By Pastor David Goode
The event that split history into "before" and "after" the birth of Christ occurred some 62 years before Paul wrote this epistle (letter) to the Romans.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus took place in a remote corner of the extensive Roman Empire, in the province of Judea in Palestine. Those in the busy and powerful capital city of Rome hardly noticed these remarkable events.
Paul's letter to the Romans was exuberant and passionate, but it had a large amount of competition outside the walls of the church. There was much to read in Rome - imperial decrees, exquisite poetry, finely crafted philosophy - and most of it was world-class.
Nevertheless, in the following two centuries, his letter to the Romans would leave the other writings of Rome in the dust because of its worldwide impact.
Martin Luther read the book of Romans in the early 16th century. His discovery of "salvation by faith in Christ" inspired the Protestant Reformation. He also deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions.
As we read the book of Romans today, we discover that Paul, as inspired by God, skillfully crafted this letter into a premier document of Christian theology.
In this masterpiece, Paul explains many important Christian beliefs. He was a seasoned minister, 20 years deep in the faith. In his letter to the Romans, he shares three important lessons from God's word.
Lesson One: Everyone has sinned and stands in need of God's forgiveness.
Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We inherited our sin nature as descendants of Adam.
Lesson Two: God not only wants to forgive us, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to make forgiveness available to everyone. Paul explains that if we simply have faith in Jesus, God will set us free from our sins."
Romans 3:24 explains that we are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. In Old Testament times, a person's debts could result in his being sold as a slave. His next of kin could redeem him by buying his freedom. Christ redeemed us when He gave His life on the cross.
Lesson Three: After receiving Christ, we should allow Him to live in and through us. Paul urges us to do everything that is good and pleasing to God.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in the view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will."
What is Paul asking us to do when he says, "...offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God"?
Paul is calling us to live a holy life, to follow Christ, and to lay aside our selfish desires daily. He wants us to use our energy and resources to do His work on the earth, as He empowers and guides us.
As we do God's work, He will give us supernatural energy and joy that we cannot get any other way. Once you have tasted this powerful anointing, nothing else will satisfy.
Suddenly you realize that you would not trade the excitement of the superior life in Christ for your selfish desires or anything else. Every day is new, as God unfolds extraordinary supernatural events in your life. Divine appointments are expected daily as God connects you with those you help to fulfill His plans and purposes on the earth.
Paul had this passion for Christ and the kingdom of God. It surged like electricity through Paul's innermost being.
How did this happen?
Trained as a rabbi at the feet of the great Rabban (master teacher) Gamaliel, Paul had a startling divine encounter with Jesus on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus.
We pick up the dramatic story in Acts 9:1. Paul was eager to destroy every Christian. He went to the high priest in Jerusalem and requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, requiring their cooperation in the persecution of any believers in Christ he found there.
He wanted to arrest them and bring them bound in chains to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus, a brilliant flash of light from heaven suddenly dazed him.
As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul (Paul's original name), why do you persecute me?" Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," He replied. "Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
How did this story conclude?
Read it and discover for yourself what happened in Acts 9:1-31. My prayer is that you have caught the same excitement that I have for great Bible stories. I know you will want to share them with family members and have lively discussions about them. This will bring a dynamic to your family time that you will cherish as you continue to grow in your relationship to God.
Pastor David Goode is the senior pastor at Heart of Worship Ministries, which meets on Sundays at 3 p.m. in the arts and crafts room at the Port St. Lucie Community Center, 2195 Airoso Blvd., across from City Hall. Column reviewed by Nance Cox.
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