Romans

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 6

bibleRead Romans 6:1-14

A new creation is not the same thing as a new chance.  A new life is not an enhanced or slightly modified version of your old life.  New is completely new.  To be a new creation is to carry within you the spirit of Jesus Christ.  His nature confronts and aggressively opposes the sinful nature of your old self.  A new creation does not seek justification for sin nor does it seek to provide refuge for it.  The new creation hates sin!  Do you hate sin? Are you ready and willing to fight the recurring temptations of the sinful nature of your old self?  Or, are you apathetic and quick to celebrate the benefits of Christ’s grace and forgiveness for you before lifting a finger to oppose what you naturally should, if indeed you are a new creation?  The new creation is not subtle.  The new creation is of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit and therefore is one of power.  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit warring with your old self?  Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit lifting your weak and feeble spiritual arms in order for the battle to carry on, allowing victory to be proclaimed for you and for Christ?  Is there power in your faith?  A new creation cannot be without it.  The lack of power in your walk with Jesus Christ begs the question, “Do you know that your savior liveth?”  To know that Jesus has saved is to know that your sinful nature has been uncovered and pronounced guilty, but by the grace of God has fallen on the head of the savior, Jesus Christ.  To know that Jesus lives is to know that the nature of your old self has no more power over you.  You no longer serve the flesh but Jesus.  You are no longer mastered by sinful desires, for your Master has liberated you from the oppression of the old self, inaugurating the way of righteousness, truth and holiness in the name of Jesus Christ.  Cry out to God for newness!

Communion: The Sacrifice

communion-bread-and-wine

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Creator

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Creator

The baptism of the Holy Spirit not only helps us to finally understand our creator. It goes beyond extending our memories back to a time with him before we decided to follow sin and our own pride to abandon his love for another. While this realization is powerful and is characteristic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, our relationship to the Creator God also provides us with a new understanding of who He is in nature.

Prior to being baptized by the Holy Spirit, we are taught that God is in control, all-powerful. However, with our numerous unresolved problems, it becomes easy for us to refer to God’s power in the past tense. In other words, while our mouths continue to profess that God can change the world if he wanted to, our hearts doubt every word. Our hearts doubt his power in our world as much as our minds and mouths want to profess that nothing has changed. This outlook on the power of God also hits us personally. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and see our imperfections and reflect on the numerous challenges that we face daily. We take inventory of all of these obstacles and we hope for a miracle but doubt that anything will ever change. We read our Bible daily. Nothing changes. We attend Church regularly. Nothing changes. We tithe 10% of our income every month. Nothing changes. We go on a mission trip. Nothing changes. The truth is nothing will ever truly change until one is baptized by the Holy Spirit.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can bridge the gap between the hopeful mind and the doubtful heart. It unleashes the healing power of the Creator God; suddenly, things begin to change. While we are still tempted by sin and continue to fight the good fight, with the power of the living God the things that seemed insurmountable no longer obstruct our progress. We find ourselves progressing due to a power not our own. We are propelled forward simply because we now have the Creator God moving our steps and dictating our path. This is something that only the baptism of the Holy Spirit can provide.

In Acts, there is no reasonable explanation how 12 regular men with varied backgrounds, none of which support a lifelong missionary or pastoral career, suddenly began to change the world. With men this is impossible, but with God nothing is. This becomes true as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No Created by Mobile Word Ministry one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:31-39

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 1

Read Romans 1:18-32bible

“Punishment” is often attributed to God long before “love” or “grace.”  The wrath of God is far more interesting a headline than his humble sacrifice and endless love for those who have not loved him.  For many, the creator God is an authority figure to his inferior creation, small beneath his heavy hand.  In this vertical perception of holy hierarchy, there is far too much room for rules and consequences and far less room for love and grace.  While God has established his law and standards and there are indeed consequences to breaking them, the punishment of God is often misunderstood.  As most of us experience punishment, an act of disobedience is swiftly followed by an act of punishment intended to end the disobedience.  This is reactionary punishment.  While this approach to punishment is effective, the punishment of God is typically far more lesson driven.  God’s desire is not limited to putting an end to our misbehavior, but shows us how our misbehavior has terrifying effects on not only our own lives but others as well.  When punishment is associated merely with our own actions, isolated to us as individuals, we learn obedience and punishment in a system of self-preservation and self-service.  Godly wrath and punishment is far broader and more terrifying.  God’s punishment intends to show us that with freedom to seek the satisfaction of our human desires, we are capable of far more destruction than one single act.

Will a child learn and understand the consequences of stealing the car keys and driving the family car more if stopped before leaving the driveway, or if allowed to drive around the city for a single hour?  The first is a warning of things that could have been.  The second is an experience of consequences.  The second leaves no room for hypotheticals or what ifs.  It locates the disobedience directly within the consequences.  Therefore, the punishment of God in terms of letting us carry out our desires without correction is far more terrifying than a direct rebuke by the Lord Almighty before a false step is taken.  However, in this way we are better able to understand the purpose of his law when we face our own destructive tendencies.  Only by experiencing the dangers of our own nature can we not only accept but desire his laws, decrees and protection from ourselves.  Save us from ourselves, Lord God Almighty!

 

Born Again: Trouble (Psalm 102)

Welcome to Week 2 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Psalm 102 has to say about “Trouble.”

Read Psalm 102

When someone is suffering, a typical recommendation is to read the Psalms. While this is an excellent idea that I completely endorse, we first have to realize that most Psalms are separated into two parts.

The primary reason we tend to recommend the Psalms in times of trouble is the “hopeful” sections. It’s great to be able to read how others before us have also suffered and endured pain like our own. However, without the hopeful conclusion at the end of many Psalms, all we are left with are groups of people sharing pain together, which is not that encouraging.

As I read Psalm 102, I wish I knew more about the anonymous psalmist, the “afflicted person” who is struggling and in despair. Why? What happened? What brought this man down to such depths that he feared the absence of God more than anything else?

While this question captivates my attention, yet more astonishing is the eventual turnaround in his spirit. The final two-thirds of the Psalm are nothing but praise for God. Not only that, but this writer is so confident in his hope of a new world with people who will worship and commune with God in new and wonderful ways.

This man didn’t have the Psalms!  Nor did he have the encouraging words of the apostles, and even more, he didn’t have Jesus and the Gospels!  Yet, he believed with his entire being in “the Gospel,” the “the good news.”

Psalm 102 is the prayer of a person in trouble, without a solution or happy ending, without the rich fulfillment of prophecy that would come in the ensuing centuries. Yet we, with our plethora of Bibles and Bible resources, tend to so easily let ourselves be overcome with despair and trouble to the extent that the mere mention of hope in a better future gets our eyes rolling. Many hallmarks emerge from a born again spirit and, while all are important, none amount to much without joy and hope. How often are Bible studies, church services or prayers marked with somber silence and not joyful laughter? Do we run into the future that God has prepared for us with feet like the deer? Do we fly into the unknowable future with wings like eagles?

Whether we do or do not, this man apparently did. And he managed this without the foretaste of the Kingdom of God delivered in full by the Son himself.

As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, the process of discipleship starts with suffering, but always ends in hope. And hope never disappoints. Hope brought this man out of the darkness. A person born again by the Spirit has taken hold of the Son and his Gospel never to let go.  Troubles only have the ability to control our lives if we ignore the One who offers us a way out.  Living without the joy of salvation and the hope of heaven leaves us futilely wrestling with our troubles.  When we are born again, we know that trouble will come, but will never be a match for the hope we have found in Jesus.