Devotional Blog

Romans 10. Salvation is Simple. Really. It is.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

 

You can listen to this devotional here.

Romans 10

Another stop along the Romans Road today. You might recall, there are a number of verses that lead us along the path of salvation in this letter from Paul to the believers in Rome.

The first marker is the Human Condition and that we are all sinners — Romans 3:23 and 6:23.

We then learn that God’s Plan for all of us is the hope we have in Jesus — Romans 5:8.

Today’s signpost is often referred to as the Sinner’s Response.

We always have a choice. Even in this crazy season we’re in right now. We can opt to stay at home on the couch in our sweatpants and eat lots of junk food. Or, we can do things that make a real difference in our world.

 

No one who trusts God

will ever regret it.

What is the faith response after realizing that we need a savior and that Jesus is that Savior? If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV). It’s that simple! It’s all about believing it and speaking it.

Have you noticed how many times Paul quotes the Old Testament here in Romans? He certainly knew his Torah!

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this – heart and soul – will ever regret it.” (v11, MSG).  I loved this verse even before I looked to see where it was in the Old Testament. Deep in my heart, I trust God. I know I’m His son and He’ll never leave me nor forsake me. I’ve never regretted following Jesus.

But what’s really cool here is the additional layer of the context… Paul quotes Isaiah 28. Here we discover the part of the Trinity that we are trusting is Jesus.  And so the Lord says, “I’m laying a firm foundation for the city of Zion. It’s a valuable cornerstone proven to be trustworthy; no one who trusts it will ever be disappointed. (Isaiah 28:16, CEV).

The Psalmist, Paul, and Peter all mention Isaiah’s Cornerstone. Dig into the ritual of laying a cornerstone at a city gate or a building in the Ancient Days and you discover that the ceremony often included the shedding of blood, a sacrifice. Typically, from a lamb. Jesus, as Zion’s Cornerstone, is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy! Whoa! Paul affirms here in Romans that because Jesus laid down His life for you and me, we can trust Him! And this is the Cornerstone of the city of Jerusalem!

Men and women will disappoint us and we will disappoint others. But, as we follow Jesus, we will never be disappointed in the selfless Cornerstone!

Continuing our look at today’s signpost along the Roman Road. What is our response to our need for salvation? Paul says it like this:

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (v9-10, MSG).

And then, the cherry on top, the very simple act of faith, from the prophet Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(v13, NIV. Joel 2:32).

You can see that the Evangelist takes seriously the importance of sharing this Good News. Everyone has a response upon hearing it. But despite Paul’s best efforts, and countless preachers thereafter, not everyone chooses.

You can hear the anguish in the Apostle’s voice at both the outset, and the conclusion of the chapter: Dear friends, my greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.” (v1, CEV).

And Isaiah said about the people of Israel, “All day long the Lord has reached out to people who are stubborn and refuse to obey.” (v21, CEV. Isaiah 65:2).

It’s no wonder Jesus regularly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (Matthew 11:15 is the first of six times).

 

© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 9. Grace Means We Are God’s Children.



Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

You can listen to this devotional here:



Romans 9

We all have blind spots. Don’t you find it ironic when you can see something about someone else’s life but they cannot? That’s how Paul feels about the people of Israel. He notes that the Jews are God’s chosen people, but they are so strict at following the Law, they are often blind to see His grace.  We all can be that way.  Paul gives a couple of Old Testament examples. Here is one about Jacob, the second-born twin of Rebecca:

“What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative.” (v 12, MSG).

God’s grace and mercy are not dependent on anything WE do. He loves us. Period. Just because we are His kids.

He’s in charge of compassion and mercy. I’m thankful for that. He extends His kindness and we can trust Him. He leads us and we can follow Him. He cares for us and we can rest in His arms. He protects us and we can be certain the enemy will not defeat us. He provides for us and we can be assured that we’ll always have more than what we need. Just because He’s that kind of Father. He’s that kind of God. The One True God. He keeps His promises. Always.

And no matter where we are or what we’ve done, that kindness, that mercy is ours. Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s such a good place to be on the receiving side of His grace! The emphasis here is that God is God. And it is a privilege to be called His children. Why? Like we read yesterday, God is crazy in love with us. After all, He created us.


He cares for us and we can rest in His arms.



Paul quotes one of the minor prophets next:

Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I
’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.

In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.” (v 25, MSG). Hosea 2:23

Paul then quotes Isaiah:

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus. (v27-28, MSG). Isaiah 10:22-23.

And arithmetic need not be our focus either. Things don’t always add up in life. As long as we keep our focus on God and His grace, we don’t need to worry about anything else! We are His children. He’s got this!

Paul concludes his thoughts on the subject:

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 to 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. (v30-33, MSG).  Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16.

That’s a promise that I want to fully embrace! He is walking with us. Following Jesus is not a stumbling block! He doesn’t slow us down. Following Him is not an obstacle or wall to be climbed over. He is the stone that leads us along the path. I think when we fully embrace that He is with us “on the way,” we can have an amazing confidence that wherever we walk, we will be okay. We have nothing to fear.  In fact, we will be more than okay, because the very presence of God is with us! 


Remember this:

“At the place where they yelled out “You’re a nobody!” they are now calling you “Children of the living God!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

RichlySpeaking.com


Today, I’m attaching this worship song from Bethel Worship because it mirrors our text. 


https://youtu.be/XxkNj5hcy5E











 

 

Romans 8. Part 2. There is Hope Because There is Love.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8:18-39

We all love a good story of suffering, don’t we? Aren’t we quick to tell others about the time it rained every single day of the vacation? Or about the widow down the street who is going through one misfortune after another following the death of her husband? Why is that? I can think of at least two reasons. The first is that we all go through pain and affliction in our lifetime. It comes with being human. We can all relate. Secondly, I believe that we all have a deep-seated hope for happy endings, for the triumph that follows defeat.

Paul opens this passage with the confirmation that there is glory and victory ahead, not just for us, but for all of creation.  “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.” (Romans 8:18-19, MSG). Doesn’t that paint a picture of what we all have experienced this year? We can’t wait for the end of all this bad news. The Word assures us of eventual freedom ahead.

_________________________________________________________________________

God’s love will triumph over death and life’s troubles.

_________________________________________________________________________

And what a joyous freedom it will be! We are told the Holy Spirit of God, the very presence of the Father in the absence of the physical body of Jesus, is with us in our weakness. He even prays for us. (Now that’s a deep theological thought which we might ponder all day.) And through it all, God is in control, even when things seem to be total chaos.

“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, NIV). This is where I hang my hat. This is why I trust God completely. No matter the calamity, no matter the strife, no matter the horrendous situation you might face, God is at work. He’s not sleeping. He hasn’t turned His back. He is orchestrating what is best for each one of us. “All things” means all things! Even during a worldwide pandemic.

This chapter offers one beautiful gift, one beautiful promise, after the other.  I am thankful for God’s goodness, His grace, and that we are His children. He works for our good. He calls us by name. He stays with us to the very end, gloriously completing what He has begun.

Why? Why does God do this? Why does He care? Because He loves us so incredibly much.

Jesus is crazy in love with you! He’s in God’s throne room right this very minute asking the Father to take care of you, to meet your heart’s needs. He’s continually praying for our triumph! Our victory! Not just our survival or our just getting by. But for us to TRIUMPH! Wow!

“With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” (Romans 8:31, MSG).

How much does He love us? He gives us what we need to be not just conquerors, but Paul says we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37, NIV).

We can trust God because His of His love.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! (Romans 8:38-39, TPT).

How do we respond? Paul encourages us just a few chapters later: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV). We are victors today! Even in the midst of our present suffering.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans8_14

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 8. Here we go!

We concluded the previous chapter discussing our addiction to sin, caused by the Human Condition. Paul swings the door of God’s grace wide open here. Can it be any clearer than this: “If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, CEV).

A new power is in operation! The Spirit clears the air and frees us! Jesus took on the mess of the world… and the mess that is our life. We embrace what the Spirit has done, and is doing, in us. God didn’t tinker around when He came up with the plan to redeem us. He sent Jesus to put sin to death permanently and completely. 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.” (Romans 8:3-4, MSG).

Continue reading Romans 8. Part 1. “What’s Next, Papa?”

Romans 7. Only Through Jesus Can We Make Sense of the Contradictions of Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 7:1-6

This is a bit of a confusing, yet at the same time, encouraging passage. Paul is talking about the law and using the example of marriage and remarriage after a spouse dies. I found some clarity in The Passion Translation.

Verses 5-6:

When we were merely living natural lives, the law, through defining sin, actually awakened sinful desires within us, which resulted in bearing the fruit of death. But now that we have been fully released from the power of the law, we are dead to what once controlled us. And our lives are no longer motivated by the obsolete way of following the written code, so that now we may serve God by living in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 7:5‭-‬6, TPT).

We are dead to what once controlled us! We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

That’s a freeing picture! Go find a fresh breath of God today as you worship Him!

 

Romans 7:7-25.

As a youth pastor back in the day, I referred to this as the Frank Sinatra passage… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good..” Do be do be do… (Romans 7:15-16, NIV).

Again, The Passion Translation is helpful here:

“I don’t understand my own behavior — I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me. For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it!” (Romans 7:15-18, TPT).

We all struggle with behaviors that we know are not healthy. It’s not just the addict. It is the Human Condition. Paul is saying a life not controlled by the Spirit, is a life controlled by sin. The struggle is real. And the reality is what Paul says later in Ephesians, that our fights are not against flesh and blood and the people with whom we love. Our struggles are against the ruler of the air, who wants to take us all down (see Ephesians 6:12).

