As I just shared with the men down at Union Gospel Mission Dallas, I recently had the privilege of celebrating two milestones in my life. The first was turning 50. The second milestone was attaining my 20th year of recovery. It’s been a long road, but by the grace of God, I have been blessed with a good, healthy life and the opportunity to live life anew, clean and sober. Words can’t express my awe and gratitude to the work the Lord has done in and through me. What a privilege it is to serve and worship a living God who cares about me and my well-being, not just for today, but for eternity!
Romans 15:4 reminds us that the persistent study of Scripture is beneficial to us because in its words we find hope, therefore being encouraged along our journey.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
As we all know too well, life can be downright hard, wrought with difficulties and filled with arduous obstacles to overcome.
The Epistle to the Romans was written by the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit. After Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was never the same again. His whole life was turned upside down, to the point that he would no longer be called by his old name, but rather become known by his new name in Christ Jesus—Paul.
Off with the old, on with the new.
In Romans 6:6, Paul writes:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Indeed, after we encounter Jesus, we experience a grand transformation, from sinner to saint. We are no longer slaves to sin, but have become servants of Christ.
First Things First
It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Christians in Rome around AD 56-57, while spending the winter in Corinth. We are told he sent the letter to the church in Rome via Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2).
What little we know about the church in Rome during that time comes from the writings of Ambrosiaster, an early church father who lived in the fourth century. Ambrosiaster asserts that a group of Jewish Christians founded the church, possibly after becoming believers in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The church in Rome was well known throughout the Roman Empire by the time it received Paul’s letter.
The early church throughout the world experienced common problems. In writing a letter to the church in Rome, Paul ministered to the spiritual needs of the Christians in Rome who, unlike the church in Corinth, were in good spiritual condition. The Apostle recognized the challenges and dangers that the church faced and wanted to provide them with his teaching through an exhaustive exposition of the Gospel in advance of his much anticipated arrival in Rome. For Paul knew that what Jesus had taught was true. In this world, we will have trouble.
Paul doesn’t waste much time laying out the foundation. In Romans 1:16-17, the Apostle writes:
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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith.
Transformation starts with faith. Faith in someone/something greater than ourselves. Not just any faith, though. Believing wrongly about God renders us powerless because we can’t plug into that which we don’t see.
Paul urges us to have the right faith: Faith in the God who created us in His image. Faith in His Son, who redeemed us by shedding His blood for us and then showered us with grace and the gift of new, everlasting life through His resurrection. Faith by listening to the Holy Spirit, indwelling in us, following God’s guidance and resting in the strength and power we have gained through faith.
Faith gives us the power to overcome that which we were once powerless over.
We All Believe In Something
Prior to Christ, sin exercises its dominion over us, permeating every facet of our lives. Even though we might know right from wrong, we don’t choose to do right. Throughout history, mankind has done what is right in its own eyes, forsaking the righteousness of God.
Today, we deny the very existence of sin. We don’t call it what it is anymore. We claim “It’s all good.” We believe that whatever any individual does is okay as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we’re doing or cause us harm. After all, who are we to say what is right and what is wrong? What’s wrong for me might be perfectly right for you.
We deny sin and we deny God. There are many among us who profess with their mouth and their deeds that they don’t believe in the existence of a god. I would challenge them to simply look in the mirror. The god they believe in will be evident in the reflection they see.
We all have faith in something. Perhaps it’s the bottle. Maybe it’s the Bible. Maybe we simply believe and trust in ourselves—I’ll do what’s right for me, you do what’s right for you. It’s all good.
But the teaching of the Apostle Paul does not let us off that easy.
Faith in What?
In Chapter 1, Paul goes on to say that the existence of God is plain for all to see. Yet, knowing God was, is, and will be, we do not honor him or thank him. Being wise in our own eyes, we became fools, exchanging the great things of God for the things of mankind. In other words, we choose to deny God and in the process damage our eternal well-being.
Paul goes on to tell us that each of us have sinned. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sin is what severs us from God. This is bad news.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Romans 5:12-13
But Paul encourages us not to fret. There is good news in the Lord Jesus. Paul teaches us that by placing our faith and trust in Christ, we are no longer bound to sin. Are chains are gone. We have been set free.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19
He teaches us that the wages of sin are death, but that our debt has been paid for through the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Through the Work of Christ, we become dead to sin and alive to God.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:9-11
Live Alive In God Today
Whatever you find yourself struggling with today, realize you don’t have to go it alone. There is a God who loves you and cares about your well-being, for today and for eternity. He’s already done the heavy lifting. You just need to make room for him and in your heart of hearts place your faith and trust in Him. In return, he will give you all the strength and power to overcome whatever it is you are faced with today. Let your chains be gone, be set free. Stop being a slave to sin and become a servant of Christ. It will be the greatest adventure you’ll ever experience.