May 6, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 13

You know the adage: “Don’t talk about politics or religion.” Well today we are talking about both! Before you close this page, know that this post won’t take a specific stance on any political issue, except to show what the Bible has to say about it. (If you have any complaints, please direct all criticism to: tim@cpclex.org or todd@cpclex.org). The fact is that the Bible doesn’t have much to say on the role of government, except to say that it was put there by God and we should obey it. Let’s unpack what that means.

Verse 1 lays the foundation: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” We have to realize, whatever your personal thoughts are on the role of government, God is the one who has appointed it. “What if the government is bad or does evil things?” All throughout the Old and New Testament’s we see example after example of evil empires and governments that God uses for his purposes and glory. God does not institute the evil or sin, but he does redeem evil and sin for His glory.

We also see that we are to be submissive to the government, even when taking into account everyone’s favorite thing: taxes. Even Jesus, when asked whether taxes should be paid to Cesar or not said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17) One caveat: even though the government should be respected and submitted to, if the government (or any authority for that matter) is requiring anyone to do something that clearly goes against the Bible and God’s will, that should not be submitted to. We see that in the example of Daniel when he refused to sin in following the nation’s religion, and even in the book of Acts, in the context of being before Jewish authorities, Peter and John said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

The last section discusses the importance of loving people, and while I don’t think it’s primary application has anything to do with Facebook comments, I think it can be helpful to apply that in our context. No matter your political affiliation, Jesus must be your greatest devotion. That should take priority over everything else, and there should be no doubt in the minds of people of what has your first love.

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

May 5, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 12

How then shall we live—unity in diversity

My first experience with math was the practice of learning numbers, then I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. As my schooling continued, in high school I learned algebra and I (barely passed) geometry. However, my experience with math now is on a purely practical level. I’m no whiz at math, but I can use it to accomplish things like managing a budget, tracking church attendance, and a whole host of life and work related skills. I learned math so that I could, as a matter of routine, apply it to everyday life.

The experience of the book of Romans is a lot like that. Many people who place faith in Christ as their Savior are taken to Romans 3:10–12, 3:23, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9–10, & 10:13. These are the basics, on par with learning to count and simple addition and subtraction. However, as you dig in and study Romans—the text and context—you discover there is much more at work in this book. In it is a basic gospel presentation, one of the clearest in all of scripture, but we must ask, why is Paul presenting such a clear gospel message to the people in Rome?

As you study Romans, we harken back to one of Paul’s primary purposes for writing, that the church in Rome did not look very Jewish. When the Jews were expelled from Rome and allowed to return many years later, they walked in to find the church very different from the way they left it—it looked Gentile. With such a striking difference between Jewish and Gentile culture as well as religious practice, how could this church reconcile itself?

Chapter 12 is the culmination of Paul’s argument in the book of Romans. Every person is united in sin and a need for a Savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior to all who call on him (Ro 10:13). Chapter 11 answers questions regarding God’s plan for Israel, that he is preserving a remnant, but that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews opened the door for Gentile inclusion in a way that was never thought possible. As we consider chapter 12, the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, what then is the right response to such a great salvation?

Paul does not call Christians or the church to uniformity, he calls us to unity. He gives many commands in this passage based on the gospel that apply to all people equally, for instance, all Christians are “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” (12:1). However, as Paul states in 12:4, although we are members of “one body in Christ” we “do not have the same function.” It is here that Paul lists many spiritual gifts given to believers to be exercised for the benefit of the body. God does not supply believers with spiritual gifts to sit on the sidelines, but that we might get in the game. This list of things that Paul is urging us to do because of the gospel will continue on into chapter 13, but suffice it to say that our salvation demands a response. We are not paying back or in any way earning or contributing to our salvation; we are simply living in response to the free gift offered through Christ.

In the comments, share with us about how you’ve seen somebody use gifts that are different from your own and how that has blessed you as you consider unity in diversity.   

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

May 4, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 11:25-36

You can’t read the Old Testament without noticing God’s ever pursuing, covenantal love and relationship with His chosen people, Israel. As Christians, we connect to this love and relationship because we know we have the same thing through a saving faith by grace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we see differences between Israel and us when we read about certain geographical and national promises. We know that Israel for the most part was God’s Chosen People set apart as a nation (with some outside examples like Rahab) and that’s why the precluding verses in Romans 11 (v. 1-24) talked about the gentiles being grafted into this covenant and relationship with God.

Today’s verses talks about a later time where everyone in Israel will receive that same covenantal love and relationship with God once again through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Many Christians believe that this is the Jews as an ethnic people who were God’s chosen people but now deny Jesus as the messiah and savior to come (what he means by hardened in these verses). Some believe that they will eventually be grafted in without the saving faith in Jesus, which is straight up wrong because it’s only through Christ that we are saved. Of course that view goes against everything else we’ve read in the book of Romans (and the Bible as a whole). Most believe that this is God keeping His promise to the OT Jews in not only his saving covenant but in land and nation as well. John Piper does a good job explaining this view in this link on dispensationalist (big word there, watch out now) theology.

Many other Christians believe that what the apostle Paul is referring to is a Spiritual Israel which would include all gentiles and Jews, not JUST the Jews as an ethnic people group and certainly not in a geographical and national promise. For all my theology nerds, here’s a great two part article from Sam Storms with this viewpoint known as covenantal theology.

Part 1 / Part 2

Wherever you fall theologically with the role of ethnic Jews and future salvation it’s very important for:

1. EVERY believer to walk away from today’s Scripture knowing that it’s only through Jesus Christ that anyone can be saved and that every believer has the job to share the Gospel with all people as Paul says in the previous chapter (Romans 10:5-17).

2. Remember that God will always keep His promises made to His people. We may not have always historically agreed with what those promises exactly meant to specific people in a literal or spiritual sense but we must agree that He always keeps His end of the vows when making covenants with His chosen people.

  • What promises has God made with you that you need to be reminded that He’ll keep?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

May 3, 2017

Today you should read: Romans 11:1-24

There are some passages in scripture, that when you read them you think to yourself that it is kind of harsh or mean or unfair. Well this is one of those passages. At first glance (especially if you don’t read all of it) it seems as though God is being very harsh towards people. Paul writes about how some branches or people will be cut away. This meaning that they will be let go. Those who continuously choose unbelief and rebellion will eventually be cut loose to make room for others who truly desire to seek God and grow.

This truth shows that God is serious. We may view this as mean or over the line, but the truth is that (our culture especially) is not committed to much. God wants us in or out, because if we are halfway then we will prevent others from experiencing God. So this passage is showing that God is very serious about people having a way to Him. He will not stand for others hindering that. Just like a good gardener will prune a tree so that there can be more, stronger growth.

What I love is that Paul makes it clear that this does not mean that those who have been “pruned” will never be able to be part of the tree again. Just as God has the power to graft in gentiles and new people he can graft back in the one who has ran away and cut from the tree. The hope of course is that it does not come to that.

Are you committed to growing and being devoted to God?

Do you feel as though you have been cut from the tree or you are close to it?

If you said yes to the second, take this moment to confess and repent. Turn back to God and commit to following Him. Allow him to graft you back in.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate