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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #44 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 16

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, and to bless those who persecute them.

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 15.

The sixteenth critical imperative is —

16. Believers are to USE THEIR EMOTIONS FOR THE LORD . . . AND FOR EACH OTHER (v. 16)!

“Feelings, nothing  more than feelings . . .” A popular song reminds us that we are often victims of our own emotions. “You can’t help how you feel!”, I’ve heard Christians say. No? We can’t?

The emotional life of the believer is very important. The Lord Jesus displayed various emotions in His earthly life — and we are to model every aspect of our lives after Him. Perhaps we can’t help our initial emotional response to something, but we are to have control over continuing emotions.  And we can choose to identify with other believers in their joy and sorrow. This assumes that we are attentive to their emotional state and that we want to encourage them in their circumstance, whether that circumstance is joyful or mournful.

What control do we have over our emotions? From this critical imperative we must conclude that we can identify with those who are rejoicing — and join them in their pleasure. We can empathize with those who are grieving — and join them in their sorrow.

Today’s Challenge: Think of a specific believer that you know right now who is going through either joy or sorrow. How might you express your identification with that person?

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #43 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 15

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. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 14.

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, and to practice hospitality! A lot of work!

The fifteenth critical imperative is —15. Believers are to BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE THEM (v. 14)!

I know very little about persecution. I have never been threatened for my faith, never been assaulted for my beliefs, never been discriminated against for my convictions. My heart goes out to the many believers in the world who do face physical danger in their culture for following Jesus.

It’s quite possible that some Western Christians are passed over for job promotions or ignored or ridiculed for their faith. And with our part of the world becoming more anti-Christian, perhaps persecution is just around the corner for us.

But right now, we are to bless those who persecute us. What does “bless” them mean here? It’s certainly the opposite of “curse” those who persecute us. We are not to pray imprecatory prayers against those who make life difficult for us as individuals. We are not to retaliate in kind toward those who mock our faith. We are to “bless” them. That doesn’t mean we agree with their opposition, but that we don’t respond in an ungodly way to their harsh treatment of us. And that takes God’s power, doesn’t it?

Today’s Challenge: Can you think of anyone in your acquaintance who in some way or another is “persecuting” you? Then pray for them today. And ask God to show you how you can “bless” them.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #42 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 14

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. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking again at verse 13.

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, and to share with the Lord’s people who are in need! Challenging!

The fourteenth critical imperative is —14. Believers are to PRACTICE HOSPITALITY (v. 13)!

I live in the South where people traditionally built houses with large, wraparound front porches so the neighbors could come by and sit for a spell, drinking wonderfully sugared iced tea! Sadly, those porches seem to have fallen into disuse. It seems money is no longer wasted on such luxuries when few are inclined to get to know their neighbors, much less invite them over for a spell.

But what have we lost? Our homes have been transformed into our castles, apparently with a moat around them stocked with alligators and a drawbridge that is only lowered for relatives who visit! The believer can choose to be counter-cultural in becoming more neighbor-friendly, don’t you think?

It is possible that the Apostle Paul here is referring to believers’ showing hospitality to other believers. This is a needed challenge, especially in a Covid or post-Covid world where we choose to become “socially distanced” even when we don’t have to!

But our unsaved friends and neighbors need to see inside our homes! They need to be invited over for a game night, to watch a good movie together, to simply spend time getting to know one another, to be part of an evangelistic Bible study! And those efforts involve . . . HOSPITALITY!

Today’s Challenge: How would you rate yourself and your family on the hospitality scale? What is one practical step you can take to become more hospitable with your home?

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #41 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 13

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. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 13.

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, and to be faithful in prayer! Ouch!

The thirteenth critical imperative is —13. Believers are to SHARE WITH THE LORD’S PEOPLE WHO ARE IN NEED (v. 13)!

The first-century Christians shared their material goods with each other, as we see in Acts 2. They recognized the poor among them — and did something about it. Part of the challenge today is that we are seldom honest about our needs. We want others to think we are self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and self-dependent.

This critical imperative — sharing with those who are needy among the people of God — hits us where we live. It challenges our greed, our possessiveness, our captivity to things.

In our Western culture where most of us are incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world, there are means other than financial which we can share with the people of God. What do you have that you could share with another believer if you (1) knew their need and (2) chose to do something to meet that need?

Today’s Challenge: Open your eyes this week and notice a need that another brother or sister has — that you can meet. And meet that need! Feel free to leave a comment below.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #6- SHARING) (con’t)

Most of us Jesus-followers get STUCK when it comes to SHARING our faith with others!  These messages are being delivered to the saints at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, GA (website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com).  My tenure there as preaching pastor will end on Sept. 24 (sniff).

In the issue of SHARING our faith with others, we need to focus on having conversations (not necessarily conversions) with others and show that we are open to listening to their stories.  The text we have been looking at is I Peter 3 which says:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

It’s a whole lot easier to SHARE our faith when we are asked about it!  And the questions that ought to come up (according to this text) would something like:  “How can you suffer so patiently?”  “Why aren’t you afraid of being harmed by others?”  “Where in the world do you get your hope?”  “I’ve heard rumors that you are misbehaving.  Are they true?”

Our lives ought to provoke questions!  If we are not provoking questions and stimulating curiosity, it might be argued that we are not sufficiently living Christian lives!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #6- SHARING!)

Counting today (Aug. 27th) I have only five more sermons to give at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Atlanta.  They have found their new pastor and Linda and I are filled with rejoicing — and deep sadness.  It has been a wonderful 1 1/2 years that we have been able to serve them.

I believe there are areas that get us STUCK in the Christian life, and we have considered five of them so far:  SALVATION, THE SCRIPTURES, SIN, THE SAINTS, and SERVICE.  Let’s now look at SHARING.

Do you find it difficult to “share” your faith in Christ with others?  Me too.  Several truths have helped me in what we Jesus-followers call witnessing.  The first is that I am committed to conversations not necessarily conversions.  I would be thrilled if I saw more people converted to Christ, but I see my witness as sowing the seed, nudging people closer to Christ (as my friend Al McKechnie says).

If I am pursuing conversations, talking about Jesus becomes a whole lot easier.  Why?  Because I can LISTEN instead of talk!  This leads to a second truth that has helped me and it is this:  People want to tell their STORY.  If you or I simply show that we are interested in them, they will often open up and tell us about their lives, their families, their struggles.

Let’s take a preliminary look at our main text for this issue of SHARING:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (I Peter 3)

Wow.  This text tells us that we will suffer in this world, not for doing evil, but for doing good!  And Peter’s point is how we respond to unjust suffering.  Do we grab the Yellow Pages and find the best lawyer we can to sue those who are harming us?  No!  Peter gives us very practical advice:  (1)  Don’t be afraid of them!  (2)  Get your heart right in putting the Lord first in your life!  (3)  Be ready to explain why your hope is in Jesus!  (4)  Make sure your behavior backs up your beliefs!  (5)  Trust the Lord and His will for you — even if it involves unjust suffering!  Anyone trying to harm you?  (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in christian growth

 

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