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Archive for Romans

So since self righteousness is not a valid option, what are the benefits of the righteousness provided by Christ? In the next section of Romans 10, Paul reveals the benefits of the righteousness that are available through Christ.

For example, we do not have to ascend to God through our own efforts because Christ has come near to us. In Romans 10:6-8, Paul continued, “But faith’s way of getting right with God says, ‘Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).’ In fact, it says, ‘The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’ And that message is the very message about faith that we preach” (Romans 10:6-8, NLT). Through the incarnation and the resurrection God fully demonstrated His commitment to come near to us, rendering our efforts to ascend to God unnecessary.

Not only did God come near to us, righteousness is made available by believing and confessing the gospel. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10, NLT). Self righteousness is pursued through external efforts which are believed to transform one’s inner life. But in these two verses Paul has shared that life change happens inside-out. Believing in the heart leads to confessing with the mouth. In other words, when the heart is right, right behavior will follow.

This Christ righteousness is available to all who ask! Regardless of race, gender, or status; all are welcome, and those who come to Christ are not disappointed. The next section of Romans 10 goes like this, “As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved’” (Romans 10:11-13, NLT).

Tomorrow I’ll conclude this series on praying for those who don’t. Thus far I’ve observed that we should pray with understanding. What remains involves you and me and God unfurling His mission in the world.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:1-4, NLT).

How do you pray for those who don’t? The first suggestion that Paul offers is to pray with understanding. Our prayers for those who don’t pray can be guided by understanding the heart of the problem. Paul shares three problems that his fellow Israelites have that are not uncommon with people today.

The first problem is what I would call religious enthusiasm. Paul acknowledged that his Jewish brothers and sisters had ample enthusiasm about spiritual things. It wasn’t just an observation that Paul had made about the Jews. He had observed the same thing about the Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:16-34). Clearly he would say the same thing today.

A simple search on Amazon.com revealed that if you searched on the word “christianity,” 280,099 results would pop up. For “spirituality” you would net 131,619 results, and “new age” would yield 13,307. If you amplify the search to a broader domain such as Google, “christianity” would provide a return of 116,000,000 hits. “Spirituality” would produce 136,000,000, and “new age” a whopping 422,000,000!
Our Christian houses of worship may reflect otherwise on Sunday morning, but the world is buzzing about spirituality with zealous enthusiasm!

A second problem that Paul identified was spiritual blindness. While people throughout history have demonstrated abundant zeal for spiritual things, “they don’t understand.” This enthusiasm is without knowledge. In other words, their passion is sincere, yet without truth.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes about how the god of this world has blinded the minds of people so they have a difficult time comprehending the truth about God’s way of making people right with himself. There is a spiritual battle involved concerned that we must be made aware.

Problem number three is perhaps the heart of the issue when it comes to understanding those who “don’t pray.” At the core is the attempt to make themselves right with God apart from Christ. Any righteousness they hope to attain is by self effort. In the specific case of the Jews, it is by keeping the law. But in principle, there is a sense that out of self effort will evolve the ability to connect with God. They refuse to accept God’s grace and acknowledge Him as the source of righteousness. With stubborn independence, they prefer to get to God based on their own efforts and accomplishments. Does that sound like anyone you know?

So what’s the point? The point is self effort is hard! In the next verse, Paul continues, “For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands” (Romans 10:5, NLT).

Self effort is hard because it requires the continual, unending process of learning and earning; of trying to impress God through dutiful observances and good deeds. It is based on the theory that if a person can accomplish enough good behavior that the good behavior will transform their hearts. In short, my external life will transform my internal life. The obvious problem is this: How good does a person have to be in order to be good enough for a holy God?

Let me explain it this way. How many times per day would you say that you sin? Let’s suppose for a moment that the number is three. Just three sins per day. There are 365 days in a year, so that would roughly calculate to about 1,000 sins per year. How long do you expect to live? Let’s say a number like 80 years. If you live to be 80, committing only 3 sins per day, at the end of your life you would have amassed 80,000 sins! How good would you have to be to overcome that? How many good things would you have to do to surpass that mark?

That’s Paul’s issue with self righteousness. It’s never enough. So when you pray for those who don’t, pray with that understanding in mind. Tomorrow I’ll continue in Romans 10 and share how Paul contrasts self righteousness with the righteousness provided by Christ.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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Who do you know that doesn’t pray? Who do you love that doesn’t pray? How do you pray for those who don’t? The Book of Romans has been called the “Gospel According to Paul.” It is his treatment of what the gospel is and what the gospel does and how we are to approach it and spread it. As part of this great book, Paul spends some time talking about praying for those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Check out the following passages and observe Paul’s burden for those he holds near his heart:

“With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them” (Romans 9:1-3, NLT).

“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved” (Romans 10:1, NLT).

Paul’s prayer for his fellow Israelites was passionate and vulnerable. It was hopeful and optimistic. He doesn’t condemn them, neither does he judge them. It is hard to imagine loving someone so much that you would be willing to take their place in hell if that would mean they would discover the righteousness that is provided through Christ.

What follows in Romans chapter 10 is an explanation of the righteousness of God and Paul’s description of the “never to be embarrassed faith” that one can find in Christ. Throughout this week I want to unpack Paul’s challenge for us to pray for people who have yet to discover God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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How to Introduce Yourself (part 3)

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Yesterday we examined three of Paul’s characteristics of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today I want to finish with the final three characteristics.

4. The scope of the gospel is all nations. Romans 1:5 reads, “We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations” (HCSB).
In Paul’s understanding, to be committed to the nations is to be blind to race, gender, status, title, etc. The gospel is for everyone without exception and without distinction. (cf. Romans 1:14-16)

5. The purpose of the gospel is the obedience of the faith. As you just read in verse 5 above, the obedience of the faith is the response the gospel demands. Paul is not referring to obedience to a creed or a set of doctrines. He is talking about full commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is the believer’s appropriate response to the gospel of God.

