Devotional Reading for August 8, 2022

Romans 11:1-24

We tend to use the terms “chosen” and “elect” synonymously, but is that necessarily the case? It’s true that God chose Israel:

Ezekiel 20:5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I chose Israel I swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to them, ‘I am the LORD your God.’

But that doesn’t mean that all were elect, or that all were saved:

Romans 11:7 “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. The rest were hardened,

God has always had a portion of the people who were legitimately his, as is seen from what God said to Elijah:

1 Kings 19:18 “I still have left in Israel 7,000 followers who have not bowed their knees to Baal or kissed the images of him.

However, the rest were hardened against Him, and during Paul’s time that has a divine purpose. By their overall rejection of God and His Messiah, the gospel came to the Gentiles and enabled the world to be reconciled to God (11:15). God is provoking the Jewish people to jealousy (11:11)! Is Paul speaking in generalities, or is he talking about his own ministry specifically? It seems that he may be talking about the current day and his own ministry: “if somehow I could provoke my people to jealousy and save some of them” (11:15). Even as an apostle to the Gentiles (11:13), he loves his own people (10:1) and wants them to know Jesus. What an amazing thing for a member of God’s chosen people to become one of the elect (11:12, 15, 16)!

He concludes with a warning to the Gentiles who believe. Don’t take anything for granted. Israel is like an olive tree. Some branches were cut off, and wild branches were grafted in. God is the one who does it. Branches can’t graft themselves in! There is no boasting involved! We are to “stand by faith” (11:20), recognizing God kindness towards us and understanding his harshness towards unbelief (11:22). After all, we are unnaturally grafted in. How much easier is it for someone to whom “belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises” (9:4) to be grafted in!

What should we learn from this? It’s all about grace. It’s not about us. We need to be humble in our relationship with God.

Sermon outline for 8/7/22 (Radio broadcast 8/14/22)

“Victory in Jesus”
Esther 4:8-16

I) Esther becomes a _________

II) Mordecai discovers a __________

III) __________ seeks to destroy all the Jews

IV) Mordecai asks ___________ to intervene

V) Esther is a _______________ of Jesus Christ

     A) Esther foreshadows Jesus’ willingness to ________

     B) Esther foreshadows Jesus’ ministry of ________________

     C) Esther foreshadows Jesus’ ministry of ________________

VI) Esther foreshadows the ______________ of God’s people

     A) Over ______________

     B) Over ______________

     C) Over ______________

     D) Over ______________

Devotional Reading for August 7, 2022

Romans 10

Although Paul’s primary mission was as an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), he is still burdened for his fellow countrymen. They misunderstood the words of Moses in Leviticus 18:5 that “the one who does these things will live by them.” It’s somewhat ironic that this command is in the book concerned with explaining the sacrifices. That in and of itself should have revealed that they couldn’t keep the law by their own effort! Christ is the “end” of the law (10:4), which could mean fulfilment, termination, goal, or purpose. All are probably true to one degree or another, but goal may be the best understanding here. The failure to keep the law should point people to their need for a Savior. And this salvation is easier than they realize. It’s been accomplished through Christ, who descended from heaven and was raised from the dead (10:6-7) and is being preached to them (10:8)! They just need to believe in their hearts (the place of intellect, emotions, and will), and confess (agree with God, probably both internally and externally). What do they believe and confess? The gospel (which is shown through belief in the resurrection), and the authority of Jesus Christ over their lives (His Lordship). And this salvation is available to all, not just to the Jews (10:12-13).

Paul again shows that the Jewish people (as a whole) are without excuse (10:21). God has sent them preachers to reveal His truth (10:14-17). Paul even uses a quote from Psalm 19:4 (that refers to the fact that creation speaks to the truth of God’s existence) to show that the message has even gone to the furthest ends of the earth (referring to the Gentile nations). Instead of being pleased, they are jealous and upset, still refusing to believe in the truth of Jesus (10:19-21).

This passage is illuminating as an example of how many people today, including people we love, can continue to reject the gospel message. In fact, the very mention of God or of Jesus may make them angry! Many believe that we think we’re better than they are because we preach that there is only one way to heaven (John 14:6). May that not be so! May we always understand that we are sinners saved by grace, and may our hearts break for those who don’t believe.

Devotional Reading for August 6, 2022

Romans 9:16-33

We could spend a lot of time on this short passage, but I’ll try to be as simple and succinct as possible! One very basic lesson from this passage is that God is sovereign. He is all powerful, and He is in control. God’s sovereignty is shown in His choice, in His mercy, and in His judgment. He is also gracious. He doesn’t have to choose anyone. He doesn’t have to be merciful to anyone. But He chose a nation. Israel was given privilege and knowledge. They were given the law, which should have made them understand that they needed faith as well. However, they believed that they could work their way to God. God forcefully reminds us here that the law isn’t enough – works aren’t enough! But He is gracious, and He choose a remnant in Israel through faith. That faith is currently displayed through belief in Jesus Christ, “a stone that will cause people to stumble” (9:33, from Isaiah 28:16). Unfortunately, most continue to stumble and don’t believe. But God, in His mercy, brings others into His kingdom. He grants faith to the Gentiles, something that He revealed was going to happen centuries before:

Romans 9:25-26 “As he also says in Hosea: ‘I will call those who were not my people, “My people,” and I will call her who was unloved, “My beloved.”‘ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

How should we respond to this passage? With a deep and abiding love of God through His choice of us through Jesus Christ!

Devotional Reading for August 5, 2022

Romans 9:1-15

Paul hurts for his fellow Jews. After all, they’ve had all the advantages. They were given the law, the sacrifices, the patriarchs, and the Messiah. Unfortunately, most of them refused to believe in Jesus! It wasn’t enough to be born into God’s covenant people. God chooses whose are His, and it happens through faith.

Ephesians 1:3-10 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 2:4-0 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

True descendants of Israel had to individually exhibit faith, belief, and trust, just like Abraham did (9:6-7). And that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), so He can “have mercy on whom I have mercy,” and “compassion on whom I have compassion.

Are you His? Do you believe? How does being chosen make you feel?

Devotional Reading for August 4, 2022

Romans 8:18-39

In one sense this whole passage is about God’s great love for us (8:39)!

  • Paul starts the passage by talking about glory that will come in spite of our present sufferings (8:18-19), and later clarifies that the glory is a result of God’s work in our lives — we are predestined, called, justified, and glorified because God is ensuring that we will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (8:29-30).
  • Even though all of creation is suffering because of the curse, it will be redeemed when we are redeemed (8:19).
  • Our redemption starts with the gift of the Spirit, but ends with the redemption of our bodies (8:23).
  • The gift of the Spirit helps us because the Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray (8:26-30).
  • Which is probably quite often, since Paul makes sure we understand that the Spirit intercedes “according to God’s will” (8:27).
  • Which is also why we can be sure that “all things work together for good” for us (8:28).
  • So, if God is for us, then who can be against us (8:31)?
  • By giving us His Son, He gives us everything we need for life and salvation (8:32).
  • God is the one who makes us righteous before Him (8:33).
  • He does this through Jesus Christ, who died for us (8:34).
  • Even though we will face suffering and persecution, we are victorious because of our relationship with Jesus (8:35-38).
  • In fact, Jesus Himself is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us too (8:34).
  • Taking all of that into account, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love (8:38-39)!

God, in His love, is helping us to become holy, even in our prayer lives. Are you participating in that, or fighting against it? Being on this year long journey should help!

For worship:

Devotional Reading for August 3, 2022

Romans 8:1-17

What a verse! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why is there no condemnation? Because the Son saves! The law couldn’t save. What could the law do? The law could show sin. The law could make us want to sin. The law could condemn. Ultimately the law points out that we need a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus. He is the one who rescues us from this body of death (7:24). And He has now given us the life-giving Spirit. In fact, the Spirit is the proof that we have believed (8:9), and the guarantee of eternal life (8:11). Through the Spirit we are adopted into God’s family. Through the Spirit we have a close, personal, loving relationship with God as our Father (8:15). Through the Spirit we have the hope of a holy life (8:9, 13). The Spirit guides. The Spirit empowers. The Spirit convicts. The Spirit enables us to please God (8:8)! The Spirit brings peace instead of fear (8:15). And this is especially important, because we too will experience persecution and suffering in this life because we are God’s children (8:17). The Spirit will bring us through, helping us to experience God’s presence, peace, and joy; ultimately reminding us of the glory we will share with Jesus when we join Him in heaven. And remember, it’s His glory that we’re experiencing, not our own!

For worship:

Devotional Reading for August 2, 2022

Romans 7

So, when is Paul talking about here? Is he talking about life before we became believers, or life when we are believers? I believe that here he is talking about life before belief, even though many of the principles may have relevance for believers in our ongoing Christian walk. I do believe that there is an ongoing struggle in the Christian life between the flesh and the Spirit, which Paul details elsewhere:

Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.

Here Paul shows us why we need more than the law. The law in and of itself is spiritual and good. However, because of our sinful nature, it affects us in a different way. The law gives knowledge of sin, and by giving that knowledge it stimulates disobedience. It seems that once we know something is wrong, we want to do it even more (7:8)! What was supposed to bring life, actually brings death. Even when we want to do right, we end up doing wrong (7:23). If the law can’t save, what can? Only the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins (7:25)! Because of Him we are set free from the law (7:4), and we are able to live new lives in the Spirit (7:6).

Devotional Reading for August 1, 2022

Romans 6

Why do Christians have so much trouble with sin? This passage seems to teach that we shouldn’t! In reality, it shows us some steps that we need to take if we want to overcome sin. When I first learned the steps, the keywords were taken from the KJV of the Bible: know, reckon, yield, and obey. The Net Bible uses the words know, consider, present, and obey.

Know — Paul continues with his discussion about how some distort Christian/Jewish teaching. After all, if grace is good then more grace would be even better, so we should continue to sin! But there is a fundamental misunderstanding here. When we believe, our nature is changed. We used to be slaves to sin. Now we are dead to sin. We live new lives (through the Spirit, as he makes clear later). One of the ways we achieve victory over sin is by knowing this fundamental truth. Note: did you catch the imagery of baptism by immersion in 6:4? It’s very easy to see the ritual of baptism being used to reinforce this basic doctrine for new Christians.

Consider — Is it enough to just know? We often teach that knowledge isn’t enough for salvation. You can know facts, but it doesn’t mean that you believe them. The same is true about doctrine. You can know things about the Bible, God, and life, but have you really thought about them? Have you considered their importance? Do you really believe them? Have you counted them to be true? In Psalm 1:2 we’re told to meditate on God’s commands. That is what we are doing here. We’re thinking about them, mulling them over, and keeping them close. Being dead to sin is not just something to know, it’s something to remember and believe.

Present — We willingly submit our will to God’s will. We present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We know how He wants us to live – dead to sin, and alive to Him. We think about how He has given us the power to live victoriously over sin. This is where the struggle ends. We make a conscious decision to follow Him and His will regardless of what we want. The good news is that, over time, His will becomes our will.

Obey — This is the final step. We obey from the heart that pattern of teaching we were entrusted to (6:17). Having done the groundwork, we find that we are truly “free from sin and enslaved to God” (6:22). We live for God (righteousness), we grow (sanctification), and we look forward to our future (eternal life)!

Romans 6:23 “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Devotional Reading for July 31, 2022

Romans 5

Adam brought sin into the world and caused death, which is why we see death reign even before the law. The law was given to reveal sin and show us that we are actually enemies with God. However, even though we are God’s enemies and deserve His wrath, He loves us anyway. It’s because of His love that Jesus came and died on the cross. It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we are saved from wrath, that we are reconciled to God, that we are declared righteous, and we have peace with Him! We can trust that this is all true because of the resurrection (which is what “saved by His life” is referring to). But it’s only if we “receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness” (5:17). Some look at “righteousness leading to life for all people” (5:18) and think that God saves everyone. It’s better to either understand it as “all people who believe,” or to recognize that salvation is available to all, but it is only attainable for those who express faith in Jesus Christ.

We now rejoice in hope because of our glorious future, and this hope even helps us to make it through the tough times. Since we have been saved and understand God’s love for us, we recognize that He even works in our lives during our suffering. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces more hope (5:3-4). Another way of saying this is that making it through tough times with God’s help makes us stronger, which in turn makes us better people, and ultimately encourages us to trust God more. Hope does not disappoint, because God does not disappoint (5:5)! He loves us, He saves us, and He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28)!