Bible Reading for the Week of January 1, 2019: Romans 1-3
The Gospel Of Jesus Makes No Sense
The Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t even make sense in our modern culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus died for sinners. Sinners are made right with God, not through conformity to the Law, as in the Old Covenant, but through faith in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant.
No Place For Sin
The problem in translating the Gospel of Jesus for our North American culture is that there is no category of behavior that we would call sin. We might engage in illegal acts. We might engage in immoral acts. But our North American concept of immorality is based more on some vague, diffuse notion of right and wrong, rather than sin as an offense to the nature of God. The concept of sin as contradictory to the character of God and deviation from God’s design for humanity has been lost, even within large segments of the North American church. The only sin in our culture seems to be pointing out actual sinful behavior.
Two Types Of People
Couple this failure to call sin sin with a preference for an exclusively loving and permissive God, and we have a recipe for disaster and an environment that is hostile to the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News, is that God has provides a way for every human being to escape God’s judgement. According to our Gospel, there are two kinds of people in the world: the righteous and the unrighteous. Righteous individuals are those who, by faith in Jesus Christ, have been made right with God. The unrighteous are those who do not believe, and therefore, remain estranged from God. The righteous seek to live their lives like Jesus lived His through the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in them. The unrighteous do not. In fact, they seek just the opposite; they engage in the behaviors listed in Romans 1:24-32.
Everyone Is Guilty
Paul makes it abundantly clear that no one, not a single person, can justify himself or herself before God. No matter how strongly someone might object, God’s reality is that no one can do enough good for God to say, “You gave it your best effort; you get a participation trophy. I’ll let you into heaven based on a grading curve.” Romans 3:23-25a says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.” Take a quick perusal of the ten commandments for in Exodus 20:1-17. Every one of us has broken at least one of the ten commandments. Every. One. Of. Us. Paul affirms in the first two chapters of Romans that the Law is insufficient to justify anyone before God. In fact, the Law only serves to bring awareness of our sinfulness. But the Gospel of Jesus would not be Good News if this were the end of the story.
Everyone Can Be Redeemed By Christ
The Good News is that anyone can be made righteous, that is, right with God or justified, through faith in Jesus (Romans 10:13; 1 Timothy 2:3-6). This faith is a gift from God (Romans 3:24). God offers the gift of salvation to everyone. The gift is received, not earned (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). The gift is truly life-changing.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ puts an end to our efforts at self-justification. Self-justification before God is an oxymoron. The only alternative for us helpless sinners is to accept God’s effort on our behalf through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Good News of Jesus, His Gospel, is that He has done what we cannot do. He gives us His righteousness, both in this life and the life to come.
Dear Lord, help us to truly understand Your Gospel. Help us to apply it first and foremost to our own lives. But do not let us end there. Give us boldness in sharing the Gospel with our friends and family. Give the opportunities, the courage, the words, and the wisdom to share the Good News.
(Note: This is the first is a year long series of posts based on the Bible Reading Plan I developed for Ocoee Oaks United Methodist Church. The Reading Plan can be downloaded by clicking here.)
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