Tuesday, May 02, 2006

April 30, 2006

Romans 1:1 – 7

Wayne Harbor from Bedford IA challenged “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” for 26 years at least once a day to disprove Ripley. When Ripley found out, he asked for proof. Mr. Harbor sent him 100 scrap books with letters, weighing 773 pounds. None of Ripley’s claims were proven wrong.

Imagine having a track record like that? Well the Bible has one even better, stronger, with more proof. Paul begins the book of Romans with his “proofs.” Paul begins with who he is and why he is doing and saying what he is about to teach us. Paul continues with Jesus and the reasons for faith. Paul is even going to describe the Romans.

We are starting an adventure that will challenge us to the very core of what we think we believe in contrast to our culture and in light of the truth of Scripture.

I. What animates Paul?

A. Paul sees himself as a “servant.” [v 1]

1. “Servant” literally means “slave.” There is an illustration of this from the Old Testament.

"But if the servant declares, `I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' [6] then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. [Exodus 21:5 – 6]

a. As a servant, Paul acted in another’s interests, not his own.

b. As a servant, Paul spoke the message given to him, not his own ideas.

***** One reason the world and some people inside the church no longer take the message seriously is because they don’t believe the messenger is under orders or serving the King of Kings. *****

2. Jesus set the example of being a “servant leader.”

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; [4] so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. [5] After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. [John 13:5]

The greatest among you will be your servant. [Matthew 23:11]

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." [Mark 9:35]

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. [25] Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. [26] But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. [27] For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. [Luke 22:24 – 27]

B. Paul sees himself as “called.” [v 1]

1. Paul understood that God had chosen him to do something specific.

a. It was not Paul’s choice. No true minister of God has ever chosen be one.

b. It was Paul’s choice to be obedient, available, and willing.

2. Paul understood himself to be a “sent one” (the literal meaning of “apostle”).

a. Paul was on a mission, with appropriate authority and power to accomplish the mission.

b. Paul understood that he was “set apart” from everything else to focus on one thing: “for the gospel of God.”

***** Another reason the world and some people inside the church no longer take the message seriously is because they don’t believe the messenger is “called” into the service of the King of Kings. Even many messengers do not believe in the “call.” *****

II. What is the appeal of the Gospel?

A. The Gospel (‘good news’) is about Jesus.

1. God kept His promise in Jesus. [“promised beforehand” v 2]

2. Unique to world religions is the historical precedent set by prophecy in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

3. “According to Scripture” has become both a means of speaking truth and referring to prophecy.

***** It seems that some would like to reduce the Bible to human-made words equal with all other human words. The problem with this reasoning is that it does not account for how the various writers of the Bible knew and described in great detail future events. It could not have come out of the human imagination or evolution in religious belief. The only explanation is the existence of God who revealed future events to the writers. If God also revealed events to the writers then God also revealed the various aspects of the message and it’s meaning. *****

B. The focus is on Jesus.

1. Jesus is fully human (not “half” human) [v 3]

2. Jesus is fully God [v 4]

3. The critical issue is Jesus resurrection [v 4].

***** Many of our problems trace back to our understanding or mental picture of God. For instance, if we believe that God knows everything then we won’t try to hide stuff from Him. If we believe that God is all powerful, then we will act like God will actually do something. If we believe that God is holy, then we will have an “obedience that comes from faith.” [v 5] Maybe we really do not believe. *****

C. The fact is “grace.”

1. Grace is God’s desire for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is the “divine want-to.”

a. You do not have to be “good enough.” Nobody is.

b. You do not have to work hard for God’s favor because it’s already yours.

c. You do not have to jump through hoops to get it or keep it. Jesus already jumped through those hoops for you.

2. It is terrifying to realize you are helpless and have no choice but to depend on someone else.

a. Someone has said, “Fearless are those who are helpless.” Possibly so fearless that we would dare approach the almighty, infinitely holy God in desperation for salvation.

b. Recognizing that we are damaged by sin gives hope because we see the need for someone to heal that damage. This causes us to turn to the only one who can heal our sin sick hearts and lives.

***** It is humbling to be absolutely dependent on someone else. Which keeps many people from the joy’s of the abundant and full life Jesus offers now, and eternal life. *****

III. What is the anticipation for the believer?

A. We are “loved by God.” [v 7]

1. God’s love is unconditional... undeserved, etc.

2. God’s love is ultimate commitment.

B. We are called to be “saints.” [v 7]

1. The word “saints” is ALWAYS plural, never singular. Being holy is a GROUP effort not an individual effort. Being holy never happens in isolation.

2. Traditionally “sainthood” is defined in terms of service

IV. So what?

A. History demonstrates the importance of understanding Romans.

1. Augustine (4th century theologian and “church father”) was converted while reading Romans.

2. Marin Luther (1500's) read “justified by faith” and took it to mean “alone.” Thus, began the Reformation.

3. On May 24, 1738 a discouraged missionary went to a religious meeting where Luther’s comments on this passage was being read. Later he wrote in his journal, “About a quarter before nine, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was give me that He had taken away sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” That missionary was John Wesley.

B. Today, we can study the same words and come to the same understanding.

1. Maybe someone today needs to be saved.

2. Maybe someone today needs to give up their hope in everything else and trust Jesus.

3. Maybe someone today needs to have their heart of stone exchanged for a heart of flesh. And know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Jesus has taken away their sins.

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