Caution: You are about to enter uncharted territory that can change your very understanding of the meaning of your life on earth. If you read on, you may be captured in the adventure of discovering who you really are and what you are doing here.
The departure point for this adventure is contained in two sentences in a 2,100-year-old document written in everyday Greek to a Jewish sect gathered in Rome. The sentences were penned by a Jewish tent maker name Paul, who we know now, was on the path to prison for his beliefs. Here’s what the tent maker wrote:
For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God to save everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
These two sentences contain 3 keys. Each key is coded to unlock a treasure that can change everything. I know I don’t have the power to fully turn the keys — but I believe I can turn the key far enough to reveal a glimpe of what is within. And even a glimpse is enough. Each time I look I am captured anew.
Paul starts by saying he is “unashamed of the good news.” Paul isn’t talking here about being embarrased the way we think of it. When Paul wrote this letter, Rome had subjugated the western world – from England to Egypt, and from Spain to Syria – under military totalitarianism. The religion of the day was the Cult of Caesar. The Emperor of Rome was acclaimed to be the son of god, with absolute rule over all and whom all must acknowledge as divine. Whatever other faith a person might have had, they must acknowledge Caesar’s divinity first. In the face of this, Paul is declaring that there actually is a Son of God, and it isn’t Caesar, who is the rightful ruler and object of humanity’s obedience and worship. Not a small confrontation! It is akin to Christians and Jews today, living in Muslim lands, who keep their faith at risk of life. This is not the “ashamed” of those of us whose greatest faith challenge is speaking up in a society that says there is no God, or that you cannot claim your truth about God is better than someone else’s – because of course, all paths lead to god (Which is like saying that all travel plans lead to Hoboken or all means of study lead to a doctorate, or all diets lead to good weight, or all uses of time lead to success, or all behaviors lead to happy relationships. That weak thinking doesn’t even work in Scrabble or Clash of Clans or Zelda, let alone in real life! Real life shows us no instances where all choices lead to the same end. Why would it then be true of the God who created life?). The point is that Paul had the integrity to stand on what he believed, in the face of the power of Rome. The reason he had that strength is because he had used the keys and looked at the treasures.
What then, are these treasures?
Here is the first key to the first treasure: the “good news” is the power of God for salvation.
The lock to this treasure is very rusty. These words hardly make sense to us today. “Save everyone?” “Save from what?” What is the danger we need to be saved from? I can’t get too enthused about being saved if see no danger. Before he encountered the iceberg that would sink his ship, Edward Smith would have laughed in derision at anyone crying “your ship is in danger! We must alert the passengers and prepare to abandon ship!” The captain of the Titanic completely trusted in a ship that was only a few hours away from sinking and ending the lives of 1,513 passengers and crew. So the crew worked away their last hours on earth, and the passengers gamed and danced and dined, and died.
We are all like Captain Smith to some degree. We are moving toward the end of our lives. But we hide that thought behind activity, behind business and pleasure. When our lives end we won’t get another try for a better score. “Now” is the only time I have to live well. But as soon as we wake up to this truth, we find we don’t have the power to live “now” well. We are distracted by worry. We want things that don’t help us live better. We break rather than build. We say and do things that hurt others. We denigrate ourselves. We invest few of our gifts in relieving suffering. Few of us spend any part of our everyday working to make our part of the world better.
But we are responsible for how we use the life we have been given. And we will be called to account for how we’ve spent the gift of life. There is a God to whom we must answer as to whether we lived to our purpose or not. In ancient times, people understood that life wasn’t accidental – that we were put here. We didn’t make ourselves. And so we should live according to purpose. Modern man has nurtured the idea that life is just an accident, so I can pursue whatever personal dream I like. We moderns are all in terrible danger of coming to the end of our lives with deep regret that we spent so much of our time on ourselves and on the unimportant, and so little of our time on doing good and living for purpose. And yet as soon as we try to live to a higher purpose we find we are crippled by a host of ills arising from within our very selves. Made to spend our lives giving away love, we find that instead, we live exceedingly selfishly. What will save us from the bitter regret of seeing that we poorly spent our one life? How will we respond when we are called on to explain how we lived?
Ah, that all sounds so gloomy! Where is this brilliant treasure I spoke of?
Look at the question from this perspective. What if you were created to walk around talking as friend-to-friend with the God who created everything? What if your life were designed to be filled with joy that is beyond description? What if your heritage was to walk through life continually receiving a love from God that was so great it stunned your imagination? What if you were gifted to give away that love and joy to heal a wounded and dying planet? What if all that were your destiny, and you missed it?
I have GOOD NEWS!
It is this. There is something in God’s good news that unlocks the power to change everything. It is ultimate power, for it is God’s power, and it can change us and unlock for us our destiny. This power can save us from the waste we live and the harm we do and from living a life of missed opportunity. My life doesn’t have to be limited by my faults and flaws. It doesn’t have to be slavery to existence without purpose! It doesn’t have to lead to standing before God trying to give account for the waste of the greatest of all gifts. No, this great good news from God contains the power to save us from living uselessly and dying in vain! God offers us the power to live! This is our great and only hope. The good news from God holds the power to rescue us. This is the first treasure. God offers the power for life to be full to overflowing. Power to live the life he created us for. Power to be saved from all that binds and dooms us. Power to live as God envisioned life in the beginning. Good news! There is a power great enough to rescue so we can live out our destiny! Good News!