September 2015

Thinking always precedes doing. Guard your thoughts with Jesus. #prayer

 

Romans 13:13-14 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

 

Truly the one thing that sets Christians apart from other beliefs is that we wait eagerly for the Day of the Lord, the moment when Christ returns and takes His children home. As Paul said in Romans 13:12, “The day is at hand.” Jesus is coming soon. Consequently, Paul goes on to tell us that our lives now should be exemplary of that day; we should be living now as citizens of that kingdom. How? Paul uses the phrase, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, cloak yourself in Him, in all that He is and does and promises. Keep His words in your heart and His love in your actions, and you do that by making “no provision for the flesh.” Some of those fleshly corruptions are mentioned in verse 13, and all of them begin with self-indulgence and self-centeredness, and they begin in our minds. When we are lonely or sad in life, we do not turn to drugs or alcohol or food. We turn to the tender comfort of Jesus. When our husbands don’t talk to us or love us like we need him to or our wives don’t desire and touch us like we need her to, we don’t fantasize about Mr. Perfect or think impure thoughts about the next swimsuit model. We think on Jesus and His eternal love that is ours now and forever. When we feel misunderstood or ignored and wronged, we don’t commiserate in thoughts of anger and revenge. We meditate on what is ours in Christ, our eternal Bride and Friend. Let us live today covered in our Cloak and our Shield, our Protector and the Lover of our souls—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Study/Meditation: What do you think Paul meant by saying that we shouldn’t make any “provision for the flesh”?

 

*Father, help me to think on You and Your love and comfort, taking hold of my thoughts before they become sinful actions. Amen.

 

Be vigilant, Christian: the night is far gone and the day is at hand. #warfare

 

Romans 13:12 “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

 

On a particularly dark night, when it is difficult to see two feet into the distance, a young soldier watches with diligence. He waits eagerly for the coming light on the horizon, signaling the sun’s entrance, which when it comes will completely wipe the darkness from the sky and with it the danger of an encroaching enemy. So interested in expressing the importance of this reality in the Christian life, Paul draws on this military metaphor. The Christian lives now in that “in-between” moment, waiting eagerly for that beautiful dawn when the glory of Christ comes to earth. The night is far gone in that Christ came. Day is at hand in that He will come again.   With that truth in the forefront, Paul again draws on a military metaphor reminding us that the battle we fight while here is indeed a battle. We must be armed with “the armor of light,” the accoutrements of our King, and “cast off the works of darkness,” the schemes and devices of the enemy. Paul desperately wants us to see the reality of the war we are in while we wait, a war that requires our constant vigilance. The dawn of eternal day is almost here, and while we anticipate its coming, we arm ourselves with weapons of light as we do battle with the forces of darkness.

 

Study/Meditation: Military metaphors are some of Paul’s favorites to use. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, Ephesians 6:13-17, and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. What do all of these passages have in common and what is Paul’s main point in them? How must you practically employ all that he says?

 

*Father, I wait eagerly for the day when Christ comes. Help me live vigilantly as a soldier of the light as I wait. Amen.

 

Christians live and love with eternity in mind. #love

 

Romans 13:11 “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”

 

Have you ever found it difficult to love someone, even though you know that as a Christian it is what you are called to do? It could be betrayal or anger or ambivalence on one side of the relationship or the other, but either way love seems almost impossible to give to that person. Paul gives us incentives to put away whatever hindrances block that love and think eschatologically as Christians. In other words, we live today knowing both that there is a glorious end and that it is nearer today than it was yesterday. Christians are called to live with Jesus in mind, to live in light of the fact that when He returns for His children, it will be as if we awaken from a lifetime of slumber to the marvelous reality of eternity with Him. That moment will be the final culmination of our salvation, and our eyes must be set on that prize, not on whatever trivial and temporal situations plague us now on this earth. What Paul is actually calling us to is to live in light of where we will be, not where we are, and to live knowing that the day is drawing near when we will truly go home. Let us live by the words of this great hymn by Helen Lemmel: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Helen Lemmel, 1922)

 

Study/Meditation: Read Luke 12:13-21. How does this parable relate to Paul’s reminder in Romans 13:11?

 

*Father, give me a heart to love even those I find unlovable. Forgive me when I fail at this and remind me that my eyes are to always be set on You and eternity in heaven. Amen.

 

How does loving your neighbor fulfill God’s law? #loveyourneighbor

 

Romans 13:9-10 “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

 

Probably one of the most widely familiar commands within the Bible is the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Believers and unbelievers alike refer to this creed as one of acceptable, moral behavior. However, what were Moses and Jesus and Paul actually saying? First, the commandment is not a call to love yourself first so that you can love others. There is nothing in the gospel or the Old Testament that commands us to self-love. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly states that the prerequisite to loving others is to first know the saving love of God. When you have experienced His providential saving grace, then you are filled up to the point of being able to love another. We are called to be completely “other-centered” in our love and never “self-centered.” Secondly, when Paul recites the second table commandments, commandments 5-10, he is reciting those that specifically have to do with how we treat others. He is reminding us that love is embodied not only in and just because of emotion, but more importantly it is encompassed in our actions. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Love is demonstrated in action, and therefore it is a fulfilling of the law which requires correct action.

 

Study/Meditation: How does loving others fulfill God’s law?

 

*Father, thank You for loving me so that I might be saved. Thank You that in doing so You gave me the ability to love others. Help me see how I should fulfill Your law by correctly loving my fellow man. Amen.

 

Pay your debts and be done, but never be done with love. #love

 

Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

 

Keeping civil law and subjecting ourselves to civil authorities is really about how we project the nature of Christ to the world. Paul is continuing in this avenue now by moving on to how we must also treat those in the world. When he writes, “Owe no one anything,” he isn’t saying that Christians aren’t to borrow money. The phrase is more accurately translated as, “Do not continue owing; pay your debts.” In other words, our witness is damaged if we leave debts unpaid; we must continue to pay them until they are met. When he follows that with “except to love each other,” he is saying that there is one debt that is never discharged—loving others. We can pay off all of our loans and credit cards, but we must never believe that we have loved enough to be finished with it. Paul is speaking directly to the love we show to our neighbors here, not just to our fellow brethren. To “fulfill the law” means that we have given to the law the full measure of what is required. We are called upon to apply our Christian neighbor love to all of our societal relationships, thus meeting the fullest requirements of Mosaic Law. In this way, as with our responses to civil government, we are projecting the nature of Christ in all aspects of our lives.

 

Study/Meditation: In what ways do you fulfill the law by showing love in a continuing manner to the world? Why do you think this is so important for the Christian?

 

*Father, help me reflect You to the world in the way that I treat them. Let Your love be the thing that they see, even if they do not return it. Amen.

Should Christians pay taxes? #citizenship

 

Romans 13:6-7 “For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

 

It is an historical precedent among mankind to dislike paying taxes. It’s not new today, and it wasn’t new in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. The objections were also quite similar, especially among Christians. Often Christians object to paying their taxes, sometimes refusing to do so, because they disagree with how the government is run or spends their tax dollars. It was no different in Rome thirty years after the death of Jesus, and in some ways it was even worse. People were required to pay a tax that was used as a form of worship of Caesar who was instituted as a god. While Jesus lived on this earth, taxes were collected by an extortioner hired by the Roman government to line his own pockets. Christians, including Jesus’ own disciples, questioned whether or not they should pay these taxes that went to support a government that was corrupt and often immoral. The same questions arise today, so what answer does the Bible give us? Paul points out, “You also pay taxes.” Jesus explained to Peter in Matthew 17 that although our citizenship is in heaven, in order “not to give offense to them,” we pay taxes. (Matthew 17:24-27) In other words, we know we have a higher calling and an eternal citizenship on which our focus must lie. We submit to the laws of this land out of submission to our King, and we obey those same laws so that we might bring focus onto that very same King and not on our own disobedience.

 

Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 22:15-22. How does what Jesus said to the Pharisees in this passage support what Paul instructs in Romans 13:6-7?

 

*Father, I submit to You and subject myself to You. Help me to make all of my actions and my life reflect that I am a citizen of Your eternal Kingdom. Amen.