4.2 Romans – Advantage of the Bible

We live in the most amazing of times.  I know there are a number of people who remanence about the “good old days”.  This is nothing new.  We saw the Israelites do this after Moses led them out of Egypt.

But there is one clear way that these are the best of days.  No other time in history have more people, tribes, languages and nations had access to the word of God.  Thinking back to the days of Paul, letters had to be written on hides of animals and cost weeks if not months wages to produce and copy.  Messengers were dispatched.  People were gathered for the reading.

Today we can pull up dozens of different versions on our computers and phones.  Bookshelves are filled with bibles.  They are in virtually every hotel room in the Western world.  Large print, pocket size, fully indexed, parallel, all readily available.

Yet how many people have actually read it?  According to a Lifeway poll in 2017 90% of American households have a bible, but only 11% self-reported that they have read it at any point in their lives.  We hear bits and pieces in church and hang verses on our walls, but would our habits show that we value the complete word of God?

When we teach kids we have learned it is far better to point them in the direction of what to do instead of simply pointing out what they are doing incorrectly.  Instead of saying, don’t do that, we say, let’s do this instead.  Maybe we need to do a bit of parenting and teaching in our own lives.  Instead of sinning, maybe we should pull the bible off the bookshelf and open it up and read what God has to say in the entire story.

My Answers:

They were God’s chosen people, they were the receivers of the law and the temple and had the only means of forgiveness. They deserved it by ancestry. I have had many advantages of location of birth, family, the investment of church family, friends.

They had something, handed down, to study and learn and see the attributes and the plan of God. The Word of God is the greatest gift given to me and to mankind. Without it we would rely only on the natural signs of God and not have the deep personal relationship that we otherwise can form.

Abrahamic covenent (bless those…), The promised land and God’s promise to bless them in the land (if they keep His commands), Israel would never be rejected (there would always be a remnant).
The sins and unfaithfulness of some (e.g., those who killed Jesus for example) do not nullify God’s faithfulness and condemn all the people.

My nature, my desire, is to attract temptation and evil.  I am, by nature, sinful and unclean.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


3.5 Romans – Cut and Healed

I had surgery this summer.

Most people do not have surgery because they think it is fun.  They have it because they come to the realization that it is the only choice to fix a problem they have.

On a spiritual level, we all are born with a heart problem.  We inherited our heart problem from our ancestors, all the way back to Adam and Eve who made a choice to swap out a part of their hearts, purity and connection with God, for disobedience and sin.  This left us with a hole as well as an extra part, our sinful nature.

The only solution to this problem, which is critical (as in it leads to death), is surgery.  That surgery, performed by Jesus using the Holy Spirit as His presence, first is piercing our heart with a conviction of our sins to send us into a state of repentance.  He then grafts on a new part, His righteousness, which He purchased for us on the cross.

David cried out for this in Psalm 51, “create in me a clean heart, O God.”  Ezekial, the prophet, said it this way when quoting God, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

My surgery is over, but the healing and recovery continues.  Some days are better than others.  Some days are painful and I feel like I’m going the wrong direction.  Other days give me hope and joy.  There are others that I work with to improve and gain strength.

I think the same is true for those of us who accepted the “heart surgery” that Jesus performs.  We may be recovering and improving the rest of lives.  We rely on others, especially the word of God, but also pastors, leaders, and others on the same path of recovery.  But not only are we getting stronger, we are becoming more holy and more like Jesus, our Lord and our brother.  We can take the trip every day from our heads down to our new hearts and sit with the Holy Spirit and sign right along with the host of angels and saints in heaven in praise to God.


My Answers:

It is an outward expression of a covenant relationship with God as His people through Abraham. It is an exclusive club, predominantly available only by birth or through a member of the club.

wearing a cross, displaying bibles and bible verses, religious symbols on cars, business cards and websites.
Baptism, communion, sacraments. Attending and dressing for church, bragging about bible study groups.

one with a heart circumcised by the holy spirit, pierced and mended by the presence of God in the person leading them to an every increasing state of holiness and a call to share the good news.
Mark 7:15 paraphrased: it is not what is on the outside but what is on the inside.

3.4 Romans – Moonwalking

As I thought about Paul’s chastisement of the Jews in our lesson today I couldn’t help think about Michael Jackson.  No, I don’t mean that as any judgment of his life or choices in life.  The image that came to mind was of Michael Jackson “moonwalking.”  For those that don’t know the dance step that he made famous in a music video, look it up.  It is a magnificent movement where the dancer, the individual, appears to be taking forward steps, but in fact they are moving farther and farther backwards.  The closest I came to mastering the dance move was by walking slowly the wrong direction on one of the people movers at the airport.

But, it came to mind because it was what Paul was describing of the Jews.  On the outside their every physical motion made it look like they were heading forward, in the right direction, on a path honoring God.  But it was all an illusion, and, on the inside and to anyone who saw the truth, they were moving backward, farther away from God.

Our role as believers is, in large part, to lead others to God.  If we ourselves are not moving forward toward God, then we are leading others astray.  It does not work to go one direction while telling others, do pay attention to what I’m doing, go that way, it is the right path.  If it is the right path, shouldn’t you be on it as well?

But we lie, especially to ourselves.  We convince ourselves that we are very good at hiding the darkness so that no one, not even God, can see it.  We lie that it doesn’t affect our thoughts, words and deeds, and that it has no impact on our relationship with God or with others.  We lie in deceiving ourselves that our sin isn’t so bad, that it is OK, that it is just a habit, that everyone else does it, that it isn’t my fault it is an illness, that somehow it is just OK because, well, we aren’t as bad as those people.  The problem is not that people (us especially) don’t know God’s law (it is written into the fabric or all of creation and into us as well), it is that we choose not to follow it.

But Paul is not pointing this out to the Jews of Rome to condemn them and judge how horrible they are.  He is point it out because he loves them, as Christ loves them, and wants them to change and help him spread the good news to the gentiles.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit does not convict us to make us feel horrible, we are convicted to change and help Him spread the good news.


My Answers

The law, God’s chosen people, a covenant relationship through Abraham with the sign of circumcision. They boasted in it, making them superior to others to the extent of being above the law

The bible, BSF, bible teaching church, the honor to teach children. It is always easier to tell others than to put it in practice on a daily basis.

The first three – no other gods, idols, misuse the name of God (also not stealing).
We become proud and boastful. We rely on ourselves and do not repent and change. We make excuses or act like we deserve our sin because it is balanced out by good works.

They blaspheme the name of God. They harden the hearts of those they intended to help. Yes, I’m guilty, every time a sin, my thoughts words and deeds are evident not only to God but to others and my witness is contradicted.


3.3 Romans – Finding Yourself

Some spend their lives “trying to find themselves”.  They recognize they are lost and look for answers; trying on different religions and philosophies as if they are clothing, looking for what feels comfortable to them at this stage in their life.  Some have a life crisis and go off seeking, trying to find themselves in new adventures, new looks, new relationships.  Some have a crisis and go off seeking shelter in a bottle in drugs in loathing.

I found it interesting in today’s lesson that that Romans 2 outlines two paths.  Those who seek glory, honor and immortality and those who are “self-seeking”.  Glory, Honor and Immortality are all attributes of God.  They are not things we can control, do or earn.  They are things or God.

If you are “trying to find yourself”, frankly, you are on the wrong path!

But, then, what about the longing we have for identity?  Who am I?  Why am I here?  But if we look to ourselves, self-seeking, for those answers, we always come up short, because the answers to the “… am I” questions can only come from the one who is the “I am.”  Our identity is in God.  Our reason for being is because God loves us and wants us to be a part of His eternal glory and honor.  We are here to see the light of the world and to reflect that light to others.

Isn’t it interesting how, throughout the old testament, when God spoke to people such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, they all answered with the same phrase, “Here I am.”  When we hear and take to heart the Word, the voice of God, we no longer are trying to find ourselves, we immediately know exactly where we are.


My Answers:

Wrath. As a repentant believer I am storing up riches in heaven. As an evangelist of the gospel, I’m storing up eternal friendships and family.

First, it is a path that is a daily walk. Second, those who seek God receive eternal life from God, those who seek themselves receive wrath and anger.

Am I sharing God or building myself up? Am I trying to find more about God or am I “trying to find myself”. Is my identity in me or in God

The truth, free of favoritism. There will be trouble and distress for evil doers and glory honor and peace for those who seek God. Judged based on the evidence of the truth that we have been provided.

3.2 Romans – Bucket Brigade

A bucket brigade or human chain is a method where things are passed from one stationary person to the next.  It gets its name from the days before pressurized fire trucks when, to put out a fire, a line of people would be formed to pass a bucket filled with water from the source (a lake or well) from person to person until it was poured out to quench the flames.

Picture that chain, but insert a person along the way who, instead of passing on the water bucket simply says thank you and sets it aside as if it belonged to them alone.  Instead of assisting others, now that this person has lots of buckets of water of their own, they criticized others that they are lacking in buckets.  They judged the others to be insufficient, unworthy, unqualified, lacking.

This is what Paul accused in the behavior of the Jews of Rome.  They had received the quenching water of God, given to the in the Law, handed down from Abraham to generation upon generation.  But they had come to believe that it was for them, something to collect and hold that made them better than others.  All of this while the fires, the needs for the word of God, grew hot in those in their own city.

