Monthly Archives: March 2019

Romans 8.22-28

Title: The Work of the Spirit in the Spirit-filled Life!

Text: Romans 8.22-28

Introduction: Thank you, Joshua, for reading our text.

Tough days. We all have them. Some are worse than others. Like the one, the hard-hat employee reported when he tried to be helpful. Maybe you heard about it too; the account actually appeared on a company accident form. Bruised and bandaged, the workman related this experience:

When I got to the building I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks around the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over. Then I went to the bottom and began releasing the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was—and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down, jerking me up.

I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump, and halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I received a hard blow on my shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground hard, it burst its bottom, allowing the bricks to spill out.

I was now heavier than the barrel. So I started down again at high speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up fast and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises. At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of my grip on the line. The barrel came down fast—giving me another blow on my head and putting me in the hospital.

I respectfully request sick leave. (Chuck Swindoll quotes Michael Green in his book: The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.)

Sounds like he needed some help! I think we all do, from time to time. Amen?

Our text this morning is all about the Spirit of God rendering aid to us in our time of need. We are not alone in this life. We are not alone in this struggle. And because of Him, we are not silent when we don’t know what to say or even how to say it.

Our text is sandwiched between the hope we have as believers and the knowledge of what we know about our current suffering: that God works all things together for good.

  • We know our hope is in heaven.
  • We know God works all things for good.

Or,

  • Our hope of the hereafter
  • Our hope of the here and now

Our hope is not in this life. Our hope is not in our possessions, our job, or prestige, our position, our home, or our accomplishments. Our hope is not in our parents or in our children. Our hope is the redemption of these frail bodies to a new body in a new heaven and a new earth. Paul says that The Creation has been groaning while in this present time – the time between the perfection of the garden and the perfection of heaven. And, he says, we, too, groan in this present time, as we wait eagerly for the redemption of these bodies. We suffer in hope because we know our future. So note the groaning going on here: The Creation, we (ourselves), and in our text the Spirit, who is acting on our behalf.

Transition: Let’s look at our text to see how the Spirit acts on our behalf. Rd v 26a:

I.     The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

Exp.: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. I was sharing with someone earlier this week that a literal translation of this verse is: In a similar way the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. Think with me for a moment about our weakness. Back up in verse 3, we see this word weakness used: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The point is that our flesh is our weakness. Sin has weakened us. And yet, we have to live in these bodies. We live in this weakened state. Therefore, we are subject to all of the struggles that come with living in the flesh. They are unavoidable. We exist in this body and so it becomes our focus. That is why Paul says to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. But that is so hard.

Consider that most of our prayers are for the physical things of this body. Thank you for this food. Provide for my needs. Lord, I need a pay raise. Lord, my health is failing, my eyes are weak, my body is weak, I’m sick. God, help my friend who is sick, who is in financial straits, or open this door or open that door. Guide us as we travel. Most of our prayers are focused on this weakened state we’re in. Sometimes, this weakened state of ours is worse than others. Sometimes it is almost unbearable.

But not the Spirit of God, he intercedes for us in ways that are spiritual. He intercedes for us in ways that are in line with what God wants and wills for us.

Lit.: v 26 reads: In a similar fashion, the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. And then Paul tells us just what our weakness is in 26b: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

A. Because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it.

Ill.: Maybe that was the direction one of the disciples was going when he requested of Jesus: Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples (Mt 11.1). The text says there in Mt 11 that Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he had finished the disciple requested of him, “Lord, teach us to pray like John taught his disciples.” I love that he was watching the Master pray and wanted to know how to pray in a similar fashion: to be a pray-er like Jesus and to pray like Jesus. And then he taught them The Lord’s Prayer.

Maybe that is where the disciple was coming from: Lord, with all that is going on around us, I don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. I want to pray like you.

App.: We’re blessed to have the Spirit of the Living God rendering aid to our weakness, helping us overcome the weakness of our flesh, which is where our focus is when we suffer.

But this is where it gets really interesting for me. God is at work for us, and we didn’t even know we needed it. This parallels the Gospel so closely. You guys know the Gospel.

  1. God is holy and we’re not.
  2. Our sin separates us from God.
  3. There is nothing we could ever do to repair and recover this separation.
  4. So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Son Jesus to die for us. God in the Flesh. That’s what the beginning of this chapter states: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. God punished sin through his son, Jesus.

In a similar fashion, I think this is what Paul is teaching now about the Spirit in v 26-27; God moves and acts on our behalf:

  1. You and I have no clue what to pray for or how to pray for it. And this is probably because we’re not like God. He is perfect and we’re not. He is holy and we’re not. We ask for things that are no good for us and we don’t even know that it is not good for us.
  2. So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Spirit to live in us and to commune with our spirit and to communicate for us in accordance with his will.

And we’ve seen this action of the Spirit multiple times here in Romans 8:

  1. In verse 2, The Spirit has set us free
  2. In verses 5-6, The Spirit helps us walk according to the Spirit
  3. In verses 9-11, The Spirit takes up residence in us and makes us alive when we become believers.
  4. In verses 12-17, The Spirit adopts us into the family of God
  5. In verses 16-17, The Spirit bears witness that we are his Children and heirs with Christ.
  6. In verses 26-27, The Spirit now groans for us when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray so that we pray according to God’s will.

26For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, and it continues but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

This is the 2nd way the Holy Spirit of God helps us in our weakness: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

B.     By interceding for us with groanings that are too deep for words.

For me, this is what brings this passage back into the context of suffering. Yes, we know that our hope is heaven – our home. And yes, we know we’ll be there soon enough. But, in the meantime, when all hell breaks loose against us, when sin is victorious and we find ourselves speechless before our Master, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I don’t necessarily want to go where I need to go for a moment, but I do feel it is necessary because this passage is sometimes confusing. Let me clarify a couple of questions that might pop up later in some discussion.

  1. Some people think this means ‘speaking in tongues’. But, I would disagree simply because the gift of tongues is only for certain believers – it is limited in scope. Tongues are used in a worship service and there is a translator. But, this particular act of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 is for every Christian – especially in these times of suffering. Remember, that’s our context. Speaking in tongues is in the context of worship. So, don’t apply the gift of speaking in tongues
  2. Some people think that this means the person must groan. They would argue or teach you to moan and groan when you don’t have the words. I don’t doubt that groaning comes during suffering, but I don’t think that is what Paul is saying. The groaning is of the Holy Spirit, not the believer. Please hear me, I’m not saying you won’t hurt so bad that you groan. You just might. I hope you never do, but you could. But that isn’t what this verse is saying.

App.: Simply put, you don’t know what to pray or you don’t know how to pray and you don’t have the words to communicate what is going on in your spirit.

And when you’re in this place of suffering, something absolutely amazing happens in your spirit. Rd v 27; 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

As I mentioned before, God acts for us because we’re incapable of acting on our own behalf. So, he intercedes. He sends his Spirit to live in us. And he who searches hearts… he knows.

There are so many wonderful verses that declare the work of God in searching out our hearts.

  • 1 Sam. 16.7: … for God does not see man as man see man; for man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.
  • 1 Chron. 28.9: … for the Lord searches all hearts
  • 17.10: 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
  • Rev 2.23: … And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

This has always amazed me and keeps me on my guard. What are my motives in a matter? God knows. I can fool you. I can sometimes even fool myself, but I cannot fool God! I can tell you one thing and convince you that I’m too busy, I can’t make the time, I don’t have the money, and I have other obligations, that isn’t my ministry, I’ve been called to something else, I’ve got another engagement, no one else is available to help.

I think sometimes we fool ourselves when we pretend we are in a certain mode and can’t do something. We say this and it becomes an excuse – a valid excuse, but, in my heart I know I’m only lying. Sure, it looks good to you and I feel justified because you’re convinced. But God, who searches the heart and the mind, he knows!

Why don’t we just say – don’t come over because my house is a mess and I don’t want you to see. Why don’t we just say, I’m embarrassed because I didn’t prepare; I didn’t get that done.

  • Luke 9.47: … 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts,
  • Luke 16.15: … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.
  • Acts 1.24: … “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
  • Acts 15.8: … And God, who knows the heart,
  • 1 John 3.19-20: … 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Rd 8.27: and he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit… He knows our hearts in those troubling times. He knows our needs in those times of suffering and he knows the mind of the Spirit. Aren’t you glad that God knows the mind of the Spirit! The Spirit only wants good things. He only wants God’s glory. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

This is the 3rd sub-point: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

C.     By interceding for us according to the Will of God.

This is the hardest part of surrendering, isn’t it? The hardest part in surrendering is giving up our will – giving up what we want. We might not say it out loud; but deep down inside, that is the way we feel. Outwardly, as people look at us, we want them to think we are really good Christians. But, inwardly, we’re just as rebellious as Adam and Eve. So, on our own, it is really hard to pray that God would not do what we selfishly want and to do what he wants for us.

Ill.: As a believer, there has always been a prayer in the Bible that fascinates me. Jesus has acted and responded in Scripture multiple times, not because he had to, but for our benefit. These actions, these responses have always fascinated me. One, in particular, is Mk 14.36: 36 and he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This is fascinating to me because Jesus has known his purpose: to suffer, to die, to be buried for three days and to rise again. He has told his disciples repeatedly that he is going to happen. He says it so much that Peter even rebukes Jesus for such negativity and Jesus said get behind me, Satan. The moment comes and what does Jesus pray? “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus says this in Mk 14.36 when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He comes back to where Peter, James, and John are supposed to be praying with him and what does Jesus find them doing? Sleeping! And Jesus says something we often repeat, but I wonder if we truly understand the depth of their meaning: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Doesn’t this apply to us in our suffering? The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And guess what – The Spirit helps us in our weakness! because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. And, the Spirit does so with groanings that are too deep for words. And, the Spirit does so according to the will of God.

What is the will of God? The Spirit knows. It is up to us to trust.

But how? I’ve jotted down some thoughts as take-a-ways for today:

Review: the context is groaning, but rather still, the overarching context of suffering. As we suffer, just like creation with all of its storms and thorns, hurricanes and tsunamis and other types of natural disaster, we sometimes suffer in ways that create for us a situation in which we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t know what to ask. We can’t see God in this mess. We can’t hear God through the raging storm. We’re in an unnatural position and we’re clueless in what to do.

  1. First, Look at the next verse: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Bear this in mind. We don’t know his will, well, he does and he is working all things for good – according to his purpose.
  2. God is with you in your suffering. Even if you can’t hear him, feel him, see him, or even sense him, He is there. And I think this next take-a-way follows closely…
  3. God hears our prayers – especially the prayers of ours produced by the Holy Spirit.
  4. God’s Will only needs to be known by him. You don’t have to know! It is enough to trust that God is working his will in your life. He is. Trust Him!
  5. God searches our hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit. Let that just wash over you for a moment. You’re weak. You’re imperfect. You’re speechless before him. You don’t understand what is happening. But you don’t have to know. He who searches out the heart, he knows the mind of the one who is interceding on your behalf.
  6. God’s work is not limited by your situation or circumstance. It may feel that way. It may feel that your pain, your suffering, your experience is going to hurt, limit or mar God. Don’t believe it. There is nothing you can do or have done that can limit the work of God. Nothing. If you think that, you’re thinking too highly of yourself!
  7. Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind. It’s about changing us to align ourselves with God Will. God is already perfect. His will is perfect. Perfection doesn’t need change. What needs changing is imperfect us. But sometimes we just don’t know how to do that.

 

One great way to experience that this morning is to give your life to him. Repent of your sins – that means changing your mind about you and acknowledging that God is right about you. Come to Christ this morning. As always, the decisions and commitments we make are unlimited as God works in each of us. I’d love to visit with you about that. The way we do this is we dismiss for a time of fellowship in the back of the church. Grab a donut or a cup of coffee and let’s visit.

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Filed under Christian Living, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Colossians 1.15-20

I had the privilege to preach at the BMA Seminary in Jacksonville this morning. I was deeply honored that Dr. Charley Holmes would invite me back again this year. I wanted to post this message, but warn any regular readers that I’ve sampled some recent illustrations from my Sunday morning Romans 8 Series Sermons to fill in with some great examples. 🙂

Title: Boys, Do what you’ve been called to do, because of what you know to be True.

Text: Colossians 1.15-20 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I want to thank Dr. Holmes for giving me the hardest text of Scripture to preach on to a bunch of young theologians… I wonder if more denominations and cults have been started from these few verses than from any other few verses grouped together in Scripture? Let me just affirm that using an archaic word with a contemporary meaning can bring a lot of confusion! It is so easy to use a word that sounds one way, without understanding its meaning in the appropriate way.

Misunderstandings can happen, but they can also leave a lot of damage.

  • Autocorrect on your phone can contribute to some of this.
  • Not totally understanding what someone is asking for is how we got Potato Chips. The story goes that a man wanted French Fries. The cook didn’t know what French Fries were. The man did his best to describe what French Fries are. When his plate came out, he had on his plate what today are called Potato Chips.
  • World Magazine issue February 28th, 2019 reported that a young Kentucky man, Allan Harris, wanted to get his wife, Nina, what she wanted for Valentines. He did his research. He found out what she loved and wanted for Valentines. He knew she would be happy with them, after all, it was what she asked for. Then, he went and searched high and low for her special gift. When he showed up with a few turnips, she clarified it was tulips she had wanted.

My hope this morning is that I would not be misunderstood.

Let me quickly show you the words that bother me; words, I’m afraid you might mistake.

  • Verse 15: Image. We see the word image and we think it is a reflection to some degree of what the real thing looks like. But it isn’t the real thing – it is just an image of the real thing. uuuuuuu….
  • Verse 15: firstborn; (cf.: 18). We see this word and think that it was the first of its kind. Sounds like it was created first of all things…. Uuuuuuuuuuu…
  • Verse 20: reconcile all things to himself; this has a universal sound to it. Like ‘all’ things and no ‘things’ will be left out. Uuuuuuuuuu….

Let’s deal with this first misunderstanding: image.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And it was good. Along with all of this, God created man. The Text says: 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

                27         So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Made in the image of God… I wonder what that was like? You know, when it was all still good. You know, before the fall. Too bad they couldn’t have done things right. Too bad they couldn’t just obey. But they fell for the lie – you know the lie: the one that says, “you’ll be like God”.

Somehow, they missed that they already were like God. He had made them in his image. I want you to ponder that thought for a moment. They were made in the image of God, but Satan fooled them into distorting that image.

  1. Perfect Creation: made in the image of God and marred in the Fall. They were supposed to be the image of God, but Satan said: Don’t listen to him! He knows that you’ll be like Him when you eat of the fruit! This is the lie of Satan. He wants to distort the true image of God.
  2. God’s Children, Israel, commanded to image God and be holy as he is holy. They were to not make idols and not worship idols but instead chose to worship the creation instead of the creator. They worshipped images of things made by men, instead of the perfect, holy God. Like Adam and Eve, they failed to image God perfectly. Enter Jesus…
  3. Jesus imaged God perfectly! 2 Cor 4.4; In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Hebrews 1.3a; He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Col 1.15;

He is the Image of God the verse says, but to clarify Paul continues: of the invisible God. So, what we see is that – what was invisible has now become visible. God, who is invisible has become God visible before us. He is the divine representation of God. That is true, however, I like the phrase, the divine manifestation of God here on earth even better. Or, as we said when I lived in Hawaii: That’s mo’ bettah! If we go to John 14 we find some strength for our understanding when Philip, in a bit of frustration, said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Just by itself, that request doesn’t seem so bad. But, Jesus appears to demonstrate a little frustration toward Philip in his response: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

For me, that’s pretty clear. I wish I could say to people who ask me to show them Jesus: Dude, how long I have been your pastor that you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen Jesus! How can you say to me: Show us Jesus?

I feel more like Adam or Israel in this regard – I’m a poor image of the Messiah. Because you see me in a fallen state!

Paul is declaring that Jesus is God right here. Now, he strengthens his remark with another one, which is my 2nd concern: the firstborn of all creation.

I told you this is my second concern because I’ve personally seen this one totally misunderstood.

Ill.: Our church began a small group of women who were having Bible Study and losing weight. I was fine with it because this Bible Study was purchased from our Denominational Bookstore. The ladies were in a few weeks when my wife asked me about something that the teacher said. I didn’t like it, made the correction and we moved on. But then I got word that the Bookstore, which by the way is Lifeway, was pulling it because the author declared that Jesus was the first created being. The author misunderstood this verse. She quoted from it in her defense. As the pastor, without talking to the ladies, canceled the Bible Study. One woman from the study was furious with me. She had lost more weight doing this study than by any other diet.

Every translation I looked at translates this firstborn of all creation. But firstborn doesn’t mean born first. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages states that this Gk word πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos), ον (on): adj.; and it means birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn; in other words, it isn’t a position in the order of birth, it is the position in order of importance. It deals with the right of the firstborn, which we know, isn’t necessarily the one who is born first (Ishmael, Isaac; Esau, Jacob; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah). But check it out, it continues: existing before (Col 1:15); 3. LN 87.47 superior (Col 1:15), as in showing position.

We see this used exactly this way in the Old Testament – of those who were not the ‘firstborn’ sons in the family, but the title is used of them to give them a position of inheritance. It is used to show their prominence. Consider Jeremiah 31.9 where God says: …for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. If you know birth order, you know Manasseh was born first. But, Grandpa Jacob, did a switch on Manasseh and Ephraim. The point is that it isn’t about the first to come into being – it is the one who is given the rights and privileges of the one who has this position.

Herein is our first point of the morning. Paul is declaring that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

1. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation (15-17)

exp.: first he created it all; Jesus is the agent by which all things came into being; rd v 15-16; I love to quote John 1 here: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Jesus made it all!

That makes him a really big God! J. MacArthur expounds on Creation in his commentary series on Colossians: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts. (Colossians and Philemon, J. MacArthur, Col. 1.16)

Consider that we’ve not even really been able to search out the farthest most remote places in our Universe and the Bible says he created all of that.

But v 17 tells us even more; rd v 17; He is not only the one who created it all; he is the one who holds it all together. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation tells us that he is the Creator and the Sustainer.

I feel a song coming on! Worthy of Worship (Blankenship)

Verse 1

Worthy of worship worthy of praise
Worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all the glad songs we can sing
Worthy of all of the offerings we bring

Chorus

You are worthy Father Creator
You are worthy Savior Sustainer
You are worthy; worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise

The fact that Jesus created all that is, and is still moving. Consider the fact that he sustains all things, too.

Ill.: Being here today brings back wonderful memories for me as I think about my years of Seminary training. I was privileged to sit under some of the most wonderful minds in Theology. I’ll bet some of my professors wrote some of your textbooks. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. One such professor was Dr. Bill Tolar. He’s gone to be with the Lord now. He passed away this past December 29.

I want to encourage you to Youtube Dr. Tolar’s message: Creation. Chance or Choice? Good stuff. In that message, he lists 10 different scientific facts about the earth, the moon, and the sun. And, he demonstrates how life would not be able to exist if any one of those facts were to change. Here are some of those:

  1. The earth is tilted at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down, life couldn’t exist
  2. It is spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up; a little faster and things would freeze – life couldn’t exist.
  3. It tilts back and forth just far enough, going no more than 3o in either direction; any further than that, then life could not exist.
  4. It is just far enough away from the sun. It spins and encircles in an oval rotation – perfectly. If it was any further away, most of life would die, probably from starvation. But we need plants to make oxygen. Any closer and the plants would burn up. We would burn up.
  5. The moon is just far enough away. It regulates the tides. If it were closer or further away, then the tides would either pull back and make too much ground or the waves would crash against the Rocky Mts.
  6. There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less by just three feet!
  7. There is just enough land and just enough of the earth’s crust. If the earth’s crust were just 10 feet thinker life couldn’t exist the way it does. And the earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles. But just 10 ft would make that difference so dramatic, life couldn’t exist as it does.
  8. I highly recommend his message, but listen, here’s my point: Christ not only made it all, but he also holds it all together!

Transition. 1st, We see Christ’s Supremacy in Creation as Creator and Sustainer.

2. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church.

Exp.: we stand and look at Creation and are all in awe of Christ. Well, Paul says that there is something as wonderful that Christ created and it is His Church. Rd v 18; When you read that, it almost sounds like he’s talking about two different things: one, the church and 2nd, something about being resurrected from the dead. But consider this: these are really about the same thing. They cover the same topic.

If Christ had not risen, what difference would there be? Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose to you that it would make all the difference in the World! The Resurrection is a vital part of our Faith. Indeed, if you remove the resurrection, what do you have? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, we are still in our sins, our faith is futile and we’re to be pitied above all men!

The Resurrection is important because it is the basis by which all other matters rest. Without the resurrection, the church falls flat on its face. But consider this: those who are in this body, of which Christ is the head, they have the hope of the resurrection. Christ is simply the first to be raised and never to die again. His resurrection demonstrates for us that we too will be raised on that day. Here again, we see position: that he might be preeminent. That he might be in the first position. He’s the boss. He’s Lord. There is no one above him. There is no one who outranks him. The buck stops with Him. But, just so you don’t miss what Paul is saying, he brings more clarity: rd v 19; He’s God in the Flesh; rd v 20; So,…

In this passage, we see His Work in Creation and His Work in Redemption.

You know I began my message with the Creation story. The Fall marred it all. But here we read that Christ is reconciling the world to him. This doesn’t mean that everyone gets to heaven. This is a reference to what shall be.

Ill.: If you’ve not been to a Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop, I highly encourage you to go. If you’re a woman here, they host workshops for Women, too. But, one of the lessons we learn in a Simeon Trust Workshop is about books and finding the theme or topic in a book. One such way to locate your theme is by locating the top and the tail. It isn’t just the book, but it can also be used for a pericope or a passage. It helps us to determine what the theme or topic might be. An example we use is Mark. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God. You can then go back through the book of Mark to see if this is a theme that flows through the entire book and wah-lah! There is… Demons declare him to be God’s Son. Remember the Gadarene Demoniac: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most-High God? That’s just one example.

I’m preaching in the book of Romans right now. Let me show you the theme in Romans: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on Romans and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

So, what am I getting at? At the beginning of this book (The Bible), you have the story of Creation. A topic near and dear to this passage. In that beginning, we see perfection. Then, there is the fall. Everything falls apart. The couple is banished. Perfection is lost. Thorns, weeds, storms, chaos, murder. Sin has corrupted what was perfect. But, Paul is telling us about the end of this book. In the beginning story, you have a unique relationship with God. In the end, that relationship is restored. You have a river in the garden in the beginning. Look, you see the same at the end. There is a tree in the midst of the garden in the beginning. What do you know? There is a tree in the end, too. Coincidence. No, that is the melodic line of this book. God is reconciling a fallen world to himself. And, in the end – that is exactly what will be! There will be a new heaven and a new earth. All things will be reconciled.

Conclusion: So, is all of this theology important? You bet it is. Not just because you’re going to be preachers and teachers of God’s Word. But it must apply to your life and to the life of those you serve.

Many years ago, when I was first in ministry, there was a man who came to see me. Pastor? You got a second? Sure. This man hadn’t been going to my church for very long. His beliefs were different than ours, but he loved our worship and was complimentary of my preaching.

He began to pour out his heart about his struggles. He had been a member of the Hell’s Angels gang in the Los Angeles area back in the ’60s and ’70s. The hard life had left him in constant pain. As an addict, he shied away from drugs. So, he lived with the pain. He told me he had a certain amount of money in the bank, in a savings account. He gave me the number of the account. I wasn’t sure where he was going.

He asked me to explain my theological understanding of suicide and, as a pastor, would I ever let someone who committed suicide to have a funeral in the church. He told me that he would be ending his life in a couple of days – he was going to commit suicide. But, the money, that was for the funeral and to make sure his boys were taken care of. He still had two sons at home. They were pretty close to being able to take care of themselves…

I was caught off guard. I knew I couldn’t let him just kill himself. I didn’t know the laws, but I was pretty sure this guy needed help. He needed help beyond what I could give. I was this young buck just fresh out of seminary.

But, the moment he noticed me interceding, he threatened me. Did I tell you guys that he was a former member of the Hell’s Angels? He was more than twice my age, but I also knew that he knew how to put a hurt on me if he wanted to do so! It didn’t matter. I knew what I needed to do.

Then he said if that is what you’re going to do… Then I’m going to go home and kill myself in front of them.

I was scared. I didn’t want that.

Now, at this moment, how does your theology impact your actions?

You study that Christ is God. He is the creator of all that is. He is the sustainer of this whole thing. He is the head of the church. He is the first to be resurrected and has shown us exactly what it will be like for us on that final day when we, too are resurrected to a new life. But does that help you at that moment?

You bet it does! Your theology grounds you in what you do as a pastor. And trust me, your theology will conflict with your experience. You know God is sovereign, but what about the day that it feels like he isn’t. You know that Christ is in Control. But, what about the day it feels like he’s lost control. You know God is powerful. But what about the day he doesn’t display His power in your life.

I told you when I began that I don’t want to be misunderstood. Hear me now and once again: You can go and serve where he has called you because you know this is true. He is Lord over all Creation and Lord over his Church. And because of this, you know that he is Lord over eternity. And he will sustain you in whatever you go through. Boys, Serve Him well and do what you’ve been called to do because of what you know to be true about Him. Let’s Pray…

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Colossians, Creation, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Romans 8.22-25

Title: The Permanent State of Hope

Text: Romans 8.18-25

As I began last week, I want to remind you that I don’t come to you this morning from a wealth of experience in suffering. I can only tell you stories of those I know who’ve walked that journey. I can only tell you what the Bible says about suffering and hope that you can come to a place of understanding, so that, when you suffer, whether great or small, your suffering will be endured with a proper perspective on life and eternity.

Today’s message is about hope. Hope, I believe, is something about which I know a little more than suffering. In this regard to hope, we all stand on the same, level ground. None of us here has seen what will be. So, in that regard, no one here has a leg up on any other person. But again, because of this, what I share is what I know from God’s Word. His Word gives us hope.

And hope is so very important. I think of the passage where Paul talked about those who grieve at death as those who have no hope. We are not like those people, though. Because we have this hope and this hope is something that keeps us moving forward.

Suffering is a strange phenomenon that knows no boundaries. It lays itself on anyone and everyone. No one is exempt from its attack. There are no riches, no age, no race, there are no social or cultural boundaries it cannot encroach. And this is why Hope is needed. This is why hope is given.

Now last week I noted how Paul mentions suffering in v 17&18, but then he doesn’t address it. He says suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us. And so he doesn’t. Instead, he gives us a history lesson.

In the beginning, all things were perfect, but in chapter 3 of Genesis, we see the fall. And, ever since that fall, sin has impacted and affected everything in this world. That is why we suffer from one degree to another; some, more than others; some, more public than others.

Two points of clarification that I’m not sure I made last week:

  1. We do not suffer because God is punishing us. Someone may very well ask if God is punishing me because of something I did – and more specifically, a sin I committed. The answer is no.
    1. The effect of sin on us is not the same as punishment. I’m not saying that God doesn’t discipline his children. He does. Hebrews is very clear on that. God disciplines his children and brings them back into line with His Will. But that is a very different scenario than God punishing us. The punishment for sin is Hell.

ill.: a friend of mine many years ago told me about his life and the decisions he had made. He had been unfaithful to his wife and had married the woman he had been in a relationship with. These two came to faith some years later. He even apologized to his first wife and asked her forgiveness. She, too, had been remarried and had become a believer with her new husband. Anyway, this friend said that he was afraid that God would now punish him for his actions. I asked him what he meant. He said he was afraid that God would kill his little girl to punish him. I think this was born out of the David and Bathsheba story.

app.: My friend had a wrong perspective of God. I told him that it isn’t to say that his little girl would never die, but the punishment of sin is reserved for end times.

  1. The effect of sin on us is because of the fall. That is what our text says: v. 20, for the creation was subjected to futility. God told Adam and Eve that their rebellion would end in death. That effect still has an impact on us. That’s what This present time is in v 18;

But, all of this might be just too much for you, especially if you’ve never dealt with this issue. Let’s say you’re new to this Christianity thing and you’ve had a friend or a family member die way too soon. Maybe it was an accident that should have been prevented. Maybe it was a heart attack or cancer, and you’ve got questions.

  1. Let me help here: You need to see God from a proper perspective. What I mean is that God is huge! He is so much bigger and higher in reality compared to our experience and our intellect. Maybe that is what Paul is doing by mentioning creation in each verse here…

ill.: John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Colossians 1.16: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. According to Dr. Bill Tolar, that number is roughly the same number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts and along every shore of every river and every lake.

 

When I was in seminary, I had Dr. Tolar as a professor. He was a man with a brilliant mind. Actually, I had quite a few like that. But this professor, Dr. William Tolar, was especially intelligent. He studied science before being called into the ministry. He now has a famous sermon, Creation, Chance or Choice and it is available on Youtube. But here are some points he makes in that message. As God created all that is, he created:

  • The earth is at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down,
  • He created it spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up. A little faster and we would be thrown off!
  • It tilts back and forth just far enough; life couldn’t exist if it straightened or dropped more than 3o in either direction!
  • It is just far enough away from the sun. And it spins and encircles in an oval rotation perfectly. It couldn’t handle being any closer or any further.
  • The moon rotates and spins at just the right distance. It’s just far enough away and just close enough. If it were closer, the waves of the oceans would come crashing upon the Rocky Mts or if it were further away, they would be pulled back exposing too much ground.
  • There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less would make it where there would be too much oxygen or too much Carbon Monoxide.
  • There is just enough crust in the earth’s crust.
  • Photosynthesis – couldn’t work as it needs to if any of these were out of whack. We need enough plants, we need enough water, we need enough light. But, the inverse is true too. We can’t have too many plants, compared to too much water, compared to too much darkness.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I fear your perception of God might just be too small! We sometimes want God to fit into a box that you understand. But when we create God in our image, we fail to see how magnificent and terrific he truly is.

Your first step in finding hope is gaining a proper perspective of how great God is and how small we really are.

When this happens, you can begin to understand God’s righteousness and justice in subjecting the world to futility. The passage continues in v 20: God did so in hope. And then Paul eventually gets to this hope in v 24. 24 For in this hope we were saved. This hope is what he’s been talking about since v 18. Let’s backtrack for a moment.

  • V18: Glory to be revealed; this is the hope for us, that it is something we have out there in our future. Can I encourage you to see this as a promise from God? Promise #1: There is a glory in our future that far outweighs our current situation.
  • V19: for the revealing of the sons of God. That is, those of us who are believers. We’re Sons and Daughters of God. Verses 12-17 told us about how God adopts us and puts his Holy Spirit in us. Can we call this Promise #2: In that glory, we will realize our full understanding of our position as those who’ve been adopted into the family of God.
  • V20: brings these thoughts together and tells us that our hope is the freedom from the bondage of corruption (that’s the sin and its effect on us here) and the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s the place where sin will no longer have its impact on us). That’s heaven. Let’s call this promise #3: God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work. He is not delayed, as some see this ‘waiting’; God did what he did with purpose and intent. God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work.
  • V23 gives us more promises; rd v 23a; the firstfruits of the Spirit means that we have something that those before Jesus didn’t have! We have the Holy Spirit of God in us: that in this groaning and in this suffering, we have been given a precious gift as a down payment, as an earnest of our future inheritance… here’s promise #4: we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.
    • This means that you don’t suffer in vain. There is purpose in your life. There is value in your life.
    • This means that you don’t suffer alone. Just before Jesus ascended to be with the Father he said: And, lo, I am with you always…even until the end of the age. He’s with us by giving us his Holy Spirit to live inside of us.
  • The next part of v23 states that we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The Corinthian church was having a tough time with this concept, so Paul spends a good deal of time sharing with them what that would be like. But for now, just in this text, Paul is saying that we have these bodies that are wasting away. They’re hard to manage. They’re imperfect. Sin is bringing about this body’s decay. The eyes are giving out. The bones are becoming brittle. The circulation doesn’t work like it used to work. These bodies are fragile – yes, truly magnificent, but fragile. And the older we get, the more fragility we see. We become weaker. We get slower. But our hope is in the redemption of these bodies. And this is Promise #5: Something far greater awaits us in glory. Bodies, that we can only use our imaginations to try and comprehend, will be ours.
  • But to conclude his remarks on hope, Paul identifies and defines for us what hope is. Hope isn’t seen. Hope isn’t wishful thinking. Our hope is the knowledge and certainty of what we cannot see. And God is so good to give us earthly examples for our comprehension.
    • Wind: we don’t see it, but we know it blows. Ill.: the banner out front and the roof on Jules.
    • Radio and television waves.
    • Current and electricity: just one movement or a shot of lightning isn’t seen by the human eye. Of course, today, with our modern technology, you can watch YouTube videos of how a lightning bolt hits the earth. I watched a video in super slow motion and was amazed at all that takes place in one lightning strike.

Oh, the promises of God and the hope he gives. Hope in these struggles. Hope in this pain. Hope in suffering.

Conclusion: Chuck Swindoll uses an illustration by Arthur Gordon, who relates a story of a man who had been stricken with polio at the age of three, and his parents, probably depression-poor and overwhelmed, had abandoned him in a New York City hospital. Taken in by a foster family, he was sent to stay with their relatives in Georgia when he was six, in hopes that the warmer climate would improve his condition. What improved his condition, though, was Maum Jean, an elderly, black woman who took that “frail, lost, lonely little boy” into her heart. For six years, she daily massaged his weak legs; administering her own hydrotherapy in a nearby creek; and encouraged him spiritually with her stories, songs, and prayers. Gordon writes:

Night after night Maum Jean continued the massaging and praying. Then one morning, when I was about 12, she told me she had a surprise for me.

She led me out into the yard, placed me with my back against an oak tree; I can feel the rough bark of it to this day. She took away my crutches and braces. She moved back a dozen paces and told me that the Lord had spoken to her in a dream. He had said that the time had come for me to walk. “So now,” said Maum Jean, “I want you to walk over to me.”

My instant reaction was fear. I knew I couldn’t walk unaided; I had tried. I shrank back against the solid support of the tree. Maum Jean continued to urge me.

I burst into tears. I begged. I pleaded. Her voice rose suddenly, no longer gentle and coaxing but full of power and command. “You can walk, boy! The Lord has spoken! Now walk over here.”

She knelt down and held out her arms. And somehow, impelled by something stronger than fear, I took a faltering step, and another, and another, until I reached Maum Jean and fell into her arms, both of us weeping.

It was two more years before I could walk normally, but I never used the crutches again…

Then the night came when one of Maum Jean’s tall grandsons knocked on my door. It was late; there was frost in the air. Maum Jean was dying, he said; she wanted to see me.

The old cabin wasn’t changed: floors of Cyprus, Windows with wooden shutters–no glass, roof of palm thatch mixed with pitch. Maum Jean in bed, surrounded by silent watchers, her frail body covered by a patchwork quilt. From a corner of the room, a kerosene lamp cast a dim saffron light. Her face was in shadow, but I heard her whisper my name. Someone put a chair close to the bed. I sat down and touched her hand.

For a long time I sat there; now and then Maum Jean spoke softly. Her mind was clear. She hoped I remembered the things that she had taught me. Outside, the night stirred with a strong wind. In the other room the fires snapped, throwing orange sparks. There was a long silence; she lay with her eyes closed. Then the old voice spoke, stronger suddenly, “Oh,” said Maum Jean, with surprising gladness. “Oh, it’s so beautiful!” She gave a light contented sigh, and died…

All that happened a long time ago. I now live in another town. But I still think of Maum Jean often, and the main thing she taught me: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.

And so it is with suffering in this life: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.

And indeed, so great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God. And that is what we are… provided we suffer with him.

Maybe you’ve never given your life to Christ. If not, then you don’t have the promises I’ve talked about today. You don’t know the hope we know. Won’t you give your life to Christ?

Maybe you’re in the midst of struggle and pain. Maybe, you’re suffering now. Would you trust Christ with your pain? Would you ask him to use it to show others of his great love and mercy?

Over recent weeks I’ve been challenging out people to choose someone who doesn’t know Christ and begin praying for their salvation. Just one person! I asked: Who is your 1? I have some business cards to help you with this. I want to ask ushers to come forward and pass these out. Will you pray that God will give you someone to pray for? Just 1 person, 1x a day, at 1 o’clock, for 1 minute.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon

Romans 8.18-23

Title: The Temporary State of Suffering

Text: Romans 8.18-22

Introduction: We’re in Romans 8 (pg. 888 in the Pew Bible). The Subject this morning is Suffering. And my sermon doesn’t come from the tremendous depth of experience, but rather, it simply comes from God’s Word. The sermon this morning won’t have all of the answers on suffering. I’ll only cover what’s listed here in Romans.

I make no apologies in this regard, but rather count it a blessing and thank God that I have not had to suffer as so many in the world do. I’ve never been to prison for my faith. And I have been relatively healthy – able to do the things in life I want to do. I enjoy the physicality and thought that goes into reaching summits in Colorado. I ride my bike, jog, walk as much as I want and not as much as I should. I take one pill a day – and that is for my thyroid. My doctor says that dosage will increase with age, but for now, I feel blessed.

So, as I think about suffering, I have to ask myself… and I think, we should ask ourselves as we look at this text: what is the context of suffering here? Is it cancer? Is it sickness, illness? Or, is it imprisonment, mistreatment, and punishment for being a believer? Well, contextually, I think it has to do with suffering for being a Christian. As for application, I think this applies to both: You can trust God in your sickness and in your illness, too.

I don’t say this lightly. I’m very aware that many of you are suffering now. Some of you may suffer for being a believer – you’re passed over for work or promotions; you’re placed in an awkward position; moved to a different location.

On a side note: It was good to hear the State of Colorado dropped their case against the Christian Baker, who refused to create a transgender anniversary cake. The same baker, by the way, that won a Supreme Court decision last year. But, I think more persecution is coming.

Added to these types of persecution and suffering, I know that many of you are suffering health wise – you or a family member.

I don’t enter into this subject lightly because it is something my family is experiencing. It is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul hasn’t mentioned suffering up to this point. As a matter of fact, he won’t mention it again. You’ll only see it here in v. 17 & 18; Verse 17 is what gives us our context. Rd v 17: 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Flow: There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. How? Through Jesus; who died on the cross to pay that penalty on our behalf. V4 says that Jesus satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. The Benefits are tremendous: freedom in the Spirit, Focus for life, The Spirit-filled believer is now alive in Christ – and, as we talked about last week – The Spirit-filled believer is adopted into the family of God!

But then Paul ends with this odd statement: provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Paul is definitive on this topic of suffering: in this life, we will suffer as believers. Period. We don’t all suffer the same way and we don’t all suffer the same thing – but, understand this: if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will suffer in some fashion.

Why is that? And where does it come from? And, what is its purpose?

Well, that is a topic that is rather large and most definitely something we cannot possibly accomplish completely today. And we shouldn’t try. Paul doesn’t. Paul has good reason to do so, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t make his focus about suffering. Instead, he acknowledges it but then turns his focus elsewhere. And so should we. He mentions suffering and then gives us a history lesson.

Let me repeat: he mentions suffering and then, doesn’t talk about it, but rather gives us a history lesson. He comes back to this idea of how we suffer now when he talks about the Spirit and the Spirit’s intercession in our lives – who helps us in our weaknesses (v26).

Read with me v 18-23 (pg. 888): 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

What is Paul saying? He’s letting us in on something absolutely incredible. I’ve been taught, as have many of you, that when you’re looking for the theme of a book you’re studying, you read the beginning and the end. Usually, there at the beginning of the book or letter, and repeated in the end, you will find the melodic line that flows through the book. A great example is Mark, a book we studied a few years ago. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God.

So Mark’s theme is Jesus is the Son of God. Is this true for our book, Romans? Let me show you: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on our book and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

I mention these because I think that is what Paul is doing. I mention these to raise one last question about beginnings and endings: is this book (the Bible) like these others – does it have bookends which identify for us a theme? And, does that theme flow through the whole of the Bible in such a way that it acts as a melodic line of sorts? Well, let’s look.

  • When you read v 19-23, what stands out? The Creation. Where is The Creation Story in the Bible?
  • We see in chapters 1-2 of Genesis that the world is created and everything is perfect. The Creation the way it should be. Or, the world as it was designed to be.
  • In chapter 3, we see the fall. Sin enters into the world and everything is marred. Everything. Sin now brings death, disease, and dysfunction. Cain murders his brother, Abel. Weeds, thorns, storms, sickness, struggle all enter the picture. Animals are no longer friends with man, but rather, animals fear man.

What we see in the introduction is Creation, and then, creation falling apart, or de-creation. So, what do we see at the end of the book, in Revelation? We see Eden restored. We see re-creation. So, do we see some of the same elements in the beginning and in the ending? God is in the beginning doing his work and he is in the end doing his work. There is a garden in the beginning. There is a garden in the end. A tree – a tree; a river – a river; Ezekiel 25 tells us of the garden of God, Eden. It tells us of the precious stones and gems and colors. We see the same thing in Revelation in Heaven, Eden restored. So is that the melodic line of this book? That God creates, Sin destroys and God will recreate in the end? All we have to do is look throughout the book at the stories that are told.

  • Adam and Eve are in the garden; they sin and are banished into exile from the garden. Do you see times in Scripture where there is a desire to get back to the garden? Absolutely.
  • God creates for himself a people, through Abraham. He promises them a land. A land flowing with Milk and Honey. It is a picture of the return to the garden. But do his people obey – do they live out the obedience of faith (as it says in Romans)? No, So look what happens to Israel. It becomes a desert wasteland.
  • But there hope is that it will be restored. For you and me, we know that restoration isn’t a “Mighty Israel” here. It is a new heaven and a new earth.

This is what I think Paul is doing: I think he is visiting the melodic line of the Bible for us: There was perfection with God. Sin entered into the picture and destroyed that beauty. It continues to wreak havoc, but one day, Eden will be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And that – out there in our future – is what Paul wants us to focus on!

  1. Creation Present: Read v 19; we longingly, actively wait with eager expectation for glory.
  2. Creation Past: read v 20; creation waits now in the present because it was subjected to futility in the past. That verse is talking about the fall of man – the story of Adam and Eve.
  3. Creation Future: read v 21; it was subjected in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption (that’s sin and the effect it has on us now) and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s heaven, where there will be no more sickness nor sorrow, no more pain and tears, there will be no more thorns, no more tornados, no more earthquakes, no more hurricanes, no more cancer, no need for glasses.

Why is that? Because creation will be restored. Paul is reminding us of the big picture. Suffering in this present time is temporary. Heaven, where there is no suffering, will be eternal.

So, here is the problem: we’re stuck between the now and the not yet. With this bit of information, how then shall we now live?

A few comments about these verses:

  1. In v18, the verse reads: 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 1st, this word consider – it is the Greek word for which we get our word logistics. Paul is being logical about suffering and he’s working through the problem. 2nd, There is a word in the original language that isn’t in the English and it’s the word ‘about’. Lit.: the about to be glory. The idea is that it is just right out there beyond us. I believe when we’re there, we’ll look back at this time and think about how brief it really was. We worried about a lot of stuff that didn’t really matter that much.
  2. In v19, we read: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. I already told you that I’d translate this: actively waits with eager expectation. The word wait here means a deep sense of waiting with passion and longing. Also, the word in here revealing, is the Gk word from which we get our word Apocolypse. And, normally, that word is scary, but, not for the believer! Because what will be revealed for us is a wonderful thing!
  3. In v20, it says that the creation was subjected to futility… The idea is that this isn’t so much a result of what Adam and Eve did, but more about the plan of God. See, if you keep reading you’ll read: not willingly, but because of him who subjected it… Who is this ‘him’?
    1. Some folks say Adam. He was the one who sinned and by which all sin has been passed on to us. The read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Adam who subjected it…
    2. Others say no, it is Satan. Satan was the one who wreaked havoc on the world by leading Adam and Eve astray. These people read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Satan who subjected it…
    3. But there is a third option and I believe this is the correct understanding: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of God who subjected it… And I say this because of the next couple of words: in hope.
      1. Satan would never offer hope, so that knocks him out of the running.
      2. I don’t think Adam actually thought to himself: I’ll eat this fruit in disobedience to God’s command in order that those who follow after me will have hope in God. That’s ludicrous.
  • It can only be God. God did this, subjected creation to futility in hope of our future glory.

Now that’s a pretty powerful statement. God did this because he had a plan.

  1. In v22 we read about this momentary affliction. Paul uses the terms of a pregnant woman giving birth. The idea is that the pain is very real, but a momma endures such pain for the joy that is before her. She knows that after she has endured, after she has given birth, she will get to hold this precious little one. There is pain and struggle in the moment, but joy comes in having given birth. To use what seems to be an oxymoron: this is a joyful pain. And so should our suffering in this current world be. Joyful in that it is temporary. Joyful in that it is preparing us for the glory that is yet to be revealed in us. It is hard now, but hang in there. There is joy coming! And that is what he says in v 23; rd v 23;
    1. Consider the disciples who declared it a joy and a privilege to suffer for Jesus!

Application: Paul tells us about suffering:

  • How we suffer: The Creation actively waits with eager longing as we suffer.
  • Why we suffer: The Creation was subjected to futility (to this suffering) unwillingly
    • God did so in hope
      • of freedom from bondage to corruption
      • of obtaining freedom of the glory that is to be revealed in us
  • Conclusion about suffering: The Creation groans with a pain that ends in joy – because joy is coming. You’ve just got to hang in there!

Conclusion:

  1. Suffering is temporary: this present time (kairos). The difference between Kairos and Chronos is like the difference between a minute and a moment.
  2. Suffering is an extreme opposite of what we’ll experience in the “about to be”: There is no comparison
  3. Here’s the incredible truth about suffering and sin: We can grasp the incredible grace of God because we know what sin and suffering is.
  4. I’d like to say a word about what suffering is not. Sometimes, I’m convinced that we think we’re suffering and we’re really not. Let me ‘splain.

In life you have expectations. You’ve had them already today. You come and you expect certain things to happen or not to happen. You have expectations. You expected to sing songs this morning. If we hadn’t sung any songs, you would have responded. Some of you: negative. Some of you: positive. But there are expectations and you respond to those expectations based upon your experience. Maybe you come to worship expecting a normal service, but we show a video. Your experience is different from what you expected and maybe you’re happy or maybe your sad. You respond to your experience based upon your expectations.

But here lies the problem. Sometimes, your expectations aren’t met and you become unhappy. You think you’re suffering. But are you really? You’ve come expecting there to be seats. What if you came in this morning and there were no seats in the worship center? How would you respond? Some folks would be like: Cool, we’re doing something different! Others would be like: this is so uncool! Honey, go find me a seat. If I said, we’re sitting on the floor this morning, some of you would feel like you had to suffer today. But, do think there are churches gathering today somewhere in the world where there are no chairs? Would you say they’re suffering?

Here is my point: sometimes you think you’re suffering, but you’re really not. You’re just selfish and you’re not getting your way.

Your expectations are about you. Hey, listen, I’m no different. I know it. I sometimes pray and act like I’m suffering until my eyes are opened and I realize that I’m just being selfish.

Suffering Requires:

  • Perspective: An vantage point of the whole, big picture – and you see what’s coming (18).
  • Patience: Wait eagerly for adoption to come to fruition (19).
  • Knowledge: we know that this was done in hope of freedom

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Romans 8.12-17

Title: Adopted by the Spirit!

Text: Romans 8.12-17

Introduction: We are a peculiar people. That is, we Christians are a peculiar people.

Vernon McGee tells the story about the peculiar man who thought he wasn’t peculiar. A preacher was trying to describe this idea of peculiarity to another man who was insistent that he himself was not peculiar in any way. The pastor said that everyone is peculiar to some extent. Everyone. But the man demanded that the pastor was wrong about him – he was perfectly normal and had no peculiarities. The pastor said, “I can prove you are peculiar.” The man said, “Go ahead” as if to accept the challenge.

How do you stir your coffee…with your right hand or with your left hand? Without hesitation the man replied. “I stir my coffee with my right hand.” The pastor quickly responded: You see there, you are peculiar. Most people use a spoon.

Peculiar means: 1) strange or unusual; or 2) particular or special. When I say we’re a ‘Peculiar’ people, I mean special, we are particular; we’re special.

This is what Paul is communicating to us in Romans 8.12-17 – the passage that Henry read for us earlier.

Paul began in v 1 by declaring that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. How that has come about is because the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death. And he did that through Christ Jesus. In v5-8 Paul expanded on this freedom in the Spirit to the idea that living life in the Spirit gives the new believer focus: a focus he or she has never had before.

When the Holy Spirit comes to live in the believer, the Spirit brings Freedom and Focus. Then, Last week we looked at the first of a two-part sermon:

  • Alive by the Spirit! And today,
  • Adopted by the Spirit!

AIM: This second message really builds upon last week’s. First, we’ve been made alive by the Spirit of God. But, he doesn’t just quicken our spirits – he moves in and takes up residence. And then, to add to the beauty of it all, he adopts us, and makes us his Children. Paul will build upon this doctrine in chapter 9. Let me show you quickly. Turn over to the next chapter and look at v 22-23; So, don’t take any of this out of context. You need to understand the Romans 9 is all about the Sovereignty of God. It asks: who are we to question the way God does what he does to accomplish his purposes. It is all for his glory. He knows best how to glorify himself, even if we don’t get it. He doesn’t do what he does with our permission or even within the realm of our understanding. But this is what he does make clear: he quotes from Hosea 1.10 & 2.23. rd Rom 9.25-26; 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

So, Paul’s aim here is to declare that God is going to adopt his children and make them his own. How? How will God fulfill his promise to his people? And, how will it include those who aren’t even Jews? Answer: Adoption. When we become Christians, we become children of the living God!

Ok, now, let’s look at our text in Romans 8.12-17 (p. 888). In this passage, Paul says of those of us who are being filled with the Spirit of God…

  1. We are obligated to the Holy Spirit (12-13)
  2. We are sons of God, our Father (14-15).
  3. We’re heirs with Jesus (16-17).

