I drove home this morning after a fantastic night shift - having spent a few glorious hours transcribing just 20 minutes of Rob's second sermon in the series "Established in the Gift of Righteousness". (The entire transcript of Part 1 is here). And do you know?! I think it's starting to sink in! It was just such an exhilarating, glorious feeling! In his small book; "The Cross-Centred Life" C J Mahaney was fond of saying; "Preach the gospel to yourself daily". I always interpreted that to mean recount the agonies that Jesus went through on my behalf, the horror of my sin that drove Him there and so on. I must confess I didn't find the experience hugely enjoyable or helpful. It just made me feel bad about myself.
Today I tried "preaching the gospel to myself" but slightly differently. Bearing in mind Rob's glorious comment about "living with a truly receptive mind means not dreading every day" - I tried to imagine what it would be like if this Saturday was the first day that I had won the jackpot on the National Lottery! That all my debts were paid off and I didn't have to worry another day about each pay-day paying another endless payment of debt to a faceless company that didn't appreciate the hard work I put into earning that money. That the Lottery win meant I could buy outright my beautiful flat and pay the mortgage off straight away! And that I could work because I WANTED to not because I NEEDED to.
I know some Pharisees may be "tutting" at my National Lottery mention - shame on you. Would YOU turn down 14 million pounds if it was offered you!?
But then I thought about the approaching dreaded day for singles - St Valentines Day. And rather than being single and heading home to my empty bed, I thought about having a wife in it - the most beautiful, kind, caring wife in the world who I could dote on and love with all my heart. And I suddenly thought that if money were no object then I knew what I would do for her! I would fly her (first-class) to New York for the most romantic weekend of her life! I would watch the sun set up the Empire State Building and cuddle her until the lights of the city came on. I must confess imagining the ideas that I would put into practice for a loved one gave me an even bigger thrill than the National Lottery!
But as I was thinking about that, I heard the inward, audible voice of God whisper; "If you being evil know how to give good gifts ... how much MORE ... ?" and I suddenly got a glimpse of what I think Rob Rufus is trying to get across in his sermons. That right NOW up in heaven, God Himself is getting a kick out of thinking about ways to bless and thrill ME simply because He loves me!! Wow!! That if I get a pleasure from thinking even about an imaginary loved one and what I could do to demonstrate my love to them - how much MORE is our wonderful, abundant Daddy thinking of ways to bless us?
See - I have always been taught traditionally that it's all about "faith" and that faith means "we don't see" and because we "don't see" the Father's love but take it by "faith" then we are blessed - somehow. I can see now that is complete and utter heresy. What kind of SICK relationship would it be if a partner - a husband - a wife expected their loved one to simply "know" that they are loved without demonstrations of that love? Now I know - the ultimate demonstration of love was at Calvary. Ohhhh wow .... I absolutely know that. But is God going to stop there? No!
I am still getting my head round Romans 4:13 that;
"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith".
Why was Abraham's faith counted as righteousness? Because God came to a heathen and told him; "I am going to bless you". And Abraham simply accepted it because he didn't have the law in his life telling him that "he needed to earn such blessing". He just accepted it! And God was thrilled with such faith - and that was credited to him as righteousness. Just so with us! Just so with me!
I am not going to limit God today! I am not expecting financial blessing or anything in particular! What excites me is wondering how God will demonstrate His love to me today - not because I deserve it. But because He loves me! And because He gave His Son freely for me that I might be called the righteousness of God and be accepted and be made a co-heir of royalty! Speaking of "heirs" - it's interesting that Romans 4:14 mentions them as well but in a different context;
"For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation".
I am no biblical scholar but that simple verse says to me that if there is one percent of law in my life and in my belief - then faith is simply NOT required and the promises of New Covenant blessing won't work. Why? Because the blessing comes by faith that God loves me! But even worse than that - the Law brings wrath! So why on earth would we EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER want to mix law and grace?! Because where there is NO law, there is NO violation! Or as another translation puts it;
" ... but where no Law exists, there can be no violation of Law".
Looking forward to a thrilling day - being so loved!