Monthly Archives: June 2015

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 10

Today we take a look at Romans 10, after me giving my views on what I believe Romans 9 to mean. Today we will see some confirmation about what I said last week. Read Romans 10, and then take a look at what I get out of it. I hope that God speaks to you through this.

Take a look at verse 3. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. Now before we all get excited, I know that this is referring to the Israelites, but are we as Christians guilty of this? I think we often are. We tend to tie all sorts of conditions to salvation. If you don’t sin, if you refrain from that, do this, behave like that, stay away from this, then you can be saved. The Bible doesn’t say this. Now again, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT condoning sin. Not by any means. I know that sin gives the devil a foothold in our lives, and I strongly suggest that you eliminate it from your life, but you don’t need to remove it to be saved. You need to remove it, yes, but your salvation doesn’t depend on it. What do you need to do to be saved? Verses 9 and 10 tell us. If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? Have you openly declared that Jesus is (your) Lord? If you believe, then you are made right with God and if you have declared that He is Lord, you have been saved. It is as simple as that. Is that what we teach in churches? Again, I am not justifying sin, I am merely saying that we need to make it clear why we remove sin from our lives, and we don’t do it to earn our salvation. I often come across people who are questioning their salvation because they have sinned, or struggle to overcome a particular sin. I believe that this is because of demonic attack, and incorrect teaching by churches. Paul was asked if grace meant that we could go on sinning, to which he took the opportunity to teach us why we should avoid sin. If you’re never asked if people can go on sinning, maybe your gospel message isn’t the same as Paul’s. That is all I’m saying.

The passage then goes on to say that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but it then asks how people will call on the name of the Lord if we don’t tell them. This is the main point which I would like to make. Are we telling them? I’m guilty of getting involved in many facebook debates. People say some stupid things, and I often find myself ‘defending’ Christianity more than I do telling people about the need for a relationship with God. This is something that I need to address. Do you need to rethink your approach too? It is easy to get sucked into a debate, it is hard to preach the gospel. Being a Christian is not always easy, but we can do more than we imagine, in the Name of Jesus.

The chapter then informs us that many people will not accept Jesus. This is something that we need to keep in mind, as we are often driven by success, but we don’t always see success when it comes to sharing the gospel. We need to be driven by our love for others and Jesus, and not by the success that we see. Take it from me, speaking the truth does not always earn you praise. Jesus was killed for speaking the truth, why would you be liked by everyone for doing it? If you’re doing it properly, you may even have people hating you.

I hope that you are clear on salvation, if not, go and figure it out. We all need to be on top of our game now. The world needs Jesus, dare I say more so than before, and we are the ones to tell people about Him. We’re not here to fight, argue, hate or defend our faith. We are here to tell people about what Jesus did for them, so that they too have the opportunity to accept Him as their saviour. Can we do this? If we couldn’t do it in Jesus’ strength, He wouldn’t have asked us to.

Share the Word!

Richard

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When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 9

I’m not going to lie, I have been waiting for this chapter to come up. This chapter of scripture has been used to push an agenda, and I for one have been confused by this, so I’m going to address it. Now just to be clear, I am going to put my view point across, and it may come across as anti-Calvinism, or pro Arminianism. That is not necessarily the case. People often try to get me to take sides, but I won’t. I agree with aspects from both sides, but I don’t agree fully with either. I don’t believe that either extreme is the truth, but I do believe that there is an element of the truth in both camps. The problem that I have with both camps, is that they both seem hell bent on pushing their agenda and putting the other down. I know people who seem more concerned with winning me for Calvinism or Arminianism, then they do winning a non-believer for Jesus. This really concerns me. Peter and Paul did an amazing job with the gospel, long before Arminianism and Calvinism were even thought of. I am a follower of Jesus, I take on the name of someone else’s theory.

Now, I know that has nothing to do with Romans 9, but I wanted to make it clear that I am not taking sides in what seems to be a never ending source of conflict between believers who are actually called to love each other. Romans 9 is often taught to ‘confirm’ Calvinists predestination theory. This is not the case. Allow me to explain.

Romans 9 starts with Paul talking about the Jewish people. He even says that he wishes that they would all be children of God, but they are not. He then goes on to talk about Jacob and Esau as well as Pharaoh. He then talks about the potter making some pots for good and others for bad. Now Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh were all under the Old Testament law. If you have an issue with some people used for good and others used for evil in the Old Testament, you obviously haven’t read it. The Jews were God’s chosen people, the Gentiles were not. Simple as that. But now Paul is telling them that things have changed. Even verse 19 that talks about responding, that is not talking about responding to the gospel it is talking about Old Testament people responding to God. Paul has not talked about grace yet, but it is coming. Paul then goes on to say that there will be Jewish people who won’t be called children of God, and Gentiles who will. This would have confused the people, so Paul goes on to explain. The problem is that most Calvinists stop here, they fail to read or explain the verses from verse 30-32. What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in Him.

This is talking about faith based salvation rather than a works based salvation. What Paul is actually saying throughout this chapter is that God can use people for His purposes. He has done that throughout the Old Testament and now He has chosen to open up salvation to whomever believes, rather than those who follow the law. This was shocking to people then. Now do we choose God or does God choose us? I believe that there is an element of both. I don’t reject reformed theology, I just don’t think that this passage supports an extreme Calvinist view. Don’t read verse by verse, trying to explain each one away, read the chapter as a whole. Then you will see what point Paul is trying to make. In fact, if you read the next chapter (which I will hopefully go through next week), you’ll see that it becomes even more clear.

I hope that this has given you a fresh view of this passage. Please don’t use that as anti-Calvinist material or, if you are a Calvinist, please don’t get angry. In fact, I would like to suggest that we lose the title of Calvinists or Arminians. I would prefer if we could all have the title of Jesus-followers, and we could all be out there making disciples of Jesus, rather that disciples of someone’s theology of the Bible. Romans 9 is a gospel message, it is there to show us the importance on evangelism, it is not there to divide us into theological camps.

We know the truth, let’s spread the Word of God!

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 8

This is one of my favourite passages of scripture, but one of the most challenging. This has been my mission of late, and it will be a focus of mine for the rest of my life. I will use a parable to try and explain what I mean, it worked for Jesus, so hopefully it will work for me too. I have been asked to write a blog post for my church, about fasting, and why we do it. I will use the same parable for that, as it not only explains what Romans 8 means, but it also shows why fasting is important. Here goes.

Imagine that you’re driving a car, you have no idea where you’re going, so you’re relying on the other people in the car to direct you on an epic road trip. The first person in the car, is in the passenger seat. They are loud, self opinionated, selfish and needy. The second person is in the back, they are soft-spoken, wise, patient, and they want what is best for all the occupants of the car. You set off on your trip. All you can hear is the person in the passenger seat, barking instructions at you. They have no regard for anyone but themselves, whatever they want, will be shouted as instructions to you. After a while, you realise that the person in the from seat is only looking out for themselves, so you stop the car and get your passengers to swap places. You now have the soft-spoken, wise unselfish person in the front seat. The loud, selfish, needy person has been relegated to the back. The only problem is that the loud person can still be heard above the soft-spoken person. Yes, you hear some more of what the wise person is telling you, but the loud person will not shut up long enough for you to get some really useful directions. Eventually you turn around and shout, “Will you just shut up for 5 minutes so that I can hear the other person speak!”. You are then able to hear the wise person for a few minutes, gathering valuable information as to where to go. The ironic thing about this, is that the wise person is looking out for you all. If he gives the directions, ALL of the occupants of the car get to experience the ride, and enjoy the destination. The loud mouthed person is actually better off listening to the wise person, but they will never admit that!

I assume that you are all one step ahead of me and know where I am going with this. You (as the driver) represents your soul (mind, emotions, feelings), the loud person represents your body (flesh, selfish desires) and the soft-spoken person represents your spirit. Our spirit is the part of us that has been made new, and is seen righteous by God. Our spirit is the part that communicates with God. Before we are saved, we have our body in the front seat, we only listen to our selfish desires. Then we realise that there is more to life, so we give our lives to Jesus, thus switching our body with our spirit. We are now supposed to listen to our spirit, as the mind in the one who decides where we should go. The mind is in control, it will listen to the spirit or the body, the choice is ours. Very often as Christians, we have our spirit in the front seat, but we often can’t hear it over or bodies shouting out from the back seat. We either stop the car and revert the positions back, or we carry on listening to our bodies, who are happy to continue directing us from the back seat. We need to tell our bodies to shut up every now and then, in order to hear our spirit. That also helps the body to learn that they are no longer in charge. This gets easier the more we do it, but it is very difficult to start. Our whole being will be better off if we listen to the spirit, but we still tend to want to listen to the body. This is how we are conditioned. We need to renew our mind (Romans 12:2). We need to be following the Holy Spirit, who speaks to our spirit, as He lives in us. Does this make sense? This is what this passage is about. This is why we fast and do other spiritual disciplines, to keep training our body to take second place to our spirit. This is an ongoing practice. Our mind is a powerful tool, we need to make sure that it is fighting for us (in line with God’s Word) and not against us (in line with our sinful desires).

The chapter then goes on to show us how NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and it starts by telling us that there is no condemnation in Jesus. This means that as we tackle this task of listening to our spirits and not our flesh, we can do so without fear of failure or condemnation from the enemy!

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 7

Romans 7 is broken up into 3 sections, each with their own headings. Let’s take a look at them, one by one.

We are no longer bound to the law. This passage explains how we are only subject to the law while we are alive, once we are dead, we are no longer bound to the law. Our old selves are dead, we are now a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that we are no longer bound by the law. What does this mean for us? Verse 6 spells it out for us. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. I believe that God is more interested with WHY we do what we do, than WHAT we do. Now don’t get me wrong, there are things that God has asked us to do and others that He has told us to do, however it is important to ask WHY we do these things. If we do them because we have to or to avoid punishment, that is under the law. We need to do them because we love God and because we want what He wants, which is what is best for us. That is a win/win in my book. So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.

God’s law reveals our sin. This is very important, as I often see people confused about the Old Testament, and I have often been misquoted due to some of my comments about it. The Old Covenant (before Jesus died for us) is just as relevant, God did not change, the God of the Old Testament and the New is the same God. Make no mistake about it. God hates sin now, just as much as He did before Jesus came, so why are things different now? Jesus is the difference. The Old Testament was showing us just how sinful we are/were, it was showing us what Jesus came to save us from. If you acknowledge Jesus as Lord, in your heart and with your mouth, the Bible says that you are saved. This means that Jesus has saved you from the sin that you have done, are doing, and will do. Does this mean that you can go on sinning? Why would you want to, now that you know how much God dislikes it? In the Old Testament, the only way people could get forgiveness was to sacrifice something, now we just have to ask. Sin still plays a big part in giving the devil a foothold in our lives, and trust me, you don’t want to do that. I for one am on a mission to root sin out of my life, not because I have to, but because I want to.

Struggling with sin. Many Christians can identify with this passage of scripture, Paul saying that He was in two minds. Wanting to do what was right, but kept on sinning. We often use this passage to make us feel better, if Paul couldn’t resist sinning, then we are in good company. I have used this passage to justify my own sin. I’m now not sure about this, in fact, I think it is saying the opposite. Take a look at what Paul says. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul says that Jesus is the answer. Here is the bottom line (which may upset you), if you know Jesus, you already have the answer. That means that we believers, can no longer use this excuse. This passage is Paul talking about obeying the Law, which he couldn’t do in his own strength, that is why he needed Jesus! I’m not saying that we should all be perfect, I’m just saying that God sees us as perfect (through Jesus) and we can now strive to live up to that with no condemnation and the with the help of the Holy Spirit. Do you see how much easier that makes it? It takes the pressure off.

Now I may have upset you with this post, don’t get too annoyed just yet, keep a look out as we take a look at the rest of Romans. Paul is explaining something here, and we don’t want to get too upset until he has finished. I look forward to see what we can learn next week, I hope that this has challenged and blessed you.

Richard