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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #52 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 24

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, not to take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath, and to do good to our enemies!

Let’s conclude our multipart study by looking at verse 21.

The twenty-fourth critical imperative is straightforward —

24. Believers are TO OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD! (v. 21)

The truth is evil will always be present with us — until Jesus returns. How are believers to respond to EVIL? First, we need to be able to identify evil. Our world has suffered and is suffering a moral collapse. It calls evil “good” and good “evil.” We must return to a biblical clarity about the reality of genuine evil.

Second, we believers dare not cocoon ourselves off from the evil in our culture. We have absolutely no justification to move our families into caves (with or without internet access) and turn our backs on God’s world. We are to be fully engaged in this fallen world. Some of us will become policemen, some lawyers, some jurors, some conscientious citizens who seek to live out the Christian faith as salt and light.

Third, we are to fight evil! We must stand against injustice, prejudice, inequity, discrimination, perversity, self-centeredness. We must speak for the poor, the disenfranchised, the unborn. Even when we lose such moral battles, we are not to give up and conform to this fractured world’s godless ways. We resist by praising good and doing good.

One of the struggles we believers have is that, while we recognize that our good works have nothing to do with our becoming saved, they have everything to do with our living out our saved lives in this broken planet. We are fond of quoting Ephesians 2:8-9 which says,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

But we need to read further: 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This issue of doing good works shows up in many New Testament passages. (See the following list at the end of this post).

Today’s Challenge: We overcome evil by good. Is there some example of evil that you know of to which you could respond with an act of kindness or goodness?

Verses on “Doing Good”:
Luke 6:35
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Acts 10:38
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Romans 2:7
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Romans 2:10
but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
2 Thessalonians 3:13
And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
1 Timothy 6:18
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
2 Timothy 2:21
Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Titus 2:7
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness
Titus 2:14
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 3:1
Saved in Order to Do Good
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,
Titus 3:8
This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Titus 3:14
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.
Hebrews 13:16
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
James 3:13
Two Kinds of Wisdom
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
James 4:17
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
1 Peter 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:15
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.
1 Peter 2:20
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
1 Peter 3:11
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.
1 Peter 3:13
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
1 Peter 3:17
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Peter 4:19
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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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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