The Proof is in the Living

16 Oct

Good Morning,

Yeah, we are up to chapter 8 in Romans.  The words of Paul are amazing!  Martin Luther, the Catholic reformer who ended up with a new church, said that the reform of the church comes through a carefully, insightful reading of Romans.

As I read this letter, 2000 year old letter, I am struck again with the understanding that this letter only has power because people have found it meaningful in living out their faith.  The belief in The Divine Presence that created all things and that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that power, and that it is still active in our world today.  That is a huge affirmation of the nature of our world and our role within the world.

So, half way through the letter Paul goes for the big reveal.  It is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, that has solved the issues created by the God-given law that it could not solve.  [Human beings are so hard to deal with!]

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Human beings are a complex and different species to train.  I think the law given to Moses was effective to form community when there were good leaders and when the community was small enough to be somewhat homogeneous.  However, when the powers of Roman came in to rule the land of the Israelite, and the priest became corrupted by the wealth to be had through Roman, and the population became diverse because of the ability to travel on Roman roads – the world changed.  The Law of God became a tool to be used for personal piety and not to draw people into relationship with God.  As Eugene Peterson paraphrases, it had become a Band-Aid, and the healing power of God had been watered down and useless.

Then a human being, in all his confidence and humility, changed the world by walking with barely educated people around and across lakes.  The story of Jesus changing our world really has to be about God’s power working through his life and his death.  It could not continue with the vitality and dynamic power to change lives it is was anything less.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about walking on the edge of a cliff.  On one side is legalism, a sense of ‘moral muscle’ that we create our own righteousness.  On the other side is free flowing spirituality where we wait to be ‘moved by the spirit’.  The path along the edge is the discipline of Christ.  It is Christ’s power, alive within us, that enables us to be transform and it is our willingness to surrender to the discipline of placing our lives before God that enables us to be ready to live out the transformation of Christ.

This new life, this God breath life is an amazing one.  We have seen examples of it lived; Jesus of Nazareth, the author, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and countless others that bring Paul’s letter to life, that show that the Divine Presence is in-breaking into our world.



One Response to “The Proof is in the Living”

  1. Phyllis Terwilliger October 16, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    I love the paragraph that begins with In “Celebration of Discipline”…..

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