Welcome One Another (Romans 13-15)

Romans 15:7 ESV Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

In this section the Apostle Paul encourages the church to live at peace with all men. If we believe that God has made peace with us through Jesus Christ, we ought to be at peace with one another. If God is sovereign over governments, we ought to pay our taxes. If we will ultimately stand and give an account for ourselves before God, we ought not judge our brothers and sisters in Christ. If a weaker brother takes issue on the grounds of conscience to something we do, we ought to serve our brother rather than violate their conscience, since Christ has born our weaknesses it is not too big a task for us to bear with one another. The list goes on.

Romans 15:7 really jumped out at me this morning. In a few hours, I’ll be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 and sharing a minor point on how God greets His church with Grace and Peace. If we have been welcomed to the body of Christ not on our merits but based on the grace of God, who are we that we would withhold that same sort of welcome for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Welcoming our brothers and sisters in Christ, the way Christ has welcomed us is a practical application of loving our neighbor as ourselves!

I’ll confess as we’ve explored earlier in Romans, sinful habits die hard. It can be difficult to demonstrate grace to those we think of as “undeserving.” But then again it wouldn’t be grace if people deserved it. We are reminded from our reading earlier in Romans, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If He has done so much for us and welcomes all who come to Him on the same terms, who are we to hold to a different sort of welcome?

[Note: This doesn’t mean that we are to endorse or tolerate sin in the church. It does mean that when we address sin in the church that we go having examined our own lives first (Matthew 7:1-7), approach in such a way as to restore those who have fallen back into sin (Matthew 18), and are to be gentle in our approach (Galatians 6:1)]

[Note: It should be noted that in the foreground of all that Paul is talking about in Romans is the relationships in the church between Jewish and Gentile believers. The issue at stake was that there would be two sects rather than one church. It was important that Jewish and Gentile believers welcome one another and work together to glorify God in unity.]

Father, thank you that you have saved us by grace and welcomed us into the body of Christ not based on a resume of good works, but on the work of Christ alone. Thank you for the tremendous love poured out on us. Help us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ the way you love us. Give us wisdom, direction, and move us by your Spirit in practical ways to live out your gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Sin Will Have No More Dominion Over You (Romans 4-6)

Romans 6:13-14 ESV Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It’s great to listen in to the Dave Ramsey Radio show from time to time and hear folks call in to scream, “We are debt free!” If you listen to the show you know that Dave offers a simple plan to help folks live with in their means, pay off their debt, and live debt free. As Dave puts it, “Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow.” Many times folks call into the show and discuss just how big their debt is. It seems like they can’t enjoy much of life because as soon as their paycheck comes in it goes out to pay for a mortgage, car notes, student loan debts, medical bills, and their consumer credit card. People are drowning in debt. Dave often quotes the prover, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7b).

I can imagine the joy experienced as a family calls in, or drives across the country to show up live in the studio and scream out their testimony, “We are Debt Free!” They are experiencing life where the pay check comes in and it doesn’t have to go right back out! They are free from the burdens, anxieties, and even depression all because their massive debts have been paid off.

Those in Christ have something even greater to rejoice about, we have been set free from the burden of sin! We were once slaves to sin, we had a daily obligation to sinful thoughts, actions, and lifestyles. Our sin separated us from God and kept us from being free to worship Him. Yet through the response of faith to the work of Christ on the cross we are set free from our sin! We are set free not just from the punishment our past sins have earned us, but we are free to worship and glorify God!

The apostle Paul urges us here to remember that we have been set free from sin and to present our selves to the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit work in you! I can’t imagine someone still paying the credit card company long after the debt has been paid. This powerful reminder in God’s word helps us grasp that we no longer have to do the same sort of things we did before Jesus set us free. We have the capacity, through the work of God in our lives, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to love one another as Christ loved us, to encourage and support one another, and all the various commands we find in scripture. Those commands aren’t written to people who are still slaves, but people who are free by the power of the gospel to fulfill whatever commands our Savior gives us. As a friend of mind likes to say all the time, “Where God guides, He provides.” This is especially true when it comes to living the new life in Jesus Christ.

