As you think about your relationship with Jesus, prayerfully answer the following question: Why do I follow him? Once this question is answered, please wrestle with this one: Is he doing everything in my life that I’m expecting him to do?
The reason we need to think about these questions is because we human beings are creatures of comfort and convenience. We want things to always work in our favor with as little effort and as few problems as possible. Buying prepackaged meals and take-out replaces cooking. We stop by the car wash so we don’t have to hand-wash our vehicles. Most of the clothes we buy are “wrinkle free” so we can avoid ironing them. Using Facebook means I no longer have to call 428 people and tell them where I’m having lunch, who I’m with and what I’m eating. Shouldn’t our faith be just as comfortable and convenient? After all, Jesus said in John 14:14 – “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
If I pray for healing and end the prayer with “in Jesus name I pray,” shouldn’t God heal me? If I pray for prosperity and end the prayer with “in Jesus name I pray”, isn’t God obligated to bless me and give me the things I ask him to give me? Several years ago, my wife, Stephanie, our daughters and I had just finished planting our garden when I said, “I dedicate this garden to the Lord.” Since I said this, wasn’t God obligated to bless this garden and make it produce a bountiful crop?
Are expectations such as these the reason we follow Jesus?
If we take John 14:14 out of context and read it as an individual verse, the answer is yes. When we read this verse within the framework of the whole conversation Jesus is having with his disciples in John 14, we see the answer is no. The Bible doesn’t promise Jesus will give us an easy life or give us everything we ask for. Yes, God certainly does give us comforts and conveniences to make life easier, but he doesn’t obligate himself to do so. They are blessings he gives us because he loves us.
If Jesus doesn’t promise to give us easier lives, what does he promise us?
The answer is found in Romans 5:12-21. This passage comes from a theologically complex letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. This congregation consisted of Jews as well as Gentiles so Paul addresses both groups. The main theme of this letter is that every human being is guilty of sinning in the eyes of God. Good works and following the Old Testament law won’t bring salvation to anyone. To help us understand what Paul is saying in Romans 5:12-21, let’s look at the passage a few verses at a time.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.
What man brought sin into the world and what was his punishment for disobeying God? The answer to this question is found in Genesis 2:15-17 – “15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Adam brought sin into the world when he ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil after God told him not to eat it. The result of sin is death.
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.
During the time Paul was alive, the Jews taught there could be no sin or death apart from the law. For example, Christians in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia are arrested and jailed for preaching about Jesus Christ. Yet I preach about Jesus every Sunday morning. Should I be afraid that I’m going to be arrested? No because it isn’t against the law in the United States. I’m innocent because there’s no law against it.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
We know from reading the Bible that God gave the law to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai after Moses led them out of Egypt and into freedom. According to Jewish thinking, God couldn’t find the people who were born after Adam but before the time of Moses guilty of anything since they didn’t have any laws to break. Paul says they must have been guilty of sinning since they all died. How could these people be guilty if there wasn’t any law to break? It’s because Adam’s sin affects anyone who has ever been born and it makes us all sinners.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Adam only had one law to keep. Don’t eat the fruit. He broke that law and ate the fruit anyway. This unleashed death upon all of creation. Jesus came after centuries of other people had lived, sinned and died. They would have committed trillions of sins against God throughout the ages yet God used Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to redeem creation. God has to be very loving to forgive all of these sins and justify humanity.
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Through the sin of Adam, we’re all condemned as sinners but through the death and resurrection of Jesus we’re all made righteous. How does this make us righteous? Death is the penalty for the sins we commit against God. Since Jesus died and came back to life, he has the power to overcome death. This means he has the ability destroy the curse of sin. God forgives our sins and grants us life when we trust Jesus as our Savior. Our souls live forever even though out bodies die.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The law shows us what sin is. The more laws we break, the more we sin. God’s grace through Jesus Christ is greater than the sum of all the sins that have ever been committed.
What was the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Salvation. Everything else which God gives us is a bonus but not a promise. Yes, Jesus healed the sick, gave food to the hungry and hope to the hopeless. God used the apostles in the early church to do these same things after Jesus ascended into heaven. They continue today. However, salvation from our sins must be the foundation of our faith. If we base our faith in Jesus one anything else, we’ll be severely disappointed when life’s difficulties come our way.
Is this enough for us? Are we satisfied with this?
Earlier I mentioned the time I dedicated our garden to the Lord after we finished planting it. After I did this, it began to rain. It kept raining. Eventually some of the seeds rotted in the ground and many of the plants died. A few days later, it quit raining so I replanted. Then it started raining again. Throughout the summer, there was one problem after another and it ended up being one of the worst garden we ever grew.
When I tried to figure out why, God revealed something to me. I didn’t give the garden to God because I really wanted him to have it. I gave it to him so he would bless it and give us an abundant crop. God knew this and, in a sense, he was saying, “David, you dedicated it to me. Since it’s mine, this is what I’m going to do with it.”
I learned a valuable lesson through all of this. Don’t try to manipulate God for a more comfortable and convenient life. Rejoice in knowing your sins are forgiven and be content with that. Every other blessing is a bonus which is built on the foundation of salvation.