Today’s Bible reading begins Paul’s letter to the Romans, one of my favorite books of the Bible. OK, all of the books of the Bible are my favorites. But Romans holds a special place in my heart because in, Paul lays out the Gospel Message in the most plain and developed way. In Chapter One, he says that he is not ashamed of the gospel because it reveals the righteousness of God.
Any discussion of the gospel must begin with God’s righteousness. Why? Because any other discussion of the gospel would begin with some other subject, mostly mankind. The gospel begins and ends with God. Period. Any other focus distracts from the introduction that our Creator created everything — from nothing — in a perfect condition. Perfection. But the world isn’t perfect now. So what happened?
THAT is the question!
Everything hinges on our understanding of God. If we begin discussing the gospel — either academically or practically — with God’s love, God’s goodness, or any other topic, we miss the importance of Paul’s presentation and the emphasis of the entire book of Romans. If we don’t see God’s righteousness and His sovereignty over everything, we’ll misunderstand things like the doctrine of election. We’ll miss how deeply fallen humanity is. We’ll miss the point that Jesus is the only suitable acceptable atoning sacrifice to give us a right standing with God.
Beginning with the righteousness of God brings us to the pivotal question of,
“How are fallen people to have a right standing with a holy God?”
Spend a few minutes today thinking about — really thinking about — the gospel message Thank God for the centrality of the cross in the process of salvation. Worship God for His plan of reconciling lost people to Himself. Thank God for doing everything necessary to secure your salvation.
And if you don’t know God, or if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, please reach out to me. I’d love to talk with you more about this!
In today’s Bible reading, we read the parable of the Kingdom of God through the vineyard manager. In it, some day laborers are hired in the morning. They agree to work for a day’s wage. Several other times during the day, new workers are hired and agree to work for a day’s wage.
At the end of a hard day’s work, the owner told the foreman to arrange the workers according to when they were hired. Beginning with those who worked the most hours, the vineyard owner paid each worker the daily wage. All were paid the same. Those who worked all day grumbled when they saw that the short-day workers were paid the same as they were.
The owner rightly pointed out that no one was being cheated. Every single worker was being paid what he had agreed to. The key verse here is Matthew 20:15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (ESV)
We are so man-centered in our thinking. And that man-centered orientation twists our understanding of EVERYTHING.
I have heard many people accuse God of not being fair. It isn’t fair that God allows some people to live with lots of blessings and excess while other people aren’t even paid a living wage. I haven’t heard as many people decry the ultimate unfairness that some people spending eternal rest in heaven while others spend eternal punishment in hell. That isn’t fair!
No, that isn’t fair…. from our man-centered orientation.
But if God is the owner of the vineyard, if God is the owner of everything, He can do anything He wishes. And being the only perfect being in the universe (or even outside of it!), He gets to call the shots. He gets to determine what is fair and what isn’t. Fallen human beings don’t get to judge the perfect God. Fallen human beings don’t get to make up the rules of how things work and what’s fair and what isn’t.
So, given the fact that God owns it all, given the fact that God is perfect and completely righteous, and given the fact that we are none of those things, the very idea that God would save anyone is simply shocking. That God would stoop to save a single person demonstrates His all-surpassing love, grace, and mercy.
It isn’t fair that God would send His perfect Son to die that even one fallen person would be saved. Not because the person was worth it, but because the offense was so heinous against such a Holy God.
No, it isn’t fair that any be sent to hell. But the more pressing point is that it isn’t fair that God would save anyone. Fair means that every fallen creature that has ever lived spends eternity separated from the Holy Creator.
Trust me: You don’t want God to be FAIR!
You want God to be GRACIOUS!
You want God to be MERCIFUL!
And because God is gracious,
because God is merciful,
He is worthy of all of our praise.
In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.
For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])
If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.
Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!
And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.
If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.
And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.
With today’s Bible reading, we begin reading through the book of Hebrews. No one knows for sure who wrote the book. It could have been Luke, Paul, or some other individual. But it doesn’t bear the marks of any other Biblical writer. One thing is certain, the letter was written to show how Jesus is better than the old covenant and the old way of doing things.
Straight out of the box, the writer says that Jesus was involved in the universe’s creation and He is actively maintaining it today. (Hebrews 1:2-3) Next the writer says that after completing his atoning work, Jesus sat down. The significance of this simple act is revisited in Hebrews 10:11–12, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
What the writer wants us to see is that in contrast to what was going on in Jerusalem when the book was written (which was before AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans), Jesus’ work was completed in one single action. Once Jesus completed His work, there was no need to keep standing. The job was done. It was finished, never to be repeated.
This is the Gospel message. Jesus died for our sins and finished the job. Never again do fallen people have to try to appease God. Never again do fallen people have to worry if they’re good enough. Jesus was good enough so we don’t have to be. Not that we could be anyway! If we could, Jesus wasted His life and death. Wasted.
While religion teaches that we have to work to be good enough, the relationship that God offers through Jesus Christ is more than enough to give us a right standing before Him. All we have to do is believe. Have faith. Trust. While religion says, “Do”, “Do”, “Do”, “Don’t do”, Don’t do”, and “Don’t even think of doing”, Jesus stretches out his nail-scarred hands and declares “DONE!”
Have you trusted Jesus to be your atoning sacrifice for your fallen condition before God?
It’s important for each of us to be open-minded and teachable. There is so much that we don’t know and can learn from other people. However, if you’re too open-minded, you may lose the ability to form coherent thoughts and convictions. It seems that was the case in Athens.
In today’s Bible reading, Dr. Luke tells us that, “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” That’s a problem.
It’s easy to become enamored in “all things new”. But at some point, you have to be concerned with real-world stuff. King Solomon was right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) They were so open-minded that their brains leaked out!
But there is one very good thing that comes out of this: The men of Athens constructed an altar to an unknown god … just in case they overlooked someone. Paul saw the monument and pounced! He used the altar as an inroad to open discussion. It’s important to note that at no point did Paul compromise his message to match the altar. When he began to talk about Jesus’ Resurrection, he had many of them hooked!
Peter encourages his readers to already be ready to give a defense for our hope. (1 Peter 3:15) How easily could you create an object lesson to tell people the Gospel? Maybe it’s not a pagan altar. Maybe it’s a TV show or a movie. It could be just about anything. Anything that might open a door of conversation with an unbeliever. Whatever it is, remember to be true to the Gospel Message. Don’t twist the Bible to fit the conversation.
This can easily turn into a learning opportunity with another believer. Be iron for each other. (Proverbs 27:17) Listen to what they say about how you can improve your presentation. Then listen to them create an object lesson. Critique their presentation.