Romans 1:8-15 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
So we have taken a few chapters setting up and explaining who we are as people. In those chapters, I wanted to give the clearest distinction what it means to be born and to be born again and how, despite our best intentions, there is no middle ground.
We did take that time to say and examine what God says about all of humankind and who we are if we believe and trust in Christ. Okay, so no what? Can we go about our lives as normally? Is there a laundry list of things to do and not to do because as James would put it, “faith without works is dead.” What do we do now?
The Epistles in the New Testament were written never to unbelievers. This Bible is not for those who do not believe but for those who believe. That might be shocking to some of you because you think that the word of God grants those who do not believe the ability to believe and trust God. No sir. No ma’am. Only the Holy Spirit does that. Furthermore, without the Holy Spirit, you will not be able to understand the Bible.
How can I say such a thing? Ever seen the poster of Bible contradictions? If you believe the comments, you would think that this is the bloody knife that kills off Christianity once and for all. But upon closer examination of the poster, you realize that you don’t need a seminary degree or even been in church all of your life but anybody with the Spirit of God dwelling in them and who reads the Bible regularly (explicitly so) could simply use all of Scripture to defute these apparently contradictions. I encourage you to pray first and deep dive into that little project. See what God reveals to you.
And don’t take this experience as standalone proof. Look at what Paul says:
I Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
What has God given us as believers in Him? Faith, a renewed mind, a new heart, and His Spirit through His Son by His grace and mercy. So many things. But what about His word–the Holy Bible. We thank God that we live in such a time where to most of us, especially Americans, that this is freely given to us and it is free. (Seriously, if you do not own a Bible and don’t have the money to buy one, just ask your church, they would love to give you one. Also, endless resources online.) Some people in the world are not so blessed. (We do not have wonder why some consider this a precious gift and some take it for granted.) Since the Bible is a thing that is freely given to us by God, in order to understand this Bible, we will need the help of the Holy Spirit.
I say all of that to belabor this exact point: without God, you will not be able to understand God nor what God does.
So as believers, what are we called to do? Let’s look at the greeting of Paul in verses 8 thorugh 15 and see if we cannot figure this out.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you - In Matthew 12:46-50, after Jesus is teaching as one with authority, his family got scared and anxious. Jesus just broke down what it really means to be righteous in God’s eyes and his mama and brothers were outside the dwelling, knocking at the door, and trying to stop his gospel preaching. Christ rightfully denies their request and reveals what it means to believe in God: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Some of you, like myself, were saved by God but really apart from the rest of your family. For me, it was just like Paul said to Timothy, it was through the sincere belief and constant prayers that God would save her family. We would be in our pjs, having our teeth brushed and holding hands before turning in and my grandma would go through and pray for all of her family, by name, one after the other including her son–my dad. My dad went to prison having committed the most evil, vile, and heinous crimes. Yet, in the end, he turned down his parole hearing and explained why: “I don’t want to leave prison. This is where men are the furtherest from God, yet, they need to hear about God the most and I am one of the few here who trust and believe in God. I have to tell them about God. And I am convinced this is my mission field and I will die here.” Not a few years after that letter, he caught the flu from which he could not recover from and he died. He lived a life of debauchery and unspeakable evil. But what happens. But God happens. Lavished on my dad his saving grace. My dad lived his life for God till his last breath.
I don’t have a lot of blood relatives who believe in God. When I was saved and then lost my grandmother and my father, I was not left with too many examples of those who were strong in the faith. When I got saved at 32 years old, I know for a fact whatever family I lost, I gained a hundredfold in you all. You, who does the will of our Father in heaven, is my mother, my brother, or my sister.
In my very best ability, I thank God for each and every one of you. If I have gone to church with you and gotten to know you by name, please know that I pray for you. I pray for you in your singleness. I pray for you in your marriage. If I know your kids' names, I pray for them by name. Why? Because you are my family and I love and thank God for each of you.
because your faith is proclaimed in all the world - Second, what are we called to do? Don’t overthink this. Don’t get caught up with the etherial and mystical aspects of the calling of God on your life. If you don’t know and you are not sure what to do now, consider the commission from Christ himself: Mark 16:15 And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son - Third, we are to serve. How? Find yourself a church that explicitly, constantly, continuously preaches the gospel of God. For some of you, the good news preached on Easter Sunday will be good enough for you. I wholeheartedly pray and hope that you will want something more.
Romans 10:14-17 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
You will hear stories of those in the Middle East, lifelong Muslims, whom Jesus Christ appeared in a dream and called on that person to repent and believe. We don’t have to wonder on the sincerity of the dreamer because that wasn’t the first time God saved somebody like that and we will know that person by their fruit. But what we do know that God appearing and proclaiming the gospel to individuals is the exception and not that the norm. Throughout the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, story after story and account after historical account of Christians called on by God to go to His people and deliver this wonderful good news that there is a God who loves them and will let nothing stop Him from saving them.
Find yourself a church that proclaims the gospel of Christ week in and week out. If you church does not do this, go ask the preacher, “Why not?” People are living and damning themselves into hell every single second of every day but we choose to use the pulpit to talk about something else not God and his gospel? That’s insanity.
Find yourself a church that does preach and serve them faithfully. Whatever you can do and whatever they need. Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. That is how you can serve with your spirit in the gospel of His Son.
That without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers - Fourth, pray without ceasing… for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (see I Thessalonians 5:12-22]. Let’s be honest here: can any of us pray all the time? First of all, have you ever tried? I know, I know: our jobs, our kids, our lives plus whatever we got to keep ourselves busy on top of whatever we got to keep ourselves numbed out to the harsh realities of our lives and this world. But let me asked you, my loved ones: have you ever even tried praying all the time? Perhaps you have been blessed with the gift of intercession and prayers. But to the rest of us, we get to commune and dwell and sit with God Most High. What would your life look like if sitting alone, sitting still, and sitting quietly with God took precedence over the busyiness of our everyday lives. What if, for every minute you binge watched a superhero movie (me), fitness YouTubers (me), or playing some game on your phone (also me), also spend another minute just sititing with God? What would your life look like then?
I don’t care how you start or what it looks like, but start there.
Fifth, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine - If you grew up in church, like myself, you can read this verse and think, “Missions” or “Hospitality” or even, “Discipleship”. Can I tell you, yes to all three. There is something spiritual powerful to be with one another–we are not meant to do life by ourselves. That is why the author of Hebrews says this:
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
I don’t care how introverted and shy you are. Deep down inside, every one of us does not want to be alone. You might have a job that keeps you face to face with people (to be honest, with people you don’t know nor care to know) and you just can’t wait to get home and just be by yourself. But do not neglect from meeting one another. Do not keep yourselves from worshipping God together. Don’t keep yourself from church. Even in the most difficult and chaotic times of your life, that is when you will need God the most and more often than not, he ministers to us through his people. This is where real encouragement comes from. This is where real activation of His power in you comes from. This is where we get to be embolden and strengthen by one another. This is where faith really grows. I promise you. Do not deny yourself from what Christ has died to give you: himself and his family.
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles - Sixth, when we do meet with one another, whether it be a mission trip, among two or three in discipleship or opening our homes to loved ones and strangers alike, we should expect God to move and save.
(James 1:5-8) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I don’t care how you meet and for what reason, meet with intentionality and with purpose. Meet with one another as though God will speak to them on this day. And if you keep company with unbelievers, walk into every single get-together not as something casual but as something eternal.
Do not waste your get-togethers. Do not waste your meals. Do not waste your coffee drinks. Let it all be for the glory of God.
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish - Seven, here’s the real kicker to all this: we are under obligation to God to follow his commands because we have proclaimed with our lips that He is Lord of all and He is good. With that proclamation, we are also saying, “My God, I will do as you say and I will go where you go.”
(Ruth 1:15-18) And she said, See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law. But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
Just as Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, bounded and determined not to return to her life of sacrificing babies to demons but towards the only God who saves, even if she had be dragged. Ruth was not going anywhere else. When Christ asked the disciples if they wanted to leave as well when Jesus preached some hard sayings, Peter turns to Christ and answers His question with a question: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." In other words, now that we know what is absolutely and actually true, what in heck do you expect us to do? Not go? Not come with you? Not pick up our cross? Not proclaim the gospel to the rest of the world? To say we believe and do otherwise is hypocrisy and downright nuts.
So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome - How can we proclaim the gospel of God to one another and to those who do not know and believe? Pray. Serve. Obey. Worship. Gather. Read your Bible. Walk in the Spirit.
Lastly, preach the gospel to one another. You are going to gather and hear people who believe the word of God but will do and say in contradication. I am not even talking outright sin. But each of us will fall and believe these little lies from Satan and the world. If we do not fill ourselves with the words of God, we might fool ourselves thinking that those lies are the actual truth and will spin ourselves right into unbelief. Christ said it himself, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”
The people of God listen to God and trust in God. We take God at his word. We do not close our ears to some things and open our ears to others. In our salvation, our minds have been changed, our ears have been unplugged, our eyes opened, our mouths unmuted and our hearts regenerated. We belong to God as his people and He belongs to us as our God.