Romans – Keep it Simple

ROMANS AND THE SIMPLICITY OF GOOD NEWS – PART 3 (final)

There is a movie I like a lot. It’s called ‘Pay it Forward’. In this movie a young boy comes up with the genius idea to create a system where people receive acts of kindness from someone only to ‘pay it forward’ to three others. No strings attached. Just do good as it has been done to you.

Two stories are intertwined and eventually become one. The second story starts with a journalist who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a crime scene a criminal ran from the cops, speeding off and wrecking the journalist’s car in the process.

A man in a Jaguar passed by and saw part of the scene. It’s raining. He steps out of his car and walks up to the poor journalist and throws him the keys of his beautiful car. The journalist is blown away. Flabbergasted. What’s the catch?

“Why do you do this?”, he shouted. The rich benevolent giver walks off but just replies: ‘Just pay it forward my friend.’

The journalist is still in unbelief. This cannot be true. Where is the catch? Nobody does this! The world does not work this way.

The Good News is good because it is simple and it is transforming. That’s why in Romans Paul boldly writes:

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The Just shall live by faith’.”

Let me unwrap this even more. Last time we covered grace, mercy and faith. Now let’s have a look at righteousness. What is this?

Righteousness is your new identity. Righteousness means right standing with God. It’s a relational word. It relates to someone else. Let me first make some observations here. The righteousness of God is first of all Him being righteous. Why? Because He is good. God is good and He is just. In Australia we’d say that He is all for ‘a fair go’. So, God’s nature is righteous and it is grounded or rooted in His Love. Yet, love is relational. Love needs an ‘object of affection’. When you say: ‘I love’, you immediately ask yourself, ‘Love what? Love whom?’ It is totally relational.

Because we can stand right with God – through the finished work of Jesus Christ – our identity has changed. We’ve become sons (and daughters) instead of sinners. Did I read it correctly when Paul says in 1:7 ‘To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.’ Did he say that we are saints, but in fact He knows better than that? We’re just a bunch of sinners that He tolerates because of the blood of Christ? Many think that right standing is just positional. God sees me through Jesus Christ, but He knows better. I am still a forgiven sinner. A mess. But forgiven nonetheless.

I’ve heard a big part of my life that Christ died on a cross because I am a sinner. Who hasn’t heard that? But that’s not true! Christ came and died on the cross because of sin, not because we are sinners. He became sin and crushed it in the process (Romans 8:3), because God knows who we really are. It is about the what. SIN. Not the who. Sinners…Jesus came WHILE (not because!) WE WERE SINNERS. God looks at the value He created us for, not for what we have become because of the sin of Adam. God sees us as lost sons and daughters.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their God given identity and it was replaced with shame, guilt and condemnation. And it’s ravaging humanity. Unfortunately, it’s even ravaging some professing Christians. And a big part of that has to do with how they have received the good news. Remember? You manifest what you believe, but how did you receive the good news in the first place? God looks at born-again believers as if they never sinned. As if you never ate from the tree… Why? Because He knows what He created people for. His blood covers it and we simply start walking from where Christ finished.

Let me quote you some verses that perhaps surprise you:

In Colossians 1:21-22 Paul says this:

‘And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present YOU HOLY, AND BLAMELESS AND ABOVE REPROACH IN HIS SIGHT. ‘

Or what about this one, this time from the apostle John:

1 John 1:7“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

We start walking where He finished and when we keep walking in that place, His grace comes and transforms us. Why? Because God sees us differently. He sees us for what He created us for.

Perhaps it is time to have a good look into the mirror and come to terms with what we see. I enjoy these funny mirrors that distort your image a bit. All of a sudden you are super slim, very fat, big or small. That’s fun. It’s not so funny when we look into the mirror of life and all we see is that we are not good enough.  Three tools that the devil loves to harass us with: Guilt, shame and condemnation? Let me explain this more.

Guilt – an internal confession that I’m not forgiven.

Condemnation – an internal confession that my life is worthy to be judged – “Oh you dummy, look what you did. Now you deserve that. You’ll never get it right. I just feel so bad, how can I pray now. I’m just such a loser.”

Shame – and internal confession that that’s still who I am.

These are tools of the enemy of our souls to keep us in a place where we are constantly sin-conscious instead of son-conscious.

Now, I can hear people already think. Yeah BUT! Don’t we still sin? So, aren’t we still sinners? Aren’t we always going to sin?

What did Jesus say in His most famous sermon on the Mount? Matthew 5:48 says “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” He was talking to them in the present (in the context of living truly up to the intention of the Law), but somehow, we hear ‘Oh that is ONLY for in the future, when we are in Heaven’.

Do you know what perfect means?

Whole! Fit for the presence of a king! We on the other hand somehow see it in terms of performance that we can never live up to.  Something we do, rather than something we are. If we perform 100% perfectly then we are perfect. Since we don’t get it every time right, we aren’t perfect, so Jesus is just talking about the future. Wrong!! He was talking to the disciples in the present. God’s will is your that you live for Him completely, without reservations. He won’t lead you to a place where His grace cannot keep you! Therefore…Stop trying so hard…

And I can still hear the ‘Yeah Buts’. Well Patrick, it’s beautiful what you are saying. God sees me different. BUT you don’t know my life…if you only knew…

Wrong again. You see. You measure your life by what you know. God measures you by the life He created you for. God did not create you for you. He created you for Him.

Do you know why we hear these verses like ‘above reproach, blameless, holy’ and words like ‘perfect’ in a certain way? Plain and simple. Because we interpret still our identity through our performance. We are still very much sin-conscious. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that our performance doesn’t matter. Sin is sin and it needs to be dealt with. I am NOT talking about sinlessness. That’s only Jesus and it will be ours when we are forever united with Him. But performance does not equal our new identity in Christ. Why? Because God looks at us differently. The voices of our past, the internal conversations we have with ourselves perhaps may say: ‘You see, you see, you did it wrong again’ and this voice leads to what? Self-condemnation! Oops I did it again!!! We hear differently. We see differently. Let me quote one more bible verse:

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And IF anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  It doesn’t say WHEN you sin. It says IF. Big, big difference. We start with His righteousness. Believe that and let Him take you where you yourself can never ever get. And if we get it wrong and ‘miss the mark’ we run to God, not away from Him. We repent, turn around. We declare His blood over us and say to ourselves that this is not who we are. You make it an opportunity for Grace to transform you rather than for a sin-conscious mind to condemn you or be led by feelings or your ‘human wisdom’.

CONCLUSION

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, because he experienced first hand that it was the transforming power to salvation in his life.  God transformed the Jewish Pharisee and persecutor Saul and sent Him into the gentile world, now known by His Roman name Paul to proclaim that God actually transforms people back into the original image of God. That is what got lost.

Now remember, what you received you will believe and what you believe you will manifest. If you think that the good news is primarily about its benefits and meeting your needs, whatever they are, you will embrace Jesus that way. And what if your expectations are violated in some way? The blessing didn’t come the way you expected it? What then? NO. The GOSPEL transforms us. Don’t make it into a beneficiary message. Yes, there are benefits, but they are related to your identity in Him. Your created value!

God’s mercy is amazing. We did not deserve a second chance, but God gave us a second chance anyway through His Son. When we believe that and continue to believe that His grace comes to transform us back to what God created us for in the first place we will truly live from a place of rest, purpose and our destiny is secure.

Why? Because God looks at us different than how we look at ourselves. We are often sensual-driven. Our feelings determine how we are. We are often self-conscious or sin-conscious and all too often we look at our performance rather than our right-standing. Paul is telling us to start where Jesus finished.

Let me finish off with a few questions for you to reflect on:

  1. What did you embrace about the Good News?
  2. How does that manifest itself?
  3. What do you really believe about God’s grace and mercy?
  4. Is it an empowerment to stay the same for you?
  5. Can you allow Him to transform you and take you to places where you, in your own strength can never ever come? Even in the places where it simply hurts?
  6. How do you see yourself when you wake up and nobody is looking?
  7. What do you think of yourself, really?
  8. What do you say to yourself when nobody is listening?

Like Paul, I am not ashamed of this awesome gospel, because it is God’s power to salvation. It’s the simplicity of this gospel that I love. It’s not complicated. I believe it, live it and I started running where He finished His work.

Will you run with me?

Next week we’ll have a closer look at the dark side of the good news when we explore Romans 1:18-2.