The Man Behind the Christian Magna Cart, Part IV

7 02 2013

romansHere’s the third way Paul chose to introduce himself to the Roman Christians.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…

It reflects the truth that Paul was…


The Greek word for set apart is “aphorizo” and means to separate or to reserve for special assignment. If we transliterate that into English it would sound like the phrase “off horizon.”
If you’ve ever looked out over the ocean or one of the Great Lakes you can see the horizon. The horizon is an imaginary line that separates the earth from the sky and becomes this boundary that defines the world we live in. It defines our existence. I can spend my lifetime chasing the horizon, trying to fulfill my dreams within the boundaries of my existence. But to travel outside of that boundary is humanly impossible in the natural sense.
Paul was once defined by a horizon that kept him bound in his life to the pursuit of certain goals, ideas, and to a way of life. But when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, Jesus opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. Jesus introduced a whole new horizon and Paul went “off horizon.” It was not just the dawning of a new day, but the dawning of a new life, with a new purpose, and a grand design. Paul’s self-righteousness was put to death and he put on the righteousness of Christ. The chains of legalism were loosed and Paul was unshackled and free to live as a bondservant of Jesus. He was liberated by the gospel and for the gospel.

Paul had met his magnificent obsession and could never get over Jesus Christ.

Have you gone off horizon from the life you once lived outside of Christ? When we meet Christ and we receive Christ there is a whole new world that is opened up for us. It is a world that extends far beyond this world and this life. It is a world of new possibilities, new hopes, new desires, and a persevering faith.
Are you identified in Christ as one who is set apart on special assignment? When you meet and receive Jesus Christ He will transform your life, redefine your life’s purpose, and set your feet in pursuit of a new grand design.

He will become your magnificent obsession!

Is the story that you’re telling by the life you live producing the kind of results that will transform those who read your story?
Is Jesus Christ, the One who died for you, the magnificent obsession of your heart and thus your life?

Is the gospel, the life-transforming good news, central in your life?

If the answer to these questions is “no” then you need to forsake whatever your heart is obsessed with and get a new magnificent obsession!

Let your heart be captured by Christ, called to a higher purpose, and compelled to pursue a new horizon of possibilities for your life and the legacy of your life.

At the end of the day this will be true of you and me:

The credibility of our lives will only be as strong as the obsession of our hearts. Whatever you live for is exactly what you’ll be remembered for.

The Man Behind the Christian Magna Carta, Part III

6 02 2013

romansHere’s the second way Paul chose to introduce himself to the Roman Christians.

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…”

It reflects the truth that Paul was…

Magnificently called by Christ: summoned by the God of the Universe

Paul continues his introduction of himself…He’s a called man. He’s specifically been called to the position of apostle. To be an apostle is different than being a disciple. Every believer is called to be a disciple (a follower or learner). But only a few were called to be apostles. Apostle’s had special authority given to them by Christ.

  • Apostles did not choose the position, but rather they were chosen for the position. In Matthew 10:1-2 Jesus appoints the 12 disciples as apostles and gives them power over unclean spirits and the power to heal. In Acts 1:26 the 11 apostles came together to replace Judas, the betrayer of Jesus and to fill his role as an apostle. But it’s God who chooses Matthias through the casting of lots.
  • Apostles were chosen for special assignment. In Greek culture the idea of an apostle was someone who was sent by another to accomplish a special assignment. We could view the apostles as sort of like God’s special ops forces who are strategically sent out to battle on the front lines of the enemy. An OT example of this type could be Samuel who in 1 Samuel 16 is sent on special assignment by God to anoint the next king of Israel. We wouldn’t call Samuel an apostle, but he fulfills the idea of a NT apostle. He goes to anoint the next king and he doesn’t just anoint any one of Jesse’s sons, but he anoints the one God tells him to anoint. Paul wasn’t chosen for special assignment based on his own merit or skill, but based on the favor of Christ who called him.
  • Christ qualified Paul to be an apostle by appearing to him on the road to Damascus. Apostles had to witness the risen Christ firsthand (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1).
  • Finally the authority of the apostle’s was in Christ. Paul’s authority to write, to heal, to lead the churches, and to proclaim Christ was all authority that came from Christ. Anything that was in Paul’s resume that he could boast in himself about he disqualified from mentioning. He only mentions who he is in Christ. He says to the Galatians, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  • The point here is that the Romans were to receive this letter as authoritative from God. We also are to obey it as the Word of God.

Hudson Taylor in challenging English students during his time to be involved in China mission work, used to tell of the story about Peter, his Chinese convert and disciple. On one of their sea journeys, Peter (who do not know how to swim) fell from the side of the boat. Fortunately, there were fishermen nearby, just a grab away from where Peter fell. Taylor shouted at the fishermen and asked them to help his friend, “Hey, help my friend, he is drowning.” However, the fishermen did not bother to do his call for help because they were busy loading their catch from the net to their boat. Taylor continued to yell, “Stop what you are doing, and help my friend. He is just a grab away.” But the fishermen continued on their work until the last fish was loaded to the boat. Then they jumped and got Peter out of water. They tried to revive him, but to no avail. Peter died of drowning. He could have been saved because he was just a grab away from the fishermen. Then, he asked the students/church members what they thought of about the Chinese? Some said, they are bad, evil, selfish, unconcern about the salvation of a dying man. You know how Taylor responded? He said, “I saw differently. I think the Chinese are like most Christians today, they are unconcerned about the plight of the sinners who are now just a grab away from them. The reason is that they are so busy with their work.”

  • We have not been called as apostles, but we have been called as ambassadors. And we need more Christians who live with the deep sense of calling on their lives. Christians who will forsake the obsessions of their hearts that have far more to do with this temporal life than they do with anything eternal. Christians who will feed the desire for more of Jesus Christ and who will embrace the obsession for Him and what He loves and desires.
  • If you’re in Christ then you’re a marked man or a marked woman. You’ve been called…summoned by the King of glory…summoned as an ambassador in chains to the gospel. Paul uses that language in verse 14: I am a debtor… The love of Christ constrains us to pay a debt to the Jews and the Gentiles…We owe them the gospel for the sake of the glory of Christ! Are we living like this?

If Christ is our obsession, then the gospel is our obligation to the nations!

The Man Behind the Christian Magna Carta, Part II

5 02 2013

romansHere’s the first way Paul chose to introduce himself to the Roman Christians.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…”

It reflects the truth that Paul was…

Magnificently captured by Christ: a glad and submissive slave.

Those are words you don’t hear put together very often: glad and submissive slave. This is ironic for a couple of reasons.

  • First, Paul was once a radical Jew who persecuted The Way and now claims allegiance to the Leader and chief figure of The Way: Jesus Christ. And he’s writing to a predominantly Gentile church. He could have introduced himself in so much more appealing terms: A Roman Citizen, A well-educated man, successful church planter, or accomplished writer. But instead he identifies himself with the crucified leader of what was considered by culture at large to be a radical religious sect of that day. Not only does he identify himself with Jesus, but he calls himself of bondservant of Jesus.
  • Second, It’s surprising because the Romans despised slavery and servitude. It’s estimated that at the time of Paul’s writing to the Romans that 50% of the one million people in Rome were either slaves or recently freed slaves. The Greek word for slave is “doulos.” Nobody wanted to be known as a doulos…especially not servants who served under compulsion…bond-slaves. Slavery equated to a loss of freedom and dignity.
  • Think about Paul’s introduction of himself in these terms. If you pick up a Christian book today you flip it open and you can begin to read firsthand about all of the accomplishments of the author of that book. He’s been a pastor for 20 years…he has a master’s degree in theology…he has doctorate in missions…he’s traveled to over 12 countries…and on and on it goes. Why do they do that in books? They do it so that we know that the author has authority and expertise to write. Paul writes seven verses to introduce himself to the Roman believers: The first word is Paul and the first verse is Paul’s description of himself, though it is more about Christ than Paul. The rest of the 7 verses are all about Jesus Christ.

So when he introduces himself first as a bondservant Paul is saying 3 things:

  • First, he is saying to the Roman Christians, “I’m one of you. I am first and foremost a Christ-follower…redeemed from the slave house of sin and captured by the risen Christ. Like you Romans, I’m in chains to Jesus Christ.” He was a man who was bought by another.
  • Second, he is saying, “My chief aim as a Christ-follower is service. I have given up all of my rights to my own life. I’m a marked man. I’m marked by Christ and my life belongs to Him. I am in this to serve. I may be a leader…I may be blessed with a great resume and the best education, but you can call me servant. “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He was a man owned by another.
  • Third, he is saying, “I am Christ’s servant FIRST…I live to please Him. I live for an audience of One…and then I am your servant. I am writing to you first as a servant.” He was a man ruled by another.

As believers, our perspective will shape our attitudes and our attitudes will determine our effectiveness in carrying out our charges as Christ-followers.

In A.D. 110. Ignatius, overseer of the church in Antioch, was arrested and sent to Rome for preaching Christ. Facing martyrdom, he wrote this to the church at Rome.

 “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing of visible or invisible things so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus.”

 When he was sentenced to be fed to lions, and could even hear their roaring, he said, “I am the wheat of Christ; I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread.”

Bondservants hold no rights to their lives. Their lives are bound up in the life of their master. Their lives are bound up in doing the will of their master.

That’s the spirit and attitude of the bondservant of Jesus Christ. Our lives are to be bound up in His life. If Jesus suffered we should expect to suffer. If Jesus was misunderstood then we should expect to be misunderstood. If Jesus was triumphant then we are triumphant. If Jesus died to self then we should die to self. If Jesus rejoiced in tribulation then we should rejoice in tribulation. If Jesus was spit upon then we should expect the same. If he was mocked then we’ll be mocked. Sounds like fun right? Sign me up!

Yet, there is no greater joy than to be called the servant of the King of kings, because if the Father rejoiced in Jesus and exalted Him and has bestowed upon Him the riches of eternity and lavished His grace upon the Son of God then guess what the Father will do for those who openly identify with Jesus Christ? He will rejoice in us, He will exalt us, He will bestow on us the riches of eternity and lavish His grace upon us for all of eternity.

Has your life been captured by the Savior? Is our identity wrapped up in who He is and what He has done? If we’re walking in faith then our lives have been captured by the Savior and what our Savior did we should do. There is nothing in this life that we will lose for the sake of Christ that God will not restore to us in the future.


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