Saturday, July 05, 2008

Privé, Cilantro and the Marvellous Comfort of Romans 8:1 - 16

Lunch at Privé Bakery CaféWine and Cake
After months of working through structural permutations and cultural differences (interrupted occasionally by lunch on private islands and cake and wine in offices), weekends of ploughing through Chinese hieroglyphics and scrawls, several working breakfasts of parties exchanging the previous night's a-dragon-ate-our-project! nightmares, documents were signed and exchanged, accompanied by firm handshakes and optimistic wide grins immortalised in pixels.

Just in time for the arrival of the ex-roommate from London via Melbourne and the investment banker posse, here to mount a hostile takeover of Singapore and paint it redder than OPI's Vodka & Caviar. Except that they got promptly lost in the shopping maze that is Vivocity.

After everyone had found each other and noshed and beered and discussed the future of derivatives and securitisation and exchanged phone cam photos of newly-purchased apartments and yachts, the ex-roomie slipped me a litte piece of paper when no one was looking. "I lit a candle for you at St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne" it said. And I really did, said the ex-roomie. But don't give me any theological flak ok. Just know that I did it for you.

Another night found us sitting in a shop-space in Bukit Merah. Can I...can I..., the person making the reservation had stuttered. You want the foie gras right? said the astute waitress at Cilantro. And so it came to pass that we came into knowledge of S$12 of panfried crispy outside and meltingly creamy inside goodness.
Cilantro - Panfried Foie Gras
The foie gras, true to Leslie Tay's description at ieatishootipost, was "served with an excellent brown sauce reduction flavoured with truffle oil and topped with raisins which have been soaked in black vinegar and sweetened with rock suger". It was plated with mango slices and caramelised onions.

Cilantro - Lamb Rack
The rather tiny tender lamb rack was "marinated with lemon grass and other spices before grilling and served with a piquant brown sauce" and accompanied by chopped mango, potato in sweet and sour sauce and mint sauce.

Cilantro - Escargot
The "curried butter" (and cheese?) escargot was decent but a bit gritty.

Even better food awaits next week, courtesy of Andrew Reid and Mike Raiter (as if titles meant anything, currently lecturer in Old Testament and Hermeneutics at Ridley College Melbourne and principal of the Bible College of Victoria respectively). [EDIT: Mike Raiter at the ARPC Equip Conference 2008 here.]

This week, getting stuck into Romans 8 was priceless ("there is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness"). Good for an afterwork wind-down; brilliant as a nightcap and a tuck-in, far better than the mauled-by-bear/survived-1-month-in-Amazon/conquered-drug-addiction feel-good Readers' Digest literature; marvellous for Christians getting long in the teeth and starting to flail about faint-heartedly in dark waters.

The young Christian convert is always full of untempered optimism, certain that he can convert the whole world and that sin can no longer corrupt his redeemed body. He is scornful of older Christians struggling to put to death the sin in their own bodies and wonders if, good gracious!, they were really converted in the first place.

But the older Christian is wiser and hopefully, more humble. And the apostle Paul concurs:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15 - 24)
Who will deliver us from this body of death? Why, Jesus Christ of course. And Romans 8 shows us how. The point of Romans 8 is not that we return to the new-born naivety of earlier days but to look our enemies, both within and without, who shake our confidence in our salvation, full in the face.

The enemy within is the sinful nature of which all of us are only too cognisant. We are all sinners deep deep down. Our sinful nature is not a foreign body that can be cast off easily like a garment. It is our skin, our flesh, our inner-most me. There is no one good, not even one. As many a preacher has said, if we knew what was in the heart of the most gifted godly speaker, we wouldn't listen to them for a moment. And if the speaker knew the hearts of the congregation, he wouldn't speak to them for a moment either. If the only way we could judge if we are right with God is our current state, then it would be no wonder that we grow faint-hearted at our utter depravity and perversion. How can Paul then say, cheerfully, "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1)? Hello, major non sequitur, no?

No. It is perfectly logical that still-sinful believers will not be condemned. This is not because we are somehow enabled to live perfect lives and fulfil God's law but because Christ has perfectly fulfilled God's law on our behalf, his sacrifice in our place has paid for the right punishment for our sin so that we do not have to pay the price (= eternal death) for our own sin (Romans 8:1 - 4). Therefore, says Romans 5:1 - 5,
since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The Spirit is not an impersonal force but a person. He is given to us at our conversion. We do not get converted first and then, when conditions are optimal, the Spirit saunters along to make us holier-than-thou. When we were unregenerate people, our unregenerate minds were set only on things of the flesh. And so our minds condemned us because to set the mind on anything but God is death. Yet we were completely unable to see our situation, much less turn back to God and be saved. We were unable to change our own mindset and had no hope of pleasing God. (Romans 8:5 - 8)

But God gave us his Spirit, the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2) so called because by wonderfully overhauling our minds, he drags us from death (as just punishment for rebelling against God) to life (because we are able to repent and take hold of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf). We can now desire what God desires and strive to please him.

The Spirit is also the Spirit of Christ. If Christ is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, how can he be in us? (Romans 8:9 - 10) It is not that Christ is physically in us but his Spirit is, and he establishes Christ's lordship and rule in us. We do not make Christ our Lord. It is Christ who is making us his servants; it is Christ who controls us by his Spirit, which is why we live such painful lives: indwelling sin with indwelling Spirit together in us.

And this Spirit of life and of Christ is also the Spirit of God who raised Christ from the dead. If he is dwelling in us, then he is God's guarantee to us that God will also spare us from death from condemnation. (Romans 8:11)

The Spirit not only plays a part in overhauling our worldview so that we can turn back to God and be saved through the blood of Christ; he also leads us to mortify the misdeeds of the body (not that the body/flesh per se is bad. Rather, the body is a metaphor for our entire being that is set against God). He constantly renews our mindset and strengthens our godly desires. Repentance is a life-long matter. We have to keep saying "no" to our sinful natures. When the Spirit draws us back to God, it is not cheap grace. We take brutal steps to severe all ties with the sin we formerly clung so dearly to. (Romans 8:12 - 14)

And we soon realise that we are failing all the time. In the agony of Romans 7:15 -24 above, it is easy to quickly fall into despair when we are disobedient. Surely we are not worthy of God. Surely God will now pull away the rug (or the trapdoor of the gallows) from under our feet.

Well, we were never worthy of God in the first place, so that's a fairly moot point. But when God, in undeserved mercy, gave us his Spirit, this Spirit was also the Spirit of adoption as God's sons. We became children of God. The Spirit was not one of slavery so that we need to do something to gain God's attention or approval and become fearful when we don't perform up to KPI expectations. (Romans 8:15 - 17)

If we have repented of our rebellion against God and acknowledged Christ as Lord, then we have the Spirit of life. And if we have the Spirit of life, of Christ, of God who raised Jesus from the dead, we have the Spirit of the adoption as God's sons. And we can be certain that the same grace and power that raised Jesus from the dead, and that gave us access to our Father's presence so that we can pray to him and cry "Abba! Father!" and be sure that he hears us, will ensure that we do not fall away as we keep turning back to God and relying on the work of Christ to save us.

Enemy without (Romans 8:17 - 39) - akan datang here

Privé Bakery Café
2 Keppel Bay Vista
GF Marina @ Keppel Bay
Tel: 6776 0777

Cilantro Modern Asia
Blk 28 Jln Bukit Merah, #01-4476 S(152028)
Tel: 9795 0289
(Cilantro is not the place to go for mushroom soup. Even if you are a Campbell's fan.)

Dick Lucas' talks on Romans 8 at Proclamation Trust's Evangelical Ministry Assembly in 1997 are excellent even if the dear man is rather late in getting to the point. Listen to Romans 8:1 - 17.

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Working through current series on Romans:
First Thai, Jay Chou's Birthday Concert and Romans 1
Feasting and Larval Thoughts on Faith and Romans 4
Privé, Cilantro and the Marvellous Comfort of Romans 8:1 - 16
Basil Alcove and the Pre-destination-based Comfort of Romans 8:17 - 39
Kapok at Newton and Romans 9 - 11
Tin Hill Wine Bar & Bistro, The White Rabbit at Dempsey, Dim Joy, True Worship and Romans 12:1 - 2
Sodagreen 苏打绿 Sing With Me 陪我歌唱 Concert, Futsal Tournament, Romans 13

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