Father, Thank you that you have set me free from slavery to sin. I confess that old habits die hard. Too often I return to broken cisterns thinking they will provide what I need. I rejoice that your word reminds me today that I don’t have to keep going back to dead, dry wells but that I have all I need in you. I’ve been set free from the sins of my past, am no longer bound in the present, and have a bright future ahead where sin will be no more. I pray that I will live fully empowered by the gospel. I rejoice at your work in my life. Conform me more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Our Conscience (Romans 1-3)

Romans 2:14-16 ESV For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (15) They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (16) on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was playing with a friend at a property that his family had just bought. We were exploring the barns and outer buildings when we came up on a box. Naturally being curious we opened the box and found out that is was full of dirty magazines. No one had ever told me not to look at dirty magazines and I was curious about what was inside of them. At that moment however there was a gut feeling that looking at those magazines would be wrong. Fortunately my friend had the same but stronger intuition and closed the box and took it to his parents.

What was at work in my heart was my conscience. I intuitively knew that looking at those magazines would have been wrong. Part of me was curious and willing to violate my conscience. This is the drama that Paul says works out even in those people who have never heard the Law. God’s law is written on their heart in such a way that they intuitively know that some things are wrong and they violate their own conscience.

Someone may not believe the scriptures and subscribe to God’s law. Yet, if they have ever violated their own conscience they can’t claim to stand before God guiltless. We are so great of sinners that not only do we fail to keep God’s law perfectly, we can’t even keep our own conscious clear.

The only real solution is Jesus. Paul reminds us that we will all stand before God and give an account for our lives. Some of us will stand under the judgement and wrath of God as we answer for what we have done. Some of us will stand under the grace and mercy of God because our sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ and we have new life. On that day we will rejoice as God rewards us for the work he has done in our lives to change us from sinners into saints.

I don’t want anyone on that day to have to stand and face the full consequences for their sin. Not when Jesus has already paid for their sin and all they need to do is repent and trust in Him. I’m praying for opportunities to tell others about Jesus and his glorious gospel that has transformed my life.

Father, Thank you for your mercy and grace. We rejoice to know that you love us, Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins, and we can come to you in faith and receive the forgiveness of our sins. We ask for opportunities to tell others today about Jesus and how they can be forgiven of sin and have new life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Day 46: Romans 16 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Romans 16 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In today’s reading the first sixteen verses present a long list of people that the Apostle Paul and others know and recognize as genuine believers with pure motives. Then in verse seventeen Paul makes a stern warning for those who have an unholy ambition to serve themselves.

The point I took away is this, some people serve in the church as servants of God and are truly Kingdom first people. God is their king, their motives are pure, and they really want to see God glorified. They don’t serve for recognition, they don’t jockey for power, they just give and give generously of their time, money and effort to see God’s kingdom expand.

Others though use the same means to draw people away from the kingdom. They are divisive and self serving.They advertise a false doctrine.

Note, though where the line is. It’s over “doctrine contrary to what you have been taught” (16:17). It’s not over error or differing opinions on less than doctrinal matters. This isn’t a call to arms against those who are preaching truth from wrong motives (Philippians 1:15-18), or like Apollos who needed a little more education in the gospel (Acts 18:24-28), this is a call against those who are teaching divisive, false doctrine.

Be on guard, keep the gospel pure, but don’t be trigger happy and send out friendly fire either. Some people in error just need a better education in the gospel.

