Setting goals and achieving them is a reflection of God's image in humans. Focusing on one thing has proven to produce great success for many entrepreneurs, although their achievements are only temporal. The ultimate goal of the Gospel is to spiritually and positionally restore us in Jesus Christ back to our original spiritual condition and purpose in the eyes of our Creator. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." How is this done?
Romans 12-16 practically applies the doctrine of chapters 1-11. How do we practically apply doctrine in our culture, in our personal lives, home, vocation, and communities? There is a divine progression from Romans 12:1 through the end of the book. We obey because we love (2 John 6). He saves us by His grace and gives us the ability to live by His grace to influence others by His grace.
We live in the most informed generation possibly of all time. We have an enormous amount of information available to us, whether it is legitimate or not. Thomas Jefferson used the phrase "knowledge is power" in his letters at least four times, each time regarding the establishment of a state university in Virginia. He also believed in the power of knowledge to bring safety and happiness.
Despite the amount of knowledge acquired by all generations leading to ours, we still have not curbed societal ills of hatred, violence, immorality, and addiction. Knowledge cannot control our passions. It cannot change the human condition.
There is only one kind of knowledge that can permanently change a person. "Only intelligent commitment of a life in light of God's gift of salvation can curb the human condition" (Bennett). Only God receives the glory for changing a human being and sustaining that transformation (Romans 11:36). Sinful people need to hear of Christ and surrender their hearts to His authority.
Romans 11:33-36 is so rich, we are going to study it in small portions. This week, we focus on verse 33 as preparation for the rest of the passage. Paul's doxology is a hymn of praise for what God has done in salvation history. This is a natural response of a Spirit-filled, born-again Christian.
What Paul says about Israel in his context can be applied to religious people in our context. Even those who are stuck in their ways have not stumbled so badly as to never have opportunity to be saved again. The offer of salvation is always given to them. What Paul says of Gentiles in his context applies to irreligious people today. As they accept Christ, religious people see the joy that results and become jealous.
In Romans 10:18-21, Israel typifies all religions. The religious mind has been well described as full of energy, sincerity, and equity. Religious people make great efforts to do all they can to earn God's favor. They sincerely believe what they are taught. And they hope (although without certainty) that all their efforts are enough. Jesus often has a place in their lives, but He is not governing their lifestyle. This can be seen in patterns of unbroken sin. Human nature will never submit to one Lord alone.
When religious people hear the Gospel, they respond to it sincerely from a heart that has been trained religiously. They generally reject God's free offer of grace without knowing so as they continue to work for God's favor. God never intended people to work for salvation; it is impossible! In fact, "religious good works shipwreck grace." God offers the free gift of eternal life only through His Son (Romans 6:23).
In Romans 9, Paul explained how God sovereignly saves. In chapter 10, he discusses how people respond. God saves faithfully, mercifully, and particularly. The righteousness of Christ has changed you and me! This settles our heart when distressed over those yet to be saved.
In Romans 9:19, Paul anticipates another question from his readers, then proceeds to dispel any fear or doubt they might have about God's justice in saving. God saves righteously: He is equitable, fair, and just.
The greatest joys in life are knowing Christ and seeing others meet Him. Yet of equal magnitude in grief is seeing those who hear the Gospel refuse Him.
Romans 9 shows us how to find our way back to joy. Paul's answer is considering God, His person and His attributes. This will give us the ability to work our way out of any grief.
Using proper names is very important at announcements of significant life events. When the angels announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-14, the titles they used had intentional significance.
Romans 8:28-30 is a text of comfort and reassurance along with the entire chapter of Romans 8. In these verses, we find:
All these are discovered in the light of being in Christ.
When a natural disaster is coming, human organizations spend a lot of time and effort getting ready to withstand it safely. Rehearsing the core doctrine of justification was necessary preparation for the Roman believers about to face severe persecution under Nero. Christ and what He has done for us through the Gospel is our only anchor in any affliction.
Knowing intellectual data about Jesus is not enough to save a person. Nicodemus was a learned Jewish teacher, but he still did not possess saving faith until he knew what it meant to be born again (John 3:1-21). The longest 18 inches is the distance from the head to the heart, from knowing about Jesus to placing our full faith in and submitting to Christ.
The Christmas season brings our attention to when God became man. God was made manifest and shown publicly through the person of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-26 is one passage that highlights the importance and reality of the Incarnation.
God is a God of second chances for those who have been redeemed. Though they fall, believers are always welcome back to fellowship with God and ministry service. Psalm 146 rehearses many truths to make sure we walk with God faithfully.
All Christians know the experience of sinning after we've been saved and the guilt that accompanies it. Some even know what it's like to doubt their salvation after falling into sin. What a joyful relief to remember that God's love never changes! Psalm 146 is a thankful song of God's people when they are given another chance. Most Bible scholars attribute its composition to Haggai or Zechariah, prophets who preached to God's people when they were returning to the land of Israel from Babylonian exile. This is one of the "hallelujah" psalms, the last 5 chapters of the book of Psalms, each of which starts and ends with the same wording: "Praise the Lord!"
New birth is the best defense against unbelief. A simple salvation testimony and evidence of a changed life shows that Jesus is enough. No rule or creative idea can change a person's life. Legalism and pragmatism simply do not agree with the Gospel.
Every believer has been born again of a supernatural cause. Paul gives his testimony in the first chapter of his letter to Timothy to remind him that spiritual new birth is what keeps the church revived, refreshed, and protected. A healthy church is one that sees people being saved, discipled, and serving. This is the natural progression that God uses to build His church. One person who walks with the Lord can have a spiritual influence so great that only the Lord knows its true extent.
Paul wrote the book of 1 Timothy to encourage the believers at Ephesus, then instruct them about the structure of the church so they could make spiritual progress. First he had to encourage their leader, his "true son in the faith," Pastor Timothy. Paul was Timothy's spiritual father. He had mentored Timothy in personal growth and in ministry. What fruits did Paul desire to see in his spiritual son -- and what should we pray to see in our spiritual children?
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