Archive for November, 2022


“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

The word “present” is a technical term used, formerly, in association with the priestly work of offering sacrifices to God. However, having recognized Jesus as the sacrificial lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world, Paul’s understanding is that the old sacrificial system was now voided. Nonetheless, while the form has changed, the principal of sacrifice remains. Instead of the blood of dead animals being poured out upon the altar of the temple, the only appropriate presentation of faith is living persons pouring out the entirety of their being upon the altar of daily living. In so doing, we become the living stones of a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

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“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

“Therefore” transitions the reader from the theological assertions of the previous eleven chapters, to the ethical implications of our beliefs, from the action of God to our reaction as his people, from what God has done to what we must do. This life to which we are called stands in stark contrast to the former life of unbelief depicted in Romans 1. It’s where God’s mercies have been received that the “therefore” of faith is borne out.

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“Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways” (Romans 11:33).

Through the entirety of chapters 9-11, Paul’s impassioned concern isn’t his kinsman alone, but that all humanity might see the unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes; that the promises of God have been fulfilled in and through Jesus, who is the Christ, the Savior of the world. Unfortunately, out of a need to manage and control, many seek to reduce the understanding of God down to that which is sectarian, parochial, provincial, or denominational. Fortunately, despite man’s best efforts to box Him in, God’s offering of salvation knows no such boundaries; being available to all who would respond in faith and trust to Christ Jesus.

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“For we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:14).

So blind were the religious watchdogs to the unfolding revelation of God in Christ Jesus, and the disruption this new covenant was bringing to their familiar traditions, places of admiration, and respectability, they would not only be deaf to the message but would seek to silence the messenger. Knowing God is making all things new, that a new heaven and earth is forthcoming, I can’t help but wonder if some are so infatuated with the world that is, they secretly dread the world that is to come.

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“The steadfast in mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

Some fix their minds to trust in God while others are tossed about by the varying circumstances of the day. One approach is thoughtful; the other emotional. One view is  providential, embracing a “wait and see” perspective; while the other is circumstantial, reacting to the emotion of the moment. One offers a peaceful existence and the other a tumultuous roller coaster.

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“For I do not  want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

That God’s plan of redemption continues to unfold in, sometimes, unimaginable and completely unexpected ways, offers a continuing reassurance that it will come to its full fruition and, ultimately, prevail over all creation. In the mean time, human hearts turn cold and go hard when God doesn’t perform as they think he should. Thus, we are better off letting go of any vestiges of a formulaic religion; embracing, instead, not only the mysteries of God’s person but, also, the certainty of his sovereign reign.

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“Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they’” (Luke 17:17)?

Of the ten lepers healed by Jesus, nine of them Jews, it was the lone Samaritan that praised God and thanked Jesus. It’s a sad indictment of God’s people that it sometimes takes an outsider to teach us about gratitude; to not take for granted all the mercies afforded us as the children of the King. This doesn’t mean just breathing a prayer before an annual feast, but worshipping thankfully with the faithful every Sunday, and living thankfully in every waking moment. Let us commit to not being counted among those of whom the Lord should ask, “Where are they?”

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“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous” (Romans 11:11).

Even God the Father must sometimes treat his children like children; that his desired results might be achieved. Just as a parent might offer to a sibling what the other has rejected, eliciting a jealous wanting from the one who originally had no interest, so God’s offering of salvation to the Gentiles was done in the anticipation of Israel’s jealousy, and the longing for the joyful experience being had by the Gentiles. In an unexpected twist within the unfolding drama of God’s salvation history, because of the Gentiles faith in the gospel, they have now become a light to Israel.

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“In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5).

Because God has forever dealt with a disobedient and contrary people, it seems the fulfillment of his redemptive purposes is always being accomplished through a remnant of the faithful. Having reflected upon this precedence with a citation of 1 Kings 18-19 (v.3-4), of how God works through the few to accomplish his greater ends, we are given not only the challenge of being counted among the faithful few, but the encouraging reminder that the purposes of God are driven by, and dependent upon, the magnitude of his grace and not the head count of his people. If you believe yourself to be a product of God’s grace, choose faithfulness.

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“But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world’” (Romans 10:18).

While faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (v.17), Israel had a deaf ear regarding Jesus as the Messiah. Paul’s point is that Israel can never argue they have not heard the gospel, nor that its message is unintelligible (v.19), for even the Gentiles have heard it, understood, and believed (v.20). At the root of all unbelief is humanity’s own obstinance and disobedience (v.21).

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