Monthly Archives: April 2019

Romans 8.31-39

Title: If God is for us, who can be against us?

Text: Romans 8.31-36

Introduction: This week I read a story about a woman named Karen, age 35, who found out two years ago that she had cancer. She opted out of chemo and radiation and lived her life to the fullest. So, she says.

To hear her story is encouraging in a way. It makes you think about yourself and what you’d do if you had a death sentence hanging over your head. For Karen, she decided to live her life to the fullest. From what she recorded in her obituary, which was written by her, she did just that.

Our text today is similar in a way. The truth is we all do have a death sentence hanging over us. Physically speaking, we’re all going to face death at one time or another. Thank you, Adam and Eve. Spiritually speaking, too, we’re all facing death, unless, of course, Jesus faced that death for you. That’s where Paul is headed in our text.

Now that we’re at the end of chapter 8, how did we get here?

  • 1-17: A Regenerate Spirit because the Holy Spirit has come to live in you.
    • A new mind; a new mindset: life and peace.
    • A new hope: that the spirit will raise your bodies, too, just as Christ from the dead.
    • You are now part of the family of God because God has given you the spirit of adoption.
      • For this life
      • For eternal life
    • 18-30: There is hope now and it is not dashed to pieces because of suffering.
      • Suffering is all a part of our sin-soaked world.
      • Suffering is temporary in comparison to the hope of glory.
      • And, this Holy Spirit in us (Spirit of God; Spirit of Jesus) intercedes for us when we don’t even know what or how to pray, praying for us according to God’s will. And, God’s will culminates all of our experiences for Good.
      • Because of Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God has established his new covenant with those who love him. He foreordained, He predestined, He called, He justified and He glorified them.
    • 31-39: A crescendo of hope swells and culminates in these final verses as Paul asks: What shall we say to these things? And he answers his question with a question: If God is for us, who can stand against us? The simple answer is: no one! That is the answer to the message. You don’t have to pay attention anymore! Just kidding! But look at his answers:
      1. v 33: No one can bring a charge against us.
      2. v 34: No one can condemn us because God has declared us not guilty.
      3. v 35: No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. No one and No thing! Even in the face of suffering.

Do you know what happens when someone goes to court and there is no charge to bring against that person? Case Dismissed!

Paul knows a thing or two about cases being dismissed. He lived it! He was accused, beaten, imprisoned and then the magistrates responsible said – ah, let them go. Paul said, uh-uh! You have falsely accused us, beaten us and imprisoned us without cause. We’re Roman Citizens with rights. You’ve neglected to give us our rights. We’ll leave, but you have to come and lead us out. Those magistrates were scared. They’d broken the law and could have faced serious problems themselves. They had no case against Paul and he knew it.

Do you know what happens when a person stands in a place where there is no condemnation? The verdict is read: Not Guilty! So, there really is nothing to fear. But, what about the suffering? Doesn’t it seem that our suffering indicates that maybe the jury is still out? Even in suffering – in trial, in tempest, in tribulation; in facing sickness, in facing sorrow, in facing the sword; even as sheep who face being slaughtered (so says v. 36_ – we cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

How? How is that even possible? For the very reason we’re here this morning: Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, hallelujah! That’s how it is possible. The very reason we’re here! It’s Easter!

If God is for us, who can be against us? And before he answers his own question, he states the reason for his answer. rd v 32; 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Really, is there any greater gift that God could have given us than redemption? And yet, there is so much more…

Opening Story: Can I just offer a side note here? I think we miss out on so much of what life has to offer. We get bogged down in the ways of the world and wrapped up in the ways of the world and we miss so much that God has graciously given.

I think we miss the simplicity of a butterfly sitting on a flower; we miss the miracle of a single raindrop that falls from thousands of feet above and lands just where it lands; we miss the rustle of the leaves as the wind moves it where it wants. We miss the miracle of each moment. We miss out on so much of what life is meant to be.

Ill.: This week a woman I was visiting with was telling me about her two year old. She said she couldn’t find her keys. She knew where they were, but someone had moved them. A single mom with only one child, that leaves one other person in the house. She was running late, searching high and low. Guess where she found them? Behind the couch!

Now, that can be frustrating. But I also know another young lady who would give everything she has for a little boy who would lose her keys behind the couch. She and her husband have been trying for years to have children and it appears that it isn’t going to happen. Really, that heartbreak of not being able to have kids is like worse than having a son who grabs your keys and loses them behind the couch.

How might one look at a moment like that (2-year-old tossing your keys behind the couch) and be able to cherish losing your keys? Anyone here who is older and looking back can most definitely identify and would have some words of wisdom and help you see that moment as a precious memory. Remember George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, how he wanted to throw that headpiece to the banister every single time he walked up the stairs, but when he was changed, he kissed it?

