Modern Evangelicals have seemingly accomplished a miracle (Or, maybe it’s a magic trick?), something foreign to Scripture yet readily embraced: the churchless Christian. Emphasizing our desires over God’s design and our pleasure over pleasing him, we have relegated the cherished assembly of the Beloved into a consumer’s option. This not to say that God is forgotten. But with the reign of easy-believism, the individual is all-important, and the authority of the self stands sovereign. In his commentary on Romans, James Boice (writing in 1995) observes, “It strikes me…that today the problem is our individualism, which I would define as hyperpersonalized religion. It is the religion of ‘Jesus and me only.’” Boice goes onto label this phenomenon a form of narcissism, warning, “you cannot have ‘one body in Christ’ if everyone is creating a private little a la carte religion for himself.”
As defined, a mystery is “Something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.” To solve a mystery we look for clues, relying upon deductive reasoning. Some mysteries are more easier to solve than others. For example, when we consider the general revelation of the universe, when we look at the splendor of the heavens and earth, it is not difficult to deduce that it was designed and created by God: Indeed, “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (1:20). It is not difficult to solve the mystery of creation’s origin, even a child can deduce it. It is only the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1).
And this must inform our evangelism. We cannot make someone believe, even those we love most, but we must be faithful to give the gift of the gospel, praying that the Giver of all good things will give the gift of faith. For, God is glorified through the salvation of his people, and through the gift of the gospel “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa. 52:10). Amen.
Like a charge of victory, a rallying cry of the elect, Paul exclaims, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Nothing temporal nor spiritual, nothing today or forever, nothing in or out of time and space, no one or nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ. It is a statement of truth both exhilarating and comforting, celebratory and assuring.
Christian, there is nothing in your past or in your future, nothing that can thwart the preserving love of God. Rest assured that he who foreknew you, who predestined you, who justified you, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And because this is true and certain, we are sure of this: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).
It is difficult then to fathom the love of God for us individually and personally before creation, before we were, before anyone was. But he did: God the Father “chose us in [God the Son] before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4-5). Before “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1), in love for “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). He really did love us first.
Therefore, we must look to the light to know the truth and expose and silence the lies of darkness by shining the light. Darkness says that you are defined by your desires. Light says your identity is in Christ (Gal. 2:20), who is light. Darkness says that you are defined by your past. Light says that you are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), who is light. Darkness says you are defined by what you’ve done. Light says that you are known by whose you are (1 John 3:1), a child of light. Darkness wants you to believe there is no light. Light says that the Lord has “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
The list of problems facing humanity is myriad. Our very existence has been and continues to be perilous, as we seem bent on self-destruction. Yet, there is one root problem that is the cause of all other problems and common to everyone, the same for those who have gone before us and those who will follow: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
What is Paul’s opinion of the law of God? On the one hand, he says the law incites transgression (5:20), constrains liberty (7:1), arouses sin (7:5), and promises life but proves death (7:10). But on the other hand, he says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (7:12). How can this be? Is Paul confused?
Consider the relevance of this: We are called to live holy lives, not to merit God’s favor but to be like him, to grow in godliness, to mature in Christlikeness. As such, to live our lives in holiness is not a burden of conformity but a family trait to be embraced and enjoyed. What is even more extraordinary about this is that our holy God calls us saints, even now, even as we wrestle with our sinful flesh, even as we are on this side of eternal life. We are saints of God, because of God’s grace alone through faith in Christ to the glory of God alone.