23.2 Romans – Called to a life of love

In the previous verses, Paul discusses spiritual gifts.  He makes particular note that we are given spiritual gifts not as a reward or as something to place on a shelf, but as a tool to be used.  He runs through a handful of examples of spiritual gifts and, after each, implores the recipient to use the gift.

In the benediction at the end of the book of Hebrews, we are reminded that God both calls and equips us.  He equips us for everything good and calls us to do His will.  As one called in to service we have 2 roles and responsibilities. One is our individual role.  This is the specific responsibility that God has given us to use the equipping of the spiritual gift to carry out.  It may be teaching, preaching, prophecy, caring for someone who is sick, the poor, widows and ophans, as just a few examples.  But, as Paul said earlier in this chapter, while we each have our individual roles to play, we are also united as one body and as such we all have a shared calling and equipping.  We learn in the verses of Romans 12:9-21 that unified calling and mission is LOVE and we are equipped for this mission through the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

This should not surprise us; that of all the attributes of God the one He places as prime in our life is Love.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…”.  The greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

As one body, we dress in a uniform to the rest of the world.  That uniform includes the full armor of God, but the mission we share is a mission of Love, a life of love, united and empowered by the love of God.

My Answers:

3.
Love must be sincere – God’s love for us is sincere and it is through His mercy that we have faith and in faith offer ourselves to Him and His holiness as a living sacrifice

4.
Love is giving, not receiving. Love those things that honor God, but not evil. Be at peace in all things.
Society says to love everyone and allow them to perform evil without reproach or repercussion. Love is a token to trade and to receive and to bargain with.

5.
P8: Fear the Lord=Hate evil, pride, arrogance, evil behavior, perverse speech
P13: Righteous hate what is false but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame
E3: a time to love and a time to hate a time for war and a time for peace
I61: Lord loves justice; hates robbery and wrongdoing – God is faithful and true
A5: Hate evil, love good, maintain justice, seek God’s mercy
L14: If one does not hate mother, father, brothers, sisters and own life, cannot be my (Jesus) disciple

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22.5 Romans – Gifts of the Spirit

Now we come to the object of our warnings, preparation and training, the power tool itself: gifts of the Spirit.  In the job that we have been given to perform in being given the opportunity to be part of the construction of God’s body of believers, we are also equipped with special power tools.  Depending on the job we are assigned, we need and are given a different tool.

Paul’s message first and foremost is, whatever tool you have been given, use it.  The tool is not a decoration.  It isn’t something to put on a shelf.  It is a tool and tools are to be used in building.  He gives examples of some of the tools: prophesying, teaching, serving, etc.  This is not an all-encompassing list, but only a few examples and admonishes to go with them.  The job of any craftsman is to fully execute the use of their tools in their craft.

In 1 Corinthians 12, these are called the Gifts of the Spirit.  We need to pay close attention to that title.  They are not the gifts from the Spirit, they are the gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts belong to the Spirit.  The Spirit resides in us, as believers, and He brings gifts into our life.  All of our talents and interests are from God, but talents and interests are not the same as the Gifts of the Spirit.  I may be 7 feet tall and have a talent of reaching high things.  I may be very petite and nimble and able to move through a crowd with natural grace.  Those talents and everything about me are from God, but they are different.

The gifts of the Spirit are the tools that God gives me to perform the work that He calls me to do.  When He calls me into new work, it may require new tools.  Just as there are seasons of the year, they may be seasons in my life that I am called into different areas of work and God may supply different tools of and through the Holy Spirit.  God may also use the talents He has given me, but more often than not, the areas of highest impact into which we are called to serve are those completely outside of our natural strengths and areas of comfort.  Remember that Moses argued with God that he was not a gifted speaker for God to use him as the mouthpiece to Pharaoh.  But, over and over again, we see that God uses the small, the weak, the few, the outcasts, the misfits, the sinners, even coming as the son of a carpenter to a couple from Bethlehem.  It is in all of these ways that God is glorified.  The mighty things accomplished are not from those we would expect with their innate abilities.  The lasting things come from those who rely fully on the power in the tools of the Spirit.

I don’t have an issue with gifts assessments that are used in some of our churches, but I think we need to keep in mind that they are only a snapshot of a single frame in the movie of our life.  If it reveals that I have a Gift of the Spirit present in my life at this time, then, as Paul says, I need to be using that gift diligently, cheerfully and fully.  But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit, alive and powerful in me, is limited to only that gift/tool.

My Answers:

12.
1C7: Each has their own gift from God
1C12: Different gifts, all from the Spirit, different service, one Lord, different working, same God
E4: Believers’ gifts from Christ to build up the body until all reach unity in faith and maturity
1P4: Do all things through the gift and power of God for His Glory

13.
Prophesying, In accordance with your faith
Serving, then serve
Teaching, then teach
Encouraging,then give encouragement
Giving, then give generously
Leading, do it diligently
Mercy, do it cheerfully

14.
Giving, Teaching and Encouraging.

22.4 Romans – Unity and Maturity

In today’s lesson we venture outside of Romans into another of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians.  He picks up the theme in this letter about the body of Christ, but focuses on how to maintain unity.  This is along the lines of the difference between a body and a healthy, toned body.  In the overall function of the body we look for balance and unity.

