Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 10:16-17 (click here for NET Bible)

It seems as though verse 17 is out of order. However, if you take verse 17 as the summary statement for 10:14-16, then the order makes sense. As we partner with God as His sent messengers of the Gospel, people hear the Gospel, some will transfer their trust onto Jesus Christ and express their faith in Christ in prayer (verses 14-15). However, some won’t believe Jesus is the Messiah (verse 16). Paul then summarizes the importance of Christ-followers communicating the Gospel in verse 17: “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NET) God has sovereignly chosen to weave together His redemptive work with our proclamation of the Gospel.

On Sunday, I stated that in verses 14-15 is a four step process of salvation: God sends every believer, those sent are to communicate the Gospel, those hearing the Gospel may choose to respond with faith, and those who choose to transfer their faith onto Jesus express it through prayer. I emphatically said that this process begins with us, with those who are Christ-followers.

To be honest, I am surprised that I have not received emails about this statement. Salvation from a human perspective begins with a believer engaged in prayer, care and share. However, from a divine perspective it all begins with God. Romans 8:29-30 makes this abundantly clear: "... because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30 NET) The four step process in Romans 10 takes place between God's call and justification.

Praise the Lord our salvation is totally a work of God in which He chooses to use His people as instruments to communicate the Gospel!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 10:5-8 (click here for NET Bible)

I am thankful that everything that needs to be done for my salvation has been accomplished through Jesus Christ. I don't have to measure up to the law's righteous demands. It would be an exercise in futility. I don't have to pray for the Messiah to come because He has come. I don't have to pray for Jesus to prove that He is God and His death on the cross is sufficient for my sin. He already did that through the resurrection. All that's left for me is to believe - to transfer my trust from myself onto Jesus Christ for salvation. I am very grateful to the Lord that He led me to do that 41 years ago.

This is, then, is one of the core differences between Christianity and all other religions. Religion says, "Do." Christianity says, "Done." Salvation is near because everything needed has been accomplished in order for God to forgive us our sin. All we must do is appropriate what Christ did for us by placing our total trust in Jesus Christ.

By the way, today is Day One of our 40 days to pray for our city. The "Seek God for the City" prayer guide asks us to pray for our youth today. I don't think it is "coincidence" that today is the monthly "SOS" day for our middle school and high school students. "SOS" stands for "serve our schools." It is an effort of many youth groups in our area. The students from various churches serve the students and faculty in creative ways one day a month. It is student led and implemented. Please pray that God would be honored as these students serve their peers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 10:3-4 (click here for NET Bible)

Paul asserted that the Jews ignored the righteousness that comes from God. This means that they had the information they needed to "submit to God's righteousness." Their pride would not let them. Instead, they sought to establish their own faulty righteousness which falls far short of God's perfect holiness.

How do people today ignore God's righteousness? The Jews were recipients of God's revelation. But what about the many who have never read the Bible? How can they be ignoring God's righteousness? Obviously their pride is causing them to establish their own righteousness.

I think the answer lies back in chapter one of Romans where Paul declared, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20 NET)

Every person is under the wrath of God because each one has willfully ignored the truth and sought to gain their own deliverance through their good works.

"Father, may You break through the ignorance of those who are far from You. Please remove the blinders their pride has put in place. May they realize the futility of the performance treadmill."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 10:1-2 (click here for NET Bible)

I'm sitting in my sunroom watching the shadows decrease as the sun rises. I am warm, comfortable and satisfied. I just had a great day with my church family sharing God's Word with them. As I look out over the golden-white field behind our house, it is hard for me to imagine what hell is like. I know intellectually that it is a place of unending torment and eternal exclusion from the presence of God. Jesus described hell as the place, "where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched." (Mark 9:48) The "worm" represents the internal torment and "fire" represents the external torment of hell, both never end. This is the place where those who don't transfer their trust from themselves onto Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin will go when they die. Hence, every person needs salvation. This is what Paul was praying for - the salvation of fellow Jews.

"Lord, please help the reality of hell to grip my heart for those who are far from You. May I sense the urgency to pray for my neighbors, family members, co-workers, community members who are one last breath away from hell. Thank You for allowing me to have a role in rescuing people from the coming judgment. May my prayers lead to opportunities to care for them and share the Gospel with them."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:22-24 (click here for NET Bible)

What if God is willing (and He is) to make know the wealth of His glory on the objects of mercy that He has prepared beforehand for glory - even me, whom He has called. What a mind blowing thought that the Creator of the universe, God almighty, chose me to be an object of His mercy!

The Apostle Paul declares, "I am grateful to the one who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me faithful in putting me into ministry, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and our Lord’s grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' – and I am the worst of them! But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen." (1 Timothy 1:12-17 NET)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:19-21 (click here for NET Bible)

I am so humbled by these verses. There are times when I criticize God for how things are going. I'm not asking honest questions. I am irritated (aka angry) at how my day is going or some "stupid" thing someone else did. What right do I have to criticize God?

Paul clearly answers that I have no right. I am clay in the Potter's hands. God has every right to do as He wishes. He is sovereign. Who am I - a mere human being - to talk back to God? A mere piece of clay. A finite, frail and foolish person.

Paul is giving a loose quote from Isaiah 45:9. It is interesting that Isaiah included a stern warning for those who persistently blame God and criticize Him for their troubles.

“Destruction is certain for those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you are doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be!’" (Isaiah 45:9 NLT)

Lord Jesus, I humbly acknowledge Your sovereign right to do as You please. I have confidence in Your skill to use all circumstances for my good and Your glory.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9::14-18 (click here for NET Bible)

Paul began these verses asking "Is God unjust?" The answer is a clear, strong, resolute negative answer, "Absolutely not!" Then Paul asserts the truth about the sovereign election of God. God declares, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compasssion." God is a just God because all of humanity is infected with sin resulting in eternal damnation. God out of mercy and compassion chooses some to rescue from condemnation. This does not indicate injustice. The just thing is for every person, including you and me, to face the consequences of sin, which is death. This is why sinners don't cry out for justice. We cry out, "God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!" (Luke 18:13)

Paul continues to explore God's justice in verses 19-33 when he examines the issue of God's sovereignty and human responsibility. Since God is sovereign and chooses whom He will save, then how can He hold us responsible for our choices? We will explore this tomorrow in the sermon and next week through the daily readings. As we do, may we remember Paul's words,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God that God needs to repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NET)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:16 (click here for NET Bible)

God's mercy toward me is not the result of anything I feel or do. It totally depends on God. It depends on His sovereign choice of me to be his adopted child. I can take no credit, nor receive any of the acclaim. I am humbled that the God of the universe would choose me.

King David expressed it well when he prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving me a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God! What more can I say about the way you have honored me? You know what I am really like. For my sake, O Lord, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known." (1 Chronicles 17:16-19 NLT)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:15 (click here for NET Bible)

I want to thank Pastor Mark Forstrom for his blog post yesterday. He did a great job at explaining how a person can study only one verse and get much from it. He even showed how you could do it by using Bible.org study tools. Be sure to check it out at pastormark.ncbcsrhigh.org (the link is on the side panel of my blog).

The verse for today is a quote taken from Exodus 33:19. In order to understand the thrust of what Paul is saying you need to read the context of Exodus 33:19. A good place to start is chapter 32, verse 1.

Paul quoted Exodus 33:19 to show that God’s extends mercy according to His sovereign choice. It is in reference to Israel’s idolatry while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. The whole nation deserved to be destroyed according to God’s justice. However, only 3,000 people died because of God’s mercy. They died not because they were more wicked or less godly. Every Israelite stood guilty before a just God and deserved to die. God extended mercy to the rest of the nation.

Now if we approach the killing of these 3,000 Jews from a human viewpoint, our response would be, “Oh my goodness! How could God kill 3,000 Jews just like that?” However, if we respond from a Biblical view, our response would be, “Oh my! How could God not kill all of the Jews? What a merciful God!”

Because all of humanity is sinful and deserves God’s condemnation, no person is wronged or treated unjustly if God chooses to allow him or her to receive the just punishment for sin. That is justice. His mercy toward any person is purely by His grace. The issue in such matters is God’s sovereign choice. As the sovereign God, He declares, “I will mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thought on Romans 9:10-13 (click here for Net Bible)

"Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Most of us struggle with this statement because God "hated" Esau. Of course, we must interpret this in the context of all of Scripture. We know from other passages, like John 3:16, that God clearly loves all people unconditionally. So, the word "hate" here means that because of God's choice of Jacob over Esau it seems as though God hated him. It is not used absolutely but relative to a higher choice.

