One of the goals I have made for this year is to spend a significant amount of time in the Bible every day. As I have made it clear in previous posts, being in God's Word is not just something we should do, it is something we must do. When God made us, one of the aspects of our personality He gave us was to be revelation-receivers. God designed us to talk with Him, fellowship with Him, and most importantly listen to Him. God's Word in my own opinion is the best way to learn about the God we profess to be Lord and Savior. How can one serve a King when he does not know of His decrees and declarations?
As I did not really put an emphasis on reading the Scriptures during the early stages of my walk with Christ, I did not really know how to begin. Do I just lay my Bible on the table and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my random page-flipping? Do I read it through Genesis-Revelation? Or should I start with the stuff written about Jesus in the Gospels and then go from there?
It is difficult deciding where to begin. I know most people have smart phones now and the Bible app made by YouVersion has proved really helpful in my own quiet times. Before January rolled around, I took a little time to browse through some of the Bible plans found in the app. There were a couple that seemed rather interesting and with the tap of a finger I had two plans that provided some form of structure to my reading. Obviously the reading plan system can turn into more of a "check-the-box-for-the-day" kind of deal, but if you earnestly put forth the effort to really study the text and journal through it I have found the reading plans to be very beneficial. All that to say I have started a couple plans in my reading focusing on the New Testament, dividing it up into a few manageable sections each day.
One of the reading plans has me going through the book of Romans for the first couple weeks and in studying it many different things have stood out. Romans is by far one of the most doctrinal and theological books in the canon. Filled with teachings ranging from repentance to sanctification, Romans could be studied for years and barely scratch the surface of its internal wisdom and truth.
In reading through Romans 7 today, one part of the reading really connected with where I am at right now in my life. The Apostle Paul is explaining one of the very troubling and wearisome realities of Christianity.
In Christ, we are made into a new creation, no longer bound by the chains of sin that once enslaved us. But because of the inherent sin nature of humanity from the Fall, we are born and live with the desire to sin. Because of our brokenness, we desire to do that which in Christ we do not want to do. Paul explains this relationship in Romans 7:13-20:
"Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me."
I had to read through this passage several times for me to finally understand what Paul was trying to say. Because of our inherent sin nature, we desire to do that which we do not want to do. Our sinful inheritance tempts us to do that which it wants to do. In Christ we are given an understanding of that which we should want to do, like living in righteousness, no longer failing to the sins we committed before Christ. The strength of our temptations often corrupts and influences our decision to fall to sin and the desires of our flesh. When we are made new in Christ, we are given the power through the Holy Spirit to not only say no to sin but to completely defeat it. We have the strength to overcome our sin because Christ in His holiness and righteousness, overcame all temptation during His life. He lived a wholly pure and blameless life, never falling to the temptation of His flesh.
One of the aspects of Christ's personality that I find especially comforting is the truth that He lived this life like us. We walked the same earth, breathed the same air, and endured the same struggles. Hebrews 4:15 says this concerning Jesus:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."
The author of Hebrews continues in that passage saying that with great confidence and boldness we can draw near to the throne of grace, that is the throne of God, and profess the grace and mercy Christ provides. We can take hope in the truth that Christ is a Savior that understands the struggles of humanity and not lose heart when we fail to our sinful nature.
When your soul is downcast and your heart is burdened find hope in the truth that Christ understands your plight, take comfort in the truth that He loves you despite your flaws and your shortcomings. He loves you enough to die for you, in all of your brokenness and wickedness, sacrificing His own life on the cross. We have a Lord that knows our experiences, our struggles, and our difficulties. Why go on in this life without a Guide? Why spend your days apart from a God that loves you?