Tag Archives: ray stedman

Ray Stedman – The Inner Man

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21 …he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being… (Ephesians 3:16b).

What is your inner being? Many take this to mean the soul, with its faculties of reason and emotion and will. But I don’t think this is what Paul means here, because in 2 Corinthians 4 he gives us a clue about what he does mean when he says the inner being. There he says that our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (4:16 NKJV). That is, for Christians there is something about us that is getting old, decaying and deteriorating; but there is also something about us that is getting more vital, increasing and becoming richer and deeper and stronger every day we live. And that is what he calls the inner being.

Your soul grows old as well as your body. It is clear that the soul is part of our life linked with the outer person, which is perishing day by day.

But that is not the inner being. The inner being is the human spirit. It is here that God begins the work of recovery. Not in the realm of our feelings, but in what psychologists would call the realm of the subconscious, the deep-seated part of our life, the fundamental element of our nature. When you are really discouraged, really brokenhearted and have given up, your condition is often described as dispirited. That is an accurate term. Your fundamental nature is dissatisfied. It is not merely a question of temporary boredom. That would be in the realm of the soul. But this is something that touches the spirit, right at the deepest level of human life, and you find yourself filled with despair and indifference.

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Ray Stedman – What To Do While You’re Young

Read: Ecclesiastes 11:7-10

Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

I am always amazed at the energy of young people. We have three grandsons living with us. When I come home, weary and tired, although they have been tearing around all day, they still want to wrestle with me. Sometimes I heave a sigh of relief when they finally give up and go to bed. George Bernard Shaw said, Youth is such a wonderful thing it is a shame to waste it on young people. God gives the gift of youth, so rejoice in it. Young people, for the most part, always believe that everything is going to turn out all right, so they energetically pursue things. This verse encourages that.

Youth is the time to plan, to try new things, to explore new opportunities, new adventures. In my twenties I had the opportunity, following the outbreak of World War II, to go to the Hawaiian Islands and work in industry there. Youth is the time to seize opportunities and to follow our desires.

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Ray Stedman – Seed Thoughts

Read: Mark 4:1-29

He also said, This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how (Mark 4:26-27).

This is a secret of the kingdom of God, and to me it is one of the most encouraging of all the parables Jesus ever uttered. He is speaking of how this rule of God increases, how it grows in a life. He explains it as a coming to harvest by a patient expectation that God will work. The key of this whole passage is, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. That is, there are forces at work that will be faithful to perform their work—whether a farmer stews and frets about it or not. Farmers do what they can do, what is expected of them. But then God must work. And God will work. And in the confidence of that, this farmer rests secure. As Jesus draws the picture this farmer goes out to sow. It is hard work as he sows the field, but this is what he can do. But then he goes home and goes to bed. He does not sit up all night biting his fingernails, wondering if the seed fell in the right places or whether it will take root. Nor does he rise the next morning and go out and dig it up to see whether or not it has sprouted yet. He rests secure in the fact that God is at work, that He has a part in this process, and He must do it; no one can do it for Him. But he will faithfully perform it. So the farmer rests secure, knowing that as the seed grows there are stages that are observable: first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. It is only as the grain is ripe that he is called into action again. When the harvest is ready, then he is to act once more.

This is exactly what Paul describes for us in that passage in 1 Corinthians 3:9a: For we are God’s fellow workers. This is the way we ought to expect Him to work. It involves a witness first, perhaps a word of teaching or exhortation to someone—or to ourselves. And then an inevitable process begins, one that takes time and patience and allows God to work. One of the most destructive forces at work in the church today is our insistent demand for instant results. We want to have immediate conversions, immediate responses every time we speak. We tend not to allow time for the Word to take root and grow and come to harvest.

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Ray Stedman – The God of Peace

Read: Hebrews 13:18-25

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

Humanity possesses great nuclear submarines by which the oceans can be traversed without ever coming to the surface. The secret of their tremendous power lies in a nuclear reactor hidden away in the depths of the submarine. That remarkable force does not need any refueling but is constantly giving off energy, so the submarine never needs to go into port for refueling. So it is in the life of a Christian. In these two verses is revealed the nuclear reactor for every Christian.

