Service with One Goal

Romans 15 

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1 ESV)

We talked in the last chapter of how we are not be a stumbling block for our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we feel the freedom to exercise certain freedoms in Christ but a brother may look on what you are doing as sin, we should exercise caution in our practices so as not to cause them to sin. Paul is taking this a step further. We are not to just not cause our brother to sin, but we are to use our strength in Christ in order to serve our brother or sister in Christ. We don’t use our Christian walk to serve ourselves only. However, we should use our strength in order to support our brothers and sisters. When we are serving it is not just to please ourselves but to serve with the common good in mind. It is meant to build up the body of believers. 

“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” (Romans 15:3) 

Jesus is our ultimate example and Jesus never did anything to put himself first. We are to do the same thing when we are in a place of service in the church or serving our neighbors or friends and family. We are to always bear in mind others and especially if the others we are serving are not as mature in their faith. 

Paul gives the Romans (and us) a little prayer: 

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6) 

The goals of the church and the goal of ours as Christians is to glorify God with one voice. 

In verses 7-13, Paul is emphasizing his point. We are to “welcome” one another or receive one another just as Christ received us, “for the glory of God”. Jesus earthly ministry was to confirm the promises given in the old testament and Gentiles (we) were brought in so that we could glorify God. Our offerings of service are acceptable to God when the purpose of them is to glorify Him and not to glorify ourselves. Another prayer and blessing ends this section. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

When we are filled with His joy and peace and serve in a way that is only to glorify Him then we will be serving with a common bond. 

The next section (verses 14-21) kind of tickled me just a little. Paul has spent the last 14 chapters laying a lot of tough thoughts down to the Romans. He has given them instruction on how to walk this path of the Christian life, but in this section, he wants to complete his words to them by building them up. Paul is preparing to bring his letters to a close so he wants to remind them. Although he has “written very boldly” to them, he also knows that they are good and they are knowledgeable and that they can instruct each other in these ways. Paul is letting them know his ministerial credentials again and that he is proud to be called by God and that he is a minister to the Gentiles. Paul lets them know that his calling and his desire is to preach the gospel in new places. All ministers and all of us have a calling put on our lives. And it will be different for each of us. Paul makes it clear many times over and over in his letters that his calling was to the Gentiles. 

The last verses of this chapter Paul is simply letting the Romans know of his plans. Paul had plans to visit Rome. But first he had a trip planned to Jerusalem. Paul also asks them to pray for him on his journey. 

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 15:30-33) 

Lord, I pray that as we serve You that You will show us the best way to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord may we never be stumbling blocks, may we only be of service to each other in one thought and one mind with the Spirit so that we will glorify You!

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Romans 14 

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (Romans 14:1 ESV)

Paul is actually talking about the legalist here when he is talking about one who is weak in the faith. The legalist may not think of himself as weak in the faith because in his mind he is keeping all of the law so he is the most religious person in the room. But Paul has, all this time been talking about the legalist. The legalist has their rules and “the law” and their rituals and they may be keeping their list probably mentally and checking it off with what they do that makes them the superior Christian. However, we have seen through this whole book of Romans that Paul is trying to point the Romans to a relationship with Christ and not just a list of rules to keep. Paul talks in the first part of this chapter about food. Which may not mean much to us this day and time but to the Christians and the Jewish people of Paul’s day there were lots of rules regarding food and what was clean and what was unclean and what you should eat when and what you couldn’t eat. And while Paul is trying to let the Roman Christian know that there is nothing off limits to him, if he is causing his brother to stumble who may still be struggling with those rules and regulations then that is sin. And to me it also appears that not only were they partaking of It but they were arguing over it.  Paul wants them and us to realize that we should live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. And that leaves no place for arguments and judgment. 

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. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:6-7)

In other words, we are walking this Christian path and while we are all on the same path, we are all at a different place on our path. For the person who has been walking their path for a long time, they may have way more freedom in Christ than the person who has not been walking very long at all. For instance for some people when they first become a Christian they have so many things that they may be worried about that they have to become so tight in their walk with the Lord so as to keep temptations at bay.  Whatever works for them is what is right for them. While the one who has walked in freedom for a long time may have lain down some of the struggles of their early walk. However, it is the job of the more mature Christian to make sure that their freedom in Christ does not become a stumbling block to the one younger in the faith. 

