Romans 2

Greetings!

Paul emphasizes a point that Jesus made as well, namely that we shouldn’t be hypocritical.  We are instructed to make judgments but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do so in humility or without acknowledging our own sinfulness.  Paul had hammered several serious sins in chapter 1, such as homosexuality, but his list also included greed, boasting, gossip and even disobeying one’s parents! 

God’s Righteous Judgment

2     You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

God loves it when we repent.  He leads us to repentance out of his kindness.  As v. 6 notes, God is perfectly fair – we will be judged based on what we have done.  But sometimes we confuse his patience with his approval.  These are radically different things.

Paul emphasizes many times in Romans that God sent his message through the Jews. 

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

V. 15 states what people intuitively know: God’s law is written on our hearts.  People will be judged by God based on what they do know. 

The Jews and the Law

17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Christians cringe when famous Christians are caught in big-time sins.  Yet we do the same things in less visible ways each day.  Thank God for his mercy and grace!

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

Circumcision was a sign of God’s special covenant with the Israelites.  It was a symbol of the internal circumcision of our hearts that is supposed to take place when we have faith in God.

28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Paul is relentless in showing how we are all sinners, even if we know the rules very well.

Romans 1

rom-1.jpgGreetings!

I encourage you to read this chapter very closely.  I refer to often as it has such relevance to our culture and to contemporary issues.

Paul packs a lot into his opening. 

  • He was specifically called to be an apostle (one who saw Jesus and carried his message). 
  • He is Jesus’ servant. 
  • He is sharing the Gospel foretold in the Old Testament. 
  • Jesus has two natures: Human and divine.
  • Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
  • Jesus came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
  • More!

1     Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Longing to Visit Rome

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

Do we display the kind of faith that is worthy of being reported around the world, or even around the block?  Are we serving God with our whole hearts and spreading his Good News?

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

No matter how strong our faith is, encouragement is vital.  There are many times when I’m weighed down and someone will come along with an encouraging word to pick me up.  When I see other people living out their faith it inspires me.  You are not alone!

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

V. 16 is powerful.  In light of eternity, why should we be ashamed of the Gospel?  The world hates the Gospel, because it convicts them of sin.  The Gospel is for everyone.  There is no other path besides Jesus.

This next section, which I put in bold, speaks volumes about why everyone should know there is a God.  Note how it says that, “God has made it plain to them . . . God’s invisible qualities . . . have been clearly seen . . . so that men are without excuse.”

God has revealed himself to us in his creation.  He takes it very seriously when people mock that and completely ignore him.  Deep down even atheists know there is a God, but they “suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

Theologian R.C Sproul said, “Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.”

God’s Wrath Against Mankind

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Note how is says that God “gave them over . . .” three times.  Consider how fully our society has turned sexual morality upside down.  It calls evil good and good evil.  Homosexual behavior is not only accepted but glorified. 

This is one of the clearest passages denouncing homosexual behavior as sinful.  Some will try to read something into the text that simply isn’t there and claim that this was only about temple prostitutes, but there are many reasons that is wrong.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Some pro-gay theologians try to spin verses 26-27 to mean that it is only a sin to act outside your “normal” preferences – that is, if you are naturally gay then the sin would be to have heterosexual sex.  If that sounds ridiculous to you, it should.  The original Greek means natural function, which of course would mean male/female relationships are the norm and homosexual relationships are sinful.  See Responding to Pro-Gay Theology for more information. 

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Before people grandstand on the sin of homosexual behavior, they should note the other things Paul listed as being seriously wicked: Envy, greed, deceit, arrogance, heartlessness, disobedience to parents, etc.  Trust me, if you re-read the list you’ll find yourself in there somewhere! 

People know better, yet they shake their fists at God anyway.  I thank God that He took me from rebellion against him to faith in him.  It is only by his grace that I am a believer.  I pray that many people will read his Word, be convicted and turn to him for forgiveness and salvation.

Please add your own thoughts as well.

Romans overview

earth.jpgGreetings!

Today we begin a study of Romans, perhaps my favorite book of the Bible (it is a toss-up with Philippians). 

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Romans roughly 25 years after the death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven of Jesus.  His authorship is virtually undisputed.  Even liberal scholars agree that he wrote it.

This wasn’t a typical letter, though he did greet many people at the end of it.  This was a very carefully crafted summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church had already spread to Rome and the persecution of Christians had not begun.  But this letter is for all Christians, not just those in Rome. 

Paul begins with the “big picture” and lays out how we know there is a God because He reveals himself in his creation and in our conscience, we are all sinners in need of a savior, Jesus is the solution to the problem of our separation with God, and much more.  Paul also addressed some tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers.

He makes it clear that we are saved by grace, though faith in Jesus.  There is a series of verses sometimes referred to as “The Roman Road” that are useful in presenting the basic Gospel:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Once he lays out the plan of salvation Paul helps us understand what a life lived in submission to Christ looks like.

This has been a life-changing book for countless people.  I hope you join in the study and share your comments and questions.

Proverbs 10

Greetings!

Proverbs 10 (NIV)

Proverbs of Solomon

10     The proverbs of Solomon:

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.

2 Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.

Another reason God warns us not to take things that don’t belong to us.  Not only does it sin against God and the other person, but we won’t able to truly enjoy them ourselves.

3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

4 Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

Laziness can take many forms.  It is stunning to hear how many hours of TV many people watch per day!

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,

but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,

but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,

but the name of the wicked will rot.

8 The wise in heart accept commands,

but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

9 The man of integrity walks securely,

but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

10 He who winks maliciously causes grief,

and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,

but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

12 Hatred stirs up dissension,

but love covers over all wrongs.

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,

but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.

14 Wise men store up knowledge,

but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,

but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

16 The wages of the righteous bring them life,

but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.

17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life,

but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

18 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,

and whoever spreads slander is a fool.

This is sobering.  If we hate and disguise it that may seem like a good thing, but we are lying to God. 

19 When words are many, sin is not absent,

but he who holds his tongue is wise.

20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,

but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,

but fools die for lack of judgment.

22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,

and he adds no trouble to it.

23 A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct,

but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.

24 What the wicked dreads will overtake him;

what the righteous desire will be granted.

Few people are excited about dying, but the wicked really dread it. 

25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,

but the righteous stand firm forever.

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

so is a sluggard to those who send him.

27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,

but the years of the wicked are cut short.

28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,

but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.

29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous,

but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

30 The righteous will never be uprooted,

but the wicked will not remain in the land.

31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,

but a perverse tongue will be cut out.

32 The lips of the righteous know what is fitting,

but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Verse after verse emphasizes that what we say matters immensely.  Being careful about the words we do say and what we don’t say makes the difference between joy and suffering.  The last time I was in Kenya I was very intentional about saying things to lift people up (even when someone was annoying me!) and not saying things that would have been unproductive.  I was successful most of the time, and it made a huge difference. 

Psalm 24

Greetings!

This is such a simple but powerful Psalm.  The world desparately wants to forget that everything and everyone in the earth (and the universe, for that matter) belong to God.  If only they would turn to him they would know what a truly abundant and real life is all about. 

This Psalm has inspired at least two songs that I know of – “King of Glory” by Third Day (I think that is the title) and “Give us clean hands.” 

May we all seek his face today – He is the King of Glory, our Lord and Savior!

Psalm 24

Of David.

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

3 Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory. Selah

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Psalm 23

Greetings! 

It is hard to know where to start to do a short commentary on Psalm 23.  I have heard sermons series that had one lesson for every verse.  Whole books have been written on it.  It is one of the most recognized passages in the Bible.  It is a great Psalm to memorize (then you can say you memorized a whole chapter of the Bible!)

To slow down and get a lot out of this Psalm try reading a verse repeatedly and emphasizing a different word each time.  For example:

  • The Lord is my shepherd – Not just any Lord, but the Lord – the one true God.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – God is your shepherd – not someone else.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – He is your shepherd right now and forever (Or is he?  If he isn’t, make him the shepherd today).

  • The Lord is my shepherd – not just some generic shepherd, but your shepherd.

  • The Lord is my shepherd – He leads you and guides you.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

My favorite verse is probably, “He restores my soul.”  I always slow down at that part.  He redeemed it for eternity and He restores it whenever I stop and focus on him.  Praise God for that!

This Psalm is full of promises from beginning to end.

What stands out to you about this Psalm?

Psalm 22

Greetings!

This is considered a Messianic Psalm – one that predicts Jesus, the coming Messiah.  David wrote it, but it doesn’t appear to match a specific event in his life. 

Here are some reasons the church considers it to be about Jesus:

  1. It is about being executed, not just suffering from illness or injury.
  2. Jesus quoted the first verse of this Psalm in Matthew 27 (v. 46) and in Mark.  I have heard that quoting the first verse as Jesus could have been a shortcut to referring to the whole Psalm.
  3. The victim is completely innocent.  There is no mention of sin.
  4. There are no calls for God to punish the enemies.
  5. People mocked him and told him to save himself (v. 7-8)
    • Matthew 27:39-40 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads  and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
  6. Jesus bones were not broken (v. 17) as was often done to hasten death in crucifixions.

  7. The guards gambled for Jesus’ clothes (v. 18)

    • Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Psalm 22

A psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.

4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you

even at my mother’s breast.

10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

19 But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.