As you get older, you see that those deadlines you were late for, and many of the other rungs in the ladder were really tertiary matters behind your wife, your kids, and your family.

Wouldn’t you just love to live your life in such a way, that you could get to the end and look back to see that you truly enjoyed what matters most? Finding Christ early on is a huge help in this regard. But you might be asking: just what has Jesus dying and rising again have to do with, and make it where no one can stand against us? Well, the first answer is found in v 33; 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

  1. No one can bring a charge against you because Christ has justified you.

Exp.: to be fair, Paul’s context is totally eschatological. That means he talking about the end times. One day, we will all stand before God and be judged for this life. And if you are a Christian, if you’ve given your life to Christ and found your sins forgiven – that is, you’ve been justified – then, there will be no charge brought against you. Your case was taken care of by Christ – no charges means case dismissed.

In comparison, these people were standing before earthly judges and having their property confiscated. They were being beaten and mistreated. They were being thrown in jail. And they were suffering by being entertainment by being thrown to the Lions and other cruel forms of persecution. That’s the persecution Paul is referring to in the previous verses. But that suffering, that persecution for them, really pales in comparison to the end time when they stand before God and hear him remind them that He has already declared them Not Guilty!

Ill.: The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken has been a real reminder to me of the tremendous persecution going on in the World – greater than any time in history since Christ was here.

App.: Live life backward… with a view of the present as if you could take the advice of the older people. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

t.s.: His 2nd answer is found in v 34; Who is to condemn?

  1. No one can condemn you because Christ was condemned in your place.

Exp.: To be fair, once again, Paul’s context is totally eschatological. That means he talking about the end times. Again. As these believers were standing before their judges and being declared guilty for following Christ, Paul was reminding them of the temporal aspect of this life. It really does go so quickly. Here, Paul is reminding them of why No accusation will stand because:

  1. Christ Died
  2. Christ Arose
  3. Christ Ascended
  4. Christ Intercedes.

Ill.: Here’s what we see: Satan stands and accuses you. You’re a liar, you use foul language, you cheat, you steal, consider the 10 commandments:

  1. No other Gods
  2. No idols
  3. Do not take the Lord’s name in Vain – profane God’s name
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day – to keep it holy
  5. Honor your Parent
  6. Don’t Murder
  7. Don’t commit Adultery
  8. Don’t Steal
  9. Don’t Lie
  10. Don’t Covent

App.: So, just one of those commandments, broken just one time, makes you guilty. You see, God is perfectly holy and just one sin separates us from him as far as the east is from the west.

t.s.: So who brings a charge against you: No One! Say it together, out loud, nice and loud… who brings a charge against you? No One! Who is then to condemn you? No One! Well then if no one can bring a charge against you and no one can condemn you, then maybe someone or something can separate you from God’s Love – so let me ask you: Who can separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus?

  1. No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Exp.: Look at v 35 w/ me; Paul’s pretty clear isn’t he? But sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way – maybe that is what the Romans were thinking. To read about the Roman suffering is pretty distressing. Those believers were experiencing all of the above, but so had Paul. If you locate 2 Corinthians 11, beginning in v 16 and making your way down through verse 28, you’ll read that Paul experienced these exact struggles. He wasn’t talking about something he didn’t understand. That really comes out in v 36; rd v 36; take a moment to look at your references in the middle column, or maybe to the side of the page in your Bible. You’ll see that this is a quote from Psalm 44.22; The Jews had experienced these struggles, too. They were unsure of God’s presence. But Paul is using this to say, yes, in this life, you will have struggles. You will suffer. You will have your property confiscated by the authorities who don’t want you to be a Christian. And for sure, they don’t want you to tell them about their sin and their need for forgiveness. So the best thing to do to shut you up is to make you suffer.

Ill.: Consider the Christian Cake Bakers in the US. Really, though, our persecution doesn’t begin to touch what most Christians around the world are suffering. And Paul’s message must mean so much to them. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at you – even to the point of killing you. No One and no thing can ever separate you from the love of Christ.

App.: rd v 37-39

Conclusion: Craig Wiseman – you don’t know him but, you know who he is, anyway – Craig has this friend who goes to the doctor and the doctor reads this X-ray and identifies a mass. Craig’s friend is devastated. He’s counting the days, he’s thinking of radiation, he’s thinking of chemo, he’s thinking of his hair falling out, he’s thinking that he’s too cotton-pickin’ young to die. More than that, he is a young father. There is still so much he wants to see and do with his family. He’s thinking that if this is bad and that he doesn’t have much time left, he has certain things he wants to do. He’s got a bucket list. He didn’t know he had a bucket list, but he has a list of things he’s never done, never tried – and now that his time is short, he wants to experience life.

It was 10 days before he could get in to see his oncologist. Ten days is a long time when you are staring at a ‘mass’ and you don’t know what it is. He has some tests run, some more X-rays done and then the doctor comes in. “Dude, you’re fine. This is a little birth mass. Everyone is born is one, but they usually dissipate over the span of your life. Yours just didn’t. Really, you’re ok.

But that experience really spoke to him. It spoke to his friend Craig Wiseman, too. Craig has another friend, Tim Nichols. You don’t know him either, but you know of him. Craig calls Tim and tells him about their mutual friend. Tim tells Craig about this lady he saw on the News who was told she was going to die. She said all she really wanted to do with her time left was to climb some mountains in the Rockies. For those of you who know me, you know I get that.

Tim’s uncle was diagnosed with Leukemia. He’s fine now, but what that diagnosis did was cause him to quit his job – that is, to retire and do some of the things he always wanted to do.

As Craig and Tim were visiting about this, Craig grabbed his guitar – and you know the rest of the story…

I went Sky Divin’ I went, Rocky Mountain climbin’

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

And loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I

Gave forgiveness I’d been denying

And he said someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying.

You know that song, right. Well, there’s a freedom there. There is a knowledge about something that changes the way you’ve been living. You get perspective!

That’s what Paul is trying to get them to see. This life is so short. And the things of this earth will all fade away. There is nothing you possess or will acquire that you will take with you. But look around. People are all that you’ll take with you. Your kids, your family, your friends.

A sideline to this story is that Tim McGraw never knew his father growing up. He didn’t actually meet his father until it was toward the end of his father’s life. It was about the time Tim got this song from Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols that he found out his father was dying. And his dad died shortly thereafter. That is why this song was so very personal for Tim McGraw, that’s why it hit so close to home.

I have no idea what your relationship is with your earthly father, but did you know that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you deeply. He loved you before you even knew him. He loved you so much, that when you were helpless to do anything about your sinful situation, he sent his Son Jesus to die in your place. That’s what Easter is all about: that Jesus died for your sins and then rose again from the dead, proving he is God. You can know your heavenly father. You can know the promise of Heaven and Eternal Life.

Will you respond?

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Filed under Purpose, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon

Romans 8.29-30

Title: The “Those”

Text: Romans 8.29-30

Introduction: Let me begin with an outline of my process this morning:

  • Summary of the passage
  • A couple of thoughts to begin
  • The Work of the Spirit Step by Step in the Spirit-Filled Believer
  • Take-a-ways

Allow me to summarize the text to this point in short fashion: in 8.26-27, those who stand no longer condemned have hope in this life and in the life to come. Their hope extends to points beyond their present suffering. In their suffering, when they don’t even know how to pray or what to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them. In 8.28, we see that God combines their life experiences and causes those experiences (good or bad) to work together for good – no matter the circumstance. This is why I encouraged you last week not to tally up your life’s score at the halfway point. God isn’t through with you yet. Where you’ve failed him, own up and fess up! Then, live up to the calling you’ve received. There is more on this calling in our verses today.

The prayers of the Spirit on behalf of the ‘those’ are that they be conformed to the image of God’s son, Jesus Christ [the Spirit intercedes for ‘those’ the saints according to the will of God (27) and all things work together for those who are called “according to his purpose” (28) and that purpose is that they be conformed to the image of his son (29)]. “Those people”, that is the called, they can be confident that God will bring all of this about because he works all things together for good. They can be confident because he has set his covenantal affection up them:

  • He has predestined them to be like His Son, Jesus (i.e.: according to God’s will, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his son)
  • He has called them to salvation,
  • He has justified them in that salvation,
  • And He has glorified them (aor. tense, as if it is already done).

A couple of Notes about our text before we look at that work of God:

Relationship

I want you to note that Paul is talking about certain people in this text, not everyone. Romans 8.1: There is therefore now no condemnation for… what does it say? … for those in Christ Jesus. There are those who are in Christ Jesus and there are those who are not in Christ Jesus. The people here are those in Christ Jesus.

He repeats it many times in our text today so that you’ll know this is a specific group of people: for those who or for those whom. 6x’s!

This all presupposes a relationship. What does Paul say about those people? They love God. And what does Paul say about God in relation to them? With God, he has called them. Relationship. Note the two ‘those’ phrases:

  • Those who love God. It sounds like they made that choice. And, that is true, they did. This has always been a prerequisite for God’s people – to love him. Have you ever heard of the Shema? Deut. 6.4-6; Love the Lord your God with… Classic Judaism. 2nd
  • Those who have been called. This sounds like God initiated the contact. This is His Action toward us. That’s why Paul says we cannot boast about our faith because God has acted on our behalf. No one saves himself. Eph. 2.8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Mystery

The 2nd item to note is mystery… This dichotomy is a mystery. The free will of man and the sovereignty of God work simultaneously.

