Almost two years ago, maybe longer, I decided I needed to stop reading the Bible. Well, not the way you might think. I just wanted to see if you were awake. I stopped reading it for quantity. I stopped reading it to check off my To-Do list, or to meet a quota. I stopped making it duty, and really went to focusing on the delight. Beware, if you do this you don't get very far, very fast. That's because, I reflect, I do not read. Sometimes, I will read a fairly long passage before I quit reading. Most days, I get no further than a verse or two…and many days, I stop at a phrase, or even just a word. I read, re-read, re-re-re-read…and, the purpose is to let the truth soak-in, or rather, to let my mind marinate in the point the Author and Perfecter of my faith is trying to point out.
Beginning around the first of December, I started in the book of Romans. To be perfectly honest, while some of my favorite passages are found in this book, in its entirety, I'm a bit threatened. Did I hear you ask, "Why?" Fair enough. I'm threatened because of its deep theology. I'll be honest here - I'm not so much about theology of the Word, as I am the practicality of the Word. That's because I'm a simple-minded human, and, a bit lazy, and I don't want to have to wrestle with what-do-I-believe-REALLY. Regardless of that core fear, I dove in…with a swan dive and a few flips on the way down. I figured if I was going for it, why not go all out...
As I plunged into Romans, I plunged into darkness. I must have gone a bit deeper than I planned. The waters were pitch black. In Romans 1, 2, and 3, I encountered nothing but blackness. Blackness is very intimidating, but I kept on swimming, and looking, looking, looking… In the darkness, I discovered a very scary creature that looked a lot like………………………………………….well, me. The creature was, also, black. Sin-black. Sin-ugly.
EVERY man a liar.
Ugh, gulp, me.
NONE who understands truth.
ALL have turned aside.
(I'm feeling pretty small) Yes, me.
Their throat an open grave.
Really? Honestly? But, (check) - that's me.
There is no fear of God in their eyes.
This is getting worse…well, sometimes…OK, me.
ALL have sinned.
Has to be me.
ALL fall short of His glory.
ALL will be accountable to God…
Do I have to be accountable? Yes, me.
Did I say it was black down there in Romans 1, 2, and 3? Totally. 100%…
BUT.WAIT.A.MINUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shining through the darkness, I began to see a glimmer. Looking up, my eyes began to get adjusted, and I saw, what-to-my-wandering-eyes appear, two little stars. Very little. Yet, when you are in pitch-black-sin-ugly-darkness, no matter how little the light, it becomes exceedingly bright.
Here's the passage those stars appeared in:
Being justified as a gift by His grace through redemption which is in Christ Jesus (3:24).
Here the gloom begins to lighten with two bright lights. Stars disguised as prepositions. One to identify the "agent performing the action." The other "describing the situation of someone/something surrounded by the one performing the action." (Thank you WordBook Dictionary.) The words? By. In.
Not by any one thing I could ever do.
A gift of God by grace.
Him (the One who performed the action).
In His blood.
In His heart.
In His love.
Redemption in Christ Jesus.
Two stars. Both pointing to The Morning Star: Jesus. The further I strained to look upward, the more the darkness was eliminated.
I am so grateful for a little time groping my way in the darkness of these first three chapters. I needed the darkness to see the light more clearly. I needed the star-shine to keep pointing me, just as it did some 2000 years ago, to the Christ. There's another reason I needed to swim for a season in the darkness. I'll explain that next week, if you'll hang in there with me.
In the meantime, contemplate... "By.In." ...and, be amazed!