Monday, March 21, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 8:18-25

In previous verses, Paul explained that Christians (those who entrust their lives to the identity and work of Jesus) are heirs of God, destined for an incredible future beyond imagining.

Because of this perspective, Paul doesn’t consider any level of suffering in this life to be even close to equal to the reward waiting for believers in eternity. (v.18)

Currently, the world and our universe are not functioning in a way suitable for the eternal lifespan believers will possess. Ever since The Fall (Adam’s rebellion, which infected himself and every human after him with sin), creation has been metaphorically “frustrated”, awaiting its own death in anticipation of a new creation that will be appropriate for the adopted children of God, who will one day be “revealed” with their new, eternal bodies. This is all part of God’s plan to rescue humans and creation from death and decay. (v.19-21)

Paul compares the build up to this rescue to labor pains. Just like the birth of a child, our existence now involves pain and difficulty, but results in something new and wonderful. (v.22)

The “first fruits” were the first part of a season’s harvest. The very first results of the work put in since planting season began. The Holy Spirit, present in believers, is the “first fruits” of our adoption as God’s children. We’ll get the full harvest when we are given our new bodies. In terms of our “adoption”, the Holy Spirit is a little like the signed adoption papers. All our new parents were working toward is beginning to be realized the moment they sign those papers. Getting our new bodies is a little like arriving at our new home for the first time. (v.23)

So we’re meant to fix our hopes, not on our goals and dreams for this current life, but on the life waiting for us. Just as we’ve placed our faith in Christ, in who he is and what he has done to save us, we should also place our faith in this future reality he promises.

The nature of hope is that it is placed in something that’s not provably certain. (Otherwise we wouldn’t have to hope, would we?) What the Bible says about Jesus and the eternal future of his followers is not 100% provably certain. But we are still meant to look forward to our ultimate salvation and eternal life with expectancy. (v.24-25)

Why have to hope at all? Why doesn’t God just make himself obvious to everyone all the time, so we don’t have to have faith in him?

Well, the truth is that God made himself extremely obvious to humans starting on day one. (Genesis 2) But humans have progressively expressed greater interest in doing things their own way, without God controlling them.(Genesis 3, onward) God made us with a will to make choices and be responsible for those choices. And one could argue effectively that if God made himself constantly and obviously present to all people at all times (because in truth he is omni-present by nature), we would lose all ability to choose anything but his will. The staggering, awe-inspiring presence of God wouldn't leave room for any real alternative.

This is similar is some ways to a child learning math. He might choose to believe that 5+3=7. But as his knowledge grows and truth becomes clear, the child soon finds that 5+3 undeniably equals 8. He doesn’t have much choice to believe otherwise.

God steps back and clouds our perception of him partially to respect our right to choose or not choose a life with him.

However, for those who desire to seek out the truth and are prepared to respond to it, God has orchestrated numerous trails of logical evidence that will lead people to him and provide good reason to trust him.

Coming back to verses 24 and 25, this is why I find apologetics (the logical defense of the Christian faith) to be helpful and rewarding. Studying evidences for the Bible might seem technical or boring to some, but as the evidence grows in front of me, so does my confidence. The future planned for us is not a foggy dream-like world or a nice idea. It is just as real as the computer or steering wheel in front of you. And the more we remember and understand that, the less bothered we’ll be by things not stacking up the way we’d hoped right now.

Next Week: God Is In Control

Coffee House Question: How is the idea of a new creation and new body different from the ideas of “heaven” you’ve heard or thought most of your life?

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