Ill.: I love the picture Brother Ken Brown painted for me when I was at Kirby Baptist Church as a young believer. He said something like:

Imagine you are walking along in life and you come to an entryway to somewhere. You see written over the entryway, “Whosoever shall come, may come.” And you do. You say, “Hey, that invitation is for me.” You make the turn and walk through the entryway in the Kingdom. But, as you make your way through the gates and to the other side, you pause and look back at the opening through which you just came. And on the other side, you read above the entryway, “Chosen before the foundation of the World.”

On the one side of this entryway, you and I, as lost people, we heard God’s call. Something inside us communicated God’s love to us and we responded. The Holy Spirit of God was wooing us. We didn’t know that was what it was, but we were being drawn. So, we entered in through the gate into this glorious salvation. And, it is only on the other side of this decision, this entrance and journey into the light, that we even become aware of God’s activity.

So our context today is that this popular verse isn’t just a slogan for hurting people – although it can be that for sure. It isn’t a mantra to be repeated by people who are going through a tough time – although it can be that, too. It isn’t just used by self-help gurus and sages. This is for a specific people: those who love God and those who are loved by God… aka, the called.

This bit of information is pretty overwhelming. There is nothing we’ve done on our part to deserve this ‘call’. God has initiated the call and we’ve simply answered. But you might be struggling with this concept, with this theology. It is truly mind-boggling. But, Paul knows that. Turn with me a couple of pages over to chapter 11.33:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

So, if you are having some trouble already – that’s OK. Paul tells us that you can’t wrap your mind around something so grand, so large, so incredibly complex, so God-sized. That’s OK! No one really can. What you know, even if you don’t understand and comprehend is: God is at work in all of these things causing them to work out for good in the lives of his people.

The question for us this morning is “How?” How is he at work? Look at what Paul lists as God’s work in “those” people:

  1. He foreknew them
  2. He predestined them
  3. He called them
  4. He justified them
  5. He glorified them

Let’s begin with #1…

I.     God Foreknew

Exp.: v. 29… for those whom God foreknew… now, stop right there. I think this verse gets hammered, particularly this word. Some people think that ‘foreknew’ means that God knew beforehand who would get saved. While that statement would be true (that God knew beforehand who would get saved, because he did and he does), it means that God foreordained those people to be saved.

Two reasons we have it translated this way:

  1. That is the lit.: pro – before; Gnosis – knowledge. My guess is that this is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’ from…
  2. That is what the word has always been translated. The problem is that this word doesn’t mean the same thing in its original context as what “knowing beforehand” means today.

To be quite honest, that’s a given that God knows. God is omniscient. So, yeah, he already knew. But this word has a deeper meaning in its original use than what 21st Century Christians water it down to.

The best way I can think to communicate this the idea of foreknowledge is by using the phrase in Genesis 4.1: Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore him a son. You read that and you know it means more than just he saw her and said, oh, hey, I know her! BTW: you see that again in Genesis 4.25… Adam knowing Eve in this context infers relationship – a deep, intimate relationship. What I’m getting at is that ‘know’ means something different in a different time and language. Know doesn’t mean that God conceptualized in his mind. Knowledge is something deeper.

Amos uses this same wording about God and his people (Amos 3.2): You only have I known of all the families on the earth. Is God saying that he didn’t know anyone else on earth except the Jews? No, he created every single person on earth. He knows them all, but he has a special relationship with His people.

Write that one down: God has a special relationship with his people.

That is what foreknowledge means: Foreordained. #2…

II.    God Predestined

Exp.: Let’s keep reading; Rd 29; Keywords here: image, Son, brothers. God has chosen to put together a people that he will call his own. A family of sorts. He is the Father. He has a Son. The Son has many brothers and sisters who are being conformed to His Image. Knowing the Old Testament and the way he chose Israel – the way he put together a people that he would call his own, does this surprise you? God has blessed us with stories and actions that demonstrate for us his work. One example is that He gave us ‘types’ of Christ so that we would recognize him when he came (David; Jonah; Moses; Zerubabbel). This is similar to that.

I like Ephesians 1 as a parallel passage to Romans 8. Turn there. If you’re using your pew Bible, it’s pg ?? beginning in v 3; Rd v 3-13; [Compare and Contrast these two passages]

While we’re here at predestined, let’s add called.

III.   God Called

Exp.: to be fair, this is a hard doctrine. I’m thinking that those who are believers don’t necessarily have a tough time with the understanding that you were once lost, God called you from your lost state…wherever and whatever that was. You knew, somehow, that God was calling and you responded. You knew because God used someone or something to clearly communicate to you. You knew who you were and you didn’t want to be that way anymore. You sought Christ’s forgiveness and you’ve run to him time and again as you found yourself in need.

Ill.: this hits home for me from an earthly standpoint. Lisa and I were friends before we dated. As a friend, I loved and cared for her – as a friend. Yes, she was the prettiest girl in school. I mean that. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife now. I would dare say that most of the guys in our school would agree with me. But, she was only my friend.

But Lisa didn’t feel that way toward me. She ‘fell in love’ with me way before I knew she felt that way. Now, for her to say to me, ‘Fred, I loved you before you ever knew me…’ doesn’t make me mad.

App.: Now, that is a weak illustration, I know. Here’s where I’m going:

  1. The Doctrine of election and calling is tough when you try to limit it to human understanding. But even then, does it upset you that God loved you before you even knew about him – before you drew your first breath? That’s absurd?
  2. This idea of election and calling is here in the Bible, so we don’t just skip it. We do our best to understand it. But the truth is, we just can’t totally grasp it with our small minds.

Let me offer you some guidance here. Paul’s purpose here is an encouragement to the one suffering. So, keep that in mind. Because Paul is simply trying to encourage those who are suffering, here in Romans, let me offer you some encouragement, too. The Father’s higher ways are not shared with us to make us feel elitist. So, do not use this doctrine as a battering ram. Do use this doctrine as a roadblock for fellowship or evangelism. Let this doctrine be a strong tower where you can run to and feel safe.

Caution: Some have said that if God truly predestined “the called,” then we need not evangelize. I would say, ‘You haven’t been reading your Bible.’ They would add that God is going to save those who he is going to save, so we don’t have to do anything. But, I would say, the same God who told you that you were saved from the foundation of the World has also said to you, ‘Go and make disciples…’

There is a phrase, I believe it comes from Spurgeon, that is so helpful to me: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. God, who foreordains and predestines and calls, he has determined that the Gospel is the tool that will be used by the believer to convince a lost world to come to Christ. So we go because we’ve been commanded. That is the tool that God uses to call others. And then, they too, find that Christ loved them from before the mountains were formed or even the earth was brought forth.

Can I take a moment to ask you if you’ve been praying for someone who is lost? Who is your one? ? UR 1

If you’re not focused in on someone, would you? Set aside one minute every day at one o’clock to pray for your someone.

Paul says the purpose in this is that we be conformed to the image of his Son. There are pictures here of the Garden. We were created in his image. The Fall has marred that image. Christ is the perfect image of the Father – the radiance of his glory. God has purposed in all of this to conform you to the image of Christ. That is what he does through the doctrine of Justification… and that’s #4

IV.    God Justifies

Exp.: 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified… I love that Paul calls all of this a mystery. God foreordains all that is. God predestines believers to salvation, to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to believe through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. And, when we believe, he justifies us by declaring us no longer guilty. Christ has paid our punishment in full and the Wrath of God has been satisfied. We are now in a right standing of God.

Finally…

V.     God Glorifies

exp.: and those whom he justified he also glorified. Aorist tense or past tense; He says it as if it has already happened. It was the first verse we read in Ephesians 1: who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Paul is saying what will be as if it has already happened. Don’t that just push your mind to the point of collapse? Its as if God has already seen it all and knows it will happen. And, by the way, he has and he does.

Closing Thoughts:

  1. There is no such person who wants to get saved but can’t because he isn’t predestined to be saved. That’s ludicrous. The very notion that a person desires to be saved is evidence of God’s call upon that person’s life.
  2. And, There is no such person who hates Christ and his church, who detests God and wants nothing to do with him, but will be forced into salvation because God will make him because he has been predestined. And he will continue in that vein, hating Christ, hating the church, but go to heaven. That, too, is ludicrous.
  3. Sovereignty vs. Free Will – I like to explain it this way: we know that there are times in Scripture when we find two truths which appear to be contradictory. But, we know both to be true. But there have been those in history who have established one to be a doctrine over the other. The deity of Christ. Was Christ God? Yes. And, some have said that because he was fully God he could not be fully man. Because he was not fully man he did not live in the flesh here on earth. Because he was not fully man, he could not fully die for our sins. But, you and I know that Christ was fully man. That he lived on earth and suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary. He got thirsty. He got tired. He got hungry. He was just as we are in human form, yet was without sin. He as 100% God and 100% man. Two truths which appear to be contradictory to Humans. But it isn’t to God. And neither is the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
  4. The Doctrine of Election should set you free to evangelize with greater fervor – really, for two reasons.
    1. You now know that someone else’s reception of the Gospel isn’t up to you.
    2. You now know that someone else’s rejection of the Gospel isn’t because of you. If you are rejected, it isn’t you or your presentation. Your job is obedience to the Great Commission and you leave the results up to God.

