June 5, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 1)

Submitted by Sandra L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 1

        Apostle Paul’s self-understanding before God and before people

From the onset, Apostle Paul declares his identity to be a servant of Christ and set apart for the gospel.  Because his identity is so clear he does not cower behind fear or false humility but plainly states that he is obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish.  His life is summarized in relation to others–his obligation to preach the gospel to them.  He had no other identity, such as tentmaker or even his position in the church, because the gospel was the most important to him.

        The nature of the gospel

The gospel has the power to save every person, regardless of who they are.  This is amazing to think about, as back in the time of writing the dividing line between Jew and Gentile was so distinguished.  But before God, the common identity of humanity is not Jew or Gentile or wise or foolish, rich or poor but broken sinners.  That is why the gospel is the salvation for every person because there is a common need for forgiveness.

Even in today’s society where people are not so homogenous, everyone has different backgrounds, issues, preferences, philosophies, etc.  This truth has not changed.  I have seen the gospel reach people with very broken backgrounds, and those who grew up in more affluent conditions.  It demonstrates that the gospel is truth and the very need for everyone God has created.

        The condition of humanity

The condition of humanity is naturally hostile towards God.  It says, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God made it plain to them.”  If God’s nature and the truth of this world have been made plain to us, why do we suppress the truth?  It is because we are naturally bent towards twisting the truth to suit our own desires.

In an effort to assert our own “wisdom,” we become fools.  How does this happen?  We run and pant after the idols of the world-career, money, romance, etc., and in the process we become fools, because we exchange the real living God for an idol to our own suiting.  If we think about it, it does not make any logical sense

        God

God is our creator and has engraved himself in our hearts, so that we would be able to know and love him.  He is the author of our life, and gives humanity dignity by allowing us to make our own decisions.  Although he is our creator and has every right to our being, he allows us to choose our fate and destiny.  His hope is that the gospel will save everyone–he does not show favoritism but each person is precious to him because they are made in his image.

Personal Application

Apostle Paul’s assertion that he is a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle is so clear.  He has no other contingency plan with his life.  The call for my own life is no different.  God loved and redeemed me in my broken state, and gave me a new purpose and calling for my life.  Yet often times I find that I have other identities that become prominent in my own mind.  It can be as a mother, a career woman, even being a good minister.  But the only identity that I need to have is a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle.  The clarity of this identity will drive out the significance and hope I put in my other identities, and that much more I will be filled with a sense of clarity regarding the call of my life.  It’s when I focus on my other identities and being “good” at each one of them that I become confused and the joy of being a servant and seeing the privilege of being called an apostle is dull.

As I think about the power of the gospel, it makes sense that Apostle Paul is very confident.  Truly it is the salvation of everyone.  Yet often times the mundane details of life and my attention to them dull the clarity of this power in my own life.  During these times I can easily see that the gospel is for the foolish, but sometimes I get intimidated by the “wise”—those who seem to have things together or competent and wise in the way of the world.  Seeing Apostle Paul’s bold assertion that he is not ashamed of the gospel once again renews the clarity of conviction that I can have in the gospel.

As I am a part of Interhigh ministry, and I am called to serve the youth, I see the world and culture they are growing up in that asserts what Romans 1 talks about.  Media and school influence them to “exchange the truth of God for a lie” and the result is a lost generation, enslaved to the very things that they worship.  As a teacher I am called to turn them from this lie and point them to the truth that God is indeed alive and working, that he is their creator and heavenly father that loves them.  They do not need to fall into the lies that their worth depends on the things that they worship–academics, popularity, appearance and attention from the opposite sex.  And as I think about what the teachers are up against, I see the truth that the gospel has the power to save.  It is not our delivery of the messages, or us coming up with exciting programs, but the simple and plain truth of the gospel that will hopefully break into their hearts.  I just need to be faithful to have that clear identity–to be a servant of Christ and an apostle that clearly delivers the gospel to them.

