March 4: Which are you?

Read Romans 3:1-31

The New Testament describes three types of people.  Every person fits into one (or possibly two) of these categories.  You do.  So do your closest friend and the person whose home is next to yours.  Paul describes them for us in Romans 3.

Jews- These are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They have been blessed as the original recipients of the Old Testament law and were historically set apart and identified by their practice of circumcision.  God promised them a specific land and that they would be a source of blessing or cursing to other people (Gen. 12:1-3).  That sounds like a great privilege to be part of that group!

Gentiles- Anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile.  Paul describes them like this in Ephesians 2:12:  “…excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”  It sounds like a desperate situation to be a Gentile!

But in spite of the apparent “advantages” of being a Jew, Paul levels the playing field.  He reminds us that both of these types of people are sinful (v. 23) and unrighteous when left to themselves (vv. 9-20).  That’s where the third group comes in…

The church- No, I am not talking specifically about those who attend or who are members of a local church.  The universal church is made up of all people…whether Jew or Gentile…who have received the forgiveness of God through the grace offered in His Son Jesus.  This forgiveness is granted not on the basis of performance, but on the basis of personal faith in Him.  The person who is part of the church has no bragging rights.  After all, he or she is the recipient of an undeserved gift!

Which type of person are you?  Initially, you were a Jew or Gentile on the basis of your physical birth.  But you can only become a part of the church through spiritual rebirth (Jn. 3).  What about your best friend or your closest neighbor?  He/she will only have rightstanding with God based on personal faith in Jesus.

sbk

Posted in Romans

March 3: Do you excuse your pride?

Read Romans 2:1-29

Paul penned the words to this letter out of a sense of obligation (Rom. 1:16).  He had been commissioned by God to communicate the mystery of Christ and God’s administration of the church to those around him.  There were believers in Rome, who had never seen his face nor heard his voice.  While longing to visit them, he wrote to make sure they understood some of the essentials of life in Christ.

In chapter 1, Paul placed all of mankind under the umbrella of “excuseless” on the basis of the witness of creation (Rom. 1:20).  Many, who ignore the “voice” of the created world that points to God, go headlong into the kind of rebellion that Paul describes in the final verses of chapter 1.

But, as soon as any sin is listed, there is a tendency to compare oneself with the list.  And, if we feel as if we do a better job with the list than most, we can pridefully draw conclusions about ourselves that aren’t true.  That, my friend, is the warning of chapter 2.  When we compare ourselves with others, we could be like the Jews that Paul is addressing in this chapter.  Although these people assessed themselves as being superior to other “real sinners,” they too were guilty and without excuse (vv. 1, 12).  Although these people possessed the Law and taught others, they neither adhered to all that was written or even did all that was taught (vv. 17-24).  Even moral people, who attempt to operate according to their own conscience, don’t do all that this internal moral barometer tells them (vv. 14-16).

Be careful in comparing yourself with others, especially by external measures.  Through Christ Jesus, God wants to humble us to recognize that we too are sinners.  He wants to bring us past a point of merely visible, external compliance with expectations to an internal, joyful submission of the heart to the Christ of the cross (vv. 27-29).  That is where true life change is found.  Pause today to humbly surrender your sinful and sometimes prideful life to Him.

sbk

Posted in Romans

March 2: Why the Gospel Matters

Read Romans 1:18-32

If we have no need for saving, then the gospel, the truth about Jesus Christ, is moot. In fact, if you and I don’t recognize the fact that we deserve God’s wrath because of our apart-from-God ways, then there’s really no need to go any further with this letter to the Romans. There would have been no reason for the church in Rome to hold on to Paul’s words. In fact, the Bible itself would be pointless.

But we have a very real need. It’s desperate and dire and cannot be met without God’s own doing. Only the one true and Almighty God who created earth and man and life itself could get us out of the mess we ourselves made.

You see, when God created earth, He weaved clues throughout its entirety, clues that point straight to Him, threads of His character giving witness to who He is. But mankind has this way of ignoring its Creator and offering credit and glory to the things He created instead of the One who created them.

It’s called sin.

And it deserves God’s wrath because it’s less than what He requires.

The truth is, you and me, we deserve the wrath of God. That’s why Jesus Christ’s story is such a big deal. It’s why Paul wrote this letter and we’re reading it today. Because we need Jesus’ delivering. We need His salvation. We need His grace.

The horridness of sin is just that — it’s horrid. Unthinkable. Offensive. Foul. It cannot be tolerated by God in His perfect righteousness because, well, He is God. Perfect, holy God.

And that is why we need the gospel. You and me and Jews and Gentiles and Sunday school teachers and grocery store cashiers and airline pilots and third-grade children. We all need God’s gift of the gospel, Jesus Christ, to withstand His wrath so we wouldn’t have to.

Let’s not take it for granted. Instead, let’s live like the gospel matters. Because it does. In fact, the gospel changes everything.

brw

 

Posted in Romans

March 1: The Gospel Truth and Introduction to Romans

Read Romans 1:1-17

Paul knew who he was. He had no doubt about what he was called to do.

I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God’s words and acts (v1, msg).

After a run-in with Jesus Himself on a road outside the city called Damascus, Paul’s mission in life had been made clear as day. Literally. Proclaim the gospel to those who haven’t heard. Paul’s purpose in life was to preach the news that God had made a way for humans to be made right with himself.

Grace through faith. Faith through grace.

He was the point man for people who had grown up outside the church, the non-Jews, making sure they heard the gospel of God.

Unlike most of his letters to other churches, Paul’s letter to the Romans didn’t deal with specific problems or particular circumstances surrounding its recipients. No, this one was more like a treatise, a doctrinal statement about God’s gift of salvation for any who would believe — Jews and non-Jews alike.

As we read through Romans’ 16 chapters over the next three weeks, we will find this theme time and time again. God has reached out to mankind and made a way for all of us to be justified and acceptable for His Kingdom. He has made a way to deliver humans from His own just wrath. The wrath we all deserve.

Jesus Christ, His own Son, is that way. He is the Messiah sent from God to save us from the very real place called hell.

(I)t is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes . . . (v16)

Everyone. The Jews of Paul’s day and the ones who’d never stepped foot in a synagogue. You and me and the guy down the street and the lady in prison and the child at school. The gospel brings salvation to everyone. who. believes.

And the believing — this is faith. The faith God told Habakkuk in the Old Testament would make the righteous live. His plan has never changed. It is and always has been to make you and me, and all whom He would call, righteous and alive, by faith alone.

It is in this gospel, this truth about God’s plan of salvation, that God makes His own righteousness known. He makes us righteous so we can stand before Him justified. He gives us His own righteousness.

And now we can live. Really, truly live.

brw

 

Posted in Romans | Tagged ,

February 28 – Questions Part II

Malachi 3:1-4:6

Malachi is a book of questions.   As mentioned in part I, God is still unhappy after thousands of years of calling out to his chosen people, and those people who have so many times enjoyed the benefits of His grace and mercy are clueless as to why he is unhappy.

God is not shy in telling them how they have failed:

  • They were not honoring His holy name
  • They were divorcing their wives
  • They had turned away from God’s decrees
  • They were not paying their tithes or offerings
  • They had spoken harshly against God

God is so disappointed with his children He essentially tells them, “I am the Lord and I do not change so you, descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”  In other words, you’re lucky people that I am forever unchanging otherwise I would forget the covenant I made with your forefathers and wipe you out.  What stronger words could God have used to express himself?  And yet, when you read the list above, it doesn’t sound much different from some of God’s so called followers today does it?

Even in the midst of this rebellion, God still provided a way out.  He said he would send a messenger.  This messenger would precede the Messiah who would be like a launderer’s soap and appear in the temple.  There would be punishment for those who would scoff at God, but He also recognized those who feared his name and promised to remember them when He judges all people.

