David in Romans, Part 2
God has given us free will; the question is who will we serve? Self, sin, which leads to death? Or God’s right ways?
We’ve inherited a mortal, sin-prone nature; on top of which we have sinned! It’s important that we accept we are sinners who deserve to die. In baptism, we acknowledge that we publicly confess that we can’t save ourselves and we need Christ’s victory. Romans 6:4 shows,
The Lord Jesus Christ was raised by the glory of the Father, in other words in accordance with God’s standard, His character (cp. Exodus 33-34). Because the Lord Jesus had never sinned, it was right that God raised him from the grave.
In His grace, God has mercifully offered salvation to those who accept His standard, those who have the humility to see His way as the only way, the perfect way, and furthermore try to live by it. We are now walking in newness of life (Romans 6:4, which is clearly a newness of spirit in Romans 7:6).
In this new way of life, we all have a responsibility to hear and use our knowledge of God to make decisions that we believe, from scripture, to be right. God has given us free will; the question is who will we serve? Self, sin, which leads to death? Or God’s right ways?
We note in 2 Samuel 7 where God makes such a fundamental promise to David. Twelve times David is referred to as God’s “servant.” We know too that David’s service is from his heart, Nathan said to him, “Do all that is in thine heart.” This is where the change should come at our baptisms,
Where Saul had chosen to serve sin, he’d ended up in the grave with no hope. David is choosing to serve God and His right ways were choosing eternal life, God promised him “Thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee.” If we too make that choice and “become servants to God,” we know “the end, everlasting life.” (Rom 6:22).
Is serving God easy? No, it’s a challenge, because it’s not our way! Our weak natures are prone to sin; naturally, we want to serve ourselves. In Psalm 51, as David asks for forgiveness from God, he first asks to be washed and cleansed of his sin— as God’s inspired writer we see him laying the seeds for the need for us to be baptized to wash away our sins (cp. Acts 22:16).
We also notice from the Psalm that David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” This is surely the “newness of spirit” that we are now serving God in. Our sin is dealt with, we have a new spirit, we are choosing God’s ways because we want to live by them, and we see they are better than anything the world can offer. Does that mean we are now perfect? Sadly not! We still fail.
If we make God’s will our delight, the battle becomes more effective.
Romans 7 shows us clearly the battle we all have with sin, even after our baptisms. The inspired apostle speaks of his personal battle with his nature, and his frustration with it, “The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom 7:19).
A key point from this is that the spiritual person (e.g., Paul) has a battle going on. For us, it is important the battle with sin is well and truly alive. The influence of the world in our lives (much of which we choose to bring into our homes, and minds!) too easily sears our conscience, like “a hot iron.” (1 Tim 4:2). How do we keep the battle going?
There is a clue in Romans 7:22, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” This is picking up Psalm 40, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” In another Psalm, David was inspired to write giving us the thoughts and words of the Lord Jesus Christ a thousand years before he existed in person (Hebrews 10 proves that).
If we make God’s will our delight, the battle becomes more effective. We look at God’s ways and see them as right—the beauty of His creation, His set up of man and woman, the family structure, a clear unchanging moral code defining right and wrong. It’s a stable rock on which we can build our lives.
Wonderfully too, in God, we see a character that is: “merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exo 34:6). Of course, the fruit of God’s character, His spirit, is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Gal 5:22). Why wouldn’t we delight in God’s ways when we see the fruit? Practically, how can we help ourselves delight in God’s ways (to help keep the battle going in us)?
Clearly, in alluding to Psalm 40, we realize that we are to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Before he says, “I delight to do thy will,” he says, “Mine ears hast thou opened.” This is surely a huge help. To delight in God’s ways begins with an open ear to the Word of God.
There really are lots of ways that we can feed on God’s Word.
For the Lord Jesus, morning by morning (Isa 50:4), made time to listen to his Father’s Word. We know we have a weak sin-prone nature. If we are serious about the battle, what choices can we make to help ourselves in this struggle?
Are we giving time to God’s word each day?
Do we make a choice to take our family to a Bible School for a holiday?
Do we get involved in preaching campaigns?
Do we put the local fraternal, or study days, in our diary and go to them?
What do we listen to on journeys?
There really are lots of ways that we can feed on God’s Word. Too easily we put barriers up and make excuses; instead, we feed the flesh! Rather, we are instructed to
Bro. Robert Roberts in the preface to the Bible Companion wrote:
“Salvation depends upon the assimilation of the mind to the divine ideas, principles, and affections, exhibited in the scriptures… much spiritual fructification is only to be realised in connection with fructifying influences of the Spirit in the Word.”
In Psalm 143:10, David prays, “Thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” Within the Psalm there are number of connections we can make to Romans. Whatever the context in which David wrote this Psalm, it is clear that he is aware of his unworthiness—so he pleads to God on the basis of God’s character,
verse 1, “In thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.” He knows that he can’t plead to God on his own righteousness,
verse 2, “For in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” He’s struggling enormously with the problems he’s facing,
verse 4, “My spirit is overwhelmed.” Even in that tremendous struggle, notice what he does,
verses 5-6, he starts recalling Scripture, he prays, his ear is open to scripture.
In verse 8 he says, “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning, for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.” He’s willing to be taught by the word,
verse 10: “Teach me to do thy will: thy spirit is good; lead me in the land of uprightness.”
In spite of our current problems, “the sufferings of this present time” as Romans 8:18 puts it, God will help us through them, especially if we have chosen and continue to be God’s servant, just as David did.
We serve our Heavenly Father; we make choices in our lives which put His will before our own. We can be confident if we are choosing to serve God and His right ways rather than choosing to serve ourselves and sin. Granted, although we still have struggles with sin and our own mortality, we have confidence in our hope of glory.
Romans 8:31 assures us that for those who want God’s ways, God is on our side: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” There is so much comfort to be taken from this section of Scripture. If we can align our minds to Christ, we share a fellowship of Spirit (cp. Phil 2:1-5).
The Spirit we’re trying to cultivate isn’t our natural disposition. But, if we have a genuine desire to be Christ-like, our spiritual mindset can help with our circumstances, because although (as weak erring creatures) we don’t know what to pray for always, our spiritual mindset is making intercession for us!
How? Because God, who knows our hearts, knows the spiritual mindset we have. The word “because” in Romans 8:27 both the AV and RV margins render as “that’—it’s the mind of the Spirit that “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
When we’re really feeling the drag of our human nature, we can feel lost for words, but the point here is God knows our innermost thoughts! We believe Romans 8:24 is picking up Psalm 38, a psalm of David. David is struggling with life, but he writes, “Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee.”
In other words, Lord, you know my desire, you know my innermost thoughts, my groanings. This is what is so wonderful about these verses in Romans. If your heart’s desire is to be in the Kingdom, God will see that you truly love and want to serve Him.
The result of which is that God will ensure that all the challenges of our mortal lives will work together for good. Nothing will be “able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39).
Mumbles Ecclesia, UK