Week 22, Day 2
May 31, 2022
Scripture: Romans 11
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, TNIV)
Paul is encouraging persistence in faith. There are those who have fallen away, whether they were Gentiles or Israel. Paul challenges followers to not harden their hearts towards God. Rather, it is a call to remain steadfast and true. We do not understand God’s ways. This much is clear. That misunderstanding, or ignorance of God does not bring us discouragement, but a point of hope. God will sort this all out. Remain steadfast in your hope, in the salvation of Jesus. God is faithful and good.
I may not understand God, but what I do know of him is that he is steadfast and true. So I will seek him in this way.
Week 22, Day 1
May 30, 2022
Scripture: Romans 10
“As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” (Romans 10:11–13)
God’s special purpose of Israel was to use them to reveal himself to all the world. This special purpose finds it culmination in the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. God reveals himself to the people of Israel. Through Israel, he reveals himself to the world.
It is God’s heart that all people would be saved. God’s heart breaks that there are some among Israel who have rejected him. Those who have heard directly from him and yet, don’t turn to him through Jesus.
Paul’s heart breaks as well. But in dealing with this issue in the church, he seeks to unify a people together. He encourages us to know that all who all call on the Lord are saved. Everyone has a place in the family of God.
The appropriate response today is still to call on the name of the Lord. Call upon Jesus for salvation. God will sort through who is saved, who isn’t. His heart is turned towards us still today. Draw near to him as he draws near to you. Join the family of God.
Week 21, Day 5
May 27, 2022
Scripture: Romans 9
It is difficult to write a devotion on Romans 9. Paul is developing an argument, and there isn’t yet an answer to the troubles that he is presenting. So a brief summary of the argument, and maybe a bit of hope will do sufficiently.
Paul is deeply concerned over Israel. He has spoken of the hope that is now for everyone, bringing in the Gentiles to be a part of the Promise given to Abraham. They come to God, through his incredible mercy.
But Israel has failed. The ones who carried the Promise with them, have missed what is right in front of them. They missed Jesus. And they have continued down a path that is based on the law, and they have stumbled over it.
Paul will point to a way forward for them, and an ultimate hope.
That hope is God’s mercy. He will have mercy on whom he has mercy.
For some this is a cause of great fear. But the Bible has taught me over nad over again that God’s mercy is something I can lean on, with comfort and peace.
God’s mercy is there for you too. Trust in Him.
Love ya, catch you next week.
Week 21, Day 4
May 26, 2022
Scripture: Romans 8
The Kingdom of Darkness gained ground this week.
The church failed. To read of the Southern Baptist Church independent investigation, there were considerable ethical failures that harmed many throughout the denomination. Locally, there was the horrifying revelation of a deeply rooted sin that wreaks havoc now in a faith community.
The Kingdom of Darkness advanced on our public schools this week. We are horrified at the news of children and teachers being killed in Texas. Such terrible violence causes great fear in each of our lives.
A cloud of darkness, death, destruction hangs over our nation…over our community.
Facing horrifying violence, life is hopeless. The Kingdom of darkness advances taking both ground and life.
That’s how it feels.
Thank goodness for Romans 8.
Paul teaches us that that all of creation is groaning for justice. All of creation groans on behalf of the broken and suffering. Paul teaches us that the creation groans, we groan, and the Spirit of God groans as well. All of us, all of creation, Spirit of God included groan for the suffering to end. For the senseless violence, wickedness and evil to come to end! We are all crying out to God for justice, for his righteousness. Lord! Come!
What do we do in the face of evil?
What do we do when the kingdom of darkness seems to advance and take ground?
We patiently hope.
This is our hope:
“As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:36–39)
No matter how much ground is gained by the kingdom of darkness, nothing will overcome or overthrow Jesus Christ, and his rightful reign over heaven and earth.
Nothing will separate us from his love.
Take comfort in knowing today that while darkness advances, the victory of Christ is greater. We are all conquerors through him.
His love is greater.
God’s love is greater than the darkness. Nothing will separate us from His Love. Hold on to him, hope in him!
Week 21, Day 3
May 25, 2022
Scripture: Romans 7
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6)
We serve by way of the Spirit. We live by the Spirit. The old way is death, and the new way is life, through the Spirit of Christ. The law revealed our sin. The Spirit reveals forgiveness and life.
Paul then opens up about his own struggles with sin. “I don’t always do the good I ought to.” We can relate with Paul, can’t we? There is a lot of good we intend, and only evil comes.
This connection with Paul leads us to say, “See, Paul is just like me, he struggled with sin.” We quickly relate that he has sin. But I would like to emphasize that he “struggled.” As in, there was a desire to leave sin behind. He hated his sin. There was good for him to do, and it grieved him that he didn’t. He hated the sinful death that was working within his heart and life.
Love and embrace the new life you have in the Spirit of God. Hate evil, turn from sin, and walk in newness of life. When we say we “struggle” with sin, remind yourself that this is a good thing. Keep struggling.
May we all struggle with our sins. It’s when we stop struggling and just turn towards accepting that there’s a lack of repentance problem. Turn from sin, wrestle with and struggle with it. Seek first Christ, His righteousness and kingdom.
Week 21, Day 1 and 2
May 23-24, 2022
Scripture: Romans 5-6
The Greatest Gift
“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15)
How great is the sin in the world?
It’s overwhelming to think about, isn’t it? It is heart wrenching to consider all the pain, suffering, wars, greed, brokenness that has come because of sin. News is filled with the consequences of sin. But so are our families, so are our communities, and the places we work. The far-reaching consequence of sin works its way through, our hearts, our lives, our world.
The reach of sin knows no bounds, and destroys everything.
“But the gift is NOT like the trespass.” Paul draws on the sin of Adam, for which we can blame everything.
Paul begins a comparison. Consider the consequences of sin.
Now consider the power of Christ, and this wonderful phrase, “How much more!”
“How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
Consider now, the weight of sin, of all the pain, and all the war and all the greed. Now consider the light of grace. God’s grace is more. Where sin is great, God’s mercy, forgiveness, kindness in Jesus Christ is Greater.
Where sin is breaking, Grace is healing.
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17, TNIV)
This does not mean that we keep on sinning. We don’t go down the path of sin so that the power of Grace can stay on display. It will do that naturally, but we don’t encourage it! We live a new life in Christ. We enter into a death like Christ, and we trust that he will raise us from the grave. This is what is anticipated, celebrated, embraced, and even participated in with our own baptisms. It’s not just an outward expression. It is a joining with Jesus, entering into a new life filled with the Spirit of God.
This new life is shaped by baptism.
“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:10–14)
Offer yourself to God.
Consider the weight of sin. Consider the light of his grace.
How Great is God’s Grace?
Week 20, Days 4 & 5
May 19 & 20
Scripture: Romans 3 & 4
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22–26)
““Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”” (Romans 4:7–8)
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
It can be difficult to work through all of Paul’s teaching in Romans. As can be seen by the vast volumes of commentary and criticisms of the book over the years. There are millions of pages written about these 16 chapters of the Bible.
Rather than a meticulous and scrupulous reading of Romans, I’d rather take a 30,000 ft view of it. What is it that I see when I look over this text?
I think he is saying, we are blessed.
Could it be that simple?
I am blessed that my sins are forgiven. I don’t deserve it, but I am! Because of Jesus.
Maybe to satisfy those who want it more complicated, Paul is saying, “We are all blessed by God through the faith of Jesus.”
We are blessed because he lives. We can live a new life.
We are blessed because of His Grace.
We are blessed because of his sacrifice.
We are blessed because of his mercy.
We are blessed.
Every one of us, blessed, blessed blessed!
You don’t earn it, you don’t deserve it – you are blessed because all have sinned, and now all can be saved.
Everyone is blessed by Jesus.
That’s his argument.
Of course, you can choose to live in that blessing, or not.
You can choose to let the news reach your head, ears, heart and life, or ignore it.
You can accept it in faith, or reject it.
To know Christ and embrace the blessing is to have faith in Him.
Choose the blessing freely given us through Christ, today!
““Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”” (Romans 4:7–8)
Week 20, Day 3
May 18, 2022
Scripture: Romans 2
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
When I read Romans 2:4 today, God pressed the older brother in the Prodigal Son story on my heart. You are familiar with the Parable in Luke 15 of the lost son who is fond. There’ a great banquet thrown for the return of the son who wished his father to die, and took his inheritance and squandered it away. The lost son repents and returns home, to a father with open arms. He throws a great party for his son who was lost and has come home. Meanwhile, the older brother, who never left, who continued dutifully following the father, is unwilling to party and filled with contempt.
I imagine God saying to him, ““Why do you show contempt for the riches of my kindness towards your brother? My forbearance and patience is for all that are far off. Do you not realizing that my kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 with modification)
The intention of God’s kindness is to lead people to repentance. While the older brother demanded justice and wrath, the father was throwing a party.
I don’t know what to make of this connection just yet. But I suspect it is the Spirit talking to me about my own vengeance and wrathful judgment of others that shows contempt towards the gracious kindness of God.
The only real antidote for that is within this chapter. Realizing that I’m a sinner, deserving of wrath. I don’t stand aside from the party, full of contempt. I realize I’m the lost son, who has been redeemed.
You are too.
So our response is simply gratitude, and a change of heart. God saves.
Let us not show contempt for the kindness of God – but Joy! Joy like there is in heaven over one lost person who is found.
Week 20, Day 2
May 17, 2022
Scripture: Romans 1
“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. 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.”” (Romans 1:16–17)
Are you ashamed of the Gospel?
I’m going to go ahead and assume that the answer to that question is a firm, “no.” You are not ashamed of the gospel. You are proud of Christ and his accomplishment on the cross and the grace. He truly is the gift of salvation for us all.
I am realizing, the older I get, that there are aspects in my life where I am “ashamed” of the gospel. What I mean by that is, I can sometimes falter in my belief in the full capacity of the saving grace of God. I limit it. Am I well-behaved enough for Jesus’ to save me? Are others worthy of being saved? Have they done enough? I condemn myself and others. And in this, I think there is some shame on the gospel, on my part. I don’t believe it to be as far-reaching as Paul claims here.
Somehow, we’ve taken up Romans and we’ve turned it towards a list of requirements for salvation when what Paul is arguing is simply this: “It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
Do you trust Jesus? Do you believe in Him?
The rest of our lives is exploring what It means to believe in Jesus and grow in the Gospel.
I say it today as a reminder of my own call to a holy life, and trust in God. “I am not ashamed of this good news that announces that God saves through the far-reaching love of Jesus Christ.”
I am not ashamed of this gospel that redeems the likes of you and me.
Week 19, Day 5 & Week 20, Day 1
May 16, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 27-28
Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead on the third day.
Let us not let this phrase and story become too familiar to us, that we ignore the earth-shattering event for what it is; the death defeating victory over all sin and all death.
Let’s today, simply live in deep and sincere appreciation for the forgiveness and new life we have in Jesus Christ.
Jesus lives and reigns today. The Kingdom has come and will come in him. New life is ours today, through this monumental event. Embrace the new life in Christ today!
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.