Look at the elements of this: Now may the God of peace. In this letter we have seen what peace is. The nearest modern equivalent is emotional health. In Christ we are in touch with the God of emotional health, the God who intends life to be lived on a peaceful level. With him is linked the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep. I came from Montana and know much about sheep. If you are from the city you have probably thought that if you leave them alone they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them. But I can assure you it is all a lie! There are two outstanding characteristics of sheep: They have no wisdom, and they have no weapons. They are forever running off and getting lost and unable to find their way back, and if anything attacks them they are utterly helpless to defend themselves. That is why they need a shepherd. That is why we need a shepherd, and why the Bible likens us to sheep. We have a Great Shepherd of the sheep. He is our resource, our provision — a God who is concerned about us, and a Great Shepherd who is there to watch us — because we have no wisdom and we have no weapons for our defense.

Linked with them is this great process that is spoken of here, who brought again from the dead … by the blood of the eternal covenant. There you have the cross and the resurrection. The cross means the end of the old life of self-reliance, and the resurrection sets forth the power of the new life. That is the power that is released within the Christian by the indwelling Christ within him. We talk about the conquest of outer space but the greatest conquest ever made was when the Lord Jesus conquered inner space by moving into the heart of man, to plant within us the greatest power by which life can be lived — a power that heals and makes whole.

The result of all this is that God will equip you with everything good that you may do his will. This is the secret of effective service. You do not have to ask God to do this, he is there to equip you with everything to do his will. There is a full supply here and full ability. God is going to work through you, not apart from your will, but right along with it. You choose, you start out, but he is there to carry it through.

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Ray Stedman – Conviction Based on God’s Word

Read: Romans 14:19-23

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. Romans 14:22

This verse is not saying you are to keep quiet about your liberties, that you do not say anything to anybody, that you keep it between yourself and God. What Paul is saying is, if you have faith, have it between yourself and God. Let God’s Word be the basis for your faith, and nothing else. Be sure that what you are doing is not because of pride on your part, because you want to show off how free you are — you are doing this because God has freed you by his Word. If you have really based it on that, then your action will be one in which your conscience is free. You will not feel guilty and troubled as to whether you are acting beyond what the Word of God really says. You will be happy, free, blessed. But, if you do not, if you really have not settled this based on Scripture, but are acting only because you want to indulge yourself; if you like this thing but you still feel a bit troubled by it; if you act then, you are going to be condemned by your conscience. And if you are condemned by your conscience, you will feel guilty. And if you act because you feel guilty, you are not acting out of faith, and, therefore, you are sinning. This is Paul’s argument.

Without faith, Hebrews says, it is impossible to please God, (Hebrews 11:6a). Faith means believing what God has said. You must base your actions in Christian liberty on what the Word of God declares — not about any specific thing, but the great principle of freedom which is set forth. Now, if you understand that, fine, Paul says. But be sure that you yourself are acting not out of pride, not out of mere self-indulgence, but out of a deep conviction that rests upon the Word and revelation of God.

To sum up, what Paul has said to us is: Do not deliberately stumble or shock your brother or sister. Do not deliberately do things that will offend them, or even make them feel uncomfortable. Think about them, not yourself. Second: Give up your right when it threatens the peace or hinders the growth of another individual. Be alert to judge in that area. Third: Never act from doubt. Act only from conviction, by the Word, and by the Spirit of God. If these problems are all settled on that basis, you will be moving gradually toward the great liberty that we have as children of God.

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Ray Stedman – What Matters

Read: Romans 14:13-18

Therefore, do not allow what you consider as good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Romans 14:16-18

If you are going to create division by arguing so hard for your rights, or your freedom, then you are distorting the gospel itself. The word Paul uses for evil means blaspheme. You are causing the good news about Christ to be blasphemed because you are making too much of an issue over a minor matter. You are insisting that your rights are so important that you have to divide the church over them. That is saying to the watching world around that Christianity consists of whether you do, or do not do, a certain thing.

I heard of a church that got into an argument over whether they ought to have a Christmas tree at their Christmas program. Some thought that a tree was fine; others thought it was a pagan practice, and they got so angry at each other and even got into fist fights over it. One group dragged the tree out, then the other group dragged it back in. They ended up suing each other in a court of law and this was spread in the newspapers for the entire community to read. What else could non-Christians conclude other than that the gospel consists of if you have a Christmas tree or not?

That is wrong. The main point of the Christian faith is not eating or drinking or Christmas trees. The main point is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. A non-Christian, looking at a Christian, ought to see righteousness, peace and joy, not wrangling and disputing and fighting and law courts. That word righteousness means that, because of the death of Jesus for you, you are loved and accepted by him. The world ought to see you confident about who you are, with an underlying assurance that shows you have a basis of self-acceptance that the world knows nothing about.

Another thing the world ought to see is peace. That comes across visibly as a kind of calmness, an inner core of unflappability that is undisturbed by the minor irritations of the moment. It is that quiet and calm assurance that God is present in the situation; that he will work it out for his glory, and we need not get upset or angry. It is hard for the world to get that impression of peace and calmness if they see two people screaming at one another. That does not look very calm.

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Ray Stedman – Reading Hearts

Read: Romans 14:5-12

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:5-8

What Paul is saying is that God can read hearts and you cannot. These distinctions and differences of viewpoint arise out of honest conviction which God sees, even though you cannot. Therefore, the individual is not simply being difficult because he does not agree with you. He is acting based on the basis of what he feels is right, so trust him on that. Believe that he is as intent on being real before God and true to him as you are, and if he feels able to indulge in some of these things you think are not right, then at least see him as doing so because he really feels that God is not displeased with him on that basis. Or, if he does feel limited and he feels he should not do certain things, do not get upset with him because he has not moved into freedom yet. Remember that he really feels that God would be displeased if he did those things. The apostle makes clear here that every person should have that kind of a conviction: Let every man be fully persuaded in his own heart, (Romans 14:4b KJV).

Paul says that God sees both of these people and both of these viewpoints as honoring him. The one who thinks Sunday is a special day that ought to be kept different from all other days is doing so as unto the Lord, therefore honor that, respect that viewpoint. The one who says, No. When we are in Christ, days do not mean anything. They are not set aside for any special purpose. Therefore, I feel every day is alike, and I want to honor the Lord on every day. Okay, do not feel upset at that. He is doing so out of a deep conviction of his heart.

The one who drinks wine gives thanks to God for the the taste of it, and it is perfectly proper that he does so. The one who says, No. I cannot drink wine, but I can drink coffee, gives thanks for the coffee. The coffee may do as much physical harm as the wine, but, in either case, it is not a moral question. It is a question of what the heart is doing in the eyes of God.

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Ray Stedman – Debatable Issues

Read: Romans 14:1-4

One person’s faith allows them to eat everything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. Romans 14:2

This issue arises out of the background of the early church in which there was a real moral question about eating meat. Not only were there the Jewish restrictions against certain forms of meat — Jews did not eat pork, and even beef and lamb had to be kosher — but it had to be slain in a certain way. So a Jew, or even one raised as a Jew, after he became a Christian, always had great emotional difficulty in eating meat. There was also the problem in Rome and in other pagan cities about the matter of eating meat that had been offered to idols. Some Christians said that if you did that it was tantamount to worshipping that idol. Other Christians said, Oh, no. How can that be? Meat is meat. The fact that someone else thinks of it as offered to idols does not mean that I have to. So there was a real problem in the church.

