July 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 12)

Submitted by Yumi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION Questions

Romans 12:4-8

Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

Over the years, I have learned to accept these truths a lot more, that we are all different members with different functions and gifts who belong to one another.  I have experienced a lot of joy and freedom in having a shift in my perspective of focusing on myself to understanding my identity as belonging to the greater body of Christ.  I think about my freshmen year in college, and there has been such a huge shift in my perspective and view towards my peers.  I saw each peer as a competitor, and while trying to put on a smile, was jealous of my friends for the different gifts/talents that they had which seemed so much better than me, and was constantly engaged in comparison.  I swung between feeling really jealous and insecure and self-conscious when I would feel that I wasn’t as disciplined as one peer, not as loud and fun another peer, not as deep and smart-sounding as so and so, etc. to then feeling proud and confident and arrogant if I felt that I was better in some other area.  My moods also swung according to how much approval and attention I got from my leaders in comparison to others.  But over the years, my entire view has shifted as I started to understand this truth that my peers and friends are not my competitors, we are not individual rolling stones, but rather, we are the body of Christ, all meant to fit together to build the church, all belonging to one another and complimenting each other’s strengths.  I think about my peers now, and they are each such a joy and blessing to me, such a source of strength and encouragement, and I feel a deep sense of need for them, needing to lean on them for their strengths and rejoicing in their strengths rather than feeling threatened by it because I understand now that we are all being used for God’s church.  Especially this past week, I had a chance to take pause and really take stock of all that God has done and be filled with a sense of awe and gratitude with all of our church plant friends coming to Berkeley for our one day all team retreat.  I am so grateful for one particular peer, and her responsiveness and surrender to God’s will – she was our first peer to go on a church plant, going to Taiwan as a missionary.  I felt strengthened by my other peer who has the gift of being relational and creating warmth and friendliness and lowering barriers, my other peer, who has the gift of hospitality and also really bringing brightness and a fun atmosphere.  I felt strengthened seeing my peer from Minneapolis church plant, who has the gift of encouragement, by another peer who works hard and serves through her ability to cook up a storm.  Each of these peers were on different church plants, serving faithfully through different up’s and down’s, and I felt so strengthened to see them again and to send one of them off to church plant at Austin.  They are each my precious, precious friends, and each members of one body with me, and rather than being threatened now, I feel an acute need for them, and rejoice in their strengths and how God is using them, and I feel very much spurred on by them when I feel down or weak because of my own sins or some struggles that I face in my own life and in the lives of those I minister to.

As much as I have experienced accepting these truths in my life, however, I still have a lot more to grow in understanding this truth.  I think the most clear way in which I still resist these truths about the body of Christ is that I get insecure and feel anxious about my weaknesses still.  I always want to still be a contributing member, want to contribute in some way and not be a burden in ministry – I want to be a source of strength and not discouragement and heartache for my leaders, and get stuck in self-pity and self-loathing when I see my sins and weaknesses come out in ministry and affect others.  To the extent that I have a hard time just accepting, admitting my weaknesses and sins and do not ask for forgiveness, I still have not accepted the truth that I am fully a part of God’s body with all my sins, weaknesses, warts and all. 

Romans 12:9-21

Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage? 

Dear Heavenly Father:

I pray for our church, that we together could become this kind of a precious community where we can love one another out of sincerity, serve one another in brotherly, sisterly love that is very real and concrete.  I pray that we can become a community where we do not just pay lip service to one another, and never become a place where our rhetoric outpaces our real, concrete actions.  Please be with us, guard us and help us to continue the pattern of teaching and life that has been preserved in our church.  Concretely, I pray that we can always be a church where every member puts forward others’ needs before their own, where we learn to be servants, serving by cleaning, cooking, giving to those in need, noticing needs and meeting them.  Personally, I pray for myself that rather than just doing things and good works out of my own guilt and anxiety, that I could learn to genuinely love out of sincerity, crying out in prayer, being faithful in prayer, and finding small ways to love those around me and meet their needs and not using the busy-ness of ministry as an excuse for not doing so.

I pray that we could be a church that is never lacking in zeal, but that we could keep our spiritual fervor in serving the Lord.  I pray for the next generation of leaders, I pray that as we come in as the second generation, having reaped the benefits of those who have gone before us, we would refuse to just start settling down, becoming scattered because of our desire for comfort and because we start listening to the practical, worldly-wise voices of the world.  Please help each one of us to be vigilant, alert and desperate to guard this precious church that you have given us, where our leaders refused to slow down, kept growing in zeal and built this church up by their zeal and sacrifice.  I want to just really repent for Lord, so often I get caught up in doing things and do not cultivate this kind of spiritual fervor, and then pretty soon, I let things become a lot of tasks.  I want to grow in zeal, Lord, along with my brothers and sisters for this precious Gospel, and follow my leaders’ pattern of teaching, their lives that never slowed down but kept growing in zeal.

Lord, may we also become a community where there is this kind of sharing of life – sharing with those in need, practicing hospitality, sharing in other’s rejoicing and mourning, living in harmony with one another, and not being proud or conceited.  I pray that your love would continue to manifest in these concrete ways, of sharing our resources, time, lives, where generosity is lived out through concrete acts, and where every person’s ups and down’s are shared together.

And I pray also that we can become a church where we become a blessing to even our enemies, where each member could learn to bless those who persecute them, where we do not repay anyone evil for evil, but live blameless lives where we can do right in the eyes of everybody, to be able to feed, give water to our enemies, and where we can ultimately overcome evil with good.  I pray that we can learn to model the very love of Christ, love for enemies, that we have received to our own “enemies,” to those who criticize and persecute us, and that we can become that kind of a witness to the world around us.

In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Based on this passage, I am convicted by the truth that I must never lack zeal, that I have a personal responsibility to keep my spiritual fervor.  Before I can minister to others, before I can be a leader to others, I need to first prioritize my relationship with God, to cultivate a heart of zeal and spiritual fervor, and not slow down, and not allow the lull of life and desire to settle down to dull my alertness in my heart.  As I get older, as I am about to have a second child, and life just gets busier and new challenges come during this season of life, I cannot slow down, but I need to increase in zeal, increase in my spiritual fervor.  I need to have that spiritual zeal and personal sense of clear calling before my God, and only then could I lead others.

What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

To become overcome by evil would mean to respond to evil done to us with evil – to hate them, to judge them, to bad mouth them, to try and get back at them for doing wrong to us.  When we decide to respond to those who hurt us by hurting them back in this way, we are allowing ourselves to be overcome by evil because we are doing the same evil back, and allowing evil to reign.

The practical approach that is suggested by this exhortation to not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good is to respond to our enemies, those who hurt and persecute us with love – instead of lashing out and taking revenge, to instead feed them, give them something to drink, and love them, have pity on them and have compassion.  Then when love is shown, when this kind of mercy is shown, that evil can be overcome by friendship or even an impression about Christians as good, as something better, more.

I can’t say that I really have enemies in my life.  However, I do experience small hurts if I can call it that in ministry – when I try to love someone, but they twist my words that I was trying to speak truth through and accuse me of false things, when my well-intentioned actions are misconstrued or misunderstood by those who I am ministering to because I need to try and speak truth to them and love them.  When these ministry “hurts” and discouragements happen, this passage tells me that rather than retaliating in anger, or steeling my heart away and trying not to be hurt, I need to respond with good, with crying out for them and loving them in prayer, with continuing to have vision for them, and trying to minister to them and loving them in this way.

Submitted by Joe H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 12:4-8
·       Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

When I think about these phrases in the abstract, I agree and it makes a lot of sense. We all have different gifts in the body of Christ. We do not have the same function. But somehow, I am not satisfied by this when it comes down into the specifics; when it comes down to the gifts that I have or don’t have, or the gifts that my friends have or don’t have.

God has given me everything, including all the gifts that I have. But there are also many gifts that my friends have that I do not have. Some of them can cook very well, and do so quite frequently. Some of them are very personable and amiable and can easily relate with other people. Some of them are great storytellers, and can keep a crowd engaged for long periods of time. Some of them are great at logistics. Some are very patient, and some are very encouraging. Some have great technical skill, or a great aesthetic sense. And so forth. My gifting is not really in these things. But I have been envious of all of those gifting in my friends. So while I can know in my head that we all have different gifts, when I see that actually being played out, I somehow feel diminished.

But why is that the case? It is because I am very selfish and egotistical. I want these gifts for my own benefit: to receive public adulation, and be known as someone who is very good at whatever-gift-it-is.  Even though I want to use these gifts for God’s kingdom, I also want to use them to puff up my own-self image. Perhaps this is why Paul says right before this passage to not think more highly of myself than I ought, but rather to think of myself with sober judgment.

By doing this, I am violating that second phrase in the list: “each member belongs to all the others.” When I am envious of others, I am separating myself from the other members of the body of Christ. I am drawing a line between us, saying that my gifts benefit me, and your gifts benefit you. But God calls me to a completely different understanding of my place in the world. I am not alone. This is the world’s philosophy–that I just need to look out for number one. That ultimately, I can only trust myself. But Paul says not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, and to be transformed in the renewing of my mind. God’s description of the church is that we are all members of one another. So my gifts are for the body and for everyone else; others’ gifts are for the body and for me too. In this way, being envious of another’s gifts doesn’t make any sense at all. These gifts are not about me at all. In fact, God calls me to offer my body (and my gifts) as a living sacrifice!

And of course, I have experienced this one-ness in the body. As I engage more and more in ministry, my friends become less of my competitor, and more of my teammate, my co-laborer. On a team, it doesn’t matter how the individual components and contributions work out – it’s more important that the team completes its objective. When my focus shifts away from myself and towards the body of Christ, and trying to engage in this incredible call of loving other people with the love of Christ, then I really begin to understand that “each member belongs to all the others.”

So then, when I feel the ugly head of jealousy rising up, or when I am disgruntled because I may not have all the gifts that I want – I have to take a step back and think, what am I really trying to do here? Am I trying to exalt myself so that I can think highly of myself? I know the emptiness and hollowness that leads to. Rather, I am trying to do God’s will. I am trying to love people as much as possible and build his kingdom. And with this as the primary goal, the details of the individual gifts or contributions fade away. What matters most is that we do this together as a church.

Romans 12:9-21
·       Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage?

Wow, this is such an incredible list. If our church fully became this kind of community, we would be such an incredible witness for Christ. People inside our church would experience the transformative power of the Gospel and the love of God. People outside of our church would marvel at how different our community is and would yearn for it. When I read this description, it’s so clear how wonderful this is, but this is not how the world operates. In secular communities, people are not devoted to each other – they are devoted to themselves. They honor themselves above others. They hoard resources for themselves. This is our natural state, when we are slaves to the sinful nature.

But when we are slaves of righteousness, this is the kind of community that is born. And while our community is not fully there yet, I have experienced this love and devotion many times in the past 10 years. It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to stay here after graduating. I saw people devoted to God and devoted to one another.

Yet I also recognize that there is a lot of room for me to grow as a member of this community. One exhortation that stood out to me is: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. This made me think back to this past Sunday when one of my friends needed help moving. Initially, I was weary of his request. It was a pretty packed weekend, and I just wanted some rest and downtime on Sunday night. But I thought about our community and our friendship and thought about what kind of community God called us to be. If all of us always gave in to our own insular tendencies, what kind of community would I be a part of? We would not be able to do setup every Sunday morning. We would not be able to rally and put on evangelistic presentations like new student welcome night, GLIVE or Joyland Christmas Celebration. Parents would not be able to partake in ministry because of child care needs. I would be part of a community that meets every Sunday and Friday for worship, but does its own thing on the other days of the week. That’s not the way that God wants me to live! As I went over to help my friend move, it was actually a strengthening experience to just live life together, and to have all of our peers gather and just be there for each other. Sure, maybe I didn’t get the time to get some of my own errands done, but the gift of a community devoted to one another is so much more precious than that. It was a reminder to me not give in to my selfish tendencies.

·       What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

I think to be overcome by evil in this context would be to give in to our natural states of desiring revenge for maybe some wrong that I have experienced. And maybe I won’t even repay evil with evil, but will just remain at an icy distance towards someone. This passage even warns against that when it says to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on me. Because if I don’t initiate, then maybe nothing will happen! In general, I don’t think I would go far enough to repay someone with evil. But I definitely know the feeling of wanted to just remain distant towards someone and not taking that step to restore the peace. That’s the easiest thing to do. I reason with myself: if that person is the one who did the wrong, then he should be the person to bring it up and apologize. But doing so would be to become overcome by evil. Rather, I should overcome that evil with good. I should try to make peace. I have to be active in loving others, being devoted to others, living in harmony with others, not being conceited, etc.

