Romans: Global Mission, United Community (Part 1)

This week we start a new series on the book of Romans. Having covered chapters 1-8 periously we return to look at chapters 9-11 with the aim of completing the book, chapters 12-16, next year.                                                                                                                   It’s always difficult starting into the middle of a book, so to find out where we have got to you can follow the Roman Plot! in the following posts.

Global Mission, United Comunity

God’s desire is to see the Gospel he promised beforehand (1v2) go to all people (1v16). Paul who has been set apart for the gospel (1v1) to call people from the nations (1v5) is eager to preach the gospel (1v15) to other places without the gospel (15v23).                                                                                                                             This work can’t be done alone but only with a united community, Jew and Gentile who accept each other (15v7) and are in partnership with each other (15v24). By preaching the gospel to them through this letter Paul will cause the church to (a) look in on themselves and see that they are one in the gospel and (b) to look out on the world that desperately needs the gospel.

 The Gospel Explained 1-4

The Gospel is God’s and is all about his Son Jesus Christ (1v2-4). This gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (1v16). In the gospel we receive a righteousness from God that makes us acceptable with God (1v17). We all desperately need the gospel because we are all under God’s anger and wrath. It is what we deserve because of our wickedness and suppressing the truth (1v18). This is his fair, just and reasoned response to our sin (1v32). God’s anger is being revealed now giving us over to our hearts desire (1v24, 26) but it is also a sign of his final judgement to come (2v5).

God is fair in the way he deals with us seeking that we all come to repentance (2v4). He will judge us fairly, he has no favourites, (2v11) and he will judge each person according to what they know, either with the law (the religious Jew) or without the law (the irreligious gentile) (2v12). This will happen when Jesus comes again (2v16)

Of course many will try to get right with God through their own religious performance and observance (2v17) but the truth is they can’t even practise what they preach (2v21-24). Religion can’t save you or change you only the Spirit at work in our hearts can save us (2v29).

Whoever we are weather a church going person who knows their bible or a non church goer who knows nothing of the bible we are all the same deserving God’s just judgement (3v9). No one is righteous, no one is good enough for God (3v10,12), especially those who go to church and read their bibles! (3v20). What is needed is God’s gracious intervention.

God in his grace provides a solution to our problem (3v21-26). On the one side God’s justice demands that we are punished for our sin (2v5) but on the other side he makes salvation possible (1v16) creating a tension between justice and forgiveness. This tension is solved without conceding to either side by sending Jesus who is our propitiation/sacrifice of atonement, dealing with God’s wrath (3v25). God in Jesus stands in for us, paying the penalty for our unrighteousness so that through faith in Jesus we might be be made righteous (3v22). God did this as a demonstration of his justice (3v26). This is a universal offer but conditional to faith (…to all who believe…3v22)

Therefore no-one can boast (3v27) whether you are religious or irreligious, God saves all people Jew or Gentile in the same way – by faith (3v30). Faith is the way we receive our righteousness, it was the same for Abraham (4v2), David (4v6). The implication is we are all equal before God and are united together through our common faith in Jesus (4v11-12). This promise of salvation is dependant not on my obedience or disobedience but on God’s promise (4v16). What God says God will do despite what we feel or think (4v21). Our response is to believe completely on the perfect performance of Jesus Christ and not on my obedience (4v22-24).

God’s Good Design for Life

In response to our Governments proposal, at the end of last year, to hold a referendum to redefine marriage, we have started a series of talks: ‘God’s Good Design for Life’.

These talks look at the subject of Marriage, Family and Gender as God has designed it. We see this as what is best for us as individuals and as a society. You may like to listen to these talks under our Recent Audio section. Also are some helpful links and resources on the same topics and themes.

You may also like to check out these helpful websites:

 

Typhoon Haiyan

How to think about Typhoon Haiyan

With winds measTyphoon Haiyan Damageuring more than 200mph and waves more than 16 feet high the effects are there for all to see. At least one million have been left homeless with countless more in need of aid. The number of dead continues to rise in their hundreds while disease and sickness are spreading relentlessly. In what is now the worst storm on record, how are we to think about Typhoon Haiyan?

Three things we should not do….
1.) Don’t ignore it.
It’s not easy to watch the devastating scenes on our television or to listen to the stories of survivors. In fact to escape the tragedy of it all the temptation is to change channels. But don’t retreat into the security and comfort of your own dreams and ignore it. Watch and see the reality of the broken world we live in. Most of us live immune to such suffering while the majority of the worlds population live with it every day. We need to be reminded of our privileged position and all that we have; fresh food, secure homes, clean running water and access to health care.

2.) Don’t be overcome
With up to date images beamed into our homes it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all. The impact of the storm seems insurmountable. We feel helpless and wonder what we can do. While we are not responsible to feed everyone or fix every home, we are responsible to do what we can. From our privileged position we can help those we are able to. God has made us stewards of all the resources he has given us and so we must do all we can to help all we can.

3.) Don’t sit in judgement
The easy way out is to become self righteous believing that what has happened is God’s judgement. We however have no grounds to think this. Those who live in the Philippines are no different to you or I. In fact we should wonder, why a Typhoon has not hit Ireland! If anyone deserves judgement it is us who live such luxurious selfish lives while the world continues to suffer.

Three things we should do….
1.) Be thankful
Instead of our constant complaints at the state of our economy we should be grateful for all we have and enjoy. We are still in the top 20% of the worlds richest people and live in one of the most secure countries in the world as far as natural disasters go. So as the news hits our screens give thanks to God for all that he has provided through his amazing generosity.

2.) Be prayerful
We may feel hopeless and helpless but we can all pray. Pray that food and aid would get to those most in need and that treatment and care will be made available to the most vulnerable. Pray for God’s restraining hand against the acts of evil men who will use such tragedy to exploit children and young women. Pray that people across the Philippines will cry out to God in their suffering and find a saviour who cares and loves them.

3.) Be hopeful
As we witness the broken world we live in and see the suffering and pain in the eyes of those who tell their story, remember that God has done something to end all this misery. Through the death of his Son Jesus Christ, He has paid the penalty for this sin cursed world and made it possible for people from every nation and language to be part of his new creation, a world without Typhoons or any other disaster.

Gospel of Mark – Receited and Interpreted by Max McLean

Here are all 16 chapters of the gospel of Mark’s Gospel from Max McLean’s one man show.

Well worth the one hour it takes to view the entire set of videos in one sitting.

Happy Halloween

halloween nightIt doesn’t seem right: ‘Happy Halloween’, after all judging by the mock graves in peoples gardens and skeletons hanging from front doors it seems anything but happy! In a strange irony the one subject we must never talk about in public and the one event we all fear is celebrated. For a few hours our children will dress up and parade our streets as the Grim Reaper or the Living Dead, in search of a years supply of chocolate and sweets. After all it is just a little bit of light-hearted fun, as we playfully scare ourselves to death! Now I don’t know if you will greet your neighbour with a ‘Happy Halloween’ but here’s why I think we should celebrate Halloween!

Overcoming Our Greatest Fear

When Halloween is over we will all revert back to our greatest fear and no one will be allowed to mention the ‘D’ – word. It’s odd don’t you think that one moment we can play the role the next we avoid it like the plague! Perhaps Woody Allen got it right when he said: ‘I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens’. That’s the sad reality we want to make fun of death but we still fear it. So what is there to celebrate? Well the bible, which talks a lot about death, tells us we need not fear death. ‘Jesus shared in our humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’. Hebrews 2v14-15. The historical fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection means people like us don’t need to fear death. It has been defeated and destroyed. If we place our faith in Jesus we can truly laugh and mock death because it no longer has any hold over us – not just at Halloween but all through the year!

Hearing God’s Grace (Part 2)

Following on from yesterdays post we see the True Life that God in his grace gives us in four progressive themes.

First God’s continued grace to his people.

The opening chapters is a brief history, a reminder of why Israel took an extra forty years to enter the promised land. ‘…you were unwilling to go up because you rebelled against the command of the Lord’ 1v26. They assumed they could go up without the Lord: ‘everyone put on his weapons thinking it easy to go up into the hill country. But the Lord said tell them do not go up and fight because I will not be with you. You will be defeated…...in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country….but …they chased you down like a swarm of bees and beat you down…1v43-44. So they wandered the desert because of their sin. However God’s response is nothing but sheer grace: ‘He has watched over your journey through the vast desert . These forty years the Lord has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. 2v7. In fact God now commands them to go into the land: ‘Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you’ 3v22. God by his grace brings them into the promised land despite their rebellion. In fact when God predicts that they will fail again he reminds them of who he is: ‘The Lord God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath’ 4v31. God is gracious and he continues to be gracious in our continues rebellion and sin.

Second God’s loving choice of his people.

As we read on through we are reminded that we are where we are today simply because of God’s loving grace. There is no room for pride or feelings of superiority. If we are to continue on with God it must be with a humble dependence on God: ‘The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers…and redeemed you from the land of slavery..’ 7v7-8. Our life starts with grace and continues with grace. There is nothing in us that attracts us to him, it is simply his choice to set his love on us. In fact the only thing we contribute is our sin: ‘After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness…understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.’ 9v4,6

Like Israel we need to be constantly reminded that if it were not for God’s loving choice we would be lost forever.

God’s saving purpose for his people

Deuteronomy may seem quite obscure to us especially the laws we read about from chapter 12-26. However they help us see that God had a purpose in choosing and loving his people. This was not to be a private faith but a relationship lived out among the nations. We are reminded of why they have all these laws in the first place: ‘Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear all these decrees and say ‘Surly this great nation is a wise and understanding nation.’ 4v7.

The laws were to keep them separate from other god’s and loyal to their one true God. This way people would see how great and wise God is. In fact they were to reflect God’s character to the nations: ‘Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them,and he chose you, their descendants, above all nations, as it is today’ 10v15. But why did he choose them? ‘ And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.’ 10v19. God’s people are to love the peoples around them as God loved and treated them, thereby reflecting his character to them.

But more than this God’s people are to also reflect God’s demand for our absolute loyalty. In chapter 28 God sets out the standard: ‘If you fully obey the Lord your God and follow all his commands…all these blessings will come upon you’. ‘However if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands…all these curses will come upon you’ 28v1,15. God’s warning is crystal clear if they turn away from him: ‘The Lord will scatter you among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other….There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.’ 28v64, 68. When this happens: ‘All the nations will ask, why has the Lord done this to the land? Why his fierce, burning anger?’ And the answer will be, it is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord…In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from the land and thrust them into another land as it is now’ 29v24-25, 28. The point is God takes sin seriously and when we give our devotion to another he is rightfully angered. God’s people are to reflect to the nations that God demands our love and loyalty. You see the reason we are saved and chosen is to show the community around us that true life and blessing is only found in loving God.

God’s persistent call on his people.

God has shown consistent grace to his people. God has lovingly chosen his people. God also has a saving purpose for his people, so it’s not surprising that he will not let them go easily: ‘For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God’ 4v24. We tend to view ‘Jealousy’ negatively. If someone is jealous they are envious and never satisfied with what they have. It can be controlling. However for God to be jealous is positive. His love is so strong for us that he is not willing to share that love with another. Not unlike that of husband and wife. It expresses faithfulness, commitment, loyalty and devotion. God has given himself to his people and so God persistently calls people to himself.

Throughout Deuteronomy God calls his people back to himself everyday. Every time Moses preaches he calls for a response Today: ‘Acknowledge and take heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commandments, which I am giving you today…’ 4v39-40. Similarly ‘You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways…And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised….26v17-18. God is loyal to us each day and calls us to express our loyalty to him each day. It is a daily choice we are all called to make: ‘See I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God…This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death’ 30v15-16,19.

This is not a legalistic choice it is a calling to apply the gospel everyday. To repent of where we have not loved God with all our heart and to renew our faith in God that he is all sufficient and all satisfying. The way to chose life today is exercise repentance and faith. This is God’s persistent call on his people.

 

So Deuteronomy may be a repeat of what has been said before in Exodus-Numbers but I think we need to be told again and again of God’s continued grace and gracious choice of us. Deuteronomy may not be full of action but it does remind us of an active God who has a saving purpose for our lives and persistently calls us back to himself.

As we read this great book we need to hear God’s grace to us afresh. No wonder it is the book that Jesus quotes from the most!