What's your favorite excuse for doing whatever you want?

In life, there are things we know we should do, but sometimes what we should do can conflict with what we would prefer to do. I should eat more steamed vegetables, but I prefer to eat them dipped in batter and fried. I should go to bed at 10:30pm, but I prefer to fall asleep in the family room, wake myself up with a surprise snore, then go to bed while waking up the rest of the house with the noise I'm making. And while these are entertaining examples of how this works in my life, the truth is, there are many things that we all do that force us to compromise with that we know to be right. But because we sometimes want to do what we want to do, regardless of the consequences, we can invent creative excuses to justify all kinds of behaviors.

This, by the way, isn't new to us. Mankind has excelled at this practice from our earliest days and it always gets us in trouble while also impacting the nature of our fellowship with God. What are you currently excusing in your life that really needs to be rooted out? What are your favorite excuses for doing whatever you want?

In Romans 3:1-20, Paul confronts this kind of mindset and he illustrates its absurdity. He also makes it abundantly clear that in spite of our attempts to excuse our unrighteous, God remains perfectly righteous. What else does this portion of Scripture reveal?



I. God is faithful in spite of our failures

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,    and prevail when you are judged.”
— Romans 3:1-4, ESV


In the previous two chapters of the book of Romans, Paul illustrated the sinful nature of the human heart. He did so by pointing out that the Gentile nations have excelled at rejecting, and suppressing the knowledge of God, and he also pointed out that the Jewish people have done the very same thing even though they had been blessed with additional forms of divine revelation.

Paul anticipated the kind of questions that might arise from his teaching on this subject, particularly among potential Jewish readers. He knew that they might ask the question, "Then what advantage has the Jew?" So he answered this hypothetical question with a clear example. He pointed out that the Jewish people had been entrusted with divine revelation that God had cleared and specifically communicated to them through prophets He raised up in their midst. Many of these prophesies had been written down, and passed down from one generation to another. And among the things taught in God's word, it was revealed to the Jewish people that the day was soon coming when the Savior, Jesus Christ, would be sent to rescue and redeem them. They were prophetically told details that pointed to where, when, and how this would happen, but many rejected this revelation (and many still do).

God was faithful to them, but sadly, history showed them to be unfaithful to God. But does their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not in the least. God still has a plan for the Jewish people, and when we read the prophetic portions of His word that have yet to be fulfilled, we can see a great harvest of faith in Jesus that will one day be reaped among the Jewish people. They will finally receive and recognize their long-promised Messiah. In the meantime, since the Jewish people have rejected Jesus, the Lord is focusing on the Gentile nations during this era of history and rescuing and redeeming them.

So, it seems that God has a great knack for turning the unfaithfulness and sinfulness of man around so that good can come from it. There are countless examples in Scripture of Him doing that, and if we're honest, we can admit that this makes God look pretty good too. He cleans up our messes and shows Himself to be faithful, righteous, and true. That being the case, it appears that some people were possibly willing to say that we might as well keep on sinning since it makes God look so good, and gives Him even more opportunities to display His power by cleaning up our messes and righting our wrongs. Look at how Paul addressed that...

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
— Romans 3:5-8, ESV

So why not do evil so that good may come from it? Is that a logical question, or is that the kind of question that fails to grasp the painful price God paid to redeem us? Isn't that the kind of question that flows from a heart that still nurtures and idolizes the presence and false promises of sin? God is completely just when He judges the world. He is completely just when He inflicts His wrath on mankind. The Father was also completely just when He made His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, the recipient of His wrath in our place so that we can escape eternal condemnation through faith in Jesus.

And if we're people who are no longer under the condemnation of sin, why would we elect to live like we're still condemned by embracing the chains Christ broke for us? Ironically, there's a part of us that seems to want to run from God instead of running toward Him. But even though we might try to live independently of Him, we still need Him.


II. God is needed in spite of our desire for independence from Him

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;     
no one understands;    
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;    
no one does good,    
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;    
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
— Romans 3:9-18, ESV

Can you remember what shopping with your parents was like when you were a child? As a small child, they probably sat you in a cart. Then, as you grew older, they let you walk near them while they held your hand. In time, they let you walk around the store by yourself, then they just dropped you off at the mall and picked you up a few hours later. Each of those seasons had their highlights, but I'm guessing you were most excited when they granted you your independence and let you shop (or loiter) by yourself. But even after we gained our independence, there were times when we probably realized we still needed them. Those seasons usually occurred when we needed a new pair of shoes, but didn't want to be the one who paid for them.

The desire for independence is a natural part of maturity, but it can drift into unhealthy territory if it starts to resemble isolation or avoidance. I think Paul illustrates that struggle on a spiritual level in these verses. We can come to a place where we seek independence from God that's really a form of avoidance, even though we desperately need Him in all areas of our lives.

Giving us a synopsis of multiple Scriptures, Paul described man's avoidance of God. Apart from God, no one is righteous. No one naturally understands the heart and mind of God. No one is naturally seeking a close relationship with Him. Instead, we run from Him. We turn aside from Him in our thinking, speaking, and living. As we embrace unrighteousness, we eventually find ourselves stuck in a pit of ruin and misery. We trade the peace we could have had through faith in Christ for a humanistic lifestyle that lives without fear of God's intervention.