But don’t we often do the exact same thing.  We talk about being blessed, I’m so blessed, God had given me so many blessings, I’ve been blessed with this or that.  But we forget that we aren’t a warehouse, we are in a fire fight against forces that seek to consume and destroy and there are others that thirst for the living word of Jesus Christ and the salvation it brings.  We tend to collect our blessings and hoard them up, setting them on a shelf or doling them out sparingly to others as if there is a limited supply.

But Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, called to us and said “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”(John 7:37-38)  I’m learning the quicker I pass along the blessings, the gospel, the joy, the love, the truth of Jesus Christ to others, the faster and more that God refills me.  This is the difference between a river and a bucket – it has to flow.


My Answers:

They pass judgment on others for the same things they, themselves, are guilty of doing. God’s judgment is based on truth

Judgment is deciding who has done right and who has done wrong (CL) We say this person is good or condemn that person for evil and stay away from them. We judge others every day making snap decisions that are normally at the exclusion of God, it is what I think, not what God knows. It is easy to find fault in others, especially when we hold that fault ourselves. We do not approach it in correction or caring or love of good news but use the news to beat them with it.

God has blessed me so that I can be a blessing. In a study this week one person pointed out that we are to be roadways of blessings, not cul-de-sacs. Another way to think of it is we are distribution centers where we receive God’s blessing in bulk for the sole purpose of dispersing it to others, especially those who do not yet walk with God. So every blessing of God, the ones I count as good and the ones I see as trials or hardships, is from God and better equips me to spread the gospel.

2.5 Romans – Wrong Path

I enjoyed the question in today’s study asking the difference between depraved and not thinking it worthwhile to retain knowledge of God.

To me, the thought that came to mind is a road.  God has a plan and a purpose for my life, a journey, a road to travel.  This road leads to Him and all the good and holy things He has planned for my eternal life.

Beginning to think it is not worthwhile to retain knowledge of God, to begin thinking I can do something better than keeping God on my mind and in my heart, is an off-ramp from the road God has planned for me.

That off-ramp, if I continue in that thinking, leads to a road of a depraved mind.  The further I travel on that road, the farther I go away from the road God has for me.  It never leads to anything good or better, just taking me from one unfulfilling by-way to another.

Interestingly, the root of the word depraved comes from de – “completely and pravus – “crooked”.  So, to be depraved is literally to be on the completely crooked path.  How telling it is that John the Baptists call and mission in heralding Jesus was to “make the paths straight.”


My Answers:

They are not different. One (not think) is an off-ramp of the purpose God has for our lives, the other (depraved) is a completely different path, however, neither are the right and true path. The rood of the word depraved comes from de – “completely” pravus – “crooked”. It is not the straight path of righteousness but a distortion of all that is of God.

Greed. I thought a level of greed drove initiative and commerce and a level of it was good. But it is not. It immediately puts us above our neighbor and our love of self is more than our neighbor. Jesus’ teaching is that these should be on par.

2.4 Romans – Who’s day?

This is a day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it., Ps 118:24

As I worked on today’s lesson, especially the question about what substitutes for God are you serving, I had just had a conversation with my wife about calendars.  Both of us realized we had, for a very long time, taken the same approach.  We would both plan out our day.  For example, I would decide what I was going to do, who I was going to meet with, what my tasks and todo’s were going to be for my day.  I had my calendar for my day and my checklist of my tasks for me to do in my day to achieve my goals for my life.  Then I would ask God to bless it.

Do you see the problem, the foolishness?

Just as God is the Creator of everything else, He is also the Creator of this day for me.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask Him to show me the plans He has for the day He has for me instead of the other way around?

Since doing it, the first message I am hearing is “margin”.  Instead of running from thing to thing being proud of all that I check off, I’m hearing a call to be open to the hallway conversations, to spend extra time on the phone asking one more question not “to the person”, but “about the person” I’m talking with.

In case I needed a clearer message on this, God used an audio-book I’m listening to while driving back and forth to work and appointments.  On the day that I had this conversation with my wife, I went to my car and the audio-book started immediately discussing the Princeton Seminary Experiment from the 1970s.  If you are not familiar with the study, here is a link with background so you can see just how clear this timing and message were from God for my life.


My Answers:

He is Creator

Self satisfaction and indulgence. The underlying belief that I am in charge of my life, when I know I am not. That my day is mine, my calendar is mine. That I accomplish things by myself without God.

We are made in the image of God and to indulge in these two areas of sin is to physically push God out of our existence. To lay claim to our body and to our ability to name our own gods instead of the God. Sexual immorality is to lie to ourselves, to God and to others around us. It is an indulgence of lies. Yet, even this is not outside of God’s ability to forgive.

“God gave them over to”
God is aware, God is in control, God is kind and generous to honor/allow someone’s choices and free will even when it is against everything that is right and true and is a lie in itself