Posts Tagged ‘Arlin Sorensen’

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 28

Acts 28 begins with the shipwrecked crew and passengers figuring out that they had crashed on Malta.  The native people opened their island to them.  “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand”.  Paul is helping make some warmth and a poisonous snake attacked him.  “When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live”.

They knew that the bite of a viper was deadly, so they were just handing around to watch Paul die.  “But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god”.  That’s not how things went.  You get bit, you die.  But Paul obviously had God’s hand upon him.  Paul had a chance to heal the father of the leader on the island, which opened the floodgates to any who were sick.  After three months or so, they board a vessel that has been docked there to continue their journey to Rome.

They finally get to the destination.  Some Christ Followers hear of Paul’s arrival and go to greet him.  “On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage”.  Sometimes we just need to see a friendly face.  Paul is excited to see some folks who weren’t out to kill him for a change, but wanted to spend time with him.  He arrives and asks to meet with the Jews to explain why he was there.  “But because the Jews objected, I was compelled  to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against  my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of  the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain”.  He’s come all this way to appeal his case, and the Jews in Jerusalem didn’t even know what he was talking about.

So Paul asks for the opportunity to tell them, and to share the Good News of Jesus.  “From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to  the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets”.  Paul has yet another chance to tell his story.  Some got it, some did not.  “And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves”.   Paul again manages to put the Jewish leaders on different sides of the table.  That allowed him to stay and live his life. “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance”.  He spends two years preaching Jesus in Rome without any interference.  That’s success!

Acts 27

Acts 27 has Paul boarding a ship to be transferred to see Caesar as he had requested.  It was no short voyage, and the winds did not cooperate and their progress was slow and did not move them quickly enough on the journey.  They had many difficult days battling wrong winds and slow progress.  But they weren’t willing to give up. Paul tells them “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives. But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said”.  Paul obviously has the right answers, but they wouldn’t listen to them.

Things are not going well.  “Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.  They try with all their might to save themselves.  “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned”.  But their efforts are coming up short.  All that they were doing just wasn’t enough.  They are failing to save themselves in their own strength.  But its what we do as humans.  We put God on the sidelines until we are so far over our head we see no other way.

Then Paul takes charge.  “Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to  take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told”.  Paul first reminds them that he told them exactly what was to happen, but now, since all their efforts have failed, it is time to trust God.

There is fear amongst the crew so they make plans to leave the ship.  Again Paul steps in.  “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved”.  God’s plan is not common sense in the eyes of the crew.  But they listen to Paul.  “Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go. As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for  not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you”.

Those were some pretty bold words.  But the crew listened and ate.  This wasn’t a small boat.  “We were in all 276 persons in the ship”.  Paul isn’t saving his own skin here.  There are hundreds of people at risk. They throw more of the cargo off but and then see a beach in a bay and decide to try to run the ship ashore there.  They strike a reef and fail to get all the way.  “The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan”.  They all make it ashore and are saved because they listened to Paul.

Acts 26

Acts 26 has Paul now making his case to Agrippa.  “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews”.  Paul again makes it clear that he hasn’t been living under a rock, but very publicly for many years.  “They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee”.  Paul takes Agrippa back to his life as a Pharisee, reminding him that he was part of the very strictest of groups. “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day”.

“And for this hope I am accused by Jews”.   Paul makes it clear that he is being persecuted because he has been looking forward to the Savior that is described in scripture, which is exactly what a God fearing Jew should be looking for.  But it wasn’t always that way. “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth”. Paul reminds us that he took action on Christ Followers:

  • “locked up many
  • put to death
  • punished them often
  • persecuted them even to foreign cities”

Paul definitely wasn’t a follower of Christ his entire life.  But then he met Christ personally, and his life was changed forever, so Paul goes on speaking and shares the testimony of his life.  Then he makes clear what God wants him to do.  “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness….to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me”.  Jesus calls Paul to share the gospel with all that he would see.

Then he makes clear what was happening in his current circumstance.  “For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me”.  Festus accuses Paul of being mad, but Paul says that is not true.  “I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner”.  Paul has lived his life openly and many have seen the change he has made from a man consumed with killing Christians to becoming a man whose life was changed by Jesus, leading him to now bear testimony to the shed blood of Christ.  King Agrippa, after hearing Paul’s story, says ”This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment”.  But since Paul had appealed to Caesar, he couldn’t be released.

Acts 25

Acts 25 has Paul saga continuing as he works his way through the Roman political system in an effort to tell the story of Jesus.  You may recall that Felix had retired and passed the torch to Festus who is now in leadership.  “The chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way”.  New guy in charge so the Jews try and get a favor from Festus, but he isn’t buying their plot which he has been warned of.

Festus decides to keep Paul safe and sound and again gives him opportunity to tell his side of the story.  “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense”.  Paul knows he is innocent.  But Festus offers Paul the opportunity to go to Jerusalem and be tried which Paul declines.  “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them”.

Paul again plays his Roman citizen card. “ I appeal to Caesar.””  Enough of this local political tug of war.  Why not just go right to the top and state the case there.  Festus agrees as he knows he is on thin ice if he allows the Jews to do what they want.  “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go”.  So Paul heads back to jail and safety while awaiting a trip to Rome so he can make his case before the ruler of all.  But as he waits, King Agrippa comes to town for a visit.  This gives Paul yet another leader to share his testimony with.

Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in”.  Paul has been before a growing number of Roman authorities, each time telling the story of Jesus and what has happened in his life. Festus tells Agrippa “I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to  the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him….For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him”.  So Paul gets put aside yet again to wait for a hearing before King Agrippa.  God continues to give him a platform from which to tell the story of His encounter with Jesus!

Acts 24

Acts 24 has Paul in prison under Felix’ protection.  “After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus”.  This guy was a lawyer very schooled in Roman law, a slick speaker who could impress judges.  He was brought along to try and frame Paul. He gets in front of Felix and makes his accusation.  “For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him….By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him”.

Not a very strong case as to why the Roman leader would want to take any action.  Then Felix allows Paul to speak.  “You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city”.  This big disruption his accusers talk about had to have happened fast.  Paul makes it clear he has only been in town for less than two weeks.  Accusation one put to bed.  “Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me”.  Paul makes it clear, they have no case.

That is, except as it comes to Jesus.  “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect,  I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust”.  Paul says ‘I’m guilty of believing what scripture says and the Savior it proclaims.  Then he makes clear what this is all about.  “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day”.

Felix obviously isn’t at his first powder keg situation.  “Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.  He knows Paul is innocent but decides to kick the can down the road rather than set him free and endanger his life.  The Jews weren’t about to let this drop.  So Felix does the next best thing in his mind, retain him and treat him very well.  “Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs”.  House arrest for the most part – protection but most of his freedom.

Paul had the opportunity to share with Felix and his wife Drusilla about Jesus.  It hit Felix who was ‘alarmed’ by what Paul shared.  Felix hoped “that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him”.  Best case for Felix was that Paul would buy his freedom and leave the country.  But Paul doesn’t.  “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison”.  Paul sticks out his prison stay to the next ruler – Festus – who now inherits the challenging situation.

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