May Devotional by Steve Abbott

Introduction

This month my reflections will centre on the Romans reading, given it is so rich with content and worth more detailed attention. Through the pen of Paul, this passage forms part of the Holy Spirit’s unfolding of the implications of the glorious powerful gospel (see Romans 12:1-2 ‘In view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…’). The final verse, 12:21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’, could almost act like a summary principle for the whole passage. It also immediately brings to my mind the great prayer of Jesus in John 17 and in particular verse 15, ‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.’ Both Jesus and the Spirit intercede on behalf of Christians, so we can almost certainly be sure that Jesus and the Spirit are praying the contents of Romans 12:9-21 into our lives. This reflects the will of God for us as we live in a fallen, sinful society, which is broken and corrupted at its very core.

The passage seems to seamlessly move from providing godly guidance for the internal life of the community of faith as well as its external engagement with those who are outside faith in Christ. This of course makes perfect sense, for Christians ought not to divide their life into sacred and secular partitions. The ‘other-person centred love’ we exercise within the life of the community of faith (12:9-13) needs also to be mirrored in our relationships with those who are not yet Christians (12:14-21).

It is clearly strategic for effective gospel ministry that believers demonstrate an attractive caring concern for each other, reflecting something of the graces of the gospel: sincere love and goodness (12:9); mutual devotion and honour (12:10); generosity and hospitality (12:13). With its myriad of ups and downs, Christians face life with a different set of values than unbelievers. Christians know the sovereign Lord has everything in His control, therefore we are to never lack in zeal for the things of God. We maintain our spiritual energy as we serve the Lord in any and all circumstances. Despite the challenges of normal life and opposition to our faith, we can remain joyful in hope, patient and prayerful (12:11-12). The gospel, ‘God’s mercy’(12:1) is to tangibly shape how we live together in Christ and also how we respond to the hardships which life may throw at us. We show the world a better divine gospel way to approach life.

This of course doesn’t change when we engage with those still outside of the faith community, even those who stand opposed to us and may physically or emotionally choose to intimidate us (12:14, 17, 19-21). Christians are never to forget they were once themselves enemies of Christ and needed God’s grace. Therefore, we ought to treat everyone equally, bless not curse our enemies, celebrate and mourn with them according to the turn of events in their life and not repay evil with evil (12:14-17). There is a concern to live in harmony and at peace with all people, while recognizing not everyone will respond in kind (12:16, 18). Christians know that God will ultimately bring justice and we can leave that to Him and His timing (12:19). Indeed rather than retaliate, Christians move forward with Gospel grace, providing for the needs of their enemies so that they might cause them to change their stance. That is, Christians overcome evil with good (12:20-21). In my view, by quoting Proverbs 25:21-22, Paul reflects what Peter teaches in 1 Peter 2:11-12 ‘Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’The open living out of our faith exercising gospel graces may lead some of those who oppose us to personal trust in Jesus, whereby they glorify God. Could there be a more dramatic demonstration of evil being overcome by good?

My dear sisters and brothers, may we ensure that both inside and outside the church fellowship, all our relationships are marked by a commitment to fulfill Romans 12:21‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.

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Hard words, poor decisions, good decisions

Today’s faithful daily read is Jeremiah 26 and Romans 6:15-23

Oh what a scene we see before us today in Jeremiah! Faithful Jeremiah proclaims the word of God to Judah and lays a choice before them, repent and live or continue in stubbornness and reap the consequences. In my experience, hard words tend to have one of two effects on me – either in humility I receive them and weigh them against my heart or alternatively I harden my heart further, dig in my heels and reject any notion that I need to change. To Judah’s peril the ‘priests and prophets’ pursue the latter path, seizing Jeremiah and proclaiming ‘You shall die!’

For me this passage shows draws out two things.

  • The contrasting responses of God’s ‘people’. The ‘officials of Judah’ and ‘all the people‘ (v8) are incensed and demand Jeremiah’s death when challenged about their sin, however ‘some of the elders’ and ‘all the people’ (v16) then defend Jeremiah as he is dragged before the assembly. It appears ‘all the people‘ flip flop in response to winsome arguments? Perhaps each crowd was comprised of different people? At any rate, we do see two kinds of responses to Jeremiah’s words.
  • The faithfulness of Jeremiah to the word of God – even at the likely cost of his own life ‘…behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you…’ (vs 14). Jeremiah does not sway and repeats his call to ‘.. reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God

In dealing with this passage I am reminded again of the need for humble and continual repentance – especially when challenged about my sin – and also of the need to hold fast to the word of God, no matter the consequences. Furthermore, perhaps like the Berean’s I should diligently search the scriptures for myself for truth rather than being swayed easily by winsome arguments (Acts 17:11)

In our reading from Romans, Paul exhorts believers to live under grace – not as slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. He contrasts the benefits of being ‘slaves to God’ (v22)… resulting in holiness and eternal life …compared with being slaves of sin…resulting in death. The chapter concludes with a verse well worth memorizing

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank you Jesus for releasing us from the wages of sin and giving the gift of eternal life through your death on the cross! May our lives reflect your glory!

[Originally posted on 26/10/2015 by stevebowdz]

To disobey and die or walk in Christ and live.

Today’s (We 04/11/2015) faithful daily readings are Jeremiah 34 and Romans 12: 9-21

God uses those He sends to be with us and walk with us and in today’s two passages to provide us with directions or patterns for us to live by.  For our Old Testament reading Jeremiah was that person sent to prophecy and witness to the Israelites and their King.  For our New Testament reading God has sent His Holy Spirit to minister to His chosen people who believe in Jesus Christ as our personal saviour.

Time and again we see Jeremiah making clear to those who live in Israel and particularly Jerusalem what is to happen to them as God exercises judgement against them for their disobedience. Here again Jeremiah predicts the carrying off to Babylon of the King Zedekiah and the Princes. For this prophecy he is imprisoned and Zedekiah, together with the people, swear a covenant with God to resile from their sinfulness by releasing the slaves who should have been released after seven years.  This is sworn in the custom of the day by walking between two halves of a sacrificial animal.  But that’s not how the people keep this new covenant with God. They rebel and re-engage their slaves.  The King fails to act to enforce the promise in this covenant that included the people..

God responds.  Jeremiah is commanded to inform the King and all the people that they will not leave Jerusalem,  but the Babylonians who had the city previously under siege, will return to take the city and will put them all to the sword.

Conversely, the Romans passage lists the marks of a Christian.  This passage sits in contrast to the behaviour of Zedekiah,  the princes and the people who acted in their own selfish interests and in doing so, failed God.  Did you read this Romans passage?   Concise, direct language about how we are to live together.   So our path is clear, to follow God and behave as Christians.

Lets have a look at this whole passage sentence by sentence.  (You’ll perhaps recall using this method in secondary school to study prose and poetry.)  This approach is useful here to help us fix in our minds the detail of how we are to live.  Otherwise we tend to read passages like this as if they are a set of instructions for a new gadget; only needed to get the gadget started and then only referred to again when something goes wrong.  (If we can find the booklet!)

Love in action  (NIV-UK 2011)

Love must be sincere.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

10Be devoted to one another in love.

Honour one another above yourselves.

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.

Practise hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

16 Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.

Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.

20 On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A prayer:  Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, I commit to walk in these ways as a follower of Jesus and one of your children.  Help me refresh and recall these precepts in my heart and mind so that I may walk humbly and faithfully before you and with my sisters and brothers.  I ask these things so that your holy name may be glorified through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Glenn

 

Hard words, poor decisions, good decisions

Today’s faithful daily read is Jeremiah 26 and Romans 6:15-23

Oh what a scene we see before us today in Jeremiah! Faithful Jeremiah proclaims the word of God to Judah and lays a choice before them, repent and live or continue in stubbornness and reap the consequences. In my experience, hard words tend to have one of two effects on me – either in humility I receive them and weigh them against my heart or alternatively I harden my heart further, dig in my heels and reject any notion that I need to change. To Judah’s peril the ‘priests and prophets’ pursue the latter path, seizing Jeremiah and proclaiming ‘You shall die!’

For me this passage shows draws out two things.

  • The contrasting responses of God’s ‘people’. The ‘officials of Judah’ and ‘all the people‘ (v8) are incensed and demand Jeremiah’s death when challenged about their sin, however ‘some of the elders’ and ‘all the people’ (v16) then defend Jeremiah as he is dragged before the assembly. It appears ‘all the people‘ flip flop in response to winsome arguments? Perhaps each crowd was comprised of different people? At any rate, we do see two kinds of responses to Jeremiah’s words.
  • The faithfulness of Jeremiah to the word of God – even at the likely cost of his own life ‘…behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you…’ (vs 14). Jeremiah does not sway and repeats his call to ‘.. reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God

In dealing with this passage I am reminded again of the need for humble and continual repentance – especially when challenged about my sin – and also of the need to hold fast to the word of God, no matter the consequences. Furthermore, perhaps like the Berean’s I should diligently search the scriptures for myself for truth rather than being swayed easily by winsome arguments (Acts 17:11)

In our reading from Romans, Paul exhorts believers to live under grace – not as slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. He contrasts the benefits of being ‘slaves to God’ (v22)… resulting in holiness and eternal life …compared with being slaves of sin…resulting in death. The chapter concludes with a verse well worth memorizing

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank you Jesus for releasing us from the wages of sin and giving the gift of eternal life through your death on the cross! May our lives reflect your glory!

Adultery to Adoration

Today’s Readings come from Jeremiah 3,4 and John 11

So God doesn’t like His people worshipping other gods..

How do you respond to the repeated usage of the language of prostitution and adultery in Jeremiah’s communication of God’s message in these chapters? Frustration? Disgust? Anger?

I find myself a little troubled by my lack of anger. I’m mildly upset by the picture of unfaithfulness being described in such words but.. it’s not that bad is it.. is it?

What if it was that bad?

I could fill up this post with the glorious hope of all nations coming to Jerusalem and new shepherds being put in place but that kind of sells the joy short. It’s the joy of reversal and perhaps we often don’t see the depths that we (and Judah) have been saved from.

Does God consider me seeking first the daily news ahead of His word a prostitution to the powers of this age? Prostitution because I’m implicitly saying they have more impact on my circumstances than the God who sustains the universe by His Word?

Does the priority of my family picnic over Sunday with my brothers and sisters at church show my adultery in placing them on the throne of my heart ahead of the Eternal king? Or does it show my fear of man in desiring not to disappoint them ahead of my heavenly Father?

Will the comments say I’ve been too harsh? What can God mean as He rebukes his people? Just because our action doesn’t involve bended knee to stone and wood would His language change?

In the end I’m shocked at God’s language and forced to call on His grace to refresh my devotion to Him and my divorce from those things that would contest for His place.

How about you?