I bet most people know about the “Romans road formula” for “teaching the gospel.” I used to think that was a good technique. Now I see so differently.
When we as mankind ate from the wrong tree it was like we fell off a huge cliff and landed right on our heads at the bottom. God said we died while dying. We turned to shame and condemnation as a reaction to the knowledge of good and evil. Our ability to process got reduced to lists and rules and laws. Everything was by comparison. So we became very aware of all our flaws. We also didn’t run to our Father to help us. We ran from a good and loving God that we adored to hide in the bushes and darkness. We tried to cover ourselves with our own righteous (right relationship) fig leaves. Then God showed up. He didn’t run the other way. He wasn’t disgusted with us. He reached out to us. He even gave us clothes to cover our shame. God has been doing the same thing for us all this time. Our deceived human nature has kept us in the bushes, dead.
All we need is a revelation of God’s goodness. All we need is a way out of the bushes. Jesus is that way. God becomes a man, becomes a servant of man and lets man kill Him. Now there should be no excuses to hide. We can see how good God is on the cross. But still there is the shame and condemnation. Jesus takes care of that too. He frees us from sin by dying instead of us. Any penalty we thought was necessary because of sin, Jesus takes care of. He dies because we need a sacrifice. I would say that should have us running out of the bushes. That should have us running into the arms of our Father. That should have us begging for a relationship, a union with the Holy Spirit.
Still there are so many trapped in the bushes by all kinds of lies. There are so many lies about a mean and cruel God. There are so many lies about a perfection seeking, performance demanding God that is temperamental and fickle. God is none of those things. If we choose to live in our own effort and insist on an angry God then we are just in our flesh still hiding in the bushes. If we LET the Holy Spirit bring revelation of God’s goodness we can finally step into the light. We are born again, made new, given the mind of Christ and are being transformed by His love, power, fire, and presence. That is called walking in the Spirit. It is walking in the revelation that “God is for us!” Yay!
So how about a different Romans road? Are you up for it? Let’s take a quick look at the first part of Romans 8 with this new understanding. Here we go.
Rom 8:1 Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. (AMP)
See it? No condemnation because of Jesus. The second part of the verse is not in all translations and I used to ignore it. Now I see the power of part two. Can you see that you can live in condemnation if you choose to live in the lies of the bushes? Can you see all the condemnation that comes from believing in an angry task master God and not seeing His complete and total goodness?
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin (unbelief) and of death. (AMP)
In this new life I am living His life forever. In His goodness I am free from the sin that leads to death. I am free from living a dead existence, an existence dead to the goodness of God. (In a previous post I talked about how substituting the word “unbelief” for “sin” is a great way of seeing the deeper meaning since sin is a product of unbelief. Check out the post).
Rom 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful (unbelieving) flesh and for sin (unbelief), he condemned sin (unbelief) in the flesh (ESV)
He shows how a “flesh man” with a complete and total revelation of the goodness of God can take all our unbelief and crush it. If God would go that far surely we can believe in a good God.
Rom 8:4 in order that the righteous (right relationship) requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (ESV)
When we walk in the belief of a good and loving God who is good towards us and has always been right towards us we see no excuse not to be right towards Him. The law could not make me have a right relationship with God because it depended on my effort and my abilities. Before I always made mistakes and didn’t have the power to get it right since I was thinking wrong about my Father.
Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (ESV)
When we are born again we get a choice. We can believe in a good God or go back to our old flesh believing in an angry and condemning God.
Rom 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (ESV)
Are you beginning to see it? Bad God thoughts, walking dead. Good God thoughts, life and peace.
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (ESV)
If you are set on an angry, mean God and living a selfish hidden life in the bushes you can’t follow God’s rules for good living. Why not? Because you don’t want to. Deep down you are mad at God because you are certain He is mad at you (in the flesh). Why can’t you please Him? No faith. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Faith says God is good and He is for me not against me. No faith says it is all about me.
Check out the Message for the last few verses:
Rom 8:5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (ESV)
What? When we have the Holy Spirit we know the goodness of God. When we are aware of and listening to the Holy Spirit we are hearing how awesome God is. That is what He does. If we don’t have the Holy Spirit then we aren’t born again. We haven’t been made a home for Him.
Rom 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin (unbelief), the Spirit is life because of righteousness (ESV)
Because I am in a right relationship with God because of Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit I am alive. My human body (initially) does not believe in a good God and is dead in unbelief. But….there is this verse:
Rom 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)
Even our old, dead fallen self can be regenerated. This relationship with the Holy
Spirit changes my thinking. The Holy Spirit breathes the truths of the goodness of God into my human mind and heart. I am changed and brought to life in the understanding of a good and loving God.
I don’t know if you have ever been down this Romans road. It is definitely different than the one I used to travel. Now I can say that this is the right road. This is the right road of a loving good God. Just to think about how much more of His goodness it still left to discover makes me excited. Just to stop feeling the desire to blame Him for all the bad stuff is so liberating. Just to see how far Jesus went when He didn’t have to go there makes me weep. Just to see the road that Jesus traveled humbles me. Try this with your favorite or most challenging passage. Look for the revelation of the goodness of God. You will find it even on A Different Romans Road.