Romans 9:1-4a I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.
As Paul pours out his heart here, even to the point of quite honestly (‘my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit’) wishing that he could give up his eternal life in exchange for the salvation of his fellow Jews, we get a glimpse of the powerful transformation the Holy Spirit brought about in his own life and thinking on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)!
As I reflect on his words here I can’t help thinking about what has happened during my lifetime in our own country. My childhood in the 1940s was spent surrounded by a culture in which our Christian heritage was still sufficiently intact for me to be taught God’s revealed truths in the Scriptures by godly Sunday School Teachers and, later, endorsed by faithful Youth Group Leaders, to be brought to an understanding of the Gospel that led me to discover that I was a sinner whose only hope was Jesus, and then to come to KNOW him as my Saviour and Lord.
At the risk of getting too nostalgic (nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!) I think I can identify with how Paul felt as I think about the Australian culture our children and young people are being bombarded with and influenced by today. Jesus of the Scriptures, and now pleading as my Advocate at the throne of Grace in heaven, has made such a difference to my life and thinking, and means so much to me every day, that I believe ‘I [too] have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart’ for my society. But I then have to examine my heart and ask myself how sincere and earnest and constant are my prayers for my Country, its leaders, my Church, its leaders, my neighbours, my circle of friends, my wider family, …, etc? And how much are these prayers being backed up by looking for opportunities to share with all (or any?) of these people the truths of the Gospel?
Quite early in my Christian life I was challenged with the words with which Jesus commissioned his first disciples/apostles: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20); and: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
Lord, please continue to give me opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with others, and please forgive me for my many failures to make good use of these opportunities when you have given them to me in the past; please grant me the courage and grace to be more pro-active as future opportunities do arise.