July 4, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 11)

Submitted by Daniel C.  from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 11:11-24

“It is good for those that have found mercy with God to be often thinking what they were in time past, and how they obtained that mercy. This would help to soften our censures of those that still continue in unbelief, and quicken our prayers for them.”  [Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible – Romans 11]

• Given that the background of this letter to the Romans is the tension between Jewish and Gentile believers, what lesson is here about how to pursue Christian unity and fellowship?

Christian unity and fellowship must be rooted in the knowledge that we’re all sinners saved by God’s grace. That we are all exactly alike in that were sinners who could do nothing to secure our own salvation and had to depend on God’s mercy and God’s power to save us. Paul emphasized that the Jews weren’t special. Even given their privileged position as God’s people, they transgressed and rejected God as their God. They went on to bow down to all sorts of idols. And so God brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles. But the Gentiles weren’t anything special either. They were outsiders to God’s original promises made to the Jews, and so the Gentiles had nothing to boast about either. God didn’t somehow favor them over the Jews and it would be laughable for the Gentiles to reach that kind of interpretation.

By default, we are constantly trying to distinguish ourselves and find things about ourselves we can boast about. We are always trying to find some reason we are better than others. That’s why Christian unity and fellowship can only happen when we genuinely believe and understand that we are nothing but sinners. That the fact we are sinners before a holy God is more significant than any other abilities or characteristics we’d normally use to feel like we’re better than others.

I thought about the team retreat we had this past weekend. We definitely experienced unity and fellowship. Why? Because of our shared history and long relationships, of course. But also because person after person testified that he or she is nothing but a sinner. That they were just broken vessels, full of sins and issues and problems, through whom God was able to do His incredible work. And for the most part, that is what we’ve each come to know about ourselves. I could relate to each testimony that was shared because through the past 11 years of ministry, I have only gotten an increasingly deeper sense of my sinfulness and the fact that I have nothing to be proud or arrogant about. I could see myself exactly in their situations, being on a church plant and experiencing the difficulty of relating to the same people 24/7, struggling through my character issues as they really got exposed in that close environment, making many mistakes and experiencing their consequences, receiving persecution from others who didn’t understand what we were doing, having my faith and convictions tested, etc. I didn’t feel one bit like I could’ve done things any better than anyone else. I was just grateful for my salvation and the fact that God could actually use sinners like us like He has demonstrated He can all over our churches. That is the key to the kind of fellowship that we experience when we are together. Compared to how I’ve related to people before—either feeling superior or inferior to them and trying to prove myself in some way—I wouldn’t want to have any other basis for relating to others. That common understanding that we are all wretched sinners, and that were it not for God’s grace we’d all be living hopeless and self-destructive lives, is what enables me to enjoy the kinds of relationships I do today in our church. Growing up as someone deeply insecure, always comparing myself to others and trying to find some small niche by which I could stand out, I became immensely isolated and alienated from people. And so I could’ve never imagined that I could feel such unity and fellowship today with others based on the fact that we all know we are just sinners. Rather than make me more fearful or insecure, the knowledge that I’ve been rescued from sin only by God’s grace has instead brought me closer to others than I’ve ever been. Continued unity and fellowship can only happen as I continue to discipline myself daily to acknowledge my sins truthfully, to revisit my testimony and the details of how God saved me, and to relate to others simply as fellow broken sinners.

[1]  Matthew Henry, Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible – Romans 11

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