Pondering Romans 16:20-24

Book-of-RomansClick HERE to read the passage.

My pondering focused largely on one verse out of this section – verse 20…

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” – You will note that up to this point there has been no mention of Satan in Romans at all. And yet here in his closing remarks Paul reminds his Roman friends of the spiritual battle they are in. John Piper comments on this verse by saying three things: 1) Satan has been decisively defeated in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ 2) Satan is being defeated now by Christ through Christians who believe 3) Satan will be vanquished and thrown into the lake of fire never to deceive or torment the world again.

Past. Present. Future. Satan’s defeat is a done deal. And yet the battle is still being waged. But the good news, yea, the great news, is that victory is secure. A classic analogy of this is its parallel to the end of WWII. D-Day was June 6, 44 – The Allied forces invaded Normandy, breaking the back of the enemy and ensuring their total victory. Yet, the war lingered on even though the Nazis were defeated. Yet, it wasn’t till V-Day (May 7, 45) that the peace treaty was actually signed. Sadly, more people were killed during that period of D-day and V-day than any other period of the war.

Like that period between D-day & V day, we are living in a period where we know that our victory is secure yet we must continue to fight the good fight of the faith. There will be casualties as we fight but we press on knowing that our God will triumph and that the victor’s spoils are ours to eternally enjoy. So even as Paul reminds us of the battle, he follows up with this encouragement…

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” – It is by God’s grace that we have been saved and it is by God’s grace that we will be sustained in the battle. God’s grace is indeed amazing!

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Grace to sustain us through all our days,
Grace for the long and lingering fight;
God in His triumph is worthy of praise
As the battle reveals His infinite might.

(From the Hymn ‘Grace Greater Than Our Sin’ – I took license by adding the last verse)

I will not post next week due to Thanksgiving but will finish up Romans the following week by pondering verses 16:25-27.

Brick #46 – Romans 8:28-30

Untitled designAnd we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

This passage, probably more than any other as far as I am concerned, epitomizes the free choice/predestination dialogue. I am neither a theologian nor the son of a theologian but here are my thoughts for what they are worth.

Does the Bible say that we have freedom to choose to believe in God or not? Yes! Note verse 28: “…for those who love God…” Love involves choice. I choose every day whether or not I will love God. I choose every day whether or not I will love my wife. I choose every day whether or not I will love my kids. No one is making me love. I love by my own freedom of choice. The Bible absolutely affirms freedom of choice. I choose to love God and place my faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross – therefore, I am saved from condemnation and damnation.

Does the Bible say that we are predestined by God to be saved?  In other words, did He choose me to believe? Yes! Note verse 29: “…those whom He foreknew He also predestined…” I am one of God’s chosen ones. It was His choice that I be saved. He chose me before the beginning of creation to reign with Him in eternity. The Bible absolutely affirms predestination. His choice, not mine!

But are not these two affirmations saying two different things? How can they both be true? I’ll say two things about this:

1) If we were able to explain everything about God and our faith then we would not have a great and awe-inspiring God. We must leave room for mystery and trust that one day God will make that which is unclear to be incredibly clear.

2) The best explanation for this for my puny mind goes like this. From man’s perspective we have complete freedom of choice. From God’s perspective He is the One who does the choosing. Imagine yourself preparing to enter Heaven’s Gate. There is a sign over the gate that says, “Everyone who believes in the Lord shall be saved!”  (Our choice) After you enter you turn around and notice a sign on the other side of the gate that says, “Chosen before the creation of the world.”  (God’s choice) It all depends on your perspective – from this side of heaven or the other side.

You will hear lots of arguments these days about this subject. I choose to say what I believe the Bible says – both are true, even if I can’t completely understand how.

Pondering Romans 16:1-19

Book-of-RomansYou can click HERE to read the passage.

As Paul is closing out his epistle to the Romans he takes the time to specifically mention a number of people. I have two takeaways from this passage as I have pondered it this week.

1) Sound doctrine is very important both to Paul and to God – Paul has spent the better part of 15 chapters  making sure that his Roman friends are theologically  grounded. He has done this because even at this stage of the early church there is already erroneous teaching taking place. Note verses 17-18: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Paul does not want his friends to be theologically naive. This is why he is hammered away at at sin and grace, and the purpose of the law, and the Holy Spirit, and God’s sovereignty, and love, and submission. He wants to make sure that the Roman church is not easily swayed by teaching that tickles their ears but creates heart disease.

We see this happening all the time in the church today. Our churches are full of naive Christians who have not been grounded in sound doctrine. I see two primary reasons why this has happened. 1) Pastors have not done a good job of equipping the saints with sound doctrine. They have delivered milktoast messages that make people feel good about themselves but have not given them a strong theological foundation to base their lives on. 2) People steer clear of any kind of teaching that hints of theology and doctrine and run to teaching that will help them parent better, or have a happy marriage, or enjoy the victorious life. Over time this has created churches that are full of people who are easily deceived and easily swayed by “smooth talk and flattery.”

2) People are very important both to Paul and to God – Paul could have easily ended his letter with the last verse of chapter 15, “The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” But he has not written this letter as a theological treatise to be published and read by “super” Christians and taught only at theological institutions. He has written this letter for regular church people – like you and me. Real people were important to Paul. As he wrote he had the faces of his friends in mind. He says in verse 19, “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” He was writing because he cared for these people and did not want them to be led astray – which they were very much in danger of.

As the Pastor of Discipleship Ministries at our church I have a similar sentiment. I watch our people stay away from teaching that I know they need but that they don’t want – because it does not scratch their particular itch. The ironic thing is this – what people do not understand is that having a solid theological foundation will not only keep them from being led astray but will also make them better parents, and have happier marriages, and find victory in this life.

May God give us a yearning for learning. May He fuel us with a desire to be theologically grounded that we might not be so naive in our faith.

Next Week’s Passage – Romans 16:20-24
Memory Verses – Romans 8:1-38

Brick #45 – Galatians 5:16-24

Untitled designThere is a lot more going on in these verses than just a really popular memory verse about the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). These verses really hinge off of some very strong language that Paul uses back in verse 12: “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate (castrate) themselves.”

Evidently there are some people who have infiltrated the Galatian church who are encouraging believers to take advantage of their “freedom in Christ.” They are basically saying that because you have been given freedom in Christ you can live any way and do anything that you want to. The most recent version of this heresy  tells people that if they have prayed a prayer and have “fire insurance” then they can sin as much as they want because they have a “get out of hell free card.”

Paul says, NO WAY JOSE’ to this spiritual bunk. He, in no uncertain terms, tells the Galatians that the litmus test to determine if you are genuinely saved is not whether you have prayed a prayer or not but whether you are daily being led by the Spirit of God and demonstrating evidence of this by the way that you live. He lists 15+ “works of the flesh” and juxtaposes these against 9 “fruit of the Spirit.” Essentially he is reiterating what he said to the Corinthians:

5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)

Galatians 5:22-23 are indeed  great verses to memorize. But whenever you ponder these verses keep their context in mind and it will make their meaning even more powerful. 

Now go forth and be fruitful!

 

Pondering Romans 15:23-33

Book-of-RomansYou can click HERE to read the passage.

My primary takeaway from this passage is from the last few verses. Here is what Paul says:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there,  so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.  The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Prayer was not anything that Paul took for granted. When you read his letters you oft notice him telling his readers exactly how he is praying for them. And then you also see passages like this one where he is telling his readers how they can pray for him. He is very specific in what he is asking for.

You kind of get the idea that Paul has put some thought into this. This is another way that he demonstrates intentionality in his walk and ministry. He doesn’t just want people praying for him generally; he wants people praying for him specifically.

How do you want people praying for you? What do you want them specifically interceding for on your behalf. Give some thought to this. And if you are interested, here are a few specific ways that you can be praying for me…

  • Pray that more and more I may be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – that I might be filled to the measure of His fullness.
  • Pray that His joy would both fill me and fuel me and overflow from me to others.
  • Pray that as a husband and dad and granddad that I would serve my family and lead them to grow in grace.
  • Pray that as a pastor God would use me to help others make progress in their walk and find joy in their faith.

The God of peace be with you all. Amen!

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 16:1-19
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-37

Brick #44 – 1 John 5:4-5

Untitled design“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5

The word victory and the word overcome both come from the same Greek root – nike. You might recognize this as an apparel brand or the name of a  Greek goddess. So the verses could really be translated like this: “For everyone who has been born of God has victory over the world. And this is the victory that has gained us victory over the world—our faith. Who is it that has victory over the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The implications of this verse are at least twofold:

We are already victorious – God has already declared that we are overcomers. This is true because of who we are in Christ – who is the ultimate Overcomer. We have already gained victory over death and damnation. We have already gained victory over sin.

And yet, the fight goes on. Therefore…

Day by day we must continue to overcome – Day by day we must exercise our faith, demonstrating our ongoing dependence upon God, to overcome temptation and worry and the difficulties that will come our way. Being an overcomer entails more than believing; it means that our faith is manifest through actions and choices each day.

I love the promises in The Revelation that are given to overcomers. They give me hope and motivate me to continue to overcome each day…

  • To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (2:7)
  • The one who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (2:11)
  • To the one who is overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (2:17)
  • To the one who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—  that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father.  I will also give that one the morning star. (2:26-28)
  • The one who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. (3:5)
  • The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (3:12)
  •  To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (3:21)

May God gives us the courage and strength each day to overcome this world as we anticipate the rewards for overcomers that we will gain in the next world.

Pondering Romans 15:14-22

Book-of-RomansYou can click HERE to read the passage.

Paul is beginning to wrap up his letter to the Romans. One of the things that he says is this passage is “Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.” (verse 15)

Here are some of the points that he wrote boldly about – at least from my perspective. Perhaps rehearsing them will help to remind us why Paul wrote this letter in the first place.

  • For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (1:20)
  • But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (2:5)
  • This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (3:22-24)
  • Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (5:9-10)
  • Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.(6:13-14)
  • The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (8:6-8)
  • If you declare 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 profess your faith and are saved. (10:9-10)
  • Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (12:1-2)
  • 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.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  (13:1-2)
  • Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. (14:13-14)

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 15:23-33
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-36

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