Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monday Manna - Persuaded

Persuaded

By Rick Higginson

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39 NKJV)

Many years ago, God impressed this sentence on me as one of the greatest things I could hold onto. So much of what we are confident of in this life is fragile – our health, our livelihood, our trust in other people. Circumstances can change in an instant, and what we depend on could vanish without warning.

A co-worker once spoke about his philosophy class in college, and how the professor stressed the idea that we cannot know anything for certain. We could only attest to what we perceive or think. Yet, in these two short verses, the Apostle Paul declared something that we as believers should know for certain – that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from the love of God.

This is beautiful, because in all of human knowledge there is only One not created. God Himself is the only being that could separate us from His love, and yet He promised He would never do so (Hebrews 13:5, 6). If nothing else can sever us from Him, and if He won’t, then our place with Him is assured.

When the Philosophy Professors ask what I know, I can say with confidence, “I know that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There’s another aspect to this verse, though, that I think often gets overlooked, and that’s the word, “persuaded.” It’s also translated in some versions as “convinced,” which can carry a little different connotation. The Greek word we take this from is “peitho,” and it conveys the idea of someone who was won over to a point of view. If I said that Acme brand widgets aren’t worth the trash bag to haul them away, and you proceeded to show me all the reasons that Acme widgets were terrific so that you changed my mind, it would fit the word “peitho.” I am persuaded that Acme widgets are the best widgets anywhere.

I believe that Paul resisted the idea of nothing being able to separate us from the love of God, and in his position, it’s easy to understand. Paul was a Pharisee, and as such would have known not only the Torah, but also the Talmudic laws that went beyond the Mosaic Law, and which (in theory) kept the people from inadvertently transgressing Torah. Even while teaching the concept of Christian liberty, Paul also exhorted believers to holy living. He taught of the forgiveness of sins, along with not committing sins that would need to be forgiven in the first place. As such, it’s a logical step to think of him seeing the idea of consequence for willful sin to be a powerful motivator. Along with this, it’s also logical for us to think in terms that someone who leaves God behind would likewise leave their salvation behind. If I turn away from Him to live a sinful life, willfully rejecting God’s standards, how could I expect God to still hold me in His love?

I think Paul wrestled with this same question, and resisted the idea that we now state as, “once saved, always saved.” As Jacob long before, though, Paul learned that wrestling with God is always going to result in God winning out. Whatever his original hypothesis, Paul was brought to the inescapable conclusion that nothing could separate us from God’s love – not even ourselves.

This is important, because it’s easy for the enemy to plague us with doubts. What if I die at the moment I’m having a sinful thought? John wrote that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But what if I don’t have a chance to confess? If I don’t confess, am I not forgiven and therefore stained with the sin that will bar me from the Holy Presence?

Not if we accept what Paul wrote. First, confession isn’t saying to God that I did something. Admitting to a deed isn’t truly confession, and besides, God already knows what I’ve done and what I will do in the future. While acknowledging our failures is good for helping us to bring our lives into conformance, that isn’t the kind of confession we need. True Biblical confession is agreeing with God that what we have done is sin, plain and simple. We can admit to something without truly confessing, because we have a remarkable ability to rationalize and excuse. “Yes, Lord, I got angry, but…” isn’t really confession.

True Biblical confession can occur long before we ever commit the sin. It’s making that conscious decision that God’s ways are right, and when we fail to live up to them, we are wrong and sinning. I might not remember every time I have or will indulge a lustful thought, and were I to think that every single incident must be acknowledged or else I will retain unforgiven sin in my life, my confidence and assurance would be lost. I could even be afraid to do anything, for fear that I might sin in the process and forget to confess it.

God knew this about us. He knew the tactics the enemy would use to inhibit us by fear or by suggesting that we had been so bad God had cast us away, and so He persuaded Paul of the truth.

When I’ve turned aside, and haven’t cared if I held onto Him; when I’ve fallen, and felt unworthy to be His child; when the world has assaulted me and tried to carry me away on distractions and pressures; Romans 8:38 and 39.

Years ago, there was a poster that read, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” When I reached the end of my rope during one of the darkest times in my life, I didn’t have the strength to hold on. I learned during that time that the knot wasn’t tied by me; it was tied by God, and the rope was tied around my wrist. When I couldn’t hold on, He wouldn’t let go, and these words were written on that knot:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Like Paul, He persuaded me with the truth of His promise.

2 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

Thanks so much for participating, Rick! This is very powerful and a great reminder of the theme of this sentence. Love the image of the rope with the knot at the end.

Lynda S. said...

Yes, that statement about the rope and the knot is indeed powerful.

We may stumble and fall, but the Spirit of God living in us doesn't allow to stay on the ground for long—he's a bit of a nag that way!

Good post.