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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #51 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 23

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, to live at peace with everyone when possible, and not to take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 20.

The twenty-third critical imperative is straightforward —

23. Believers are TO CARE FOR THE NEEDS OF THEIR ENEMIES! (v. 20)

“Am I a soldier of the cross?”, we used to sing in Sunday School when I was young and the last of the dinosaurs were becoming extinct. Soldiers have enemies. The fact that I can’t name one single enemy is disturbing to me.

Why? Because the gospel of Christ divides people into those who believe it and those who oppose it. And if I’m doing a good job of sharing and living the gospel before others, I should probably be making some enemies along the way.

But let’s assume I’ve got an enemy or two. How should I treat that person? Enemies should be executed — or at least imprisoned, right?

In his book of poetry entitled You! Jonah! Thomas Carlisle records Jonah saying, “I hate God’s enemies with a perfect hatred! Why can’t God do as much?” But today’s critical imperative tells us that we should feed our hungry enemies and give them something to drink when they are thirsty! What?

Ah. Here’s the conclusion: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Great! That’s exactly what I want to do! But have I understood that verse correctly?

The description of “heaping burning coals” is a reference to Proverbs 25:21–22.

21If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

22For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.

[The following is from several commentators. Please forgive the long sentences.] “In Egypt, there had been a custom to carry a pan of burning coals on one’s head as a sign of repentance. Kindness and forgiveness to those who abuse us, ideally, will make them ashamed of themselves, and hopefully bring them to repent. The strongest, most powerful response to persecution and hatred is to love your enemies. Not to do him hurt, not to aggravate his condemnation, as if this would be a means of bringing down the wrath of God the more fiercely on him, which is a sense given by some; as if this would be an inducement to the saints to do such acts of kindness; which is just the reverse of the spirit and temper of mind the apostle is here cultivating; but rather the sense is, that by so doing, his conscience would be stung with a sense of former injuries done to his benefactor, and he be filled with shame on account of them, and be brought to repentance for them, and to love the person he before hated, and be careful of doing him any wrong for the future; all which may be considered as a prevailing motive to God’s people to act the generous part they are here moved to.”

It must refer to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love. This is the only kind of vengeance the Christian is at liberty to contemplate.

We need desperately to shun the example of Jonah and love our enemies as the Lord Jesus taught us. Carlisle caught Jonah’s sentiment exactly when he wrote:

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.

And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to His way of loving.

Today’s Challenge: Got any enemies? You might be surprised. Look for an opportunity to show kindness to him or her so that they will repent and come to the Lord!

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #50 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 22

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, and to live at peace with everyone when possible!!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 19.

The twenty-second critical imperative is straightforward —

22. Believers are NOT TO TAKE REVENGE BUT TO LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD’S WRATH! (v. 19)

We learned in critical imperative #19 that we are not to repay evil for evil. There may be occasions where revenge seems (and may well be) right, but we are not to substitute human revenge for the wrath of God.

Our culture would prefer not to think about the WRATH of God. But preachers like Jonathan Edwards reminded his contemporaries of this critical — and biblical — aspect of God when he preached his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

I wrote an article on God’s wrath a few years ago entitled “Warning a Wrath-Deserving World: Evangelicals and the Overhaul of Hell.” If interested, it can be accessed here.

There are many biblical texts on God’s wrath (I touch on most of them in the article referred to above). Vigilante justice is a very engaging and attractive movie plot these days, but hardly the kind of response God expects from His children! Righteous people don’t respond with revenge. All judgment is not finished on this earth. There will be a final judgment of God! And we are to wait for it!

Today’s Challenge: You might think to yourself, “There’s no way I would plot revenge against anybody for anything.” Great! But what if someone hurt you or your family? God’s judgment may be delayed, but we are not to preempt His righteousness no matter how just we may feel.

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #49 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 21

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, and to do right before everyone!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 18.

The twenty-first critical imperative is quite clear —

21. Believers are LIVE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE WHEN POSSIBLE (v. 18)!

Ahhh, living in peace. That’s not always easy to do. If I am left to myself, it’s fairly easy in the sense that I’m an introvert and I’m perfectly happy being by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about getting along with others!

But God is relational and He wants me to be as well. Simply being a cave-dwelling self isn’t what He desires in the child of God. We are to relate to others — and sometimes that produces conflict and disagreement and friction.

The answer? Do everything you can (“If it is possible”) to live at peace with everyone. I can only do what lies in my power (“as far as it depends on you”). I can’t force others to live at peace with me, but I can choose and make careful decisions to maximize the possibility of peace with everyone.

This involves several steps, it seems to me. It means that (1) I’m to keep short accounts with others. That is, I’m to apologize when I’ve wronged someone and to be honest with them when they’ve wronged me (Matthew 5 and 18). It means that (2) I’m to forgive others just as God in Christ has forgiven me (Col. 3:13). It means that, on occasion, I might have to bring others into my conflict situation to act as peacemakers (Mt. 5:9; James 3:18). And that’s a humbling, but important, thing to do.

Today’s Challenge: Are you presently living at peace with everyone? If  not, what specific steps will you take in your power to resolve that situation or restore that relationship? Anything keeping you from taking those steps?

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #48 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 20

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, and to not repay evil with evil!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking again at verse 17.The twentieth critical imperative is pretty straightforward —

20. Believers are TO DO RIGHT BEFORE EVERYONE (v. 17)!

If we connect this imperative with the previous one (not to repay anyone evil for evil), then the committed Christ-follower is not only not to do evil but he is to do what is right! We choose not to wreck vengeance for ourselves and we decide to do what is right before everyone.

Notice that this imperative begins with the words “be careful to do what is right . . .” Why the words “be careful”?  This word is from the verb προνοέω, a verb used three times in the New Testament meaning “to perceive beforehand, foresee, to provide for, strive to exhibit.” The Apostle says in 2 Corinthians 8:21- “for we are concerned to do what is right, not only before the Lord but also before men.” In I Timothy 5:8 he writes, “But if anyone does not care for his own, especially his household members, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

The believer in Jesus is to think ahead (προ = “before” +νοέω = “to think”) and choose to do what is right. Not what is expedient or culturally acceptable or popular or easy. But what is right.

And notice, please, that the audience is spelled out for us: “before everyone,” a thought the Apostle repeats in 2 Corinthians 8:21 (“for we are concerned to do what is right, not only before the Lord but also before men.”). Our choice to do what is right is not simply before the Lord, but before the people with whom we are associated.

Today’s Challenge: In living for Jesus in this world, you and I will be faced many times with the task of simply doing what is right. If you say “I want to do what is right today,” does any particular act come to mind that you should follow through on?

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #47 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 19

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 12 each day this week.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, and to reach out to others regardless of their status!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 17.The nineteenth critical imperative is pretty straightforward —

19. Believers are NOT TO REPAY EVIL FOR EVIL (v. 17)!

My default setting — and I’ll bet yours as well — is to remember every offense done to me. And not just remember them, but to at least think about retaliation!

Okay, don’t look so spiritual. You probably don’t suffer wrong any better than I do! One of my biggest challenges is driving. I drive just fine. It’s other people that have lost their minds. And they cut me off, ride on my bumper, don’t signal when they pull in front of me, drive 100 in a 70 mph zone. Basically irritate the living daylights out of me. I sometimes flash my headlights at those who commit these egregious vehicular offenses, occasionally give them a glare of profound religious indignation, and then begin scheming. Yes, I scheme.

I think about following them to their place of business and keying their car. That’s when you take your key and scratch the side of their car with it. I’ve never keyed anyone’s car. Even when they deserved it. But I’ve thought about it.

And then . . . I repented. It’s not mine to bring down God’s hammer of judgment on wayward sinners. And it would be EVIL for me to do so.

How about you? Don’t you long for judgment — perhaps immediate wrath — to be dispensed on the malefactors that have committed evil on you? on the world? But we are to leave judgment in GOD’s hands.

Today’s Challenge: What offense against you causes you to plot retaliation? There are none? Then I guess Paul’s admonition to not repay evil for evil doesn’t apply to you. Or does it?

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Getting to Know . . . 2 Samuel (chapter 13:23-39) Revenge! Justice!

We men have no idea how horrific rape is. We have seen the tragic story of Tamar’s rape at the hands of Amnon and his subsequent hatred of her. Let’s continue our reading in 2 Samuel 13 —

Two years pass and Absalom convinces King David to allow Amnon to go with him to Baal Hazor. Absalom ordered his men to kill Amnon when Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine (v. 28).

A report that Absalom had killed all the king’s sons comes to David and David mourns at the news (v. 31). Uncle Jonadab (the one who arranged for the rape of Tamar) reports that only Amnon was killed as punishment for his raping Absalom’s sister Tamar (v. 33).

Absalom flees. David’s sons return, confirming Jonadab’s statement. The sons wail loudly and “very bitterly” as does the king and all his attendants. King David mourned many days for his son Amnon; Absalom fled to the king of Geshur, staying there three years. We then read, “And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” (v. 39).

One takeaway for me: It seems to me that King David had to know of Tamar’s rape — and he did nothing about it! Justice — swift justice — is a requirement in a civilized society. Otherwise, revenge seems the only option to some.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in 2 Samuel 13

 

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We all need to be rescued! (storytime)

When I was in college, I took a life-saving course with about 25 other students.

Not our instructor!

Not our instructor!

The Bible college I attended had a swimming pool in the basement and the young man who taught the course was not a student at the Bible college, was mean as a snake, and apparently didn’t want to teach us how to rescue drowning swimmers.

I remember his telling us one night to come wearing a pair of pants over our swim suit because he was going to teach usKeynoteScreenSnapz105 how to use our pants as a flotation device.  He had us jump into the deep end of the pool, pull our pants off, blow them up, and then use them as a kind of buoy.  My only problem was that that night I wore a pair of tight, bell-bottom jeans, and I couldn’t get mine past my ankles.  I began to drown — in lifesaving class!  No one noticed my predicament.  I saved my own life by doggie-paddling to the side of the pool.

FirefoxScreenSnapz553The instructor taught us how to rescue someone drowning when we had nothing to reach out to him with, or no rescue buoy to throw to him, but had to swim out to the drowning person and physically rescue them.  He explained that a drowning person will climb on our heads and drown both of us.  So he taught us to dive down when we got within 8 feet of the victim, grab them by their hips, spin them around, and come up holding them in a head lock.  If they struggled or panicked and tried to climb on top of us, we should take them to the very place they did not want to go — under water — so they would give up and let us rescue them.

After the month’s worth of grouchy classes, our instructor said, “Your final exam will be next week and it will be simple.  I will jump in the deep end, pretend to be a drowning victim, and your job will be to rescue me.  I WILL TRY TO KILL YOU!”

Each of us, one after another, rescued the instructor.  Each of us took the instructor to the bottom of the pool — whether he struggled or not.  It was a glorious ending to a grueling course.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in rescue

 

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