Went to a bible study recently before going to work. Oh my that was painful.
Here is the jest of it. Studying (a very loose concept) the book of Romans; a book that I have come to love. It is expansive, filled with freedom, and constantly revealing things to me that I have never seen before. (At least not paid attention.)
Average age among the 8 that showed up, 65. Even I call this group "old school". Having gone the week before I knew that we would be covering chapter 3 starting at about verse 9. I will be honest with you. If I were leading this group there would be some nights that we would not make it off of one verse. So much depth and FREEDOM. I have seen the freedom in there, but struggle to grasp, as well as live in it, because I am constantly trying to break away from the ill-founded traditions that I was mired in.
Let me take a moment to expound upon traditions. Have you ever heard the story of the family, that for generations, prior to insertion into the oven, always cut the end off the pork roast served at the, holiday get together. When someone finally went to the source and asked why that was done, they learned that the oven had been too small and it was merely a necessity when using that particular oven. That necessity translated into years of unnecessary tradition, and questions, along with conjecture (like bringing good luck or some nonsense.) When all anyone had to do was to ask.
In that regard I envy, in a way, those that have only recently come to Christ, for they so often, without someone "revealing" it to them, walk in that freedom; their life not yet filled with rules about how to live. Now mind you, I have been in the Lord for most of my life. Regardless of the horrors that I have put myself through I have always been aware of God's love drawing me back to where I needed to be. Having been raised in church, a pentecostal one at that, I have seen everything, including the flakes. I will tell you straight out, I love the power of the Holy Spirit. I love that he overwhelms me at times, taking my breath away. I cannot even imagine what I will do when I get to stand before the one I have loved so long. (Yes, there is a song like that, and yes, I make it my prayer when I sing it.) So maybe I have slight advantage over the new Christian in that I may have some depth of knowledge about God's mercy that the newbie is yet to experience.
I think that if I let you in on my mindset this might make more sense. If you can picture this earth as an enormous adoption agency in which we have all been placed, with no way out short of someone adopting us. Here is the problem; we are all broken, and according to man's ways no one comes to adopt looking for a problem child to bring home, but then we do not even come close to thinking like God. God comes here, looks around at all us, in every state of being, and decides he has to have us all. One might think, at this point, that there is a small problem, our brokenness making us unacceptable (at least in our own minds.) apparently not a problem. God pays the price for our adoption with the blood of his own son. A price, by the way, that covers over all the unacceptable aspects. Now having paid the price, making us acceptable and wanted, there is only one catch, you have to sign the roster that says I want to go home with the one who paid the price for me.
That seems simple enough. There are no stipulations saying leave your bad attitude; He merely says come. Sure, as a child in his house you may have to take out the trash and take a shower once in awhile, but what parent would not expect the child to participate in the family social structure.
Why would anyone choose to stay when there is a destruction coming upon those who do not follow, when the price has been paid specifically so that you do not get destroyed. Did he say anything about your inability to come until you cleaned up your dirty mouth? No. He just said to come.
(Consider Jesus parable about the feast. People were invited but would not come. So the one giving the party tells the servants to go gather anyone who will come, especially the down and out.)
Romans is kind of like that. How?
1. God levels the playing field. We are all broken sinners, and no one has an advantage or easier access into God's grace.
2. Here is passage that we club outsiders with. Romans 3:23. The problem is that we only seem to memorize part of that paragraph, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Fortunately this is just a portion of the paragraph, and taken as we are apt to do, is a wee bit out context. Read on: (Romans 3:24) "but they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Isa 53:5; 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--"
3. It would seem that God, himself, presented Jesus as the sacrifice of atonement. He had to lay him upon the altar. He had to pour out his blood, just as the high priest's did. The was a big difference. This it did not merely cover guilt temporarily, it obliterated all traces of the sin and the debt that was owed for it.
“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public--to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. “(Romans 3:25 MSG)
This tells you God had faith in that blood too.
God, offered his son, a one time deal that covered all sins, for all time, to demonstrate his justice.
Laws are laws, but are they meant to be broken? No, and yet we do. We make laws to punish those who choose to exceed the boundaries that morals tend to call for. That usually means preventing your freedoms from infringing upon mine. Having been born into a broken condition, we quickly learned how to break the laws all by ourselves, and someone had to pay. Unfortunately that really meant all of us. But God passed over the chance to punish us, punishing the son that voluntarily took our place.
Again, God knew that Jesus would be enough. In so doing he eliminated our slavery to sin, wrote his laws upon our hearts, and gave us the chance to live with him in heaven.
Did I not tell you that this was a book of freedom. You have been released from your sin debt, and it really does not need to intrude into your regular life anymore.
Now if you choose to continue to sin can you sacrifice Christ anymore to cover for your lousy decisions? No. You are left to pay human consequences for your choices, but God is not judging you for the sin. Scripture tells us that we will be judged for our deeds, but that is another story.
Perhaps, if anything, this should have an impact on how we look at “the others", those outside of God's grace. As the lady that ran the bible study call them, "the evil people." Really? Is it possible that the blood of Christ was not enough? The simple answer is NO. Jesus paid the price for everyone; a price that even God, the Father had faith in.
What then separates us from God, and each other? Merely a lack of acceptance of his mercy and grace.