Before reading your passage today, take a deep breath, relax, open your heart to what God wants to say to you through His word, and pray this simple prayer from the Psalms: show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 5:6-11
Today, let’s just grab a few of the phrases from this passage and look at them a little closer.
“We were weak and could not help ourselves...we were utterly helpless.”
If you could have any superpower what would it be? For me...it’s easy. I’d want the power to eat whatever I want and never gain weight. Oh, and also to be able to fly, so I could help people. I’d also love the superpower to never say anything stupid in meetings, to never look like an idiot, and to always have the right shoes for every outfit. Frankly, I guess if someone is handing out superpowers, I’m cool with whatever.
But actually, if I’m being honest, one of the most powerful realizations I’ve ever had is that it’s actually a relief to realize I’m powerless. It is a GREAT day when I finally admit that I do not have the power to save me. And we know this is true, cause we’ve tried, right? We’ve white-knuckled it; we’ve tried to fix the symptom instead of the problem; we’ve tried fixing everyone else’s symptoms instead of our problem (you know how it goes, “I’m uncomfortable with something in my life..soooo...let me change YOU!!); we’ve done the insane, same thing over and over expecting different results, and we’ve ended up worse off than we started. It’s no accident that first step in the 12-step program is to recognize that I am powerless because this is the only place to start when we need saving because then we are finally open to the great love of a Savior...
And why would He rescue you? Because you’re so awesome? (I mean, I’m sure you are, but that’s actually not why.) He came to rescue you because of HIS GREAT LOVE. His great love for us is unexplainable. His great love for us is unchangeable. His great love for us is unrestrainable. Did you know that God doesn’t love you any more when you do something right, and He doesn’t love you any less when you do something wrong? He simply loves you because you are HIS. That is great love. Great love says, “my love is not dependent on your perfection.” Great love says, “my love will never leave or forsake you.” Great love says, “I love you before you deserve it.” Great love says, “You can’t earn my love, and you can’t lose it. You have it because it was my choice to give it. Period.” And His great love loved us first, even while we were still sinners.
Sinner is a weird word. It’s not one we use very much. Feels kind of mean to tell someone they’re a sinner. Kind of makes me think of the intense dude with a bullhorn who used to yell about hell on my college campus or maybe something Ned Flanders would less-than-casually bring up with Homer Simpson across the fence. But it basically just means someone who has broken a boundary that God had set up to keep us protected. And we’ve all done it. In fact in Romans 3, Paul says we’ve ALL sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. But what I love about God’s willingness to rescue us is that He doesn’t wait for us to get cleaned up, get our act together, write our “I’ll never do it again” speech before He comes to rescue us. He sent His Son for us WHILE we were STILL sinners. In our mess. In our brokenness.
If you ever thought you were too far gone for God, you’re not. If you ever thought your imperfect life disqualifies you from His purpose for you, it doesn’t. If you ever thought your messed up family has made you too messed up, it hasn’t. If you ever thought that after what you’ve done there is not hope for you, there is. If you ever thought you were beyond the reach of a loving God, you aren’t. If you ever thought you would be crazy to show up in a church, you’re in good company. If you ever thought you are too broken, too wounded, too abused, too foolish--that you’ve ran too far or have fallen too much--your story isn’t over. If you’ve ever thought you’ve ate too much, drank too much, doubted too much, are too much to handle, too much to love, aren’t worth anything...you haven’t, you’re not, you are.
God shows up IN our failures. In our weakness, we are powerless, but the good news is HE is powerful. He is enough...He is strong...He is good...He is merciful...He is kind...He is tender...He is awake and He SEES YOU. He is the forgiver of sins, the redeemer of stories, the giver of hope, the breaker of bondgage. He is the only one who will never leave, the only one who will NOT let you go, He is real, He is powerful, He is love, and He is mighty to save. Our Savior, Jesus, while we were still sinners, brought us back to God.
Brought Back to God
The definition for the word “abuse” is to use something in a way that is not intended to be used. That definition has always resonated with me, as I have seen so much abuse all around me. Everywhere we look in our broken world it seems like we can find things being used in ways they were not intended to be used. And I think it resonates so deeply within all of us because that IS all of us. We were created to be in a relationship with God, but before we were rescued by Jesus, we were living in a way we were never intended to live: separated from God.
If you go back to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, you can see the account of the creation of men and women, and the whole purpose was for companionship and relationship with God. But, when sin entered, it separated us from a perfect God, which left us living in a way that God never intended, and from the moment of the first sin, God made a plan to send His Son to make a way for us to be restored. The definition for restored means to return something back to its original use. What Jesus did for us by dying on the cross not only secures our eternal salvation, but it makes a way for abundant life here on earth--restored fully and brought back into an intimate friendship with a God of great love.
While we were weak and utterly helpless, God’s great love came to rescue those of us who were still sinners and brought us back to God. This is good. This is guaranteed. This is a gift. This is grace.
God, I recognize today that I am weak and utterly helpless, but that’s good news because it reminds me that you are strong and unconditionally powerful. Thank you for your great love that loved me IN my mess and IN my sin that brought me back to a relationship with you. I am amazed, and I am so grateful.
Today, let’s hang up the cape (metaphorically--obviously--or I guess if you have a literal cape, you can do it literally). What would happen if we took some time today to write out where in our lives we’re trying to be a superhero (if you’re super artsy, maybe you even want to draw a cape to get an image in your mind of what you want to let go of)? What would it look like if we intentionally dropped the superhero act and started recognizing just how much strength comes from admitting our helplessness?
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5, NLT)