Are miracles for today? #miracles
Romans 15:18-19a “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—… ”
Far too often in western culture we see the workings of God solely as the result of the first part of what Paul says, “by word and deed.” Truly what we do and say in Christ and for the advancement of the kingdom of God are extraordinarily important and significant. However, to limit how God chooses to manifest Himself to the nations to only those things His children do and say is to likewise limit the magnificence of His power. We fault on both sides of this issue at times, thinking either that miracles must occur for God to be exalted or thinking that the time for miracles has passed. God will display His glory, whether that be by way of signs and wonders or by way of the preaching of His Word to the nations. Far be it from us to limit Him on either end of that spectrum. As long as Christians keep God’s Word at the center of all that they do and say, it is healthy and honoring today to pray as the early church did in Acts 4:29-30, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your servant Jesus.”
Study/Meditation: Why do you think that western culture often sees and expects less miracles than less developed countries and peoples? How should truth define your prayer life?
*Father, You are a God of wonder and life. Thank You for showing Yourself to Your people in so many ways. You are awesome and mighty to save! Amen.
Christians must lay their present on the altar of their future. #eternity
Romans 15:18 “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed….”
So many things seem to matter in our lives that have no bearing on eternity. We can often lose ourselves in our struggles and day-to-day situations that while having a level of importance, are not worth one moment of worry we give them. As believers, the one and only thing to which we should strive to give our unwavering attention are those things that are accomplished through and bring glory to Christ. After all, Jesus gave us our mission while on this earth: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) All else must be an engagement into this mission. Paul vowed that he didn’t even want to speak about anything he had done in his life except those things he said or did by way of Christ Jesus. Paul was reminding us that we, as Christians, are to lay our present on the altar of our future. In other words, we live to sacrifice this life knowing that we live for eternity, and we do this in word and in deed.
Study/Meditation: What things in your life are occupying your focus that should not? How can you refocus your attention on eternity through Christ?
*Father, help me get my eyes off of the mundane issues of this life and onto my assured eternity with You. Amen.
Is there any such thing as virtuous pride? #gloryofChrist
Romans 15:17 “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.”
For every virtue in the Christian life there is a corresponding sin, and generally that sin is the result of the slightest skew in the virtue. The skew occurs in our human sin nature, which because of its propensity toward self-centeredness, takes a virtuous trait and makes it sinful by making it about self. Paul exemplifies how this is so even of pride. Pride is truly the root of just about every evil that men do, but it is pride that is rooted in self. There is a virtuous pride, and that pride is in the work and lives that we live in Christ and for God. When the things that we do and the way that we live is done in, by, and through the power of Christ, then the attention is naturally pointed toward Him, giving glory to God. There is an inherent humility in this sort of living, and we can proudly live in that. Consequently, even though Paul has often spoken of the ills of boasting and pride (Romans 3:27, 2 Corinthians 10:17, Galatians 6:14), he boldly proclaims his reasons for boasting in the work he has done in Christ. The focus is, as it must always be, on our Savior and our Lord. All such boasting gives Him the glory.
Study/Meditation: Explain the difference in sinful pride and virtuous pride. How does one exult in self and the other exult in God?
*Father, You are glorious and magnificent. Thank You for working in me so that my life may glorify You. Amen.
The bible brings offense to the world, but peace to the children of God. #bible
Romans 15:15-16 “But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
The word “sanctify” comes from two Latin words: “sanctis,” which means “holy,” and “ficare,” which means “to make.” Therefore “to sanctify” means “to make holy.” Paul writes that he has been very bold in writing much of this letter so that its readers might be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The truth is that we are by nature a very unholy people. Our humanity lends itself to sin and destructive behavior, and since it is in our natures to do that which is unholy, it can be extremely uncomfortable when something seeks to make us holy. God’s Word through the Holy Spirit purposes itself boldly to do just that, which is precisely why without the Holy Spirit’s intervention, the teachings in the bible are seen as “intolerant” and “outdated” by the world. When we read and study the Scriptures and they seem to rub us the wrong way or offend us, we must remember that its intentions are to purify us, to make us holy, by scouring away our nature’s unholy tendencies. Do not run from the inner turmoil created by God’s Holy Word. That inner turmoil is the Holy Spirit burning away the dross of sin in order to cleanse us toward sanctification.
Study/Meditation: Read Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39. What did He have to say about the offense of His words?
*Father, sanctify me by the Holy Spirit, burning away the remnants of my old self, making me new in You. Amen.
What does it mean to be a “healthy Christian”? #Christianliving
Romans 15:14 “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
What constitutes a “healthy Christian”? Before we answer that, it’s a good idea to measure our ideas of healthy Christianity up to what the Bible describes as such. Paul has been exhorting and admonishing the Roman Christians about unity in the church body, but he pauses here to give them a high compliment. In so doing, he gives us a good picture of what makes up a healthy Christian. He says that they are filled with goodness, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit he describes in his letter to Galatia. (Galatians 5:22) In other words, they are opposed to evil, they are kind, and they are beneficent. He also describes them as being “filled with all knowledge,” that is they have a firm grasp of what is true in the Christian faith. Being good and knowledgeable are certainly wonderful, but each would be of no benefit if they were not utilized in edification and instruction in God’s Kingdom. Paul is sure to also tell them that he recognizes how they are “able to instruct one another.” The Roman church correctly applied their knowledge of truth in the loving way they were able to admonish one another. In studying the compliment that Paul pays the Roman Christians, we see the bar that each of us must reach toward in our journey as growing Christians: Be kind and good, study to show ourselves approved, and when necessary, either admonish or allow ourselves to be admonished in love.
Study/Meditation: How do you see all three of these attributes of healthy Christianity as necessary to each other? Why are they necessary in a healthy church?
*Father, help me to see how I need to improve in these areas so that I might continue my journey toward healthy Christianity. Amen.
Hope, joy, and peace are found only in God given by the Holy Spirit. #hope
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Isn’t it interesting here that Paul doesn’t conclude this exhortation on church unity with instructions? Paul concludes by praying for us. In doing so he is demonstrating exactly how we are to go about attaining unity through hope and from whom we are to receive it—God. Paul refers to our Father as “the God of hope.” Our God is the only source of hope, and in being so, He is also the only source of true joy and peace. We may seek happiness and contentment in this life, but they will only just be feelings. Joy and peace are states of being that have their origin in our relationship to and belief in God. He is the source of the hope that brings us these things. And the circular beauty in all of this is that the Holy Spirit uses the joy and peace that we receive in believing in the God of hope to fill us with hope! The wonderful consequences are unity and love and patience with each other as we wait together in eager anticipation of the eternity to come. You see, my joy and my peace and my hope cannot be found in the people around me, even those in my believing family. These things can only be found in my Father and are given by the Holy Spirit. When I seek joy, peace, and hope correctly, my focus is off of the behavior of others and onto God, the one place it should rest, which results in patience and love toward everyone else.
Study/Meditation: Read Hebrews 6:13-20. How did this writer explain our source of hope?
*Father, You are my hope and my sure foundation. In You and You alone do I place my trust. Amen.