Friday, September 30, 2016

Great patience

Read Romans 9

Paul has taken his readers in Rome and us a very long way in these first 8 chapters of this very comprehensive letter.

·     Paul longed to visit Rome.
·     He insisted that everyone should know there is a God by the evidence of creation itself.
·     We have all fallen short and have no excuse that will hold water with God.
·     The Jews had more instruction but they didn’t do much better than the gentiles.
·     While we did not love God, he went the extra mile to love us by giving his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.
·     Our part is to receive this fantastic gift of salvation by faith—the same faith that justified Abraham.
·     In this faith we know peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
·     We are made new.  It is as if we died with Christ and now have been given life with him.
·     Surely we are to be dead to sin and alive in Christ.
·     Having received this gift of salvation—undeserved forgiveness for all of our sins—should we continue in our sin so we could know even more grace? No!  That’s not who we are any more.
·     Sin is still here in this world we might just have to wrestle with it.  It cannot alter our eternal destination so it will try to mess with our abundance in life in the here and now.
·     Even when we fall, we do not despair for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.
·     We are God’s kids.
·     We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
·     We are joint heirs with Christ.
·     We are led by God’s own Spirit.
·     God’s Spirit doesn’t need our words to communicate.
·     God’s Spirit speaks for us.  Jesus makes intercession with the Father for us.  Yes, this is the same Father who will never stop loving us.  The full trinity is engaged in our well-being.  This is good stuff.
·     God is for us!  It doesn’t make a hill of beans who is against us.  God is for us!
·     We know that God takes everything that happens to us, within us, or around us and works it to our good.  We love him.  We have answered his call.  We can’t always figure everything out but we know that he’s got this.
·     God knew what we would look like when he got through with us before we emerged from our mother’s womb.  We would look like his one and only Son, Jesus.  We were destined, predestined if you will, to be like Jesus.
·     We are conquerors—more than conquerors—in that the suffering and hardships that we know now will seem like nothing at all when everything is reconciled to God through Christ—like nothing at all.
·     When God comes in his glory we will forget everything that seemed so insurmountable in the here and now—pain, loss, and suffering of all sorts. 
·     And we left off at:  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That was just the first half of Romans.  That’s a lot of theology.  That’s a lot of very powerful affirmations of God’s love for us.  And these are just the highlights.

Most should sound very familiar to you, not just from Romans.  Paul has touched on many of these things in his other letters.  The letter to the Romans is just a bit more comprehensive than any of his others.

So we come to chapter 9 with great anticipation and Paul gives us great anguish.  What is going on with this man?  He builds up his readers for 8 chapters and then with some substantial hyperbole says that he would give up this wonderful gift of life from Jesus just to bring his people into the light, just to give them eyes to see, just to bring them their own road to Damascus experience.

Paul tells us that he is hurting because his own flesh and blood people—at least most of them—missed the truth that he knows so well.  Remember that as Paul brought the good news to the gentile world, he would first stop at the synagogue in each new city to share this fantastic gospel.  He was often disappointed at the reception and then turned to those who worshiped false gods and brought them the truth; but Paul always sought out his people—God’s chosen people—first.

But Paul is not throwing his own personal pity party.  This is part of the story.  This is part of the story for those who follow Jesus.  The Roman believers needed to understand and everyone who reads Paul’s letter to this congregation, need to understand that in Christ we became a part of a much bigger story.

The story is about flesh and blood people but it is less about the cutting of the flesh or the purity of the blood and more about the promise given to people whom God selected to be very special to him. 

The promise goes back to Abraham and comes through Isaac, and the sovereignty of God’s selection of Israel as his people become clarified in the twin whose name would be changed to Israel—Jacob. Jacob was second out of Rebecca’s womb and contrary to the tradition of the day, would be the senior.

The story of God’s selection of a people continued to Moses.  Three months out of Egypt, the Hebrew people arrived at Sinai and Moses went up the mountain for the first time.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Why does Paul need to share this with the Romans?  This story is now a part of their story for one.  Mostly Paul reminds the Roman believers of God’s sovereignty.  God is sovereign.

God selects.  God chooses.  God’s mercy brings us to the life we know in Christ Jesus.  God is sovereign!

Sometimes, that is a tough pill to swallow, especially when you get words like predestined and foreknowledge thrown in the mix.  Those make for good discussions but Paul is leading his readers to a point that he wants to confirm.  It is a place that we have visited many times.  It is one that we know so well.  This was just a more circuitous route to get us there.

Our salvation is not by our own works.  It is by the grace and favor of sovereign God.  It is by the mercy and compassion of sovereign God.  It is all of God’s choosing and doing.

Our gift is received by faith and not by works and most of Paul’s flesh and blood relatives missed this and were not open to the gospel of life in Jesus Christ.  And Paul had great anguish that all of Israel did not have its own road to Damascus experience, but he was not finished with his letter.  Don’t give up on Israel just yet.  There is more in store for them.

So as we come to the end of the chapter but not the end of the story of Israel and the gentiles, we should consider the sovereignty of God.  Everything is his, he spoke it into existence, but out of everything he chooses some to do special things or be something special or receive special gifts.

Israel was chosen by God to receive an identity as a special people—a treasured people if you will.  The men were chosen to receive a sign in the flesh.  The entire nation was chosen to receive God’s law.  Paul even called it a trust.  These same people were chosen to receive a land promised long ago to them.

We need to understand that these chosen people are also chosen for the faith that we as Christians live in, but that chapter has not come for the entire nation of Israel.

We may ponder the why of this, but we know with clarity one benefit that we have received because of this.  God’s salvation has reached the world.  It has gone beyond his chosen people.  It is for everyone.

Paul explained to the church in Rome and now to those of us that want to understand more fully, that God’s heart desires all to repent and come to him and Jesus is the way to do that.  This story did not begin with Jesus dying on the cross or rising from the dead.

This story began long ago with a Sovereign God who from the beginning knew that his ultimate act of sovereignty would be to take the sin of the world upon himself for us.

We should know with certainty that God is sovereign. He reigns.  He alone reigns. There is no authority above him or beside him or even close to him.  We must know this.  Sometimes it is tough to be the clay, but that’s what we are.  God is above all things.

Potter and clay may seem too simple an analogy, but it hits the mark for sovereignty.

He will do with us what he knows needs to be done.  He is sovereign.  We are his.  We must know this with certainty.

We should be thankful that our sovereign God is a loving God who in his purest form we know simply as love.

Our human nature sometimes prompts us to say, “Well I can’t believe in a God who would…”  You fill in the blank. People have put plenty of qualifiers in that blank over the centuries.

Paul makes this point to his readers.  God is God.  That is that.  He is sovereign over all.  That includes your salvation.  It was and is his to give.  It was never yours to earn.  This should come as a relief if you really think about it.

We need to understand this point.  It was never ours to earn.  Our free will, our ability to choose, is not given so we can earn our salvation or right standing, but so we can receive it and take the fullness of life that we know to bring glory to God.

His own people didn’t get that, at least most of them anyway.  They made the mistakes of believing that their genealogy or their works took care of everything.

Paul is bringing these new followers of Jesus into the greater story of God’s sovereignty and his love.  We need to understand this as well.

There is one more thing to chew on here.  In God’s sovereignty, he saw fit not only to be true to his character in love but also in patience.  God is patient. 

Glory and wrath are real.  Some will know the glory of God and forget about anything and everything they ever suffered.
Some, contrary to God’s heart and his deepest desire, may come to know his wrath, but:

·     God’s heart prefers mercy over sacrifice.

·     He longs for reconciliation over wrath.

·     He practices patience but gives us a mission of urgency.

Paul shared that he had great anguish over his people’s blindness to the truth of the gospel but he also knew that he served a God of great patience and the story was not quite complete.

We need to understand that Peter and Paul are very much in sync here.  They just use different words.  The Lord is not slow in coming as we define fast and slow.  The Lord operates in his own time.  As sovereign God, he owns time too.

What we might call slowness, we should come to understand as patience.  His heart longs for all to repent and come to salvation in Jesus Christ.

We should be thankful for the Lord’s great patience.  How would you feel if God sent his Son to claim his children—those who had received the wonderful gift of salvation—the day before you were ready to profess Jesus as Lord.

We might just want to think in the terms or phrases of the prophet Joel for a moment.  He described a day that will come for all as the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Great and terrible—now that’s a combination!

It is a combination that reminds us to be thankful for our salvation—that we will never know the wrath of God—and for the glorious, abundant, and eternal life that in his sovereignty, God has bestowed upon us.

It is a combination that might also bring us a little anguish if there are those close to us that are blind to the truth.  God has not given us a burden but he has commissioned us with a mission.  Take the gospel to the world.  Start with your own family, then go to your friends, then go to people you don’t even know and maybe don’t even want to know, then just keep on going.

God is sovereign.  He will do what he will do and he will be fully just.  For us, that happens to be great news.  We didn’t earn anything but God in his sovereignty made us his forever.  We are given life and glory and abundance and eternity with him. 

Others are given to us as a mission field.  God has a heart that none perish and all know true and abundant life through Christ.  God has made a way to be right with him.  Jesus has commissioned us to deliver this good news.

God has shown us great patience but given us a mission of great urgency so that we need not know great anguish.  We will hear more on the Jews in the messages to come, but for now be thankful for God’s patience and take his good news to the world with great urgency.


No comments:

Post a Comment