Submitted by Tony K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 1

–        Apostle Paul’s self-understanding before God and before people

Apostle Paul identifies himself first and foremost as a servant of God, a servant called out by God as an apostle with a mission to preach the gospel.  This same understanding is mentioned again in v. 9 – “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son.”  Apostle Paul knew full well who he was before God.  He had a clear identity as a servant for God’s people, “obligated to both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.  That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel.”  He understood that his life was to be lived for God and for others, and not for his own personal and selfish pursuits and desires, but for people, bound to others and to God.

–          The nature of the gospel

The nature of the gospel is such that it has the transforming power to change the hearts of men.  The gospel has the power to turn a man like Apostle Paul, who was a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man” (1 Timothy 1:13), into someone who would pen words of longing and love for others.  Apostle Paul was someone who would long for people, long to see his brothers in Rome, long to impart a spiritual gift to them so that they would be strong.  He would be someone who would “constantly remember them” in his prayers and this, from a man, who used to be a  “violent man.”  Truly, the nature of the gospel is such that it possesses the amazing transforming power to change the hearts and attitudes of any man.

–          The condition of humanity

The condition of humanity is that men are godless and wicked because of their desire to suppress the truth.  People are depraved not just because they commit wicked acts of murder, cheating, stealing, or adultery, but because of their fundamental orientation towards truth.  Truth often doesn’t bode well with people, because people are proud and are haters of truth.  They want to deny it at all costs.  People suppress the most significant through their outward denial of God despite God’s act of “making it plain” (v. 19) to them through Jesus Christ.  People end up turning to worthless idols that have caused their hearts and minds to be “dark and confused” (v. 22 – NLT).  Furthermore, a refusal to acknowledge God and submit to His authority has resulted in people committing even more depraved and astonishing acts of sin and evil, more shameful acts of indecency, filled with every “senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless” thing (v. 31).

–          God

God makes it plain to people who He is, the reality of who He is, His presence and existence, through “external power and divine nature,” that He is not some obscure force that only a selected few can discern or detect His movements out in the cosmos.  But especially through the person and life of Jesus Christ, He makes it known and obvious, so that “men are without excuse.”  In addition, God is a God who is not some tyrant who forces people to submit to His rule and makes people pay if they do not.  He really gives dignity to people’s choices, in his desire for people to authentically relate with Him and volitionally enter in a relationship with Him.

Personal Application

When I think about Apostle Paul’s self-understanding of himself before God and before people, I am both reminded and challenged of the fundamental truth that God is my master and my life is not my own.  In the NLT, the word “slave of God” is used, and as God’s servant or slave, the truth that every breath, ounce of energy, ounce of strength, everything I “own” is not mine to hoard and utilize for my selfish and greedy purposes, but it is ultimately God’s.  As I get older, I find that I need to remind myself of this truth time and time again, because by the sheer fact of growing older, having a family, raising a family, going to work, possessing and owning a lot more than I did when I was younger, and experiencing the built-in demands of life and lack of time and resources, the temptation to live for my wants and desires and to have my own personal time and comfort becomes stronger.  Yet I am reminded, that all I have is truly a gift from God, owned by Him, and that each day, while I am still physically able to, is an opportunity from God to do His glorious an and awesome work of the gospel.  As Apostle Paul exemplified, my life too is obligated and bound to others, so that others too may partake in the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saint (Ephesians 1:18) – namely the gospel message and eternal salvation.  When I think about the people God has placed around me, from the middle and high school students at the Interhigh church I am serving, to the working adults I am ministering to in my home group, from my coworkers that I see on a daily basis, to my relatives, loved ones, family members – I am reminded that my life is truly not my own, and that the best thing that can happen to anyone’s life is for someone to share the gospel with them, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

As I think about Apostle Paul’s transformed life as well as God’s wrath towards sin, as I think about the precious gospel that has somehow reached me during my lowest points of sin and grief, I am driven just by a personal sense of fear and awe, as well as deeper appreciation for the gospel.  It’s the gospel that has truly saved me, saved me from entering into greater and more atrocious acts of sin and decay, as I too could have been “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.”  I too could have been a “God-hater, insolent, arrogant and boastful.”  Yet because of this gospel that has CHANGED my life, and the possible outcomes and courses of life my life could have taken, to borrow Apostle Paul’s words, I am privileged to “receive grace and apostleship” and to be “obligated” to those around me.

Submitted by Danielle P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 1

Personal Application

Apostle Paul went through many hardships. He was imprisoned, stoned, abandoned, and persecuted because he was sharing the gospel wherever He went. He was misunderstood, judged, conflicted, and rejected even by other Christians and non-Christians. Despite of all these difficulties and discouraging circumstances, he did not stop. He had a clear understanding of his mission and calling. He was not deterred to share the gospel and continue to reach out to other Christians who were struggling in their faith. His identity was an apostle. Because of this calling to be an apostle, he viewed himself completely obligated to everyone. Even though his life appeared to be tough and rocky, he was able to be confident in the gospel and the ways that he was living for the gospel.

God calls me to the same calling as Apostle Paul. I am obligated to everyone as well. I am obligated to my Interhigh students, friends, coworkers, fellow sisters, family members, and whoever comes into my life. That should be my primary identity. It means even if my students ignore my text and phone calls numerous times, I would continue to show care and love. Even if my friend gets hostile to Christianity and calls me a fool, I would continue to show interest in her life and love her as I have received from God and through the Body of Christ. I would not slow down in serving God. Even if people tell I am wasting my life, I would not stop living out the life of discipleship. However, I sometimes find myself ignoring my obligation to people in my life.  When people whom I care about reject me, I found myself wanting to shrink back and shield my heart from being hurt. When my students are not responsive, I get discouraged and sometimes wondered if all the efforts were a waste. Because I am afraid of being humiliated and mocked, I hesitated to share my faith and values with coworkers and old friends. My zeal to share the gospel got easily deterred by different setbacks and fears. Instead of being completely obligated to them, I was often obligated to my own emotions and fears. In light of Apostle Paul’s life and his clear understanding of his calling, I feel very ashamed and rebuked for my lack of commitment to others and avoiding emotional suffering.  God gives me this privilege to share the gospel.  People in my life really need the gospel, and I am called to share it. As much as I shrink back from sharing the gospel in different forms, people lose the opportunity to come to know God. Whether people are responsive or not, God calls me to love them and reach out to them. Even if they reject me and cause pains in my heart, I am obligated to come closer to them and live out the gospel.  God has set me apart for His gospel, and that is my primary mission. I am obligated to everyone who comes in contact with me. This obligation is my commitment. Regardless of what kinds of setbacks I experience, I need to continue to love others and share the gospel.

As I reflected on the later of part of Romans 1, I was once again reminded of the true condition of men, including myself.  Everyone needs the gospel. The gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians to believe it and live it out daily.  I am not that different from people who are described in this chapter. Even though I have been a Christian for 10 years, I continue to struggle against envy, strife, gossip, arrogance, deceit, disobedience, greed, etc.  Ten years ago, I was convicted of my sinfulness through this text. These verses described me so accurately, and I could not ignore the truth about myself. I need the gospel daily; I need to be saved daily as I confess my sins to God and repent of them. A part of me wants to say that I am not like these people anymore. I often forget the true condition of humanity including myself just because I am busy carrying out different responsibilities at church, ministering to others, striving to live out my faith, and no longer living a reckless life I as a non-Christian. However, I am just like these people who deserve death.  I am daily struggling with envy, desire for approval of men, pride, desire for comfort, selfishness, disobedience, etc.  Because of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, I am saved daily.  I am now more aware of what kind of sinner I am. Everyone needs the gospel, and I need it daily as well. I want to bring the gospel to myself daily through devotion time and prayers. God calls me to share the gospel with others; moreover, He calls me to experience His grace every day.

Lastly, I really want to thank God for the gospel and the calling to share this precious gospel. A sinner who deserves death had been saved by grace of God and called to bring people to be saved. I pray that I can remember daily that everyone needs salvation, and I am called to share the message of salvation with them.

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