You can access the day 1 reading HERE.
Who’s the “fairest” of them all? America. Certainly America. We are a Christian nation, right? We were founded on the Bible and we follow the Great Commission and we all go to church on Sundays and know to say “God bless you” and “Bless your heart” and “I’m praying for you,” right?
This morning at breakfast, my husband asked, “Do you really think that America is no longer a Christian nation?” We pondered it for awhile, discussing what he has seen overseas and what we have each seen in our country. Living in the Bible Belt, it’s easy to feel cozy in our Christianity until we turn on the news. It’s likewise easy to thank God that we don’t live like “they” do. Paul seemed to see the same situation in Rome. There was a church there that he had longed to meet with, one that was proclaiming Christ in the midst of a fallen society but also one that seems to have gotten a bit too cozy in their role as Christians. In his letter to them, Paul first makes clear his purpose– to encourage them and also to preach the Gospel. He outlines the theme of his letter in the following verse:
6 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Paul goes on to paint a picture of the depravity of Rome, a place that God has given over to their sinful desires. Here are some characteristics that he points out:
A Picture of Lostness:
- They did not glorify God nor give thanks to Him
- They were filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil
- They were full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice
- They were gossips and slanderers
- They were haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil
- They were disobedient to parents,
- They were without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32
- and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
- They are filled with shameful lust and homosexuality
And there we have the answer. America is most certainly NOT a Christian nation. Not anymore, if it ever was to begin with. As I read through this list, I couldn’t help but feel that I was reading about my own country, even my own town–which, ironically, is called the “City of Churches.”
So what was Paul’s instruction for the churches? How were they to respond to the evils around them? Paul switches direction in chapter 2, and if we aren’t paying attention, we’ll miss it. In chapter one, when he refers to those who are depraved, he uses the pronoun “they.” In chapter two, however, he switches to the pronoun “you.” Chapter two, then, is directed at the church, and his encouragement is certainly not one that tickles the ears as much as it is one that implores the church to remember where righteousness comes from–Jesus, not themselves.
A few takeaways for the Church:
- We should live righteously, not because we are “better” but because of the power of Christ in us. (v.1-3)
- Jesus’ sacrifice covers our sins, but that doesn’t mean that we are “free” to do whatever we want. In fact, His sacrifice should be of so much value that it calls us to continual repentance as we recognize the value of who He is and what He has done for us. (v.4-5)
- The difference in us is due to a “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (v. 29). No amount of playing the role, following the traditions, or observing a ritual will save us. True salvation and righteousness is from Christ alone and the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
- Jesus’ sacrifice levels the playing field for all people. Without Him, we are destined to hell. With him, no matter what our background, He will give us a new heart and impart His righteousness upon us. Wow. If that doesn’t take our breath away, I don’t know what does.
Food for Thought:
How did God speak to you today?