Lesson 25 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
The way we perceive things isn’t always the way they are. Yet those misperceptions can persist for years, causing us to miss the truth of what God might be trying to say to us. But God has a way of bringing the truth into our lives, if we’re open to it, in a way that can renew our minds and change our perspective on everything.
I had an email from a woman who wondered if Jesus could possibly love her–not because of something she had done, but because of who she was: a Jew. She had always been told that Jesus doesn’t love Jews. Yet after reading some of the stories on my website, she was confronted with a new truth. Was is possible that Jesus might love a Jew?
I don’t want to betray her confidence, but I would like to share a portion of her heartfelt letter with you because I feel that her words express something that we all wonder about at times: whether God really loves us or not, too. Here’s part of what she said in her letter. How would you answer her?
I was sent your site by accident, and have been reading the stories. The more I read the more questions I have. I’ve never seen Jesus portrayed as this site does. I should tell you that I’m Jewish and I believe in the one true G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I’ve read some the stories on your site and have to wonder how they could be true, but I can’t stop reading them either, something just feels right about them. My heritage has ingrained in me that Jesus isn’t for my people. I can’t explain why, but I find some of the stories making me cry and I’m not one that cries easily. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know why I’m writing. I’m just really confused. How can this G-d of yours, be the G-d I’ve grown up with? Would Jesus love someone who hasn’t been faithfully reading the Torah for a long time?
I’m sorry, I know this doesn’t make any sense, and I’ve always been told that Jesus doesn’t love Jews. But after reading some of the stories I just don’t know what to believe. Is it possible he might love a Jew?
How would you answer a letter like that? Could you find enough evidence in the Bible to show that Jesus really did love this woman? And even if you could, how could you convey it to her in a way that she would believe it?
As for me, I shared with her that I could understand why she might wonder if Jesus loved the Jews. But the truth is that Jesus was a Jew. His own twelve disciples were Jewish. And the whole New Testament-which talks about Jesus-was written by Jews.
Jesus Himself never left the land of Israel to go to any other nation, except for a brief time as a child when His parents took Him to Egypt to avoid being killed by King Herod.
Does Jesus love the Jews? Absolutely! But sometimes it’s hard to see the truth through all of the misperceptions that we’ve been taught or believed for so many years.
The Apostle Paul faced similar misperceptions among the people that he ministered to as well. Some of them believed that God had finally given up on the Jews, because Paul and others were now taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
But nothing could have been further from the truth. In Romans 11, Paul said:
“I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah-how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:1-5).
God’s heart still beat with love for the Jews, and the Apostle Paul was one of many of them. Paul himself regularly preached and ministered in the Jewish synagogues first whenever he arrived at a new town, just as Jesus did (see Matthew 4:26, 9:35, 12:9, 13:54, Acts 14:1, 17:2, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8).
But Paul, like Jesus, faced a fair amount of opposition in the synagogues, and when they were thrown out of them, they took their message just as zealously to the Gentiles in those areas. After several years of this, it seems that some of the Gentiles began to think of themselves more highly than the Jews around them. But Paul gave them this warning:
“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either” (Romans 11:13-21).
Paul wisely warns the Romans not to be arrogant about God’s love for them, but to remember that they were grafted into the root because of their faith, and to stand firm in that faith to the end.
We all have misperceptions at times. Whether we’re Jewish and questioning God’s love for us, or whether we’re Gentiles and becoming arrogant about His love for us. In either case, God wants to bring His truth into our lives and clear up any misperceptions we might have. He wants us to know that He loves us deeply, and to respond to that love in faith.
I was talking recently to a father and his college-age son who felt a barrier had grown up between them. The father seemed to feel the son wasn’t interested in a relationship with him because of some of the things that had passed between them, and the son felt that his father was no longer interested in a relationship with him because of the distance that he felt.
During our talk, the father said that not a day went by when he didn’t think about his son, and the son said that he wished he could find ways to spend more meaningful time with his father. Yet these thoughts had gone unspoken for so long that both of them felt the other no longer loved or cared about the other. It was only when the Holy Spirit brought out these deep truths through their conversation that they realized that they both eagerly wanted their relationship to be restored, but didn’t know how to express it. Tears flowed as they prayed together, having come face to face with the truth. I pray they’re on a new path in their relationship with one another.
I also pray for the Jewish woman who wrote to me, that God would continue to speak His truth into her life, and help her to respond to that truth in faith. I know He can do it, for He has done it for me and for many, many other people throughout history. I believe He can do it for you, too.
At the end of Romans, chapter 11, Paul breaks out into one of the most beautiful doxologies in the Bible-an eruption of praise to God:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments,
and His paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been His counselor?’
‘Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay Him?’
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
If you need some of God’s deep wisdom and knowledge in your life this week, I’d encourage you to call out to Him and ask Him to reveal more of His truth to you. Ask Him to correct any misperceptions you may have about Him, or about your relationships with those around you. Ask Him to guide you and direct you and point you in the direction He wants you to go, trusting that He will always lead you along a path that is absolutely the best for you.
Then, when He reveals His wisdom to you, I pray you’ll respond to it in faith, taking the steps that He wants you to take. When you do, I hope you’ll find yourself like Paul, erupting in praise and saying:
“Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! … To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for reminding us that we don’t always have the fullness of Your truth, but that if we come to You, You can pour it out on us in abundance. Lord, reveal Your truth to us this week so we can clear up any misperceptions we have about You and about those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. I’ve begun a new prayer team for our ministry in recent weeks, and would love for you to join it if you’d like to pray for us on a regular basis. While it may seem self-serving to ask others to pray for us, it’s actually just the opposite! By having you pray for us, we’ll be able to reach out farther and do more than ever before! We all benefit when we pray for each other. If you’d like to be on our prayer team and receive an update of our prayers and praises every month or so, just send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much!
Questions for Reflection
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