We are in a war. We don’t see many signs of the war, at least not that we equate with this war. It’s one we can’t win but have committed to anyway, or at least have been committed to by others. We started it but cannot end it. It could be called “The War of Independence.” It’s not independence from a dictatorial foreign power but independence from the only One who is really good. If you haven’t gotten the idea by now, the war is between us and the Creator. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve fired the first shots, declaring their independence from God. That evil has permeated the souls of mankind ever since.
At that point we made God our enemy—not that He stopped loving us, but that He could no longer be with us. God hates evil because it is not like Him in all His goodness. Evil cannot exist with God’s glory or it will be destroyed.
But this is the oddest war you’ve ever heard about—a war where the enemy loves us, sought a way to bring peace and then found that peace by offering Himself to die so the evil in us would die as well. It’s that peace, and what it means to us that Paul begins to talk about in Chapter 5. This begins the “meat and potatoes” section of Romans, as Paul goes into detail how this salvation thing works.
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Peace - In chapter 4 Paul explained that we get into right standing with God by believing His promises fulfilled through Jesus Christ. First he says we have peace with God. It means that the hostilities are over and a new relationship has begun. It’s not a cease fire or a cold war or a truce or the Pax Romana of the day (forced peace). It’s peace because we are now on the same side because we are the same and His life is now our life. We couldn’t before because of the evil in us.
Access – Jesus provides us access to this free gift. “Access” can mean permission to enter or the act of entering itself. But the idea here is not of us standing outside of God’s grace and wanting the bouncer to let us in. It is the idea of being ushered into His grace, invited, encouraged, welcomed. You can’t just assume that because Jesus died for the sins of the world that everyone will automatically get free access to God. The gift has to be appropriated. Forgiveness does not equal relationship. We have to enter into that relationship by faith (which is trust and reliance). And it’s not just that we get to hang out for a few minutes. We “stand” in this grace, which means to abide, and continue.
What happens to us in this new position? In a word: rejoice! (It can also mean “glory” or “boast.”)
Rejoice in hope of God’s glory—that we will be like Him. The Bible talks about this process in various ways. Two that come to mind are “metamorphosis” and “renovation.” Renovation is that breaking down of the old ways and the old flesh, and metamorphosis is the miraculous creation of a new person without our effort.
How do we get there? By:
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Rejoicing in suffering
Endurance – “to wait” not just stubborn refusal to move but a choice to submit to God and wait for him. This purposeful waiting produces:
Character - “tried integrity.” “A state of mind that has withstood the test.” (Vincent). And what is that “approvedness?”:
Hope (of God’s character being made ours through God’s love poured out through the Holy Spirit, the agent of change in our hearts).
Suffering enables us to withstand difficulty without giving in or giving up. Paul said “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22). It’s not that hardship earns us the right, but it shapes us on the way.
Hardship does several things:
1) It helps remove the chaff – 1 Peter 4:1 “Whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
2) It helps instill trust in God
3) It’s not punishment but process (James 1:2-4)
4) It changes us into God’s image
5) It allows us to endure more and more and be more effective in battle
6) It gets God’s work done
7) Ultimately our suffering brings glory to God (1 Peter 1:7)
Why can we rejoice? Because we are not alone. Jesus said in John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation but take heart (or be of good cheer) for I have overcome the world.”
Rejoice in God (verse 11)
Why? Because we “have received reconciliation.” We can now simply enjoy our relationship with God. No more do we have to worry about God’s wrath because Jesus absorbed it. No more do we need worry about what we are like, because God is changing us into His image. No longer do we need to worry about what life brings us, because God works through our difficulties to bring about His character in us. No more do we need worry about our needs both now and in the future as God will supply all our needs.
We can now relax and enjoy His presence in our lives. Paul says “hope does not put us to shame.” It can also read “hope does not disappoint us.” You do not believe in made up fables. God really exists and has really made salvation and rescue through a real person, Jesus Christ.
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Jesus came and died at the right time in history and the right time in God’s plan. He didn’t come to give a leg up to humanity to make it over the last hump. He came when were out of the race entirely. He didn’t come and die for a people who were intrinsically good, but ungodly.
People may show ultimate love for someone they already have a relationship with, a family member, fellow soldier, etc. But Jesus came and died for us who were enemies of God due to the evil in us. Now that’s love!
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God could not simply ignore that evil, He had to deal with it. By accepting the sacrificial death of Jesus he makes us in good standing with Himself, and that present event will really be known when the full measure of God’s wrath against evil manifests itself in the final judgment. We simply have no idea how bad evil is and how good God is—not yet.
This is why we can rejoice so much, because we are not God’s enemies any longer but His friends (John 15:15).
How are we described:
• Weak (6)
• Ungodly (6)
• Sinners (8)
• Enemies (10)
• Justified (1,9)
• Saved (9, 10)
• Reconciled (3 x’s – 10,11)
• Rejoicing (3 x’s – 2, 3,11) in hope of God’s glory, in suffering, in God through Christ
• At peace
• With access
• In hope
Words to describe God
There’s a commercial on the radio right now that made me think of how we should react to what God has done for us. It’s actually a commercial for the Oregon Lottery. Of course I’m not advocating or even suggesting that you should play the Lottery, but what this commercial did was to give a somewhat silly look at the four stages of winning the Lottery. You go from disbelief, to wandering around or standing motionless, to glee, to finally coming to terms. The sound bites of actual Lottery winners at that point described it as having been given a gift and with that gift came a sense of responsibility.
Take out the Lottery part and you could have the four stages of realizing what peace with God really means. At first it’s too hard to believe that God would actually bring about peace with His own death. We are so blown away that we wander around or just stand still before God. Then the joy hits us, followed by the realization of the gift we have been given and our responsibility to have a lavish relationship with God and to share the gift we have been given with others.
Let me tell you, in coming to faith in Jesus Christ you have won a lot more than a lottery ticket, and you didn’t even have to spend a buck! Glory in it, boast in it, rejoice in it!
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