Romans 12:9-13 is loaded with applications for how we are to be the kind of friend to others that Jesus is to us. Because Jesus is genuine, honest, and loyal to us, we ought to be the same to others.
Jesus is genuine. What you see is what you get. He never sends sideways messages. We never have to read between the lines and wonder what He really meant.
Jesus is honest. He is the real deal. He never shrinks back from telling us the truth, even if it’s a tough truth to tell.
Jesus is loyal. He lets us know that He isn’t going anywhere and we can depend on Him sticking around. He knows everything about us—and at the same time assures us that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus! And because we experience His friendship, we want to be this kind of friend to those around us.
Being a good friend who is genuine doesn’t mean that you always agree with or that you always affirm others actions or behaviors. It means you tell your friend the truth while also communicating loyalty and commitment, letting them know that you’re not going to leave or shun them.
This doesn’t come easily. It takes diligence. It takes intention. It takes practice. It takes the Holy Spirit in us to love others the way Jesus loves us. Because, if we’re honest, people are mean and self-centered. People don’t often reciprocate or even appreciate this kind of genuine, honest, loyal friendship. People are flawed and hurt—and hurt people hurt people.
People like this need friends like Jesus: genuine, honest, and loyal. So be to others what Jesus is to you—a good friend!
Romans 12:9-21 contains approximately 30 exhortations and applications—practical ways we can practice being the kind of friend to others that Jesus has been to us.
This past Sunday, we looked at just 5 verses of that portion of the text and contemplated the depth of love that Christ’s expresses in His friendship with us. He has demonstrated His love for us by laying down His life for us—and we are encouraged to do the same for our brothers and sisters.
Watch our study of Romans 12:9-13 as we learned what a good friend we have in Jesus, then considered how we can be that kind of a friend to those around us.
When we see and receive God’s mercy, we can’t help but respond. And as we read in Romans 12, our appropriate response in light of His mercy is to offer Him our everything by loving Him with our heart, soul, and mind.
When we do this, we start to mature. As we renew our minds by His word, we see ourselves soberly and honestly as His servants. And as His servants, He is sending us to serve and love our neighbors—to give the people we find around us the gifts that God has given us to give to them.
When we realize that the gifts that God has given us are not really for us but have been given to us to bless and serve others, we begin to grow in our maturity in Christ. He didn’t give us these gifts so that we can draw attention to ourselves or to soothe some personal insecurity that we might have. He didn’t give us these gifts so that we could develop exaggerated ideas of our own importance.
God gives us these gifts to give away. When we all give away the gifts that we have been given, it builds others up so that the body of Christ is healthy, growing, full of love, and maturing.
When we cooperate with God’s work that He began in us, He leads us toward true maturity. As this begins and continues, something happens within us—we begin to become a bit uncomfortable with always receiving the good things God gives us.
As we worship Him and are blessed by Him, our hearts continue to fill up until we find ourselves responding to God’s love by loving those around us with the very love that He has given us.
This is all part of His plan to mature and strengthen us, and it’s what we considered as we continued our study in Romans 12:3-8. Watch our study from Sunday as we studied what it means to love those around us with the gifts that God has given us.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
– Romans 12:1
Continually offering our everything to God is our reasonable, rational, and logical response to His mercy. This is one of the reasons why simple Bible study is so important—so that we can see God’s mercies and respond accordingly. It’s the way that the Apostle Paul communicated in his letters—doctrine then application.
But remember, we need to be at the altar, continually in view of God’s mercies because the world is continually distracting us to look away and forget God’s mercies. The world, with it’s philosophy, is competing for our attention and devotion by providing a multitude of distractions so that God’s mercies are no longer in view. And when God’s mercies fade from our view, we forget them and neglect to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.
When that happens, it just means we need a little more time learning who He is, all that He has given us, and all that He has done for us. This response is what worship looks like—a willing, living sacrifice offered in response to just how good Jesus has been to us. It’s this continual process of receiving and responding that is renewing our minds and helping us to know and to do the next right thing.
Many letters written by the Apostle Paul follow a similar trajectory. He opens with doctrine (explaining who we are in Jesus) and ends with application (defining how we are to live in light of our identity in Jesus).
In most letters, you can almost draw a line in the middle at the transition from doctrine to application. Paul follows a similar pattern in Romans, but apparently he had a little more doctrine than application in Romans. The transition from doctrine to application isn’t exactly in the middle—but that doesn’t make the application any less intense.
This past Sunday, we considered just the first two verses of Romans 12 as we transitioned from doctrine to application in the letter to the Romans. Watch our study as we ask two questions of the Lord: Who are you? What do You want me to do?
Salvation is either by works or by grace. The deliverance from sin and its consequences is either ALL by your own works or ALL by God’s amazing grace. Going to heaven is either ALL and ONLY a result of your good works or ALL and ONLY a gift of God’s unmerited favor and love.
Think this through: there is no way that it can be a combination of the two. If there was a combo option, Jesus would either wouldn’t have had to die on the cross, or His sacrifice was totally insufficient.
So which is it? By works or by grace?
If you want to earn your own salvation by works, you can try. But there’s a catch—you have to be perfect your entire life without a single slip up, without a single sin.
But since we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standard (see Romans 3:23), salvation is ALL and ONLY by God’s grace. Which means if you continue to try to earn your way to heaven, you will never find salvation. Your good works will not and cannot save you. Only by grace through faith can you have salvation (see Ephesians 2:8). It’s a gift of God that He wants to give you. Receive it today!
In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul provides examples and evidence from scripture that demonstrate that God is not done with Israel. He has not rejected His covenant people. God still has a plan for them.
But before Paul gets into that, he makes an emphatic and enlightening statement about how we are saved: salvation is either all by your own works, or all by God’s amazing grace.
Romans 11 is full of the goodness and severity of our God. Watch our study of this chapter and marvel at the way God has extended His invitation of salvation to those outside of Israel.
On the first Sunday of every year, we review the history, vision, purpose, and practice of Refuge so that we can confidently answer these questions: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What does it look like?
We turn to the Bible to find the answers to those important questions so we can understand God’s vision for His church.
Jesus is everything that God wanted to say to the world He loves. Jesus is The Word. He is The Message.
To those who receive this message, God gives them the right to become His children—His totally new creation.
Only Jesus could make this possible. Only Jesus could bridge the gap between a Holy God and sinful man. Only Jesus could pay a debt that He did not owe because we owed a debt we could never pay.
But in order to do this, He must become one of us in every way. In order to bridge the gap between a Holy God and sinful man, Jesus needed to be both the Son of God and the Son of man. God needed to be born as a man. God needed a birth story—the birth story we find in John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The birth story of Jesus in the Gospel of John isn’t easy to find. Unlike Matthew, there’s no list of names. Unlike Luke, there’s no heavenly host addressing shepherds. That’s because John highlighted the deity of Jesus—how Jesus is God.
So we need to rethink what a birth story would look like for God. Where did God come from? What is God’s history? What is God’s heritage?
On Christmas Eve, we considered these questions as we looked at the first chapter of the Gospel of John—where we find the birth story of Jesus, who is God. Watch and marvel at the wonder of the Infinite becoming infant, the Maker becoming man—Immanuel, God with us!
“And it came to pass in those days…” (Luke 2:1)
The first verse of Luke 2 give us a mile marker in history to understand the time in which Jesus was born. It was during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a remarkable man who many saw as the “savior” they had been waiting for. But just consider the contrast between the man-made messiah Caesar Augustus and The Messiah who is God-made-man:
Caesar Augustus, the man-made messiah, climbed the ladder of power through brutality and force, finally exalting himself as the “sacred one.” Jesus, The Messiah God-made-man, left His throne, gave up His power, and descended to be born a helpless baby in the most humble of circumstances.
Caesar Augustus was the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. Jesus was born to a poor peasant woman, whose pregnancy was surrounded by controversy.
Caesar Augustus would have great pomp and circumstance when he entered a room. Jesus was born in a stable, laid in a feeding trough, and wrapped with ripped pieces of cloth.
Caesar Augustus tried to be a civil savior—providing outward peace through military might—but ultimately his empire crumbled. Jesus was, is, and forever will be the sinner’s Savior, who’s kingdom will have no end. He needed to be made perfect through suffering (see Hebrews 2:10) so that we would be able to say, “Jesus, You know what I am going through. You know what it’s like to be born into poverty and problems, to be an outcast, to be betrayed, to be alone.” He came to purchase and provide what we needed most—inward peace with God.
We’ve paused our study in Romans to consider the birth of our Savior and study the true story of how Jesus made His entrance into our world. Last week, we looked at the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew. This past Sunday, we looked at the Gospel of Luke.
Luke 2 may be a familiar text. But as we work and worship our way through the word from God that never changes, by the power of the Holy Spirit we will change as we preserve, ponder, and proclaim the indescribable gift of God’s Son! Watch our study of Luke 2:1-20 as we consider Jesus—the sinner’s Savior.
On Christmas Eve (4pm this Saturday), we’ll look at how the Gospel of John records Jesus’ entrance into our world. Read ahead and do some digging—the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of John might not be immediately apparent.
At the end of the first chapter in Matthew, we read that the Messiah was given two names—Jesus and Immanuel. Two different names with two important meanings, and two answers to two important questions.
Those questions were posed to God by David in Psalm 8: “What is man that You are mindful of him? And the son of man that You visit him?” The two names given to the Savior in Matthew 1 are God’s answers to those questions.
“What is man that You are mindful of him?” God’s answer is Jesus, which means “God our salvation”. God is mindful of us because we so desperately need Him!
“And the son of man that You visit him?” God’s answer is Immanuel, which means “God with us”. In order to save us, He has to be with us.
If God knew that our greatest need was money, He would have sent us a banker. If God knew that our greatest need was health, He would have sent a doctor. But God knew our greatest need was salvation, and that’s why He sent us a Savior. And He has gone to incredibly great lengths to show us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior that we have been waiting for—and He is able to save you!
The Christmas season is upon us! It’s a time we choose to set aside to ponder and proclaim that “…unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
For the next few weeks, we will take time to pause and consider the coming of our Savior Jesus—reflecting on the account of His birth and the significance of the greatest gift that God has ever given.
Three of the four Gospels have detailed accounts of the birth of Jesus. This week, we considered the account recorded in Matthew 1. Next week (12/18), we will look at Luke’s account. And then on Christmas Eve, we will look at The Gospel of John. Read ahead!
Ministry can be so discouraging, depressing, and frustrating IF we only rely on feelings. That’s because feelings (although tangible and real) are not always the greatest communicators of truth. When we only rely upon our feelings, we fall into making faulty assumptions about others. And if we entertain those assumptions, we’ll eventually believe the best about ourselves, and the worst about everyone else.
This is such a common occurrence for those who take ventures of faith in serving the Lord—like Elijah.
Elijah was one of Israel’s most powerful prophets. He single-handedly took on 450 false prophets by calling down fire from heaven. Then he received a death threat from the wicked queen of Israel…and things started to quickly unravel for him because he focused on his feelings.
Elijah became so scared and discouraged because of this threat that he ran into the wilderness and asked the Lord to end his life. Elijah went from living out great faith to focusing on his feelings. He became depressed, weary, and (quite frankly) annoyingly cranky.
But instead of immediately correcting him, God provided Elijah with good food, good rest, and time to recover. Then God drew Elijah out with thoughtful questions. Once Elijah was quiet and ready to receive, God firmly but gently reaffirmed his calling, giving him something specific to do. You can read all about in 1 Kings 19.
We can learn an important lesson from this episode in Elijah’s life. When we’re tempted to only listen to our feelings, we need to take our eyes off of what we think, feel, or assume others are doing (or not doing), and put it back on the Lord. The discouraging feelings, frustrating assumptions, and constant criticisms of others that we entertain reveal our own immaturity and keep us from doing the work that God has called us to do. But when we take our focus off of our feelings and put it back on the Lord, He will restore and revive us for the work He has prepared for us to do.
God is not done with the nation of Israel. His promises to Israel are to Israel, and He will be faithful to fulfill those promises. God is still stretching out His hands to His covenant people, longing for them to come to Him.
