Road trips… We’ve had some good ones. My all-time favorite trip was with Don and the kids, when we went to Arizona via Disneyland. I’d dare to think that my sister's favorite road trip was probably her honeymoon when she visited the Grand Canyon and Yosemite; although their family trip to Indiana could be a contender. After this last week, with the skunk, I would have preferred ANY road trip, even a bad one. That aside, the most profound road trip I’ve taken is recently, when I went down the Romans Road, with Paul. He asked me all kinds of good questions along the way, like:
Where do I stand with the maker of our universe, God?
In Romans 1 – 3:20 Paul teaches us about our standing with God. Don was, as Paul describes it, a Gentile. He did not grow up in a Christian home, like I did. He was the “unchurched”; he did not honor God or know who He was. My pastor, Josh, says that we will all be judged on what we KNOW of God, so that all mankind will be without excuse. Paul says evidence of God’s existence is so clear that nobody will be able to say God isn’t real, and that knowledge is what they will be judged on, even if they have no other knowledge, on the final day. Examples of “knowledge” are:
Creation: The world around us is an effect that demands a cause. God. Nature cannot originate itself, Paul says, therefore there is a God.
Organization: When you look at creation and observe the purpose and order and design we must conclude there was a designer, just like when we look at a Ferrari... there was no way the car gave itself purpose or beauty. Those qualities were gifts from the designer.
Man: It’s one thing to create a living organism but to create man with emotion, will, and a sense of right and wrong, requires God. Evolution cannot produce a soul and spirit.
Being: The fact that we have an idea of The most important being in our heart and mind means, HE must exist. In all generations, at all times, men have known of God. He built it into our make-up. And, in fact, the Bible says that we have His laws written on our hearts.
My atheist friend says, “If there is a God how could He have let so many bad things happen to so many good people?” Talk about putting the cart before the horse! My super-smart friend is hung-up on the idea that God is a “crutch” to the Christian, just like Santa is for children at Christmas. One day you grow up and realize that Santa was never real, and so, therefore, neither is God. She believes she is smarter than the average person, and in many ways I agree with her, she is! However, the intellectual veracity of her argument is flawed in that we should first determine whether God exists, not if He is good or bad … ”IF God exists, I pray that He is good,” Josh says. As individuals we determine for ourselves whether something is good or not, therefore, the first question cannot be to judge the moral character of God but rather to determine if He exists at all.
Paul says people deny the existence of God, even though their whole being says He does exist, because they take, “go away God pills”, or “God suppressants”. [Vs. 18 says, “Men suppress the truth by their wickedness.”] Because of our sinful nature we want to live our lives the way we want to, putting ourselves on the thrones of our hearts. [Vs. 21-22 … “their thinking became futile and … they claimed to be wise … they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God” … for trash.] Paul says that if people persist in denying God, one day they will cross a line and God will give them over to a depraved mind. We can become numb to the idea that God exists. Societies go from bad to worst in a heartbeat because of immoral lifestyles. If, however, we admit that there is a God, the next step is that we must be submitted to His will.
And there’s the rub.
When we went to Mexico we were stopped by Customs Officials. These nice, but firm (and well armed!) officers asked us what our purpose was in visiting their country. They asked what we had in our luggage; everything had to be opened up and inspected. Nothing that was suspect, even our bottled water, was allowed into their country. I got the feeling that if we had anything in our bag that they didn’t like, they might not have let us in and worse, they may have thrown us into their jail!
In Romans 2, Paul teaches us that the end destination of the Romans Road is not actually another country, but in fact, another world altogether. [Rev 21-22 is a description of the brand new world.] God will create a new earth that will not be dying because of the curse in Gen 3. No more weeds, no global warming! God is constructing a brand new city called New Jerusalem. It will be ON this new earth. AND, God himself, will be a resident in this new city. No more death, illness, tears, anger, greed, selfishness, deceit. It will not be allowed. All the residents will honor and worship God, as God. Complete and perfect love and respect. Everyone will have a meaningful purpose and life. BUT …
Before we can enter, God will need to check our bags.
We will not be allowed to bring anything inappropriate or harmful into this city. [Rom 1:29-31 They had become filled with every kind of wickedness … gossips, slanderers, … even to inventing ways of being evil…] Arrogance, greed, deceit, new evils yet unnamed! There’s no way those outsiders (Gentiles) are getting in. But what about us? The insiders?? What is inside MY bag … the person who grew up in a Christian home? An “insider” who knows the stories of the Bible; one who agrees with every principal taught? “You who pass judgment, do the same things” … “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” Okay, I admit, I may have some junk in my bag, but it’s not nearly as bad as those “other” people. It’s not as big as the deceitfulness of those heathens. Greed? Maybe a bit, but certainly not as much as those outsiders. Arrogance? Hah! I am no where NEAR as haughty as those nasty Gentiles. Anyway, surely God will be grading on the curve, and so therefore, I will be just fine at the end of the day; just need a “C” to get in. BUT...
God’s country is actually pass or fail. There is no curve.
The amount of sin in my bag is not what’s judged. If I add something vile (even in the tiniest amount) to something pure, it putrefies the whole thing. Years ago there was no "flu" season and now we have the swine flu, bird flu, mad cow, etc. One person, one animal, one bird with the disease spread it to a whole country, tainting the entire place. God cannot allow any contamination into the new world or we will become exactly what we are now, sick and dying… sinful.
Knowing that God cannot allow this garbage in His new kingdom, I pull myself up by my bootstraps and say, “Self, get that junk outta your trunk.” But it’s not going to work. [Vs. 3:9 “…all under sin, there is no one righteous, no not one … therefore, no one will be declared right by observing the law.”] Apart from God nobody has a right standing with God. We cannot do it on our own. In Chapter 2, Paul says there’s an end to the road and God will be checking our bags to see what’s in them. *Oy vey!*
We will be standing, on judgment day, in the biggest check-point line ever. [2:16 God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ.] All the secrets stowed away will be revealed. Insider or outsider, we will not be allowed to enter if we are contaminated.
So, where do I stand with God? Thank Jesus, there is a way. When we were in Mexico there was a place to declare any contents which may be questionable, giving the authorities the right to take it away and let us enter their country without consequence. Paul says I can repent. I can pull over to the side of the road, and declare now that the contents in my luggage will not allow me entrance into the new country. Amnesty. I must swallow my pride, put aside my stubbornness (which is why most people don’t come to a right relationship with Christ), and repent. Even as an “insider” or Christian, as we call ourselves today, stubbornness exists in bucket loads, well, at least in THIS insider it does.
It seems the older I get, the harder it is to get the stuff out of my bag. It was easy when I was young, but now I’ve had a lot more time to do a lot more things. Some have been good, but the reality is, I can’t get all the junk out of there on my own. The people I love the most are the people I have hurt the most. And so I must begin where Paul suggests, with repentance; putting aside my stubborn pride and asking for forgiveness.
The closer I get to God, the more I see how big He really is. Across the room, He looked a lot smaller … And, I look at myself against His righteousness and holiness and ... I am ashamed.
I don’t want to be a poser. I know that there are contaminants in my life. Admitting these things brings me to a place where I can cry out for help, understanding that I cannot face the divine check-point at the end of my life without it. I must come into a right relationship with God. ...I have explosive anger, contaminated motives and, while I can hide it better than some, everything will be revealed; it is better if I pull over and declare it. I am truly sorry to those I’ve hurt along the way...
Next week, Paul answers: How do you become a Christian? Shall we continue on The Romans Road Trip? Will you join me? I hope you will; I'd love to have you come along.
~ J ~
Thanks in part to my pastor, Josh White, and other pastors through the years, for their unintentional assistance with this blog. I am a voracious note taker, and if you said it, I probably wrote it down.