Every single one of us is in that same boat. Every one of us has tried to "do life" without God. Every one of us, at some point, has embraced avoidance of God and attempted to live our days independent of His counsel, direction, and love. But thankfully, many of us can also testify to the lack of contentment we experienced during those seasons. Many of us can joyfully confirm that the Lord didn't give up on us, even after we gave up on Him. He drew us back to Himself and helped us to see just how much we really need Him. This is evidence of His grace in our lives, and for this, we can be thankful.

As we wrap up our look at the first half of Romans 3, let's notice one additional aspect of what's taught here. Paul explains that in spite of our attempts to justify ourselves, God is the only one who can truly justify us.


III. God is the one who justifies in spite of our attempts to justify ourselves

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
— Romans 3:19-20, ESV

I don't know how much of the Bible you've taken the time to read, but I hope that over the course of your life you'll take the time to read the entire thing, maybe even multiple times. If you read the Bible cover-to-cover, you'll notice something interesting. The Old Testament Law which is given in the first five books of the Bible, includes many moral, legal, and ceremonial laws. The Ten Commandments can be found in that section of Scripture, along with many other regulations and precepts. There isn't a single thing wrong with any one of these laws, and God's people were required to keep them in their entirety. Unfortunately, they couldn't do so. Our sin natures get in the way of doing that.

Because mankind failed to keep the Law of God, He was fully correct in declaring us unrighteous and condemned. We are all accountable to Him, and without exception, we all failed. For that reason, Jesus was sent into this world. He kept the law for us. He fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf. He lived the sinless life we were incapable of living.

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
— Matthew 3:15, ESV
“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” 
— 1 John 3:5, ESV

We will not be justified or "declared righteous" in the eyes of God through keeping the Law because that's something we couldn't do. Jesus had to do that for us, but now through faith in Him, the work He accomplished on our behalf is attributed to our account. The Law was used by God to make us conscious of our sin and aware of our need to be saved from it. We could never justify ourselves through our works or merits, but we can receive justification as a gift through faith in Jesus who did the work for us while keeping and fulfilling the Law of God.

While we wait for Christ's return and our eventual glorification in His presence, let's stop making unhealthy excuses. Let's stop giving ourselves permission to do whatever we want, regardless of God's will for our lives. Rather, let's praise our God who is faithful in spite of our failures. Let's seek the intervention of God whom we need, particularly when we're tempted to avoid Him. And let's remember that justification is a work that God alone can accomplish, not through trying to earn His approval through the works of our hands, but through trusting in His Son who alone has secured our access to eternal life.

© John Stange, 2018

How can I receive the gift of eternal salvation?

How can I receive the gift of eternal salvation?

Many people mistakenly believe that eternal life or salvation can be earned. If you asked most people why they believed the Lord was going to grant them eternal life in His presence, they would say, "Because I have done more good in my life than bad." But is that true? Does Scripture actually teach this or is salvation obtained in a different way than many people expect?

What will you do with what you've been given?

What will you do with what you've been given?

If we took an honest self-assessment of our lives, I think each of us could probably identify a few areas where we've been blessed with gifts or privileges that others may not have necessarily received. In your life, those privileges might relate to where you were born, when you were born, what kind of health you've experienced, the strength of your family of origin, your educational opportunities, or the financial blessings you've been given. It might also be possible to identify ways in which you've been privileged spiritually.

What are you doing with the gifts and privileges you've been given? Are you grateful for them? Are you using them to bless others? Are you allowing those gifts to impact your life the way God intended?

Six simple principals for getting ahead financially

Six simple principals for getting ahead financially

One of the most awkward subjects for many of us to discuss is our personal finances. Even though our personal financial health directly impacts our family, our local church, funding for international missions, and our opportunities to be able to dedicate time to volunteer with ministries that matter to us, we hesitate to understand how to be stewards of the money the Lord entrusts to us. How are you handling the money the Lord has blessed you with?

What will self-righteousness cost me?

What will self-righteousness cost me?

Self-righteousness is disgusting, but it’s what many people in this world expect to experience when they encounter devoted Christians. Quite possibly, someone they have encountered in the past has left them with that impression, or maybe they've bought into the ways Christians are stereotyped in the media. Maybe they've even been on the receiving end of hurtful condemnation from a person who professes to believe in Jesus. Have you ever struggled with self-righteousness?

The dark side of disbelief

The dark side of disbelief

Years ago, I was in a hardware store and from a distance I saw someone I knew. Typically, when that takes place, I'll take the time to say "hello", but on this particular occasion, I didn't want to. The man I saw had just created a lot of conflict for some mutual friends, and I didn't want to engage him in conversation because I didn't want to get drawn into the drama. So I pretended like I hadn't seen him. I kept shopping and tried not to be seen. To my knowledge, he never knew I was there, but it felt very strange to try to walk through the aisles of the store while actively hiding from him and pretending I didn't know he was there.

