Okay . . . so pretty sure this is the worst of devotional practices . . . taking verses — worse yet, pieces of verses — way out of context. But gonna anyway. Here’s what I’m chewing on this morning . . .
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime . . .
(Romans 13:11-13a ESV)
Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
(Romans 14:5b ESV)
Context for these verses (the context I’m kinda ignoring in a way)? Found in Paul’s “so what” section of his letter to the Romans. In light of the glories of the gospel presented in chapters 1 thru 11, chapter 12 thru the beginning of 15 provides some pretty practical instruction on how to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God in response to His abundant grace and many mercies. The Romans 13 verses above are found in a section dealing with fulfilling the law by loving each other. The partial verse from Romans 14 is from some practical counsel on how Christians should get along when it comes to permissible, yet perhaps controversial, practices.
But here’s what I’m thinking after a weird, calm and chaotic week (Calm, cause we’re all staying home. Chaotic, because the situation around us is changing daily and increasingly distancing itself from anything we’d consider normal). If anything, this relatively sudden “upset condition” should cause everyone to take pause. To recognize how fragile our seemingly solid worlds really are. It’s an hour to wake from our sleep, and give some serious thought to our goals, our priorities, our securities, maybe, for some of us, reconnecting with the real source of our identity.
A brother asked me yesterday if I thought COVID-19 was a sign of the end times. Of course it is, as have been many natural disasters over the millennia. Paul was looking for Christ’s return when he wrote. We still should have an “eye to the sky” as we read Paul 2,000 years later. Every day our “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Just most days we don’t think about it. These days . . . maybe a little more. So, it’s another opportunity for a wake up call. Another opportunity to shake the dust off, take a run at evaluating the status quo, and recalibrating what it means to “walk properly as in the daytime.”
And that brings me to the partial verse in Romans 14. Whatever we do, however we react in these unprecedented times, we’ll do because of what we are fully convinced of in our own minds. We’re gonna default to that which is dictated by our doctrine. Our course will be determined by our convictions. Our path directed by our principles. Our way forward informed by our faith.
If that’s true, then it makes sense to pause and ask ourselves, “What do I really believe about what I say I believe?”
How firmly convinced am I that I can trust in the Lord with all my heart, lean not to my own understanding, knowing He, ultimately and faithfully, will make straight my paths (Prov. 3:5-6)? Or, that I am part of a body of believers that needs me to engage in loving one another (Rom. 13:8). Or, that I’m salt and light in the world and I need to figure out how to love my neighbor as myself (Rom. 13:9)? Or, that through the Spirit I really can operate with the mind of Christ and put the interests of others before my own (Php. 2:4-8)? Or, that to live really is Christ and to die really is gain (Php. 1:21)? Or, . . . you get the idea.
What are we firmly convinced of in our own minds? What promises have we memorized that now we’re ready to mobilize?
Why is this important? To quote someone who quoted Tozer in something I read: “A scared world needs a fearless church.”
Perfect love — God’s perfect love, the love we say we have known and experienced — perfect love casts out fear (1Jn 4:18). If we’re firmly convinced of God’s unfailing, unchanging, steadfast love in our minds, then it casts out fear when fear tries to creep in. And, it makes for the fearless church our frightened world so needs. Fearless not in our own power, but in gospel power.
“I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:24b ESV . . . another partial verse out of context . . oh well)
Let the church be the church.
By God’s grace. For God’s glory.