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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hallelujah

Many people have poured into my life and grace has been a theme from very early on in my walk, but another layer of grace is being revealed to me now and so I pass it on to you.
“ Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.   Isaiah 66:8  My wife was giving birth to our girl, Patience Joy.  We had a wonderful, sweet, kind mid-wife helping us out with the process who had been there all through out the pregnancy, we loved her, we trusted her.  Laura had been pushing for a while and was exhausted, but the baby had not yet come forth.  The mid-wife said, "Push" and Laura said, "I can't, I'm exhausted!", and that sweet little old mid-wife became louder and more forceful than any Marine drill sergeant and she said in a voice that could not be disobeyed.  "Push Laura! You must push!"  On my run this morning while listening to Art Katz speak on the travail of Zion, I felt God is the mid-wife and He will command the church to travail, with a voice that can not be disobeyed and Israel will come forth.  


The second revelation during my run this morning was that a friend of mine who desires marriage, but has thus far been cut off from it is a picture of Judah and one of her friends who just got married this past weekend is a picture of Joseph.  Joseph is given the favor of the father, above his brothers. His brothers, especially Judah are angry at this favoritism.  They are angry ultimately at their father Jacob, but they take it out on Joseph.  Years later Joseph tests his brothers by showing favoritism to his brother Benjamin, and Judah passes the test, by not caring about the favoritism but by caring about the health and concern of Jacob's heart.  Judah bows before the selectivity, the election, the specificity of God.  In doing so, Judah becomes the father of tribe that brings forth the Messiah, not Joseph.

Romans Bible Study #45 Romans 15:14-16:23


Romans Bible Study # 45
Romans 15:14-16:23

15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written,

“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard shall understand.”
22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— 25 but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Greetings and Love Expressed

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were fellowprisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.  NASB

14-16Personally, I've been completely satisfied with who you are and what you are doing. You seem to me to be well-motivated and well-instructed, quite capable of guiding and advising one another. So, my dear friends, don't take my rather bold and blunt language as criticism. It's not criticism. I'm simply underlining how very much I need your help in carrying out this highly focused assignment God gave me, this priestly and gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God's Holy Spirit.
 17-21Looking back over what has been accomplished and what I have observed, I must say I am most pleased—in the context of Jesus, I'd even say proud, but only in that context. I have no interest in giving you a chatty account of my adventures, only the wondrously powerful and transformingly present words and deeds of Christ in me that triggered a believing response among the outsiders. In such ways I have trailblazed a preaching of the Message of Jesus all the way from Jerusalem far into northwestern Greece. This has all been pioneer work, bringing the Message only into those places where Jesus was not yet known and worshiped. My text has been,
   Those who were never told of him—
      they'll see him!
   Those who've never heard of him—
      they'll get the message!
 22-24And that's why it has taken me so long to finally get around to coming to you. But now that there is no more pioneering work to be done in these parts, and since I have looked forward to seeing you for many years, I'm planning my visit. I'm headed for Spain, and expect to stop off on the way to enjoy a good visit with you, and eventually have you send me off with God's blessing.
 25-29First, though, I'm going to Jerusalem to deliver a relief offering to the followers of Jesus there. The Greeks—all the way from the Macedonians in the north to the Achaians in the south—decided they wanted to take up a collection for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were happy to do this, but it was also their duty. Seeing that they got in on all the spiritual gifts that flowed out of the Jerusalem community so generously, it is only right that they do what they can to relieve their poverty. As soon as I have done this—personally handed over this "fruit basket"—I'm off to Spain, with a stopover with you in Rome. My hope is that my visit with you is going to be one of Christ's more extravagant blessings.
 30-33I have one request, dear friends: Pray for me. Pray strenuously with and for me—to God the Father, through the power of our Master Jesus, through the love of the Spirit—that I will be delivered from the lions' den of unbelievers in Judea. Pray also that my relief offering to the Jerusalem believers will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given. Then, God willing, I'll be on my way to you with a light and eager heart, looking forward to being refreshed by your company. God's peace be with all of you. Oh, yes!

