Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Hardest Chapter in Paul's Letter to the Romans

Paul's letter to the Roman church has to be one of his most difficult works. I say this from a personal standpoint. Maybe it's a piece of cake for you eh? If it is, you are missing something my friend. Go back and read it again. Study it. If you go away unconvicted, maybe you do not need salvation.

A little sarcasm and irony there.

I used to get hung up on chapter's 8 and 9 as I tried to apply Paul's advice to my personal life. I would ask, if "God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose", then why did He make me this way (9:20,21)? What I missed, failed to grock, did not understand was, "It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy" (9:16). I was consumed by what seemed to be the unfairness of it all. I still chafe a bit when I think about it. Never mind that all flesh is broken and corrupted by sin. That's not my fault. Why should my life be as it is? Are you telling me, if it wasn't this, it would be something else?

The answer to that is probably and unqualified 'yes'.

I have had to accept this. Regardless of who we are, the only way to God is through acceptance of His grace and mercy.

So what about the desire for what is sinful or out of line with God's will? I have sinful desires everyday. My worst is the desire to inflict my unrelenting will on others because I think I know what is right and I know you (whoever you are) are wrong. It is a sin, yet I revel in correcting the errors of others as if it's my divine purpose. Most of the time there is no love in it and there is a place and context for such activity, but I do not present it well and I derive way too much pleasure from it.

Odd no? And then there is the other stuff which I have talked about here and beaten to death and which stands in stark contradiction to my self righteousness. It sort of brings it all into focus and points to the undeniable fact I too need God's grace and mercy, that I too am in the wrong. Lord, that is painful. I hate to be wrong. I hate to admit it. Why is that? Why am I so loathe to seek Your mercy and grace when I need it and why will I not extend it to others? Heaven help me. May it never be.

And that brings me to Romans 12, the hardest chapter in the entire letter to this point. It sets the bar way high and I think maybe it's so we we will realize just how dependent we are on Him.

  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Now, my first thought is, how realistic is this? Jesus is all these things. He has been here and done it. We are supposed to be like Him as much as that is possible, but how much of this is possible?

What I find is that all of this is possible from time to time, but I can never get it all together at once and then live it consistently. What kind of a living sacrifice am I? Either I am transformed or I am not. Can I vacillate back and forth in a constant flux of transformation without missing the mark? Or is this merely the standard which I must apply as I depend on His grace and mercy for the rest of it?

This is a problem. Consistency is important. Why can't I be perfect? I want to be...I think.

I would guess you aren't there either. Right? So what do we do? Will it only happen after we are dead?

In my advanced years, I have concluded that yes, we will not become perfect until resurrection day. The flesh we currently occupy is corrupt and dying. We cannot allow ourselves to die with it so we must....must throw ourselves on the mercy of God's love. That process is outlined in chapter 12. It is difficult. More difficult for some than others, but it is the only way. It is not magic. It does not just happen. We have to participate in our transformation as we surrender our lives and wills to Him.

Surrender is the key. Submission is beyond the door. Everlasting life is in Him and His kingdom. This is the hardest thing when you are a bit self righteous like me. It has been my lifetime battle. I want to know and do His will, but I can't because mine is in the way. I'm not sure how you shift something that big. God will have to do it. I hope it does not hurt. Sacrifice can be painful.    

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