June 25, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 5)

Submitted by Peter C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 5:1-2

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

The word “justified” is curious in that its definition has to do with being declared something I am not. I am not righteous. I am not just. As I get older this is something that I am more acutely aware of. There are things that continue to bubble up, ooze out, leak out, spew out. There are daily reminders of how much I am filled with anger, resentment, cynicism, awkwardness, deceit, greed, envy… all manner of dark things that I barely manage to keep in check. Sometimes these things do get the best of me in a spectacular way. And suddenly the word “justified” seems like a very delicate word. Impossible. Yet that is what Scripture promises is mine. I am declared righteous. I am declared just. And it is through faith.

It is even more curious because I know how I am when I try to justify myself. I come up with excuses. I flail and I cling to whatever circumstances or people are conveniently nearby in order to get out of a situation. I remember early in our marriage when Hope was pregnant with Matthew, our first child. We were on our way somewhere and we got pulled over. I shamelessly barraged the policeman with so many excuses why I should not be given that ticket and why he should just let me go with a warning. “Come on, officer. My wife is seven months pregnant. I drive around in this beat-up old hatchback. I can’t afford this ticket, or the higher insurance. Can you please give a guy a break, please?” I can only laugh at this story, but in the cosmic arena, where my sins are on the balance, when I consider the fact that there is an actual person against whom my sins have been committed, when I consider the consequences of the cosmic treason that each sin represents, it’s no laughing matter. As I get older, I find that it is almost worse to justify myself. Maybe that’s why when I got my last ticket, I silently handed my papers to the police officer and just said, “Sorry.”

Given the impossible nature of such a thing – for me to be declared righteous or just – the phrase “justified by faith” just seems like wishful thinking. Faith looks like a glorified wish. But I have come to realize that it’s less about being justified than it is about reconciliation. Maybe that is why it’s the phrase that follows immediately after. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God….” The only thing that matters in the end is making peace with God. Not peace IN God, as in him being a producer and I the consumer, but peace WITH God as one who has been his enemy, as Apostle Paul writes in v.10. It is reconciliation with God because I have wronged him, because I have committed sin. For example, I don’t know how many times I’ve lived out the following scenario: tension arises between another person and me because that person is upset with me. Maybe it’s something I have said. Or maybe I did something really offensive and was totally unaware (I may be unaware, but the hurt is there all the same). I am still in the wrong. The relationship remains broken until I realize the wrong, acknowledge that wrong, and ask for forgiveness. Only then can we begin to make peace. Even then, the other person has to want to forgive me. I may have peace in MYSELF for having confessed, but it is hardly worth anything until that other person decides to forgive me. The amazing thing about the gospel is that God has already done that last part. God seems to like taking things that are out of whack in this world and reverse them. How unlikely it would be for the offended party to open with the words, “I forgive you! Yet this is what the gospel says God has done. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. So what is impossible for me is possible because of what God has done. I am justified. And faith not just wishful thinking, it’s based on something. Faith is that thing right in between what I believe and what I end up doing.

There are many ways to analogize it, but the best way to experience it isn’t through analogy but through real life. It’s hard to own up to the wrong that I have done and say those ever-humbling words–I am sorry. Why? It’s because those words imply a bunch of things I don’t want to say about myself. I’m a loser. I’m inconsiderate. I’m selfish. I’m arrogant. I’m narrow-minded. I’m a slob. I’m lazy… and so on. Not things that I want to be reminded of. But if it reminds me of the most important reconciliation that has happened in my life, I should welcome it. Maybe that’s why Apostle Paul talks about this “grace in which we now stand.” It would be a very sad reality without grace. There is no rejoicing when I must repeatedly admit my own loser-hood (or is that loser-ness?) and there is no joy in that. But when admission of such things bring about a tangible restoration of relationship with the one who loves me more than anyone else in the universe, there can be nothing less than hope, and joy. It is the greatest news that anyone has ever heard of.

Submitted by Kenny C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflection Questions

Romans 5:1-10

“People give many different meanings to the word ‘peace,’ but almost everyone wants it […] Yet no ultimate peace is possible without coming to terms with God. People who search for peace will never find it until they find peace with God. Lack of such peace is the basic human predicament.”  [Douglas J. Moo. “Romans,” The NIV Application Commentary. (Zondervan, 2000) 176.]

  • List all the words from this passage that express what we received through the death of Jesus.  How do these expressions apply to my life?

Using the New Living Translation, these are the phrases that I chose which bring to light what I have received through the death of Jesus:

“…been made right in God’s sight by faith”

“…have peace with God”

“…brought us into a place of undeserved privilege”

“…can rejoice…when we run into problems and trials”

“…given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love”

“…look forward to sharing God’s glory”

“…save us from God’s condemnation.”

“…friendship with God was restored”

The significance of Christ’s death is captured by each of these loaded phrases and this exercise of writing them down one by one and pausing at each one causes me to well up with gratitude once again for the amazing truth that while I was still a sinner, Christ would die for an enemy like me. The expression that I want to hold onto is the phrase, “been made right in God’s sight,” mentioned twice in verses 1 and 9. There are times that I fall into this line of thinking where I feel like my sins are just too great that it feels like there is no way that God would ever take me back. When my sins are exposed before God, the dominant thought is that I’ve failed God again and that this time, God is probably going to say enough is enough and declare that he would want to have nothing to do with me anymore. Without Christ, this is the bleak conclusion that I would have to accept, and that there is absolutely no hope for me but to get what I rightfully deserve for my sins. But the good news is that through Christ’s death, I don’t have to wonder anymore if I’m ever going to be accepted by God. His death makes it possible for a sinner like me to be “made right in His sight,” as the punishment that I deserve has been transferred over completely to Christ on the cross, and what I receive in return is that God looks at me through the lens of the cross and declares me righteous. This message never ever gets old. This is the same message we gave to our middle school students this past weekend at the summer retreat where many of our kids were impacted by what Jesus did for them on the cross. This is not a hard message to understand but it’s a hard message at times to fully embrace because my gut response is that I feel too stained by my sins to be ever fully accepted again by God. The fact that a very unrighteous person like myself, fully deserving of condemnation, is made right in God’s sight is a truth that I need to embrace and take hold of “by faith” as it says in verse 1.

  • How does the gospel enable us to “rejoice in our sufferings?”

The gospel enables me to “rejoice in our sufferings” because I know that there are two outcomes to sufferings. One is that suffering builds perseverance, which over time, leads to a strength of character. There is something powerful about the testimony of believers who followed Christ for many years and have gone through the gauntlet of suffering, from either their own sins or just the suffering of forces beyond their control, and what emerges is often a refined, sanctified and beautiful life of surrender and trust in God’s eternal promises. I know that suffering is not something that I intentionally go out and look for, nor is it something that I instinctively want more of in my life. But my response to suffering, when it does come, should not be one of resistance but that of acceptance, because I know that suffering causes me to trust all that much more in the magnitude of what Christ did on the cross. The second outcome is that even in the midst of the worst possible suffering imaginable, I can still have hope because I know the final ending. It says that we “confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” and that glory is what I can have hope in, even in the midst of the darkest and bleakest of suffering. It says in verse 5 that this hope will not lead to disappointment. I’m sure that this is what many heroes of faith looked to in their darkest hour, knowing that their life would not end at the grave but that they would one day share in God’s glory for the all eternity. To have this hope in heaven is what makes it possible for me to endure suffering in this life, which are in many ways light and momentary (2 Cor 4:17) compared to the eternal glory that outweighs them all. For that very reason and because of the gospel, I can rejoice in my present-day sufferings and not be given over to despair.

Romans 5:3-5

  • What is the progression that turns suffering into hope?  How does this happen?

The progression that turns suffering into hope is that suffering produces perseverance. And perseverance over time produces character, and character that gets cemented is what brings about a confident hope of salvation. If there is anything these verses tell me is that this is not an overnight process or a one-time deal. How I handle suffering will be directly linked to how small or large the size of my hope is in God. If I have a hard time handling suffering now, its not too hard to guess to assume that I’m most likely having a hard time placing my hope in Christ alone. So the path towards becoming this kind of person is that I need to take each suffering as an opportunity for my character to develop and in turn, my hope in God to grow as well.

  • Are there circumstances in my life that I can turn into an opportunity to build character and hope?

The “suffering” that I want to embrace are the many sufferings that come with trying to make the gospel become personal and real for our middle school students. There was a lot of work that went in this past weekend in order to make this past Element Middle School retreat possible. Dan and I experienced a small bit of suffering together as we tried to prepare all the messages for the retreat, laboring through each object lesson and the message illustrations to make sure its relevant and understandable for the kids, carefully thinking about what we want our kids to feel and to experience at the end of each message. As we prepped together in the speaker’s cabin, not getting much sleep and under heavy stress, we got a small taste of what it feels like to rejoice over suffering together. Although it wasn’t easy, I’m thankful for that opportunity because I know that times like these are helping me to develop perseverance, which in turn builds my character and that leads to a greater hope in the gospel and in what Christ did for me.

Submitted by Janice L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Reflection Questions

Romans 5:1-10

“People give many different meanings to the word ‘peace,’ but almost everyone wants it […] Yet no ultimate peace is possible without coming to terms with God. People who search for peace will never find it until they find peace with God. Lack of such peace is the basic human predicament.”  [Douglas J. Moo. “Romans,” The NIV Application Commentary. (Zondervan, 2000) 176.]

  • List all the words from this passage that express what we received through the death of Jesus.  How do these expressions apply to my life?

Through the death of Jesus, we received:

–        justification through faith (v.1)

–        peace with God (v.1)

–        access into the grace in which we now stand (v.2)

–        the ability to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (v.2)

–        the ability to rejoice in our sufferings (v.3)

–        God’s concrete love for us, sinners (v.8)

–        reconciliation (v.11)

  • How does the gospel enable us to “rejoice in our sufferings?”

As I think about how is it that we are able to “rejoice in our sufferings,” I am first reminded of what Jesus did for me.  His life of suffering, which culminated in the death on the cross, ultimately gave me salvation from my sins and eternal hope in heaven.  Through Jesus’ death, I came to know and understand the horrendous state of sin I was in, because it took his innocent blood of God himself and the brutality of the cross to fully “pay for” my sins.  Knowing that I, an undeserving sinner and once an enemy of God, was graciously saved from my sins through Jesus’ suffering gives me a different perspective through which I see sufferings that come in my life as well.  I no longer have to view my sufferings in isolation and feel discouraged and defeated every time I encounter them.  I don’t need to pity myself in comparison to others whose lives seem to go smoothly.  Instead, I can see the sufferings in my life in the context of God’s shaping process for my character and maturity and gladly embrace them.  Even though it may be difficult to go through the sufferings, I can anticipate how God will help me grow to become a better minister who knows how to persevere, develop character, and ultimately have hope.  These sufferings could very well be vehicles God chooses to use to answer my prayers such as increased capacity, spiritual maturity, and greater compassion and love for people.  Through different kinds of “sufferings” in my life (though my sufferings don’t compare with what others go through, and much less what Jesus went through), I can grow.  Inconveniences and interruptions of my life would cause me to surrender my schedule; struggling together on sin issues with those I minister to, I could experience greater dependence on prayer and heart for that person; and my recurring strongholds or circumstantial difficulties causes me to learn perseverance and dependence on God and increase my faith to hold on to what I know as true.  When I step back and reflect on how God has shaped me over the years, it is definitely through times of trial and sufferings.  And knowing that God will continue to use sufferings in my lives to expand my capacity to love him and other people, I no longer need to fear sufferings or desire to avoid them.  Indeed, the gospel enables me to rejoice even in my suffering, because for Christians, sufferings produce mature Christians with godly character and whose faith has been tested and true.

Romans 5:3-5

  • What is the progression that turns suffering into hope?  How does this happen?

The progression that turns suffering into hope is that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (v. 4) And this hope, produced from sufferings we go through, “does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (v. 5)

In other words, a Christian view of sufferings is that they serve a purpose for those who are going through the sufferings.  Sufferings provide opportunities for us to persevere, and in the process develop godly character.  Character built from such perseverance gives us firm grounding to continue to hope in what God can do through the help of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand this progression of suffering into hope in the context of God’s love, so that we can have confidence that God will come through because he is our Heavenly Father who loves us.

Whenever I am challenged to think about sufferings in this way and learn to embrace them as part of God’s shaping process in my life, I often think about a missionary couple laboring in a third world country. Their lives, which no doubt consist of all kinds of sufferings and inconveniences, not only produce perseverance and character, but such hope in God that one day he will truly come through and transform the entire nation through what seems to be sufferings in the present moment.  The confidence and steadfastness they demonstrate are contagious and help many of us here to also pray that much more fervently in anticipation of all that God will do through them despite the sufferings.  Without sufferings as the backdrop, the hope that we are experiencing together would not carry the same weight.

There are so many examples of suffering producing perseverance, character, and hope here in our very community, too.  I see people voluntarily involving themselves in other people’s messy lives to struggle with them and to help them not veer away from God.  In the process, they learn to be faithful and persevere through the situation, depend on God in prayer, and develop hope in God.  And there are those who have lost their loved ones, who are unemployed in this economic situation, who have chronic health issues, all of which must be difficult and discouraging.  Yet, as they go to God, they experience God redeeming their suffering by giving them increased faith and in turn blessing those around them.

Personally, I have also experienced God through my unemployment period right after my graduation, through many sin issues that came out through relationships, dating and marriage, through my mother-in-law’s death, and now through being a mom. At different juncture of my life, whenever I felt my life was hard, felt anxious about future, or felt defeated by my recurring sins, people encouraged me to hold on to God’s word and continue to persevere.  And I see that through those times, God taught me many valuable lessons on how to be patient and how to have compassion for others who may be going through the same thing, and to have greater faith in God.

  • Are there circumstances in my life that I can turn into an opportunity to build character and hope?

As a mom with full time job and a husband with pretty demanding schedule, I am often stretched to take on ministry responsibilities of caring for other people.  My selfish desires fight for more time and energy for myself, to settle and slow down.  But I can view this time as an opportunity to experience God’s strength and to build character and hope.  As I often pray for increased capacity to handle life, for transformed heart to care for others, and to get out of my selfish desires, my life’s circumstance is perfect for building necessary character and to experience answers to those prayers.  God gives me opportunities to prioritize God and others over my own life through ministry needs.  He gives me opportunities to exercise kindness towards others even when I feel tired and want to not bother relating to them.  Through frequent sickness of my son, and health issues for my parents, I am also learning to surrender them to God and experience strength and encouragement from other people.  My life may feel overwhelming at times, but through different circumstances in my life, I see how God builds my character and teaches me to rely on him and his people.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response