June 18, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 1)

Submitted by Sarah K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Romans 1

Reflection on Key Verses

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God

Romans 1:5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

What was Apostle Paul’s identity?  He was a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Where did he receive this identity from?  Through him and for his name’s sake.  It was received.  None of it was through apostle Paul’s own ability or merit.  It was not dependent on who apostle Paul was.  It was completely through Christ, for his name’s sake.  He received grace, or undeserved favor.   Because apostle Paul’s identity was received as an undeserved gift from God, nothing could take it away.  Because it was not dependent on his qualifications or lack thereof, but entirely dependent on God’s person and His name, Paul could be confident and secure that this identity would remain unchanged.  With this confidence, he could call all people to the obedience that comes from faith.

Romans 1:14-17 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Having a strong sense that this identity was given to him as a gift must have been one factor that gave Paul such a strong sense of obligation to everyone, both Greeks and non-Greeks.  If this identity was something that he had worked hard for and earned out of his own merit, that would weaken his sense of obligation.  If his performance wasn’t up to par, then he could think, I’m not qualified to bring the gospel to anyone, so why bother.  Instead, his calling was granted to him by God, the nature of the gospel was the same regardless of his performance, and so his sense of obligation was not dependent on anything of himself, but entirely dependent on the unchanging nature and character of God.

What else did he receive?  He received the gospel.  The good news of salvation.  The good news that we are not relegated to a hopeless life of powerlessness against our sin.  The good news that we will not need to helplessly head towards death.  Instead, we have the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.  Just as death is the great equalizer of all humanity, salvation is equally available to all.  No matter what our background, no matter what manifestations, shades, twists and turns that our sin takes, no matter how far have gone, how deeply entrenched our sin, how much it has gripped us in every aspect of our hearts and lives, the same gospel is available to every one of us.

And it has power to save.  This is unfathomable.  The longer I live, the more I see the insidiousness of sin, how it is at the core, right underneath the surface, spread into every area of my life, even where I thought I had made some headway in overcoming it.  Even sin issues I didn’t know I had crop up when I’m under new circumstances—some issues that I thought, at least this isn’t my problem, all it takes is a change in my situation, and there it is, that very sin issue, very much alive in me.  Because of this, it rings so true that righteousness needs to be revealed from outside of me.  Here, it says that a righteousness from God is revealed, and this is the power that made salvation possible for everyone, even someone like me.  The righteousness that comes from God had the power to reverse my hell-bound trajectory and turn it heavenward.  And this gospel is available to everyone!  This is a truth that I never tire of meditating on, or seeing played out in people’s lives.  As we had the opportunity to see our first group of students get baptized a few weeks ago in San Diego, I had the opportunity to see the power of the gospel at work.  For all of them, no matter what their backgrounds or their sin issues, no matter what sins they struggled with, in the end the gospel transformed them, bringing them hope, life and setting them on a completely new path.  Some people came from churched backgrounds and lived rebellious lives, some came from completely unchurched backgrounds or cultures and still experienced the emptiness of life and sin manifesting itself within, whether rich or poor, the gospel had the same effect of reversing the seemingly hopeless spiral of sin.  What a privilege to be able to see so concretely that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

The only requirement for us to receive this gospel is to “live by faith.”  What does it mean to live by faith?  I think that it means to trust that when God says the gospel is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes, I need to trust His word.  Trust His word against all the messages and value systems of the world that say that this is can’t be true, this is not how things work.  The value systems that say, everything in life needs to be earned.  No one will grant you anything, and especially not to someone so dirty and low, someone who has done what you’ve done, surely a decent person wouldn’t even give someone like you the time of day, much less would a holy God.  It takes an intentional turning away from these voices, and turning my mind to the truth of God’s word in order to really trust and believe in faith that God’s righteousness is indeed available, even to someone like me, even after all I’ve done unknowingly and knowingly.  This is as true now, even after 20 years of living Christian life, as it was back when I became a Christian as an undergrad.  As an undergrad, it took faith for me to believe that God’s righteousness was available to someone who was living such a blatant life of sin as I was.  Now, maybe my life doesn’t look like such a rebellious one.  But God knows that sin is still something I struggle with, and on top of the selfishness, pride, ego and other sin issues within, there is also an additional voice of cynicism that says, you’ve been Christian so long, you talk to others about God and you are even a lead of a church, you should know better so why should you be forgiven?   Do you think the same old thing of simply confessing and asking God for forgiveness will work?  No, there has to be something else.  You have to prove yourself now that you should know better. In this way, I experience my thinking becoming futile and foolish heart being darkened.  To live by faith means to say no to all these false thoughts and values, and instead to come back to the same gospel, that righteousness comes from God and God alone, that I can do nothing to prove myself, and I need to acknowledge this and simply receive this righteousness from God.  I thank God that this gospel message never grows old, and is still available to me from the first day of my salvation to the last.

Submitted by Michael K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Romans 1

Reflection Questions

Romans 1:14–16 (NIV84)

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

  • ·       Reflect on how Paul saw his life as being obligated to everyone in his generation.  To what extent do I see myself as “obligated,” and to whom, and for what purpose? 

Apostle Paul saw himself as being obligated to everyone in his generation because he possessed the eternal life-giving gospel, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. This gospel was not something simply to be received, but it was also an entrustment. Therefore Paul saw his identity as being a servant of Christ, set apart for the gospel and called to be an apostle. He was obligated to everyone – Greek and non-Greek, wise and foolish, Jews and Gentiles – to preach the gospel and to call them to repentance and obedience.

If the gospel is what it is – the good news of God’s grace, mercy and salvation for all people of all time – and this gospel has been given to me, entrusted to me, then it follows that I now have an obligation. I have the tremendous responsibility and privilege of bringing this gospel to the rest of my generation.

Although as a Christian I have professed my identity as a follower of Christ and have made the commitment to serve Him with my life, this sense of obligation is something that I need to experience more deeply and come to hold more firmly. During my senior year discipleship retreat, I felt a strong sense of calling to serve God and engage in ministry, and I made a commitment that this would be the highest priority in my life. At that time, I didn’t see myself as particularly obligated, but it had more to do with the fact that this was the only worthwhile and meaningful purpose for my life.

As I have been engaged in ministry, I have come to see the brokenness and spiritual neediness in others and in myself.  Thus a sense of obligation to meet those needs have been growing. Two years ago, when I moved down to San Diego, it was because of a sense of obligation to participate in and carry out the vision to go and plant an Acts 2 church in a new college town. God had given us a huge entrustment as personal recipients of the gospel and as a church, and college-focused church planting became our vision. Even with all the ways that God had blessed me during my 12 years in Berkeley, I felt obligated not to cling onto the comfortable and the familiar, but to continue the work of the gospel and to replicate what I had received and experienced so that all of it could be multiplied to bless many others.

Now that we’ve been here for two years and experienced so much of God’s work and the salvation power of the gospel in the lives of the students here in San Diego, I must not lose this sense of obligation. It would be tragic if I were to mistakenly and selfishly think that my duty to serve God and my obligation to people have somehow been mostly fulfilled, and that I can now slow down and take it easy. I recognize this temptation, even as I now have the responsibility of raising a family and recently experienced the birth of our second child. While I am certainly obligated to my family, I have to reject and fight against the desire to focus inward and make sure that I do not lessen in my obligation to the rest of my generation and the people that God has called me to minister to. The kind of life that Apostle Paul lived is not an “extra credit” sort of Christian life, but a model for all Christ-followers to aspire to.

This past week I felt this sense of obligation for the gospel being renewed when some of us went to look for new housing for the upcoming year.  While we’ve experienced so much of God’s work at our church these past two years, with the recent baptisms of twelve brothers and sisters, and many salvation decisions at this year’s winter retreat, there are still so many more students on this campus that we have yet to reach. I was reminded of people living a life of emptiness and vain pursuits having exchanged the kind of lives that they were created for only to live in a state of squalor and futility and sin as I once did before meeting Christ.

I was reminded that, given the state of our world and the people right in front of us, we are obligated. We are obligated to the students on our campus, to do our best in reaching them with the gospel. As God has such concern for them, I also need to be concerned. And, our students, having experienced what they have experienced, are also obligated to reaching their peers, not becoming a holy huddle or merely a fun place to hang out with each other. As a spiritual leader, I am obligated to raising them, shaping and equipping them, to be a blessing to their campus. As Apostle Paul had such a clear sense of his identity and obligation to the people of his generation, and this fueled his zealous life of preaching the gospel and ministering to the churches, I pray that I would have the proper sense of obligation toward those God has called me to, and be able to fulfill this obligation.

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