Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the World
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 13:1-14 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: A few weeks ago, I was speaking at Newbold College for their Week of Spiritual Emphasis. Each evening, after the presentations, both those present and those online were given the opportunity to pose questions. Someone asked what my favorite passage in the Bible is, and I explained that I don’t have one. I prefer to select a passage that suits the moment. If I had to choose one, however, as a single passage that describes the character of God, it would not be Romans 13:1-7. These opening verses have been abused and misused for nearly 2,000 years. They have been misunderstood and heinously applied, causing injustice and the destruction of life. They have been used to suppress, depress, confine, subdue, abuse, torture, and damage humanity. The tragedy, on top of the groanings of humanity (Romans 8:23), is that these kinds of interpretations of this passage have distorted the character of God for many people. This week, we have before us a tall order—to understand the full expression of God through this passage. Charles Spurgeon, in his book The Soul Winner, challenges us to find Jesus in every passage of the Bible:
I believe that those sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else, and long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, “What is the secret of your success?” I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel—not about the gospel, but the gospel—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news. Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon. You remember the story of the old minister who heard a sermon by a young man, and when he was asked by the preacher what he thought of it he was rather slow to answer, but at last he said, “If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.” “No,” answered the young man, “because I did not see that Christ was in the text.” “Oh!” said the old minister, “but do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.’” “Well,” said the young man, “but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?” “Then I will go over hedge and ditch but what I will get at Him.” So must we do, brethren; we must have Christ in all our discourses, whatever else is in or not in them. There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul. Take care that it is so when you are called to preach before Her Majesty the Queen, and if you have to preach to charwomen or chairmen, still always take care that there is the real gospel in every sermon. (pp. 53-54)
Recalibrate: Is it reasonable to expect that every passage in the Bible should teach us about Jesus? Why is Romans 13 hard for some to accept while it’s perfectly easy for others?
Respond: Pray for the Holy Spirit to expand your growth through the Bible.
Research: Read Matthew 5 and process the call of the Sermon on the Mount in light of current trends.
Remember: “If you love your neighbor, you see, you have fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and is co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
The Bible says, in Romans 13:8, “If you love your neighbour, you see, you have fulfilled the law.” Let’s always start with love. Make some time to sit down with your little one today. Point to yourself and say “I.” Hand over your heart say “love.” Point to your child say “you.” See if your little one can repeat these words back to you. Do it in front of a mirror together. Send a video message to the ones you love showing them that you love them too. When we begin with love the rest of the day falls into place.
Have you ever said or thought when someone has told you to do something, “You’re not the boss of me"? I know I have. Sometimes I just want to do what I want and not have to bother with the people around me. Love doesn’t do that. In Romans 13, Paul talks about what, why, and how we should live love in our communities. In the Bible, sometimes people had to stand up for what they believed in so that they would be faithful to God. Can you think of a story in the Bible where someone had to stand up to a person who was more powerful than they were?
This week we’re going to consider an old concept in Christianity. It’s all about being “Followers of Jesus.” It’s a phrase we’ve all heard a million times, but have you ever considered the implications? “Followers of Jesus” means we’re not followers of—(You fill in the blank.) Adam and Eve filled in the blank. They chose to be followers of a snake and God had to ask them, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” (Genesis 1:13). God knew what they’d done, but He also knew that they had no idea of how everything had changed because they chose to follow someone/something else. That’s bad news. The good news is God stayed engaged and said He’d make a way for us to get back on track. Let’s consider that as we head through this week