I thought it was very interesting how Paul prescribes to accomplish this unity: Start with Yourself!

  1. Me: live a life worthy of the calling you have received
  2. Me: be completely humble and gentle
  3. Me: be patient
  4. Me: bear with one another in love
  5. Me: make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit

Did you notice that nothing in his prescription of unity and maturity was about fixing other people or getting them to change?  This isn’t in contrast to supporting others and encouraging them and holding them accountable to the commitments they have made, but the focus of unity always starts with me.

How quickly we are, particularly in our interactions with other believers, to start with them instead of me.  The pastor needs to do this or say this.  The elders should have…  The music leader needs to… The teacher was not… They said… She did… He didn’t…  Them, them, they, they, others.

My Answers:

9.
Believers. Christ and each other – united through the calling each has received

10.
Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace

11.
Contributing financially and in service, mostly in teaching and volunteering. When called saying, “here I am”. I erode unity when I don’t reach out to others but focus on my own needs and thoughts after worship. By not being bold and reaching out.

22.3 Romans – Where and How to Stand

Having given the safety warnings in Romans 12:3, Paul begins the training.  He starts with the most important step in operating most high power tools: where and how to stand and to be aware of your surroundings.

We are not a worker in building this edifice alone.  There are many workers and many tasks.  What we do affects others and it affects the project.  If we do not stand and operate correctly not only can we get hurt, but we are working in very close proximity to others and they also can be injured by our inattention.  We need to do our job.  We are part of something big and amazing and if we don’t do our part, the entire thing suffers.

What are we constructing?  God has allowed us to be workers in building His Kingdom.  He provides the materials.  He provides the plans.  He provides the tools.  He provides the nourishment.  He provides everything, but we are blessed by grace and mercy to be able to be a part, an artist and a craftsman, in the construction of the temple of God.  This temple instead of being made of tents or of stone is made of souls brought to Christ.  It is every bit as real as the other physical buildings.

As workers, we are like part of the body of Christ.  We each have unique tasks, work to do, and we need to do it.  We shouldn’t hang limp or be lazy.  We should be diligent, support others, and focus on the activity of the body as a whole.  If we collectively trip or stumble, we should work to catch ourselves, not blame the toe for not doing its part.

My Answers:

7.
A body. As members of the body of christ as an arm to a toe or hand to a foot.

8.
We are joined together and must function together as a whole living being

22.2 Romans – Safety Warnings

Have you have ever purchased an electrical tool like a saw?  When you get it home and open the box the first thing you notice and are confronted with are the safety warnings.  Wear proper safety attire.  Use caution.  Do not operate under the influence.  Never be careless.

As we move in to Romans 12:3, Paul is bestowing much of the same safety warnings in regard to what he is going to discuss in the following verses.  He starts like a shop teacher might start a class teaching how to use a table saw.  He holds up both hands and shows that he has all ten fingers.  This is not because he has magical fingers or that they are made out of stone or metal.  No, it is by grace that he was properly taught how to use the tools and by grace that he continued to practice them in accordance with that teaching.

Paul continues: do not get careless.  As soon as you start thinking you are better than you are, injuries happen.  You get cocky.  You get sloppy.  To take shortcuts.  You also need to not be too timid or too cautious.  The tools are to be used boldly and timid use can also cause mishaps.

Most importantly, Paul warns, do not use these tools under the influence of sin.  Paul calls this, “sober judgment”.  This is a really big deal because, at heart, temptation is another word for distraction.  Distraction and safety never go hand in hand and temptation always is a direction off the correct and proper path.

This teaching is not from Paul.  Paul received his training and certification as an instructor by God and it is through God and for God that he gives it freely “to every one of you.”  We receive it also from, through and for God, with faith that was distributed to God so that we might be able to learn and receive the tools that are to follow.

My Answers:

3.
by the grace given to him. Paul can relate. He has learned this lesson through the grace of God and is, in turn, passing it forward to his brothers in Rome

4.
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. We can think God needs us or needs something from us. We can tell ourselves I’m doing this for God or I don’t want to let God down. Everything came from God to begin with, including all earthly wealth and time. Also, we aren’t holding God up that we could let Him down.

5.
Even faith in God is a gift from God. We don’t earn it, we didn’t achieve it on our own, it has been distributed to each believer by God. Like any other living thing, we are tasked to nurture it and grow it, but we didn’t create it.

6.
Our evaluation of ourself is based on our relationship with God. We recognize the equalizer of our collective position in reference to God, whereas, if we set the benchmark only in others we may feel superior.

21.5 Romans – Go where?

In the first 2 sentences of Romans 12, we find ourselves fully connected and fueled up.  The next step, logically, is to GO!  To do!  To put into action!  But what is our path, our direction, our mission?

