The Absolutely Stunning Love of God
We had our small group study last evening. We were there about an hour and a quarter, and had a great discussion. We started this thing a year ago, with 4 guys studying Ken Hemphill's Serving God course, which took eight weeks; we went from there into a study of the BF&M .. 2000 vs 1962 vs 1925. That lasted until June.
We then jumped into Romans; one of the guys had asked if we could go through it. In the last 6 or 7 weeks, God has grown the group to a dozen or more. Our format is that we chase all rabbits and answer all questions, and nobody prepares. I just read some verses, and then lead a discussion. Last night, we spent the time on one verse. This one:
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus ... (Romans 15:5; NIV)
Man, did we have fun with that! Some of the things that struck me, that I'd frankly never paid attention to, before:
- "...gives endurance..." We talked about why he said that. Only reason we could see is that God knows how trying life can be .. He did tell us that .. and He wants to sustain us when we get tired of it all. That tells me that nothing's wrong when that happens to me, and God does want us to get through times when we want to give up. And He wants to strengthen us to do that.
- "...gives encouragement..." Here again, God knows we're going to get discouraged, and He wants to encourage us when we do.
I think He does that because He loves us. And He wants us to have an abundant life. Since He designed us, engineered us, manufactured us, and maintains us, He knows what an abundant life consists of. And He left us instructions.
Oh .. He also, via His Son, invented the concept of "abundant life", so He defines it.
His giving of encouragement and endurance is part and parcel of the abundant life, and He goes on here to described another factor of that sort of life: Unity.
- "...give you a Spirit of unity among yourselves...". Well. I have to say I see a lot of some other spirit besides unity in the SBC today. Not that folks aren't clinging to bible passages in all they do .. I mean, the Calvinists can justify every point of their system of faith, with particular scripture, just as well as BF&M justifies its positions. I figure God knew that sort of thing would arise, and it must be true that we can have unity ... real unity in our diversity. But since I'm guessing it's natural for us to divide over things, unity is going to take a particular Spirit, and it'll be a gift of God when we reach unity. Maybe we're not asking God to give us that Spirit .. maybe we're really asking God to give others a spirit of unity with us. I doubt that's the idea.
- "...as you follow Jesus Christ ...". Wow. Could it be that, when we demonstrate a lack of unity (I don't mean uniformity), that we're not really following Jesus? I don't know, but if that's how we're supposed to do it, then we're sure wrong when we don't.
After 75 minutes, I finally read verse 6:
"... so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (Romans 15:6, NIV)
There's the bottom line. If we are encouraged, if we endure, if we do have .. and show .. real unity, then our hearts and mouths can glorify God. Think of that ... mortal, sinful, frail man can actually do something that glorifies God, Who, it seems to me, has no need of anything we can do.
To top it all off, God says that the reason Jesus' name is above all names, and the reason why every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, is that He was obedient to die for you and me. When He'd rather the Father had offered Him another plan.
The magnitude of God's love leaves me speechless. I hope it always does.