Archive for the category “Pondering Romans”

Pondering Romans 16:21-27

Book-of-RomansHere is how Paul’s letter to the Romans winds down…

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [24] 

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from  faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Paul’s letter to the Romans would prove to have very practical value in the years following its writing. A fire raged throughout the city of Rome in AD 64, seven years after Paul wrote this letter. When Emperor Nero rebuilt the city in his honor, many blamed him for setting the fire. Needing  a scapegoat, Nero blamed the Christians and initiated widespread persecution and execution of them. Christians were torn to death by dogs and used as torches to light Nero’s gardens and parties.

Although Nero’s reign ended in 68, the persecution of Christians continued. The great Colosseum was built between 75 and 80 – and while it was built for sportive entertainment showcasing gladiatorial combats, many Christians were also thrown to the beasts there.

It is very likely that Paul’s letter helped many believers resist the temptation to turn away from Christ in the face of persecution and rather to press on toward the goal for which God called them.

Perhaps knowing what lay ahead for the Romans, this book would give them the theological foundation to enable them to stand firm. But it is interesting that as theological as the book is, Paul wraps it up with a doxological flourish.

Now to Him… the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

***

I will continue my pondering adventure in January. The 2014 pondering project will be the Gospel of John. You are invited to join me as we work our way through this premier gospel and explore the life and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. See you in a few weeks.

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.

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

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

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

Pondering Romans 15:7-13

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

This may be my briefest pondering post yet. There is a verse in this passage that is one of my favorite in the New Testament. It is verse 13…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What do i love about it?

  • It reminds me that I serve a God that offers hope in a world that so often offers none.
  • It reminds me that joy and peace are my birthright and the birthright  of every believer.
  • hopeIt reminds me that my life should overflow into the lives of others as I trust in God.
  • It reminds me that I am dependent upon the Holy Spirit if I am to live a supernaturally empowered life.
  • And it equips me with a powerful blessing that I can pray for others.

So… “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 15:14-22
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-35

Pondering Romans 15:1-6

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

Some of the biggest pain that we experience in this life is not caused by injury or accident or sickness – it is caused by people. The old adage, “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt me” is just not true. Words hurt more and the pain lasts longer than a lot of physical pain. Evidently there were some things being said in the church in Rome that was creating hurt among its people. Yes, Christians hurt other Christians.

Why do we do that to our bothers and sisters in Christ? 1) Because we are sinners and sinful people sin against others. 2) Because we ourselves are hurting  – and hurting people hurt other people. 3) Because we are immature and immature people act childish.

But what do these verses tell us we ought to do when people are being hurtful toward us:

  • Look for ways to build others up instead of tearing them down (v. 2) – Our default mode is to return insult with insult. But we who have been transformed by Christ have the power within us to “turn the other cheek” and even respond with loving kindness.
  • Look to and learn from the Word of God (v.4) – Mature believers are quick to run to the Scriptures instead of being quick to plot revenge and figuring out ways to get back at others when they have been hurt. The Scriptures offer us help and they offer us hope.
  • Receive from God the strength and encouragement that other people will not be able to give you (v.5-6) – Sometimes people make it very hard for us to act christianly. But God can fuel us each day with what we need to be able to respond the way that we should. Here is what these verses say…

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A couple of add-ons: 1) Make sure it is Christ that you are following and not the ways of the world or other people or your own selfish ways. 2) We have asked Jesus to come into our hearts – perhaps you might need to ask Jesus to come into your mouth if you are finding that you have not been responding to people well – that God might be glorified through you.

Think on these things.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 15:7-13
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-34

Pondering Romans 14:13-23

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

This passage contains what is often referred to as “The Stumbling Block Principle.”  The principle goes like this: There are  things that some people consider to be “sinful” for themselves that God has not said is sinful. The believer who has liberty in this area should not do anything that would cause his fellow believer to stumble because of his own liberty. Let me give you a personal example.

According to Scripture, drinking alcohol is allowed by God. There are not prohibitions against it. There are, however, prohibitions against drunkenness. So Scripture would say, for example,  that if you want to enjoy a glass of wine you have freedom to do so – but don’t drink to the point of being drunk. More specifically, don’t drink to the point where the wine is in control and God’s Spirit is not. (See Ephesians 5:18).

I think that I would enjoy wine. I think it would be romantic to sit down with my wife over a nice meal and enjoy a glass of wine together. But as a pastor I choose not to drink at all because in our southern baptist Christian culture, drinking has often been looked on as “sinful.” It would be a “stumbling block” to some believers if they knew that I drank any kind of alcohol. Therefore, i choose not to because I do not want to lead others in to sin because of my liberty.

I do, however, have friends who are solid, God-fearing, gospel-loving believers who enjoy wine and/or beer. This is not at all a problem for me because as I read Scripture it is not problematic to God – as long as they are not drinking to drunkenness. So, whereas drinking would be sinful for me (because I would be a stumbling block to others) it may not be for you. If God has given you liberty in this area then, by faith, enjoy God’s gift to you. Note the last verse of this section and think on it…

“Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” 

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 15:1-6
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1–33

Pondering Romans 14:1-12

You can click HERE to read the passage.

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother?…So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (v. 10, 12)

Finger-Pointing

The old saying applies here – when you point 1 finger at someone else (in judgement), 3 are pointing right back at you. When we come to realize that we are going to be held accountable by God for our own actions, then we’ve got way too much to work on ourselves then to finger point at others. The problem is generally that we consider ourselves righteous in our own sight – we need to see ourselves, and then others, from God’s perspective. Then we will be much more hesitant to pass judgment on others. Nuf said!

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 14:13-23
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-32

Pondering Romans 13:8-14

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

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:

  • According to Pope Francis you no longer have to believe in God to go to heaven.
  • 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

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