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Monday, August 30, 2010

Roaming Through Romans (Chapters 15 and 16)

Roaming Through Romans
Chapters 15 and 16

Romans 15:7 reads: “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” And Romans 15:1 and 2 tell us: “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”

Here we have it again. It’s all about our love and acceptance of one another in Christ. It’s so important to the Lord that we love each other. It means so much to Him when we receive one another as He has received us. And He waits and hopes that we bear with each other’s weaknesses as He bears with us. That we built each other up and respect one another. These issues are so close to our Lords’ heart. And we find it so easy to let Him down.

This month I have had the sorrow of watching a loving Christian family be torn apart. – Mother-in-law against son-in-law, mother against daughter, and son against mother. False accusations abound, and everyone is hurt. My heart has been broken just watching and the Lords’ heart has been broken too. Satan wants to break up families and shut down loving communications. God calls us as His children to help loved ones stay connected, to pray for reconciliation, and to bear with the scruples of the weak.

All through the Bible God calls us to love and accept one another as He has loved and accepted us. And He continues His call for acceptance and love in these last chapters of Romans. Romans 15:5 tells us that our comforting and patient God will grant us the grace to be like minded with one another. It reads: “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” I would think that we have to want this help from God, this ability to be like minded to others. God won’t force it on us if we harden our hearts towards those we don’t like and don’t want to change.

I like to believe that Romans 15:5 is telling us that God is patient with us when we are having misunderstandings with loved ones and acquaintances. And that He is a God of comfort who will comfort us when we are having personal problems with others and give us grace for those difficult people, if we ask for that grace. And if we are in the wrong and are acting in an unloving manner, God is patient with us and will change us to act lovingly if we let Him.

Sometimes we find it difficult to forgive those who have sinned against us. It’s at such a time that we have this comfort from God. He promises here in Romans to give us a special gift that will enable us to be like minded and forgiving towards the people who are against us. Next time we have an argument, let’s take what God is offering us, -His comfort and His gift of granting us the ability to be like-minded with the opponent. We don’t have to agree with our opponents but with Gods’ help we can at least see their point of view and forgive them.

We have finally come to the last chapter of this marvelous book of Romans, chapter sixteen. This last chapter begins by introducing Phoebe to the Roman congregation. According to many scholars it was Phoebe who carried Paul’s written book of Romans to the congregation in Rome. Paul calls Phoebe a servant of the church and a sister who has been a helper of many. Paul continues in this last chapter, naming many of the Roman believers and sending them personal messages and greetings.

Then he instructs the church in Rome to avoid anyone who causes divisions or offenses that are contrary to the doctrine. Romans 16:17 reads: “Now, I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” It’s so easy for false doctrine to creep into the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Lord through Paul reminds us here in Romans sixteen to defend our precious faith and stay away from those who would tear it down.

Paul continues in verse nineteen: “…but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” This isn’t the first time that God’s Word has instructed us to be simple concerning evil. Ephesians 5:12 says: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” And 1 Corinthians 14:20 states: “Brothers, stop thinking like children, In regard to evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” What do these verses mean? Could it mean that Christians should be mature in their faith but not try to become experts about all of the details of evil deeds?

Paul concludes his famous letter to the church in Rome with a prophetic benediction which begins like this. “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,…” Romans 16:25a. We are reminded along with the church in Rome that it is God who establishes us in our faith when we hear and believe the preaching that Jesus Christ died to save us.

The preaching of Jesus Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who believe it is the power of God. Our little part is to believe and follow Christ and God’s part is to establish us and hold onto us. And that is the main message all through the sixteen chapters of the book of Romans.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Chief End of Man

The Chief End of Man

By Francis A. Schaeffer

“The chief end of man

is to glorify God

and to enjoy Him forever.”

It would be scripturally false to leave out the second phrase –

“and to enjoy Him forever.”

The men who formulated this showed

Great wisdom and insight in saying,

“and to enjoy Him forever.”

Nevertheless, the first phrase is the first phrase:

“The chief end of man is to glorify God.”

And in Christianity we have a non-determined God

Who did not need to create

Because there was love and communication within the Trinity,

And yet having been created, we as men can glorify God.

But we must feel the force of both sides of the issue.

If we fail to emphasize that we can glorify God,

We raise the whole question of whether men are significant at all.

We begin to lose our humanity as soon as we begin to lose the emphasis

That what we do makes a difference.

We can glorify God, and both the Old and New Testament say

That we can even make God sad.

That is tremendous.

We will continue with Roaming Through Romans Chapters 15 and 16 next week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roaming Through Romans (Chapter 14)

Roaming Through Romans (chapter 14)

One of our duties as Christians is to encourage one another in our walk with Christ. Along with that we are instructed not to gossip or judge. And Jesus asks us to ‘Love one another’ ‘Feed My sheep’ and do our best to keep the peace. It sounds easy to follow these simple laws of love but many a problem can appear along the way to trip us up. Chapter 14 describes one of these problems, the problem of what we eat and drink or don’t eat and drink.

Chapter 14 begins by telling us not to argue over doubtful things. “For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats: for God has received him.” Verses 2and 3.

And verses 13 and 15 read: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way”… “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

And verses 19, 20a and 21 read: “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. … It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”

There are many small ways in which we can obey God and keep the peace. But we have to be constantly on guard for the little things that can bring us or others down. If we order a glass of wine when we are with a friend who considers drinking wine a sin we may cause a problem for her. Wouldn’t it be better not to have the glass of wine in her presence than to offend her? We need to be sensitive to the feelings of our fellow Christians. Verse 18 says: “For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

While we are on this earth we are engaged in warfare. We are Christian soldiers and we are commanded to fight the good fight. That means we are not to let little annoyances take us away from righteous living. 2 Timothy 2:4 tells us, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this world,…” Christ tells us in Matthew 18:4 that in this world offenses must come but to be careful not to be the one who brings them in.

It’s a war we are fighting and Satan would love to bring us down. He can often dampen our Christian love with just a careless word of criticism from a friend or an unkind remark from a loved one. We need to constantly be on guard for those small insults, not to let them trip us up. Without Christ’s help we can’t win so we need to continually be in prayer and be quick to forgive. 2 Timothy warns us not to get entangled with petty things. Song of Solomon 2:15 reads: “it is the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Often a little gossip can spoil a grand relationship. Christ begs us not to let that happen.

Before Christ died for us he prayed in the garden that our love for each other here on earth would match that of the love in heaven. His greatest wish for us is that we love one another, but often we lose that love when a small offense is spoken against us or some petty irritation shows up in our way. At such times, Jesus must be disappointed.

Since our first priority as Christians is to love one another, let’s not let food or drink or any thing else get in the way of that.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Roaming Through Romans (chapter 13)

Roaming Through Romans (Romans 13)

We continue on through Romans, reading what Paul had to say to the church in Rome. Chapter 13 starts out: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Rom. 13:1 Paul continues on by urging all Christians to pay their taxes and to respect and honor their national leaders, because he insists that government leaders are God’s servants. (Romans 13:2-7)

I wonder what Paul would say to some of the churches today who openly disrespect our national leaders. Would Paul approve of the Christian groups that have mixed their angry political agendas with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? Is it the position of the body of Christ to stir up hatred for our elected government leaders along with preaching the gospel? Is Romans 13 still relevant for us today in America? When I visit some Bible bookstores today and observe that books written by political stars are mixed in along with Bibles and devotional material, I am upset that my Jesus has been so compromised.

Should an attack on the leaders of our national government be one of the missions of the church today? I don’t read that in Romans 13. Of course throughout history there have been some truly evil government leaders, (Hitler, Stalin, etc.). Under these extreme circumstances the church should be prepared to accept martyrdom before submitting to such dictators, mass murderers, etc..

Paul continues in verse 8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” He continues that all of the commandments “are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:9b and 10. There it is again! Love should be the hallmark of all Christians.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” Romans 13:12-13. Christians are to act differently from the world. Sexual immorality and drunkenness and jealousy are called ‘the deeds of darkness’. The Lord wants so much more for us. He wants us to live in peace and be faithful, to have true love and put on the ‘armor of light.’

Romans 13 ends with these words: “Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 13:14. We are instructed to clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus! Make no provision for our sinful desires. He must increase and we must decrease. Don’t you love the way this chapter ends. It tells us to wrap ourselves up in Him. Let’s do it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Roaming Through Romans (Chapter 12)

``Roaming Through Romans (Romans chapter 12)

`The twelfth chapter of Romans starts right off with instructions for us to let God’s Word and His Holy Spirit radically transform our way of thinking. We are warned not to be conformed to the ethics of this world. We are to be different. Proverbs 14:12 warns: “There is a way that seems right to people, but its end is the way of death.” And Romans 12:2a reads: “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,…” The worlds’ ways aren’t good enough. When we believe in Christ, God has a new way for us to go.

To be transformed by a renewed mind means to be committed to the ideals of this new way -the kingdom of God. As Christians we have been born again into God’s kingdom. We can’t navigate this kingdom walk by ourselves. His Spirit and His Word will help us. Since we follow kingdom precepts now, we don’t fit in with the ethics of this world. When the world ethics say we should compete, the kingdom ethics tell us to cooperate. We are strangers and pilgrims here.

Romans 12:1 begs us to present our body as a living sacrifice. The Jews brought animals to God as their sacrifice in the Old Testament times. But today our sacrifice to the Lord is our life. We are invited to give our life to the Lord.

As we move on through Romans 12, the Lord through Paul challenges us in verse 3 “…not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” We are being called to give up worldly pride and live lives of humility here. Paul continues in verse 4 and 5: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Our different gifts make us love and depend on one another all the more. The fact that we are all one body in Christ is a beautiful mystery that draws us closer together.

We read on and verse 9 through 13 and 15 emphasizes love as the guiding principle in Christian relationships. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” …“distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” And “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” In these verses you can see that love reigns supreme! God is calling us to love.

We are instructed to allow love to shine through our lives, not just for our fellow believers, but for our enemies as well. Romans 12:14 and 17 read: “Bless those who persecute you: bless and do not curse.” and “Repay no one evil for evil.” And Paul continues with this theme in verse 19 and 20. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him, If he is thirsty, give him a drink: For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

You can see we are over our heads and out in deep waters here. We will sink trying to love our enemies in our own strength. But we can walk on water with the Holy Spirits’ help! He will give us the strength to obey this command if we ask. We can love our enemies if we live Spirit filled lives.

Romans 12 closes with this last instruction: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” How many times in our lives have we felt surrounded with controversies, hatreds, insults and dangers? It’s so easy to want to fight back with the same. But our marching orders are to overcome evil with good. And we can do that. In Christ we can do it all.

Christians are being called in this chapter to come away and not accommodate to worldly standards. The worlds’ standards for success are obtaining wealth, status, and power. When we play the worlds’ game we love our friends and hate our enemies. We are proud of ourselves, compete with our neighbor and get angry with those who get in our way. We become depressed when we aren’t the center of attention and we are critical of folks we don’t agree with. We take care of Number #1 and we push ahead at others’ expense. This worldly way comes naturally and makes so much sense to all of us, but it leads to death.

But God calls us to a different way. When we live in the Spirit we love our friends and we love our enemies too. Our lives are marked with humility and we don’t think that we are more important than others. When friends treat us badly we take our hurt feelings to God. We constantly keep asking the Lord to help us love the unlovely. When we’re angry we get over it and forgive. The standards for success in the kingdom are faith and obedience and love. And as Christians we don’t live for ourselves but we live for God. We’re being invited to take this road less traveled. It’s a whole different way, but it leads to life.