If we know that God is sovereign, then we must live as if He is sovereign. #Godissovereign
Romans 13:2 “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Christians ought to be the most law-abiding citizens on the planet. That is not to say that there are never times when civil disobedience is allowed. The Bible presents us with examples of times when God’s people engaged in civil disobedience. (Daniel 3:9-18, 6:6-10, Exodus 1:15-20, Esther 4:16) However, those are extreme cases and times in which God had a specific plan to exhibit His glory. The overarching truth is that Christians recognize that because their citizenship is in heaven and they have relinquished all things to God, they also relinquish any rights they have against those things God has put into place, namely civil authority. Everything is God’s, so when we surrender everything to God, we are in a position to surrender obedience to civil authorities without committing treason against heaven. As a matter of fact, the contrary is also true. If we resist civil authorities by living against the law of the land, we are really resisting God. We are, in essence, resisting the means by which He has mandated this earthly realm be governed. The judgment we receive from the law is just, but it is only part of the judgment we will incur. Ultimately we will stand in account in front of the true Judge, and we will answer to why we resisted His authority in His creation. If we know that God is sovereign, then we must live as if He is sovereign.
Study/Meditation: How does understanding and accepting God’s sovereignty apply to being law-abiding citizens?
*Father, give me a deeper understanding of Your sovereignty so that I might live as an obedient sojourner in this land. Amen.
“God removes kings and sets up kings.” Daniel 2:21 #Godissovereign
Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
We may pause to wonder at Paul’s train of thought here. Why after his instructions on how we must behave toward each other as Christians does he go to quite a lengthy dissertation on how we respond to civil government? Understand that Paul is writing to people in Rome who lived under Nero as Caesar. The apostle knew he needed to address Christian behavior under an unjust, persecuting ruler in light of such statements in Romans 8:38 that “rulers” could not separate them from the love of Christ or Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The first thing Paul tells us is that we subject ourselves to earthly authorities not for their sake but for God’s. The people in authority over civil government, whatever the level, are in that position because God has deemed it to be so. It is God’s will to govern the world of mankind through human civil authorities, and He places them there for His purposes. Daniel 2:21 tells us, “(God) removes kings and sets up kings.” God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” in Jeremiah 27:6, and Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11) We can breathe easier knowing that we submit to our government and civil authorities out of reverence to God, not out of reverence to them—“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” (1 Peter 2:13)
Study/Meditation: How do passages like this comfort you in today’s society? What do you think is the correct response to any government, corrupt or not?
*Father, I lift my civil leaders up to You. Give them wisdom and continue to use them to Your will. Help me respond to them in reverence to You. Amen.
Christ is our Overcomer, not the evil committed against us. #Redeemer
Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Fallen human nature tends toward blaming someone else for their shortcomings. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for eating the forbidden fruit to which Eve in turn blamed the serpent. How often do we hear those who have been caught in some sort of evil or misguided deed trace the root of their action back to something someone did or said to them in the past? Paul would use wording that mirrors that in verse 21: When we do evil and blame it on some evil that was done to us, we have been overcome by that evil. We’ve allowed it to dictate to us how we behave and respond. That’s why Paul has made this statement immediately following the ones telling us not to seek vengeance but to repay evil with good. We have a great Redeemer who is also the great Overcomer in our lives, a Redeemer who responded to the evil in us by giving His own life as a ransom so that we could live. Jesus is our perfect example, and His is the life we are to emulate as we live now. We must not allow the evil that is done to us dictate who we are and how we respond. When we do, it has become our overcomer. This should never be in the lives of the redeemed. As John Piper said, “When Christians encounter evil, they don’t merely respond to evil; they respond to Christ who deals with the evil.” (“Christ Overcame Evil with Good—Do the Same,” John Piper, March 20, 2005, desiringgod.org)
Study/Meditation: Think of some practical examples where you’ve seen believers respond to evil with good. How do those actions glorify God and draw others to Him?
*Father, help me to remember what You done for me, though I am a sinner, so that I can respond to those who wrong me with actions that give You the glory. Amen.
Repaying evil with kindness is radical, God-honoring behavior. #mercy
Romans 12:20 “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’”
Paul is calling us to even more radical behavior here. What are we to do instead of seeking vengeance against those who have wronged us? Not only are we to leave that vengeance to God, but we are also called to be kind to them, to serve them and give to them. The first question that begs to be answered is “How?” How are we supposed to do that? The answer lays all the way back in Romans 12:1. Only in God’s mercy can we obediently leave ourselves at the door and seek only His glory in every situation, including those with our enemies. This naturally leads us to the question that comes immediately after the first, “Why?” Why should we be kind to our enemies and serve them? Once again it is because the result is not about us at all but about God, His glory, and advancing His kingdom. By emulating the love of Christ in our responses to evil, we do not fan the flames of hatred with more hatred, but we instead we do the radical thing—we are kind. The picture of heaping burning coals onto a fire that is already burning means that our kindness will do one of two things: it will either cause the fire to rage out of control and be lost in its own destruction, or it will burn itself out and find the fire gone, seeking instead the source of our love. In other words, it will result in judgment on or repentance from that person. Our job is simply to be about God and not ourselves in all situations.
Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 5:43-48. What did Jesus say on the subject of how we are to treat our enemies?
*Father, help me respond to those who hurt and abuse me in ways that are honoring to You. Amen.
The desire for revenge is a desire to unseat the holy Judge. #GodisJudge
Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
There is not a person on earth who hasn’t been wronged at one time or another, most likely many, many times. Often the offender seemingly never pays for the wrong he or she committed. As a matter of fact, it very often appears as if they have moved on with their lives happily as if the wrong never occurred. When this happens, we may feel as if it is still unresolved. How can that person go on as if nothing happened after what he or she did? Our need for justice keeps us bound in anger and bitterness which often leads to a desire for vengeance. Please understand that our desire for justice is not wrong. As a matter of fact, making clear distinctions between correct behavior and incorrect behavior is one of the marks of the indwelling Holy Spirit. However, allowing this desire to dictate who should administer this justice is wrong and will lead to a skewed perspective on roles as well as the aforementioned pain and bitterness. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 so that we are reminded that God is the only truly just One, and it is His role to administer final justice. He has promised us that He will, and His will be just in the truest sense of the word. When we respond in this truth, we can breathe and let go of the need for revenge, focusing instead on the Judge who loves us and has promised to avenge us for His Name’s sake.
Study/Meditation: Read the following: Nahum 1:2, Deuteronomy 32:43, and Isaiah 59:17. What do these passages say about God’s vengeance?
*Father, help me let go of bitterness and anger toward those who have wronged me. Remind me of Your justice and righteousness so that I fully trust in You as the perfect Judge. Amen.
Winning others to Christ trumps winning an argument. #peace
Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
In today’s world, peace seems like a far-fetched notion, doesn’t it? On an international scale, peace is fleeting, often nonexistent entirely, and most of us can do little if anything about that. Unfortunately, very often we can do little or nothing about the absence of peace in our own personal worlds either, but Paul is reminding us that we should do everything in our power to seek it. Notice that he says, “If possible.” Sometimes peace simply isn’t possible. It takes at least two parties to have perfect peace, so it isn’t only the Christian’s responsibility to attain it. But then Paul adds, “so far as it depends on you.” Basically he’s saying, “If peace cannot be gained, it mustn’t be your fault.” Do everything within your power to have peace with everyone, and if the other party will not go there, you will have done all that you can first. Argumentative, cantankerous people are not people who attract others, and they surely do not draw them to their beliefs. Our goal is to show others the love of Christ so that they desire it too. Winning an argument most likely will not bring about this end, but kindness, humility, and long suffering may.
Study/Meditation: How can you seek to attain peace with others without necessarily winning an argument? How might this approach also draw them to Christ?
*Father, help me as I relate to others. Give me a gentle and soft heart that sees past my pride to their hearts. Amen.