Confusing times, huh? Did you ever even imagine some of the issues before us?
The people on our streets don’t trust media or government. And they barely trust scientists and doctors, who are also falling in the polls. In our world where every issue has become politicized to the point of nearly unrecognizable, and when such a climate breeds nothing but widespread distrust, can you and I live as people who are wise?
Because of Christ.
I’m captivated by the last few verses of Romans, where Paul offers his “final instructions and greetings.” Rich. And the apostle says it right there (16:19): I want you to be wise!
The Apostle Paul did not write this epistle in a vacuum. He wrote it in deeply troubled times. Paul recorded these words so that believers living in chaos would be wise in every situation. Paul longed for his sisters and brothers in Christ to grow in God’s wisdom in some very specific ways …
WE MUST STAY STRONG IN THE GOSPEL.
This is the language of Paul’s doxology in 16:25. You and I need God’s strength because life can be very difficult at times. You know, pandemics and all. The strength with which we’re supplied doesn’t come out of nowhere, but it’s rooted in the person and work of Jesus.
Then check out 16:17-20. Divisions, and opportunities for further division, are all around us. Paul sternly warns the Romans about what will destroy their church. They have to stand against those who cause divisions and confusion in regard to matters of utmost importance. Paul understands that, when we lose the gospel, we’re powerless.
The gospel strengthens us because it strengthens our faith. God uses faith to produce in and through us wonderful fruits of righteousness. You and I are soul-strengthened by the good news of Jesus, and we must preach it to ourselves over and over again.
WE MUST DO WHAT WE KNOW TO BE RIGHT.
Check out 16:19 and 16:26. Why is Paul so excited about what the Lord will do in the lives of the people who will receive this letter? Simply this: Paul knows that the Holy Spirit will use the great doctrines of Romans to create transformed people – people who are submitted to Christ and working together for the glory of God.
A lifestyle of obedience to Christ sets us apart from the unbelieving world. Our obedience – not perfection, but a new direction of thought and affections and behavior – is the fruit that demonstrates that our faith is alive. That it’s real! That’s it’s true! But never forget that our commitment to the gospel doesn’t come without cost. And that our growth in grace doesn’t come without cost, because our old nature will try to bring us down. More than once.
But we persevere. And God meets us in our weaknesses. In fact, that’s where Christ shines brightest.
WE MUST BE A PEOPLE OF NO-MATTER-WHAT PRAISE!
All you have to do is look at the very last verse of Romans, and it will jump right off the page.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our church family, and our calling together for such strange times as COVID-19. The 1960s was a period of great social turbulence in our land, but our Sovereign God used that season of unrest to raise up a generation of young adults who eventually became “the Jesus People” – a movement that started on the West Coast but impacted all of American evangelicalism. You see, sometimes the Lord uses prolonged and polarizing unrest to create in His own sheep a profound dissatisfaction with business as usual, and a stark realization that only Christ can truly satisfy the deepest longings of the human soul.
We need wisdom, friends. Gospel wisdom. You do. I do. We do. And it starts and ends with bowing before the only Giver of wisdom.
So let’s seek Christ for it, and light up this place with it!