Ill.: I tell my CWT class of the time I botched a presentation of the Gospel. I thought there is no way on earth this person is going to accept Christ. No way. My presentation isn’t even understandable to me. And when I offered an invitation, that person got saved. I was like, are you sure?

  1. Who is your one? ?UR1

 

 

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

Romans 8.28

Title: Our Hope in Suffering

Text: Romans 8.28

Introduction: Joseph; all things seemed bad; actually, they didn’t just seem bad; they were bad; they were actually very bad; Consider:

  • His brothers hated him. Most of them wanted him dead.
  • They didn’t kill him, but they made his father think that he was dead.
  • They sold him into slavery. Human trafficking.
  • Purchased by Potiphar to serve in his household.
  • Falsely accused of rape – or attempted rape.
  • Thrown in prison and forgotten.

When Jacob had died, his brothers got scairt! They knew their deeds had been wrong. They feared for their lives. They said: rah-ro! Now that dad is gone, Joseph might want to repay us the evil we did to him. So they concocted a story – it might be true, but I’m not so sure it is. “Hey Joseph, Dad said that you should forgive us for the evil we did to you.”

But Joseph was very insightful and said: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Here’s an interesting understanding of God’s activity and our activity. I don’t fully understand it all, but I see it here very clearly: God is at work accomplishing his will, his purpose, his plan. And somehow, he does that through our actions in life.

God took all of the bad things that happened to Joseph – which were the result of this brothers’ evil toward him – and worked it for the Good. God had intention in their actions.

That’s deep!

Joseph’s story is a great illustration of our text: And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I love this verse (Romans 8.28). But I do worry that too many believers take a popular verse like this and apply it to their liking outside of its framed context. This is a real Danger for us. Not just for this verse, but for any verse, really… As we journey into this message and take a closer, deeper look at this verse, I want you to consider right now, that you’re seeing a caution sign. Caution: Don’t take this verse out of context. But maybe that isn’t strong enough. Maybe our sign should read Danger: Don’t take this verse of out of context.

Note: 2 parts – Sovereignty and the Free Will of Men & Context of Suffering

And speaking of context, the context for Romans 8 has not changed; the overall arching context of our passage is suffering. He hasn’t dwelt on suffering, but that is the context. The theme or the topic is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s activity in the life of a believer. Paul is writing about certain people and that really comes out in the next couple of verses. Note how many times it says: for those who or those whom. 6x’s! And just who are these those? It is those who love God, those who have been called according to his purpose. If you go back a verse, to 27, you see the Holy Spirit intercedes for these same people in accordance with God’s Will, in accordance with His purpose.

This presupposes a relationship. I would like to stop right there and save this discussion for next week. For now, I want you to know that there is a special relationship between God and his people. Now, even though we won’t discuss them until next week, we need to remember that “those” people are who this verse applies to.

 

Our verse is 8.28: 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.

This morning I simply want to look at this short phrase (all things work together for good) and talk to you about what we know because of whom we know. We are God’s and with that knowledge of him, we experience confidence. It comes back to the old adage: It’s not what you know, but whom you know!

It says in v.28 And we know (perceive; not experiential); in the original language of Gk there are these two different words for what we translate ‘know’. Other languages differentiate between these two understandings of this word. English, not so much. One word is γινώσκω and it is experiential knowledge. The other word is οἶδα and it means to perceive something.

Ill.: let’s say a boy is watching his dad hammer in a nail. The dad misses the nail and hits his thumb. The dad now knows by experience that when you hammer in a nail and miss the nail and hit your thumb, it hurts. That’s the word γινώσκω. The son, who is watching, he’s never hit his thumb with a nail. But, he’s watching closely and he sees his father’s reaction. He hears his father cry out. He sees his father recoil;  he grabs his thumb; he drops his hammer. The boy percieves his father’s pain. He knows (oida) that if you hit your thumb with a hammer it will hurt.

Paul writes: We know (we perceive) that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Because we know God, we can be confident that all things work together for good. But what if it doesn’t seem like it at the time? all things work together for good… Listen you can have confidence that just like Joseph, God is working his plan, just as he did for the people of Israel.

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

How do you think we would live if we truly believed that God was sovereign? Some of you are getting scared! You’ve heard these verses and predestination, foreknowledge, election, and calling, those terms scare you. But don’t be. This is just a simple question: How would we live if we truly believed that God was in control of this world, even down to the bottom of our lives?

Would financial distress scare you? Would sickness, illness or even death scare you?

I read a story this week about some folks, some Moravian Christians, who were traveling on a ship sometime in the 1740s. They had gathered for worship on deck when a storm swirled up out of nowhere. The story goes that the storm wreaked havoc and many aboard the ship thought they would die. That is to say, many on board with the exception this small group of Christians who had gathered for worship. They just kept singing and worshipping. As the storm raged, they worshipped. One observer was amazed as he watched what he thought would be his last moments on earth, this band of believers singing without a care in the world.

As the storm subsided, these worshippers finished their time together. The young man who was observing them couldn’t help but stop and ask some who passed by him: Weren’t you scared? Weren’t you terrified during the storm? They calmly answered him: No. He pressed them: What about the women and the children? Weren’t they afraid? One of them stepped forward and said: No, our women and children are not afraid to die.

That astonished the Englishman and it stayed with him for days. He would later identify that moment as one crucial step in his becoming a Christian. By the way, the Englishman? John Wesley.

I often wonder at how my theology has affected my witness and how my witness has affected other non-believers observing my life and my struggle.

You see, I ask this question about God’s Sovereignty, but not as a preacher. I ask this question out of my personal experience. Most of you know my brother’s wife passed away from her struggle with cancer. But did you know that my biological mother passed away on Thursday? As I reflect on my life, I’ve got a bunch of questions that flood my mind. But not about God! And I don’t doubt or worry about what God has done and is doing.

Now, how is it that Christians can behave in a manner that doesn’t fit with their suffering? How is it that believers respond to suffering, death and what appears to be chaos in this world with total confidence? Like the Moravian believers on the ship? It is because … look at v 28… it is because we know that for those who love God … he works all things together for good.

We know… contrast this with what we saw in v 26; 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. We may not know what to pray, but what we do know is that God is at work, working all things together for good.

Let’s take a moment and look at these word pairs:

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

Even when we don’t know a lot about what is going on in this life, we still know that God is working all things together for good…

These two words in English, all and things, are really one word in the Gk. ‘Things’ is added to complete a thought expressed in the Greek, but not really communicated in English. The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Let that sink in for a moment.

Ill.: The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Have you ever thought about that? The good, the bad, the ugly… all things. Those mistakes you made? God is using them, too. Those poor choices you’ve made – let’s just call it what it is: sin. When you sinned against God and rebelled against his desires and commands – well, God is using those situations and circumstances for his glory and he’s working it out for the good.

Do you see those 2nd set of words: working together

These two words in English, working and together, are also one word in the Gk. This Gk word is the word from which we get our English word: synergy. Syn (συν): with; and εργός: work.

Ill.: As you guys know, this past week I was in Arizona to be with my brother who lost his wife. My job was to be there for him. So, I did my best to be available when I was needed. During this time, two people made theological statements. Their intentions were to encourage the family. These remarks were in passing and I don’t think they meant any harm. But these two people, really nice people made statements about God that just are not true.

I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t my place and I know these people had good intentions. But this is what crossed my mind: Sound, healthy doctrine is important. I can’t tell you why bad things happen to good people and what God’s purposes are in all matters. I don’t know why some people get cancer and die and other people get cancer and live. I don’t why a tornado hits a neighborhood and one house is demolished and the other house is untouched. I don’t know why two people make the same bad decision and experience two different outcomes. But I do know that God is at work in your life. And I know enough to tell you not to tally up your points halfway through the game of life. All things not just some things, all things work together for good.

This is what we know as Christians: God is working all things togetherfor good…

All things: the good and the bad, the expected and the unexpected, the suffering and the rejoicing, in laughter and in pain – those experiences; God is working all things together for good.

When I was on sabbatical, I read a few leadership biographies and autobiographies. One man I enjoyed reading about was Harry Truman. What I didn’t know about him was his sense of humor. He tells the story of a man who was hit on the head and the people took him for dead. This tells you how old the story is! He was picked up by the undertaker and taken to the funeral home. He woke up in the middle of the night and sat up in his coffin. He looked around and said, “Good night! What’s going on? If I’m alive then why am I in a coffin. And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom so bad!”

Don’t judge what God is doing in your life in just one moment of your life. Because if you try, the totality of it all will not make sense.

Friday I got a call that my biological mother passed away. I knew this day would one day come. I mentioned it to Lisa when we talked through some decisions I had to make years ago. Let me explain.

I was abandoned by my mother at a young age. I don’t know the whole story because I was just a baby. There are six of us kids who share the same mom and I think they would all agree with me that her decisions and the decisions of our fathers really messed us up.

Now, I’m an external processor and I’m not trying to process this in front of you. The pulpit isn’t a place to do that. And, I don’t want to go into all of the gory details that have created this man of dysfunction that you’ve come to know and love. But I want you to know a little, so what I say will make sense.

As a young man, my biological mother blamed me for her messed up life – like it was my fault she did this and did that. As with all of her children, each of us was made to feel like we somehow were the cause of her failures. I abandoned that line of thinking and made the conscious decision to not put myself in harm’s way ever again. So, I’ve not spoken to my mom in decades. That was my decision. And she made it easy because she never called me. The last time we spoke, I called her. She wrote me two letters in my life. Once when I 18 years old and once when I was 50. I saw her at my grandmother’s funeral, which was about that same time (the 1990s).

So I get this phone call Friday morning that she has died and I look at this wake of destruction in the life of so many people. I’ve heard that she was going to church regularly these past few years. I’m glad. I can’t say this morning that she was or wasn’t a believer because I don’t know. I’ll probably hear some good stories in the days and weeks to come.

I’m reminded of a funeral I did for a woman in my church in Worland. It was probably my first funeral there. Rowena was in her 90’s. I’d know her for a very short period of time, but I what I knew of her was that she loved the Lord. She prayed for me regularly. She was reading her Bible and studying her Sunday School Lesson when she died. At the funeral, I told of my experience with her and stories other church members shared. I told people how much Rowena loved me, loved the church and how much I was going to miss her.

But after the service, her daughter approached me and told me that she didn’t know that woman. The woman she knew was not a believer and had left a wake of destruction in her life.

As I reflect on that, I remember now hearing stories about my Nana from her younger years. She, too, had made many poor decisions and hurt many people. I imagine some of my dysfunction can be traced back to her decisions. But that isn’t the woman I knew. The woman I knew read the Bible with me every night I was with her. She would rise early and make me a hot breakfast – always, a hot breakfast. Cold Cereal was for Saturday mornings and late night snacks. After she fixed breakfast, she would enjoy a cup of coffee and read her Bible. That’s the woman I remember.

So what I say to you today isn’t just some mantra I repeat that gets me through the tough times. It isn’t just some cliché I throw out with no feeling. This statement is a fact of my life. All things work together for good, for those who love God, who’ve been called according to his purpose.

Let me offer some take-a-ways:

  1. All things: Consider Joseph’s life, what a mess! Some might consider that he brought some of his struggles upon himself! He shouldn’t have been so arrogant toward his brothers or his parents. Bad things happened, and no matter who is responsible for those struggles, those experiences all work together for good.

Some of you might be thinking that I just don’t know all of the bad stuff in your life. I don’t have to! We hide that stuff well, don’t we? Our dysfunction? Our Sin? Our rebellion?

  • Some kid might say to you, ‘Dad, you got mom pregnant and then married her.’ Who are you to lecture me?
  • Or Mom, you were living with dad and you weren’t even married.’ You have no right to…
  • Or, ‘I remember when you stole that stuff.’
  • You used to smoke. Or cuss, or… .fill in the blank.
  • Your life hasn’t always been a model example of what a Christian is.

Listen, that’s what Grace is for. Tell those who know you best: Yes, Yes, and Yes. I did do that. I was that man. I was that woman. But it isn’t the gory stuff I want you to focus, but rather the grace of God that forgave this pitiful, wretched person.

You may not see it. You may not even be able to comprehend it. But God is working all things!

  1. Working together: Unless you’re dead this morning, your story is still being written. And if you’re dead, please let one of the ushers know. They might just think you’re sleeping through my sermon. Listen, your story is still being written. Don’t write it off! Let God do his work in and through you.

If you’ve messed up, own up to it. Confess it. Let it be an example of God’s incredible, amazing Grace! And then, trust that God is going to use, not just that experience, but the totality of your life to work all things for the good. This moment might be a struggle, but it will pass. Trust that this is one chapter of God’s book about you for his glory.

  1. For good: even when it seems it is so bad. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be sorrow. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Whatever you’re going through, hang in there. And then we come to these last words…

  1. For those: Who are the ‘those’ in this passage? Well, it is a topic I’d like to visit next week. But in short, it is those who love the Lord. Those whose lives have been committed to him.
  • If you’ve never done that, I want to give you the chance.
  • Maybe you just need prayer.
  • Maybe you feel the Lord’s calling on your life.
  • Maybe you’re interested in joining the church. We have a new member’s class scheduled for the 17th of May.

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Filed under Discipleship, Evangelism, Funeral, Purpose, Romans, Romans 8, Salvation, Scripture, Sermon