Submitted by Steven C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 12:4-8

·       Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

“…Each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function…”  This is a true statement, and the human body is a very good example.  There are arms, there are legs, there are different ligaments, tendons, muscles and a variety of other types of tissues in the human body, and each part, each member of the body has its own designed function in the body.  How absurd would it be, if the body was made up of only eyes and no feet!   Only hands, but no shoulders!  That’s a pretty useless and helpless body.  Instead, the body is comprised of numerous parts and members, that each have their own set of actions and functions, and when in combination and synchrony with other parts of the body, there is meaningful movement, and complex, coupled action.  Even walking itself, is a combined, complex interaction of so many moving components of the limbs themselves, with communication between the brain and nervous system to the peripheral nerves that innervate the muscles, which then produce complex physiological reactions to contract, and finally produce movement.  In the same, way, this is how the body of Christ functions. The church is comprised of a collection of believers, who “do not all have the same function” and who also “have different gifts”.  Each person has his and her own strengths and weaknesses, gifting and talents, skills and what not, but we are not all the same.  And fortunately, we are not all the same!  How plain and boring and not effective would the church be if everyone was the same.  Instead, each member and each person in the church is uniquely different and “each belongs to all the others.”  The church has been given a mission and a grand calling to share God’s love and the gospel, and collectively we are to rely on one another in the church to do so.  Instead, of envying and comparing our talents and gifts with others in the church, instead of striving to out do and out perform one another, we, in the church are to support one another and work together to do God’s work.  As I think about my own life, I can affirm this truth and know the goal and role of the church, but at the same time, I recognize my own envies and comparisons, noting how I recognize other people’s gifts and skills, and that causes me to somehow feel diminished or lessened.  Or worse yet, I think about some of my own strengths and gifting, and use them to boast or boost my self-confidence and ego.  Instead, the right and proper way to see myself, as one member of God’s larger church and body.  I am situated in the church to further God’s mission, and I am to use my gifts and my all towards that end.  Not for any personal gain or vain recognition, but all for God’s glory.

Romans 12:9-21

·       Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage?

-Cling to what is good

-Be devoted to one another

-Honor one another

-Keep your spiritual fervor

-Be joyful in hope

-Faithful in prayer

-Share with God’s people

-Practice hospitality

-Bless those who persecute you

-Rejoice with those who rejoice

-Live in harmony with one another

-Willing to associate with people of low position

-Do what is right in the eyes of everybody

-Live at peace with everyone

This list is the positive directives from v. 9-21, and what an amazing picture the church would be if the community chose to seriously carry out these commands.  Such a place would be a refuge from the selfish and competitive nature of the world.  This picture of the church is awe-inspiring and captivating, but the chilling notion, is that this can be the reality in our church.  This was God’s plan and vision for His church, but our sinfulness and selfishness corrupted God’s plan.  As I think about this vision of the church, and this text I was struck by v.11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord.”  When all God’s people are focused on serving the Lord and doing his work, there is no room and space for competitiveness, pride and selfishness.  A collection of people, sold out for the gospel, naturally converges towards a picture of the church as described in verses 9-21, and matches the description in Acts 2.  These visions push me to serve the Lord that much more, in hopes that the Romans 12 church and the Acts 2 church can be realized in college towns throughout the land.

·       What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

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

The world’s mentality and philosophy leads people to expect retaliation when they have wronged another person.  But, to respond instead with kindness, forgiveness and goodness, to show love when it seems uncalled for, can melt the even the hardest heart.  Why not rather be wronged, but so often it is man’s ego that cries out in outrage when wronged, and refuses to forgive and be wronged.  Even as I think about my own heart, I can think of times when I retorted with sharp comebacks, biting words, frustration and impatience when I was slightly wronged or treated improperly.  These words were directed to some of the closest people in my life, my friends, fellow staff and even my wife.  I recognize this aspect about myself, where I grow so frustrated and impatient, when things don’t seemingly go my way, when mistakes are made or breakdown in communication happens.  What happens next is I look for the person to blame and I try to point out how they were wrong, until they see clearly the mistake and the certain consequences.  This fault-finding, hyper-critical way of viewing situations and people is so evil and wrong, especially because I am just as prone to make mistakes and incorrectly communicate.  Instead, when these situations happen in life, and undoubtedly they happen all the time, I need to know how to quickly forgive.  I can’t brood and ramp up over such silly offenses, but learn to quickly forgive and air out any grievances.  This impatience that I see and recognize in my own character, needs to be overcome with gentleness, kindness and forgiveness towards all.  In this way, the evil in me, the poor character in me, is overcome by the goodness of God.

July 5, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 12)

Submitted by Annie K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • Why is “in view of God’s mercy” the basis for offering up our bodies as living sacrifices?

God showed me mercy when he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and take on the punishment that I rightly deserved. Thus in view of God’s mercy, the only way I can and should respond is to offer up my body as a living sacrifice. Knowing full well what God has done for me, there’s no way that I can still try to cling onto my own life. I offer up myself to him out of gratitude for his mercy and because I now want to live a life that is holy and pleasing to him as an act of worship.

  • What can I learn from the fact that the command to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” primarily involves the “renewing of [the] mind” and thinking of myself with “sober judgment?”

The bible doesn’t simply command me to no longer conform to the pattern of this world as if it was that easy, but gives me two concrete ways to help me do so. I know from personal experience that it’s very difficult to turn away from the world just because I want to. I find myself giving into sin again and again because my will power just wasn’t strong enough. I will be able to resist the pattern of this world by renewing my mind. That means I need to think differently. I can’t simply go along with what the rest of the world says or does. I need to think about and understand why the patterns of this world are sinful and unbiblical so that I won’t succumb to them. I have to be able to pinpoint things that are strong sources of temptation so that I can take concrete steps to protect myself so that I won’t give in to the pattern of this world in moments of weakness. Though it’s difficult, I also need to strive to think of myself with sober judgment by being humble and very honest about my thoughts, desires and actions. I also need to make myself open to receiving truth from people in my life about things that I’m blind to.

  • What is the “pattern of this world” to which I should no longer conform?

The pattern of this world that I should no longer conform to is the one that says that the key to a happy life is living to gratify your every desire, financial security, and human approval. I’m especially convicted of this as I look at the lives of some people I interact with. On the outside their lives looked pretty good. I remember I had to really struggle once I started working there because their lives seemed pretty attractive to me at the time. They were clearly the cool group, the most fashionable, and would often go out to bars and clubs on the weekends together. They would talk about how much free time they had to do whatever they wanted and travel on a whim. As a first year ministry intern, I realized that I didn’t have very much free time to myself because I was involved ministering to others. I would think of my co-workers with envy who got to sleep in on Saturdays and sleep way before midnight during the week. They also spend a lot of their time, money and energy on keeping up with the latest fashion, celebrity gossip and having lots of fun. As I turned to God’s word I realized how unbiblical it is to live a life like them and saw just how empty their lives really are. They can afford to spend ridiculous amounts of money on clothes and makeup because they really have nothing or nobody else to spend their money on. Often they sleep early because they’re bored and don’t have anything better to do. I feel so blessed as I look at my life that’s full of meaning, purpose and a wealth of relationships.

  • What would it mean for me to daily offer up my body as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”?

To daily offer up my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to god would mean denying my body and putting others before my own desire for physical and emotional comfort, personal space or agenda. It would mean making myself available to people when they need someone to talk to even when it’s late at night and I’m tired after a long day at work. It would mean putting a lot of thought and care in my ministry to others rather than just doing the bare minimum and saying that I’ve done my job. It means driving into Berkeley after a long day at work rather than turning around to go home. It would mean being all there when I’m at bible studies, Sunday services, DT times and prayer. It essentially means learning to die to my own desires in order to put others before myself to live an others-centered life.

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 12:1-3

Our refusal to conform to this world’s values… must go even deeper than the level of behavior and customs—it must be firmly planted in our minds—‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ It is possible to avoid most worldly customs and still be proud, covetous, selfish, stubborn, and arrogant. Only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates, and redirects our minds are we truly transformed.” [Life Application Study Bible, NIV Edition. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. & Zondervan, 1984). p.2050.]

  • Why is “in view of God’s mercy” the basis for offering up our bodies as living sacrifices?

It’s a response out of a deep sense of gratitude towards what has been done for me. According to the commentary provided below, “in view of God’s mercy” can be translated as, “as a recipient of many mercies, I urge you”. This highlights the fact that the act of offering myself and surrendering my body as a living sacrifice is the proper response given what’s been done for me already. I turned 28 not too long ago and I had a chance to reflect and take stock of all the blessings that I have in my life and the moment by moment mercies that I’ve received starting even before the day of my birth. It’s a miracle that I was even born as there were many complications before I was born. Even before I can begin my life, I almost did not have one. Speaking of birthday, there was also another incident on my birthday party when I turned 8, I almost drowned in the swimming pool as my friends were joking around and not allowing me to come up for air. There were many instances where I barely escaped getting into a major car accident while I was my rollerblades or on my bike on the street. But not only have I continued to be rescued from such near death experiences, furthermore God granted my life with so many blessings in which I cannot help but to think “it didn’t have to be this way”. I have a job, a good education, loving parents, loving wife, like-minded friends with the same purpose and goal, I am part of a loving vibrant community sold for the gospel, am a spiritual leader of college students, have faithful spiritual leaders whose life I can exemplify. What do all the mercies and blessings I listed above have in common? None of them I deserved. None of them came from my own works. There were a web of people, circumstances, events that took place that led me to receive all those blessings. Ultimately, it was God who provided and graciously granted them to me. But far greater and more important than all the mercies that I have listed above, the greatest mercy that I received which really is the main basis for which I offer my life to God is the mercy of salvation from my sins. As Apostle Paul has written in Romans 7, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law” and when I saw my life and how I’ve been living measured against this law, God’s perfect law, I fall very short. What other law is there that matters other than the one that comes from God, the creator of the Heavens and the earth, the one who brought me into this world, the rightful owner of my life. I have fallen short—day in and day out, consciously and subconsciously—and lived a life that has been unpleasing to God. I have lived as a slave to my sinful nature, the desires of my lustful heart, the pride in me that desires misfortunes on others if it brings fortunes to me, my covetousness and greed that strives to grasp what I want even if it is at the cost of compromising my moral values or hurting other people. Inevitably this kind of life I was living was down a pathway of destruction. Such life of being enslaved to my sins was the life that I was living until out of God’s mercy and grace, God sent his one and only Son to take upon the punishment that is due for my sins and die for me. That death was a death to my sins, to my old life of following my sinful desires, and through the resurrection I, too, have been given a new life, a life of righteousness, being in the right relationship with God. For such great mercy, what else can I say, what else can I do. As written in Romans 8, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” What is the only proper response to this? It is to offer every aspect of myself, despite how small it may be, despite how small it is compared to what God deserves, to give myself as a living sacrifice to God.

  • What can I learn from the fact that the command to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” primarily involves the “renewing of [the] mind” and thinking of myself with “sober judgment?”

