Love One Another (Romans 12:9-13)

God wants Christians to really love one another. He does not want us to just pretend to love each other and then stab each other in the back; that’s called “hypocrisy” and God hates it (Romans 12:9a). In fact, God wants us to hate all forms of such evil just as He does (Romans 12:b). Instead, we should hang on tight to the things that are good (Romans 12:9c), especially the actions that spring forth from love. What are these love-driven behaviors? Paul tells us in the next few verses. In our love for other believers, Christians should be kind to each other like brothers and sisters (Romans 12:10a), because we are all part of God’s family. We should treat each other with respect and put the needs of other Christians ahead of our own (Romans 12:10b). Loving other Christians is part of our faithful, passionate service to God (Romans 12:11). We lovingly join together with our Christian friends in rejoicing over good things, being patient through suffering, and praying regularly and intensely for each other’s needs and requests (Romans 12:12). Finally, we ought to show “hospitality” to other Christians, especially by helping those who are in need of material goods (food, clothing, help with paying for important stuff, etc.).

In sum, Christians are supposed to be a loving family who consistently look out for one another’s good. The main place where this loving community should exist is the local church. Being part of a church is not just showing up at a service for some music and a sermon. No, the church is supposed to be a family where everyone feels loved and has chances to show love to each other. What about Christian schools or other organizations? Well, these are not local churches. However, if you have the opportunity to regularly be around other believers in places besides your church, then by all means, love them as your Christian brothers and sisters in the ways that Paul describes in today’s passage. I pray we can all have chances to show the love of Christ to other believers every day.

The Text (Romans 12:9-13)

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given hospitality.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had someone pretend to love you but later betray you in some way? How did that feel?
  2. Are there any Christians in your life that you have only been pretending to love? How can you repent of that sin and change how you treat those brothers or sisters in Christ?
  3. Who has shown love to you this school year in the ways that Paul describes in today’s passage?
  4. How can you do a better job of showing love in practical ways to the other Christians in your church and school?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Serving with Our Gifts (Romans 12:3-8)

God calls Christians to serve Him with the gifts that He has given them. Every Christian has at least one and often more than one spiritual gift, or special talent or ability for serving in Christ’s church (Romans 12:3b, 6a). Some Christians have strong spiritual discernment and vision and an ability to speak biblical truth into the lives of others, a gift known as “prophecy” (Romans 12:6b). Other Christians are very sensitive to the different needs of others around them and love to serve others in many ways, a a gift called “ministry” (Romans 12:7a). Another set of Christians has a unique ability to understand God’s Word and effectively explain and apply it to the lives of others, a gift known as “teaching” (Romans 12:7b). Some Christians are really good at encouraging other believers; they have the spiritual gift of “exhortation” (Romans 12:8a). Still more are equipped with abilities to give more generously and easily than others, to lead groups of believers, or to show mercy on those who are suffering (Romans 12:8b).

All of these are just the gifts mentioned in Romans 12. Paul also gives us lists of spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4. These three lists overlap some but not entirely. This suggests that these lists are probably not exhaustive; there may be other spiritual gifts like music, caring for young children, and more that Paul did not discuss. The main point is that God has given every Christian one or more gifts in varying degrees. Therefore, we should use our gifts to serve in the Lord’s church with joy and diligence. And because theses are gifts from the Lord, abilities that we did nothing to earn, we should not be proud or brag about what we can do for the Lord’s people (Romans 12:3a). Instead, we should recognize that all Christians are members of the same body of Christ, members who have different yet equally important functions in serving the Lord (Romans 12:4-5). May we all know our spiritual gifts and find places to humbly and happily use them in serving Jesus and His church.

The Text (Romans 12:3-8)

3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Questions to Think About

  1. Why do you think that Paul reminds us to be humble about our spiritual gifts in verses 3-5 before giving us examples of what the different gifts are and how they should be used in verses 6-8?
  2. Do some spiritual gifts seem to get more glory or attention than others? If so, which ones and why? How do we fix that problem?
  3. Do you have any spiritual gifts from this list in Romans? How about from the lists in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, or 1 Peter 4? Do you have any other talents outside of these lists that you enjoy using to serve the Lord?
  4. When Christians are only attending church services and not serving with their gifts, how does that affect their walk with the Lord and their relationships with other believers?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Conformed or Transformed? (Romans 12:1-2)

God saves Christians by His grace so that we might live new and holy lives for Him. This is why the apostle Paul, after spending Romans 1-11 laboring to explain the awfulness of our sin problem and our desperate need for God’s forgiveness through Christ, now begs us in Romans 12:1-2 to respond to God’s grace by living differently than we did before our conversion. Through Paul, God “beseech[es]” or urgently pleads with Christians to remember the incredible mercy that God has shown us by covering over all of our wicked words, actions, thoughts, and desires with the blood of His own Son Jesus (Romans 12:1a). As we meditate each day on how much we have been forgiven of through Jesus, we should then want to live new, changed lives that are “holy” or pure and thus “acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1b). Christians do not strive to avoid and repent of sin in order to earn God’s love and grace, but out of gratitude or thankfulness for already having received it. To a truly saved person, the call to be holy and serve the Lord is not strange at all, but is only logical or “reasonable” considering how good they know that God has been to them.

To live a holy life for Jesus, Christians must be willing to reject the ideas and ways of this sinful and fallen world and instead let God change them from the inside out to think and act like Jesus. To follow Christ, we cannot be “conformed” or made into the likeness of the evil world system and culture that surrounds us (Romans 12:2a). As the apostle John tells us elsewhere in Scripture, Christians should not “love the world” because “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). No, we cannot pattern or copy our lives after our unbelieving, sinful culture. Instead, we must “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2b). This means soaking our minds with biblical truth through reading our Bibles, listening to sound biblical teaching and preaching, and ingesting Christian music, movies, and other media. We have to be reminded of God’s truth every day, taking it in through our eyes and ears and then focusing our thoughts upon Jesus and His Word. And when we do this, our transformed and renewed minds will then lead to transformed and renewed words and deeds. We will find ourselves knowing and doing the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” that please the Lord and invites His favor into our lives (Romans 12:2c).

So what will it be for you? Will you live for sin and self, or for Jesus? Will you be conformed into the image of the world, or transformed into the image of Jesus? Think carefully about how you respond to these questions. In the long run, how you live will reveal your true response to the gospel.

The Text (Romans 12:1-2)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Questions to Think About

  1. Why do you think that Paul spent so much of Romans (Chapters 1-11) explaining the gospel concepts of sin, grace, faith, and salvation before he finally began in Romans 12 to tell Christians how they should live?
  2. When did you begin to see your life as belonging to God? In what ways has your life become a “living sacrifice” for Jesus?
  3. In what ways has your life been “transformed” and your mind “renewed” by God’s truth this school year?
  4. In what ways are you still struggling to not be “conformed to this world” in how you think and act?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Who Can Know His Mind? (Romans 11:30-36)

We cannot understand all of what God does and why. This is Paul’s final conclusion at the end of Romans 11 as he finishes reflecting on the problem of the Jewish people’s widespread rejection of Christ. The apostle has been struggling with this issue since the beginning of Romans 9. With a heavy heart, the great missionary to the Gentiles has tried to figure out why so many souls from pagan nations who “were once disobedient to God” have now found God’s mercy through faith in Jesus, while most of Paul’s Jewish countrymen have become “disobedient” and missed out on the Messiah’s salvation (Romans 11:30-31a). Paul believes that one day many Jews will turn to Christ so that God “might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:31b-32), but that day has not yet come. What is one to make out of God’s mysterious plan for salvation history?

We must stop as Paul does in verses 33-36 and simply give God the glory that He is due for His “unsearchable” wisdom and knowledge in all of His “judgments” and “ways” (Romans 11:33). The bottom line is that God is God and we are not. We are finite, fallen creatures, and He is the infinite Creator of all. He is perfectly wise, perfectly powerful, and perfectly good. No human can fully know His mind in all things, nor does God need to seek our advice in rendering His decisions about what He does in people’s salvation or any other matter (Romans 11:34). God does not owe anyone anything (Romans 11:35). Everything in this world was created by God and for His glory, and everything in God’s creation is sustained by His power and grace (Romans 11:36).

When we step back and reflect on God’s majesty through Bible passages like today’s, all of our challenges and objections melt away. We may still have questions and burdens on our hearts about our lost loved ones. And God calls us to keep casting those cares before Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). But in pausing to regain our humility as creatures bowing before our Creator, we are reminded to praise God for who He is and thank Him for showing mercy and grace to us when what we really deserved was death and hell. So take some time today to let God be God in your heart and mind, because the truth is that He always has been in reality anyways. Let His sovereignty give you His joy and peace.

The Text (Romans 11:30-36)

30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”

35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you been wrestling with some life circumstances that you cannot understand why they are happening? How does today’s passage help you to deal with your troubles and questions?
  2. Can you think of a time when you suddenly realized that “God is God and you are not”? What happened?
  3. Have you ever thought you knew exactly what God was doing in your life and why, but then realized you didn’t have things figured out as much as you thought? Explain.
  • In Christ,
  • Mr. Reel
  • The Ingathering of the Jews (Romans 11:23-30)

    There will be a day when many Jews will come to Jesus. This event is sometimes called the “Ingathering of the Jews,” and it is part of the chain of events in the end times connected to the return of Christ. Christians do not agree on all the particulars of exactly what this will look like. However, passages like today’s reading from Romans are difficult to understand without in some way accepting a prophetic teaching about much of Israel finally accepting their Messiah. Paul says that Israel was the original or “natural” family tree of faith. They have rejected Jesus for now, causing their branches to be broken off and Gentile branches to be grafted in as their replacements. However, this separation will apparently not last forever. If the Jews will embrace Jesus as their Messiah, they will be accepted back into the family tree of faith (Romans 11:23-24). In fact, Paul expects that this will happen one day, after the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). The exact meaning of that phrase is unclear, but it seems to indicate that there will be a time when God turns His saving focus from the Gentiles back to the Jews, fulfilling His original promises to rescue the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from their sins (Romans 11:26-27). The Jews may have made themselves into “enemies” of the gospel for now, but we must remember that they were God’s chosen nation through whom our Savior came (Romans 11:28). In some way that we don’t fully understand, God has made promises to Israel that cannot be broken forever by their current disobedience (Romans 11:30). In some way that has not yet happened, Israel will come back to the Lord.

    So what’s the application to us Gentile Christians today? First, we should be humbled that God chose to offer salvation up to us. We should be thankful that Jesus came not just for the Jews, but for the whole world. Scripture always exhorts us to take the gift of our salvation very seriously. We should daily appreciate what Jesus has done by making a way for us to come back to God. Secondly, we should show a special love towards people of Jewish descent, recognizing their special role in salvation history. On a national level, Christians should support the modern nation of Israel as a friend and ally. And on an individual level, Christians should reach out to people of Jewish heritage with the love of Christ. God chose them for many blessings, and His friends should be our friends.

    The Text (Romans 11:23-30)

    23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

    25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

    28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

    Questions to Think About

    1. Have you ever had any spiritual or religious conversations with someone from a Jewish background? What happened?
    2. What do you know about the history of the modern nation of Israel and its relationship with the United States?
    3. Have you taken time recently to thank God for the gift of your salvation? If not, spend a few minutes in prayer today giving God thanks for inviting you into His family tree of faith.

    In Christ,

    Mr. Reel