Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

Romans 2

Romans 2 has Paul continuing to lay it out there and confront the thinking of the religious leaders of the day.  “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things”.  Hypocrisy is a never ending challenge for mankind.  We tend to say one thing and do another, or hold people accountable to standards we don’t follow ourselves.  That is not how God does things.  God will judge each of us on our own merits, and on His standard of righteousness.  We will have no excuses.

While judging others may make us feel better, it is futile and takes the focus from where we need to be focused – on our own coming judgment.  “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”.  It may seem like we are climbing higher when we tear others down and judge their actions, but we’re going to stand before God and have to give account.  And there will be no hiding.  “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury”.

Each if us will face God and have to give account for our works.  It won’t matter that our parents did this, or our spouse did that, or our family has been sitting in the same pew on Sunday morning for decades and given lots of money to the church.  God cares about one thing – how we have lived in regard to His standards.  “God shows no partiality”.  There will be no passes.  It will be our life being judged for its own merit based on God’s requirements of godliness, holiness and righteousness.  And the news won’t be good.  “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified”.

Harsh words, aren’t they.  The truth of the matter is that all of us will miss the mark.  Not one of us can enter eternity based on our own efforts.  We are sinners who selfishly live the way we want and do the things we want without obedience to God.  We’ll stand before Him and face that truth.  The only hope we have is to claim His gift of grace – the blood of Jesus who went to the cross to give us a way to cover our sin before a perfect Judge on that day.  It is our only answer to the sin we are all guilty of committing that will ultimately lead to God’s judgment if we don’t have Jesus as our Savior.  Are you ready to stand before God.  Don’t go there unprepared.  Discover the saving grace of Jesus Christ who came that we might be set free from our sin and spend eternity with God!

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Romans 1

Romans 1 has Paul explaining exactly what he is about.  This has to be one of the longest sentences in the entire Bible: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Now that’s a mouthful to say the least.

 

He tells us why he is there and what his mission is to do.  He represents Christ and brings them a greeting. Paul immediately makes it personal with the Roman church.  “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow  by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you”.  Paul has been saying for some time that his bucket list included a trip to Rome, and now he has finally made it, maybe not quite as he had planned, but nonetheless he is there in the flesh.

 

Paul has a mission to fulfill.  “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine”.  Paul has been on a difficult journey.  He’s there to impart some truth and give some gifts, but he also is there to be encouraged.  That is an outcome of true spiritual fellowship – we encourage each other by spending time together. Paul makes it abundantly clear why he’s in town.  “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome”.  He’s got a message to share.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.  The gospel is for all man, and Paul is there to deliver it.  And even if they don’t hear it, God’s made Himself known.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse”.  We are all responsible for what we do with God’s existence and holiness.  He is evident through His creation.  We have to deal with the sin that keeps us from His righteousness.  The answer is Jesus, and that is what Paul is in Rome to preach!

Acts 20:4-38

Acts 20 gives us a picture of Paul’s travel schedule.  He is moving from place to place and on the road continually being faithful to his calling.  A few days here, a few there, but continually listening to the Holy Spirit and moving toward his final trip to Jerusalem knowing that “imprisonment and afllictions await me”.  Is that how you would be living knowing that bad things (at least in the world’s eyes) are just ahead?  Or would you pull a Jonah and run the other way?  I ask myself that question regularly.  Am I living God’s way or do I detour when that path seems to lead me to difficult situations?  Paul had his eye on the mark.  He was doing exactly what he was being led to do.  We should follow that example.

He does not cut short his efforts either.  Paul was with the people and in Troas “he prolonged his speech until midnight”.  No shortened version because the end was coming.  He gave them the full load of words and wisdom.  In fact, it was more than some of the folks there could stay tuned in for.  “A young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead”.  Poor kid couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.  God used this for good as Paul brought the young man back to life, but the thing that amazes me about this story is what Paul does after the slight disruption.  Remember he has already extended his speaking until midnight.  Now a rather major event pops up and totally disrupts things.  Check this out: “he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak”.  Paul doesn’t shut things down because some unexpected major event happens.  In fact it just winds him up for a second wind to keep going – til daybreak.  That is endurance and staying singleminded to the task he was called.  Paul was there on a mission.  He was there to teach the truth.  And nothing derails him from that.  How many of us would sit all night and listen to anyone speak – Paul or not?  I know it would be more than a challenge for me to stay there.  It is tough to get people today to give up an hour for worship on Sunday morning. 

Paul gives us a glimpse of his approach to teaching and sharing the truth here as well.  “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks”.  He taught in public to large groups – so used the one to many approach.  He taught from house to house – so used the one on a few or one to one method too.  Paul wasn’t too big a star to touch people one at a time.  He did what it took to testify to anyone who would listen.  He was not bound by any kind of preconceived approach.  He did what it took to share truth.  And he did it with one goal in mind.  This is how we are effective.  When we come to the same goal as Paul has – we too will be true ministers of the gospel.  “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”.  Is that how you live life?  Focused not on self, but finishing the race and the assignment we have to testify to the gospel.  That is our calling.  We are God’s messenger.  We are His hands and feet.  We are His chosen way to share Jesus.  Are you living like Paul did – totally focused on sharing with those in your patch?  And sacrificing life to expand that patch so you can impact even more people?  That is what we need to do!

