Greeting with a Holy Kiss – Romans 16:16

Greet one another with a holy kiss. – Romans 16:16a CSB

If you are like me, you might get a bit uncomfortable when you read Paul’s instruction to greet one another with a holy kiss. The only people I am comfortable with kissing are my wife and 16 month old granddaughter. But this instruction is not really about kissing. Instead it is about greeting. In the context of the day, a kiss on the cheek was a form of greeting between two people. But that is no longer the custom today, at least in the US. Instead we will shake hands, or sometimes hug. And so, if Paul was writing this to an American church today, he might tell us to greet one another with a holy handshake.

I don’t know what would make a handshake holy. But our greeting should be more than perfunctory. Within the body of Christ, we are all fellow members, joined together into one body. While that union is largely a spiritual one, our physical greetings, whether a kiss, a hug, or a handshake, can serve to symbolize that union. When we shake hands together, let’s do it with the acknowledgement that we are connected together in spirit. Greet one another joyfully. Be thankful for the opportunity to connect physically, however briefly. Maybe that is what would make our handshake holy!

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Overflowing Hope through Joy and Peace – Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13 CSB

This doxology at the end of the doctrinal section of Romans is in the form of a prayer. A prayer for the believers in Rome, as well as for anyone else who reads these words. Hope is the focus in this prayer; that the God of hope would cause us to overflow with hope. But Paul does not directly pray for hope. Rather he prayers for what will produce hope within us.

The first step in this process is that we believe in the God of hope. We should not expect God to do anything for us if we are not walking in faith. Paul prays that as we believe, God would fill us with all joy and peace. Joy and peace come, not from external circumstances, but through relationship with God. We can have real joy and real peace only when we are walking with the one who made us. But all too often we allow the troubles and cares of this world to intrude, dampening our joy and peace. Seeking to have God fill us with joy and peace is not a one time request. It should be the ongoing desire of the believers heart.

The end result of being filled with joy and peace is that we will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hope is not just a wishful desire. Rather it is a confidence in what God has awaiting us. And that hope grows in the soil of joy and peace, tended by the Holy Spirit. If your hope is weak, seek the joy and peace God will give to those who believe. Then you can know overflowing hope in your life.

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Judging Over Disputable Matters – Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:12 CSB

The world of the New Testament was polytheistic, with many temples to idols in every city. And sacrifices were made to these idols, with the meat either eaten as a part of the worship, or sold later in the market. A concern to many believers was over whether or not they could eat this meat that was sold in the marketplace. Some did, and some did not. And this issue is one that Paul identifies as a disputable matter; one that a believer could take either position on without compromising their faith or service to God. Paul’s concern here was not on the rightness or wrongness of eating this meat. Rather it was on how my practice in this matter impacted other believers; I should be careful not to make another believer stumble because of what I do, even if it is OK.

But he also instructs us not to judge other believers because of their stand on these disputable matters. I am God’s servant, and am answerable to him. While meat sacrificed to an idol is not an issue today, there are many others.

  • Do I drink in moderation, or abstain?
  • Smoking, either tobacco or marijuana?
  • Support Disney or boycott them?
  • What is suitable attire for worship?
  • Hymns or chorus’?
  • Pre, post, or amillennial?
  • Old earth or young earth?

The list is endless. While holding firmly to the important truths of our faith, let’s not judge each other over disputable matters. Instead lets focus on what is important; loving God and each other, growing in the faith, and being a light to a world groping in darkness.

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The Debt of Love – Romans 13:8

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. – Romans 13:8 CSB

All you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

These words are from a 1967 song by the Beatles and they mirror what Paul says in this passage, although the Beatles likely had in mind a different kind of love than Paul. For most people in the world, love is an emotional feeling. But for Paul, and for Jesus (Matt. 22:37-40), love is more than just a feeling. Love seeks for the good of the one who is loved; it is active, an act of the will.

The Old Testament Law, as well as most laws today, are concerned with how we should be treating each other, making sure that we do not cause harm to each other. Mostly they tell us what we should not be doing. In contrast to that is Paul’s positive direction here, what we should do. And that is to love. If I am loving you, I will not be causing you harm, and thus I am accomplishing what the law, in its negative fashion, is trying to do.

Love here is expressed as a debt, the debt of love, the one debt I can never repay, but should always be making payments on. This debt is not the result of other people’s actions on my behalf. Rather it is because of what God did for me (1 John 4:11). Because he loved me, I must love others.

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The Mark of True Worship – Romans 12:1

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. – Romans 12:1 CSB

What is worship? To most of us it is something we do on Sunday mornings in a ‘worship’ service. We sing ‘worship’ songs, listen to a sermon, maybe give an offering, and visit with other church members. But is that what worship really is?

While I believe there is an element of worship in what we do on Sunday mornings, I believe that worship is much more than that. In the Old Testament, worship generally involved the sacrifice of an animal that was given, in whole or in part, to God. But we are no longer expected, or required, to offer animal sacrifices. This is largely because Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for us in his death on the cross. But that does not mean that sacrifice has no place in the life of a believer. In Hebrews 3:15-16 we are told that our praise to God is a sacrifice, as is doing good to others in need.

But the most significant sacrifice we have to offer, and the one that constitutes true worship, is the giving of ourselves to God, wholly and completely. I express my reverence and adoration for God most completely when I continuously offer myself as a living sacrifice to him. I truly worship only when I lay my whole self at his feet in surrender.

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The Depth of God’s Wisdom – Romans 11:33-34

Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor? – Romans 11:33-34 CSB

This hymn at the end of the 11th chapter of Romans is a reminder of the vast difference between humanity and our creator. It is oftentimes tempting to question why God does, or allows, certain things. And it is temping to play the ‘If I Were God’ game. You know how it goes. If I were God, I would abolish disease, earthquakes, and hurricanes. If I were God, so and so would not have been elected. If I were God, I would smite all child abusers.

But the truth is that I am not God. I cannot begin to understand why he does, or allows, what he does. His inner counsels are hidden from me. He has never come to me asking for my advice on some situation. As much as I learn and understand, it is only a drop in the bucket compared to the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Indeed, the total wisdom and knowledge of mankind falls far short of the depth and breath of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

God’s desire is that we trust him like little children. Instead we too often act like know-it-all teenagers, thinking that we know better than our creator. Lord, even as I seek understanding, help me to trust in you and not in my own understanding.

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Share the Good News – Romans 10:13-15

For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:13-15 NIV

All who call on the name of the Lord (proclaiming him as Lord and believing God raised him from the dead) will be saved. This promise is not just for the few, but is for all. But there is a catch. How can folks call on the name of someone they have not heard about?

This passage emphasizes the importance of sharing the good news with the world around us. Without hearing the good news, people cannot accept it. It is easy to think that people in the US have ample opportunity to hear the gospel, and in a sense they do. But who do they hear it from? I can’t say that I ever hear the real gospel proclaimed apart from a church sponsored event, and many times not even then. So if a person never went to church, which is true of most people where I live, they would never really hear the gospel. They will only know what is portrayed on the popular media and news, and that is generally not the gospel of the Bible. Even in the US, people need us to share the good news with them.

How beautiful the feet of those who will share the good news of Jesus with the people around them. What a blessing to know that you have been instrumental in someone coming into the kingdom of God.

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Salvation Depends on God’s Mercy – Romans 9:16

It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. – Romans 9:16 NIV

Salvation is not a matter of birthright; that my parents were saved does not get me a free pass into heaven. It does not come about because of great effort on my part; there is nothing I can do to earn salvation. And it is not the result of a dream fulfilled; no matter how much I might plead and beg, God is not obligated to me.

This reminds me of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 who went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee told God how great he was, while the tax collector pleaded for God’s mercy. The Pharisee was depending on human effort for his relationship with God while the despised tax collector knew he deserved nothing and depended on God. The Pharisee received nothing from God. The tax collector was justified.

His mercy is toward all people (Rom. 11:32) and all who call on him will be saved (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). I am so thankful that the Lord was merciful to me, a sinner. That he did for me what I could not do for myself.

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Suffering for Christ and Future Glory – Romans 8:17-18

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Romans 8:17-18 NIV

In a previous verse (v. 14) Paul has said that all who are led by the Spirit of God are God’s children. And here he tells us that as God’s children we are heirs of God. I can’t say that I can begin to comprehend what it means to be an heir of God, but I am looking forward to sharing in his glory.

But that sharing in God’s glory is in the future and is conditional on sharing in the sufferings of Christ while in this life. Suffering does not hold a great deal of appeal for most of us, although it is our common experience. However Paul is not just talking about the suffering that is common to humanity, no matter how severe it might be. Instead, he is referring to sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Am I willing to take my stand for Christ regardless how the world around responds to me? Not all of us will suffer in our walk with Christ in the same way, depending on our surroundings. But all of us will pay a price for not conforming to the culture around us. Am I willing to stand out from my culture as a follower of Christ?

As we consider our willingness to suffer for Christ, verse 18 offers some significant encouragement. If you put the suffering we do for Christ on one side of a scale balance, and the glory that awaits us on the other side, the glory side will prove to be significantly greater. In the midst of our challenges in this life, keep your eyes fixed on the glory that awaits you, and be faithful to your calling.

The War Within – Romans 7:21-25

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:21-25 NIV

In this passage Paul describes a battle that is going on within himself. On one side is his inner being, his spirit. This side loves God and wants to live in obedience to him. On the other side of the battle is the flesh, his human nature. This side wants to gratify it’s own desires and passions. And the two sides are in conflict with each other, with the flesh seeming to be the stronger.

Some folks see this as a battle that was in Paul’s past, before becoming a believer. But he describes it in the present tense rather than the past. And his delight in God’s law is something that would seem inappropriate for an unredeemed person. I believe Paul is describing the experience of many, if not most, believers. I want to serve God wholeheartedly, but I just seem unable to do that. Other competing desires and priorities are constantly distracting me and keeping me from that wholehearted devotion. Sin is an ever present reality in my life. Is there any hope for me?

On my own there is not. But thankfully God has not left me to live the life he called me to on my own. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to us (John 14:16-17), will enable us to have victory over our old nature. The battle will wage on as long as we live in the flesh, but Christ has delivered us from bondage to it, enabling us to live for him.

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