My memory verse this week:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for me will find it."-- Matthew 16:24-25
NTC Day 12
Matthew 25-26 and Romans 7-9
Paul's writings are very hard for me to understand...and in some ways, his words seem contradictory. That is why I am glad I also read Matthew 25-26. Those chapters spoke of Jesus' lessons and promises of God...it reassured me.
In Romans 9, I found myself a bit confused and asking more questions. Paul seems to understand this confusion, because even though he explains to us such difficult concepts as predestination, he poses questions as if we are asking.
Paul quotes Testament scriptures as he explains what God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." He hardens who he wants to harden. (verse 18)
We might feel that God is unjust because he doesn't have mercy on everyone. Why would he harden anyone? And if God chooses some and not others...why would those living in sin and away from God ever hope for salvation? Might some feel, if God only chooses a few, my chances aren't good, so why don't I just live it up and live the way I WANT to?
If you only read Romans, chapter 9 and nothing else, you might feel this way. But most of our readings today are more reassuring and hopeful.
In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that we don't know the day or hour of his returning, or our death, for that matter. We should be prepared and ready at any moment. His parables teach us that we should trust God and live each day loving, serving and giving to others. We are not to sit around doing nothing, but living in his service, producing positive results. We shouldn't serve others just for the rewards we would get in heaven, but serve out of love. God's rewards in heaven come from his grace, not our efforts.
And in Matthew 26, Jesus tells his disciples about his coming persecution and death. He explained that one of them would betray him. The whole story of Judas has always bothered me...why would a man who had followed and loved Jesus all these months and years do such a despicable thing as betraying him and turning him over to the people who want to kill him.
There was something the heart of Judas that wasn't true...he didn't love Jesus or God enough to resist whatever feelings of greed that tempted him to do so. And...(this is the part that gets me) God used that weakness as part of his plan. SOMEONE had to betray Jesus...in order for Jesus to suffer and die for us...someone had to start the ball rolling. God used the weakness of Judas.
Why didn't the Jewish leaders believe in Jesus as the son of God? God used their hardened hearts...in order for Jesus to suffer and die for us, SOMEONE had to persecute and kill him. God used their harden hearts to do so.
Did God harden their hearts? Or, did they choose to harden their hearts...that is the part that confuses me.
I believe that God does love each and everyone one of his creation. He gives us each a chance to choose to love him. But, when we chose NOT to love and trust him back, he can use our hardened hearts to make good come from our bad.
If we love God and believe in his promises, and the spirit of Jesus is living in us...NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)
I also believe that NO ONE is beyond this love. Even Paul, who had persecuted and even KILLED early Christians CHOSE to believe in Christ.
This is so hard to sort through! So many questions come to my mind! I don't understand God's plans...but I don't think I am supposed to. As much as I question, I also am reassured by God's love through these readings. While my mind struggles to understand, my heart has peace that rests in God's love.