NOTE TO READERS: I do not claim to be an authority on scripture. The thoughts expressed below are mine alone, and not necessarily representative of those of God or this radio station. …That being said, I’m writing what I think it’s saying… a er.. paraphrase of a paraphrase (I use the new living translation).
I wrote some of this up last night and myspace erased it. I’ll try to get my thoughts from tonight.. and last night. The only reason for writing is finding something compelling enough that you feel you have to say it. Without having something compelling to say, you’re wasting words. Usually it’s something that’s been said TO you. But enough with introductions.
I started reading whole books of the Bible, especially Paul’s letters. They make so much more sense when you actually read the whole thing rather than cutting them into nice little 15-minute chapters. This isn’t a I’m-more-spiritual-than-you-are-because-i-read-whole-books-at-a-time thing… it’s just something I do to try to make better sense of the Bible. And I think it’s working.
Verse 4 of Ephesians 1: “Jesus gave His life for our sins, JUST AS GOD THE FATHER PLANNED, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”
God planned IN ADVANCE that Jesus would die for our sin… “transgression”, which the NLT translates ‘rebellion.” I didn’t get why the NLT referred to ‘transgressors’ as rebels.. then I realized this: transgress comes from the latin Trans- which means across (transport, translate, transform) and -Gradus which means to go. Transgress basically means “go across” or cross the line. Which basically means rebels. But anyway, back to God planning in advance.
God planned this in advance? That really hit home when I read Ephesians 1:4-5: “Even before He made the world, God LOVED US and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God DECIDED IN ADVANCE to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” Here’s my favorite part: “THIS IS WHAT HE *WANTED* TO DO, AND IT GAVE HIM *GREAT* PLEASURE.” !!! (emphasis mine). When I first read that, I was shocked. Wait a second! God wanted to adopt ME? and not only that it gave Him PLEASURE? I mean, I always knew that GodsolovedtheworldthatHegaveHisonlybegottensonthatwhosoever
believethinHimshouldnotperishbuthaveeverlastinglife but WOW! “This is what He WANTED to do, and it gave Him great Pleasure?! The New American Standard translates it “According to His good pleasure which he purposed…” yup, He wanted to do it.. and it gave Him pleasure! God’s not up in heaven saying, Ok, I’ll buy you guys back (redeem)… but I’d rather not. GOD WANTED TO BUY US BACK!!!
I had Romans 5:8 in my cubicle at work so I wouldn’t lose the wonder: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” I had to go back and re-translate that.. While we were still MESSED UP Christ died for us. It wasn’t after we’d gotten all prettied up and cleaned up and had our fancy religious phrases down pat.. it was while we were MESSED UP that God looked down and said.. I’ve gotta save ’em! I hope and pray I never lose the wonder of that.
And speaking of wonder, back to Galatians and God planning Jesus giving His life for our sins. God planned it??? Ok, now I’m not a dad, but I imagined myself, as a loving Father and the Son of mine who never sinned and always loved me and did EVERYTHING I wanted.. and sending THIS son of mine to die on the cross for all these losers who hate me and keep messing up… Imagine it! If *I* was God, I would’ve looked down on the cross and said.. Son, this is stupid. Get off that cross. The world can go to Hell!
BUT GOD DIDN’T DO THAT!!! How… How… HOW IN THE WORLD??? can God have that much love for ME? *I* don’t even love myself *that* much! THIS is what the songwriter was talking about when he or she penned the phrase “love beyond degree” and the other wrote “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? or thorns compose so rich a crown?” and “Love SO AMAZING so divine… demands my soul, my life, my all!”
Moving on in Galatians.. chapter 2, 17-19
“But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean that Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law – I stopped trying to meet its requirements – so that I might live for God.”
How does that work? You STOP trying to meet the requirements of the law and then live for God? That almost sounds like a contradiction! But this all suddenly made sense when I recognized it (see my blog “I want to know this God” for my story about that). It was then that I realized that everything I do; my goal in life, should be to make God smile. That loving God I just talked about.. sorry, obsessed about, a few paragraphs ago? I want to make Him smile. It’s kinda like parents… they’re not so worried about you keeping the laws. If you obsess about making them smile.. they’re gonna be REALLY HAPPY PEOPLE most of the time. And they stop worrying so much about rules.. they made the rules to protect you from your own stupid self. If you’re trying to make them happy, you almost automatically keep all their rules. And if they tell you to do something, you’re not worshipping of loving the rules they set up to do it.. you do it because you LOVE them. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s what I think God meant when he gave out the top two commands: Love God, Love each other. When you do that, God’s happy. And the more you think about “what would make God smile” the more your life lines up with what He wants. No law necessary!
Back to the book though: 10-21
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
More good stuff… Paul was trusting keeping the law to get him to heaven. NOW he realized that only trusting in Christ was going to make him right with God… which was what he wanted in the first place! A lot of people (myself previously included.. FREEDOM! WOOT!) seemed to think that well, God saved us, but we still have to do all this good stuff.. earn heaven.. somehow they think good works are going to do SOMETHING… and none of it made sense to ME until I found this God who loves me…. and recognized that if I can just make Him smile… wow. So Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to take the penalty for messing up… and NOW we’re free to *really* live for God! Three words.
God. Is. Awesome.
No wonder Paul started all his letters praising God! He didn’t have to fulfill all the requirements of the law anymore, or be holier than anybody else… Just trust in Jesus alone, then love God and your neighbor! And when you see this God who loves… and get a LITTLE TINY GLIMPSE of Him.. the only reaction is the same one John had: We love Him because He first loved us. Funny how that verse never made sense before, but it sure does now.