Paul’s Letter To Christians In Rome

During his last stay in Corinth, Greece, Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome, Italy, a place he had not yet visited in person.  This letter lays out the basics of the Christian faith, and its implications for Jews & Gentiles.  It is, in effect, the gospel, or the good news about Jesus, according to Paul (296).

Paul reminded his readers that all people are separated from God by our natural inclination to sin, or to resist the rule of God over our lives.

We often like to pretend that God isn’t real, but the evidence of creation should convince us that God is real.  Yet we all – both Jews & Gentiles — tend always to worship the creature (ie, ourselves) instead of the creator (ie, God).  And we cannot fix this; we do not have the power to save ourselves from this self-inflicted condition of being separated from God.

So, in our natural state, we are all walking on the broad way that leads to hell.

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Paul emphasizes repeatedly that, in our natural rejection of God, we are destined for eternal suffering in hell, which is ultimate separation from God.

The good news is that – despite our sins — God still loves us & still wants us to be reconciled to him. God wants each person he has created to experience eternal joy in heaven, in ultimate communion with God.

In the person & work of Jesus, God has made a way for this reconciliation to occur.  Jesus died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins, thereby satisfying the holy wrath of God against our sins.

In the person & work of Jesus, our sinful flesh has been put to death, and our spirits have been raised to new life.  Whereas we once lived as slaves of our flesh, we can now live as slaves of God’s spirit.  When we believe that, when we trust Jesus to make that happen every day, then we have entered into the narrow way that leads to heaven.

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We can stay on that narrow way, says Paul, because God’s Spirit fills & guides the lives of all who believe in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit helps us live righteously, in the narrow way marked out for us by the life & ministry of Jesus.  For Christians, being narrow-minded in this way is a good thing.

As long as we live here on this earth, our tendency to sin – mainly by worshiping ourselves instead of God – remains.  But God’s Spirit gives us the power to overcome our sinful tendencies.  Nothing can ever separate us from God, as long as we are following the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.

God, please help me to love following Your Holy Spirit — all day, every day.

(296) Romans 1-8

The First Coming

Before the world was created, Jesus already existed (4).  He was with God, and he was the same as God. Jesus has always been with God.  God made all things through Jesus.  Nothing, nothing in all creation, was made without him.

Some people, who don’t want to know God, favor other notions of how life began.  But consider the intricate & amazing beauty of creation.  This life didn’t happen by chance; we didn’t just get lucky.  Jesus is the source of all life, and his life brings light to all people.  His light still shines into any darkness, and no darkness has ever put it out.

About 2,000 years ago, God sent a messenger, a man named John the Baptizer, who came to tell people about the light — so that people would hear about Jesus and believe in him.  John the Baptizer was not the light; he came to tell about the real light that Jesus was bringing into the world for all people.

Then, at about the same time, Jesus himself came into the world.

John 1

But even though God made the world through Jesus, people in the world didn’t recognize him.  When Jesus came back as an adult to the place where he had grown up, even the people there didn’t recognize him.

However, other people recognized Jesus and believed in him.  Jesus gave those people the right to become God’s children.  This didn’t happen by any sort of physical birth, involving a human father.  Instead, these people experienced a completely new spiritual birth, whereby God himself became their father; these people were “born again.”

So Jesus came from God & became a human being & lived in the world for about 30 years.  As we get to know him, we realize that Jesus is perfect truth: from him, we learn how to live right all the time.

Sometimes we run from this notion that there is a right way to live, because we all know that we don’t live right all the time.  That’s why it’s so liberating to realize that Jesus is also perfect grace: from him, we get the power to live right all the time.  We don’t have to do it on our own, as seductive as that sometimes seems.

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The close friend, who has left us a record of his relationship with Jesus, was John the Witness (5). He actually saw the glory which Jesus received as God’s only son.

And John the Baptizer cried out, when speaking about Jesus, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘He seems younger than I am, but he’s greater than I am, because he existed before I was born!'”

Jesus wants to bless all people with his grace, giving us one blessing after another.  God gave his law through Moses, but truth & grace come through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God the Father. But Jesus, who is one with his father, makes God known to us.

 

(4) John 1:1-18

(5) A Witness (or an Apostle) is one of the original & closest followers of Jesus, who were sent into the world to tell people about Jesus.

The Beginning & The End

In the beginning, the inspired scriptures tell us, God created everything, from nothing (2).

CreationLaura Sotka 2008

In the beginning, our first parents, Adam & Eve, knew only good.  But when they took a bite of the apple, in disobedience to God, they also began to know evil.  As part of their punishment for disobedience, God said they would experience many trials in their lives & would be opposed constantly by Satan.   Because Satan had influenced this turn of events, God said he, too, would experience consequences — ultimately to include being crushed by a descendant of Adam & Eve, whom we know as Jesus.

About 65 years after Jesus left the earth, a close friend of his was inspired by the Holy Spirit to see that the end is much like the beginning (3).  That is, many of the perfections of the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of Genesis, are restored & taken to new heights in the new heaven & the new earth, at the end of Revelation.

Revelation

But the situation of Jesus’ followers immediately after Pentecost was far from perfect. Instead, persecution was the order of the day for most Christians, at the time when his close friend recorded the revelations given to him by Jesus.

So many early Christians wondered: How can the world ultimately become peaceful rather than chaotic? What can cause such pervasive change?

According to that same close friend, only Jesus is the answer to those questions.

 

(2) Genesis 1-3

(3) Revelation 21-22