Tagged: Romans

Free!

Romans 6:6

“…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

After the Civil War, emancipated slaves found themselves in a new relationship with their old masters. Imagine the feeling! It had to be a curious mixture of joy and fear…

Jeremiah moved through town as a free man, until he encountered his old master in front of the grocer. Week after week he loads the master’s supplies — just like before. The day after the war was over he celebrated his freedom, until his old master drove up and said, “load my wagon.”

Why does he do it? He knows he is free. He knows he is no longer a slave to the master. Yet, he continues loading the wagon. When the old master calls, it is a lifetime of habitual responses that kicks in. Suddenly, he doesn’t feel free. He feels just as he always has felt — he feels like a slave who must respond to the master’s voice.

Christian, you were really set free at the cross from the control of sin. Our old relationship to sin (called “the old man”), was destroyed when Jesus died for us. Paul explains that we have the ability to do away with the “body of sin” — our old habitual responses and actions to the old sin master. We are free!

When the old master commands, we do not have to obey. We can live freely.

Jeremiah realized this one day. Walking along the dusty street he encountered the old master who gave the usual command to load the wagon. Jeremiah hesitates. Everything in him is ready to do as he has always done, but he is free — and now he knows it. “Load it yourself,” says Jeremiah. He walks away.

Overcoming sin begins as we accept God’s truth about ourselves. Sin is no longer your master. You are free. Live like it today!

The church needs more attitude…

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another…

Romans 15:5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus…

It happens more and more. My wife and I will turn to each other with the same thoughts — and often the same words on our lips — at the same time! After years of loving together we often can anticipate what the other is thinking or feeling.

Did you know church is to be like that? As we come together for a common purpose to exalt Christ in our lives, we will find ourselves experiencing a oneness of thought and mission. We should work at achieving oneness (Romans 12:16), but Paul later adds that we should ask God to give us a sameness of mind (Romans 15:5). So we should work for unity — but we should also ask for it in prayer.

Then where do church conflicts come from? Pride. And pride is a state of mind that flourishes in a climate of putting down the ideas of others and exalting our views.

Can we disagree and still “be of the same mind”? Yes, but only if we assume a fundamental respect for the motives of others who — like us — belong to the family of God. Our oneness lies in a common motive to please God — not in agreement on every issue or scruple.

So how can we be “of the same mind” towards one another? Assume an attitude that every other believer has equal access to God — just like you. Therefore, their thoughts are as potentially inspired and significant as your own. No one has a corner on the market of “divine insights”. I must humble myself to consider with care the thoughts of my brother. I need to listen. I need to pay attention. What he is thinking may match or enhance what I am thinking — I need to respect his conclusions and rationale.

“The same mind” does not refer to agreement in all things, but to an attitude.

Who is cheering for you?

Romans 7:24-25 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Can you think of something that you were never any good at — -but wanted to be? You tried your best. You took lessons. You read books. You practiced. But it was no use — you were never going to be any good at it.

Baseball was that way for me in the second grade. Just no good. The coach did everyone a favor by leaving me on the bench most games. I got a “hit” once when the ball bounced off of my knee on a line drive to second base. I still remember the cheers from the stands as they carried me off the field — I had never heard cheers before!

In Romans 7 Paul is expressing his frustration over sin. He wants to eradicate it completely, but as he grows, he continues to discover sin in his life like a multi-layered garbage dump.

Dear Christian, sin will be resident within you until death opens the door to heaven. You will hate things you say and things you do. You will wonder how a holy God could still love a person like you. You have not finished sinning. And there’s more to come. Much more.

Can you feel Paul’s anguish? “O wretched man that I am!” More importantly, can you exercise Paul’s faith that ultimate deliverance will come through Jesus Christ?

The truth is none of us are going to completely master the ins and outs of a holy life. We need to know that our failures cannot keep us from the love of God.

Someday you and I will be carried off the ballfield of life by his angels — kind of like that second grader who was no good at baseball. And there will be cheers from the welcoming saints in heaven’s stands. But the loudest cheering will come from the throne!

The Power of a Greeting

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Corinthians 16:20 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Do you remember your first kiss? Sure you do! What makes it so special? What is it about a kiss that so captures the imagination and heart of our culture?

Let me suggest that with a kiss we are communicating our affection and acceptance of another person. Intimacy. Warmth. With just a kiss.

Every culture has a way of doing that, but we have done it for centuries with a kiss. Two millennia have not altered the basic message. Paul wants us to greet one another with the highest form of affection.

How can we do this today?

(1) Determine to take every instance of greeting seriously – Paul is really issuing a command to obey. Greeting one another is a non-optional activity. So we ought to carefully reflect on how we normally greet others. We should avoid simple protocol greetings when possible — let’s get real!

(2) Take the focus off yourself and place it on the other person – Think about the kind of recognition you would want to receive. Think about the times when a poor greeting was hurtful to you.

(3) Learn and use a person’s name in your greeting – Think of the other person as family. Knowing and using a name is a measure of a person’s significance to you. Paul greeted no less than 25 persons by name in Romans 16 in a city he had never visited! Names are vital.

(4) Bless the person with affirmation and interest – “Pause” for the person as you greet them. Acknowledge enduring qualities you appreciate about them. Ask them genuine, probing questions. Introduce them to others with words of affirmation.

(5) And yes – do use an appropriate physical expression of affection – Paul stresses use of the “holy kiss” — please understand that he was referring to greetings between the same sexes! While the function of greeting never changes, but the physical form may vary from culture to culture. Whether it’s a warm handshake and a hug, a squeeze of a shoulder or arm, or a simple pat on the back – we must not offend or tempt others with the physical form of our greeting. But don’t be afraid to display warm affection.

How to “Choose Up Sides” in Church

Romans 15:7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

It’s happening on playgrounds all around our country today… and it happens in churches too. Groups get ready to choose up sides and someone is chosen last. “Arrrggghhh!” as Charlie Brown used to say — what a terrible feeling to be unwanted and unwelcomed.

Paul says we are to “receive one another” — I do it for you and you do it for me. In the New Testament this means:

  1. to take or receive someone/something to oneself, to admit, or to receive;
  2. to take someone aside for a private conversation; or
  3. to welcome/accept someone as a close friend.

And Paul says I am to do this “as Christ received” me! In Him I find what many spend a lifetime searching for: someone who will “choose me” every time. Someone who treats me like I am His favorite. Someone who does not allow disagreements or barriers to create distance between us. Someone who isn’t preoccupied with himself or his needs — but who has time to listen to me. Someone I do not have to be afraid of. Someone whose motives are genuine — He will not use me and then lose me.

How can I do that for someone else? If Jesus accepts me, I can afford to give to others without expecting a return on my investment. After all, He gave all for me — with no cost to me, but at great cost to Himself. I can set my heart to be like Jesus to others.

  • I can trust that God is at work in every person I encounter. I can look for the hand of God in every heart — that qualifies a person to be treated with care by me. I can place my faith in God’s working, not in people — they will let me down, but if God is at work in them… I think I can be willing to be hurt by those I accept.
  • I can act as if all conditions for intimacy were already fulfilled. I don’t have to make people earn my acceptance or love.
  • I can cover areas of offense or disagreement with love.
  • I can ask questions to know people on the deepest level. I can avoid the superficial encounters.
  • I can take people to others and introduce them — facilitating their acceptance into a group.
  • I can talk about people to others and tell their story.
  • I can be intentional about including others in the ministry of my church by giving them a job to do — so they will gain a sense of belonging.

I suspect most of us feel like the kid on the playground that never gets picked to play. Remember today that Jesus always chooses you — so now you go choose someone else. Go ahead — you’re already on the best team! Make a difference — welcome someone into your life with warmth and affection.

Estimating the Value of a Human Soul

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

Her words have stayed with me for all of my adult life. I was 18 years old. As a second-time guest at a Bible study, the youth pastor’s wife introduced me to several other kids by saying, “This is Don – he is a really neat guy – you need to get to know him!”

Me? A “really neat guy”?

What she did was esteem me before others. She expressed a value for me that I did not even possess for myself. By introducing me to others as a valuable, worthy person, she used the occasion as an opportunity to exercise love.

She determined my worth and value by the way she talked about me. This is the essence of the word “honor.”

Most of us in the church family are more conscious of our personal “ugliness” than anyone will ever know. We beat ourselves up and often come to church beaten by the world. Should church be a place that adds to our sense of failure and insecurity?

Of course not! Honor someone with value and affirmation today. A kind word and a smile. A hug and a warm embrace. A note or a quick phone call. Any soul Jesus died for was a soul of eternal worth and value to Him. We are not flattering people: we are establishing their true worth in the sight of God.

Why should we value others any less than He did?

People: God’s Penny Jars

Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

I use to have a penny jar at home… not any more. Let me tell you what happened. Day by day I used to empty my pocket change into my penny jar, but as my kids got older, I noticed the level of saved change began going down! While I was adding to the jar regularly, someone else (I will not name names) was taking my contributions away — the result? No more change for emergency Big Mac attacks!

That really captures what Paul is dealing with in Romans 14. God is building a bride for His Son and we are very much a part of the process. In the church we are called to “edify” or build each other up — not to tear each other down. The way we speak to each other and the way we treat each other adds to what God is doing or detracts from it.

So pretend the church today is like a great, big penny jar for God. Every day He adds to our lives as we read His Word and spend time alone with Him in prayer. With a deep affection, He encourages us, guides us, corrects us — whatever it takes to build us up into a mature, godly lover of Jesus Christ. The level in the penny jar is raised daily as we walk with Him.

And as we come to interact with other members of His family, He intends that the building continue. But does it? Or do we take away from what God is doing in others? In every conversation I have a decision to make: will I add to this person’s life or not? Worse yet: am I going to pilfer what God has stored up in this person? Sound like an odd concept? Consider the range of decisions we can consciously make when we encounter a brother or sister in Christ. Some quick examples…

  • In general conversation: am I going to speak about my needs or focus on encouraging someone else?
  • When I hear of a brother’s failure or weakness: am I going to spread damaging information about him or be graciously silent?
  • When we disagree: am I going to argue my position or listen to your heart?

Every member of my family needs my contribution to his or her life. God made us that way — and I need your contribution too!

Let’s stop pilfering from the “penny jar of God” in the hearts of others. Let’s start emptying pockets of kindness into each other’s lives. Let’s do it today!