January 21, 2018
We like to feel secure in life. Some deodorants promise to give us a sense of security even when we are sweaty. Investment companies and banks all try to convince us that our money is safe with them. Daycare facilities try to assure parents that their children are secure and safe in their care. Of course, security is what we want but we all know that in many ways, nothing is really secure in this world. And that can be disconcerting!
In the Bible we often read about two ways or two roads. There is the narrow road and the broad road. We read about two foundations upon which to build. There is the foundation of rock and the foundation of sand. The narrow road, the foundation of rock are secure. These are nice metaphors, but are they true? Today we are in Rm.8:31-39. As we have started living in a new year, from these verses I want to say: Believer! You are secure in God no matter what you face in life.
I. GOD IS FOR YOU IN JESUS CHRIST! Rm.8:31-34
In v.31 Paul asks, “What then shall we say to these things?” What things is Paul referring to? Many suggest that Paul is referring to all that he has written about in Rm.5-8. These 3 chapters are filled with amazing gifts that are given to us by God through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Let me list some of these things. In Rm.5 Paul says we have been justified or made right with God. We have peace with God. Through faith in Jesus our sins are forgiven and we stand righteous in God’s sight. Whereas our sins separated us from God, now we are reconciled to God. In Rm.6 we have received newness of life and through Jesus we have been set free from sin. This is a free gift from God through faith in Jesus. In Rm.7 Paul acknowledges that living the Christian life in this world is a constant battle with the sinful habits that reside in our bodies, but he says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and Rm.8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” In addition to this we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us who helps us and intercedes for us and we are looking forward to the new heaven and earth that is coming. In the meantime, God is working all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus These wonderful truths of the gospel, centered in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord, are the background for our passage this morning.
In light of all that God has done and is doing for us through Christ, Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In v.32, Paul says, “Look, if God has already given us his own Son, his only Son, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” In other words, Christ is the greatest gift, all the rest comes with Christ. What is all the rest? Well, Rm.8:18-30 refers to our future hope and our present assurance that God is working all things together for good. In sending Jesus Christ, God is saying, “Yes” to you.
In v.33-34 Paul imagines someone charging us with wrongdoing and condemning us. But he quickly reminds us that Christ died for us. God justifies us and Christ is interceding for us. These ideas are rooted in the Old Testament. In Is.50:8-9a we read, “He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?”
Now the reality is that we live in a world in which there is a great deal of accusation and condemnation. Some of us grew up in homes in which there was much accusation and condemnation. We could never get it right. Unkind, condemning words were spoken to us by those who professed to love us the most. Perhaps you have heard those kind of words in your marriage or at work. “You don’t measure up. You will not amount to much.” These are words of accusation and condemnation and they easily bring inner devastation.
Some of us have learned to accuse and condemn ourselves as a result of what we have been told by others. Throughout much of our lives we have tried to be in control in order to protect our souls. We have tried to measure up and have battled self-condemnation.
Some of us have attended churches in which we experienced accusation and condemnation through legalistic preaching and teaching which tried to hold us accountable to rules not in keeping with the way of Jesus. And so for us Christianity is associated with failure and an inability to measure up.
And then, I don’t want to leave out the accusation and condemnation spoken into our hearts by the evil one, Satan, the accuser of all believers. “Look at what you are doing. You are such a sinner. How can you call yourself a follower of Christ?”
Now I do not want to minimize the destructive power of sin. It seems to me that right now is an excellent opportunity to talk about sin. Our society has been very open about sin, especially the sin of sexual abuse and political corruption. But what is left out is the vertical dimension. Sin is not just against one another. Sin is disobedience against the gracious commands of God. Sin is an offense against others, ourselves, and God. We are accountable to God. Accusation has a place. Condemnation is a reality because sin is judged by God. If you are someone who is living a disobedient or sinful life before God, do not think that God just sort of turns a blind eye. He does not. Our sins reveal our rebellious and prideful heart towards God.
This is why Paul’s words are so powerful. Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus Christ bore the guilt of our sins. God in Christ bore his own wrath against sin so that we might receive forgiveness and life by faith in our resurrected Lord.
Are you a sinner? Am I a sinner? “Yes,” to both questions. But in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation. And even though this world and the powers of darkness may condemn us, they can do nothing to change God’s verdict of, “Not guilty!”
Every so often we hear the phrase, “become a new you.” Google it and you will find all sorts of suggestions for how to become a brand new you. The problem with all this stuff is that it is all dependent upon your ability to reinvent yourself. Sinners cannot change their own heart. Only God can do that and he has provided his Son, Jesus Christ as the only One who can bring a new you about. It is time to turn away from the accusations and condemnations and embrace Jesus Christ by faith. In Jesus Christ, God is for you. That’s all we need. Nothing can threaten our life in Christ. In fact, through faith in Christ you and I can live righteous lives in this broken world without fear of judgement, because God is for us in Jesus Christ.
II. GOD LOVES YOU IN JESUS CHRIST! Rom.8:35-39
If v.31-34 have the feeling of a courtroom acquittal in mind, in these verses there is a beautiful transition. We move out of the courtroom and into a relationship. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Not long ago, a seminary professor asked 120 of her students: “Do you believe that God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, only two said, “yes.” They all knew what the Bible says. But only two actually believed that God loves them. What about you? Who loves you? Who do you love?
This is a big world and in the bigness of this world we value those who love us. In fact we sometimes find it difficult to actually believe that anyone would love us. Some of us have been betrayed by those who say they love us. Some of us have been rejected by those who say they love us. Love can be a scary thing.
In 1Jn. we read that “God is love.” In fact, the whole Bible is a story showing that God so loved the world. Over and over we see how God lovingly and graciously extends himself in order to rescue and redeem mankind from the guilt and destruction of sin, rebellion, and pride. Beginning in Gen.3:15 we find a promise from God to send a Savior. That Savior is Israel’s Messiah. That Savior is Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. He lived. He allowed himself to be crucified. He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. All of this he did to redeem a people for himself. All of this he did to redeem you from your sins.
Think about your sins. There are probably a number of specific sins that you are well aware of. Some of those sins go back to younger days. Some of those sins are current. God knows all about them. Jesus gave his life because of those sins. He did it because he loves you and me.
Sometimes we experience deep trials in this life and we wonder if God loves us. Notice what Paul says in v.35. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, [separate us from the love of Christ]?” Actually Paul experienced all of those things. We may experience some of these things. When we do we wonder, “Does God love me?” In v.36 Paul quotes from Ps.44:22. He’s making the point that in this world we are bound to experience these things. But in v.37 Paul says, “No.” None of these things will separate us from the love of Christ. In fact followers of Jesus Christ go through these circumstances and are victorious through Christ who loved us.
And then it’s as if Paul gets carried away. In v.38-39 he tries to convey the certainty that he had concerning Christ’s love. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers (here Paul is referring to the entire spiritual realm which includes angels and demonic powers), nor things present nor things to come (in other words, all of history) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. Basically Paul is saying that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For those of us who have been raised in church or who have attended church for many years and have even read the Bible on a regular basis, there is a tendency to diminish the truth and the reality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. There is a sameness that can dull our experience and belief in God and his love. In addition to this, it is often the case that the cares and disappointments of life deplete from us any experience of God’s love for us.
If this is your present experience, I want to give you a little prayer that you can begin praying. In 2Thess.3:5 Paul prays, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.” I encourage you to make that your prayer to God. Along with this I want to encourage you to take some time to be alone in God’s presence. This is not always easy because many of us don’t even like being alone in our own presence. We have to fill the time with talking. But all of us who know Jesus can become quiet and begin to attend to the presence of God. Turn your heart and mind to God. Pray this little prayer with hope and expectation in your heart.
From Monday through Wednesday of this week I attended a retreat for NAB pastors out at Village Creek Bible Camp in Iowa. The purpose was to have solitude and silence in the presence of the Lord. Well when you get pastors together, it isn’t easy to have solitude and silence because there is so much to talk about. We discuss our ministries, our joys and troubles and a whole lot of theology. I had purposed to spend time alone so I dismissed myself to do that. On Tuesday I decided to take a walk. It was a beautiful, cold day. As I was walking I passed the stable when they keep the horses and the horses were out. So I went over to see them and to see if I could pet one of them.
Now I’m not around horses very much and as I got close one of the horses came over to me. So I reached out and began to stroke the horse’s nose. I was struck by how big and powerful that animal was. I was also a little afraid. Then I turned to go away and as I walked I began to weep for the beauty of that animal. I became aware of the love and beauty of God. God used the beauty and strength of that horse to bring me into an awareness of his beauty, love and power. Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Men and women, if you have not entered into eternal living in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ who is Lord and King, I urge you to turn from your sin and pride and call upon Jesus to save you. And if you do know Jesus Christ, I urge you to plough up some new ground in your experience with the Lord. He loves you and desires for you to enter more and more into his love. Amen