Romans, Day 5

Scripture: Romans 3:1-20

Observation: Paul previously talked about the equality between the Jews and the Gentiles, and therefore this passage explores whether the Jews, God’s original chosen people, have any advantage. Paul assures them that they do – they were entrusted with God’s word before anyone else. He goes on to refute claims that continuing to sin helps people see how good and righteous God is. He makes it clear that sin is not okay, and the people will never be made right with God by simply following the law. By the standard of the law, we all fall short, no matter who we are. We can never do enough “good deeds” to be “good enough” for God.

Application: I love a good list -- a to-do list, checklist, grocery list, task list, Wunderlist, and, of course, an Amazon wish list. (Here’s a link to mine -- you know, just in case you’re feeling generous.)

Lists are neat and tidy. They’re an easy vehicle to measure progress. You put a bunch of things on the list, then you check them off one-by-one. You can see what you did and what you have yet to do. There’s a definitive start and end. If success is doing all of the things on the list, then it’s easy to know when you succeeded. It’s straightforward and simple and rewarding.

Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking that I want my relationship with God to be based on a checklist.

  • DO: Read the Bible at least once a day (check)
  • DO: Pray for others (check)
  • DON’T: Gossip (check)
  • DO: Go to church (check)
  • DO: Tithe to your local church (check)
  • DON’T: Listen to “too much” secular music (check)
  • DO: Give to the poor when you have an opportunity (check)
  • DO: Be patient, kind, loving (I’m trying, I think I am, and I’d love you better if you were easier to love)

And that’s only the beginning of the checklist.

If my relationship with God was like a checklist of rules and do’s and don’ts, then I’d know exactly where I stand, right? I’d be able to know exactly what I did and exactly what I had left to do. I’d be in control. Mwahahaha. (For clarification, that’s my attempt to do an evil laugh via a blog post.) I love me some control, and checklists give me that control. Win-win, right?

Wrong.

Here’s a sneak peek to what we’re going to be studying together next week: God isn’t impressed by checking boxes. He’s impressed by the condition of our hearts.

The problem with the checklist is that we become more focused on what we do rather than who we are. In this passage, Paul shows the Jews that sin plagues our human condition. (Look at verses 10-18 again. Yikes, right?) None of us are perfect. None of us are ever going to be able to measure up to God’s standard. That’s why our checklists, laws, and rules can’t dictate our lives. If they do, we’ll be caught up in a rat race of checking boxes, feeling frustrated when we inevitably miss one, and try to start all over again. We end up discouraged and hopeless and exhausted.

Let’s all do a heart check today. Do we feel good about ourselves simply because we read the Bible and did this devotional? Or do we sense that our hearts are changed because of what we read? Are we looking at our lives, asking where we’re simply checking boxes rather than submitting ourselves fully to God?

Today, I’m trading my to-do list for a to-be list, something less focused on what I do and more focused on who I am. Who’s with me?

Prayer: God, we can so often get caught up in what we do rather than who we are. We can too often fool ourselves into thinking you’re impressed with us when we simply follow the rules rather than living our lives in complete abandon to you. I pray for a changed heart today. I pray you will transform me into who you want me to be rather than what I can achieve on my own. Amen.