Category: Devotionals

Read Romans 15

Key Verse: Romans 15:4 “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

” Do you enjoy reading the Bible?” someone asked me recently. “Sometimes, yes. Other times, no.” I answered. “Why the fluctuation?” he questioned. ” Because the Bible is a teacher, and I don’t always like to be taught,” I said. “Why?” he asked. “I guess it’s because teaching always includes challenge to change. And sometimes I want to stay just the way I am. Or at least I’d rather not put out the energy that transformative demands.” Maybe I just should have referred my friend to today’s key verse — it says it all.

The bible was written “for our learning”. It’s a teacher. It records history, “things written before…”, and it expects to be taken seriously. It tells it like it was, and in this honest presentation of the past, it implies that the response of the reader should be just as honest in the present. What’s more, it assumes we’ll learn today from yesterday’s lessons. This, of course, is not always the case.

The Bible encourages us to be patient. To take life a day at a time in light of the ultimate “Day” when we’ll stand before our Maker. It recognizes the ups and downs of daily living but challenges us in the midst of the immediate to dream of the imminent — Jesus is coming again. The kingdom will be established. Take heart! Have hope! Our present sufferings are only for a moment. Nor can they be compared to the glories the await us!

Little wonder the Bible is the best-seller of all time. It is magnificent literature, trustworthy history, and, most of all, a record of God’s revelation to mankind. It’s a word about the Word — Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Read Romans 14

Key Verse: Romans 14:10 “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.”

Paul begins this chapter with, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (v.1). He’s face to face here with the cultural, sub-cultural, and religious sensibilities of a rich mosaic of backgrounds in the early church. Some were strictly observant Jews, others were secular Jews, and still others were Gentiles newly won from paganism and emperor-worship. You can be sure there was a clash of traditions on several levels. You can also be sure the the feelings were strong!

The Apostle puts it all in perspective: “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat”. At that moment of major judgments, all our minor, trivial judgments on earth will seem comical if not tragic.

We’re to put tolerance before dogma. We’re to put ourselves into the other guy’s shoes. We’re to understand and be compassionate. This posture sits far better with our heavenly Judge that intolerance and bigotry.

There’s another point. As convinced as we may be of some secondary truth (as contrasted to primary truths like the unity of God, or the deity of Christ, etc.), we’re to keep our conviction to ourselves if it will be misunderstood by another believer. Or, at least, limit your freedom to those moments when the “weaker” brother will not be exposed to your “flagrant”” behavior.

And don’t be smug or uncritical about your liberty “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (v.22b). As we mature in Christ, we should always take stock of our standards and submit them to the ultimate standard: the standard of love.

Read Romans 13

Key Verse: Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

He was an over-eater. He came into my office grossly overweight and self-disgusted. As he told me his story, I received an education in the devastating bondage of “gradualism”. What’s that you ask? Well, you might call it suicide by degrees.

Just like a chronic smoker or pill-popper, he was destroying himself in incremental measure — numb to any short-term effect, but literally degenerating over the long-term. This is what “the flesh” will do if you let it. It’s bent on self-destruction.

Even under the best conditions and the most committed self-moderation, the flesh eventually give out. Wrinkles, aches, pains, cholesterol, and decrepitude of one form or another eventually lay you low. The old body expires, and we fly away.

But the question is: to where are we Flying? The Bible makes it very clear, tough as it seems, that our spiritual well-being has a lot to do with the moral choices we make on earth. It may seem unfair, but if we yield to the “works of the flesh”, the Bible says we won’t “inherit” eternal life — we’ll “fly” to a Godless eternity.

That’s why we’ve got to starve our lusts. Feeding them will only hasten our self-destruction. That’s not to say that our physical appetites are wrong; if we indulge them according to God’s word, we’ll bring blessing not destruction. But the key is obedience. And obedience is usually hard on us — at least in the initial stages.

On the other hand, if we choose to ignore the long term and simply enjoy the short term, we may find ourselves one day, like my fat friend, overwhelmed with self-indulgence and self-disgust. It’s only an extra piece of pie today — tomorrow it may be plugged arteries.

Read Romans 12

Key Verse: Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Chapter 11 concludes with a beautiful doxology praising God’s wisdom, knowledge, judgments, and paths. He is sovereign and does what He wants to do. And, in the context of chapters 9 through 11, we see He wants to have mercy on all children of disobedience — both Jew and Gentile. It’s “in view of God’s mercy” that Paul, in chapter 12:1, calls us to total commitment: a commitment that constitutes, in fact, our “spiritual worship” (NIV).

Paul bluntly calls for bodily sacrifice — not producing a dead body, mind you, but a living offering. It is significant that the emphasis is physical. We’d all be much happier if the call was for mental assent, but he says we’re to put our bodies where our profession of faith is. We’re to pay the price — choosing sacrifice rather than pleasure.

Someone has said that the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the alter. So true. Indeed, the very idea of sacrificial living in our self-absorbed western world seems painfully archaic. But if we’re to practice what we preach, and look to Jesus as our supreme example, then we’re certainly not to embrace a faith that costs us nothing.

It’s fascinating that Paul links bodily sacrifice with spiritual worship: You wouldn’t expect this, for our tendency would be to separate the physical from the spiritual — just as the heretical Gnostics of early church history did. But no, God sees us as a totality, body and soul, material and immaterial — complete individual personalities. And He has such a high view of our bodies that He intends to resurrect and glorify them one day. So don’t separate your “spiritual” live from your everyday physical life. They’re inextricably linked — and God expects total faith from the total man.