Today’s Bible reading begins one of my favorite books of the Bible: Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul begins his Magnum Opus Systematic Theology by laying out the gospel message with a description of man’s descent from the time of Creation to his day — and to our day.
Paul says that God’s wrath is already being revealed against ungodliness because mankind has been able to clearly see God’s revealed glory, and yet refused to acknowledge God’s existence. He wrote this around AD 57. And yet, little has changed.
When the Jewish people cried out to the prophet Samuel for a king (1Samuel 8), he warned them that they didn’t need a king, since God was their king. The people said they wanted to be like other nations and to do that, they needed a king. The people kept asking Samuel for a king until he gave them what they asked
In Romans 1, Paul says that God gave the people what they wanted. And the very thing that they wanted became their judgment.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a
lie,and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
They exchanged the truth of God for a
lie,and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
reasonGod delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Romans 1:22–31 (CSB)
Finally, Paul complete his description of God’s judgment against Fallen Mankind:
Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do
them,but even applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:32 (CSB)
Even in my lifetime, I have witnessed this descent played out in society’s
Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Romans 1:27 (The Message)
Here in verse 27, Paul is referring to Isaiah’s warning:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (CSB)
You may not have personally participated in, approved, or encouraged other people to commit the sins that Paul spells out so clearly. But Mankind has. And America has. We, believers, are at least partially to blame for society’s sinful demise. We have not been the salt and light that we are called to be. (Matthew 5:13–16)
Believers, we must confess and repent for our own participation in the sins of our culture. And we must beg for God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy for our nation’s sins. Our only hope of avoiding God’s wrath being poured out on us is to repent and pray. (2Chronicles 7:14)
Pray for God to send a spiritual awakening and revival, unlike anything our nation has ever experienced. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict believers of their own sin, as well as our sin of silence while the world has gone to hell around them. Pray that pastors will faithfully speak God’s Word and disciple new (and old) believers in the faith. And pray that believers will hear God’s invitation to seek Him with all that they are.
If we don’t pray, no one will. Lost people definitely won’t do it!
Prayer is our job!
Jesus uses parables in today’s Bible reading to illustrate stewardship. Normally we think of stewardship as pertaining to money. Stewardship includes the wise use of money, but it isn’t limited to money. God’s people are called to be good stewards with everything we’ve been entrusted.
The foolish virgins weren’t good stewards of their oil; they didn’t have enough to make it through the night. And had the wise virgins shared their oil with the foolish virgins, no one would have had light to last through the night.
The servants in Jesus’ parable were entrusted with the master’s talents. We tend to think of talents as, well, “talents”. But the talents Jesus referred to in His parable was a measure of money. Last year when I preached through Jesus’ parables, I presented the following information so our people could grasp the tremendous amount of wealth that the master had entrusted to his servants.
- 1 danarius = 1 day’s wage
- 1 mina = 3 months’ wages
- 1 talent = 60 minas = 180 months’ wage = 15 years’ wages
- 1 talent = 15 years’ wages
- 2 talents = 30 years’ wages
- 5 talents = 75 years’ wages
Two of the servants were good stewards and made a good return on their master’s investments. However, one of the stewards was foolish in the way that he simply buried his master’s talent in the ground. Though not doubling the original amount like the wise servants, the foolish servant could have taken his master’s talent to the bank and the fifteen years’ wages would have generated interest.
I used to think that it was cruel for the master to take the talent from the foolish servant and give it to the servant who had the ten talents. That is, until I read the parable a little more closely.
Matthew 25:14, 18, 27 highlights the key to understanding why the master was not cruel to take the foolish servant’s talent: It was the master’s talent! At no point in the parable are the talents
If you are like most people, God has entrusted you with a lot: your body, food, housing, vehicle(s), and employment. He has also given you friends, coworkers, family members and extended family members. Granted, He probably hasn’t entrusted multiple years’ wages to you in one lump sum. But still, He has entrusted you with a lot.
So what are you doing with what He has entrusted to you?
Each of us has twenty-four hours each day. Each of us has seven days each week, twelve months each year, etc. How are you investing His time?
How are you stewarding your body, food, housing, vehicles, employment, friends, coworkers, family members, extended family members?
Remember, all of these belong to Him. How can you better steward what belongs to Him?
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (CSB)
Today’s Bible reading includes some familiar words from Jesus:
“So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16 CSB) The context of His comments is the conclusion of a story of vineyard workers who grumbled about their paycheck. Now, there’s another hot topic!
Some of the day-laboring vineyard workers were hired early in the morning. Some were hired three hours later (
At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard prepared to pay their wages by lining up the workers from those most recently hired to those hired at the beginning of the day. Those who worked only a couple of hours were paid a day’s wage. Those who worked three hours were paid a day’s wage. Those who worked six hours were paid a day’s wage. And those who had worked all day long were paid a day’s wage.
Those who were hired early in the day complained that they had been cheated. They slaved throughout the heat of the day. But the people who only worked one hour were paid as much as they were. That isn’t fair, they said.
We tend to describe “fairness” on our terms, especially when we’re the ones who were shortchanged. Based on Matthew’s account, it does seem unfair that all of the workers were paid the same, though they didn’t work the same.
So we need to dig a little further. We find that the key to understanding the last/first, first/last statement can be seen in verses 13-15.
“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’ Matthew 20:13–15 (CSB)
The owner of the vineyard reminded the grumbling workers that it was his vineyard and they had agreed on the wages before the work began. Then, he pointed out that he had upheld his end of the contract. Besides, it was his vineyard! He owned the vineyard and they were merely paid workers.
How do you respond when you feel you have been treated unfairly? If we focus on us, it’s easy to get all bent out of shape. But we gain a better perspective when we back up and get the big picture.
When it comes to our salvation, we bring nothing to the table. We have absolutely nothing of any value to contribute. We owe an insurmountable debt to an infinitely holy God. God owes us nothing. Nothing! We … all of us … deserve eternal punishment from the King of the Universe because of our offense of High Treason.
God is the King in His Kingdom. He calls the shots. He makes the decision. It’s all about Him. It isn’t about us.
God owes you nothing but punishment for your sin.
But in His infinite grace and mercy, He grants forgiveness. He grants a pardon to all who put their trust in Him. Everyone who receives His grace and mercy receives an infinite amount to cover their infinite debt. No one receives more than any other because no one is any more deserving than another.
In Matthew 20, the disciples wanted priority over each other. Sometimes we do the same today. And when we do, we need to remember this chapter and realize that to grumble against God’s goodness demonstrates how much we still need to learn about grace!
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
He has conquered sin and death!
He has made a way for us to be made right with a Holy God.
If you watch movies or TV shows about exorcism or hear people talk about their thoughts regarding spiritual warfare, you might think that there’s always a loud, violent battle and you never know who the winner is going to be.
However, in today’s Bible reading in James 4, spiritual warfare sounds pretty simple. Straight-forward. And not loud and violent.
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 (CSB)
As with other passages, we need to not just “rip and read” this verse without noting its context, otherwise, we’ll miss the point. James has told his readers the root of their warring passions is that their hearts aren’t right and their priorities are wrong. He quotes Proverbs 3:34 (James 4:6) and delivers the two-step simple solution. Then he concludes the chapter talking about yielding our plans to God.
I can’t talk about anyone else, but I know that my approach to spiritual warfare isn’t always this two-step method. I suspect I’m not the only one who tends to either submit to God, but not to resist the devil or
Paul adds that when we’re tempted, God will always provide a way out. You will never be forced to give in to
No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the
temptationhe will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB)
The next time you find yourself facing a temptation — regardless of what you are being tempted to do — take a step back. Ask yourself if you are wholeheartedly submitting to God. If you are, then wholeheartedly resist the devil.
If James is right — and he is — this battle, for this time, is over!