First of all, this is one of my favorite books in the Bible so I'm really looking forward to what God's going to show me during this journey. Why is it my favorite? Primarily, because this book, written by Paul, is the essence of the gospel. From beginning to end the focus is God's amazing grace! We need to hear it every morning and every afternoon and every evening - we need to be reminded of how much God loves us. He loves us so much he made a way for us to live with him forever. Because of our sin, we should go to hell for eternity. But He sent His spotless, perfect, only Son, Jesus, to die so I don't have to pay the penalty (death) for my sin. Only a perfect man could die for the whole world!
The first thing Elyse Fitzpatrick pointed out that struck me was that this book isn't about me. It's not about my work or my successes or my obedience or my performance. The book of Romans is about Christ. If we're to truly become free, embracing the message of the gospel, then all the work has to be done by God! Why? So that all the glory will go to God! Any boasting we do is in the work of God alone. We have to give up on relying on our own goodness and count it all as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-9) Christ's death frees us from our "inner slave driver" and frees us to love others. He ruins our pride in our accomplishments and frees us from the demand that others live up to our expectations. As the song, "Rock of Ages" says, "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling!"
I can hear some of you saying now, "What does all this have to do with the gospel?" Gospel means "good news". So, the gospel is the good news of what Christ has done for us - left his heavenly throne to be become a human (like us), be tempted and tried like we are, feel tired and happy and in pain like we do, and then suffer a humiliating death on the cross before rising from the dead and ascending to His Father's side before sending the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. THAT is the gospel. It's good news - FOR US!! The gospel brings us into a right relationship with Him; it makes us new; it frees us from sin's bondage; it transforms our lives forever!
Martin Luther said, "The Gospel, then, is the joyous message of Christ, the Son of God, who first humbled himself and then was glorified through the Holy Spirit." Christ first was humiliated and weak.....THEN he was glorified. Elyse Fitzpatrick says, "The gospel takes everything we think we know about getting ahead and turns it upside down. It shows us the power of weakness and the glory in humiliation." I dislike humiliation and I love glory. I hate being weak and I adore power. But that's not the life God calls me to. There's no crown without the cross. Jesus walked the road of humiliation so perfectly that even when we let our pride and need for glory take over, we have HIS reputation (humility and submission to God's will) to glory in. We are God's daughters, crowned with glory and honor. Not because of anything we do, but because of what HE has done!
Doesn't that make you want to jump for joy and praise your Father?!