It’s a strange solemn way to end God’s revelation to his chosen people.  At the conclusion of Malachi, We are left wanting, wondering, what now?  This is exactly the way the Israelites felt.  At the conclusion of Malachi God went silent for hundreds of years.  No more revelation, no more prophecy.  And then, just as God said, everything changed!

ejt

Posted in Malachi

February 27 – Questions Part I

Malachi 1:6-2:17

As a father, it bothers me when they aren’t grateful.  In addition to sometimes being ungrateful, it’s almost humorous how children can react when caught in the act of committing an offense.   When the punishment is handed down, they act shocked…dismayed…dumbfounded?  Me?  What did I do?  So I can kind of understand how God must feel in Malachi 1 when he begins to excoriate his children.  He begins with some questions of His own in Malachi 1:6

Many of us prefer to view God as our Father, and He certainly is.  But God would like to know, if he is your father, when are you going to start loving and honoring Him in a way befitting a father?  For a smaller number of us it is easier to think of God as Master.  But if God is your Master, when are you going to start obeying Him?  In reality, God is both our Father and our Master, and we cannot have a right view of Him until we see Him from both perspectives simultaneously and in balance.

Obedience is a little like recycling.  It seems like a good idea until you have to walk all the way to the garage to throw away the soda can, and then it just seems like a lot of work!   Obedience is a nice concept, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes we’re just not interested.  When we read Malachi, like children, we’re caught red handed; God is calling us out.

The folks in Malachi, just like my kids, are incredulous.  How have we shown contempt for your name?  How have we defiled you?  God says that He is defiled because the people are promising to give the best of their flocks for sacrifice, but when the time for the sacrifice comes, they bring the diseased and sick from the flock to sacrifice instead.  They were continuing in this sin as if God wouldn’t be aware of what they were up to.

There is a direct correlation here between the Israelites and us.  Like them, we promise to give God our best, we promise to obey Him, we promise to give him the first part of our day, the first part of our income, the first part of us.  But often as I mentioned earlier, obedience is just a nice sentiment, it’s something we sing about in worship songs and talk about in small group meetings.  Reading the bible and spending time with God in prayer is important, I’m sure we all agree, but often God gets our leftovers or maybe nothing at all.  It’s almost like we thought he wasn’t really there seeing it all.

ejt

Posted in Malachi

February 26 – I Have Loved You

Malachi 1:1-1:5

The book of Malachi begins with these words from God speaking to his children.  Four thousand years of biblical history have occurred at this point.  So many events: the creation of the world, the fall of man, the flood, the exile, the exodus, the kings, the prophets, countless wars, thousands of years of history.  We have reached the culmination of the time before the coming of the Messiah and Israel is about to be plunged into hundreds of years of silence from God.  It is at this moment that God speaks to Israel and says … “I have loved you.”

Why would God make this statement at this point in history?  It’s almost as if he was saying, after all we’ve been through together, you and I; after all of it, I just need you to know that I have loved you.  I love that the statement is in the past tense.  I have loved you.  It’s not because God had stopped loving Israel.  It’s because we as children tend to question our father, and not in a good way.  When things happen, life, circumstances, we like the Israelites tend to say, God, how is this love?  That has to be one of the most audacious questions in the whole bible.  Can you imagine looking God in the eye and after he tells you he loves you, you respond, “How have you loved me?” When we question God in this way, we have clearly lost our way.  Only one who is very far from God, or hurting very badly, can ask a question like that.  This however was the condition of the Israelites; they had forgotten their God again.

As a parent, one thing that really bothers me is when my kids are ungrateful.  The reason it bothers me is because I know how lucky they are to live the life they do; to have the luxury of their biggest worry being how long they get to play the video game every day.  So when they are ungrateful it shows me that they aren’t mindful of what they have been blessed with.  I feel like I need to make them see differently.  I find this sometimes to be a difficult thing to do because they lack perspective.

Malachi is a book of questions.  It is different from other biblical prophetic writings in that Malachi relays a series of rhetorical questions both asked and answered by God.  In the book, God is having a conversation with his children, the Israelites.  He’s trying to get them to see things rightly and in doing so we see a detailed picture into the heart of God.

ejt

Posted in Malachi