He Calls Me Beloved

Warning the Spiritually Privileged (Romans 9:27-29)

“And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.’ And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.’ (Romans 9:27–29 ESV)

Both quotes from Isaiah have the theme of remnant. What is a remnant? Go to a carpet or a fabric store and ask for a remnant. What will you get? A little portion of the original roll of carpet. A smaller section of the entire bolt of fabric. A remnant. We saw this earlier in Romans 9, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Romans 9:6)

The first quote from Isaiah 10 says that though there are descendants of Abraham like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved. That connects because in Genesis 12, God promised his descendants would be like the sand of the sea. It’s a huge number of ethnic descendants. Are they all under God’s grace? No. “Only a remnant of them will be saved.” (Romans 9:27) The revered prophet Isaiah himself said so.

The second quote refers to Sodom and Gomorrah. Why is this compelling? It continues the basic theme of some saved against the backdrop of God’s expansive judgment and wrath.[1] Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their wickedness, yet in his mercy, God rescued Lot and his family just before it happened.

What’s the point? The Jews were spiritually privileged. They were descendants of Abraham and the patriarchs. They had the Mosaic covenant and the land and the legacy. You grow up thinking you are special in God’s eyes because of your DNA, and then you read the Bible stories like you’re the hero. You’re on the winning team. You’re with Lot, not with Sodom. Yet, even Isaiah agrees with Paul. DNA doesn’t save you even if its Abrahamic DNA. No. God has no privileged children.

The application is an easy one for us here. Are you special? Were you raised in spiritual privilege? Do you still have your perfect Sunday school attendance certificate? Or worse, have you held on to your award for memorizing Bible verses for 40 years, like me (see below)?

If there’s any question about my getting into heaven, I can just hold this up, right? I memorized 500 verses when I was in third grade, therefore, I must be going to heaven.

American evangelicalism drips with privilege as 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation Christian kids grow up in a Christian subculture where everything affirms them as special in God’s eyes.

Yet, what is also true? I think about my own youth group friends. I went a couple years to a Christian school. When I think about who was singing the songs and going to camp back then and who is following Jesus today, what word comes to mind? Remnant.

Northwest Indiana is loaded with residents with Christian legacy who have no current affection for Jesus or the church. I’ve often thought if we could evangelize just a small percentage of the thousands who once claimed allegiance to Jesus, that number alone would be massive.

Paul is issuing a warning to anyone who thinks spiritual family legacy alone saves. Tragically, hell will have many who will quote Bible verses to themselves and remember truth that could have saved them. But they trusted their legacy or their DNA instead of trusting Jesus. Might that be you?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] See Thomas Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Romans, p. 530.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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Unveiling ALL His Glory: It’s All About Him

God is Unveiling ALL His Glory (Romans 9:22-23)

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (Romans 9:22-23 ESV)

I heard a sermon recently which asks, “What if the God your nice little evangelical church of your past told you about isn’t the God of the Bible?”[1] I think this is compelling and resonates with my own observation that much of evangelical Christianity reduces God to his love or his grace. In America, total pagans will sing Amazing Grace with bagpipes or stand for God Bless America in the 7th inning stretch. Everybody has a perspective on what God is like and assumes his desire is to bless everyone all the time. Is the real God of the Bible who you think he is?

The Sovereign Mercy of God

That’s Not Fair!

Here is how Paul says it, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Romans 9:14 ESV)

This isn’t the first time Paul has taught this or wrote about this. Paul preached and taught everywhere he went. He knew how people generally responded to what he was saying.

Here we are on an important point. The fact that Paul immediately addresses the sense that election seems unfair proves that unconditional election is what he was actually teaching. We see the same in verse 19 when he addresses the objection, then “who can resist his [sovereign] will?” If he wanted to clarify what he was saying, he could have done so to make sure everyone knew he wasn’t suggesting that God was the ultimate decider in salvation. But he does the opposite. He doubles down.

“Is there injustice on God’s part?” I don’t suppose we are that different from the first-century folks who viewed justice through a lens of fairness. Sameness. To the modern man this increasingly means that everyone must be the same. Same opportunities. Same outcomes. Participation trophies for all. Everyone must be the same or we cry out, That’s not fair!

God’s Sovereign Grace

Children of DNA or Children of Promise? (Romans 9:6-13)

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’” (Romans 9:6-9 ESV)

Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. How was he received? It certainly was a mixed reception with some believing and many not believing. As Isaiah 53 prophesied, Jesus was the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes and dreams, yet he was rejected. So, this leaves us with a real conundrum about the descendants of Abraham. In spite of their unbelief, are they all loved still by God in a saving way? Can a descendant of Abraham reject Jesus and still be under covenantal love? Is DNA enough to get a Jew to heaven?

Money Wise

The Ant Life

  • “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6–8 ESV)
  • “The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer.” (Proverbs 30:25)

Consider the ant. What are ants known for? Many things, but if you watch ants, they are in constant motion—constant gathering and building and storing. We get these massive ant hills at our house. They seem to spring up overnight. Ants have incredible industry. We’ve all seen a little ant carrying something three times its size. There is nothing happier than an ant at a picnic.

Proverbs urges an approach to life and money that stewards money, energy, gifts, and opportunities. The opposite of the ant in Proverbs is the sluggard. The sluggard wastes his opportunities and time and guess what happens? He is surprised to find he is in need.

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4)

The Bible has no room for sluggards and freeloaders. The 4th commandment is, “Six days you shall labor.” (Exodus 20:9) Here’s the principle: God provides materially for us through the stewarding of the earth and the natural principle of reaping what you sow. The seed principle of investment. I put down a single seed and I reap a whole plant. Think of the cornfields that surround us here in Indiana. Those farmers are investing a seed and reaping a crop. Now there are unforeseen circumstances and tragedies that create hardships. But the general principle is that we labor, we are rewarded for our labor, and that reward provides for our todays and tomorrows. The Christian work ethic is well established and Bethelonians should be the hardest working employees wherever we are found.

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

The diligent worker will generally produce more than our immediate needs. What do we do with it? There is a big difference between what the wise person does with any excess and what the fool does with it.

  • “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” (Proverbs 21:20)
  • “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” (Proverbs 21:20, NLT)

We all are thinking of family members who spend every dime they get. How do the wise end up with savings and provisions for tomorrow? Simple. They live off less than they make. Now there is a novel approach to life. Live off less than you make.

Pastor Steve, That’s un-American! Indeed, our culture urges us to go into debt. Credit card debt is eating many family’s whole futures. The average person is carrying $6,741 in credit card debt.[1] Can I just say, that is NOT the ant life! That is NOT being money wise. Proverbs would urge cutting them up if you can’t pay them off month by month. If a fool spends whatever they get, what do we call someone who spends even more than they get and lives in constant debt? That’s harsh, but that’s Proverbs. It’s a gritty dose of reality, and those who are wise will heed it.

What is the wise alternative? The Bible urges, get this, living off less than you make and saving. Not hoarding. Hoarding is saving beyond any reasonable need in the future. Savings is prudent preparation for future needs.

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11 ESV)

Notice it’s little by little; it’s not a get-rich-quick approach. It’s not foolish approaches like lotteries and gambling. Put those in the absolutely foolish category. I’ve heard Christians argue it’s just entertainment money. No, it’s the foolish use of money and failure to steward God’s resources. I was dismayed to see our local politicians agree to place a new giant casino right next to 80-94 in Gary. Casinos prey on the poor and financially foolish and it will be a terrible blight on our community. May a Bethelonian never be seen near one.

No. Far better is to be an ant and save little by little. To do that you have to live under your income, create margin, and save. The power of saving and compounding interest over time increases value. Think like an ant. It may seem like a daunting task to get out of debt and save, but you can do it. We have seen many people follow plans like Financial Peace University to change their whole financial world. It takes discipline and wisdom. But here’s the thing—when God gets ahold of our hearts, he gets ahold of our money too.

You may say, but I don’t like thinking about that stuff or My bank statements depress me. I’d rather not look! Is that how the wise talk or the foolish talk?

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever” (Proverbs 27:23-24)

Scripture urges oversight and stewardship of everything God gives to us. Know your flocks. Know your finances. Be a vigilant steward. I came across this definition recently,

“Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation for God’s purposes.” (Gregory Baumer and John Cortines)[2] It is only by wise stewardship and controlled spending that we create margins for saving and generosity.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

The real inheritance we provide to our children is not financial, it’s spiritual. It’s the gospel. I recently talked with the family member of a dad who created a multi-billion-dollar company. How do those kids of the rich typically end up? Fighting about money and strung out on drugs. This man wisely took his kids all over the world but not to resorts; he took them on mission trips to Africa and South America. He exposed them to the work of God in hard places. He left a legacy and his kids manage the fortune entirely toward gospel ministry. I’m told they received very little financially, but what a spiritual legacy! That legacy is available no matter what your financial status.

Live the ant life. Make the most of your gifts and talents. Make as much money as you legitimately can. Sow your seeds. Work hard. Reap your harvests. Save little by little, like an ant.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Additional Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Claire Tsosie and Erin El Issa, “2018 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” www.nerdwallet.com, December 10, 2018.

[2] Gregory Baumer and John Cortines, God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School, p. 47.

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Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sex

Defense – Don’t Play with Fire

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.’” (Proverbs 5:7–14 ESV)

“Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”

I think we understand what this means. Mark Twain once said, “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.”[1] It is the application of the Lord’s prayer, “lead me not into temptation.” If I pray that and then knowingly or foolishly put myself as near to temptation as possible, I shouldn’t be surprised with what happens.

Others have said, sexual desire is like fire in the house. In the fireplace it keeps the house warm. Outside the fireplace it burns it down. God has put the fire of sexual desire within us. We must have a holy respect and fear of that fire being inflamed outside of God’s will.

Wisdom

The simple

The simple are those who have not yet fallen into the absurdity of the fool’s life but are not wise either. The simple are the morally naïve. They are childish in their outlook on life and lack the maturity to see what’s truly valuable. They are easily swayed, like the simple man who is seduced to the adulteress’ bedroom in Proverbs 5. He’s like an ox being led to the slaughter. The simple are easily overcome by life’s circumstances which wisdom could have saved them from. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”