I love the book of Romans! It is the book that brought me to salvation.

In the Gospels, we see Jesus showing His love, compassion and mercy by healing them, releasing them from bondage, and bringing salvation. I was a proud, capable (albeit quite insecure) young woman who didn’t need healing or release from bondage or salvation. Or so I thought, anyway.

In the book of Romans, we see Faith in action – Faith with a capital “F” – Faith that isn’t a word, but a lifetime of actions. This is introduced as early as verse 5:

Through [Jesus] and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Romans 1:5

What is it that Paul is calling the Gentiles to? He doesn’t write that he is calling them to faith in Christ. Rather, he writes he is calling Gentiles (and you and me) to the “obedience that comes from faith.” When there is no obedience – when there is no change in behavior that comes from obeying God’s Word – it casts a shadow of doubt on the faith of the unchanged, disobedient person. Faith is not some word that is to be carelessly tossed around. Faith requires obedience. Period.

When I choose not to obey, when I choose to stubbornly cling to behaviors and thoughts that are not obedient to God’s Word, I am clinging to worthless idols. They are idols because they have taken the place of God in my life – I have elevated them above obedience to Him. They are worthless because they have no power to bring salvation, healing and wholeness to my life.

I love what Jonah says about clinging to worthless idols:

Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:8

The idols we cling to – those things we elevate above obedience to God – they not only have no power to save us, they have the very antithesis of that power. Clinging to worthless idols has the power to keep me from the fullness that God has for me and quite possibly to keep me from spending eternity with Him. It causes me to forfeit the grace that could be mine.

Scripture is clear that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). While the verses surrounding this phrase deal with money, the concept applies to anything that we cling to more tightly than we cling to Jesus. We will give devotion that is due Him to our other master.

Last week my husband Phil and I covered the parable of the sower and the seed (Luke 8:4-15) in a Bible study we lead. One of the points Phil made was that the parable is typically used in the context of evangelism. We sow the Word of God and how it is received depends very much on the condition of the soil in which it is planted:

  • Seed (God’s Word) that is planted in hard, trampled soil (i.e., along the path) will be rejected.
  • Seed that is planted in rocky soil will begin to grow but do not develop the root system needed. Without roots, they wither during difficult times.
  • Seed that is planted among the thorns take root and develop, but the thorns choke the life out of them. The thorns represent the worries, riches and pleasures of this life. (It’s interesting that God identifies worries and riches and pleasures as thorns. Our spiritual maturity can be “robbed” by both worry (a bad thing) and riches and pleasures (seemingly good things). But that’s a blog for another day.)
  • Seed that is planted in good soil develops strong roots and reaches for the sun (Son in our case). The seed not only matures, but produces a good crop.

During our discussion of the passage, Phil pointed out that the passage doesn’t relate only to evangelism. As we live here on earth, we must guard the soil of our heart because God calls us to obedience daily. The condition of the soil of my heart today has a lot to do with whether or not I choose to receive His word with joy and obedience or whether I allow the cares or pleasures of this world to distract me from obedience.

Friends, I encourage you to continually cultivate the soil of your heart with prayer and repentance, fasting and giving, four disciplines that were focused on by early disciples. They moisten and turn the soil of our hearts preparing it to receive God’s Word with joy and a predisposition to be obedient. It is what we have been called to – the obedience that comes from Faith. As opposed to the wishful thinking that comes from faith.

Wishful thinking is just that. It has no power to enable us to be obedient, transform us into the image of Christ, give us eternal salvation, or bring the Kingdom of God into our life here on earth.

Let’s choose Faith, not faith. Let’s choose obedience not wishful thinking.

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17

Faith is the power of God for salvation! For those who believe – those called to the obedience that comes from Faith.

There are those who will hear and even give a mental agreement – believe, have faith – but they are not obedient. Our obedience is what brings glory to God. Listen to what happens to those folks:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:21

Knowing God but not obeying Him or giving him thanks causes our thinking to become futile and our hearts darkened – we become ineffective and depressed. If you’re feeling like that describes your life, may I encourage you to cultivate the soil of your heart. Return for a period of time to prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. Ask God to reveal your heart to you so that you may repent and serve Him in obedience.

Lord, thank You that we are called to obedience – more than simply wishful thinking. Thank You for Your power that accompanies a life of Faith. Move in the lives of all who sincerely pursue you in Faith.

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