Romans 16

 Romans 16 is Paul’s farewell chapter.  He lists dozens of folks he is grateful for.  Who would make your list?  Who has made a difference in the patch you live in for Jesus?  Would you make it onto the lists of any others?  Are you living in a way that matters for Christ?  This list contains a variety of people – but they all have something in common.  They were serving the Lord in a way that impacted Paul.  Faith is personal – it impacts people individually if we are living it God’s way.  We can’t be a Christ Follower and just go through life without making a difference in the lives of those around us.  If we truly live Christ – we will touch people – in meaningful and impactful and significant ways.  And they will notice the touch!

So check out the list of things that Paul calls these folks out around.  There aren’t any great preachers here – no TV evangelists – no powerful ministry leaders.  These are folks who were in the trenches daily serving Jesus.  Look at the things Paul lists as their characteristics:

  • fellow workers
  • risked their necks for my life
  • first convert
  • worked hard
  • fellow prisoners
  • beloved
  • fellow worker
  • approved in Christ
  • belong to the family
  • chosen
  • mother to me
  • brothers

The reality is that Paul lists plain folks like you and me that lived life in a way that made a difference.  We need to take our role as a Christ Follower very seriously.  We have a job to do – it isn’t as simple as showing up on Sunday for an hour of church or serving a meal here or there.  It is a lifestyle of touching people in ways that matter.  Are you living like that?

Paul warns the church as he ends this letter to be careful.  “Watch out for those who cause divisions…..create obstacles contrary to the doctrine….avoid them”.  There is no question that not everyone in the church is there for the right reasons.  We need to pay attention that strife and division does not find its way in.  We need to stay true to the scriptures.  We need to realize that some “do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites…..they deceive the hearts of the naïve”.  But we have to rise above that kind of stuff and answer God’s call to “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil”.  We have to lift ourselves over the petty stuff that gets in the way.  The Body of Christ – His church – is not to be divided.  And when it is – it is not of God’s doing.  It is man’s foolishness.

Paul ends the letter with this benediction.  I will let it speak for itself.  Read it slowly and ponder the power and promises of his words.  We serve an amazing God.  He is able, more than able.  “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ”!

Romans 15

Romans 15 is the start of Paul winding down his letter to the Romans.  He begins by reminding them that they are all part of the Body of Christ and as such have an obligation to each other.  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak…..let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up”.  We don’t live on an island.  God put us in our patch to make a difference.  We are to bear one another’s burdens – to come alongside one another and lift up the load.  We are to build each other up.  We have an important role right where we live to make a difference.  Paul reminds us that “Christ did not please Himself”.  Life is not just about you or I doing what we want without regard to those in our patch.  It is about paying attention to the folks that need our assistance and coming alongside them joyfully.  We are obligated to get involved – not just stand idly by and watch things happen without our involvement.   Easier to look the other way isn’t it.  Easier to be too busy or out of touch?  But God has placed us where we are for a purpose.  We do matter in the lives of others.  We need to take action as He leads us!

Paul continues by challenging the people to live in “harmony with one another….together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ….welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you”.  We are supposed to get along.  We are to be as one in Him.  We are to treat our brothers and sisters warmly as Christ did each of us.  How did He welcome us?  With arms stretched wide – with love that took Him to the Cross to bear our sins – with a commitment to us that caused Him to give His life for us.  Not some wamby pamby handshake and weak smile.  Jesus welcomed us with all He was.  He gave it all for us.  That is the kind of unity and harmony we should have as the Body of Christ.  We should be one.  How can that be?  Paul gives us the answer “by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”.  We can’t do it on our own steam.  Someone will get under our skin.  Someone will irritate us and we will focus on the one or few we struggle to get along with rather than welcoming the rest.  The enemy is good at keeping division and dissention alive within us.  We have to let the Holy Spirit have control and make us one.

Paul reminds them that “I have written to you very boldly” and that is an understatement for this book of Romans.  He has been in our face on a number of very important issues.  But these things have been core to our faith – the basics of salvation – the foundation of how we are to live.  Paul writes about things we probably wish he would have left unsaid because they challenge how we live.  His words require us to face the reality that sin is real and has a price.  His words are clear that failing to deal with sin means death and separation from God.  His words are very clear that Jesus and God’s grace through Christ are the only way to eternal life with the Father.  And he reinforces the truth that there is no excuse – everyone will have to give account for what they have done with Jesus. “Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand”.  There are no free passes.  Everyone has to answer.  What have you done with Jesus?  Even if you don’t clearly understand – that will not be an excuse.  Make sure you have your answer because God will be asking!

Romans 14

Romans 14 contains some strong words from Paul about how we are to treat and live with one another.  We don’t live on an island.  We are part of God’s body and how we live does impact others.  He begins by asking this piercing question: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another”?  We do tend to have a desire to judge each other.  Why is that?  Because we can often justify our own behavior as we compare ourselves with someone else.  It is easier to judge than to clean up our own act.  There is always someone we can compare with and appear to be in a better spot.  But the reality is that we are not judged based on how we measure up with others in our patch.  God measures us in relationship with His standards – and we are going to fall short.  So again Paul says: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother”?  But then comes the clincher: “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God”.  Being better than someone we judge doesn’t matter at all in God’s eyes.  What matters is how we are doing in relationship to God’s expectations of each of us. 

Those expectations begin with the truth that “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God”.  Have you put God where He belongs in your life?  This is pretty clear.  Every person will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord some day.  It won’t be optional, it won’t be a few, it will be all and all of us will put Christ where He belongs.  Along with that “each of us will give an account of himself to God”.  No free passes – no get off the hook cards – we all will have to stand before God and answer for how we lived.  Life matters – we will give an account.  The time to work on that is now – not later. Are you ready to face the God of the universe and explain why you lived as you did?  Have you lived well?

Paul goes on to remind us that we don’t live in isolation.  This is a reality we all need to take a very close look at.  “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself”.  We are part of God’s world, and as Christ Followers, part of His Body – the church.  We don’t get to ignore how our life impacts those in our patch.  In fact – it matters much.  We will have to explain why we did things that caused another to stumble.  We will have to stand before God and try to tell Him why we ignored the impact of our life on those around us.  How we live matters particularly in the Body.  Check out Paul’s words: “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother….if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died”.  Paul uses food as the stumbling block here – but it can be a variety of things. Movies we watch, places we go, people with hang out with – there are lots of things that can cause another to stumble.  We need to realize we have a responsibility to each other.  Our role is to build up the body – to lead others to Jesus – not to cause them to fall by the way we choose to live our own life.

We can argue that it is not our responsibility to make another walk in obedience.  It is true that every individual chooses to sin with their own free will.  But our actions can contribute toward leading another from obedience and that is not ok with God.  “It is wrong for anyone to make another stumble…..or do anything that causes your brother to stumble“.  God takes how we live in community very seriously.  It does matter.  We must not just live how we want without regard to the impact it will have.  We also have to realize how broad our impact can be.  God doesn’t address these statements to those in our family or our church.  It is broad – we are not to make anyone stumble – whether we even know they are watching or not.  And often it is those we don’t realize are paying attention where the damage is done.  Those closer to us may understand our motives – but those who only see what we do may not know the whole context.  Bottom line is – we are very responsible for how we live.  Choose wisely!

Romans 13

Romans 13 deals with the topic of authorities in our life.  Paul addresses a topic that many of us would just as soon avoid.  But God’s truth is clear here – we are to be obedient to those in authority over us – be it government, law enforcement, TSA – whatever has been put in place we need to be obedient to.  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities….there is no authority except from God….those that exist have been instituted by God”.  The command is universal – every person – it applies to all.  The requirement is to be subject to – to obey and follow the direction of – not when we want to or it fits our plan – but in every case.  We are to obey authority.  Does this continue on to relationships at work, for example?  I think other places in scripture would say that God’s plan is for us to obey all people in a position of authority over us.   Nowhere does it say you should obey when you agree with them.  Nowhere does it say you should be subject if it fits your timeline or agenda.  It is simply a directive to be subject to authority.

Paul goes on to say it this way: “do what is good, and you will receive his approval….he is God’s servant for your good….one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience”.  Authority is in place for our good.  God takes it seriously.  We need to be obedient.  And then Paul talks about another aspect of authority – how we handle money in relationship to those in charge.  “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”.  So taxes are not an area we should be messing with – if we owe it we should pay it.  We also need to show respect which can be a bigger challenge than obedience in many ways.  But authorities – whether it feels like it or not – are instituted by God.   And our response cannot be based on our political party or whether we agree with their decisions or not.  It is about obedience to God’s commandments.  We are to be subject to, pay what is owed, respect and honor those in authority.  That can be a rather hard pill to swallow but it is God’s plan!

Paul goes on to say that all the commandments can be “summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  Want to know how to live?  Follow this statement and you will be on the right path most of the time.  We need to love.  We need to realize that “love is the fulfilling of the law“.  How are you showing love to those around you?  Do you love them like you love yourself?  Do you put them in the center of your world and put self out of the limelight.  We need to love others.  Paul tells us that part of doing that is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”.  We lose track of what is important when we spend our time and effort gratifying our own desires.  We need to put off self and put on Jesus.  Then we will truly be able to love as God loved us.  But as long as self is in the middle we will struggle to love God’s way.  Put God in the center – Jesus on the throne – and love others!

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