Day 310 “Directed Verdict” Romans 6 – 8
November 6, 2021, 10:50 PM

Day 310 “Directed Verdict” Romans 6 – 8

The picture on facebook totally arrested my attention. Before and after. Before: addicted. Emaciated. Hollow-eyed. Wearing paper garments in rehab to prevent her from hurting herself. After: Healthy. Beautiful. Proud. Connected. I would post her picture if it did not violate her privacy because I wish you could see the difference in her. It made me stop in my tracks and look at those two pictures to ask: what could possibly have changed in her life? How did she go from enslavement to drugs toward freedom? And the answer was Jesus. Faith saved her and I can’t explain it or forget it.

Her words: “When I look at the old picture I no longer recognise the young lady standing there, however I carry the memories and the memories ONLY, I do not carry any shame, guilt or condemnation because by God’s grace I have been SET FREE and who the Son sets free is free indeed.”

This is real. This is the story of the ultimate freedom after the ultimate enslavement. Most of us never have to worry about that kind of bondage in our lives. Smugly the other day, I shared with a friend, who agreed with me, that we both are blessed because we are not addicted to anything. And yet that is so short-sighted of me. That raises me above something that is still a part of me, kind of like Paul telling us that living in grace doesn’t allow to just keep on sinning. I believe I do live in grace. And I know that I have a hard time overcoming the same thing our friend Paul wrote about:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand…who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7: 14-25ish)

A life of faith is a series of experiences that remind us who we truly serve in our lives. While I know that God is the center of who I am and what I am, I still fight the daily battle to remember what that means, and to become ever more transformed into the ‘after’ picture of myself. I noted Paul’s explanation of baptism when he tell us that to be baptized, especially by immersion which is the only baptism that Paul would have known, is to be “buried with him by baptism into death?” (6: 3). The symbolism of death in baptism is especially strong when one is immersed, because here’s what happens underwater—you can’t breathe! You can’t live down there, under the water! It is only when you are brought up again, into the light and the air that you realize the gift of what it means to be alive, fully alive.

That young lady, her first name is Natasha, Jesus was with her every step of the way during her addiction, her numerous rehabs, her suffering. But Natasha didn’t know it, did not even acknowledge that God existed. While I don’t know the circumstances, it sounds like she had a “Saul into Paul” experience because she said that “Then one day on the streets of Luton Town Centre I have an encounter a God I didn’t believe in or know and HE SET ME FREE!!!!! I’ve been clean over 5 years now and walking in COMPLETE FREEDOM!” Natasha is fully alive.

Something happened. Natasha let God in. Her life was on a crash course of death in life, as opposed to finding life in the midst of death. When she chose to believe in Jesus, she chose the last part—to have new life in the midst of this world, and she continues to live clean today. Isn’t that an interesting word? To say that to be free of addiction is to be ‘clean’? We ask God regularly in our worship services to ‘cleanse the thoughts of our hearts’, don’t we? We recognize the way our hearts get gummed up and stuck in places we don’t want to be.

Holding any grudges? Ferociously angry at any politicians? Unable to stop shopping on line because it feels like therapy? Compulsive eating or drinking to ease other, deeper rooted problems? Or not eating enough and starving yourself to control what may feel like the beast of our lives?  We are human. We will struggle and fight against the very things that cause death in our hearts and our lives.

But Paul assures us that we have a lifeline, a way out of the mess that we may find ourselves in, because we have been adopted into the family of God. We are God’s children, God’s heirs. We stand alongside addicts and thieves and murderers and cheaters and hypocrites and there is no difference between us. There is no ‘better’ Christian. My life and Natasha’s life are equally valuable to Jesus. NT Wright tells us in the contemplation that “when someone believes the gospel, that person is already a member of [God’s] family no matter who their parents were, that their sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death,” (1330).

I am carrying Natasha’s picture and story in my mind because I need to remember that no one is too far beyond, below, beneath, above or away from the love of God, including me.  But we are going to be reading more about that tomorrow.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,




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