Do you ever find certain books of the Bible intimidating? For me, one of those is Romans. I mean, I know there is lots of good stuff in there, but the idea of wading through the theology in the first 11 chapters feels slightly more challenging than, even while well-caffeinated, my brain can take on.
Well, this summer, my project is to read through the New Testament and record everything it says about my identity in Christ. I want to be able to point to chapter and verse that say who I am in Christ.
So, Romans was my first book to read through. I was surprised at how clearly the teachings stood out to me as I read through a few chapters each day this week. I was overcome by God's grace in bringing the Gospel to those outside His chosen people - the Gentiles. Unless there is something about my heritage I don't know - that would be me!
I have taught Romans 8 and Romans 12 in my Sunday school class in years past, but to read the entire book in one week gave me a new appreciation for its scope and depth.
As I read through this book, a few verses seemed to leap off the page. Things I had heard or read before suddenly seemed to take on a three dimensional quality this week. Like the verses on not taking revenge I wrote about the other day - those are verses I've heard/read 100 times but for some reason, this time around, they took on new meaning and gave me deeper understanding. God is very cool like that! :)
Another phrase that jumped out at me was in Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."
If you go back one verse, Paul gives a list of things we are NOT supposed to do: carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy.
I love that Paul does not just leave us with a list of things not to do, but no practical way to achieve that. Instead, he tells us to do two things: put on Christ and make no provision for our fleshly lusts.
What does it mean to "put on" Christ? This phrase "put on" is the Greek word endyo and it means to sink into or clothe one's self. I love the idea of sinking into Christ. That gives such a word picture of our relationship with Him! God's goal in sanctifying us is to make us like His Son - for us to sink into Christ so much so that people can't tell where we end and He begins.
The second thing, Paul tells us to do is to make no provision for our flesh's lusts. While our old man is supposed to be dead, he has a disconcerting habit of making an appearance when we least expect it. The truth is, putting our flesh or old self to death can be an almost daily process of internationalism.
One way we do that is making no provision for our fleshly nature. If you look it up in the Greek it means no forethought or providential care. What that means is we don't read, watch or do the things that feed into our fleshly nature.
My weaknesses in the flesh are probably different from your weaknesses. I struggle with anxiety sometimes (duh!) so if I spend a lot of time reading about various health issues or world problems and inundate myself with all the negative things that could go wrong (but haven't as of yet!), I am providing for that anxiety to rise up in me. This is why I no longer listen to political talk radio. Yes, there are good things on there, and yes, as a citizen I need to be informed. However, the bottom line is, unless I start a second career in politics or start campaigning for someone, the only thing I can really do is vote. So, I research the candidates, pray about it and vote when the time comes. I pray for our leaders.
It's one thing to be informed and it's another to listen to Glenn Beck every day and freak myself out on a continual basis over things I can do absolutely nothing about.
For you, maybe your struggle is with material things you can't afford. In that case, don't spend your time with Better Homes and Gardens or watch TLC programs about people buying new houses - that only feeds into your discontent.
If you have a juicy piece of gossip and you know you struggle in this area, that is not the time to invite your friend for coffee!
We can either feed our flesh (make provision for it) or we can starve it. Sinking into Christ is infinitely easier if we aren't stuffing ourselves on things that feed into our old nature.
This is one of those common sense, practical things that can help us in our walk, but sometimes we - at least me anyway - gloss over.
It's time to put our old selves on a diet!
~ Blessings, Bronte