5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…the authorities are God’s servants…” Romans 13:6b

Paul recognized the reality of living under Roman rule and directed the church at Rome to submit to the governing authorities (v.1a). This made for rather difficult living, as Rome recognized the emperor as a God and Christians only recognized God revealed through His Trinitarian nature: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God breathed into Paul a reasonable argument for this position: that there was no established authority except that which God had allowed (v.1b&c).

With the Judaic historical perspective, Paul was encouraging the first century church to trust God, not man. God raises up rulers and nations, while deposing others (Daniel 2:21). Jesus reinforced this biblical view at His own trial before Pilate, the Roman authority over Jerusalem. It seemed Pilate could not get Jesus to testify on His own behalf, leading to Pilate’s question:

“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus replied with these words:

“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Paul, in effect, is using The Savior’s life example as a basis for this position. Even though faced with death, Christian’s who follow Christ’s example demonstrate faith in God’s sovereignty and trust God’s good plan – which may mean an early entry into eternity.

Paul asserted the position further by stating: “…he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (v.2) Many pre-revolutionary preachers used these words in speaking against any conflict with England. However, they failed to include the rest of the passage:

“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 he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (vv. 3 – 5)

Did the words, “he is God’s servant to do you good” seem to jump off the page? God created three institutions which He blessed: the home, the community of faith, and government. Each are designed with the intention of blessing those who comprise them. The chain of humanity is only as strong as its weakest link, and it starts with the home. From the beginning, God established authority to keep in-check fallen mankind:

  1. in the home, parents teach the way of right living and provide a loving, caring environment for their children to grow;

  2. in the faith community, God calls leaders who devote themselves to The Word to teach and lead those who are drawn to its light;

  3. in government, God established authority to ensure civility and commerce.

Paul also enlightened the reader of one reason citizens pay taxes: to pay those in authority (first responders – police, fire and emergency personnel; judges; rulers). He directed Christians to be responsible in paying their taxes, debts and honoring/respecting those deserving of it. Paying taxes is the responsibility of citizens to have those social gifts.

This passage reaches out to us today to thank God for our governing authorities, for THE AUTHORITIES ARE GOD’S SERVANTS, appointed for such a time. Trust God with how it all works out.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“Bless those who persecute you…” Romans 12:14a

In his commissioning address to the first century church of Rome, after explaining how they were to live out their faith before each other, Paul explained how they were to live out their faith to an unbelieving world (vv. 14 – 21):

1.     Believers are to bless those who persecute the church. In other words, God’s love is to be extended in practical ways to those who mistreat those who carry the name of Christ to a darkened world (v.14a). Paul provided a qualifier to the first item on the list, namely, to be intentional – not reactionary. One’s reactive default may be to curse those who malign, abuse, or mistreat the faith community. Instead, Paul instructed just the opposite is to be done (v.14b).

2.     Followers of Christ are to empathize with others, thereby building a relational bridge between Christ and those who do not know His restorative love (v.15). When we celebrate the joys and understand the sorrows of those we meet, we become intentional in connecting with others’ hearts, sharing the commonality of life’s joys and crises.

3.     Paul directed Christians to live harmoniously with their fellow believers and, as much as personally able, to live at peace with everyone (vv. 16 & 18). He provided clarification on this point by adding some qualifiers:

a.     Knowing that God resists the proud (Psalm 18:27,  31:23, 138:6; Proverbs 3:34, 6:17, 8:13, 15:25, 29:23; Isaiah 23:9; Daniel 4:37), Christians are not to act overly proud, being willing to associate with the poor and underprivileged without conceit.

b.     Faith-walkers do not repay a wrong with another wrong, trusting God as The Avenger of wrongs (vv.17 & 19).

c.      Paul echoed Solomon’s words when he directed Christians to be intentional toward the enemies of the cross, offering food and drink to them (Proverbs 25:21&22; also see Jesus’ similar teaching in Matthew 5:43 – 48).

d.     Paul summed this section up with these words:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (v.21)

‘Followship’ to Christ makes one a target for the world which despises Christ and His Kingdom. The disciple whom Jesus loved wrote: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17; also read James 4:4) This passage is speaking about worldly systems – not people. The Christian must struggle against the tendency to judge non-believers and, at the same time, be intentional about avoiding the traps of worldliness. Christ lives through the lives of those who impact others’ lives by random acts of love, kindness, empathy, and sympathy.

In the rest of the letter to the Roman church, Paul provides further clarification and explanation of the nuances in interpersonal relationships, being in the world without being of the world, personal greetings, and other teaching.

Contemporary American society is resembling the first century Roman culture more each day. Christians will experience with increasing frequency the world’s disdain for Christ and His people. Nevertheless, Christians are to adopt Paul’s counsel to the Romans and be the only Jesus those in their circle of influence will ever see. Be ready to BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10b

After describing the cooperative dynamic between Christians within a church, Paul commissioned the Roman church by describing how they were to live out their faith. He first addressed how they were to practice their faith between each other:

1.     Asserting that love must be genuine (v.9a);

2.     Directing them to hate all evil (v.9b);

3.     Commanding them to cling to goodness – God’s number-one character trait (v.9c);

4.     Leading them to be devoted to one another in brotherly love (v.10a);

5.     Teaching them how devotion to each other is achieved –

HONOR ONE ANOTHER ABOVE YOURSELVES (v.10b);

6.     Exhorting them to keep their spiritual fervor for serving the Lord zealously (v.11);

7.     Their hope was to be expressed joyfully (v.12a);

8.     They were to endure affliction patiently (v.12b);

9.     Their prayers were to offered faithfully to God (v.12c);

10.  They were to practice hospitality, especially the poorer members (v.13).

Paul provided the Corinthian church with a more thorough explanation of genuine love (read 1 Corinthians 13). Genuine love is patient, kind, never envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered; and authentic love keeps no record of wrongs, and neither does love delight in evil. Indeed, genuine love rejoices in the truth, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. In this description, Paul offered sixteen verbs, eight of which were positive and eight of which were negative.

The late-coming apostle also elaborated on the difference between evil and good in his letter to the Galatians (read chapter 5, verses 13-26). Paul espoused the attributes of freedom: not to be abused by indulging the sinful nature, but to extend God’s love to each other and the world. He described how good and evil are in conflict with each other (vv. 16 – 17). He described the sinful nature as obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord (dissensions and factions), jealousy, fits of rage, selfishness, envy, drunkenness, and orgies (Galatians 5:19-21). There was no mincing of terms, Paul wanted them to know without a doubt that the culture of the world is completely different from God’s desire for people. God desires His people to know and practice the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (vv. 22 – 23).

The lives of Christ-followers are just as obvious as those who live evil lives. Goodness sets one apart as a persistent light in a world of darkness. When Christians honor one another above themselves, they exhibit authentic love which is the litmus test before the world of being a fully devoted follower of Christ (read John 13:35).

I highly recommend the book by Charles Colson, “The Body”. Though lengthy, it is one of the best books on the subject of the church: its mission and dynamics. I also highly recommend books by Jim Cymballa, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church (“The Church God Blesses”; “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”, and others).

HONOR ONE ANOTHER ABOVE YOURSELVES.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…one body with many members…” Romans 12:4a

Membership has its benefits:

  • At the local golf club, a member is able to secure a guaranteed tee-time;

  • In a diner’s club, a member is given first priority to a table;

  • In a fraternity, a member has assistance in completing the rigors of education while in school, as well as the collective resources of the organization in securing work after graduation;

  • Amazon Prime membership provides an entire truckload of reasons to shop with the retail giant.

However, Paul was not referring to Christians being “members” in a club, fraternity, or for a shopping advantage. To some, being a member in a church may have some benefits: ability to reserve the fellowship hall; after-school care for the kids; guaranteed VBS acceptance; various retreats and concerts. In Romans 12:3-8, Paul explained first century church membership:

  • God gives each member a measure of grace (v.3a);

  • God gives each member a measure of faith (v.3e);

  • Not all members share the same function within The Body (v.4b);

  • The many members come together in forming one Body – the church (v.5a);

  • Each member is connected to all the others (v.5b);

  • Each member is uniquely gifted according to the grace God has bestowed (v.6a);

    • One who prophesies should do so in proportion to his faith (v.6b),

    • One who serves should do so without restraint (v.7a),

    • One who teaches should do so with excellence (v.7b),

    • One who encourages others should do so freely (v.8a),

    • One who gives should do so generously (v.8b),

    • One who leads should do so diligently (v.8c),

    • One who shows mercy should do so cheerfully (v.8d).

This list is not an exhaustive list of every God-given gift, only examples God breathed into Paul to show the heart and benefit of gifts when used cooperatively within The Body – the church. There is such a diversity of races, nations, and gifts within The Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)!

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Thank God with me that we are ONE BODY WITH MANY MEMBERS!

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1e

Would you be interested in conducting a spiritual test that will prove what God’s good pleasing and perfect will is for your life(v.3)? Paul speaks through two thousand years to encourage Believers to consider God’s mercies, which He has lavished on us all, and be motivated by such to live holy lives. Each of our lives is evidence of God’s mercies, and when we live lives set apart for Him – His Kingdom, His ways – that holy living becomes a spiritual act of worship.

Paul described this spiritual act of worship as (v.1):

·       A living sacrifice – it’s not dead and lifeless; people live volitionally – we make decisions based on our values;

·       Holy to God – sanctified by God’s power for fulfilling His purposes, shining His righteousness to a watching world;

·       Pleasing to God – He takes great delight in those who live holy lives and carry His name before the world.

So, how is this spiritual act of worship to be accomplished? Believers are to resist any effort by the world to be conformed to its pattern (lying, cheating, killing, adulterating, etc.), and to renew one’s mind by the transforming power of God’s living Word (v.2).

The trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Our humanity gets in the way, insisting on satisfying the lusts of one’s flesh, worshiping the unholy trinity of “me, myself, and I”. The solution for that is by dying to sin and self, while living for Christ.

These first two verses of chapter twelve are a conclusion drawn by Paul for pointing the Roman Christians away from the licentious Roman culture and toward the purity and sanctity of holy living – making each Believer a shining example of goodness which points to God and His righteousness.

Have you considered YOUR SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP?

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“To Him be the glory…” Romans 11:36b

As Paul peered into the wonder of God’s working: preserving a remnant; ingrafting the branches of the Gentiles into the Vine of Life; and being informed as to the mystery and dynamics of election, he was moved to a moment of worship. Verses thirty-three through thirty-six lead the reader to marvel at God’s:

  • Wisdom for creating man in His image (v.33a);

  • Knowledge to understand man’s fallen nature (v.33a);

  • Judgments on punishing sin while providing the penalty for it (v.33b);

  • Unfathomable mind (v.34); and

  • Limitless resources (vv. 35 – 36a).

Had God made us into a completely different creature unable to relate to His character of goodness, then perhaps God’s wisdom would be questioned. However, by giving us a spirit which is completed when found in His grace, one understands more fully God’s wisdom in how mankind was created.

Man’s fall in The Garden of Eden could not be kept hidden from God, just as all sin is known by Him, for His eyes are in every place witnessing the evil and the good. Where man failed, God made a provision to restore His broken creation, making His understanding of man’s fallen nature remarkable.

