“Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God…”
Only the gospel can create a true passion for Christ and a life with Him. So, Paul points back to the first 11 chapters of Romans as an exposition of the gospel. He calls it “the mercies of God”.
The gospel is this: God mercifully shows us our sin. We will not care about God if we do not care about our sin. So Paul shows us its horrors: Although we know that God created us and everything else; we refuse to honor Him and to thank Him; we worship what God has made rather than the God who made everything;We corrupt ourselves with every kind of impurity, dishonor and self-deceit. So that rather than having a passion for God, “we are handed over to degrading passions” (1:19-26)
And if I try to avoid sin with religion, I only multiply the horrors of my sin. Religion is my effort to please God, to do right, to work my way into His favor. But religion only produces arrogance and despair, judging the less rigorous, and secretly, committing he same sins, while pretending to a veneer of goodness in front of others. Religious or irreligious, “there is none righteous, no, not one!” (Romans 3:9-18)
The gospel also mercifully shows us Christ and what He has done for sinners.
Jesus Christ provided a new way to God. As God in human flesh, Jesus introduced His own righteousness as the only way into God’s favor. And He introduced it as a free gift to everyone who would simply trust Him rather than themselves in order to gain life with God. The gift of was secured by Christ, when on the cross, He took on Himself God’s just punishment for sin, and satisfied the justice of God on behalf of sinners. Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter if you are religious or irreligious, the free gift can be yours when you believe into Christ.[Romans 3:21-26] And the benefits are enormous. Christ’s mercy is no mere mercy, it is abundant: peace with God, grace from God, joy, hope, perseverance, personal transformation and love beyond our capacity to contain it! [Romans 5]
These are ours because Christ was the only Person who could ever take the place of sinners under Adam’s curse. [Romans 5] Now even if we sin again, in Christ, we’re covered [Romans 7]. “God is not mad with us any more!” as Steve Brown says. Through Christ, we are given the Spirit of God to accomplish all this in us [ Romans 8], and our assurance is sealed in the certainty of God’s perfect sovereignty over our salvation [ Romans 9-11].
God’s mercies, showing us the horror of our sins and showing us Christ and what He has done for sinners bring Paul to an empassioned doxolgoy:
Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgements, and unfathomable His ways…
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. AMEN!”
So if our Christianity is so powerful, how did we get so stale?
The gospel must be applied. When the gospel is applied, it will begin to remove our apathy and ignite our passion.
Applying the gospel is simple and it’s difficult.
First, we pursue a biblical understanding of our sin, a biblical disposition toward our sin and biblical action regarding our sin.
We tend to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of our sin. Ask the question: “What is the sin?” Give it a name and understand its nature. Give it definition. Pursue the sin under the sin? “What/who am I really trusting with my life? ”
We tend toward a superficial attitude toward our sin. We don’t let ourselves feel it’s evil, to let sin’s horrible reality sink into our conscience. Often it’s too painful.
I once worked with a woman named Patti. One day, as she cleaned a top shelf in the church kitchen, she reached over her head and felt what she thought it was an old brillo pad. But it wasn’t. It was a dead mouse. Patti screamed when she saw what was in her hand and threw the disgusting creature out of her hand. I found her in hysterics at the kitchen table — just thinking what had been in her hand.
You and I will get a similar response in our heart and mind if we pursue a gospel understanding and attitude toward our sin.
We also tend to ignore the consequences of our sin – for ourselves and for people around us.
- It’s easy to be satisfied with a verbal, but not a heart confession of sin.
- We respond to our guilt with a vow – to God and to ourselves ( and sometimes to others) as a way to avoid real action.
- We are unwilling to confess our sin to God in the presence of another person.
- We are unwilling to go to those against whom we have sinned, admit our sin against them, and ask for their forgiveness.
- We put off, then rationalize, restitution when our sins have created material loss.
I believe that Roman 12:1 tells us that if we seek out the sin from which Christ in the gospel saves us, our lives will be filled with a renewed passion for Christ.
Second, we pursue a biblical understanding of Christ and what He has done, a Biblical disposition toward Christ and what He has done and Biblical action regarding Christ and what He has done.
We tend to be lazy-minded Christians who are happy with a summary of the gospel, a cliff’s notes version of Christ and His work. And it’s showing in our Bible literacy. This fall Jay Leno walked down into his audience and asked random people to name one of the ten commandments. No one could. How about one of the twelve apostles? No one could. How about one of the Beatles? They were all over it!
Some Christians say, “I don’t believe in theology – the study of God. I am “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ , and Him crucified”, but many who claim Christ don’t understand who He is, nor why He was crucified. Faith then becomes meaningless, therefore “passion-less”
We tend to keep the real Christ at a distance, to deal with Him as a religious concept rather than the real,divine Person that He is. So many of us avoid personalizing the gospel. We can be afraid of our own emotions, of the power of personal contact with the Savior: in His Word; in prayer; in the sacrament we miss His real presence; in fellowship,we miss Him in our brother or sister.
Conceptual Christianity does not change us, and ultimately, is boring. But when Christ gets into our day-timers, our schedules; personal devotional life; family devotional life; shifting the balance of priorities; creating new commitments, new directions, life becomes an adventure, following Him.
The more we pursue God, in the gospel of His Son, our sins will become more horrible to us, but His grace will become more beautiful to us and in the experience of those gospel truths, we will become increasing passionate in our Christianity, and the world will know it.