We see that throughout Israel’s history. Even if the majority were functioning in unbelief, there was always a faithful remnant who believed.
Paul points to the prophet Elijah as one of these faithful, but even Elijah struggled at times with discouragement and frustration in his ministry. Why? Watch our study in Romans 11:1-5 as we consider the danger of relying upon feelings rather than the facts of God’s word.
The public proclamation of God’s word is important—and it’s important that we are faithful to proclaim God’s word. You might not have the opportunity to preach the Gospel to a stadium full of people, but we have all been given the same commission by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We have all been commanded to go and audibly communicate the Good News of what Jesus has done to everyone.
The best opportunity for this to happen is if we develop the discipline of seeking the Lord before and above anything else, talking to Him in prayer, and having Him talk to us through His word. And then, with hearts full of love for the Lord and His people, the watching world would see that love in us and be drawn to Jesus.
Try this—capture whatever comes out of the overflow of your heart during your time with the Lord. Maybe it’s a single verse. Write it down, carry it around, and dare the Lord to bring somebody to you that needs to hear that verse that spoke to you that day. Then watch what He does–you and the person you share it with might be surprised!
In Romans 10:21, the Apostle Paul quotes the Prophet Isaiah, who records the word of the Lord: “All day long, I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” Israel didn’t believe that God was going to follow through with what He said He would do if they turned away from Him and were unwilling to repent. They had misinterpreted God’s patience for permission to sin.
So God sent prophet after prophet with the same message: “I am serious—if you will not repent, I cannot relent in bringing the judgment I promised.” After 490 years of pleading with His people to repent, God brought the judgment He said would come if His people walked away from Him.
He says the same to us, expect the judgment that awaits us is more severe than a 70 year exile in a foreign country. The judgement that awaits us if we refuse to repent is eternal. And so, the same God who sent the prophets to plead with His people in the past is the same God who sends preachers to us today to plead with us to repent so that He could relent in bringing eternal judgment.
The public proclamation of God’s word is important. Watch our study of Romans 10:14-21 as we considered the vital role preaching has in our times of gathering.
We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness. We are all in the same position relative to the Lord. No amount of effort will ever make up the difference.
And yet, we try so hard to be a good person, to follow the rules, to honor the rituals, to obey the regulations—hoping that will be enough to garner God’s favor. But after all of that effort, we are still uncertain of our salvation. All of that trying and striving—though zealous and well-intentioned—will never be enough to earn salvation. Any attempt to attain self-righteousness by trying to follow the law is futile.
This reality can lead to discouragement…or to the realization that we can’t earn or deserve salvation. If we could, then Christ had no reason to come to earth to live a perfect life, to be crucified, to die, and to rise from the dead. But He did—and since He did, Jesus is the end of the unnecessary pursuit of self righteousness.
This is the good news! Once we realize that we can’t earn our own righteousness, then we don’t have to climb some spiritual mountain or plumb some unattainable spiritual depth. We can simply believe that Jesus was raised from the dead to give us His righteousness.
If you believe this, but haven’t declared it, simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
The Apostle Paul was a passionate person. He loved his brethren, his countrymen, his family according to the flesh—and wanted them to be saved.
His passion and emotion for his brethren was so intense that he was willing to be cut off from Christ if that meant that they could be saved. Even though this desire was deep in his heart, in his head he knew that this wasn’t possible. The Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth—had already given His life to them and they had every opportunity to be saved!
In Romans 10, Paul begins to process why his family according to the flesh have yet to yield to Jesus to be saved. Watch our study of Romans 10:1-13 as we unpack Paul’s heart and head for those he loved who weren’t saved—and what we can learn as we consider those in our lives who have yet to yield to Christ.
Way too often we take God’s mercy for granted. But when we realize that God chooses to be merciful, we cherish the many ways we have been blessed by His mercy. Aren’t you thankful for all the merciful choices that God has made in order to bless us, to serve us, to love us, and to make us righteous in His sight? He didn’t have to—He has the choice to be merciful!
You have a choice too. If you choose to harden your heart after you clearly hear from the Holy Spirit, God is not bound to be merciful to you if you are not in Jesus. God may sovereignly choose at any moment to strengthen your resolve to fortify your own decision and allow you to reap the temporal and eternal repercussions of your decision.
So don’t dismiss the bad news about your sinful condition—or the good news of God’s grace and mercy! He has every right and reason not to show mercy. And that should terrify us and incentivize us to figure out why and when and with whom God make these choices. We should want to learn how we can be in His good graces and how we can be in the middle of His merciful choices.
God is sovereign in His decisions AND we are responsible for our decisions. God sovereignly has the ability to make a choice on who He will have mercy upon. But He tells us plainly that He chooses to have mercy eternally upon whosoever chooses Him. Throughout scripture, we hear that invitation to the whosoevers:
“…whosoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“And whosoever lives and believes in [Jesus] shall never die.” (John 11:26)
“…whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
“…whosoever believes in [Jesus] will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
“For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
“Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (1 John 5:1)
“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whosoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. He has made an invitation to you—choose Him today. Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Call upon Him now. Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. And trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
There’s a faulty assumption about God that presumes He is obliged to have mercy on everyone. This assumption objects to anything that runs contrary to God automatically being merciful to all people in all places at all times.
But as we’ve been learning in Romans 9, God chooses to be merciful. He isn’t required to show mercy, and yet very often He does. Because He chooses to show mercy, there are times when He chooses not to be merciful. Sometimes God, as a just judge, does not show mercy. Sometimes He allows someone to experience the consequences of their actions. Sometimes He allows a person experience the just judgement for their sins.
That is His choice. That should terrify us and incentivize us to figure out why and when and with whom God make these choices. We should want to learn how we can be in His good graces and how we can be in the middle of His merciful choices. Because, after all, it’s His choice.
Watch our study of Romans 9:14-33 as we consider who God chooses have mercy upon, and how He chooses to have mercy upon whosoever chooses Him.
“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.””
– Romans 9:13
In Romans 9:13, Paul quotes a verse from Malachi as an illustration of the futility of working for God’s favor rather than simply receiving God’s favor. You might have an intense difficultly with what God says—“Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” But if we were to think through this statement in light of all that we have gone through in Romans so far—in light of the holiness of God and His standard of absolute perfection—our difficulty would not be with the fact that God said, “Esau I have hated,” but rather with the fact that God said, “Jacob I have loved.”
The gift of God’s favor has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It has everything to do with God’s merciful choice. Since we cannot merit God’s love and since we have all fallen short of God’s holy standard, it should be logical that God would be in opposition to Esau. It seems entirely illogical that God would love Jacob…that God would love us. But that is God’s merciful choice! He mercifully chooses and calls those who don’t deserve His favor.
Now, you might be wondering if God has chosen you. It’s a good question, but one that shouldn’t lead you to analysis paralysis. Simply choose Him—and you’ll find out that He has chosen you! God sovereignly saves by election, choosing according to foreknowledge from before the very foundations of the world. AND we have the free will—invitation and responsibility—to choose Him. He gives salvation as a free gift to whosoever will come to Him, believing and receiving by faith what His one and only Son has done.
Have you chosen God? Have you accepted the free gift of salvation that’s offered through Jesus? Today is the day of salvation—simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
In Romans 9, the Apostle Paul writes about his desire for his family—his fellow Israelites—to be saved from an eternity of paying the just penalty for their sin. But they are missing the key component—Jesus, The Messiah who ends all self-righteous pursuits by offering His righteousness as a gift.
This is important to understand as we work our way through Romans 9, 10, and 11 as Paul deals directly with the past, present, and future of his family—the Jewish people. He loves his own people enough to be willing to be cursed if that meant they could be saved. And while Paul acknowledges their zeal and enthusiasm to honor God, it won't bring about righteousness by following the law.
That’s because everyone has sinned and has fallen short of God’s holy standard. Everyone—whether Jew or Gentile—needs salvation. The only source of salvation offered to all of humanity is found in a flawless, sinless, substitutionary sacrifice who can take our place—Jesus, The Messiah.
Watch our study from Romans 9:6-13 as we discovered the importance of receiving Jesus and whom God has chosen to give His great gift of salvation.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends