Growth in true life is only accomplished when a person is convinced of the good intentions of God.
In our study last week we looked into the fact that life by the Spirit is not a life "by the rules" for the simple reason that man and the "rules" cannot co-exist in harmony. Man's fundamental condition in corruption makes the essential holiness of the rules an unbearable burden. It is only when man in his condition is willing to take on an Ally Who is willing to accept that condition without condemnation that man can make strides against his condition. Thus, "life" is by the Spirit. Rather than "rules", we have "on-going conversation with God" to guide our thinking, choosing, and doing and we have "on-going interaction with Spiritual people" to enhance the impact of our "on-going conversation with God".
In our study this evening we are going to be looking into another aspect of this "life by the Spirit". When we look at Paul's statement in 1:8-13 we are immediately impressed with the fact that Paul considered it essential that the Romans take a positive attitude toward him in order for his words to them to have their intended impact. It is this issue, "taking a positive attitude toward the Author/author of the words of instruction", that is at the heart of what he wrote in this paragraph. And it is clear from Paul's words that he hoped that the focus upon the reality of his desire to be present among them would allow this attitude to develop. So, this evening we are going to be looking into the issues involved in the development of the proper attitude toward the God of the words.
I. The First Consideration: the Shadow and the Reality.
A. The paragraph appears to be all about Paul and his longings toward the Romans.
1. This is the Shadow, not the Reality.
2. The paragraph's appearance must be developed by the preceding paragraph.
B. The paragraph's reality is revealed by the earlier words regarding Paul's identity as God's representative.
1. The words of Paul are, in fact, the words of God. [Note 1 Thessalonians 2:13.]
2. The attitude of Paul is, in fact, the attitude of God. [Note 2 Corinthians 11:2.]
II. The Second Consideration: the Roman Perception of the Reality is Crucial.
A. Paul says "I would not have you ignorant".
B. Paul's words indicate that "ignorance" is a major hindrance to development in the life of the Spirit.
1. There is no reason for "words" except to erase ignorance.
2. There is no reason to "erase ignorance" except to enhance life.
III. The Third Consideration: the Roman Understanding of the Interplay Between the Desires of God and the Desires of Others.
A. Paul claims to have made multiple attempts to come to them to develop some fruit in them.
1. This reveals two things...
a. Insofar as Paul is the shadow and God is the reality, Paul's desires are God's.
b. Insofar as Paul longed to develop their spiritual lives, God longed to develop their spiritual lives.
2. This reveals a deeper reality: even God doesn't get all that He desires.
B. The problem posed by the continual hindrances...
1. Most folks have a deep-seated objection to the idea that God doesn't always get what He wants.
a. Most folks think that if God really wanted what Paul wanted, it would have happened.
b. Most people do not recognize the reality which sin introduced into the character of God.
1) At the point of original sin, there was an immediate tension in the character of God.
a) Where righteous holiness once ruled supreme, there is now tension between the claims of justice and those of mercy.
b) Where life once flowed without opposition, there is now tension between the flow of life and the impact of death.
2) When this tension first developed, there was an option that would have eliminated it at the outset: elimination of the offending party(ies), but that solution would not have addressed a deeper tension: God's desire to create life in other persons and to develop that life to the maximum capacity of those persons.
c. Thus, there is a distinct difference between those things which God "wants" and those things which He will "get".
2. Most folks have a deep-seated objection to the idea that God is not responsible for what others choose to do.
a. Paul addressed the issue of "hindrances".
1) But this isn't the only place where this issue is raised.
a) Acts 16:6 tells of one such "hindrance".
b) 1 Thessalonians 2:18 tells of another.
2) This raises the issue of how we are to deal with "professions of interest" that are not accompanied by "successful pursuit of that interest"...especially with God.
b. The reality Paul lived and taught.
1) The creation of God is currently in serious tension between competing desires.
2) The action of God within this tension is without any detailed explanation.
a) For the most part, God simply does not even attempt to explain Himself in any sort of detail.
i. He gives a broad overview and calls for faith.
ii. He, actually, cannot explain Himself: man is too restricted to understand. God has more than 6 billion current chooser-producers in operation and has had countless more that have already set their wheels in motion and left the field. He has a prophesied outcome that will come to pass and a daily task of making sure the countless decisions that are being made do not frustrate that outcome while at the same time He does not turn men into mechanical robots.
b) Even apostles didn't have daily insight.
3) The reality is that God's desires are real even when they are not pursued: they are simply held in an hierarchy of real desires that face the onslaught of real choices and actions that automatically impose boundaries to possibilities.
IV. The "Life by the Spirit" as a constant upgrading based upon "on-going conversation with God" is, thus, superior to "life by the rules" because someone is always breaking the rules and making "wisdom" impossible except by "constant upgrading".