God’s standard of righteousness requires a penalty when His laws for holiness have been violated. God’s judgments are never wrong, and it is only right for Him to expect holy living by those who claim to follow Him. God’s judgment to provide a Savior is fully just, as there is nothing in one’s own power which approaches the holiness of God. Only Jesus, Emmanuel – God with us, could become the payment for the sins of humanity.

God’s ways are not man’s ways. His mind is unfathomable. God’s economy is so foreign to ours:

  • if you think you deserve to be first, you must go to the back of the line;

  • we are strongest when we are at our weakest and Christ is working in and through us;

  • one who has nothing to give may, in reality, be the biggest giver of all.

Everything we know to be creation became reality by God’s voice speaking it into existence. There is nothing we can claim as our own which we can give to God – not even our own selves. Each of us is a miracle of life, known by God while we were yet in the womb of our mother. God’s resources are limitless, and we can trust Him to care for our needs. If He can provide for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, we can depend on Him to be our supply in all things.

To Him be the glory FOREVER! Can I hear an AMEN?

I am traveling over the next ten days. God willing, I will return to share with you from Romans 12 on Monday, August 12th. Please pray for Sandra and I to know God’s traveling mercies.

Blessings to all!

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…all Israel will be saved…” Romans 11:26

Having presented the reasonable, inspired sequence on the theology of election, Paul warned the first century Christians – and is warning us today – to not be conceited (v.25) by being ingrafted to the family of God. He explained that Israel has experienced a hardening of the heart “…until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (v.25b-c) In other words, God’s economy of salvation is both purposeful and intentional. Just as there was a purpose for Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened (to set the Hebrew slaves free), so there is a purpose for the present state of Israel’s unbelief: for the heart of Gentiles to connect to the heart of God.

God breathed into the mind of Paul to write: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’” (vv. 26 – 27; Isaiah 59:20-21) Was this just wishful thinking by Paul? Was he delusional? It was the Jews who had demanded the release of Barabbas, offering up Jesus in his place for a cruel death upon a cross (John 18:40). To understand this statement, all good students of The Word will interpret it from the original text, as well as investigating how it lines-up with the rest of scripture. Paul used the Greek word, “pas” (PAS), an adjective in the nominative singular form. It modifies “Israel”, and the singular form shows it to definitively speak about the entire nation. Does this mean the entire nation from the time of its calling? Or does it mean the entire nation when Christ returns?

Israel’s hardening as a nation is neither total nor final, being temporary. The end of this hardening will be after the full number of Gentiles has been redeemed (v.25) – and only God knows the value of that number. Actually, there is a fulness for both the Jew and the Gentile Believer (see 11:12 also). It is during this period of hardening from Israel that God has chosen to visit His grace upon all non-Jews (read Acts 15:12-14). Though individual Jews have come to know God’s saving grace, the overwhelming number of born-again Believers are Gentiles of every race, color and creed. Once this period is complete, God will visit the Hebrew nation once again. God’s timing is perfect, and waiting on Him to complete His “until” is both wise and faithful. Actually, there are other “until” verses that deserve inspection in your own Bible study time (read Matthew 23:32-39; Luke 21:24; and Psalm 110:1).

Paul’s reference to all Israel being saved echoes back to Isaiah’s prophesy (read Isaiah 59:20-21 and Isaiah 60). God always keeps His promises, and Paul recognized such by stating, “…God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” (v.29) Though Israel may appear hostile to the gospel (v.28a), when it comes to election, God’s love hasn’t changed; what He promised to Israel’s patriarchs still stands (v.28b). Warren Wiersby offers a reasonable explanation to this passage in the Roman letter:

“There are those who interpret this as meaning salvation to individuals through the gospel, but it is my conviction that the prophet has national conversion in mind. ‘All Israel will be saved’ does not mean that every Jew who has ever lived will be converted, but that the Jews living when the Redeemer returns will see Him, receive Him, and be saved.” (The Weirsby Bible Commentary, New Testament; p.440, col. 2, pp. 3, ll. 4 – 10)

A thorough reading of Zechariah will reveal a remarkable prophesy which supports Dr. Wiersby’s statement (To get a thorough perspective read chapters 12 and 13):

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on Me, The One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zechariah 12:10; caps and bold mine)

There is something to be said about one mourning over one’s own sins: first, that Godly sorrow leads to repentance, thus reaching the ear of God; secondly, that such mourning will lead to living more holy – having received the mercy of God, as well as His grace for personal transformation. I thank God for being the God of second chances… and for providing the power to change in both heart and volition.

Recognizing the disobedience of both Gentiles and Jews, Paul explained that God allowed such to demonstrate His mercy on them all (to the Jew first and also the Gentile; vv. 30 – 32). Based on these prophesies and Paul’s explanation, Believers have every reason to anticipate a great outpouring of God’s Spirit upon Jesus’ return! What a great day of rejoicing that will be! A day when all Israel will be saved!!!

Looking to that day! Have a blessed day today…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…they will be grafted in…” Romans 11:23b

After explaining ‘remnant theology’ to the first century Roman Jewish Christians, Paul described how those who have been “cut off” (pruned from The Vine – Jesus Christ; read John 15:5) by their unbelief may be grafted back into The Vine. That’s right… God is able, and evidently willing, to graft back in those who come to Him by faith after repentance. Paul was specifically speaking of Israel, concluding how those ‘natural branches’ which had been cut away from the vine could be grafted in all the easier by The Vine-dresser (v.24), being accepted by the vine more easily, since they were originally part of it.

I love the way Paul began this conversation, asking the question: “Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” (v.11) As he had done with the other questions he posed, Paul answered by emphatically exclaiming, “Not at all!” He told how salvation had come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious (v.11). Paul asserted that the Jews would receive greater blessing for how God worked to bring salvation to the world (v.12) after being rejected by His own people – describing the Jews’ blessing as a resurrection (v.15). Paul likened the Jews to the part of the dough offered as first-fruits: God recognized it as holy, and if it is holy, then the whole doughball would be seen by God as holy; and in the same manner, if the root (the root of Jesse – Jesus Christ; Isaiah 11:10) is holy, so are the branches (whether they be grafted or natural).

Paul warned Christians that just as God pruned the natural branches from the vine, He may also choose to prune grafted branches which show signs of unfruitfulness (vv. 17 – 21). Now, I’m not real sure how that lines up with Romans 8:38-39, though it shows God’s expectation of authentic faith. Believers are to “consider, then, the kindness and sternness of God” (v.22a), His sternness to those who fell, and His kindness to those who repented and trusted in Him by faith (v.22b-c).

God is the God of second chances, showing just how profound His love is for each of us. He loves you and He loves me as if we were the only one on earth! He takes extreme measures to connect to every heart on earth… and He uses our stories to connect to others hearts, so that they will be grafted in to The Vine of Life and bear much fruit.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…a remnant chosen by grace.” Romans 11:5b

Many theologians have argued over the fate of Israel, seeing that Israel originated as the chosen people of God and delivered by His own hand from slavery, the sword, and snakebites. Paul posed another question to the Roman church: “Did God reject His people?” (v.1) He is asking this question as if speaking for those who were hearing the gospel Paul had shared to this point. He anticipated (through divine inspiration) the internal struggle they would experience with the idea of a new covenant of grace – which, by the way, was the original intent of the old covenant, that the Jews would point the world to God’s grace by their love for Him while propagating His righteous precepts (Genesis 26:4).

Paul again answered his own question with a resounding, “By no means!” (v.1b) He then described his own Hebrew pedigree: a descendent of Abraham (v.1c-d); and from the tribe of Benjamin (v.1e), confirming his relatability with those Jews who were present to hear his letter being read. Stating, “God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew,” Paul reinforced his assertion that the Jews had not been abandoned by The Creator (v.2a). The story of Israel was not over then… and it’s not over now… being written by The Author of time and history.

Borrowing a teaching style from The Messiah, Paul confronted those of Jewish descent who were sitting on the fence of indecision, asking, “Don’t you know what the Scripture says…?” This certainly received immediate attention by those who professed to be the descendants of Abraham, and rightful heirs to God’s favor. Are you curious as I about the passage Paul referred them to? It was the time when Elijah appealed to God… against Israel! This was when Elijah cried out in desperation:

“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me…”. (v.3; 1 Kings 19:10, 14)

How could things have gotten so bad in the nation that once stood for freedom, truth, and God’s righteous precepts? How did things unravel to the point that they were killing their own prophets – those who pointed them to the truth and the way of faith? It was while Elijah was running for his life that God told him to go out and stand on a mountain to witness God passing by. Elijah witnessed a wind storm so powerful that it actually caused destruction to a mountain! An earthquake followed the wind storm, and a terrible fire followed the earthquake. Those disastrous storms created such a terrible distraction that Elijah thought he had missed God’s presence, having retreated into a cave for safety. However, Elijah heard a gentle whisper that brought him out of the cave (1 Kings 19:12), and God asked him a question that had been posed just moments before: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9b, 13e; makes for another great 5 Understandable Words vignette!)

Of course, Paul also included God’s reply to Elijah’s fearful answer:

“I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (v.4; 1 Kings 19:18)

Providing a conclusion to the Roman Jewish community, Paul joined their historical past with their current experience by stating, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (vv. 5 – 6) Just as God had preserved a remnant who had not bowed their knees to Baal (a false god created by an evil society), so God had also preserved a remnant of those from Jewish lineage who had embraced salvation by grace, not bowing to the gods of political correctness, peer influence, licentiousness or legalism.

This may sound like a broken record that perpetually skips to the same music after a few measures: God’s favor rests on those whom He chooses… and not by any effort one may exert toward gaining that favor.

How could things have gotten so bad in our nation in just two generations? How could so many of our pastors, televangelists, fathers, and Christians fail in their marriages, their churches, their families, and abandoned their faith? I believe it began with those who abandoned the practice of worship, failing to recognize the sacredness of a Sabbath’s rest. Isaiah gives us direction for today:

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and The Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in The Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Do you see how God’s grace increases all the more? Forgiveness is His invention. Restoration is His character. Redemption is His to exercise. Every time one turns from sin and comes to Jesus in believing faith, that one joins a remnant chosen by grace.

Have a blessed weekend… and encourage your family, friends, work associates, and neighbors to come with you to worship!

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…who has believed our message?” Romans 10:16b

After explaining the essence of spiritual replication, Paul stated the obvious: “…not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” (v.16a) He then cited Isaiah 53:1 where the prophet asks God, “Lord, who has believed our message? Without providing an immediate answer, Paul summarized the sequence leading to spiritual new birth (v.17) and asked, “Did they (Israel) not hear?”  (v.18a), and “Did Israel not understand?” (v.19a).

Having been commissioned by Christ to take the good news to the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-21), Paul always wrestled with why so many of his own people did not embrace salvation through faith in Christ. Citing from the ancient texts, Paul showed both his intimate knowledge of scripture and his skill to use the history found therein to tell ‘His story’ – how God offered His gift of faith to His chosen people AND the rest of the world:

  • “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (v. 18c; Psalm 19:4) All creation has declared the glory of God and the work of His hands. Who can deny God when the evidence of His existence is so great?

  • “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” (v.19; Deuteronomy 32:21) This prophesy, made after Israel had forsaken God by turning to idol worship, points to a time when God will show favor to another people (non-Jews) – resulting in an angry reaction by those who have been called His chosen. The serious Bible student will discover in the New Testament a pattern that recognizes efforts to reach the Jews first (Romans 1:16), then others:

    • Jesus began His ministry in Jewish communities;

    • When sending out His disciples on their first ministry assignment, Jesus forbade them to preach to the Gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:1-6);

    • After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem and begin their ministry there (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8);

    • Acts 1-7 describes the first attempts of ministry to the Jews and Gentile proselytes to Judaism;

    • After the Jews condemned Stephen and executed him by stoning, God sent the disciples to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1-8) and the Gentiles (Acts 10).

  • “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for me.” (v.20; Isaiah 65:1) These prophetic words again point to a time of salvation’s revelation to those who are far from God.

  • “All day long I have held-out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (v.21; Isaiah 65:2) Perhaps this verse was prominent in Paul’s mind, being in Rome where Luke described Paul’s ministry to the Jews, expounding upon scripture to them “from morning till evening”, seeking to show convincing evidence that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Acts 28:23). It is God’s desire that all would come to repentance and faith in Christ (2 Peter 3:9), and God’s heart for His people has not changed, longing for their return and embracing His way of salvation by faith.

Here we are today, two thousand years later, still asking the question: who has believed our message? Christian organizations are still advancing the good news of Christ, developing strategies to reach the world with God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.

What is the message your life is telling? What opportunities are Christians taking to take the message of salvation to their friends and neighbors? Who are you able to reach with salvation’s gift that no one else will ever be able to reach?

You’re the only Jesus some will ever see… and you’re the only words of life some will ever receive.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…those who bring good news.” Romans 10:15b

Moving from the inward confession of the heart, Paul moved to the outward profession by one’s mouth, confronting the church at Rome with another series of questions:

  • How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? (v.14a)

  • And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (v.14b)

  • And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (v.14c)

  • And how can they preach unless they are sent? (v.15a)

In rapid-fire succession, Paul brings authenticity, purpose and volition to the surface of their faith. If their faith was authentic (review chapters 5 & 6), their hearts would be moved to see the lost in need of a Savior. If the lost were to be presented the good new of the Savior, who better to share that news than those who have already heard and accepted Christ? What better purpose could their lives perform? If the Roman Christians were to be volitional in their faith, then the church (the eclessia - the ones called together) had to be intentional in recognizing each other’s gifting – including those who had the gift of evangelism.

Those who possessed this God-given gift of grace have a quality of approaching people in a non-threatening way, assessing one’s spiritual condition and sharing the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul emphasized the point through the words God breathed through Isaiah:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” (v.15b; Isaiah 52:7)

God makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and as one matures in Christ, He equips the Believer to share his/her story of salvation. Yes, there are some who are gifted in telling the good news. However, all Believers are commissioned to share their story of faith (read Matthew 28:18-22). When a Believer shares the good news, God declares her/his feet to be anointed in beauty, for the most beautiful thing in God’s eyes is seeing Jesus in those He has made in His image.

People all around us need the Lord. Pray for God to provide the opportunity to share your story of faith in Christ.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“’The word is near you…’” Romans 10:8b

Borrowing the words from Moses’ farewell to Israel, Paul used them in the same manner by directing the Roman Christians to allow God’s Spirit to write the law in their hearts as well. As they immersed their lives in the sacred texts, The Spirit would enable the word to be ready in their mouths for encouragement in holy living:

“Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.” (vv. 6 – 8, Deuteronomy 30)

There is no need for one to search for salvation in the heavens or in the depths of the earth. We cannot bring Christ back from the dead, for He has already risen. Neither can we bring Him down from heaven, for He Himself came down to earth, giving Himself as the final sacrifice for the sins of man. Many seeking God are convinced there is something one must do to earn right standing before God. However, the truth is Jesus did everything necessary for meriting favor with The Father.

Salvation is always as close as the mention of His name. Jesus avails Himself to all who call upon His name to receive His gift of abundant life on earth and eternal life in Heaven. Paul described this transaction in the following way:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is now difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.” (vv. 9 – 13; Isaiah 28:16; Joel 2:32).

Does your heart cry out for relief? Are you sure of your life after this earthly life? If not, pray about the inspired words above and allow God to become real to you.

The word is near you

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…the end of the law…” Romans 10:4

Paul’s most ardent prayer was for those of Israeli descent to be saved (v.1). He knew all too well the zeal they would bring into the New Covenant of faith (v.2). The Jews missed the essence of the Old Covenant by refusing to submit to the requirements of God’s law, developing their own religious system which was a confederate of the Old Covenant (v.3).

The New Covenant established through Jesus’ suffering and death brought an end to God’s requirements of righteousness through the law (v.4). Just as faith was reckoned as righteousness in the life of Abraham, so faith would be the standard by which all may be deemed righteous upon their profession of that faith. God is more interested in the zeal of one’s beliefs than that of one’s behavior. For the bedrock of belief is the foundation for living rightly.

Recognizing Moses’ summary of how God’s law was to have worked, Paul wrote: “The man who does these things will live by them.” (Leviticus 18:5) In other words, the law was given as a guide for people to develop a faith walk. The first four commandments are all about one’s relationship with God – The Creator and Sustainer of all:

  1. You shall have no other Gods – in other words, there is nothing any human can create or imagine that is able to sustain the creation. Faith is like marriage; it is a sacred bond.

  2. You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it – man, like the angels, was created to worship The Creator. Anything that takes God’s place is an afront to God Himself. In marriage, one is exclusively pledged to another; not even a replica of the other could ever be a substitute for the genuine relationship.

  3. You shall not misuse the name of The Lord – God’s name is the name above any other; to abuse it only weakens the relationship between God and man. In a loving marriage, the name of one’s partner is like music to the ears and is held in high esteem.

  4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy – the sabbath rest allows one to “defrag and reboot” one’s mind for purer worship to God.

So, we see then, that God values His relationship with mankind so highly, He provided a basis for developing the sacred relationship man was designed and created for – being made in God’s image to bring glory to The Creator. However, history shows God’s chosen rebelled against God many times, rejecting God’s law and the path of faith, and substituting a religion of works which resembled the law. God is more interested in one just looking religious, He desires holiness.

God made a provision for mankind which The Law was unable to accomplish – simple trust in His Son, Jesus and His work of redemption upon the cross. Yes, Jesus ushered in God’s new covenant of faith which would transform one’s mind leading to holy living. Transformation is a lifelong process designed to shape our mind, heart, and character to reflect Jesus Christ, who brought THE END OF THE LAW’s demand for right standing before God.

Thanking God for His love and the provision of His grace given through the cross…

5 Understandable Words for Today: (Part 2)

“What then shall we say?” Romans 9:30 (NIV)

Bringing his teaching on election to a conclusion, Paul asked this question a second time (vv. 14, 30), and followed it with a contrast between those who trust Christ by faith and those who insist on continuing a broken religious system that was originally meant to work in tandem with faith. Paul asserted that the Gentiles, who had never pursued any righteous path, obtained righteousness through faith in Christ. Israel, however, having pursued righteousness through law never achieved the standard of the law because faith was left out of the paradigm (v.31).

The Roman Jewish-Christian was introduced to the biblical precept of God’s bedrock of faith (Matthew 16:18) becoming a stumbling stone to those who seek God’s favor through a religious system of man’s works (v.32). Again, citing from the ancient prophetic texts, Paul brought Isaiah’s words to the forefront once again:

“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (v.33)

To the first century Jew, Isaiah was a revered and well-read text. In it, the reader found hope for the promised Messiah, The Redeemer of Israel (and the human race). Utilizing this precious resource, Paul was able to bridge the divide between Jewish tradition and the arrival of the Messiah and the New Covenant. Paul himself had stumbled over the stone that the builders rejected (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42-43; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17). He grew up in the Jewish tradition, was schooled as a pharisee, was zealous for Judaism – even to the point of persecuting the Christian awakening (Acts 22:3-5; Philippians 3:4-6). Paul was a full-bred Hebrew! Yet, Paul came to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. You can read about it in Acts (22:6-21).

Peter took a cue from Paul and described Jesus as the Living Stone (1 Peter 2:4-8):

“As you come to Him, The Living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in scripture it says:

‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’

“Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and ‘a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’”

We see, then, a thorough description of Christ:

  • The Living Stone: He is not dead; He is very much alive!

  • The rejected Stone: the Rock of Ages which was dismissed and scorned.

  • The chosen Stone: Jesus was chosen from among the Trinity to take the penalty for the sin of mankind.

  • The precious Cornerstone: upon Him the entire law and prophesies are fulfilled.

  • A stumbling Stone: The Living Stone has a way of getting in the way of those who reject it… becoming a stumbling stone.

Just as those from the Abrahamic covenant were chosen, so the new covenant welcomes those chosen to receive God’s grace through Jesus Christ. Peter echoed Paul’s argument with these words:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9 – 10)

Election… God’s powerful display of grace through adoption by faith. Do you have any Jewish friends? Pray for the opportunity to share this wonderful news of faith in Christ and how He fulfilled His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“What then shall we say?” Romans 9:14a (and v.30a)

Paul is really asking, “What more can be said about God’s right to do what, in His perfect wisdom, is best for mankind and His creation?” Having already pointed to the national history within the sacred texts, Paul adds further support to God’s right to pick favorites among His children by referring to the prophetic writings of scripture.

Knowing the natural reaction people give toward favoritism, Paul asked the question, “Is God unjust?” (v.14b) He answered with a resounding, “Not at all!” (v.14c), then he continued his lesson in systematic theology by resurrecting God’s conversation with Moses:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (v.15; Exodus 33:19)

A person can do nothing on his/her own merit to achieve right standing with God, whether it be through one’s intentions or effort. It is entirely dependent on God’s mercy (v.16). Continuing with his historical reference on how God works, Paul cited Exodus 9:16, where God directed Moses to tell Pharaoh:

“I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (v.17)

To us, God’s ways may not make sense. Paul asserted God’s right to rule by referring to the Exodus 33 passage: “Therefore, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” (v.18) The passage refers to Pharaoh’s heart hardening toward God until God Himself hardened it by halting further chances for redemption. The same warmth from the sun’s light which melts the snow also hardens the ground, leading to a barren desert. God is God, He rightfully rules and reigns without equal… He gives and takes away.

Paul was making a distinction between the faith of those who are the children of the promise and those who profess to be God’s children through one’s ancestry. Paul anticipated a possible question from those familiar with the sacred texts: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?” (v.19) This would have been a typical reaction from the pharisees with whom Paul had learned and worked with all his life. Paul challenged such thinking, referencing both Job and Isaiah:

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him Who formed it, ‘Why did you make me this way?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (vv. 20 – 21).

