Romans 8 State of Mind

The season of Lent is coming to a close. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, which this year was Valentine’s Day, and concluding on Holy Saturday, Lent is a forty-day period, excluding Sundays, of confession, repentance, and fasting as we anticipate the glorious celebration of Easter, which falls on April 1. Many Christians give up things for Lent, like chocolate, carbonated beverages, Facebook, or Instagram. There are certainly physical and spiritual benefits to these pursuits, especially if a person feels that these may have a controlling influence in their lives. I know others who start things during Lent. Perhaps they pick up a Lenten devotional, do a Bible reading plan and/or volunteer at a local mission of some sort. These are all beneficial for the follower of Jesus seeking to love God and their neighbor more deeply. Whatever we decide to refrain from or start, may our goal be to bring glory to God, not to simply show how spiritual we are.

I don’t know about you, but I have Lenten struggles over denial of self. I live in what I will call a Romans 7 state of mind. Without getting into whether or not Paul is speaking of a hypothetical Jew trying to follow the Law and failing, or his own personal struggles since becoming a disciple of Jesus, for me, this text bubbles up in my heart and mind day after day as I really, really want to do the good I know I should do but seem to almost always make the wrong decision. This gets heavy. I stay in front of the mirror and stare at the wretched man looking back at me. Day after day, over and over again. It’s enough to make one consider throwing in the towel. My Bible simply will not turn to the next page.

Every once in a while though, I manage to pry open the page that contains Romans 8, and I find there the key to my struggles. Paul tells me that I am not condemned because I belong to Jesus. Jesus has saved me from the “stinkin’ thinkin’” that keeps me in that Romans 7 state of mind. God rains down love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness every day. I am no longer consigned to a Romans 7 life. My flesh no longer has the upper hand. Oh, I still struggle to stay on the Romans 8 page, but, I’m not alone. Jesus reminds me often that my decisions are not who I am. Decisions have consequences, but who I am is a child of God, beautifully and wonderfully made, loved and treasured by God. A Jesuit priest penned these words which have become a place where I can run and be safe, “Behold God beholding you and smiling.”

I pray God blessed you during this Lenten season. You are a treasure and a delight to God. Here’s to a Romans 8 state of mind!

-James Shelton, Instructor