What if….God really does exist?

Putting aside all the usual objections to God existing, what difference would it make in a person’s life if God really does exist?

I wondered about this from a rather practical point of view, because I’ve based at least fifty years of my life on God existing, and what difference has it made in my life? And has that difference been noticeable to others who’ve known me through the years too? 

So what difference would be noticeable? Well, how about what Paul wrote in Romans 15:2-3, that “Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” 

And that would surely be noticeable, because not pleasing oneself is hardly the driving force in people’s lives today, and certainly not to one lady who told me recently, “From now on I’m only doing what pleases me.” 

So in not making pleasing myself my priority in life I’m providing a clear comparison as to what difference a belief in God makes. And it also happens to be the one thing that would change the world if we were all able to do it. If we could all live to build each other up, rather than live to please ourselves, imagine what kind of world we’d have instead. It would be wildly and wonderfully different to what we’ve got at present. 

But isn’t this what turns people off God and Christianity, the idea that “not pleasing oneself” means not enjoying good food, not playing golf or watching movies, or not spending hours buried in a favourite hobby? Is that what Paul meant, though, in these two verses?  

No, it isn’t. In context he’s talking about “bearing with the failings of the weak,” verse 1, and who does that nowadays? It’s a traditional school sport to pick on other kids’ weaknesses, and a source of great personal pleasure to adults as well, finding fault in politicians, employers, neighbours, other races and nationalities, spouses, other people’s children, and how people dress, talk, look or treat their animals. It’s open hunting season all year round on social (more like unsocial) media unearthing people’s failings and digging for skeletons in their closets. 

Wouldn’t it become highly noticeable, therefore, if I as a teenager did not do that on social media, or as an adult I didn’t join in the character assassination of a work colleague? 

But to do that takes a power I don’t have naturally. The pressure to follow the crowd and not be seen as different is huge. To be different brings out the bully and scoffer in people, and who likes being ridiculed and picked on day in and day out? 

But we’re Christians to show how wonderfully and radically different a person’s life becomes for believing God exists, compared to what drives people naturally. And it took a whole chapter in Romans 14 to remind Christians of that, stirred by some old-timer Christians who’d been picking on new Christians for not eating meat or drinking wine, and for giving sacred significance to certain days (verses 2,5 and 21). 

So rather than “bear with the failings of the weak,” these old-timer Christians put pressure on the new Christians to get with the program and put these silly ideas behind them. But not, unfortunately, to the benefit of these new Christians, because these so-called “silly ideas” they had were matters of conscience to them. They really thought what they were doing was what God wanted. 

So Paul told the old-timers to back off if these new Christians showed even the slightest signs of distress at being picked on or pressured to change (Romans 14:15). And that’s not an easy thing to do when it’s the chance to prove your spiritual superiority and greater wisdom.

But because it’s so difficult it then becomes a grand opportunity to show what difference a belief in God’s existence can make in a person. It can turn a self-pleasing, superior-minded bully into a sensitive, unselfish peace maker. And what a proof God exists that is, because only supernatural help can do that.  

A simple question like, ”What if God really does exist?”, therefore, really comes to life in the difference it makes in a person if he does exist, and in ways that are visibly and radically obvious. And in ways so desperately needed too, in a world where pleasing oneself to build oneself up and look down on others are such a driving force behind one’s dealings with other people, and look what a mess we’re in because of it.  

Experiencing the supernatural – hopefully

In Romans 15:4 Paul writes, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

That’s quite a statement, because in one sentence it summarizes the entire purpose of the Old Testament. It’s to give us – who are living in this world now – hope. 

But how can that be? How can a book full of “old stuff” meant for Israel provide us with hope today? We’re living in a vastly different world, with so many things going wrong in it, most of them totally unresolvable too. Hope, therefore, has to be a pipe dream, a fantasy and deception promoted by political spin doctors, clever advertisers, and propaganda artists in big business, purely to make money and keep themselves in power.  

And we know it too, don’t we? We know the reality of life in our world, that it’s geared to making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and that greed and the lust for money and power are wrecking the planet, destroying our physical and mental health, and turning us into depressed zombies or angry, negative cynical, destructive protesters. So how on earth can anyone have hope with that lot going on?

It’s understandable that hope is being replaced with despair, but here’s Paul saying in verse 13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   

As far as God and Paul are concerned, hope is still a viable possibility, and in fact it’s meant to happen, and was even predicted to happen in the Old Testament. Paul quotes one example in verse 12 from a statement made 2700  years ago in Isaiah 11:10, that a “root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations,” the result being, “the Gentiles will hope in him.” 

But the Gentiles will hope in him for what, exactly? It’s in “the promises made to the patriarchs,” Romans 15:8, “so that,” verse 9, “the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” It means there’d be a time coming when people (us Gentiles now) would realize that what God promised to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be brought to life and into reality by this “root of Jesse,” meaning, of course, Jesus Christ, who’d be made “the ruler over the nations” after his resurrection. 

In other words, Jesus is ruling the world right now – and is doing so purely because of God’s amazing mercy (verse 9), in not giving up on us despite what we’ve done to him, to the planet, and to each other.  

And some “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” verse 13, see that, get it, and revel in hope because of it. Why? Well, for two reasons: first of all, that no matter what happens on this planet it still fits in with God’s plan to “bless all peoples on earth” – exactly as God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3. And secondly, “so that (we) Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit,” verse 16.

What an amazing statement, that we Gentiles have been set apart by the Spirit of God to be an “offering” to the world. In what way? In the hope that we have, because we “trust in him,” verse 13. We trust in the promises God made to the patriarchs, “so that we overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” verse 13. 

It’s what we’ve been set aside as Gentiles for, just as Isaiah predicted. Hope, therefore, in a world that has no reason whatsoever for hope, is what we carry with us, no matter what is happening in the world, or to us personally. And that’s what makes us “so acceptable to God,” verse 16, because hope is what this world needs more than anything right now. It’s what the desperate and powerless need to see and hear. It’s what the gospel is all about, and has been ever since God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring. 

And Paul understood that. That’s why “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel,” verse 20, so that “Those who were not told about Christ will see, and those who have not heard will understand,” verse 21, quoting another 2700 year old verse in Isaiah 52:15. 

It is God’s intent, then, to fill us supernaturally with hope, and to make it our ambition to see others filled with hope too, “so that all nations might believe and obey him,” Romans 16:26. 

Experiencing the supernatural – sorrowfully

In Romans 8:26 Paul writes, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

In the past I’ve taken that to mean the Spirit will pray for me when I can’t find the words to pray, or the right words to pray. But I noticed in the Revised standard Version quoted above that it’s not “words” the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with,” it’s “sighs.” And really sad sighs too, “groanings” according to the NIV. It’s the awful low sounding, chin on chest reaction to a horrible pain or despair.

And it’s pain and despair so great that there aren’t words to express it. I understand why, in Mark 5:38, people “were crying and wailing loudly” in the room where Jairus’ 12 year old daughter lay dead. Words could not express the depth of despair they felt at the awful sight and tragedy of a child dying so young.

And aren’t there things happening in our world and lives too that leave us in the same helpless state, where all we can do is “sigh and cry over all the  abominations” that are leaving people’s lives and the planet in ruins? 

But I’d never thought that my sighing and crying could actually be the Holy Spirit’s very own sighing and crying in me. You mean the Holy Spirit is in the same state I’m in?  

Well, yes and no. Yes, because that’s what Paul is saying in Romans 8:26, but no, because the Holy Spirit’s groanings are more than just the natural grief and mourning we feel. I groan when I roll my ankle really badly, first of all because of the pain, but also because I know for the next six weeks I’ll be handicapped and hobbling and worrying about rolling my weakened ankle again, and I sigh and cry at the adjustments I’ll have to make to my schedule.

There’s a heavy dose of self-pity mixed in there. But that’s obviously not the reason for the Spirit’s sighs and groaning. The Spirit is sighing at our helplessness, not his. And it’s because of our helplessness that God doesn’t have the words to express the tragedy that is us. He didn’t at the time of Noah either. Evil had so infected humanity with such terrible inhumanity that “God’s heart was filled with pain” and he “grieved” at the hopeless mess we’d become. He wished he’d never created us, because of the horrors it had caused (Genesis 6:6-7). 

Imagine being God and having to watch humans descend ever deeper into the depths of hell. But here we are now in much the same situation, and we’re now groaning at the horrors going on, not out of self-pity, but because the Holy Spirit is now living the pain-filled, grieving heart of God in us.

No wonder I feel so down some days, and nothing anyone says can comfort me. Thing are happening in the world or in my family or to my chums in church that I can’t do anything about and all I can do is watch helplessly, wishing I could do something, but I can’t. And neither will God solve the impossible horrors for now either, because “he set a day when he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31), and until that day comes the horrors will continue.

I need God to comfort me, therefore, just as Jesus promised he’d comfort those in mourning in Matthew 5:4. He’s doing it too, by showing us it’s because the Holy Spirit is living God’s heart in us that we’re feeling this way. We’re experiencing the supernatural sorrowfully, therefore, in sharing the sorrow and lament of God himself at what’s happening to people and the planet. 

And God sees that happening in us, as Paul says in Romans 8:27, that “he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God,” and how wonderful that is to our Father, because it’s clear evidence that we’re being conformed and transformed into the image of Jesus himself, who was also called “a man of sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3. It’s proof we’re on the way to becoming true children of our Father, just like his firstborn Son. 

For now I watch helplessly as people stumble through crisis after crisis with no solution, most of which I cannot do anything about. And some days I am just shrieking inside. I’m wailing, lamenting, mourning, groaning, and cannot find the words to even express how I feel to God. But to think that’s how the Holy Spirit feels too and he’s actually expressing his heart in us.   

Experiencing the supernatural – sensitively

In Romans 14:13 Paul writes, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” 

You’d think that deliberately or unknowingly tripping up a fellow Christian would be the last thing we’d want to do. But sensitivity to fellow Christians is not exactly a strong point when one has strong beliefs on touchy subjects. 

Paul cites three examples in Romans 14: Some Christians were dyed in the wool vegans, who ate nothing but veggies; others believed in observing sacred days, while others thought it was wrong to drink wine.

Other Christians, however, thought all three of these things were daft, and they had no qualms about saying so. It’s like some Christians today who believe Halloween is nothing but satanism in disguise, being snorted at derisively by their fellow Christians who think Halloween is just a bit of harmless fun for the kids and a great way of getting to know the neighbours.    

But many times in church history Christians have frothed and fumed at each other over things like the date of Easter, the validity of the sacraments, the veneration of saints, and whether war is justified, or not. Today Christians snarl at each other over how young or old the earth is, should women and practicing homosexuals be ordained to the ministry, is same sex marriage really marriage, can we vote, dance, march in protest, and join the armed forces? And should we observe the sabbath on Saturday or Sunday, resist euthanasia, and continue to threaten people with burning in hell forever? 

And it’s tragic that we Christians have split our churches and even killed each other over our differences – totally going against the grain of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:3-6 – but it shows how hard it is to be sensitive and respectful to people who think differently, even as Christians.  

Fortunately, Paul offered a solution to the problem: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote, “and don’t think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” And he wrote that in Romans 13:14, in the verse just before he launches into Romans 14.

In Paul’s mind the only solution was a supernatural one, a transformation from  our typical thinking patterns (Romans 12:2) to those of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8). 

So this is something else we can experience supernaturally, that we really can get along together as Christians even with strong and differing beliefs on touchy subjects. Which is good to know, because what Paul talks about in Romans 14 is tough for us to do naturally. 

Like, for instance, not looking down on, judging or condemning each other in those touchy “grey areas” where there is no direct command in the Bible for or against (verses 3-4, 13). And can we respectfully accept another person’s conscience and “not eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause our brother to stumble” (verse 21)? 

These are tough to do, but God accepts people’s conscience (verse 3), and he’s well pleased when we do as well (verse 18). Why? Because we’re “acting in love” (verse 15), and living the “peace and joy” of the kingdom of God (verse 17).

It doesn’t mean we have to give up what we believe to be right or wrong. Paul, for instance, believed there was no such thing as a “wrong food” (verse 14), but he kept that to himself when he sensed it might distress a person if he made an issue out of it (verses 15 and 22). 

And it’s that kind of sensitivity and respect for a person’s conscience that’s on offer for us to experience supernaturally. And thankfully so, because a church with unresolved conflict, from defending one’s own beliefs as the only right way to go, creates a strained and unhappy atmosphere when we’re together. 

I’m glad there is a solution, then, that through the “Holy Spirit” (verse 17) we can do as Jesus did, which “is please our neighbour for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself,” Romans 15:2-3. 

Experiencing the supernatural – politically

In Romans 13:1 Paul writes: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Paul then adds teeth to that statement in verse 2 when he writes: “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

In context Paul is talking about civic government, as we see in verse 6 when he mentions paying our taxes. He isn’t talking about submitting to the likes of Hitler and all those other murdering maniacs who go to war and slaughter millions of people. But even in our civic governments and law enforcement agencies there are people in power who make life miserable for the people who depend on them for their safety and well-being.    

So how can Paul say these bad apples in positions of authority are “God’s servants to do you good” in verse 4? Clearly, I need a major “transformation by the renewing of my mind” to grasp how “good, pleasing and perfect” God’s will is on this one (Romans 12:2). For me this is where the rubber really hits the road in “testing and approving” God’s ways as being right and superior.

But it does tell me one thing, that God is very much involved in what’s going on inside our nations. I may not clue in yet as to why he allows the justice system to include corrupt lawyers and judges, or why he allows police forces to abuse their power through overzealous violence, but I have to admit it’s only the minority who are like that. Most government agencies and civic authorities are dedicated to containing and eradicating evil, so it doesn’t run rampant. Most authorities within a nation really are “agents of wrath” that “bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (verse 4). And if we “want to be free from fear of the one in authority,” then “do what is right and he will commend you” (verse 3). In most nations that’s true, that we have little to worry about if we’re good citizens.

Bring God into the picture, then, and it can radically change our thinking about politicians and civic authorities. Imagine what life in our nation would be like without local governing bodies. We’d have anarchy, or even a repeat of Genesis 6:5 in Noah’s day when “every inclination of the thoughts of human hearts was only evil all the time.” 

God obviously had our best interests in mind, then, when instituting government and law enforcement, which is how Paul understood it too. But it raises the obvious question as to why God also gives us bad leaders and bad apples among those in leadership positions. 

Is it because they serve a useful purpose too, though? Because – to ask a touchy question – how do we react personally to bad leaders, and especially when their policies and leadership styles make us feel angry, helpless, and fearful? Do we turn to God for help or to our own devices, like violent protest, or endless fuming at the dining room table driving everyone crazy, or getting ourselves in a froth so bad we do something really stupid and maybe end up in jail?

I admit I need supernatural help when our local Council is making ridiculous decisions, or the police ignore obvious crimes and punish pettiness instead. Like Job, I need God to lift me out of this world and see him above it all, with his hundreds of millions of angels being “ministering spirits” to those who trust him (Hebrews 1:14).

It’s in the political arena too, then, that we can experience the supernatural, as we look to God to help us keep our cool, and look to him to deal with the bad apples in ways that we can’t. And isn’t that what he appreciates from us more than anything, that we trust him? So maybe he allows poor leadership in government and law enforcement to get us to trust him, just like he allowed a vicious Pharaoh in Moses’ day to stir Israel to cry out to him and God then “displayed his power” on Israel’s behalf (Romans 9:17).

Can we do the same thing today as well, then, and cry out to God for help when ruled by bad leaders? Yes, according to Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:2; we can “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.”      

So I ask myself, “Am I resting all my hopes and dreams, and my mental well-being, in perfect human leadership, or in God?” If it’s God, then if there’s bad leadership and abuse of power, and wrong decisions that threaten the safety and well-being of people, I don’t have to panic or resort to bad behaviour myself. I can trust God to sort things out, since he’s the one who put those people in leadership in the first place. And if he wants me to play some active part in dealing with the bad apples, I can also trust him for wisdom and whatever else I need to do that job well too. Maybe it’s even run for Mayor myself.…

Experiencing the supernatural – practically

Romans 12:1 starts off with the word, “Therefore,” which is typical of Paul after he’s written a lot of heavy stuff and then brings it all down to earth and applies it to our lives at street level. And Romans 12 is a classic example of that, because the previous chapters in Romans are loaded with vital information about the “spiritual life” that God would love us to experience, but how and where does it become real in our everyday lives? 

Paul’s answer in Romans 12 is that if we truly want to learn and practice what all this heavy stuff means – or as he phrases it, “test and approve what God’s will is” to see how it works – it’s in our community of Christians where it all happens. It’s in our experience as Christians together. 

And to help us in our quest, Paul offers us several practical ways in verses 9 to 21 that help us as Christians together see how “good, pleasing and perfect” God’s will – and the Spirit-filled life God would love us to live – is. God isn’t just expecting us to blindly obey like robots; he wants us testing and proving by practical, observable experience how obviously superior his ways are. 

In Romans 12, then, Paul is setting us up to experience the supernatural, or the superiority of God’s ways, in very practical things we can focus on in the church that work to everyone’s obvious benefit when done well. 

Like, for instance, “love must be sincere” in verse 9. To experience the spiritual life Paul is talking about in its supernatural reality and superiority, love must be utterly genuine, with no faking it to be loved, or to give the impression of being a nice person. 

And wouldn’t you love to be with a group of people who genuinely love each other? Well, God is offering just that in the church through the love the Holy Spirit pours into us (Romans 5:5). We can, therefore, experience supernatural love – and how wonderful and superior it is – in our Christian communities, by the many practical ways we see the totally sincere love of the Holy Spirit being expressed. That’s what the Holy Spirit has been given to us for, so we as Christians together can test and prove how good the life God offers us is. We get to experience genuine love, and what a wonderful community it creates.  

So what is genuine love? Well, for a start, verse 9, it means “hating what is evil,” where anything going on in the church that isn’t loving is dealt with so that evil doesn’t get a look in. In the church we “cling to what is good,” as Paul phrases it, and he gives at least twenty examples of what he means by “good” in the next twelve verses.  

What’s “good,” for instance, is “honouring one another above ourselves,” verse 10. Imagine a Christian community that actually does that, where each person is looked upon as deeply valuable and needed, is therefore listened to respectfully, and is given open credit and appreciation when due. But that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit enables us to do, so we get to see firsthand how wonderfully it works. 

That’s in contrast to what typically happens when people mix and meet together. And Paul was obviously aware that even in church there are problems, because he talks about “not hitting back” in verse 17, trying to get along with everyone (verse 18), and not seeking revenge (verse 19). All very difficult things to do, though, when you’ve been wronged in some way by a fellow Christian, of all people. 

And Paul’s solution seems impossible too. He suggests doing something jolly nice to someone who dismisses your views as silly, or deliberately tries to wreck your reputation in public. But Paul believes it’s possible to “overcome evil with good,” verse 21, and it works much better when we see the good in a person, rather than getting so angry and resentful at someone that you can’t help expressing it openly (verse 14) – like, unfortunately, so much of the hurtful stuff people throw at each other on TV and in movies. Which, in turn, has created a nasty culture of deliberately destructive gossip and accusation that’s been driving people to suicide and violent public protest. And understandably too, when human dignity is being trodden on like a discarded cigarette butt. 

The Holy Spirit, however, provides the antidote to all that, so that the poison of the culture doesn’t infect the church. And it’s ours to experience in the ever so practical, down to earth, street level relationships in our Christian communities. This is where we see what Paul is getting at in all this heavy stuff he’s been writing about in Romans, so we’re “able to test and approve” in such practical ways how “good, pleasing and perfect” – and vastly superior – the will and ways of God are. 

Experiencing the supernatural – communally 

In Romans 12:4 Paul sees a parallel between the Christian community and a typical human body. As human beings, for instance, we “each have a body with many members,” or many operating parts, but these operating parts “don’t all have the same function.” We have legs and arms, for example, which are attached to our bodies – but for different functions. And to Paul that’s a perfect picture of the church, because as a Christian community “we who are many also form one single body,” verse 5, but we don’t all have the same function in the church body either. 

And the reason we don’t all have the same function is because “we have different gifts, according to the grace given us,” verse 6. So this is God’s doing. He equips the Christian community – or church body – with all sorts of gifts and operating parts for different functions. And why would he do that? Because it’s through these varying gifts that “each member belongs to all the others,” verse 5. 

It’s exactly the same in the human body. Every operating part, whether it’s our spinal cord or all the bits and pieces that make up our digestive system, is totally needed by our bodies to function properly. My eye would be useless without the optic nerve, for instance, and my stomach wouldn’t function at all well without the pancreas and gall bladder. All the parts in the human body, then, belong to each other, because each part is vital for our bodies to function properly. 

And this, according to Paul, is how the Christian community functions properly too. God has designed the church so that there are all sorts of operating parts, each one of which is vital. Paul mentions the gift of “teaching,” for example, in verse 7, but only in connection with several other gifts like “serving” and “encouraging” (verses 7 and 8), because all these gifts he mentions are needed in the functioning of the church. 

Giving each of us a gift, therefore, is like giving us an essential part in a human body. We’re now vital to that body functioning properly, but so are all the other parts of the body – they’re just as vital in enabling our personal part to function properly too. In both our human bodies and the church body, therefore, we find the same principle at work, that all the parts belong to each other.

But why is all this so important for us to grasp? Because it’s a perfect picture of what life is like on the God level. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one body but have different functions, each function being vital to their operation as one body too. They too, then, belong to each other, just as we in the church do. 

It’s through our experience in the church, therefore, that we come to see and actually experience the life of God himself. How? Through these differing gifts God gives us that enable us to both serve and be served, just like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit serve, and are served by, each other.  

It means there’s a body of people on this planet that lives and operates like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do. It’s life as they (Father, Son and Spirit) have always lived it, but now they’re opening up that life to us as well. How? By enabling us to supernaturally experience it communally, as we serve each other and are served by each other – just like God does – in our Christian community, with the gifts we have “according to the grace given us,” verse 6.  

This is what makes life so successful and fulfilling in any Christian community. It’s knowing our gifts and belting them out at full steam, just as Paul said in verses 6-8. If we have a gift for serving, then go all out and “serve,” he writes. Or if it’s a God-given gift of “contributing to the needs of others,” do it “generously,” or if it’s the gift of leadership, do it “diligently,” or if it’s the gift of “showing mercy,” do it “cheerfully.” Don’t be shy or hold back, or think God hasn’t given us a gift. He’s given every one of us a gift, so that we belong to each other, because it’s in our belonging to each other that we come to experience and live as God lives.  

Paul’s only caution is not to get a big head about our gifts (verse 3). Stay focused instead on why God has given us these gifts, and trust that in the use of them we are contributing a vital part to our own Christian community in helping us all experience life as God lives it. Because according to Paul in Romans 12, that’s the way God designed it to happen, that we experience the supernatural communally. 

Experiencing the supernatural – mentally 

In Romans 12:1 Paul encourages us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” Why? Because of God’s mercy (same verse). It’s because God in his mercy is giving us another shot at getting things right this time – and starting at the same spot he started Adam at in Genesis too, by using the body God equips us humans with to fulfill his plan on this planet. 

So it’s the same simple plan: it’s what we do with our bodies that pleases God, in all the everyday things our bodies do. But this time, unlike Adam, it’s with our minds geared to two things: not being “conformed to the pattern of this world,” and seeking instead to know and do God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will,” verse 2. 

Offering our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God, then, very much depends on where our thinking is at. Adam’s thinking, for instance, was focused purely on his natural response to what looked tasty to eat, with no thought whatsoever given to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. As Paul writes in verse 2, then, it’s going to take a huge transformation in our thinking, and a total rewiring of our minds, so we don’t just do what comes naturally like Adam, or just let things happen during our day without a thought about what is holy and pleasing to God. 

To create such a transformation in our thinking, however, is beyond our ability naturally, just as it was for Adam. What we need, therefore, is supernatural help. And what better proof do we need of that than the abysmal state of mental health in the world today? It amazes me how easily we humans are sucked in by obvious propaganda and outright lies spewed out by the media, politicians and advertising. Clear facts are doubted and ignored, while sensational headlines, conspiracy theories, fake news and “click bait” are readily sought out and believed. But this is now “the pattern of our world,” as Paul phrased it in verse 2, and how easy it is to “conform” to it, as if it’s all quite harmless and normal.

But look at the terrible effect it’s having on us. We don’t know who or what to belleve. Are we really getting all the facts on climate change, for instance, or is it just another deceptive wheeze by big corporations and governments to enslave us to them? For our young people especially it’s becoming an ugly and scary world, and their increasing need for mental help and therapy is proof of it. 

But here we are as Christians with the secret to mental health. It’s knowing that we give God great pleasure in what we do with our bodies. Isn’t it wonderful, for instance, knowing that in something as simple as what we’re doing every day, no matter what it is, whether it’s household chores, going to work, caring for a garden or kids or elderly parents, or doing the simplest, littlest things for others, gives our Father the greatest kick when he sees and watches what we do, tuned by minds that love pleasing him? 

But that’s where peace of mind comes from, and we get to experience it supernaturally every day. And it’s what God would have given Adam, if 

Adam had simply asked God to help him think straight when faced with the serpent’s propaganda. 

And that’s the lesson we’ve all had to learn ever since, that thinking straight doesn’t come to us naturally. We need help. But ask for that help in recognition of our weakness, and as Paul phrased it in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “the power of Christ rests on us,” and so much so we can even “delight in our weaknesses, in insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.” Now that’s real mental health on offer, and Hebrews 4:16 says we can call on Jesus for it without any embarrassment whatsoever.   

Jesus is in the business of rewiring minds into the likeness of his mind, so that we can do things that people in the world cannot do. We can love a bully, forgive the ungrateful and spiteful, return good for evil, and show kindness to the unlovable and selfish. And in enabling us to do these things we become “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” 

And it’s knowing we’re giving God great pleasure that we have the secret to mental health. It’s where a healthy mind comes from, knowing our God is jolly pleased with us his kids, doing with our bodies what he designed them for in Genesis, but this time tuned by the power of Christ to think straight and not be conformed to the devil’s lies. 

Every day, then, we can experience the supernatural tuning our minds mentally so that in everything our bodies do we’re giving God pleasure.   

Experiencing the supernatural – boldly

In Romans 11:1 Paul asks the question, “Did God reject his people?” And with total confidence and boldness he answers: “By no means.” “And again I ask,” he says in verse 11, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” And again he answers boldly, “Not at all.”

Paul believed without an ounce of doubt that his country folk had a future, despite what God had said about Israel at the end of the previous chapter, that “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Romans 10:21). Israel had been a constant pain in the neck to God, but Paul states with total confidence in Romans 11:26, that “all Israel will be saved.”   

To some people, perhaps, the idea of all Israel being saved doesn’t make sense at all, not after what they – as God’s handpicked nation too – had done to him (vividly described in Daniel 9). But God hadn’t been knocked off his stride by what Israel had done. He had a plan, and no matter how crazy it might seem to us, he boldly stuck to it, and in no uncertain terms told us he was sticking to it through the words of Paul here in Romans 11. 

In other words, we’ve got a bold God. And that had rubbed off on Paul. But look how God had dealt with Paul himself. Paul had done his very best to wreck the fledgling Christian church, but that hadn’t stopped God making him the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul described himself as “the worst of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:16, but God had simply used that to show how patient he could be with hopelessly incorrigible people. Paul himself, therefore, was a bold statement from God, that no human evil, or evil human, could deter him from his plan.  

And our own lives are bold statements by God too. Why on earth would God put up with the likes of us, knowing the mistakes we’ve made, how distracted we are by other things, and how way off track our reactions and thoughts can be? Can we just as boldly say, “I know God hasn’t rejected me, and nor have I stumbled beyond recovery”? Yes, we can, because look what God did with Paul, and still intends to do with Israel. 

So, hopefully, God’s boldness in his dealings with Israel, with Paul, and in our own experience, rub off on us to make us bold too. But bold enough to not doubt that all Israel will be saved? And bold enough to believe that God will save everybody in the end as well?  

Is God that bold to us yet, that nothing will deter him from “working out everything in conformity with the the purpose of his will,” Ephesians 1:11? Or that he’ll “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ,” verse 10? Or that he will, without an ounce of doubt on our part, fulfill “his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,” verse 9?   

So when someone says to us, “Well, I don’t believe God’s going to save everyone,” based on the argument that our freedom of choice can override God’s will, could we say, like Paul said of Israel in Romans 11:26, that “All will be saved”? Or that God lets us express our freedom of choice and even become the most hideous rebels, but we agree with Paul that God lets us be that way “so that he may have mercy on them (or us) all,” verse 32? 

It’s true from the start in Genesis that we are free to make choices and God doesn’t interfere with that. But we also know that God’s entire plan since the Garden of Eden revolves around dealing with the bad choices we make. And from Israel’s history and the life and death of Jesus, we know God is relentlessly fulfilling his plan to rescue us from the consequences of our choices. And nothing will interfere with his plan either. Nothing we do or choose to do, can or will prevent what God has determined he will do. And what he is determined to do is turn all our “godlessness” round, verse 26, including the disobedience of Israel, the psychopathic treatment of the church by Paul, and our own dismal and depressing weakness, into a clear picture of “the depth of the riches of his wisdom and knowledge,” verse 33. 

Yes, some people might have to go through some sort of “hell” to wake them up to their own embarrassing and horrific behaviour, just like the Jews had to suffer horribly in 70 AD at the hands of the mercilessly ruthless Romans, but God had us Gentiles waiting n the wings to help the Jews understand where they’d jumped the tracks (verse 11). So, as Paul asked in verse 34, quoting Isaiah 40:13, ”Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” Do we know better than God? Or do we have a better plan? 

Job was faced with those questions, and so are we. But it’s for the purpose of experiencing the supernatural boldly. We see the boldness of our God in his amazing and relentless plan on our behalf, and that boldness rubs off on us, so that we have no doubts whatsoever in him, that he will save everybody in the end, just like he’ll save all Israel. 

Experiencing the supernatural – constantly

In Romans 10:13 Paul boldly states that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

It’s an amazing promise, because what Paul means by “saved” in context here is being made righteous (as we’ll see). And what Paul means by being “righteous” is “fully meeting the requirements of the law” (Romans 8:4), which is the ability to love God and love neighbour, and what better human experience is there than that, than being “at rights” rather than “at odds” with God, our spouse, our relatives, and all our neighbours, near and far? It’s wonderful knowing you’re “at rights” with the world and with God, freeing your life of tension and conflict, and regrets at bad mistakes made that are hard to correct.  

And the Israelites were given that same message in their Old Testament scriptures too, about loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and loving neighbour (Leviticus 19:18). They also knew in their Old Testament scriptures how God had made such righteousness, or love for God and neighbour, possible, because that same verse in Romans 10:13 was quoted word for word in Joel 2:32.

But what the Israelites never fully understood all through their history was how to attain such righteousness. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. They “pursued  a law of righteousness,” Romans 9:31, and they had always been “zealous for God,” Romans 10:2, just as Jews are today. But for all their efforts and zeal they have never experienced “God’s righteousness” (10:3). 

Why not? Because they never “called on the Lord” for it. And that, to Paul, was the great tragedy of Israel’s history, because it was always in their power to call on the Lord. It was always in their “mouth” and “heart,” as Paul phrases it in 10:8, to confess their need for God and go to him when in need. The salvation they sought, the righteousness they so desperately wanted, and the love for God and neighbour that was so easily available, were all theirs for the asking, but instead of calling on the Lord and “knowing (or experiencing) the righteousness that comes from God,” verse 3, “they sought to establish their own righteousness,” by their own efforts at obeying God’s law (verse 3).  

It was pride that did that, believing they could “attain righteousness” by themselves, which gave them the right, they believed, to God “richly blessing” them (verse 12) in their daily lives, because in their minds they’d earned it. 

We dummy Gentiles, meanwhile, knew we hadn’t got a foot to stand on with God, because in our lives we’d never had a zeal for him or any interest in his law. The gospel hit us with great relief, therefore, when we heard that God would put us at rights with him, and with our neighbours, based on Jesus’ zeal for God and his fully meeting the requirements of God’s law. And all we had to do was call on him for such righteousness and it was ours because we trusted him for it, not our own efforts. We pursued it by faith in him providing it for us,  in other words, which Paul called “a righteousness that is by faith” (9:30 and 10:6).  

This is why “Christ is the end of the law” (verse 4), because in him attaining the righteousness we so desperately need, there’s no need for us to try and get it by our own efforts at obeying the law instead. 

And we don’t need to drag Christ down from heaven or up “from the deep” to be here in person to tell us all this either (verses 6-7), because it’s all been made clear already in “the word of faith,” the gospel message that has always been in Scripture (verse 8) – Old and New Testament – which Paul is simply bringing up to date in Romans 10, to make it real in the here and now as well.

With all this in mind, then, the promise in Romans 10:13 is as real for us now as Paul wished it to be real for his fellow Israelites (verse 1). We can now discover for ourselves too, therefore, that if we believe all this is true and we call on God to make it true for us personally, he will “save” us, by enabling us to fully meet the requirements of his law. And “richly bless” us too (verse 12), never letting us down, because he also promised in the Old Testament, “Everyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16, quoted in Romans 10:11). We’ll never have reason to be embarrassed by admitting our need to trust him and not ourselves. 

We are left with the question, then, “Will we trust him?” – or better put, perhaps, “Do we believe we can actually trust him that much?” Do we believe God truly has set things up through his Son so that we can constantly call on him to provide the love for God and neighbour that “saves” us from so much pain and emptiness in our relationship with God and people? 

Because it’s in trusting him that we get to experience the supernatural constantly, because when is there ever a time in each day when we don’t need him to give us his righteousness, and his love for God and neighbour, knowing from Israel’s sad history that we cannot attain that love for God, neighbour, spouse, child, grandchild, difficult neighbour and outright enemy by ourselves, no matter how hard we try?