What is faith?
God fulfilled his age old promise to bless all the nations through Abraham’s seed by coming
to earth himself as a man, our Emmanuel, to redeem mankind from the curse through Jesus Christ The LORD (thus the meaning of God’s name YHWH – Behold the Hand, Behold the Nail). God expects us to take him at his word (faith) regarding the salvation he provides. He is the promised Messiah who came not to save Israel from Rome, but the world from Satan’s rule. To all who believe and receive Christ (appropriate faith), God saves them from the power of sin, the penalty of sin as well as the presence of sin one day in the future. Not only has he removed sin from us, He personally gives us his own righteousness making us acceptable to Holy Almighty God. This is not only “Good News”, but fantastic news. When this righteousness controls your life, you are walking in faith. This means that like exercise, we can strengthen our confidence (faith) in God and help others exercise it as well. The more we know God and his plans for this age as revealed to us in his word, the more faith we can express to others. (Picture credit – Donell Trostrud)
Are you obliged to take the Gospel to others?
Paul felt obligated to go to Rome because of God’s heart was to send someone to them. Satan doesn’t want anyone to hear the Gospel and tried to stop Paul, but God saw him through to get to those people. Paul could have given up at the first sign of persecution for the sake of his personal safety; he could have given up due to his poor health i.e. thorn in the flesh saying “let the younger generation go”. He could have given up because of difficulties and imprisonment; but he didn’t. As a result, there is a church in Rome and we have this wonderful Epistle because of what God did through him. He was obligated by God’s love. Are we so obligated? Are we so captivated by God’s love for a people that we will undergo similar hardships to let God reach others through us? What excuse are you holding on to which is preventing you from reaching the un-reached?
Paul’s Longing to Visit Rome
Rom 1:8-17 Control click this Bible Gateway link for the NIV or get your favorite Bible out.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of all encouragement. My Gospel is The Good News. Those who know this Good News will never have to fret over hell and punishment again; they never have to be ashamed of their sin nature because they are accepted in Christ. Those who know me in this way have this encouragement within them and can encourage others with it too. How are you encouraging others with my encouragement?
I AM the God of righteousness. My righteousness, comes from my character. Only my righteousness is acceptable to me. My idea of righteousness is far above all religion or ideas of men and I freely give my righteousness to those who believe my word on the matter. My Gospel is the only way to receive my righteousness and become acceptable in my sight. You cannot obtain it from my Son in any other way but by faith. Are you living righteously in character as I dwell in you?
I AM the God of circumstances. I AM the God who orchestrates the growth of the church. I AM the God of Salvation for everyone who believes – Jew and Gentile; Greek and non-Greek. I work through all your circumstances to bring you to an end in your own strength, resources, ability and pride. In each circumstance, are you depending upon my mercy to save you and to make you like my son? But first you need to receive my Son before I can make you like him or like me in true righteousness. Rom 8:28, 29 say so. Consequently, you never have to ask me the question “Why God” again. Circumstances give you the opportunity to see your inability and live by faith in my mercy. In this world of uncertainty and trouble, I AM the God who is in you and with you forever. And as much as you know me, can you have my peace, confidence and joy that I am working through all these hard things for your good and my glory. Are you allowing my Sovereignty to give you peace?
We can give spiritual gifts to others
We each have a piece of the puzzle to understanding who God is and what his word says to us through our collective circumstances. God’s Word was written in a historic context and inherently says one thing, but God’s Spirit can speak to each person with a different application and spiritual blessing for the mutual encouragement of the body. Paul says so much in verse 11. We can impart these “spiritual gifts” to each other to mutually strengthen each other. It is sad that few people feel competent to think that they have something to share with someone else, but if God has comforted your heart through a hardship, or has taught you something from the Word, you have an obligation to share it with other believers who might be enduring like circumstance even if to check the veracity and accuracy of your own doctrine. You never know who you can help by your sharing what God teaches you.
I am my brother’s keeper
Unlike Cain’s response to God regarding the well being of his brother Abel, it is each of our responsibility to look after the spiritual well being of other believers. It is a symbiotic relationship. I help you, and you help me. Paul prayed for them, and longed to come and see them, to teach and encourage them. It is God’s responsibility to make us grow, but he will bring others in our lives to share what they have learned, to understand their piece of the spiritual puzzle to fill in our own gaps in understanding. As you read verses 17 through 21, you can understand how mutual encouragement will keep you from progressing down the slippery slope of depravity which starts with a simple failure to be thankful and acknowledgment of God in our lives. See also Phil 1:14, 24, 26 and Heb 3: 12, 13. You see the deceitfulness of sin creeps in slowly and because of your sin nature you cannot see its corruption of your thinking until it is too late. This is why we must keep seeking God’s heart to make the contrast of the pleasures of the world stand out like a red flag. We will talk more on this next week.
More to come,