June 12, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 5)

Submitted by James K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5

v.3-5 “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

People justified through faith should rejoice in suffering.  From the world’s perspective, that is ludicrous.  But for those who have been justified through faith, we can rejoice in suffering because suffering ultimately leads to hope.  Without suffering, there is nothing to persevere. There is nothing to endure.  But where there is suffering, there is the opportunity to respond with it by enduring it, rather than just throwing in the towel, giving up.  And the person who endures doesn’t simply grit their teeth and bear it over time.  Over time, the enduring person becomes a resilient person, somebody who isn’t daunted by difficulty, who isn’t thrown around by the harsh reality of unanticipated circumstances that come their way.  They become the “kind of person” who endures in the face of difficulty and suffering. That’s character.  And when somebody has these qualities, this “character,” then there is the possibility for hope.  Why? The opposite of hope is despair.  Despair is the attitude that everything is going down the tube, that I know the outcome for certain, and that outcome is for the worst.  Despair is throwing up ones arms in surrender to the worst outcome, to cynicism.  And despair is ultimately an anti-Christian perspective because it denies the presence and care and concern of a Heavenly Father who is powerful and loving, who willfully acts in this world.  The person of hope says, “There is a God. He is powerful, and He is loving.”  When God is involved, there is always hope.

And so, suffering, though difficult, can actually be rejoiced in.  We know that there is a God.  And so, if the character that is produced by enduring said suffering brings one to grow in hope in God, then suffering can ultimately be redeemed into something good.

The lesson for me is to endure.  The lesson for me is to refuse cynicism and despair. The lesson for me is to have a greater perspective when I’m facing difficulties and what (I hesitate to consider) sufferings I experience in my life.  I can look with confidence to sufferings as something that I can embrace, knowing that in doing so, God grows me to have a character that puts hope into him more and more.  I don’t have to buckle to the pressures and fears of this world. That even when the worst happens, as a result of my own sinfulness or simply the circumstances that life tosses my way, all the more I can look toward that final day, when all will be reconciled before God who saves me.  After having poured out myself to another person, only to hear of their misunderstandings through slanderous accusations, I can continue to press forward to embrace the role that God has given me to love the people He’s entrusted me with.  When people I love are hurt by the sins of others, and I share the pain they carry, I can deny the temptation to despair, the temptation to not want to care and numb myself from their plight, and I can turn to God in his word and through prayer to lift up all the parties involved.  That is not easy, but growth often isn’t.  But that’s the way that I can rely on God, trusting in his provision of strength, endurance, character and hope. I would never want myself or anybody to suffer.  But responding to it in this way leads to a greater trust and hope in God.  And that’s never a bad or unwanted thing.

Day by day and with each passing moment

Strength I find to meet my trials here

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment

I’ve no cause for worry or for fear

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure

Gives unto each day what He deems best

Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with peace and rest

 

Everyday the Lord Himself is near me

With a special mercy for each hour

All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me

He whose name is Counselor and Power

The protection of His child and treasure

Is a charge that on Himself He laid

“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”

This is pledge to me He made

 

Help me then in every tribulation

So to trust Thy promises, O Lord

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation

Offered me within Thy holy Word

Help me, Lord when toil and trouble meeting

E’er to take, as from a father’s hand

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting

‘Til I reach the promised land

v.6 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God demonstrates his love by sending his son to die for us… while we were still sinners.  In the text immediately preceding this, Paul writes, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possible dare to die.”

Why is this a demonstration of love?  If you heard that a man died for another person, then you’d expect the beneficiary of that sacrificial act to be somebody godly, or righteous or good.  In other words, you’d expect that person to be “worthy of being died for.” Or you’d expect the person to be great friends with the one who sacrificed for them, on good terms, somebody who would’ve done the same for the other if the roles were reversed.  That is the very best demonstration of love in human terms.  But here we have something very different.  “While we were still sinners…,” while we were still enemies of God, still pushing him away, still putting him on the cross, still mocking him, still going our own way, still abusing other people, still bowing down to manmade things rather than bowing down to the rightful King, still selfish, self-centered, greedy, lustful, angry, envious, pushing people aside as we grasped for the best for ourselves, while we were still putting ourselves on the throne that God himself belongs on…while we were still sinner, God, the rightful King, came down and died for us, by our own hands.  That is God’s love.  That is the love that saved me.  That is amazing love, amazing grace.

The application for me is to step away from any notion that I have to do something to earn God’s love.  This is so basic, yet even after so many years since crossing the line of faith myself, I still see that mentality within me at times.  The way it manifests is when I see the ways that I haven’t changed over the years, which cause me to feel like God’s just putting up with me.  It makes me feel guilty and wanting to “make up for it” in some way.  So I’ll go about my duties and responsibilities as a minister or as one of the staff as I normally would, as I should, but with the mentality that I have to do it in order to be accepted by God, or because God’s just barely putting up with me anyway.  Underneath that mentality and those feelings is the implicit belief that I can do something to make myself be “worthy of his death” or “worthy of being saved,” which is contradictory in terms in the first place.  I have to remember the truths in God’s word tell me that while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me.  And so, while I’m still a sinner, for the rest of my days on this side of heaven’s door, I am a forgiven sinner, saved by Jesus’ death on the cross. I can fulfill my duties and responsibilities with freedom.  I have to admit that my feelings betray me during those times. But as I hold onto God’s promises, his unchanging words ultimately defeat my fleeting ungrounded feelings.  And in there I find peace.

v.19 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Death reigns over all people as a result of sin.  It’s a severing of a relationship with God that man cannot mend on his own.  The result of man’s disobedience is God giving him over to his desires, the consequences of his disobedience.  When Adam severed his relationship with God, he set the trajectory for all who would follow him.  When man disobeys, the consequence is man being apart from God.  And the result of that is what we see everywhere in the world today.  Everything went south, as people hurt themselves, hurt other people, all so that each individual person would be the king of their own universe.  And so we have all sin under that umbrella.  Murder, adultery, stealing, hatred, jealousy, greed, envy, slander, lying, politicking, back-stabbing, prostitution, pornography, drugs, escapism…. All of that as a result of man declaring himself as the king, throwing God aside.  And ultimately death has the final say.  Death reigns over all man. Every person dies as a result of having severed relationship with God. When you cut off a relationship with God, the source of life itself and all that would bring us to thrive, that cannot be mended by sinful man.  All that started from on man (Adam).  But through Jesus’ obedience to God, all that could be mended through the total obedience of one man, to provide the opportunity to reverse all that spiraled down.  Jesus died to take my place, to take my punishment on the cross, so that I can have the chance to reconnect – or reconcile – my relationship with God.  It’s through him and his obedience that I even have that chance.

For those who do not have reconciled relationship with God, for those who have not entered the fold of God, death still has the final say.  They walk around in this life carrying the burden of their sin, whether they realize it or not. Many of them experience the consequences of that through the brokenness in their lives. But even for those who are unaware of this fact, in the end, they will die, as death continues to reign over them.  The obedience of Jesus, the opportunity to have a righted reconciled relationship with God, the source of life and the source of all that will allow a person to thrive is a story that needs to be brought to them.  I’ve received this message of the gospel, the story of Jesus’ obedience to overcome the reign of death.  And so my obedience to God to bring that story of Jesus’ obedience comes into play here.  I am called to be a minister of the gospel, to put forth my efforts, my energy, my time, my heart, care and concern to deliver this message.  The reign of Jesus in my life saves me from the reign of death.  And so that translates to me obeying God myself, and being his witness to the world who doesn’t know him.  As I enter into second year of new Kairos ministry, there is a lot of work ahead of us.  Last year, we had over 40 people taking course 101, to hear this message of Jesus’ obedience.  We have much work ahead of us to continue in that work, as so many people still need to be freed and saved from the reign of death.  That’s the mission that God has set before me, and I need to rise up to that call so that others might have the opportunity to respond to the gospel that I’ve received and am the beneficiary of… and now a steward of this great Gospel!

 —

Submitted by Ray C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5

Analysis of the Text

What we should rejoice in as people justified through faith

As people justified through faith, I should rejoice in having peace with God, having hope of the glory of God, and in our sufferings, because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  These are so different from the things that the world teaches us to rejoice in.  Without the gospel, without justification through faith, I am taught to rejoice in personal advancement, building up of my own reputation, my own acclaim, career prospects, salary, anything that would give me an edge over others.  Or I am taught to simply rejoice in whatever will satiate my desires and allow me to tune out the rest of the world: self-indulgence and self-protection.  These are the dimensions in which I would have sought joy and fulfillment, if it weren’t for God’s intervention in my life.  Instead, because of my salvation, I can find true joy in God–being reconciled to my Creator, having the hope of heaven, where everything will be made right and God will be glorified.  This is a joy that is deeper and not so dependent on immediate results or life turning out as I expect – this is a joy that is anchored into the solid hope of the love of God winning in the end.

– Result of man’s disobedience vs. Result of Jesus’ obedience

The thing about the way Paul describes the reign of death vs. the reign of grace, and man’s disobedience versus Jesus’ obedience is the way Jesus’ grace and obedience completely sweeps up and covers the domain of death and disobedience.  The one man’s disobedience sent sin and death spewing into the world, but Jesus’ obedience went and swept it all up, and can win the day for every single soul that has been stung by sin.  Paul uses the phrase, “how much more,” a number of times.  This gospel is truly the answer to all sin, to all sadness, to all questions, to all sorrow and lack.

Personal Application

The way that Paul talks about the gospel – the story of how Jesus’ obedience won life – is so grand, so sweeping, that it reminds me of the radical implications that the gospel should have in my life.  Paul is reaching for words to describe this new reality that Jesus’ obedience ushered in.  The old reality is that death was on the throne, and everyone bowed down to death and went from sin to sin.  But now, the reality is that grace is on the throne, and there is no sin that has grown so great or gone so far where grace has not chased it down and won the victory, so that now everyone can bow down before God’s grace, without any boast in self, and live from grace to grace.  This is good news that everyone needs to hear, that demands my entire life and totality to live out and embody to the world.

This new reality needs to color my whole life purpose, needs to be that which motivates me, that which is my new ambition, and sets me apart from the pattern of this world.  My joy no longer in self-seeking desires or the vain self-glory I can hope to achieve through career or temporary fame or success.

These words seem to throw such a stark contrast onto my life right now, because right now it feels like I’m just surviving to be a dad of a one-year-old and a newborn, a working man, and yes, I’m part of a growing church that has an exciting vision, but honestly I feel like I haven’t been able to be much of a contribution in these past few weeks and in the weeks to come.  As my life circumstances change and have more demand on me, the thing is the gospel has not changed – the gospel is still this radical news of how a new king is on the throne, of how grace has overrun sin and death, of how there is a hope and a joy that can outlast and outweigh any joy this world has to offer.  So my response right now in this season of my life must not be simply hanging on, but recommitting and reaffirming these truths in my life – of what the gospel is and what reality I have committed to live for.

Dear heavenly Father, as You have blessed me with a new child and a new job, and as life gets a bit more demanding of my time, thoughts and energy, help me not to lose sight of the unchanging gospel, this incredible message of reconciliation that You have entrusted to us, and help me to allow the gospel to turn my now more complicated world upside down once again.  The gospel demands the very best of my me and our whole church, and so I recommit my life to You and to serve the gospel in our generation.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Submitted by Claire K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Analysis of the Text

–        What we should rejoice in as people justified through faith

This chapter says that as people justified through faith we should rejoice in the “hope of the glory of God” in the future, and rejoice “in our sufferings.”

We are to rejoice in the fact that one day, we will actually see God in his full glory and splendor–we will see him face to face. To behold God in His glory will be quite awesome and we will be completely humbled and filled with joy as we see how great and glorious He really is. Before, when I read that I am to rejoice in the “hope of glory of God” and other such passages, I didn’t know why I would rejoice in that. Being in “awe” of God made sense to me, but why would I “rejoice”? But as I have been more intentional in worshiping God regularly in my prayer life, I started to understand why He would say, “rejoice.” As I worship God, I do experience awe and being humbled by who God is, but I also experience joy. Perhaps it is the joy in finally properly relating to God, acknowledge God as “God” and I being his creature. Or perhaps it is what St. Augustine said, that God made us with a void in our hearts that can be only filled by God. And as we fill our void with God, we experience joy. Thus, for those who experience joy in worshiping God would then rejoice in the hope of the glory of God in the future.

Apostle Paul says we are also to rejoice in our sufferings. How can we rejoice in our sufferings? Paul tells us to rejoice in our sufferings because of what it will produce in us—perseverance, character, and hope. This passage reminds me of the Lord of the Ring scene when Minas Tirith was about to be attacked and it seemed like a hopeless case to fight against the overwhelming enemies that was before them. The steward of Gondor had given up hope and had killed himself, but against all hope, Gandalf hoped and instilled hope in others—and rallied the people to fight what seemed liked a hopeless battle. His attitude was that it was arrogant to think one knows the end, and one should always hope. And for Christians, we can always hope because of God—who makes all the difference in what the outcome will be. When we are suffering, it provides us opportunity to persevere, to become a person of character, and learn to hope in God and his love. Though it seems like a painful process, if one looks from eternal perspective, becoming a person of character who know how to hope in God is exactly the kind of person God is molding us to become in the long run. Thus suffering, if it’s being used for this purpose, can even be something we can rejoice in.

–        How God demonstrates his own love for us

God has demonstrated his love for us most clearly in this “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When we were sinners in rebellion against God, when we were basically his enemies and hostile towards him, Jesus died to save us. What else God can God do to prove his unconditional and unfailing love for us? If he died for us when we had “depraved minds” and we were “God-haters…senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” according Romans 1 and if our “throats were open graves; [our] tongues practice[d] deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips” according Romans 3, then we can know that God did NOT die for us because we were good or righteous in any way, BUT just because he loved us. We did not earn God’s love, we did not deserve God’s love, but rather God in his own initiative decided to love us, and paid the highest cost of having Christ die for us. When I was younger, I would say that I wasn’t sure if God really loved me. I would say things like “I can’t feel God’s love.” Or I would think that because I have sinned too much, that God did not love me anymore, or it was hard to believe God really forgives me of all my sins. But this verse has convinced me that God loves me—no matter how I feel or think about it. God has done a very concrete act, and he has done it when were hostile towards him. Now, I just can’t think that God doesn’t love me. Regardless of how I feel, one thing I know is that God loves me, and after he shed Jesus blood on the cross, it would be a huge insult to doubt God’s love for me. What more does God need to do to show me that he loves me? What more can he do? These are the questions that I ask myself when I start to wonder if God really loves me. And of course the resounding answer is there is nothing more God can do to show me he loves me. Christ died for me when I was still a sinner.

–        Result of man’s disobedience vs. Result of Jesus’ obedience

Result of one man’s disobedience was that sin and death came to all men. Because of Adam’s disobedience, death was introduced into the world and every man dies for his own sins. This is the awful plight of all mankind. But Apostle Paul says that when God acted in his grace through Jesus’ obedience in dying on the cross, he reversed man’s plight from death to life. And because Jesus is God’s son, and as he is the one who is bringing this life, how much more would we be able to reign in grace!

This is such good news for those who are sinners. This not only explains where sin came from and why there is death, but that there is such great hope in Christ, who makes us righteous by what he did on the cross. I know that I am sinful, but in the back of my mind, I sometimes hope that I am not as sinful as the Bible depicts me. But regularly, I see the depravity of my heart—because I am as sinful as the bible tells me that I am. This passage reminds me again that yes, I am sinful and that sin and death has been brought about by Adam to all human race, but Jesus has the last word. And not only does he have the last word, but because He is the one bringing grace and life, how much more will I reign in grace, rather than reign in death. Though I am a sinner, I can have much hope and encouragement because of Jesus.

Personal Application

Followers of Christ are commanded to and expected to rejoice. We are to rejoice in our justification through faith in Jesus, in our hope of glory of God, and even in our sufferings. What a glorious faith this is, that as followers of Christ, we are to rejoice! Yet often, I find myself not rejoicing.  And the reason is because I get focused on myself and on my own thoughts and get stuck there. Rather than thanking God about my salvation, the fact that I have this great and awesome God whom I will see and worship one day face to face, or that even when I suffer, God is using that to build my character, I focus on me—on what I have done well or not done well, what I feel guilty about, what others think about me, and the list goes on. And as I focus on me, I feel miserable, and there definitely isn’t any rejoicing in my life. All I see are my failures and my pride rearing its ugly head.  This passage is a reminder that I need to rejoice. And will happen as I discipline myself to praise God regularly and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

I also need to see suffering as something to rejoice in because it builds my character. Often, I want to avoid suffering. Or if I am suffering, I am very unhappy and anxious. But I need to see suffering from God’s perspective, and see what good it can do for my character. So when suffering comes my way, I embrace it and even rejoice in it, because I can know that God will use it for my own growth and good.

Lastly, as God has demonstrated his unconditional and amazing love for me and through Jesus brought about righteousness and life, I don’t need to be afraid or feel condemned when my sins come out. But rather as it says in v20, “but where sin increased, graced increased all the more.” Therefore, since this is true, I can be confident that though I am a sinner and my ugly sins come out, God’s grace can cover my sins and make me righteous once again before Him. Praise God for this good news!


Submitted by Nelson W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

– What we should rejoice in as people justified through faith

As sinners who have rejected and rebelled against God, we made ourselves enemies with Him. We had cut ourselves off from God, who is the source of life and everything that is good, beautiful, and worthy. We have earned for ourselves eternal condemnation, eternal separation, and death. We deserve the consequences that our wretchedness calls for. There was absolutely nothing we could do to dig ourselves out of the hole we fell into. We were helpless and beyond hopeless. And yet the very God who we sinned against still loves us and demonstrates it by saving us from our dire plight. We made ourselves enemies with God but now we have peace with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. We severed ourselves from the goodness and blessings of God but now we are restored and reconciled because of His great love for us. We deserve God’s wrath and death but instead we receive God’s grace and life. The slate has been wiped clean and we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ–and all this through simple faith in Jesus Christ, the one who saves us. The more we can reflect on and understand how wretched and helpless we are, the more we can rejoice that God’s love, through the death of His Son on the cross, has cleansed us, rescued us, and reconnected us with all of God’s countless blessings.

Furthermore, we can rejoice even in sufferings, pains, hardships, and tragedies in our lives. This goes against human wisdom because it is so natural for us to see all of these as awful, useless, and undesirable things. How could any good come from suffering and why would we rejoice in it? Suffering causes us to see clearly how utterly vulnerable, weak, and powerless we are. It causes us to turn to and rely on someone who is in control. It causes to depend on God, who is sovereign over all of creation and history. When we trust in God and persevere through sufferings and trials, we experience that God is faithful and good to us. We will see that we can confidently rely on Him to carry us through any trial. We will grow in character by building up our ability to refuse to give into fear and doubt but to instead hang on to God and His promises that He will be with us. Then, seeing that God is sovereign and that He only wants the best for us, we can have hope. And this hope is not based on nothing but on all the ways that God has already been faithful to us in the past. We can look forward, with great anticipation and rejoicing, to God continuing to be faithful in all His promises.

– How God demonstrates his own love for us

Being the sinful and selfish people that we are, it is hard to imagine someone who would give his life for another. Many would be willing to die for a loved one or a family member. It would have to be a very special case for a man to give his life for another. It could be dying for a leader of some movement or cause that one has devoted his life to or regards very highly. It could be dying for someone who would be a great benefit to humanity. That makes sense. But to die for someone who is worthless, vile, wicked, whom no good can come out of, simply doesn’t make sense. Why would you die for someone who has only sinned against you and hurt you? I would even say that it is foolish and wasteful to do so. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus Christ did. He gave His life for sinners who sinned against Him. He, who is worthy, surrendered His life for the sake of those who are lost and worthless. To human wisdom, this act of God’s love is foolish and makes no sense whatsoever. And yet it is wonderful news to those who are the beneficiaries of such lavish foolishness. This is how God works, in ways we cannot hope to fathom or comprehend and this true of God’s love, grace, and mercy. Christ took our place on the cross and this demonstrates that God’s love for us is so great and far beyond our understanding.


Submitted by Leeanne D. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5

–        What we should rejoice in as people justified through faith

V. 1-3 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into his grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”

Personal Application

Being justified by faith leads to having “peace with God” that no merit-based system could provide. In light of the previous chapter’s emphasis on the good news that we are considered righteous because of our faith, we see here Paul’s response of such great joy. He urges us to enter into “peace” and to rejoice in the hope that we have and in our sufferings, since we have experienced God’s love in Jesus Christ.  This is so true, that no ultimate peace is possible without having a relationship with God. In our world today, people use all sorts of means to find peace. There are those who try to find peace by securing a good family, a successful or stable career.  There are those who try to find peace by obsessing over their physical appearance and constantly wanting to improve it.  There are those who just want to have peace by shutting out all the reality around them, through playing video games or surfing the Internet.  However, they will never be able to find any kind of peace until they find peace with God. That is only possible through putting their faith in God.

For me, faith in God has definitely given me peace with God, which is something that could never happen if I lived my godless life pursuing my unrealistic dreams. However, there are still many instances where there is such lack of peace in my heart. These instances come about when I would remember the failures and mistakes I made in the past, and then ask myself “why did I do that?” or “why did you say that,” and pangs of frustration and regret would overcome me. Or sometimes, I find myself becoming overly anxious when I feel that the work I have done wasn’t turning out the way I expected.  The regrets and the “I should haves” just fill my mind during those times. As someone who tries to peace in having things under control and going the way they were planned, I need to really take this verse to heart and be reminded that ultimately, my relationship with God – my salvation, the fact that I have eternal life and will see Jesus someday – is bringing me the peace that I may never find in what I do.

Verse 5:3-5 shows me the progression that turns suffering into hope. This reminds me once again the circumstances in my life that I can turn into an opportunity for character-building and hope. Not that I have any real “sufferings,” but still, there are so many regrets and failures in my life that can be quite miserable every time I think about them. But this verse helps me to rejoice rather than dwell in misery because my failures and confessed sins are helping me to rely on God’s mercy and further convicts me of the grace that has been given me.

In Romans 5:20-21, the fact that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” demonstrates to be so true in my life. This verse reaffirms the fact that there is no reason for me to be reluctant to confess before God because of the fear that God’s grace cannot overcome them. Also, the older I get, the more sins and failures I have committed, the more I am able to appreciate what a precious and awesome gift my salvation is. Because of this, I can rejoice! I don’t have to get bogged down again and again by my failures, I can truly rejoice at the fact that I am justified through faith. This fact will not ever change. No matter the extent of my past sins and failures, I am still standing in grace because I have asked Jesus to come into my life to redeem me.

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