Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes and Outline for Sunday’s Message; 22 June 2014; Romans 1:8-17

Scripture Reading: Romans 1:8-17

You can read it here: NIV

Affirmation of Faith: UMH 888

Hymns:

UMH301  –  Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross

UMH374  –  Standing On the Promises

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The reading that we heard today from the Scroll of Romans has always intrigued me.

This reading opens with Paul stating that the church that he is writing to is in his prayers and thoughts. Nothing earth shattering.

Then he says that he “longs” to spend time with the people that he is writing to, so that they may study the scriptures, pray, and break bread together, and help each other to learn more about God, learn about each other, do some projects together and get inspired and excited for further mission.

Then Paul writes, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome” (verses 14-15). What he says is that he knows that the presence of God is among the people of the church and that is why he wants to spend time with them, whatever their personal background or family of origin.

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Ever since I heard the next paragraph for the first time, I have struggled with it. Verse 16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

I am OK with the first part of the verse, “not ashamed of the Gospel”; what I am struggling with is, “… first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

How can Paul make a claim that the salvation first comes to only one group of people and then is revealed to everyone else? Does God play favorites?

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And then we come to verse 17. Again, I do not have a problem with the first part of the verse that states, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed… .” What stumbles me is, “…a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

And what about the righteousness that is “from first to last?” Do some of us have a predisposition to be more righteous than others? All of us know that no matter how much faith we have, unless we get out of bed in the morning and go to work, we will not be able to meet even the basic necessities of life.

{Illustration}

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Today we will start a series of sermons during which we will look at different persons in the Bible, look at their humanness and also at their commitment to God and how their commitment gave them strength to serve God and to influence those around them.

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Let’s reread what Paul wrote through that lens (humanness and commitment).… I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes … . For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Paul is saying that he takes great pride in the Good News that he was trusted to deliver. He is saying that he has great confidence in the forgiveness of God, redemption in Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In that respect we are not all that different. Who among us would not say that we take great pride in the Good News of Jesus Christ? Who among us would hesitate to express their confidence in the forgiveness of God, redemption in Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

The difference between Paul and all of us is that although we may feel confident in the forgiveness of God, redemption in Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are not often glad, excited, or even prepared to back out faith with evangelism and outreach, to stare our faith with others. There is a reason for it. As Christians we have a hard time recognizing God’s presence and blessings in our lives. How many of us love the Gospel in our hearts, but are afraid to admit our love out loud or in our actions. That is the effect of the culture in which we live.

That brings me to the topic of commitment. The difference between someone like Paul, and someone like you and I, could be summarized in one word – commitment. Or more precisely, the level of commitment.

{Illustration}

 

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Commitment is a state of being bound emotionally and intellectually to a cause, to a course of action, or to another person or group of persons. Commitment is an attitude of diligence and hard work to support something that we hold dear and believe is important, in order to pass it into the future. Commitment is something that develops over time.

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The psalmist said it best in Psalm 51:10-12:

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

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In his letter to Hebrews (Hebrews 11:1, 6), Paul explained how faith and commitment to God relate to our own spiritual and emotional wellbeing,

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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And that brings me to the last point that I want to make in today’s message. In the beginning of the message I shared with all of you that verse 16 of today’s reading (Romans 8:16), the part where Paul wrote that God brings salvation “first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” has been a stumbling block for me. As I started preparing for this series and thinking about commitment I understood (at least I think I understood) what Paul is talking about.

In order for us to understand something, we have to be willing to receive new information and to be able to process it. During Paul’s life, the Jews had a lot of experience with God. They already had over two thousand years of tradition and experience to reason and debate God’s leading on their lives individually and as a quasi-nation. That is why, when God came to this earth in the person of Jesus, he came to the Jews, and that is why the first disciples that were called {}{} were Jews. The Jews were sent to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. The Jews as a group were trusted to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world.

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Just like the Jews who lived with neighbors that did not share their views or understanding of who God is {EXPLAIN}, we live in a world that has some understanding of God, but it is not rooted in the Holy Scriptures {EXPLAIN}. By and large, it is rooted in Hollywood and popular culture. Although art is a lie that tells us something about the truth, it is still a lie.

After the first Pentecost, God sent the Jews on a mission to spread the word. Today we are in an annual season of Pentecost of the church calendar cycle and God is sending us. And we may not be much, but we are here. All of us have our assorted shticks, weaknesses and limitations and we have faith. In the upcoming series, we will look at how different persons in the Bible were able to overcome their limitations and find way to stay faithful to God.

My hope is that we find inspiration and guidance on how to be the church in the lives of these men and women and that we figure out how to meet the world outside these walls so that we can make disciples to the glory of God.

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