Thursday, January 31 – Romans 12:3-8
Gifts of Grace
Paul gives us two messages today, one of humility and one of pride. Now that we have sacrificed our bodies to Christ, what are we to think of our lives in this world? We are members of something, a society, the body of Christian faithful; and we are all equal before the throne of God. If our earthly position is elevated, and the gifts we have been given to use on earth are many so that we are rich, or smart, or powerful, able to persuade others or in positions of leadership, we should not elevate ourselves above others in our minds. We might get used to feeling somewhat superior to employees, or those we give charity, or those we lead; it becomes a habit that spills over from our function as a boss, into our existence as a member of Christ. But as Paul taught us in the preceding verses, we should not be “conformed to this world,” but rather, we should be “transformed” in our minds, by the miracle of grace. To let our high position give us an attitude of superiority is a prime example of being conformed to the world. And if we are humble in our circumstances, we should feel no shame, no inferiority. Who was Jesus? A poor carpenter. Who was Mary? A homemaker, married to a carpenter. Who were Peter and Paul? Peter, a village fisherman, and Paul, a tentmaker who had become a henchman for the Pharisees. All of are members of Christ’s body and our gifts are those that God wants us to have. We must seek to use the gifts we have been given, no matter how great or small; because if a role in life was given to us by God, it is God-given. How can we question the merit of what we do, or the talents we have, if God gave it to us? If we use whatever talents we have, with cheerfulness and zeal, we may be satisfied with what we have done. God has told us we are completely adequate: Who are we, then, to be embarrassed or ashamed of our circumstances?
Friday, February 1 – Acts 2:40-47
The Enthusiasm of the Believers
Peter’s sermon has been a huge success. He has converted a large number of the Jews with his words and started the first church, the church of Jerusalem. The timeline and numbers are uncertain. The passage implies that 3,000 were converted on the day of his sermon and that more were converted every day, but it doesn’t otherwise record numbers of people or amounts of time. The first church is fervent and even fanatical. The members devote themselves to it, meeting every day to worship and forming a sort of commune, where property is shared freely. And every day their numbers swell. Not only do they meet to worship, but they take their meals together. Most remarkably, they meet in the temple courts, that is, the public areas in front of the temple. Remember, only a few days earlier the apostles and a few followers had hidden themselves away, out of fear of the Jewish authorities. They were, rightfully, afraid for their lives. Now, they are making a public spectacle of themselves. They are completely filled with the Holy Spirit, so much that they concern themselves with almost nothing other than worship of God through Christ, even in the face of very real danger.
Saturday, February 2 – Romans 12:9-16
Marks of the True Christian
In Romans 12:9, Paul gives us the Number One Rule for living our day-to-day lives. When we get confused or just too tired to think straight, we can help ourselves by returning to this basic principle: Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. In the following verses, Paul sets out a number of more specific examples, but we should not get lost in the long list of virtuous behavior he provides for us. When we have a decision to make, especially one that involves a moral question, we can get lost quite easily. So what confuses us? Well, the nature of life is what confuses us. The universe is chaos; God is the force that brought order to the chaos. Remember John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word took a cloud of hot gas and created order; the Word made suns and planets and trees and people. Surely, the Word can help us when our minds are confused. And Paul’s words in Romans 12:9 are one way the Word has helped us. We know the difference between right and wrong. So when we have to make a decision, when we are struggling about whether to do or not to do something, we can always go to this rule: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Concentrating on those words may solve our dilemma. And if it does not, it is guaranteed to be the correct starting point to bring order to even the most confused thoughts.