Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

World-Class Faith

Some people believe that faith is a very personal and private matter. In fact, they refuse to discuss it. If you try and speak with them about their faith, they get offended.

Other people see faith as a very public thing, even political. They are open and perhaps even aggressive at times. If anyone suggests that their faith is too pushy or partisan, they get offended.

Obviously there are different ideas about how to properly understand and practice faith. What does the Bible say?

Near the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he commends their faith because it is reported in the whole world. Political or not, their faith was very public and the apostle approved.

In Paul’s introduction to the Roman letter he reminded them that they were called to be saints. The word “saint” means holy. All Christians are called to live holy lives. God tells his people, “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This world is far from being holy. It is broken and sinful. Anyone who sets out to live a holy life will be pushing against the rushing tide of culture and society. It is impossible to live a life that is faithful to the gospel and remain invisible to the world.

After commending their public faith, Paul proceeded to write about his desire to visit the Roman believers. He wanted to share a spiritual gift with them so they would be strengthened in their faith. He also wanted to be encouraged by their faith.

Paul recognized that both he and the Roman believers would be stronger through Christian fellowship. He was humble enough to admit his need for their encouragement and caring enough to share his spiritual gift and encouragement with them.

A public faith will be opposed and can get battered severely in this unbelieving world. To maintain a strong public witness requires strengthening and nurturing from fellow believers, from participation in a local church. Biblical faith is practiced in fellowship, in church.

After stating his intention to visit the Romans, Paul testified that he was a debtor to all peoples, all nations. He was obligated to preach the gospel, to share the good news about God’s saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul was motivated by a strong sense of personal obligation, a sense of duty. His duty was expressed by proclaiming the gospel to all peoples, but ultimately the duty was an obligation to God himself. Paul felt obligated to God because God saved him despite his terrible disobedience.

What about love? Would it not be better if love inspired Paul instead of duty? Paul clearly loved God and he loved others. His passion and work are reminders that we should not think of love and duty as disconnected, as if they cannot work in harmony.

True love inspires great acts of duty. We feel a strong sense of obligation toward those whom we love, without any resentment. Jesus’ sacrifice awakens in believers an obligation born out of the deepest affection. Paul’s faith was intensely personal, between himself and God.

Our personal passion for God inspires us to seek out fellow believers and stay in fellowship with them, encouraging one another and living openly for God. As we do, the world notices. True faith is sparked by a personal passion for God, nurtured in fellowship with the local church, and noticed by the world.

May God’s love inspire us to live a world-class faith,

Brother Richard Foster

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Our Master, Calling and Mission

With the opening words of his letter to Christians in Rome, the great missionary apostle identified himself to his readers. First, his Roman name: Paul.

Earlier in the book of Acts Paul is called Saul, his Hebrew name. When sharing his personal testimony, Paul always referred to himself as Saul. Otherwise, he used the name Paul. This gives the impression that his name changed when he was converted to Christianity, a dramatic transformation that took place while he was on the road to Damascus.

Paul was transformed from being a deadly enemy of the church to being a follower of Christ and a passionate preacher of the gospel. The change was so complete, that a different personal name would seem appropriate.

The next word in his letter to the Roman church is doulos. Some English Bibles translate this word as “slave,” others as “servant,” still others as “bondservant.” The word “slave” carries harsh negative connotations in English. On the other hand, “servant” is probably not strong enough to describe the relationship Paul had in mind.

Paul was not shy about using the word doulos, “slave,” because of the next name in his introduction. He was a “slave” of a very special Master: Christ Jesus, his Savior. In other places, Paul insisted that Jesus set him free, but he gladly considered himself to be obligated to wait on his Lord like a slave waits on his master.

Next Paul described himself as “called.” To live with a sense of calling and purpose is truly a great blessing. To be called is to have a clear awareness of direction and meaning in life that brings great confidence in facing life’s various circumstances.

As a slave of Christ Jesus, Paul’s calling came from Jesus. After his resurrection Jesus told his disciples that all authority in heaven and earth is given to him. To be called by Jesus is to have a purpose in life that comes from the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Next, Paul listed the word “apostle.” The word was used for ambassadors, delegates, and messengers. Paul’s calling in life was to be sent by Jesus as his representative.

Paul further described the word “apostle” by adding that he was set apart to the gospel of God. So he was called to go and represent the gospel, or good news, of God. He represented God and his good news by proclaiming the gospel to the nations. This was his life’s mission.

After noting his master, calling, and mission, the apostle proceeded to define the gospel of God. The gospel he was called to represent was the grace of God offered to all the nations through faith in God’s resurrected Son Jesus Christ.

What a great blessing it was for the Apostle Paul to have such a clear sense of his identity and purpose in this world! Paul knew where he stood in the context of both time and eternity, in the eyes of God and the eyes of people.

The beginning of a new year tends to be a marker in our lives. It seems like a fresh start. What better time to clarify our identity and purpose? Who are we in God’s eyes and in the eyes of others? What has our Lord called us to accomplish in this world?

Let’s reaffirm our identity in Christ and our calling from the Lord as we prepare to make the most of every opportunity in 2020. Let’s honor our Lord by fulfilling our calling and completing our mission!

May God’s Spirit inspire us to know and to fulfill our call from our Lord Christ Jesus,

Brother Richard Foster

 

 

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Death and the Second Coming

The Apostle Paul planted a church in Thessalonica. His enemies were jealous of his success so they drove him out of the city. Paul had planned to stay longer. He was worried that the believers in that new church were not sufficiently established in their faith.

Since he was unable to visit them personally, Paul wrote to the fledgling church in Thessalonica. He was anxious to finish the things lacking in their faith.

One of the issues troubling the believers in Thessalonica was apparently their understanding of Jesus’ Second Coming. They were concerned about Christians who died before Jesus’ return. What happens to them?

“Since we believe that Jesus died and rose,” Paul wrote, “so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”

Notice that Paul speaks of death as sleep. For those who belong to Christ, death has lost its sting. Death for a Christian is like falling asleep on a journey and waking up at home. Jesus died to defeat sin and was raised by God to defeat death. All who trust in him share in these great victories.

Paul goes on to write that the followers of Jesus who are alive when he returns will be reunited with the believers who have died. When Jesus comes again Christians will be privileged to attend the world’s greatest reunion. What an incredibly joyous time that will be!

The Apostle also writes that we will be with the Lord always after he returns. Jesus warned his disciples just before his crucifixion that he was about to leave them. Their consolation would be God’s Holy Spirit, whom God later poured out on his church.

But when Jesus comes again, his followers will never again be separated from him. We will have all eternity to enjoy his visible presence, finally able to cast our crowns at his feet and marvel at that face which shines like the sun in all its glory.

This uplifting section of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Christians ends with a command: “So encourage one another with these words.” Paul did not want those men and women who were new to the faith to be ignorant, mourning like the rest of world who have no hope.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. For believers, death is like sleep. As believers, we look forward to the greatest reunion ever imagined. And as followers of the Risen Christ, we have a guaranteed place in his presence for all eternity.

This is a great time of year for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us encourage one another with these great words.

May the power of the Risen Christ carry us forward in the grace of God,

Brother Richard Foster

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Fight With Me!

Fight with me in prayer. That is what the Apostle Paul asked the church in Rome to do (Romans 15:30). It may seem strange to think of prayer as a battle, but the Bible assures us that Christians are caught in a firefight, and without prayer we will fall.

In Ephesians 6 we learn that our enemies in this age are not flesh and blood but spiritual: Satan and his evil troops. Our real battle is not political, economic or cultural. Our battle is spiritual.

In order to stand against the spiritual forces of evil in this age we must be diligent in using all the spiritual equipment which God has provided. Like a well-armed soldier, followers of Jesus can face the enemy with confidence, knowing that victory is assured.

The Apostle Paul was incarcerated and being guarded by a Roman soldier as he wrote about spiritual warfare to the believers in Ephesus. His description of God’s full armor is a great way to think about the spiritual weapons that God has given his people.

The belt of truth enables us to stand against Satan’s lies. The breastplate of righteousness makes us impervious to the accusations made against us by the Devil. Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace keep us from being frozen by fear of our Enemy.

The shield of faith protects us from the deadly temptations that are fired at us in order to destroy us. The helmet of salvation gives us confidence to pursue heaven in a world that is trying desperately to ignore the danger of hell.

The sword of God’s Spirit is the word of God. The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. No weapon can withstand God’s word.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan he wielded the sword of the Spirit, applying Scripture in order to push the Enemy back in defeat. The Bible gives us great power in our battle against the evil forces in this world.

After instructing his readers to adorn the full armor of God, the apostle directed them to pray with passion and perseverance. The battle is won in prayer. Prayer enables us to stand in the mighty power of God, which is greater than any enemy we might face.

Jesus fought the good fight of faith on the cross at Calvary and displayed astounding power by walking away from his tomb in triumph. But first he prayed with great passion and perseverance in Gethsemane. His sweat was like blood dropping to the ground, yet he prayed on. When his prayer was finished the victory was assured.

Paul finished his instruction in Ephesians 6 by asking for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel with boldness. Despite being chained to a Roman soldier like a common criminal, he realized that his true identity was ambassador for Christ.

We, too, are called to be ambassadors for Christ. Let’s fight together in prayer. Pray for God’s people. No weapon forged against us will prevail.

May we stand strong for Christ in his power and for his glory,

Brother Richard Foster

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