With God’s glory and grace and mind, Paul invites us to lay our lives down before him as an act of worship in Romans 12. Then he begins to describe what that looks like. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” This is almost like the chapter heading for the rest of the book. What does living out this genuine love, while holding fast to what is good, look like? Paul gives 3 ways in Romans 13.
Submit to Civil Authority (1-7)
“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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2 ESV)
This should be the normal mode of operation for Christians. We recognize that God has placed authority in our societies. For us to live in love with one another, we need to respect that authority. There have been times when God’s people have had to make difficult decisions about respecting human authority while obeying God and not man. We just want to remember this is the exception, not the rule. God’s people should seek to obey and support the governing authorities as much as possible.
Fulfill the Whole Law Through Love (8-10)
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For 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.” (Romans 13:8-10 ESV)
Paul is digging into what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39. After loving God, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. The interaction between love for our neighbor and God’s law is a beautiful one. Our our love informs our law abiding, and the law also informs our love for our neighbor. What would it look like to love someone? Well, I can learn that through how God has commanded me to treat people. What is the guiding principle and motivation of God’s commands on how to treat people? Love them!
Look Forward to Jesus Return (11-14)
Paul closes the chapter by looking forward to Jesus’ return. Salvation is near! If this is true, let’s be found “holding fast to what is good” and loving our brothers and sisters.
God has poured out his love toward us through Jesus. Our response to his love is to love him and love the people he has placed in our lives. Let’s look to him who has loved us so much and allow his love to move us towards love for others.
Grace & Peace.
What motivates you? What drives you forward as a person? What motivates you as a follower of Jesus? What keeps you desiring to walk in his ways, love his people, and serve his church? Two words this morning: Glory and grace.
Romans 11 ends with these words:
“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.”
Paul is worshiping. He’s celebrating the wonder of God. He is driven by a desire to see him given “glory forever,” because he has given us grace forever and called us his own. So now what? What is the fruit of a life blown away by the grace of God? What do we do if we want to see our gracious God receive glory and praise? We surrender our lives to him.
Romans 12 begins with these famous words:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  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.” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
After worship, Paul says I appeal, I beg you, based on God’s mercy: give yourself fully to him. I want you to go read Romans 12 and ask this question: Is my life submitted to Jesus? Am I living a life fueled by glory and grace? Paul gives a lot of practical instruction in the rest of the book of Romans, and that is a good thing! But little moral instructions don’t fuel us to live on mission for Jesus. What drives us? We want to see God receive glory and honor because of his grace to us. That’s our motivator. Let’s keep it in view as we consider these last 4 chapters of Romans.
Grace & Peace.
Have you ever read your Old Testament and thought, “Wait…whatever happened to the Israelites?” Are they still God’s special people? This was a huge question in the early church too. Throughout the book of Romans, Paul is helping the Roman church to think through how the Gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews are supposed to relate to each other in the church. Romans 9 started a conversation that Paul wraps up in Romans 11. In Romans 9, Paul explained that God opening the door to non-Jews does not make him unfair or dishonest in his promises to the Jews. Romans 11 digs in further to this question and asks, “Did God just reject his people?” We know that’s not true, so what is going on? Paul explains with an illustration:
“[I]f some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,  do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. (Romans 11:17-20 ESV)
In case you aren’t up on your horticulture, grafting is taking a branch from one plant and attaching it to another. This isn’t some voodoo of modern science, it turns out people have been doing this for centuries. So Paul is saying that just like you can take a branch from one tree and attach it to another, if you are in Christ, you are attached to the family tree of God’s people. So, who is attached to God’s family tree? People who are born into a certain race or tribe? Well, being born into a family that loves God has it’s benefits, but it doesn’t make you right with God. There’s only one way to be attached to God’s family tree: faith in Christ.
The big idea of Romans 11 is that people in the Old Testament and the New Testament were able to come to God only by faith. The children of Abraham who believe were “natural” branches. We are “grafted” branches. The wonderful news, though, is that we are branches! We are apart of God’s tree through faith in Christ! Romans 11 tells us that this wonderful blessing of being attached to God’s tree is supposed to cause Israelites who do not believe to see how good it is to be attached and want if for themselves. In other words, God hasn’t given up on the Jews, he has just opened the door for the gentiles also.
This is the wonderful news of the Gospel. Jesus has made a way for all people to be apart of God’s tree through Christ. We want to celebrate the diversity of this unified tree.
Today we’re in Romans 10. Romans 9 reminded us that God is in charge of salvation. Romans 10 reminds us that God calls his people to take his salvation to the world.
In verses 1-3, Paul says that it is his “hearts desire” for his Jewish brothers to be saved. They need to know that we can be right with God apart from the Law through faith in Jesus. He knows that they, like all people on earth, need to receive the gift of God’s salvation.
In verses 9-13 Paul reminds us that the gospel is available to each of us if we will bow to king Jesus and trust him:
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13 ESV)
What wonderful news we have! A joyful announcement of salvation for all who will call on Christ. The question now is, how do we get God’s message, of God’s salvation, to people who haven’t heard it yet? Paul says: We take it to them!
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17 ESV)
This week is VBS for us at Arlington. It will be a busy week full of
bad excited kids, messes, and generally craziness. Why would we subject ourselves to such madness? Because they won’t hear if we don’t tell them. So with joy and excitement we want to show these kids what Christ’s love looks like and invite them to trust him and confess him as Lord.
Paul warns us, not all will obey the gospel. Not everyone will receive Christ, but some who hear will hear “the word of Christ” and turn to him in repentance and faith for salvation.
Questions for reflection:
What are doing to be apart of helping others hear the message of God’s salvation?
How do the chapters leading up to Romans 10 help you have passion for the mission of sharing the gospel? Does the knowledge of your own need for salvation and God’s great grace to you drive your passion to see others find peace with God through Jesus also?
A couple of years ago, I was working bi-vocationally as an engineer and a student pastor. This led to a lot of rushing from place to place for me as I tried to fulfill my responsibilities in both roles. One morning, I was meeting with some church leaders before work, and the meeting ran a bit long. I was in a hurry to get to work so I was cruising along at a reasonable 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. Until of course, the speed limit dropped to 20 mph. A police officer was waiting for me about 100 yards past the speed limit change. Blue lights. I plead for mercy. I explained that I was working at a church and trying to get to work and that in my rush I forgot about the speed limit drop. The officer was gracious that day and let me off the hook. I thanked him profusely. As he walked away, I put my truck in drive and thanked God profusely also.
Question: Who should I have thanked in that story? God or the officer? Was it God looking down from heaven choosing to be gracious to me, or was it a kind hearted God fearing police officer that let me off the hook that day? I think my practical theology came through that day on the way to work as I genuinely thanked both.
Today’s chapter is Romans 9. This chapter discusses this tension. God’s control over salvation and our responsibility in it. I want to offer just a few thoughts that I hope help you navigate this chapter.
Paul starts the chapter talking about the Jewish people who have not accepted Jesus. He sees this great tragedy of all the Jews knowing God’s law, but not knowing God himself through Christ. But he clarifies: It has always been the case that God doesn’t save everyone. He doesn’t even save every Jew. In fact, God says who he saves is really his call. That makes sense right? Paul says it like this:
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:14-16 ESV)
This is good news! God is in control of salvation and he has the right to save who he wants how he wants. Imagine if man was in control of salvation! I have enough trouble staying in control of my daily to do list, much less people’s souls! So, who does God save and how does he save them? Well, we could spend all our money on books that tease out different view points on this, but I think there is a pretty simple two part answer. First, God saves everyone who “believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or, in Romans terms, he saves everyone who receives Christ’s righteousness by faith.
“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;  but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” (Romans 9:30-32a ESV)
So who receives salvation? Everyone who trusts Christ for it!
But there is a second part to how he saves us. A deeper reality that is true for everyone who trusts Christ. We learned in Romans 1-3 that we humans aren’t really inclined to trust and obey God are we? So there is more good news! Not only does Jesus give his life to provide a way of salvation, God reaches down into our hearts and shows us the way. I love the way 2 Corinthians 4:6 says it, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
Back to my speeding ticket evasion story, I knew that ultimately, God was in control of everything, even speeding tickets. I also knew that this police officer really decided not to give me a ticket. In the same way, if you are saved, if you have trusted Christ, take great comfort! Jesus pursued you by coming to earth and giving his life, and shining a light into your heart so that you could see the beauty of what he did. Your salvation is sure in his sovereign hand. At the same time, pursue others with this good news you’ve been given! Invite them to trust Christ to and see that his salvation is sweet and his presence in our lives transforms us. It turns out this is what Romans 10 is about, so we’ll finish this conversation Monday :).
Grace & Peace.
Romans 8. It may be the mountain top of beautiful truth in the bible. I want to keep this devotion really short this morning. Not because there isn’t a lot to say about Romans 8. Someone smarter than me could write a book on it (I’m sure they have!). I want to keep this short because I want you to have time to read end enjoy this chapter yourself.
Let me set the stage for you: Paul has taught us that we are sinners (Rom 1 & 2), that God saves us from our sin by his grace (Romans 3), that this gift of salvation is only by grace (Romans 4), that we are declared perfectly righteous in Jesus who loved us and died for us (Romans 5), that we are to live out a new life in Jesus by his power through the Spirit, and that the law is good as long as it points us to Jesus who saves. Then Romans 8 bursts through like the trumpet line in a marching band, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Brother, sister, there is no condemnation for you if you are in Christ. God has declared you worthy, no one can declare you unworthy. God has made you his own, no one can take you from him. God has set your destination as heaven, and there will be no reroute. You are secure. Go read Romans 8 and celebrate all you are and have in Jesus Christ.
Yesterday we looked at two possible misconceptions about God’s law and grace. One was this idea that if we have grace, we should just sin a lot so we can get a lot of grace. Romans 6 said no way. The second misconception was this struggle we face of believing we are on our own as we try to obey God. This feeling we get that God saves us, then sits in heaven watching us hoping we’ll figure out how to obey. We learned that God wants us to walk in his ways, and he teaches and empowers us to obey by his grace. Today’s reading is Romans 7. It brings up a third possible misconception. If we are under grace, maybe God’s law is a bad thing? At the very least, maybe it’s no longer useful to us in the New Testament? Paul helps us think through why God’s Law still has purpose for us today.
Paul starts by asking the question: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”
In other words, the Law isn’t sinful, it reveals our sinfulness to us! This leads him to say in verse 12: “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
The Law is good! It just doesn’t have the power to save us. I recently heard Paul Tripp say this on a podcast:
“I love God’s law it’s a source of life wisdom to me that is mind boggling. I need the conviction of God’s law. God’s law does a great job of exposing sin. It has no power whatsoever to alter my heart. That’s why we have God’s grace. If all we needed was theology and rules, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come!”
New Testament Christians don’t have to reject David’s words in Psalm 119, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” God’s Law is wonderful. It is wisdom to us and provides useful boundaries for our lives. It also points us to Jesus, the only one who ever perfectly obeyed the Law. This led Paul to close Romans 7 like this:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25 ESV)
Do you find yourself in this struggle? You want to obey God’s law, but you fail? Thanks be to God for the grace we have in Christ. Not only to cover our failures, but to inspire and empower our obedience.
Questions for Reflection:
What are some ways that God’s Law can “keep us between the ditches?” Paul says that if it wasn’t for God’s law, he wouldn’t have known that coveting (fixating on having something that belongs to someone else) was a sin. Have you ever discovered a sin that God’s Law corrected you from?
How does God’s law help you learn grace? What struggles do you have that you can trust Christ to forgive and help you overcome?
Pray that God would, through his Word, help you overcome sin by his grace.
Have you ever found you had a misconception in how you thought about something? You thought one way, but it turns out there was a hole in your thinking? Like have you ever said the phrase, “blind as a bat?” Because it turns out you have a misconception. Bats can see. And did you know that the Empire State building was struck by lighting over 100 times last year, proving the lighting does strike in the same place twice? Today, we’re taking a look at one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Romans 6 has been a source of hope for me in a life changing way. It corrected a misconception I had about my relationship with God. Somewhere in my thinking, I had this idea that grace got me out of hell, but I was on my own when it came to obeying God in my life. Romans 6 taught me that I am transformed by grace.
This powerful chapter actually clears up two possible misconceptions about the Christian life. The second is the one I just mentioned, but before Paul address HOW grace impacts our lives, he make it clear THAT grace impacts our lives. The chapter starts like this:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4 ESV)
Paul has spent 5 chapters building up to the big truth: we are not saved by our obedience to God, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ perfect obedience, death, and resurrection. So here comes a possible misconception. If I’m not saved by obedience, and if God is showing us how gracious he is by forgiving me, then I should just sin a lot to make there be a lot more grace! Paul says, “wrong!” Jesus gave his life so that our old life of sin and death could die with him on the cross. He was raised so that we could “walk in newness of life.” This is our calling as Christians. Here’s the question, How? How do we walk in newness of life? We are called to, so that clears up one misconception. But how?Are we on our own to live out obedience? Praise God; the answer is no.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:5-14 ESV)
Did you just skip reading that because it’s a long quote? Get back up there and read it. Or read it again. This is life changing stuff guys. Your old way of life, your sinful habits, your sinful desires, they hung on the cross with Jesus. They died. Your old self was crucified with him so that sin’s power over you could be brought to nothing, In Christ, you have been set free from sin. I love verses 12 and 13. Our fight against sin is no longer a fists clenched, failure ridden, guilt producing, never ending attempt at finding acceptance before God. No, we have a new life. Sin no longer has dominion. Grace has transformed us.