Not to sound like a line from the Blues Brothers movie, but we, each and every day, are truly called to “be on a mission from God.”  We are not an accident, we were created on purpose and for a purpose as part of God’s plan.  In the same way there is no co-incidence, there are truly only God-incidents, since He is in control of all things and works all things for the good of those who love Him.  And, as part of that plan and that work, God has a calling for us each and every day and every moment of that day.

So, what is your mission?  With all this mercy and power and connectivity and communion and fuel, what are you, yes, you, called to do today?  Here is what we know:

  1. It will be for something good
  2. It will be for something pleasing to God
  3. It will be for something that is part of His perfect will
  4. It will involve loving the Lord, your God, with all your heart and soul and strength
  5. It will involve loving your neighbor as yourself
  6. It will be in absolute conformity with the scripture
  7. It may be painful and involve hardship
  8. It may be something you don’t want to do
  9. It may take you to places and people you don’t want to love
  10. It will require you to rely on God and not yourself
  11. It will be done best when done fully with God
  12. It will be done best with praise and glory to Him

As for the specifics of what that means for you for today, you have to ask God yourself.  For most of us who feel lost and off-mission, it isn’t because God won’t tell us, it is because we do not truly invest the quiet time in reading His word, meditating on it, fasting, and praying to ask Him.  If you don’t show up prepared for the mission briefing, it is really hard to get the message and understand the mission!

There is one other note that Paul makes in this sentence.  It says we won’t only be able to test God’s will (something Paul explains to Timothy in his letter to him about how we can use the scriptures, but he also notes that we approve God’s will.  When we pause and think about it, who are we to “approve” God’s will.  That is like approving the decisions of your boss’s boss.  But, I think, that term is less meant to convey that we sign-off on God’s will as we sign-on with God’s will.  God’s Will will be accomplished with or without us.  But we are given the grace and opportunity to sign-on with it to be part of the mission.  We are not drafted, we are called and we are given the ability to respond.  We also are given the opportunity to thoroughly examine each mission and after testing to affix our name, our stamp, our seal to it as well.  To test and attest.

My Answers:

13.
renewing of your mind to test and approve what is God’s will; comes from the Lord who is the Spirit; for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose

14.
Reading scriptures, meditation, fasting, prayer, worship, being trained, sharing with others in Godly fellowship.
Through teaching, preaching, prayer and worship

15.
good, pleasing and perfect

16.
J14: If you love me, keep my commandments
2C10: take captive every thought to make us obedient and demolish every pretense that is against
1T4: Be sanctified; avoid lust and temptation
J5:Confess and turn to God in all afflictions, physical and spiritual. The prayer of a righteous is powerful
1P2: by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people
1P3: it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil
1P4: Live for God in all things – do not live like the rest, be alert and of sober mind; PRAY

21.4 Romans – Fueled up

I remember one fateful vacation when I was growing up.  We had driven down to the very southern parts of Texas to visit family and had a great time, playing on the beach, eating and just enjoying being together for a few short days.  We took off to drive back home and started our trip back by filling up the gas tank of my dad’s car.  I remember the tanker was at the station and had just begun filling the underground tanks and I watched the big hoses being put into place.  As we drove through downtown Fort Worth, our car all of a sudden began to make horrible jolting motions and sputtering noises.  These continued for a short period of time and then the engine just stopped.  My dad was successful at pulling the car to the side of the road, but it would not start again.  After some time, stranded on the side of the road, we received help and had it towed to a service center and learned that we had gotten sediment in the fuel line that clogged the fuel filter and so the car wouldn’t run.  Unfortunately, the part wasn’t available and we spent a long weekend with an unplanned stay.

The ways of the world are like that sediment.  It is everywhere.  It is dirt and grime and dust that are the physical equivalents of lust and greed and sin that permeates life on this fallen world.  And just as the tanker stilled up the sediment in the tanks of the service station, the world and satan love to stir up lust and sin all around us.

Paul calls on us to not conform but instead be transformed.  Our fuel comes from God, but the world wants to corrupt that fuel.  Paul says, don’t allow that to happen.

But how can we do that?  We start with the source of our fuel.  Are we in the word?  Are we meditating and fasting?  Are we disciplined in prayer?  Then we apply filters. Are our thoughts on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy?  Are we applying filters to what we allow to enter our eyes and ears?  Do we limit and filter our websites and the shows we watch and the things we listen to, both music and pundits?  Do we limit contact with the negative influences of gossiping and negative friends, neighbors and co-workers?  Do we avoid places and events that promote temptation?

God provides us with the purest and highest octane fuel.  As we look at our own lives and the times we’ve been broken down along the side of the road, we can often see the ways we let the “ways of the world” clog up our lives with impurities.

My Answers:

10.
sin

11.
If anyone loves the world they do not love the Father. The lusts of the world do not come from the Father. The patterns of this world are the scars and burn marks of sin

12.
greed, the temptation of gain through lack of honesty, laziness and indulging in food and drink