Paul answered the probable queries with some inspired questions of his own:

“What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath – prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”

This ‘Socratesian” approach to debate is called maieutics, and is used to encourage logical thinking. Paul may have picked it up from Gamaliel, his mentor as a pharisee intern. Paul followed his questions with a quote from Hosea 2:23:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one.” (v.25)

Paul then cited Hosea 1:10 which depicts God recognizing His people in the very place where it was earlier said they were NOT his people (v.26). Isaiah was the next source Paul cited, which prophesied that though they would be as numerous as sand, only a remnant of Israelites would be saved (v.27).

Now…. I have only tried to retell this portion of the letter for a basic understanding of Paul’s argument for faith being the basis of right standing before God, as opposed to a family history of religious practice. I encourage you to read the passages in their context to get a fuller picture of how God worked and of election. While Paul made it clear that the nation of Israel had experienced many blessings from God’s favor (vv. 4 – 5), he also cited how only a remnant would understand God’s covenant of faith (v.25). It is that remnant, however, that keeps a generation from becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah (v.29) by being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).

What then shall we say? Well, we can thank God for His mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)! And we can tell of God’s great plan: how He raises rulers up and brings rulers down (Daniel 2:21). We can share the difference made in our hearts and lives because of His redeeming love!

Yes… God works through you and I to be the descendants pointing future generations to faith in Christ Jesus! Our children and grandchildren are not guaranteed admittance to Heaven because of our faith, but they can hear it from our mouths how we first believed and became followers of Christ… so pass it on to them – it’s the biggest blessing you could ever impart to your descendants.

Have a blessed day…

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…the children of the promise…” Romans 9:8b

The tone of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome changed at what is now the codified chapter nine of Romans. Paul had a broken heart for the Jewish nation (vv. 1 – 2). In fact, he would have gladly taken the blame for their hardness of heart (vv. 3; 31 - 32). He listed the following benefits God had bestowed to the Israelites in their long history:

  • Adopted as God’s children (v.4a);

  • Witnessed God’s glory in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (v.4b);

  • Covenanted with God through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… and David (v.4c);

  • Received God’s law through Moses (v.4d);

  • Experienced glorious worship in the temple (v.4e);

  • Received God’s promises of rescue and redemption (v.4f);

  • Revered the patriarchs of their faith and nationality (v.5a);

  • Traced through the patriarchs the human ancestry of Christ (v.5b).

So, what made Paul so sorrowful? The list above seems to give cause for celebrating his heritage and people. Paul skillfully presented both a history and theology lesson in this chapter revealing another aspect of systematic theology: election… not through a voting system, but by God’s divine choosing of people to accomplish His purposes. Paul presented the dynamic of faith working to make those far from God the children of the promise.

Paul began his ‘argument’ with the premise that “…not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (v.6) Having Abraham as one’s ancestor doesn’t necessarily make one a child of God’s promises (v.7). Paul noted that it was through Isaac that Abraham’s offspring would be recognized. To us today, this doesn’t seem quite fair, but don’t rush to conclusions, for Paul is building a case that will show the promises of God available to all people through faith. Paul articulated it this way: “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (v.8) The Roman Jewish-Christian was reminded how the covenant was restated, describing how Sarah would have a son (v.9). We know that Abraham also had a son through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar (Genesis 16), at the age of eighty-six years old, and that God promised Hagar her son would become a great nation as well. However, the seed of redemption would pass through Isaac, Sarah’s son.

Paul described how God’s promise was passed through Isaac’s son, Jacob, which had been prophesied before he and his twin brother were born, even though the twin, Esau, appeared first during delivery. Are we seeing a pattern develop? Can we see how God works His purposes out in ways that are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9; Ephesians 3:20-21)? To our eyes it may not seem fair, and Paul had a ready answer which we will ponder tomorrow, Lord willing.

For now, let it be sufficient that when we trust Christ with all our heart, we become the children of the promise!

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…we are more than conquerors…” Romans 8:37a

Having just asked if trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or even the sword would separate Believers from Christ’s love, Paul answered with a resounding, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” (v.37) The one who walks by faith, walks confidently in the hope of an eternal perspective.

When one is saved from the destructive power of sin, one is saved completely. Transformation takes a life once ravaged by sin and, over time, makes that life beautiful. Yes, in His time He makes all things beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As one grows nearer to The One Who empowers such a transformation, confidence in His staying power only grows. Perhaps that is why Paul went on to declare:

“…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers; neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38 – 39)

In the words above, Paul presents to us yet another biblical precept of systematic theology: the security of the Believer. By security, I mean the assurance of one’s standing with God made possible through the power of Jesus. It made such a change in Paul’s life that he demonstrated reckless abandon toward his life, living with the desire to be present with The Lord. He even stated living, to him, was Christ, while dying would be only gain (Philippians 1:21).

Paul understood the security of the Believer from both his experience as a teacher of the law and as a convert to Christianity: the threat of death did not hinder his purpose in Christ, and his life was totally given to Christ. He revealed the reality of spiritual warfare occurring in the realm which we cannot see. The powers of this present world, nor the powers of the future would have any chance in separating Paul from Christ’s love. The philosophies and discoveries of man would not come between Christ and those He called. Nothing in all creation could ever challenge Christ’s ownership of His own… or Lordship over all creation.

If God takes care of the birds, keeps the universe expanding and working properly, then surely, we can trust Him to take care of us, supplying our needs while lavishing His grace upon us (Matthew 18:14; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Are you fretting over anything in your life today? Be confident in God’s supply! Rejoice in the security of His love!

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…we are considered as sheep…” Romans 8:36

There are many biblical passages referring to God’s children as His sheep (Psalm 79:13, 100:3; Ezekiel 34; Matthew 10:6, 15:24), and other passages describing God as The Shepherd (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11). Jesus described Himself as The Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and Luke referred to Him as The Good Shepherd Who left the flock in search of the one lost lamb (Luke 15:2-17).

