Romans: Supernatural

Have you ever needed something bigger to get something done?

Romans 5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

So, he starts at the end, and this is what we do as a result.

Romans 5
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,

We had nothing to offer – no status, control, leverage, or value.

Romans 5
Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Still powerless. Still sinners. We struggle with one or both of these labels. But it might be a different label that really defines us: powerless.

We all know we are sinners, but it’s hard to admit that we are powerless to do anything about it. Have you ever felt powerless to do something? It could be in the face of odds, needs, someone else’s struggle, or the weight of the world.

One condemns us; the other tells us we can’t do anything about it alone. We spend massive amounts of energy and effort trying to contend with one (or both) of these realities, and those efforts lead us away from peace.

Some of us trade peace for anything that offers us any possibility of redemption.
Jesus’ death brought us peace with God. God didn’t do this after we got it right or cleaned up our act. God did it before we made a move or before we could attempt a move.
But to get this peace, it requires us to own up to these two uncomfortable truths:
  • Powerless
  • Still sinners
This requires us to face death to a version of ourselves or a vision of ourselves to receive what Jesus’ death brings us. It requires us actually to do something unnatural: to die. Die to a picture of how we wish we were, to surrender, and to give up.

“We are sinners. We are powerless. This is how things are.”

There’s this idea in Christianity that says, “Jesus died so I wouldn’t have to.” That’s true, but we still have to die to a version of ourselves – how we want to be seen, who we wish we were, or what we wish we could do – to receive what Jesus’ death offers us.

But when we die that small death of ourselves, we face up to the fact that we’re powerless and still sinners. We can receive all that Christ’s death purchases for us.

Romans 5
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

  1. There’s that word again – justified. We’re made right, so we don’t have to try to prove ourselves right.
  2. God’s wrath – God doesn’t oppose us anymore but is for us.
  3. We’ve been reconciled – the relationship, restored.

How do we do that? Instead of boasting about ourselves, our circumstances, or our ability to control them – there’s a version of ourselves we have to die for.

Romans 5
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Think of a vending machine. We push a button, and we get what we want. In Roman religious practices, there was this understanding that you could do something to get the gods to do what you wanted. To get the life you wanted.

If you were pushing the right buttons, you’d get blessing. However, the early Christians who had put their faith in Jesus were beginning to experience persecution, hardship, and suffering. And because the Roman understanding of religion had shaped them, they had a lot of questions.

“Hey, Paul, you promised us good news. We’re experiencing a lot of bad news.”

We have our own version of this, so we need to re-align ourselves. This is why the word powerless is so hard for us because there are no buttons we can push. But as followers of Jesus, we can rejoice amid difficulty in life because it can’t destroy us. Instead, it produces something valuable – perseverance, character, and hope.

God looks at suffering very differently than we do.

Suffering may be a negative experience, but it does not have to produce negative results.

Instead, it can lead us to hope.

How do you do that?

Plug your ears? Gaslight yourself? Think happy thoughts? Find a more enlightened way to live? No, it takes something more substantial than that, something outside you, something beyond you, something supernatural. Paul shows us what that is.

Romans 5
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

Suffering is the gap between thinking things should be and how they are. But at its most basic, it’s a kind of death.

Romans 5
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

So once sin entered the world, it spread like wildfire. It touches every one of our lives. It brings death at every level from the smallest suffering to the most cosmic level. But because of Jesus, suffering doesn’t have to bring death. In a grand reversal, suffering (Jesus’ suffering) brings life. This is the supernatural part.

Romans 5
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And when we experience suffering, we don’t have to receive the same narrative that the world around us does because Jesus defeated death. He overwhelmed it with grace. And while suffering may lead to the death of our expectations, vision of things, or illusion of ourselves, it doesn’t lead us to death as the end of things, but through death to eternal life.

Those deaths are no longer the end. We aren’t bound by it or defined by it anymore. Paul is saying hope is not built out of your circumstances or expectations. Hope isn’t even built out of you.

Hope is built from what God wants to accomplish in and through you for His glory through Jesus Christ.
That means that thing you’re mourning, that dream, or that season – it’s not the end, even if you’re at an end. And because we serve a resurrecting God, you have the possibility that God might raise those things to a new life in a new way you hadn’t even considered. And it won’t be by our power, strength, or understanding.

When things don’t look good, we have to remember:
  1. Hope is in God alone – It doesn’t stem from an earthly outcome or set of circumstances.
  2. Hope is cultivated – Suffering, perseverance, character, or hope doesn’t spring up fully formed.
  3. Hope is supernatural – It’s been poured out by God’s love into our hearts.

Hope does not grow quickly. It does not spring from the ground fully formed. Instead, it grows slowly and often with much struggle. But this kind of hope is not easily shaken—all the people God has genuinely used (and worked through) endured periods of suffering.

Is it possible that the seasons of suffering we all go through are by design?

We might not like to think of God that way, but this idea has strong biblical support. That might seem uncomfortable, but it reveals our heavenly Father's love, care, and concern. This isn't a weak, circumstantial, or strong hope – it's supernatural.

So, what might God try to accomplish in us that is different from what we are trying to accomplish? (Even if we are trying to accomplish it for God.)

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