Thursday, March 27, 2014

Romans 16:1-16

When Paul closes his letter to the Romans, he sends a greeting to all of the faithful servants of Christ that are there in Rome and the outlying area. Take a moment to read down through what Paul says about these people. “Phebe, as servant of the church, she hath been a succourer(helper) of many, and of myself also.” “Aquila and Priscilla, my helpers in Christ. Who have for my life laid down their own necks.” “Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.” “Urbane, our helper in Christ. “Stachys my beloved.” “Appeles, approved in Christ.” “Herodion, my kinsman.” “Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord.” “Persis, who labored much in the Lord.”
That is an incredible testimony, the apostle Paul lists these as “beloved,” and “helpers,” and “laborers.” Do you see a theme in the people who were part of the early church? It seems that they were a group of people who weren’t lazy and indifferent to the things and needs of others in the body of Christ. Rather it appears that they were actively pursuing the opportunity to serve those around them. They did this so much, that God recorded them in scripture as His very own helpers. Do you help the ministry of God? Ushering, babysitting, and singing in choir are necessary things, but I don’t think that is the only type of serving that Paul is talking about here. I think it is actively striving to daily understand and fulfill the needs of those in the body of Christ. It is finding the opportunity to help in a way that normally you wouldn’t want to, but because of a transforming work of Christ in your heart, you can’t help but desire to serve those around you for the furthering of the gospel and God’s kingdom.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 16:1-16. What are some of the words that Paul uses to describe the people he sends greetings to?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Romans 15:18-30

Romans 15:20 speaks of a holy ambition that drove Paul to take the gospel around the world. In this verse, he says, “I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.” This was a goal for his life: to find the places that didn’t know about Jesus and tell them about Him. It was almost as if he would arrive in a town and if he found other believers there, he would fellowship for a while and then would continue down the road to find a place that didn’t have any believers.
How does that compare to our modern demeanor about sharing the gospel? Whether missions or evangelism, we don’t have to do it as a crowd. If we are going to evangelize, we don’t need a mob to go do it. In missions, we don’t need to have a missionary already there for us to go work with and so that we can learn missions from him. We need young people with ambition to go where there is no gospel.
Paul said, “I don’t want to go where the other guys are.” Do you realize how quickly the gospel would spread if Christians got past our timid, hide-behind others presentation of the gospel. Perhaps we lack boldness when meeting new people, or we timidly back out of conversations that would end with the gospel because we are unsure and almost afraid to share the good news. May we, like Paul, have the boldness to take the gospel whether that means we have a crowd going with us, or that we will be marching out alone to places no one has ever gone before. Remember, that no matter where you are, alone or in the middle of the crowd, He is there as your strength.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 15:18-33. What was Paul’s “holy ambition”? What did this ambition make him do?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Romans 15:12-17

Isaiah 11:10 says “in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” In this ancient prophesy, the prophet Isaiah foretells of the day when not only Jews, but also Gentiles will come to the feet of the son of David, Jesus. You see, the misconception for centuries was that the Messiah was going to be only a Messiah to the Jewish people, but Isaiah had hinted that even the Gentiles would seek the Messiah.
This same passage in Isaiah serves as a springboard for Paul as he delves into the work that God has called him to among the Gentiles. While he was a Jew, a Pharisee no less, God had called him to go throughout the whole known world and proclaim the good news of Jesus’ kingdom to all peoples of the world. This new message was not just a Jewish message.
Similarly, God still calls people today to cross-cultural missions. Often He has called men like Adoniram Judson, David Brainerd, Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Goble, and many more to go to people who are not ethnically the same. The message of Jesus is not a message that should be bound to one skin color or ethnic group. God has called us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” According to Paul and Isaiah, the good news of Jesus is meant to be good news for all people.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 15:12-17. What does Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10 say in regards to the coming messiah and what we should do with the news of Him?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Romans 15:1-11

Romans 14 is a very helpful chapter instructing us to live a life of faith before God. Built into Romans 14 is an idea that our life of faith before God is not to offend another brother in Christ. If I live out Romans 14 properly, I will be careful not to cause you, my brother in Christ, to stumble (14:13) and I will live that way intentionally for the glory of God!
Romans 15 picks up that same thought and provides further instruction as to how we are to live to please others for the glory of God. Verses 1-6 are so rich and illustrate for us what true Christianity looks like between believers. Did you know Romans 15:1-2 says, we are “not to please ourselves” but we are to “please [our] neighbor for his good to edification”? You say, what’s that mean Bro. Alan? It means this: your Christian life is not yours to live in a corner unto yourself doing whatever you feel you can do. Instead, your Christian life is to be lived in a way that constantly takes into mind the life of others in order that you might continue to build one another up in Christ. And here’s the beauty of it all: if I live that way toward you, and you understand this and live that way toward me, we can have the same mind and the same mouth and glorify God the Father, together!

Food for Thought: Read Romans 15:1-11. According to Paul, what should be the thrust of the Christian life? What does this look like for you?

Alan Obrien
Assistant Pastor | www.libcky.comAlan and his wife, Amy, have been serving the church family of Landmark Baptist Church since 2008. They have a daughter, Allison.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Romans 14:16-23

Paul talks about standards, and does so in a way that we culturally just don’t get. You see, when we talk about standards, it is always the big three: what you wear, what you listen to, and what you watch. This is the outward appearance, this is the ear gate, and this is the eye gate. Ironically, Paul doesn’t use any of our modern standard conflicts to deal with this issue of Spirit-led unity in the body of Christ. Instead he deals with the predominant one in the church of his day: food. Can you imagine that discussion today? How big should a hamburger bun really be? Can you call yourself “Christian” and eat mustard? How could you ever think that you are right with God and eat Fritos?!? As silly as this may sound, this was the big discussion of the day. The great thing about Paul is that when he deals with this food standard, he doesn’t take sides. He says that if we truly operate under the auspice of Christian love, we will always seek to defer our own personal preferences and desires to those around us who may have a more stringent standard. (v. 15-18) As true followers of Christ and lovers of our brethren, we should be willing to change our living habits in order to not offend a weaker brother and ultimately hinder the work of God. Faith in God dictates this humbling of our desires. It subsides the need to be “right.” It acknowledges that according to the gospel we were all “wrong” without Jesus, therefore He is the only one who has the right to be offended by other people disagreeing with His standard. It then shows us that we should lovingly work to not offend those around us with our actions. True faith will always breed unity.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 14:16-23. What things did people in paul’s day disagree on? List four standards that people today disagree on.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Romans 14:9-15

Romans 14:10-12 talks about the judgment seat of Christ. This term “judgment seat” is not a term that we use too often in America. To get the proper picture, we need to see what a judgment seat was in ancient Roman culture. Here the Greek word “bema” is used as well as 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5, as a place of judgment that only Christians will go, this is not the “final judgment” that nonbelievers will face, so this passage is dealing with judging believers. A judgment seat is literally what it sounds like– a seat where a judge or a ruler sits and passes judgment. When someone came before a judgment seat, there wasn’t really any way that they themselves determined their own fate. Their fate was determined by the one in the seat.
Paul writes here in Romans 14 that one day we will each stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Now, don’t forget what Romans 8:1 said, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ,” so this is not a judgment seat that ends with you being cast into hell for your desperate wickedness. Rather this is a judgment seat that determines your motives and your actions based upon that which Romans 14 talks. Did you try to harass your brothers or sisters in Christ and breed disunity by telling them that you were more holy because you had tighter or looser standards? Paul says, “Christ is the judge, get out of His seat.” Rather, instead of putting yourself in the judgment seat, realize that you will be judged by Jesus, and then rather judge yourself (v.13) and make sure that all that you do is not becoming a “stumbling block” to the brothers and sisters around you.
So do we ever judge those around us? In our modern context using the word “judge” seems like a horrible thing. However, not all judgments are bad judgments. For example, this morning, you judged that the decision to ride inside the car was better than to ride under the car. This was a wise judgment and resulted in you reaching your destination unscathed. Similarly, there are wise judgments. There are right judgments. Seeing sin and abstaining from it is wise. It is ok to “judge” that what someone else is doing is wrong or sinful, as long as you understand clearly from scripture that it is wrong. That type of judgment is not wrong.
The type of judgment that is most often used (and wrongly so) is the type that judges without all of the facts. This would include judging others motives, judging based solely upon feeling or emotion, or judging in areas of preference where scripture does not mandate a direct desire of God. These judgments are the faulty “judging.” This type of judgment is reserved to God. He determines what is right and wrong, what is sinful and what is not. Now, make sure you don’t ever try to take His seat.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 14:9-15. What is a judgment seat? Who is the only person whose motives we should judge?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Romans 14:1-8

Love one another in the faith…even when you disagree. This is how Paul starts off Romans 14. Coming from Romans 13, where He says to love your brother, he begins chapter 14 with “even when you are different, receive him.” 
Don’t lose sight of Paul’s heart in the matter though. He says “receive him, but not to doubtful disputations.” “Doubtful?” This is the opposite of faith. This is “faithless.” Don’t have him in and then begin the battle of the minds, absent of faith. Rather have him in, because you love him. Don’t bring him in so that you can shame him with your incredible mind. 
This faith-only approach is how Paul outlines his presentation of the gospel to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Because a brother convinced by you and not by the Spirit, is faithless/doubtful and will either change again, later, when a better charlatan with a richer vocabulary comes along, or he will not change, but only follow after you and not God. You won’t truly win over your brother with anything. Only the Spirit can permanently change hearts and minds. 
Paul then takes this concept and plays it out in illustration. Verse 2 says that one man believes that he may eat all things. Another disagrees. They do not have to part ways over these standards. Both are following what they believe the Spirit has called them to in their personal walk with Christ, and there is not a Scriptural mandate against either of them. They both, according to Paul, should be able to dwell together in brotherly love and minister for Christ in the church.
Unfortunately, that is not the case today. Too often side-issues sidetrack the work of God. Don’t get caught up in the sidetracking of the ministry of God. Keep the main thing (the gospel) the main thing, and the Spirit will line up the rest for you.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 14:1-8. What is the reaction you should have towards those whose standards you think are too strict or lax?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Romans 13:8-14

I once heard one preacher say it this way, "Debt is dumb. If you have $3 and spend $7, you are dumb." Paul comes into Romans 13:8 with a similar premise, but with less harsh phraseology. “Owe no man anything,” is a thought that is replete in scripture as far back as Solomon in the Proverbs where “the borrower is slave to the lender,” is presented as the perspective of borrowing money and going into debt. Ironically, Paul doesn’t end his theology on the point of “don’t be in debt,” rather, he uses it to show the position that every believer is in when it comes to the call of love. “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.” You should not have any debt towards anyone except the inherent debt of love that you owe them. It is assumed that you MUST love others. As if you owe them a million dollars, you owe them love. 
Christ made this call decades earlier when He said, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one for another.” Paul reiterates this theology of love when in his intro to 1 Timothy, he says that to follow Christ is not just to live with a clean conscience in Spirit-following, or to live with true deep rich faith, but also to live with love out of a pure heart. This doesn’t even take into account the theology of the apostle John, who uses “love” so often, it could have been his middle name. The call of scripture, the call of Jesus, the call to us today, is that we love one another, and that we love in such a way that acknowledges that it is a debt that is never fulfilled. We won’t ever reach the end of our necessity to love others.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 13:8-14. Is debt good? What is the type of debt that Paul says you should actually have and never be free from?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Romans 13:5-7

Paul is the master of segue. “Segue” (pronounced “seg-way”) is a word that is not a religious word and simply means “to transition from one thing to another.” It is used like this: ‘The shirt I am wearing is lavender. Lavender is also one of my favorite flowers.’ I segued from talking about my shirt to talking about flowers. Paul segues often during his letters pulling connections and transitions seemingly out of thin air. When we read Romans 13:5-7, we can walk away thinking that Paul uses these verses to talk about paying your taxes. And he does. But as he finishes out verse 7, he segues on to a new concept. It is not just about rendering to Ceasar some coin. He says that we need to render “fear to whom fear, and honour to whom honour.” Paul actually says that we are to honor those that are in authority over us. Is this the sentiment that is represented to you on a daily basis? American polity is based on a two-party system: Democrats and Republicans. It seems that because of this two party system Christians polarize over political views, and often miss the opportunity to render honor to whom honor is due. Instead of respect, they treat our political leaders with disrespect and disgust. Instead of honor, they dole out dishonorable derogatory terms to define a candidate or leader that they personally disagree with. According to this segue of Paul, just as much as we should pay our taxes, we should pay out our duty of honor to the ones God has placed in authority over us.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 13:5-7. What does the word “segue” mean? What thoughts does Paul segue between in today's devotional?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Romans 13:1-4

We live in a world that doesn’t like authority, right? In fact, I think it is safe to say that most people hate authority! Have you ever thought about why that is? If you’re honest, I think you would admit with me that at your core you do not like being told what “to do” or what “not to do.” When we stop and think about the overall context of what Paul has written in this letter to the Romans, Paul told us that this world is God’s because He is the One who created it and all things in it (including you and me), and as Creator, all of creation stands accountable to Him, under His authority. While Romans 1-11 give us doctrine of man’s sin and what Christ accomplished for man to give Him the ability to stand before God, Romans 12-16 give us the application we are to live by based on that doctrine.
Authority is given to keep order within God’s creation because sin still exists. Authority was setup to reward good and to restrain sin. Therefore, we have parents as authority over children, government as authority over citizens, bosses as authority over employees, the church as authority over believers, teachers as authority over students, etc... You name the scenario, there’s an authority figure who was placed there by God.
So I have to ask you: What’s your view of authority? Do you submit to it? or do you fight against it? In the next few moments, read Romans 13:1-4 and see that Paul says authority should be your friend and not your enemy. Your view of authority will prove whether or not you are submitted to God’s ultimate authority or one still fighting against His authority.

Food for Thought: Read Romans 13:1-4. Why do people hate authority? Why was authority given by God?

Alan ObrienAssistant Pastor |
Alan and his wife, Amy, have been serving the church family of Landmark Baptist Church since 2008. They have a daughter, Allison.