Archive for September, 2019

Romans 14:5-8

In Romans 14:5-8 Paul reminds us that while we are all very different, and see the world around us through a different perspective, we are also very much the same. It’s all about how we look at things, and one is not necessarily better than the other, they are just different. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” We all see things through our own eyes. That doesn’t make it wrong or right, or better than how anyone else sees the world. It merely makes us different, unique as God created us in His image.

The key is how we look at things around us. If we are focused on self and what the day gives to me, we’re on the wrong track. Each day is a gift from God. It’s 24 of the 168 hours He will give us this week. We need to recognize it as such and live in in God’s honor. Same goes for the things that He provides for us. They are not ours, but His that He entrusts and gives to us. We need to keep God on the throne and enjoy the world He provides for us to live in. “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Thanksgiving and gratitude are how we need to view everything in our life. And we also need to realize that how we live is much bigger than ourselves. We are part of His Story as our life creates history on this planet. We’re not the central character, but rather a supporting character in God’s giant plan for mankind. The good news is that He has written each one of us uniquely in to His Story. He created us uniquely on purpose for a purpose and we’re all tied together through His creation and design. “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.” We’re all here as part of God’s plan and purpose and are blessed to live in that Story.

Bottom line is that He owns us. He created us from the moment of conception. He brought us from the womb of our mother to begin life on this planet so we could life in His plan. He designed us and gave us each a unique purpose to live for. He paid a price for us when Jesus went to the Cross and sacrificed His life for us. We are His. Yesterday, today and tomorrow – forever – we are His. We need to live for the Lord. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” We are His, and that’s something we should shout for joy about and revel in that goodness!

Romans 14:1-4

In Romans 14:1-4 Paul begins by exhorting us to take care of those weaker in the faith. We’re to receive and accept them without arguing or debating what they may believe. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” These are words to take seriously. Paul warns us to not make spiritual maturity a requirement for fellowship. We should distinguish between someone who is weak and someone who is rebellious. The weak need our care and nurturing. The rebellious may need correction. There are many reasons why a Christian might be weak:

  • They may be a babe in Christ (babies are weak)
  • They may be sick or diseased (by legalism)
  • They may be malnourished (by lack of good teaching)
  • They may lack exercise (needing exhortation)

Paul uses a person who refuses to eat meat as an example here. “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.” As an example of an opinion that someone weak in the faith may cling to, Paul looks at those who refuse to eat meat for a spiritual reason. Perhaps they refused it because they feared it was meat sacrificed to a pagan god. Perhaps they refused the meat because it wasn’t kosher, and they stuck to Jewish dietary regulations and traditions. This was a hot issue in Paul’s day. There are plenty of issues where some believers believe one way and others believe differently.

When confronted by things where there is no clarity on scripture about how one should act, we need to exercise grace while holding each other accountable to the command to love one another. “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” The veggie eaters were weaker because of their legalistic attitudes and lack of love towards others in Paul’s eyes. Undoubtedly these weak ones did not see themselves as weaker. It’s likely they thought they were the strong ones, and the meat-eaters were the weak ones. Legalism has a way of making us think that we are strong and those who don’t keep the rules the way we do are weak.

Paul reminds us that judging our brother is inappropriate because we are not their masters. It isn’t our place to pass judgment on any fellow Christian. They stand or fall before their own Master, God Himself – and God is able to judge each of us on His terms. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” There is a lot of useless, harmful division among Christians over silly, stupid things. Paul isn’t telling these Christians to erase their differences; he tells them to rise above them as Christian brothers and sisters. God alone is judge. We need to focus on loving one another!

Romans 13:10-14

In Romans 13:10-14 Paul reminds us that love is the measuring stick that we need to stand against – it is how God will look at our life. And that love is to be spread generously to all who are our ‘neighbor’ which Jesus described as a pretty good side bunch of people in His teaching. We are to love one another, and love all, even those who hate us. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Jesus gave us the two commandments that define our mission on this planet. We are to love God first and foremost, and then to love our neighbor as ourself. That is how we meet expectations and fulfill the law.

Paul challenges us to wake up and get after our walk with Him. Because we know the danger of the times and we anticipate the coming of Jesus, we should be more energetic and committed to a walking well with God instead of sleep-walking with Him. “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” It is vital that we wake up! Guzik wrote: “We can do many Christian things and essentially still be asleep in our walk with God – go through the motions if you will. What a difference it makes when we are awake!

  • We can speak when we are awake
  • We can hear when we are awake
  • We can walk when we are awake
  • We can sing when we are awake
  • We can think when we are awake”

We’re in a battle with the enemy – Paul’s been clear about that and scripture is full of stories going back to the Garden of Eden. He uses the illustration of getting dressed in armor. When you get dressed every day, you dress appropriately to who you are and what you plan to do. Therefore, everyday, put on the Lord Jesus Christ! “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We must cast off before we can put on. Spurgeon wrote: “The rags of sin must come off if we put on the robe of Christ. There must be a taking away of the love of sin, there must be a renouncing of the practices and habits of sin, or else a man cannot be a Christian. It will be an idle attempt to try and wear religion as a sort of celestial overall over the top of old sins.” That isn’t what Paul challenges us to do.

Rather he calls out some of the things that we need to deal with. We can’t walk with Jesus and continue to live in sin. Here Paul lists some, but the reality is that every sin gets in the way of having a right relationship with Christ. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” These sins are not appropriate for Christians who have come out of the night into God’s light. We need to put off the old sins and put on Jesus. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  Morris wrote: “Putting on Christ is a strong and vivid metaphor. It means more than putting on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, signifying rather that we need to let Jesus Christ Himself be the armor that you wear.”

Romans 13:6-9

In Romans 13:6-9 Paul begins by tackling one of my least favorite subject – the matter of taxes. Jesus had previously weighed in when He said ‘render to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s’ but Paul goes a little further. Like it or not, there is a sense in which we support God’s work when we do so. “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” We are to give to the state the money, honor, and proper reverence which are due to the state, all the while reserving our right to give to God that which is due to God alone. These are not in conflict, but God’s design is that we have enough for both the government taxes and our tithing to God and His work.

Some may think that cutting corners or even lying to reduce taxes paid is ok. Paul is clear that is not how we should act. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” In light of this, is rebellion against government and their tax system ever justified? If a citizen has a choice between two governments, it is right to choose and to promote the one that is most legitimate in God’s eyes – the one which will best fulfill God’s purpose for governments. But it isn’t right to cheat the government we are under authority to.

Paul goes on to give us instruction on how to live with our neighbors. He gets personal with his instruction – the only “debt” we are to carry is the “debt” to love one another – this is a perpetual obligation we carry both before God and each other. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Paul is not talking about whether or not we can or should borrow from one another. Scripture warns in other places about the danger and obligations of borrowing. But here Paul gives us direction around the one thing we can never truly complete – the command to love one another. That charge can never be fulfilled.

Paul reinforces what Jesus had given to His Twelve as the second commandment – to love your neighbor as yourself. It means we are to love the people we actually meet with and deal with every day. It is easy for us to love in the theoretical and the abstract, but God demands that we love real people. “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is easy to do all the right religious “things” but to neglect love. Our love is the true measure of our obedience to God. And that love needs to be focused on God, and on those in our patch!

Romans 13:3b-5

In Romans 13:3b-5 Paul begins by reminding us that we are called to do what is good. Paul’s idea is that Christians should be the best citizens of all. Even though they are loyal to God before they are loyal to the state Christians should be good citizens because they are honest, give no trouble to the state, pay their taxes, and – most importantly – pray for the state and the rulers. “Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.” How much are you praying for our leaders. Paul describes them as ‘God’s servant’ because they have a place in the plan and administration of God, just as much as church leaders do.

Every leader should remember that they are only servants, and not gods themselves. Sometimes people that are placed in leadership allow power to go to their head and pride takes over. Scripture is clear that pride comes before a fall. And if we don’t keep our emotions in check, and not read our own press or listen too much to compliments, we’ll deal with wrath. It is through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check. When a government fails to do this consistently, it opens itself up to God’s judgment and correction.

Paul references the sword which is a reference to capital punishment. In the Roman Empire, criminals were typically executed by beheading with a sword (crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the lowest classes). Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has no doubt that the state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The government not only had the right, but the responsibility to deal with those who were evil.

After laying the framework for God’s plan for government, he makes a very clear statement. “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” We must be subject to government; not only because we fear punishment, but because we know it is right before God to do so. Obedience is never blind or mindless but is driven by our conscience and the Holy Spirit’s influence in our life. It isn’t something we should do grudgingly and fearfully to avoid God’s punishment, but because it is the right thing to do. Our conscience led by the Spirit will lead to us submission and obedience.

Romans 13:1-3a

In Romans 13:1-3a Paul shifts gears and talks about a believers obligation to government and authority. He makes it very clear right up front that there is an authority that every one of us is subject to: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” He doesn’t leave any room for exceptions. Every person means exactly that. Paul simply says that we should be subject to the governing authorities. There is no qualifier like ‘if they are smart of doing what you like or leading with integrity’. He simply says we need to be subject to them. This was in contrast to groups of zealous Jews in that day who recognized no king but God and paid taxes to no one but God.

So why should we submit to authority? We subject ourselves to governing authorities because they are appointed by God and serve a purpose in His plan. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God uses leaders to accomplish His plan. God appoints a nation’s leaders, but not always to bless the people. Sometimes it is to judge the people or to ripen the nation for judgment. Remember what Paul wrote this during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and certainly no friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

We are not to resist authority. If we do, that is resisting what God has appointed. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” God uses governing authorities as a check upon man’s sinful desires and tendencies. Government can be an effective tool in resisting the effects of sin. We seem to have lost sight of this in America. We treat leaders with little respect and certainly don’t view them as authorities that God has put in place for such a time as this to address what needs to be dealt with. We need to realize that God uses leaders to change things and if we resist, we’ll have to answer for it before Him.

People in places of authority are there for a purpose. Our response should be to submit to their leadership and authority. Does that mean we need to obey everything they say? Unless it violates a higher law – God’s law – the answer is probably yes. Paul didn’t say to be subject to leaders if we agree or like what they do. Their purpose is to guide the world to living rightly. And as such, we need to fall under their authority and understand that they are imperfect humans but put where they are by a God who has a plan. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?”

Romans 12:17-21

In Romans 12:17-21 Paul gives us direction on how to live with one another. He reminds us that revenge is not an acceptable way to treat each other. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. And our actions should be as Jesus would do them – living honorably and publicly for all to see. We need to get along with each other. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It isn’t about living in peace with those we like or can tolerate. Paul tells us to live in peace with ALL. Now it takes two to make peace, but we need to be sure our effort is to do such.

Bad things happen to all of us, and often there is another person or people involved. From my experience many of those bad circumstances and situations aren’t intentional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Paul tells us not to strike back.  His counsel isn’t that we shouldn’t do it most of the time, but he says NEVER. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” We often think that getting even or paying someone back for the pain they cause will make us feel better. It doesn’t. It won’t. And we need to leave it in God’s hands.

But Paul doesn’t stop by telling us to merely let God handle any retribution that might be needed for how people act. He goes much further and challenges us to be like Jesus in all our actions toward others.  “To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Jesus told us the same thing in Matthew 5. We are to love our enemies and treat well those who treat us badly. And before we reject that, we need to realize it is exactly what Jesus did. Not once in a while, but everytime in His life.

Paul tells us that treating our enemy well is like heaping burning coals on his head. At first that may sound like inflicting pain. But Guzik writes “Is the heaping coals of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something bad? It most likely refers to a “burning conviction” that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start their own – an appreciated act of kindness.” In any case, it isn’t causing pain or suffering. Paul ends by telling us “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The reality is that we destroy the relationship of being an enemy by making them our friend. Good always wins out over evil!

Romans 12:13-16

In Romans 12:13-16 Paul continues his exhortation on how we should live out the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to each of us as believers. Our care and concern will demonstrate itself in practical deeds done for others, either going to them (contribute) or inviting them to come to us (hospitality). “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” One of those actions is proactive, while the other more reactive, but both are important. Hospitality is literally translated “love for strangers.” The idea here is to “pursue” people you don’t know with hospitality. This is love in action, not just feelings.

Paul continues with a charge that is extremely difficult to accept – we are to bless those who persecute us. That is 180 degrees different than our normal human reaction, which would be to get even and return the persecution. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” We are not to have a hateful attitude towards anyone, not even towards those who persecute us. But the charge goes even further. We are told not to curse them – not to say bad things or try and deflect their words with our own even more pointed ones. The greatness of the love of Jesus in us is shown in that it can be extended to our enemies.

Paul continues with a simple yet profound statement about rejoicing and weeping. Those are two very different emotions and external outlets of very opposite internal feelings. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We are first of all told to pay attention to others, not just ourselves. Too often we’re consumed with our own situation and not really dialed in to anyone else in our patch. This is how we can fulfill the command to love one another. We are alert and aware and join one another in our current circumstance. It is a simple command to be considerate of the feelings of others instead of waiting for them to be considerate of your feelings.

He continues on telling us to not only tolerate each other, but to live in harmony. When we consider what true harmony is, it isn’t being exactly alike or always agreeing on every subject. But it is treating each other with respect, seeking to understand and truly listening, and even if there is not agreement on every topic or issue, respecting others opinions and keeping the main thing the main thing – that we live harmoniously together. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” Harmony only happens when we are not the center of everything, Pride is what gets in the way and causes us to be separated. We must put others first.


Romans 12:9-12

In Romans 12:9-12 Paul continues giving us direction on how we should live as we exercise the gifts that God gives to us. He starts by telling us that love needs to be genuine. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Of course, love that isn’t genuine isn’t real love at all; but much of what masquerades as “love” in the Christian community can be surface only and not the deep and genuine love Paul is telling us to live. In some ways, it is easier for us to either abhor what is evil or hold fast to what is good rather than doing both. The godly person knows how to practice both.

He continues by telling us more about how to love one another. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is a command, that Christians should not have a cold, stand-offish attitude. We need to treat each other as family, as that’s truly what we are as children of God. As much as anything, a call to simple good manners among Christians. We honor each other by how we treat one another with respect and love. While Paul tells all of us to love each other, he also makes it sound almost like a challenge when he says to ‘outdo one another’. That’s how much effort we should put into the love and affection we need to share.

Paul next exhorts us to serve with all we have and are. We need to minister for God with zeal. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” If we are called to brotherly affection and good manners, we also know that we are called to hard work. The church is no place for laziness. The word translated here for ‘fervent’ is boiling. We are to not be lukewarm or cold in our service to the Lord, but hot, hot, hot to the point of boiling. Elsewhere in scripture (Revelations) we are warned not to be lukewarm but God prefers hot or cold – but the only real option to please Him is boiling hot when it comes to serving.

Paul then gives us three more things we should do as we exercise our gifts. He first reminds us to rejoice in hope. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” The call to hope usually has in mind our ultimate reward with Jesus. Our ultimate hope is the promise of eternity with God and Christ in heaven. Paul says we serve God rejoicing in hope, not rejoicing in results. God alone controls the results. He then exhorts us to be patient as we face challenges. Serving God is not without some struggle. But if we patiently wait on Him, hope will win. And third he tells us to pray constantly. We are commanded to do all these things with an eye towards heaven. It is how we fulfill the command for hope, patience and constant prayer.

Romans 12:6b-8

In Romans 12:6b-8 Paul goes into detail on a list of spiritual gifts that are given to those in the body of Christ. He’s been clear that they come to us through the Holy Spirit’s gift of grace, not because of anything we do or earn. Knowing this should be an insurmountable barrier to pride in the exercise of spiritual gifts. However man, in the depravity of our heart, finds a way to be proud about spiritual gifts and insists on exalting men for how God has gifted them. That’s not God’s intent, and certainly defeats the purpose of the gifts being instrumental in driving unity and growth in the body of Christ as each exercises the grace they have been given manifest through these gifts.

So what are they?  Paul gives us a list of seven in this passage:  if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Let’s look at them in a list:

  1. Prophecy
  2. Service
  3. Teaching
  4. Exhortation
  5. Generosity
  6. Leadership
  7. Mercy

Paul gives some guidance around each of these individual gifts. Prophecy must be practiced in proportion to our faith. God may give us something to say to an individual or church body that stretches our faith. If we can’t prophecy in faith and trust that God has really spoken to us, we shouldn’t do it at all. Serving is how we do ministry. It has in view the broader picture of simply serving in practical ways. Teaching has in mind instruction. It is sharing truth so that others may learn it. Exhortation encourages people to practice what they have been taught; both are necessary for a healthy Christian life. Those who are taught but not exhorted become “fat sheep” that only take in and never live the Christian life. They are like the Dead Sea which has only an input with no output. It becomes a dead place. Those who are exhorted but not taught become excited and active, but have no depth or understanding to what they do and will burn out quickly or will work in wrong ways.

Generosity or giving refers to someone who is a channel through whom God provides resources for His body. This is an important spiritual gift that must be exercised with liberality. When someone who is called and gifted to be a giver stops giving liberally, they will often see their resources dry up – having forgotten why God has blessed them. The gift of Leadership must show diligence. It is easy for leaders to become discouraged and feel like giving up, but they must persevere if they will please God by their leadership. And finally, one with the gift of Mercy needs cheerfulness. It can be hard enough to show mercy, but even harder to be cheerful about it. Remember that these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as God desires, not based on our wants or works.

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