Don't Give Up!

Don’t Give Up

Don't Give Up!

My Dear Friends,

So many are giving up and giving in to despondency, discouragement, disappointment and depression. It is evident in their general “I don’t care attitude” resulting from a mistaken belief that what they are doing really doesn’t make any difference in life any way. This sense of failure is often the result of trying and praying only to have their expectations not met.

Life is a journey in which we frequently find ourselves sliding off the paths before us. It would be so easy just to lie there and give up. Many find themselves in situations where fear, failure, and frustration have paralyzed them until they have lost all desire to go on. How we need to hear what Jesus is saying to us at this moment when He says, “Arise, let us go on” (John 14:31).

There are so many things that can cause us to slide off the straight and narrow path of life. We must let Jesus, who has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), guide and direct us each and every moment. Disappointment, sickness,

or the death of a loved one can cause us to slide off the path of life to the extent that we feel like giving up. As we make this journey, we must never forget we are not alone. The wonders of creation are a constant reminder of God, the Creator who is forever with us. The Bible is the Living Word, which reveals to us a Savior who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Paul, a man whose life was a slippery journey until he came face to face with the Living Christ, declared, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3: 7, 8).

Knowing about Christ is quite different from knowing Him. There are many great theologians who know a lot about Him but in a time of crisis or personal loss, they totally crumble because they don’t really know Him.

The Prophet Habakkuk, because he really knew the Lord, did not slide off the path of life. He not only declared in Hab.2:4, “The righteous will live by his faith,” but he also went on in chapter 3 verses 17-19 to show us how this is applied in times of difficulty. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He make my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”

Knowing God’s grace, love and power manifested through Jesus Christ and the wonders of creation enables us to not only stand firm but go on to new heights. In the Revised Standard Version, Daniel 11:32 states, “The people that know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Instead of slipping and sliding down the road of life, those who know God will stand firm, not paralyzed, by fear or frustration but posed for direct action.

In the book of Daniel we see how Daniel and his three friends, even when moved as captives to a foreign land, did not slip into depression but rose above their circumstances to do a mighty work for God. They prayed trusting God, and were delivered from the fiery furnace, the lion’s den and the tyranny of the age in which they lived. In the midst of adversity Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego and Daniel were fully persuaded that God had everything under control.

Psalm 40:1, 2 tells us what it means to know God and to be delivered from the slimy pits that we find ourselves all to frequently sliding into. “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Jesus is our solid rock. As we stand upon His word, He gives us a firm place to stand in this slipping age of greed and corruption.

Psalm 40:3-5 tells us the result of trusting in the Lord. “Blessed is the man (and the woman) who makes the Lord his (or her) trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”

Knowing God involves first humbling ourselves and honestly admitting how much we need Him and His direction in our daily lives. “This is what the LORD says: “The wise man is not to boast in his wisdom; the strong man is not to boast in his strength; and the rich man is not to boast in his riches. Rather, let the one who boasts, boast in this: that he understands and knows me, for I am the LORD who acts with gracious love, justice, and righteousness in the land. I delight in these things,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23 ISV).

God made it possible for us to know Him by sending His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world (John 3:16). For that reason Jesus could declare “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6, 7).

Knowing the Lord allows us to see ourselves the way God sees us. We believe it when the Bible says, “The Lord is with you O valiant warrior,” (Judges 6:12).

Yes, you may have made mistakes in the past, but thanks be to God who through Jesus provides forgiveness of sins and the hope of a new beginning. It is a new day and God desires to do a new and powerful work in you and through you. Don’t give up. Stand steadfast and stop allowing your weaknesses and insecurities of the past to keep you from the greatness God is calling you to this day.

The Lord has said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” Now develop the same attitude that Paul did as he continues in 2 Cor.12:9, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.”

You don’t have to keep beating up on yourself every time you give in to that nasty habit that you are struggling with. Instead, further surrender that area of your life to Jesus Christ and pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Ps.17:8).

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph.6:14-15).

Stand steadfast as the scriptures say. Don’t give up but remember, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph.2:10).

You may not feel at this moment that you are God’s workmanship, created in His image. Maybe you even feel trapped in a rut, but there is hope. Christ is risen! Say to yourself at this moment, “God has lifted me out of the horrible pit, and He set my feet upon a rock and put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:2-3).

Let God put a new song of praise in your mouth today and fill your life with hope. He wants you to know He loves you more than you can ever imagine. “For God so loved the world,” (means you and me) “that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Right now you have a choice for “It shall be done to you according to your faith” (Matt.9:29). If you expect this year defeat, failure and mediocrity, that is what you will get. Or you can remember that it is just as easy to believe God for strength, success and victory, knowing that God has everything under control and that He loves you and wants His best for you.

The reason you can believe God for His best for your life is because you have dedicated your life to Him. You desire to serve Him, reaching out to those in need, sharing His love with others. Take God at His word and make Phil.1:6 personal by declaring, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When we see that, with each passing day, in spite of the circumstances God is perfecting His work within us, we are free to believe that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

When we believe God is working for our good and we know we have been called according to His purpose of sharing His love in word and deed with others, we are free to believe God’s best for our lives. This doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be trapped in a greedy materialistic lifestyle, for we know God’s best far exceeds filthy lucre (money) as Jesus referred to it. God’s best frees us to live in His presence, knowing that God is working daily for our good in spite of the circumstances.

When we realize that God is at work in every situation, life becomes an adventure in faith. What is faith? “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”(Heb.11:1)

Now instead of believing the worst, choose to “taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”(Psalm 34:8)

This past year as New Life Evangelistic Center faced a mountain of financial need, I found myself itemizing these needs on a piece of paper and putting them in my Bible at Phil.4:19 where it says, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” When worry and uncertainty would strike, I found myself turning to that passage, knowing that God would meet that need.

Now I want to invite you to join me in accepting Jesus at His Word when He says, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13, 17) Let us ask Jesus now to work in us to share His love by reopening the 1411 Locust building. Then we could once again provide from that location help for the homeless, food to the hungry, and good news of the eternal life Jesus has provided through His death and resurrection.

Now “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb.12:1, 2). Don’t give up. Give God 100% by doing your very best on every job He has given you. Your efforts for good do make a difference. Your labor is not in vain.

At this hour our Lord is telling us, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Yours in Christ,

The Book of Romans #5 Experiencing Romans 13, 14, 15, and 16

The Book of Romans #5 Experiencing Romans 13, 14, 15, and 16

Dear Co-workers,

As Paul continues to share his insights into the personal responsibility of believers he proceeds to outline in Romans 13:1-7 the need for Christians to be good citizens. Without obedience, cooperation and participation in government there can be no law and order. The result is chaos. Yet in some countries, like Germany during World War II, some used Romans 13:1-7, to either remain silent or to be supportive of Hitler and his government. In America today good citizens are those who recognize that they have been entrusted with the responsibility to see that government leadership is done in a just and moral fashion, not violating God’s commands of compassion. This is particularly true if we believe that the one in authority “is God’s servant to do you good” (Romans 13:4).

Walter Wink in his article Jesus and Alinsky shows us how Jesus submitted Himself to the governing authorities as Paul states must be done in Romans 13:1, and at the same time to God’s command to love and empower the weak. Wink begins his article by citing Jesus’ teaching in Matt.5:38-41 to “not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right check, turn to the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”(Matt.5:38-41 Revised Standard Version) After quoting these verses, Wink goes on to explain, “The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing takes away their potency faster than deft lampooning. By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not possible. This message, far from being a counsel of perfection, unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed.”

“Why then does Jesus counsel those already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of power to humiliate them. The person then who turns the other check is saying in effect, ‘Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you!”

“But why walk the second mile? Is it not to rebound to the opposite extreme: aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all. The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative, how they can assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for that time being be changed.”

“The debtor in Jesus’ example turned the law against his creditor by obeying it, following the letter of the law, but throwing in his underwear as well. The creditor’s greed is exposed.”

Walter Wink goes on to report, “During World War II, when Nazi authorities in occupied Denmark promulgated an order that all Jews had to wear yellow armbands with the Star of David, the King made it a point to attend a celebration in the Copenhagen synagogue. He and most of the population of Copenhagen donned yellow armbands as well. His stand was affirmed by the Bishop of Sjaelland and other Lutheran clergy. The Nazis eventually had to rescind the order.”

“Disavowing violence, Jesus wades into the hostility of Jerusalem open- handed, setting simple truth against force. Terrified by the threat of this man and his following, the authorities resort to their ultimate deterrent, death, only to discover it impotent and themselves unmasked. The cross hideous and macabre, becomes the symbol of liberation. The movement that should have died becomes a world religion.”

Paul is not calling us to be docile people who are indifferent to the way government treats people. Paul, says, “The authorities that exist have been established by God.”(Romans 13:1) “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants,”(Romans 13:6 NIV) If we are truly the salt and light that Christ has called us to be in Matt.5:13-16, then in obedience to these words of Jesus we will expose those who are not God’s servants and let His light shine through us to expose the corruption and oppression on the part of those authorities who are not living up to their high calling. Of course, all of this must be done in love, for Romans 13:8 says, “he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” Paul goes on and declares, “whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”(Romans
13:9,10 NIV)

“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work He began when we first believed. We can ’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (Romans 13:11-14 The Message Bible) The hour is late– we must seize the day making the most of it. We must share with the hurting, hopeless and homeless that there is hope, for Christ is Risen. The time has come to stand on the Word of God in love against those principalities and powers, which would destroy, the most vulnerable of God’s children. We must “be up and awake to what God is doing! We can’t afford to waste a minute.” Each day many are going to a Christ-less eternity. Now we must let the Spirit lead us to share with them in word and deed the eternal life provided through our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Life is a witness to God’s love and power working in us and through us. Such a witness involves not only sharing our faith in words but also in direct actions. In Romans 14, Paul goes into great detail about respecting the opinions and beliefs of others. He declares, “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”(Romans 14:1 NIV) What are the disputable matters Paul refers to in this chapter?

“For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God!”(Romans 14:7-12 NIV)

The realization that Jesus is Lord transforms the way we treat other people. No longer can we look down on others because they also are created in the image of God. To stand in judgement of them puts us immediately under the judgment seat of God. We are redeemed as a result of His grace and now we must extend
that grace to others. “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words: don’t drag them down by finding fault.”(Romans 14:19 The Message Bible)

“We who are strong (in our convictions and of robust faith) ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak: (we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others) and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him (to strengthen him and build him up spiritually.) For Christ did not please Himself (gave no thought to His own interests): but, as it is written. “The reproaches and abuses of those who reproached and abused you fell on me.”(Romans 15:1-3 The Amplified Bible)

So if we are bearing the frailties of others, not pleasing ourselves and living to please others, what hope do we really have? Paul answers by stating, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”(Romans
15:4 NIV) Yes, it is through endurance in spite of the circumstances and the encouragement of Scriptures that we find hope. “Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. That together you may (unanimously) with united hearts and one voice, praise, and glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (The Messiah) (Romans 15:6,7 The Amplified Bible). “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”(Romans 15:7NIV)

The formula for hope in the midst of hopelessness involves endurance as we find encouragement in the Scriptures, continuing to praise God in spite of the circumstances, and trusting in Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. ‘“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praise to Him, all you peoples.’ And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’”(Romans 15:11,12 NIV) It is because of Jesus “The Root of Jesse” that both Jews and Gentiles now have hope. Paul now declares to each of us, “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing (through the experience of your faith) that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.”(Romans 15:13 The Amplified Bible) Now in the midst of the multitude of needs both for New Life Evangelistic Center and in my personal life I find myself praying, “Dear God of hope I am asking you now by faith to fill me with all joy and peace as I put my trust in You. Please send an extra measure of the Holy Spirit upon me in order that I may abound and be overflowing in hope. Help me Lord to ‘become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.’(Romans 15:16,17 NIV) Thank you Almighty God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…. by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit!”(Romans 15:18,19 NIV)

As you read the rest of Romans 15, what do you see is Paul’s greatest ambition? What is your greatest ambition in life? Desiring to, above all proclaim the gospel (the good news Christ is Risen). Paul was able to declare, “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. I urge you, brothers (this also includes you 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.”(Romans 15:29,30 NIV)

The last chapter of Romans, Romans 16 is one that many quickly skip over. That is why I appreciate the following paragraph that John R.W. Stott in his book The Message of Romans shares with us. “I think,’ wrote Chrysostom, ‘that many even of those who have the appearance of being extr emely good men, hasten over this part of the epistle as superfluous …. Yet,’ he went on, ‘the gold founders people are careful even about the little fragments…it is possible even from bare names to find a great treasure.’ Brunner went further and called Romans 16 ‘one of the most instructive chapters of the New Testament’, because it encourages personal relationships of love in the Church.” In Romans 16:1-2 we see a commendation and in verses 3-16 many greetings. As you read these, what truths do you discover and what lessons do you learn about the personal relations of love in the early Church?

As Paul concludes this great Book of Romans he warns the readers, “Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give those people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.”(Romans 16:17,18 The Message Bible)

Along with this warning Paul also gives the encouragement of victory as he declares, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”(Romans 16:20 NIV)

After greeting friends and associates Paul leaves us with this proclamation of hope and assurance. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with you all. Amen (so be it). Now to Him Who is able to strengthen you in the faith which is in accordance with my Gospel and the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ (the Messiah), according to the revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of the plan of redemption which was kept in silence and secret for long ages. But is now disclosed and through the prophetic Scriptures is made know to all nations, according to the command of the Eternal God, (to win them) to obedience to the faith.”(Romans 16:24-26 The Amplified Bible) In these verses Paul refers to “my gospel”. Have you allowed this gospel of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus to become such an important part of your life that you can refer to it as my gospel? Are you allowing Jesus to transform your life into one that is filled “with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’?(Romans 15:13) In order to experience this miracle of joy, peace, power and hope each and everyday we must keep in mind Romans 13:14 where it says, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” As we clothe ourselves in Jesus and the assurance of His abiding love (see Romans 8:31-39), we are free to share in word and in deeds of compassion giving glory to the only wise God forever through Jesus Christ (Romans 16:27) our Lord. Now may we go forth in service unto Him with His peace, hope and joy that passes all understanding.

Yours in Christ’s service
Larry Rice

Book of Romans #4 Romans 10-11-12 Sharing the Good News

Book of Romans #4 Romans 10-11-12 Sharing the Good News

My dear friend,

When you have experienced something wonderful you want to share it with those closest to you. Therefore it is only natural that Paul upon experiencing the life changing power of the resurrection wanted to share it with those closest to him. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”(Romans 10:1-4 NIV) Earlier Paul had declared, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”(Romans 3:22-24 NIV)

John Stott in his book The Message of Romans refers to Romans 10 as a manifesto of evangelism. Citing Romans 10:15 which says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news,” he goes on to list an eight-point manifesto for evangelism.

1. “The need of evangelism: evangelism is necessary because until people hear and receive the gospel they are lost.”(Romans 10:13)

2. “The scope of evangelism: the whole human race must be given the chance to hear the gospel.”(Romans 10:18;1:5;16:26)

3. “The incentive to evangelism: evangelism arises from the love and the longing of the heart.”(Romans 9:13;10:1)

4. “The nature of evangelism: evangelism is sharing with others the good news of Christ crucified and risen.”(Romans 10:6-13)

5. “The Logic of evangelism: evangelism demands the sending out of evangelists, so that people may call on Christ for salvation.”(Romans 10:13-15)

6. “The result of evangelism: evangelism brings such blessings to those who believe, that it arouses the envy of others.”(Romans 10:19; 11:11,14)

7. “The hope for evangelism: evangelism has hope of success only if it rests on the election of God.” This is the mercy of God. The love of God. The fact that God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16). God takes the initiative and provides the gift of salvation.(Romans 10:17,21;11:29-32)

8. “The goal of evangelism: evangelism introduces converts into the people of God, and so brings glory to God.”(Romans 9:17;11:30) After looking up the above Scriptures plus adding Romans 3:23,24 and Romans 6:23 see if you can put together a Roman road for the plan of salvation. This means first you list the Scriptures that speak of why we need a Savior (like Romans 3:23) and then the ones that tell us how we can receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is very important in order that you can share the plan of salvation with others.

As we share the gospel in word and deed here at New Life Evangelistic Center, I like to think of the word “entry”. We are desiring to help under the leading of the Holy Spirit and the mercy of love of God to enable the lost to make an entry into the salvation provided through our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As I spell out this word I want to encourage you to come up with a Scripture from your Roman road to salvation and put it beside each letter. The e in entry refers to encounter. What Scripture in Romans tells you of ones desire to encounter the lost with the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ? What about Romans 9:1-3 and Romans 10:1-4 which tell of Paul’s great desire for the Jews to encounter the salvation Christ provides? Can you think of other Scriptures? Then the n in entry refers to need. How does Romans 3:23 show this need? The t in entry stands for treaty. How does Romans 10:4-8 show that Jesus provides the righteousness necessary for us to be cleansed of our sins so we are no longer at war with God who is holy? Can you think of other Scriptures? The r in entry tells us of the need to receive Jesus. Please read Romans 10:9,10, which shares why confessing and believing is so important when it comes to receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The y in the word entry refers to the need to yield daily to the love and power of God. This involves obeying His word and surrendering to His will. Romans 10:21 speaks of God’s frustration towards those who refuse to obey. “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Why do you believe that a saved person is a person who will obey God and His Word? True obedience involves faith and trust and that is why we are told in Romans 10:11, “Anyone who trusts in Him (Jesus) will never be put to shame. “Remember the promise of God both now and for all eternity to those who will believe and trust Him. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(Romans 10:13)

Sometimes as we are sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and trying to live for Him, it is easy to feel totally alone. What example does Paul give in Romans 11:2-4 that shows this is not the case? Listen to what he has to say in verses 5 and 6 of this chapter. “It’s the same today, There’s a fierce loyal minority still-not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they ‘re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.”(The Message Bible) How do these verses encourage you when you are feeling alone in your work for the Lord?

According to Romans 11:7-18, why was the covenant removed from just Israel and extended to everyone? According to verses 19-21 what should our response be? “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God; sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”(Romans 11:22,23 NIV) Israel’s refusal of the Messiah opened the door to the Gentiles (everyone else). Paul uses the example of a branch that is broken off in order that another one may be grafted in. But Paul goes on and says, “for God’s gifts and His calls are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”(Roman 11:29-32)

Thank God for His mercy, grace and love. “Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell Him what to do? Anyone who has done Him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from Him; everything happens through Him; everything ends up in Him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes, yes, yes.”(Romans 11:33-36 The Message Bible)

When your wife or husband suddenly walks out on you, or sickness strikes your body and no matter how hard you pray nothing seems to change, it’s hard to praise God. When you really believe that everything comes from God and everything happens through Him the tendency is to feel cheated, let down and even angry when day after day passes and there seems to be no letup in the pain and loneliness. Paul’s response is to take us into a deeper level of faith by declaring, “Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”(Romans 12:1NIV) This is no easy matter particularly in this age of pop theology where we are conditioned to believe that if we just name it and claim it, suddenly God will provide an instant solution for all our problems. How we love to quote Romans 8:28, but oh how we hate to wait as our bodies are offered to God as living sacrifices. It’s so much easier to say “I love you Jesus, You are the love of my life,” than it is to engage in the spiritual act of worship Paul is calling for here.

The true realization that God is the source of all things (Romans 11:36) and we exist as a result of His mercy should be reason enough for us to make such a sacrifice. Yet knowing what we should do and then actually doing it often seem worlds apart. That is why in Romans 12:2 Paul goes on and says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

My mind tells me that this terrible thing that is happening to me should not be happening. I must take control of this situation before it controls me. Yet here I am in the midst of this overwhelming problem that only seems to get worst the harder I try. Surrendering this body, as a living sacrifice in service to God just doesn’t make sense particularly in a culture intoxicated with greed and self-service. That is why we need to be reminded, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

“I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what He does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him.”(Romans 12:2,3 The Message Bible)

As I meditate upon these verses in the midst of my wife’s departure, I can’t help but think of Phoebe Palmer, who after her eleven-month-old child Eliza had died in a tragic accident, struggled with anger and grief. This had been her third child to die in infancy. As she cried out to God, in her despair, she heard an answer. Although it seemed harsh, it gave her comfort. She came to believe God had taken her children because she had loved them too much and that “No other gods before Me” was His command. At that moment, she resolved she was going to surrender everything she held dear to God. In that year of 1836 Phoebe wrote in her diary, “Never before have I felt such a deadness to the world, and my affections so fixed on things above. God takes our treasures to heaven, that our hearts may be there also.” From the time of the declaration to the time of the total consecration I am sure the battle raged within her like it does me. Then a year later on July 27, 1837, Phoebe wrote, “Last evening, between the hours of eight and nine, my heart was emptied of self, and cleansed of all idols, from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and I realized that I dwelt in God, and felt that He had become the portion of my soul, my ALL in ALL.” Phoebe and her husband Walter went on to be used by the Lord to help 20,000 people experience salvation and sanctification. Christian History and Biography goes on to report that, “Dr. and Mrs. Palmer’s efforts were part of a movement of the Spirit that brought over a million people into the various churches in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.” Oh may God help me to be that “living sacrifice,” daily laying aside my own desires as I put all my energy and resources at His disposal. My prayer is that He may completely transform me through the renewing of my mind in order that I might trust Him to guide and direct every area of my life.

As we commit our lives, to our wonderful Savior in service unto Him we must remember we are not alone. We are part of a large body of believers who each have different gifts and talents. Paul goes on to say, “If you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.”(Romans 12:7,8 TMB)

Paul goes on and gives us further practical direction for offering our “bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” He tells us in verses 9-21, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to
drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Paul has given us in Romans 12 the masterpiece of love in very practical directives for daily living. Why do you believe it is important for every true believer to implement these directives in their personal lives? What steps to you plan to take in the light of Romans 12 to become the person God is calling you to be?

Please join me this next week in reading Romans 13-16. As you read ask the Holy Spirit to direct and enlighten you. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 15:13)

Yours in Christ,
Larry Rice

Book of Romans # 3 Experiencing the Love of God as shared in Romans 7, 8, 9,

Book of Romans # 3 Experiencing the Love of God as shared in Romans 7, 8, 9,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For many life has because a state of endurance, a struggle to survive. To those who believed that victory came through following the law Paul declared in Romans 7:6, “But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”(The Message Bible) “I can already hear your next question: ‘Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good (that is the law)? Is good just as dangerous as evil?’ No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing, using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good command, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own. I can anticipate the response that is coming. ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes, I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.”(Roman 7:13-17 the Message Bible)

What hope is there for each of us in the middle of this complex often confusing life? Paul describes this battle by saying, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”(Romans 7:18 NIV) This all seems despairing, hopeless, and overwhelming. Yet Paul doesn’t leave us there. He goes on and declares, “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”(Romans 7:24,25 The Message Bible)

The stage is set. The solution is life on God’s terms and that is what Romans 8 shows us. The chapter begins by sharing with us that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation, the chapter closes assuring us that there is no separation from God’s love, and in between we discover that all things work together for good to those that love God. In Romans 8 we are given the means as to how the victory sought in Romans 7 can actually be achieved. “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”(Roman 8:2 NIV) “God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In His Son, Jesus, He personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.”(Romans 8:3 The Message Bible) What does this mean to you personally? How does it make a difference in your daily life?

Now the question is as you go about living, where is your head? What is your mind focused on? The mind is the gate way to your spirit and soul. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”(Roman 8:5-8 NIV) Do you understand that long as your mind is on sinful things your life will be a mess? If you want life and peace then you must let your mind be controlled by the Holy Spirit. As Isaiah 26:3,4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him (or her) whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord is the Rock Eternal.” We have a choice. We can either spend the rest of our lives with our minds focused on this sinful world and the lusts of the flesh resulting in death, or we can let our minds be controlled by the Spirit and experience life and peace? Which one do you choose? Why? If you choose to let your mind be controlled by the Spirit what steps are you going to take to be assured this will happen?

“You are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”(Romans 8:9 NIV) This verse teaches us two important things concerning the Holy Spirit. First it teaches that the true believer has the Holy Spirit living in him or her. Those who do not know Christ have only sin dwelling in them.(see Romans 7:17,20) The children of God have the indwelling Spirit to fight sin. Jesus promised “He lives with you and will be in you.”(John 14:17) As a result our bodies become “a temple of the Holy Spirit” in which He lives.(I Cor.6:19) As a result “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

After Paul points out that the Spirit living in us distinguishes us as Christians (Jesus people who live for and with the revolutionary Christ) he goes on and declares, “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.”(Romans 8:10,11 NIV) Because of sin our bodies are dying a little each day and will soon turn to dust (see Gen.3:19). But if Christ is in us, because of righteousness, the Living God who raised Christ from the dead will also give us life in these dying bodies to live for Him both now and for all eternity. The destiny of our body is not death but resurrection because of the power of the Holy Trinity within us. This involves the resurrecting Father the resurrected Son and the Spirit of the resurrection. This resurrection involves the transformation of our body into a new and glorious personality free from the bondage to sin. When these bodies experience death they will discover the further freedom from disease and pain as they are resurrected into the eternal presence of the Living God for all eternity.

As children of the resurrection we have been set free from the slavery to sin and resurrected to the peace, power and purpose Christ has provided for each of us. We are now told that, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”(Romans 8:14,15 NIV) We are not driven but led by the Living Lord who sets us free from fear and makes us His very our children. Being a child of God means that we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”(Roman 8:17) What assurance this should give each of us that we are not alone in our daily sufferings but are children of God destined to be heirs of God. God does not abandon His children. Just as He rose Jesus from the dead He now makes us co-heirs with Christ assured that as we share the sufferings of Jesus we shall also share His glory for all eternal.

Reviewing the first half of Romans 8 we are reminded of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe. The Spirit has freed us from the bondage of the law.(verse 2) He empowers us to fulfill its just requirements (verse 4). We now live daily under the Spirit’s direction and set our minds on His desires (verse 5). The Spirit lives in us (verse 9), gives life to our spirit (verse 10), and will one day give life to our bodies (verse 11). His indwelling causes us to live God’s way (verse 12), and His power enables us to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh (verse 13). The Holy Spirit leads us as God’s children (verse 14) and bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (verse 15:16). It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives shared in Romans 8, which answers the questions concerning the struggles described in Romans 7.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”(Romans 8:18) Suffering and glory are united as one. They cannot be broken apart. “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”(I Peter 1:10) We can’t let our troubles diminish our faith or disillusion us. There is purpose for our suffering. This suffering keep us mindful of Christ’s suffering for us, proves our faith and gives God the opportunity to demonstrate His power. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”(I Cor. 4:17)

“The creation waits in eager, expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”(Romans 8:19) Creation which has been adversely affected by sin and its destruction waits eagerly for the glorification of the people of God. Sin has resulted in all of creation falling from the perfect state God had created and subjecting it to bondage and decay. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.”(Romans 8:20) The reason being, “in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”(Romans 8:21) This is possible because of Jesus who died on the cross and is now alive with a resurrection power that death can’t touch. It is this resurrection that provides hope for all of creation in the midst of the hopelessness and decay caused by sin.

Along with creation all of us, “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”(Romans 8:24,25) Hope is that oxygen for the soul. A oxygen pumped into the very essence of creation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through the resurrected Christ that we can experience intimacy with the creation of the universe. As “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, “we are a people of expectancy filled with hope as we wait patiently for the full glory of God to be revealed in the redeemed heaven and earth.

In this life of expectancy Paul reminds us that while we are waiting, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”(Romans 8:26) As children of God we have two divine intercessors. In heaven Jesus intercedes for us while the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts know the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”(Romans 8:26,27)

Creation is groaning, “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly,”(Romans 8:24) and now the Holy Spirit “groans” in identification with us as we await Christ’s return. As we experience sufferings and groans we are sustained in the midst of them by the hope of glory. This hope is solidly grounded in the love of God. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”(Romans 8:28) While in verse 22 we read that, “we know that the whole of creation has been groaning” we see in verse 28 that we can also “know that in all things God works for good.” But what about when “we do not know what we are to pray for”? Romans 8:26 tells us that “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” It’s a fact God loves us and will not leave us alone in our struggles between the first victorious Easter and the return of our victorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture testifies of many example of God working for good in behalf of those who faced impossible situations. Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good,”(Gen.50:20) Jeremiah proclaimed to the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, “I know the plans I have for you” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”(Jer.29:11)

There is no limit to God’s love. It is this love which provides the foundation for our hope inspite of the present circumstances. How do verses 29 and 30 of Romans 8 show God’s love through His foreknowledge, predestination, calling justification and glorification? What seven questions does Paul ask in verses 31-35? How do these questions drive home the fact that God loves us?

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:37-39) For Paul there is no guesswork. As a result of his experience from putting his faith in Christ he’s convinced of God’s love manifested through Jesus Christ. Paul declares that everything in creation is under the control of God the Creator and Jesus Christ. That is why nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, God does not promise us that we will not have to suffer. What He does promise is it will never separate us from His love.

This wonderful love of God was demonstrated on the cross.(Romans 5:8;8:32,37) It is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). God’s love causes everything to work for good for those who love Him.(Romans 8:35,38,39) Our confidence does not lie in our love for Him but His love for us which is inseparable. What a tremendous foundation of hope this love of God provides for us in the midst of our daily trials and tribulations. Are you convinced like Paul that nothing can separate you from the love of God? If so, how is it making a difference in your life?

The hope and love of God, which Romans 8 speaks of is not only a future love but a living reality which is present now. Because Jesus rose from the dead the love of God has broken into the present world. That is the revolutionary message of the resurrection. The world has been turned upside down since that first Easter. Believers in the resurrection aren’t a people who are just waiting for the end of the world. God has already turned the world upside down through the resurrected Christ. As a result Jesus declared the Kingdom of God is at hand and His love resulting in justice has come forth. It is much more than dualism considering of only an upstairs—downstairs reality. This dualism is prevalent where injustice can be seen but it is inconvenient to do anything about it. Those advocating such are frequently a people who say they care about souls and may even put bandaids on the social problems but then they refuse to address the social structure which create these injustices. The Scripture tells us to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.(I Cor. 15:58) This means we are a resurrected people who are determined to see justice as God’s desire to put the whole world right through His love.

If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31) Doing justice in the world is part of our tasks as followers of the one who declared, “As often as you have done it to the least of these even so you have done it unto Me.” If we pray His will be done on earth as it is in heaven there is no way we can be content with the injustice in this world. The defeatism of those who say they have hope yet do not have the faith and courage to take a stand against injustice is not accepted by believers. Such hope is impotent and void of the real hope and love of God that Paul speaks of in Romans 8. If we remain silent at this time of global injustice, environment destruction, and the global debt of poor nations we will stand condemned along with those who in the past supported slavery and Nazism. In the same way we don’t wait until the second coming to allow the Lord Jesus to change us we also are willing to work for change now through the love of God in our communities. We refuse to accept social Darwinism that allows the rich to get richer and the poor poorer. It is tragic that those who often fight Darwinism the most in their schools accept the economic policies that support economic Darwinism. This is unacceptable to the people of God who believe in God’s justice. It is the resurrection of Jesus which points true believers toward God’s justice and gives them the energy to fight for this justice. “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to beslaughtered.’ No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”(Romans 8:36,37)

Paul’s motivation for justice was anchored in the love of Christ. A love which compelled him to declare, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”(Romans 9:2,3) How does Paul’s great love for his people challenge us to intercede and work for justice as we pray and share the salvation of Jesus Christ?

Paul also reminds us that, “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”( Romans 9:16) “But who are you O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?’ What if God choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath—prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory know to the object of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory?”(Romans 9:20-23NIV)

“How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as He straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their ‘God projects’ that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into Him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together ; Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road of Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is Me! If you’re looking for Me, you’ll find Me on the way not in the way.”(Romans 9:30-33 The Message Bible) It comes down to trusting in God. Unless we are trusting His Love, His Power, His Presence we going to get so absorbed in what we are doing we going to fall on our face. How we need to place our faith in the fact that “nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable— absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”(Romans 8: 38, 39 The Message Bible) Do you believe this? If so, how is it changing your life?

This week please join me as we read Romans 10, 11, 12. As we read let us believe God to let His Word take root in our lives enabling us to grow in the faith that God is love and He has everything under control.

Yours in Christ’s Love,
Larry Rice

Experiencing the Good News of Romans 1-3

Experiencing the Good News of Romans 1-3

My dear friends,

We live in a world that seems to have so much bad news. War, rape, murder, divorce, government cutbacks in social service programs, the bad news seems to keep going on and on. How we long for good news like that shared with us in the book of Romans. This dynamic book lays out the good news in such a way that those who are slaves of sin are told how they can be freed and saved. New believers discover in Romans their identity in Christ and the victory they can have through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is so much good news in the Book of Romans that even those who have been Christians for years can discover liberating truths that can empower them for greater service.

I want to invite you to join me during the next five weeks in experiencing the good news shared in this wonderful Book of Romans. By reading Romans 1:1-17 we see the introduction to this good news which shows how we can be led and transformed by the resurrected Christ. Romans 1:18-3:20 shares with us the universal need for this good news. Then in Romans 3:21-31 we discover the basis for this good news that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

The Book of Romans has been commonly referred to as one of the most influential books in the Bible. In 380 AD, Augustine was converted through the reading of Romans 13:13 and 14. After Martin Luther came to understand the meaning of God’s righteousness and that “the just shall live by faith” in 1517 the Protestant Reformation began. Now you have the opportunity to experience “this power of God” which is so wonderfully described in the marvelous Book of Romans. That is not all. There is also the grace and peace mentioned in Romans 1:7 awaiting you. This grace equips us for service while the peace of God strengthens and sustains us daily.

In Romans 1:1-17 we see some very important things about this good news called the gospel. First we see in verse 1 that God is the source of this good news which Paul calls the “gospel of God”. Second we see that the Old Testament prophets promised this good news. (Verse 2) Third we see that this good news involves the resurrection of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 3,4). In Romans 1:16, 17 Paul describes this good news called “the gospel” in this way, “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. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16,17) In these 2 dynamic verses we see why we like Paul should not be ashamed of this good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This good news is the power of God for everyone who believes in it the righteousness of God is revealed. What does all this mean to us at this time? It means that in spite of the circumstances and the problems we can be more than conquerors both now and for all eternity by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.

The question is why is it so hard to believe the good news when the evidence is so clear. Wicked people may try to suppress the truth about God but the evidence of His love and reality is all around us. “Forever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiwork).” So men are without excuse (altogether without any defense or justification) Romans 1:20 (Amplified Bible). According to Romans 1:21-32 what happens to those who know God as a result of all the evidence of creation around them, but don’t glorify Him as God or give thanks to Him?

Paul lays it out straight when it comes to those who would trade the good news of hope and life in Christ for a life style of idolatry and immorality. Those who refuse to see their need for Christ do not receive Him and the good news He gives. As a result they “become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” (Romans 1:29)

In Romans 2:1-16 Paul confronts the critical moralizers who profess high ethical standards and apply them to everybody except themselves. There is also a promise given to those who faithfully do the work of God. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:7,8)

Paul turns to the self-confident, who boast of their knowledge of God’s law, but do not obey it in Romans 2:17-3:8. “If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You, who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Romans 2:19-22) Paul is telling each and everyone that you can’t really experience the good news until you start putting it into practice in your own life.

In Romans 3:9-31 we see Paul addressing the whole human race and concludes that we are all guilty and without excuse before God. Our only hope is through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord as verses 21-24 of Romans Chapter 3 points out. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify. This righteous from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

This good news cannot be equaled in this sin stricken world. We now have hope because of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead. As we put our faith in Jesus we can experience the righteousness of God. Yes we have sinned and fallen short but thanks be to God. Because of His mercy and grace we have been justified freely by God’s grace provided through the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In order to experience this free gift of salvation faith is absolutely essential. This faith in order to be effective has to be much more than mental assent. True faith means total reliance on the Living Lord Jesus Christ as ones only Savior from sin and the hope for heaven. The hymn by Pastor J. H. Sammis entitled “Trust and Obey” illustrates this point when it proclaims; “But we never can prove The delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay, For the favor He shows, And the joy He bestows Are for them who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there is no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” True faith involves obedience to God and His word. It is not an attempt to earn the free gift of salvation but an acceptance of this gift in such a way it revolutionizes our lives.

Such an acceptance will not take place until one first recognizes the need. As we have already read, Paul clearly presents this need by declaring, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If you are going to help others experience this free gift of eternal life you are going to have to take them to passages like Romans 3:23 and help them understand that sin has infected the whole human race. The cure for the sickness of sin is shared in verse 24, 25 where it says we “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” Now that is good news. It means we do not have to die in our sins. We can accept by faith that we are justified freely by His (God’s) grace made available to us through the redemption that came through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

The free gift which Paul calls the gospel is not just a bunch of theological mumble jumble. Remember “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” In order to experience this power in your life and work you must first discover the power of unloading those personal burdens including the demands of other people into the hands of God. In Hebrews 12:1 we read, “let us lay aside every weight and the sin, which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” That means if we are going to experience the gift of the power of God for salvation in every area of our lives we must be willing to lay down our sins and focus on Jesus our Savior.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Its good news to know that while Satan wants to wear us out, steal our joy and peace, and finally kill us; Jesus has come to give us life to the fullest.

In order to experience this fullness of life we must surrender those problems to Jesus. Yes, it’s hard to unload a problem and give it to God when it seems totally out of control. It often seems easier to do anything but wait and surrender yet Is. 40:31 says, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” That means living by faith in the reality that we have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) This gift doesn’t relate to salvation just after we die but means you and I have the “peace and grace” of God to live in the here and now. (Romans 1:7) We can’t continue to let the wounds of the past fester in the life of the present. The free gift Paul writes of in Romans has given you and me the power of forgiveness. Once we accept the fact we are forgiven we discover the freedom to forgive others. In the next lesson we will look deeper at this as Paul declares, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”(Romans 4:7,8) When we accept the good news that God has forgiven us we are free to forgive circumstances, other people and ourselves.

Remember “this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) “All of us have become like-one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) God doesn’t want any dirty laundry. He makes it possible for us to be free, clean and righteous through Jesus Christ.” God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) This is possible “through faith in His blood.” (Romans 3:25)

1. The good news is that there is power in the blood of Jesus Christ. “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John
2. It is the blood that causes judgement and death to pass over us. As we through faith apply the blood of Jesus to the “door post” of our hearts we can claim the promise of Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
3. Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we have peace, grace and access to the Father. (Eph. 2:17,18)
4. The blood of Jesus and the power of His resurrection give us the boldness to enter the Holy of Holies of God’s presence. (Heb. 10:19)
5. We are redeemed as a result of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-
19) and now we have the power to overcome the devil through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Rev. 12:11)

Paul declares in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel (the good news), because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” This salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned but only received by faith. “One is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28) Real faith involves trusting in the Living God no matter what the circumstances may bring. It means laying our burdens before the cross and then unashamedly sharing the good news in word and deed with a hurting world. This involves feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and sharing hope with the hopeless and direct help with the helpless. This is only possible as we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2,3)

The good news shared in Romans is that we do not have to grow weary and lose heart. There is hope for Christ is risen. Let us continue to explore the dimensions of this good news by studying Romans 4-6. In these upcoming chapters we will see the practical benefits of this good news, more on Christ’s triumphal work over sin, and how this gospel (good news) is the way to Holy Living.

Yours in Christ,
Larry Rice

The Good News of the Resurrection

The Good News of the Resurrection

Anxiety has a way of choking all the joy of living out of us. It piles worry upon worry until we are tempted to become hard and cold. The uncertainty of the future bombards us with doubt after doubt as insecurity wraps its arms around until we can’t see any way out of the pits of hopelessness. That’s why our very survival depends upon us living in the reality of the good news of the resurrection. It’s a fact Christ is Risen. Thank God, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”(Col. 1:13-14).

The fact that Christ is risen changes everything. It means I am not alone when it comes to facing my problems. The reality of His presence enables me to obey Paul’s command and rejoice in the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” Phil.1:4. This joy is possible because I know the good news that Christ is Risen.

Every spring the message of the resurrection bursts forth from the cold death grip of winter Because of the good news of the resurrection, you and I are free to absorb and appropriate Phil.4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I have learned that I will never be able to grasp the plain truth of this verse as I try to figure the how, when and where of the needed miracle. At some point I must turn loose of all anxiety related to the need I am facing. Instead of worrying I am required by this mandate of Scripture to take the need to God with thanksgiving, knowing that He will meet not only this need but any I may face in the future.

Accepting the reality that the love of God, demonstrated through the resurrected Christ, extends to the need I am now facing releases me from my anxiety and frees me to pray. This is not a form of escapism but a new understanding that through prayer I am able to cast all my anxiety and problems on the Lord as I renew my trust in His faithfulness to meet every need I am facing. (Matt. 6:25-34) The end result of such trust is God’s peace, which guards my heart and mind as I fellowship with Christ in a new and powerful way. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

As we absorb the reality of the good news of the resurrection manifested through the wonders of His works of creation, the inspired words of Scripture, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, God’s peace begins to flood our troubled hearts. This peace gives the firm assurance that Christ is present and God’s love will prevail (Romans 8:28; Is.26:3). The peace this provides puts a guard at the door of my heart that keeps the anxiety and the uncertainty of the future from wiping me out. My hope and the shield of faith it provides enables me to fight off the fiery darts of doubt the enemy would shoot at me (Eph.6:16). The end result is the peace of God resulting from being united with Christ in active faith.

The good news of the resurrection isn’t something we enjoy for just ourselves. When we experience it we will want to be a part of Jesus’ mission to share His love in word and deed. Jesus sums up His mission on earth in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Pilate’s question in Matt. 27:22 is one that each of us must ask ourselves, “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” We can follow Him from a distance like Peter did in Matt. 26 and end up denying him, or betray Him as a result of our lusts for power and money as Judas did. Another way of dealing with Jesus is to crucify Him as the crowds demanded in Matthew 27:22, 23 by doing our own thing or wash our hands to Him, declaring self righteously, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” as Pilate proclaimed in Matt. 27:24. That’s how most people deal with Jesus Christ in one way or another. The crowds may have mocked Him, but it was our sins that crucified Him. As He died, the curtain of the temple (representing the OT covenant of the law) “was torn in two. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (Matt. 27:51).

When the resurrection of Jesus becomes a reality in our lives our hearts of self-centeredness are ripped open and we are resurrected from our tombs of materialism as we are converted. Jim Wallis in his book, The Call to Conversion, states, “The result of prosperity based on injustice is anxiety. Gloom, cynicism, despair, and hedonism are all fruits of the fundamental anxiety that characterizes the cultures of the wealthy nations. The spiritual crisis of the rich countries directly corresponds to the economic crisis of the poor countries. The rich hunger in spirit while the poor hunger for bread. Our spiritual malaise is the consequence of affluence in the face of deprivation. Conversion in our time is to liberate the poor and to make the blind see. The poor need justice, and the rich need restored sight.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described the power of the resurrection in our communities this way, “the cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community.” The brokenness of our community can be found in the face of each hurting, homeless and hungry person. It can be found in the loneliness of the jail cell, the nursing home and the hospital bed. This brokenness is all around us. Dr. King further stated, “We have lived under the agony and darkness of Good Friday with the conviction that one day the heightened glow of Easter would emerge on the horizon.”

The good news is, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”’(Matt.4:16, 17). To repent means to turn around and not keep engaging in the same self-destructive behavior. Living in the Kingdom of heaven, also called the Kingdom of God, involves living a life of faith freed from being possessed by our possessions. Dom Hilder Camara stated, “I used to think when I was a child, that Christ might have been exaggerating when He warned about the dangers of wealth. Today I know better. I know how very hard it is to be rich and still keep the milk of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of putting scales on one’s eyes, a dangerous way of freezing people’s hands, eyes, lips and hearts.”

To proclaim and live an alternative life style in this age of materialism is to many an act of extremism. Those who crucified Jesus said he was an extremist. Believers today, who have died to themselves and have been resurrected unto Christ Jesus, to the extent that what touches His heart also touches theirs, are also called extremists. Lillian Smith, in her speech on the first anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycotts, declared, “for all America to see that in times of crisis, only the extremist can meet the challenge. The question in crisis is not: Are you going to be an extremist? The question is: What kind of extremist are you going to be? The time has come when it is dangerous not to risk. We must take risks in order to save our integrity, our moral nature, our lives and our country.”

Jesus was considered an extremist because His proclamation found in Luke 4:18, 19 was not just a proclamation of good news but an actual acclamation of the good news shared in good deeds among lepers, despised women and other marginalized people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and cast out demons from the possessed. Jesus completely identified with the poor and homeless to the extent that in Matt.25:31-46 He clearly states that refusal to be good news in the form of feeding, sheltering, clothing and visiting results in eternal damnation. Now that’s bad news for those who refuse to repent and let the Spirit of God move them from the darkness of their self-centered lives into the Kingdom of Heaven. Ronald J. Sider in his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, writes, “For Biblical Christians, the only correct response to sin is repentance. We have become entangled, to some degree unconsciously, in a complex web of institutionalized sin.” Thank God we can repent. God is merciful. God forgives but only if we repent. And Biblical repentance involves more than a hasty tear and a weekly prayer of confession. Biblical repentance involves conversion. It involves a whole new lifestyle.

“The One who stands ready to forgive us for our sinful involvement in economic injustice offers us His grace to begin living a generous new lifestyle that empowers the poor and oppressed.” Now that’s the good news of the resurrection. Good news is expressed in Eph.2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These good works resulting from a response to God’s grace revealed through the resurrection is good news to those in need. It is the light Jesus speaks of in Matt. 5:16, which results in deeds of kindness which is good news to the hurting. Jesus challenges us to not only share the good news in word but also in deed when He says, “Let your light shine before men (and women), that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

When, instead of living in the light of the good news of the resurrection we succumb to our own selfish, self-serving interests, we end up being bad news not only to other human beings but also to creation itself. As a result, in Romans 8:22 we read that the whole creation groans. Much of the destruction of creation we see today is directly related to human development efforts that put profits over people and the protection of the environment. Paul, in his writings, expresses that conversion and the preservation of creation are directly related. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”(Romans 8:19-22). The bad news is that creation is groaning now more than ever before. Are we willing to be the good news that creation is groaning for at this hour and let the Spirit of God work through us to be earth-keepers rather then earth-breakers? Ronald Sider states as Christians, “We face a painful choice. To maintain and expand our material abundance, we are polluting our air and water and destroying our lands and forests. We simply cannot continue these present economic patterns, and reduce global poverty, and preserve a livable planet all at the same time. We could choose both justice for the poor and a livable planet–but only if we give up rampant materialism and make hard choices to reverse environmental destruction.”

It isn’t easy to proclaim the radical good news that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Yet it is this revolutionary act, resulting in the resurrection of Jesus that offers us life in the midst of this culture of Death. For we are told, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:13-15). Wow, that’s good news! Good News that we have been entrusted with to share in word and deed. The resurrection is more then just good news it’s the greatest news in human history. It means that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead to give us new life both now and for all eternity.

Its this good news of the resurrection which empowers us to live our lives in such a way of direct service to the least of these that, in the not too distant future, we shall hear the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, say to us, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you give Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me. I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for Me” (Matt. 25:34-40). That is good news. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ you and I will also be raised from the dead and spend eternity with Him. What a divine privilege this is. It means we no longer have to fear death. We are free to proclaim in word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Never forget that the goodness of the gospel is a result of the fact that Christ is Risen. Jesus Christ has proclaimed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31). To have faith means to believe in Jesus and “stand firm to the end” even as our faith is challenged and opposed. Jesus has told us, “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over…. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:9-13). Such enduring to the end does not earn salvation for us, but marks us as already saved. This assurance of salvation provided through Jesus Christ (Eph.2:8,9) will keep us going in spite of the circumstances. Remember, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:4,5). The good news is because Christ is risen you and I have not only hope but also victory both now and for all eternity.

My dear brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you through the good news of the Resurrection in every way to “stand firm.” Remember “we live by faith, not by sight” (I Cor. 5:7). I pray you are beginning to understand what Paul means when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Now I must challenge you to, “be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be a people of courage; be strong. Do everything in love” (I Cor. 16:13,14).

Now lets go forth and live in the light of the good news that Christ is Risen, as we let letting our “light so shine before men and women that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heavens” (Matt. 5:26).