Grace invites us to a new way of life that is filled with the fruit of joy. The real choice before us each and every day is this: Do we want to choose to enjoy God’s transforming power in our lives as we say no to sin, or do we want to feed the old, dead flesh that died with Christ? What we choose has serious impact on our lives. Paul closes out the chapter by saying it like this:
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 ESV)
Even as Christians, we can choose to live a life that brings death for a season. But why would we choose that? God has given us grace, he’s given us his Spirit, he has invited us into a transformed way of life. It’s a gift, let’s receive it day by day and moment by moment.
Questions for Reflection:
What is so wrong about the idea, “let’s sin all the more that grace may abound?” Can you imagine saying that to Jesus after what he did for us on the cross?
In your life right now, what fruit are you getting from the things you know are feeding the old way of life? Is that really what you want? Can you think of some defining moments where you have lived in obedience by grace and found joy?
What are some ways, in addition to daily devotions, that you can meet with God and learn to “walk in newness of life?”
Grace & Peace.
Today is Memorial Day. A day that we, as citizens of the United States, remember the great sacrifices that have been made for our freedom. It is a humbling thought to remember that your ability to enjoy a day with your family today was purchased by the life of someone who signed up to protect and defend you. Today’s passage is Romans 5. In this chapter, Paul tells of one who made an even greater sacrifice for our freedom than the one we celebrate on memorial day. Romans 5 is a beautiful passage to read. This morning, I am simply going to give you one or two notes/questions per “section” of Romans 5 and ask you to dig in yourself.
- Verses 1-5: The word “justified” means “declared righteous.” I’ve heard it explained that justified means “just as if I never sinned.” We learned in chapters 1-3 that we have separated ourselves from God by our sin. What does Romans 5 tell us we get from being justified? What does it mean in your life, today, that you “have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ?”
- Verses 6-11: What does this section tell us about the cost of our “just as if I never sinned” status? Do we deserve the grace we receive? Do we live with a thanksgiving heart towards our Lord Jesus for what he did for us?
- Verses 12-21: We are all, by birth, children of Adam. His sin of disobedience spread to all of us. It spread it two ways. It spread by guilt. In other words, all humans are guilty for the sin of our first father Adam. But it also spread by nature. What I mean is, we have a nature that tends to do like Adam and disobey God. One man’s sin did so much damage! And he was just a man! What if God came to earth as a man and made a way for us to have righteousness? He did! This is what this section talks about. As you enjoy today’s festivities, as yourself two questions: (1) Am I living like someone who has been saved from sin and death and now lives under the new reign of King Jesus? (2) Am I shining as a light, helping others see the joy and life that come from being saved from Adam’s curse and resting in the salvation Jesus gives?
Grace & Peace.
PS I plan to start sending these out a bit later for the summer. Most of my readers are students, and I know you guys are not going to be up 7:00 am every day this summer.
Today’s bible reading is Romans 4.
When I was 15, I started my first “real” job. Before I started, I was told that instead of getting paid hourly, I would just get paid a flat rate of $70.00 per day. At the time, this sounded great to me! The job was about an hour from my house, and I was supposed to start at 7:00am. I got up early, drove to work, and worked hard…until about 9:00pm. Then I drove an hour home. A 14 hour day with 2 hours of driving tagged on. $70.00 didn’t seem like much anymore. Thankfully, this extra-long day wasn’t the norm, and my boss was a very fair person. But I do remember thinking that first day, “I’m not sure I got what I earned.” Have you ever had this thought? “I’m not getting what I deserve.” In Romans 4, Pauls tells us that we don’t get the wages we earn either, and it turns out, that is a very good thing.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”” (Romans 4:3-8 ESV)
The Bible is telling us that we don’t want to try to earn right standing before God, because if we try to earn our standing before God, we’ll get paid exactly what we deserve. God, in his love for us, made a way that we could stand before him perfectly even though we don’t deserve it. In verse 16 Paul says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16 ESV) This is the big truth that Paul is trying to help us understand. You cannot save yourself, you have to trust Christ’s work on your behalf.
I love the way the chapter wraps up. Paul refers back to verse 3, where he quotes Genesis and says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” He then closes the chapter by reminding us that we can be “counted as righteous” too!
[Abraham] grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,  fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,  but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,  who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:20-25 ESV)
Let’s be people who are “fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised.” People who never ask for what they deserve, but instead remember that our very lives are acts of God’s great grace.
Questions for Reflection
Have you ever had a, “but I deserve better” moment with God? How can Romans 4 help you think rightly about what you deserve vs. what you’ve been given?
How does Romans 4 help you understand your security in Christ? If you were saved even though you didn’t deserve it, could you get unsaved by deserving that?
Have you ever had a friend who seems “too far gone” for the gospel? Do they need to straighten up their life before coming to God?