Sunday, July 15, 2012

Two totally unrelated posts: I'm ashamed I haven't prayed for Syria and Thoughts on Romans 3

Syrian Christians celebrating Christmas
This is a two-fer post (2 for the price of 1). Yesterday, I was reading the latest issue of Christianity Today and came across this article, "Syria's Last Chance: As violence surges and diplomacy fails, Christians, Muslims, and Druze advocate for reconciliation and democracy."

Over the past 16 months, an estimated 17,000 people have died and the number is growing.       In late May, militias slaughtered 108 civilians, including 49 children and 35 children. One 11-yr old witnessed his family being murdered.

To my shame, I have seen numerous news stories covering the violence in Syria, and I have NOT prayed for Syria until today. I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to drop to my knees in prayer for Syria.

Here's what the Syrian Christians are asking us to pray for:

  • Pray for the Christians in Syria to be the peacemakers and to be bold, without fear..
  • Pray for reconciliation & forgiveness on all sides
  • Pray for hearts to be softened and for the Christians to have favor in seeking reconciliation from all sides.
  • Pray for Christians and other leaders to have wisdom in developing a strategy for national healing and reconciliation.
  • Pray for the violence to be stopped; that the darkness that shrouds Syria would be lifted. Pray for opportunities to proclaim and share God's Good news.
Now for my thoughts on another matter: If you read my posts with any regularity, you know that I can be quite judgmental. That is certainly a fault of mine for which I often ask the Lord for forgiveness. I am always trying to walk that fine line between being critical and speaking the truth in a loving manner. Most of the time, I fall far short as you well know.

I was reading Romans 3 today and here's what St. Paul says:
Romans 3:9-12 (ESV) 
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Please note that Paul says that none of us is righteous, none of us really seeks for God or understands.

Like the Jews and Greeks that Paul was writing to, we like to compare ourselves with one another. We compare our churches with other churches. We compare our Christianity with others to make us feel like we are spiritual and pleasing to God.

What Paul is asking is this: Why does one condemned sinner wish to compare himself with another in order to show himself better?

The empty tomb
Imagine three men on death row, all convicted murderers. The man in cell one was a drug dealer, who ordered the death of many of his rivals and whose drug dealing destroyed countless lives.  The man in cell two killed five fellow-employees in a fit of anger. The third condemned criminal hired an assassin to murder his wife. The human tendency is for the man in cell two to compare himself with the man in cell one, judging himself the better man. The man in cell three compares himself to the other two and feels he is better than both. But on the day of execution, what difference does it make? They have all broken the law, and they are all sentenced to die.

The real issue is not the appraisal of men but the judgment of God. If a Jew is better than a Gentile, God must say so. He has not said so. In fact, God has continually condemned the Jews and the Gentiles for their sin. God has treated the Jews and the Gentiles impartially.  

Paul helps us to resolve this dilemma and the condemnation that we so justly deserve when he says in Romans 3:22-25 (ESV)
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
I am saved not by my own righteous acts or deeds but because I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ. I know that I CONTINUALLY fall short of God's perfect standard. I deserve to be on death row, and in a sense I have been on death row, but Jesus has delivered me. He pardoned me from death row. He pardoned my sins. 

I  have been justified (made right, made perfect) through the price that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross at Calvary. I am saved, not because I deserve it or have earned it, but because my faith and trust is in Jesus Christ as my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer. He has given me a new life--for that I am truly thankful and praise His name!!

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