18 March 2014

Wait! I'm supposed to feel hopeless?!?

Have you ever had an unexplainable feeling of dread?  You couldn't put your finger on it.  You couldn't explain it, but it was there - a real bone chilling fear.  I used to have those often - whenever I attempted to grow closer to the Lord.  I knew in my heart there was nothing in myself that God could possibly find worthy, so why try getting close to Him.

Truth is, even today my feelings will sometimes tell me that I’ll never make it. I'm not a good-enough Christian. I'm getting on Christ's nerves.  He is angry at my continual failures. I'm so unworthy. Those are my feelings – but they are not fact.  Absolutes cannot rest on a jumbled sea of mixed feelings.  Absolutes rely on scripture – period. The next time my head tries to run wild – I am going to bring them here, to the Bible – not my feelings.  And where is "here?" My absolute favorite portion of scripture.

Romans 1 & 2

Chapters one and two have always been discouraging for me.  From chapter one verse 18 through to verse 29 God sums up the demise of most everyone I knew. 

Verse 18 begins “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… “  All is a pretty broad term, and what exactly is God’s definition of ungodliness and unrighteousness?  He ends his summary of destruction with a listing to help clarify:

being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;  

Sounds like a lot of wicked people.  Sounds like me.  I went through the same verses, underlining those things that were directly applicable to me. (Yes, I had more ink on that page than I wanted.)  So Paul just described me.  He even summarizes at the end -

who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

That was me.  That still is me sometimes.  I feel trapped by sin.  Much like Paul in Romans 7, I do the things I don’t truly want to do…and those things I want to do – I don’t!  My sin is always in front of my eyes, and I’m always reminded of my failures – daily, sometimes hourly.  So I am subject to God’s wrath.  So far, it appears the book is pretty discouraging. 

Chapter two does not really lighten the mood at all either.  First sentence?

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man…”  (Unfortunately, I knew that.)

Then he continues by reminding his readers that before they judge another, and point a finger to those who fit the chapter one mold – they need to look inward.  I had been looking inward.  So chapters one and two have always terrified me. 

I thought chapter 2, verse 5 and 6 was God telling me that all hope was lost.

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds.”

My heart was hard.  I hated sin and I hated myself for yielding to it. I dreaded the judgment of God, which is described in verses 8 through 11:

 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…For there is no partiality with God."

There it is in black and white – “There is no partiality with God.” God doesn't care that I've tried and tried and tried to do the right thing.  I’m wicked. I know it. He knows it.  Wickedness is wickedness and there is NO favoritism with God.  I cannot ‘excuse’ myself out of this.  I am going to face judgment day.

Ironically, this is where I usually stopped reading.  I was feeling the hopelessness from chapters 1 and 2 of Romans every time I opened the Book.

What I never saw were chapters 3, 4 and 5.  They have become my ‘hope’ chapters.  Paul laid his clever foundation in chapter one and two: 

  • Chapter One - He describes the most horrid people imaginable.
  • Chapter Two - He helps me realize that I am those people described previously. 

He then reminds me of God’s holiness and his hatred of unrighteousness and the wrath that is promised to such.  Once he had me where I needed to be (with a humbled spirit of utter hopelessness in my own futile efforts to ‘earn’ God’s favor and mercy)  he brings in the next three chapters.


Chapter 3 in verses 10 through 18 reads:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none who understands, there is none that seeks after God.  They are all turned aside, they have together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.   Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:  Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:  Their feet are swift to shed blood:  Destruction and misery are in their ways:  And the way of peace have they not known:    There is no fear of God before their eyes..”

Again, like in chapter one, Paul uses broad terms: all and none.  We are all stuck in the same mire.  According to verses 19 and 20 – that is what the law is there to show us – all of the things we will never be able to keep.  But hope comes in verse 21.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law has been revealed..”

In other words – God’s righteousness has absolutely nothing to do with how well I can keep the law.  He just pointed out how awful of a sinner that I am--that I will never be able to keep it.  He didn't tell us that so that we live the rest of our lives in defeat.  He told us that to help us realize that God standards are higher than ours, and there is no way we can accomplish it all without his intervention.  That’s what the knowledge of the law teaches us.  Then he sums it up with the fact….Guess what? “

Paraphrasing here: Don’t be discouraged, my righteousness isn't through the law – it’s through my work.  You simply have to trust Me on this”  There has to be a ‘disconnect’ there.  

But my favorite part is verse 22:

Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe: for there is no difference:

There it is again.  A reminder that partiality is not being played in God’s picture – “For there is no difference.” Remember chapter 2 where God describes his wrath and judgment, and lets us know that he is not partial to who will receive it?  This brought the feeling of guilt, shame and utter hopelessness.  In essence, if you are unrighteous, you will be judged.

Now in chapter 3, he is reminding us again that God has no partiality or distinction.  Only this time he is assuring that same group of people that there is hope! It doesn't matter how many of the bad points I underlined in chapter one – there is no difference

All of the evils things covered in chapters 1 and 2 are literally covered by the blood in chapter 3!  I fall into the “All” category here too, and so do you! 

“Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”

In other words – God isn't leaving anyone hopeless.  God will not turn his back on anyone and say they have gone too far.  His righteousness had nothing to do with the law, and all to do with Jesus' work at Calvary – no exceptions, no partiality.  That is an absolute.  I am justified by what he has given – not by what I can do to be good enough.  I’m not hopeless! It’s not about me -  it’s about him.

He drives home this point in verse 26:

“To demonstrate at the present time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”


In other words – God had to be just.  He cannot lie.  He told us in chapters one and two that he would destroy the unrighteous.  His wrath would be felt. And He will – that is truth.  The same things that he points out in Psalms and Proverbs – God hates wickedness.  He will judge unrighteousness.  The just mentioned here is kind of like his character.  He has to follow through on his word.  God cannot lie, so yes, he will destroy the unrighteous.

But it goes on to say - ”So that he might be…the justifier…”  He would be the justifier.  Not me.  I do not have to ‘maintain’ my justification.  I didn't do it – he did.  And since it was him who justified me, I am no longer counted unrighteous, which would mean that I no longer have to face the promised wrath mentioned earlier.  I am free from God’s wrath.  He holds the keys.  For me that is a tremendous relief and burden lifted.  Not I, but Christ.  I have to keep reminding myself of this.

I didn't earn it; I didn't work towards salvation.  I was a defeated chapter 1 and 2 sinner, hell-bound and hopeless.  But God gave me the gift of salvation.  His idea, not mine.  His work, not mine.  His ability, not mine.  I’m not going to be perfect this side of heaven.  That doesn't shock God – he knows that all too well. 

My question is – What am I going to do about it? Let Satan continually bring my sin before my eyes and use it to discourage me and keep me in defeat?? I think not!!  I AM a sinner – that hasn't changed.  In myself, I AM hopeless.  But I am a child of the one true God. In Him I have the power to get up, claim I John and move on – one day at a time – literally.

He alludes to this in chapter 4, verses 4-6: 
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:”
It’s all there in the Bible, I just have to look for it, and continually remind myself that this life isn't about me.  It’s about Him.


____________________________

Published by: Michelle McPeters (@mammamcp)       *       Don't forget to subscribe above!

3 comments :

  1. that is pretty awesome. I, too, have developed a fear and trepidation of Romans. I might be able to get past it now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Michelle! What a wonderful reminder of who He is and who we are!

    --Jen

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for writing this, it is an awesome article. It brought tears to my eyes by the ending. God bless.

    ReplyDelete