We have undersold the power of prayer—well, I have.
Prayer seems like a great idea for some of those projects that are beyond our control.
Prayer makes me feel like I’m doing something when I’m in a circumstance where I’m limited to only prayer.
Prayer is our last resort.
But the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. - Romans 8:26 ESV
These are great and encouraging words. It’s wonderful to know that even though I don’t know how to pray the Holy Spirit has it.
But there’s a little word in this bit of encouragement that tells me we’re missing it.
The word? Ought.
Oughts have become rather frowned upon in today’s Christian circles, and I’m not trying to popularize guilt and condemnation again. I’m glad the Church is moving away from the use of guilt to make us behave.
And yet, we have an ought. Thankfully it comes couched in the Lord’s great provision for our shortcoming.
What is the solution for our weakness? Prayer. The fact that ought shows up here implies to me that there should come a point in a Christians life when he is able to pray through some of his own weaknesses.
OK - that’s all good, but I’m not there—right? Are you? Maybe so.
Here’s the ah-ha for me.
When I don’t know how to pray to solve my weakness, what does God do?
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:27 ESV
He, by the Spirit searches our hearts and minds and finds the weakness and …
fixes it? - No
sends help? - No
makes us strong? - No
The Spirit prays—intercedes on our behalf.
God’s own solution to our weakness is not the taking of some action but to pray.
I’ve always thought that we pray and God acts. Or we pray and God puts in our heart the courage to act and the wisdom to know how.
But I’m thinking that the whole work is done in prayer. Words passed between mortal and immortal, between man and God. Short of that words passed between Spirit and Father.
And the result of this intercession?
All our circumstances work together for the believer's good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28 ESV
This most famous of verses is the middle of a paragraph about how the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to deal with our weaknesses.
My circumstance shines the spotlight on my weakness, and the Spirit carries me before the Father and stands as my advocate, pleading for me—for you.
Do the circumstances dissolve? Not necessarily. Do the problems fall away? Maybe yes—Maybe no. Is a great outcome promised? You bet -
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. - Romans 8:29 ESV
Through the intercession of the Spirit, I am conformed to the image of Christ.
So what do I do with that little ought?
My prayer must become—Lord, teach me to pray. Help me partner with the Spirit and participate in my own transformation.
For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Song of Songs 8:6 NASB
This couplet is loaded. Were there ever two stronger statements about the love Jesus has for His bride. As you probably have noticed, I'm intrigued by words. And these two lines carry six strong words.
Striking, aren’t they?
Other than love and death each is translated in many ways, and we’ll take a look as some of those variations.
But first - to love.
Remember, we’re in the Hebrew here, so this is not one of the Greek words for love - though in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) a form of agape is used here.
I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar (I’m no scholar at all (I had to look up the word scholar)) but what I can tell you is that the word love here is the word used for Jacob’s love for Rachel - it’s a form of the word used to describe Abraham's love for Isaac when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain. It’s as close to agape as we’ll find in the Hebrew.
Now in 1 Corinthians 13, agape is defined for us:
Love is patient, is kind is not jealous; does not brag is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB (tweaked)
But this love Jesus has for His bride as described in Song of Songs 8:6—well—is this the same animal?
Let’s look at these compelling words and how others have translated this verse:
So, for today, my paraphrase would sound something like this:
The love Jesus has for us is as invincible as death.
His passion for us is as unrelenting as hell itself.
Last week we looked at Paul’s declaration of how invincible divine love is from Romans 8:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39 NASB
And incase you are wondering how unrelenting hell is—Solomon put it this way:
Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied. - Proverbs 27:20 NKJV
All the power of heaven and hell are wrapped up in the Father’s love for us. Let this sink in. A revelation of this love will change you completely. It will complete ruin low self-esteem. It will destroy doubt. It will drive out fear, and flood your heart with assurance and confidence in the one thing we can surely count on for all eternity. Jesus’ love.
Thanks for coming by
See you again soon
Here are a few of the many ways this is translated. I used one of my favorite tools for this study - BibleGateway’s “Every English Translation” tool. Look up any single verse in BibleGateway.com and there is a link at the bottom that will show you every translation they have for that verse. It’s a great way to see how the scholars have positioned the verse you are studying.
Love is as overpowering as death.
Devotion is as unyielding as the grave. (GW)
Love is as powerful as death;
passion is as strong as death itself. (GNT)
For love is as strong as death;
ardent love is as unrelenting as Sheol. (HCSB)
Love is as strong as death.
Desire is as strong as the grave. (ICB)
For love is as strong as death,
passion as intense as Sheol. (ISV)
for love is strong as death; jealousy is hard as Sheol; (JUB)
for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: (KJV)
for love is strong as death;
passion is fierce as Sheol; (LEB)
Love is invincible facing danger and death.
Passion laughs at the terrors of hell. (MSG)
Love is as overpowering as death.
Devotion is as unyielding as the grave. (NOG)
For Love is strong as Death,
longing is fierce as Sheol. (NABRE)
For love is as strong as death,
its jealousy as enduring as the grave. (NLT)
For love is as strong as death,
and jealousy is as relentless as the grave. (Voice)
for love is strong as death, envy is hard as hell; (WYC)
For strong as death is love, Sharp as Sheol is jealousy, (YLT)
Yesterday we started looking at the Second Birth. You can catch up here.
Now let’s spend a little time talking about WHY there is a problem with just being born once. Why do we need a second birth?
For starters lets press into the difference between flesh and spirit a bit. For this we will turn to the chapter that is at the very top of my “most important chapters in the Bible” list, Romans 8.
Let’s jump in right at the top.
If you will allow it, I would like to step right through the first 9 verses a verse at a time.
Hope you have your swimmies on, because the water is about to get deep.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1
Ok – we love to hear this, don’t we? No Condemnation! No Condemnation! You bet – I sure love this too, but I can’t take it as a stand-alone verse. We must look at the context to understand how Paul can possibly say there is no condemnation, when Jesus himself says that anyone who does not believe in Him is condemned already. (see John 3:18)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. - Romans 8:2
Paul is getting ready to contrast two laws: The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus and the law of sin and death.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, - Romans 8:3a
In verse 3 Paul basically tells us that the Law, that greatest of gifts that God ever gave the Jews (until Jesus), that verbal depiction of His nature and Character, the very thing all Jewish culture revolved around, was flawed. The Law was incapable of solving man’s one great problem.
The Law could not restore man’s relationship with God.
But the Law’s weakness was not inherent in the Law, but its problem was that it was dependant on man’s flesh, man’s basic nature, in order to allow relationship with God.
The Law could form a path to God, but the flesh could not stay on it. [Tweet this]
...God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3b
I love that – what the law could not do – God did! Hallelujah!!
And how? He sent Jesus. Jesus first took on flesh – lived a sinless life, though tempted in the same way every man is tempted, then on the cross, he became sin, and God condemned Him. He, Jesus, drank the cup of God’s wrath described in Jeremiah 25:15-29.
He solved our ‘flesh’ problem on the cross.
so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:4
Here we see that the only way to solve our flesh problem is to walk (aka live) according to the Spirit.
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. - Romans 8:5
Next Paul makes it perfectly clear. What does it look like to live in the flesh? It means to live with your mind consumed by the things of the flesh.
What is a mind consumed by the flesh? Well, perhaps you are thinking of some sex crazed person who is always pursuing hedonistic pleasures. But that is not what it means to have a mind constantly on the flesh. The mind on the flesh, is the mind on the natural.
Jesus said it like this –
"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' - Matthew 6:31
The one who has his mind consumed by the natural world, in effect constantly consumed with themselves, is the person Paul is addressing here.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, - Romans 8:6
This flesh or self filled mind, this worrying mind, this self-absorbed mind, is death.
The mind set on the Spirit, the mind pursuing God, the mind that is actively pressing in to hear the voice of the lord, and know the mind of the Spirit, this is leads to a life marked by peace.
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, - Romans 8:7
Paul gets serious here. This word hostile is really aggressive. It might be better to say ‘actively hostile.’ The carnal or fleshly mind – the natural mind – is in open hostility toward God. It is at war with God.
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. - Romans 8:8
And so it follows – if you are at war with God, and His good purposes toward you, you can not please God. It is impossible to please God when you are actively undermining all that He is trying to do in your life.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. - Romans 8:9
Ah – finally some good news! You are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in you! So how can we get the Spirit of God on the inside?
That brings us back to the Second birth.
Remember we said yesterday, that we must be born of God, in the same way the Holy Spirit was in Christ from conception, so you must become a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. As we saw yesterday:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13
I believe tomorrow we will finish up on the question “Why do we need to be born again?” Don’t miss it.