And we believers also groan, even though
we have the Holy Spirit within us
as a foretaste of future glory,
for we long for our bodies
to be released from sin and suffering.
We, too, wait with eager hope
for the day when God will give us
our full rights as his adopted children,
including the new bodies he has promised us.
~Romans 8:23, NLT
I quoted that verse a few days ago.
Do you know what is jumping out at me? This verse says that we groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit in us.
" . . . we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of glory . . ."
Life is hard. Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble, but that we should take heart, because He has overcome the world (see John 16:33).
Sometimes the contemporary church gets all going about how much great fun it is to be a Christian and "worship" with all their contemporary, swinging beats, and feel good, relevant, part of a great movement full of cool, savvy people who know how to love as nobody has ever loved in the past. If you aren't having fun for Jesus, they suggest, then you aren't really a Christian, because Christians don't go around with pickle puckers on their faces.
That isn't the point.
If you are a real Christian, you will have joy, but you might not be happy. Real Christians don't live in a world that looks like a manufactured stage covered with colored lights, drumsets and fog from a fog machine in the wings. Real Christians don't dance a frenzied game of manufactured euphoria. Real Christians know true joy, because they learn to find joy even in the midst of suffering.
Christianity is not just one more escape from the sorrows of life by turning up the volume and waving your hands in the air and saying, "Yeah, Jesus is so cool, and He doesn't ever get anybody down, so why are you, like, on everybody's case?"
The thing about Jesus, I think, is that He was real. Painfully, profoundly exposed. He wore a covering of flesh to protect us from the glory of God, but He put on no masks. He wasn't afraid to be unpopular. He befriended people who could never do anything for Him, people who couldn't boost Him to the next rung of the ladder because they weren't even at the worksite where the ladder was leaning. Jesus never told anybody, "Hey, come follow me, and we will be so cool, and we will have fun in the sun and show those old serious, stodgy people that the Kingdom of God would come alive if they would just loosen up!" Jesus never talked like that. Jesus never even defended His own perfect self. He went to the cross. He gave up His life.
Jesus said that foxes have holes to sleep in, and birds have nests, but He had nowhere to lay His head.
Jesus said that His followers should deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him.
Jesus said that the blessed ones are the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, the persecuted (see Matthew 5). These are the ones who will be children of God and inherit the earth. Not the rock stars. I am pretty sure that Jesus is not enamored with the prototypical rock star personality.
Yes, Jesus took on the pharisees and religious leaders, but he did not do this because they were too serious. He did it because they were full of pride. He wasn't against them because they were too determined to obey the will of God; He was against them because they used their own man-made rules to exploit the very people they were supposed to love and care for. He was not opposed to their authority because authority is bad; He was opposed to the way they pridefully positioned themselves to usurp the radiant authority of God Himself.
The pharisees were all about themselves and they built themselves up through appearances. Jesus is about stripping away the masks, the costumes and the trappings of success, stripping all that away and showing the pure, powerful grace of God in all its glory.
Satan wants you to think you can have it all right now: power, prestige, popularity and fun.
True Christianity is about humility and hope.
Humility means that we understand that it's not all about us. We understand that there is a God, and He has an eternal, universal, unthwartable plan. He is God, and it is His plan. We are not God, and it is not our plan. We can try to fight against it, but if we have humility, we understand the utter folly and futility of fighting.
Humility cannot stand without hope.
Our hope is in the goodness and grace of God. He has an eternal, universal, unthwartable plan. Jesus has made peace with God for us by dying as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice, absorbing the wrath of God that humanity deserved, absorbing that fearsome wrath so that we could be saved, and not only saved, but endowed with Jesus' own righteousness. This is mind boggling. Think about it. This is our hope. We have peace with God, and we will someday be released from this weary, troubling world.
This is our hope: To one day be taken home to a place where there are no more tears, no more disappointments or danger, no more fear, no more illness, no more death. Home, forever, with the ones we love, under the umbrella of love and protection of the One we love best, safe and warm and filled to the measure with everything that is beautiful and good. At peace. At rest. At home.
We might groan a little until we get there. That's okay. It means we believe.