So Close and so Privileged yet Miss It - Romans 9 Paul's Lamentations

Paul lamented for his fellow Israelite in Romans 9. They were the privileged bunch with so much revelation from God and yet they miss the salvation of Christ. While many people are upset about God favoring some people, they miss the most important message of God. That is, with God, there is no difference and no favor, irrespective of races, honor or dishonor (in man's eyes). God loves and Christ died for all. The diversities are created by God and He has the right to put people into different groups.  But God is no respecter of persons, he chooses to accept the rejects of men. The Israelite may have so much revelation of God but yet they fail to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is a grace of God offered to all and it to be accepted by faith and not according to any social background or standing or even works of the laws. Get the correct understanding of God's love and think not God is unfair in creating diversities.
There are many races in the world. Some people are born into the rich families whereas some are born into poor families. Unfairness is normally claimed by the ones in the 'unfortunate' states of poverty or sickness or rejected. Yet, we know that many that were born of the rich did not do well in life. Many just spent their lives away in wild livings, in drugs, in alcohol, in wild parities and suffer painful death in overdose or accidents. On the other hand, there are many successful, happy and rich people that started life as poor. So, is a good inheritance a blessings or a curse? The answer is obvious, it depends entirely on you. God has made sure of that. Everyone can, no one is excluded, from knowing and coming to receive God. Such is the message of Romans 9. The privileges of one race or status does not ensure one's salvation. The Israelite is a good example. They were so close to God and yet many miss His salvation through Jesus Christ.

While God has the right in Rom 9:18 to show mercy or harden, we need to see His character of love in Rom 9:22 patience for those deserving wrath, 9:25-26 calling those outcast His people.

How does God harden Pharaoh's heart? Not by creating Pharaoh's that way (because everyone is created in the Image of God and give free will) but by going against Pharaoh's selfish desire to keep his slaves.

Chapter 9 is in fact, a reinforcement of Chapter 8 God's love for you is much much more than any adversity or restrictions. We cannot use our race or culture or wealth or whatever as excuse to reject His love for us.

The full details are given in the mind-map below and I hope your mind may be enlightened and be willing to receive His love  for you:

Lim Liat (c) 21 July 2013


Living the New Christian Life - Romans 16 Real Lives Testimonies

The book of Romans ends with a fairly long list of real people and their work. Their testimonies are for our encouragement and examples. We are to 'salute' one another with 'a holy kiss' of respect and love. The one key message is the salvation through Jesus Christ by faith, the secret of life and of the universe now revealed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Living out this new Christian life together in a community requires us to watch out for three things. Firstly, the people who come in Jesus' name but are divisive, offensive and deceptive. We need to know the Bible well and abide in the Spirit to discern them and keep them out. Secondly, we are to be wise in doing the good things and be naive in doing the evil (but know their deceptive tricks as in the first point). Thirdly, we need to be obedient by putting what we learned into practice. Finally, we are assured of certain victory because Satan was defeated and shall be totally bruised under feet shortly --- the 2nd coming of Christ.
The Brothers and Sisters that are examples to Follow:
We have a long list of names and their work. May be we can't remember their names, but at least remember their works as our examples. We see the servant leaders, those who risked their necks for Paul, those who were fellow prisoners with Paul, those who open their houses for gatherings, the helpers, the approved, the beloved, the chosen, the saints all in the Lord. The key verse here for community living is Romans 16:16 " Salute one another with a holy kiss. Churches of Christ salute you." Respect and love are the key ingredients for intimate fellowship that glorify God.

Watch-Out for the Wolves in Sheep Clothing who Come to Destroy our Fellowship
Paul warn us to watch out for three things. 

Firstly, the people who come in Jesus' name but are divisive, offensive and deceptive. We need to know the Bible well and abide in the Spirit to discern them and keep them out. Even so, Revelation 2:2-4 reminded us not loose our first love for Christ and love for one another. We need to have a good balance of truth and grace. Yet, we cannot be kinder than God. Avoiding and keeping the real wolves out from out of our community are the right and loving things to do. 

Secondly, we are to be wise in doing the good things and be naive in doing the evil (but know their deceptive tricks as in the first point). We have Mat 10:16 wise as serpents and harmless as doves to remind us. May be we can see here that Paul added ''unto good' to be wise. Doing good is great, but make sure that our 'good' does not cause our brothers to stumble as mentioned in Chapter 14 and to make sure that there be no fault can be found too (2 Cor 6:3). We can only do that when we acted wisely. Charitable work does not allow us to be wasteful nor be lacking in quality. 

Thirdly, we need to be obedient by putting what we learned into practice. Talking is easy. Telling and correcting others are easy. Some of us only hear good sermons for others to follow (Oh! I wish so and so could be here to hear it!). Our we obedient to the message that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us? Do we put them into action?

Finally, we are assured of certain victory because Satan was defeated and shall be totally bruised under feet shortly --- the 2nd coming of Christ.

The Final & Only One Key Message.
Paul ended the whole book of Romans with the final one key message ... Glory and Praise to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior who is the source and the power for our salvation by faith in Him. It was a long long mystery of the world but now revealed first through the OT Bible but now in the Person of Jesus Christ - His death and resurrection. Believe in Him and be saved!

Here is the mind-map for Romans 16:

Lim Liat (c) 11 Jul 2013


Living the New Christian Life By Glorifying God in Harmony - Roman 15 Buildup One Another

Roman 15 is about glorifying God through our harmonious living and building up of one another. It is best summarized by  John 13:35  ► By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. 
Roman History recorded that the growth of the Christian community was due to their love one for another and also for those outside their community. Have we placed so much emphasis on preaching the gospel and not living out the gospel especially among our brothers and sisters? The ways we treat our fellow brothers and sisters, are they so attractive to cause them to want to join us?
We are to be united in the same purpose of glorifying God and share the same biblical values. We are to execute the mission by living in harmony with one another, starting with receiving one another first. We can do that by the power of Holy Spirit within us and studying and following of the Bible.

Here is the mind-map that captures the essence of Roman 15:

God's plan was to reach-out to the world through His blessings for the Jews. Christ had sat the example for us by coming in the form of servant to die for us to fulfill the covenant with the Jews.

Our joy, peace and hope comes from putting our faith in God and by the Holy Spirit.

Paul shared with us his calling to bring the gospel to the gentiles world. His purpose is to break new ground and not build on others' work. That was Paul's calling. It does not exclude that for most of us, we are called to reach out to those around us in our family, relatives, friends and colleagues that may or may not have the gospels shared with them. Paul's dedication to the calling and his accomplishments are examples for us to follow. We can also see the testimonies of the Christians in areas of Achaia and Macedonia, their generosity for brothers in Jerusalem.

Even Paul requested prayers for his work. There are 3 key areas mentioned for our united prayer:
1. deliverance from persecutions.
2. excellence in their service
3. opportunities for fellowships

Here is the mind-map that give the details:
Hope you are blessed in the reading of this sharing. Do you like the mind-map better than the usual paragraph format?

Lim Liat (c) 10 July 2013


Living the New Christian Life with Weaker Brothers - Rom 14 Liberty vs Rules

Perhaps "Familiarity breeds contempt" also happens in Christian community that brothers or sisters in Christ are most critical of one another. There is the tendency to compare and despise one another. Such work of pride and insecurity happen most in the grey areas where right and wrong are not clearly stated in the commandments. There will be much quarrels about who is right or wrong. Such one-up-man-ship behavior is discussed in this Roman Chapter 14 resulting in guidelines for us to follow. Key points are: Firstly, to make a correct judgement, one must discover the inner intention and conviction. Secondly, I will restrict my freedom so that I may not stumble others.

Difference between the Weak and Mature
Paul covered the differences between the weaker and more mature brothers. The weak in faith still goes but external behavior to differentiate right or wrong. The mature in faith goes by the principles and the truth. They enjoy greater liberty. All food is clean and every day is a good day given by God and we shall all rejoice in them. However, the weak is stained by his past experience of certain foods and days are separated out as good or bad and hence are restricted. Nevertheless, their intention to honor God is right and good even though they are restricted by erroneous thinking. Their abstinence is honorable.

Key is Despise Not One Another and Build One another Up
The key for behavior is then not to despise one another because of their practices (to eat or not to eat) but rather try to build one another up. Don't waste time in quarreling.

Judgement is According Christ and According to One's Conviction
Correct judgement is not about external behavior but the internal intention of the heart and the conviction of faith. What is the internal motivation or intention of not eating or observing certain day? Such internal intention is not easily observable from the external. One has to ask and probe to find out.

Cannot be Forced to Do or Not to Do
Even when one know the intention, we cannot insist that weaker adopt the conviction of the mature. If they are not fully convinced and then act on it, his conscience will pricked and it is a sin. Paul said that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Let the weaker in faith grow up in time.

Let Not the Freedom of the Mature become the stumbling block for the Weaker
Everything is clean but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean. So, let not the Freedom of the mature (everything is clean) cause the weak (some thing is unclean) to eat the thing that he thinks is unclean and thereby falls into sin. The mature must always watch out that their 'good' and 'ok' behavior may in fact stumbles others. Consider drinking alcohol. Drinking is not forbidden in the Bible but drunkenness is sin. If we have a friend that was a former alcoholic, it is very important that we don't drink in front of him. By drinking in front of him is actually a temptation for him to start drinking, a problem that he may not be able to handle, the very problem that he became an alcoholic before. So, because the need of our brother, we will forgo the right to drink.

The above and other points are covered in the mind-map below:

The Principles to Follow :
The conclusions: 

It is best summed up in by Paul in his other letters:

1 Cor 10:23 Everything is permitted but everything isn't beneficial and does not build one another up. Let the mature not used their freedom to cause the weaker brothers to fall.

1Cor 10:23 CEB   Everything is permitted, but everything isn't beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn't build others up.

Lim Liat (c) 1 July 2013