Friday, January 8, 2010

A Faith Proclaimed in All the World

Today's guest post is from my husband, Brett. I couldn't have said it better myself, honey!

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

--Romans 1:8 ESV

I cannot count the number of times I have read through the book of Romans. It is one of my favorite books in the Bible, and I turn to it often to be reminded of the greatness of the gospel, the graciousness of God, and how God's glory should work its way in my day-to-day life.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I turned to Romans chapter 1, but could not get past this verse:
"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world." (Romans 1:8 ESV)

Yeah, yeah, God, that's cool and all... but let me get on to the good stuff.

"...because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."

Yeah I read that yesterday. It just so happens to be at the top of the page. Let's get on with it.

"I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."

What, God? Why do You keep bringing me back to this verse? I get it. God was using their faith to impact the world. Now let me move ahead. I'm trying to put together a sermon series here and need to get going.

"...because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."

OUCH! ... Oh, I get it. Not just that "the faith" was being proclaimed, but "your faith." God, I ask You to work this into my life.

What followed was some sweet time of prayer and soul searching. All too often I get so busy serving God in the details of ministry that I forget God's primary concern isn't the "success" of the church He's called me to pastor... His primary concern is His work on me. And this morning, this verse cut me to the core.

Rome was the center of the life and culture at the time Paul penned his letter to the Romans. The phrase "All roads lead to Rome" wasn't just a saying; it was the literal truth. And here, in a city that worshipped Caesar and proliferated evil and excess, was a group of Christians whose faith was being proclaimed in all the world.

Why was their faith being proclaimed? It wasn't because they had snazzy marketing campaigns, a big budget for four-color mailers, or billboards advertising their church meetings. No, their faith was "proclaimed in all the world" because the gospel was so central to their lives--so genuine and tangible--that it naturally carried influence. The Roman Christians were influencing their culture because their lives were defined by their faith. Those who encountered the church at Rome didn't just find a group of nice people, likable people, socially concerned people, or even spiritual people. Those who encountered the church in Rome encountered God.

I want that life. I want people to know God because of the way I live my life. The core of who I am is Jesus Christ and Him alone, and that's what I want others to see. Sure I want to be a nice guy, a likable guy, a socially concerned guy, and even a spiritual guy--but if that's all people get from their encounter with me, then I'm leaving the most important aspect of who I am hidden from sight. I want people I encounter to know the glory of Jesus Christ, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the gift of Jesus Christ. But how will they hear unless I proclaim Him to them, not only in the church I pastor but in my own life? (Romans 10:14).

I'm not talking about standing on the street corner and preaching through a megaphone. I'm talking about people looking at me, whether in the pulpit or in PTA meetings, and seeing Jesus. I'm talking about my faith being proclaimed in all the world because of Whose I am, and not who I am. I'm talking about Matthew 5:16: "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

The Christians in Rome lived in a city that was against nearly everything they stood for. They were surrounded by evil and temptation and idolatry and sin. (Sound familiar to anyone?) But people in that culture who had heard of the Roman Christians knew of their faithfulness to God and not their capitulation to culture. And because of their unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ, their faith was proclaimed in all the world.

You and I have a world around us as well. It's the sphere of influence we inhabit. Our neighborhoods, our work relationships, our travels, our friends and families, our kids, and the area where we encounter people on a regular basis. As people watch you live out your ordinary, day-to-day life, is your faith being proclaimed? When people encounter you, do they see Jesus?

Might you and I live the type of lives though which our faith is proclaimed and our God is magnified in all the office, all the neighborhood, or even all the world.

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)

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