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus. Those in the world will reject such an unequivocal statement. They will question how we really know that. The clue comes in the next part of Paul’s message, where he said, “He makes people right with himself only by faith”. It’s all about our faith. And through that faith we know that only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus can make us righteous in God’s sight.

Paul asked the question of his readers, “Well then, if we emphasise faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law”? His answer echoed what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved”. The Law was given by God through Moses, for the express purpose of teaching and guiding the Israelites, and in the process exposing their sin. God sent His sinless Son to fully keep the Law so that we could, through faith, keep the intentions of the Law too. Because of their sin, mankind is incapable of keeping the Law and appearing righteous by their own efforts. But through faith in Jesus, we can. What a wonderful God we have!

Dear Father God. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the words of eternal life. We worship You, and only You, today. Amen.

No Boasting

“Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
Romans 3:27-28 NLT

In this life, it is easy to find people who boast about their achievements. The general on a battlefield. The captains of industry who claim that they have built their companies from nothing, through sheer hard work. The aid worker who has helped large numbers of people. A charity that has influenced government legislation. The neighbour down the street who has purchased a new car. The list is endless. But all these achievements have one thing in common – a boast that their claims depend on human effort, and particularly theirs. 

What does this word “boast” mean? A dictionary definition is to “talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities“. There are two words in this definition that are worth noting – “pride” and “self“. In God’s eyes, both of these can be considered to be sins. There are some Bible verses warning against boasting. James wrote some words about misplaced self-confidence in James 4. Here is one of the verses he wrote, verse 16, “… you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil“. But James was not the only Biblical writer warning about boasting. Another verse from Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring“. Boasting is associated with evil people. Psalm 94:3, “They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting“. 

In our verses from Romans 3 today we see that, in our relationship with God, we have nothing to boast about. The Apostle Paul wrote a list of all the challenges he had experienced in his life, and how he could boast about them, if he wanted to. We can read about them in 2 Corinthians 11. But in verse 30 he comes from a different angle. He wrote, “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am“. In the following chapter, he referred to having “a thorn in [his] flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). After asking God to take it away, he wrote ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

Somehow, it’s not possible to boast about our faith, and not just because those worldly people around us perceive it to be a weakness. Why would we want to boast about such a thing? We can do nothing to earn our salvation. Through faith in Jesus, we accept the free gift of God, His salvation. The very essence of our faith is God. It’s all about Him and what He has done for us, and not about us at all. In Philippians 2:3 we read, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”. Humility is the way forward for Christians. We have an inner strength that comes from knowing that God loves us personally and individually. And because of that we don’t have to puff ourselves up in front of our peers. We don’t have to make inflated claims about our worth, to try and make those around us look up to us. The Lord Himself will lift us up at the right time. We read in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour”.

Living in God’s Kingdom is counter-cultural for most of the time. The world’s values and virtues mostly don’t exist in God’s world. And boasting is one of them. 

Father God. Please help us to have a Godly perspective of ourselves, and not one dictated to by worldly people and values. Amen.

All Have Sinned

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-26 NLT

A bigger than usual number of verses today. But what Paul wrote is a concise yet profound exposition of God’s love and grace, and this Biblical paragraph cannot really be subdivided. These verses start with the reality that no human being is capable of achieving God’s righteous standard. Why is that? God requires all those in His presence to be sinless, but through Adam, sin polluted everyone ever born. Once a sinful act has been committed, then exclusion from God’s presence is mandated. Paul said “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. I always think of it as an examiner setting a pass mark for an exam, for example 70%. Those sitting the exam may find that they have all failed, with a range of marks varying between 20% and 50%. But it is no good for the one with 50% saying he is better than the one with 20% – they have both failed the test by failing to achieve the pass mark. “God’s glorious standard” is unachievable by sinful human beings.

Thankfully God has supplied a remedy so that we can achieve His standard. And it is all through His grace. Jesus was and is the only sinless human being. He is divine because He is the Son of God, part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But He was born to a human being, a young peasant girl called Mary, as part of God’s gracious rescue plan for mankind. Jesus became human so that He could sit the exam instead of us, and, being sinless, He achieved “God’s glorious standard” with 100%. 

For us pilgrims, we managed to stumble across this amazing truth. It may have been that someone had shared with us what Jesus did, and something within us responded to God’s grace. We may have picked up a Bible one day and discovered the truth for ourselves. We may have, in a moment of crisis, happened to walk past a church and entered there, finding the grace we needed at just the right time. But however it happened, there was a day when we believed in Jesus. 

Around us are many people who have not yet made that step of faith. They are still quite ignorantly making their way through life, blissfully unaware of what is coming towards them. They fail to realise that, by default, they have chosen a life separated from God because of their sin. So we pilgrims must take every opportunity to share the truth about Jesus with our friends and families. It may not make us very popular. In some countries it can lead to imprisonment and death. But share Jesus we must. We can’t keep this amazing truth to ourselves. It’s very simple – everyone, without exception, has sinned, and through His love for mankind, God has provided a remedy. That’s it!

Dear Father God. Thank You for Your grace and mercy. Every time You look at us You see Jesus and His righteousness. We don’t deserve Your mercy, but we’re grateful. Amen.