The “First Week”: Week Seven/Session Three.
Theme: The Reality of Sin.
Our reading for today: Romans 5:1-11.
Christ…presented Himself for (His) sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.
Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of His Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of His resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah! (Romans 5: 6-11 MsgB)
Earlier in this series, we noted how Paul told his friends in Philippi that he considered everything in his life outside of Christ to be as worthless as cow dung (see Philippians 3: 7-9). Now, here in his letter to the Romans, Paul says that “while we were of no use whatever to (God),” Jesus came to die His sacrificial death on the cross so that we might not only be saved from our sins and selfishness, but to be adopted into God’s family as precious sons and daughters!
Now that, my friends, is amazing grace!
You see, it’s one thing to have an old rusty tin can pulled out of the garbage bin so it can be used to hold worms the next time I go fishing. It’s quite another thing to take that same useless cylinder of tin, reshape and rework it into a beautiful piece of art, and then use it to display a bouquet of elegant flowers, placing it on the President’s table at the next State dinner held in the White House!
Apparently, that’s what Paul was fully expecting for both his life and for his friends who had chosen Jesus of Nazareth as their Savior. And if that kind of proposition was true back then, it must go without saying that God has been in this kind of salvaging business for nearly two-thousand years now! Just think of it. Men, women, children from every tribe, nation and tongue, picked up out of the garbage heap, cleaned up, given a new re-purposing in life and then used, if only we can believe it, for the greater glory of God!
I guess, for me, that’s where the potential breakdown in this entire “good news” story of God exists.
Can I really hold on to this amazing truth about God’s amazing grace?
But I take heart that apparently some of the good Christian folks living in Rome in the first century had to be reminded about this good news as well. I mean…look at what Paul had to write to these guys and gals to stir their hearts away from the doubt that can so easily set in on our human existence…
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
But wait…there’s more…
We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Wow, Paul. Thanks so much for these words of great encouragement. This ole sinner from Iowa who’s doin’ his best to follow Jesus in this world that so often cares so very little about God sure needed to hear that good news today.
What about you?
My prayer: Father God, there are times when my sinfulness and selfishness can almost get the best of me. Times when it’s so hard to believe that Jesus would care for me to such a degree that He came to die for me long before I ever chose to accept His grace. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for the heavenly truth that resonates from Paul’s words of encouragement to his friends in Rome. I receive these words in my life here today. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Whenever I take the time to examine the full weight of my sin and selfishness, like we’re doing this week in the Spiritual Exercises, I can be easily overcome by the great depth and width of my sinful condition. Yet, like Paul, how can I learn to take my sin seriously, but always remember to conclude my overview by surveying the great grace of God found at the foot of the Cross?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.