Romans 12. How To Be Changed From the Inside Out.

 





You may listen to this devotional blog here.

 

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 12.

I’m not sure about you, but some scriptures remind me of certain people. Romans 12 will forever be associated with a sweet couple who were our life group leaders about ten years ago. There aren’t too many people on this planet with as much grace as these two. This is one of my favorite passages as it reads in The Message:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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.  (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).

Place your life before God, everything about your life. You’ll be changed from the inside out. You will be transformed as you rise above the messiness of the world’s ways and prioritize God’s plan.

The Passion Translation says “Live in holiness experiencing all that delights His heart.” Can we make it our goal to delight His heart? Not with works, nor a tally where we keep score. Rather, just to live every single day as if we are serving God, because we are. Paul’s reminder of these actions is noted in another letter. “Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others. For we know that we will receive a reward, an inheritance from the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23-24, TPT).

This also reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:6. The Old Testament Torah encourages us to teach our children God’s law, the Sh’ma, at all times of the day, every day… when you’re waking up, walking along the road, riding bikes in the park, sitting at the dinner table, going to bed… at all times and all the time.

 

Place your life before God, everything about your life. You’ll be changed from the inside out.


The second half of Romans 12 is worth highlighting the whole text! Paul is being very “Solomon-esque” with short, little proverbs to encourage flourishing interconnectedness in our relationships. Each thought is written to encourage our getting along with others. Here’s a delightful list of beautiful things to do today. For yourself. And for each other. It’s very poetic, actually.


Love.

Run.

Hold on.

Love.

Practice.

Be fueled up.

Be alert.

Be expectant.

Pray.

Help.

Host creatively.

Bless.

Laugh.

Cry.

Get along.

Make friends.

Discover beauty.

I continue to be reminded about the context of these readers. First Century Rome was very much like 21st Century New York City. It was the center of the world, filled with great opulence and excess. Likely also filled with great poverty and depression. Healthy relationships in that kind of environment, especially, are key to happiness and life fulfillment. Our role in this world can be summed up in this one directive: “Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, TPT).

While this may seem impossible, with the grace of Jesus redeeming us and the power of the Holy Spirit in us, this is not hypothetical! So, do not be discouraged. As the Evangelist noted a few chapters earlier, nothing will separate us from God’s love or His purpose. Today and throughout every day of our life!



© 2020. Rich Ronald.
RichlySpeaking.com

 

Romans 2: God is Kind, yet God is Firm.

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 2:1-11.
 
This is the whole essence of our relationship with Father God. He’s kind. But sometimes He has to take us firmly by the hand. I’m reminded about a time when I was a really young child and we were on a family vacation in Washington, D.C. We were waiting to cross a very busy intersection when I darted out into traffic. I’ll never forget how hard my dad grabbed my hand and yanked me away from an oncoming car as its tires screeched. It saved my life!
 
God does that for us. He saves us in spite of ourselves. I believe sometimes He allows obstacles to come into our lives that we might perceive to be everything from speed bumps to twenty-foot tall walls. Do you ever wonder if those stumbling blocks are the result of sin? Might our difficulties be His way of leading us, in kindness, to change what we are doing? Why would He do that?
 

Ultimately, it’s all about radical life change.

“But all who do right will be rewarded with glory, honor, and peace.” (Romans 2:10, CEV).
 
God wants us to enjoy the beautiful rewards of following Him…  glory, honor, and peace. 
 
Ultimately, it’s all about radical life change. Are you willing to live that kind of life? A life that is radically different? A life of total surrender and complete obedience? Radically changed? This might be a great season to engage in self-reflection. What are some habits that you might need to release? What are some new disciplines that would be beneficial? I heard a pastor encourage his flock recently by saying, “When this is over, let’s not go back to normal. That was awful! Let’s look forward to a new normal!”
 
We will take a deeper dive into Romans 12 later in this study. This is how I would define radical life change:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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. (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).
 
Let’s all be better in the upcoming season than we’ve been previously. Let’s raise the bar. Can we make a commitment to improving our lives, even if in just one simple way? Radical life change can begin with a small step or a large one.  For example, you don’t have to sign up to run a marathon, but maybe tomorrow you take a walk around the neighborhood for the first time in years? Or you actually read that book on your bedside table? Or you commit to serving or volunteering?
 
Take your hand in His and let Him lead you today. He sees deep in your heart. Let Him bring out the best of you. Let Him develop well-formed maturity in you.
 
 
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Pray for my enemies? Are you kidding me?

Keep Calm and Love Your Enemies
Keep Calm and Love Your Enemies

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Romans 12.  Look at the very last verse of this chapter:

Verse 21:  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Message says:  Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

This is the summary statement in a chapter full of actions that Paul encourages us to take as part of a life of transformed into Godly discipline.  Some are easy. Verse 13: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” I can do that. Verse 15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”  Yep! That’s a piece of cake.  “Mourn with those who mourn.” Yes, I can come along side someone and share their grief.

But what about the verse in between those two? Verse 14: “Bless your enemies. No cursing under your breath.”

Bless those who persecute me? Are you kidding me? I have had some people really treat me badly. We all have. And the text says to bless them? And if that isn’t enough, we can’t even grumble about them under our breath. No, we are to be pure in heart towards them.

Paul is actually mirroring words spoken by our Master. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says: “Love your enemies. Bless those that curse you.” (Matthew 5)

Look at how The Message translates Matthew 5:43-48: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”

Then look how Jesus sums up this thought: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

So, when we pray for our enemies, and those who have messed up our lives, Jesus says it causes us to grow up… to mature in the faith.  I think what it says is this: “I’m gonna let God deal with this person, because if it were up to me and my self-centered spirit, I would want to make their life miserable.”  What happens when your enemy finds out you’re trying to bless them? Many times, they drop their affront, don’t they? It changes their heart. But more importantly, it changes our heart as well.

There have been people in my life who have really offended me and I carried around the angst of that offense for years. It caused bitterness and a cancer-like growth of ugliness to take root in my heart. It would cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and my heart to beat faster when anyone mentioned their name. And the thing is, they had moved on. Forgotten about it. Never bothered them in the least.

So, as a lesson in living a transformed life, I can say with confidence that I have moved on as well. It is not easy. But it is a choice I can make. With God’s Holy Spirit in me and comforting me along the path, and my taking increasingly greater steps of prayer for them, I am “growing up” and maturing in the faith as Jesus encouraged.

May I encourage you to meditate on those who may have offended you, and offer a prayer for them. I know it may not be easy. As God works in His divine ways, it will actually be a blessing to you.

P.S.  And if that person was me, please forgive me.

(C) 2013. Rich Ronald.