|Haunted by the words of Romans1:16-17|
It happened again today morning. I woke up, as I have for the last week, with the words of a poster that I see every day above the foot of my bed resounding in my head:
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God, the salvation of everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"
- Romans 1:16-17, ESV
It has come to the point where I must settle once and for all my questions of faith and teachings of church doctrine that I have been wrestling with for quite some time. I don't think I can take much more of the internal turmoil that I've been experiencing over the last three years, which has only increased since I began asking some hard questions after some painful realizations. I traced some of my experiences in different churches over my spiritual journey over my first 25-odd years, and my "patchwork quilt" theology and confusion that developed as a result, in my post on Reformation Day titled "Visiting The Crossroads".
Thus it came to be over the last week, that I began re-reading Paul's Epistle to the Romans, every morning on my transit to work and while coming back in the evening. I have decided to study the book of Romans this Christmas season and while working my way through it, I will also connect its thoughts with the truths of the Christmas story recounted at the beginning of the four Gospels. I think this will be a very different Christmas from any that I have seen over the last 30 years, because I want to plumb the depths of the Gospel as I have never done before. By the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, I hope to systematically work my way through my questions, find conclusive answers and make firm the convictions of my faith.
Over the last week, I also remembered a series of sermons that was preached on the book of Romans in 2004 by John Neufeld, the senior pastor at my church. I listened to the opening sermon today. I will bring this post to a close with some of Pastor John's words from his opening sermon:
"The book of Romans...has profoundly changed the lives of individuals, it has directed the life of the Church and it has changed the life of nations...Why study one of the most doctrinal books of the Bible, and I might add, one of the most difficult? The answer is that it has been used by God to effect the greatest revivals and reformations in history...it is the remedy for a world of lies, half-truths and lies about God. We live in a society that has become divorced from the idea of a revelation from God...many in North America have therefore adopted a concept of God which ranges from the what Stuart Driscoll calls 'the outright bizzaire to the downright blasphemous.' Many today think that they must be happy and comfortable, popular, wealthy and famous, and any shortage of this leads to howls of pain. We can't conceive of a God who would'nt give us exactly what we want...We live in a society divorced from divine revelation. We live in a society that doesn't understand the human problem. We live in a society that has all sort of convoluted means to solve human problems. And finally, we live in a society that does not understand the power of faith, that does not understand the power of the Cross to lead us to grace."
- John Neufeld, "The Heart of The Gospel", 2004
There is a popular saying that one learns more and is transformed more through life's valley's than one ever does on it's mountaintops. Christian history will testify through the stories of faithful men and women that is the difficult times, the times of wrestling and struggle that God uses to hammer and mold us into the people that He wants us to be.
- September, AD 386: In the city of Milan, two verses from the book of Romans (Romans 13:13-14) brought a despondent pagan professor and philosopher by the name of Aurelius Augustine to his knees in submission to Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord, and transformed the course of the Christian Church. Also known as St. Augustine, he became the greatest Christian thinker for the next 1,000 years and still influences many today.
- AD 1517: Just over another 1,000 years later, the book of Romans transformed the tortured soul of a young Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther, teaching in a seminary in the city of Wittenberg in Germany and ignited the Protestant Reformation.
- May 24th, 1738: 200 years after Martin Luther, a dejected young Anglican priest and a missionary was struggling with his faith, and about to leave the ministry. While unwillingly attending a bible study that was studying the book of Romans, the life of John Wesley was transformed. In the process, the history of England was transformed, as has been recorded by both secular and Christian historians; in the words of a secular historian, "the same revolution that destroyed France would also have been the revolution that destroyed England, except there was a man by the name of John Wesley." England did not turn to revolution, but turned to Christ, because of the preaching of John Wesley and his friend George Whitfield.
I am hoping that God will use the Epistle to the Romans to work the same change in my life as He did in the lives of Augustine, Luther, Wesley, Chrysostom, John Neufeld, John MacArthur, Ravi Zacharias, and countless others who have made a mark for His Gospel. I might lose people, possessions and relationships in the process of what I am about to do, but I WILL find the most important thing - the truth of God and about God. And life will never be the same. Amen.
- The Wisdom Seeker