Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"Mercy ... for Israel and for YOU!"

Day #314

Scripture Reading:  Romans 11 - 12 ...

God knows those who are His.  That is such a comforting truth, yet one overlooked by many.  Before you knew God, God knew you.  If you have believed in Jesus Christ it is because God chose you, gave you His Spirit, regenerated you, gave you the gift of faith, saved you by the blood of Christ and now empowers you to live for Him until you leave this world to be with Him in eternity.  God knows those who are His, and if you are one of His children, God knows YOU! 

How does that affect the way you live in this world?  It is important to understand God’s plan for this world in order to learn how to THINK and so to act, to live as disciples of Jesus Christ during our time in this world.  If God has to change His plans because He cannot bring to pass what He promised, you and I can never know for sure if we or anyone else will be saved from His coming judgment.  But God says through John, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).  God WANTS His children to know that we are His children!!

Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jewish people today, were and are chosen by God as a “people,” as a nation.  They are a living illustration of what we witnessed in God’s Word yesterday ... God’s sovereign choice!  In Romans 11, Paul continues his explanation of God's relationship with Israel because it may have appeared to some that God had rejected them as the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles. 

Paul asks this question,  "Did God reject His people?  By no means!” (11:1).  He then goes on to explain that God has always kept a remnant from Israel as His very own (11:5).  In Chapter 9, verse 6, he had previously stated, "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel."  If God had intended to save all of Abraham’s descendants, He could have done so, but as we said at the beginning, God knows those who are His, from the descendants of Abraham AND from the Gentiles - those who are called and who have received the gift of faith in the promises of God.  In fact, God had told the Apostles to take the Gospel "first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles" (1:16).  This was all part of God’s plans.

The Church today is made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-22), yet God has a further plan for physical Israel.  The "root" of the Church is still physical Israel.  God cannot forget His promises!  God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah hundreds of years before, saying, “He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night ... the LORD Almighty is His name; ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the LORD, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me. ... Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done’” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

So Paul writes here, "They are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable" (11:28-29).  If God has rejected all of Israel because of their disobedience, what about us?  Who of us who believe in Jesus Christ have perfectly obeyed God’s commands?  Chapter 11, verses 5-6 must be repeated, “So, too, at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”  That is a huge comfort to us who believe in Jesus today. Salvation is the gift of God and cannot be lost!  

If there is anything we offer to God to add to what Jesus has done in our place; if there is anything we can do to earn God’s favor, salvation is no longer by grace and we lose our assurance and our hope!  No wonder Paul ends this section of his letter to the Romans with the beautiful doxology of Chapter 11, verses 33-36.  God’s wisdom is so far beyond yours and mine.  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To HIM be the glory forever!  Amen!!” (11:35-36).

Which leads Paul to begin to apply the Gospel to life in Chapter 12.  All of what he says in the remainder of his letter to the Romans is said in the context of Romans 12:1:  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies (your entire selves) as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”  God is worthy of your worship, of your service, of your life, because He has shown you mercy.  You and I deserve judgment, but God has chosen to show His children, those whom He chose to be His very own, mercy.  The privilege of knowing God and loving Him cannot be explained to those who have not received His grace.  But to His children God gives gifts to be used for Him in the context of the Church, His body.

Our joy, our privilege is now in using God’s gifts to serve Him.  Remember, the Holy Spirit transforms those who are born again.  The following instructions are given to believers:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2).  You and I do that in the context of living in the Body of Christ, the Church.  "In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (12:5).

How can you say you have received God's mercy and have been shown His grace and NOT serve the Lord with fervor and zeal (12:11)?  Evil is all around us, and even within us, but God empowers His children to overcome evil with good (12:21).  Life with Christ is life lived with purpose; life lived with love for God and love for others ... in view of God's mercy!  These chapters reveal again that everything points us to the God who rules over all things and who makes promises and keeps them.  He is our God and He is with us!

TRUST Him!  LOVE Him!  Serve Him and find joy in being one of His children!!

"Oh Lord, my God, all that I am and have is from You, so that YOU will receive glory, honor and praise from your children, now and forever!  Thank you for making ME part of Your family through faith in Jesus.  I am YOURS!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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