This week explore what happens when we hear that nothing can separate us from God's love!
Last week I looked at some powerful insights from a wise man and mind I deeply respect, Eugene Peterson.
Hearing the Real Jesus
In his book, Working the Angles, Peterson makes the significant point that the early Christians heard Jesus speaking to them as they listened to His Apostles and early church leaders recount His life to them - for Jesus had literally been speaking to them, in the flesh, just prior in their own living memory. Peterson's point was that the early church were experiencing the living presence and voice of Jesus through the stories retold that became the pages of our New Testament scriptures.
They were experiencing Jesus' living presence and voice in the sense that through an imaginative choice, they pined to hear His voice again, which had literally been coming to them through the airwaves only months, or years earlier. And with the living and active work of God's Holy Spirit, they heard His voice again, over and over and over. Guiding. Counselling. Encouraging. Strengthening. Loving.
We in the 21st Century are the inheritors of this very same practice of hearing and listening by the Spirit. As I have quoted in the first two posts (here and here) in this "Drawing Near" series, the New Testament reminds us that:
The bible is living and active as God's word (Hebrews 4:12)
The bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) - God's Spirit empowered the writers in their recollections and imagination to capture His recent historical reality to then be heard in a living way again and again and again down through the historical epochs to come.
The word of God, the bible, is more than something we simply read. It is the way, one of the primary and ultimate ways, we listen to our living Lord.
So what happens when we actively practice listening to the Scriptures, and not just reading them. Let's find out, together, through "listening" to Romans 8:35-39.
Nothing Can Separate You
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let me share with You what happens for me
As I listen, over the act of merely reading these words on the page, I am listening for emphasis and tone, like I listen to anyone speaking to me in human conversation. What words are being emphasised towards me in being spoken to? What is the tone I am hearing these words being spoken to me in?
For me, there is rich and increasingly strong emphasis in the list of potential separators from Christ's love - sword builds on danger which builds on nakedness which builds on famine and on and on. These are difficult, distressing, and overwhelming experiences to consider, little own face. And this strong and evocative emphasis is firmly affronted by verse 37, and a defiant and resounding "No":
No, such a list of hardships will not separate me from the love of God.
No, such a list of hardship cannot separate me from the love of God.
BECAUSE in all these things, I am more than a conqueror.
HOW? Through Jesus who loved me so totally in His all-conquering Cross shaped love.
The tone I hear is strong, and firm, and sure, on my behalf. There is no doubt in these words, no weakness in these declarations.
Fresh understanding begins to form in me, a fresh hearing (in the ancient Hebraic sense) is becoming in me as I allow these words to penetrate my souls depths. And I understand this:
Nothing can separate me from Jesus' love because Jesus is with me in and through all the twists and turns of life. Even if my life becomes a compounding list of woes, the Cross has established a reality for all who believe in it's effects. Jesus is with those who have accepted His love. And of course, with Jesus, comes His love.
So with me, right with me, in me as my own heart beats in my chest, is my Living Lord. The Lord of All Reality. He loves me. I cannot change this fact. Like I cannot change the history of His Cross. And so I cannot change being loved by Him. And so, this unchangeable reality is with me - Him, in love, for me.
What an anchoring reality for my soul to feast on.
And this is what listening to the Scriptures does!
What about you? Take time to do your own meditation on this passage. What do you hear, as you listen for the voice of Jesus speaking directly to you?
I share my reflections
As a stream of consciousness practice of the act of listening to the scriptures to hear God. I do not do this to show you how it is done, but how I am practicing doing it. May you be encouraged to hear God more clearly through His scriptures this week. And come to know for yourself that nothing can separate you from His love for you!
Listening for God and hearing in my understanding with you all this week!
Written by Ps. Rob