Some time ago I was scheduled on a flight leaving Boston for Dallas. It was a routine flight, or so it appeared. As the time drew near to board the plane the storm clouds rolled in, the sky darkened, and emotions began to tense up. The closer we inched forward toward the departure time, the more nervous people began to look, grimacing as they stared out the huge windows. Some even began to whisper: "Are we really going to try and take off into that?" "Wow, look at those dark clouds!" "Man, I sure hope these guys know what they're doing?" You can just imagine the anxiety on everyone's face.
Anyway, sure enough, the flight was a "go-ahead" and we all boarded the aircraft. Many of us took it for granted that the pilots must be attempting to get through a hole in the system-a hole we certainly had not seen. As we rolled out onto the apron and the taxiway, everybody in the aircraft was quiet, looking fearfully out the windows for any signs that the weather might be changing. I could see none. Before long the captain came over the speaker requiring the flight crew to prepare themselves for immediate departure. The moment of truth had arrived.
We rolled into position on the runway and before long, the turbines roared and down the tarmac we raced. A few seconds later we were airborne. Immediately I could hear the gear retracting. So far, so good. The airplane was apparently climbing well, but the stress on people's faces was unnerving. Suddenly the airplane jerked to the side and dropped what appeared to be 100 feet. We hit a bump, and then another, and another, and still more. People were inadvertently letting out little "screams," if you will, and a baby began to cry. Things were very "touch and go" for a few moments as we continued to climb through the dark clouds. And yes, I do remember learning how to really pray during those few moments..."God, if you get me out of this one alive, I'll do whatever you want...honestly...whatever...." You know how it goes.
The climb through the clouds, though only a few moments, seemed like an eternity. Can you visualize the release on everyone's face when we broke out through the menacing billows to be greeted by the bright, fresh sunlight of a June morning? The sky was a brilliant blue-not altogether unlike some of our faces-and before long the captain switched off the seatbelt signs. Whatever years we lost in the first few moments of that flight were given back to us the instant we rose above the storm into the clear, smooth air.
And this is exactly the experience we enjoy when we move from Romans 1-3 to Romans 4-8. Whatever storms were brewing in the sin, death, and condemnation of the first three chapters, yield to the fresh sunlight of salvation, life, peace, and grace in the next 5. The lightning bolts of God's anger give way to the beautiful rays of his mercy, condescension, and forgiveness. I know where I'd rather be!
I will never forget that flight to Dallas. By the grace of God we not only averted certain disaster, but also received a rich welcome out of the storm. Such is Paul's point in Romans 1-8. The storm clouds are blackest, and our outlook bleakest, in the first three chapters of this great letter. All men-and that includes you and me-are justly condemned for our own sin in Romans 1:18-3:20. We are condemned for our sexual perversions, malice, deceit, hostility, envy, murder, folly, disobedience to parents, insolence, arrogance, lust, slander, and gossiping. The bottom line, Paul argues, is that there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God; together we have turned aside and become debased (cf. 3:9-20). In short, Romans 1:18-3:20 is about the wrath of God justly unleashed against unrepentant sinners who turn their backs on him and his rule, and who prefer instead their own debauchery or self-made righteousness. These chapters depict a storm brewing at the present time, which itself anticipates a final, catastrophic tempest of the wildest proportions!
But, beginning in Romans 3:21 and stretching until 8:39, we find ourselves above the impending doom, lifted there, I might add, not by our own "wings," but by the wings of God's grace. It's fresh blue sky up there; you can see for miles around. Even what clouds do exist are a serene white; there is no darkness in them. The blue expanse declares the beauty and infinite supply of God's riches. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1-2). Righteousness reigns because grace abounds through the indwelling Holy Spirit (8:1-17). Mercy is plentiful because God's love has been freely unleashed. Reconciliation on all levels is in abundant supply because rebel sons and daughters have been reconciled with their Creator and Father. It's all about "Livin' Large"! It's beautiful blue skies as far as the eye can see. God has come to make his home with us and we shall never be separated from him again (Rom 8:38-39).
Christ is the One, of course, who has stilled the storm of God's fury, paying with his own life the penalty due our sins by his sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 3:21-26). Yes, indeed, he himself is the sacrifice of atonement! He is the only One who could withstand the ferocious winds of God's anger, lifting us well out of reach. He is the only One who can lead us into the blue skies of God's blessing. He willingly suffered separation from God for his people, so that they might never be separated from their God again. As I say, he did it all for his people, that is, he did it all for those who through genuine faith have cheerfully received his offer of pardon as well as all those who someday will (Rom 5:17). In short, he has made a place outside the hurricane where we can go and take refuge from the winds and the rain. We have peace with God, having been reconciled to him through the death of His Son (Rom 5:1, 9-11). We have the promise of God that if we will run to His Son for shelter, we will most certainly be richly received; we will in no way be cast out! Let those who are already there testify.
So let me ask you a question. Where are you today? Are you still living in the storm? Have you ever seen blue sky? I mean, really blue? Would you like to experience the blessing of sins forgiven and the certain knowledge of God's presence with you? Would you like to leave the sin, death, and condemnation of Romans 1-3 for the forgiveness, life, and reconciliation of Romans 4-8? That's why Christ came, you know.
So turn your heart to Christ himself and welcome him as your mighty Savior. Put all your trust in him and him alone. God will forgive you and welcome you home, into his presence, and into the joy of a personal relationship with him. He calls you:
11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry."
(Matthew 11:28-30 NET Bible)