Friday, January 29, 2010

THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL: JESUS SAVES!

I heard Adrian Rogers relate this story from his predecessor in the pulpit of Bellevue Baptist Church, R.G. Lee. Dr. Lee told of a schoolhouse in South Carolina that caught fire. One Dad saw his son trapped in the flames. That young boy cried out, “Daddy can’t you save me?” Strong men had to hold him back or that father would have perished in a futile attempt to save his son from the inferno. It is horrific to imagine how he watched as his son wilted like a rosebud in a blast furnace, all the while screaming, “Daddy, can’t you save me?” The father only lived two more years and died of a broken-heart. He could never recover from what he saw and what he heard—day and night haunted by the plea, “Daddy, can’t you save me?”

Dr. Rogers then concluded, our sad, suffering, sin-benighted world cries, “Can’t you save me?” It calls to science and science answers, “We can calculate the distance to the sun, but we can’t tell you how to get to heaven. No, we can’t save you.” So, the world calls to the government. “Can’t you save us?” The government answers, “We can protect your physical life and liberty but we can’t save your soul and free you from sin. No, we can’t save you.” So, the world turns to business, begging, “Can’t you save us?” The bankers and brokers answer, “We can help you buy the good life on earth and a mansion of a hill, but cannot buy you eternal life and a mansion in heaven.” That’s the world—that’s the best it can do.

But, there is good news: “We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!”

He will save you! He will save you now!

Tell Him, you want to be forgiven. Admit you are a sinner and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. Turn from sin and turn to Him.

If you have faith in Christ, then, “Spread the tidings all around, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL: A GLORIOUS MESSAGE

Paul came to the climax of His ministry saying, “I am innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26). He had no regrets. The apostle had been a faithful steward of the Gospel message entrusted to him. Just before his head would go one way, his body another and his soul another, from the executioner’s blow, his last will and testament was, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Paul faced death and eternity regretless.

He believed the Gospel message was glorious in:

ITS POWER “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation…” (Romans 1:16a). He wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel. Are you? Rome sniffed its imperial nose at the cross. How could a poor Jew, executed as a criminal save anybody? But Paul knew its power. He wasn’t just a witness—He was part of the evidence! People should see the difference the Gospel makes in us—and then they’ll believe it! The word is dunamis (we get the word dynamite from it) and that describes some people’s religion—it makes a lot of noise, stirs up a lot of dust and one big bang and its over! A better word is dynamo—an engine of energy. That’s what true faith does.

ITS PROVISION “salvation to everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16b) God provides salvation to all who believe. It’s just that simple! God made a way where anybody can be saved. Today, if you are ready to give your life to Christ, God stands ready to forgive you and to save you! God doesn’t ask us to behave but to believe. It isn’t reformation, but regeneration. More than knowing the content of the Gospel in our head; it is a commitment to Christ in heart.

ITS PROMISE “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17) The Gospel promises sinners a right standing before the Holy God by faith in Christ. It was reading Romans, that brought conviction to the immoral Augustine and he was converted and became a brilliant theologian. Martin Luther’s eyes fell on Romans 1:17 and was delivered from guilt and into grace—and the Protestant Reformation began. John Wesley was reading Luther’s commentary on Romans when he felt his heart “strangely warmed” and was saved—helping ignite revival in the 18th century. The promise is to you as well!

Have you placed your faith in Christ?
If so, have you publicly confessed Him through baptism?
Having done that, are you continuing to unashamedly stand for Christ and share the Gospel?

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment, Pastors, Church Ministry Leadership, Page 0

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment, Pastors, Church Ministry Leadership, Page 0

CAUTION ABOUT WINDING UP IN "THE SHACK"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL: A GLORIOUS MOTIVATION

Paul was motivated to share the glorious Gospel by His devotion to Christ and desire to see the lost saved. He expressed it in Romans 1:15 this way, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome also.” It wasn’t a hasty impulse, but a thoughtful decision. He knew what was involved—the price he might have to pay.

He was ready. Like the old hymn says, “Ready to go, ready to stay, ready my place to fill; Ready for service, lowly or great, ready to do His will.”

Are you ready to serve? Jesus set the standard for us. He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” For Paul service didn’t fluctuate. His devotion didn’t vacillate. It was whole-hearted, “As much as is in me!”

Are you ready to suffer? Jesus still bears in His body the marks of His mission. Then Paul, in a lesser, but still real way, said, “I bear in my body, the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Are you ready to sacrifice? Ultimately it cost Jesus His life. Paul would lay down His life for the mission. Would you? Consider this: why do you think you’d die for Him, if you won’t live for Him?

