16.5 Romans – Rarity

What makes something extremely valuable?  Most often it is rarity.  Supply and Demand.  Millions of things that are all the same are generally going to be relatively inexpensive.  But the one masterpiece painting is priceless.

But it is not just the rarity of the thing that makes us appreciate it’ value.  It is its contrast in how much better it is than everything else.  I may only craft one statue of David in my life (probably out of play-doh).  But, while it would be rare, it would stand out as being different or better than anything else.  But Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is a different thing entirely.

Paul ponders the question, why does God put up with all the wickedness in the world?  Why is He so amazing patient, especially given His power and authority?  His hypothesis is that this is no accident, but instead it is something that He has done and continues to do for us, for believers.  Before we were ever born He planned to offer us His mercy.  He planned to come down, not have us climb up, and accept the gift of His son.  He sent His Holy Spirit to soften our hard heart, like a gardener tills the soil.  He planted His Word and watered it with mercy and compassion and grace.  He did that for you and me, yes, as Paul said, “even us”.  I know, it is so hard to believe.  Why us.  Not because we earned it.  Surely not because we deserved it or just got lucky.  Not because of our parents or ancestry.  No, Paul specifically points that out, that it is a calling that is made to both Jew and Gentile.

Why?  Paul’s answer or hypothesis is that God does all of this to “make the riches of His glory known”.  He wants to share His glory with us whom He had prepared for glory.  Not to show off, but to give it, too.  When we choose Jesus it isn’t at a distance.  We are engulfed in God’s glory.  Not veiled.  Not behind a curtain, but totally permeated and renewed by it.  This doesn’t happen all at once in the same way a plant doesn’t immediately spring from seed to full fruit.  But it does happen.

But if everyone and everything was filled with God’s glory, would we appreciate it?  Would we see it’s full riches?  I don’t know.  But I do know that 1/3rd of the angels evidently did not.  They followed Lucifer the father of lies and fell from God’s grace.  Do we really think we would have faired better?

But God had a better plan for us.  It isn’t up to us, we just respond to the call and He does the rest.

My Answers:

He demonstrates it through patience of wickedness to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy

His glory. His love and justice. His righteous acts. His willingness to listen to my prayers and intercessions. His provision for my needs. His acceptance of my works.

While the Jews were and are God’s chosen people, He always intended to not be limited by ancestry of Israel but to bring in others. And, while they are His people He always also knew many/most would reject Him over and over again.

16.4 Romans – The Alternative

I get the whole concern and unease about predestination and election.  How can God create people that He knows are going to hell?  How can a loving God do that?  We want to say that isn’t right.  That isn’t fair.  We want to judge God and let Him know that this is just wrong.

But, what do we propose as the alternative?

God is the creator and knows all things, past, present and future.  He not only knows all things but He controls all things.

Should such a God only give life to the people He knows will choose Him?  There is not mystery or mistake here, God knows.  But if the only people created are the ones who make the right choice, then is there truly a choice at all?

Of course not.  That is not showing love.  But, there are only 2 roads, God only gives life to people who will become believers or God gives life to people who will love and choose Him and to those who will curse Him and turn from Him.  He does have control, but if He exercises that control to save all, then is there really a choice?

Being God is hard.  I don’t want the job and I’m surely not going to stand in judgment of God.  But, there is a difference between standing in judgment and seeking to better understand God.  We do the second every time we study His word.  So what does His word say?  It says He is God.  He makes decisions.  He makes choices.  He knows more and better than everyone else combined.  But it also says He is a God of unbounding love.  Look at Ezek 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

God allows us to choose.  Some hearts He goes the extra mile to soften.  Others, He allows to remain hardened.  But there is not a one that He desires to be cursed.  There is no pleasure to God in death.  Death is something mankind choose.  Wickedness is a choice that we made.

My Answers:

God has the ability to harden or soften any heart to hear the truth, but we are active participants in it as well. God is all knowing and does not desire any to perish (Ezek 33:11 “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people.”)

The created does not have the right to judge the creator. God makes things and people for different purposes but loves each.