FATHER, I thank you for your many faithful servants who love you and labor to see you exalted in everything. I pray that we are faithful to you and encouraging to one another. I pray that you would protect the unity of Spirit that is among us and preserve us in your love. I pray that we would be aware of those with false motives. I pray that we would be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Give us wisdom and discernment in dealing with those who seek to destroy your body. Thank you for the distinct privilege of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 45: Romans 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

CONGRATULATIONS!!! We are half way through the 90 Day Reading Plan! Keep up the good work! Today’s reading comes from Romans 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

As the Apostle Paul works from theology to application, he writes that Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities (13:1) and pay taxes (13:7). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves which keeps the last five commandments (13:9-10). [Side note: I find it interesting that the command to honor your father and mother isn’t listed here. It seems that in Paul’s mind that command goes with the first four that deal with God. We will be addressing this command this Sunday at Little Escambia Baptist Church. ]

In chapter fourteen, Paul challenges us on two fronts. On the one hand we have freedom in Christ. Some Christians will do things differently than others and it’s not up to us to judge. We all stand and fall before the Lord (14:10-13). On the other hand we need to be careful in our freedom that we don’t cause others to stumble. We should be mindful of how our actions will effect others and be a source of encouragement not discouragement (14:19-20).

Paul wraps up this section with reminding us that to mature in Christ is to be concerned with the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not seek to offend in our liberty, but we should seek unity of Spirit.

FATHER, We pray for those who govern us and are in an authority over us. We pray for their salvation. We ask for peace. We pray for the grace to love our neighbors both in thought and practice. We pray that we would make no provision for the flesh, but that we would “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Guard our hearts from sin and draw us near to you. We ask that we would be content to let you judge us and our brothers and that we would seek unity in name of Jesus. Thank you for the grace to pastor your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 42: Romans 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Romans 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We are reminded in chapter four that “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” (4:3). Abraham didn’t just believe in God, he believed God. He took God at His word. Even when it seemed impossible (4:18-22).  This is what it looks like to have saving faith in Jesus (4:23-25).

Chapter five highlights that it is by this faith (response to the gospel) that we are justified before God (5:1). We are justified through faith that Jesus died for our sins and reconciles us to God (5:8-10). Paul affirms how this changes our disposition to sin (6:1-2). The the result of sin leads to death, but the fruit of a life submitted to God through Jesus Christ is eternal life (6:23).

My big takeaway today is to remember that I have been transformed by the power of the gospel and am no longer a slave to sin (6:17-18).

FATHER, Thank you for saving faith! Thank you that I can be made right with you through the work of Jesus Christ! I thank you that sin no longer has a hold over me. I pray that I walk in the freedom provided for me through trusting in Jesus Christ. I pray for my friends who haven’t trusted in you. I pray that you would give me opportunity and boldness to share with them. Thank you for abundant life! Thank you for the grace to lead your church. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 41: Romans 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes fromRomans 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul jumps right into the gospel in Romans. He is not ashamed (1:16). He is making his appeal to both the Jews and to the gentiles. Paul says in chapter one that what can be known about God is plain in creation, but our perverse hearts seek something else to worship (1:20-21). The reason we sin is because we are sinners and that’s not something that takes place on the outside, that’s a heart issue!

[Side Note: a lot of people are fond of pointing out homosexuality in this passage (1:26-27). It is there, but there are also a lot of other sins that are listed as the result of our rebellion against God (1:28-31). Some that are a lot more evident in society. Things like gossip, disobedient to parents, boasting, being unloving, or unmerciful. We are warned in chapter two of judging those who do these things while doing them ourselves. Romans 2:4 stands out as a gem of hope against the backdrop of condemnation and the coming wrath of God… We should be those who seek repentance not the condemnation of those who are in sin.]

Paul says that the purpose of our conscience is to bear witness against us,  condemning us or justifying us as the case may be (2:15).  We take notice that our conscience is internal, in our hearts. Our consciences are not an outside influence like an angel sitting on our shoulder whispering in our ear. If we are really going to be acceptable to God we have to change from inside out. We must be changed in the heart (2:29). 

Paul reminds us that we are all sinners (3:23). We all miss the mark. We all inwardly don’t long or aspire of our own accord to glorify God. We are bent and broken creatures. So bent and broken that the only one who could really straighten us out is God himself. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ (3:24-26). We grab hold of this being made right with God though God by faith (3:28).

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of faith and of salvation. We lift up those who seem content to live in sin and plead for their repentance. We plead for our own hearts so often bent by sin and swayed by the philosophy of this world. Thank you for the high calling of shepherding your people. Give us grace today. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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