I am reading through Romans at the moment and this is where I am this morning.
'What shall we say then? Than Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith.
But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at the stumbling stone.
As it is written:
'Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. (Issiah)
My thoughts on these verses are these:
I am thinking of the society I live in, about 92% Catholic? My thoughts went back to my own conversion. I was raised a Catholic but became an Atheist in my late teens/early twenties. When I first heard the Gospel, boy was I ready for it. God had prepared me for months beforehand. I didn't care what God was like, if He was real I wanted Him. I had tried the best I could to live my life well and it wasn't enough. I was sinking downwards fast, making all sorts of wrong choices and unable to live a good 'moral' life.
When I heard what those two Evangelists had to say that night about our sins and God's love I believed that it was true, agreed with Him that I was a sinner, that I deserved whatever I got (confession) and accepted God.
I didn't 'do' anything.
and I accepted.
I wasn't 'pursuing righteousness', and yet, thanks to God's free gift, through faith I am now righteous.
In the verse above I am the 'Gentile', but I can't help but think that my Catholic countrymen are Israel.
They (sometimes) go to mass, go to confession and for the best part, that is it! They, like Israel, think that if they follow God's Law (commandments) that they will eventually get to go to Heaven (after millions of years being tormented in Purgatory).
Well, that's part of what the Catholic belief is, but of course the vast amount of professing catholics don't really believe that. They continue to live the life they choose, whether this is living with their partners, getting drunk, stealing off the state, lying, having illegitimate children... (all of which I was guilty, and more) or living what they would think as a 'clean' life, married, working etc but still breakin;g almost every one of the ten commandments, and think that when they die they will face God, a big man with a white beard (not unlike Santa) who will dispense all sorts of kindly forgiveness's to them.
Anyway, my point is, if you read what Issiah wrote about God laying a stumbling stone and rock of offense (Jesus) in Zion and that whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame, you might see what I saw this morning.
Israel/Catholics are stumbled and offended by Jesus and what He represents. Jesus says that Salvation is free, you don't have to try to earn it, (it cost Him terrible pain and agony, eventually His death) but to us it is free.
Israel/Catholic says that no, it is not a free gift, they must work for it. They see the true message of Jesus as something shameful. If they believe the truth then they must see themselves as soaked in sin and accept or reject this shame.
However, to the person who has seen and agreed with God that they are steeped in sin and who believed and accepted Jesus free gift of forgiveness/salvation, they will 'not be put to shame'.
When the world looks at me they may be embarrassed for me, ashamed of me, I may be the butt of their jokes, I may even appear to be shameful.
Ah, but when my Lord/Friend/Saviour sees me He, He sees His little sister who has been cleaned from all her gross sins, who had taken on His righteousness/cleanness, and He loves me. Not because I cleaned/changed myself, but because He cleaned/changed me, at a tremendous cost. It's no wonder we love Him so much:0)