Are you ready—or are too many other things occupying you? I heard Adrian Rogers share this story:

There’s a man on death row. The Governor decides to pardon him. He hands you the pardon to take to the warden. About the time you are going to leave with the pardon placed in the pocket of your coat, the phone rings. It’s your wife and she wants you to stop by the store and get some milk. It’s on the way. It won’t take long—so why not? While in the store you run into an old buddy you haven’t seen in a long time. You know you have something to do, but the conversation goes on. Now, what was it? Oh yes, to take the pardon. You will, but first you’ve got to take the milk home so it doesn’t spoil. Your wife meets you at the door and says, “Honey, I’m sorry to tell you this, but the furnace has quit working. It’s getting awfully cold—could you take a look.” So, you do. You can’t figure out what’s wrong. So, there’s nothing to do but to find a repairman. That takes awhile. In this cold snap, every furnace repairman is covered up. Finally you get hold of one. No sooner have you hung up when the buddy you’ve just reconnected with at the store calls you. He is so glad to have run into you. He has just been given an all-expense paid weekend at a golf resort for a foursome and wants you to go! It won’t cost a thing. He says, “It must have been fate that we ran into each other.” In the excitement, you forget all about the piece of paper in your coat pocket and you wind up out of town on a golf trip. You get back, and are reading the paper when you see a name in headlines that sends a chill down your spine and tears down your face—the man has been executed! He was pardoned and you didn’t tell him. How would you feel? How will you feel when the clods fall on the coffin of someone you've not told? It might be a family member, a friend, a fellow worker or fellow student.

Ask God to help you be ready to share the Gospel—to be motivated by your great love for God and concern for the lost. It is a matter of life and death—eternal life and the second death—and your witness may make the difference concerning their final destination!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL: A GLORIOUS MISSION

Our mission is glorious in its scope—it is to reach every person on planet earth with the Gospel. That’s the responsibility of the church; Christ has given this assignment to none other.

Paul saw this as a debt to pay. He stated, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Romans 1:14). How are we doing in paying our debt?

If you were to line up all the lost people in the US, they’d circle the globe beyond twice. Then, could we replicate the experience of Pentecost, when 3,000 were saved in one day, it would take us a century to reach those. That’s with the population frozen and if people lived that long. But they won’t. Every second souls slip out into eternity unprepared. An we’re not even considering in this calculation, the teeming masses around the globe—many of whom have never heard the name of Jesus.

As horrible as the devastation was in Haiti—can you imagine the ground shaking and walls and roof collapsing upon you—the terror of it all, that wasn’t the worst. For many who perished, they opened their eyes in torment. Can you imagine what it was like to be buried in the rubble for days with not a drop of water? What must it be to live century after century in a place of flames with no relief from thirst? Lest you think that spiritual condition is limited to Haiti, you are sadly mistaken. Anyone, anywhere that doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ is unprepared for death and the judgment to follow.

Is there blood on our hands? Are we paying our debt? You say, “I thought salvation was free?” It is! But don’t we sing, “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe”? We owe a debt of gratitude to the One who saved us, and every time we confess Him, we’re paying another installment on that debt of love. But more than this, Paul said, “I am a debtor to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” In other words, we are debtors to all humanity--the cultured and uncultured; literate and illiterate; the down and out and up and out. The need of the Gospel cuts across all social strata and thankfully God’s grace is provided for all. Our glorious mission is to tell them all—to boldly go where no one has gone before!

Monday, January 25, 2010

THE LEGACY OF FAITH

This is going to sound like I'm tooting my own horn--but my intent is to glorify the Savior and encourage each one of you to invest in the things that really matter when it comes to your family. I received this email from my youngest daughter, Kelly, today:

Just read the Roaming through Romans email and wanted to tell you thank you so much for being such a Godly father and for sharing the Gospel with me! It's because of you (and mom, who I am also emailing) that I know about Jesus and am saved! There is no better gift that you can give to your children than to tell them about Jesus and I am very grateful. I am already telling Isaiah and Mya about Jesus and will continue to and hopefully they will accept him also. Thank you for setting that example for me. I love you!

That thrills my soul! I can't think of a better compliment to be paid to anyone--can you? Now, if you think it requires perfect parents to accomplish this, then you don't know Marilyn and me very well (though Marilyn is pretty close). What it takes is consistently trying and most of all the grace of God. To Him be all glory and praise!
THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL

What if no one had told you about Jesus? Where would you be today?

I would either be in hell or well on my way to being there. Thankfully, someone did share the Gospel with me—and if you are saved—they did with you.

Maybe it was your parents, perhaps a SS teacher or VBS worker; possibly a preacher or a friend—but if you are a Christian someone, somewhere, sometime shared the Gospel. That’s all it took.

That is the glory of the Gospel. In the words of Adrian Rogers, “It is simply glorious and gloriously simple.” Just place your faith in Christ who died on the cross for your sins and rose again to make you just before a holy God. That’s it!

No wonder then that it was Paul’s passion to share the gospel in all its glory and it needs to be ours, as well. The Apostle makes three great “I am” statements in verses thirteen through seventeen in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans: “I am a debtor” (v.14); “I am ready” (v.15); “I am not ashamed” (v.16). These three statements give us the framework for understanding the glory of the Gospel.

Have you thanked God today for the significant people in your life that shared Christ with you? Take a moment and, if they are still living, contact them by phone, letter or email and let them know how grateful you are that they loved you that much.

Do you know someone who needs to hear the message that, “Jesus Saves”? Pray for them and seek an opportunity that as soon as possible you will tell them—in the words of Fanny Crosby’s hymn—about Jesus, the Mighty to save.

“Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one,
Lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.”
VIDEO OF BAPTIST MEN WORKING IN HAITI
video

Saturday, January 23, 2010

AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD: A WORD OF PARTNERSHIP

Paul knew that His ministry would encourage the saints at Rome, but that he in turn would receive encouragement from them. We read, “For I long to see you…that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom.1:11-12 NKJV).

The relationship between the preacher and the people is described as a partnership. He calls it a “mutual faith.”

One of the great things about the church is that each time we gather we are reminded that we are not alone. We look around us and find fellow pilgrims to stand with us. Their very presence is a powerful encouragement. Consider what the wise King Solomon wrote:
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.
10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?
12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

Commit yourself today to be a minister of encouragement. Do you need encouragement? Tell someone. Your pastors care. Let us know how we can pray for you. Beyond that, if there are other needs we can supply, we will partner with others to make it happen. Don’t forget to partner with your pastors in return. Sometimes they need encouragement. They are not supermen. If Paul could appreciate the partnership of people, then you may rest assured that your pastor does.

Friday, January 22, 2010

AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD: A WORD OF POWER

Paul wanted to come and minister to the Roman believers, so God might use him to strengthen their faith. We read in chapter one, verse eleven, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established.”

The power comes from God. It is a “spiritual gift.” Still, God uses people as channels of His power. The result of this ministry would be that the Romans would be “established” to stand firm in faith.

Someone reading these words is wavering and wobbling today. You have been shaken by some tremor of trouble, but right now God is using His Word to give you strength. God’s Spirit is bringing grace into your life. You were in a state with your head hanging down and you will rise with your heart lifted up.

I am praying for God to use this message in that way. I don’t know who will read it. I don’t know who needs it. But, it is sent into cyberspace with a prayer that God would bring it like an arrow to the heart of someone. Has it hit the bull’s eye?

Are you aware that you can be used by God also? These are words on a page. God can use them. But, how much better are words from your lips, accompanied by genuine concern and human touch. Find someone needing encouragement today and dispense it in generous quantities. God has placed in your hands this tremendous power!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD: A WORD OF PROVIDENCE

Paul, the Apostle, had a will. He wanted desperately, by any means possible to reach Rome and visit the church there. He writes concerning his prayer to God, “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Rom.1:10 NKJV).

He had not started the church. But, from all that he heard of them, he knew they would be an encouragement to him if he came there. Paul understood that the heart of the empire would be an incredible launching pad to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Yet, even though Paul had a will, he knew that God did also, and for whatever reason in the providence of God, the Lord had not seen fit to allow the Apostle to reach Rome. Paul was content to rest in that providence. He recognized that God knew more than he did and even when he didn’t understand God’s ways fully that God could always be trusted. Perhaps Paul pondered this verse, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9). That is providence.

Paul meant what he said about reaching Rome by any means possible and God in His time and His way made it happen. It is a good thing though that Paul meant it, for the way he would reach the city would be in chains, counted a criminal, transported by a ship through a horrible storm, cast into the ocean when the ship went down and experiencing snakebite when he reached shore! You can read all about it in Acts 27-28. That is providence.

Some may be wondering, “What is providence?” It is rooted in a composite Latin word meaning pro—ahead and videre—to see. So, it is God seeing all things before they occur and working to accomplish His will in all things.

Here’s the encouragement—nothing ever catches God by surprise. What’s more, He will accomplish His perfect plan whatever the circumstances may seem, whether we view them as good or evil in and of themselves. And the end result—listen—is ALWAYS for His glory and our good! (Rom.8:28).

Some of us have made plans—good plans—and we have run into dead ends at every turn. We prayed about it, we tried to do it right and all that has happened is a mess. That’s discouraging—unless we factor in the providence of God. Even a man of such insight as Paul had to admit, “Now, we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now, we know in part, but then we shall know even as we also are known.” (1 Cor.13:12)

The world is a mess and days are growing darker. We look at the heart-wrenching scenes from Haiti, for instance, and wonder, “Where is God in this?” He’s there—He’s at work—and when we can’t know how it all fits yet, we do know some. Don’t you know that these convulsions that are rocking our world are simply the birth pains of a new world that is coming? Jesus said that when we would see all these things to lift up our heads for our redemption draws near! (Luke 21:25-28).

Maybe you’ve had your own mini-earthquake. Something in your life has shaken you. You feel jostled by circumstances beyond your control. Just remember that in a world that appears out of control, God is firmly in control. That’s the encouragement we find in this word: providence!

Why don’t you pause from whatever is happening in the maelstrom of your life and take a deep breath, focus on God and whisper a prayer of thanks to Him for His providence? Share your will with Him. Express the desires of your heart. But, then rest in the will of God. Father knows best.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

AIR CONDITIONING HELL?
Read this article by Al Mohler by going to:
http://www.9marks.org/CC/ejournal/2010v7-1/article_mohler.htm
AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD: A WORD OF PRAYER

Not only did Paul express thanks to God for the Christians at Rome, he continuously prayed for them. “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 in my prayers,” (Romans 1:9 NKJV). What could be more encouraging than that?

It means so much to me when someone says, “I’m praying for you.” I don’t take that lightly. Doesn’t it bless you?

The world tries to drag us down, so we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to lift us up. Not only does it mean a lot to hear that someone cares enough to pray for us, but those prayers actually have an impact—God hears and answers. The Almighty, loving Heavenly Father responds to the heart cries of His children.

Pastors need to cover their people in prayer. Paul sets the standard for us. People need to cover their pastors in prayer. Paul always pled with the people to pray for him. If he needed it—how much more do I! Parents need to cover their children in constant prayer and teach them to pray.

A praying church will drive away clouds of discouragement and open a window in heaven where the light of God’s glory will flood the place! Will you pray for this weekend’s services that this will be the incredible experience of the manifest presence of God? That would be encouraging!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD: A WORD OF PRAISE

Paul thanks God for the Roman Christians. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom.1:8). He praises them that their faith is being recognized around the world. They are making an impact for Christ and that is an encouraging thing to Paul. So, he encourages them in return. This isn’t empty flattery. The Apostle isn’t telling them something he thinks they want to hear, to manipulate them to do something for him. He is genuinely grateful and offers them an encouraging word of praise.

There will always be those who will find fault—that will use their words like daggers to stab us. Their caustic words eat at our soul like a corrosive acid. That’s the way the world works to discourage us. Let us choose that this church house will be a place of encouragement—a refuge from the harsh treatment we receive in the world. Refuse to participate in demeaning speech. Instead, offer words that build up, rather than tear down.

Parents need to exercise caution about what they say to their little ones and how they say it. Harsh, hurtful words will make soul-wounds that are difficult to get over. As Paul expressed his gratitude to God for each member of that church, let us express that for each child God gives to us—all unique and all to be equally valued.

Monday, January 18, 2010

AN ENCOURAGING WORD IN A DISCOURAGING WORLD

Life is relentless—it just keeps coming and coming. The daily grind will wear you down. Our world is a pressure cooker of problems. It will suck the life right out of you. Discouragement is a constant temptation.

Somehow we have gotten the idea that this is unique to our age—that the problems we face are more immense than any known in the history of man. I will assure you that the challenges faced by God’s people today ought not to be minimized, but they are nothing new.

Imagine how tough it was to be a Christian in the first century dwelling in the heart of heathenism—imperial Rome. All roads led to Rome and when the people came there from the far-flung reaches of the world, they brought their idolatry and their immorality. Rome was like a cesspool where every kind of filth had flowed. Yet, there God planted a church. It not only took root in the decadent culture, it thrived!

Those early Christians were mostly poor, often persecuted, but were full of hope and marked by joy. You can hear it in Paul’s voice as he writes to the saints at Rome. He shares some encouraging words in a discouraging world. Listen to his words:

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 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,
10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. (NKJV)


This week we will consider this passage in more detail and find for us an encouraging word in a discouraging world!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

CLOTHES DO NOT MAKE THE MAN

We have likely heard the expression, “Clothes make the man.” But, it just isn’t true. Not that what we wear is unimportant, but the critical thing is the one inside the garment. Put a self-absorbed, cynical man in a tailor-made suit and he will just be a well-dressed jerk. Put a humble, kind man in a worn and tattered outfit and the quality of his life will overcome the appearance.

Too often, the church focuses on (and even fights over) the external appearance of the church. We think if we can change the structure of the organization, have a larger attendance, bigger buildings and budgets, a new style of music (or return to the old style), and the like, that we will be a successful church. Again, these matters are not insignificant. Change may need to happen, but all these things can change externally—policies, personnel, procedures, programming—and our church be an empty suit!

What God is after is transformation—an internal revolution—that will, of course, lead to an external difference. But, it starts in the heart—and until such a radical realignment of our thoughts, emotions and will toward loving God and loving people occurs—we will never be any different. We will fritter away our opportunity and waste our energy on dressing up—keeping up appearances—and fail to impact our world.

It starts with me. As a leader in the church, am I mostly hot air, or is there a heart, hot for God that marks me? It is a sobering thing to consider that I may have served as a pastor for thirty years—during which time I have learned new ways of doing things, having honed my skills as a “professional,” but be no closer to God and no more like Christ than when I began this journey. Perhaps I am being too introspective and too harsh in that judgment, but if I am not ruthless in my evaluation and relentless in my pursuit of whole-hearted devotion then transformation is impossible.

During the nearly decade and a half of shepherding this flock, we have seen some changes. You might like them; you might not. Some may think them too many; others not enough. Those are not my concerns this morning as I write this. My fear is that most of these changes are external and that at the core we are no different than when we started down this road together. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Is this the tragic reality?

What can be done? We choose to modify the externals—polish them and perfect them—because that involves a lesser price. We know that transformation is costly—it is a willingness to deny self and die to who we are and what we want in order to be raised to walk in a new and higher way. It is “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor.10:5). It is letting “this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil.2:5). It is to, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth…” and losing our life in “Christ who is our life” (Col.3:2-4). That high price tag is why we often choose external change rather than internal transformation.

When you dress for church tomorrow, put on your body that which would honor God, whether it be a business suit or blue jeans. Much more importantly, “put off the old man with his deeds, and…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col.3:9b-10). That’s transformation. That’s what I’m praying for. Let it begin with me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

GIFTS YOU WON’T RETURN—THE GIFT OF PEACE

Peace with God in our relationship with Him through Christ, and the peace of God in our hearts that results from that love relationship, is one of God’s great gifts. Paul speaks of his desire that we experience that “peace” in Romans 1:7.

He greets them with the expression, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace was a Gentile greeting and peace (shalom) was a Hebrew greeting. Paul combines them as God had united both Jew and Gentile in the church.

Don’t miss the order: grace always precedes peace. You cannot have peace with God until you experience the grace of God.

This peace means that we are no longer at war with God. We have surrendered to His will. It is an inward serenity of knowing that it is well with our soul. It proceeds from the Father and through the Lord Jesus.

Did you catch that title? The Son is spoken of in the same sentence and with the same standing as the Father—showing Paul the monotheist’s understanding that Christ is God—and there is no contradiction between belief in One God and that He is Triune.

It is in bowing before Jesus as Lord that peace comes. If we insist on our way and living in sin, Scripture warns that there is no peace to the wicked. There is nothing like being able to pillow one’s head in peace—knowing that if death should come, we will awaken in heaven. Do you have that conviction?
GIFTS YOU WON’T RETURN—THE GIFT OF POSITION

Twice in Romans, chapter one, verses six and seven, Paul uses the expression “called” to speak of our position in Christ. God calls us into a love relationship with His Son and into a family fellowship with other believers. To be called is for God to seek us out and summon us by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. By faith, we respond to that call.

Then we are called, “saints”—that is our position. In the English translation the words “to be” are inserted, as though we are called to be saints. If you notice, however, these words are italicized, which means they are not in the original text but are supplied by the translators. Usually, that helps for a smoother reading, but in this instance, it muddies the waters. We are not called to be or to become saints, but are called saints—that is, what we are! It isn’t something we earn, not something bestowed upon us by some ecclesiastical authority, and not for a select few. It is the status of every true child of God.

We are saints—called out—set apart for God. You may argue, “Well, some Christians don’t behave very saintly!” That is true. We need to become what we are! The challenge is that even though our position is “in Christ”—that’s the New Testament expression—we are also, “in Rome.” The community of faith is fleshed out in a local assembly—in this case at Rome. This is our dual position—in Christ and in Rome—in the world, but not of the world. We may think of Rome in its splendor—its massive marble columns and imperial power. It was that, and more—it was a den of iniquity, a moral cesspool where all manner or vice and perversion were woven into the rotten fabric of pagan culture. Yet, that is the very place God plants a church! The challenge is to remain pure in a polluted world. We can, if we recognize our position as saints.

How Paul wanted to go to Rome and use it as a launching pad for planting churches! “All roads lead to Rome” and we might say from it, as well. This was the heart of the empire. The great missionary wanted to go to the frontier of Spain and to stop by Rome first. Church planting is still at the forefront of the way to spread the Gospel at home and abroad, by the called. Perhaps God is calling you to be involved in a direct way in planting a church.

Are you in Christ? If you are, then your position is secure. Thank God that you are His beloved. Begin to live as the saint which you are. Learn to view yourself as God views you in Christ. Be His witnesses where He has planted you—on the job, in the school, around the neighborhood. You are set apart for this. You may not feel worthy—but it is God who makes you holy.

Did you not know that even dirt can be holy? When Moses was summoned to the burning bush, God told him to take off his shoes for he was on “holy ground!” It was holy, because it was set apart as the meeting place between God and Moses—just some old dirt! Even dirty sinners as we were have been set apart by God’s presence in us and now we are called into His service. He can use you today!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GIFTS YOU WON’T RETURN—THE GIFT OF PURPOSE

One of the things that makes life worth living is a sense of purpose. So many go through life and find it meaningless. Apart from God’s grace, that will always be the case. God had a specific purpose for the Apostle Paul—and He does for each of us. In Romans 1:5, he mentions his “apostleship.” The word literally means “a sent one.” In the absolute sense, there were the first-century apostles and when they died, the office died with them. Yet, in a lesser, but still actual way, we too are sent ones—every child of God. Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21b). It is this awareness of God’s intention for us that gives meaning to life.

