This is not really related to my counselling posts from before, though I have to say that it is the process that brought me to listening to John Piper's sermons on Romans. He preached through the whole book from beginning to end and didn't just do chapter by chapter, but verse by significant verse. I thought it would be good to not just listen to it, but also take notes because it is a long process for me to get to the point that I can believe that God really does love ME and that He called ME for His purpose. It seems like Romans is a good place to learn about all of this and what grace really means.
Anyway, I am only on sermon 4 and that is just Romans 1:6. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow on the the whole sermon, just what came to my mind as I was listening and taking notes on the sermon.
The sermon focussed on the phrase "called of Christ Jesus". Now I don't know what your views are on predestination. For those who believe that we choose to come to God and everyone has an equal opportunity to be saved, this post is going to be strange for you. I don't want to act as someone trying to convince you otherwise because I think it is a conclusion I came to by seeing what the Bible says - even as far back as Genesis - and you need to come there for yourself. I do have to say though that I think it is God that led me to that, but not just because it is the truth, but also because I need it to have a better relationship with Him and grow closer to Him. I need to know it inside out before I can be really healed - at least that's what I think...
Ok, "called of Christ Jesus"... So for me, the main thought I had is "Why don't I live like this is true?" I mean the whole sermon focussed more on how it is the grace of God that enables our salvation and not our own merit. Yes, there is the temptation to despair and saying, well, if I'm so terrible then what hope do I have, well, um, I have hope in God's saving grace. And there is also the temptation to have a bruised ego and be offended because you aren't as good as you thought you were, which, um, is also true. But it is a difficult concept to grasp all the same.
For me the problem is that I don't hate my sin. I mean I know that sin is wrong, but I have no real idea of how disgusting it is in the sight of God. I've read the verses - I think Ephesians 2 does a good job of dealing with what life without God was like - but I don't see the reality of it in my life. I think it's mixed up with knowing that my sins past, present and future are all forgiven and so I suppose I think, well then, it's ok. So, I'm looking forward to Romans 6 when it talks about grace not being about us sinning and then just thinking, well, it's ok because I have grace. At the rate the sermons are going though, it won't be for a while...
So going back to my earlier question - "Why don't I live like this is true?" I think part of it is that I have no concept of my own sin. I think if I had been like Paul, grace would have had a bigger impact, but that's also making excuses, isn't it? Because if the Bible is to be believed, that it would seem like my sin is just as bad as the sin of a persecutor of the Church. And it is, whether I like it or not.
Maybe it's clear to you which way I lean when it comes to the two temptations I talked about earlier - it leads me to despair, which ironically is also pride... Pfff! Why am I despairing? Well, because I feel like I'm missing out on something BIG. The fact that I can't seem to grasp the evil of my sin makes me feel like I'm missing out on the truth of how amazing grace really is. I'm not sure if I'll really see how great it is on this side of heaven, but I have to live in context of Phil 1:6 - I am a work in progress - and trust that God will show me what I need to persevere in this life toward growing closer to Him and becoming more like Him.
The other reason is that I feel like if I could understand this fully, it wouldn't be so difficult for me to forgive the people on my list. I am working through it, but I suppose I think that the list wouldn't be so long in the first place if I knew just how much it means that God has saved me, forgiven me and made me righteous in His sight.
Anyway, I just pray that this will become real for me and I will learn the truth about God's forgiveness and grace so that it can lead me to repentance daily and I can forgive freely as He has forgiven me, knowing that His grace is undeserved. The next sermon is about how we are loved by God. That will give me another perspective too. I just want to get to the point that when I ask, "Why should I?" I can answer, "Because God..." and it won't just be like a Sunday school answer, but a reality that convicts me and brings me a deeper understanding of what Jesus went through for me.