Last week I had a great idea. Every Friday I’m going to blog about a verse from Romans 8. It was a fun idea, easy to do, full of life. So I started my blog and sent it out 1 week in a row! This past Friday life set in. I am teaching a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a church in Nashville. I had to prepare for that. Friday and Saturday was New Life University and I taught the Christian Psychology course for which I needed to do some writing. As soon as it was over Doris and I hopped in the car for Western Kentucky to visit some great friends and to speak for their church. Got back Sunday night to move furniture at Branches and get set up for the Intensive that begins today.
I’m not complaining, (well, maybe a little bit) but I am saying that the whole time the need to send this blog was eating away at me and making me anxious. Call it writer’s block or call it the “law of sin and death” all of a sudden, what started out as a joy turned into a drudgery. In fact I’m pretty ticked writing right now. (I’m kidding!)
On Thursday I met with two men that I believe in and respect, Robert and Bob. We talked about, can you believe it, Romans 8. I asked them, “What is the law of the Spirit of life?” We came up with some amazing answers, a few vaguely resembled what might be true. But we had a great conversation that moved us all to a deeper level of thinking, I think. Like, what is spiritual life and what is spiritual death? Or, how significant is it that Paul says “through Christ” rather than “by Christ?”
Our conversation went two interesting places that I think are somehow connected. We began to talk about the law as Jesus saw it. Bob reminded me that Jesus summed all of the other laws up into two, love God, and love your neighbor. The other place our talk turned was to those people that are really trying to please God by keeping the law, whatever law they choose to keep. Do they have a chance? Is there a way to make it based on the law?
It seems to me that no matter what else you believe about these two laws, you have to admit that loving God and loving people feels joy based while “all the law and the prophets”, ie, the 10 commandments, the Talmud, the Manual, the Church Discipline, look both ways before you cross the street, ALL THE OTHER LAWS WE TRY TO LIVE LIFE BY, can become a drudgery. They freeze us up, take away our creativity, and sap our joy. So that serving God and making it to heaven becomes this very oppressive duty rather than, well, life.
Can you make it to God by a law based, performance center, duty filled, disciplined, structured life that dots every “i” and crosses every “t”? I guess so but it ain’t easy and you better get EVERYTHING right. To paraphrase Wesley, can you serve God without the Spirit of life? Maybe so. You can also get from England to America without a ship (or a plane) but it’s an awful long swim.
Don’t misunderstand. Paul is not removing any sense of holy living or any requirement of the Gospel, In verse 12 we’ll talk about the “obligation” we have to the Spirit of life. Rather Paul is saying that what Jesus did in reconciling us to God was to take away the drudgery (and death) of trying to fulfill all of the law and replace it with the delight of being immersed in love both for and from God, and showing that love in the way we treat those around us. The God life changes from a duty to a desire. It ceases to be a have to and starts to become a want to. Jesus, by paying the ultimate price to fulfill all of the commandments, made it possible for me and you to do our part to live holy and Godly lives as our natural, loving response to Him and His gift. Because of what He did I don’t have to do anything except love Him and love His children. That’s life.
Now there are some interesting ideas about what that looks like in the rest of Romans 8. We’ll talk about that on the Fridays ahead. Oh My Goodness! Did I just say that? I’m sick already…..