May 11, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 16

As Paul closes out the letter to the Romans, per his usual, he adds some personal greetings. However, examine this list and note the relationship he had with all of these people—many risked their lives for his sake, they worked on his behalf for the glory of the Lord. He even refers to Rufus’ mother as a mother to him as well. All of these people had a relationship with the Apostle Paul on a significant level.

Christianity is primarily experienced in relationship with others. Although we should have time alone with our Creator, the Bible, including Paul’s example in this passage, highlights the importance of how we live in relationship with believers and non-believers alike. Paul was a man with deep relationships, but relationships centered on and grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verses 17–20 illustrate this point as Paul again warns the Christians in Rome to watch out for those who would proclaim a false doctrine that seeks to divide—be it Jews or Gentiles.

He has spent many chapters setting the record straight; that all people are united under sin and the common salvation for those who respond in faith to the gospel. Paul shares insights into God’s plan for Israel and how they were the holders of God’s covenants and it is they who received the priority of the message of the gospel, yet in their rejection the door was open for the Gentiles. However, God will keep his promises and one day save and reclaim the Jewish people to himself through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This message, that he’s spent the last 15 chapters declaring, is the focus for his relationships. Many of these people Paul probably led to faith, such as Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. However, there are some who were believers before Paul, who probably poured into him, like Andronicus and Junia.

How has the gospel changed your relationships? Hopefully you’ve had a chance to consider this question through the teaching series at Center Point focusing on relationships. Does your marriage look like a marriage of non-believers? Does how you invest you time with friends look like that of non-believers? What about work, school, etc.?

Paul makes an amazing statement in verse 26, that the gospel has been disclosed and made known to all nations. Why? Well, because God commanded it, but also, to bring about the obedience of faith. Think about that for a minute. The good news of the gospel has been made known, it is knowable. Clearly, we don’t know everything, but we know enough. So how has or how can this knowledge of the gospel transform your relationships?

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

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May 10, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 15:14-33

We see the apostle Paul’s uninhibited passion for getting the Gospel out to people who don’t know it in today’s Scripture. He tells us that he has been bold in reminding them of how he prioritized ministry to the gentiles (v. 15-16) and how proud he was of this work (v. 17). He gives glory to God for using Him in this ministry (v. 18-19) and says that he’s not yet finished in God’s work with them for he has great ambition to continue to preach to them:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Romans 15:20-21

This uninhibited passion for the Great Commission, especially in places, areas and with people who have not heard it has not ended with Paul. As John Keith Falconer once said, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”

I pray and hope that we feel the same exact way with the short lives we are given on this earth. The apostle is pleading for the Roman church to pray for his relief in prison, not for the safety and security he once enjoyed but instead to get right back to this hard work of penetrating the darkness with the light of the Gospel. It’s very easy to forget this when many of us grew up in church or are around nothing but Christians. We are not sent to stay in a Christian bubble. As important as it is to have Gospel community through the church, God uses that to spiritually grow us to be sent out with each other on Gospel mission.

“Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.” Oswald J. Smith

  • What lost people are you praying for and intentionally connecting with to reach with the Gospel?
  • If you couldn’t think of anyone in the above question, how can you change that?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

May 9, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 15:1-13

In every person’s life there has been a moment, for some many moments when they asked themselves or just wondered what or how am I supposed to live? What is this life supposed to look like? For many they look to a hero or a family member or friend that they greatly respect or admire. The reality is that all of this will fall short at some point. Those people will in some way let you down and you will find yourself once again asking the same questions again. Those questions will never truly be answered until we look to the example of Jesus.

This passage answers these questions in the way of telling us how we should live in relation to our neighbors. Paul says that we should look not to please ourselves and to build up our neighbor simply for their benefit; not for our gain. This is simply because Christ set the example for us to follow, as He did not seek to please Himself. Rather, he endured the cross for our benefit even though we were as sinners against Him.

So when we come to the point where we question how we should live and what this life should look like we can know there is an answer. Jesus set before us a beautiful example that He desires for us to follow. Paul describes harmony with one another as a result of simply acting as Christ acted towards one another. Think about how immense of an impact that would be made if we were to truly model our life after Jesus. We have all tried to follow the example of an imperfect person and we are always discouraged with the imperfect outcome. Today will you make a point to follow the example of Jesus and be encouraged in the harmony of His grace?

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

May 8, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 14

If ever there was a passage that is difficult to write on, it is this one. The passage we are looking at today is both unbelievably practical and also unbelievably convicting! Before we even get going, I want to encourage us to remember that the gospel has given us the power to live the lives that the Bible calls us to. It is because of Christ that we can live out God’s design for our life! In light of that, read Romans 14 through the lens of how you can better love your brothers and sisters in Christ. This passage is also very similar to 1 Corinthians 8, which might be helpful to read along with this one. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  1. We should be patient in dealing with the spiritual struggles of others. (v.1-4) Our main goal should be to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a temptation to be frustrated with the growth, or lack thereof, in the lives of people in our Connect Group, Bible study, or people we disciple. But we must remember that God is the one who grows us in sanctification. We are not responsible to grow them, we are responsible to love.
  2. There is a certain degree of freedom in our convictions. (v. 5-9) Paul gives some freedom here in our convictions. Of course, all convictions must not defiantly go against Scripture, but the reality is that there are smart people who love Jesus and the Bible and yet disagree on certain matters. The point here is that the purpose of all convictions must be Christ. If the glory of Christ is not what is driving our convictions, then we are missing the point.
  3. Not judging does not mean not calling out sin, but calling out sin in light of your own. (v. 10-12) When it says “do not judge”, it doesn’t mean “never call out sin.” Matthew 18:15-17 speaks clearly on this. Rather, when we confront the sin of others, we should first check our own hearts, realize how corrupted we are in our own sin, and approach our brother or sister in love to confront their sin in hopes they might be convicted and repent from it. Matthew 7:5 (ESV) says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus shows us clearly that when we confront the sins of others, the proper way to do that is to first confront the sin of ourselves.
  4. We should be willing to sacrifice our preferences, out of love, for the growth of other Christians. (v. 13-23) Do you value the growth of others over your personal preferences? That is what Paul is teaching us here. Would you be willing to give up something you enjoy in order that others might not be tempted to sin?

The common thread of all of this is that we are to love people in sacrificial ways. How have you been loving people recently? What needs to change for you to love people like Christ?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice