Dead to Sin

Romans 6:1-4

Seeing sin in our lives is discouraging, especially when it’s a pattern—it can seem like a broken record that repeats over and over. We berate ourselves, “I can’t believe I did it again!” But Romans 5 tells us of an abundance of overflowing grace. We were born corrupted in Adam, and death reigns over us because we all sin. But while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died to save us from the wrath of God. Christ’s righteousness is the free gift of grace for all who repent and believe. In Adam we are bound to our sin, headed for death. But in Christ we receive Jesus’ righteousness, “leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

This righteousness is a free gift of grace, and Paul emphasizes over and over again the abundance of that grace. Romans 5 describes grace with words like “much more” and “abounded” and “for many.” The law came and “increased the trespass” as men willingly rebelled against God. But “grace abounded all the more” and grace reigns through the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 5:20-21)!

So Paul begins chapter 6 asking: Should we continue to sin so that grace will abound even more? Since salvation is by grace and not by any work of our own, does it matter how we live?

I grew up thinking it did not. I thought I had asked Jesus into my heart so I was saved, meaning I had my ticket to heaven—my fire insurance was paid. We’re saved by grace, so now I had God on my side and could use him in a pinch. What’s sin got to do with it? I didn’t have any obligation to God. He was up there in heaven for me—a sort of cosmic Santa Claus.

What joy I was missing out on! What danger I was in! Paul’s answer to the person who thinks this way is a firm “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” When I “asked Jesus into my heart,” it was as a friend. There was no repentance involved. But Jesus is a friend to sinners. He’s a friend to people who know they have no other hope. And he is more than a friend. He is God and king over all. He is Lord. When we repent of our sin and put our trust in him, we are united to him. That is what 5:12-21 is all about, being transferred from humanity in Adam to humanity in Christ. When that happens, we die to sin. So how, then, can we continue living in it?

I continued in my sin. I let it have free reign in my life. My sinful desires motivated me. I was alive to them. I belonged to the family of Adam and did not walk in newness of life. My “fire insurance” wouldn’t have put out one flame. I needed to repent and trust in Christ alone.

Romans 6:1-4 speaks to those who are continuing to be alive to their sin. We must examine our hearts to see if we are in Christ. He died and was raised. If we are united to him, we died with him and have been raised to walk no longer in sin but in newness of life. If you are like I used to be—presuming upon grace, relying on your fire insurance, living life not worried about your sin—be warned by Romans 6.

But, if you are a dear sister who is discouraged about a pattern of sin in your life, feeling like it’s out of control, take hope from Romans 6:1-4 this week. These verses give us the foundation for fighting that sin. They tell us the war is over even while the battle rages on.  

To fight our patterns of sin, we must first realize who we are as Christians. Physical baptism is a picture of spiritual death and resurrection. I was dead in my transgressions and sins but was made alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1-5). When I was baptized into Christ, I died with him. In that Christ-Keri death, my sins were paid for in full and sin’s power over me was broken. My desire to rebel against God and place myself on the throne of my life died with Christ and was buried. A new power lives in me, giving me new desires to live like Christ. (Not just a power, but the person of the Holy Spirit!) Just as the glory of the Father raised Christ from the dead, his glory enables me to “walk in newness of life.” That means that instead of being powered by my sin, I am powered by God. Far from grace leading to more sin, grace is the gift of a new life no longer characterized by sin.

Christians still do sin. If we say we do not, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). But we do not continue to live in sin. We “walk in newness of life.” Sin used to characterize us: “I’m an anxious person.” “I am angry!” “I can’t stop (fill in the blank).” New life now characterizes us. This realization is the foundation from which we fight our sin. Before we were in Christ, we were alive to sin. We had to succumb to it because everything in us was for it. But now, we are alive to God in Christ. We come to our fight against sin with the nuclear power of the glory of God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead works within us to achieve victory.

Take hope, dear struggling sister! Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we walk in newness of life.

Bible study questions on Romans 6:1-4 are here. New questions will be posted weekly.

Order Keri’s book The Good Portion: Scripture. See her Delighting in the Word Bible Studies.

While We Were Yet Unworthy…

The third article on God’s display of his character at the cross from The Good Portion: Christ.

A disproportionate amount of my time sheltering in place was spent watching videos of people I don’t know hanging out of their apartment windows and clapping. This nightly occurrence all over the world had an emotional grip on me, in part because of our innate desire to honor and celebrate those who are worthy of our praise. Even in our increasingly divided and polarized political world, we find common ground offering a meager gift to those who risk their own well-being in order to serve their fellow man. At a minimum, we should all be able to agree that doctors and nurses treating critically ill patients at risk to their own health deserve nothing less than a hearty round of applause.

In this season we deem medical professionals worthy of our admiration. The praise we give them, as paltry as it seems, honors their sacrifice. What happens, though, when someone receives a gift they don’t deserve? When honor is given to someone who isn’t deemed worthy? The focus of our attention shifts. We take our gaze off of the receiver and look back to the giver. Our shifted-gaze back to the originator of the gift – the gift of salvation – is the subject of the third article in this series. At the cross, God displayed his love for mankind, as seen especially in the unworthiness of the recipients of the gift of the cross.

The story of Hosea and Gomer provides a captivating example of one’s unworthiness in comparison to the gift offered. Hosea was one of God’s highly-esteemed prophets. Gomer was akin to the town prostitute. And yet God commanded Hosea to take Gomer as his bride. Hosea obeyed God, but instead of answering his kindness with faithfulness, Gomer wandered. Again, Hosea called her away from the arms of another lover and back to fidelity with himself. She was undeserving of his love, and yet he was faithful to give it. What do we make of a man like Hosea? Is he an anomaly in Scripture? Or is he one of many examples that show this pattern of undeserved love, a gracious gift given to an unworthy recipient?

The cowardly liar Abraham didn’t deserve the blessings God bestowed on him. The cheating Jacob didn’t deserve to be the father of Israel. Joseph’s wicked brothers didn’t deserve his forgiveness and provision. The murderer Moses didn’t deserve to have such a highly esteemed position before God. The grumbling people of Israel who preferred to return to slavery didn’t deserve the manna God provided every day. I could continue. Page after page of Scripture shows one disproportionate relationship after another, a generous gift offered to an unseemly recipient.

Of all those pictures of undeserved gifts, none illustrates the point more clearly than the cross where Jesus died for those who were unworthy. He did not die for the lovely. He did not come for those who had earned His affection. He came to rescue the vilest of sinners. He came to pursue in love those who were in an attempted coup against Him. He is the handsome prince who desires to husband the ugly whore. At the cross we see God’s love for His people magnified because He died for those who did not deserve it.

While We Were Yet Sinners

Scripture defines our praise for God in light of our unworthiness to receive such a sacrificial gift. Paul wrote in Romans, ‘One will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die’ (Rom. 5:7). We were neither righteous nor good when God enacted His rescue plan for sinners. When God sent Jesus into the world to die on our behalf, we were in outright rebellion against God. ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). Do you see how God says He demonstrates His love for us? It is our unworthiness to receive the gift of Christ’s death that makes tht love magnificent.

Isn’t one of the deepest desires in all of our lives to be fully known and still fully loved? God is keenly aware of who we are in our sin, and yet He offers to us His sacrificial, bottomless, unconditional love. He willingly lays down his life for his people, aware of our rebellion, our filth, and our unworthiness of his sacrificial gift. As our maker, He knows us intimately. He knows things about us we have not yet discovered for ourselves. And yet His love for us has no time limit and no end. Nothing can cause His love to weaken or fray or ever fall away. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?’ (Rom. 8:35). Paul asks the question and then answers it, ‘I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:38-39). Because of the cross of Christ, we can see clearly God’s vast and endless love for His people.

Weep No More

The aged apostle John, exiled to the island of Patmos, had a prophetic vision in which the scroll representing God’s purposes in history was sealed, and there was no one worthy to open it. “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” cried a mighty angel, the question echoing in despair as no one – not even the great ones – in that throne room scene was found worthy. “No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly.” But one of the elders stopped John’s lament with these words: “Weep no more; behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:2-5) John turned to see this conquering, victorious Lion who was the lone one deemed worthy to open the scroll, but instead he saw “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” And the creatures and the elders bowed before Jesus singing this new song:

            ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
            for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
            from every tribe and language and people and nation…” (Rev. 5:9)

The world honors those who are found worthy of earthly praise. Those who get the most votes. Or conquer with power. Or achieve great things by their intellect and hard work. But heaven praises as worthy the one who was slain, who brought life through his death and lavished an eternally rich salvation on the unworthy.

Read Jenny’s previous articles on God’s display of his character at the cross here and here. These articles are excerpts from Jenny’s new book, The Good Portion: Christ.

Next week, look for the beginning of a series of Bible studies and devotionals on Romans 6. Submit your email to subscribe to make sure not to miss anything.

Holiness Displayed

When I was a toddler and my older brother Matt was in first grade, he rode the school bus each morning to school. One particularly memorable spring morning, the bus full of children arrived at its usual stop while my mom was still urging my brother to put down Batman and hurry to the bus stop. By the time my brother reached the bus, its doors had just closed, and the other neighborhood children were already finding their seats. I’m still not sure if the bus driver did not see my brother or just wanted to teach him a lesson about timeliness, but he drove away toward the next stop while my brother was still trying unsuccessfully to pry open the doors. My mom, watching this all unfold from our front door, saw my brother’s superhero self-assurance take over, as he decided he could catch the moving bus – whose wheels were taller than he was.

My father heard the commotion from my mom and came out of his bedroom just in time to see Matt running down the middle of the street dangerously close to oncoming traffic and a moving school bus. This would be a dilemma for any loving father. But unfortunately for everyone involved, the problem was compounded because my dad was in the middle of getting dressed.

In the following split second, my dad made a decision that would become folklore in our small hometown. Without hesitation or trousers, he darted out the front door running after my brother. By the time my dad caught up with Matt, the neighbors had come out of their homes, alerted to the unfolding drama by my mom’s horrified screams and a nearly-naked grown man running down the street. Fortunately, before my brother caught up with the school bus, my dad scooped my brother into his arms and carried him safely home. The neighbors were speechless as they watched my dad, far more concerned about his son than he was about the public appearance of his underwear.

Prior to this episode, my father had said things to my brother, older sister, and me like, ‘I would do anything to protect you all.’ We heard him say this, but we had not seen the lengths to which he was actually willing to go for us. After the episode of his running down the street in his underwear, we understood our father was willing to sacrifice his own good (and pride) if it meant protecting us. That spring morning’s activities were a clear demonstration of this aspect of his character. He loved us and was willing to fiercely protect us, even at his own expense. Along with his underwear, we all saw my dad’s character on display in dramatic fashion.

For centuries, God had been revealing aspects of his character to his people that they had not yet fully seen demonstrated. But it was at the cross that God’s character was seen dramatically and clearly. All creation could see God’s holiness, righteousness and justice, as well as his grace and love displayed in powerful clarity at the cross of Christ Jesus. Today, we will look more closely at how the cross of Christ displayed the holiness of God. In the following few weeks we will consider how Jesus’ death displayed other aspects of God’s character.

Holiness Displayed

The holiness of God is perhaps his most defining characteristic, and while God ensured his people knew of his holiness in the Old Testament (Exod. 3:1-4, 17; Exod. 19:16-24; 2 Sam. 6:1-11), the cross provides a significantly clearer picture of it. God’s holiness encompasses his moral purity, although there is a second use of the word in Scripture we must keep in mind. Scripture’s use of the word holiness usually refers to being separate or intentionally set apart for God’s use. God met Moses in a burning bush and even the ground around the bush was set apart as holy. Aaron was ‘set apart’ as the first high priest to make offerings to God and pronounce blessings from God (1 Chron. 23:13). His lineage became the priestly line, separate from the rest of the tribes of Israel to keep the holy worship of God according to God’s command. The center of the tabernacle was set apart as the Most Holy Place (Lev. 16) because that is where God’s presence dwelled. No one could walk into that room nonchalantly and live.

Unholy people cannot be in fellowship with a holy God. They have not been set apart for God’s use, and they have no right to his morally pure presence. Our sin keeps us separated. The cross then is the only answer to the question of how a holy God can be reconciled to an unholy people. Through a perfectly holy mediator our sin can be paid for and we can be declared righteous. We can be set apart to be in the presence of God.

The only acceptable form of payment for treason against a holy God is a perfectly holy substitute for us. Our guilt is punished in Jesus, and he transfers to us his righteousness so that we can be made right with a holy God. Through this exchange of our sin for God’s righteousness, God upholds his holy character by punishing sin and declaring his people holy in Christ. This does not compromise God’s own holiness and righteousness. Instead, he removes our dirty sandals and gives us new metaphorical shoes so we can stand on his holy ground.

This great exchange – our sin for his righteousness – is what Paul boasts about to the Corinthians when he writes, ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are in Christ, his righteousness now belongs to you. In theological terms, it has been imputed to you. This exchange rate is unbeatable. We trade in our sin and – in return – we get the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus. Cloaked in the righteousness of Christ, we are able to freely enter the most holy place. At the death of Jesus, the curtain in the temple separating the outer court from the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that sin would no longer separate God’s people from Him. Those who enter through Christ enter into the very presence of God (Matt. 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). Our perfect high priest has already made eternal atonement for us, and our sin no longer prevents us from approaching the holy God.

The Riches Found at the Cross

How foolish of us to brush past an enormous truth like this without meditating on the richness of it. At the cross, your biggest problem has been solved, and you contributed nothing to its solution. Your greatest boast has been accomplished, and your contribution? Absolutely zilch. In God’s vast wisdom, he simultaneously revealed his holy character and accomplished salvation for his people. I can think of other routes that God could have taken to clearly reveal his holiness, but they all end in eternal punishment of man. Only through the cross of Christ was God able to fully reveal himself as holy and altogether separate from sin, and yet also accomplish salvation for his people. Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33)

Subscribe to this blog to receive Jenny Manley‘s next two articles on God’s display of his character at the cross. These articles are excerpts from Jenny’s new book, The Good Portion: Christ.

The Status Change We All Need

Here’s a little taste of my book, The Good Portion: Christ, from The Gospel Coalition Blog.

As a mother of five young children, it’s not unusual for complete strangers to ask about my family. The question I hear most often at the grocery store or the playground is, “Are they all yours?” The most awkward I hear is, “Do you not believe in birth control?” But the most surprising came one spring afternoon when my children and some of their entrepreneurial friends set up a lemonade stand in front of our house. Someone stopped their car to ask me the name of our school. I took that as a compliment. They could’ve asked, “What is the name of your circus?” 

One of the sweetest questions I often hear is, “Who does he/she look like?” It’s an obvious question when we see a child. We look to see whom they resemble. Children inherit physical features from their parents, but parents also pass on things like habits and genetic medical history. We look to the older generation to see things we want to imitate or avoid as we get older. This is natural. Watching our parents gives us a foreshadowing of what life may be like down the road. 

God also raised up men in history whose lives help us better understand Jesus: human figures given to foreshadow his life and help us to understand his work more clearly. 

Read the rest of the excerpt.

Sneak Peak Interview

My family has lived in the Middle East for almost eight years, although we never set out to be cross-cultural church planters. I used to envision at this point in my life I would be a U.S. senator or governor—or at least attempting to be one. I was serving as the chief of staff to a senator when my husband, Josh, and I could no longer resist the urge to put all our energy into local church ministry. 

After seminary, friends of ours told us about an Arab sheikh who gave a plot of land on the Arabian Peninsula for the Christians in his emirate to have an evangelical church building. It was an incredible opportunity for a gospel presence in the Middle East. 

So we moved hemispheres and cultures, planted a church with people from dozens of nations, built a church building, and are now raising our five children in a multicultural context in the Arab world. We still love keeping up with the American political scene, but we do so safely from 7,000 miles away. 

Jenny Manley is the author of The Good Portion: Christ.

Read the rest of Jenny’s interview here.

Look to 20-Year-Old Jesus This Easter

The week that so joyfully defines the reason for Christian hope has been eerily replaced with empty baskets, vacant pews, and untasted communion. Even so, we continue celebrating the events that happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago as the only hope sinful men have to be reconciled to a holy God. 

But we do so more quietly this year. Not in large gatherings, sunrise services, and loud choruses of corporate worship. Christians around the world this year will celebrate in our homes, meagerly offering unpretentious and humble praise. Perhaps while we contemplate and celebrate the victory of the resurrection, we should do so with 20-year-old Jesus in mind.

What was Jesus like as a 20-year-old? 

We have thorough accounts of Jesus’s distinctive entrance and dramatic exit from the world, but Scripture does not provide us with many details about his early adulthood. We know a smattering of facts about Jesus as a boy, most notably that at age 12 his parents accidentally left him in Jerusalem after a Passover trip, only to find him in the synagogue three days later, tending to his Father’s business. But the Gospels don’t record much else for the next 18 years until his famous encounter with John the Baptist. So what was he doing as a young adult?

Obedience of the Incarnate Word

Scripture speaks loudly about this crucial age of Jesus’s development in a small detail found in the Gospels. Jesus had already healed the sick, cast demons out of the possessed, silenced a storm, and raised a girl from the dead when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth. On the Sabbath he began teaching in the local synagogue, likely the one where he studied as a boy. Those present were surprised at the power and wisdom with which he exposited the Scriptures. They asked, “Is this not the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3). The incarnate Son of God’s reputation in his own hometown was not as an insightful spiritual leader or eloquent teacher. He was known around town simply and most notably for his skilled labor. The One who created all things by the power of words was known primarily for making things with his hands. 

For years, Jesus took up Joseph’s occupation as a carpenter, learning the trade from his earthly father as he was made ready for the work of his heavenly Father. Scripture’s silence on these 18 years speaks loudly—Jesus worked six-times longer doing manual labor than doing public ministry! Yet these hidden, tedious years at a workman’s bench were not in vain. For while he was crafting pieces of wood into useful items for others, he was being made ready to hang on a beam of wood himself.

One relevant hint is found in Hebrews 5:8: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Although mysterious, this passage must be speaking to the humanity of Christ, for the emphasis is on learning. The divine, all-knowing Son did not have to learn anything. But as the man Jesus learned to obey and trust his Father, and as he was tempted without succumbing to sin, he became the perfect (also translated “complete”) sinless man. And as the sinless man, he became our only suitable substitute, the source of eternal salvation. The passage suggests the incarnate Word of God learned obedience throughout the entirety of his earthly life, not simply in a singular act of suffering.

Learning Through Suffering

With each instance of suffering in his life, with each temptation, he learned to obey the Father. Each small moment of trusting his Father in adversity prepared him for the next and bigger one until, ultimately, he was able to obey the Father’s will unto death. 

With each instance of suffering in his life, with each temptation, he learned to obey the Father. 

Bruce Ware helps us understand this profound reality:

As the Son learned to obey the Father in earlier times of “lighter” divine demands upon him and consequent “lighter” suffering—lighter, that is, in comparison both to the divine demands and the suffering he would encounter in the end, as he obeyed the Father in going to the cross—these earlier experiences of faith in the Father’s provision, protection, and direction prepared him for the greater acts of obedience he would need to render as he got nearer to the time of the cross. 

What “lighter” suffering did Jesus experience in his life that equipped him for the cross? Ware refers to “the training program necessary to prepare Jesus for the later and much harder obediences that were to come.” We can only speculate what afflictions he experienced in those 18 years. 

It seems reasonable to assume his daily suffering was not less than ours. Life wasn’t easy in first-century Palestine, and Jesus had an unimaginably difficult task to accomplish in the end. Years of manual labor also surely helped prepare his body for the physical challenges of his public ministry. For the three years detailed in the Gospels, he spent most of his time in active ministry—preaching, teaching, healing, and so on. He was with people and traveling for the majority of those years. Calculating only his recorded journeys, he walked more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km.) on foot during that time. He needed a strong physical constitution, and 18 years of manual labor prepared him for it. 

Training in Small Things for Bigger Things

Never undervalue the training in which God may currently have you, whether you’re staying home or on the front lines of fighting a global pandemic. Does the position God has called you to feel small and insignificant? Does this lockdown season feel like an inconvenient pause to your plans?

In your temptation to think life is on hold or going nowhere, remember: your faithfulness in the “small” things God has called you to may be preparing you for faithfulness in “bigger” things. God may be strengthening your muscles of obedience and faithfulness now in preparation for something that will require greater stamina and fitness. 

Just as God didn’t waste any of the Savior’s suffering, he’s not wasting your days this Easter week either. In his hands, even the smallest and seemingly most “foolish” obediences can be used for ends more glorious than you can possibly imagine.

This article originally appear at The Gospel Coalition on April 10, 2020.

Jenny Manley lives on the Arabian Peninsula, where she serves in an international evangelical church with her pastor husband, Josh, and their five children. Previously, she served as chief of staff in the U.S. Senate. Helping women from all over the world study Scripture in a Christ-exalting way is one of her greatest joys. She is the author of the new book The Good Portion: The Doctrine of Christ for Every Woman (Christian Focus, 2020).

My Self-Help Bible?

by Ruth Schroeter

The self-help industry is flourishing. Isn’t that ironic? The industry is built on the premise that all you need for happiness, success, and contentment is within you, yet it peddles self-improvement programs as the key to becoming a better you. The endless supply and demand for the latest life changing-book betrays the fact they never actually deliver the transformation we long for.

The question is have we taken on a self-help approach to reading the Bible? The Bible is brimming with words of hope and encouragement, wisdom and guidance. So it’s easy to place ourselves at the centre of our reading, importing our desires and dilemmas and listening intently for ‘God’s word to me today, in my particular situation.’ But the words of scripture are not written primarily to encourage, inspire or direct us in this life. These words are written that we might lift our gaze from our own navels and focus instead on the glory of God in the cross of Christ.

The bible is about God and has Christ at the centre.

Yes, it is also about us, our creation and fall, our redemption and restoration. But first and foremost this unfolding narrative reveals the character of God. If we place ourselves at the centre, we read selectively, creating a skewed picture of who God is. We distinguish his love from his wrath, his patience from his judgement and his faithfulness from his jealousy, we embrace what we consider to be the ‘nice’ traits and ignore the less appealing ones. But the character of God is indivisible, he is all things at all times. He loves us fiercely and uncompromisingly, despising the sin which keeps us from him. He is patient, wanting to spare people from his righteous judgment. And he is faithful, stopping at nothing to jealously guard his beloved children, even sending his Son to the cross to endure the punishment we deserve.

This is the gospel of grace and it is the antithesis of the gospel of self-help.

The gospel of self-help says: ‘You are in control!’. The gospel of grace says: ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.’ (Rom 5:8)

The gospel of self-help says: ‘Because you deserve it!’ the gospel of grace says ‘He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done but because of his mercy.’ (Tit 3:5)

The gospel of self-help says: ‘Be the best you can be!’ The gospel of grace says: ‘And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.’ (2 Cor 3:18)

But Jesus had this to say about self: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23-24)

As we deny ourselves and hunger after him instead, we are liberated from the treadmill of self-improvement and find ourselves being transformed by the sanctifying work of his Spirit. As we shoulder the weight of our own cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ, we are less burdened by our current circumstances as we understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection has won us an imperishable inheritance.

And here is the real irony, as we read the Bible in this way, to know God better and to seek his glory, we find that the very benefits that the self-help philosophies promise (but don’t deliver) are ours for the taking. So we read, bringing ourselves before the throne of God, not bringing him into our own little kingdoms. Instead of grasping at future blessings and drawing them into the present, we read with joyful anticipation for the day when Jesus returns, saying ‘Behold I am making all things new!’ (Rev 21:5)

Ruth ministers at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia, where she has a particular focus on training and discipling women. This blog first appeared in the Australian Church Record.