April 25, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 5

Finish this sentence: “Time flies when you’re __________________.”

Having fun — how true is that? Think of the best memories from your life. You probably felt like they went by in a flash. Have you noticed that, by and large, the opposite is also true? Time seems to slow down when you’re not having fun. Let me give you some examples from my life that you might be able to identify with… 

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Truthfully, this is a biblical concept. Pain takes time. It lasts a while. It can easily rob us of joy. Even the most temporary pain is a happiness thief. Ever get dressed up for a big event, look in the mirror and think to yourself, “Looking good”, only to turn around and stub your toe on the dresser?

In that moment, all of your theology and spirituality goes flying out the window. You forget how good you felt. You wonder if Jesus is even out there. You question if God is on his throne. You ponder the existence of life. Pain can be a happiness thief, but God doesn’t want us to waste it.

Romans 5 gives us God’s plan for our pain, and it’s deeply rooted in the gospel. It reveals to us a great purpose for the difficult days we encounter. Here are some conclusions I found as I studied these verses.

FIND YOUR TRUE IDENTITY IN CHRIST (Romans 5:1-2, 6-8)

If you don’t know who you are in Christ, your suffering will never make sense to you. You’ll be grasping for self-worth anywhere you can find it, but the only place it can be found is in Jesus.

That’s what Paul gives us as the bedrock of the passage: the Gospel. We are declared “not guilty” in heaven’s courtroom because of Jesus (verse 1 & 6-8), and we have faith (verse 2) not in ourselves but in One much bigger and more powerful: the God of the Universe.

DEVELOP ENDURANCE (Romans 5:3)

We need to realize that life is a marathon, not a sprint. He helps us weather future storms through present storms. It’s this way with life and with faith. Endurance doesn’t magically appear overnight; it comes though real life circumstances. God is teaching you to have a lifelong faith – not a “on one day and off the next” faith. He does this through a lot of things, but trials are some of the foremost tools He uses.

STRENGTHEN CHARACTER (Romans 5:4)

When you find your identity in Him, and you develop endurance through trials, you are molded into who God has designed you to be. Gold is refined by fire. God uses those difficult days to make you look more and act more like His Son Jesus. Many of you in this room can attest to this. You could probably come up here one by one and share how a circumstance made you into who you are today. God’s plan for the pain: strengthened character. Mettle-tested, refined, God-honoring, Christ-resembling character.

GROW IN HOPE (Romans 5:4-5)

You may wonder, “how does my hope increase through pain?” Well, it reminds you every day that there is more to life than this temporary earth. You know that you weren’t made for this world. You LONG for the day that Christ returns! You anxiously await heaven.

SAVOR HIS PRESENCE (Romans 5:5)

One of the greatest things Jesus did for us is He sent His Holy Spirit to live in us. God’s presence is with us wherever we go. That’s a promise we can bank on. And this will never disappoint! (see Romans 8:9-11)

Do these ideas resonate with you? What did you pull out of the passage? What did God teach you today? Share it with us in the comments section below. 

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

April 24, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 4

The Gift of Grace

Grace is so difficult for us to understand as humans.  Because of our pride, we want to earn our own way – even when we can’t.  Salvation is completely an act of God’s grace.  We did nothing for it.  We cannot earn it.  It is given to us by God, simply because He is gracious.

The passage we read yesterday showed us that all of us our sinners.  There’s no one that is righteous in their standing before God.  Jesus paid for our sin and gave us a new standing before Him.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  Romans 3:22-24

In chapter four, Paul makes this personal by showing us some examples.  He starts with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.  Was his standing before God because of the things he did? No!  Then he refers to David – the well-known king who wrote about grace in Psalm 32.

Stop and thank God for the gift of His grace in your life.  You didn’t and can’t earn it.  It came through the work of Jesus on the cross for us.

He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.  Romans 4:25

  • How do you abuse the grace given to you by God in your life?
  • What is one clear way you can live today that shows you’re thankful for grace?
  • Who can you tell about grace today?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

April 22, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 3:21-31

These 10 verses in Romans 3 are so rich for our Christian faith concerning the law, sin and justification in Christ. Let’s do Jumpstart a bit different and briefly explain each verse below:

The righteousness of God, which is determined by the law, is now being displayed outside of the law. (v. 21) In fact, the Law & Prophets bear witness to where that true righteousness comes from: Faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe not in obedience to the law. (v. 21-22) The law does this by showing that we are all sinners by not being able to keep the law. Sin means “missing the mark” and we are way off that mark according to God’s standards. (v. 23)

Instead we are justified by the redemption of Jesus, by His grace through His blood. (v. 24-25) And in God’s sovereignty He had meant for the law to do this and through the temporary systems and obedience to point to the true justifier of that righteousness to be Jesus. (v. 25-26) Since salvation and justification is through Christ alone by grace, we have no room to boast. It’s not by our obedience to the law or our works. (v. 27-28)

For the law was given by God to the Jews but God is a God of Jews and Gentiles. (v. 29-20) And there is still a purpose for the law. We don’t throw it out completely (like many want to do today). In fact we are to continue to do our best to obey the relevant parts of the law that Jesus did not abolish (as He mentioned in Matt. 5:17-20) for it is God’s standard of holiness, what we are pursuing to become. The difference is that we have the love and pursuit of Christ before it and that overflows to that type of obedience. (v. 31)

• What stood out to you concerning the law, sin and the fulfillment of these things through the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
• Why is the doctrine of justification not only important but so beautiful when reading today’s Scripture?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

April 21, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 3:1-20

This is a passage that reveals the truth of humanity and sin. It is a sobering moment when you are reminded that on our own we will never choose righteousness. Not only that, but nothing that we do or aspire to do will ever merit salvation for us. Paul quotes Psalm 14 and Ecclesiastes when saying none are righteous and no one seeks for God.

When I read this my heart breaks and at the same time rejoices. My heart breaks because there are so many people living in our world who think that they will go to heaven because they are not “bad” people, and there are so many people in our world that think that they can do enough to gain salvation, and there are so many people in the world that know that they aren’t good, yet they have no clue what the remedy is.

Paul is zeroing in on this reality that we are all broken and in need of something that we cannot obtain on our own. If you were to read just this chapter and never read anything else, it is a very sad story. This is why my heart rejoices as well. I know that in the hopelessness of the world and the brokenness of humanity through sin that there is hope in Jesus.  

This is an important point that should be taken away from this. We as believers see behind the curtain. Because we see behind the curtain we have the unique privilege to share what we know with the ones who do not know. Take the knowledge today as a reminder that we have a mission to share the Good News that redeems this sad truth.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate