I was reading in Romans today...
Background context of Paul's letter: having not yet visited the Church in Rome, he sent a letter sharing his hope that God would make the visit possible. His letter is in effect a preview of what Paul will share with the Romans when he arrives... it's a doctrinal overlook of his teaching ministry. His primary focus... THE GOSPEL OF GOD!!! The GOOD NEWS.
YES, that's what I said, OVERALL... the 16 chapters can be summed up as just this- GOOD NEWS. However, Paul opts to present the Good News of the Gospel by first showing us the bad news so we will see our DESPERATE NEED for the Gospel of which he speaks. (Side note- it does appear that we often focus on how God will benefit US in regards to ministering to non-believers. (Accept Him and you will receive an inheritance with Christ, riches and blessings, love joy peach patience kindness goodness gentleness and self-control and the greatest of all... an eternity with God.) We tend not to focus on the NEED each unbeliever has for Christ.
KEY POINTS (in my opinion)
* Romans 1.18 Wrath of God is revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who SUPPRESS THE TRUTH by their wickedness.
(A CHOICE is made by man to ignore TRUTH and act against God.)
* Romans 1.21 For although they KNEW GOD they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
(A CHOICE is made by man to ignore GOD- the Hebrew translation of "Knew" in this verse is "to perceive" or "to be aware of". Everyone has the opportunity to perceive God. His creation alone makes Himself KNOWN. Here- despite the fact that they "Knew" Him- they withheld glory and gratitude, which caused thinking to become futile and hearts dark.)
*Romans 1.24 God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts...
(This struck me for sure... SIN was the DESIRE of their hearts... God allowed them to be taken by it.)
*Romans 1.25 They exchanged the TRUTH of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things...
(OUCH! How guilty am I? Exchanging the truth of God for what I believe to be the truth... instead of focusing my attention on His Word so I can fully know Him. For worshiping and serving CREATED things - my husband, kids, home, hobbies... instead of the CREATOR.)
*Romans 1.28 Since they did not think it WORTHWHILE to RETAIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.
(WOW! How amazing is this verse? Because they didn't prioritize knowing Him by His Word- he allowed them to succumb to their own minds. THEIR MINDS!!! Don't miss this - God specifically says that sin is sin whether you think it or do it. And actions come from thoughts... not the other way around. If your mind is allowed to wander on things NOT of the Lord, it is only a matter of time before it will ACT on things NOT of the Lord. God didn't inflict anything upon the wicked... he allowed them to go by way of THEIR MINDS. OUCH!)
*Romans 1.29-31 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
(How's this for a list of things that come about in our lives because WE DON'T RETAIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!!! Man- does it get better than this awareness. Look at all the things we can avoid in our lives should we only commit to entertaining in our minds the person, presence and things of God. )
Brother Lawrence says this in his book, "The Practice of the Presence of God"...
"When we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him and doing anything that may displease Him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and , if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In fine, by often repeating these acts they become habitual and the presence of God rendered as it were natural to us."
That's just it. We train ourselves to be in His presence which keeps us from offending him willfully, and grants us freedom in Him and an avenue to KNOW HIM by where we ask, and he grants the grace we need to endure. As we do this over and over... his presence becomes habitual and natural!!
What's better than that? I love the letter Paul writes to the Romans... especially the first three chapters as they are a continual reminder to me how much I needed/need Christ to change me from the inside out. Those things he lists in chapter 1 verses 29-31 that I have not already fallen prey to... I am fully capable of- Knowing this, out of my Love for the Lord and my desire not to offend him, I try to abide in the presence of the Lord so as to train my mind on the things of Him...
How pleased He is with a heart that simply seeks Him earnestly.