But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
1 John 4:4 NLT
HE > i
A little story-
A lonely teen on a long road trip transporting her home from school where she was sitting outside the principal’s office for an hour until the jail warden some called her mother finally showed up.
She felt like a prisoner being transported in a small eco car. She was sentenced to inschool suspension for her disobedience to the rules laid down by the principal.
From time to time Rhonda found herself doing things she didn’t really want to do but found herself doing it anyway. She knew the difference between right & wrong. She knew that there were certain rules she, along with all the students, were expected to follow; however she always found herself falling short or deliberately disobeying.
A friend told her about a man named Paul who knew what she was going through.
Some how she had missed the Sunday School lessons from Romans 5, 6, 7 & 8 but she was able to grasp what Pauline, a friend her age shared.
This friend of her’s seemed to have some type of relationship with God that was far beyond just going to church. Rhonda saw this friend slowly changing and her desires were so different than most people their age. Rhonda’s mother allowed Pauline to come over and hang out with Rhonda. This helped her more than anything others tried to do for her.
Rhonda asked Pauline how she stayed outta trouble & why she seemed to be so different after this past summer. Pauline was so glad her friend asked and said, “let me show you something I read. Ya got a Bible?” Pauline ussually carried a Bible with her through school on top of her other text books but didn’t bring it with her in this visit to Rhonda’s house. Rhomda pulled one off her shelf that she had never read but was sure to carry with her to church. Her friend turned to the book of Romans. She then continue, “Rhonda, I’m not a preacher of whatever but there are a few key verses in The Bible that helped me understand a few thibgs better.” She pointed to Romans, the 5th chapter & skimmed her finger down until she found the portion she wanted to read, “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. ”
She ran her finger down the page a little further then, as she read, it sounded as if she was just talking rather than reading, “You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it. ” She paused and read silently in her head then picked up reading out loud again, “Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.” (Romans 5:6-8, 12-14, 18-19 MSG)
Pauline flipped the page as she looked up at Rhonda. She asked, “Are you with me so far?” She smiled & Rhonda smiled back and nodded. Then Pauline read a little more from what The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans,
“As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end. But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life , eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.’ That is from Romans 6:20-23 MSG”
Rhonda said, “I know all that but…Pauline, I still struggle and I’m fighting to do what I know is right but…but…I…I always mess up and end up doing things I know aren’t, well you know, like Christian.”
Pauline said, “I know, right?! Me too sometimes and that is what I was saying the other day about how Paul had this same struggle. Check out the whole Chapter 7 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.” Pauline handed Rhonda the Bible and Rhonda read, “I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Rhonda looked up from the page and her eyes met Pauline’s smile. She couldn’t wait to read more as they both dove into what Paul had written. Rhonda read with such expression now, as if she was able to say these same words from her own heart,
“Yes. I’m… full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more ! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.” It was amazing to Rhonda how she was able to relate to this. She read on, “My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. Romans 7:14-25 MSG WOW!”, Rhonda exclaimed. “I know, right?!” Pauline agreed.
“Read Romans 8 now”, Pauline egged Rhonda on.” Rhonda read, “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son.” Pauline chimed in, “I love that expression!” Rhonda nodded and continued to read,
“He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” Rhonda paused. She looked up at her close friend sitting there across from her on her bed. Pauline smiled and her eyes filled with tears as her hear was overflowing with real compassion for Rhonda. She said, “In us.” Rhonda couldn’t find the words to express what God was saying to her heart in such a personal real way. Rhonda looked down at her Bible. The words leaped off the page as she read,
“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.” The lump in her throat and pit in her stomach wouldn’t allow Rhonda read aloud anymore. She pushed the Bible toward Pauline who picked up reading where her friend stopped,
“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:1-17 MSG” Pauline closed the Bible and bowed her head. Rhonda didn’t know what to say or do but they both knew there was nothing more that needed to be said. Rhonda some how instinctively knew she needed to stop ignoring God, stop being so self-centered & selfish. Pauline broke the ice that was already melting away from her dear friends heart and said, “Rhonda, I am a selfish shell fish too sometimes and I hate it. Let’s make a promise to God and each other that we will encourage each other everyday and let God be God and do what He does best.” Rhonda agreed and from that day on both girls spent more time letting Christ be their Lord than trying to be the queen bitch their peers and the majority of the world called them to be.
This is not the end. It is only just the beginning.
While I was writing this little story I came across this Bible verse:
Also one that I’ve held close to my heart since I was young: