Romans 8-10 The Message Bible

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Life in the Spirit

8 1  With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2  A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. 3  God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. 4  And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. 5  Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them - living and breathing God! 6  Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. 7  Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. 8  And God isn't pleased at being ignored. 9  But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about.

10  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells - even though you still experience all the limitations of sin - you yourself experience life on God's terms. 11  It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! 12  So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13  There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14  God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" 16  God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

17  And we know we are going to get what's coming to us - an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him! 18  That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. 19  The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. 20  Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in 21  until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. 22  All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. 23  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. 24  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. 25  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

26  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.

More than Conquerors

28  That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29  God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. 30  After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

31  So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? 32  If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? 33  And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? 34  Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us - who was raised to life for us! - is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. 35  Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: 36  They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. 37  None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38  I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39  high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

God's Election of Israel

9 1  At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. 2  It's an enormous pain deep within me, and I'm never free of it. I'm not exaggerating - Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It's the Israelites . . . 3  If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I'd do it in a minute. They're my family. 4  I grew up with them. They had everything going for them - family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, 5  to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!

6  Don't suppose for a moment, though, that God's Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. 7  It wasn't Abraham's sperm that gave identity here, but God's promise. Remember how it was put: "Your family will be defined by Isaac"? 8  That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. 9  Remember that promise, "When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son"? 10  And that's not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, 11  and her babies were still innocent in the womb - incapable of good or bad - she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don't do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. 12  God told Rebecca, "The firstborn of your twins will take second place." 13  Later that was turned into a stark epigram: "I loved Jacob; I hated Esau."

14  Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. 15  God told Moses, "I'm in charge of mercy. I'm in charge of compassion." 16  Compassion doesn't originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God's mercy. 17  The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, "I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power." 18  All we're saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. 19  Are you going to object, "So how can God blame us for anything since he's in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?" 20  Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn't talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, "Why did you shape me like this?" 21  Isn't it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22  If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23  and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn't that all right? 24  Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people.

25  Hosea put it well: I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I'll call the unloved and make them beloved. 26  In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!" they're calling you "God's living children." 27  Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled "chosen of God," They'd be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. 28  God doesn't count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus. 29  Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth: If our powerful God had not provided us a legacy of living children, We would have ended up like ghost towns, like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Righteousness Based on Faith

30  How can we sum this up? All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. 31  And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. 32  How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. 33  Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together: Careful! I've put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can't get around. But the stone is me! If you're looking for me, you'll find me on the way, not in the way.

10 1  Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what's best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. 2  I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God - but they are doing everything exactly backwards. 3  They don't seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God's business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it. 4  The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. 5  Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it's not so easy - every detail of life regulated by fine print! 6  But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story - no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, 7  no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. 8  So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. 9  Say the welcoming word to God - "Jesus is my Master" - embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. 10  With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!" 11  Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this - heart and soul - will ever regret it."

12  It's exactly the same no matter what a person's religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. 13  "Everyone who calls, 'Help, God!' gets help." 14  But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15  And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! 16  But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" 17  The point is, Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to. 18  But haven't there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what's going on? Plenty, I'd say. Preachers' voices have gone 'round the world, Their message to earth's seven seas. 19  So the big question is, Why didn't Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted, When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors - outsiders! - you'll become insanely jealous. When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you'll throw temper tantrums. 20  Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God: People found and welcomed me who never so much as looked for me. And I found and welcomed people who had never even asked about me. 21  Then he capped it with a damning indictment: Day after day after day, I beckoned Israel with open arms, And got nothing for my trouble but cold shoulders and icy stares.

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