I can relate to how Paul feels when his actions fail to match his heart’s desire: “What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.” (Romans 7:24-25, CEV).

 


We are free to live and serve God in a new way, in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

It is only through Jesus that we can begin to make sense of this life of contradictions… this life where we want to serve Jesus with all our heart, and yet our human nature gets in the way. We are distracted. We are selfish. We are lazy. We are greedy. We let our guard down. And at the same time, we can be giving and loving and serving and caring. We have especially seen during this season that there are so many things in our life that we cannot control.

Yet, Jesus… Let’s go back to the beginning of Chapter 7. There is a fresh life for those who embrace the power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, whom Jesus gives to us freely.

This sets the stage for what many believe is the greatest chapter in all of scripture: Romans 8. Paul outlines the full measure and assurance of the grace of Jesus! “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Jesus!” (Romans 8:1, NIV).

We get to embrace that beautiful truth together tomorrow.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com.

 

Romans 6. Part 2. God’s Gift is Eternal Life!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6:15-23.

Another stop for us on the Romans Road today. The Human Condition is that we are human. Logical, right? We are not God. We don’t work our way up to being God, or being a god. We are man and woman. We are sinners. Each and every one of us. Sin separates us from holy and righteous God. And in God’s view, sin leads to death.

“For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a, NIV).

And that’s just that.

If that was all there was to God’s economy, there would be no reason to hope, no reason to live.

But there’s good news next, thanks to Jesus!  “God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b, CEV).


The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life!

Yes, we are all sinners, separated from God by that sin. But Jesus bridges that chasm at the Cross. His death, and then His resurrection, is what allows us to have communion, connection, and community with God. When Jesus died, He provided access to the Most High.

Look at this: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51, NIV). The significance of this event is that the Holy of Holies, the place where the Ark of Covenant was kept, was now exposed for all. The custom of the day was that only a certain priest would be able to go into this holy place in the temple. But because of Jesus, anyone and everyone can approach Father God directly.

Yet some still believe that a Godly life is constricting. Ironic isn’t it? The life chosen to live without God, thinking one is free, is actually a life that is lived in bondage to sin and leads to a dead-end… to death. It’s worse than ironic, it’s very sad, tragic. Some believe  they’re free because they don’t have to “follow God’s rules.” But yet, they are actually slaves to sin.

“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” (Romans 6:22‭-‬23, MSG).

The delight of our relationship with God is more and more life! Whole. Healed. And put-together by God Himself. That’s Good News!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

Romans 6. Grace is Freedom!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6.

I have always loved the way this chapter begins. Chapter 5 is all about God’s grace. Now, Paul asks this thought-provoking question: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” (Romans 6:1, MSG). Do we keep on behaving poorly so God can keep on giving us more and more and more of His grace?  Here are a few different translations of verse 2:

By no means! (NIV)
I should hope not! (MSG)
What a terrible thought! (TPT)
Heaven forbid! (CJB)
Of course not! (NLT)
May it never be! (TLV)

I used to be a king at rationalizing. I’m pretty sure that if I was reading the words of Chapter 5 when Paul was writing it, I would have been one of the first to ask that question. It’s a logical one for our human mind. So, I’m glad to see the answer to his own question. It makes me wonder if Paul likely asked it of God and this answer was for the Apostle’s benefit as well as for ours.


Like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives.

To be clear, more sin on our part does not equal more grace on God’s part. Although, Jesus pointed to a woman at a meal at Simon the Pharisee’s home in Luke 7: “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (Luke 7:47, MSG). Our assignment in fully accepting God’s grace is to recognize that we are all sinners, and none of us deserve His grace. And we are to be thankful no matter if the perceived amount of His grace is one ounce or a thousand tons! In reality, we cannot quantify it.

John Newton was a slave trader, British ship captain, and author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He said it this way: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” *

Paul says we get to bury that sinful life in baptism. And just as Jesus was raised to life, we too can live a life of freedom from the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus came! Recall, Jesus said in Luke 4, quoting Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

Our baptism reminds of that. It is a mark on our spiritual journey. It’s a public proclamation that allows us to say, “No, I am going to live differently than I used to live. I am going to live fully embracing the freedom and grace Jesus offers. I am set free from sin. I have been forgiven!

I like walking along the beach. It reminds me, like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives. It never runs out! So, how do we live out this grace each day?  Back to Romans 6:

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”(Romans 6:12-14, MSG).

May the Holy Spirit empower you to”throw yourself into God’s way of doing things” today. And please pray that He allows me to do the same!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

*John Pollock, Amazing Grace: John Newton’s Story (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981. Page 182.