Today’s five understandable words, however, described Christians as sheep to be slaughtered. Paul was inspired to refer to Psalm 44:22 to mirror the times in which he, as well as the Roman Christians, were living – a time when Christians were persecuted and martyred for their faith. This passage is very relevant to today, as many Christians experience all those things Paul listed:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sward? As it is written:

‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (vv. 35 – 36)

Paul had just described how God’s love was expressed through His Son’s sacrificial death and continued work of intercession before Heaven’s throne (v.34). God breathed into Paul the certainty that these expressions of God’s love can never be interrupted – nothing can separate those who walk by faith from God’s love… not even death. The psalmist said it best: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Paul was a realist, confronting the possibilities the Roman Christians may face for their faith in Christ. The time may soon come when American Christians face the same threats to living out one’s faith. The comfort all Christians know in the face of persecution is the knowledge that Jesus suffered through the same brutal treatment. In fact, Jesus is the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 13:8).

Without a shepherd, sheep are defenseless. They often get themselves into predicaments by wandering away from the fold (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep are followers… and often follow the wrong leader into trouble (Numbers 16:2; Acts 13:50, 19:34). Peter described satan to be like a lion looking for an easy target (1 Peter 5:8), like a lamb or sheep wandering from the herd. By referring to the Psalm 44 passage, Paul brought to these first century Christians the reality of their life, so as not to be surprised when treated just as Christ was treated. Their steadfast faith would be a testament to Believers in the generations to come.

Today’s Believer must be just as conscious about the way the world views Christians. We are considered as sheep – dumb, with a crowd mentality, and easy prey for the lions of society. It is all the more imperative that Christians keep their eyes on Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, Who is The Good Shepherd of the sheep. Why should we be treated any different from The One Who bore all our transgressions? Why did He do it? Because He considered us as sheep… His flock to nurture and tend.

Have a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“Who is he that condemns?” Romans 8:34a

Paul posed this question similarly to the last, contrasting an accuser beside the statement, “It is God Who justifies” (v.33b). Paul’s question is more of a challenge for anyone to condemn one redeemed by the soul cleansing blood of Jesus.

In both questions, Paul refered to Jesus death on the cross. When asking, “Who can be against us?” (v.31c), Paul followed with, “He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (v.32) Being an expert in the sacred texts, Paul is reflecting back to Abraham’s test, where Abe offered his only son, believing God would raise him from the dead (Genesis 22:1-19). Comparing the actions of their forefather, Abraham, Paul is impressing upon these Jewish Christians the depth of God’s love for them by comparing it with the depth of Abraham’s love for God.

When asking today’s five understandable words, Paul again points the Roman church to Jesus, “…Who died…Who was raised to life… at the right hand of God… interceding for us.” (v.34b-d) Jesus is the hero Who is willing to take on any accuser of His children. In effect, Jesus is Heaven’s defense attorney, not only working to prove one’s good standing before God, but also having paid the penalty for the sin of every person, is interceding for all the redeemed.

Today’s five understandable words are also supported by Paul’s earlier statement of Believers being justified. It is past tense. Justification has already occurred, and the Believer cannot be charged again with being a sinner (breaking God’s law). Like the woman who was dragged before Jesus and charged with adultery, each of us stands before Jesus condemned. In the story, Jesus confronted the accusers by challenging them – stating those without sin could stone her to death (John 8:1-11). When every accuser dropped his stone and walked away, Jesus told the woman He would not condemn her either.

In the Bible, satan is described as the accuser (Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 3:1). We know this accuser has been vanquished. He does not have the power to accuse those who will stand justified and glorified before The Father. He will stand beside the redeemed and will vouch for all who have placed their faith in Him. He is for you!

This is surely a blessed day…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b

Fully devoted followers of Christ are iconic in their faith, being transformed into the likeness of their Savior, full of grace and truth (vv. 29; John 1:14). Just as God provided for His Son, Who had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58), Paul showed first century Believers that God would supply their need as well. He presented questions which, at their core, allowed the Roman Christians to understand the strength of The One in Whom they trust:

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

Just as Jesus was given power to heal, feed, and deliver those in spiritual bondage, so the children of God are given power to do the same. The apostles were promised to receive power from The Holy Spirit to do the things they had seen Jesus do – and more (John 14:12-14). Should those who walk by faith today receive any less?

Perhaps one must first exercise the faith muscles of discipline in prayer and time in God’s Word to awaken to the certainty that God can and will work through those He calls and transforms. When God is working through His child(ren), is there anything that can hold them back? Who can be against us? Well… to be frank, anyone and everyone who rejects God’s righteous precepts will be against those who stand for Christ. We can expect to be treated the same way He was treated – beaten, falsely tried, and crucified.

So, what was Paul really trying to say? That Christians should view this life with an eternal perspective. Though everyone may be against us, if God is for us, any possible opposition is rendered powerless when we are working out God’s purposes - like a bully turning away from his target when a tougher adversary appears on the scene to defend the target. It’s not that we will never be targeted by the bullies of political correctness, peer pressure, or ‘controllers’. Faith-walkers can stand upon God’s truth, speak the truth in love, and point hearts to Christ.

As a teenage boy, David was a shepherd, protecting the sheep herd from predators like bears and lions (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Those experiences prepared him for the moment he would face Goliath (1 Samuel 17:37; 41-50). We see then, that the question, who can be against us, is posed from a perspective of strength and confidence.

Christian, when we step into the fray of life, do so expressing God’s love while standing for His truth. Do not be surprised if the world abuses you, just as Christ was tortured and abused. Live confidently in the blessed hope that God is working all things out for the good to those who have been called according to His purposes!

Have a blessed day…