June 5, 2014.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I was reading through Romans today with some friends and we came across this very well known passage which gives so many Christians in the world hope and encouragement. I have heard or read many lessons on this passage confidently asserting that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. And isn’t that a wonderful statement? If we stay in Christ Jesus, there is nothing, nothing that can separate us, for it is God who justifies as Paul writes just a little bit earlier. Death no longer has dominion over us, for we have put to death our old self through baptism and raised anew to walk in the newness of life, again as Paul says in an earlier chapter. I have heard the lesson many a time where we should not be scared of death because we have salvation. This is a good thing to remember.
But the lesson from this passage that I am not sure I have ever heard is one that hit me when we were reading today. Paul lists off a lot of things that would make sense that might separate us from the love of Christ, if they could. Except for one, in my opinion. Life. Paul doesn’t stop at death, saying death cannot separate us from the love of Christ. He goes on. “Neither death or life…” Does that make any sense? How would life separate me from the love Christ?
One of the people we have been reading with here has a favorite verse that I think sheds some light on this question.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
(1 John 2:15-17)
I am convinced that life would have more power than death to ensnare us, at least in our present age. If we die in The Lord, our choices have been made, sealed. However, if we continue on this earth, there will continuously be occasion to stumble. John warns us about this in the passage above. If we love the things of this life, the love of the Father is not in us. We cannot hold our possessions or desires that crowd out Christ. Anything that goes above Him, or even on the same level as Him, must go. Anything that goes against his commands must go. You cannot serve two masters. You either love God, or you love the world. I don’t think John really believed too much in gray areas. Most of his writing is black and white. You’re all in, or your all out. There is no such thing as a halfway Christian. I believe it would do us well to remember this.
What’s more, Jesus himself warned us about this very thing. He told his disciples and those who would hear a parable about a sower who went out to sow seeds on all kinds of ground. Some fell by the wayside, some in rocky soil, and some on good soil. Listen to His explanation of the parable:
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
There is one kind of soil that I want to focus in on here: the seed among thorns. These are the people who receive the gospel, but the cares of the world choke it out. This life has a power to seduce us back to it worries and cares because what it offers looks desirable to our eyes.
But we must not let this life cause us to stumble. And that’s the good news. Paul says that it does not have the power to make us stumble. What he is not saying is that we cannot let the cares of this life draw us away from Christ, because the parable of the sower and John’s letter above make it pretty clear that that is a possibility. But Paul is saying that we have the power of God inside us that is able to overcome this life and its temptations. I must admit that I’m not very good at calling on this power. I let the pleasures of this life creep in and cause me to stumble all too often. The scary thing about this passage is that Paul is basically removing our excuses. Life does not have the power to overcome us, because we have Christ. So when it does, we have allowed it on our own will and thus grieved the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). To often do I allow this. My prayer is that I let Christ in to fix the problem, for I know I cannot do it on my own. We do have the power to overcome. We are more than conquerers in Christ. Let’s start living it.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 13, Romans 6-8.
The Lord grant you strength.