Crash Course In Romans

We’re going to talk about all of Romans in one blog post. That looks like a crazy idea as I type it, but I think sometimes when we zero-in on just one section of Paul’s letters we miss the bigger picture of what he’s trying to say. Perhaps there’s merit in studying overall messages as well as minute details.

Romans is a confusing letter, especially when you read pieces out of context. To really get a sense of what Paul is trying to say in any given chapter or verse, we have to read the entire letter. That’s true of any book in the Bible, but I think it’s more true for Romans since Paul connects his arguments so closely. Especially in the first half of the letter, he frequently makes a statement that could lead readers to make an incorrect assumption, then he asks that assumption as a rhetorical question and refutes it.click to read article, "Crash Course In Romans" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Also, even though we’ll stay mostly in Romans, it’s important to remember Paul wasn’t writing in a void. Reading Romans (or any other book of the Bible) by itself can lead to misinterpretation. We must frame our understanding of this letter in light of the Old Testament (the only scriptures around for Paul to reference) and the teachings of Jesus (for Paul would never contradict our Lord’s words). Doing that well would take a book instead of a blog post, but last week’s post serves as an good introduction to this one.

Doing The Law

Romans opens with a discussion of “ungodliness and unrighteousness” which brings people under the judgment of God (Rom. 1:16-32). Paul then takes his readers to task not, as some assume, for keeping the Law but rather for teaching it and then acting in a way that dishonors God (Rom. 2:1-29).

After saying, “not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified,” Paul shifts to explaining that even if you do keep the Law you’re still “under sin” because we’re not perfect. He also says it is righteous with God to judge the world, which is guilty before Him because the Law gives knowledge of sin and cannot justify us in God’s sight (Rom. 3:1-20).

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Perseverance In Spiritual Growth

Hebrews 11 shows that it’s possible to live a life of faith by reminding us of people who’ve done just that. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Rahab, and scores of people there’s no time to name all walked by faith. They compass us about as a great “cloud of witnesses” inspiring us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).

click to read article, "Perseverance In Spiritual Growth" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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I didn’t realize until attending church last Shabbat how well my post that week fit in with the season we find ourselves in now. We’re in the month leading up to God’s fall holy days. Traditionally, as the Rabbi in my Mesisanic group pointed out, this is a season of reflection, self-examination, and teshuva (repentance). We need a determination to pursue godliness if we’re to move forward in our walk with God. Along with that goes a perseverance to use our time on this earth wisely, as the minister in my afternoon church spoke on.

The gift of salvation is freely offered to those who take it. Accepting the gift bring us into a covenant relationship with God. One of the things we’re expected to do as “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jam. 2:5) is grow toward spiritual maturity.

Leaving Sin Behind

We’re not meant to stagnate nor to continue in sin after receiving God’s grace. After opening his letter to the Romans with a discussion on the wickedness of man, Paul shifts his focus from those who’ve rejected God to those readers who think they’re right with God but aren’t. Read more

Determined to Pursue Godliness

Too many of us are lazy Christians. I’m including myself in this, too. We think we’re not doing too bad at following God. We avoid big sins, we pray a couple times a day, carve out 1/2 an hour for Bible study, and go to church. We may even do something particularly virtuous and pat ourselves on the back certain that God’s pleased with us. But perhaps our expectations of ourselves are too low.

When the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, He asked them a question. “Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?” The implication is that none of them would. Instead, they’d expect the servant to make them dinner and serve them before eating his own supper (Luke 17:5-8)

Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:9-10)

Doing the bare minimum of what’s expected doesn’t earn us praise and it doesn’t do much to increase our faith. True faith before God doesn’t rest in simply doing what we’re told. It involves pursuing a higher standard.

click to read article, "Determined to Pursue Godliness" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: David Marcu via StockSnap

In the book Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes, Brandon J. O’Brien and E. Randolph Richards talk about a tendency in Western Christianity “to restrict the Christian life to avoiding vices.” However, “In scripture, the godly life is portrayed as a lifelong work, not a list of don’ts.” It’s not enough to avoid vices. We also have to put on virtues and cultivate right living as a habit instead of seeing virtues as spontaneous acts (p. 182). Read more

Shy, Frumpy Doormats

The subject of Godly femininity has fascinated me for a number of years. It’s well nigh impossible to be a woman in the church without reaching the point where you’re comparing yourself to Proverbs 31, and if we’re honest we rarely (if ever) feel we measure up to that standard. The picture of a virtuous woman is not meant to discourage us, but that can still be how we feel.

Similarly, reading  New Testament verses addressed to women can make us feel like it’s impossible to be a godly woman, or even make us angry that God’s idea of femininity has so few elements of feminism. It is not always easy to hear, much less heed, admonitions for women to have “a meek and quiet spirit” (1Pet. 3:4, KJV), submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22), and wear “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (2 Tim 2:9).

Meekly Modest

"Shy, Frumpy Doormats" marissabaker.wordpress.com. Blog post about Godly FemininityMany of the words used to define Godly femininity in the Bible have come under attack in modern times. When we hear “submission,” we think doormat. When we hear “modest,” we think frumpy. When we hear “gentle and quiet,” we think shy. Often, this type of reaction shows a misunderstanding of God’s intention for feminine conduct. As discussed in “Redefining Meekness,” our current definitions fall considerably short of the Biblical standard. The Greek words translated meekness carry the idea of strength of character that balances our emotions, expresses anger properly, behaves with gentleness, and helps establish our relationship with God.

The subject of modesty has been thoroughly covered (perhaps “done to death” would be a better phrase) by many other writers. So all I’m going to say about it is, check out Olivia Howard’s Fresh Modesty blog for proof that you can dress modestly and attractively.  And honestly, even if modest does sometimes look “frumpy,” would we rather be looked down on for being too covered than for dressing slutty?

Content With Quiet

In Western culture, gentle meekness and silence are seen as negative qualities. They may be okay in principle, but in practice it holds you back from reaching your full potential (whatever that means). It is generally the loudest person in the room who gets the most attention, and we often assume that is an ideal we should strive for.

"Shy, Frumpy Doormats" marissabaker.wordpress.com. Blog post about Godly FemininityI’ve touched on this subject before, when writing about introversion. Both shyness and introversion are generally considered “bad” traits (though that is starting to change in regards to introverts). In Susan Caine’s words, “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” They are not the same, but share quietness as a trait. Many people assume this quietness is a sign of weakness.

 Also, shyness implies submissiveness. And in a competitive culture that reveres alpha dogs, one-downsmanship is probably the most damning trait of all.

Yet this is where the shy and the introverted, for all their differences, have in common something profound. Neither type is perceived by society as alpha, and this gives both types the vision to see how alpha status is overrated, and how our reverence for it blinds us to things that are good and smart and wise.

Forget Society

All too often, we hear people twisting Godly traits beyond recognition to make them seem less appealing. We also see traits that God hates exalted by society. I have a hard time finding balance between these two extremes. I struggle with shyness, but I can also speak before I think and wish I had exercised the virtue of silence. I intend to dress with modesty, but sometimes settle for frumpy or wear something a bit tighter than usual because I know guys will notice. I seem to go from walk-all-over-me peacefulness to stereotypical red-head temper with nothing in between.

We can’t let ourselves pick and choose qualities we admire (I like this trait from the Bible, but I like this idea from feminism) to make a “self” that we feel comfortable with. Christ calls us to get outside our comfort zone and follow Him, not matter what outside pressures say. In many cases, our challenge as Christian women is to move past the negative reactions society has to Godly traits and follow His teaching in spite of what the world says. God doesn’t ask us to be shy, frumpy doormats, but neither does he want us to hold on to worldly ideals that conflict with His way of life. He wants daughters clothed with strength and dignity who submit their lives to Him and know when to keep silent and when to speak.