Romans 15 cont'd

7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. 8 Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews[b] to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote:
“For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.”[
10 And in another place it is written, “Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles.”[
d] 11 And yet again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.”[
12 And in another place Isaiah said,
“The heir to David’s throne[
f] will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.”[g]
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit

So the passage yesterday talked about living in harmony with one another and this passage continues the conversation. The Jews felt that since they were originally God’s people that they were better (this is what I understand from other studies). This sense of entitlement causes chaos in the church because people were believing that they were superior would create resentment, etc. What Paul points out (again) is that Jesus died for both the Jews and the Gentiles, and there isn’t one group that is more deserving than the other.

Sometimes I wonder if this rift can occur between new believers and old believers, between social groups, etc. God loves each of us, regardless of the earthly constraints we use to define others.

My high school English teacher spoke at our graduation. He had just had his first daughter, Abigail. He said when he looked at Abby, he thought about how he would be devestated if anyone ever hurt her. He told us the world would be a better place if we treated everyone else like they were someone’s Abby – and that is a good way of looking at it. Wouldn’t the world be better if we looked at each person as God’s child – that they are precious in God’s sight?

Living to Please Others (Romans 15)

1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”[a] 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is living to please others and then there is living to please others in order to please God. This is a huge thing for me because I know all too often, I put the satisfaction of others as a top priority. That is a wrong attitude! What Paul is saying is that when you are a follower of Jesus, you live in harmony with other followers in order to give praise and glory to God. This passage doesn’t say to foresake God so that non-believers can be comfortable. Quite the opposite – Paul talks about building up other believers in the Lord. We should help them find the right direction, even if it means keeping eachother accountable (a sometimes uncomfortable thing).

Romans 14 – last entry

20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

This to me speaks to those areas and things that I do that are definitely in the “gray” area. While God is very specific in the Bible regarding certain sins, there are items that may be a sin for me and not a sin for you. I think that a sin is anything that interrupts my relationship with God. For example, if I have a taco, that’s fine. But if I have a taco and I love the taco and enjoy it far too much, to the point of distraction, that is coming between God and me. Ok, I know, who really loves a taco more than God? But I guess the point is that there are things that I prioritize ahead of God. I prioritize 5 more minutes on facebook ahead of reading the Bible, for example. While 5 more minutes on facebook is fine for most people, it means that I may not dedicate the time I should to studying and being in God’s word.

Basically, if what Iam doing is pricking my conscience, I probably should not be doing it.

Romans 14 cont'd

10 So why do you condemn another believer[a]? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.[
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

These passages are the easiest to read and gloss over. It’s easy to read them and think of people who have given me a hard time and think, “Hmph, they should really read this – they could get a lot out of it!” But reading this again, I need to identify things that I do that cause someone else consternation. I need to say, “Jesus loved this person so much, He died for them” and realize that no “food” or anything else is worth causing someone else to stumble in their walk with God. If everyone treated eachother with this kind of regard, then there really would be harmony.

The Danger of Criticism (Romans 14)

1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.
5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

I really love this passage because it really reminds me that every Christian has a different style and way of doing things. The only thing that matters is that what I do must honor God. Even more importantly: God is the only one who can judge whether we are right or wrong, so we need to stop judging each other. It’s interesting to me that Paul had to remind Christians to stop picking on eachother – from the very beginning of the church, it seems like Christians struggled with being legalistic, missing the very point of the spirit and attitude of our hearts.

Love Fulfills God’s Requirements (Romans 13 cont'd)

8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

I love when the Pharisee’s ask Jesus what the most important commandments were. They were trying to trip up Jesus and get him into trouble, yet His response blew them away (as it usually did). All of the commandments can be summed up in two important principles: Loving God and Loving People. If you are doing those two things, then you are not lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, murdering, etc.

It’s interesting to me that Paul writing this thousands of years ago was urging the Christians of the day to get right with Jesus and to stop sinning because the end was closer than they think. Well, thousands of years later, all of those individuals he initially wrote to have been long gone. But really, it doesn’t matter when Jesus comes again. We are not guaranteed that we will live to see tomorrow, so our time may truly be short and regardless, I should live my life as though it would end tomorrow.

Respect for Authority – Romans 13

Respect for Authority
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

This passage is a little bit of a challenge for me because it is so black-and-white and the misuse of authority, especially in our country, seems to be so prevelant. How many times have I heard about taxes going directly into the pockets of politicians? Too many to count!

In Matthew 22:21, it says, “‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” We can’t take money with us and the more important thing is what we do with what we do with what God has given us. Ultimately, the taxes are supposed to be used to serve our community (and thereby, the taxpayer because a better community means a better life for the taxpayer).

As far as the authority that God has placed in our lives in terms of the government, it seems they fall under the heading of, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” (can’t remember the location of this verse off the top of my head) The leaders God has put in place will be accountable, as we all are, for the job they do in office.

Good instead of Evil (Romans 12 cont'd)

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge; I will pay them back,”[
g] says the Lord.
20 Instead,
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”[
21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

God is so surprising! Our human nature and instinct can be so reactionary and so narrow-minded and self-serving that when Paul says, “Never pay back evil with more evil” – it sounds surprising! We live in a world that is “Eye for an Eye.” Our society is completely litigious. I have encountered many individuals that live by the mantra of, “I want what I want, when I want it, how I want it” and they step on a whole lot of people to get there. So in a society like the one we live in, think of how things would change if we left the pay-back up to God. See, when people do evil, they expect negative consequences. Think of how amazing it is to people when God’s grace is evident clearly and tangibly through Christians. Grace is truly when you deserve one negative/less desirable result, but instead, are extended a “pass.” People are more likely to believe that there is a merciful God when they witness His merciful people here on earth.

I really found the part of the passage where Paul says, “Leave the payback up to God” kind of funny. I remember when I was younger that I often got in trouble for parenting my siblings (in not a good way). My dad would always say, “Who is the parent, Emily?” And this is God’s way of saying, “Emily, I will handle this. Do what you are supposed to do and I will make sure that everything else is taken care of.”

Romans 12 cont'd

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

This was a hard one because I think what Paul is saying goes against human nature. When someone cuts you off in traffic, the natural response is usually (there are a few zen drivers out there that may not get this) one of anger and of hope that there is a cop around that will pull that yahoo driver over!

But Paul goes beyond saying be nice to the people who do things that inconvenience you, Paul is telling the Romans to BLESS people who actively and deliberately worked to hurt and kill Christians. Can you imagine the strength it would take to bless someone who was so actively against you, they would take your life? How do you do that without the strenght of the holy spirit??

Beyond just blessing the people that persecute you, Paul tells the Romans to do their best to live in harmony. My mom had Judge Judy on a few weeks ago when I was home doing billing. Remembering the cases of mom vs. son over a few hundred dollars, I can’t help but think that Paul’s charge to live in harmony requires a people devoted to Jesus. Families can hardly stand eachother sometimes, much less neighborhoods and communities!

But just like it takes one person to ruin a good time, it just takes a handful of people to buck the trend, to start something new, to change the tone of the conversation. I need to think: how can I wish my enemies well and be kind to my neighbor?

Gifting – Romans 12 cont'd

6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[
e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f] 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Paul first discusses the various spiritual gifts that God blesses people with. It’s important to me that Paul didn’t say, “Yay for you!” No! The gifts that God has blessed us with are supposed to bne used to SERVE and GLORIFY God.

Then Paul really gives a lot of advice. He discusses is the importance in loving others. It made me think of when I do a weak job of really loving someone – really being patient with them and affectionate. How often do I dedicate the work that I do to serving God? And not just serving God, but serving Him passionately, enthusiastically and joyfully.