In many ways, that's the way a large percentage of humanity lives their lives in regard to God. Instinctively, they know He's there, but they're doing their best to pretend He isn't while doing everything they can to avoid running into Him. There are consequences for doing this, and a dark side to living with this kind of disbelief that Romans 1:18-32 illustrates.

Why I'm not ashamed of Jesus

Why I'm not ashamed of Jesus

When you read through the chapters of Romans, it quickly becomes clear that Paul was trying to help the believers in the church at Rome come to a thorough understanding of sound doctrine. He wanted them to be able to understand deeper details about our faith so that their love for one another would grow and their appreciation for the work Christ has accomplished on our behalf would be strengthened. We don't need to be ashamed of Jesus. Rather, we can be joyful and grateful for who He is and what He does on our behalf.

Why and how should I pray to God?

Why and how should I pray to God?

Prayer is a beautiful and powerful thing. When Scripture speaks of prayer, it's describing the privilege we have as those who trust in Christ, to come to God personally, collectively, and directly, and communicate with Him. In prayer, we can praise Him for who He is, confess our sins and struggles, thank Him for the work He's accomplishing in our lives, and make requests for His divine help and intervention.

God is self-existent and sovereign

God is self-existent and sovereign

Various aspects of God's nature are so different from our daily human experience that it can be challenging for us to comprehend them. In time, as our trust in the Lord matures, we may come to accept the fact that these things are true of God, but we'll also probably spend a considerable amount of time wondering how these things work.

So why should it matter to us that God is self-existent? And what difference does it make to trust the fact that God is sovereign over His creation?

God is righteous and transcendent

God is righteous and transcendent

God wants us to live righteously, but how can we practice righteousness when, by nature, we're sinful people? And how can anything we do be considered righteous since all aspects of our lives have been tainted by sin? Our God is pure and far above everything He has created, but still His righteousness is made available to us, and in blessing us with it, He remedies this dilemma.

God is just, loving, and merciful

God is just, loving, and merciful

Are we as thankful for God's justice as we are for His love and mercy? Truthfully, as we'll demonstrate in a few moments, God's justice, love and mercy go hand in hand. They compliment and work perfectly together. Still, most often, we tend to be more thankful for God's justice when it's applied to someone else than we are when it's applied to us.

God is holy, immanent, and immutable

God is holy, immanent, and immutable

Scripture teaches us that we have been created in the image of God. There are many ways in which we resemble Him or reflect His attributes. Scripture also encourages us to seek to be like Him in how we see things, treat things, and value things. God is empowering us to navigate life like He wants us to, but we also need to acknowledge that while we're learning to be more like Him, He is far above us and is the perfection of all the attributes we're seeking to emulate.

And while some of His attributes can be incorporated into what we value and what we do, other attributes cannot even be replicated because they are unique to God alone.

Ten great ways to lose your wife's respect and damage your marriage

Ten great ways to lose your wife's respect and damage your marriage

Many articles have been written to men in particular with advice on how to strengthen their marriages, but please allow me to do the opposite for just a moment.  Today, I'd like to offer a few words of advice to men on how to have a miserable marriage and lose the respect of your wife and children.

Why should I repent of my unbelief?

Why should I repent of my unbelief?

The Lord invites us to be people who repent. As our relationship with Him grows, we're invited to continue to practice repentance every time we become conscious of sin or unbelief in our lives. It isn't dreadful to repent, it's joyful because we know our Lord loves us and is eager to welcome us into His presence. He doesn't hate us when we make mistakes. He loves us and invites us to return to Him so we can experience His cleansing.

God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent

God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent

Let's consider God's capacity for just a moment. He's not only "high capacity", He's "infinite capacity." He never sleeps or slumbers. He is perfect in all His abilities. There isn't a single thing that He doesn't know, and there is no one more powerful than Him. And unlike humans who can only be in one place at one time, He is everywhere at the same time. This is amazing, and just like the Psalmist said in Psalm 113, "Who is like the Lord our God?" The answer, very simply, is no one.

God the Holy Spirit

God the Holy Spirit

As we look at what the Scriptures tell us, we can learn amazing things about who the Holy Spirit is, what He's doing for us, and how He's seeking to guide the direction our lives take. He makes a point to unite us as the family of God, so let's not make the error of forgetting Him or His union with the Father and the Son.

How to handle your finances while you're a student...

How to handle your finances while you're a student...

Very little advice is typically given to young people regarding how to manage their finances. As a result, many never learn how to handle their finances in a wise or biblical manner. In the short term, this can be wasteful instead of being worshipful. In the long term, it can also establish a pattern that results in needless difficulty and poverty.

God the Son

God the Son

When we take a quick look over the course of history, we can observe the impact of some very influential people. There are people who made an impact in all areas, including, the military, the arts, the sciences, theology, architecture, and social culture. But there is no life we can point to that has had a greater impact on each of these areas and more, than Jesus Christ.

God the Father

God the Father

I have often said that becoming a father has given me new insight into God's loving and sacrificial heart toward His children. I understand His love a little better than I used to. I identify with His willingness to sacrifice for our benefit more clearly. I have even come to appreciate His willingness to discipline us for our own good in a new way.