However, my struggle is not that God "hated" Esau. My struggle is how God could love Jacob. Jacob was a sinner just like Esau and me. Jacob deserved eternal damnation just like Esau and me. Yet God choose the Messiah to come through Jacob’s descendants. God chose me to be His adopted child. I don’t deserve it. It is by His grace. Why Jacob? Why me? Why you?

"How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was! He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus. This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen."
(1 Timothy 1:12-17 NLT)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:8-9 (click here for Net Bible)

The contrast here is between Ishmael and Isaac, between the flesh and faith. Ishmael represents a person's self-efforts to achieve eternal life. Isaac represents a person's faith in God's promise that "whoever believes in Him [Jesus] will not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). By application, Ishmael symbolizes our self-efforts to accomplish God's plans in our time and in our way. Abraham and Sarah wanted to "help" God out since it was obvious God wasn't able to enable Sarah to get pregnant. So, they came up with plan B, and Ishmael was born by way of Hagar. This seems great except God rejected Ishmael as the son of promise. God's way was for Sarah to have a son by faith in Him that He would make it happen in His time and His way. Isaac symbolizes our faith walk with Christ where we obediently do what He asks and patiently wait for God to do His part. We don't have to force or manipulate in order to make God's plans happen. He is more than capable. Our role is to trust. Are you living this day in such a way that at the end you can look back and say that it was an "Isaac" day or an "Ishmael" day?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:6-7 (click here for Net Bible)

The issue Paul is addressing in these verses is the integrity of God. He makes a clear and compelling statement, "It is not as though the word of God failed." There were some folks declaring that it seems as though God had failed to keep His promises to Israel. This would have tremendous ramifications if this were true. If God did not keep just one of His promises, then He loses His integrity. How can we trust God if He does not keep His word?

The key phrase is "it seems as though." It seemed as though God had failed to keep his covenant with Israel when so many Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. It seemed as though God abandoned His promises to the Jews as He now is focusing on the Gentiles and the church.

The objectors didn’t realize that God was faithful to every individual Jew who believed in Jesus. His promises are contingent upon an individual's faith in Him. God is faithful. A Jew is not saved because he is a Jew but because of his faith in Christ.

So, God did keep His word. It just seemed as though He failed because of a wrong assumption that God would bring salvation to the entire nation of Israel just because they were Jews by physical descent irregardless of faith in Christ.

God is faithful. He keeps His promise of salvation to every person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. We really can have absolute confidence in God and His word.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:3-5 (click here for Net Bible)

Paul said in Romans 9:2 that he had "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" in his heart for his fellow Jews who were far from God. This brought about in Paul such love that he was willing to give up everything for them - even his own salvation!

I think one reason I don't have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart like I should for those around me who are far from God is I want to be comfortable. I want to go through my day feeling good, not feeling unsettled or upset. Yet how can we go through our days as if nothing is wrong when people all around us are facing a Christ-less eternity? Oh, God forgive me! Forgive us!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Thoughts on Romans 9:1-2 (click here for Net Bible)

Paul begins by qualifying what he is about to say. He states in no uncertain terms that he is telling the truth. Even the Holy Spirit confirms this in his conscience. Apparently Paul was accused of turning his back on his fellow Jews. Since he was a missionary to the Gentiles he obviously could care less about Israel. Or so the argument would go.

I find it interesting that when Paul is attacked he doesn't go into self-preservation mode. He doesn't focus on himself. Rather, he keeps his attention on others and their needs. As a result, his heart aches for his fellow countrymen. This isn't natural. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

This is a mark of a servant leader - one who is following in the footsteps of Christ.

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8 NET)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

eXchange : relationship series begins

Tomorrow begins my sermon series on Romans chapters 9-11 entitled, "eXchange : relationship." I am excited to delve into the riches of Paul's teaching concerning Israel. These chapters are not easy to understand but are worth every minute of study. In them we discover God's past election of Israel, Israel's present rejection of the Messiah and future restoration. The passage for this week, Romans 9:1-13, we learn how God is faithful even when our circumstances are telling us otherwise.