The Potency of the Gospel – The Power of God
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 ESV)
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, FOR.” Here is the why. “It is the power of God for salvation.” (Romans 1:16)
Paul realized it wasn’t his gospel or any human being’s gospel. He didn’t preach Paul’s gospel or Peter’s gospel or John’s gospel or the Jews’ gospel or the Gentiles’ gospel. What would be the point? There is no forgiveness of sins in Paul’s name or Peter’s name or John’s name or your name or my name. Our gospels and all our self-help gurus and doctors and health experts, and psychologists, and all the medical knowledge of the whole world can’t save us from death much less the wrath and judgment from God. No. We need power to save that we don’t have.
Longings Marked by Love
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.” (Romans 1:11-13 ESV)
“For I long to see you.” Paul has never met them. He doesn’t know any of them personally. Yet he has prayed for them ceaselessly and the desire of his heart is to see them. This is Christian brotherhood and love. He has heard so much about their faith and obedience. He realizes the challenges they face doing ministry in the imperial city of Rome. His heart is with them and he can’t wait to see them.
Notice that Paul has at least three unfulfilled longings for the Roman Christians: To see them, to bless them, and to be blessed by them. The language he uses is to “impart…some spiritual gift.” What gift? Is it a spiritual gift specifically like knowledge or service or a more general spiritual encouragement? I think the latter. Among the best spiritual graces that go with being a Christian is to be with other like-minded Christians!
You mean for immature Christians that is helpful. I’m mature and I don’t really need other Christians. Please see what Paul says, “…that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:12)
Greetings and Gospel
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures…” (Romans 1:1-2 ESV) You see Paul’s name at the beginning of the letter. This was the custom of the day. You began with your name, then the person you were writing to, then gave greetings. Paul expands that basic template and fills it with Christian truth.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” The language Paul wrote his original letter in was Greek. Through the series I will occasionally refer to the Greek words behind our English translation. For example, in the original Greek, these seven verses are all one sentence. Things like that. The word “servant” here is another. Doulos in the Greek could also be translated “slave.” It would have been shocking in first-century Rome. Rome might go down as the most obsessed-with-power city of all time. It makes Washington DC look like a recess playground. Julius Caesar. Beware the Ides of March.
Nobody wanted to be a slave and nobody would call themselves one. But Paul has no qualms describing his life as one of complete devotion and service to Jesus. Are we comfortable calling ourselves a doulos of Jesus? Are we living like that?
The Present Family – Broken & Blessed
My encouragement today is for you to see the blessing and curses of your family as part of a bigger story. How?
The blessings of family are remnant gifts from creation
In this way, the experience of human family, especially a Christian family, tells the whole story of redemption. Marital intimacy is a reminder of when everything was great. A fun family movie night when everyone gets along echoes an ancient harmony. Family speaking words of honor, love, and respect sounds and feels noble and meaningful. The child dedication. The piano recital. Walking your daughter down the aisle. Singing together on the family road trip. When family is awesome, it is really awesome. It used to be awesome always.
The fact that it’s still here is something we take for granted. God chose to allow family to continue even after sin. Not everything continued—unending life being one example. Many things were lost, but not family. It is a gracious gift from God and we should be thankful that we even have a family. No matter how broken your family is, have you given thanks that you have one?
Tony Reinke, in his book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, asks questions about our smartphone use, among them are:
- “Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements?
- Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?
- Do my smartphone habits distract me from genuine communion with God?
- Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?
- Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?” (Tony Reinke)
Convicting enough? For me too. So, what should we do? How should we approach the technological marvels? Here are some helps.
Five Strategies for Dealing with an Annoying Family Member
Overlook the annoyance/offense
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 ESV)
Proverbs is written to describe practical Christian living. Over the years, this verse has come to my mind regularly as I am deciding whether to be upset about something or not. It is a man’s glory to overlook an offense. This is describing a character quality. It’s the ability to be magnanimous toward the faults of others. Pettiness magnifies the little faults of others. Every little slight or fault is repeated and nursed into a grudge. But it is a glorious person who overlooks the offense.
As Christians, we have a very real basis for overlooking slights against us. God is the judge, not me. “I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) It goes on to encourage us to do good to our enemies knowing God will make all things just in the end.
Anger and bitterness come from me refusing to let God settle the score. I want to do it and my irritation, big or small, is my way of making you hurt back. The key is to be hard to annoy. Are you easily annoyed? Don’t be “annoyable.” How? Overlook it. To overlook is to choose not to look at something anymore. You overlook it.
Helps for the Crazy Busy Family
Identify the idols behind the busy
Idols are good things elevated to ultimate things. It is easy to pick on Martha here. Meals are good. Silverware is needed. Jesus ate many meals, and all of them required preparation. There’s nothing wrong with any of that and it certainly can be done with proper priorities. But Martha elevated a secondary thing to a primary thing. Mary realized that when God is in your home, the most important thing is him. Jesus trumps the table setting.