Romans 1.29-32 – Do we approve?

Today Paul continues his lament, of sorts, about the sad state of those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie, those who God has given up to a debased mind. Having a debased mind has the idea of being quality checked and being found lacking, being unapproved.

Yesterday we said that the freedom to live this way was a judgement in itself, in that our lifestyle can put more and more distance between God and us in terms of the close, loving, and personal relationship He desires. The list of characteristics here is long, lewd, and lacking in love for God or for others. When we exchange the truth about God for a lie, this is how we become,

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

There are sins in there that are societally unacceptable (evil, murder, maliciousness, inventors of evil), but there are also sins in there that society tells us are no big deal (deceit, insolent, haughty, boastful, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless, gossips, slanderers). What we take from this is that we are being held to a different standard, and it is far above what society deems ok. The plumb line of God’s Word, will, and ways is far straighter than the crooked line of our modern society. As the old saying goes, you know a line is crooked because you have seen a straight line, and we have (John 17.17, Psalm 19.7-10).

Perhaps the most striking part of this passage is the ending. Paul says, with a frankness and clarity that would have him vilified in today’s society, those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. So, the exchanging of God for a lie, the exchanging of relations that are natural for those that are contrary to nature, the list above, those who practice such things deserve to die

We have moved on from times of stoning and the like (John 8.7), so Paul is not advocating capital punishment, rather the spiritual death that takes place and the eternal separation from God that is waiting for those that practice lifestyles like this. Then, the bolt that makes us sit upright, that not only those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, but those who give approval


WE NEED TO BE SO CAREFUL WHAT WE APPROVE.


This can take many forms; the shows we watch on television, the movies we watch, the books we read, the events we attend, the words we choose when talking about all of this. It seems like a task that we just cannot do in our limited human capacity, and we can’t. But, the same power that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead lives in us (Romans 8.11). The Spirit will guide us in our choices, our relationships, our interactions, our approvals, and our denials.


Prayer for today – Father God I come to you in the name of Jesus and in the power of your Holy Spirit and ask that you show me any areas of my life that would cause me, or others, to stumble. Help me approve what you approve, and to disapprove of what you disapprove of. Help me to love those that choose to live in a way that you don’t approve of. Help me to leave the judgement to you and you alone. Create in me a pure heart, Lord, and renew a right Spirit within me. 

Romans 1.18-25 – Can you not see?

Have you ever tried on someone else’s glasses? Sometimes they are really mild and maybe just for computers/tv/reading (like mine), sometimes they are just for fashion, and other times they are literally what allow people to see…they are so strong! In those instances it’s natural (but not overly kind) to exclaim something about the blindness of your friend and say something like “Wow, can you not see without them?!”.

If we take this and think about the world around us; the sky, the sun, the moon, the trees, the breeze, the ocean, the plants, the animals, the delicately balanced ecosystem, the fact that a few inches here or there closer to or further away from the sun would mean earth could not sustain life, when we consider things like this, it is a huge indicator of intelligent design – the world was made like this on purpose, for a purpose, by someone with a purpose. Can we not see this?

Romans 1.18-25 speaks of those who are not living by faith, and says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. By faith this is what we are saved from, the wrath of God. God’s general revelation is then detailed in vv.19-23,

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Psalm 19.1-6 also details God’s general revelation – that which can be known about God just by observing, looking, and seeing. Unfortunately some in Rome had taken their glasses off, so to speak, and despite this knowledge and even some theological knowledge (although they knew God), they started to worship creature over Creator; idolatry.

Possibly the worst part of God’s wrath is to be left alone, to be left to walk down this path away from Him, to be given over to the lusts of the heart. Exchanging truth for a lie means we participate in the lie (Genesis 3.5), exchanging truth for a lie means we exchange truth for idolatry, exchanging truth for a lie means we put our efforts into human resources for satisfaction, not God and His abundant resources.

For us, the heavens declare the glory of God, and this is far greater than anything we can conjure up ourselves, any glory we may produce. Apart from Him, apart from living by faith in Jesus we have no glory. God in his loving kindness has given us ample evidence that He is a part of everything; look out of the window and see the beautiful sky of a thousand blues, or listen to the birds sing, or watch the waves lap the shore. Watch a sunset or a sunrise and realise by whose hand this is possible. 

Point to ponder – take a moment today to appreciate God’s creation, enjoy His general revelation to you, and say thank you!

Romans 1.16-17 – Ashamed?

When we get something new and seemingly life changing, something like a car that doesn’t break down every month, a phone or computer that doesn’t crash every day, or a place to live with a bath in the bathroom, we would never ever think of declaring, ‘I am not ashamed of my new car.’, or ‘I am not ashamed of my new phone’, or ‘I am not ashamed of my bath!’. Those thoughts would never cross our minds, therefore, we would never feel the need to clarify, no, I am not ashamed.

Paul here starts by saying I am not ashamed of the Gospel. He finished his last paragraph by saying how keen he was to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. The thought, however brief, must therefore have crossed his mind that what he was preaching, the good news that Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of the world and through faith in Him you can be saved unto eternal life, the thought must have crossed his mind that this sounded foolish and he was going to be mocked, maybe worse, for it (1 Corinthians 1.18).


Do we ever feel like that?

Do we ever have momentary doubts about the fact that a human being was murdered 2000 years ago and by believing in who He was and what He did that this will somehow supernaturally change your life, both now and forever?

Most of us will admit to having thought that on occasion. 


So how do we deal with it?

Paul goes on to reinforce just what he is preaching, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Rome was the centre of power, those there would have responded to the way Paul writes this, and since time was even a thing to be counted man has known that he needed something more, that there was something missing, that he needed a Saviour.

When we doubt, when we are tempted to feel ashamed, that is when our faith needs to kick in, from faith for faith. Don’t forget all God has done for you or for the entire world (John 3.16). As Paul quotes from Habakkuk, the righteous shall live by faith. 

So, no matter what you may doubt today, or any day, take this path;

Doubt leads to enquiry, enquiry leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to deeper faith. 

Ours is a faith that is robust and strong, it can handle a little doubt and enquiry and it possess all treasures of wisdom and knowledge in the One who brought us into the fold (Colossians 2.3). 


Points to ponder today – 

Am I ashamed of the Gospel? Why?

Am I living my life by faith as a person who is viewed by God as righteous?

Romans 1.8-15 – Mutual strengthening

During our weekly worship services at Saar Fellowship we have been studying the letter to the Hebrews and one thing we have taken away so far is that no true decision to live for Jesus, to submit to His Lordship over our lives and our eternal destination, no true decision for Jesus results in the desire to NOT fellowship with other believers.

 

Paul is writing something similar here to the Romans,

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul says he is praying for this new church in such a prime position (your faith is proclaimed in all the world, the Roman Empire was used to spread the Gospel to the entire known world at the time) and he wishes to visit (asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you). 

His reason for wanting to visit, at least the first reason he gives, is to impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you. Now, at first glance maybe we think Paul is some kind of purveyor of spiritual gifts. Perhaps Paul can lay hands on people and he has the inherent power to heal/empower/strengthen. But, if we read the rest of that sentence, we see what he really means, look at it all together without verse numbers,

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 

So Paul wants to see the Romans to be mutually encouraged, him to them and them to him. He wants to reap some harvest, and preach the gospel.

Mutual strengthening. 


Spending time with other believers in spiritual fellowship is imparting your spiritual gifts to them. 


Where we lack, others abound. 

Where we struggle, others soar. 

Where we don’t know, others do know. 

Where we have no experience, others do.

This is why it is so important we are part of a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving fellowship of like minded believers, because what we lack, they will supply, and what they lack, we will supply.

Point to ponder today – Am I part of this kind of fellowship? Where can I add my spiritual gift for the building up of the body?

Romans 1.1-7 – Follower first

Recently I contributed to an online discussion panel about the motivations we have for sanctification, so, why are we willing participants with God in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. All the usual and expected answers came up, things like ‘to be a better wife/husband’, ‘because I know who I was and I don’t want to be him/her again’, ‘to be a better leader in my church/home/job’. Then, one person offered this, 

“It has been revolutionary for me to just focus on being a decent Christian each day, and to see how that has permeated the different roles that I have as a husband, parent, son, minister, teacher, etc.

Each day, as I focus on just trying to be a decent Christian, I find that a first focus on who I am, impacts the roles that I am called to fill.”

The beautifully simple thing about this answer is that the priorities are right – focus on being a believer first and foremost, and that will permeate its way through the rest of our lives. If we focus on being a follower of Jesus, a disciple, then every situation we find ourselves in will be an opportunity for us to be a disciple. 

Romans 1 opens with this, take a deep breath, its a long sentence;

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

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

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

So, right off the bat we see how Paul views himself, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. Servant first. Follower first. Disciple first. This is in itself a noble task, following the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Everything Paul says about himself and about anything else will follow this, first I am a servant of Jesus. 

Paul goes on to make some interesting points, first, that the Gospel is not his to proclaim (the gospel of God), and that the centre of our faith is One who is both fully human (his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh) and fully Divine (and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead). He closes the opening to his letter with a very Pauline blessing, that combines both Greek and Jewish thinking, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

For us then, we need to think like Paul does here, first, I am a servant of Jesus. Follower first, husband, pastor, engineer, doctor, teacher, wife, mum, dad, brother, sister, everything else second. When this happens, we will see God from the right perspective, and, as we said yesterday, we will see ourselves from the right perspective too. 

Today let us pray this –

Lord, help me to be a believer first, help me to find fulfilment as a follower of Jesus first and foremost. Help me take this position into every other situation and circumstance I encounter today, and help me live the truth of one who has been redeemed by your Son.

Romans; a window to all Scripture

Paul’s letter to the Romans was written around 53-58 A.D., most likely from Corinth (Acts 20.2-3, Romans 16.1, 23). Martin Luther, so often remembered in reference to the reformation of the 1500s called Romans the

‘…chief part of the New Testament…[the] epitome of the Gospel…’.

As we progress through Romans, then, we will talk about God, see about God, hear about God, and learn about God. 


Romans is, essentially, a book about God.


As we move through this wonderful letter maybe a verse at a time, maybe a paragraph at a time, but never less than a complete thought at a time, we will begin to see or to reinforce what we think about God, what we know about God, and what we believe about God. When this happens, when we see God in the right light, so to speak, when we see the truth about God, it is impossible to not start to see the truth about ourselves too.

For example, you may enjoy running in your free time. When you see Usain Bolt running, you realise you’re not that fast. 

You may enjoy cooking, but when you eat at a Michelin starred restaurant, you realise you’re not that great in the kitchen.

You may enjoy playing the piano, but when you listen to Chopin or Beethoven or Mozart play, you realise that you have much improvement to make!

Romans will answer the big questions we have about God, about ourselves, and about the world around us.

As we start to see the truth about God, we will also start to see the truth about ourselves. When these two things happen at the very same time, it will only drive us further and faster into the care of One who can reconcile the difference, One who has created this new covenant family we are all a part of through faith, and the One who provides a true window for us to look through and see God.