JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.”
October 31, 2009, 3:50 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

I have been reading, thinking about, and trying to hear God speak as I read the last half of Romans 15 through chapter 16. This is an interesting ending to Paul’s letter “to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” I will focus these last blogs on Romans on a couple parts to this conclusion.

After writing about the practical application of offering our bodies as living sacrifices, dieing to ourselves, by how we love one another, submitting to governing authorities, loving our fellowman, and accepting one another, specifically as it relates to one who is “weak” in the faith and one who is “strong” in the faith, Paul concludes his thoughts. Paul is overwhelmed by what Jesus has done in confirming “the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” and “the grace God gave” Paul “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.” Because of this Paul felt in his letter that he could write “quite boldly on some points” in way of reminders of what they had already been taught.

Paul worships the Lord and glory’s “in Christ Jesus in (his) service to God” and would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” Paul, just a man like you and I, but understanding who lives in him, God Himself, Jesus Christ, realizes that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” because Paul recognizes that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Now that Paul has planted organic, naturally growing churches that meet in each others homes which express the love of Jesus to one another and their neighbors, is now ready to travel to Rome on his way “to Spain.” Paul at the beginning of his letter described how he “long(ed) to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Now in conclusion he “hope(s) to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while, because he desires to “come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Brothers and sisters could we say the same? Could we, when we are apart because of our jobs and work, “long to see” each other, to long to “mutually encourage each other’s faith” to desire to come together “with joy and together with you be refreshed” like a real family? Why should we feel this way? Because we are a family, are the body of Christ, Jesus is the one who gives us that desire, the fruit of the Spirit, to long to love one another, to express “some spiritual gift to make” each other strong. Jesus wants to express Himself through each of us, to one another. So much so that we would “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” and to “share with God’s people who are in need” and “practice hospitality.” Is it any wonder that Paul was always “eager” “to remember the poor” among God’s people when he met with James and the elders, or more mature believers, in Jerusalem? Even James makes the point that “faith without deeds is dead.”

After Paul and Barnabas began helping the church in Antioch to grow, when “the brothers living in Judea” were in dire straights because of “a severe famine” it is was Paul and Barnabas who were sent to bring the church’s “gift” to the church in Jerusalem. Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia desired to help the church learn to “carry each other’s burdens” and “not become weary in doing good…to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” To the church in Thessalonica Paul said to “never tire of doing what is right” because “the Lord direct(s) your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” Later while traveling again through Galatia Paul told the churches to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up” inorder to help the poor among the churches. To the church in Corinth Paul explains what he “told the Galatian church to do” because of his desire to help the poor in Jerusalem. As I think about this, I also have to recognize that these churches were made up of the poorest of the Roman Empire, slave and free persons. The living conditions were probably not the best and many probably died at an early age due to sickness. But because of the Christians desire “to serve (or be enslaved) to one another in love” they lived “by the Spirit” having “crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” To ensure no wrong doing, Paul even brought brothers and sisters from the churches to help him deliver the “gift” to the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul uses the agrarian proverb that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” Now in his letter to the saints in Rome Paul is about ready to return to Jerusalem to take this collection of money to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. These churches “were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” in fact “they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” Paul never mentions a tithe, he never mentions an offering plate, while he does mention collecting the money on the first day of the week, this was probably more for convenience than meant to be a ritual, since it was a way for the churches to collect the money for this specific purpose of helping the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Brothers and sisters, why do we tithe, why do we put money into an offering plate? Christ is the end of the Law! Tithing was a Jewish national tax for Jewish priests and rulers. As Christians we no longer have priests and rulers, except Christ! Why can’t I take the money I earn from God and give it to a Christian in need? Do I really need another mediator other than Christ? Sure Paul was somewhat a mediator in his case but it was for a specific task and not meant to be a ritualistic duty, which Paul was never intent on doing, in fact I think Paul would be outright aghast at the fact so much money is spent on everything but helping God’s people who are in need. Someone had to be the go-to person, along with representatives from the other churches, to physically take the money to the poor in Jerusalem. But does someone have to be the go-to person every Sunday morning, or whatever day of the week that you think is a special day? Paul’s writings to the churches in Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome make a point that as brothers and sisters in Christ, who have Christ living in us, can “share with God’s people who are in need” whenever we see the opportunity to do good arises, because of our sincere love and devotion to one another.

We are “to offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” I can die to myself and love one another and my fellowman, my neighbour, and contribute generously “to the needs of others.” Perhaps if God’s people lived Jesus life organically together in each other’s homes instead of paying monumental amounts of money for buildings and clergy and staff, perhaps God’s people could really make a difference personally in the lives of others. If we did perhaps the churches, those which live organically together in each other’s homes, living a life of “faith expressing itself through love,” we would hear more of how God’s people today “became a model to all believers,” “your faith in God has become known everywhere,” “your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing,” “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action,” and finally to be able to thank “God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” May the body of Christ, truly BE the body of Christ, that “the life (we) live in the body, (we) live by faith in the Son of God, who loved (us) and gave Himself for (us).”

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“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
October 25, 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians has been refreshing and breathtaking! He has described the awesome love, grace, and mercy of God to both Jew and Gentile, and then in Christ we are one body and live in community with one another by the life of His Spirit! This life is expressed by Jesus Himself through His body and this expression is that of sacrificial love.

In chapters 14 and 15 Paul now relates probably the most practical part of the letter to the issue of acceptance in the body of Christ. The most basic of human needs, and yet the most basic needs of authentic Christian community. Because we live in a world of distinctions that create stereotypes, prejudices, and divisions Paul wants to make clear that this is not how followers of Jesus live in His kingdom. Paul wrote a year or so earlier to the Corinthians that believers are to “no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” There are no distinctions in the body of Christ. Years earlier, Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” About the same time frame even James, one of the elders of Jerusalem wrote to the persecuted Christians who had left the simple organic life in the home churches of Jerusalem to start other organic churches in regions beyond Jerusalem said “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism…don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Again to the Corinthians Paul wrote to them saying: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all of its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” As a result we are to see Christ in every believer, because God only sees Jesus when He sees every believer. Yet, we are to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” This light, this expression of love, is Jesus shining through us! Probably the greatest way we can see Jesus expressed in the body of Christ is when we die to ourselves and “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Because Christians are constantly being born there are always going to be those who are ahead in the journey with Jesus. Because of our flesh we will be tempted to be religious and conceited, however minor the distinctions we make between those who are weak and strong in the faith. Jesus said we were never to lord it over others, that is not the way of the kingdom! To those who are a little ahead in the journey Paul says to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Opinions are a dime a dozen as the saying goes. Everyone has one. Things that are disputable could be what you eat, what you don’t eat, whether you think one day is more special than another day or one who “considers every day alike.” Therefore for those who are strong or weak in the faith we are not to “judge your brother” or “look down on your brother” on disputable matters. Why? Because ” we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another” because we cannot judge the motives of a man’s heart only God can. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Is what we say and do when we come together leading to peace and mutual edification? Is Jesus the sole focus of our meetings? Is He the head and body?! Or are we the focus, are we edifying ourselves instead of others? Do we like to hear ourselves talk and perform, or manipulate others for our purposes, or are we willing to lay that down at the foot of the cross and let our other brothers and sisters participate in the body of Christ?

Paul had plenty of practice being a peacemaker with the Corinthians, and think this essentially lays out what most of his letters to the church in Corinth spells out in great detail. Paul lays much of the responsibility of peacemaking with those who are further on in the journey with Jesus. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” If you have known Jesus for a while then it is your responsibility to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to realize they are one in Jesus with you and that you are just a follower like they are and are in process in the journey like they are. If you feel like you need to control others, to control the meetings in the homes where brothers and sisters meet with Jesus, whether intentionally or unintentionally, be careful, you will have to “give an account of (yourself) to God.” I sure do not want to be in that position, where I think I need to control Jesus. Is it any wonder Paul’s anthem in life was “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul could have really put himself up on a pedestal but he didn’t. This is the same theme from Romans 12 where Paul rings out the words “therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

What do you need to die to? What do I need to die to? In my spirit Jesus is speaking even to me. My personality, my gifts, my talents, my religious views/opinions, my institutional Christian views/opinions, my need to be right, etc.? Anything that makes you feel important can be a stumbling block for others knowing Christ in an intimate way. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant…so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” A servant! Do you see it brothers and sisters? “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

For those strong in the faith your function is to accept others, to serve, to encourage others to know Christ intimately by allowing others to fully participate in the body through the face-to-face open meetings “in order to bring praise to God”! Don’t force others to participate, be quiet and still before your Lord and let Jesus show up in His body! Trust Jesus in this. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” You have Jesus in you! He can help you to overcome your biases, to put off the old man and put on the new man, and accept your other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said he would build His church, let’s let Him. “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”



“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
October 24, 2009, 3:14 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

In Romans chapter 12 Paul comes to the concluding statement that both summarizes what he has just been writing to the believers in Rome in reference to God’s mercy and now how that relates to how the family of God should now live.

Paul writes an incredible letter that describes the good news of Jesus Christ that is for everyone because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Paul explained that because Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”! We are now “freed from sin”! So we must “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit….(having our) minds set on what the Spirit desires…(and) led by the Spirit of God…(who also) helps us in our weakness.” Paul explodes then with the statement “If God is for us, who can be against us?”! There is now therefore no distinction for anyone who is in Christ whether Jew or Gentile, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God’s mercy is incredible! That He would find “those who did not seek me; (and) revealed myself to those who did not ask for me”!

Because of God’s great mercy, “in view of God’s mercy” we are “to offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” This reminds me of the burnt offerings from the Old Testament which was slaughtered “before the LORD,” its blood drained, then skinned, and disemboweled, “and cut into pieces” with “the pieces, including the head and the fat” arranged “on the burning wood that is on the altar” and burned completely, “an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” I don’t know about you but the thought of the process of slaughtering is pretty gory and gruesome! But the smell of grilled beef sure smells good though! The crucifixion was not pretty it was gory and gruesome. When we die to ourselves it will be gory and gruesome. It will mess us up! Offering our “bodies as living sacrifices” reminds me of a lot of things. It first reminds me of Jesus statement of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him. It seems to speak of what Paul had earlier said that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” and “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

The body of Christ, “your bodies,” must realize (“be transformed by the renewing of your mind”), that we are dead to sin, but because of being in this body of flesh, we must choose to deny ourselves, to die to ourselves, to carry our crosses, so that Christ can be expressed, or seen through our lives. This is what is “holy and pleasing to God,” this is our “spiritual act of worship.” Dieing to ourselves is not conforming “any longer to the pattern of this world, but (being) transformed by the renewing of (our minds).” It is “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Having died to ourselves we can hear Christ who lives in us, His still small voice, and through the love of one another, know with full assurance what His “will is.”

Paul explains in one of the great chapters of the New Testament how this applies in living with one another. When the family of God comes together, Christ is in each of us, and He desires to love, speak, and serve through one another to one another. Jesus can’t do this is if we have not died to ourselves. Some things we need to die to as Paul explains: “do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment,” “never be lacking in zeal,” “do not curse,” “do not be proud,” “do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The focus is not supposed to be on us but on Jesus Christ who desires to love us through one another! Jesus has given us Himself, He lives in each of His followers, “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Jesus desires “prophesying,” “serving,” “teaching,” “encouraging,” “contributing to the needs of others,” “caring,”* and “showing mercy,” His life of love, to be expressed through one another to one another. As Paul mentioned to the Corinthians earlier whatever gift Jesus has given us must be done in love or it is meaningless. Love is given freely and without thought of reward, it is unselfish.

When brothers and sisters come together we speak and serve one another in love using the gifts He gives us to love one another. This won’t be perfect, not everyone will have offered their “bodies as living sacrifices,” we are still being “transformed by the renewing of (the) mind” and are all in process. When self pops up, we still express love in what we say and do. When we are expressing His life it will be love: “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul told the Corinthian believers “When we come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” This is just one description of endless possibilities of brothers and sisters coming together living the life of Christ together, in love, from house to house or wherever they gather!

Could it be possible that brothers and sisters when we come together and share our lives with one another in face-to-face, open, participatory gatherings that this description of sacrificially loving one another could come true?! Only when we “offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Perhaps we really should not have what is called “worship services” and learn to spend more time together, like a family, learning to love one another as Christ loved us, the “spiritual act of worship” of dieing to ourselves. We must decrease if we want Jesus to increase in the body of Christ, after all it is His Body, we “are not our own; (we) were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” we “are the body of Christ.”

When Jesus gets to be Head of His Body then He will be expressed in and through His body to one another. True sacrificial love will be manifested! And this love will then be manifested in our lives to others who are not Christians, because “love does no harm to its neighbor” and even the “governing authorities” will see the love of God! How do we show love to “governing authorities”: submitting to them, not rebelling “against what God has instituted,” “do what is right,” “not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” So we should “pay taxes, “revenue,” “respect,” and “honor.” Most importantly “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law…Love your neighbor as yourself.” We need to “wake up” (and smell the coffee so to speak!).

We must die to ourselves, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices,” “put aside the deeds of darkness (“do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature”) and put on the armor of light,” “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus wants to show Himself through us, but it can only happen when we die to ourselves. Before His crucifixion Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We truly cannot love one another unless we have died to ourselves, given up our life for our brothers and sisters. Crucifixion must come before resurrection!

Note:
* I take James D.G. Dunn’s view that the word often translated as “leadership” in Romans 12 should be “caring” because of the context of the word. Additionally, Paul’s focus, while he recognized “elders,” those who were more experienced in living an organic church life and functioned as mentors, Paul was adamant that Jesus is the Head of the body, and that the church makes decisions not by one man but by the One Man, the body through consensus. (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B, Romans 9-16)



“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy…”
October 14, 2009, 1:04 am
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

Reading chapters 9 to 11 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has always seemed mysterious to me. Paul is very introspective and retrospective and deeply emotional all at the same time.

Paul has just told the believers in the church what their identity was in Christ, a glorious description and revelation of the riches of God’s grace for all who have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, concluding with one of the greatest statements ever of our solid foundation in Jesus! “Who will separate us from the love of Christ”? Paul writes rhetorically. There is only one answer! Nothing can separate the body from Jesus! When Jesus gave us “life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” He became our life! Jesus is our life! Our spirit and His Spirit are now one and are sons of God through the Son of God!

As Paul reflects on this incredible truth he reflects on those who have rejected Jesus, the Messiah, “those of my own race, the people of Israel.” What an emotional low this must have brought him. Those who should have received Jesus because “theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” Because of those whom he has preached Christ to, who should have received Christ, rejected Christ, Paul has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in (his) heart” and that he wished that he could be “cursed and cut off from Christ” for them. But Paul reconciles in his letter the fact that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendents are they all Abraham’s children.”

As Paul describes the mercy of God for the Gentiles at the expense to the Jews, and while Paul’s “desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” he also realizes that God did not “reject his people.” The reason? Because Paul himself is “an Israelite… a descendent of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.” God chose Paul! God did not reject the Jews, in fact Jesus came to them first! “Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness” did not receive mercy from God “because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.” But because God so loved the world He desired that all people, no matter who they are or where they are from, He desired to “call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and…. call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and for those who receive Jesus by faith are all now “called ‘sons of the living God.’ ” How incredible God’s mercy! Right now, I could be an object “of his wrath.” Right now, you could be an object of God’s wrath! But God has given me mercy when He opened my eyes and revealed to me His Son! Paul must have thought the same way!

No wonder in the middle of this thought about the Jews and God’s mercy on the Gentiles he proclaims the confession of all believers everywhere: “That is you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ”

Is Jesus your Lord? have you heard about Jesus the Messiah? You can only receive Him if you believe the message, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”! Amazing grace!

The body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, whoever they are, “now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,” Jesus Christ our Lord! He is the vine, we are the branches, we are now in Christ! But, “Christ, who is God” is also in us! “Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen!” Jesus is our Lord, our all in all! Therefore, because salvation is through faith, by His grace and His mercy, we should “consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness” and “not be conceited.” Remember that “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” through faith in Jesus Christ! What a mystery! No wonder Paul has to proclaim: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

So how are we, the body of Christ, serving “in the new way of the Spirit?” Have you counted yourself “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”? Because of God’s mercy on us, because He now lives, truly lives, in reality lives, in us, “the hope of the glory of God,” are we letting Jesus show His glory through us? “We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Let us “consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God” and live “in the new way of the Spirit.” We have direct access to God, we can let Him live His life through us, His life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.



“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
October 10, 2009, 2:57 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

Paul’s letter to the saints in Rome is an incredible letter! Chapters 5 to 8 seem to bring everything together from Paul’s previous letters to help us understand our identity with Jesus.

In chapters 1-4 Paul brought together both Jew and Gentile to help them both in the church realize that there is now “no difference” in that all people no matter who they are “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” Every Christian has “been justified through faith” and has “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” What an awesome statement!

Paul had written to the churches in Galatia a few years earlier and told them that he had “been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” and told them that they were “all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” He also told them that because we “are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” And because we are “sons of God” we are a “family of believers” and together are brothers and sisters who “serve one another in love.” And lastly Paul tells the Galatians that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.”

To the church in Corinth Paul tells the Christians how they “were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” and now “are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” And in his second letter to the same church he tells them that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” and that “we are the temple of the living God” and not only that but a bride who is to be presented to Christ “as a pure virgin to him.”

Amazing statements, amazing declarations! All of these statements of who we are is because we are “in Christ!” We now have “access by faith” to God Himself because He lives in us! No wonder we can “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Paul said to the Galatians that “Christ lives in” him and this life specifically is lived “in the body” His church. How are we living “in the body”? God wants His glory to be manifested through His body!

We are called to “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature…(and) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulnness, gentleness and self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” and later Paul describes how brothers and sisters help each other to live by the Spirit, ultimately by carrying “each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fufill the law of Christ” and to “not become weary in doing good.”

To the Corinthians Paul tells them that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” and that “you are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body…(and) do not become slaves of men.” Paul tells them that in everything we do “do it all for the glory of God” so that you “do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews or Greeks or the church of God…(and seek) the good of many, so that they may be saved” and therefore “follow the example of Christ.”

How is the glory of God being manifested in the body? Paul says to “follow the way of love…do everything in love.” Is our focus on ourselves, our gifts, our talents, how much money we have, how much control we have over others? In his second letter Paul describes this manifestation as “the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” and as a “letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show you are a letter from Christ…(and that) whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” and as a “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” God’s power. His glory wants to be displayed, not me, not us.

Paul in everyone one of letters describes his hardships in preaching the gospel in Galatia, Macedonia, and Greece and makes the point that because Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” we are to “also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” For Paul, being crucified is part of the Christian life. It is because only through crucifixion do we find resurrection! Paul lived what Jesus said “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Paul was focused on this singular goal. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”! “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Because “we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” How are we, as the body together, living the “new life”? Is Jesus really in control when we come together? Have we crucified our self and loving one another as Christ loved us? Paul says that “we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…(we are to) count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Our focus is now no longer on what we should not do, because we have been set free from sin, but now our focus is on living for Jesus, letting Jesus live His life through us! Because “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” His eternal life wants to shine through us!

So “we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Do we struggle with sin? Absolutely! Even Paul said he did, but Paul also proclaimed “what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Recognizing this struggle, means how important it is to know who we are in Christ! “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” and we are now to “live according to the Spirit” to “live in accordance with the Spirit (and) have our minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Amen!

Jesus has given us His life to His body! He desires for His life to come out and be made manifest through His body! Are we letting Jesus live His life through us to His body, to others, being salt and light, so that God would be praised instead of ourselves? “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Jesus lives in us! We called “by the Spirit… (to put) to death the misdeeds of the body… (so that we) will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in us.”

We don’t have to rely on ourselves individually, our bodies our weak, He is strong! God wants to encourage us through one another! “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” The Spirit is living in His Body, we no longer live, but Christ lives in us! We are to no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus who died for us and rose again! “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

How is Jesus being manifested through us when we come together? How is Jesus living His live through us with our neighbors? How is Jesus living His life through us with our co-workers? How is Jesus living His life through us with our friends and family? “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Do we really know who we are in Jesus? The family of God, the body of Christ, a new creation, the temple of the living God, sons of God, children of God, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, etc! We can deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus! No matter what happens to us, good or bad, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”!

Go ahead! Make Jesus’ day! Live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us! Live in His new way, the way of love! Let Jesus show Himself through us! “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” No my brothers and sisters “in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”!



“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
October 3, 2009, 2:35 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

As Paul traveled from Ephesus to Macedonia and then to Greece he took with him a number of church planters in training. He had spent over two years spending time with these brothers and sisters, modeling the life, ministry, death, and resurrection life of Jesus to them, helping them to mutually encourage “each other’s faith.”

In this time it seems Paul sent a number of these brothers and sisters to Rome to help transplant the body of Christ in that place. Acts tells us that there were some brothers and sisters who were at Jerusalem who were “visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism)” who became followers of Jesus and learned the life of Jesus and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…” Perhaps the couple “Priscilla and Aquila” were a part of this first group of Christians and during the first persecution returned to Rome along with others from Rome. Some of Paul’s companions were then sent out to help build the church in Rome sometime while Paul was in Ephesus, with the intent of himself sometime in the future going there.

It seems Paul loved the city life, and because Paul had “received grace and apostleship to call people from among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” then Rome, the greatest city of the known world, would be of great importance for him to go “preaching the gospel of his Son.” So like Jesus, he sent some of his companions ahead of him, to be initiators of body life in the various places of Rome proclaiming that “the kingdom of God was near,” before he would arrive and reveal Jesus to them in a wonderful way!

Paul writes this wonderful letter to the Romans knowing their background, these having been in Jerusalem with the first organic church, and his intent of having sent church initiators and planters ahead of him, he wanted to encourage them as well as to seemingly summarize many of the thoughts and revelations that he had previously shared with the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Greece.

He first and foremost describes to the “saints” in Rome “the gospel of God,” how this gospel was “promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendent of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul is extremely thankful as for the past year or so reports have been coming from his companions whom he sent to help transplant the church of their “faith” which “is being reported all over the world.” Man, did Paul want to visit these Christians who were living the life of Jesus! So Paul was in earnest prayer for this body of believers! He longed to see them! He longed to “impart to you some spiritual gift to make (them) strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Paul knew that both the believers there and himself would not truly know the fullness of Jesus until they were together and could share Jesus’ life with each other.

Only the gospel, which Paul was “not ashamed of” could strengthen the faith of one another in the body of Christ, for “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ” A life of faith, is the life of His body! Salvation is just the beginning, the first, the life of faith continues as we live Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection with our other brothers and sisters in Christ, to the last breath of our life on Earth.

Paul somehow also had gotten some news from his companions that apparently because there were both Jews and Gentiles in this body of believers there were some things that the brothers and sisters had not yet died to. So Paul describes “the wrath of God” in contrast to the “righteousness of God” found in the gospel. Paul describes how both Gentiles and Jews in the world were both without God. Gentiles had sought to make things in creation and themselves their own gods, even though they seen “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” This “futile” thinking caused Gentiles to become more and more “depraved” in what they did to one another. While the Jews boasted selfishly in the Law, judging others, being self-righteous, and in circumcision. In all of this Paul wants to make a point that both Jew and Gentile must by faith believe the gospel because “no one (is) righteous, not even one.”

In Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile. There is no longer any need to follow the restrictions of the Law because Jesus had fulfilled the Law. Paul says that “a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by a written code” and “now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” In the end no one has any claim to boast. It is not by what you do that determines your relationship with God. Because Abraham, who was before the Law was introduced by Moses and even before circumcision was introduced, “believed God…it was credited to him as righteousness.” Therefore “a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” God is now the God of both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Jesus. What an incredible description of the wonderful salvation that God has given us!

“God gives life to the dead”! Abraham, spent years living by faith in God, and later when “his body was as good as dead…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” And not just to Abraham has God credited righteousness “but also for us…who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” What a depiction of the kind of life Jesus has given us when we live by faith as a body of believers!

Paul so desired to encourage the believers in Rome that he wanted to make sure they understood how far they had fallen from God and how much God has raised them up through faith in Jesus! What an awesome God we have that He would love us so much to die for us, take away all of our sins, so that we could enjoy a relationship with the Holy God of creation! God now sees us as He sees His Son. He no longer sees our sin, but sees the beauty of Jesus instead!

Lord help me to live in this faith that You see Jesus instead of me, and in your body, You see only Jesus instead of us. Jesus give us the kind of faith like Paul, who was “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” and “long to see (one another) so that (we) may impart to (one another) some spiritual gift to make (us) strong – that is, that (we) may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”! Lord help us to live by faith so that Your life of love would be expressed to one another!