Friday, May 30, 2014

Revisiting Scripture 4

“Oh what a wretched man am I; who will free me from this body of death”?

Oh … how that scripture resonated within me some time ago!! I felt like shouting out loud:
“YES, Paul …YES; I ‘know’ where you’re coming from! But that wouldn’t help … or would it?
In researching Paul’s use of the metaphor of: ‘a body of death’, in Romans 7, I discovered something very interesting. (You may want to skip this next paragraph if you are a bit squeamish)

When a transgression was deemed severe enough to warrant prolonged and painful punishment, culminating in death; crucifixion was not the only means employed during Paul’s day. Apparently in such cases, a dead (and decaying) body was literally bound to the transgressor. Death by such means was sure, but incredibly slow; as the putrefying flesh ‘ate into’ the once healthy flesh and turned it into a … well you get the idea! In this way the transgressor literally carried around with them: ‘the aroma of death’ … until death … had its way; and the ‘flesh’ was finally defeated!

What an incredibly, graphic metaphor! This gives us some understanding of the agony Paul experienced in relation to his ‘flesh life’. Now while some may contend that Paul was speaking of his (then) current circumstances in this particular passage; I’m more inclined to believe that he was instead referring to his previous unregenerate state (Romans 7) and then, that of his new status as a child of God (Romans 8).

It is tempting however, to allow this metaphor to speak to the circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in as believers; especially, regarding our: ‘stinking’ thinking and subsequent ‘foul’ attitudes.

Certainly at such times it is possible to ‘feel’ as though we are ‘bound up’ and at the mercy of forces beyond ourselves – but are we really? Some might even ‘welcome’ death, in moments of deepest despair and disillusionment. But, in all reality; the ‘welcoming of death’ is more often then not akin to a desperate desire to escape our present circumstances, at (almost) any price.

If we were to force Paul’s (body of death) metaphor a little further, then perhaps we should be asking why we would even want … or allow ourselves … to return to such a state of ‘torment’; as we were once forced to endured (in vain) i.e. prior to the Lord’s amazing grace being imputed to us.
This of course begs the question: why would we not allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into victory as per Romans 8; as ... children of the Most High God?
Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to that question! For example:

Ever feel so distant from God that you actually caught yourself wondering why He loved you so much or if He still loved you? Or, perhaps you despised yourself so much that you felt that you deserved all that might befall you? Perhaps you felt incredibly alone and woefully misunderstood, and equated that state of being; as justification for your deserved fate?

At such times; it is possible to feel, so despairing of life; that we begin to doubt our relationship with God as our Father? Now … it’s not such a huge leap from there to: “well if I’m not a child of God … then Romans 8 doesn’t apply to (or won’t work for) me”!

Or worse still: “I deserve everything I get …not even God could (or should) intervene to save me – I’m beyond help”!

At times, we might even find ourselves musing over the thought: ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen out of this … even if it ultimately meant death to this world … I would be instantly translated to be with the Lord … right?
There is only one remedy, for anyone who feels trapped in this manner: and that is to ‘cast yourself upon the Lord’ ... to run into His arms and ask for His amazing grace to wash over you!

At such times, God enables us by such undeserved, unmerited but FREE grace, to trust, that the same One, who loved us enough to send His only begotten Son to die for us; EVEN WHEN we were His enemies; changes not! He still passionately cares for us even when we stop caring for ourselves!

It is difficult to fathom, but God’s incredible love for us, is NOT conditional, on who we are or what we do; He just loves us and we could NEVER stop Him doing so - aren’t you glad?

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