So, let’s take these one at a time…

For those of us who are being filled with the Spirit of God…

I.     We are obligated to the Spirit.

exp.: You see that in v 12. Now, this sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? In v2, he said we have been set free. And here, it says we are debtors? Well, think about it for a moment. What it says in v 2 is that we’ve been set free from the law of sin and death. We’re no longer enslaved to sin and death. 2ndly, this word debtors means we’re obligated. Our obligation now lies with the Spirit of God, not our own sinful passions and desires of the flesh. We’re obligated to the Holy Spirit to live our lives now according to his purpose and plan.

ill.: Truth is, we’ve all tried it our way and we failed. That is usually what brings us to God. We live our lives in pursuit of our passions and we make so many mistakes. These poor decisions usually lead to pain and anguish. It is in this despair that we reach out to God.

exp.: he tells us how we fulfill this ‘obligation’ in v 13; you see, when we pursue the flesh, we live life the way we want and that destroys our lives. When we surrender our lives to Christ, his Holy Spirit comes and lives in us. Then, as we live out our lives in Christ, he begins to show us things that don’t fit into our new lives with him. We come under conviction for our actions and behaviors. As that happens, we must by the aid of the Holy Spirit… well, read v13… by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body.

ill.: I’m often reminded of my sweet friend who I told you about that went to the doctor routine check-up. She was asked how her treatments were going. She asked what treatments? The doctor said your treatments for cancer. She said, “I don’t have cancer.” The doctor said ‘oh, no’. You see, at that point, it was too late. Fourteen months of inaction left her cancer to spread. Of course, you know now that she has since gone to be with the Lord.

I wish that was the only story I’d ever heard like that. I heard a story recently of a man who heard that his PSA number was high, but he was told that it was nothing to worry about. By the next checkup, it was too late, cancer has spread to other significant parts of the body. He died a few months later. You hear stories about women, too. Its probably only a spot, I wouldn’t worry about it. The lady takes that to mean – don’t worry about it. She doesn’t follow up because she doesn’t think she’s supposed to worry about it. And that inactivity of the person leads to hyperactivity of cancer and soon… death follows.

App.: I’m here to tell you that you have a type of cancer called sin. You need to worry about it. You need to deal with it. It will kill you! Satan lies to you and tells you that your sin is small. It’s only a spot. Those numbers are small compared to others. But, listen dear friend: You cannot let it run unchecked in your spirit or it will destroy you.

A 2nd Word on death to the deeds: I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 9, as we talk about putting to death the deeds of the flesh: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. When we become believers, it isn’t as if all of the troubles go away. In this life, you will find struggle, toil and difficulty. There may be suffering involved. That doesn’t just go away. It won’t go away this side of heaven – not as long as we live in these bodies. That is why we must make a conscientious decision every single day to die to ourselves. That is why Jesus said daily.

app.: Your spirit lives in this tent called a body. Inside this body you have thoughts. You talk to yourself. That’s why, when you become a Christian, two things take place. One is internal. The other is external. Romans 10.9-10 says, because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. You make that decision inside, but you manifest what’s inside of you through expression. Your life is always a manifestation of what’s inside you. And when you confess, “Jesus is Lord” with your mouth, it is an external expression of an internal experience.

t.s.: The Spirit takes over our lives, from the inside out. Then, when that happens, the next verse says we become sons and daughters of God. For those of us who are being filled with the Spirit of God…

II.    We are sons and daughters of God. 

exp.: rd v 14: 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. So, you confess your sin and invite Jesus into your heart. You see that – when we give our lives to Jesus and His Holy Spirit moves into our hearts and lives, God adopts us into His family. We become children of God. 1 Jn 3.1-3: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

So, you give your life to him and he purifies your life. Really, in two ways: 1. When you get saved. He washes you clean as freshly fallen snow. That covers every sin you ever committed and every sin you’ll ever commit. All washed away through his forgiveness. 2. As you walk with him. You’re now his child and he will guide you in his path of righteousness for his name’s sake. He shows you what he doesn’t like and as his child, you surrender those things, whatever they are, to him.

Rd v 15; 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” So now, as a child of God, because we’ve been adopted, we can call him ‘Abba, Father’; it is interesting that up until the time of Jesus, the Jews would never call God, “Father.” Even though he has referred to himself that way with them. God was too big. It seemed to irreverent. How could anyone approach the creator of the Universe and use such an intimate title? Abba is like saying, “Daddy”. Jennifer and Christopher call me Daddy. Still today. Stephen calls Lisa – Mama. Still.

I don’t know about you, but that is just Amazing to me. God, who created the Universe, who spoke the worlds into order, who is powerful and awesome and will judge the nations – this same God, loves me so much that he adopts me and then creates this intimate relationship with him where I can approach his throne and call him, Daddy!

ill.: there is a scene in Anna and the King where the king’s little girl has a problem. She runs away from the chaos of the classroom and runs to her father. He is on his throne and there are dozens of people surrounding him, all bowed down to the ground. But, the little girl isn’t fazed. She has a relationship with her dad that is so different than those people. She runs right up to him with her problem.

Show clip of Anna and the King daughter jumping into the lap of her father.

app.: If you’re a believer, if you’ve surrendered your life to Christ – that’s your new life! The Spirit-Filled Life now makes it possible for you to enter into the Throne Room of Heaven and sit on your Daddy’s lap and converse with him.

t.s.: Your Heavenly Father has made that possible! But there is so much more than just this moment in life that God has blessed us with…

For those of us who are being filled with the Spirit of God…

III.   We’re heirs with Jesus. You see that v 16-17.

exp.: rd v 16-17; heirs w/ Christ! That means we have the promise of heaven. I think Heaven is a wonderful promise – and I know someday that will be mine. I suppose for many, thinking of heaven gets them through the tough times of suffering on earth. Next week, we’ll talk more about suffering. I’ve got that on the radar for the next sermon pair:

  1. The Temporary State of Suffering
  2. The Permanent State of Hope

For now, I want you to think deeply about this gift of the Holy Spirit that allows you to access to God. It’s as simple as bowing your heart before him and lifting up your requests to him. And that is possible because:

  1. The Holy Spirit has moved into your life and has taken up residence. He has been leading you to follow him and you have been, daily, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, in order that you might walk closer to him.
  2. This presence of the Holy Spirit has made you a child of God. You’re his child – a child of the King and that grants you exclusive rights in the Kingdom of Heaven. You have his ear and his heart.
  3. We’re now, Co-heirs with Jesus
  4. This access that you now have is only needed for this moment. Because one day you will be in presence in such a way that you will see him face to face. And you’ll be change – for you will be like him.

And all of this is what I think makes us Peculiar. Special.

Application:

  • My guess is that there are some here who have never surrendered their hearts to God. You don’t have the kind of access I’ve been talking about because you’re not his. Let me offer you an opportunity to respond to this invitation. Come to Christ!
  • Maybe there is another decision on your heart and you’re ready to share that with someone. You’re ready for them to begin praying for you. Maybe you desire to join Calvary, roll up your sleeves and get involved in the ministry here.
  • I have a challenge for our members. It’s called Whose your 1? Here’s how it works: you pray for your someone, once a day, for one minute, at one o’clock.
    1. Pick someone. No more than one. Who is your one?
    2. Set your timer or alarm or notifications to alert you at 1 PM every day.
    3. When your alarm or alert goes off.. quietly intercede with all the gusto you can muster for that one person to get saved.
    4. And do so for one minute.

Some of you are like: I’m going to pray for 10 people for 10 minutes… Listen, this is hard enough. Don’t even pick two people. Just focus on one person to pray for every day at 1pm for one minute. And see if God doesn’t open up doors…

ill.: imagine with me for just a moment. What if Jesus came to you in this moment? What if he said to you: I’m going to answer every prayer request you’ve brought to me this past week. What would that be like? Would anyone get saved? What transformations for the Kingdom would take place?

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