Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Life In Christ: Romans 8

St. Paul continues his explanation of the Christian movement in Romans 8. Earlier in this letter he shows how the world has fallen into depravity and that human beings are fallen and broken creatures. He continues the discussion by showing that God provided a way for our redemption through having faith in Jesus Christ. He has gone to great pains to demonstrate that legalism and attempting to "be good enough" or to "do enough" cannot earn our salvation. Only when we have faith in Jesus Christ can we have "peace with God" (see Romans 5). Yesterday we saw how in Romans 7 Paul describes in inner conflict and the struggle to do the right thing.

Here in Chapter 8, the discussion shifts to why winning the inner battle is so very important. Following the way of my old broken inner self leads to death but following the way of God's Holy Spirit leads to life. In some way every choice, every decision, every movement in our lives leads us deeper into the way of our broken nature or deeper into the healing presence and power of the Holy Spirit. C.S. Lewis argues that every choice we make is making us into a more heavenly creature -- destined for eternity in heaven -- or a more hellish creature -- destined for a whole different kind of eternity. Every step toward heaven makes it easier to move toward heaven, every step toward hell makes it easier to move toward hell.

Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we find making better decisions and choices easier. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we live into the process of transformation. There are two other things that help us. First, Romans 8:28 reminds us that God is working a plan in and through us and will use every experience to move his plan of salvation forward. Second, in Romans 8:1 we are reminded that we no longer live our lives under condemnation. When we sin we have access to forgiveness. When we fail we have a God who picks us up. When we rebel, because we are adopted sons and daughters of God we cannot be disowned and are drawn back by love and grace to where we belong.

This is the essence of a new life in Christ. We are free from the guilt of sin, we are free to choose to become the kind of people God originally created us to become.

Dr. BJ

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Inner Struggle: Romans 7

Romans 7 stands, for me, as a reminder that with all of the spiritual transformation at work in the life of the Christian there is still a profound struggle deep within. This struggle is so pervasive in our lives that it requires divine intervention to get us through it. Paul, in his own inimical style, put it this way "the good I wish to do I cannot do and the evil I wish to avoid is the very thing that I do." How many times in your journey of faith have you found yourself doing the very thing you abhor? How many times in your journey of faith have you found yourself balking at doing the right thing?

We do not come to our spiritual rebirth in Jesus Christ as completed products. When I chose to become a Christ follower that was the beginning of my spiritual journey and transformation not the end. I suspect I will not see the end of this journey and struggle until I see Jesus face to face. From the moment of my conversion (March 8, 1973) I began a journey of transformation that will take my entire life time. On that journey I have grown, failed, battled and lost, battled and won, and have made progress and experienced victory over the things that once held me back.

The goal of this journey is for all of us to become like Jesus Christ. I have a long way to go. However, I share in St. Paul's understanding and recognize, as he did, in the painful question at the end of Chapter 7 of Romans "who will rescue me from this body of sin and death?" And the answer: "thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who gives us the victory."

I'm going on to a transformed life. Here's to the inner struggle that shows I am making progress!

Dr. BJ

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Where God dwells

Hi everyone: I've been off line for a while due to leading a retreat and other matters. Life. : )

I continue to read through the Life Journal and have been thinking today about God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7. David decides to "build a house for God" because the Ark of the Covenant is in a tent made from animals skins and hair and David is living in a palace "made of Ceder". David's intention is good, he wants to honor God and to do something that will further glorify God's name. The prophet Nathan tells David it is good, follow your heart, that kind of thing.

Then God speaks to Nathan in a dream and tells him that David is NOT to build this temple. That will be for others to do. What God will do is establish David's lineage for all time. David becomes the once and future king -- the king through whom all others will come and by whom all others will be measured. When David learns of this he speaks this wonderfully humble and grateful prayer (2 Samuel 7:18ff).

The tabernacle (the tent where the Ark of the Covenant resided) was supposed to move with the people on their journeys. A Temple (permanent location) will be built by David's son and successor Solomon, destroyed, built, destroyed, built again and finally (AD 70) destroyed and not yet rebuilt. I find it interesting, historically, that the temple is destroyed just before God's people are on the move again. In a sense the permanent home is removed because a movable home becomes necessary once again.

I wonder, in our highly mobile society, if our church buildings, our shrines and permanent structures are more in the way and a hindrance to our worship then they are a help? When I was in Uganda last October I saw on many occasions that church buildings in the jungle were semi-permanent structures and were more functional than stationary. If the church needed to move it could move, if the church needed to relocate it could relocate, if it was time to plant a new church deeper in the jungle then a new tent was built and the congregation was planted.

How does the church of AD 2008 reclaim its mobile status?


Dr. B J