February 20, 2018

Get Off Your Spiritual Treadmill

Romans 3:19–20

23 Comments | Listen | Print | Full Chapter

19 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. 20 For by works of the law no human being1 will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.


[1] 3:20 Greek flesh

Get Off Your Spiritual Treadmill

Bio | Colson Files

Hey, Journey crew! My name is Colson Files, and I am currently a resident at Watermark. In the residency program, we are placed within a specific focus area, and mine is the Quest Care Clinic! Over 50% of our patients are born outside the United States, and we have seen people from over 113 different countries. Every day I get to share the gospel with patients who walk into the clinic seeking medical care. We like to care for our patients because we know they are cared for by our Heavenly Father!

Central Truth

We are not working toward an unattainable perfection to be accepted into heaven. Instead, God grants us freedom from salvation by works and saves us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Devotional | Romans 3:19–20

Can I be honest? I have a deep dislike for treadmills. If I had my way, there would never be another one made. Ever. Every time I step onto one and start running, I feel like I just get nowhere. I spend...

Can I be honest? I have a deep dislike for treadmills. If I had my way, there would never be another one made. Ever. Every time I step onto one and start running, I feel like I just get nowhere. I spend time running and exhausting myself, but in the end, I am in the same spot I started. All that work and I feel like I did not get anywhere!

That is how I used to feel in my walk with the Lord. I tried to do the right thing, but I focused on my actions instead of my relationship with Him. At the end of the day, I felt like I was on an exhausting spiritual treadmill. 

In this passage, Paul is trying to get the Jews off their spiritual treadmills. He is concluding his argument that not one human being is righteous except through Christ. The law he is referring to in verse 19 requires complete and perfect obedience. If God's chosen people, the Jews, cannot keep the law, then certainly no Gentile can, so every mouth is stopped! To be clear, Paul broadens his statement by saying the whole world is accountable to God.

"For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in his sight . . . ." (Verse 20) To reaffirm his point in verse 19, Paul clearly articulates for us that the Law is in no way, shape, or form able to save us from our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now, if you were a Jew back in that time, the conclusion to Paul's argument that everyone is unrighteous would be very defeating. Even today, many Christians are running on a spiritual treadmill, trying to gain access to heaven through their works and obedience to the Old Testament law. But thankfully, the concept of grace through faith in Jesus Christ is the freedom from that treadmill that people need to hear. It allows us to rest in our faith in Him instead of working to obtain a righteousness we will never reach.

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Discussion Questions

1. What are areas in your life in which you feel like you are on a never-ending treadmill?

2. In what areas of your life has God's grace had the greatest impact?

3. Has there ever been a time in your life when you struggled to give God control over a certain area? How did you overcome that struggle?

23 Comments available

Justin McElvain 12 months ago

Interesting analogy…

Sue Bohlin 12 months ago
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Lee! It’s so good to see you comment here! I was about to round up a search party and go looking for you!!

Michael Scaman 12 months ago

DA Carson said you might think of Jesus as being some auto repair club where problems get fixed and that isn’t totally untrue or the Lifeguard that saves someone drowning and that isn’t totally untrue either… Jesus fixes, saves and restores… but where it could be weak is that our sin is also offensive to God and that’s where the wrath of God is revealed, so the mechanic or lifeguard would have a desire to save, fix or restore but also be offended by the sin.

lee danis 12 months ago

If you have lived a life trying to earn your way to heaven, being told that Grace is the ticket is a wonderful assurance that never ends. Great devo.

Elizabeth Lariscy about 1 year ago

Thank you for today’s devo, Colson. Your discussion questions 1 & 2 were awesome. They reminded me how mighty and good our Heavenly Father is. The areas is answered in Q1 were the same areas I needed the most work on in Q2. Only by His amazing grace and love, I am saved when I fall short daily. Praise his Holy Name! Thank you, Jesus!

Lisa Olsen about 1 year ago

I often envision salvation like this…one is in the middle of the ocean drowning, no longer able to keep afloat by his great effort. His arms are tired and he is simply to exhausted to continue on. But “at the right time,” a rescuer comes and pulls the drowning man to safety. There was no way this man could have saved himself at this point. It was either salvation or death. I love this vision I began getting years ago because it reminds me that I can continue to frantically try to stay afloat (in God’s favor) by good works, but eventually I will get to exhausted to continue on with one fail (sin) after another. But if I am rescued, my eyes are no longer on my efforts, but the one who rescued me.

Lisa Olsen about 1 year ago

Thank you, Colson! Most of my Christian walk up to this point has been on that spiritual treadmill. And your right, it’s exhausting. By God’s grace, I am able to finally see with clear vision that there is nothing I can do to save myself or be accepted by God. It is simply God’s grace acting through faith that Jesus died for me…taking my sins, my dirty robe, in exchange for His pure and holy righteousness…His clean, whiter then snow, robe.

Hope Harris about 1 year ago
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testing how the reply button works

Alma Barber about 1 year ago
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Not a fan of the upvote feature. Feels like a competition. IMHO

Aaron Young about 1 year ago
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thanks Mike/Tech team!

Alma Barber about 1 year ago
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" healing pain is better than brokenness pain" completely agree Sue.

Michael Scaman about 1 year ago

In Romans 3:19 the whole world has it’s mouth shut, the boastfulness of life ends and self justification ends.

God also opens mouths and sometimes our strength is gone, possibly due to our sin Ps 137:1-4 and ‘by the rivers of Babylon we lay down our harps and weep’ because we cannot sing. Someday God will even open mouths and make ‘all kings sing’ Psalm 138:4-5, even the pagan kings and nations like Babylon.

Both cases of shutting and opening of mouths rest on God

VO NGUYEN about 1 year ago

I forgot my journal today, so I would like to post it here to be accountable.

To answer question 2, the area in my life that I feel most impacted by God’s grace is purpose. Why purpose? Because before I found purpose in God’s grace, I thought life was about getting good grades and a good job. No longer is that my purpose, but I know that my life should about following Christ and trying my best to being devoted to him. I know I am going to fail sometimes, but I ultimately will seek forgiveness in Him because of who He is.

Jennifer Borgne about 1 year ago

Colson, question one (sadly) is a list too long to type; and I’d say the largest answer is far beyond my control. Which leads me to trust. Another area that’s a struggle. I simply cannot go a single solitary day without time in His word and in prayer. It’s the only thing that keeps me from myself, and I’m an expert on making a mess of things. This entire chapter has been so convicting. I dearly love the verses for today because it clearly proves the fact that I wil NEVER be able to work my way to Him. This is FREEDOM!

Graham Robbins about 1 year ago

“grace through faith in Jesus Christ is the freedom…” “It allows us to rest in our faith in Him instead of working to obtain a righteousness we will never reach.” Thanks for the Truth this morning Colson.

Kristi Lichtenberg about 1 year ago

Sometimes obedience feels like a treadmill because we can’t see the progress but it is still worth it, if done with the right heart. In fact, obedience is always worth it and we can ask God to change our hearts and align our desires with our actions and He will! A book that has been encouraging for me in this area is “The Dangerous Duty of Delight” by John Piper.

greg jones about 1 year ago

Colson, enjoyed reading your bio as well as your devotional. I’ve been in Haiti for few days preparing for a special needs health fair. There is a difference between looking good, or sounding good before others, bad doing good for others. As much as “working” is felt the way you described the treadmill I think it is seen in us by some before we ever feel it. So I’m kind of praying this prayer this morning. God show me my treadmills so you and others don’t have to look at me on them.

Michael Scaman about 1 year ago

If you look at what happens to ‘mouths’ in Isaiah of where you see various places concerning ‘the high and holy one’ and the effect on people it gets interesting.

Mouth shut: Isaiah’s mouth is shut at the sight of the glory of the high and holy one in Is 6:1; 6:5

More Mouths shut on a larger scale: gentile kings will shut their mouths hearing of the high and holy one who sprinkles nations atoning for their sins. Is 52:13-15 And if Kings shut their mouths then allot of citizens as well. The High and holy can be no other than Jesus and his work on the cross.

Mouths opened: The high, lifted up holy one also dwells with the contrite, brokenhearted and repentant who tremble at His word. He opens redeemed mouths, now pure. Is 57:15, Is 57:18-19 bringing peace to Jew and gentile

Mike Frizzell about 1 year ago

JTJ Tech Team here,

@Hugh, Yes - couple of new features in comment section.

Many of you have asked for all the old JTJ archives, those are also available under the ‘calendar’ menu above. They are also available via the search bar directly under the top navigation!

There’s a number of visual improvements for specific devices. If you see something out of place, even slightly, let us know via the ‘contact’ page - be sure to include what device and browser that you’re using.

Finally, as we have all become social, you’ll see a total share count under the social buttons above. If you’re a fan of the devotional, don’t keep it to yourself!

Journey on, friends!

Hope Harris about 1 year ago

So excited to see the newest JTJ features:Upvotes and Reply buttons. Thanks JTJ and Tech team for your hard work.

Piper sums up today’s verses like this: “All people are sinners and personally accountable to God, and that this relationship of guilt cannot be set right by works of the law.”

God’s moral law is universal. Guilt is part of the human experience designed to draw us to God.

Sue Bohlin about 1 year ago

Super devo, Colson–thanks! I appreciated this: “the Law is in no way, shape, or form able to save us from our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Just like an x-ray reveals brokenness in our bodies but is completely unable to fix what’s broken. I am so grateful that Dr. Jesus looks at the film and says, “I know what to do and I can set things right.”

There’s pain involved in fixing brokenness (as I make arrangements for a hip replacement later this year!), but praise God, healing pain is better then brokenness pain!

Lindsey Driscoll about 1 year ago

Colson thanks for the devo and great illustration, I’ve run on a treadmill many times and wound up in the same place. Q1-This is which a good metaphor for us to become conscious of our sin (3:20) and see where we struggle as we look at God’s word daily. Today’s treadmill for me is a continual track of impatience with coworkers, leading to conflict. I have found myself seeking forgiveness from coworkers lately. Praying for continual meditation throughout the day of God’s word to be conscious of my sin.

Hugh Stephenson about 1 year ago

I love “so that”. The law speaks “SO THAT [my] mouth may be stopped.” Perfect.

Recently, I was thinking of an incident at my prior church in Atlanta; a very old Episcopal church. An older lady was trying to get a wedding scheduled for a family member and was having trouble with the schedule and logistics. She wanted it done exactly her way and on her schedule regardless of what the church said. She said that since her family had been members since the church’s founding the church should yield to her wishes. Her ancestry was the reason she wanted special treatment. I marveled at her arrogance.

Today, Paul shows me the Jews of his day are no better and that I am no better.

My ancestry is one of lost and broken sinners. May I focus on my inheritance from Him and not them.

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