The Romans Roadmap: Day 2-Of Bears and Lambs

“For God shows no partiality”
-Romans 2:11
Have any of you heard this phrase?
“I don’t have to outrun the bear-just outrun you”.
It’s a funny saying, but yet it means much more than we realize.
We don’t have to outrun the ultimate means of our demise-sin-we just have to be faster than the person next to us. I propose that this is how many people view morality today.
We don’t have to outrun evil. We just have to be better, faster, more good, more pious, than the next person. We all can sigh with relief because we aren’t Dahmers or bin Ladens or the like, even if we do dabble around in sin a bit.
We are decent people just trying to good for ourselves.
If I am being as good as I can be, that’s enough-right?

The road map that is Romans takes us down the path we wander as humans in chapters 2 and 3. He brings to light an issue that nobody gives much voice to; the fact that humanity is just concerned (if at all concerned) with simply staying ahead of our neighbor.
We just want to be “good people”, whatever that may look like. And one way we naturally measure our progress is by how far ahead we are of other people. When confronted with our own sin, we usually argue by pointing out other people’s flaws; as if by bringing them to as low or lower of a place than we are, we can justify our own actions. We are effectively trying to push other people closer to the bear than we are, to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately, as we see in Chapter 3, nobody is righteous in their own merit. “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” says Romans 3:20. Trying to “do good” and do our best means nothing. We are all under sin.

To put it simply-God doesn’t want us just outrunning the bear. He does, however, want us running-toward the Lamb. This is what we are going to examine today.

Running from the bear:

Romans chapter two deals a lot with the hypocrisy of the people. Paul points out this with a few simple statements:

“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?….You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” -Romans 2:21-24

This kind of action is still true today. We do have laws in place, this is true. But while we condemn certain actions as humanity and as society, others are accepted and even praised. For example: There is a big conflict in America about the legislation passing that would legalize same-sex marriage. This is a bad thing that is beginning to happen, that is true. But what about heterosexual sin? The same people who claim that such laws would destroy America fail to acknowledge that the adultery and lust that permeates same-sex couples is just as bad of a problem. We pick and choose the soapboxes we want to stand on, while ignoring our own sin.

What Paul does here is show us that we ALL sin. We ALL have issues that we deal with where we do not practice what we preach.

In Luke, there is the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. Basically, they are both praying to God. The Pharisee (proud and standing, mind you) proclaims thanks to God that he is not as bad of a person as the tax collector. The tax collector, on his knees, doesn’t try to justify anything. He just asks God for mercy, because he is a sinner. (Luke 18:9-14, if you want to read more). Jesus then asked: Who do you think God had mercy on?

The problem with running from the bear is this: God doesn’t care how far you are from the bear. We have a Pharisaical mindset that God is happy with us if we aren’t as bad as the people around us, and this just isn’t true! If just running from the bear is your aim, then you have missed the point. God wants us to be broken like the tax collector, and admit our sin. We need to admit that we are hopeless, that we can’t do anything on our own, that we can’t meet God’s standards no matter how much we try. Our relationship with God is a one-on-one, intimate relationship. He doesn’t care if we aren’t as holy as John, or if we don’t tithe as much as Susan. What God cares about is where WE are in our OWN heart with Him. This isn’t to say that we can’t have role models and mentors and such. It just means that our ultimate standard for how we should live should be God Himself, shown to us through Jesus Christ.

And THAT is the hope given to us by God, written down by Paul. We can still run! There is still another path to choose. We don’t need to run from this bear, trying to hold ourselves up under our own effort, to no avail. We can instead fall to our knees and run to the Lamb of God.

Running to the Lamb

Now this is  a topic that will come up in future posts, as Paul gets into MUCH detail about the saving grace that is Christ. In Romans 2 and 3, though, we do see him allude to what God does for us. Romans states that we are all under the righteous judgement of God (Romans 2:3, 5, 12, 16….). God is the ultimate Judge, His Word is law. And the law that He gave is one that we cannot possibly keep on our own. But look at what Paul says in verse 4:
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”.
We take advantage of this love and mercy, but in fact those very attributes of God are meant to bring us into a place where we recognize our need for Him. This is the wonderful thing about God! While His judgement shows no partiality or favoritism, neither does His kindness and forbearance and patience. He is willing and wants to shower those gifts upon anyone and everyone that will receive them. How much more will the Father give good gifts to His children, Jesus asks in the Gospels. God knows full well that we are entangled in the jaws of the bear. Yet, He gives us this hope anyways, due to His nature as a loving Father.
We all know that ever famous verse that lies in Romans 3-that “all have fallen short of the glory of God”.
Take a look, though, at the continuation:

“…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:23-25)

Have we all sinned? Yes. How then, can we be justified?
Not through our own righteousness compared to our neighbors. Not through how far we have managed to come from the bear. But by the righteousness of God alone, displayed in the sacrifice His Son made on the cross.

Next time we gather, we are going to start to look at the road upward.
How exactly can we be made right in the eyes of God if we all sin? How can there be a reconciliation of God and man if we are all sinners, all fallen short?
The answer, of course, is found in Jesus-
but that is for another day.

God bless!

Advertisements

The Romans Roadmap: Day 1-The Initial Address

“For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
-Romans 1:20

Technology is amazing these days. Before it conked out on me, I was in love with my GPS in my car. I could plug in my address, my destination, and it would give me turn-by-turn instructions on how to get there. Did I still get lost? Of course. But the GPS was almost always correct in it’s calculations.
This, to me, is how I look at the book of Romans. I have read this book through several times, and it never ceases to amaze me just how much wisdom and direction and life is packed into it! What Romans does is much like a GPS-it spells out the life of a Christian from beginning to end. From the initial address of who we used to be, to the end destination of what to do with this life-saving Good News of Jesus Christ, Romans is like a mini-Bible within a Bible. It walks us through separation from God, our salvation in God, and our reaction to God.

Just like any set of directions, though, it has to have a solid starting address. Paul begins Romans by giving us the starting address for humanity-fallen. There are two interesting distinctions made in the latter half of chapter one, which bring us to this conclusion of mankind’s brokenness before God. First, we see that God didn’t hide himself from us. Secondly, we see that we have made an outright rejection of God.

1. Humanity CAN see God.

in the verse above, we see that God has left no excuse for people to not know of His existence and power. In theological terms, this is known more commonly as general revelation-the fact that, through nature and natural means, God makes His existence known. There are a great many things we can tell about who God is from nature. Things like His power, His perfection, His grace, His love, His peace..Paul even says that creation speaks to the Godhead (the Trinity) and to God’s eternal power. Psalm 19:1-4 puts it this way:

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.”

Everything in creation was created to give glory back to God. Nobody is without excuse that God exists; that He is powerful and magnificent and almighty. It is evident everywhere we look! Science is becoming increasingly aware of these kinds of points, as we discover more and more about how delicately and beautifully everything is held together in the universe. Just think-if no two snowflakes are the same (a fact humans basically all agree on), then that means no two snowflakes have ever been the same. EVER. That points to an infinitely creative God. No sunset has ever been the same, ever, and each one is absolutely breathtaking. That points to an infinitely beautiful God!!
But people still manage to deny the existence of God, or even point to other sources of meaning, other religions or lifestyles. This brings me to my second point

2. Humanity WON’T see God

The second interesting point Paul makes in Romans 1 is the fact that humanity didn’t acknowledge that God is God, even though they knew it to be true. Instead, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man...” (Romans 1:22-23). The rejection of God as the ultimate ruler and authority has been going on since the beginning of time. People have always looked to themselves or to their imaginations or to other deities as the source of life. There have always been perversions of the one true God out there. Because people were so stubborn as to fool themselves, Romans says that God let them fall into their own sinful ways. This may seem strange-wouldn’t God want them to stop, and worship Him?

Of course He does. The Scriptures proclaim that God wishes that all would be saved and know Him.

However, think of it this way. As a parent, if you have a child that continually is opposing you, sometimes it is best to let them learn from the consequences of their own actions. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love them or that you don’t protect them. But if your son insists on eating too many cookies, then he gets a stomachache.
My uncle put it this way to me, when I got my first car. He told me that “..You don’t have  a curfew. But the car does. So be responsible.”.

In the same way, God tells us that we have free will. We can choose to obey Him or not. But not obeying God does have its’ consequences. Sadly, humanity as a whole has fallen away from obeying God and now we do suffer the consequences. It’s because of our lack of obedience and recognition of who God really is that we have things like lying, and sexual immorality, and murder, and hate, and depression. We weren’t created to be this way. We chose it.

The world knows the name of Jesus. But our starting point is a place in which humanity has consistently ignored and put down His name.
Humanity’s starting address is 000 Fallen Path, Earth.
Now, our final destination can be one of two places. Heaven, for lovers and followers of Christ, or hell, for those who reject Him. There is no in between.
Next time, then, we must address the question of :
“Is it even fair for God to judge us based on what we’ve done? After all, there are good people too. We do try and live good lives. Do we even deserve Hell?”

This initial start may not seem encouraging now, but it is good to have a firm foundation of where we were before we can leap to where we are going. Understanding the state of humanity is crucial in figuring out why Jesus is so worth following.
God bless!