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Triumphant Living Romans 8 sermon

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Triumphant Living

Preacher: Philip Bassett
Series: Lean On Me - Sermons From Romans
Meeting: 8am Holy Communion
Date: 12 May 2002
Passage: Romans 8:18-39

Back in the 1980's I was trained in biblical counseling by Larry Crabb, an American Christian psychologist who is the author of many books on personal relationships. Most of them are still readily available in the Christian bookshops such as Koorong at West Ryde. I have been using Larry Crabb's counseling model for over 20 years with considerable success. Basic to his counseling approach is the understanding that people have two fundamental personal needs which he identifies as:

1.      A deep longing for relationship

2.      A deep longing for meaning

At the end of last week's Romans passage, Ch. 8 v. 17 the Apostle Paul reminds us of the special relationship that we Christians all have as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. It is in this relationship that we know we are loved with an everlasting love that cannot be taken away from us. Other relationships may turn sour or they may fail or disappear as people pass out of our lives but our relationship with God and Jesus will never fail. Our God is the God of faithfulness, the God of steadfast love, the God of covenant promises and we can lean on him even though we may have a falling out with our best friend, or our marriage breaks down, our a close loved-one dies.

In today's passage from the remainder of Romans 8 Paul turns the whole business of meaning and purpose as he talks about present sufferings and future glory and above all our future hope. Now hope in this context has absolutely no element of uncertainty in it. We tend to use the idea of hope in the sense of uncertainty about the future. Do you think it will rain on our picnic tomorrow? Oh I certainly hope not. I bought my Mum a lovely cardigan for Mothers' Day, I hope it fits her. But in the Christian context, hope refers to the future certainty of things promised by God that are definitely coming but have not yet arrived.

We all need that something to look forward to that gives us an eager expectation of the future. In fact if all we have for the future is an expectation that the troubles we already have are only going to get worse that's when we sink into depression or despair. But our relationship with God is not just a present relationship, it brings with it an expectation of even better things to come. We are heirs of a hope of future glory against which the present difficulties of life pale into insignificance.

Because of this sure expectation of future glory we can press on with life with a positive ness of outlook. We're like the footballer whose team is leading 37 to nil with one minute to play. We still might get tackled and our nose rubbed in the dirt but there is no way we're going to lose the match. We have a sure hope of winning.

Now we might expect at this stage a statement by Paul about what this future glory looks like, a word picture of heaven if you like. But he doesn't; it's as if words can't do it justice; instead he tells us "look, heaven is going to be so good, that the whole of creation is jumping up and down on the spot waiting for it.' Even we are filled with eager anticipation and a sense of frustration because it hasn't come yet. In the meantime the Holy Spirit helps us by interceding for us when we don't even have words to express how we feel.

The remainder of Ch 8 is one of the greatest passages in Romans, it should fill us with boldness to live triumphant lives as Christians. John Stott says that in these 12 verses "the Apostle soars to sublime heights unequaled in the New Testament." Paul has described the four chief privileges that we have as justified believers, that is as Christians:

1.      Peace with God

2.      Union with Christ

3.      Freedom from the Law and

4.      Life in the Spirit

He now considers the whole sweep of the plan and purpose of God from a past eternity to an eternity still to come, from the divine foreknowledge and predestination to the divine love from which absolutely nothing will be able to separate us. Paul lays it out for us and emphasizes it by looking at it from three different perspectives.

He begins with 5 unshakeable convictions in verse 28 "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

1.      We know that God works or better, is at work in our lives.

2.      God is at work for the good of his people. The ultimate good is of course our salvation.

3.      God works for our good in all things. This includes the sufferings and groanings that we are currently going through. All the apparently negative or bad things that are happening directly to us or indirectly to our world have a positive purpose in the execution of God's eternal plan. Nothing is beyond the overruling, overriding scope of God's providence.

4.      God works in all things for the good of those who love him. Paul is not expressing a general, superficial optimism that everything tends towards everybody's good. The beneficiaries of God's goodness are specifically God's people, those who love him.

5.      Those who love God are also described as those who have been called according to his purpose. Life is not just the random striving for evolutionary survival of the human species. God is actively at work in us and for us and our love of God is the direct result of God's prior love for us.

These are all things that Paul says we know. We mostly don't understand the detail of what God is doing but we know that the big picture is that it is all being done for our good.

Next Paul gives us 5 undeniable affirmations.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The 5 affirmations are:

1.      Foreknowledge. God's foreknowledge is equivalent to Gods forelove. God didn't just know who was going to believe, his love actually brought it about.

2.      Predestination. God, because of his forelove, predecided that we would believe. Yes we made a decision for Christ, but we only did so because God decided for us first. Our salvation always rests on what God has done for us and in us in accordance with God's plan, will, pleasure and purpose, and the scriptures remind us that your and my salvation is traced back before the creation of the world or before time began. Possibly predestination is one of the hardest concepts to grasp but today I'm just stating it as a fact. Perhaps we'll revisit it another time for a closer look.

3.      Calling. The call of God is the historical working out of his predestination. The means of the call is the Gospel. Whenever the Gospel is preached it is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Evangelism or the proclamation of the Gospel is the means by which God's call comes to his people and awakens their faith.

4.      Justification. God's call is effective and enables those who hear it to believe and those who believe, that is respond in faith he justifies. God confers upon us a righteous state. It is more than forgiveness, acquittal or acceptance. God actually confers on us the righteousness of Christ himself.

5.      Glorification. As sinners we all fall short of God's glory, but through our justification we participate in God's glory. Back in verse 17 Paul promises that if we share in Christ's suffering we also share in his glory.

In these 5 undeniable affirmations the Apostle Paul has pictured God as moving irresistibly from an eternal foreknowledge and predestination, through a historic call and justification to a final glorification of his people in a future eternity.

Paul leads us into the last 9 verses of Romans 8 with a question he has already used 3 times in Chapters 6 & 7. "What then shall we say in response to this?" In other words, to use a Rogerism, in the light of those 5 convictions and 5 affirmations what more is there to say. Paul actually answers his question by asking 5 more unanswerable question. He challenges anybody and everybody, in heaven, earth hell, to answer them, to deny the truth they contain. But there is no answer for no-one and no-thing can harm the people whom god has foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified.

Question 1: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" if Paul had simply asked "Who is against us?" there could have been of course a whole barrage of replies. The unbelieving, persecuting world is against us, indwelling sin is against us, death is against us, Satan and his demonic minions are against us. Haven't we, as we strive to live the Christian life, often felt that the whole of creation is against us?

But Paul didn't ask "Who is against us?" he asked "If God is for us, who can be against us?" The answer is of course no-one, nothing for they cannot possibly prevail. Polar Bear "Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I together cannot handle."

Question 2: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? If Paul had simply asked "Will God give us all things?" we may well demur at the answer . Because we're not sure if we really believe that God will give us all things even though Jesus himself to taught us to pray "Give us this day our daily bread" But Paul's question reminds us that he has already given us his own Son, the supreme and costliest gift. The cross is the guarantee of God's unfailing, continuing generosity towards us.

Question 3: "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies." Now again if Paul simply asked "Who will bring charges against us?" We'd be expecting a cue to form of those waiting their turn; all the people we've ever wronged, our own consciences, Satan the accuser, for that's what his name means. But none of it applies. God has declared us justified. All their accusations fall to the ground. We have no case to answer.

Question 4: "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." This question is similar to the last one. Just as there is no-one who can accuse us, there is also no-one who can condemn us because Jesus is there reminding God that we're on the list of those he has justified.

Question 5: The last and greatest question is, " 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The answer of course is again no-one or no thing. The next bit is a few verses that we should always have ready in our minds to bring to the fore when we are beset with any sort of trouble or difficulty.

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

These five questions and the fact that each has no answer other than no-one and no-thing show us the type of God our God is.

There is absolutely nothing that can frustrate his purpose, quench his generosity, accuse or condemn us his elect or separate us from his love in Christ Jesus.

If you have committed yourself to God through faith in Christ but you find yourself wondering if it's all true, or whether God can really deliver on his promises, or whether simple faith is really all you need to go to heaven, then Paul is saying in this passage "Stop wondering! Stop worrying! It's all true, it's all sure. God has done it and nothing and nobody can stop God fulfilling his purposes and promises and you remember that his purposes and promises are for your good.

Let us pray.

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