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Romans


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16th May - Bible Reading - Romans 16

We come to the end of our journey through Rome! (onto Corinth next). As we finish, check out the doxology at the end of Romans 16.25-27.

God is described like this:

the one who is able to establish you by the gospel (v.25)

The only wise God, be glory forever through Jesus Christ (v.27)

And what is God about in this world? We saw it right at the start (1.1) - the gospel of God. He is about a gospel that was:

hidden for long ages past (v.25)

but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God (v.26)

All that had been promised by God in the Old Testament now made known and fulfilled through Jesus Christ (v.27)

And for what purpose?

So that all nations might believe and obey him - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: Pray for all who provide online Christian content - which is increasingly being used. May the content be fresh, clear and Christ entered.


15th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 15

I am struck by the Apostle Paul's prayer in this chapter, that he asks others to pray with him:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Paul's prayers focus on the ambition that the gospel of the Lord Jesus will continue to progress unhindered.

It is a great challenge. Consider what you characteristically pray for. Consider what you ask others to pray for?

a prayer for today

Pray for Xi Jinping - the Chinese leader.


14th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 14

A chapter all about the preciousness of unity among God's people and the call not to divide over 'disputable matters'. These are matters that have grey in them, that have an element of different people's consciences reacting differently. In the context this includes what foods to eat and what 'special' days to observe - it is worth considering what our 'disputable' matters might be? Perhaps what TV shows are appropriate to watch, what style of church is appropriate? Whether to work on a Sunday? How we use our money? What do we do on such things?

The command from God over such matters is this - 14.1 - Accept those whose faith is weak…without passing judgment on disputable matters…

Acceptance, unity, non-judgment are the call. And in one sense the spirit of our age would agree. But, read on in Romans 14 and you see the reasons for unity and acceptance on such matters is nothing to do with human unity and everything to do with God.

We are to accept others views of disputable matters because:

  • God has welcome them (vv.1-3)
  • Christ died and conquered death to be their king (vv.4-9)
  • We will all stand before God's judgment seat (vv.10-13)

The unity Romans 14 calls for is not unity for its own sake. No, it is unity in God's presence and for his pleasure. Our unity is formed under God leadership not ours -so we listen to his word. Our unity is formed under his judgment - so we do not concern ourselves with our own judgment but his on the matter disputed.

At our local school our youngest daughter once received a badge they hand out for living up to one of the school values. They call it the Kookaburra Pin. They have a whole assembly to give them out. The headmaster announces it, teacher gives it the class and school watch on. But as she took to the stage, she looked around until she saw the one she needed to see…her Mum! And she smiled and gave a sneaky wave. That’s who’s acceptance she wants, that’s who she lives to please.

You want to live in view of God’s mercy, in all of life (Romans 12.1) you want to fulfil the call to love your brother or sister in Christ (Romans 13.8) even in disputable matters? Then stop looking at yourself, stop even looking at them, look up and view Him.

The one who has accepted you by grace. Who is your King - you serve at his pleasure. His verdict alone matters. And by sheer grace, he has already delivered it - justified and inseparably loved!

a prayer for today

A Prayer of Thanksgiving - Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people, Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant (1 Kings 8.56).


13th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 13

Understand the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

Romans 13.11-12

Romans 13 says being a Christian is about waking up to see everything has changed…

I remember a holiday in the UK, on the north coast of Devon, in the dead of winter. We arrived in darkness, down seemingly endless country roads with 10ft hedges each side, and finally we stumbled on the cottage, we couldn’t see much in the darkness and we began to wonder what we were doing there in cold and dark and wet.

But I remember Liz and I being up before sunrise the next day (with a newborn baby) and as the light of day started to appear…and we looked out the kitchen window …just wow!

Filling the whole field of vision so much beauty and coats were quickly put on and we all raced outside to see this incredible view.

I remember my son saying, ‘Wow…Dad it looks like the whole world is here!’Wow…Dad it looks like the whole world is here!’

Being a Christian is about the gospel of Jesus Christ waking us up to a whole new world and calling us to put on our new coat and go for a run.

It is a call to put aside the old coat of rebellion against God and put on the coat of light (Romans 13.12).

Romans 13 has a number of descriptions of this new coat (Romans 13.8-10), this coat of light…but perhaps the clearest description comes at the end of the chapter - clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13.14).