God made me this way so it is alright. or. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. or I can’t believe in a god who would allow _______

He allowed me to experience the pain and repercussions my sin so that I could see His mercy when He brought me out of it. It did not allow it to continue forever but gave hope even in the midsts. He allowed me to lean on Him and cry out to Him without holding it against me.

16.3 Romans – Hope

Here is what I know about my family and friends who are not believers:  no offense intended, but they are incredibly hard-headed and stiff necked.  They ping pong between denial of their own mortality and a level of self-righteousness that is truly appalling.  And, don’t even get me started on their judging of others, especially those with beliefs that differ from their own.

Their unbelief is not because they have not been informed.  Their unbelief is not because it has not been made clear or modeled.  They don’t believe because they don’t want to believe.  Frankly, they like being god of their own life.

But the fact that salvation is by grace and not by human effort provides me with great hope that my prayer will bear fruit.  Honestly, if it is up to them, they are not going to change and suddenly approach God.  But, it is not up to them, it is up to God.

I’m not saying they don’t get a choice.  They do.  But the hope comes in the assurance that God hears my prayers, loves me, loves them and, despite the fact that He is God, He is willing to come down to them and soften their hearts of stone into jelly.

This fact and realization changes how I must prayer.  Not for them to change, but for God to change them.  Not for them to come to God but for the Holy Spirit to knock so hard their heart cracks.  God not only can, but He will do these things.  That is hope!

My Answers:

God’s promise is true but it is not limited to physical ancestry. Not all descendants of Abraham are descendants of the promise. It falls on those who love God.

Jacob and Esau. Isaac and Ishmael. Not by family or by physical ritual (circumcision).

It shows God comes down to us, not us up to Him. It gives hope because God has the ability to soften any heart – He is in charge.

16.2 Romans – A greater love

In John 15:13, Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  In Romans 5, Paul discussed how rare it was for someone to offer their life for another, especially someone unrighteous, yet “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Now, in our lesson today, we see Paul demonstrating this same level of love for his fellow, unbelieving Jews.  Not only would he offer his life, but he would offer his salvation and eternal life if it would make a difference.

We know it would not.  God does not trade one man’s life for another, nor is it necessary since Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient.  But Paul, nor any of the rest of us, can make the choice  for another to accept that gift of perfect sacrifice.  It cannot be cast upon us.  It cannot be bartered for by another.  It is each individual’s own choice.  Accept or reject.

However, in this passage we also see a challenge to grown in our Christian life.  What would you be willing to give for another to turn to Christ and be saved?  Would you give your salvation?  Would you give your life?  Would you give a Saturday morning or Monday night?  Where do you draw the line?

Wherever you draw the line, you have to step back and look at the things on the side of the line that you would not cross.  Are those things truly more eternally valuable than the eternal life of a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker?  Are they even more eternally valuable than the eternal life of a stranger?

I get it, this sounds like a really harsh exercise, but we each have that line.  I’m too busy to go on a mission trip.  I’m too busy to serve.  I’m too busy to volunteer.  All of those are choices on how we use our time.  I’m too busy to study God’s word every day.  I’m too busy to go church.  I’m too busy to pray.  I get too grumpy to fast.  I’m not wealthy enough to give.  We make choices in where we draw the lines in our spiritual disciplines every day.

I’m not saying that is wrong.  Without lines we wouldn’t hold down jobs and support our families.  But, if we are honest, some of our lines (ok, maybe it is just my lines), really are stupid lines when compared with eternity.  Paul shows us the kind of love that God had.  He is all in, body and soul.

My Answers:

Because many Jews had chosen not to believe in Jesus but instead had hardened their hearts. Like Moses and Jesus, he prayed for and interceded for the Jewish people and like both he would have rather offered his own life than see these others perish.

Cursed is to be cast aside, removed from the book of life, dis-owned from the family of Christ. No believer can be removed from Christ’s family (no one can tear them away). Paul’s point is that this is the most important and valuable thing and he would willingly give it up to save other Jews.

To go all in. To not hold back even the things that are most valuable and most precious to us.

I have the ability to know God unlike any other generation of believers because of the cumulative writings and access. Instead of relishing it, I often try to “fit it in” wasting time on far less meaningful tasks. I also have the ability to reach more people in more places and any previous time, but I barely know my neighbors.