6. Finally, the goal of the gospel is to honor Christ’s name. Verse five concludes that all of this effort is “on behalf of His name.” Paul wanted to preach the gospel to the nations to bring glory to Christ’s name. The highest missionary motive is passionate zeal for the glory of Jesus Christ.

So what do we do with this tidy analysis of the gospel? Paul wrote in verse 5 that “we have received grace and apostleship.” That sounds like fancy preacher talk, but when you break it down, it is important. Grace speaks of unmerited favor, of receiving something undeserved. Apostleship in its generic form speaks of being “a sent one.” If you mash that up, we have received the undeserved privilege of being sent to share God’s good news about Jesus Christ. That was true of Paul, and its true of you as well.

Categories : Gospel, Paul, Romans
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How to Introduce Yourself (part 2)

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When we moved to Waukee five years ago, I introduced myself to one of my son’s football coaches. Realizing we were new to the community, the coach asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was Pastor of Ashworth Road Baptist Church. His next question started me. He asked, “So what kind of Baptist are you? Are you a ‘better than me’ Baptist, a chicken swingin’ Baptist, or a regular guy Baptist?” I had a pretty good handle on two of those, but my curiosity bested me and I replied, “What’s a chicken swingin’ Baptist?” He laughed and said, “Those are the kind that dance around waving their hand in circles over their head like they’re swingin’ a chicken by the head!” True story!

In the first century, the landscape was littered with itinerant preachers and teachers who were promoting “the gospel.” Audiences who were unsuspecting failed to ask the question, “What kind of gospel are you teaching?” The savvy, on the other hand, wanted to know up front the brand of gospel being delivered to them. Paul is no dummy. Having dispensed with the credentials in short order, he gets to the main concern, his brand of the gospel.

In Romans 1:1-5, Paul provides six characteristics of the gospel he has been sent to proclaim.

1. The origin of the gospel is God. Romans 1:1 reads, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news…” (HCSB). The good news is God’s good news. The apostles didn’t invent it. Much of liberal theology today is consumed with distancing Jesus from the development of the gospel and the church. They hypothesize that Jesus was a good, moral teacher who never intended to develop his words and works into a movement that would span two millennia. They suggest that Paul and other apostles got together after the death of Jesus and developed the ground work for what we know as the church today. Paul would have no tolerance for that kind of opinion. He is crystal clear from the beginning that the gospel was revealed and entrusted to the apostles by God. It is God’s good news for a lost and broken world.

2. The gospel is rooted in Scripture. Romans 1:2 continues, “which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his son…” (HCSB). Although God revealed the gospel to the apostles, it was not new. In fact, Paul would declare that the gospel was rooted deep in the story of the Old Testament. There is a continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament that Jesus affirmed. The prophets of the Old and the apostles of the New spoke of the same person and the same thing, one in future tense and the other in past tense.

3. The substance of the gospel is Jesus. Moving forward, Romans 1:2 states, “Concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh and was established as the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness” (HCSB). God’s gospel is good news about Jesus Christ. In this portion, Paul clarifies four significant elements of Jesus’ life: his incarnation, his death (as supposed by the resurrection), the resurrection, and his reign as Lord.

Tomorrow I’ll finish this post by sharing the final three characteristics of the gospel in Paul’s introduction to the Book of Romans.

Categories : Gospel, Paul, Romans
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How to Introduce Yourself

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I think it would be pretty easy to make the argument that Romans is the Apostle Paul’s most known, studied and appreciated epistle. Its influence ranges from Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation to the everyday Bible student. In the first five verses, Paul takes a moment to introduce himself to the readers he has never met who live in a city he has yet to visit.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of being asked to introduce yourself to a group of people. Introductions are pretty uncomfortable when they come from another. They are even more difficult when you have to offer one on your own behalf. Paul’s self introduction is short on credentials and long on doctrine. First, the credentials.

“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach the Good News” (Romans 1:1, NLT)

Paul calls himself a slave and an apostle in the same sentence. At first glance these would seem contradictory in nature. The word slave (doulos) is sometimes translated “servant,” but slave gives the full impact of what Paul is attempting to convey. Slave bears the connotation of humility, personal insignificance, and of one who bears no rights of his own.

On the other hand, Paul is an apostle. The word apostle is a distinctively Christian word. Jesus used it to designate the Twelve. An apostle was viewed as an authoritative figure among first generation believers. In order to be an apostle, one had to have been personally called by Jesus and have been eyewitness to the resurrection. Paul would claim to have experienced both.

So how does one blend the lowly self assessment of slave with the authoritative position of apostle? I think what Paul is trying to convey here is that he is servant to the gospel he has been sent to proclaim. More than the churches he plants or the communities he visits, Paul is first and foremost a servant to his calling. That is the platform on which he stands.

Brent Clark shared a blog post with me today by a mainline pastor who was bemoaning the fact that their denomination placed ineffective pastors in effective churches and vice versa. As I read the thread of unmoderated comments, it occurred to me that too much emphasis was being placed on pastors being placed to serve churches. There was no comment on whether or not pastors were serving their ultimate calling to the gospel.

I sometimes wonder if pastors and staff members in the 21st century get that there is a higher calling than the churches they serve. The calling of the minister is primarily to serve the gospel and to proclaim it boldly in churches and communities. Sheep are certainly needy, and the pastor assumes some responsibility for their feeding, leading, and equipping. But the primary calling is to the gospel. Anything else makes the pastor a chaplain.

Categories : Calling, Gospel, Romans
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