Romans 16
 1-2Be sure to welcome our friend Phoebe in the way of the Master, with all the generous hospitality we Christians are famous for. I heartily endorse both her and her work. She's a key representative of the church at Cenchrea. Help her out in whatever she asks. She deserves anything you can do for her. She's helped many a person, including me.
 3-5Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus. They once put their lives on the line for me. And I'm not the only one grateful to them. All the non-Jewish gatherings of believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the church that meets in their house.
   Hello to my dear friend Epenetus. He was the very first follower of Jesus in the province of Asia.
 6Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be!
 7Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders.
 8Hello to Ampliatus, my good friend in the family of God.
 9Hello to Urbanus, our companion in Christ's work, and my good friend Stachys.
 10Hello to Apelles, a tried-and-true veteran in following Christ.
   Hello to the family of Aristobulus.
 11Hello to my cousin Herodion.
   Hello to those who belong to the Lord from the family of Narcissus.
 12Hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa—such diligent women in serving the Master.
   Hello to Persis, a dear friend and hard worker in Christ.
 13Hello to Rufus—a good choice by the Master!—and his mother. She has also been a dear mother to me.
 14Hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and also to all of their families.
 15Hello to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas— and all the followers of Jesus who live with them.
 16Holy embraces all around! All the churches of Christ send their warmest greetings!
 17-18One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They're only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren't above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.
 19-20And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters—I couldn't be more proud of you!—I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!
 21And here are some more greetings from our end. Timothy, my partner in this work, Lucius, and my cousins Jason and Sosipater all said to tell you hello.
 22I, Tertius, who wrote this letter at Paul's dictation, send you my personal greetings.
 23Gaius, who is host here to both me and the whole church, wants to be remembered to you.
   Erastus, the city treasurer, and our good friend Quartus send their greetings.  The Message

15:14-16  Paul trusting in the Holy Spirit within each believer, but still sending out this amazing letter, partly, to fulfill the calling of God on his life to get the message out to the gentiles.  A message that the Holy Spirit could then use to sanctify those who would hear.
!5:17-18  Through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit much has been accomplished, all the bragging is about the work that Christ and the Holy Spirit have done.
15:19-21  All of his missionary journeys have taken him to new lands (except the ones where he revisited and strengthened congregations) new peoples who have never heard the good news or experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.
15:22  As the driving call of his life (preaching where the gospel has never been heard)  has prevented him from doing anything else.  He was controlled by the call and now feels it is fulfilled and he can pursue other paths.
15:23,24  Piper says that this statement makes this a ‘missionary support letter.’  Hey I am going to be coming by your way and will need some assistance to go on to the next leg of my journey.
15:25,26  Paul talks about this collection and contribution in other places.  At this point in the history of the church, the gentile believers were prospering and the Jewish believers were poor and possibly in the midst of a famine.
15:27  This indebtedness to Jewish people is rarely spoken of now a days, but Paul was very aware of it, and made the gentiles aware of it also.  God’s choice here is very interesting, taking the Jewish scholar Paul, with all of his  Old Testament wisdom and making him the ‘apostle to the gentiles’ and using the fishermen to be the ‘apostle to the Jews.”  This enabled the Jews to focus on the power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter, and gave the gentiles a very good background in THE faith, that they were being grafted in to.
15:28,29  The fullness of the blessing of Christ.. included being a prisoner and a shipwreck along the way, but nevertheless, I am sure Paul would not have withdrawn these words.
15:30  The phrase “the love of the Spirit” appears no where else but here, ‘striving in prayer’ has as its foundation, the gift of love that the Spirit provides.  Our motivation, our drive, to pray for others in the purest sense will have that love as the motive.  Paul knows his life and ministry proceed forward only by prayer and he is not ashamed to ask for it.
15:31  We don’t know if Paul had already received the prophecy that he would be “bound” when he went to Jerusalem, but he surely knows it is a possibility and is asking for specific prayer.  Also he is not ‘assuming’ that the bringing of the gift will be well received, he is asking for prayer for that too.  Probably far to often we do not ask for prayer for things that we think are ‘sure’ to work out ok.  That probably speaks a lot about our presumption.
15:32,33  The apostle is looking forward to a time of refreshing peace.  It would seem it is ok to long for a vacation!  He knows that source of that refreshing peace and prays that the God of peace would be with them preparing the way for him.
16:1,2  The fact that the gospel, had empowered women in ministry, far more than other religions of that time is demonstrated in Phoebe.  Regarded by most as the bearer of the letter.  Imagine being entrusted with the apostles most comprehensive, deep, amazing letter.  She must have been held in high regard.  “Help her” is the command.  If any letter deserved an “entourage” this would be the one, but no, just one person carrying it to its destination.  What an important task.
16:3,4  Risking your life to save the Apostle Paul, excellent choice.  Fellow workers in Christ, but with a small gathering in their house that qualified for the title ‘church.”
16:5  “My beloved”  here is a guy not afraid to show the depth of his heart and how much he cares for others.
16:6  “Mary”  a common name that means “bitter,”  but Mary is given the commendation of working hard for “you.”  Possibly that work has been overlooked and here Paul is emphasizing it.
16:7  These two are proof that “apostle” was a recognized gifting in the early church, not limited to the original 12 and Paul.  This is key in accepting that this gifting will be restored  to the church and it is not something that is past.
16:8-13  “In the Lord” becomes the oft-repeated phrase here.  That is the basis and ground of our fellowship.  You can sense it in a person that you have just met. His life lightens their eyes and puts a different glow in their countenance.
16:14-16  He really does not want to leave anyone out and wants to include as many as possible in the honor of being personally mentioned.
16:17  “Turn away from”  it is an interesting tactic for dealing with dissension.  Effectively the person is “put outside.” Now that they are outside they are very limited in how they could spread hindrance to what the Spirit is doing inside.
16:18  Bob Dylan is right, “You gotta serve somebody.”  These people spreading dissension and causing hindrance, are doing so because of who they are serving, themselves, not the Lord.  Like Absalom as he pulled the peoples hearts from King David, they are doing it with flattering words that go down smoothly into the hearers who are ‘unsuspecting.’  By using that term Paul seems to be taking them off the hook for any blame.
16:19  Paul has been setting a foundation under churches too long, to not be wary and to not warn them to spend their time being wise about what is good and not to “into” what is evil.
16:20  Although he was given an indirect mention in chapter 8 this is the first direct mention of Lucifer, and it is only to point out his inevitable defeat.  His power is limited to deception.  Even his ‘victories’ are under the control of God.
16:21  Timothy is special in Paul’s life, he is either at his side, or somewhere where Paul had sent him.  A faithful friend.
16:22  As Paul’s longest letter, maybe he felt the ache in Tertius’ hand and rewarded him by penning a line of his own.
16:23  Gaius uses his gift of hospitality and gets a mention in this book.  Erastus, working out in the government is given mention, as is Quartus, known simply as ‘brother.’
!6:24 Paul knows what we need and prays it on us, grace, simply grace.

Which leaves us with the benediction for the last study.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Romans Bible Study # 44 Romans 14:1-15:13


Romans Bible Study # 44
Romans 14:1-15:13
The *Krisis of Human Freedom
*(Karl Barth’s spelling of ‘crisis’ when he is
 speaking of the ultimate crisis of man in relation to God.)

Principles of Conscience
14:  1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced [f]in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
Self-denial on Behalf of Others
15: 1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one [m]voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted [n]us to the glory of God. 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,
“Therefore I will [o]give praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Your name.”
10 Again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him.”
12 Again Isaiah says,
“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.     NASB


Cultivating Good Relationships

 1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
 2-4For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

 5Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

 6-9What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

 10-12So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I'd say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we're all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren't going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

   "As I live and breathe," God says,
      "every knee will bow before me;
   Every tongue will tell the honest truth
      that I and only I am God."
So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

 13-14Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

 15-16If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don't you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

 17-18God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

 19-21So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don't drag them down by finding fault. You're certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God's work among you, are you? I said it before and I'll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don't eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

 22-23Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.

Romans 15

 1-2 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
 3-6That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

 7-13So reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God's purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:

   Then I'll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
   I'll sing to your name!
And this one:
   Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
And again:
   People of all nations, celebrate God!
   All colors and races, give hearty praise!
And Isaiah's word:
   There's the root of our ancestor Jesse,
      breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
   Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!   The Message

It amazes me how this chapter is right where I am at right now.  And also in the Wed. night study, “Are you a fan or a follower?”  Both of these studies focus on living a life of love.  They provide a head-on collision against self-righteousness.  Barth emphasizes how all that Paul has taught up till now about freedom in Christ is about to be brought under the rule of fellow believers who are weak and do not fully live in the freedom of Christ.  We can not judge other believers.  God only is in that position, because, along with His wrath, is His forgiveness.  We do have the capacity to judge and we are allowed to use it...on ourselves.  God can put a stumbling block in someone’s way, because He has a plan to redeem it and use it, but when we put a stumbling block in a person’s way we have no way of ‘fixing’ the situation.  When I tell a person they are doing ‘wrong’, I have no way to enable them to do it right.  Only God has that power, so only God should be  correcting people.  Christian community (as opposed to once a week, superficial contact ‘church’)  puts you so “IN” the life of the other person that there are opportunities to show humility and acceptance, and extend grace.  

Barth was a professor, teacher, John Piper is a Pastor.  This passage is right up the alley of a Pastor so John Piper had about 9 sermons on this section alone.  Most of these thoughts are his.

Romans 14:1-3  What not to do; you who have freedom don’t despise those who don’t; you who choose not to eat meat, don’t judge those who do.  Why not?  (Piper calls these big guns that God pulls out.)  God has accepted this person, Justification by Faith, you must accept them too, for the same reason.

Romans 14:4  Who are you to judge, this ‘big gun’ is the election of sovereign grace that keeps us.  God will make him to stand, get your hands off and quit doubting what God is able to do. You are not in a position to judge, all you are doing is building up your stinking self-righteousness.

Romans 14:5  God’s solution to these little disagreements is surprising.  ‘be fully convinced in your own mind’, we would expect it to be, don’t sweat the small stuff, just let people go their own way, don’t give it a lot of thought, but that is not the Biblical solution.  The exhortation is be fully convinced in your own mind.  Think it out, wrestle it out with God, know why you believe what you believe and have ‘rest’ in your own mind about these issues, but then realize that grace has room for varying opinions on these issues and LOVE must trump all of this ‘right thinking.’

Romans 14:6  No differentiation is made between the weak and strong here regarding, the motive for why they are doing what they are doing.  They are both fully convinced, acting in faith, for the Lord.  In Galatians Paul rebukes people who are thinking to add to the work of Jesus Christ their works.  This is a lie, heresy.  But Paul is not doing that with the weak brother, he is judging his motive to be pure and is treating him as a brother, with love.  He is judging that love toward God is the motive.  His warning to the weaker brother is not to judge the other brother, who is ‘fully convinced’ of his freedom in Christ.

Romans 14:7  Our brothers in Christ, the fellow believers in the body of Christ are not separate from us in a way.  Christ is in them and in us.  When we choose to offend them, we are offending Him in them.  “The One in the other,” as Barth says.

Romans 14:8,9  Life and Death are quite opposite, but both can be ‘for the Lord.’  If such opposites as that can both be glorifying to God, we should not be too surprised or amazed that God can use both days and not days, both eating and not eating etc. to glorify His name.

Romans 14:10-12  The biggest gun of all is brought out.  The key is you have a fellow believer here, one who has been bought with a price.  You cannot judge him adequately, only God can.  God has an appointed time to do that, and He will do it perfectly, at the judgment seat.  So armed with this knowledge, the focus of your time and judgment should be to remove the log from your own eye, in preparation for your judgment.

Romans 14:13  Determine, make it a point, work at it, that you not be the cause of another persons’ stumbling.

Romans 14:14  The freedom in Christ is total and positively amazing, but it is trumped by love of your brother, you will choose to limit your freedom because you love your brother more than your freedom.  If in his heart, he cannot do ‘that’ in faith, you cannot do that in front of him.

Romans 14:15  Your freedom, must bow to the brother for whom Christ died.  Love demands it.  Love makes it ‘easy.’  Love empowers us to lay down our freedom.  The same way it did for Christ himself.  Be aware of the word “destroy” in this verse.  This is a very serious issue with very serious implications.  When a person has their faith shaken, and begins acting , not in faith, but thinking to themselves, ‘I am sinning in eating this’, that is a ‘first step’ on a destructive path, and the believer who has chosen their freedom OVER loving their brother has lit the match that caused this fire, that could ultimately result in destruction for the weak believer.

Romans 14:16  Your freedom in Christ is a good thing, but when love is subtracted, and others are caused to stumble, your freedom stinks!

Romans 14:17  The pinnacle of the argument is here.  Righteousness, goes beyond freedom to include love and a willingness to be humble and caring in how you live, the choices you make.
Peace, goes beyond freedom to ‘ultimate peace’ is not just when everything is right in my world, it is when my brother’s heart is at rest also.  Joy, goes beyond my personal freedom, to a world-view that includes the the joy in Jesus’ heart when He sees me choosing to lay down my freedom out of love for the ones that He died for.  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”

Romans 14:18  Love is ultimate, when you serve Christ in Love, Christ is pleased and men, (at least fellow believers) are blessed.

Romans 14:19 Verse 13 “determine this”, and now this verse “pursue”; this way of life requires that we be “all in.”  Choosing to live this way makes for peace.  Who in their right mind would not choose peace over contention, peace over anxiety, peace over destruction.  The ‘building up of one another’ necessarily includes ‘me.’  When we are choosing this path of love and humility we will ultimately be building up ourselves.  Once again in the Christian life, the way down is the way up!

Romans 14:20  Your freedom in Christ, if taken outside of the context of love for your weaker brother is now called EVIL.  Paul has built an air-tight argument up till this point and now he is putting the final warning on it.  Choosing to do something that causes another brother to stumble is evil, not a little off course, or something you should avoid, evil!

Romans 14:21  ‘Second verse same as the first’ only this time the spin is “not good.”  Don’t do it, don’t do it, and by the way don’t do it.  The Bible, the Holy Spirit is not at all hesitant to repeat the same thing over and over for emphasis.

Romans 14:22  You have come to your conviction of ‘freedom in Christ’ through deep study and you are fully convinced in your own mind.  That is good, but to pull it out in front of someone for whom it will be a stumbling block, that is not good.

Romans 14:23  If as you are eating, you are doing it against your faith, against what you believe, you are chipping away at the very thing that connects you to the power and salvation of God.  You can not do harm to your faith without doing harm to yourself and your walk with God.

Romans 15:1  (Again the chapter divisions were added in about the year 1200 AD, they are not “real” but just markers for us to easily find different passages of scripture.)  The thought continues.  Actually the hammering continues, this is so important to Paul, to the Holy Spirit, that He will continue to bang away at this for many more verses.  This very long section is the heart of a Pastor who has overseen various bodies and has seen this problem over and over and is attacking it with everything he has.  You are not on the earth to ‘please yourself.’  There is a shocker.  Talk about counter-culture.  Advertisement in this country would totally fall apart if this foundation of our consumer culture was to crumble.  But in the Body of Christ it has already crumbled.  Just because you can does not mean you should or should even want to.

Romans 15:2 Love puts you out.  Love knocks you off your throne.  Love draws you to a place where you willingly, delightfully, submit  to your brother.

Romans 15:3 The quote is from Psalm 69, it didn’t make sense to me, so lets read that Psalm.  Now having read that an amazing correlation is being given to us here.  Christ did not live to please Himself but God.  When we choose to live to ‘please/not give offense’ to our brothers, we are living like Christ.  The ‘reproaches’ fell on Christ because He was consumed with doing the Father’s will.  So it was the reproach that people felt against His father that He was actually bearing.  In the here and now, when we choose love for Christ/for our brother over freedom, the reproach of our ‘self’ will rise up against us, and that is OK.

Romans 15:4  Where do get the grace to persevere, where is a source that we can always go to for encouragement?   If you answered the Bible you are absolutely right!  Hope will spring up as we read the living and active and true word of God.  That is a fact.

Romans 15:5,6  The goal is to be so caught up in HIM that all these little things are ignored and He is exalted by a united, loving Body.  That is the church that the gates of hell will not prevail against!

Romans 15:7  The foundation of our acceptance of our brother is Christ’s acceptance of us.  And if the one is lacking the other will be also.  So if you are having trouble in this area, look to the root.  Do you know, really know, that Christ has accepted you?

Romans 15:8  Now we are staying on the subject, but we are going back to the very important and still relevant theme of Jew and gentile.  How God has shown and is showing love to His chosen people from of old and how God is showing love to the gentiles, the outsiders, who have been brought in.  Christ has become a servant to the Jews, showing them the way to God in a way that they could understand as an answer to the ancient promises to that people, and He has become a servant to and accepting of the gentiles through showing incredible mercy to them and bringing them into the covenant and the promises of the Hebrews.

Romans 15:9-12 Paul brings out 4 scriptures to prove that this truth of mercy being shown to the Gentiles and them being brought in was spoken of by God, and is fulfillment of promises also.
There was no quicker way to turn a Jewish crowd against you than to bring up God’s mercy to the Gentiles.  Jesus  got crowds absolutely incensed by bringing up God showing mercy to the gentiles.  Jesus: Luke 4:23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
This is key for me and hopefully for others.  Be very aware of your anger, sometimes it may have a root in, they should not be getting a blessing they are not loving God as good as I do.  That stinks in His sight, because everything that we are in Him is a gift from Him to glorify Him not exult us.

Romans 15:13  “The God of Hope”,  God is our hope, He Himself.  God speaks to us through the word of promise, the Bible.  (verse 9, 10, 11, 12) Paul quotes scripture to build hope, to ‘prepare’ for the prayer of hope.  The word of God is essential to produce hope.  The Holy Spirit is the source of hope, not anything in ourselves.  Our falleness, our sin, our depravity, is self-reliant, self-exalting, self-determination, “I am not hoping in God and grace, I am hoping in my intellect, my financial savvy, my strength...etc.”  It is the power of the Holy Spirit, outside of us, that comes in and gives hope to the hopeless.  The Holy Spirit creates faith in our heart to believe.  To connect us with the promises of scripture.  The power to receive, connect with God, finds its source in God, believing is totally from God.  This connection then allows the inflow of joy and peace into our hearts.  “so that you will abound in hope” Hope can always grow and abound more and more.  Hope is to be with us and is needed by us until this life is over.  Hope feeds on its own fruit.  “Hey that promise was for me, and it is true, now I can believe another promise.”
WE NEED THIS DESPERATELY, and so we will now pray the prayer of Romans 15:13 for each other as we close.

Friday, June 1, 2012

self righteous, grace killing

Right now a perfect storm is happening.  In the Romans Bible Study we are at chapter 14 and the beginning of 15, which emphasizes heavily the need for the strong to love the weak more than their opinions, more than their freedom in Christ.  On the other front, our Wed. Bible Study is, "Are you a fan or a follower?"  This week it was 100 % against the self-righteous attitudes that uses scripture and eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to beat people up.  And on the home front, I have taken the standard that I hold myself too and applied it to my wife's life and the result is, very predictably, death.  I can justify my actions... wanna hear it?.. I didn't think so, neither does God.
What is at the root of this, a lack of intimacy with God and people.  This is the "old, old, story" with me.  Maybe by the grace of God, this time around the mountain, we will beat this.