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?
“Am I good enough?” It’s a question that haunts a lot of us. At the end of the day, we want to know if we quality. Am I cool enough, smart enough, good looking enough, athletic enough, moral enough… whenever we start feeling good in one area, we realize we’re loosing ground in another. This feeling usually comes after comparing ourselves to others, but what about when we compare ourselves to God? I think Romans 3 can help us answer this “good enough” question this morning. We’ll look at it in two parts.
The Field is Level (Romans 3:9-20)
Verses 1-8 talk about how the Jews being the keepers of God’s Law is a good thing. We are glad we have it! Knowing God’s Law helps us in a few ways, but the first thing it does is level the playing field. Paul says it like this in verses 19-20:
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20 ESV)
Every mouth is stopped. In other words, no excuses, not talking your way out of it. Without Jesus, every one of us in trouble because of our sin. I’ve heard the law described as a chain where every link is one law. One end of the chain is fixed above us and the other has the weight of God’s judgment hanging over our heads. How many links have to be broken for his judgement to fall on us? Just one. This means when we look around, we shouldn’t think about who is a little better than us or who we’re a little better than. We should remember that we have all broken God’s law and deserve punishment.
We Are Accepted in Jesus
We started by asking, “Am I good enough.” We know the answer. According to God’s Law, no. But here’s the really great news. Jesus is good enough, and he freely gives us his goodness.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24 ESV)
This is the crazy beautiful truth of the gospel. We have “fallen short” of God’s standard. We are not good enough. But Jesus gave his life so that we could not just be “good enough” but perfect in God’s sight. We have the righteousness of God. This is called “imputed” righteousness. That just means that it isn’t righteousness or perfection that came from us, it is a perfection that is given to us when we trust Jesus.
These truths should both humble us and lift us up. We can’t look at anyone and think we are better or more accepted by God. All of us fall short. But we also know that every moment of every day, even when we fail, God totally accepts and loves us because we are so much more than “good enough” in Jesus.
Questions for reflection:
How does Romans 3 help you think about others? How does it help you when you are tempted to look down on people? How does it help you when you are tempted to feel inadequate around others?
What does this idea of “imputed” or “given to us” righteousness do to your worship, prayer and relationship with God? Is there ever a time when you should just hide from God because you messed up too much?
I pray you can remember how much God loves you as his child today. He sent is Son to save you and in his Son you have perfect acceptance by him as your Father. Live in that joy today!
Grace & Peace.
Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Romans 2.
I recently started wearing glasses (for the 4th time in my life, but that’s another story). I got them last Wednesday afternoon before church, so day one of wearing them I saw a lot of people. While most feedback on my new specks was very kind, I did have one humorous encounter. I walked into one of the student rooms at my church and the first word I heard was, “NERD!!!!!” It came from one of the two students sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the room. Before I could respond, the other student on the couch shouted, “Yeah, NERD!” The great irony? Both were wearing glasses. Now these two were just joking with me, and I take no offense. In fact, I am quite settled in my nerd-ness. But we do this with more serious things don’t we? I was raised right. I know right from wrong. This means I’m exceptionally gifted at noticing other’s flaws. Knowing right from wrong, however, does not mean that I’m all that good at doing right and avoiding wrong. This is the big idea of Romans 2. Romans 1 teaches us that we all know we should worship God, and yet we fail to as we put other things in his place on the throne. Romans 2 teaches us that knowing God’s law doesn’t fix our problem. Only perfect obedience from the heart could do that.
Paul is addressing a Jewish audience in Romans 2. There was a temptation among the Jews to be a bit smug towards everyone else. They had God’s law, they obeyed God’s law, God accepted them. This is what they thought, but would the real law abider please stand up? Paul wants them to know that having God’s law is great, but our failure to obey it just condemns us that much more. Here’s three ways we condemn ourselves with God’s law:
We judge others for breaking laws we couldn’t keep. (Romans 2:1-11)
Paul starts the chapter by saying:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3 ESV)
Ouch! The Jews are the only people who have done this are they? We hold others to a standard we could never keep, then we feel extra righteous because we’ve rightly evaluated someone else’s life. What about your own life? Your judgement of others just further judges you!
Our knowledge outsizes our obedience. (Romans 2:12-24)
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. “(Romans 2:12-13 ESV)
Paul keeps going on this theme by reminding the Jews that their knowledge of the Law should just sharpen their knowledge of their need for God’s grace. The Jews aren’t the only ones who struggle with this though. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ll hear a great sermon, and I’ll start believing I’m good at whatever the pastor is calling us to do just because I understand it now. What about doing it? That reality is what drives us to Jesus! Paul is reminding the Jews and us that our ability to perfectly recite all the rules doesn’t make us right with God. If we want to be made right be obedience, we’d have to perfectly OBEY all the rules.
We don’t obey from the heart. (Romans 2:25-29)
“But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” (Romans 2:29 ESV)
Paul reminds us that God never wanted a bunch of judgmental rule followers. He wanted people who loved and obeyed him from the heart. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t read “love your neighbor” and then check it off the list. We need transformed hearts!
Romans 2, like Romans 1, is driving us to Jesus. Without God’s rules, we’re condemned because we should worship the God who made the universe. With God’s rules, we’re further condemned because we judge others, don’t fully obey them ourselves, and don’t obey from the heart. We need grace! Romans 3 will introduce this big idea!
Questions for reflection:
Do you find yourself tempted to judge others by a standard even you can’t keep? Do you think there are truths about the gospel that you are forgetting when you do that?
Have you ever sat down and thought about your obedience to your own convictions? Do you find that you aren’t as consistent as you’d hope?
Do you find that even when you do obey, sometimes it’s just to impress others or make yourself feel better? Have you ever done a really great thing and looked back and seen some pretty dark motives?
Paul is being pretty tough on us in Romans 2. He’s doing this to point us in the right direction. We can’t save ourselves. We need Jesus! He is the only one who has obeyed every law from the heart.
Grace & Peace.
Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Romans 1.
I pray our time together in Romans is helpful and that you are blessed by it! I wrote a brief intro to the book to get us started. You can read that here.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
What’s so great about the gospel? What does it have to do with my everyday life? Romans powerfully and practically answers those questions for us! Romans 1:16 & 17 set the tone for the rest of the book.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, and he’s about to preach it to us in a really powerful way over the next few weeks! These two verses bring up three big themes that we’re going to see over and over again in this book:
1) The gospel is powerful! Paul will remind us that we can’t save ourselves, we need the power of God’s grace through the gospel in our lives.
2) The gospel is for everyone. There was some struggle in the early church when “new folks” started showing up. The Jews felt they had the inside track on relationship with God and now the Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming in droves!
3) The righteous (saved people) live by faith. We don’t live by being really good so God will love us. We are really good because God has already loved us. The gospel isn’t something we do one time. It’s the power of God in our lives on a daily basis.
Paul doesn’t waste any time in this book. He jumps right into the meat in Chapter 1! Verses 18-23 set the stage for “scene 1” of the gospel story: Our Sin
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23 ESV)
The good news us Jesus is sweetest to us on the back drop of our sinfulness. Paul reminds us that, before our Creator, every one of us has failed to “honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Not only that, we’ve put other things in his place. Maybe it’s people, things, accomplishments, or even self; all of us have pushed God aside from his rightful place on the throne in our hearts and placed something else there. Verse 18 says that because of this, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…”
Romans 1 serves as a humbling reminder of our sinfulness and need for Jesus. We have received so much grace. This passage helps us remember just how much.
Questions for reflection:
- What is something you have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” with? Are there things in your life that are taking priority instead of worshiping God?
- How does the gospel impact your life right now? How can the gospel help you overcome that are taking priority in your life?
I write these quick daily devotions each day. They are primarily target at the highs school and college Students at Arlington. I try to keep them short so they are easy to read before school or work. Of course, being a nerd, I couldn’t jump into Romans without at least a bit of an introduction. So…here it is. I’ll also post a devotion for Romans 1 today.
I am really excited to be going through Romans over the next few weeks and I pray the little notes I write down here are helpful to those who read them. While all of God’s Word is powerful and true, Romans holds a special place in the Christian life. Romans has had a major impact on many key leaders throughout church history. Both Martin Luther and Augustine credit their salvation to encounters with the book of Romans. Romans is probably the most complete explanation of the gospel, the transformation that comes through the gospel, and the life we are called to live in light of the gospel that Christians have.
I believe there is value in studying a book like romans at a pace of a few verses each day (or week). There is a lot to see and savor! I also think it can be really helpful to sit down and read a book like this in one sitting to give you a big picture view of everything God is telling us through it. We’re going to fall in the middle. The bad news is, at one chapter per day, we will not be able to dig into every verse. The good news is, by the end of about 3 weeks, we should have a good feel for the major themes in each chapter that I hope is helpful for your future study!
I’ll try to hit 1-3 big ideas from each chapter, and then wrap up each day with a couple of questions for reflection. Take advantage of these. Think them through with journal in hand, or while guzzling coffee on the way to school. Either way, try to reflect. We don’t want to just know God’s Word; we want to live it!
I pray our time together in Romans is helpful and that you are blessed by it! To get us started, here’s some quick take aways on how Paul introduces the book to us:
Romans is written by our friend the Apostle Paul. If you’ve been reading along in Acts, we’ve seen a lot of him lately! In verses 1-5, Paul introduces himself, reminds the people of his calling as an apostle, and greets the Roman church he is writing the letter to. The first chapter moves quickly from introduction to Paul’s passionate discussion about all Jesus has done in the gospel.
A Gospel for All Times
The gospel isn’t just for “really bad people” or even just for the lost. The gospel is something each of us needs to remember and apply to our lives every day! Paul knows this. In verses 8-15, Paul tells the Roman Christians how he longs to come see them. In verse 15, he wraps his greeting up by saying, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Paul knows that there are people in Rome who have never heard the gospel, but he also knows that in Rome there are Christians who need to be reminded of the gospel. There are Christians who need their understanding of how the gospel applies to their lives deepened and strengthened.