Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gifts to Build With

1 Corinthians 12:6 (NLT)
God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

- Most important point to remember - Who it is that is at work.

1 Corinthians 12:28 (NLT)
Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: ...

- This list is not meant to be comprehensive. Basically, I'd say each person's spiritual gifts are the things they most love doing, when done in service, building up the body of Christ. This might manifest as sweeping floors, or driving a truck or baking cookies. The gifts are gifts from the spirit, but are not limited to "spiritual" or "religious" activities.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

- Hang onto your hats! Paul is winding up to deliver one of the most beautiful and profoundly meaningful statements ever written about following Christ and what is involved.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chapter/Verse markings were added...

- I see that the New Living Translation editors view the opening line of this chapter as part ot the conclusion of the previous topic. The New American Standard Version places this first line into the context of the upcoming discussion.

- This serves as a reminder that the original manuscripts do not contain chapter and verse designators, or topical headings. These are elements added by editors but Chapter/Verse citations have become standardized.

1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.

Instructions for Public Worship

2 I am so glad that you always keep me in your thoughts, ...


Christian Order

1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you because you remember me ...

- This section about head coverings is generally viewed as a discussion around cultural conventions of that time and place, as today few Christians give it much regard. During the sixties, when long hair for men was in vogue, verse 14 got a lot of attention :

1 Corinthians 11:14 (NLT)
Isn't it obvious that it's disgraceful for a man to have long hair?

- I remember someone responding to this with the statement that Jesus himself had long hair - at least according to the popular art of the day, which I think was itself a cultural anachronism from the Renaissance Era. Most current depictions accentuate Jesus' Jewishness, with a more moderate hair "do."

This section of the bible is also used to justify keeping men in the top pastoral and administrative roles. Which raises the question, why is that part valid if the rest of it is taken as a culurally-specific discussion?

The statement about woman first coming from a man, and that this should therefor be the persistant model throughout history, loses steam in my thinking, when we get into Paul's own words elsewhere contrasting how the first man, Adam, was "of the earth" and brought sin and destruction, while the "second man" from above, Jesus Christ, brought grace and salvation... (paraphrasing from memory - if anyone knows the chapter/verse citation off hand, please feel free to add it in the comments.)

1 Corinthians 11:16 (NLT)
But if anyone wants to argue about this, I simply say that we have no other custom...

- Significantly, Paul's himself calls this a custom... One that has changed (albeit slowly) as the church has spread beyond middle eastern cultural times and settings.

1 Corinthians 11:19 (NLT)
But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God's approval will be recognized!

- Whew! Paul is not above using a little sarcasm. The general tone of this letter indicates that the Corinthian church was working through some "issues." Again I find this a little comforting to realize that our fractious human nature has always been troblesome to church-life, so I need not be overly-upset when I see churches still struggling along today. If anything, it should remind me that when anything good spring forth from church life (and much does!!), it is always attributable to God's presence and power.

Monday, March 28, 2011

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (NLT)
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. [32] Don't give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. [33] I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

- Although this advice was given within a particular context of time and place, Paul's summation is valid still today for people living in community.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

1 Corinthians 9:20 (NLT)
When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.

1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)
When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

- Whether Paul was "keeping Kosher" with Jews or living as a Gentile amongst non-Jews, he was always obedient to what he calls "the law of Christ." This he refers to elsewhere as "the law of love," for love fulfills the intention of the law.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NLT)
... while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn't really know very much. [3] But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

- important thought to the life of the church!

1 Corinthians 8:6-7 (NLT)
But we know that there is only one God, ... there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ... [7] However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.

- Paul is being very patient and gentle here in his approach towards new believers who are coming from backgrounds other than Judaism.

1 Corinthians 8:11,13 (NLT)
So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. ... [13] ?.. I don't want to cause another believer to stumble.

- It's interesting that Paul speaks strongly and directly against believers who try to impose religious loads on believers on one hand, or abuse the grace of God on the other, (as we've seen previously), but here in the context of new, immature believers, he is so gentle and protective.

This all seems so much like shepherding, one minute beating back the enemies of the flock and the next gently tending to the lambs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1 Corinthians 7:26 (NLT)
Because of the present crisis, I think it is best to remain as you are. ... (28) those who get married at this time will have troubles, and I am trying to spare you those problems.

1 Corinthians 7:29 (NLT)
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. ...

1 Corinthians 7:31 (NLT)
Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

- Paul is not against marriage, but I think he seems to sense that huge changes are near at hand. Whether he is specifically referring to the immenant return of Christ, or to political upheavals and the pursecutions of Christians by emperor Nero or perhaps both, isn't clear.

Monday, March 21, 2011

1 Corinthians 6:4 (NLT)
If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church?
1 Corinthians 6:6 (NLT)
But instead, one believer sues another-right in front of unbelievers!

- This is another statement that shows that the oft-idealized image of the "saintly" First Century church is inaccurate. Even today various Christian groups or denominations will sue one another in court, producing much a lot of media attention.

1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
You say, "I am allowed to do anything"-but not everything is good for you. And even though "I am allowed to do anything," I must not become a slave to anything.

- Apparently some were twisting the gospel of grace into a licence for indulging themselves in spiritually unhealthy behaviour. Paul confronts this just as boldly as he does other abuses of God's love.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, [20] for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

- If there were ever a positive motivation for taking care of our health, eating and exercising wisely and living a physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy life, there it is.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NLT)
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. [10] But I wasn't talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.

- An ironic mistake many Christians have made is to separate themselves from the population around, becoming what someone once called "a holy huddle." This is not what Paul is teaching at all, nor is it how Jesus lived among us.

[11] I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.

- I notice Paul says "indulges." He seems to be referring to habitual behavior, not to those who struggle, fail and try again to break free from various problems that once ensnared them.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

1 Corinthians 4:10-13 (NLT)
Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. [11] Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don't have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. [12] We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. [13] We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash-right up to the present moment.

- This is a sobering passage. It reveals how little some things about the church have changed in two thousand years. Today we still see some very humble Christlike people faithfully serving God, often laboring quietly away in missions of one sort or another or some small local church - perhaps in a foreign land or maybe right downtown, demonstrating Jesus' love by serving the needy, hurting and confused people of the world.

In contrast we also see many who are considered movers and shakers in the church and in the world, who live high on the hog, make grand pronouncements "from on high" about how others should live, and generally wrap themselves in the finest that this life has to offer. They talk about how all their wealth is a blessing, justfying their own greed and self-interest, and if they were to read this assessment, they would think it refers to someone else.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2011

What we take with us

1 Corinthians 3:15 (NLT)
... The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

- I like the imagery used here to describe how, in the end, only that which is of true value, that which is really founded on Jesus Chirst, will survive.

Someone I knew was dying from Lou Gherig's disease, so he had lots of time to think about what he was facing. One day he remarked, "When we die we don't take anything with us."

A close friend rebutted, "Yes, we do. We do take one very important thing with us."

"What is that?" he asked.

"Our character."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1 Corinthians 2:1,3-4 (NLT)
When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn't use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God's secret plan.... [3] I came to you in weakness-timid and trembling. [4] And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.

- Paul would not have much of a career as a tele-evangelist if he were alive today!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Romans 16:1-3 (NLT)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon...
Give my greetings to Priscilla ...Greet... Junia, ... highly respected among the apostles ...

- Paul's commendations of these three prominent women challenges the vestiges of the patriarchal thinking that still grips many churches two thousand years later.

Romans 16:20 (NLT)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

- I love this little gem of a word picture. It hearkens right back to Genesis where God warns the serpent:

Genesis 3:15 (NLT)
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."

- it reminds us that the church is the very body (and foot) of Christ by which Satan will be ultimately crushed.

Romans 16:25-27 (NLT)
Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. [26] But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. [27] All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Romans 15:5-6 (NLT)
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. [6] Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

- A lofty goal for any group of believers.

Romans 15:31 (NLT)
Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.

- Reading between the lines, we can see that there is some tension among and surrounding believers in Jerusalem. In light of Paul's explanations in this chapter, it looks like it is related to the larger question of Paul's preaching and teaching among the non-Jews (Gentiles).

We know already from reading Acts that this was the issue that led to Paul's troubles in Jerusalem, and his voyage to Rome under different circumstances than he was hoping for.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Romans 14:1 (NLT)
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don't argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

- Obedience to Paul's admonitions in this chapter would make our churches much more peacful... We still struggle with issues like this today. We might sustitute worship music and prayer styles, or baptism rites, or frequency of communion traditions, for the specific issues he mentions, but the arguments go on.

Romans 14:19 (NLT)
So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Romans 13:1 (NLT)
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

- The concept that authority itself, as a concept, originates in god, is something we need to be aware of. Rebellion against authority is very possibly related to rebellion against God.

In this context, remember when God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, he did not do it by leading a rebellion, but rather he had Moses obtain Pharaoh's permission to leave.

Romans 13:9-10 (NLT)
For the commandments say, "You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet." These-and other such commandments-are summed up in this one commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God's law.

- Paul continues his explanation of how the Sinaiatic covenent based on the ten commandments, has been superceded by the greater Law of Love.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think...

- I'm currently reading 'Myth of a Christian Religion' by Greg Boyd. He has a lot to say about this, describing how much of modern Christendom reflects the image of decadent, self-centered, politically savvy, power-hungry, western culture more than Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:3,7 (NLT)
... Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us....

- One of the most interesting and eye-opening articles I once read was entitled: "Have You Repented of Your Virtues?"

Author Michael Feazel was making the point that we all have a natural human tendency to give ourselves credit for our good traits, and then expect this makes us right with God. He basically points out that Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.

One question he asked stays with me: "What makes us think that we can become perfect in this life, and therefor no longer need God's forgiveness?"

This made me realize that our lives are about the journey - the process. God has the Goal securely in hand.

Romans 12:6 (NLT)
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.

- I like how faith is given by Paul as the key factor, and how it relates back to the verse I quoted above - about how we should measure ourselves by faith.

Paul encourages givers to give generously, but if we actually give so much that we begin to have doubts and grow uneasy about it, then perhaps that is because our giving is now exceeding our faith. Paul's instruction would indicate that rather than giving less we might instead address why our faith is so limited.

I think this principle applies to all these gifts he mentions.

The rest of this chapter contains many inspiring and challenging admonitions for living our lives "in Christ," as his body (relating back to the opening admonition to give our bodies as a living sacrifice.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Romans 11:11-12 (NLT)
Did God's people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! ...
Romans 11:29,32 (NLT)
For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

- This long discourse has been explaining the mystery of why some within Israel were responding to Paul's message, while others were very hostile. And meanwhile the "outsiders" - the Gentiles, were responding.

This made no sense to a mind steeped in Jewish faith and teaching, if they clung to rightness with God based on a contractual, performance-based approach.

But to anyone, Jew or Outsider, who 'got' the concept of being made right with God by faith in God's love and his desire to save us, the Message was being received with great joy.

To say (from this passage) that some are predestined by God for destruction, leaves out Paul's conclusions about the ongoing call of God and other verses in the bible about God's intent that not one of his children be lost.

Romans 11:34-35 (NLT)
For who can know the Lord's thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? [35] And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

- A final reminder of the correct perspective in all things theological.

Romans 11:36 (NLT)
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Romans 9:2-3 (NLT)
My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief [3] for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters....

- Paul starts on a new track here... But perhaps the previous passage about how nothing can separate us from Christ's love has set the scene for this upcoming discussion of his struggles with his fellow Jews.

Romans 9:8-10 (NLT)
This means that Abraham's physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham's children. [9] For God had promised, "I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." [10] This son was our ancestor Isaac. ...

- I hadn't realized this fully before, that even as physical descendants of Abraham, only the branch of Isaac are considered by Psul as heirs of God's promises to Abraham...

Romans 9:14 (NLT)
Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not!

- It looks like Paul is working out an explanation as to why some people respond positively to his message of the Good News of Jesus Christ, while others vehemently oppose it. To set the scene Paul goes right back to the origins of the nation of Israel - which of course is derived from Jacob (renamed Israel) - who was only one of Abraham's descendants.

His theme seems to be that all along God chooses certain people for his own reasons -not for their good or bad works, as just stated in the previous verses:

Romans 9:11-12 (NLT)
... (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; [12] he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.)

Romans 9:16 (NLT)
So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

- This seems now to confront beliefs about predestination, vs. freedom of choice...

I'll stop here for today as I want to look at these next passages carefully, especially in light of Open Future theology I've recently been studying.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mining For Gold...

- This eighth chapter of Romans is like a goldmine where we discover some precious realizations of our life with Jesus. For example:

1) Romans 8:26 (NLT)
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

- We all feel helpless to even know what to pray for in the face of some of the complex problems in life, yet just the longing within us for an answer becomes the prayer uniting us with God's desires.

2) Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

- We can take heart that God will bring goodness out of any circumstance, no matter how dark it might seem to us, if we will love him and allow him to guide our hearts.

3) Romans 8:31 (NLT)
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Romans 8:35 (NLT)
Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
Romans 8:37 (NLT)
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Romans 8:38 (NLT)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

Romans 8:39 (NLT)
No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- Christ has our lives in his hands, so no matter what we face in this life, we need not worry. We can face life and all its complexities, fears and trials, knowing that our destiny is secure.

This should give us a deep, quite confidence, in full humility, understanding that it is all God's doing, not our own "merit" that secures us.

BTW... These things are all well and good to know as head-knowledge. However, allowing them to penetrate my being, so I can face life with a calm heart, is a lifelong journey of ever-increasing faith.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Birth Pains

Romans 8:18-22 (NLT)
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. [19] For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. [20] Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, [21] the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. [22] For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

- I look to this passage for hope some days when I regard the state of the world and the distress and violence that the animal kingdom - and all of nature - is currently suffering.

The prophet Isaiah (especially) describes a future world where violence on all levels has been vanquished and animals and all of nature becomes deeply peaceful. This section of Paul's writing makes the connection between that liberation, and the liberation of human beings from the evil, violence, and unrest within us.

Romans 8:23 (NLT)
And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Humorous Numbers of the Beast

I just hope The Beast has a sense of humor or someone's gonna get a beating!

Romans 8:1 (NLT)
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

- this is one of the most hopeful and joyful statements in the entire bible. It is possibly one of the most misunderstood. I now see this as closely related to the story of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. (John...something). The "righteous ones" want her stoned to death, but Jesus instead shows them their own condition (similar to hers, all sinners) then says to her: "neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin."

In Jesus Christ we see the God of undeserved grace, who above all else loves us unconditionally. And when we stumble and fall like little children, he picks us up, brushes the dirt off, mends our skinned knees, comforts us, and then sends us out again with a word of encouragement. Keep trying, keep growing. See what you will become in me.

Gone is any need for penitence. No horse-hair shirts. No beating ourselves up. No need to go up the long marble steps of St. Joseph's Oratory* on our knees striving to earn forgiveness.

We are forgiven. Have been forgiven - before our sin was even conceived of (somewhere we are told that Jesus' sacrifice occurred before the founding of the world). So we are not to waste a moment of time worrying about whether or not God can ever forgive us. He has.Our mistakes are no longer "fatal," but just steps towards our ultimate fulfillment.

Instead, we can immediately get on with repentance apart from penitence. We can make amends and seek reconciliation with any people we have wronged, offering apology where required. We may even make amends and pay the consequences of our mistakes. But this is done in true humility, as an act of gratitude to God who has already forgiven us and made amends spiritually through his own generosity and compassion.

And so we are free to set out again with a clear conscience, hoping to not stumble and fall over the same mistake, but moving forward and onward. All while knowing we are always and forever forgiven.

Earlier Paul dealt with some objections some people were raising against his explanation of God's salvation by grace. Throughout his writings we see him dealing with this fear that people would take advantage of God's grace and use it as an excuse to go on sinning, "that grace may abound."

I guess the best summation I've seen of these arguments is that if anyone takes God's graciousness for granted and uses it as an excuse to sin, then they never "got it" in the first place. They are still "dead in their sins," because they have not truly accepted the Gift.

*St. Josephs Oratory is a shrine in Montreal where people can often be seen doing penitence by climbing the long marble steps on their knees, praying for forgiveness. Apparently if your sin is really bad, you do this with a small bag of hard, uncooked peas under each knee. Ouch!

This attempt to pay off our debts before God by punishing ourselves contains the hidden message that somehow Christ's sacrifice was not enough. That somehow, apart from Christ's sacrifice we can or must save ourselves. This attitude is Christless religion at work.

It's the very thing from which Jesus sets us free, as Paul continues to explain in this chapter and all of Romans.

Romans 8:4 (NLT)
He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Romans 8:16 (NLT)
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Romans 7:4 (NLT)
So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.

- I think what Paul is trying to get at in this section is how Jesus' followers are now free of the contractual obligations of the Sinaiatic Covenant as a basis for relationship with YHWH.

At the same time I think he is trying to show why the law is not to be despised. As I see it he is making two points:

1) The law as expressed in the Sinaiatic Covenant revealed what sin is and revealed the inability of a human being to live a legalistically perfect life. The world of relationships and behavior is just not that cut-and-dried.

2) This old covenant with the 10 commandments at the heart, points to a higher expression which is sometimes called the law of love. It is discerned in the way the first 4 commands express love of God and the last 6 describe love of neighbor. The origin from which these commandments arise is the statement that "God is love."

Thus for a Christ follower, the challenge is never about keeping a list of rules, but rather how to live as an expression of Christ's love within us and through us to all others.

Paul refers to this as the Spirit of the law being our goal now rather than the letter of the law.

Romans 7:15 (NLT)
I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.

- Now Paul turns to that age-old conundrum. How is it that we can agree whole-heartedly that we want to live a certain way, yet in our attitudes and deeds we do not! This is a case of the old adage that 'knowing is only half the battle.'

This is a struggle we all face as we strive to live coherent lives of love. Theologian and pastor Greg Boyd points out that while we have been given a new heart (as prophesied by Jeremiah), which wants to obey the edicts of God's love, our habitual nature is not "there" yet and we will experience a lifetime of progress towards a complete surrender of our inner landscape to the invasion of Christ's presence:

Romans 7:25 (NLT)
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Romans 6:1,23 (NLT)
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?

- Paul deals with concerns that are often raised about salvation by grace. Here he takes on the argument that people will use it as an excuse to keep living in their sinful practices.

[23] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

- This has become a classic verse for succinctly expressing the gospel (Good News) message.