Putting God's Word into Practice…

Romans 14 Faith and Freedom–Legalism and Liberties

This chapter is bookended with faith.  It’s starts off by saying those weak in faith are welcomed, and closes by saying those who lack faith are condemned.

Faith in this chapter is predominantly directed at legalism and liberties in the area of acceptable eating and drinking.  Although their struggles culturally were between Jewish food customs and Gentile permissiveness–we see food being a major issue in our culture today.  So many people are finding their righteousness in eating: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, organic, hormone free, free range, etc… that it can become a stumbling block at church cookouts, potlucks and personal hospitality!  Honestly, I have sinned with being judgmental and critical towards people who define their lives by their diet.  So this chapter hits close to home.  For myself-I don’t have any food convictions except that gluttony is a sin.  Does that make me weak or strong–I don’t know! I do know being judgmental is a sin and rubbing my freedoms and liberties in other people’s faces is also unloving.  The only thing that really matters is if I live a life of thanksgiving to the Lord; if I honor the Lord in my convictions/opinions; and if I bend my knee to Him as Lord and praise Him.

We will ALL stand before Him, and EACH will give an account.  We are only accountable to God–not each other! (4, 10, 12)

If our convictions are grieving others, we are not walking in love and could be destroying the very people for whom Christ died.  Love overrides freedom!  It is more important to lay down our rights for the sake of unity in the body of Christ!

Heaven is not about what we eat/drink or abstain from eating/drinking.  It is about righteousness, peace and joy.  Our righteousness comes from Christ–not from rules about food.  Peace between each other is more valuable than our regulations or liberties.  Joy is found in the Holy Spirit, not from following rules. (I know people who’s day can be defined as good or bad based on how they ate!)  Whatever we do that stems out of righteousness, peace and joy is acceptable to God and approved by men.

In the end we are commanded to pursue what makes for peace and edifying our brothers and sisters.  Our faith and freedom is between us and God.  Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

In his Romans commentary, Robert Mounce wrote, “Trust is the willingness to put all of life before God for His approval.  Any doubt concerning an action automatically removes that action from the category of that which is acceptable.”

Again we see that LOVE is the most important virtue–even when it comes to eating and drinking.

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Romans 13 Love in Action

A sacrificial, transformed, renewed life is characterized by genuine, brotherly love.  Love is at the top of the list in 12:9-21.  When we have love, everything else good and godly flows freely from it!  Genuine love allows us to pay proper respect to God-ordained authority, to be honest in paying our debts, and to do no wrong to our neighbors.

Love is not a fluffy, floaty-feeling emotion, but love takes action.  It is impossible to be engaged in the act of love and simultaneously be sinning.

Paul gave us some dynamic commands in the next paragraph, and He also demonstrated that how we are to live as loving Christ-followers is polar opposite of the world.  

  1. Wake up/asleep
  2. Day/night
  3. Light/darkness
  4. Walk/stumble
  5. Jesus/flesh
  6. Put on/cast off

How do we do those actions? They also flow out of a mind that is renewed and transformed, a heart that is filled with love for God and others.  Notice that the mind comes first.  How we think determines how we act.  Which leads to the last verse of this chapter: Put on or clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about or make provision for how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature/flesh, or evil desires.  The antithesis of loving God and people is loving self!  We cannot put on Christ as Lord (Ruler, Master) and love ourselves.  Loving ourselves is a big root of sin.  The world tells us to love ourselves, the Lord tells us to love Him and His people.  Therefore, we must not conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds!  Think on love! Act on love!

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Romans 12:2, 9-21 A Life Transformed

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I have two sons, and they have quite the Transformer toy collection.  In Transformer language; Bumblebee is just a cool car, but by taking all his same parts and changing their placement and function, he becomes an exceptionally strong metal machine that is useful for battle and helping others.  Bumblebee, the toy, cannot be transformed on his own, someone has to take hold of him and move things around to change him and make him useful and give him more purpose.

I think that is a good picture of our lives being transformed by God.  

A life that is transformed by God, will not conform to any other standards, but only to the direction of the hands of the Transformer.  And everything about God’s will is contrary to the will of the world.  If we have been transformed, we will be different!

Verses 9-21 give us distinctives of a life that has been transformed!

