LentBlog Day 13: Life After Death…

Romans 6:1-4.eunich baptism

SO much happening in Romans 6. I could post a lot of stuff here, but what’s really on my mind as I read the first few verses is this: Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus means a lot more than surface-level “christian” religion. (I really want to go on about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism here, but I won’t. Much.)

Church hoppers. Church shoppers. Mile-Wide-Inch-Deep. Church growth. Meeting felt needs. It’s growing so God must be blessing us, therefore what we’re doing to make it grow must be God’s desire for the church. It’s NOT growing so God must be displeased and I must be a failure as a pastor. “I come here to be uplifted.” The 245th version of “Jesus is my teddy bear and wants me to feel good.” Generations of young people (and not-so-young people) leaving the church because most of the previously mentioned are inauthentic.

This passage has something to say to all that. I think it’s something like: Do not forget that while all the blessings of the Christian life are real, they come only through death. And the death is yours (and mine), following Christ. Baptism reminds us again that to be raised with Jesus we must die first.

And death-to-self doesn’t sell. You don’t see “Come and Die!” on too many church marquis signs. One person said to me, “You can’t say that to a new person… they might not come back!” And it’s true. They might not. The scandal of the cross really is a scandal… it’s foolishness to those who are perishing. If we proclaimed the actual Gospel of the Crucified Lord to people, right out there in front of everyone, and then lived as those who have been crucified with Christ, whose only hope is the Resurrection… they might leave. Because in light of that, all the “Me Church” stuff becomes totally irrelevant and insignificant.

So, I’m thinking and prayerfully dreaming tonight. Dreaming of the congregation Stefanie and I are working toward. My prayer and hope is we would be a people who are very much alive because we have been raised to newness of life… after death.

Blessings.

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LentBlog Day 6: “Buts” Are A Good Thing.

Romans 3.Turn

Human languages each contain certain words that are more powerful than others. Love. Hate. Hope. Lie. Innocence. Go. Am/Is/Are/Was/Were… Colts… Drums… you know, words that carry more weight than others.

I’m beginning to think maybe other than “love,” the word “but” might be one of the most powerful words.

Think about it… If I said to my wife, “Wow, honey. You look amazing this morning, but…” every person reading this would say something like, “Noooo! Do not go in there!!”

The word “but” changes the entire course of a thought, rhetorical argument, or sentence. With that one word, everything that comes before is suddenly cast in a much less significant light, if not negated entirely. Your employer could give you a whole slew of positives, but the second she or he pulls out the word “but…” you know it’s going to be one of those conversations.

The cool thing is the word works the same in the other direction. I could say, “Honey, I know we’ve had a really rough morning and we’re both at our wits end, but…” and the whole conversation can turn just that quick. And the dime it turns on is the word “but.”

I guess that’s why I really like what happens in Romans 3. Paul has spent nearly 2 chapters making the case for how fried everyone is. Jew, Greek, following the law, not following the law, it doesn’t matter. By the middle of Romans 3, everyone finds themselves as objects of God’s wrath and judgment:

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who has understanding,
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
there is no one who shows kindness,
there is not even one.” (3:10b-12 NRSV)

Paul makes it very clear we’re headed for disaster. All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are totally hosed.

But.

(Did your mindset just change? Mine did writing it just now.)

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe…  (vv. 21-22a)

Wait a second. Insert screeching car breaks noise here. We are all totally condemned… but now God’s righteousness has been revealed for all who believe.

I think that’s why it’s one of the more important words in language. That one word becomes the hinge between darkness and light, death and life, Good Friday and Easter, the grave and… resurrection.

I think sometimes I lose track of the “but.” Sometimes I become so accustomed to the dark times we’ve experienced that I forget God has the final Word, and his Word to all of us includes a life-changing, all-encompassing, thunderous explosion of life and love that goes something like this: We are dead to the world… but alive in Christ.

Blessings.