For Sunday, February 24, 2008
Third Sunday in Lent
One of my mentors, Stuart Briscoe, Pastor Emeritus of my home church Elmbrook, likes to say: “Whenever you see a ‘therefore’ you ought to ask yourself what is the ‘therefore’ there for?” Here ‘therefore’ connects what Paul is about to say with what he has just said. Okay… so what did he just say?
At the beginning of chapter 4 Paul asked, “What then shall we say that Abraham discovered in this matter?” What matter was that? Well.. jumping back to 3:21 we read “But now a righteousness from God has been revealed. . . ” But this is still the middle of a conversation. Jumping back further to 3:9 – “What shall we conclude then?” Looks like we’ll have to go back even further. 3:1 – “What advantage then is there in being a Jew?” Still not at the beginning of the train of thought.
2:17 – “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew: if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Moving forward, here is the immediate point (2:29): “A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly.” Okay… how does that happen? Simply, as Abraham discovered and did, by “believing God” (4:3).
Bringing this forward then to 5:1, the point is this: because we have been justified through faith (which is another word for belief), we have peace with God. This peace is not based on living as perfect Christians today. Rather, it is based on believing God is capable of dealing with the wretchedness of which we are all too aware is within us.
Well… doesn’t that just give us license to live as we please? No, because out of thankfulness for the grace we have received, we will strive daily to live out what is already infused within. We’ll start to rejoice in our troubles; this rejoicing will lead to perseverance; perseverance will lead to character; and character to hope. And this hope will not disappoint, because it will find confirmation in the love of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in our hearts.
Wow… what a different approach to life than either pursuing comfort or becoming a victim. Facing troubles today? Rejoice, because here is your open door to journey toward hope confirmed by love. This is peace with God indeed.