In fully embracing my new identity being a servant of God and slave to righteousness, my old ways of conforming to the ways of this world, succumbing to the superficial values of this world will not just go away. As Apostle Paul says in verse 2 and 3, it is done through the renewing of my mind and thinking of myself with “sober judgment”. To renew my mind, this will require work and to think of myself with “sober judgment” this will require humility. In the first step of renewing my mind, it is to first stop feeding my mind with the false values that this world throws at me. The world that says a person’s value is by their appearance or performance, it says that there is nothing more important to life to maximize my own pleasures, it says that money is the key to happiness, it says that I should follow my heart no matter what…these values and voices enter my mind through internet, music, movies, magazines, coworkers, professors, parents, etc. As written in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial” I am free to listen to whatever voices the world may throw at me, but it’s definitely not beneficial. When I think about the past 20+ years of my life time, all I have been doing was listening to the voices of this world and following its values. One of the values that was really deeply ingrained in me was this idea that I need to always save myself, even if it means to wear masks. All my life, I wore masks and for me to save myself was to be accepted by people. In high school I would hang out with multiple different groups of friends. I was friends with the nerds, the jocks, the fobby group, the church group, the orchestra group, the vandalizing group. After I became a Christian in college, this value that I need to save myself and be accepted by people permeated into my spiritual life. I would wear masks to be accepted by my leaders thinking that I would need to appear like I am spiritual, trying to share in group settings what’s not actually in my heart but more what I think would make me sound more spiritual, go to prayer meetings when I was a sophomore not because I was spiritually interested but because I wanted to appear like I am spiritual even as a sophomore…in such ways, this value was deeply ingrained in me. It wasn’t until my leaders spoke truth into my life of who I really am inside in which I was finally able to see myself with “sober judgment” with humility of who I am, that I was able to continue to struggle against this worldly value of mine. When I finally saw this worldly value that I was still clinging onto, it was then when I was able to clearly see what it was that I need to renew in my mind. I renewed my mind day by day through God’s word, that it is the truth that will set me free, the truth that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and I am loved even when I don’t wear my mask. In fact, to wear it, is to deny what has been done on the cross for me.

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

July 3, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 10)

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge. 

Zeal without knowledge is misguided passion, sending you in the wrong direction and at a furious speed!  In talking about the Jewish people, Apostle Paul describes them as being “zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (v. 2).  Indeed, the Israelites knew a lot, having “been entrusted with the very words of God” (3:2).  They enjoyed a long history with God, they possessed the Ten Commandments, and they recognized God’s holy judgment over their lives.  Their zeal for God, however, translated into fastidious observance of the laws, a practice in which the Pharisees excelled.  In so doing, they revealed their lack of knowledge – knowledge of God’s love, of God’s heart for relationship according to his terms, of God’s “righteousness” that covers sin and comes by faith.  Their approach to God was to do enough righteous acts, so that in the great accounting, on God’s cosmic ledger, there would be more good on the left column than evil on the right column; to do enough righteous acts to satisfy God so that at the end of the day, they could do whatever they wanted.  So while they were zealous in doing “their little religious thing” and thereby exemplifying such high morality that they distinguished themselves from the neighboring pagan cultures, they “did not submit” to God’s righteousness and thus remained in sin, failing to relate properly to God.

On the flipside, knowledge without zeal is not any better – we need both!  Apostle Paul himself exhorts, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (12:11).  I have received the gospel, I know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  In view of God’s mercy, in view of the grace he has afforded me through the cross, therefore, I ought to live a life of increasing intensity and zeal, to be used by God as an instrument of righteousness.  God’s power is all-surpassing, as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, and I want it to be unleashed in my life and through my life by first fully submitting myself to God and making myself totally available to him – so that those who do not believe can hear the gospel, so that I can be a bridge to God’s salvation for many to cross.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

When I try to establish my own righteousness through willpower-driven efforts and inner resolve, not only do I engage in a futile endeavor, but I also am refusing to submit to God’s way of grace.  It seems like a simple lesson that I need to learn again and again.  It is the warning of the parable of the prodigal son, where the younger son, after his return, can quickly become like the older son – self-reliant and independent, refusing to become like the father.

My decision to receive Christ and become Christian came after a period of struggle, in which I had tried to establish my own righteousness.  By the strength of my own will, I wanted to prove to God and to myself that I could change on my own, that I could be a good person through my own effort.  At the time, God was convicting me of my deceitfulness, and my commitment was to tell the truth in all situations.  But I fell flat on my face, as again and again, I found myself sharing half-truths, or omitting key details, or embellishing stories to highlight my positive features, or at times, lying just to preserve my reputation.  I identified with Paul’s sentiment in Romans 7:18, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”  My pride finally broke, and I confessed my utter depravity and helpless state as a sinner through and through.

Even still, twelve years later, I find myself repeatedly heading down the same path, trying to establish my own righteousness.  It is the same indomitable pride that keeps rearing its ugly head, that keeps insisting on promoting my ego and deriving a sense of significance based on what I can accomplish (for God).  It is the same prideful insecurity that wants to be able to tell others, “Hey, look at me – I’m a good Christian!”  It is also motivated by a nagging sense of shame and guilt over my sins and failures of the past, and I think that by achieving enough righteousness, I can somehow “make up” for what I had done.  But the only way to submit to God’s way of grace is through humility – through the ego-devastating admission that I cannot do it on my own, and through placing God as the Master over my life once again.

I can guard myself against this by coming back to my testimony and reaffirming the truth that I was an enemy of God, hopeless, powerless, worthy of condemnation and wrath – and that it did not depend on my desire or effort, but depended purely on God’s mercy that I was saved (9:16).  I can return to this clarity regarding the gospel-centered life of discipleship – where it is not about my “righteousness” or unrighteousness, or success or failure, or doing a good job or a bad job, but all about trusting in the inseparable love of God and obeying him as best as I can, one day at a time, going to anyone anywhere at any time so that a person may here the message of good news and be granted a chance to believe and be saved.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.” [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?

To be saved, a person needs to confess with his mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” accepting all the implications and repercussions of such a profession of faith, and to believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

  • According to this passage, what needs to happen first in order for a person to believe the message, to call on Christ and be saved?

For a person to believe the message and call on Christ and be saved, he first needs to hear the message, and that is only possible if someone preaches the gospel to him.

  • In light of this, how seriously have I taken my role as one who must “bring good news” to those who “have not heard?”

When I think about my identity, I recognize that I have been entrusted with the precious gospel that is able to deliver a soul to heaven from hell, that I have been personally called and sent by God, and that I bear the privilege and the responsibility of preaching God’s Word to those who do not believe.  This remains to be my paramount identity and my most important role in this world.  I am a bi-vocational minister, and from 8am to 4:30pm, I work as a nurse practitioner practicing medicine.  But what I do in my office cannot compare with the life-saving, life-giving, life-changing ministry I do as a minister of reconciliation, an identity I hold 24/7.  Every Christian is an evangelist because every Christian is a “little Christ,” an ambassador of Christ, a member of the royal priesthood, a redeemed child of God with a personal testimony, an example to the watching world of God’s patience and mercy.  In my own ministry, as I lead a group of recently-converted college seniors, part of my role is to impart this sense of calling and commission to each one of them – in a season of their life when they are thinking about their future, the trajectory of their lives, the offerings of this world, and the alluring call of career and materialism.  My prayer and vision for them is that they would join me in the urgency of suffering for the gospel, of laboring hard to see other prodigals find their way back to the Father’s home, of leading lost sinners just like us across the line of faith.

  • Reflect on the words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”  List the people (known and unknown) God used to bring the gospel to me.  Who are the people to whom God is asking me to go? 

There are so many people to whom I am indebted for bringing the gospel to me: my mother who first dragged me to church when I was ten years old, my aunt who first brought my mother to church when she was a young girl back in Hong Kong, as well as my spiritual leaders Pastor Ed and Kelly, Pastor Daniel and Sarah, and others who not only preached the gospel in a relevant and compelling way but also lived out the gospel.  God also used the original founders of our church, who took a bold step of faith in establishing a ministry on the Berkeley campus that emphasized solid biblical teaching, life-on-life discipleship, strong stance against sin, and close family-like community – as it was at our church where I received a lot of prayers as well as a lot of painful truth that was hard to swallow, but it was because I was taken seriously that I understood God’s love and grace and was able to be saved.

God is calling me to reach the college students.  College is the institution of higher learning, but spiritually speaking, it is the bastion of post-modern thought and the naturalistic worldview as well as the place that promotes the rampant hook-up culture, partying and drinking.  And the tragic consequences are broken hearts and broken lives – the statistics are staggering, but nobody wants to talk about it.  Yes, they are people that need to hear the gospel and believe, but it is in the context of the spiritual battle, where they are hearing and believing so many other false and degrading things that will lead them either to a meaningless existence or to self-destruction.  Just as Paul was obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks (1:14), so I am obligated to these college students and eager to preach the gospel to them.

Submitted by Jin K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge.

On one level, zeal without knowledge is a lot of wasted energy. It’s doing a lot of work and exerting a lot of effort that in the end, turns out to be futile. But the greatest tragedy is that it’s so burdensome. In this context, zeal without knowledge is applied towards God. Paul talks about a people that have a lot of zeal for God but without knowledge. For the people Paul was referring to, their knowledge lacked the grace of God. So this led to a very ritualistic and fear-driven life. There were a lot of do’s and do-not’s without the personal understanding of God being more into a relationship rather than work-product. The result is lack of joy in obeying God and seeing God as more of a task-master rather than a loving heavenly father who sympathizes with our weakness, who came to let us know that we don’t have to put on a charade of being righteous. But zeal without knowledge can also be reflected on the other spectrum. One can be very zealous about God’s grace and forgiveness but lack the aspect of his lordship. The tragedy of this is that one remains enslaved to his sins. Of course, the struggle with sin will always be there and along with that, falling into sin. But there is also something to be said about God coming to institute change in our lives right now and to have us experience liberation from sin and becoming more Christ-like. According to the bible, this will require tremendous effort on our end as the bible uses words like “labor” and “struggle” to describe our walk with God (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 6:10-18). And I’ve seen over the years why God wants to bring change in me right now. He wants to cleanse me of the cycle of shame and guilt that discolors my experience of life whenever I do fall into sin. He also wants me to be more available for his work and to chip away at my character issues that prevent the full extent of his work being carried out in me. And he has also used the process of struggle I’ve had to go through, times in which I thought there was no use, as a source of encouragement to others who are going through the same things. To have zeal without knowledge, in whatever aspect of God and of spiritual life, is tragic because in the end, one misses out on so much of the greater spiritual blessings God wants to bring to a person.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

The Israelites’ example is not just confined to them but to many other people today. People today seek to establish their own righteousness and terms of salvation. And as a result, they refuse to submit to God’s righteousness. For people who are success-oriented and used to achievements, after becoming saved, Christian living is yet another arena to continue this method of living. And this shows its ugly head in a lot of ways. One way is being very defensive when confronted about character flaws or sins. People may believe in their heads that they are sinners but when it comes to admitting this in the nitty gritty details of their lives, are loathe to admit this. There are always a lot of exceptions, mitigating circumstances, different weighing of details, etc. Of course, people can be wrong and one should not always be blindly believing in input from others.

But in terms of basic posture of humility, wanting to listen so that truth can be asserted rather than one’s justifications–this is lacking for those who seek to establish their own righteousness. The reason is that the motivation behind this is to look good in front of others and a lot of effort is exerted to maintain a certain image. But to truly submit to God’s way of grace often includes the involvement of the church and its people. The way of grace often includes confrontation, confession, and/or receiving prayer. And in my experience, the experience of God’s grace has been the strongest when it involves other people because I cannot hide in my sins and remain under the illusion that I’m ok. God made me into a social being and uses the leverage of the social presence of others to drill into me some spiritual truths. One way I can guard myself against the underlying motivation of seeking to establish my own righteousness, that is, using my spiritual activity to look good in front of others, is to confess and be authentic before others. Another way is to not isolate myself. By being available and readily in front of others’ views, I am giving more material and opportunity for input for others to help develop my character and make me into a more pleasing vessel for God. And I can also be more intentional that when being confronted by others, I will be mindful to not have my defensive barriers go up so quickly but really listen with an attitude of what God is trying to reveal about me in that instance rather than what details I can cling onto to prove that I am right or justified for doing/saying what I did. Recently, I had to have a conversation with a dear brother in Christ who I’ve known for many years. It was regarding what I did to him and revealed several of my character flaws: my inability to listen and how I can come across to others that is not others-centered. It was a good time of talking through misunderstandings we had from a prior conversation. But it was also a time when I had to be confronted of my sinfulness and how it affects others- namely this brother. It was not a pleasant experience as I had to hear input about myself that deep inside, I knew I couldn’t protest but had to accept. But it did make it very clear to me that I had no other option but to submit to God’s grace. And in this process, I was able to cherish this dear brother more and experience deeper fellowship with him as well because this conflict authenticated and escalated the genuine level of our friendship. I’d have missed out on this opportunity if I kept myself hidden and isolated from others, if I was more into trying to justify myself. But in this small instance of dying to myself, by not seeking to establish my own righteousness in front of him and Him, I was able to experience the sweetness of submitting to God’s grace and gained so much more otherwise.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332.]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?

According to this passage, there are a lot of things that takes a person to be saved. Towards the end of this passage, there need to be people to bring the gospel to others. There needs to be people who are sent out to preach the gospel. Deeply entrenched in God’s salvation plan is the involvement of people. What is also required is the proper posture before God. One cannot be so action-oriented to earn their salvation because that would degrade the gift of salvation provided by Christ (v.6). But one also cannot be so fixated on sin and have that be the only dominant reality because that would render Christ’s death, which washes away people’s sin, as futile (v.7). In this context, verse 9 comes which provides the proper posture. There needs to be the proper acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord. There needs to be the proper recognition that God raised him from the dead. In other words, Romans 4:25 is echoed in that we are considered righteous because Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. It is the proper recognition that we have salvation as a free gift and understanding that though we cannot do anything to merit our salvation, sin is also not our dominant reality that we need to be so focused on. By receiving God’s grace, we strive to make God more of our lord and obey him with greater zeal rather than by receiving grace, simply doing whatever we want. We confess Jesus is lord over our lives and do what he says even though at times it is so difficult and does not make sense. But as we do so, we wouldn’t have our lives be any other way. These days, life has been busy. Have a kid, greater entrustment in ministry, got recently sick, work is busy, and there are a lot of things to plan for. Yet one thing I cannot get over is God’s mercy on me and the privilege I have in being able to minister to people. He has mercy on me with my perennial sins, he has mercy on me with my lack of competence when it comes to loving people, he has mercy on me in so many ways. And this generosity from God makes me want to love him more, to give more of myself. There are times when I don’t want to give myself. I’d rather check out mentally or simply not deal with people. But as I’ve taken steps of faith to make Christ lord over more areas of my life, such as when I make myself available to talk to this person, things will happen in that conversation, I’ll be given insight that I didn’t plan on having, and before my very eyes, God is working through me even though initially, I thought I didn’t have the mental and physical capacity to carry it out. This is but one example of how by taking small steps of faith in making Christ lord over my life, God helps me. And with this repeated pattern, my life resembles more of someone who is indeed saved. But it all begins with this basic understanding that Jesus is lord, honoring this with my life, and being thankful for God’s free gift of salvation.

Submitted by Hannah C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 10:1-3

  • Think about the tragedy of zeal without knowledge.

o   The Israelites thought they were being zealous for God, but their zeal was not based on proper knowledge of God, but it was based on what made sense to them, which was to establish righteousness on their own. Their zeal consisted of following rules, rituals and traditions to please God. It is tragic as they were completely deluded about themselves and about where they stood before God. They thought God was pleased by their actions while God wanted a right relationship with them through faith in Jesus Christ. As Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings,” it is tragic that they missed God’s heart completely and continually being zealous in the wrong things.

  • Reflect on the words used to describe the Israelites—“sought to establish their own” and “did not submit.”  What is the relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace?  How can I guard myself against this?

o   The relationship between willpower-driven efforts to establish my own righteousness and a refusal to submit to God’s way of grace is that their willpower-driven efforts blinded them from even seeing the righteousness that comes from God and therefore they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Their world only consisted of establishing their own righteousness through meticulous rule-keeping, and they could not understand or appreciate God’s grace.

o   I can guard myself against my desire to establish my own righteousness through honest reflection of myself. It is easy for me to feel good about myself when I am working hard for the Lord as a minister. But when I honestly examine my heart and search what is in my heart, I have to acknowledge that I am a sinner through and through because even the best of my intentions to serve God is tinged with a sense of pride. And knowing that nothing is concealed from God’s sight, I cannot pretend as though I am righteous.

Romans 10:4-15

“Through Christ’s being brought down to earth (i.e., his incarnation, Rom. 10:6) and his being brought up from the dead (10:7), God has made righteousness readily available (10:8).  One does not have to ascend into heaven or plumb the depths of the sea to discover it.  All one needs to do to attain righteousness is to respond in faith to the gospel as it is preached.  Verses 9-10 draw conclusions from what Paul has said about the ‘righteousness that is by faith’ in verses 6-8.  With the mouth one confesses ‘Jesus is Lord.’  The confession that Jesus is Lord is one of the most basic distinguishing marks of being a Christian.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) p. 332.]

  • According to this passage, what does it take for a person to be saved?
  • According to this passage, what needs to happen first in order for a person to believe the message, to call on Christ and be saved?
  • In light of this, how seriously have I taken my role as one who must “bring good news” to those who “have not heard?”
  • Reflect on the words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”  List the people (known and unknown) God used to bring the gospel to me.  Who are the people to whom God is asking me to go?
  • For a person to be saved, she needs to confess with her mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in her heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
  • In order for a person to believe the message, they first need to hear the message. In order for them to hear the message, someone needs to preach to them. Otherwise, they can never call on the one they have not even heard.
  • Although I try to “bring good news” to those who “have not heard,” I sometimes don’t have this kind of sense of urgency to bring good news to people around me. I often rationalize that they are not interested or give up after a few tries of trying to tell them about the gospel. But this passage reminds me of my important call is to tell people about good news of the gospel that I have found. I might be the only person who knows the good news in my friends’ and students’ lives, and in order for them to believe in God, they first need to hear the message.
  • When I look back on my life, I cannot deny that God used many people to bring the gospel to me. First, it was my family who brought the gospel to me since I was born. Starting with my grandparents who faithfully served during their lifetime and prayed for me daily, my family taught me the gospel and devotion to the Lord. Then there were my youth teachers at this church who demonstrated genuine Christian living during the tumultuous time of my teenage years. Although I was not interested in Christianity despite having grown up in the church and only cared about the world, I could not deny that there was something so different and attractive about them. It is not surprising that I would turn to my teachers whenever I faced difficulties because I knew that they genuinely cared about me. So when my mom had a stroke suddenly, my youth teachers were the first people I contacted to pray for my mom. But almost everyone from the church came to the hospital immediately to pray for her and to be with my brother and me, and I was amazed by their love for my mom, the person they did not even know. During that scary night with full of uncertainties, they brought me good news of the gospel where I finally recognized my sinfulness, frailty of life and acknowledged Jesus as my Savior and Lord of my life. If it weren’t for my youth teachers who persistently loved me when I was the most obnoxious and most unlovable person, I do not know where I would be today. I would still be leading a life of delusion and hopelessness.
  • The people that God is asking me to go are the college students who were just as lost as I was during my teenage years. He wants me to go to them and teach them good news of the gospel so that their lives will be forever changed as mine was.

July 2, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 9)

Submitted by Jesse K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION Questions

Romans 9:1-5

“These verses reveal a fact about Paul that is easy for us to forget: He was a Jew and never lost his sense of Jewish identity or his love for his fellow Jews […] Because he was used by God to bring so many Gentiles into the people of God, Paul was viewed by a good number of Jews as a traitor and as one who had lost any natural affection for his own people.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) 290.]

 

·       What can I learn about Apostle Paul and his dramatic way of expressing his intense love for his countrymen?

Apostle Paul is a man with a tremendous capacity for love.  “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”  These are the words of Apostle Paul concerning his heart for the Jews. These were the same Jews who opposed Paul so fiercely.  They were the same Jews who maligned Paul and even tried to kill him.  And yet, Paul feels “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for these people.  Despite the tremendous pain Paul experienced at the hands of the Jews (both physical and emotional), he is still able to care for them to this extent-even going as far as to say that he would rather himself be cut off from Christ for the sake of his Jewish brethren.  What an amazing ability to love.  In comparison, as I look at my own heart and the ability to love others, I see how severely lacking I am.  I see how small my heart is.  I see how petty I am.  I see how selfish I am compared to A. Paul.  Paul says he would rather be cut off from Christ, yet at times, I am so small-hearted that I find it hard to sacrifice a little time or some emotional energy for the sake of people whom I say I love.  One fresh example of this is my unwillingness to expend a little more emotional energy to speak to my wife in a kind tone.  The degree of pettiness shows the degree to which I am selfish.  Yet, instead of recognizing this, what was going on in my mind was that it was a long day, I was tired and all I want to do is rest before I have to pick up the trailer for Sunday setup.  I try to make excuses, but even those reveal how selfish my point of view is.  “I” was the one who had a long day.  “I” was the one who was tired.  “I” was the one who had to get up.  And it was I who refused to sacrifice even a little energy to love my wife.  It’s a far cry from Apostle Paul who says he is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the people who oppose him.

·       How can I cultivate a heart like Apostle Paul’s, of “great sorrow and unceasing anguish,” for people’s salvation?

Apostle Paul’s heart of “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for people’s salvation is one that mirrors God’s heart.  It is because God has such a heart for his lost children that Apostle Paul also feels this great sorrow and unceasing anguish for people.  So, one way which I can cultivate a heart like Apostle Paul, and ultimately God, is to pray.  It sounds like the same-old cliché answer, but it is true.  This past year, largely due to the morning prayer times @ NL, I was able to establish a regular time of prayer.  And over time, as I prayed for specific people by name, I could feel my sense of concern and burden over those people’s souls slowly increase. Somehow, as I prayed for them, my concern for them would also grow.  Especially as it’s summer and the week is not as busy as in the school year, I can really devote time to pray for people’s salvation in order to develop a heart like Apostle Paul.

Romans 9:6-21

“Because all men are sinful and deserve God’s condemnation, no person is wronged or treated unjustly if God chooses to condemn him.  That is justice.  His mercy toward any person is purely by His grace […] It is not a man’s choice or pursuit but God who initiates mercy for the sinner.  Salvation is never initiated by human choice or merited by zealous human effort.  It always begins in God’s sovereign, gracious, and eternal will.” [John MacMarthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Romans 9-16. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 42-43]

 

·       Meditate on the fact of God’s total sovereignty and freedom regarding on whom He will have mercy. Have I fully acknowledged in my heart that God has the absolute right to do as He wills in history, and in my life?

·       To what extent do I appreciate God’s sovereign freedom to rightfully condemn all humanity as the backdrop against which I see my own personal salvation?

Romans 9:22-33

“The implication for Jews was that they did not pursue… the righteousness which is by faith, but instead relied on their birthright as Jews or on their supposed good works in obedience to God’s laws.” [John MacMarthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Romans 9-16. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 67]

“The ‘stumbling stone’ was Jesus.  The Jews did not believe in him, because he didn’t meet their expectations for the Messiah. Some people still stumble over Christ because salvation by faith doesn’t make sense to them.” [Life Application Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) p.2045]

·       What warning does this passage give to Christians who presume upon God based on their own good works, service, or spiritual heritage?

Paul says, “It is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” He also says, “Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.”  In other words, the righteousness and salvation that Jesus brings cannot be attained through works.  This has great warning to Christians, especially those who are performance and task-oriented like me.  I cannot presume that I am all right with God because I do works.  I can’t presume that I’m okay just because I attend Sunday worship services, b/c I go to prayer meetings, b/c I do various tasks and tech stuff for church.  Even the fact that I’m a spiritual leader and lead lifegroups does not mean I am righteous before God.  Of course, good works and service are good, but neither my salvation nor my relationship with God is based on such things.  My salvation is purely based on God’s grace and faith in Jesus.  And my relationship with God begins with the acknowledgment that I am a rotten sinner- full of pride and selfishness-who is redeemed through the blood of Christ.  But it’s so easy to fall into the temptation to think that by performing various tasks “for God” that I’m okay.  In fact, for me it’s much easier to do various outward tasks than to do the hard work of digging inside my heart, confessing and bringing it before God and receiving forgiveness and true righteousness.  And the busier I am with various things, it’s that much easier to forgo doing this hard work.  But Paul’s warning is so clear.  So as I approach the new role and duties as a husband, as I approach ministering to the sophomore class, as I approach the duties I have on the tech team, and as I approach the various new responsibilities I gain as I get older, I need to remember this warning against judging my spiritual life with outward deeds.

·       Think about the fact that those “who did not pursue righteousness” have obtained it.  How does this apply to me?

