When I read verse 15 I am encouraged and depressed at the same time, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. If Paul feels like he has trouble controlling the influence of sin in his life, what hope do I have? To top it all off, Paul goes on to say in verse 24, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? If Paul had left it there I would be completely without hope. However, Paul does give us hope by concluding the chapter with verse 25, Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Because of God, through Jesus Christ, we are free from the power of sin. This doesn’t mean we won’t sin, it just means we don’t need to let it control us. In yesterday’s post, my friend Brian made a great comment. In essence, he made the observation that we must seek out our Master daily so we can know His desires for our lives. The daily renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2) is what frees us from the control of sin in our lives.
In our modern world we don’t often think of the implications of slavery anymore. We mostly see it as our past and the lessons we can learn from our history. But when Paul talks about slavery in this chapter, he is speaking from a first hand perspective. Slavery was common in his day and when he talks about sin being you master in verse 14, he is also talking about being set free from sin because we are under grace, For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Since we are no longer under the law, grace has set us free from focusing only on controlling the individual sins in our lives and allows us to focus on the big picture of concentrating on having a relationship with God. Verse 16 goes on to talk about what we should be slaves to, Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? In the end, it is much better to focus on being a slave to righteousness, not because it is a requirement of salvation, but because God wants what is best for us which is why He sacrificed His Son for us in the first place.
Romans 5 is all about the story of redemption. From verses 1-11, Paul talks about how we are justified through Christ’s blood. In verses 5-8 Paul explains how unwilling most of us would be to die for a righteous man and how much less for an unrighteousness one. But Christ died for us, all of the unrighteous ones. No matter how good we think we are, we are simply not good enough and without Christ’s sacrifice we are unrighteous in the eyes of the only one that matters; God, our father, the creator. In verse 11 Paul concludes by saying the words we all need to hear, Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. In God’s eyes we are reconciled. We are now righteous in His sight and that is all that matters. The world may see the sin and imperfection in our lives, but God our father sees us clean and worthy of being called righteous through Christ’s blood. While I don’t feel worth at times, I praise God for His mercy and grace.
In today’s reading, Paul uses David as an example of how God forgives and is able to continue to bless us. In verse 6 it says, David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Paul goes on, in verses 7-8, to quote David’s words from Psalm 32:1-2, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” These words came from a man who lied, committed adultery, and murder and yet God allowed him to experience the joy of forgiveness. If we recognize, admit, and let go of our guilt and accept God’s forgiveness, we too can experience the joy God has promised us. Thank you God for forgiving me of all my sins and for covering my sins to the point where they are no longer counted against me. May I be as forgiving of others as God is of me.
Depending how you choose to look at it, verse 23 will either give you hope or despair, until you read on to verse 24, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. I feel an incredible amount of hope in these verses. God already knows I have fallen short of what He requires of me to be justified. But because of the redemption I receive from Christ, I am justified in the eyes of God. I get very frustrated when I realize I am so weak and so full of sin. Sometimes it’s hard to feel I am redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. However, when I read verses like this, I am reassured that redemption comes to all who repent and accept grace; giving me hope through these verses.
We always want to put our best foot forward. We always want to show everyone our best side. While that makes people around us more at ease and happier to be around us, the real us is who we are inside. Paul uses circumcision as an outward indicator of what makes someone a Jew. In verses 28-29 it says, A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. What makes us who we are is what is inside through Christ and the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We may be able to fool people around us when things are going wrong, but God knows who we really are. For this reason it is important that we work on improving inwardly so that we can outwardly express who we are in Christ and who the Holy Spirit is making us become.
Today we start one of the most powerful books of the Bible; Romans! This book was written by Paul before he ever even visited the Romans. It was written as Paul prepares for his visit to Jerusalem and approximately 57 years after Christ’s sacrifice. He writes this letter as a presentation of his faith to the Roman people, which does not give it the typical form of a letter except for brief greetings at the beginning of the book and more detailed greetings at end. His intention in writing this is to introduce himself to the Roman church which is mostly Jewish, but also has a considerable number of Gentiles.
Within the first few verses Paul gets to the point very quickly and delivers the premise of his message. Verse 16 says, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Paul does not mince words in expressing his belief and faith in the gospel of Christ. He was definitely not ashamed and he proved it over and over with each form of persecution and near death experience. Where we live in Franklin, TN it is not difficult to carry the flag of my belief in the gospel. My boldness and desire to serve God must go beyond the comfort of where I live. I pray that I am never ashamed to share what I believe no matter where I am or what I’m doing because the gospel is truly the power of God shown through salvation which is available to everyone, no matter where they live or what they have done.
Psalm 55:22 stood out to me today, Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. The same God that sustains us each day wants us to trust in Him and cast all of our cares on Him. God is always there and sometimes my human self feels like He is waiting to see when I screw up. The truth is He is waiting there to pick me up and dust me off and help me to continue to move forward. Nothing I could ever do could ever surprise or shock God. He knows I am a weak human being who needs Him more than I need anything else in my life. It’s time I started acting as if God is big enough for all of my cares and that I start casting my burdens on Him so He can help me. I will never be strong enough, and He will never grow tired of caring for me.
The first two verses in today’s reading struck me right away. Psalm 42:1-2, 1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Our lives depend on God 100%. We are like the deer in verse 1 who realizes he will die without water, and so will we if we do not find God. Separation from water for the deer is the equivalent of separation from God in our lives. Both will ultimately lead to death. When we feel separated from God we must seek to be with Him even more.
Today we briefly go back into the history of the church as we visit Acts 20. Paul is saying goodbye to the elders of the Ephesus and he lets them know that where ever he goes, prison and hardship are part of his future. It is humbling to see that even while he looks to a future of suffering, Paul sees hope in verse 24, However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. How often do I ask God to take my burdens away instead of asking God to allow me to finish this race strong. Reading this today has given me a new perspective on how I should be approaching my life of service to God. Instead of asking for my life to be easy, I should be asking God to give me strength when (not if) life gets hard. I also need to consider hardship as an honor when it comes to serving God, not a burden. I know this is easier said than done, but it gives me a new perspective of how things should be.