In the same vein, It appears some of the Romans were passing judgment on each other because of the different journeys they were each on. It is not our place to pass judgment on each other as Christians, however it is our job when we see people young in their faith to make sure we are pointing them toward faith and not just rules. But in the end: 

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) 

Recapping along with Paul in verses 13 – 16 Paul is telling them there is nothing unclean for them unless it is causing their brother to stumble. While Paul is talking about food here there are any number of things that we could put in the place of food. Let’s not forget that. Paul is stating here if what you are doing brings doubts and questions to your brother in Christ then yes, it does become sin for you. 

“So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17).

Paul is saying stop arguing about the food. Just consider your brother in Christ! The goal here is to serve Christ. We should regard our fellow man in all that we do, whether it be eating or drinking or what we may watch or whatever else. If someone young in the faith has a struggle with something, mature Christians are supposed to consider their struggles more than their own desires. This is the way we serve Christ. 

“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” 

Paul ends with this blanket statement. If there is doubt, if you are troubled by something and questioning it in your heart then likely it isn’t faith, and likely it is sin. And the struggle taking place is, by the way, the Holy Spirit guiding. 

Oh Lord help us to hear you when you are letting us know if something is sin. Quicken our hearts and minds to hear your voice. 

Love does no Harm

Romans 13

Paul told us in Romans 12 that we were not to seek personal revenge. This chapter tells us that it is the job of the authorities who are in control to bring judgment. God places people in control and God ordains that there be governing authorities to be in control. Therefore it is our job as Christians to submit to authority.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Ouch! There are a lot of people in our world today who do not agree with this concept. If they do not like the way the governing authorities act, they think that they can just denounce the governing authority. We truly must not mistake though that sometimes the governing authorities are put in place for blessing and sometimes it is to bring about judgment. When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans they were not under a democracy and the government there was not necessarily a friend to Christians. However, Paul still wanted the Romans to recognize that their job when it came to government was to submit to government and that not submitting brings judgment on themselves. Paul also says in this passage if you do what is right and you should be good.

“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Romans 13:3)

This is not to say that there are not crooked people in authority or that everyone who has authority is handling things right. But what it is to say is that it is our jobs to handle ourselves. God can bring his own kind of judgment down on the one who is doing wrong and don’t you doubt for a minute that he certainly will.

So what do we do with all the unrest and the hate and the rhetoric of today. The same thing Paul told the Romans to do.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

We are supposed to love others. No matter if we agree with everything they say or not. We are to love. Even when we can’t understand their side of the story. We are to love. Even when we don’t like their side of the story. We are to love. If we love our fellow man and woman, then the rest will fall into place. You can’t do wrong to your neighbor if and when you are operating out of love.

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10)

Paul is ending this chapter stating that he believes the hour is nearer for salvation than “when we first believed.” And while thousands of years has passed since he wrote this it definitely still holds true simply because of the passage of time. I keep hearing people prophesying that we are in the end times and it is drawing near. Make no mistake every breath you take gets us one breath closer to end times. Every breath we take gets us one breath closer to death. But while God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and they share the same thoughts and the same actions. Jesus told us himself that only God knows when that time will happen. (Matt. 24:36)

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:14)

I just want to live as close to Jesus as I possibly can every single day so that He is as close to me as the clothes on my body so that I will walk in the right. That is my desire.

Oh lord, teach us the way we should walk. When we get frustrated with the governing authorities in our life, remind us that you put them there and that you will handle that. Show me how to love my neighbor so as to not even consider doing wrong to him. Clothe me in your love today Lord Jesus and I will let you worry about tomorrow!

Live Peaceably

Romans 12

I love worship! It is my favorite thing about being in church! I love being with God’s people and singing to God and raising my hands to Him. In praise, in prayer, even in desperation sometimes. My soul finds healing when I worship! Paul takes worship a step further in the first verse of this chapter. 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Paul is appealing to the Romans to give of themselves and he tells them that in the giving of themselves that it is an act of worship. Have you ever thought of it that way? I think I have but then I forget to continue to think that way. What I think Paul is saying here is that when we give ourselves fully to God, pursuing righteousness and holiness the best way we know how that is when we are presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice. That is when we are holy and acceptable. I think it also means doing the things God has called us to do. In other words, when we are trying our level best that we know how to live completely for God, that it is holy and acceptable and that God will see that as our spiritual worship. It’s not just about singing songs and/or lifting our hands. It is our day to day. Paul went on to say: 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

This is another favorite verse of mine and it is again so fitting and relevant for today’s times. There is a whole lot going on in the world today. Quite truthfully, I think it would be exhausting to even try to be conformed to the world today. You have a new and different belief and opinion on every street corner. That is one reason I think the renewal of our mind and the discernment of the will of God is so important for us. We must all get with God and see how He wants us to live and believe and how we can move forward with everything that is happening. How does He want me to stand in these strange times. 

Verses 3 – 8 address the gifts of grace given to each of us. Paul is telling us not to think too highly of ourselves. He is telling us that everyone has a place and a role in this Christian body. Just like all the parts of your body have a job to do, the same with the body of Christ. We all have a job to do and the gifts we have to offer back to the body of Christ will differ according to the grace that is given to us. God will gift us each differently, but He will expect us to use those gifts accordingly. 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

Our love for others must be genuine. One thing I notice here is many times Paul may say to the Romans and to others in his letters, “I appeal to you”. In those cases it is almost like Paul is making a request but here he just tells them “let love be genuine”. There is no other option. We must love others with a brotherly love. But what about the person that is not living right or has been ugly or has persecuted you in some way or another? 

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14)

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.’ 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.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

Paul has told us, we don’t just love those who are loveable or good to us, we also must love our enemies and those who persecute us. Make no mistake here if someone is evil to God’s children, then God will avenge His children. Our job is to love them. You’ve often heard “kill em with kindness”. That is what we are supposed to do. Leave the wrath and the vengeance to God and we love them. Sounds so simple right? I know it’s not. Believe me I know it’s not. Which is why I have to meet with Him daily to do my best to handle things in a way that will be holy and acceptable to Him. 

Oh Lord, please help us to love others, even, especially the unloveable. Lord help us to overcome evil with good and to leave the vengeance up to You! I love you so dear Lord and I want to live in a way that is holy and acceptable to you! 

Grafted in!

Romans 11

In this chapter Paul will continue to enlighten the Romans (and us) on his feelings for the Israelites. First he clarifies that he is not saying that God has rejected the Israelites. “By no means! (v1) He gives his own credentials as an Israelite. Then he goes back in scripture to Elijah and how he appealed to God against Israel. And God’s reply. 

“But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:4-5)

Back in the days of Elijah, God worked through a remnant. Paul is pointing out when he says “at the present time” that in his days God was working through a remnant of people of which Paul was one of them. This makes me think that God can work through a remnant of people today as well. I know He can, you know He can but oh how comforting it is to see that He has in the past through scripture. At least to me it is, it deepens my faith to look back and see that He has in the past so that I know He will do it again. 

“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but he rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day’ And David says ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see and bend their backs forever.’ (Romans 11:7-10)

My commentary stated that a “spirit of stupor” could be translated as “an attitude of deadness towards spiritual things”. Do we see that attitude in our world today? I think so. It seems that people in general do not want to look at things spiritually. There are so many movements against conservative values and christians that you could certainly say there is an attitude of deadness. I had never thought of the fact that God could be giving them this attitude. It feels like persecution to us, and it is. It seems there is a world feasting on their own ideas and their own abundance. The commentary pointed out that the Israelites were so secure in being God’s chosen people that they were blind to their salvation standing right in front of them. Their blindness was what ruined them. Just a thought, is the security that some people feel in their own abilities and the ridicule that they have and feel toward the christian faith going to be their ruin? 

“So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:11-12)

Salvation was brought to the Gentiles because of Israel’s rebellion. Paul says here we gained our salvation so as to make Israel jealous for it. A thought here, are we living and walking in faith in such a way as to make someone jealous for what we have? That is what we are supposed to be doing. We should be walking in the way that will make Israel and anyone that doesn’t know God jealous for what we have. Not jealous in a bad way, but jealous in a “wow I want what she has!!!” 

We as Gentiles were grafted into the vine. Paul gives the example that the olive tree had some of it’s branches broken off and the wild olive shoot was grafted in among the others. In other words some of God’s chosen people were “broken off”. They did not believe and therefore God’s word was brought to the Gentiles so that we could be grafted into the fellowship of believers. Paul is also stating how God has worked through this remnant to bring salvation to us but how much more when they do come to belief will be done! We must not get haughty and arrogant about these facts. 

“do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root the supports you. Then you will say, “branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in, That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. (Romans 11:18-20)

We have to remember it is not our place to stand in our christian faith as if we are superior to others of this world. As said before, we are to live in such a way that makes others want what we have. (Ouch) Do we do that? Or are we guilty of looking down our spiritual noses at those who don’t have the faith as if we are better than they. We have to remember a tree without deep roots will fall when the winds get tough. It is the roots that support our christian faith not the other way around. 

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’” (Romans 11:25-27)

Make no mistake God has a plan for Israel. Paul is explaining it in the last part of this chapter. Paul tells the Romans that even though it seems the Israelites are enemies of God because they were against Jesus yet they are still the beloved of God. God has not given up on Israel. We received mercy from God because of their disobedience but they will also receive mercy from God. Paul is basically in the last few verses stating that we can’t and never will be able to understand God’s plan for His chosen people fully. 

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

Lord we praise you and we thank you for grafting us into the vine. Oh Lord, help me to live in such a way that will make others jealous for what I have in you. 

Faith is Hearing!

Romans 10

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romand 10:1-4 ESV) 

This chapter also starts with Paul’s heart for the Israelites. He lets it be known that it is his his “heart’s desire” and that he prays for them to know God. He also says here they are a zealous people for God, but he is pointing out that they are religious and that well they are legalistic. They work hard at keeping the law but they do not believe in Christ who is the fulfillment of the law. 

As the chapter goes on he is talking to them about how Moses wrote about the righteousness based on the law. That doing the commandments and living by them was how a person would obtain righteousness. But that is not righteousness based on faith. Righteousness based on faith does not have to work at it but only has to believe and confess. 

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-9)

I found it interesting that Paul mentions confessing with your mouth before he mentions believing in your heart. The two go hand in hand but they definitely go together. I know people who proclaim to be a christian but they don’t necessarily live as if they believe in their heart. For example they may worry and fret over something to the point of making everyone around them miserable but they say they are a Christian and yet they do not exercise faith that He is leading and guiding them in a situation. (I’ve been guilty of that for sure)  Or they may say they are a christian yet they are allowing a lot of stuff into their mind and heart that is not very Christlike. 

“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:10)

Salvation is a matter of the heart and of the mouth. It is not about keeping the rules and checking off the list and making sure that you do this or that you don’t do that. It’s not how hard you work at it. I do think that as you fall in love with Jesus and as you let Him lead you that He has purpose for us all. And we will work for Him, but that work is not compelled out of a worry of not getting it right, but out of love for Him. And for others, wanting them to know what we found. 

The last part of this chapter is about taking the Word to others, about preaching the gospel Paul is asking and observing that preachers must be sent out both by God and by the community of believers. 

“And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:15)

The thought that crossed my mind is that God takes very seriously those he calls to preach His gospel. Which in a way is all of us. We may not all be called to stand in a pulpit and preach but we are all preaching His gospel in our own way if we are believers. By the way we live our life, by the way we talk, by the faith we exhibit. We must be putting in His word to build our faith in order to let our lives preach the way He would have us to. 

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

We have to, they have to hear the Word of Christ to build faith!

Paul finishes this chapter again lamenting over Israel. He points out the prophet Isaiah who prophesied that they would miss it. (vv 18-21)

Do you have someone that it is your heart’s desire that they would know Him? Let’s follow Paul’s example and keep on praying for them. And then let your life preach to them. And then confess things, good things, good news with your mouth to them. And keep praying that they will come to faith in Him. Build our faith so that we may show them the way to theirs. 

It’s all about Faith

Romans 9

Paul took us to the pinnacle of God’s glory in chapter 8.  He has convinced us that nothing can separate us from God’s love and that He works for our good! But now, Paul is lamenting in chapter 9 over his fellow Israelites. Namely that the Israelites for the most part have missed Messiah. He had even gone so far in v. 3 to say I would cut myself off if only it would mean they would accept Christ. Paul is highly upset that the Israelites have so much going for them yet they missed it.

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)

He is clearly upset that they had all the signs and wonders and are God’s chosen people yet they do not believe. Paul goes on to point out though that it is not that God that has failed the Israelites but that the Israelites were the ones not believing God. They had the opportunity but they just didn’t get it. 

“This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:8)

The commentary I read pointed out that that one meaning of the name Israel is “governed by God”. What Paul is saying here is that those who are not governed by God are not really the children of God. This is where the children of the promise comes in. The children of the promise are the ones who are governed by God. Paul is showing that merely being a descendant saves no one. Hmm. I know that Paul is talking about the Israelites but could this be translated to today also? In that just having christian parents or a christian background does not mean you are saved.

Paul also points out that God chose Jacob over Esau even though Esau was the firstborn. God told Rebecca this would be the way things were even before the children were born so this has nothing to do with the actions of Jacob and Esau. 

We can’t understand God’s choices any more than Paul could. However, Paul was hanging on to who God is for his understanding.  

“What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” (Romans 9:14-15) 

God does what He does and shows mercy or raises up or whatever for His glory. We can’t think or know or understand why He does what He does. This reminds me of Isaiah 55:8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.’ 

“For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” (Romans 9:17)  

We were created for God’s glory, plain and simple. Our main purpose is to magnify Him and to make His name famous. And sometimes that is shown through His mercy and His grace and His goodness and sometimes that is shown in hardship and trial and hurt. Unfortunately it is true that not all will be saved. Paul says of Israel only a remnant will be saved (v. 27). 

It all comes down to faith. 

“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why/ Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”  (Romans 9:30-33)

Oh Lord please don’t let us be put to shame. Lord I pray that we live in such a way that your name will be glorified and magnified and proclaimed in all the earth. I pray Lord that my faith will be known in such a way that only points to you! 

Nothing Separates!

Romans 8 

This chapter starts out with probably one of my most favorite verses in the Bible. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Even after you become a christian your thought patterns and your memories can try to convict you. Satan tries to convict you about what you have done in the past. The habits of sin are still there and have to be worked on. I’ve seen people who become a Christian and it’s like Satan “ramps up” his attack on them and the habits and sinful thoughts feel harder to break. That to me is what is so very important about this verse. We have to know that once we are in Christ we are free from the law of sin and death. But we have to walk in that freedom. We have it but there are people not walking in it. I have not always walked in it. Paul explains here that Jesus came to earth in the likeness of sinful flesh (us) and He took care of sinful flesh when He died on the cross. He fulfilled what the law could not fulfill. The law, while a very important guide to us, is weak in that we can never 100 percent follow that law and be wholly reconciled to God. Without the help of the Holy Spirit living in us we would always fall back into the sinful flesh. 

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6) 

What does it mean to live according to the Spirit. Well look at the verse you have to start in your mind. It is your choice what you set your mind to. Are you going to set your mind to things of the flesh or are you going to set your mind to things of the Spirit? It does take a little work on your part. But when you look at the fact that Jesus did the hard work, I mean really look at it. He was crucified on a cross. He took the stripes across His back for us. Then you look at the fact that all we have to do is “tap in” so to speak to what He has already freely given. Set your mind on things of the Spirit. 

“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!” (Romans 8:15) 

We are adopted into the kingdom, not as outsiders but as sons and daughters of the King. We get full rights as a child of God and we get to call him Abba! Father! How exciting is that?! Those of us who are parents know that our children can do nothing to make us stop loving them. They may do things we don’t like, they may not always follow our teaching the way we would want them to but there is nothing that keeps us from loving them EVER! Well it is the same with God! Once we have become Christians, when we are walking in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit we are living in the full benefit of being a child of God! 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

As much as I love Paul at times, he sure can be a killjoy too. Here he was talking about how we get to call God our Daddy and gets us all excited and he turns on a dime to talk about suffering again. My mind sure can want to shut down. I was all excited and then there is that word suffering coming up again. But the commitment to keep digging kept me reading and this really does lead us to some of my favorite verses. (I guess you’ve noticed I have a lot of favorites.) But what Paul is revealing is that we are all going to have suffering in this life. There are going to be times that we just quite frankly would rather not do. There will be medical diagnosis, there will be job losses, there will be marriages and families who suffer. There will apparently be pandemics, (we didn’t see that one coming did we?) But in Jesus we have hope. 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) 

Have you ever been there? Boy I have! This life is hard and sometimes, actually many times I just don’t know what I am supposed to be praying. What is the end result that I want to come out of my circumstances. Sometimes you just have to pray ~ “God, just be God here!”  Because I know that He sees the big picture and He knows what the end result should be and what would be best for me and what will bring Him glory. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

When you love God and you are walking in His Spirit, you can know that God is going to work things for your good. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good getting there. Sometimes living in the pandemic is not necessarily fun. I am tired of it, I want my normal back, I want to go to sporting events and I want all of my people back at church every Sunday. But I can also look at the blessings I have received from the pandemic and know that God worked some of the things in this thing for my good. This is a go to verse for me when I just don’t see the best way for things to work out, (which is pretty much all the time). 

The last part of this chapter is pretty glorious! Paul asks and answers several questions. 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33) 

Paul goes on to ask who can separate us from the love of Christ? Not our troubles, not our distress, not our persecution, not famine, not dangers. 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) 

I think Paul just about covered it all here. Don’t you? 

God, praise you that nothing separates us from you. God you know the big picture! You know the end of the story! God please work it for our good! And God thank you that I get to call you Daddy! 

Freedom from the Law

Romans 7

Paul is using the laws of marriage as an example of dying to the law and belonging to Christ. The laws of marriage are only binding as long as a person lives. When a man and woman are married and one spouse dies the other spouse is released to marry again. They are free from that law. In the same way Paul is saying if you have accepted Christ you are no longer bound to the law but you belong to Christ because your old self died through the blood of Jesus. You are released from the law. 

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” ( Romans 7:6)

Many people may not understand this and in some ways it feels contradictory. The law was given to us as a gauge to sin, we have already talked about that. So how do we reconcile all of this thought and rhetoric about the law and sin and what we should and shouldn’t do. I have often said many times. This christian life is not about a list of rules and regulations nor a list of dos and don’ts. Yes there is a Mosaic law that we should pay attention to but the fact is we can never live up to the expectations of that list. The most important thing is Jesus! And that my friends is what Paul is saying here. 

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said. ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7) 

The law was given to us before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins so that the people of Israel could know what to steer from. But in some ways the law is enticing too to our own sinful nature. You know how there are some children you can tell not to touch the hot stove all day long but by golly because you told them not to they are going to touch it. It’s like Eve in the garden of Eden. She had to have the fruit from the forbidden tree just because she was told she couldn’t have it. What do we say about that? Sometimes knowing something is forbidden makes it more enticing to us than if we didn’t know it. But Paul also points out that it is not the law that is sin or bad but what it does is magnify our sinful nature. 

“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

The law itself is good, but it’s what lives inside of us, the sinful nature that is bad and it shows us all of the things we do that are in the flesh and not of the spirit. I listen to a few podcasts. One of them is Annie F. Downs – Annie and Eddie Keep Talking. Annie has coined the phrase on this podcast, “Let me back up and be the person I wish I were.” I have used that a couple of times lately. I confessed that my mouth gets me in trouble a lot. And sometimes it’s because I don’t think before I speak and sometimes it’s because I have been dwelling on something that hurt my feelings or made me mad. At any rate there are times when I spew things out of my mouth that when I think about it later, I wish I could back up and be the person I wish I were. I think that is what Paul may have been feeling when he penned these verses. 

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very think I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15-20) 

Was that confusing enough? Paul is basically saying I know what I want to do but in my human flesh I cannot carry it out. He ends with the question and the answer. 

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25) 

Lord, help me to be the person I wish I was. Help me to control my thoughts and my tongue. Lord help me to think on the things that are yours. Help me to use your law as a gauge but to listen to the Holy Spirit as my guide! 

Wages of Sin

Romans 6

In chapter 5 Paul stated that where sin abounds grace abounds even more. Fearing that some of the christians in Rome would feel that was a license to sin Paul goes on in chapter 6 to explain this further.  “By no means!” I love when scripture puts that in emphatically, I always make sure I understand what the earlier statement was because he has put such emphasis on it. The question in verse 1 was “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” “By no means!” The Passion translation puts it “What a terrible thought!” Yet in Paul’s day that was apparently a problem and it is a problem with some even today. There are people who think they can live however they want even after they have become a christian but Paul shows here and as we unpack it I think we will see that when you have accepted Jesus you may not immediately change your ways but God is not going to leave you alone in habitual sin. 

First of all becoming a christian is identifying with Jesus in his death and it is identifying with Him in his resurrection. We are to crucify our old self so that we are no longer a slave to sin. This doesn’t mean you will never sin again. That can’t happen until we go home to glory with Him. But what it does mean is that you will not be comfortable in that sin. I believe there are people who remain in sin even after they give their life to Christ but the point is they are not walking in the freedom that a life in Christ brings. Sin is not the boss of you!  

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:10-11)

Paul’s point here is do not let sin reign in your life. It is such a shame that so many Christians are not walking in the freedom that God has for us, but as Paul says it, are slaves to sin. Being enslaved to something or someone means it masters you. If you are enslaved to sin, the Devil will have you thinking that you can’t change or this is just the way you are, the way you were made and you can’t change it. But I also truly believe that if you accepted Jesus you can’t be comfortable in it. Ok, I’m preaching to the choir here. I have things that I struggle with, characteristics that my thought process will head toward immediately in certain circumstances. My mouth gets ahead of me, I can be quick to anger, I talk more than I wish I did many many times. I can’t excuse that behavior even though it is a part of my natural make up. But what I can and what I try to do is to bring it to the cross and ask God to change my thought processes and to fix me. I don’t want to have a short fuse, I do, but that is no excuse if I am walking in the light of His love and what He did for me. It bothers me. He has not let me excuse it as that’s how He made me. I have to bring it to Him and ask His help with it. And when I react in a more loving way I think of that as a little victory. That doesn’t mean I will never do it again, but it does mean that I won a small battle in my human flesh by laying it down. There are other things that someone else may be struggling with. But we do not have to walk in those struggles. We get to walk in His righteousness and to present our bodies and our lives as a living sacrifice to Him. 

The bottom line is you are either going to be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. I for one would rather live as a slave to righteousness. But there are a lot of people who think that is no fun and that being a slave to sin is more fun and where the good times are. However, I know no one who remains a slave to sin that death and destruction do not reign eventually. 

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)

Satan loves to wrap sin up in fun, he loves to make it shiny and bright so that we think that is where we want to live. Jesus gives us grace to just be and to work on things that make us uncomfortable and to serve and love Him. The reward at the end of a life with Jesus is eternal life. I think there are going to be a few people who knew Him but didn’t live in the light of Him who get that. The day to day rewards are what I don’t want to miss out on. The grace, the peace, the hope that walking with Him day to day brings me. 

Lord, help us to live in your grace. Help us to be slaves to your righteousness and not slaves to sin. Show each of us what our next step to walking with you will be.