5:1-5 are my favourite passages in Romans. It begins with Paul reminding us that in Christ we have been set right with God. He uses 3 “we” statements to explain what it now means for us to be justified by faith:
- We have been set right with God – Or as Paul would say “justified”
- We have peace with God
- We have gained access
The hope we have is the foundation of who we are in Christ and it is set upon the unshakable foundation of God’s love which has been poured out into our hearts and not our spiritual conquests, Amazing!
Then in verse 3 he pulls a shifty and reminds us how this life is still lived out in the muck and mire of a fallen world. Suffering is the road to Christian hope. I love the way the message interprets these verses,
“We know how suffering can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next”
Tempered steel of virtue. The kind of resolve which says, I shall not be moved! Paul tells us that each part of the suffering process produces in us, or put another way, forms is us something of Christian character.
- Suffering produces in us (if we let God do his work) a stoic kind of patience. My generation has no concept of what it means to be stoic: to take it in our stride and hide our feelings. We should never deny how we feel but our response to the troubles and suffering should be one of steely resolve not emotional defeat!
- Patience leads to character. Not character in the sense of personality rather character as our formation in Christ. What we are going through does not change our standing with God one little bit. It does not reflect how good or bad we are as people!
“The long journey through the wilderness eventually leads us to the promised land” (N.T. Wright) In the same way God had to get Israel out of Egypt he also had to get Egypt out of Israel! These times of wilderness wanderings get us out of ourselves and replace in us the heart and mind of Christ!
Over the past 12 years I have had to deal with my character. God has been at work forming me and shaping me into his image; as long as I have let him. Of course I spent the first 10 years blaming others and therefore got nowhere. However, as soon as I took responsibility God was free to work in me. When we take responsibility for our sin, our problems – when we own them we place ourselves in a position to “give them to God”.
Patience, character, hope – hope does not disappoint for the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.
The last few months (this year actually) have been some of the most personally challenging for me in a long time. Not the most difficult or even the hardest, but the most challenging. I think I have grown in awareness about who I am more in the past 6 months than I have in the past 6 years. There is a wonderful feeling which comes from arriving at a place where one is comfortable with who they really are and not who they have been conditioned to be, want to be or are wanted to be.
God has been faithful, and our text this morning reveals how God works in us to bring about his glory and our true self, our true humanity. I am convinced if God can change our mind he can change our heart.