Monday, May 16, 2011

This week's message: Level Ground

Romans 1:16-2:16.

Many times this last half of Romans chapter 1 is quoted to heap condemnation on those who struggle in a few particular areas of sin--mostly sexual sin. If we read the passage and stop before chapter 2, verse 1, we often feel pretty holy in comparison to all "those people" that Paul is describing who live their lives apart from God. Surely we don't fall into the category of "wickedness, evil, greed and depravity."

We feel really safe until we look deeper into these words and find that evil is really better translated "injustice," and greed better understood as "wanting more." Injustice is not giving God and people their due. Who among us has never shortchanged God or our fellow human beings in love, kindness, and compassion? Who among us is completely satisfied with what we have and do not desire more?

It is important for us to recognize our place in this fallen state so that we can accept what Paul tells us in the opening verses of chapter 2. "
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." These things bring death and destruction into our lives and the lives of others around us. God will not look more kindly on our sin than the sins of others.

We like that God has kindness, patience and tolerance for our sin. His kindness brings us to repentance. We lose sight of this truth when we call God's wrath down on others. His kindness, tolerance, and patience applies to all because his desire is to draw all mankind to himself. When we justify ourselves while condemning others we show that our hearts are not in unity with his. "
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."

The next few verses are a further emphasis that God's judgment is based on our actions and our knowledge or awareness of what is good. He is leading and driving us toward the ultimate declaration in chapter 3, verse 23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The key challenge in today's scripture is to lay down our stubbornness and un-repentance, recognize our place in the fallen world and seek God's free forgiveness.

God has grace for all of our sins, whether great or small. He wants to bring forgiveness and healing into our lives. What we must do is surrender to his grace all the broken, wounded, and corrupted places in our hearts and lives.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This Week's Schedule

Tuesday May 3rd- Ladies Group 6:30pm

Sunday May 8th-
Sunday School 9:30am
Fellowship time 10:30am
Meeting for Worship 10:45am
Iglesia Evangelica de Amigos 3:00pm

This week's message: Called to Belong to Jesus

Romans 1;1-7.

In these first seven verses, Paul introduces himself and his mission. Paul says he is a slave of Christ Jesus, set apart for apostleship, given a mission to call others to obedience in faith, to be saints and to belong to Jesus.

We don't have a great modern understanding of the relationship Paul claims to have with Jesus. It is stronger than an employee and more voluntary than purchased slavery. The best way to express it is really that Paul has sold out to Christ. Jesus actually owns him and directs his life.

Paul says he has been set apart for a purpose. William Barclay suggests that this is a play on words, as Pharisee can be interpreted as Set-apart-one. Paul had been a Pharisee, set apart for his own personal holiness. Now Paul is set apart for a purpose, for the benefit of others.

Paul's purpose is to be sent out among the nations. The book of Acts gives us this picture of Paul constantly going out, moving on, and moving further into territory where people have never heard. He went out to call people to obedience that comes from faith.

Obedience from faith is much different than obedience from obligation or fear of punishment. We have all experienced obedience that does not come from faith. We all had parents who told us to obey "Because I said so!" We all had teachers and employers who required obedience on pain of detention, docking our wages or firing. Paul's mission is to call people to obedience that comes from faith that God is good.

Many of us grew up seeing God as someone to be afraid of a cosmic punisher of wrong. It is not that God does not represent judgment, but rather that he is not sitting somewhere waiting for us to mess up so that he can hurl lightning at us. When we come to know and understand who God is, his kindness, mercy and compassion, we obey from faith in who he is and from our love for him.

Paul also calls these people at Rome to belong to Jesus. Paul has introduced himself as one who is sold out to Christ, and he is calling those reading this letter to do the same. When we believe in Christ Jesus as Lord, we must in that recognition give him our very selves. If he is to be Lord, he must be our Lord. He must own our lives.

Finally, Paul calls these believers saints. Most of us would not raise our hands if a call were made for saints. We see sainthood as a state of perfection, and it does mean "Holy one." Holy is a tricky word that at its core means "set apart." Paul is calling people to be as he is, set apart for God's purpose.

In essence, Paul is saying in this introduction "This is who I am, and I am calling you to the same life, purpose and Lord." That was his challenge to the Romans, and it is my challenge to you. You have been called to obedience that comes from faith, to belong to Jesus at the core of your being, so that you will be set apart for his purpose.