Ready and Not Ashamed (Romans 1:8-17)

The apostle Paul was always ready to give the gospel to anyone who would listen to him. As we see him in today’s passage, Paul has been very eager to visit the church in Rome for quite some time but not yet been able to do so. He has heard of their great faith; their good reputation has spread throughout the entire empire. He hopes to come to them and preach and teach the Word among them that they might grow even stronger still in their walks with Christ. And he hopes to increase the number of believers in their church by winning more converts to the Lord from the giant city of Rome. Paul is confident that the gospel of Jesus has the power to save people to the uttermost. He has experienced God’s great salvation for himself, and now Paul embraces his mission from God to carry that power to others. The apostle knows that he has been called to serve Christ wherever He sends him. Paul’s job is to be always ready to preach the glorious gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ whenever he gets the opportunity. He is not ashamed of the gospel because he knows what God can do through that gospel for anyone and everyone who receives it.

How about you? Do you have that same kind of passion for sharing the gospel with others? Is the gospel beautiful and amazing to you? Have you experienced the “power of God to salvation” since believing in the gospel message? Do you know the gospel well enough to share it with someone who does not know Christ? The gospel can actually be summarized with 5 key verses from the book of Romans: 1) Romans 3:23 – Everyone is a sinner, 2) Romans 6:23 – Because of our sin, we all deserve death and hell but God offers eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, 3) Romans 5:8 – Because He loves us, God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, 4) Romans 10:9-10 – If we are willing to turn from our sins and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, then God will save us from the penalty and power of our sins, and 5) Romans 8:1 – For everyone who puts their trust in Jesus Christ, there is no longer judgment awaiting them – they have been forgiven and rescued by Jesus forever. If you’ve never before memorized these verses from the “Romans Road” to salvation, it would be great to do so and begin sharing your faith! You could also highlight them in a small New Testament or witnessing Bible to have them ready to show nonChristian friends.

By way of warning, if you never share or even want to share your faith with anyone else, I have to ask the question: Is the gospel really glorious to you? Is Jesus really first in your life? When you love someone or something, you think about them or it a lot. You talk about them or it a lot. When a person or thing is beautiful and incredible and cool to you, you cannot help just telling everyone about that person or thing. The love just pours out of you. If you don’t feel that way about Jesus and the hope He offers to a lost and dying world, you should ask yourself why. It could be that, like the soil filled with weeds in the Parable of the Sower, the cares and worries of this world are choking out your love for God. My prayer for all of us is that we would be like the fourth soil, the good soil that joyfully receives the Word of God and bears much fruit for Christ and His kingdom. May the gospel be glorious to all of us today. May we be always ready to share it and not ashamed of the power of salvation it can bring.

The Text (Romans 1:8-17)

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Questions to Think About

  1. Are you known for having a strong and growing faith in Christ? Explain.
  2. Are you eager to share the gospel with other people? Why or why not?
  1. Do you enjoy listening to the preaching and teaching of the Bible? Why or why not?
  2. What other things are competing with Jesus for control of your heart right now?

Notes

  • When Paul speaks of being a “debtor both to Greeks and barbarians” in verse 14, he is referring to his mission from God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, both those who were cultured and those who were not, both the educated and the ignorant. For the rest of his life after his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), Paul never forgot his divine calling to carry the gospel to as many of the nations as he could. He was the world’s first and probably it’s greatest missionary.
  • The exact meaning of the “righteousness of God” in verse 17 has been debated by a lot of Bible scholars. The term is discussed in other places in Romans and Paul’s others letters, so it is important to try to understand it. If we read the phrase as meaning, “God’s just plan to save us from our sins through the work of Jesus Christ for us,” then we get very close to the heart of the gospel message and the most likely intent of the verse. That meaning not only fits in the other places where we find the term, but it also captures the whole theme of Romans and serves well as an introduction to the rest of the letter. In fact, the revelation of this verse that people are counted as “just” or right with God by faith in Christ and not by works was the key to helping Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, discover his own salvation after much soul searching and anguish and then preach and teach the gospel to all who would listen. May this amazing truth of justification by faith similarly bless us, too!

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Crossing the Chasm (Luke 16:19-31)

Two of Jesus’ favorite topics to preach on were the danger of riches and the reality of hell. The story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” hits on both of them. It is one of the scariest, most sobering stories in the entire Bible. But Jesus taught it as if it were absolutely true, because it is, and He taught it because He loves people and wants them to escape from the terrible future that awaits them if they never wake up and see their need for God. I (Mr. Reel) preached this story to the sixth grade during our small group time yesterday and praise God, many hearts were moved and changed.

In the story, a rich man enjoys a life of comfort and pleasure every day, dressing nicely and eating well. If there were electronics back then, I’m sure he would have had a big screen television, iPhone X, and multiple tablets. Probably also a big car, maybe a boat, a second house…you get the idea. But outside the rich man’s door lay a poor, diseased beggar named Lazarus. He lays there suffering each day, probably eating out of the rich man’s garbage, and letting dogs lick his open sores. The original audience would have heard this and thought to themselves, “The rich man was hardworking and just enjoying the fruits of his labors, while this poor fellow must have been some kind of lazy sinner.”

But then Jesus flips the script in verses 22-23, when we find out that the poor man went to heaven while the rich man went to hell. Now, Jesus does not mean that being poor automatically earns you a trip to heaven and being rich guarantees you a destiny in hell. But what we see is that the poor man was named “Lazarus,” which meant “God is my helper.” He had apparently called out for the mercy of God and found it. After all, where else did he have to turn as no one on earth would help him? But the rich man ignored poor Lazarus every day as he walked past him where he lay dying on his doorstep and then did nothing. The rich man went to hell because he lived his whole life for himself and never realized his need for God. So he died and entered an eternity of suffering without God. And what was worse still, the rich man saw Lazarus in heaven with father Abaraham but could not get to him. There was a great chasm or canyon between the saved and the lost that could not be crossed.

The rich man tried to blame God by basically telling Abraham that he had not been warned about the terrible fate that awaited him. But Abraham (i.e. God) reminds him that his punishment is fair because: 1) The rich man got to enjoy a lifetime of comfort and pleasure while Lazarus suffered and 2) The rich man had known the law of God which had told him that he should love his neighbor as himself. For us listening today, we also have the testimony of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (verse 31). Yet some still will not soften their hearts, turn from living for themselves and their sin, and find salvation in Christ. Don’t be like the countless rich and poor men who die without Christ. Cross the chasm today while you let live and can still do so. Follow Jesus now and find life forever. There will be a time when it is too late.

The Text (Luke 16:19-31)

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

Questions to Think About

  1. Does your church ever teach about the danger of riches and the reality of hell? Have you ever heard the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” preached before?
  2. Why do you think that having a lot of money and stuff is often a barrier that keeps people from loving God and others?
  3. As a Christian, how should a story like this affect your treatment of other people and your passion for witnessing and prayer?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

For the Obedience to the Faith (Romans 1:1-7)

Welcome to Romans! We begin today our year-long devotional study of one of the most powerful, impactful, and historically significant books in the entire Bible. Romans is the first of Paul’s epistles in priority, placed ahead of all his other letters even though it was not the first one that he wrote. In Romans we find the apostle’s sharp mind, guided by the influence of the Holy Spirit, laying out deep spiritual truths about sin, the gospel, faith, salvation, grace – all the key doctrines of the Christian faith. In the final chapters of this monumental book, we will see how good theology should then influence us to practical holy living in the grace and power of God through our faith in Christ. Many great pastors, theologians, evangelists, and missionaries first found salvation through their studies of Romans, while those who were already Christians came to stronger, more profound understandings of what they believed about the gospel and why they believe it because of what God showed them in Romans. My prayer is that you will join us in studying through this book this year, not just to gain knowledge, but to experience a transformation of your worldview, mind, character, and life. As Paul will challenge us in Romans 12:2, let us not be “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of [our] minds, that we might prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Paul begins this letter by stating that he is the author of this letter to the church in Rome, and that he has been called by God to bring something known as the “obedience to the faith” to the nations of the world (Romans 1:5). God chose Paul, he writes, to be his slave (“bondservant”) and an apostle, or one specifically charged to found the church of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:1). This gospel that Paul preaches is not something totally new, but the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah (Romans 1:2). Jesus is our Lord, the Son of God but also a man born from the lineage of King David, just as had been promised (Romans 1:3). By His resurrection from the dead, Jesus proved that He was indeed every bit the Son of God and the Son of Man (Romans 1:4). This Jesus whom we also worship and serve gave the apostles like Paul the mission of carrying salvation in Jesus’ name to all who would receive it, men and women out of every nation of the earth (Romans 1:5). The task was to bring people to real salvation. Not just head knowledge and lip service, but genuine saving faith that would lead them to obey and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, too. All those who received Christ became his “called” people (Romans 1:6), people who were now “beloved of God” and made holy or into “saints” because of the shed blood of Jesus that wiped away their sins (Romans 1:7a). These people of God, of whom you are also one if you have trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, now get to enjoy His grace and peace and favor (Romans 1:7b).

Sounds pretty awesome, right? This is just the introduction, just a preview of the amazing, life-transforming gospel truths that lie ahead of us. Will you join us in diving into the deep waters of the Epistle to the Romans this year? What have you got to lose?

The Text (Romans 1:1-7)

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever studied Romans before? What memory verses have you already learned from this famous book of the Bible?
  2. What books, stories, or passages of the Bible have most influenced you to follow Christ?
  3. How has your faith in Jesus led you to obey and serve Him? Give some examples.
  4. If you are a Christian, how does knowing that you were “called” by God to become His “beloved” child and receive His “grace” and “peace” make you feel? If you keep these truths about your new identity in Christ at the front of your mind this week, how might they affect your mindset, attitudes, and emotions?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel