We know how to act, and there are things we likely wouldn’t do just for fear of what others might think. But our minds are another story. No one sees what we’re thinking — at least, that’s the lie we tell ourselves. We can have vengeful, angry thoughts; we can lust; we can be anxious; we can judge others — all within the confines of our mind. We don’t have to say a word or make a move to sin.
I share more at the Proverbs 31 Ministries: What You THINK vs. What You DO
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Anytime, anytime while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute,
I would have taken it—just to stand one minute on God’s earth a free woman—I would. -Elizabeth Freeman
My mind struggles to understand slavery. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to wake up chained—metaphorically or literally—and owned by another human being. When my mind goes there, when I allow myself to try to put my feet in a slave’s shoes, I all but fall down in sorrow.
Slavery was an atrocious institution in the early days of our country, and it didn’t exist only in the South. A slave named Elizabeth Freeman actually took the new state of Massachusetts to court, seeking to be freed. She fought for her freedom. And she won! She became the first African-American slave to be set free under Massachusetts law and is credited with informally abolishing slavery in the state.
Elizabeth Freeman’s burning desire to stand on the earth for even one minute as a free woman isn’t hard to imagine. And once she tasted the sweetness of freedom, surely she would never, ever have desired to return to slavery.
And yet we sometimes do just that, in a sense. Though we are free in Christ, time and time again our hearts return to that time when we were slaves to our flesh, slaves to our fears, slaves to the law and the law’s demands on us. We fall back into old, fearful ways of thinking. In this text we see Paul reminding the church that God doesn’t want that for us. God desires our freedom—and He provides it through His Son and through our adoption as His children (8:15).
To the first-century church, this reminder of freedom from slavery would have great significance. Slavery was a daily reality in that culture, so people in that day would instantly understand the analogy of being released from slavery and not falling back into it. Like Elizabeth Freeman, they knew in their bones that there was a big difference between being a slave in someone’s household and being a free member of the family!
We may not witness slavery on a daily basis anymore, but Paul’s analogy still holds powerful truth for us. We were once slaves to our sin (Rom. 6:20), but once we’re in Christ this is no longer true. We do not have to submit or obey or entrust ourselves to those old ways. God has made us new, and as new creations we have the privilege of adoption. Now we are not only free, but children of almighty God. And not only children, but beloved children who can relate to our Father intimately.
It is no small thing that we can use the word Abba as we cry out to our Father. This Aramaic word for Father is an intimate term, even somewhat childlike—it could also be translated as “papa” or “daddy.” Significantly, it is also the name Jesus used in addressing God. It is a grace to us that we can cry out to the Lord in prayer in such intimate and personal ways. He gives us that access. Theologian Douglas Moo puts it this way: “In ‘adopting’ us, God has taken no half measures; we have been made full members of the family and partakers of all the privileges belonging to members of that family.”
Today remember this great access you have to your Abba. When you have to fight not to fall back into your old ways of thinking, cry out to your heavenly Father, who is available to you and listening. Remember that you are His, that you’ve been bought with a price. And that means you are truly free.
**This is an excerpt from my new study on Romans 8. Find more devotionals like this one in If God Is For Us! Order via Amazon and other retailers.
Leon Morris, e Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 315; Douglas J. Moo, e Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 502.
Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 503.
If someone had come up to me on the morning of my wedding day and asked me if I knew my husband-to-be well, I would have said yes without hesitation. Now, fifteen years later, I realize that while I did know him before I married him, I know so much more about him now. Our relationship has deepened, and my knowledge of him has exponentially increased since our wedding.
Why? Because we’ve spent hours upon hours together. We know each other’s history. We know our backgrounds. When one of us reacts to something, the other knows the context from which the reaction comes. We know each other because we have studied, learned, enjoyed, and listened to each other over the course
of these many years. And I’m looking forward to learning even more in the years to come!
It takes time to really know a person—and the same thing is true about getting to know the Bible. After nearly twenty years of “living with” the Bible and many, many hours of study, I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of its rich depths. And even with all my studying, I realize I will never exhaust the potential depths of learning about the Lord.
My hope is that you and I would get to know our Lord in greater ways through If God Is For Us, a study of Romans 8, a cherished book and favorite chapter. If you ask believers for their favorite book of the Bible, many would place Romans at the top of the list. And if you were to take a survey and ask what specific chapter in the Bible has had the most impact on their lives, a number would name the eighth chapter of Romans—and for good reason.
Tim Keller has written that “the book of Romans is the most sustained explanation of the heart of the gospel, and the most thrilling exploration of how that gospel goes to work in our hearts.”1 I agree wholeheartedly. And to me, Romans 8 is the heart of that great letter. It provides the assurance of this great salvation, summed up in its first compelling sentence, which proclaims to its reader that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (8:1).
That amazing declaration would be enough, but there’s more, so much more. We learn throughout Romans 8 that:
- The Spirit is actively at work in us (8:4–11);
- We are heirs with Christ, the adopted children of God (8:12–17);
- Our suffering is for a great purpose and doesn’t compare to the glory we will
- Even in our weakness, the Spirit is at work (8:26–27);
- God is working all things for our good (8:28);
- And absolutely nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ (8:31–39).
Need I go on? Oh, I can, and I want to! I haven’t even gotten to the five life-changing questions that solidify our conviction that God is absolutely, undeniably for us (8:31–38).
So in case you’ve been concerned whether a single chapter in a single book can sustain an entire six-week study, don’t worry. We could probably spend another six weeks—or a lifetime—and still find more.
If God Is For Us will take us on a journey into Romans 8, reminding us of our great salvation, our inheritance, and ultimately the love of our good Father. Romans 8 can be easily quoted—and often is—but through If God Is For Us I hope that we might meditate deeply on it, soaking in the goodness of this truth and rejoicing in the mind-boggling reality that God intends nothing but good for us. My prayer is that, together, we’ll gain a greater understanding of the significance of this passage of Scripture and why these verses mean so much to so many.
We will accomplish this through reading the text, through studying God’s Word, through daily reflection on the passages, and ultimately through prayer. But God must do the work in our hearts for us to understand. Let’s ask God to help us as we seek to know the God of our salvation in ever-deepening ways.
Grab the Book and Make It Work For You!
If God Is For Us is formatted to provide flexibility and I encourage you to make it work for you! It’s designed to be done in a group setting or individually. Here are just a few of the possibilities.
- Do the study entirely on your own at home.
- Meet daily with a few friends in-person (maybe for coffee) or online to share
your response to the devotionals and the questions.
- Try a combination—do some of it (like the devotionals) at home and some of it (like selected study or reflection questions) in a weekly group gathering. Or study at home and then come together to discuss your insights and discoveries.
You can follow the suggested pattern of five days of study, two days off, or you can stretch out the material to cover six or even seven days. Personally I like the idea of reading and study on one day, devotionals and reflections on five more days, and then taking a “sabbath” day of rest.
My hope and prayer is that you would enjoy God through this study!
Grab the book at Amazon! You can also purchase it at other retailers and see what others have said about the book on my book page: If God is For Us.
I interrupt your end of the year top 12 books lists to invite you to Come Read With Us! Maybe these will become your top 12 next year.
I read quite a bit. Actually, I read more books a year than I ever share about, which is likely a shame given that I’m a writer (I ought to share more about what I’m reading!). That’s why I decided that next year would be different. I hope to read the following twelve books through 2019 and you are invited to Come Read With Us.
The books listed below will not be the only books I read in 2019 and they will not be the only ones I’ll likely recommend. Our book club, “Come Read With Us,” will use this guide below and read one book a month, “discussing” what we are reading through our Facebook group (hint click on the link to join us!). I will simply add a one sentence prompt every Friday beginning in January and you will share what you wish. Everyone will read at their own pace, however we will move on to the next book at the beginning of the next month.
How did I choose these books?
It is often suggested that one should read a wide variety of topics, genres, and authors. Therefore, I decided to think of specific categories that I might miss if I weren’t being intentional about what I read in 2019. I then got to work researching authors and books and the endless possibilities. It was tough! There are a number of books that I wanted to add, but I was also trying to consider the book club “Come Read With Us” and what might be appealing to those who are already a part. If you are interested, go ahead and join us simply by requesting to join the group: come on in!
So, what are we reading and what are the categories?
Below you’ll find the list of books in the order they will be read, the title, and a brief explanation for why I chose that book and category. Click on title to be redirected to the Amazon page and find a detailed description of the book. Please note that though most are categorically “Christian” some are not.
The New Year is always a great time to evaluate our goals…frankly, I’m not great at setting goals. Last year, I concentrated on the word “focus” and at the beginning of the year read the book Deep Work. Deep Work was an incredibly helpful read and one I referred to throughout the year.
For 2019, I wanted to begin by thinking about leadership. I have two books listed. January is a long and boring month, so why not?! Also, one of the books is short, I’ve heard. (Remember to click on the title to purchase and to learn more).
Book 1: The Jesus Way, by Eugene Peterson
Book 2: You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference, by Mark Sanborn
I believe wholeheartedly that Black history is American history and therefore should be read beyond February. With that said, I also think that it’s good to celebrate Black History Month, which is why we will be reading an autobiography by Frederick Douglass. This will not be the last time we read a book from a Black author but it seemed an appropriate and wonderful time to start.
The book: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglas
I chose this category because I’m terrible, absolutely terrible about reading fiction. I tend to read non-fiction, specifically theological works. So, I’m combining both worlds by reading C.S. Lewis. I chose this particular book because we don’t see it referenced as much as some of his others and I was intrigued.
The book: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
I chose this category for similar reasons as March, I don’t read poetry and I struggle to enjoy it. I want to love it and I’m hoping that Phillis Wheatley will turn me around.
The book: Poems on Various Subjects: Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley
Bonhoeffer is not a category…we all know that. But after all that fiction, I thought it would be good to read something like Bonhoeffer and specifically thought about his work on community.
The Book: Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
June: Something New
Since we are thinking about community already, I thought it would be good to grab Sam Allberry’s new book on singleness.
The book: 7 Myths About Singleness by Sam Allberry
July: A New York Times Best Seller
I don’t tend to run towards best sellers, which is why I thought it would be good to read one. I want to read broadly so this fits into that category. With that said, however, this book was also a National Book Award finalist and it’s fiction, which intrigued me even more. July is often a time for vacation so I hope you get time to enjoy this work.
The book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr:
August: A Female Author
Do I even need to explain this? I’m teasing. But, really. I believe we will be educated and more informed by reading this book by Mindy Beltz. May it lead us to greater awareness and prayer for the persecuted Church.
The book: They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East, by Mindy Beltz
I read this book as a new Christian and unlike many others who read it, I cannot remember what I read. This book is one I’ve seen theologians list as “life changing” or “shaping” for them. I’m confident this second reading will only help me (and you!) learn more about our God.
The book: Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.
October: No Platform Needed
We are in a season of publishing where the platform of the author often determines the readership. In other words, the greater the platform the more the author is read, whether good or bad. I wanted to find an unknown author for us to read. I’m excited to have not only found someone lesser-known but also an 18th-century African American theologian and pastor.
The book: Plain Theology for Plain People by Charles Octavius Boothe
November: A Wild Card
You vote! The closer we get to November, we’ll vote to see what category we might want to repeat and then I’ll suggest a handful of books and we will vote again. But make sure that you’ve joined Come Read With Us.
December: About Jesus
Let’s wait and see! There are always wonderful options for Advent, sometimes new…
That’s the list! Now come join us by joining our reading group: CLICK HERE TO JOIN.
If you are still reading this post: THANK YOU! And if you love books, I’d be honored if you’d check out mine: Trillia’s Books.
** Please note that I do NOT have an affiliate link and will not be paid anything for your clicks or purchases. I will potentially receive a small royalty if you purchase my books, however. 🙂
I am so thrilled to get study out into the world (and let’s be honest, I’m nervous too!). I am praying the Lord would use it and I’m grateful Moody Publishers is giving my friends and readers a way to get a jumpstart on the book.
Interested in receiving an early copy of my new study on Romans 8, If God is For Us? Join the launch team!
All you need to do is join the If God is For Us closed Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IfGodIsForUsLaunchTeam/.
The launch team will receive an advanced copy of the book. I’ll be doing a few Facebook live chats in the group. The Moody Publishers team will be sharing ways that you can help spread the word about the book and start your own study, etc. It should be a great time! THANK YOU for considering.
Spots are limited so join today!
Visit my book page to learn more about If God is For Us: http://www.trillianewbell.com/if-god-is-for-us/.
Moody Publishers is having a massive #CyberMonday Sale and my new study on Romans 8 is included. If God is For Us releases on January 1 but if you’d like to grab it early (click here to purchase), here’s what others have said about the study:
If the Bible were a mountain range, it is said, Romans 8 would be its highest peak. I can say after reading this study that Trillia Newbell is a sure-footed mountain guide that will help you climb this great passage and get some of its best breathtaking views of God and our salvation in Christ. I highly recommend this volume! –Tim Keller, cofounder, Redeemer City to City
So often we encounter the message of Romans 8 in fragments, its best-known verses lifted from their context and lightly quoted to suit the need of the moment. With a careful hand, Trillia Newbell mends our fragmented reading by guiding us into the text, orienting this crucial chapter within the book of Romans as a whole, and tracing its cohesive message from start to finish. If God Is For Us is six weeks well spent for any earnest student of the Bible. –Jen Wilkin, author and Bible teacher
Trillia Newbell is a gift to the church. I can think of few people whose lives more authentically display the work of God and the fruit of His Spirit. is study on the eighth chapter of Romans will bless, encourage, and challenge you to grow further into Christ. Within these pages, Trillia serves as a faithful guide to help you better understand and apply God’s Word to your life. –Russell Moore, President, e Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
Like a delicious meal, Romans 8 is packed with truths to be savored as they are slowly enjoyed. If God Is For Us helps us to slow down and ponder the riches in this beloved chapter line by line, one verse at a time. Trillia Newbell’s warmth and wisdom will guide and encourage you with truths that will refresh and revive your soul. –Melissa Kruger, director of women’s content for e Gospel Coalition and author of In All Things
Some in the church eschew discipleship and study because they “don’t have time” or “don’t know how.” Written like a letter from a good friend, If God Is For Us offers a deep and digestible look into Paul’s intimate writings in Romans 8. Trillia explores in detail the radical, existential transformation made possible through Christ. If you’ve hesitated on Romans because it seems overwhelming, If God Is For Us is an excellent doorway to understanding, living, and sharing the “exchanged life.” – K.A. Ellis, Cannada Fellow for World Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary
I’m so thankful for Trillia and this thorough study on Romans 8. Trillia does a beautiful job encouraging us to be in God’s Word without leaving us to do it alone. Her insights and personal illustrations make studying this foundational chapter of Scripture accessible and inviting. I encourage you to get a group of friends together and pick up a copy of If God Is For Us. –Kelly Minter, Bible teacher and author of No Other Gods
Others who have commended the book:
Jeannie Cunnion, Liz Curtis Higgs, Missie Branch, Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, cofounders of Risen Motherhood, Christina H. Edmondson, Sarah Mae
Look for much more about this study in the coming days! Until then, don’t miss out on grabbing it today!