I went to a really cool conference this past weekend, for the church I am a member of. Not cool because it had great music, or latest fashions, or new key phrases that seem to stem from bible verses but aren’t REALLY the bible verses, just some cool worldly twist on a bible verse. No – it was really cool because, for me, it was a combination of conviction and confirmation. I would love to elaborate – but I’m honestly feeling a little lazy right now. So instead, I’ll talk about this verse in Romans, and how it tied everything together for me. This was a verse I read this morning, the morning after said really cool conference….
From Romans 15….
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This verse was not referenced in the conference, but I think it gets to the heart of what the conference was about. It all comes back to Jesus. We can’t do anything without him. Well – we CAN. But it will not bear fruit that will last.
Yet, we so often strive to do it alone. Or to cut God out of the equation, let alone turn the reins over to him. For me, this verse pierced my heart – “Ted, you are not trusting in me. You are not experiencing my joy in full, because you are still going your own way”.
May the God of hope – our Lord, Jesus Christ – fill you with joy and peace…. As you trust in him – meaning he WILL fill you with joy and peace, when you trust in him. He won’t make you “happy”, or give you things. Well – he might. But that is not what we are to desire. We are not to desire objects, or temporary happiness, or expect that we should “follow our dreams” and that is from God. God’s deisre for us is not comfort, or financial gain, or pretty trinkets that will distract us – no, he wants us. His desire IS us. His desire for us is salvation – to be restored to what we were created to be – in communion with him.
His desire for us is joy and peace…..
And in him – ONLY in him – we find joy and peace. Anything outside of that will fail. And anything outside of that – is sin. When we strive to have THINGS, and worldly pleasures, we really need to ask God if this is his desire. Or is it taking our eye off Christ? Because if it is – it’s sin. When we try to vote our opinions into law, instead of sticking our neck out and sharing the truth with one guy who God may put on our heart to share with – it’s sin. When we don’t trust that God has a plan bigger even than all of the wickedness of this world – that he’s already won, no matter how bleak it may look to our eyes – it’s sin….
We should not think of sin as those “major things”, or something that falls in line with ten rules. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said these two commands sum up the law. Which means two things to me:
1. The law is still valid. Many question that. I think they are misguided. Jesus came to fulfill the law. I do not think however the law is the answer, or the key to heaven. It’s a guide. It leads us to Christ, the truth the way and the light. As we see in these two commands, all other commands are to point us to Christ – to the only one who has faithfully loved God the Father with all he has, and the only one who loved his neighbor perfectly, as himself.
3. Anything that falls outside of these two commands – is sin.
So – you can go ahead and do all the good you want. You can follow all the commandments you want – whether they are from God or from man – doesn’t matter. You can live a “righteous life”, and “not do those major sins” or abominations that others do. But if you don’t love God with all you have, and because of that love your neighbor – you are sinning…….
I am sinning…….
So – back to the verse. As we trust in the Lord, as we abide in him, as we cling to the vine, our joy is complete. And it overflows, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Overflows. We can’t contain it. We HAVE to give it away. We MUST. We have no choice, we’re overcome by his love!
But are we? Or are we consumed by the world? I know I am. I know that I WANT to be overwhelmed with his love and mercy. And I know God wants that for me. But I am so often distracted by this world – the new house, the job, Dylan’s baseball, paperwork, the lawn, Stella’s ortho appointment, the messy garage, that new tv we want, the local news, the political debate that I know nothing about but so want to shove my opinion down your throat, my diet, the laundry, on and on. I am too busy for you, Lord. Check back later, k? Love ya……
Lord – forgive me for making myself so busy…. Forgive me for taking anything on myself, and sinning against you. You are not a God who desires tithing, and sacrifices, and that we cower in terror – though you could be. You are not a God who desires we follow religious dogma. You are a God who desires mercy, holiness, truth, beauty. You desire US. You see us as merciful, holy, honorable, beautiful, through your son Jesus Christ. Though we are not these things of ourselves – we are because you took our sin upon yourself, and gave us your righteousness in return. I pray that you strengthen me, so that I might be less about pleasing myself, and more pleasing to you. Not to obtain some gift – but beause I desire to please you, the lover of my soul…. Because you first loved me. I worship you, by being what you created me to be. Nothing more. Help me to believe. To trust in you. To be filled with joy and peace overflowing, so much so that I must share with others. May your ways be my ways. In Jesus’ name.