This is my testimony.  I am the person described in this passage.  I did not pursue righteousness.  I had no regard for the laws of God.  I had no desire or even awareness of the heart of God.  I was my own master.  I manipulated others to get my way.  I dehumanized people for my own selfish pleasure.  I placed myself first above all else.  And yet, even in the pit of this kind of godless life, I was saved “not by works but by him who calls.”  Thank God for his love.  Thank God that “It does not, therefore depend, on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”  This is the gospel that I have received through faith.  And this is the gospel that I’ve committed my life upholding and telling others about.  It is also the gospel that gives me the courage and the security to keep on living Christian life, since I know that my relationship with God isn’t based on my own works and efforts (It never was).  It is based on God’s mercy.  So as I come face to face with my sins and my various different issues, I don’t need to fall into despair or be paralyzed by Satan’s accusation.  Instead, I can find comfort and gain strength in the fact that God is faithful and just and will forgive me- crediting me with righteousness that I could not earn on my own.

Submitted by Becky F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION Questions

Romans 9:1-5

“These verses reveal a fact about Paul that is easy for us to forget: He was a Jew and never lost his sense of Jewish identity or his love for his fellow Jews […] Because he was used by God to bring so many Gentiles into the people of God, Paul was viewed by a good number of Jews as a traitor and as one who had lost any natural affection for his own people.”  [Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary – Romans (Zondervan, 2000) 290.]

  • What can I learn about Apostle Paul and his dramatic way of expressing his intense love for his countrymen?

o   A. Paul’s dramatic way of expressing his intense love for his countrymen reflects how deeply he loved and cared for them and how selfless he was.  He felt this intensely for his countrymen, that he would be willing to be cursed and cut off from Christ himself if that meant they would be saved.  His great sorrow and unceasing anguish for them shows how committed he was to others, to their concerns and needs and problems.  On top of this is the context where so many of them, the Jews, saw him as a traitor who cared little for them.  It didn’t matter that they misunderstood, unfairly rejected and criticized him.  A. Paul still loved them, still had such zeal and affection for and commitment to them, did not hold back or cool in his heart for his people.  A. Paul’s selflessness alone is amazing, so contrary to my own heart, and on top of that, His refusal to give up on them or lash back or just care less toward them when they unfairly and wrongly criticized him as not caring for his own people when in fact he would die for them, is humbling and challenging. But it is also so fitting as well, the same shape and form of Christ’s love for us, how Christ gave Himself for us even when we were sinners, rejecting and rebelling against Him.   He did not hold back at all, and A. Paul follows His example in this kind of complete surrender of any so-called rights, defense, and continuing to persevere in love and hope despite being misunderstood and rejected.

  • How can I cultivate a heart like Apostle Paul’s, of “great sorrow and unceasing anguish,” for people’s salvation?

o   A. Paul’s heart is so humbling and challenging, so contrary to my own that is so self-centered and defensive, quick to demand and be put off when hurt or misunderstood or rejected or not even noticed.  But I can cultivate a heart like A. Paul’s, of great sorrow and unceasing anguish for people’s salvation, in several ways. I can feed this just by being interested and aware of what is going on with people, doing the work of asking, finding out how people are doing, as what comes out from them and their families, friends, coworkers, people in their lives, is inevitably the need for salvation, people’s sinfulness and brokenness and hopelessness apart from Christ, and the burden to cry out for them.  Just a look at the news results in the same as well.  And the next thing I can do to cultivate a heart like A. Paul’s is to bring those burdens, brokenness, needs, to God, crying out for their salvation and healing, in my daily prayers, to do the work of continuing to think about and be burdened by the reality of our sinfulness and need for Christ, instead of being so quick to move on, throw up my hands in helplessness, taking things “in stride” as the world tells me to.

Romans 9:6-21

“Because all men are sinful and deserve God’s condemnation, no person is wronged or treated unjustly if God chooses to condemn him.  That is justice.  His mercy toward any person is purely by His grace […] It is not a man’s choice or pursuit but God who initiates mercy for the sinner.  Salvation is never initiated by human choice or merited by zealous human effort.  It always begins in God’s sovereign, gracious, and eternal will.” [John MacMarthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Romans 9-16. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 42-43]

  • Meditate on the fact of God’s total sovereignty and freedom regarding on whom He will have mercy.  Have I fully acknowledged in my heart that God has the absolute right to do as He wills in history, and in my life?

o   God has every right to have mercy on whomever He chooses to have mercy.  I am not someone who can come to Him and demand “justice”, because justice actually means that I be condemned.  He actually has every right to condemn all of us and not show mercy on any one at all.

o   I know this in my head, but when it comes to looking at the world around me and people I care about, my emotions aren’t quite settled with this fact alone.  I know that God has every right to have mercy on only those He chooses to, but my heart protests against the idea that He might not show great mercy on some people. I think this is for two reasons.  One, because I am so used to knowing the other aspects of God, that He just so happens to also be good and compassionate, a tender loving Heavenly Father, who welcomes eagerly any prodigals who will return to Him and who woos all of us with hope that we will turn back to Him.  Two, because He has created us to be like Him, in His image, so that there is a shadow of His goodness, compassion, character, in me, at least in ideas of what is good.  But in the end, when things don’t work out the way I want, the way I know to be right or according to my own understanding and ideas, I concede that yes, in the end, no matter how it all works out, God is sovereign, has every right to act and choose as He will.  In the end, God knows and His ways are far above my ways and His thoughts far greater than my thoughts.  He is far more compassionate than me, and I know that my judgments are based upon incomplete information and broken ideas, so I can concede readily that God has every right to choose and do as He will.  But even if God were not this way, God has every right to do as He will, whether it agrees with my own ideas of how things should be.

o   Though I concede to God’s sovereignty and freedom to do as He wills in history, I see it is harder to swallow when it boils down to my life and works out to being contrary to my own desires and ideas of how it should and I want it to be.  Each time things don’t go my way, even according to how I should be, like seeing my same character issues and lack of change, this is a chance to acknowledge in my heart again that God has every right to do as He wills, to not change me quickly, to not make things work out smoothly for me.  I am thankful because most of the time I can readily see some reasons why He chooses to do this or not that, like the danger of my pride puffing up enormously, me feeling like I have things together and then not being acutely aware of my desperate need for Him.

  • To what extent do I appreciate God’s sovereign freedom to rightfully condemn all humanity as the backdrop against which I see my own personal salvation?

o   I do not often consider that God has every right to condemn all of humanity as the backdrop for my own personal salvation.  There is plenty of condemning evidence just on my personal sinfulness alone, but zooming out and recognizing that all have fallen short of the glory of God, that all mankind deserves nothing but wrath gives me greater appreciation for my salvation.  I have rebelled against God’s rightful authority over my life, but not only me, but all of humanity have been this rebellious and wicked, and deserve nothing but wrath from God.  It is all the more a miracle that God should pardon a sinner like me, when all of mankind has despised and rebelled against Him, and He has every right to condemn all of us, even before getting to the nitty gritty ugly petty details of my sinfulness.

Romans 9:22-33

“The implication for Jews was that they did not pursue… the righteousness which is by faith, but instead relied on their birthright as Jews or on their supposed good works in obedience to God’s laws.” [John MacMarthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Romans 9-16. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 67]

“The ‘stumbling stone’ was Jesus.  The Jews did not believe in him, because he didn’t meet their expectations for the Messiah. Some people still stumble over Christ because salvation by faith doesn’t make sense to them.” [Life Application Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) p.2045]

  • What warning does this passage give to Christians who presume upon God based on their own good works, service, or spiritual heritage?

o   This passage warns such people that their efforts do not earn them anything before God.  It warns them that their striving, what they think earns them some kind of credit or righteousness with God, is just folly.  Just because they serve God, do good works, have a spiritual heritage of growing up in a God-honoring family or church , does not mean that they are right with God, and it is a warning because this kind of thinking and striving causes them to miss out on the righteousness with God that only comes by faith.  It is not only a hopeless pursuit to try to “earn” something from God by our own efforts and good deeds, this pursuit dulls and keeps us from receiving the true righteousness with God that only comes through the sacrifice of Jesus.

  • Think about the fact that those “who did not pursue righteousness” have obtained it. How does this apply to me?

o   Oddly, those who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it.  It is those who have given up, who are in touch with the reality of their own sinfulness and the brokenness of the world around them, who are more likely to obtain righteousness with God.  This is because in order to achieve true righteousness with God, we have to recognize our sins fully and thus our utter inability to fix ourselves, to do better, to be right with God based upon our own efforts and resources.  Those who are still pursuing righteousness are too proud and set in their ways to look up and see the true righteousness that can only come through faith in Jesus.  And so being right with God truly always eludes such people.  It is sobering that this warning really applies to me, because when I am fixated on trying to do/think “right”, I am so far from finding that rightness with God I long for so much.  Ironically, I am missing the only way I can really find peace with God, through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, when I am busy trying to prove myself, earn something, show some kind of worth and results from all God has poured out into me and our church.  When I do this, my mind, energy, heart, are preoccupied and drained by this endless hopeless pursuit and my wicked pride that is up and down constantly in my efforts to try to do things “right”–mostly despair at how utterly hopeless I am to get things right and do even just the basics of what I should do for people, and on rare occasions some sense of self-congratulation when I happen to do something superficially “right”. I need to fight this and catch myself through honest daily reflection and confession, because the stakes are this high, this serious.  I cause myself to miss out on being found truly righteous with God when I try to obtain a righteousness of my own making.

Devotion Time June 25th -29th, 2012

Here are the DT Packets for June 25th – 29th, 2012:

1. DT_ReviewRomans5-8_Jun25-Jun29_2012_RefQs

2. DT_ReviewRomans5-8_Jun25-Jun29_2012_KeyVerses

June 29, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 5-8)

Submitted by Azuza L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5-8 Outline

Chapter 5

  • (vv1-5) Because we are justified by faith, we have the following:
    • Peace with God through Jesus, who granted us access to this faith
    • Ability to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
    • Ability to rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering will produce perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope
    • Hope in the love of God, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit which God’s given us
      • Demonstration of God’s love:  It’s rare enough for someone to die for a good man, but Christ died for us while we were still sinners (vv.6-8)
  • Adam vs. Jesus (vv12-19)
    • Through Adam
      • One man’s sin
      • Sin entered the world
      • Death entered through sin
      • Death came to all men
      • Judgment, condemnation
    • Through Jesus
      • Came after many trespasses
      • Justification
      • Life for all men
      • Many will be made righteous

Chapter 6

  • Dead to sin vs. Alive in Christ (vv1-14)
    • Dead to sin
      • Buried with Jesus through baptism into death
      • United with him in his death
      • Old self was crucified with him
      • No longer be slaves to sin
    • Alive in Christ
      • New life
      • United with him in his resurrection
      • Live with him
      • Alive to God
  • Slaves to sin vs. slaves to righteousness (vv15-23)
    • You are slaves to the one you obey
    • Slaves to sin
      • Leads to death
      • Free from the control of righteousness
      • No benefit to being a slave to sin—only results in death
    • Slaves to righteousness
      • Obedience leads to righteousness
      • Set free from sin
      • Benefit of being a slave to righteousness is that it reaps holiness; results in eternal life

Chapter 7

  • Died to the law, remarried to Christ (vv1-6)
    • Example: married woman is bound to her husband only as long as her husband lives
    • We died to the law through Christ, and now we belong to Christ
    • Released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit
  • Purpose of the law (vv7-13)
    • The law is holy, righteous, and good
    • Intended to bring life, but brought death through conviction of sin
    • Exists so that sin might be recognized as sin—utterly sinful and corrupt, and convicts people of sin
  • God’s law vs. law of sin (vv14-25)
    • Because of sin, we do what we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we want to do!
    • 2 natures at work—our new natures are slaves to God’s law, but the sinful nature is a slave to the law of sin
    • What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Chapter 8

  • No more condemnation! (vv1-4)
    • The law of the Spirit of life set us free from the law of sin and death
    • What the law was powerless to do, God did through Jesus—set us free from sin
  • Sinful nature vs. the Spirit (vv5-17)
    • Sinful nature
      • The mind of sinful man is death
      • Hostile to God
      • Cannot please God
      • Your body is dead because of sin
    • The Spirit
      • The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace
      • Spirit of God living in you
      • Your spirit is alive because of righteousness
      • Because Jesus was raised from the dead, God will also raise our mortal bodies through the Spirit who lives in us
      • Those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God
      • We received the Spirit of sonship (not fear)
        • The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, heirs, and co-heirs with Christ who will share in his glory
  • Present sufferings vs. hope  (vv18-27)
    • Our present sufferings cannot compare with the glory that will be revelaed in us
    • Even creation is under the bondage of sin, and eagerly awaits liberation and freedom
    • We are eagerly awaiting in hope for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies
    • While here on earth, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, interceding for us with groans that words cannot express
  • God’s love and our lives (vv28-37)
    • If God is for us, who can be against us?
    • He didn’t spare even his own son—he is not withholding anything from us
    • Who can bring any charge against us?  God justified us already
    • Who can separate us from the love of God?  NOTHING can separate us from the love of God

Personal Reflection 

In reading these chapters, I was struck with the many comparisons that were made that show a saved life vs. an unsaved life.   Just to name a few: “death vs. life and peace,” “death vs. freedom,” “judgment vs. justification,” “slaves to sin vs. slaves to righteousness,” “old self vs. new life,” “sinful nature vs. the spirit.”  Paul goes through great pains to paint the picture of what we deserve, and what we now have because we are justified by faith in Jesus.  We deserve to reap the full consequences of our sins, to be burdened by guilt, shame, to be utterly alone and isolated from everything good.  We deserve a deadened, hollow life here on earth, and ultimate death apart from God forever.  But what do we have instead?  God offers life to the full, a chance to make peace with him and the mess we’ve made of our lives, and he offers us a way out of the enslavement of the sinful nature.   He offers us an enduring, persevering hope that nothing in this world can crush.  He calls us his children and assures us that there is NOTHING that can ever separate us from his love.

How is this possible?  Chapter 5 makes clear that it is through the gift offered by Jesus—because of his obedience, it reversed the trajectory of sin of mankind, so that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

At times, it is very hard for me to grasp this because my sins are still so present.  I see the ugliness of my sins, I see the consequences that it has on my life and on others.   I fall into the same persistent sins over and over, and I want to despair.  I can relate with Paul’s sentiment—what I want to do I do not do, and what I do not want to do I do!  I think, “Surely God’s had it with me by now.   I need to show him that I’ve done a little better this time, I need to show him I’m getting over this sin.  I really should be over this by now!”  But in these passages, it addresses exactly what I am going through.  God knows we will continue to struggle!  He knows that though he has come to set us free from the law of sin, that our sinful natures are still bound to it.  He knows that we are, in our sinful nature, still slaves to sin.  Which is why he assures us of the way of the Spirit that he has saved us into.  He reminds us that we need to continually offer ourselves up to be slaves of righteousness, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, to continue to place our hope on the redemption and eternal life he promises.   He assures us that even as we continue to fall into sin, even as uncertainties in life plague us, that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, because he has already called us his own and given us a spirit of sonship.  In fact, his spirit himself is interceding for us.  So when I sin, yet again, I need to profess that Jesus is right when he said that I’m a sinner, and to keep holding onto his promises as I continue to struggle.

As I do this, and as I just accept God’s forgiveness rather than keep trying to prove that I’m over my sin, I am then brought to understand again that I have been given new life that I just don’t deserve.  I don’t have to keep going down the path of death, don’t have to keep trying to find new avenues to redeem myself, and I find renewed strength to keep struggling, because this is how God is going to shape me into the person he’s created me to be.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for your word today that has given me the strength I need again to keep struggling as I face my sins.  Lord, to not struggle would lead to death.  To give up would simply be offering myself to be a slave to sin.  Lord, help me to offer myself to you as a slave to righteousness, to keep confessing, to keep holding on to your word, to keep praying, trusting that as I do so, you will usher in life and victory.  Lord, I thank you for your promises that there is nothing, not even the most persistent of sins, that can keep me from your love.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen


Submitted by Jeff L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5-8: Outline

Chapter 5:

  • Since Christ has justified us, we have peace with God.
  • We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
  • We also rejoice in our sufferings, which builds our character and gives us real hope for the glory of God we will receive.
  • As Christ’s death brought us justification, so Christ’s life brings sanctification.
  • As sin came through Adam and spread death to all men, through Christ, there is righteousness and life for all men.

Chapter 6:

  • Those who have been saved by Christ have died with him.  We know that we will rise with Him if we have died with Him to our sinful nature.
  • So put to death sin in my life!
  • Become a slave of righteousness.

Chapter 7:

  • Death frees us from the law, so because we have died through Christ, we are free from the law…not to sin, but to serve by the Spirit.
  • I now have two natures – there is the Spirit living inside me, but also my old sinful nature.  I need to struggle & cry out to God for the Spirit to reign.

Chapter 8:

  • There is no condemnation now that we have been saved by Christ!
  • Now that we have been saved, we live by the Spirit.
  • We now have an obligation to live by the Spirit and put to death the sinful nature.
  • All of creation is awaiting the glory that will be revealed in us – as we wait, we groan, struggle & exercise patience in hope.  The Spirit helps us in this.
  • Because of Christ, therefore, we are completely victorious…nothing can separate us now from the love of God!

Personal Reflection:

As I reflect on chapters 5-8, one thing that I was reminded of is the fact that now that I have been saved, there is really one task that I am called to, which is the pursuit of holiness in learning to live by the Spirit.  Now that I have been justified by Christ and there is no more condemnation, my task in life is to focus all of my energy and zeal in not letting sin reign in my mortal body, not offering the parts of my body to sin and putting to death the misdeeds of the body.  I am to live by the Spirit, as a slave to righteousness, and the more I do that, the more I will experience the life of joy and peace that comes from sowing to the Spirit.  The pursuit of holiness…the pursuit, put simply, to become like Christ, is the one endeavor that I need to give myself to wholeheartedly each and every day.

For this summer, I want to give myself to becoming like Christ in the area of loving others and giving myself to people.  I still shock myself at times with regards to how small hearted I am, and I really want to put to death my selfishness and ego by giving myself to loving the precious people God has placed in my life.  As God worked so mightily this past weekend at the Element High School retreat, I want to commit to giving myself to all of the precious students that God has entrusted to our care.  There are so many students now to love, follow up with, disciple and build up…to keep the momentum created by the retreat going, to train up the students how to get more out of daily devotions, reading through the Bible, etc.  I commit to not slowing down or holding back, but living by the Spirit in the form of pouring out myself in love to the people God has entrusted to me.

June 28, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 8)

Submitted by Mark L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 8 Reflection on Key Verses

Romans 8:15-18

15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

What is striking in these set of verses is the theme of the future.  It is full of hope as it doesn’t dwell on the past but focuses on the very fact that I have received “the Spirit of sonship.”  It is through such an inheritance that I am able to enter in a reality where it is justified for me to address God as my heavenly Father.  This is amazing considering that the reality should have been Romans 7:24 where it describes the wretched state of my life.  I should have been left alone to deal with the consequences of my sins.  This would have been justice.  This would have been the proper reality.  God’s perspective on the other hand is not only future-oriented, but full of hope.  As I read through these set of verses, I’m filled with a sense of hope and renewed in strength to continue the fight against recurring sins, automatic negative thoughts, and other habits that fuels my pride.  There are times when discouragement sets in as I look at the brokenness within my heart.  The thought that plays itself over and over again is that I am just growing to be a shadow of my former self and that my best days are behind me.  But these verses indicate otherwise as there is the gift of the Spirit of sonship and to be God’s children.  If there is any lingering doubt, “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit” that I am God’s child.  This puts the current struggles with sin in a radically different light.  No longer do I need to be enslaved by the past personal sins, haunted by and giving disproportionate weight to guilt and shame.  If anything, the current struggles with sin is the process by which I am becoming a shadow of my future self, where my identity as God’s child is complete and secure.  It is through such a process that my pride and the self would die a slow death, losing more and more hope in my strength and abilities and placing more and more trust and belief.  It is a process that would help me to grow more and more childlike.

Personal Prayer: 

Heavenly Father, thank you so much that you look past my wretched state when you had every right to do so.  Father, I’m so grateful that you offer the gift of sonship and the right to call you Abba Father.  Help me to submit to the process of you molding my heart so that the pride that characterizes adults would be shaped and humbled to readily receive the gift of sonship.

Submitted by Nancy C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 8 Reflection on Key Verses

Romans 8:1-2  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

I find myself living as if I am still under condemnation. I feel barraged by my sins and failures. I am constantly falling short in many ways–forgetting to do things that I said I would do, getting angry about petty things, being immature, acting selfishly, failing to love the people closest to me, etc. A dominant feeling that I have is guilt toward God and others. I feel bad, sorry, ashamed. I also get so defensive, and walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I’m just trying as hard as I can to avoid getting and feeling condemned. All in all, it is just a miserable kind of life.

But although I am guilty of all of the above and more, condemnation is NOT the reality I live under. I live in a different world now–one of grace rather than law. After I had failed on many fronts in one recent incident, the familiar feelings of discouragement, anxiety, despair started to overwhelm me. But this truth that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” gives me hope. Even though I am guilty of these very real sins, I can receive forgiveness, I am still loved by God. I am the same person that I was before Christ – the same temper, pride, ego, selfishness. But what makes all the difference is that I no longer live under the sentence of death. I am not doomed. Rather, I am loved, forgiven, given the gift of eternal life!

Submitted by Eddie N. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 8 Reflection Questions

Romans 8:1-4

  • Reflect on God’s grace, “that the righteous requirements of the law [are] fully met in [me]” because of Jesus.  What is my response to this statement that “there is now no condemnation” for me?

It would be impossible for me to follow all of the requirements of the Old Testament law.   I would have quickly failed and my sins would have caused me to break the law.  The result for falling short of the law was death.  Through Jesus’ death on the cross, my sins were forgiven.  Jesus paid for my sins on the cross.  Through Jesus, the new law was established through his blood.  Those who placed their faith in Jesus would no longer be condemned!  This is truly God’s grace that I do not deserve!

As I look back in my spiritual journey, I recall how it was out of God’s grace that he brought Gracepoint Davis church during my sophomore year in college in the fall of 1997.  I was reminded of the faithful staff members who left behind comfort of close relationships and familiar surroundings in order to plant a church in Davis, to a college population of 31,000 students.  By God’s grace, I was one of the 31,000 students who was reached and received the good news of the gospel.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  My response to this good news is that I need to take action and share the good news of the Gospel which I have received.  There are many co-workers, family members and friends in my life who have not heard the gospel yet.  Because my life has been saved from my sin, I can freely love others and freely share with others about the good news of the gospel.

Romans 8:5-17

  • According to this passage, what is the relationship between the kind of life I live and what I will set my mind on?

When I look at my heart, I see that there is willingness for me to obey God and His Word. However, my sins get in the way.  Romans 7:15-18 (NIV) describes it as:  “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.   And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.   As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, my sinful nature for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”   If choose to focus on the desires of my sinful nature, such as physical comfort, materialism, self-elevation, then I will fall to these sins as I end up feeding my sinful appetites.   The only way I can fight against these temptations and concerns is by turning to God, confessing my sinfulness, and asking God to help me to grow in what the Spirit desires.

Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  My mind and heart will focus on whatever I feed it.  If I want to “live in accordance with the spirit,” then I must feed my spirit with God’s word, prayer, reflection and accountability.  However, if I allow my thoughts to wander, and allow my mind to wander, daydream, and focus on escapism, I will quickly fall to sin or be tempted.   Therefore, I need to check frequently to examine my heart.  One concrete way is to acknowledge my weaknesses by sharing honestly with my Life Group members and spiritual leaders, so that I can be held accountable for my actions and choices and receive the help that I need.  By feeding my spirit with what the Spirit desires, I can grow the desires of my heart to do things that are pleasing to God.

Furthermore, I can focus on God’s word in order to guard my heart and to help me to grow.  I can also memorize key verses (especially during the summer) to keep God’s word fresh in my heart.  Philippians 4:8-9 states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”

  • What can I do to “have [my] mind set on what the Spirit desires?”

There are many things I can do to set my heart of what the Spirit desires.  I can read the bible, share with others about God, and also read good Christian books, especially over the summer.  I can memorize scripture to remember God’s promises and I can pray for the people God has placed in my life.

  • Reflect on vv. 15-17, and the fact that we are “heirs” of God and “co-heirs with Christ.”  To what extent have I embraced this promise?  What does our “inheritance” include?  What understanding of suffering and glory does this passage provide?

This is am amazing reality and truth – that I am an heir of God.  It amazes me that God, the Creator of the world, would choose me to include me in his work.  As an heir of God, I am called to imitate God and to do things that would please him.  I am so thankful that God allows me to share in his kingdom work of loving people and sharing with others the gospel.

In addition to sharing the gospel, my inheritance in God includes sharing in the responsibility in building God’s church.  God has blessed our church with many ministries and has called us to serve in various roles and capacities.  Whether we are called to serve the elderly in Elderly Care Ministry, to ministering to college students, to serving the little ones in Joyland, God wants us to join Him in serving Him, loving His people, and in doing so, build up His church.

Romans 8:18-27

  • What does this passage have to say regarding personal as well as world-wide suffering and brokenness?

Verse 22 talks about the whole creation groaning in pains since childbirth.  Our world is broken because of sin, ever since the beginning when Adam and Eve first sinned.  However, God is able to redeem the brokenness in our world.  God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to die and take the punishment of everyone’s sin, so that we could be forgiven.  God is able to reverse the curse of sin in this world!  Therefore, I can wait in “eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” as stated in verse 19.

  • What should be my attitude when facing these?

My attitude should be of hope and patience. Although I face and struggle with my sins, the reality is that I have a personal relationship with God, who has saved me from my sins.  I need to have hope, not in myself, but in Jesus, who is at work in my life.

  • How does the picture of the “Spirit himself [interceding] for us with groans that words cannot express” give me hope and courage?

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  This is amazing that when I don’t know what to do, or what direction to take, God is still at work and His Spirit is interceding for me.  When I am feeling lost, I need to remember that Jesus is still praying for me, to guide me and cares about me.  God is encouraging me to keep going, and reminding me to rely not on myself, but to rely on Him.

Romans 8:28-39

  • How different is v. 28 from the worldly perspective of people of this world?

The world’s perspective is about survival, competition and greed and looking out for oneself.  God is not in the picture.  One may think, if I am not going to provide for myself, who will?    However, from God’s perspective, He desires for us to love him and to relate to him.  God will work and will provide for man’s needs.  This is two completely different views of the world.

  • Are there some situations in my life in which I need to really hear these words, “if God is for us, who can be against us”?

Often times, I want to derive my worth in this world based on what I can do, such as striving significance through my work, or trying to appear to be spiritual at church by serving diligently, hoping to gain recognition from others.  However, God is for me.  God loves me the way I am.  I don’t have to achieve my worth from doing things.  God doesn’t care about all the things that I can do for him.  The most important fact in this life is that God knows me fully, and cares for me, and is interceding for me even now.   God is for me and wants me to relate and connect with Him.

  • Reflect on vv. 38-39.  What, ultimately, is the source of my security and assurance?

These verses give me so much hope and assurance that the love of God is so strong and powerful.  There is nothing in this world that can separate Jesus’ love for me.  Nothing can hinder God, not even death!  God reigns in all situations, even over my unknown future.   My security in this world is in God’s love for me.  This is a reminder also that I must not neglect my relationship with God, but I must take time daily to cultivate my relationship with God, through DTs, through prayer, and reflection and sharing with others what I have been learning and going through.

June 27, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 7)

Submitted by Matthew K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7: Reflection Questions

Romans 7:1-6

  • What is it that we have died to through the death of Christ, and for what purpose?

We have died “to the law through the body of Christ.”  But law is not sinful, but sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the law, produced all kinds of evil, coveting, sinful desires, deception and ultimately death.  Thus, through the body of Christ, I died to sin and the consequences of sin.  I died to sin in order that I may belong to Christ and bear fruit of God.

What does it mean to die to sin?  It means that sin no longer has dominion over me; there is no longer any relationship between sin and myself.   I certainly do not belong to sin as I belong to Christ.  Sin cannot dictate what I do, how I live my life, or where my destiny is going to be.

It’s an incredible reminder of my new destiny–I am no longer bound by sin or law.  I have a new destiny, new purpose, and new identity.  I belong to God, who has the power to raise me from death, and I am called to produce good fruit.  What is the purpose of the fruit?  It is to demonstrate to others that the inner reality of death to sin and being alive to God is real.  It is proof of God’s power to rescue me from sin and giving me a new life.

Romans 7:7-13

  • What may be the reason why people lack personal conviction of sin, according to this passage?

One reason why people lack conviction of sin is their lack of knowledge of God’s law and his holiness.  According to Paul, he would not have known what coveting really was unless the law clearly commanded against it.  Through knowing God’s law and holiness, we become aware of our sinfulness.

  • Have I been deluded about my own sense of righteousness because of my lack of awareness of God’s holy laws?

I grew up in church for the most of life and I somehow managed to stay out of trouble for the most part.  I was a good kid at church, who did everything right in the eyes of the adults. But inside, I was full of pride, thinking that I was righteous, that I deserve God’s love, that I am a gift to our church, and that people are lucky to have me as their friend.  In other words, I was grossly deluded.

I remember the first time the word of God convicting me of my sins.  I was listening to the message on the Sermon on the Mount when the preacher talked about “Blessed are the meek.”  God’s word pierced my heart as it exposed my sin of pride.  Ever since then, time and time again, God used his word through DT and messages to convict me of my laziness, selfishness, self-preserving attitude, indifference, lack of love, etc.

Romans 7:21-25

  • What is the relationship between what’s going on “in my inner being” and “in the members of my body”?  What is my response to this?

There is a war between my inner being and the members of my own body. There is a spiritual battle going within my own life. All too often, I can ignore this reality.  I need to battle to be alert at all times recognizing that the enemy will try to take any kind of ground within my own soul.  Often it uses the members of my own body, its desire to be lazy, its appetite for sensual satisfaction, its desire to simply rest and seek comfort, etc.   Sin is always on the attack–“seizing opportunities” to claim portions of my heart that I am not guarding.
I need to be reminded of this reality of spiritual battle.  I need to daily guard myself through word and prayer.  I need to recognize the voices of sin that tempts the members of my body to take it easy, rest, seek comfort, and be lazy.

  • Can I identify with Apostle Paul’s sentiment expressed in vv. 24-25? 

At the same time, as I fight this battle, I know that I cannot win this battle on my own or through my own will power.  It is comforting to know that it’s not entirely up to me.  In fact, the bible is clear that I cannot win this battle, and I am not to fight this battle on my own.  I have been fighting this battle long enough to know that I don’t have what it takes to survive on my own.  But I can always cry out to God and I know that he will and can rescue me.  As I get older, I am learning to rely on God more and more for this spiritual battle. I simply cannot do it on my own. It’s impossible to live a victorious Christian life on my own.  The forces of evil are too strong. But I know that I can rely on God on daily basis for strength and courage to claim that I belong to God, resist sin and bear fruit.

Submitted by Vanessa O. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 7:  Reflection on Key Verses

Linger over these verses, and focus on the truths contained in them.  Write a brief reflection or prayer based on these verses.

Romans 7:14-20

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 Romans 7:24-25 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It’s very daunting to think that sin has this kind of debilitating power on us where we feel enslaved, trapped, suffocated, defeated and hopeless. This is exactly what Satan wants us to feel and experience. Satan wants us to stop running this race, he wants to convince us that there is nothing good in us, that nothing will save us from this wretched body of us. Yes, the sinful nature that lies within us demonstrates this inner struggle and it’s a daily struggle we all face. Apostle Paul himself could identify with this kind of struggle when he says “15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”.

But the good news is that this is not the end of the story. The truth is that I cannot save myself from the sin that lives in me. I cannot battle it on my own, I cannot get rid of it and I can’t do anything to make up for it. This is why I need a savior.  Who can save me from this body of death? I certainly can’t, but it’s Jesus Christ! Jesus who died on the cross for my past, present and future sins-He is the one who can save me from this body of death. And this is the great news every Christian can hold on to. We know we don’t have the power to save ourselves, but thanks be to God because He loved us so much to send his one and only son to take the punishment we deserved.

One truth I take with me from this passage is that the battle is real, the struggle against sin is hard. Many times I ask myself the very questions Apostle Paul asks, “why do I keep falling into that same sin over and over again?”, ‘why did I say or do that?’. I feel this same way when some message or prayer convicts me and I commit to fighting against some sin, and yet, again and again I fall. I then find myself experiencing the same dilemma as Apostle Paul, ‘for I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out’. It’s so true, I can’t carry it out because at the core there is the sinful nature wanting to pull me away. I would be miserable if there was no solution to this sin, but Jesus was that solution.

As I get older and see how ugly sin is, knowing this truth that Jesus died for my sins, that he is the solution to my problem, helps me see the cross in such a different light. It allows me to see how God displayed his love in wanting to rescue me from this body of death and bring me to life. Yes, the struggle is hard, but my life has been transformed in a way I would have never imagined, and this makes me that much more thankful for the cross.

In all this passage give me courage and confidence to keep struggling and fighting against sin because of what Jesus did on the cross, and I’m just thankful that though this is who I am, God still chooses to save me from my own peril.

Lord, please help me in my struggle with sin. Lord, you know that my heart wants to do good, that I want to seek your righteousness, but this sin living in me pulls me the other way. Lord, at times I feel so defeated and hopeless over the same sins, but Lord, I know that you have the power to save me. Sin is not the final word. You are the one who rescued me! Thank you for not treating me as my sins deserve and for wanting to draw me closer and closer to you even though I fail again and again. Thank you for rescuing me and bringing me back to the truth that only you can rescue me from this body of death. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Jiseon C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

This is often the conflict that I witness in myself. In my conscience, I want to be that kind, benevolent, righteous person, but in practice I cannot seem to carry this out. I feel like a broken machine, I do not produce what I had intended to produce Truly I feel that I am bound to a force that is beyond my own ability to restrain.  I had intended to be gracious to that trying co-worker, but I end up being short and curt.

I wanted to that kind gracious friend and those lofty generous thoughts tug at me, and ideas of how I can meet people’s needs formulate in my mind but when the rubber meets the road, when I feel tight on my own resources or capacity, after a while, I feel like I cannot give any more. I want to lead people graciously, but I am constrained by my own fears and selfishness. The messages I hear are compelling and I want to live to those heights, but what do I act out, I act out in selfishness.

I am trapped. I am a conflicted person. I am conflicted because I feel like a person trapped in her own body that will not cooperate. At each point, there is a civil war waging in my heart, a constant battery of my good against the evil and back and forth. And in just a split seconds time all of those thoughts are just raging through my head at the end of which I am convinced that I am truly unable to control my own flesh.

Romans 7:24-25 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

How can I break out of the ever-present wicked desires and the heavy momentum of sin? How can I ever be freed from this constant barrage of sin and evil?

The body of death that Apostle Paul is describing is in reference to that horrific practice in warfare, where after a battle the Romans would tie up to the conquered “live” enemy soldier, limb by limb, face to face, the body of a corpse, and leave them in the summer heat on the fields until the rotting corpse spreads to destroy the man tied to him. What a horrific but accurate picture to describe what our body of sin does to our desire for righteousness. As in this case, it is so clear that we are no match for the body of death that clings to us. We have no way of escape unless someone outside of us rescues us! And this is the imagery of this verse. What a wretched, condemned man I am!

But thanks be to God! He saw me writing, struggling against my own body of death, and He gave me Jesus Christ! He is the Lord, who will overthrow this body of death when I cry out to Him. When I decide to cry out to Him He will give me the supernatural power to overcome. He is the one who is the stronger man who can overthrow the dominion of this body of death and rescue me. Rescue me so that I can start to actually carry out the good righteous intentions his spirit presses upon my heart. Rescue me so that I can be free to do the good I want to do, and to not do the things I do not want to do. To actually carry out my intentions to be faithful by persevering in a ministry of mostly sowing, as middle school ministry can be.  To restrain myself from doing what I hate to do, which is to be short and curt to trying people.

To be gracious to those who try me, to be patient to those who take advantage of me, to overcome temptations and actually start developing habits of righteousness that can please God. God, through Jesus Christ, will rescue me from this body of death, so that I can carry out the intentions of His heart that will bring Him joy and praise. Thanks be to God, I am not condemned to do only that which the body of death can do.

June 26, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 6)

Submitted by Naomi L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 6:  Reflection Questions

Romans 6:1-14

  • Reflect on the promise (vv. 5, 8) that in our ultimate destiny, we have been united with Christ.  How does this amazing fact impact my life today?

The ultimate destiny of those who have died to sin and baptized into Christ is that we have been united with him and we will live with him.  I am struck by the fact that the only condition for being united with Christ is that we have been united with him in his death.  This was done when my old self, which was a slave to sin, was crucified with Jesus on the cross.  It’s not based on merit or performance or deservedness.  But, only because I have made the simple but life altering decision to make Jesus the Lord and Savior over my life.  Nothing can take away the fact that my destiny is united with Christ.  Though my heart at times seems so hopeless wayward, or though I may go through times of struggling – my destiny is assured by God, who is good to his promise.  Paul uses the word “certainly” to describe this ultimate destiny.

This is indeed an amazing fact that brings overwhelming gratitude and freedom to trust in God.  Being a naturally fearful person, I have felt keenly the pressure to do well in order to “control” my destiny – and naturally what follows is immense guilt and sense of failure when I cannot keep up or perform up to expectations.  In the world, for example at work or school, my destiny is directly tied in with how well I do, how hard I work.  But even as a parent to my children, or in my relationships to my family members or friends, to being a spiritual leader over younger ones, or struggling against my sinful self, I can wonder, am I doing enough?  Am I adequately keeping up?  And often times, though I try hard, I feel myself failing, coming up short.  So, what good news this is indeed that my destiny is set and is sure.   I don’t need to try to secure for myself because my destiny is already set.  I no longer have to live in fear, in trying to measure up.  I can be free to be myself, my faults and all because God, and this community of faith, are committed to me – as ones who are united together with Christ.

Furthermore, it gives me immense motivation today to continue to fight against my sinful self, knowing that it’s not all in vain.  Not only for myself – but for those I minister to as well.  I can keep fighting because I know the fight will end in victory.  Sin, my shame, my failures, my guilt no longer have the last word on me.  My destiny is that I will certainly be united with him in his resurrection.

  • Reflect on the words “in the same way” and “therefore” in vv. 11-12.  What is the motivation and source of strength for carrying out these exhortations?

The motivation and source of strength is that I am now dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  I am no longer a slave to sin and it no longer has mastery over me.

  • What is now available for Christians to fight with against sin according to vv. 13-14, which was unavailable to unregenerate man?

God’s grace is now available for Christians to fight against sin because we are no longer under law, but under grace.  Under law, there is fear, judgment, punishment.  Under grace, there is undeserved forgiveness and unmerited favor.

Without grace, I would be doomed to failure and despair because I know in me, I do not have what it takes to fight against my sin, let alone conquer it.  I have experienced time and time again how grace is an essential component of my own fight against sin.  When different aspects of my sinful and selfish nature were exposed and I was overcome by shame and sense of hopelessness, a strong desire to throw in the towel. It was the grace of God, the grace of my spiritual leaders and relationships in this community that brought me back, that allowed me to continue to fight against my sin.  The words truth about God and God’s promises, God’s forgiveness and their forgiveness for the hurtful things I had done unto them, the reminder of God’s steadfast love, and their embracing me at those times when I felt the most unlovable.   I have experienced the grace of God who brought to mind different passages from his Word that broke through my stubborn pride, to indict my sinful heart only to assure me that though I am wretched, he loves me and nothing could separate me from his love.  Because of the grace I have received, I don’t have to listen to the voices that speak cynicism and sense of failure.

  • How have I experienced being “alive to God in Christ Jesus?”  In what ways have I been able to offer myself to God as an instrument of righteousness?

I have experienced being “alive to God in Christ Jesus” when I have died to myself by obeying God, trusting in God’s word.   At times, like on mission trips, where I’ve died to my need for comfort, or my space, my time, my pride and experienced God working around me and in me.  Feeling alive and overcome with gratitude when someone I’ve been praying for or ministering to makes steps toward God, toward repentance.  Feeling alive in my spirit – knowing there’s nothing in this world I’d rather be doing early Sunday morning, when I see Joyland/Impact children get such a clear gospel message spoken to them in a creative, captivating way.  The sense of renewal, hope that injects new life, new strength when God’s word hits me, speaks personally to me.  Those times when I have died to myself, when I have killed my pride, held my anger and sharp words, put to death my natural self – full of grumbling, resentment, and greed – and seeing God shape some of those areas to bear fruit of the spirit.


Submitted by Peter K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 6:  Key Verses

Romans 6:4-5

 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

Baptism symbolizes what happens to us when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.  When we get immersed in water during baptism, this represents burial and death of our old sinful nature just as Christ died on the cross.  V. 6 explains this really well, “for we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”  When we are raised from immersion, this represents that we will be raised from death “just as Christ was raised from dead.” Moreover, we will live a new life.  The meaning of baptism is very powerful and a true hope of this world.  As Apostle Paul emphasized in 3:10, “there is no one righteous, not even one.”  And 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is the reality of people in this world.  Every one of us sinned and deserves death as a result of sin.  However, putting faith in Christ reverses this destiny completely.  We were destined to death but through the blood of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross we will be saved from this condemnation and raised from death.  We will live a new life.  This is such good news that we should appreciate again and again and share with other people who don’t know this.   Whenever there is a baptism, I get to reflect on how this message is true to my life.  Before believing in Christ, I lived in such darkness.  I was very selfish, jealous, insecure and greedy.  I was very self-centered and did not care for people around me.  I was very driven for success in this world, so I did not like anyone getting in my way.  I was destined to condemnation and punishment of God.  However, through God’s grace the Gospel came to my life.  The word of God especially from Romans helped me see my sinful nature and realize that I was completely heading for eternal condemnation and judgment.    The cross of Jesus Christ was the only hope.  I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  Since then, I have been living in a completely new life that is full of rich and abundant relationships, meaning and purpose, joy and happiness.  I have never imagined this life before, but I am just so thankful that God has lead me and given me an opportunity to experience this new life.   First, my life’s purpose has completely been changed.  Before Christ, my dream was to be rich and live a comfortable life.  After Christ, God gave me a mission to love people that he had entrusted to me and to minister to them.  This purpose brought tremendous meaning to my life.  This has helped me live a God-centered and other-centered life.  Loving, praying and caring for them are my first priority in my life.   When I see them grow in their faith and become co-laborers for Christ, I just become full of overwhelming gratitude and meaning.  I realize how amazing and awesome God that I am serving, and indeed He touches people’s heart and transform their lives from darkness to beautiful workers for Christ.  Secondly, I have gained a life of community!  I am very grateful for the community where we can fully trust and rub against our lives together.  I have leaders who genuinely care for my spiritual life, give guidance and wisdom and have shown good role models how to follow Christ with sacrifice and commitments, peers who inspire me and become a source of strength and encouragements, and younger brothers and sisters who are precious to me.  Sometimes I just get amazed at how this is possible with true, genuine, trusting, rich and abundant relationships.  It is possible because of Jesus Christ who saved us from sin and death.  When I think about the body of Christ, this is a precious gift from God for those who believe in Christ.

Romans 6:11

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” can be a powerful motivation to overcome sinful desire that keeps occurring in our minds.    We should remember that we are dead to our old nature, sinful desires and selfish motives.   When we think that we are dead to these and don’t have any option to indulge in them, we would resist to temptations of these sinful desires.  Instead, we should remember that we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This means that we should devote ourselves to love, care, discipline, prayer, kindness, gentleness, endurance and so on.  Remembering this truth will help us focus on our identity as a child of God and how we ought to live in our daily lives.   There have been some temptations in my life.  As I grow older, I tend to seek for a comfortable life and a desire to settle down with my family.   This thought occurs once in a while and is very tempting to me.  I am dead to these temptations.  A calling and mission from God is very clear that I should actively serve God’s church and people whom God entrusted in my life.  These temptations should not be even an option in my life because I am dead to them.   Another big temptation is to focus on career success rather than following God’s call.  I still have a desire that I want to prove myself and become a more influential person at work. Again today’s text clearly addresses this temptation.  I am dead to this temptation.

I should give fully myself to minister to people to whom God entrusted in my life and give myself to be available for needs of the body of Christ.  This means being alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Especially as Joyland is gearing up for Joy Camp and Camp Gracepoint—summer Bible camps for elementary students, I should give full priority on preparing for these camps where our kids can make a decision for Christ. I should give my all to love and care for kids that God entrusted to me in Joyland.

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This verse gives perspectives to our lives how we ought to live.  It summarizes the true reality of our lives very well: death or eternal life.  Sometimes our lives seem to be so complex with desires for this world.  However, Apostle Paul defines the reality of our lives in these two simple contrasting words.   This is totally true because in the end people will face either of destinations.  If a person is heading toward the first, it is very scary.   At work, I sometimes get intimidated by people with power and position. Yes, they can decide whether they can keep me as an employee or not.  They can let me go any time. They seem to be so powerful. However, to God’s eyes they are heading for death unless they believe in Christ Jesus.   This give me a sense of urgency in that I should share the Gospel and live my life based on the word of God.  When I think about loved ones in my life who are not Christians, I feel tremendous burden for them.  I should do my best effort to share the Gospel with them.  Secondly, I have to remember that in the end nothing matters except a relationship with God.  Investing my life to deepen my relationship with God is a wise thing to do.  Taking a risk and willing to take sufferings for God’s call and challenging myself to grow deeper in my faith are ways to experience God who is at work.  I commit myself to come out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to experience God more deeply.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you that I get to reflect on my salvation and your amazing grace in my life through Romans 6 today.   It is very amazing how I am a part of our church where I experience true trusting, genuine and caring relationships.  I am grateful for people that you placed in my life: leaders, peers and younger brothers and sisters.  I commit to cherish our relationships.  Father, whenever I am tempted with sinful desires, I pray that I would remember that I am dead to them but I am alive to Christ.  Please help me very clear with this truth so that I can overcome temptations of sin.  Lastly I am thankful that I become more clear about the simple truth of reality of this world: death vs. eternal life.  Sometimes I get entangled with many worldly and selfish desires, but I pray that today’s lesson of the very simple truth about two destinations makes me have a sense of urgency to share the Gospel and motivate me willing to take sufferings for Christ.  Amen.

Submitted by Dennis C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 6

There is one thing that I’ve learned about Christian life in the past year that has helped me to grow. It is that being a Christian means that I am “with him.” This simple perspective has made a world of difference for me in the past year. Having made my decision to place my faith in Christ in 2001, I have learned that life may not get any easier. I still have my temptations that I fight, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. I still have my emotions that I try to steady when I get agitated or something unexpected happens. I still have some of my old inadequacies, weaknesses and fears. There are even new fears with life’s transitions. There are relational conflicts too. (There is also the patch of white hairs on my head that keeps on growing.) These challenges seem to simply exist because that’s life. But more than anything else, the most important perspective I have is that I am “with him.”

Romans 6:4-5 talks about being “buried with him,” being “united with him” and that through this choice that “we too may live a new life.” When life drags me along, and I just reacted to something or I just said something I should rather not have, I do not have to go much further than Romans 6:4-5 to remind me once again of a precious truth that I get to respond to. Am I going to be “with him” once again and to hold onto the reality of being “buried with him,” of being “united with him” in his death, and of one day being “united with him in his resurrection,” and of the “new life?” Quite frankly I have lived life enough to know of the bondage and captivity of a life of sin – this I was saved from, and I never want to go back. That life of sin takes away my options and traps me. V. 12 warns to “not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”  When I let sin reign in my mortal body, I become captive to my default anger and bitterness and even hatred. These are the very things that result in me when sin reigns. It is only when I choose that “with him” life that I too may live a “new life.”

Paul offers this roadmap of freedom for me. Again v. 12 said, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body.”  V.13 says, “do not offer the parts of your body to sin.”  V. 13 says,“but rather offer yourselves to God” and “offer the parts of your body to him….” It is up to me to figure out how to apply this concretely. For me there is the choice to focus on relational hurts, and thereby increase the negative emotions that results. Or there is the choice to come back to be “with him” and for me this option often means to journal about and sort out my emotions, to come back to truths about my relationship with my heavenly father, that I am his child, that I am “united with him” and that I have eternal life to look forward to. And through this, I am healed from past hurts, find freedom again, and once more can look beyond my own boundary to give and be generous to others once again. When Paul speaks of ‘the wages of sin is death” and “the gift of God is eternal life,” the choice is so stark. Heavenly Father, thank you for your precious gift. I receive it and ask for your help, that I may live my daily life “with you,” and that I may offer myself to You.