God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8 - Romans 4-7: Abraham's Righteousness and Our Freedom from Sin and the Law

Today’s Reading: Romans 4-7

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Laws increase sin—they don't change our mindset. Righteousness must be brought apart from a law.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Abraham was approved by God before he was circumcised because he trusted God. Anyone can be Abraham's descendants when they risk faith in God—with or without religion.
Adam brought sin and death to the entire world. Jesus took them away. Should we increase grace by sinning? No way! We are dead to sin and alive to God. Make Him your new Master.
The Law served a purpose but sin used it to enslave us more. This prison makes me do what I desperately do not want to do. Can no one save me? Jesus can—and does!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Abraham was considered righteous before he was circumcised.

To further illustrate his previous assertion that those who set things right are acceptable to God regardless of their possession of the Law, Paul speaks of Abraham's circumcision. Prior to Abraham being circumcised, he was considered righteous. God's Grace covered him before he was circumcised.
Why is this important? For centuries people have claimed that baptism is a pseudo-magical act that forces God to take away our sins. There are also people who have claimed that saying a prayer has the magical ability to take away sins. The truth is that neither of these is true. Just as Abraham had his relationship set right with God before circumcision we, too, have our relationship set right when we trust in Him to set things right in our lives. There is no prayer or act that can replace that trust. Our problem is that we want to focus on the exact moment we are saved. Paul would suggest that is the wrong question. God's Grace covers us at an undisclosed time—and only He knows it. If a person is stressed over whether they are saved or not, baptism seals the relationship like a marriage ceremony. A bride and groom enter knowing they are already in a committed relationship—even if they have never met. They walk away unified in marriage but not really changed. No one enters a building single and unexpectedly winds up in a committed, married relationship. Marriages with short courtships (aside from arranged marriages) often do not work because they quickly went to the ceremony without going through the mindset shift. Unfortunately, many churches expect this to happen. We want people to walk into church with no faith in God do the magical act of baptism that saves them. Then we wonder why these people cannot last as God's Chosen People. The reason is simple—we stressed the ceremony without the prior mindset shift! Because God wants the relationship change instead of the religious act, anyone in the world can have that relationship with Him, even those outside His "religion". They, too, are spiritual descendents of Abraham.

Jesus' sacrifice gave us freedom from both sin and the Law of Moses.

Sin makes us slaves to it. Jesus came and set us free from sin. The Law makes us know the boundaries of right and wrong. The problem is that it centers our focus on the fence and we wonder what is beyond it until we jump over. That makes us feel worse since we feel awful for jumping the fence and can't figure out how to get back across. Jesus set us free from the Law's grip on our life, too. We now live in freedom! No boundaries to trip on. No fences to obsess over. Only a Light to guide our way.
Christians today have narrowed this freedom to the point we have rules stacked on top of rules (consider the many rules regarding the first day of the week). The rules, like the Law of Moses, are not evil in themselves, but they lead us to be enslaved to sin faster than if we did not have them. People in the world do not have those restrictions. We should not restrict them through our traditions in order for them to have freedom in Christ! Jesus set us free from the grip of our traditions, too!

Our freedom from sin and law does not make us sin more or live any ole way we want.

The obvious objection most Christians have to the two previous points above is that if you remove the law of traditions and focus on God's Grace then people will live any way they want and no one will set things right. The objection is valid and is as old as the church itself. Paul would suggest, to return to the marriage metaphor, that a couple lives a unified life not because they are forced to by law or by threat of the community. They live unified because life goes better when they live as one. Their relationship works better when they live as one. Their outside relationships work better when they live as one. When we live as one with God, life is better. It is this promise that makes people trust in God, not the threat of punishment.

Do you use your freedom to set things right?

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