I heard a sermon on Romans 2:17-3:8 a few days ago. What really struck me, however, was when the pastor brought up Luke 15- the older brother in the story of the prodigal son.
Let’s look at the older brother’s response when his younger brother comes home:
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
What was the older son’s response to his father (God)? He was immediately thinking about himself. I have served you all these years- you owe me!
I never disobeyed your orders- yet you never even gave me a young goat to celebrate with my friends… Where are the blessings that should be mine for all that I have sacrificed?
His responses are filled with expectations based on his “following the rules.” There is no love or passion in his response- no compassion or sense of concern for his brother. No sense of love or thankfulness for all his father has done for him.
Don’t we treat God this way?
I have lived my life being obedient to you- now I expect blessings?
I don’t want to have to suffer or experience hardship.
Even though God’s Word tells us suffering is part of the Christian life, I still have gotten frustrated and angry with God when I face difficulties of any kind.
I have a sense of entitlement. If I follow your law, then I expect that my life will be easier- I will be blessed and experience less trouble in this life than those live like there is no God.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t work that way.
How do we respond when we suffer unjustly?
Romans- the story of the gospel- is captivated in joy- our service should be an outpouring of all God has done for us.
We are not entitled to special favor.
Why? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is none that are righteous, not one.
If we serve with the purpose of in-debting God, we deceive ourselves. This is a way we try to control God. We cannot obligate Him to bring good things into our lives. He owes us nothing. All is grace.
All is GRACE.
Martin Luther says in his Introduction to Romans,
St. Paul says, “The law is spiritual.” What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart. But no one can give such a heart except the Spirit of God, who makes the person be like the law, so that he actually conceives a heartfelt longing for the law and henceforward does everything, not through fear or coercion, but from a free heart. Such a law is spiritual since it can only be loved and fulfilled by such a heart and such a spirit. If the Spirit is not in the heart, then there remain sin, aversion and enmity against the law, which in itself is good, just and holy.
God wants a willing heart. He longs for us to simply love and trust Him each day, moment by moment.
God has a case against us. He bears the sword. Yet He willingly sent His Son to take our punishment- to stand in our place.
We are all guilty- all in need of redemption.
All that saves us is God’s grace.
Not the list of all the things we have done serving God in this life.
I have been like the older brother. I have felt like God owed me blessings.
I have been angry and bitter at times, even covetous of others who have gotten things that I don’t think they deserved. I thought I deserved them more.
I want to stop serving because I think it is the “right thing to do.”
I want to serve because through prayer and seeking God, I believe that’s where He is leading me to serve.
My service is an outpouring of thankfulness and gratitude to God for all that He has done for me. As I ponder His Sacrifice- when I read the just case against me (Romans 1-3) -I humbly and joyfully obey.
Lord, I pray that you would change our hearts. May we serve out of love and gratitude, not obligation. Convict us if our hearts have not been engaged as we have sought to follow your law- but have been passionless and simply doing what we feel we have to do or should do. I pray that today we would begin to seek you- to spend time at your feet- like Mary. That we would hear from you where you are calling us. Give us courage as we respond to that call. May we always hold you as our first love- and may the way we live and spend our time reveal the truth of our heart’s convictions. I want to sacrifice in love for you- to pour myself out in grateful praise – that my life would be a song of adoration to You. You are Holy and worthy of my praise. In Jesus Name, Amen.
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