One purpose we can be assured of is that God has set us apart to be His witnesses—calling people to “the obedience of faith.” It isn’t our good works, but Christ’s gracious work that saves us—and we obey the Gospel when we place our faith in Christ alone—nothing more, nothing else. Still, we see that obedience and faith are intertwined. D.A. Carson notes that, “Believing and obeying are two different activities, but for Paul they were always inseparable: people cannot truly obey God without first bowing the knee to the Lord Jesus in faith; and people cannot truly believe in that Lord Jesus without obeying all that he has commanded us (Mt. 28:20).” Faith is the root of our Christian life and obedience is the fruit. One is the cause and the other the effect. These are two sides of the same coin of Christianity. As the old hymn aptly states, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

The Great Commission is to take this Gospel to the whole world. It is in the name of Jesus that we go (with His authority), proclaiming the name of Jesus (for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved), and all for the glory of that name! This gives purpose to life—what a gift!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

GIFTS YOU WON’T RETURN—THE GIFT OF PROVISION

In the fifth verse of Romans, we first encounter the great Gospel word “grace” in this epistle. By the time we reach verse seven, Paul uses it again. In all, the term is found twenty-two times in the letter to Rome’s saints. This word is the supreme gift from which all others flow. The three other gifts of God to us—that we will unwrap the remainder of this week—are ours through grace. Because of the provision of the grace of God, we have purpose from God, position in God and peace with God. So, what better to do today, than to examine the gift of grace?

What is grace anyway? It is often described as God’s unmerited favor. That is accurate, but let’s explain it this way: grace is God’s provision for what we could never provide for ourselves. Note: it is “through Him.” (1:5a). It is only through Christ that every blessing comes. It is all undeserved on our part—that’s what makes it grace.

• There is a grace that saves. “For by grace you have been saved…” (Eph.2:8). We are most familiar with this dimension of grace. We cannot save ourselves, so God provides salvation in His Son.
• There is a grace that sanctifies. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet.3:18). Once we are saved, we do not graduate beyond grace to something else, but rather God provides grace for spiritual growth.
• There is a grace that strengthens “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9). We need not face our trials in our own puniness, but we can face them in God’s power.
• There is a grace to serve. Paul testified, “I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” (1 Cor.15:10). The fruitfulness in our service springs not from self-effort but spiritual energy.
• There is a grace to share. In 2 Cor.8-9, Paul speaks of the concept of the grace of giving. Out of poverty, God gave the Macedonian church supernatural motivation and means to give generously—beyond their ability.

So, the Christian life, from start to finish, is all of grace! Paul speaks of those in the church at Rome who have received grace as having received it already—they were saved—past tense (v.5) but prays they will continue to receive grace for every need—future tense (v.7b). As the Apostle John wrote, “And of [Christ’s] fullness we have all received, and grace for grace,” literally, “grace on top of grace!”

Have you received the gift of God’s grace to save you from your sins? You cannot save yourself! Cry out to a merciful God to save you through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross!

If you have received that gift, rejoice and give thanks for the other dimensions of grace. Sing those familiar words of “Amazing Grace” and be in awe of God’s provision.

Are you growing in grace? Have you by faith embraced the sufficiency of grace for your needs today? Is there spiritual fruit from your service, coming from the gracious life of Christ as you abide in Him as a branch in the vine (see John 15)? Are you practicing the grace of giving?

Monday, January 11, 2010

GIFTS YOU WON’T RETURN

The day after Thanksgiving is a busy shopping day as people take a lot of merchandise out of the stores for Christmas gifts. The day after Christmas is also a busy day as people take a lot of it back—things that don’t fit or things they don’t want. I think everyone has an Aunt Clara who gives you a gaudy tie or a pair of garish socks. Ralphie, in the movie, A Christmas Story had an Aunt Clara and here’s what she gave him:




Pink bunny pajamas!

His father said he looked like a “deranged Easter Bunny” and called it a “pink nightmare!” What he wanted was an official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle! Despite all the concerned adults who constantly told Ralphie that he would shoot his eye out—he did get the BB gun. All was well with the world.

The fact is, however, that even if we got something for Christmas that we really wanted—and not something we’d want to return—the pleasure that anything this world affords is fleeting at best. Yet, our Heavenly Father has given us gifts that we will treasure more than anything this world offers. These are gifts you won’t return. They are gifts of eternal satisfaction, for they are spiritual and not temporal in nature. This week, in our daily messages, we will unwrap four of these great gifts.

Have you paused and given thanks to God for His many, many blessings? Why not do that right now?

Friday, January 08, 2010

CAN I KNOW FOR SURE THAT I AM GOING TO HEAVEN?

What an important question! After all—if we miss heaven, we have missed everything. It would have been better not to have been born. The good news that we’ve been sharing all week (that is the meaning of the term Gospel) assures us that we can know for sure that we are going to heaven.

As Paul begins to follow this theme in the book of Romans, he lays out the foundation of faith that will stand the test of time—and eternity—in the first chapter, verses two through four. He writes, “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

This is not mere religious speculation or wishful thinking. It is a message we can be sure of because it is rooted in the promises of God. “He promised,” the Apostle emphatically declares. God is faithful. He cannot lie. What He promises, He performs. We can be sure of heaven not only because the message is rooted in the promises of God, but because it is revealed through the prophets of God: “through His prophets.” This wasn’t a novelty. It wasn’t an afterthought of God. It wasn’t a back-up plan when the first one didn’t work and man fell into sin. Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. From Gen.3:15 and the promised seed of woman that would crush the serpent’s head to Mal.4:5-6 and the prophecy of the herald, John the Baptist, who would come to announce Christ’s coming, the Old Testament has well over 300 prophecies of Christ. The Old Testament is full of the Gospel!

It is instructive that Paul doesn’t just appeal to his experience of salvation—powerful and appropriate as that is—but validates it with the Scripture. When we consider our experience of salvation, are we relying only on the past experience or are we leaning on the eternal Word? If you were to ask me today, “Pastor, are you sure you are going to heaven?” I would answer yes—but not based on an experience or decision or good works that I do now. I could say that my hope of heaven rests in the promises of God to me. His Word has said, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom.10:13) That’s good enough for me!

This salvation centers in the person of Jesus Christ. The Christian message is unique from any religion for it centers in a unique Person—Jesus! Brit Hume, commentator for Fox News, recently stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that Tiger Woods needed Christ, for only Christianity offered the redemption and forgiveness that the adulterous golfer (and all of the rest of us sinners) required. He was dead on target!

In Buddhism and Confucianism, it is the teaching, not the teacher that matters. Remove Buddha and Confuscious and the religion remains. Even in Islam, as important as Mohammed is, he is not Allah. The five pillars of Islam and the teachings of the Koran are the main thing. But, if you take Christ from Christianity you take out its heart! Salvation is in a Person and Paul declares that person to be of the Seed of David. That is His Incarnation (v.3) “according to the flesh.” Jesus was a real man. He was conceived of the Spirit in the womb of a virgin. He was legally and biologically of David’s line—in fulfillment of the covenant. But Christ is also the Son of God. That is His Resurrection (v.4) “according to the Spirit of holiness.” He was always God from eternity—the second person of the Trinity, but He was “declared” to be the Son of God in His resurrection.

What are the implications? “[God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) Will you be ready to stand before Him? You can be—and you can know for certain!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

MAKING CHANGE!

Change happens! Nothing ever stays the same. Sadly, much of the change happening in our world today is not change for the better, but for the worse. Rapid advancements in technology have been mirrored by a moral freefall. It is the course of human nature, when left alone. Nothing has to be done. Life brings change—regression—back to the wild—not Eden, but the jungle.

Is there hope for real change—good change? Yes! God can and will change us and then we can be used in making change for good.

You need look no further for evidence of the miraculous grace of God to produce such transformation than examining the first word of the epistle to the Romans where “Paul” identifies himself as the author. That is a stunning fact when you consider his background.

This was a man who was a fanatical zealot in his religion—totally sold out as a terrorist. In his devotion to religion, Saul (as he was known at the time) ruthlessly and relentlessly pursued Christians to persecute them. He wanted to obliterate the name of Christ from the earth—but then the Lord hunted him down, even as he was hunting down Christians. That is the arresting power of the Gospel! On the road to Damascus, Saul the Pharisee was changed forever—from one who loathed Jesus to one who loved Him, from a man intent on slaughtering Christians to serving the church. Soon his name was changed to a Roman name, Paul, from the Hebrew Saul, to reflect not only the change in his heart, but in his mission—to reach the Gentile world with the Gospel of God.

So, who is the kind of person that can make change for good? Paul first identifies himself as a bondslave and only then as an apostle. He was no big shot—but one who clearly understood that it was grace for him to even be a slave, much less an apostle. He wasn’t into titles. In the Roman Empire, at the time, there were about 60 million slaves. In their despair, some of them had turned to the hope of the Gospel. It is likely that the dominant demographic in the Roman church would have been slaves. You can imagine their shock and awe when such a spiritual leader as Paul took this designation for himself. People were bought and sold in the slave market in those days. Paul had been in the slave market of sin held in the chains of human corruption. Then, he saw himself as purchased by another Master—Jesus! He was a bondslave now to Him. Likewise, we have been purchased by the blood of Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Cor.6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (NIV)

Is there evidence of real change in your life? Believing the Gospel is all that will bring such a transformation. You must be changed in order to make change—the kind of change our world desperately needs. Submit yourself to Christ. He owns you! He will use you to bring real hope and change.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

EXCLUSIVE!

Reporters and journalists dream of landing the exclusive—an interview with a mover and shaker—some big news that nobody else has. Today, you are privileged to read the biggest exclusive—the most dramatic piece of news ever shared. That good news is called in Romans 1:1, “the Gospel of God.”

This Gospel is exclusive to the Christian faith—no other religion has it. It is THE Gospel from THE only true and living GOD! Therefore, it is properly called, “the Gospel of God.”

The Gospel isn’t a message that Paul, or any other man, invented. It was birthed in the heart of God from eternity. It is the only good news there is!