  1. Let love be genuine–don’t pretend to love people
  2. Hate what is evil
  3. Cling/hold tight to what is good
  4. Love one another with brotherly affection
  5. Delight in honoring others
  6. Don’t be slothful/lazy in zeal
  7. Be fervent in spirit
  8. Serve the Lord  (This goes with number 6 and 7.  Work hard to serve the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit with enthusiasm.)
  9. Rejoice in hope–confidence
  10. Be patient in affliction
  11. Be constant in prayer–keep on praying, fervently and persistently.  Matthew Henry said, “Prayer is a friend to hope and patience.”
  12. Contribute to the needs of the saints.
  13. Seek to show/practice hospitality
  14. Bless those who persecute
  15. Rejoice with those who rejoice
  16. Weep with those who weep (15 and 16 go together–be empathetic)
  17. Live in harmony with others
  18. Don’t be haughty, proud, conceited
  19. Associate with the lowly (17-19 are about the realization that without God’s grace we are nothing–it levels the “playing field” when it comes to interacting with others.)
  20. NEVER be wise in your own sight–don’t think I know it all!
  21. Don’t repay evil with evil
  22. Do right in the eyes of everybody
  23. Live peaceably with all
  24. Never avenge myself
  25. Care for the enemy
  26. Don’t be overcome by evil (temptation)
  27. Overcome evil with good.

These patterns of living require sacrifice and non-conformity.  We are incapable of living this way without a transformed/renewed mind.  It requires a complete alteration of how we view ourselves, view others, and trust God’s character.  But, I promise you, we will never regret doing things God’s way!  If we are truly Christlike, we will experience joy in sacrifice knowing that what it produces in us/others is more valuable than what we’re called to lay down.

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Romans 12:1, 3-8 Living Sacrifice

Over my lifetime, Romans 12:1-2 might be the two most quoted verses I’ve heard.  In reading this familiar text this morning, God showed me how verses 3-8 help to fulfill the appeal from verse one and verses 9-21 demonstrate a fulfillment of the command in verse two.  Yet the whole chapter works beautifully together.  

Romans 12:1 (Amplified) I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

Living a life of sacrifice is worship to God–and it is pleasing to Him.  Do we do this out of compulsion?  No! This lifestyle comes from a great understanding of His mercy as studied in chapters 9-11.

What does it look like to be a “living sacrifice?”  We sacrifice our reputation, time, energy, schedule, resources, pride, rights and leisure to serve the body of Christ.  Notice in verse one, we are a living sacrifice “TO GOD.”  When we recognize that our sacrifice is TO HIM, that should motivate us to sacrifice and serve in an acceptable way.

God has given us specific gifts as part of His body of believers that we use for each other (but “to Him”).  Listed in this section is prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting/encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy/kindness.  This list of gifts also comes with descriptive phrases for how we are to use them–with excellence and to the best of our God-given ability.

It is impossible to be a living sacrifice and be half-hearted, unintentional, lazy, reserved, joyless and unenthusiastic with the gifts God has given.  Using our gifts in this fashion demonstrates PRIDE!!  When we realize that our gifts are from God, that we are nothing apart from His grace and mercy, and that even the faith we have is given by Him, it humbles us to serve each other as unto Him.

And let me add, that if our spouse and children are followers of Jesus Christ, they are part of His body and we need to use our gifts in the home with the same humility, joy and diligence.

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Romans 11

Consistent rebellion and rejection results in a hard heart!  God allows hardened hearts and uses them for His purposes.  God offered salvation to the Jews first, their rejection opened up a means for the non-Jews to receive salvation.  And God is using the salvation of many Gentiles to cause jealousy among His chosen people so they will be drawn back to Him for salvation.  Everything is working together for His perfect plan.

What separates/cuts off people from God? UNBELIEF

What connects people to God? FAITH

God also has the power to graft people back into fellowship with Him–He opens eyes and evokes belief in His people.  This should not cause pride in those of us who believe, but fear of the Lord.  My study notes say that “fear here does not refer to a paralyzing fear.  Rather, it is the kind of humble fear that does not take God or salvation for granted, or think lightly of His displeasure.”  When we realize that our salvation is completely a work of God’s mercy, grace and call we have no room for pride.

The next verse gave me pause.  Romans 11:21 “Note then the kindness and the severity of God…”  As humans, we tend to fixate too easily on one aspect of God’s character or the other.  God is always perfectly balanced.  When we focus solely on His kindness, we can cheapen His mercy.  When we lean to heavily on His severity, we may tend toward unhealthy fear and productivity-driven “faith.”  

In 11:32 we learn that God decisively turned ALL people over to disobedience to reveal and shower His mercy on ALL.  Most people don’t recognize their disobedience anymore.  We have lost this truth in our society–we live in a culture that is “wise in our own sight.”   This is a dangerous place to be.  Therefore, those of us who have recognized our disobedience and received God’s mercy must live in such a way as to expose sin and magnify mercy.

I just want to close this post by fixing our minds on Romans 11:33-36:

Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever. Amen.

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Romans 9 & 10

God’s Sovereignty

  1. Salvation is not based on works, but on God’s choice and plan.
  2. God is still and always will be just.
  3. God is merciful and compassionate.
  4. God demonstrates His power through people–good and bad.
  5. God’s goal in His actions is to have His name proclaimed in ALL the earth.
  6. God hardens hearts.
  7. God is the Creator, Molder, and Shaper of each life.
  8. God uses people headed for destruction to display His wrath and people whom He has shown mercy to display His patience and glory.
  9. God, in mercy, leaves a remnant of His people and does not utterly destroy.

Although God is fully sovereign and plans each life for His own purposes, we have been left an example to long for Him to save everyone. (Romans 9:3, Romans 10:1, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9)

Paul goes on to explain the “process” of salvation.

  1. Hear the good news
  2. Believe that Jesus died and was raised again to life
  3. Confess “with your mouth” that Jesus is Lord–ruler of your life.
  4. Call on the Lord

Not everyone who hears will believe; but everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. We are sent as messengers of the good news, and God takes care of the rest.

Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that God will be found by those who seek Him.  This passage also tells us that God shows Himself to those who are not even seeking Him or asking Him to reveal Himself.  He reaches out His hand to the disobedient and the contrary.  He reached out His hand to me!

God is patient.  God is merciful.  God is in control.

I have really struggled with these chapters.  God is bigger than I can fathom; His mysteries belong to Him alone and cannot be fully known.  I am humbled He chose me.  This past week, I found out about the passing away of an old, close friend.  As I’ve reflected on a lot of memories, they have reminded me of my detestable, rebellious heart–my old self.  I don’t know why God chose me, but I am so grateful because I never deserved His mercy.  Yet, He made me a “vessel of mercy” to make known the riches of His glory.  His ways are unfathomable and beyond searching out!

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Romans 8:26-39

*I was on family vacation for Romans 5-8 and believe it or not, we did not have access to a computer daily.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to simply type up my notes from each day.*

Romans 8:26-28: Two Great Promises.  First, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will for our lives and His purposes.  Second, ALL THINGS work together for good.  But that promise is conditional–all things work together for good for those who 1) love God and 2) are called according to His purposes.

Romans 8:29-30.  We see a divine progression in the life of a believer.  It starts with being foreknown by God and predestined to be conformed into the image of Jesus.  All people were created in the image of God.  However, we have marred that image with sin.  Those who are in Christ Jesus have the opportunity to renew that image by being like Jesus.  We have been called, justified and will be glorified for eternity.

Romans 8:31-39.  Signs God is for Us!

  1. He takes on our enemies
  2. He gave up His Son for ALL
  3. He GRACIOUSLY gives us ALL THINGS!  (All things, even those seemingly bad, have been given to out of God’s grace filtered through His love.)
  4. He justifies us–gives us right standing with Himself.
  5. Jesus is interceding for us before His Father’s throne.
  6. We are conquerors in tribulation–we have overwhelming victory through Jesus!
  7. NOTHING can separate us from His love!
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Romans 8:1-25

*I was on family vacation for Romans 5-8 and believe it or not, we did not have access to a computer daily.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to simply type up my notes from each day.*

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus–we have been set free!

Mind Set on the Flesh:

  1. Live in the flesh
  2. Living dead
  3. Hostile to God
  4. Unsubmissive to God
  5. Cannot please god

Mind Set on the Spirit:

  1. Live and walk according to the Spirit
  2. Results in life and peace
  3. Ally of God
  4. Submissive to God
  5. Please God

What does it mean to have God’s Spirit dwelling in me?

  1. Alive and righteous
  2. I belong to God
  3. No fear
  4. Heir of God; co-heir with Jesus Christ
  5. We will suffer; but will ultimately receive glory.

There’s that number 1-4 being good, but number 5 including suffering again (Like in Romans 5).

How should believers suffer? With hope.  Always compare our suffering to our future glory.  By doing this, our suffering becomes manageable.  Our mind will be set on the Spirit and we will receive life and peace; comfort (like our co-heir, Jesus, in His suffering); fear will be removed; and His power will be at work in us!  Like the hope with which I endured the labor and delivery of my sons; so we endure suffering on earth knowing that our hope is in the new life that follows.

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Romans 7

*I was on family vacation for Romans 5-8 and believe it or not, we did not have access to a computer daily.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to simply type up my notes from each day.*

Romans 7:21…when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

I feel this way a lot, but don’t think enough about the realities of it.

Sin deceives us and kills us.  Without recognition that we are dead in our sins; we cannot receive new life.

God created and uses the law to show us our sinfulness.  That’s why the law is good!  God makes all things good–everything He does is good!

Our flesh is always at war with our mind.  Taking our thoughts captive is ultra-important.  Battles are won in our minds. (22-25)

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Romans 6:15-23

*I was on family vacation for Romans 5-8 and believe it or not, we did not have access to a computer daily.  So in an effort to catch up, I am going to simply type up my notes from each day.*

People who are enslaved to sin are free in regard to righteousness, but the result is death, despair, emptiness, loneliness, and/or shame.

People who are slaves of righteousness are free in regard to sin.  The result is life, peace, love, joy and clean heart/mind.

We are all slaves to something and free to its opposite.  The difference is the fruit that the slavery/freedom yields.

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