Thanks be to God...

The Apostle Paul in our text for this morning has some words for us that many find troubling. He writes:

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6-11, NIV)

This text is difficult for us for two reasons: (1) It is Paul’s words, that are repeated throughout his writings, that we will all answer for the things we have done. This gives us pause for we all know exactly what we have done. (2) Paul suggests that the way in which we receive eternal life is by seeking the glory, honor, and immortality that comes from God alone.

This text and the larger argument that Paul will make are an important window in the world of our lives. Paul recognizes and articulates what we know all too well. We are people who are at war with ourselves. Paul describes this in that well-known passage later in Romans:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:21-24, NIV)

We are people who live our daily lives in a tug of war, a mixture of allegiances, and desire to follow the way of Jesus and to go our own way. We seek glory, honor, and immortality every day of our lives. The question becomes who’s glory, honor, and immortality?

Paul describes himself as a prisoner to this war within himself. It is a battle that he cannot escape, a victory that he cannot win completely, and a war that he desperately wishes to leave behind. 

His answer?

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25a, NIV)

You and I find ourselves this morning as a community of people who seek the glory, honor, immortality, and peace from the One who gave his life that we may live. But we also must confess this morning that too often we seek those very things for ourselves: our glory, our honor, our immortality, and our peace. And in the end, when our hearts are laid bare, and our lives seen for what they really are, we will find that it is only through Christ that we have been enabled to find and receive the glory, honor, immortality, and peace that we so desperately desire.

So we come to the table this morning as people with divided allegiances, ever-shifting priorities, and temptations and patterns of life that harm instead of heal, that frustrate the work of God in our lives instead of cultivating it, that make us feel wretched and awful instead of saints and precious children of God. And this is why we are here: because we need the work of God in our lives to help us become all that God desires for us and of us. And because we readily admit that we cannot do it alone, and that we should not do it alone. This is a battle that must be fought with the help of the Lord Jesus and his body. Some come together, receive what you need, and seek the glory, honor, immortality, and peace that are to be found at the Table of the Lord.

Come to the table. 

Michael Hanegan