Scripture Reading: Romans 13 - 14 ...
Living life in this world as a disciple of Jesus Christ requires FOCUS! It is so easy to forget who we are as believers: those chosen by God and set apart for His glory. People are often so concerned about falling into the sin of pride that most within the church think it admirable to make no distinction between those who are united to Christ by faith and those who don't know Him, love Him and believe in Him. That leads to powerless living, giving in to the myriad of distractions that pull us away from devotion to Christ and obedience to His Word. We have seen that God calls those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord to live in obedience to His Word in all things. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples ... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Amidst the myriad of decisions you and I make every day, life doesn't have to be that complicated or that difficult for those who have been born again by the Spirit and who are living by the power of Christ within us. We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds (12:2). That's where the battle needs to be fought! That’s why Paul's instruction concerning submission to the government in Chapter 13 is important for believers in every nation today. Rebellion lies within the very nature of every man, woman, boy and girl. WE want to be in control and the sinful nature leads us into all kinds of sin, which is the breaking of the law of God. Therefore, government has been established by God for good, to restrain evil.
While God created human government for good, it is clear that sin has affected people all over the world who rule for power and influence and wealth rather than for the good of the people. Yet, even in this, God calls His people to FOCUS by submitting to the government, not becoming overwhelmed by the evil around us, but remembering who we are. And the only way to do that is to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" and "not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (13:14). How do you and I do that? "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another" (13:8).
Many today fail to understand the God-given role of government in our lives because they do not recognize the rebellious nature of the human heart and mind. God says here that, “rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong” (13:3). That is the way God established it to be and blessed are those who live in a nation where that is true. There are, however, places where the government is so corrupt that you and I may reach a time when we must say, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). At all other times, “he is God’s servant to do you good” (13:4). That’s why we are commanded to pray for those who rule over us.
We can be easily tempted to lose our focus and to see only the bad things about government, yet God states, “he is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit ...” (13:4-5). The spiritual darkness around us that is often associated with government must not distract us. Paul’s instruction here is crucial to your life in this world as a disciple of Jesus: “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light!” (13:12). Let the light of Christ shine through you in your willing submission and in your willing obedience to God and to the authorities that He has established.
Speaking once again to those who are followers of Christ, Chapter 14 explains an important principle in loving all people, but especially those within the body of Christ. Anyone who has been part of a congregation, a gathering of God’s people, knows that there are times when we don’t agree on how to apply God’s Word to our lives. While you and I must never ignore a clear command of God, there are some matters in life where God has not given specific instructions. It is often these things that cause division and strife among those who are called to live together in love.
Showing grace to others is essential when it comes to Christian liberty. Followers of Jesus are called to obey all that God has revealed and to encourage one another as we live together. Paul cautions against condemning others in the body over "disputable matters" (14:1). Doctrine - revealed truth - is never a "disputable matter," but there are matters of preference and times when believers disagree over how to apply God's truth to specific situations in life. At these times it is important to respect one another, to love one another, to pray together and to be careful not to put a stumbling block in the way of a fellow-believer.
God says, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (14:5). We "live to the Lord," and we "belong to the Lord" (14:8). You and I should never get to the point where we hurt a brother or sister just to prove a point that is a matter of opinion rather than doctrine. Because we who are followers of Jesus Christ are called to love one another and to build up one another, at all times and in every way our FOCUS must be upon following Christ's example and seeking first the kingdom of God in our minds, hearts and lives. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (14:17). We are one in Christ Jesus!
Being part of the Body of Christ should be a joy-filled experience where there is a desire to make our relationships stronger in the Lord, not weaker through petty arguing and bickering and complaining. The true Church belongs to Christ and as believers we live together within the Body for Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church! Our goal in all things and at all times must be to please HIM and we do that when we love one another and show grace to one another.
The counsel of God in Colossians 3:17 summarizes what Paul writes here to the Romans: "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." May we be found so doing!!
"Heavenly Father, You have called us in Christ and empowered us by Your Spirit to live in such a way that our lives display Your glory. Help us in our daily living together to show grace to one another as we apply Your truth to our lives, encouraging one another and building one another up as we set our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. In Jesus name, Amen"