“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Romans 1:8-12
In our last Romans study, we looked at what it means to thank God “through Jesus Christ” and the great truth that Jesus is our great Mediator and Advocate. Christianity truly is a one-of-a-kind worldview.
We now turn to Paul’s statement that the “faith” of the Roman Christians was “spoken of throughout the whole world.” That’s an amazing statement for the Apostle to the Gentiles to make. Why would he say that at the beginning of this letter? What did Paul have in mind as he wrote those words? What did the Roman believers think about what he wrote?
[The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of gay marriage. This article was written prior to that decision.]
“Gay Marriage is Pro-Family”
“Most Americans expect Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage”
“Ireland gives resounding 62.1 percent ‘yes’ to gay marriage”
“Texas Senate revives anti-gay marriage bill”
“The gay-wedding industry goes mainstream”
“Gay marriage proponents pose ‘danger’ to Christianity”
These are recent news headlines about the ongoing ‘marriage debate.’ Gay marriage may be the biggest news story of the 21st century, but is marriage really changing? Can the ‘reality’ of marriage be changed? Let’s think about it.
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (NIV)
Standing fast or firm in your faith is a vital part of the ‘Christian walk.’ The primary word for ‘walk’ in the New Testament is peripateo. It was used in the physical sense in the Gospels and Acts. Paul used the word in a figurative sense.
The Greeks understood the figurative definition to be: ‘live, conduct yourself.’ The way a person ‘walked’ meant the way they lived their lives and conducted themselves.
“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.” Titus 1:1-3
This is one of the most powerful and insightful introductions to the GraceLife in Paul’s writings. God opens to those who will hear and believe the Deep Secrets of True Spirituality. Here we learn the Purpose of God in Life. God chose Paul from all the peoples of the world to explain His Wisdom and the Mystery hidden in Him from before the beginning of time. God inspired Paul to preach, teach and write so that we might benefit for Eternity.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul had little to say in his writings about the formal worship of God, but what he said went a long way. Paul believed a Christian’s spiritual act of worship was to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. Christians of that day understood what a sacrifice was because many of the religions, including Judaism, practiced it.
Worshippers would bring something of value – animals, vegetables, fruit and precious metals – and give it to a priest or priestess as a gesture of “worship” to their gods. They often did it out of fear or desire for a special blessing. Paul said a Christian’s “act of worship” was to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. It was a willing act of love, not fear.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
This is one of the most practically powerful statements in Paul’s writings. It hits everyone of us where we live: the issue of contentment.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
A literal translation of this verse reads: “Look you lest anyone you there shall be robbing through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.”
Paul is warning Christians against following a dangerous way of thinking. He knew that would lead to dangerous actions.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
I love to visit libraries and bookstores. There’s something special about walking in and seeing shelves filled with books as far as the eye can see. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Yummy!
I dropped my wife off at an appointment the other day and had about an hour before picking her up. It just so happened that a national chain bookstore was located around the corner, so I spent my time looking at books. I wasn’t shopping this time, just looking.
Have you ever noticed how Christian books are often located in the same area as Spirituality, New Age and Philosophy books? Having almost an hour to look gave me time to compare the books in the Christian section to books in the other nearby sections. You would expect to find BIG differences between them, right?
Planning “your” life is unique to you. There is no one like you in the world. However, we can learn from each other about ways that might help us plan our lives. I enjoy the process of planning and helping other people plan. While you may not find my process to your liking, I hope you will find a process that works for you and then work it. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Happy New Year! What are your plans for 2015? Spend more time with family and less time at work? Get healthy? Lose weight? Get a better job? Make more money?
If you look to the wisdom of the world about the importance of planning your life, you’ll see things like this:
- Planning gives you purpose
- Planning gives you direction
- Planning puts you in control
- Planning gives you power
- Planning gives you hope
- Planning gives you balance
- Planning gives you peace
- Planning gives you freedom
While those sound like good ideas for planning your life, think about this question for a few moments. What about God’s plans for your life? What does He have in mind for you to accomplish? Could it be that God’s plans for your life are better than what the world’s plans?