35. God Revealed

Meditations in Romans : 35:  God Revealed

Rom 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say–as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say–“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

The difficulty of meditating on a few verses is that it is so easy to forget the context, and especially what has just gone before. Paul has just said, What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” He is, of course, referring to the Jews, and then added, “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” i.e. God is revealed as righteous when He judges the unrighteous Jews. So now Paul envisages his Jewish readers in Rome answering, “Hold on, if our wrong doing only shows God’s righteousness more clearly, isn’t it unfair that He then judges us? If our actions make Him look better, isn’t it unfair that He then punishes us?” I know I’m arguing as a foolish human being, but that’s what you are and that’s what that sort of arguing is, Paul implies in a quick aside.

Of course He’s not being unfair. God is Judge and it is right that He judges all wrongdoing. Then he does a double take, as if hearing them continuing to think down that wrong path, Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” i.e. OK, I admit I might not be always a truth-teller but if that only goes to contrast God’s utter truthfulness and show how wonderful He is, why should I get smacked for being less than perfect? (That’s how we might say it!)

Look, Paul continues, you might as well say – as some people wrongly say we do say – that we should do wrong so that God’s grace is seen more clearly. That is probably what is behind verse 8, because when we properly preach grace, it can almost be mistaken for this wrong thinking. The worse the sinner is, when they come to Christ and are forgiven and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, the greater the grace that is seen to operate. But that is not an argument to sin more. It simply says that God’s grace is big enough for whoever the repenting sinner is and for whatever they have done in the past. There is only one thing that proves a stumbling block to salvation: “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Mt 12:31,32). The word blasphemy used here refers to “speaking against.” Look, said Jesus, you can speak against me and that can be forgiven but if you speak against the moving of the Spirit as He seeks to move in you and bring conviction, it is obvious that you are rejecting Him and while you do that you can never come to repentance and receive forgiveness.

So the truth to be held on to is that God’s grace is sufficiently big to forgive whatever sin you have committed when you come to God in repentance. God’s ‘good intent’ towards you will never vary. It doesn’t matter how big or serious you consider your failure; if you come to Him in repentance then His forgiveness IS there for you. It’s not a question of what you feel, but of God’s declared truth: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and WILL forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9). However behind all this there is a fundamental truth we need to hold on to: the other side of this coin is if you sin and don’t repent you will still be answerable to God and God does judge and discipline. It is right that God judges sin – all sin, yours and mine. Jesus has died on the Cross to bring us forgiveness but if we do not repent we cannot be forgiven. The Cross is only operative when we confess and repent. Remember that!

6. Those who Hunger

MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 6

Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

To catch the full import of this verse we need to recount the previous three verses and see this one in context. First there had been the requirement to recognize our spiritual poverty. Second, simply recognizing it was not sufficient, there had to be a mourning or grieving over it that showed we understood how awful being dead spiritually was. Third, and following that, there had to be a willingness to submit utterly to God’s will, for nothing less than that could open the way up for His blessings to flow into our lives.

But now comes a further aspect of the same thing. If on one hand we saw and rejected our old lives, recognizing the failure to be good that there was in that life, what there also needs to be is a yearning for the good life, for a life that is good and right. Do you see the importance of these stages? You can be aware of your poverty and just wallow in that and remain there. You can see it and anguish over it but be unable to let go your self-centredness and so you stay there in it. You can be aware of your poverty, mourn over it and want God’s will and yet only desire it for what it can bring you – and that is still self-centred.

To go the whole way you have to come to this point of submitting to God’s will whole-heartedly and yearning for a right standing before God. That is what righteousness is – right standing before God, right living before God. Again, do you see the two aspects there? When we become aware of our poverty, aware of our failure, aware of our guilt, for the work to be fully done, there also needs to be a yearning to be freed from the guilt and shame and to be put right with God. In the awareness of our spiritual poverty there also needs to be the recognition that it involves sin against God. Do you remember in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, when the son returns to his father he declares, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.(Lk 15:21). When the Holy Spirit brings conviction it is not merely of our failure, but our failure in respect of God. As we realize that, we understand we have offended God and that needs to be put right. Somehow we need to be reconciled to God – but we cannot do it ourselves. It is only as we hear the good news of Jesus dying on the Cross in our place that we realize that the Father alone has provided the means for us to come back into a right standing with Him.

But there will also be a yearning to change our way of living, to get rid of things that offend God, and to live rightly before Him. Behind this hungering and thirsting, this heart yearning, there will also be this desire to lead a good life, a life free from sin. The New Testament shows us the nature of that life, and particularly the apostles’ letters put detail to that, but the main thing we find, is that God provides His own Holy Spirit to live within us, so He is there to direct and guide us, to show us the way in any particular situation, He is there to empower us to enable us to overcome and live as God’s child. Whether we recognize it or not when we look back, this is the work the Holy Spirit does in us when He convicts us of our need – a recognition of our poverty, an anguish over it, a desire for God’s will and a desire to be put right with God so that we can live the life He wants us to live, as His children. Those are the facets of what goes on within any person as they come to God to be born again.

And this is where we come to the latter part of the verse: they shall be filled. When someone is hungry, they are empty. When their hunger is satisfied, they are filled. It is a picture of being completely satisfied. At the end of a banquet, people are heard to say, “That was wonderful, I am full up. I couldn’t eat another thing!” And that’s the truth; when God does His work in us He does it completely and there is nothing more to be added. Every aspect of what we have considered has been covered. From being poor isolated wretches we become children of God with all the blessings of God. Our mourning is turned into rejoicing. We rest and rejoice in coming into the purposeful will of God, where we sense a new purpose and direction in our lives. The yearning to be put right with God is completely satisfied as we are declared forgiven, cleansed and totally pardoned and, as the Holy Spirit comes in, we are energized to live the new life. We are filled, we are utterly satisfied. Yes, we are filled with the goodness of God and of His Holy Spirit as we submit ourselves to Him and let Him do what He wants with us. How wonderful when it happens, how scary for the person who wants to remain in their self-centred isolation!