Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 1: In Your Face!

Romans 1:1-17

What might make you uncomfortable: 

Readers are challenged to not be ashamed of the gospel, even when feeling foolish.

Today's Devotional:

 Rome was the major global center of commerce and government in the first century. It was also pagan. The emperor Nero considered himself to be divine and claimed to be a sun-god. His portrait on local currency appeared as the Roman sun-god, Apollo. Those who did not worship the emperor or participate in pagan rituals were at risk of being persecuted.

Jews were generally discriminated against. Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 AD and they weren't allowed back for 5 years.

As a result, to follow a religion established by a Jewish man who claimed to be God placed Roman Christians in physical and political danger.

Paul, in his characteristic fashion, pulls no punches in opening his letter. Rather than coddling the Roman Christians and feeling sorry for their persecution, his desire is to impart to them more supernatural gifts to "make them strong" (1:11). Furthermore, in the midst of persecution, Paul challenges the Christians to be BOLD. Notice how he never prays for the persecution to end!
...I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believers; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile - Romans 1:16-17
Paul is even eager himself to preach in this persecuted environment! So many times today, Christians live in fear. Followers of Jesus shelter the world from the message of Jesus because of their fear of persecution or their fear of looking foolish. Paul however, thought different. He challenges the church to "in your face" boldness!

The word "power" in Romans 1:17 has an interesting Greek origin, coming from the word dunamis. Dunamis is the origin of the English word DYNAMITE. When we refuse to preach the gospel and are ashamed of the message of Jesus, we lose our power. We lose dynamite power to shape our culture!

Paul starts his letter with "in your face" boldness as he addresses the Romans. He challenges them to be bold in their pagan culture. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through today's reading and challenges us to boldness as well.

Boldness is not synonymous with being obnoxious, but it does mean that we need to be intentional about communicating the gospel of Jesus to others in our lives. The word "gospel" simply means "good news." You have good news to tell the world: Jesus is alive! He saves! He redeems! He heals! He rescues! Who wouldn't want to be bold with news like that?

The gospel is the power (dunamis) of God. We are called to be bold with the message of Jesus. The late evangelist Charles Spurgeon compared the message of the gospel to a lion, saying
There is no need for you to defend a lion when he is being attacked. All you need to do is to open the gate and let him out (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authority (Chicago: IVP, 1958), 41:)
It's time for believers in Jesus to be bold with the gospel, and let the lion of Judah out to roar mightily in our land.

Are you dealing with fear? Do you sometimes feel ashamed of the gospel? If so, pray for strength. It may be helpful to have a bold person in your life pray over you.

The famous evangelist Reinhaard Bonkee is quoted with saying, "when you preach the gospel, the gospel happens." We want the good news of Jesus to transform our lives, our families, and our society... but it limits God's transformation power when we aren't bold.

Please pray aloud as we end our devotional today:

Jesus, give us the strength to confront our fears. Today we look our fear and shame in the face and declare our desire to preach the Gospel. Make us strong under persecution, loving towards people, and zealous for your glory. Amen.

Application: 

  • Pray for strength
  • Have a bold believer in Jesus pray for you
  • Break fear off your life by asking Jesus, "how can I be bold today?"
  • Perform the act of boldness that Jesus puts on your heart today and obey in faith 

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