How many times do we put expectations and restrictions on ourselves or others about what it means to be accepted by God and God’s people? We have to attend church this frequently. We can’t wear those kinds of clothes. We can’t get that kind of mark on our bodies. We can’t hang out with those kinds of people. We have to volunteer so many times a year. We have to read our Bible and pray just this way every day. We have to believe in our holiness. We need evidence of it to make it so.
It’s exhausting—and completely beside the point!
Paul knew this well. He was one for following the letter of the law completely, and he was chief Pharisee among all Pharisees before that fateful day on the road to Damascus when he heard the voice of Christ speaking directly to him. Once converted to faith in Jesus, he found that same legalism greeting him among the new Christians. His letter to the Romans was a response to such soul-stripping rules and ways of exercising one’s belief.
Without faith, Paul wants us to know, it all means nothing. Faith is what ushers us into the family of Abraham’s long line of descendants, born not just of flesh but of that same faith that saved him that very first day he heard God’s promise for the future. We become part of that royal order of nations and kings and descendants and generations that God foretold from the beginning, and it’s our faith—not the letter of the law—that gets us there. That is truly the best news of all!
Dear God, thank you for the grace that saves me in my simple assent of faith. It is enough, and it is everything. Amen.
We cannot earn God’s love. Going back to the time of Abraham, God’s blessing has been based on faith. God chose Abraham for a covenant not because Abraham was perfect but because he believed God. The psalmist reminds his audience of their ancient relationship with God and expresses the hope that it will continue through future generations. In Romans, Paul reinforces the centrality of faith. Following the law was not bad, but no one should believe that following the law could earn God’s favor. Some of Jesus’ disciples share with him an experience that mystifies them. Trusting God means surrendering everything in faith.
Read Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. What is the basis of your relationship with God? How comfortable do you feel in it?
Read Psalm 22:23-31. Where do you find hope in troubling times?
Read Romans 4:13-25. How easily do you live in God’s grace? In what areas do you find yourself “reckoning” your righteousness?
Read Mark 9:2-9. Do you ever find it difficult to believe in things you may not fully understand? What helps you to trust in God?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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