As in every area of this type, there were two viewpoints. There was a liberal, broad viewpoint that said it was perfectly alright to do this, and a stricter, narrower viewpoint that said it was wrong to do this. You can put many of the modern problems that we have into this category. Should you drink wine and beer; should you go to the movies; should you dance; what about work on Sunday? Let us be very clear that there are areas that Scripture speaks about that are not debatable at all. It is always wrong to be drunk. It is always wrong to commit adultery or immorality. These things are clearly wrong. In both the Old and New Testaments, God has spoken, he has judged, in these areas. Christians are exhorted to rebuke and exhort and reprove one another, and, if necessary, even discipline one another according to patterns set out in the Scriptures. This is not judging each other in those areas.

But there are all those other areas that are left open, and the amazing thing to me is that Scripture always leaves those open. Paul will not give a yes or no answer about some of these things because God does not do so. There is an area, in other words, where God wants to leave it up to the individual as to what he or she does. He expects it to be based upon a deep conviction of that individual. But it is up to them.

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Ray Stedman – Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Read: Romans 13:11-14

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14

When I got up this morning I put on my clothes. I put on my clothes with the intention that they would be part of me all this day, that they would go where I go and do what I do. They will cover me and make me presentable to others. That is the purpose of clothes. In the same way, the apostle is saying to us, Put on Jesus Christ when you get up in the morning. Make him a part of your life that day. Intend that he go with you everywhere you go, and that he act through you in everything you do. Call upon his resources. Live your life in Christ.

These words have forever been made famous by their connection with the conversion of Saint Augustine. Augustine was a young man in the fourth century who lived a wild, carousing life, running around with evil companions, doing everything they were doing. He forbade himself nothing, went into anything and everything. And, as people still do today, he came to hate himself for it. One day he was with his friend in a garden, and he walked up and down, bemoaning his inability to change. O, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! How can I free myself from these terrible urges within me that drive me to the things that hurt me! And in his despair, as he walked in the garden, he suddenly heard what he thought was the voice of a child — perhaps some children were playing in the garden next door — and the voice said, Take and read, take and read. He could not remember any children’s games with words like that, but the words stuck. He went back to the table and found lying on it a copy of Paul’s letter to the Romans. He flipped it open, and these were the words he read: Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies, and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ… Romans 13:13-14a

Augustine said that at that moment he opened his life to Christ. He had known about him, but had never surrendered to him. But that moment he did, and he felt the healing touch from Christ cleansing his life. He was never the same man again. He went on to become one of the greatest Christians of all time.

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Ray Stedman – A Debt of Love

Read: Romans 13:8-10

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Have you ever struggled to obey the Ten Commandments? Have you found it difficult to face up to obeying these demands that you shall not murder or lie or steal or commit adultery? Well, Paul says it is really simple. All you have to do is love. Act in love toward people and you won’t hurt them. The solution to all the problems we struggle with is this one thing. Have you ever thought of what would happen in this world if people could be taught how to love — and then they did it?

The first result that occurs to me is that all the impending divorces would be happily resolved. Couples ready to split up because love has left their marriage could go back together and learn how to work it out. Furthermore, if we could teach people how to love we wouldn’t fight in wars. Think of how much energy and money is being expended in keeping up this endless array of armaments simply because we can’t trust people to love each other. If we could love each other, there wouldn’t be any more crime. The streets of all the great cities of our land you would feel safe and secure. If there weren’t any crime, you wouldn’t need any prisons. All the money we spend on prisons and reformatories could be spent on something more useful. We wouldn’t need any courts of law, or police. We need all these things because we are so deprived in this ability to love.

This passage is telling us that the ability to love — that and nothing less than that — is the radical force that Jesus Christ has turned loose in this world by his resurrection. Therefore it has the power to radically change the world. Paul implies that this has to start with us. If we are Christians, if we know Jesus Christ, we have the power to love. You don’t have to ask for it; you’ve got it. If you have Christ, you can act in love, even though you are tempted not to. Therefore, Paul says: When you come up against difficult people, remember that your first obligation is to love them.

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Ray Stedman – Tax Day

Read: Romans 13:6-7

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7

Here the apostle is dealing with our actual response to what these demands of government are. We haven’t the right to withhold taxes if the government doesn’t use them quite the way we think they should. Governments are made up of fallible men and women just like us, and we can’t demand that the government always handle everything perfectly. Therefore what Paul wrote to these Romans, who had the same problems we have about taxes, was, If you owe taxes, pay them.

The point the apostle is making clearly is: Don’t resent these powers of government. This is all set within the context of Paul’s word in Chapter 12, Be not conformed to this present age, (Romans 12:2a). Don’t act like everybody else acts about taxes. The world grumbles and gripes and groans at paying taxes. You have a right, of course, as does everyone, to protest injustice and to correct abuse. There is no question about that. But don’t forever be grumbling about the taxes that you have to pay.

I don’t hold up any defense for the gross injustices that prevail in our American system. But the very fact that we can meet for worship and don’t have to hide behind closed doors, the very fact that we have relative freedom from attack when we walk about is due to the existence of a government that God has brought into being. I want to make every effort I can, as a good citizen, to improve it and to see that it does things better. But we can thank God for the privilege of paying our taxes. This is what the apostle is after. He wants us to have a different attitude than the world around us about these matters. We are not to come on with gimlet-eyed fanaticism, attacking the government and seeking to overthrow it because it doesn’t behave quite as we think it ought. But rather, we are to understand that God has brought it into being, and he will change it if the hearts of the people of the land warrant that.

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Ray Stedman – God and Government

Read: Romans 13:1-5

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1

When Paul refers to governing authorities, he uses a phrase that can best be translated the powers that be. He is not just talking about heads of state; he is talking about all levels of authority, all the way down to the local police. He tells us that the thing we must think about these governmental offices is that they are, in some way, brought into being by God himself.

I often hear people ask, Which form of government is the best? Which is the one God wants us to have? We Americans would love to think that democracy obviously is the most God-honored form of government. But I don’t think you can establish that from the Scriptures. In fact, the Scriptures reflect various forms of government. So when you ask, Which government is the best kind? Is it a monarchy? An oligarchy? Is it a republic? A democracy? The answer of Scripture is not necessarily any of these. It is whatever God has brought into being. That is best for that particular place and time in history. God has brought it into being, considering the makeup of the people, the degree of truth and light which is disseminated among them, and the moral conditions that are prevailing. For that condition, for that time and place, God has brought into being a particular government.

Now, that government can change. God doesn’t ordain any one form of government to be continued forever. If the people grow toward understanding of truth, and morality prevails in a community, the form of government may well take on a democratic pattern. Where truth disappears, government seems to become more autocratic. But, in any case, the point the apostle makes is that whatever form of government you find, God is behind it. Don’t ever think of any state or any government as something that in itself is opposed to God, because it isn’t.

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Ray Stedman – Who To Bless

Read: Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14

Paul describes the kind of love we should show to a non-Christian world. Paul gives some very practical help on this. Love speaks well of its persecutors. That is getting right down to where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? That means you don’t go around badmouthing people who are not nice to you. You don’t run them down or speak harshly about them to others, but you speak well of them. You find something that you can approve, and you say so to others. I confess that is not my natural reaction. When somebody persecutes me, I persecute back! At least I want to. But this is what the Word tells us we don’t need to do and we should not do. This applies to such practical areas as traffic problems. Have you ever been persecuted in traffic? It happens all the time. Somebody cuts you off, and you want to roll down the window and shout at them. But according to this, you are not supposed to. Now, this doesn’t tell you what to call them, but it tells you to bless them, anyway.

In verse 17 Paul says, Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everybody. Later, in verse 19 he adds, Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, It is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord. Revenge is one of the most natural of human responses to hurt or injury or bad attitudes. We always feel that, if we treat others according to the way they have treated us, we are only giving them justice. We can justify this so easily. I’m only teaching them a lesson. I’m only showing them how I feel. I’m only giving back what they’ve given me. But any time you argue that way you have forgotten the many times you have injured others without getting caught yourself. But God hasn’t forgotten. This always puts us in the place of those Pharisees who, when the woman was taken in adultery, were ready to cast stones and stone her to death. Jesus came by and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone, (John 8:7). That stopped them all dead in their tracks, because there wasn’t a one of them who wasn’t equally as guilty as she. They needed to be judged too. We must never carry out revenge, because we are not in the position of a judge. We, too, are guilty. We need to be judged. Therefore, Paul’s admonition is, Don’t try to avenge yourself. You will only make a mess of it. The inevitable result of trying to get even with people is that you escalate the conflict. It is inescapable.

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Ray Stedman – Sincere Love

Read: Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

This describes love among Christians. It consists of six things. First, he says, Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. He is talking about people. Hate what is evil in people, but don’t reject the person because of the evil. God loves that person. He or she is made in the image of God. True love learns to hate evil but not to reject the good. Hypocritical love, love that pretends to be Christian, does the opposite.

Second, love remembers that relationship is the ground of concern, and not friendship. That is why Paul says, Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. This doesn’t refer to just anyone that is in need; it specifies your brother or sister. The basis of concern for one another is not that we know each other well or enjoy one another, it is that we are related to one another. If we are Christians, we know that we already have a tie that ought to evoke care for one another. They are our brother, our sister and so we treat them warmly and with acceptance.

Third, Paul says that true love regards others as more deserving than yourself: Honor one another above yourselves. I like the J.B Philips translation here. He says, Be willing to let other men have the credit. If you really don’t care who gets the credit, then you can just enjoy yourself and do all kinds of good deeds. Just be glad that it is done, and don’t worry about who gets the credit. Our flesh doesn’t like that. It is very eager to be recognized, but the Word tells us that real love will not act that way.

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Ray Stedman – Who Am I, Lord?

Read: Romans 12:3-8

For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3

Paul says to think about yourself. Many people get the idea that the Christian life consists of never thinking about yourself. Because we know that ultimately we are to reach out to others, we think that there is never any place for thinking about ourselves. That is wrong. It is true that some Christians have abused this to such a degree that all they think about is themselves. I know Christians like this who are forever going around taking their spiritual temperature, feeling their spiritual pulse, and worrying about their spiritual condition. It is wrong to think continually of nothing but yourself, but it is quite right to take time, occasionally, to evaluate yourself and where you are in your Christian life. In fact, Paul exhorts us with his apostolic authority to do so. For by the grace given to me, i.e., the gift of apostleship, based on that office he exhorts every one of us to take time to think through who we are.

Paul stresses that you have to do this in a way that avoids overrating yourself. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. He puts this first because this is such a natural tendency with us. But feelings can change and fluctuate a thousand times a minute. They are dependent upon so many factors over which we have no control. The most foolish thing in the world is to judge yourself on the basis of how you feel at any given moment. Feelings aren’t wrong; they are just not what you base your evaluation of yourself on. On what basis should you evaluate yourself? The answer, of course, is on how God sees you. That is reality — what God says you are. It is a two-fold evaluation, as the apostle makes clear in this verse.

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Ray Stedman – Offer Your Body

Read: Romans 12:1-3

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

That is what we sing in that great hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross: It closes, Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

That is what Paul is urging us to do here. He says God is interested in you bringing your body and making it available to him. When he says to present your bodies, he uses what the Greeks call the aorist tense. That means it is something you do once for all; it is not something you do over and over again. You do it once, and then you set the rest of your life on that basis. So there comes a time when God wants you to bring your bodies to him.

It amazes me that God would ever want our bodies. Why does he want my body? I can hardly stand it myself, at times! But God says, Bring your body. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that Paul has been talking about the body all the way through this section of Romans. He tells us the body is the seat of what he calls the flesh, that antagonistic inclination within us that does not like what God likes and does not want to do what God wants. We all have it, and somehow it is located in or connected with the body. Our body is the source of temptation. It is what grows weak and wobbly. That God would want this is amazing! And yet he does.

Some of us, I know, feel like saying, Lord, surely you don’t want this body! Let me tell you something about it! It smells and snores. It has a bad heart, Lord. It has a dirty mind. You don’t want this body. I have trouble with this body. It is always tripping me up. My spirit is great, and I worship you with my soul — but the body, Lord, that’s what gets me down! But the Lord says, Bring your body. I know all about it. I know more about it than you do. I know all the things you tell me about it plus some things you haven’t learned yet. Let me tell you something. By means of the blood of Jesus, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, I have made it holy and pleasing to God.

That is the beautiful appeal of this verse. It is not telling us we have to get all cleaned up and get our lives straightened out in every way and become perfect before we can offer ourselves to God. Paul’s word is, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices. Bring your bodies (that is what it says in the Greek word — your bodies, not yourselves) as a living sacrifice unto God. Bring it, with all its problems, with all the difficulty you have with it, with all the temptations and all — bring it just the way it is! I don’t know how that affects you, but that encourages me greatly. All the other religions that I know of in the world tell us that somehow we have to straighten out our lives first, and then offer them to God. God never talks that way. He says, You come to me just the way you are. I am the answer to your problems; therefore, you must start with me. You can’t handle those problems yourself. Don’t start with thinking you have to get them straightened out. Come to me, because I have the answers for your problems.

Thank you, Father, that you invite me to come to you just as I am, with my whole self, including my body.

Life Application

How essential is the surrender of our bodies to the whole and integrated person? How does the sacrifice of our bodies affect our spiritual worship? How does it fulfill God’s good, acceptable and perfect will?

 

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Ray Stedman – Our Great and Glorious God

Read: Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36

This reminder of the strange ways God works awakens within Paul a tremendous outburst for God’s inscrutable wisdom and his ways with men. You can see certain things that have amazed the apostle: There are the deep riches, as Paul calls them, the deep riches of God’s wisdom and of his ways. They are beyond human exploration. There is no way we can finally fathom God.

There are those who struggle to put God in a box where they can get hold of him and analyze him. But if they succeed in that, they have only reduced God to the size of a man. God is greater than man. He is beyond us. Our minds cannot grasp the greatness of God! We can understand what he tells us about himself, but even beyond that, there is much more that we cannot know. There are depths of riches. That is why we are always being surprised by God if we trust him. He is always enriching us in ways that we don’t anticipate. Then Paul speaks of God’s unsearchable judgments.

For instance, it is clear from Scripture that nothing God ever planned interferes with human responsibility. We are free to make choices. We know it. We feel ourselves free to decide to do this or that, to do good or bad. And yet the amazing thing is that nothing humans ever do can frustrate God’s sovereign plan. Isn’t that amazing? No matter what we do, whether we choose this or that with the freedom of choice we have, ultimately it all works out to accomplish what God has determined shall be done. That is the kind of God we have.

Paul is not only impressed with God’s inscrutable wisdom and ways, but he contrasts it with the impotence of man. He asks three very searching questions. His first one is, Who has known the mind of the Lord? What he is asking is, Who has ever anticipated what God is going to do? Have you? Have you ever been able to figure out how God is going to handle the situations you get into? We all try, but it never turns out quite the way we think it will. There is a little twist to it that we never could have guessed.

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Ray Stedman – The Mystery of the Jewish People

Read: Romans 11:25-32

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. Romans 11:25-26

Perhaps the striking thing about this passage is that Paul calls the Jews’ present resistance to the gospel a mystery. He doesn’t mean that it is obscure and difficult to understand. When Paul calls this a mystery he means that it is a supernatural phenomenon that has to be revealed to us. You can’t explain it by the normal reasons for resistance to the gospel. I do not know if you have had any occasion to try to witness to a Jewish person. If you have, perhaps you have run up against what seemed to be a rock wall of indifference and resistance to what you were trying to say. If so, you may well have been experiencing what Paul is talking about here, a strange hardening toward the gospel by Jewish people. It is not because the Jews are inferior in intelligence — they are among the most intelligent of people. It is not because they don’t want God; they are among the most religious of all people. Ordinarily you would think they would be open to hearing the good news of how God, in grace, is ready to reach men and change them and indwell them and enrich their lives. And yet those who go among the Jews often find this strange resistance, this anger that is awakened because of the preaching of the gospel.

Paul says three things about this hardness: First, it is a hardening in part. That is, not all Jews are afflicted this way. We are not told here what portion of Israel is going to be hardened — whether 10% or 90%. All we are told is that there are going to be some Jews who simply will not hear, who will not receive the gospel. I have been to Israel five times, and I am always amazed at how resistant the Jews there seem to be to the claims of the Lord Jesus. And Paul tells us that this hardening is not only in part, but it is also limited in time. It is not going to go on forever. A hardening of the heart has happened until the full number of the Gentiles come in. So this is not something that they are bound to experience forever. What does the full number of the Gentiles mean?

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Ray Stedman – Kindness and Sternness

Read: Romans 11:1-24

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22

Paul speaks of the kindness and the sternness of God. If you come to God needy and repentant and acknowledging that you need help, you will always find him to be loving, gracious, open-armed, ready to help you, ready to forgive you, ready to give you all that you need. But if you come to God complaining, excusing yourself, justifying what you’ve been doing and trying to make it look good in his sight, you will always find that God is as hard as iron, and as merciless as fire, as stern as a judge. God will always turn that face toward those who come in self-pride and justification in their own strength.

This is the secret of the mystery of Israel and its blindness today. As long as the Jews come to God in that manner, they will always find a hard, iron-willed, stern God. But when they come in repentance, and, as Zechariah the prophet describes, when Jesus appears and they look at him whom they had pierced and they ask him Where did you get these wounds in your hands? he will say, These are those which I received in the house of my friends, (Zechariah 13:6). Then they will mourn for him as one mourns for any only child, and the mourning of Israel that day will be like the mourning for King Joash in the battle of Jezreal. The whole nation will mourn. Then God will take that nation, and they will replenish the earth. This is what Paul looks forward to.

This is a reminder to our own hearts of the faithfulness of God. His promises will not fail. God’s purposes will never be shortchanged. God is going to accomplish all that he says he will do. Though it may be a long way around, and though it may lead through many trials and temptations and hurts and heartaches, what God has said he will do, he will carry through. On that basis we can enter each day with a deep awareness of the faithfulness of our God.

Thank you, Holy Father, for your faithfulness. Thank you that you are the God of glory and the God of mercy. I do stand amazed at both the kindness and the sternness of God. Lord, teach me that you are not someone I can manipulate. Help me to bow before you in humble adoration at the grace that reaches out to me when I am ready to admit my need and come before you trembling and contrite.

Life Application

Kindness and sternness are both integral qualities of God’s character, each necessary to the full expression of His love. What are the appropriate responses to His kindness, and to His needed sternness?

 

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Ray Stedman – How To Be Saved

Read: Romans 10:5-11

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. Romans 10:10-11

That is the clearest statement in the Word of God on how to be saved. Paul makes it very simple. He says that it begins with the confession of the mouth: Jesus is Lord. Don’t twist those words to mean that you have to stand up in public somewhere and announce that you believe Jesus is Lord before you are saved. Paul does not mean it that way, although it does not exclude that. He means that the mouth is the symbol of the conscious acknowledgment to ourselves of what we believe. It means that we have come to the place where we recognize that Jesus has the right to lordship in our lives. Prior to this point we have been lord of our lives, and we have run our own affairs. We have decided we have the right to make our own decisions according to what we want. But there comes a time, as God’s Spirit works in us, that we see the reality of life as God has made it to be, and we realize Jesus is Lord.

He is Lord of our past, to forgive us of our sins; He is Lord of our present, to dwell within us, and to guide and direct and control every area of our life; He is Lord of our future, to lead us into glory at last; He is Lord of life, Lord of death, he is Lord over all things. He is in control of history. He is running all human events. He stands at the end of every path on which men go, and he is the ultimate one we all must reckon with. That is why Peter says in Acts 4:12: Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

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