Religion can’t offer you good news. Look into the faces of the monks and mullahs. You will see a miserable countenance. See people trying to wash their sins away by bathing in the Ganges River, or bowing toward Mecca, or saying the Rosary, or stuffing a prayer in the Wailing Wall. It is all an effort to somehow appease some god somewhere, without ever knowing for sure if you’ve done enough. That’s not good news. That’s bad news!

Martin Luther tried the route of ritual religion. He dedicated himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, and frequent confession. He gave this testimony of bad news, "If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would indeed have been among them." Luther described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. Frantically, he attempted to jump through every hoop that Rome prescribed as the way to make one acceptable to God. He said, "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailor and hangman of my poor soul." The guilt weighed upon him so heavily that he nearly went insane. But it was then, reading the book of Romans, he found the good news that the righteousness God demanded, He supplied in His Son. He was transformed and the world has never been the same. That is the power of “the Gospel of God!”

It is an exclusive message, for only those who place their faith in Christ can be saved. Yet, it is also inclusive in that anyone who does receive Christ will be saved! Have you done that? If you were to stand before God today, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say? Only one answer is acceptable, “Because of the work of Christ for me. I believe He died for me and rose again to save me. I have placed my life and my hope for heaven in Him alone.” Dare you trust anything else? Would you boast in being raised in a Christian home, or walking down an aisle, or going into the baptistery, or teaching a Sunday School class, or…whatever you might think to do to earn eternal life? IT CANNOT BE DONE! Rest your faith in Christ exclusively!

If you are trusting in Christ, are you sharing this “Gospel of God” with those who haven’t heard it? In a former day, there were many who had heard, yet not responded to the Gospel. That is no longer the case. They may have heard a lot of bad news religion. What they need is the Good News!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY

A great debate stretches across the centuries of theological study. Does God take the initiative in salvation? Is it all of Him and all of grace? Does He choose us for His pleasure and not because of whom we are or what we do? Thinking along these lines is often framed with a set of theological propositions known as Calvinism. On the other side, there are those who say we are responsible for answering God’s call. The call of God can be resisted. God’s salvation is offered in Christ, but I can spurn that love. I can embrace by faith His Son or I can reject Him. This doctrinal disposition is often called Arminianism. So, does the Bible teach Divine sovereignty? Absolutely! God takes the initiative in salvation or none of us could be saved. Then, do I have any responsibility? Undoubtedly! I must repent and believe the Gospel. So, how do we reconcile these?

Perhaps Spurgeon’s answer is best. In a sermon on Jacob and Esau, he said, “He saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. ‘How,’ says some one, ‘do you reconcile these two doctrines?’ My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God's Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them.” In our limited understanding, we have difficulty grasping the mind of God—so infinitely higher are His thoughts. But, both these dimensions of our salvation are held in perfect balance in the eternal One. If I cannot fully apprehend the truth, I can still let the truth fully apprehend me!

As we begin the study of Romans, we see this fascinating teaching in the opening verses. Throughout the text there are interwoven threads of the heavenly and the human. It is God’s message, but Paul is the messenger: “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (v.1). It is promised by God’s Word, but proclaimed by God’s prophets: “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (v.2). It is provided by Christ who is fully God and fully man: “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (v.3-4). So—salvation is God’s initiative, but we must receive the gift. We can’t save ourselves—it is His choice, but we He will not save us apart from our choice—a perfect balance of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

Have you responded to the call of God? If not—then right now would be the time. Don’t delay!

If you have come to Him, it is because He has first come to you—have you spent some time in awe and thanksgiving for such amazing grace?

Monday, January 04, 2010

I’M TIRED OF BAD NEWS

It seems like all you hear any more is bad news. In Colorado Springs, on Christmas Eve, Mike Hermanstorfer held his pregnant wife’s hand as it became ice cold. Her heart had stopped. The call went out, “Code Blue!” Medical personnel were trying to save them, but it seemed hopeless. Five minutes that seemed like an eternity went by before the baby could be removed by C-section. The baby wasn’t breathing. The still, tiny form was handed to Dad and then—wonder of wonders—the apparently stillborn infant finally took his first breath—and something else, equally, if not more remarkable—Tracy Hermanstorfer’s heart started beating again. Now, Mom and baby are doing fine—it was a Christmas miracle! There’s some good news for a change!

Yet, one day Tracy and her baby will face death again. It is a reality we all have to deal with—bad news! But, what if I told you that you could live forever? Now, that would be good news—the best news—and it is absolutely true. God offers you eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s what the book of Romans is about and the author, the Apostle Paul, doesn’t beat around the bush. He goes straight to the point. “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…” (Romans 1:1).

This is a book about the Gospel (meaning good news). It occurs 6 times in the first 16 verses! It is found 60 times in the epistle. It will be the foundation of these weekday devotional thoughts for 2010.

Have you personally experienced this good news through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? The good news is that today, you can turn from your sin and turn to Him by faith in His death on the cross and His resurrection power for you. If you do know Him, have you thanked Him for this good news? Pause for a moment and whisper a prayer of gratitude. Then, why don’t you tell someone else today about this good news? Chances are they’ve heard enough bad news and need to hear this desperately. No one is better equipped than you to do so.