A Misguided Shortcut

Read Romans 8:1-11.

For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3

Shortcuts are nice. Few things bring a smile to a man’ face more quickly than trying out a new route only to discover you’ve saved time! Shortcuts can really help.

But you do have to be careful. A shortcut that would take you through dangerous or impassable terrain would not be a shortcut at all. Sometimes, what appear to be legitimate shortcuts are actually roads that won’t get you where you need to go.

Many people think that we need more emphasis in the church on teaching the moral laws of the Old Testament. They want to see society changed through emphasizing the commandments, and God as the judge who will punish us if we do wrong.

The New Testament clearly teaches that the commandments have a place in leading us to God. The commandments help us understand that we are sinners and need a Savior. The commandments help us understand the holiness that is at the heart of God’s character. But the commandments are not a shortcut to righteous behavior. Telling people the rules will not change their hearts.

To emphasize the commandments may produce a short term improvement in behavior but it will not create sons and daughters of God. Jesus says that our righteousness must “exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees” who were the most observant, rule-keeping Jews of His time.

Like the Psalm writer we will say “your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojournings” (Psalm 119:54). We will love the commandments of God, but we will love them because they are written on our hearts. The true believer knows the joy of praying daily, of loving church worship and of giving freely, not out of guilt and obligation, but from a heart of thanksgiving. We are set free from the condemnation of our law-breaking. We serve God because we want to!
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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My Global Family

Read Genesis 12:1-9.

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:3

“You can be anything you want to be.” It is a little parental deceit that we indulge in to encourage our children to think about their future, and, hopefully, prepare themselves to be an adult one day. There is some truth to the idea. We live in a land where many people have a lot of opportunity. Even people who are born without money or other resources can use their wits and willingness to work to achieve a lot.

The idea that individuals can and should achieve all that they can has been a great improvement over the world in which people were locked into the paths that their parents and grandparents took. It has a lot of advantages.

The idea that the individual person is primary is also an important part of our Christian teaching. We rightly emphasize that each person must trust God for himself or herself. No one can do it for you, not even your parents. As they say, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren.”

But this emphasis on the personal nature of faith can cause us to forget that being a Christian, having faith in God, is also a community experience. When we trust in Jesus, we connect ourselves, not just metaphorically, but in spiritual reality with all of Jesus’ followers in every place and every time.

This was God’s plan all along, that all peoples and nations of people would be blessed through faith in Him. Abraham is the forefather of that relationship with God based on faith. And so, all peoples of the earth are blessed through him. And that means, we are related in faith to people from every nation and group. Syrians , Iranians, Mexicans, Palestinians, Kenyans and every kind of people are our brothers and sisters.

God is not making churches based on geographic countries or ethnic identities. We are all one in Christ. We should start loving each other based on His love.
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

God’s Not Done with You

Read Romans 8:31-39.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up. That’s what they say. And it makes a lot of sense. The same is true in our life of faith. It is inevitable that we will fall short in our efforts to live a righteous life in Christ.

One of Jesus’ closest disciples knew a lot about falling short of what he wanted to do for Jesus. We think of Peter as the most dynamic and powerful of the disciples. In Acts, he boldly preaches and is even imprisoned for his faith. Tradition says that Peter was executed as a martyr.

But you remember that Peter went through a lot of setbacks in his life of faith too. He rashly wanted to join Jesus walking on the water, but quickly began to sink. He boldly asserted that he would die with Jesus just a few hours before falling asleep as Jesus prayed desperately at Gethsemane and denying that he knew Jesus at all.

So the closing chapter of the Gospel of John records one of the most beautiful encounters of Jesus’ ministry. He commissions Peter to be a leader and pastor among the others. He not only gives Peter the gift of forgiveness. Jesus gives Peter the gift of letting him know that he is still a useful part of God’s kingdom and plan.

So if Peter can fail spectacularly and still be used so powerfully by God, so can you. God is not finished with you. He has called you. You belong to Him. Your failures do not disqualify you. You may have heard other people tell you that God is done with you.

They are wrong.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church Siler City, NC

Whom Does God Want?

Read 2 Peter 3:1-13.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Ever since the birth of the Christian church, people have been anticipating and questioning when Jesus might come again or when the Last Days of God’s judgment will happen. Jesus said that day would come upon us like a thief in the night, when we least expect it. Be ready anytime.

Others mock the idea of a day when God will set everything right in an age of perfect justice where He will “dry every tear from their eyes.” Even in the time of the New Testament people were mocking the idea. According to these verses from 2 Peter, people were asking why Jesus hadn’t come back yet. Doesn’t that prove that our hope is in vain?

But Peter says that God is waiting to give people a chance to find Him because He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to find repentance and forgiveness and salvation in Christ. Everyone. No exceptions.

That includes you. You may feel left out or too far gone. You may doubt that even the love of God can redeem the mess you’ve made. If you think so, you are wrong. God’s power is stronger than any of our worst messes. And His love embraces everyone who will allow it.

You are the reason Jesus has waited. Allow yourself to be loved.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC