Message 39 of 39

Join The Journey: A Tour of Romans

Blake Holmes · Dec 31, 2017

Message 39 of 39

This weekend, Blake Holmes helps us prepare for the 2018 Journey (www.jointhejourney.com) by giving us an overview of the book of Romans. Blake takes us on a 30,000-foot flyover of the entire book as he breaks down the four main sections—Sin, Salvation, Sovereignty, & Service—as well as gives us a one or two-word title for each of the book’s 16 chapters.

Scripture References: Romans 12

Blake Holmes

About Blake Holmes

I am the proud husband to one beautiful bride and the father of four children. Currently, I serve as the Senior Equipping Pastor and Director of the Watermark... Read more

Message Transcript
I don't remember where I first heard this idea, but I remember when my kids were really little that a friend of mine mentioned to me that his favorite tradition as a dad was when his kids turned 13 he would take each of them to New York City. I just filed that away, and I thought, "Man, what a great idea. To grab your son or daughter and go to New York City when they turn 13 years old, just the two of you, to explore that city?" If you've been to New York, it's crazy. There are a thousand things to do. I've had the opportunity now with three of my four kids to go to New York and explore the city together, and I'm _that_ guy. Every minute of the day is scheduled. From the moment we get off the plane, it's like, "Okay, now we're going to go eat _here_, and we have to hurry. We have to go _here_." It's like the objective. "If you're tired, suck it up. We're moving. We're going to make memories, and this is going to be great, and it's going to be fun." I just try to bring as much energy and capture as much as we can. I want them to see all of New York City. I want to hit all of the highlights. I want to hit every tourist trap. I want to figure out New York City. We're going to take subways. We're going to take taxis. We're going to take Uber. The only thing I haven't done is taken a helicopter. We've done boats. We've done it all. By the time we're done and we get back to the airport and are heading back to Dallas we're exhausted, because it is such a fun and great weekend. I want to give them the gift of a wild, fun adventure with their dad, lifelong memories that they'll look back on and go, "Man, I loved it when we went to New York." But there's something I want to give my kids far more than I want to give them a great weekend away. I want to give them a love and a passion for God's Word. I want my kids to grow up with a strong conviction that God's Word is not just a bunch of rules. The Bible is not just a paperweight you put on a shelf that collects dust, but it is a guide to inform us, to instruct us. It's a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path. It's God's unique revelation to us because he loves us. I want my kids to deeply know it. I want them to know it well. If you're familiar with Scripture, you know that the Bible is made up of 66 books. Yes, we have it in one book, but it's made up of 66 books. It's written by over 40 different authors over several hundred years. Primarily two different languages, but it has one theme. Of those 66 books, if you were to force me and ask, "Hey, Blake, you're on a deserted island and you only get one book out of the Bible. Which would you choose?" that's not even hard for me. I know which one I would choose. Now save your emails. I know. The whole Bible is inspired by God. They're all great, but play along for a second. You only get one. I know which one I would choose. It's the one that Martin Luther said this about. He essentially said, "It is worthy not only that every Christian should know this book word for word by heart but also occupy himself with it every day as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes." Which book do you think Martin Luther is speaking of? Oh, man. Come on. You guys are cheating. You're reading your Watermark News. No, I'm just kidding. You're exactly right. It is the book of Romans. Now I know some of you were sitting there going, "Man, I was thinking Nahum or Obadiah." No, not Nahum, not Obadiah. Yes, not a trick question. Those are two books. They're found in your Old Testament. Read them. They're great. Nahum and Obadiah, when I see you in heaven, great books. But if I'm going to pick a book, it is going to be the book of Romans. What I want to do for you today, and it feels a little ambitious… Candidly, I've done it twice now, and I'm sitting there going, "Man, I don't know if I can do this a third time." I'm going to summarize the whole book of Romans for you in about 35 minutes. Just like there's no way my kids can experience all of New York in a weekend, although we sure try, they do walk away with a greater understanding of, "Oh, _that's_ where that is." As you know, New York is broken up into five different neighborhoods. There's Manhattan and Staten Island and Brooklyn and Queens. Here's my goal. Here's what I want to do for you today, and it is a little daunting of a task. I want to summarize the book of Romans. I want to be a tour guide for you, and I want to walk you through this entire book. Now why do I want to do that? Well, because this is the book we are going to focus on in 2018 and journey together. As you know, for many of you who have been to Watermark for a while, every year we take a portion of Scripture and read through Scripture together as a body. The first year we did this, we did the whole Bible. There have been times where we've done the Gospels or portions of the New Testament or Old Testament, but never have we just stopped and said, "We're going to spend a whole year looking at 16 chapters." There's a reason for that. It's because the book of Romans is the book you have to know. So what I want to do is give you a resource. I want to give you a message that you're going to come back to. I don't think you're going to remember everything I'm going to say, and there are going to be times, like my kids, you're going to look at me and go, "I'm exhausted. It's like drinking from a fire hose." Hang on. Grab a pen or pull out your phones. Grab your Bibles if you brought one of those, and I encourage you to take notes. I'm going to go fast, but my hope is this. If I drop you anywhere into the book of Romans, you're going to be able to go, "Oh yeah. I know exactly what's being said right here. Oh yeah. This chapter? I know exactly what Paul is arguing." This will be an entrée, if you will, to whet your appetite. It will be a guide. It will be a map for you as we read, as a body, through the book of Romans in 2018. Just like I pull out the map in front of my kids and go, "Here are the five neighborhoods. Here's everything we're going to hit," well, in Romans you have four major sections. If you walk out with the four major sections you can't get lost. They're easy to remember. In chapters 1-3, we label the first section _sin_. Chapters 4-8 we're going to label _salvation_. Chapters 9-11, _sovereignty_. Chapters 12-16 we're going to label _service_. Four *S*s. Even I can remember that. _Sin_, _salvation_, _sovereignty_, and _service_. If you have your Bibles, write below the book of Romans "The righteousness of God," because that is the theme throughout the book of Romans. You'll see from chapters 1-16 that theme woven. When I say the _righteousness of God_, I'm referring to the attribute of God, that he's a righteous, holy, just God. I'm referring to his activity, what he has done for us through the cross. I'm referring to his achievement, what is accomplished in our hearts and how he redeems us. You'll see the righteousness of God and that phrase woven throughout the book. What we want to do today… I'm going to introduce you to the book. We're going to stop along the way, and I'm hoping to inspire you not just to know the book but to apply it, to listen to it and go, "Hey, here's the 'So what?' Here's how we need to stop and really think about why this matters." Then I'm going to tell you some very practical ways in 2018 you can get equipped and better learn this book, not just for knowledge's sake but so you can respond to the God who loves you. This is a pretty ambitious goal in a short amount of time, but I think we can do it. Again, four sections: _sin_, _salvation_, _sovereignty_, and _service_. Paul starts with the bad news first. Somebody comes to you and asks, "Do you want the bad news or the good news first?" Paul says, "I'm going to give you the bad news." This is where he talks about man's problem. This is called _sin_. _Sin_ is a church term. It's something we use a lot, and it's just simply anything we do that's contrary to the will of God. He's going to make this argument. Beside _sin_, write down "Romans 3:23." He's going to make this argument that you and I have a problem, that we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That's his argument in these first three chapters. Now, just like in New York there is a name for every street, I'm going to give you a title for every chapter. That's why you need a pen or your phone ready. You're going to write a lot. They're one or two words. The first little neighborhood we're looking at when we're looking at sin… Write down 1, 2, and 3. Beside 1 write _no excuse_; by 2, _no distinction_; and by 3, _guilty, but_. Here's the argument Paul makes. He's going to look at three groups of people, and like a trial lawyer, he's going to make a case that we are all guilty, that we have no excuse, that God is righteous and just in condemning us and we are deserving of his wrath and his judgment. Again, he starts with the bad news. He first looks at one group of people, the pagan Gentiles, those immoral folks who really don't care about God, the things of God. He looks at them and goes, "You are guilty before God of his judgment, and you are without excuse. All of creation testifies of God's goodness, testifies of his existence, and where you see design, that implies there is a designer. You know this, yet you've rejected the truth of God and exchanged it for a lie." He says in chapter 1, "You're without excuse." Then in chapter 2 he looks at the moral man and says, "You know what? You're no different." This is the guy who goes, "Look, God. I live a relatively decent life. The good outweighs the bad. You should accept me because, hey, on the whole I'm at least better than _that_ guy." He wants God to grade him on a curve, and he goes, "You know what? You have a problem as well, because God has not only given us creation which testifies of his existence but he has also given us a conscience." From a young age, we have an innate sense of right and wrong. Regardless of where you grew up, regardless of your culture or your background or the home, you knew from a young age right or wrong. The problem is that God has revealed that to you, and you've insisted to do what your conscience has told you, "Hey, that's not right." So even you, the moral man, are guilty before God. Then he looks at the privileged Jew. The Jewish people of the Jewish faith have come from Abraham that we've read about throughout the whole Old Testament. He looks at them and says, "You've had the Law and the Prophets and the covenants. God has revealed so much to you. You're his chosen people, and yet you have failed to live up to the Law, and you are in need of God's grace and forgiveness." He says, "There's no distinction between you and the moral man and the immoral Gentile. We're all in need of God's grace." In chapter 3 he says we're all guilty. That means you and that means me. That means people throughout time and history. We are all guilty. God loves us and has created us to have a relationship with him, but we've rebelled against him, and that is what has separated us from him. Because of our sin, suffering and death have entered into the world. Paul is going to argue, "Hey, for you to understand the solution you have to understand the problem." The problem is not that we lack education. The problem is not that we need better politicians. The problem is not that we need better health care. The problem is that we have been separated from God, and that is our greatest need. We're all guilty, Paul says. Every one of us. This is where we need to stop and ask ourselves, "Have I ever come to the point where I have recognized that I am a sinner and I am guilty and, apart from God's grace, I'm deserving of his judgment because I have failed to be and to reflect God's character?" Sometimes when I talk about this with folks, as I said before, the most common reaction is, "Blake, you know what? Hold on. Slow down. I'm not that bad of a guy. The good outweighs the bad. Like I said, I'm at least better than _that_ guy over there." Here's the deal. God doesn't grade us on a curve. God grades us according to his holy, righteous character, and like a judge here on earth who can't just overlook our crime, God can't just overlook our sin and go, "Oh, you know what? No big deal." If he were to do that he would no longer remain just and holy. There has to be someone who pays the penalty for our sin. Now remember, I told you the title of chapter 3 is _guilty, but_. Here's the good news. In 3:21-31… We can't read it right now, but I want you to bracket that in your Bible. I would argue that perhaps no other portion of Scripture has been expounded upon, preached on, studied, or written of more than this section right here. It's imperative that you stop and go, "What is happening in verses 21-31?" After Paul defines the problem for us and tells us we have a need and shows us that our need is for forgiveness, that we need to be reconciled with God, he provides the good news. Really, 3:21 all the way through chapter 8, he walks through how God has initiated with us. So I want you to write down the chapter titles in 4-8, and then I'm going to explain them. Chapter 4, write down _Abraham_; chapter 5, _blessings_; chapter 6, _license_; chapter 7, _law_; and chapter 8, _Spirit_. What in the world does all that mean? We're looking at the map, and I want to walk you through it really quickly. In 3:21, Paul is going to say, "Yes, we've been separated from God because of our sin, but here's the good news." "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." You need to understand this today. Despite the fact that we've rebelled against God and have been separated from him, he desires a relationship with you, and God loves every one of you. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there's nothing you can do to make God love you less. He is pursuing you and inviting you into relationship with him, but the way in which we enter into a relationship with him is not by trying to earn his love but by receiving the grace that has been extended to us. You see, on the cross, it is there that Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man, paid the penalty for our sin. He was fully God so as to be without sin, he was fully man so as to serve as our substitute, and as the God-man on the cross, he bridged the gap between a sinful people and a righteous, perfect, holy God. So we see both the justice of God and the love of God demonstrated at the cross. Because of God's love for us through Jesus Christ, he invites us and says, "You can have a relationship with me today if you won't rely on _your_ righteousness but will believe in who Jesus is. You will receive my gift of grace, my unmerited favor, but you can't earn my love. It's a gift to be received." We all have to make that choice. Now in chapter 4, the reason we titled that _Abraham_ is because the question is, "Hold on. Wasn't Abraham saved by works? How were people saved in the Old Testament before Jesus?" Paul is going to make the case we are always saved by grace through faith. That has always been the case. It's true of Abraham, and it's true of us today. We are always saved by grace through faith. He wasn't saved because the good outweighed the bad, he wasn't saved because he was chosen and circumcised as a Jewish man, and he wasn't saved because he obeyed the Mosaic law. Abraham was saved because of his faith. Then in chapter 5, he's going to explain to us, "Here are the blessings of having a right relationship with God. Where we were once enemies, now we are at peace with God. We were once far off, but now we've been reconciled. There's joy and hope even in our suffering." He says where we were once united with Adam, where sin and death came into the world, now we're united with Jesus Christ. We've been adopted into a new family where there's righteousness and life. We're a whole new people who have now experienced the peace of God. This always leads to the question, as I explain this to folks (and Paul anticipates our question), "Hey, wait a minute. If you're saying that we're saved by grace through faith and God's grace alone, can we just sin and live however we want? If we just sin all the more, may grace increase?" By chapter 6 you wrote the title _license_. The answer is _no_. That's not the right response. If somebody has sacrificed their life for you and desires a relationship with you, the right response is not, "Oh, stinks to be you" and walk away. No. The right response is, "How do I thank you? I am indebted to you." Paul makes an argument in chapter 6 that we are now dead to sin and alive to Christ, that we were once slaves to sin but now are slaves to righteousness, that God has not just justified us and freed us from the penalty of sin (that's _justification_; it's a legal term) but now he is sanctifying us. He is freeing us from the power of sin. When you trust in Jesus Christ, salvation is not just that moment in time, but salvation is the outworking of God changing us and transforming us until, ultimately, we are glorified and freed from the presence of sin. Those are the three key words you need to understand when you read chapters 4-8: _justification_, _sanctification_, and _glorification_. In chapter 7, he anticipates the question, "Well, then what about the law? What use was the law? If we're saved by grace through faith, why did God create the law? He says, "Well, I'm glad you asked." Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law for us. He fulfilled the law perfectly. The law is good. The purpose of the law is to reveal to us our need for a Savior. The purpose of the law is to show us that we fall short of God's holy, righteous standard, but the law was weak in that it couldn't do what only God's Spirit could do, and that is change the internal condition of our hearts. So in chapter 8, he speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is what happens. When we trust in Jesus Christ, when we receive that gift of his forgiveness and grace, God's Spirit begins to indwell within us, and he frees us from sin and condemnation. Romans 8:1 says, "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We've been freed. We've been forgiven. Not only that, but he enables us now to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, to relate to God. Not only does he indwell within us but he promises us that one day he who indwells within us… After we die, we will be physically resurrected, just as Jesus Christ was. That's the promise to us. Not only that, but God's Spirit testifies within us that we are children of God and a glorious future awaits us. He goes even so far in Romans, chapter 8, to say whatever pain and suffering you're experiencing now here on earth pales in comparison to the glorious riches that await you in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 is where you want to linger. If you were to say, "Hey, Blake, you have to pick one book out of the Bible to have on that deserted island," it's Romans. If you ask, "What's the one chapter out of that one book?" it's Romans 8. This is the Park Avenue. This is the main thoroughfare. This is the one you want to go, "Whoa!" because it ends here and it talks about the unchanging love of God, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and it speaks of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. That's a lot. Right? We've only made it halfway through the book. Here's the deal. We have to stop right here, and if I've lost you along the way, you need to come back in and just hear the argument Paul is making. I want to summarize it like this. This is a helpful way that someone showed me a while back, and I've always looked back at this and thought, "That's what Paul is saying in Romans 4-8." He's saying we have a choice. All of us are going to stand before God one day whether we like it or not. We are all going to give an account to the Lord, and we have a choice. What are we going to trust in in order to be rightly related to God? Paul is essentially saying, "You could trust in one of three things. You could trust in your good works. You could be like the moral man who goes, 'I believe God is going to grade on a curve and my good outweighs the bad,' or you could kind of hedge your bets and say, 'Well, it's my good works _and_ it's what Christ has done for me, and certainly with both of those combined, then God will accept me,' or finally, you could trust in the grace of God and his grace alone." That's the choice Paul is saying each of us needs to make. So here's what I present to you. If you were to die today and stand before the Lord and he were to ask you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" what would you say? Would you say, "It's because I've lived a relatively good life" or "Because I've lived a good life and Jesus loves me" or "It's because of your grace and your grace alone"? Let me help you understand what is essentially behind this argument. If you say, "I'm trusting in my works and my works alone, my best efforts, that the good outweighs the bad," then essentially what you are arguing is that Jesus' death on the cross was unnecessary. He didn't need to come. He certainly didn't need to die, and his death was pointless. Why? Because you don't need it. God is going to be pleased with you because your good outweighs the bad, so his death was unnecessary and his sacrifice in vain. If you say, however, "Hey, it's going to be works plus grace; it's going to be a little bit of both," then I would argue that what you're communicating is that Christ's death on the cross was disappointing. He tried, but he didn't quite finish the job. It's only when we realize and trust in God's grace and his grace alone that we are saying his death on the cross was sufficient. So Paul is saying, "How are you going to choose?" We've covered two major sections in a short amount of time. The first section, _sin_, chapters 1-3; then _salvation_, chapters 4-8, that we have a problem but God has overcome that problem because he loves us and desires a relationship with us. The next section, chapters 9-11, we titled _sovereignty_. This is how I want you to title chapters 9, 10, and 11. In chapter 9, write down _Israel's past_; in chapter 10, _Israel's present_; and in chapter 11, _Israel's future_. It's going to feel like all of a sudden Paul takes a really strong left turn, but it really fits within the whole book of Romans. It's not a disjointed argument; it's a logical argument, and it fits. If you know the story of the Old Testament, the question Paul's argument is begging is…_What about God's promises to the nation of Israel?_ Will God remain faithful to Israel? In chapters 9-11, what you see Paul say is an unequivocal "Yes, God is faithful to his promise." For many of us, we read the New Testament, maybe a little bit of the Old Testament, we'll read the Psalms, and maybe we'll read most of the Gospels, but what you have to understand is the Bible is all one book, and history is not just a random occurrence of events, but we serve a God who is sovereign over history. We serve a God who's providentially at work in history, and history is all leading and culminating to the grand greatest event, and that is Christ's return. What Paul suggests is you and I fit into a bigger, greater story, and it's here in 9-11 he's helping us understand how the whole Bible fits together. In chapter 9, he talks about the nation of Israel's past, how the Jewish people were God's chosen people, and how he intended to use them to be a light and a blessing to all of the nations of the earth. Through this nation he was going to reach everyone. They were to be a kingdom of priests set apart, but they failed in their opportunity to do that. It wasn't because God's Word failed, it wasn't because God was unjust, but it was because they consistently chose to relate to God based on a works-based salvation. As we've already established, it has never been by works; it's always by faith. He says in chapter 10, presently they're zealous in what they believe, but they do not respond to the information, to the revelation of Jesus Christ. In chapter 10, what he says is (you need to write chapter 10, verse 9, down, because this is what's central to this text) if they would just confess with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, they would be saved. Salvation is near to the Jewish people, just like it is near to us if we would quit insisting on relating to God based on our résumé and our good works, but presently they haven't responded. In chapter 11, he says, "I'm going to do something amazing. I'm going to fulfill all that I promised to Israel in the Old Testament. It is all going to come about, and everything I promise to my people in the Old Testament is ultimately going to be fulfilled when my Son returns." I can't unpack all of it now and show you how all of your Bible fits together, but did you know that one day when Christ returns he will reign on the throne in Jerusalem and fulfill everything he promised to Abraham and to David and to the Jewish people? What you need to know is that you and I fit within this greater story. So when you read this, this is the time where you want to stop. You're busy traveling through New York City. You're exhausted listening to how fast I'm going right now, and this is the place you need to make a note and ask, "Do I understand where I fit in this greater, bigger story, that my life has meaning and purpose?" You're not just here because of time plus chance plus circumstance, but God knows and wants to have a relationship with every single one of you who hears my voice. You were created with purpose and meaning, and your story fits within a greater story. You have the opportunity today to cooperate with what God is doing in being a light in this dark world. As we respond to God's grace and understand what it is God has done for us, our natural desire should be to ask, "How do I respond and now serve the God who has done so much for me, who has given to me what I do not deserve?" Chapters 12-16 answer that question. The last section, the last neighborhood, if you will, portion of this book we titled _service_. By chapter 12, write down the word _transformation_; by 13 write down the word _government_; by 14 write down the words _weaker brother_; by 15 _Paul's ministry_; and by 16, _legacy_. What do I mean by that? Why do I give it those words? Well, because what happens is after Paul has explained our need, the solution, and God's faithful and sovereign hand through the course of history, he then anticipates the question, "How do I respond?" Romans 12:1 is what you want to write down, because it says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren…" "Therefore, in light of everything I've just covered… Therefore, in light of God's incredible salvation and his love for us…" "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual form of worship." What he's arguing here is that you and I now have an opportunity to respond and live out our faith. He says, "Don't be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" in Romans 12:2. He talks about how God gives every one of us a unique gift, a spiritual gift. If you've trusted in Jesus Christ, he has given something to you, specifically, to use _you_. Gang, you have to hear this. When you read Romans, it's as if Paul is saying, "Live for something more than Friday night. Live for something more than your pleasure. Live for something more than just a paycheck. You get to cooperate and live for the God who has given you life, and he has given you this gift that's unique to you so you can be the light of the world where you work, where you live. Not only that, but this is to change your relationships," he closes chapter 12 with. In chapter 13… As a Christian in Rome at this time, the government didn't love that. So he's like, "How do you respond to the government?" In chapter 14, he talks about, "How do we live amongst a weaker brother?" There are just going to be times where there are people in their faith who don't see the same thing. They don't see eye to eye with the way we see things. So you don't look down on your brother. You don't judge your brother. You don't cause him to stumble. How do we love and respond to those who disagree with us? It's a chapter we should all read. In chapter 15, he talks about his ministry and his travel plans and how he's an apostle, a minister, a preacher to the Gentile people. Then in chapter 16 he talks about his legacy. Here's what's amazing. When you read the book of Romans, you have to keep in mind he has never even visited this city before, but in chapter 16 he lists name after name after name, over a dozen names. This shows us that the gospel is uniquely personal. It's not just a list of ideas and truths we're to memorize, but Paul is calling us to relate to a person, the person of Jesus Christ, and when we relate to that person, we can't help but tell other people about who Jesus is. So he is not just informing their minds, but he is investing his life in _their_ life. He's a highly relational person. As we continue to serve the Lord, as we walk with him, we know we are maturing in our faith as we do that, and the gospel starts to inform every decision and every relationship we have. There's a graphic I want to show to you that illustrates this. You know you're maturing in your faith not when you can stand up and walk through the book of Romans and you have knowledge. That's not what God is impressed with. The goal of going through the Journey this next year is not so we can just have more information, but it's for the transformation of our hearts. As we know God's Word and respond to him, something amazing starts to happen through the cooperation of God's Spirit. Our awareness of who Jesus is and the greatness of God grows. Simultaneously, our awareness and our recognition of God and his grace and our need grows. You see, the gospel is not just to inform one time an event of when we walked in an aisle or went to the campfire or trusted Jesus and said, "Hey, I'm in." The gospel is about God changing our hearts until eventually we no longer even think sin tastes good, because he removes us from the presence of sin. As we grow and mature and become more like Christ and as our life is informed by the gospel, we see the cross becomes bigger and bigger and bigger, and we begin to ask ourselves, "Because of Jesus Christ, how do I relate to my neighbor? Because of Jesus Christ, how do I spend this money? Because of what Christ has done for me, how do I forgive my parents? Because of Jesus Christ, how do I respond to my spouse when treated unfairly?" The gospel begins to inform everything we do. That's the message of Romans. We started out with a problem, but God has overcome that problem in the person of Jesus Christ. We need to know that our story fits within a greater story, that our life has meaning and purpose and God is faithful, and we can respond and God can change our hearts if we will trust him. In 2018, my challenge to you is to learn and know not just God's Word but know the God _of_ the Bible. We want to give you several ways you can do this. The first way, as I mentioned before, is I encourage you to join the Journey. Go to [jointhejourney.com](https://www.jointhejourney.com/) and sign up. If you do, you will receive an email Monday through Friday, and in that email there will be a short devotional written by someone within our church that is explaining to you the meaning of that passage that was read for that day. Like I said, we're going to spend a whole year going through the book of Romans. This is like somebody stopping with you along the way and saying, "Hey, this is why this passage is meaningful." We also have a new app, and you can go to the app store and download the app, and all that content is right there. It has been completely updated. The other thing I would tell you is on the Dallas Campus we have a four-week class that's coming up, and I would encourage you to sign up. I just raced through the book of Romans, but this will give you an opportunity to sit there over several weeks and soak in this book and its significance and the truths. It's broken up into sin, salvation, sovereignty, and service, and I think you're going to be encouraged. The last thing I want to encourage you to consider is memorizing what many people refer to as the _Romans road_. What's the Romans road? Quite simply, the Romans road is a synopsis, the key verses of the book of Romans that have been pulled out that if you memorize these, you understand the argument Paul is trying to make. Every year we have a different challenge, and this is what we refer to as the _six-week challenge_. Last year we did Psalm 1. This year we're doing the Romans road. For this week, we're encouraging you and your kids to memorize Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." That's something we could all memorize today. Let me tell you what happens. When you memorize God's Word and you understand the book of Romans, it changes your life. Not just becoming a smarter sinner and more information, but applying and living it out. Read the Watermark News. I remember when I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend over lunch, and I took out a napkin and was trying to explain to him how he could have a relationship with Christ and know the hope that is found through Jesus. I took out that napkin, and I began to write down the verses of Romans road and talked to him in a very simple, clear way. "Hey, here's how you can be rightly related to God." During that time, my friend made the choice to place his faith in Christ and Christ's finished work on the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection. It was several years later that the two of us got together. I'd forgotten all about that napkin. When we got back together for lunch, he brought that napkin to our lunch. He sat down with me and said, "Hey, man, I still have this. That conversation we had, those verses you shared… I've taken this napkin. It's in my cubicle at work, and I still look at it. That was the turning point in my life." I want to encourage you to memorize these verses over the next six weeks so you can look at somebody else and explain to them how they can have hope in Christ and explain the love God has for them and _their_ lives can be changed. There are so many opportunities to get equipped in 2018, and I'm hoping and praying that through these opportunities you'll know more of the God who loves you. Let's pray. Father in heaven, I thank you for the chance to take a very quick look at the book of Romans. I pray this would be a resource for folks throughout the course of this next year, that we would have little mile markers along the way that would instruct us, guide us, and help us to better understand what it is we're reading. I thank you for the book of Romans and for the clarity in which you speak. I thank you, Lord, for its message of hope, which this world so desperately needs. I pray, Lord, that we would be messengers of your grace. For those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ, I pray that in 2018 we would get equipped, that we would grow in our understanding of your Word, that it would impact the decisions we make, and that we could be a blessing to our families, to our workplaces, and our neighborhoods. Lord, for those who are here today who don't know you, who aren't sure of what I've said or maybe even just disagree or if they have questions, I pray, Lord, that you would speak to their hearts. I pray, Lord, they would seriously consider the truths of Romans, and I pray, Lord, that you would help us to know how to be a friend, to listen to them, to hear their questions, and help them to respond to your love. Thank you, Father, that you're a God who pursues. Thank you, God, that you demonstrated your love for us, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us, and there is now no condemnation for those who know you. It's in his name we pray, amen.

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