How Do I Improve My Spiritual Understandings?
Every sincere Christian hungers to improve his or her spiritual understandings.
Every person genuinely converted to Jesus Christ wants accurate knowledge. But to
possess accurate knowledge, he or she realizes it is not enough to have accurate facts.
It is just as important to have accurate understandings. It was the desire to understand
that played an important role in our conversion.
Our Christian desire to understand is intensified by an enormous personal need.
Each of our private worlds creates a very complex existence for all of us. Life is not
simple for any of us. Is life simple for you? Our lives and worlds challenge each of us.
Our lives and worlds often confuse us. We want to do what is good; we want to do what
is right; we want to depend on Jesus--but often the proper way to do that is not clearly
evident. How often do you have a week that does not challenge your spiritual
understanding? Often personal situations and circumstances force us to realize that we
do not have enough spiritual understanding. We are frequently reminded that we need
a better understanding of God and His will.
But how do you acquire it? If we want a better understanding, how do we build
it? The answer to that question has many parts, and the answer will not be identical for
all of us. But there is a common beginning point for everyone. Any person who wants a
better spiritual understanding must advance his or her understanding of God. A better
understanding of God is essential to a better spiritual understanding.
Tonight we begin focusing on forbearance. I want to illustrate the importance of
better understanding God to increase our spiritual understanding. We will do that by
examining the concept of forbearance.
- Let's begin by reading together Romans 2:1-4.
- Consider the context of this scripture:
- Because of his devotion to the gospel (the good news about Jesus Christ),
Paul suffered major physical abuse--but that abuse did not cause him to be
ashamed of that good news (Romans 1:16).
- He was not ashamed because he knew that the good news revealed
God's power to save anyone who believes.
- He was not ashamed because the good news revealed God's
- Paul verified that everyone--excluding no one--needed the righteousness
revealed by this good news.
- This revealed righteousness allows a person to become righteous through
faith, and everyone desperately needs the means of becoming righteous.
- Those who abandon themselves to ungodliness need the way to become
righteous through faith (Romans 1:18-29).
- The "good moral person" who passes judgment on people who do not
meet his or her moral standards needs the way to become righteous
through faith (Romans 2:1-16).
- The teacher and defender of the Old Testament law needs the way to
become righteous through faith (Romans 2:17-29).
- I want to focus your attention for a moment on the good moral person.
- It is common for a person committed to a moral code to judge everyone who
fails to measure up to that moral code--that is very characteristic of people
committed to a moral code.
- It is also common for few people to meet his or her moral expectations.
- Paul said what the moral person fails to realize that each time he or she
passes judgment on other's failure to meet his or her moral code, he or she
automatically passes judgment on himself or herself.
- Why? Because no moral person perfectly meets the standards of her or her
moral code--thus condemning the short comings of others automatically
condemns his or her own shortcomings.
- Paul said in verse 4 that the moralist makes this mistake because he or she
places too little significance, to little importance on God's kindness,
forbearance, and patience.
- Forbearance is a divine attribute, a part of God's divine nature that is
reflected in His divine character.
- Understanding God's kindness, forbearance, and patience is extremely
important, for that is the understanding that motivates a person to repent.
- But what is forbearance? How much do you understand about
- How can you increase your understanding of forbearance? By better
- Consider the concept of forbearance.
- Divine forbearance keeps some close friends: divine kindness, divine patience,
and divine mercy.
- Forbearance always exists and functions in conjunction with kindness,
patience, and mercy.
- Forbearance is one of the ways that patience expresses itself.
- It is also a specific element of mercy.
- The kind God's patience and mercy interact with each other and express
themselves through forbearance.
- What does forbearance do?
- To forbear means to restrain oneself.
- One forbears by holding oneself back.
- In God's actions, divine forbearance restrains divine wrath.
- But does God really do that?
- Does he really hold himself back?
- Did he really restrain his wrath?
- God has been doing that from the time of the first human evil.
- God did it in incredible ways until He could offer Jesus in sacrifice for us.
- Until God satisfied justice with Jesus' blood by paying for the evil people
committed, it was God's forbearance that governed His response to
- Read with me Romans 3:21-25.
- God has revealed a way to righteous that has nothing to do with law--not
Old Testament law, not any form of law.
- In this revealed way to be righteous, God could be true to His own
- Evil people could become righteous.
- The Old Testament law and the Old Testament prophets stood as the
witnesses to this revealed way to be righteous.
- In this revealed way, righteousness exists through faith in Jesus Christ.
- It is available to every person who will place his or her faith in Jesus
- Every person needs this revealed way to become righteous because
every person is guilty of doing evil.
- This revealed way to be righteous can exist because God gives His grace
as a gift.
- God acquired this right to expresss His goodness because God
- He justified us by redeeming us with Jesus Christ.
- He allowed His son to die publicly, substituting His innocent life for our
guilty lives, paying the penalty for our evil with His own son's blood.
- God did this for two reasons:
- First, to create a "doable" means by which every evil person can
- Second, to be true to his own righteous nature.
- It was necessary for God to demonstrate His loyalty to His own
righteousness because He had been forbearing--He had passed over
the evil that was committed before the death of Christ.
- He had held Himself back, He had restrained His wrath, until He could
pay for human evil with the blood of His innocent son.
- Let me show you in a clear manner that is exactly what God did before He sent
Jesus to die for human evil.
- Go all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
- Genesis 2:8, 9 states that God planted a garden to exist as the ideal place for
Adam and Eve to live.
- He placed them in the garden to cultivate and keep it (2:15).
- They were permitted to eat fruit from everything that grew in the garden
except for one tree--the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16).
- They were told that if they ate of that tree, on that day they would surely
die (2:17), and they clearly understood what God said and meant (3:3).
- Most of my past life I did not understand forbearance, nor did I understand
- In my lack of understanding, I oversimplified this situation and created a
- God said that the day they ate the fruit that they would die.
- They ate the fruit, and they did not die.
- In my too narrow, too shallow understanding, that fact created a dilemma
for me: Why did they not die that day? Did God lie when He told them
they would die?
- The possibility that God lied was totally unacceptable and contradictory to
what other scriptures clearly state--God cannot lie.
- Then I created a theological answer to the dilemma: God did not mean
that they would physically die (since they obviously did not), so the word
"death" as God used it meant something else--it meant that they would be
separated from God.
- But it is very obvious in Genesis four that there was not a complete
separation between God, and Adam and Eve, or Able, or Seth, the men
that began to call upon the name of the Lord.
- When God did not kill Adam and Eve, it had nothing to do with truthfulness or
lying; it had everything to do with divine forbearance.
- Adam and Eve defied God in the face of all His love, all His goodness, and
all His kindness.
- And when they did, God held Himself back, He restrained His wrath, He
further extended His kindness in exercising patience and mercy.
- That is only the first expression of His forbearance.
- Consider God's refusal to kill Cain when Cain murdered his brother.
- Consider God's saving of Noah and his family.
- Consider the way God continued to work with Isaac and Jacob when they did
some very ungodly things.
- Consider the ways God repeatedly refused to completely destroy the wicked,
rebellious nation of Israel in the wilderness.
- Consider the centuries that God endured incredible ungodliness in Israel
through the periods of the judges, the united kingdom, and the divided
- Over and over and over you see God's forbearance, God's holding Himself
back, God's restraining His wrath.
- Even when God exercised His wrath, He restrained it--He never completely
destroyed evil humanity, never completely destroyed evil Israel.
Because of God's forbearance, you and I can be Christians. Because of God's
forbearance you and I have a Savior. Because of God's forbearance you and I can be
And the forbearing God asks those who accept His forgiveness and live in the
Savior to be forbearing. But we cannot possibly understand how to be forbearing, we
cannot even understand what forbearance is, unless we first understand the
forbearance of God.
Don't you rejoice in the fact that God was and is a God of forbearance?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
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Evening Sermon, 12 January 1997
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