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

Why We Need the Warnings (Proverbs 30:17)

The warnings of Scripture are not popular. Threats of divine discipline, punishment, and suffering for disobeying God and His appointed authorities on this earth do not make good memory verses. People do not search out verses that promise consequences for sin when they randomly open their Bibles looking for encouragement. Devotional books like “Jesus is Calling” do not choose the warning verses as the topics for their daily entries. Even pastors and chapel speakers do not usually pick such passages for their messages. We do not like to be called out for our sin and given strong cautions from God to repent or else. But what is important, hearing what we want to hear or hearing what God wants us to hear?

This is why I (Mr. Reel) believe in expositional preaching, teaching, and devotional Bible study. By expositional, I mean reading through books of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse rather than skipping around to find what we want and like. When you read through all of God’s Word, the way that God intended us to read it, we get what’s known as the “whole counsel of God.” That means we get everything that God wants us to get, both the encouragements and the warnings. We get the passages that build us up in our identity as Christians, but we also get the promises of discipline to Christians who disobey and punishment to unbelievers who will not submit their lives to Christ. These warnings are especially important in a country like the USA and a school like NRCA, where young people are blessed with so much and feel entitled to everything and responsibile for nothing. For self-centered, wealthy people who feel like they are good just as they are and don’t need God, for people to whom the gospel seems irrelevant because they have never felt need and pain in their lives and are blinded to their own sinfulness – people like us desperately need warnings like the one found in today’s verse from Proverbs.

So here it is: Children, obey your parents or your eyes will be plucked out of your heads by birds (Proverbs 30:17). Whoa, what! There can’t be a verse like that in the Bible, can there? Yep, read it for yourself in your own Bible. Of course, this is a metaphor – bad kids will not literally be attacked by ravens and eagles. But you know what this verse is saying. Children who disobey their parents become young adults who disobey other authorities (like teachers and bosses) and ultimately become people who disobey God and reject His rule over their lives. And the consequences for that are a life full of hardships (pink slips, broken relationships, poor work records, or just a wicked heart) followed by an eternity of suffering in hell apart from Christ. Right, that’s worse than losing your eyes to some birds. Much worse. Which is why I am glad it is in God’s Word. God does not give us this verse because He hates us, but because He loves us and wants to save our lives and souls. So take the warning today and get right with your parents, your teachers, and the Lord. Bow the knee of your heart to Jesus and get the blessings instead of the curses.

The Text (Proverbs 30:17)

17 The eye that mocks his father, And scorns obedience to his mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you read through books of the Bible for your personal Bible study? If you use a devotional book, does it teach through books of the Bible?
  2. How does today’s verse cause you to rethink how how you’ve been acting towards your parents and teachers? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Wasteful or Wise? (Proverbs 29:3-7)

The wise love not only wisdom, but also justice, goodness, and kindness. By contrast, fools are wasteful, corrupt, evil, and heartless. The wise bring their parents and teachers joy; they are a blessing to others (Proverbs 29:3a). But the foolish bring sorrow to the adults who care about them because they waste their money and time on their selfish lusts and desires (v 3b). The wise lead treat others fairly (v. 4a) and avoid the traps of sin by loving righteousness (v. 6a). But the foolish love stuff more than doing right by other people (v. 4b) and constantly find themselves tripping up others with their lies (v. 5) and caught in the snares of sin themselves (v. 6b). Finally, the wise care for the poor (v. 7a); they love them with the kindness of Christ. The foolish, however, cannot understand why someone would want to help the needy because they have no compassion for others in their selfish hearts (v. 7b).

So which list of traits better describes you today? Are you wasting the life that God has given you on sin and self, or are you wisely offering your life back to God in holy service? Remember that Christians are not perfect, but we are growing in grace. We should look in our own hearts and desire to be more wise, fair, good, and kind than before we met Jesus. That is the goal – to follow in His steps. If you find, however, that you are always wasteful, unjust, entangles in sin, and uncaring towards others, you might need a spiritual wake up call from the Lord. Get alone with God and ask Him to start changing your desires to be like His. Walk in the way of the wise today, and determine not to waste your life like the fool.

The Text (Proverbs 29:3-7)

3 Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice, But a companion of harlots wastes his wealth.

4 The king establishes the land by justice, But he who receives bribes overthrows it.

5 A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet.

6 By transgression an evil man is snared, But the righteous sings and rejoices.

7 The righteous considers the cause of the poor, But the wicked does not understand such knowledge.

Questions to Think About

  1. Would your friends describe you as wise? How about fair, good, and kind? Why or why not?
  2. Which of the sins mentioned above are the biggest struggles for you right now: wastefulness, lust, dishonesty, or a lack of compassion? What steps can you take to better fight against these sins in your walk with Christ?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

One Good Man (Proverbs 28:2)

One good man can make a difference. So says the God of the Bible in today’s stand-alone verse, Proverbs 28:2. When a government, business, organization, or church is suffering and torn apart by sin and conflict, there will be “many princes,” weak leaders fighting it out in countless power struggles. But one godly and wise man can steer the ship through troubles if he follows God closely and pursues righteousness for himself and those he leads. As we’ve read before in Proverbs this summer and as you can see in the history of Israel in the Old Testament, leadership matters. When God’s people had a good judge or king, they honored the Lord and prospered. But when the leader was bad, the people fell into sin and brought judgment on themselves.

Today’s teaching should encourage us to pray for our leaders. We should pray for our President and our Governor. Our national and state constitutions wisely placed the executive power in the hands of one person, not a group, because history had shown that more than one commander-in-chief at once was always a disaster. They understood the biblical principle that when it came to casting vision and making many important, often quick decisions, there needed to be one person in charge at the end of the day. We should pray for all of our pastors who lead our churches, but especially for the senior pastors, the “firsts among equals” who lead their congregations publicly through their faithful preaching of God’s Word each weekend. And as a Christian school community, we should pray for our new superintendent, that God’s hand of wisdom would lead him. The burden he carries is heavy and we need the Lord to be with Him in a mighty way.

Finally, God may be calling some of you to be righteous leaders among your classmates right now, while others of you need to recognize that you are leaders-in-training for the future. The biblical principle is that if you learn to be faithful with little, then God will entrust you with much. Do you want to be a leader for Christ and His Kingdom in our school and beyond one day? Then you need to become a young man or woman of spiritual discipline. You must make a daily habit of meditating on God’s Word and seeking God’s face and will in prayer and obedience. As I (Mr. Reel) told our middle school students the first day of school, the power to transform our lives and the culture of our school can only come from the Word and Spirit of God. The strength to be kind (and loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, gentle, faithful, and self-controlled!) is not in us – it can only come from a deep relationship with God that is developed by the daily renewing of our minds and souls over many weeks, months, and years. If you want to lead your friends and classmates in being conformed to the image of Jesus rather than this evil world, you must first be conformed to Christ yourself. Imagine what would happen if even one young man and woman in each grade at NRCA spent every day this year chasing hard after God. What might the Lord do among us?

One godly man or woman can make a difference. Will it be you this year?

The Text (Proverbs 28:2)

2 Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; But by a man of understanding and knowledge Right will be prolonged.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you and your family pray for the leaders of your country, state, church, and school? Maybe you can ask your parents to let you start praying for your leaders at dinner or in the car once a week. God’s Word encourages us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to offer up prayers for all of our leaders that we might enjoy quiet peace as God’s people. Do we keep this command?
  2. What are you doing right now to make yourself available for God to work in and through you? In other words, are you putting yourself in a place spiritually where God can transform you and those around you into Christ’s image? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Financial Wisdom (Proverbs 27:11-13;15-16;18;20;23-27)

Today’s section in Proverbs 27 contains several verses on the topic of financial wisdom. First, we are reminded that all our actions in general can either bring disgrace or joy to our parents, particularly our fathers (Proverbs 27:11). Next, we see that being wise with money includes watching out for dangerous business ventures (v. 12) and staying away from “friends” who are wasteful and foolish with their spending (v. 13). You may not have much money to deal with right now, but one day you will. Decide now that you will be very careful to get and consider advice from your parents or other trusted Christian adults before investing money in companies or people. Along those lines, people must be careful to choose a spouse who will be kind, hardworking, and thrifty rather than mean, argumentative, lazy, and a big spender (vv. 15-16). Obviously, once you are married, you need to love your spouse as they are and pray for God to change them if they are not very much like Christ; as the saying goes, “you make your bed, you lie in it.” But since as middle and high school students you are not yet married, verses 15-16 should serve as a strong warning to wait on dating and certainly on marriage until you are old enough to then “choose wisely” (just like the old knight told Indiana Jones to do with his grail choice in “The Last Crusade”!).

In the next set of verses, we are encouraged to work faithfully over time, knowing that our hard work will be rewarded with compensation (v. 18). The idea is that if we take care of our business, it will take care of us (vv. 23-27). People who are wise with money monitor their earnings and spending closely, and they do their jobs effectively. This is unlike the fool, who is lazy and focuses only on wanting more and more money but is never satisfied with what he or she has (v. 20). Such a person cares only about the paycheck, not the work that is done to earn it. The irony is that this attitude often leads to being without both work and money!

So wise up today and determine to be careful and smart with your money and your labors. A joyful life of work and financial peace in Christ’s name lies ahead for those who will pursue it.

The Text (Proverbs 27:11-13;15-16;18;20;23-27)

11 My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, That I may answer him who reproaches me.

12 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished.

13 Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger, And hold it in pledge when he is surety for a seductress…

15 A continual dripping on a very rainy day And a contentious woman are alike;

16 Whoever restrains her restrains the wind, And grasps oil with his right hand…

18 Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit; So he who waits on his master will be honored…

20 Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied…

23 Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds;

24 For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.

25 When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,

26 The lambs will provide your clothing, And the goats the price of a field;

27 You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food, For the food of your household, And the nourishment of your maidservants.

Questions to Think About

  1. How do you handle money whenever you have some? Have your parents taught you anything about how to manage money (like saving some, giving some to church, and spending some on good choices)?
  2. When thinking about a future wife or husband, have you ever thought about picking someone who will be wise with money (not just someone who will make a lot of money, but who will take care of it smartly)?
  3. Do you keep good track of your school work? Last school year, did you complete assignments on time and with good effort, or did you do a lot of stuff poorly and at the last minute? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel