I recall a cartoon in which the lead character, Andy, walks by a fence with a NO TRESPASSING sign nailed to it; on the other side of the fence is an apple tree with the most tempting of apples. Suddenly on Andy’s shoulder, the devil appears and begins whispering all the reasons Andy should have one of those apples. Then on Andy’s other shoulder appears an angel whispering all the reasons that it would be wrong for him to have an apple—a fairly familiar plot. God doesn’t always expect us to make the right choices, but we have the power to choose.
God never tires of giving us the opportunity to choose life.
All the dos and don’ts in scripture used to annoy me because I heard in them the rigidity of the law rather than the gospel of grace. I heard do these things in order to gain God’s
love; but God’s love is already certain.
Paul juxtaposes three elements in Romans 6:
• sin opposed to righteousness
• freedom opposed to slavery
• wages opposed to gifts
In today’s verses we consider sin and righteousness. Unlike
the cartoon character mentioned above, sin for Paul is not doing something bad or failing to do something good. It is not temp- tation; it is a way of life. Sin, like going over to the dark side, is a force, a power that entraps us. We are either enslaved to sin or engaged with God in righteousness. We choose sin without God or righteousness with God. Paul leaves no wiggle room. We hope and pray that what God has begun will be brought to completion.
Today I’ll have a hard conversation with God about how I live.
Not only is God’s call on Abraham unthinkable, it jeopardizes the long-delayed but now-realized promise. Yet in the end, Abraham’s faith and God’s grace prevail. Psalm 13 is the classic example of a psalm of complaint. It shows that a prayer of complaint is a vigorous, active form of hope in God. Thus the psalm moves from a situation of need to a resolution in joy and confidence. In the passage from Romans 6, Paul juxtaposes three pairs of opposites: sin versus righteousness, freedom versus slavery, and wages versus gifts. For Paul, sin is a power that exceeds the abilities of human beings to contest. Only God is a match for the power of sin. We cannot earn or achieve eternal life; it is a gift from God. Matthew 10 makes a strong claim about the identification of believers with Jesus and, in turn, with God.
• Read Genesis 22:1-14. We do not often face such demands from God as the one Abraham faced. What hard situations has God called you to? What hard conversations followed?
• Read Psalm 13. The psalmist asks God to pay attention and take his situation seriously. When has that been your request of God?
• Read Romans 6:12-23. When have you felt like a scout earning merit badges for God? How has obedience from the heart helped you reorient your life?
• Read Matthew 10:40-42. What “cup of cold water” might you offer to someone in need?
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