Christian wake up, Pyjamas off, grab your coat and go for a run in the world!

a prayer for today

Prayer of Repentance - Almighty and Everlastiing God, who hates nothing that You have made and does forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain from You, the God os all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


12th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 12

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul looks back at the spectacular view of God's mercy for all the nations of this world, in Jesus Christ and says, if you are seeing that view clearly then there is only one logical response - whole life, whole body, whole souled giving of our whole life in service of this God of mercy! To live for his pleasure!

We are told in Romans 12.2 that the only way we can avoid simply confirming to the self-serving pattern of this world is to be transformed, by having our minds renewed by God and his merciful word to us - it is why this daily time in his word is so crucial to living in response to his mercy. We need to be transformed!

In Romans 12.11 we are given a picture of what giving all our life in his service will look like.

1 - it will not be half hearted, it will be passionate (never lacking zeal!)

And the only way our passionate won't burn out is to 'keep our spiritual favour' - to place our lives on the hotplate of God's passionate word to us. Let this be what drives your passion for God. our resources are paltry, his are endless.

2 - It is not a directionless passion, it is focused on one goal - serving the Lord.

And here we see what no longer being conformed to the world looks like. Ours is a world where the ultimate service is self-service! But, God has created us to serve something far more worthy than ourselves, or even ultimately, each other. Serve the Lord!

Serve Jesus Christ as Lord - not yourself

Serve Jesus Christ as Lord - not others

Serve the one...

who gives us life to the full

who cannot die and so nor can we

who promises joy forever

who works in everything for our good

who keeps us safe from judgement

who will serve you better than you can serve yourself

who will give you the resources to serve others as he does

a prayer for today

Pray for single parents - who have it particularly difficult in working at home and looking after children.


11th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 11

By Romans 11 we are left to ask, does the hardness of heart of so many in Israel and the receiving of salvation of so many among the nations, mean that God has now totally and forever abandoned the Jews?

We hear Paul's emphatic answer twice - By no means! (11.1) Not at all! (11.11).

He cites himself as a case in point!

He then makes clear that God has used the hardening of Israel to him to let his grace flow on from them to many in the nations. But, he also makes clear that there is more to the story yet for many amongst the Jews - who like a rescued remnant will be saved by grace (11.5-6).

We are not told the specifics, but what is clear that God plays a long game, when it comes to his purposes, his grace and his salvation. We would do well to remember that as we pray for those we know and love who are still hard hearted toward him. We would do well to be broken hearted as Paul is here and to plead for mercy for them! But, we must be patient!

I remember in my teenage years, sitting in the youth group my brother and I attended and up the front an 85 year old man was being interviewed and he'd come to encourage us to pray for people to be saved - he told the story of praying for his best mate for 65 years before he became a Christian. I remember that interview for two reasons: First, because it inspired me to pray and not give up on people. Second, because now one of the people I pray for is my brother.

a prayer for today

Pray for those who are finding working at home difficult - with perhaps limited space and facilities and the difficulty of establishing a new routine.


10th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 10

Romans 9-11 addresses this question - why is it that so many Jews (religious…insiders) have failed to attain righteousness in God's sight, and yet so many irreligious outsiders, amongst the gentiles have obtained this salvation?

Each chapter provides part of the answer. In chapter 10 we see part II of the answer. We move from God’s sovereignty to human responsibility, in receiving this gracious salvation.

And this part of the answer will be what we need to hear, if in some way we feel self-justified in our right status before God.

Paul asks why have so many gentiles and so few jews found salvation? How answer is to ask us to consider how each group has responded to this offer of righteousness by grace, through faith.

Gentiles (9.30) – here is the scandal of grace. in God’s sovereign purposes, many who were not pursuing a saving relationship with God have found precisely that! Because when they heard of this promise, they received it for exactly what it is – grace!

Here you see the sovereign grace of God in full flight. They’d not pursued righteousness with God, but in the midst of normal life they’d stumbled on it - like some treasure in a field. And having heard the promise contained they claimed their share in this salvation - not by merit, but by mercy

As Jesus said… The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, in his joy, he went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Or picture the story Jesus tells of the tax collector and Pharisee both at prayer before God. Here in Romans Paul says many Gentiles are like the tax-collector - absolutely amazed that they would be able to come home justified, righteous. Unlike the Pharisee who missed out even though he was utterly convinced he was the ideal candidate for such a prize.

And that brings us to the second response to this promise of righteousness by grace - many among Israel (those who had first known this gracious promise)…missed the promise (and this is a tragedy – 9.2, 10.1). They heard the word and instead of crying out for mercy, they like the Pharisee, pursued righteousness as a wage for their works, which was a dead end...

This is the gospel for all -Jew and Gentile - everyone who in humble need, because of their sin, come in humble faith to call on the name of Jesus, can claim him as their righteousness. He alone is their reason to stand before the judge, without shame.

Not by works…but by grace…

a prayer for today

Pray for Christian nurses and doctors who have opportunity to bear witness to Christ in the midst of this pandemic. Pray for protection, clarity, faith and love.


9th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 9

Romans 9-11 addresses this question - why is it that so many Jews (religious…insiders) have failed to attain righteousness in God's sight, and yet so many irreligious outsiders, amongst the gentiles have obtained this salvation?

Each chapter provides part of the answer. In chapter 9 we see part I of the answer:

Religious insiders (and historically the Jews) fail to see that God's sovereign grace of salvation is not just for 1 people (Israel but for all).

Salvation is not the possession of the religious, nor is it their reward for obedience. But it is the result of God’s good and sovereign choice, for this mercy to flow beyond them, to the world.

a prayer for today

A Prayer of Thanksgiving - Open my lips Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise…My sacrifice O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart you will not despise. (Ps. 51.15, 17)


8th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 8

Romans tells the story of how a person can go from this:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7.24)

to this:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8.1)

Who can save this wretched man, a prisoner under judgment?

Jesus, walking the path instead of me can. Such that God is able to declare this…

THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS

We are hidden, by faith in Christ Jesus...all the force of the blow of judgment hits him and not us...

As Romans 8 goes on we see this grace changes everything:

8.2 – we are now free from sin and death! The image of a prisoner released. God starts your life again!

8.15 – and we are free to call God Father!

Don’t forget how amazing grace is

I hope there are times when, even if you are an old hand at this grace thing, it catches you heart of guard again and you stunned by God’s mighty kindness.

Have a read of this quote from the Sydney Morning Herald about the death of 2 of the infamous Bali 9 Drug Traffickers, who had become Christians while in prison.

In the still night air of Nusakambangan island, condemned prisoners sang Amazing Grace just after midnight…

As details began to emerge of the final minutes of the group, including Bali 9 pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, it’s revealed all eight prisoners rebuffed offers of blindfolds, opting instead to stare at their executioners while they sang.

The Pastor with them said the voices of the group cut through the air.

"They were praising their God," "It was breathtaking.

This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God."

“ They sang one song after another.

Praising God. They sang a few songs together, like in a choir.

"The non-Christian, I believe, also sang from his heart.”

Where does the courageous joy to sing praise to God, even in the midst of complete darkness, come from?

It comes from the one, whose gift to these broken and hopeless men is greater than their trespass.

It comes from the one who, because of Christ crucified, can call things that are not, as if they are.

Who can declare loudly over the top of that tragic scene, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

A prayer for today

A prayer for today: A Prayer of Repentance - Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin. (Ps. 51.1-2). Amen.


7th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 7

In Romans 6 we saw that there is a choice before us each day - slavery to sin or surrender to Jesus Christ. Romans 7 powerfully describes the struggle we face to choose well.

I suspect we all know this struggle. But, our conclusion is often misplaced. In our struggle, we conclude the problem is outside of us (someone or something else is to blame) but the solution is within in us (I have power to fix it).

However, Romans is showing us that the heart of then human problem is the problem of the human heart. The problem is us.

In Romans 7 as the Apostle Paul describes his own struggle his conclusion of the problem is this - What a wretched man I am!

But, while the problem is serious. He is not despondent but hopeful. He looks inside at the problem, but outside for the solution.

Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (7.24)Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: Pray for those who dread being isolated at home - because they are victims of domestic violence.


6th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 6

Two paths are set before us, as before all in our world.

slavery to sin => shame and death

surrender to Jesus => holiness and life

It is a choice we make, not just once, but every moment of every day, in all of life. It is about the decision to present every part of our lives to his service.

'True freedom is not freedom from all responsibility to God and man, in order to live for myself, but exactly the opposite. True freedom is freedom from myself and from the cramping tyranny of my own self-centeredness in order to live in love for God and others. In such self-giving love is an authentically free and human life to be found'

John Stott.

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: Pray for those in churches who do not have access to the internet. That they would still find ways to connect and remain in fellowship.


5th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 5

One of the first passages of scripture I ever tried to commit to memory is Romans 5.6-8. They are wonderful verses to be able to recall in your heart and mind, to remember just what God is like and just what we are like and to marvel that there is hope!

So, here's a challenge. Why not try to memorise these 3 verses. It will do your soul good!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


The verses remind me of a story one of my favourite Christian writers (Helmut Thielicke) tells in one of his books - of visiting a a group of inmates in a prison, who by the world's measure had run out of chances - powerless sinners.

The convicts in the photograph represent this side of me. What in me is a hidden darkness has erupted to the surface in them. In that darkness there was no light, only black pints, labyrinths, and hopeless dead-end streets. But now the reflection of another light shines upon their faces. Long before they began to ask whether there was still any hope and meaning in their lives, Someone was already on his way to them. God comes to find us no matter where we are. And when it seems that everything has come to a dead end, then God's chance really begins.

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: Pray for those who are becoming tired and stressed in the midst of this season. That we would know the peace of Christ.


4th May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 4

Romans 4 has one of my all time favourite descriptions of our God, verse 7, The God who calls into being things that were not..

It is a wonderful description of God's creative power. And in the context it is his power to bring about life where none seemed possible. But, Paul uses that to describe an even greater miracle - God's power to call us to new life by grace, through faith in Jesus.

We must not for a moment think that our faith in Jesus is a natural occurrence. It is a miracle, against all the odds of human rebellion and God's rightful judgment. Our salvation comes by grace alone!

We live in a world that is full of noises that give some indication of the terrible mess we are in. Some of these noises seem far from us. But some of the noises are very close. And some of the noises are our own.

We live in a broken world, a world under God’s wrath, a world as TS Elliott said that is “going to end with a whimper, not bang”.

When you recognise you live in a world like this, and when you see that we are powerless to break free from that, then you know just how sweet the sound of grace is!

It is the sound of forgiveness

It is the sound of sins being remembered no more

It is the sound of the gift of righteousness

It is the sound of God’s glorious promise to Abraham that echoes through the centuries and says to you that God’s Son has died so that you may live, repent and believe.

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: A Prayer of Thanksgiving - Lord, we thank you that you are not only the God who makes promises, but your keep them. Not one of your promises has ever failed. Lord, teach us your word and enable us to trust your promises. In Christ’s name. Amen.


3rd May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 3

No comment today. I just want to encourage you to read this and thank God for his grace!

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

A song to start your Sunday!

https://youtu.be/5ldnirL-uhQ

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: A Prayer of Repentance - O Lord, we beseech You favourably to hear the prayers of your people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by your goodness, for the glory of Your Name; Through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


2nd May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 2

In the opening chapters of Romans (1-3) the Apostle Paul is deliberately taking time to show us what a precious and powerful gift the gospel of Jesus really is - salvation for those who believe. He is also making clear that humanity has a universal and desperate need of this gift from God.

Romans 1 - the non religious need the gift of salvation

Romans 2 - the religious need the gift of salvation

Here in Romans 2 the Apostle takes aim at the religious self righteous. For those of us who would pretend or presume that our religiosity would see us in good standing before God, we are told:

My hypocritical self-righteous condemnation of others actually condemns me.

and

My self-righteous hypocrisy blinds me to the fact that God is merciful and I too need to repent.

The stark reality revealed to us is that (v.16) God is coming as judge. He has set the day - all humanity, without favour, will come before his judgement seat. And the only safe way to come is by his grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

a prayer for today

A prayer for today: Pray for those who are struggling with establishing a new routine in ‘lockdown’. That we would use the time wisely and see it as a blessing rather than a curse.


1st May 2020 - Bible Reading - Romans 1

Today we begin our journey through the most significant and substantial book in the New Testament - Romans.

Romans is soaked in sublime theology and rich in detail. But at its heart, it is about 1 simple, powerful, unstoppable thing - the gospel of God!

In this letter we will hear the relentless call of the gospel of God - which is God's mighty power at work (Romans 1.16):

to turn lives around

to dismantle human pride and build humble saving faith

to destroy prejudice, division, patriotism and disunity.

to fill a life with a mission that is unstoppable

In Romans there are no small words, no filler, no spin. But simply, substantially, wonderfully, the mighty gospel of God writ large.

Here's Christopher Ash on Romans:

‘Only a church deeply soaked in the the gospel will live in harmony. Only a church thoroughly taught the gospel will reach out with passion. For only the gospel of God concerning his son humbles men and women to the ground, so that human pride that cultivates sin and makes a church a club, ceases and we begin to reach out from this humble ground.’

Looking forward to reading Romans together through the first half of May.

A prayer for today

Pray for Christians leaders who have a media presence and influence beyond their own congregations. That this would be used wisely to proclaim Christ and not themselves.