God Reveals Himself
When I was a teenager I told myself by the time I was 40 I would drive a black Lexus with gold trim. I thought driving such a flashy car would mean I was a success in life.
Well, here’s the thing. Tomorrow is my 41st birthday, and although this is the last morning I will wake up as a 40-year-old, there’s no way I’m spending my day out purchasing that shiny new Lexus of my teenage dreams. First of all, gold trim is so ’90’s.
But secondly, my definition of success looks entirely different than it (obviously) did way back then. I’ve realized that true success is so much more than an outward mirage. And shiny new toys only offer temporary satisfaction. Because when the shine begins to fade, and we look a little closer, we find they are often quite hollow inside.
My grey minivan may not be flashy but its certainly not empty. It is stuffed with purpose that sometimes smells like last week’s crunchy taco drive-through run. Because somewhere in this road trip of life, I found myself trading mirage for meaning.
The believers in ancient Rome found themselves doing so too. They lived in the capital of the greatest world empire, many of them living inside Caesar’s own household, and a weighty decision rested on their shoulders: to chase after the mirages of success and power projected in the opulence all around them? Or to dig down into the messiness of life to uncover the truest substance?
In today’s Life Journal readings we open up the book of Romans, a letter from the apostle Paul to the church of Rome in the first century. This morning I couldn’t get past chapter 1.
The letter to the Romans opens by addressing the envelope:
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His saints.” (Romans 1:7)
This letter goes out to those to whom God’s heart cannot stop beating for, to those whom God’s thoughts cannot stop considering, to those whom God desperately loves. And not only that, but to those to whom He calls to respond to His never-stopping, never giving-up love.
Ahem. We are all the Romans addressed in this letter.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; ” (Romans 1:16)
Paul is teaching us to not be ashamed on the outside of what God is doing on the inside. So you don’t have a fancy new car or a shiny new house, or whatever your “symbol” of success and power might look like. Who cares? Do you? Will you chase the power of man or the power of God? Which is more valuable to you? Verse 16 reminds us that it is the power of God that saves.
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” (Romans 1:17)
God Reveals Himself through the great love story of His own deep sacrifice to save us. And just as you once began your walk toward God because of this revelation of the Good News (gospel) inside your heart, so continue. You started toward God by faith, so continue toward Him by faith.
Those words “God is revealed” stopped me in my tracks this morning.
God Reveals Himself.
Let that sink in. Let God Reveal Himself to you. Not just once when (sometime in the past) you looked up and saw Him standing there, arms wide open, and breathlessly ran to Him. Not just once when He revealed Himself to you a long time ago and you responded. But today. And tomorrow. He is revealing Himself to you everyday, in all kinds of ways, and He invites you to notice and respond.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
Look around. Look up at the mountains, down at the fields, and see. God is revealing Himself. To you.
Look all around at the world He has made; God Reveals Himself in it.
Look down deep into the Word He has given; God Reveals Himself in it.
What is worth chasing with our lives? The power and glory of men? Or the power and glory of God?
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)
They stopped seeing God.
God never stops revealing Himself, but we can stop seeing Him.
The word “futile” means, “incapable of producing any useful result; pointless.”
“They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:23)
They traded the goodness of God for things that looked good on the outside but were only empty on the inside. From what I understand, the process of crafting an idol often involved carving the image out of wood and then pressing and folding gold or silver on top to form the image. Idols were shiny on the outside, but empty and worthless on the inside. They still are.
There are still shiny enticements of power and glory that call out to us. I still remember that day I saw that shiny golden Lexus parked in the lot I was walking through with my friends. “I want that” I craved. But God saved me from chasing down emptiness.
The thing about the power and glory of men is that it is empty on the inside. How many celebrities could tell us how true that is?
God revealed Himself to me when I was young so that I could chase down the things of God. And I have. And what I’ve discovered is that the deeper you go into the heart of who God is, the more substance, the more weight, the more value you find. There’s even MORE on the inside of the goodness and mercy and power than what is promised by first glance on the outside.
In my Bible this section of scripture (Romans 1:18-32) is simply titled “God’s Wrath Against Mankind.” As I read through this section this morning what I discovered is that the “wrath” of God is kind of summed up in verse 24:
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Rom 1:24)
The wrath of God in this life is not all about fire and brimstone. The wrath of God is simply about Him pulling back and letting us go our own way, and ending up where that leads. It’s Him letting His own heart bitterly break as we:
“…Exchange the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25)
The love and call of God go out to all people (Rom 1:16) but not all people notice it and respond. God’s love never stops reaching out for us, but if we stop noticing and responding, God’s voice will get weaker and weaker in our ears.
That’s why the daily habits of those who chase after God’s power and glory should include the discipline of looking for God in His Word and His World. He’s revealing Himself in it all the time. And whenever He reveals Himself to you, respond.
That’s what I do in my personal Life Journal readings and those I blog about on this site. I go for a walk in His word, watching for how He’s revealing Himself to me. And then I respond.
May God’s incredible love compel you to chase Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and empower you to look for Him to reveal Himself. Everyday. May you experience the weight of His glory and the strength of His grace in your heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.