Verse 11 specifically grabbed my attention this week as I was pondering: “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Here are some things that are true about our present time:
The Oxford Dictionary has changed its definition of marriage so that it no longer is defined by one man married to one woman.
One of the top Emmy Award winners this past week (Breaking Bad) makes a hero out of a methamphetamine maker/dealer.
The Obama Health Care Act is a joke.
The Middle East is a powder keg with what is happening in Syria and Egypt.
Americans seem to be fascinated with vampires and zombies.
Social networking has redefined how we “do relationships”.
Our government run education system has crippled teachers to the point where teaching has become more of a chore than a passion.
Christianity is viewed by many as something that imprisons people rather than sets them free.
Paul is admonishing his Roman friends to understand the times that they live in. The same is true for us. When we begin to understand our world then we realize that now is not the time to rest and take it easy. Now is the time to WAKE UP and be about the Father’s business. Now is the time to DO SOMETHING. We must work with the end in mind because as he says, “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
What are my action steps in light of this pondering: 1) I’m going to become more a student of our times – I don’t want to be a news junkie but I do want to better understand the world that we live in. 2) I’m going to figure out one thing that I can do that will give some indication that I am not asleep on my watch. Not sure yet what that will look like but something practical in response to my better understanding. 3) Spend some more time pondering verse 12 – which is a great thought to leave with you…
“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.”
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 14: 1-8 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-32
I had difficulty with this passage. The obvious question that arises is “Do we obey government authorities at all times, or are there times when we do not. The passage really does not speak to the latter. What the passage does do is affirm the sovereignty of God. God is in control. He is in control even when it seems like things are out of control. This is one of the great great promises in Scripture that I constantly remind myself (and others) of. You will often hear me say two things when I am talking with people who are going through tough times. “1) God is in control, and 2) The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I can almost hear Paul counseling his Roman friends saying these same things as they are enduring difficult days under the rule of the caesars in Rome.
Never forget these. Because sometimes when life seems particularly cruel and when your authorities are making life difficult for you – the truth of these statements will sustain you as walk diligently by faith through the darkness.
That being said, here are a few things that others have said about this passage;
Martin Luther said it well…
A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.
Richard Halverson, the former chaplain of the United States Senate, wrote that…
To be sure, men will abuse and misuse the institution of the State just as man because of sin has abused and misused every other institution in history including the Church of Jesus Christ, but this does not mean that the institution is bad or that it should be forsaken. It simply means that men are sinners and rebels in God’s world, and this is the way they behave with good institutions. As a matter of fact, it is because of this very sin that there must be human government to maintain order in history until the final and ultimate rule of Jesus Christ is established. Human government is better than anarchy, and the Christian must recognize the “divine right” of the State.
In this passage Paul runs through about 20 different things that are on his mind as he thinks about the Roman church and how they relate to one another and to the watching world. He offers very little commentary on them which actually seems a bit unusual. Its almost as if he has a lot to say but very little time to say it so he just makes sure that they are at least down on paper. As I pondered, here are a few from the list (one at the beginning, one at the end) that stood out to me – with the commentary that Paul didn’t have time to say.
Verse 9 – “Hate what is evil.” – Why would Paul have to say something like this? Because, for whatever reason, as saints who are sinful people we are infatuated with evil. All you have to do to confirm this is to take a look at the TV that we watch. Crime shows seem to be the #1 viewing choice for believers as well as unbelievers. This, along with the pervasive sexuality that seems necessary to draw an audience, has eroded our value system and blurred the lines between good and evil. One of the #1 songs in the country this year is a case in point – the title says it all, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Evil is no longer evil – it is merely unwholesome, or inappropriate for minors, or “for mature audiences”. It seems to me that maturity would recognize what is evil and what is not. But this is not the case any longer. Nor was it the case in Paul’s day. Hence his admonition “Hate what is evil!”. Not “dislike evil”. Not “develop a distaste for evil.” Not “avoid evil.” Not tolerate it. But “HATE evil”. We will have to hate evil if we are going to have any chance with what verse 21 says…
Verse 21 – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” – It was Edmund Burke who said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”. I will take this statement a step farther and say that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for godly people to do nothing.” Evil will prevail in our world unless the people of God do something. It is up to us. Not good people – because Scripture tells us that no one is good. Not government – that certainly hasn’t helped to restrain evil. Not religion – if anything, religion has helped to perpetuate evil. Not an economic windfall for all nations – money is not the answer to a problem that plaques the souls of humanity. I sincerely believe that the only hope our world has is if the Body of Christ rises up and leads a gospel-empowered vanguard against the ubiquitous evil that saturates our culture.
But for that to happen, we must HATE evil.
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 13:1-7 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-30
Paul is talking to the church in Rome about “gifts of grace”. He wants them to focus on how they have been gifted by God – and not focus on what their gifts are not. We have a tendency to focus on how we are not gifted. We are generally pretty good at looking at others in the body of Christ and thinking we wish we had their skill set or talent or gift. I know I am at least. I’ve always wanted to be gifted musically, but alas, it is just not in my DNA. You can ask almost anyone.
Paul is encouraging us to use the gifts we do have. They are necessary to the body of Christ. If I choose not to use my gifts because I am not a musician then I am hurting the church.
I like what commentator Gib Martin says: “We will help each other most if we focus on whatever task God has set before us. We will become ineffective members of the body if we compare ourselves to other members or if we grumble about our role. God created us with certain gifts for certain jobs. Each job is absolutely crucial to our overall task of being Christ to the world. Every gift is a spiritual endowment from God meant to make and keep the Body of Christ healthy.”
Do you know how God has spiritually endowed you to serve the Body of Christ? If not, find someone who can help you – because until you do you will feel sort of like an appendix – you know you are a part of the body but you are not really sure what or why you are there for.
Next Week’s Passage: Romans 12:9-21 Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-29