To Become Like Jesus - Rom. 8:26-30
Daniel Webster once said,
If we work upon marble, it will perish; if on brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumple into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds, and imbue them with principles, with the just fear of God and love of our fellow men, we engrave on those tablets something that will brighten to all eternity.
Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 373.
This is our goal as a church family, to inspire minds with the principles of the Bible.
We don’t gather each week because we need something else to do, or simply because it is a culturally acceptable practice.
We come together because we hold God’s word as superior and Christ as preeminent to all the other things that vie for our time and affections.
We build our lives around the principles of God’s Word, saying no to futile things so that we can say yes to eternal things.
We intentionally study the Word together in a structured manner, so that we may learn the whole counsel of God, and not just the parts that fit our lifestyles.
And when we are confronted with truth that should change us, we submit in obedience because this life isn’t all about us.
God is at work in us and around us, and we learn of His purposes through delving into His Word and walking with Him in sincerity and truth.
And so let this idea sink deep within your heart today, that as you purpose to gather together for worship, and fellowship, and discipleship - it is engraving on the tablets of your mind and heart the eternal matters that really matter.
You raising your kids faithfully in biblical truth is of eternal importance.
So keep it up. Go home today and live out the truth we learn together. Make it a normal thing to think on and talk about the things of God. His Word is what matters - for it holds the truth of eternity.
Now, we are studying Romans and the thematic truth Paul is enforcing each week is that:
The righteousness of God is extended to the unrighteous through faith in the Gospel.
We don’t come to God expecting a relationship with Him because of our goodness.
Our only hope of a right standing before God is faith in the goodness of Christ.
And Paul is driving this truth deeper and deeper as we walk through Romans.
Last week we concluded from chapter 8:18-25 that:
When our present suffering is viewed through the lens of our eternal hope, there is no comparison. Therefore, we persevere in expectant hope of what’s to come!
So, we do not minimize the current suffering we or someone we know is going through. In fact, we do everything within our power to minimize that suffering while pointing to the eternal hope we have in Christ.
And as we face suffering, we keep our eyes on the eternal perspective and persevere expectantly.
We don’t walk around like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, just moping around waiting on Jesus.
We endure the current tragedies and heartache of our lives knowing the eternal promises of God.
In vv. 18-25, Paul makes it clear that we are sustained by the glorious hope of what’s to come.
Now, Paul is going to develop this further, transitioning from our eternal hope to our:
1. Present Help (vv. 26-27)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Not only do we have hope in the midst of our suffering, but we have help too.
As we learned a couple weeks ago in vv. 1-11, those who belong to God (those who have been given the righteousness of God through faith in the Gospel) have been given the Spirit of God to dwell in them.
Those who don’t have the Spirit in them, don’t belong to God.
And if the Spirit of God is in you, that changes things.
And as Paul develops what this looks like in believers, he says the abiding Spirit helps in our weaknesses.
Now, it’s interesting that the greek word used here for helps is only found elsewhere in the NT in Luke 10:40
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
In essence, Martha is saying, “Why should I be slaving at the sink while Mary is sitting on the rug in the living room?”
And while we know that her heart and her actions weren’t in line with what was best, the use of this word teaches us something special.
Just as Mary was looking for practical help with what she was dealing with, the Spirit comes alongside the dirty-dishes moments of our lives and helps practically.
The name Comforter, that Christ uses to describe the coming Holy Spirit upon His departure back to Heaven means, “one called alongside to help.” Just as a doctor comes alongside the sick bed, or the fireman comes alongside a burning building, or a friend comes alongside a trouble - the Spirit comforts and provides help where needed most.
And he helps in the toughest of moments. In fact, in those times that are so overwhelming, that we don’t even know how to pray, Paul says, the Spirit intercedes for us.
While Jesus is interceding for us in Heaven, the Spirit intercedes on earth within our hearts.
And these intercessions of the Spirit are with groanings which cannot be uttered - literally, indescribable. They are defying expression or description.
In our inability and weakness to fathom and face our suffering, the Spirit helps practically with prayers that so exceed our suffering that they are inexpressible from our perspective.
Paul is not referencing speaking in tongues or languages here, but simply groanings (utterance expressing pain) that the Father fully understands.
In fact, as v. 27 teaches, All while in the middle of this suffering and the interceding that is taking place, the Father knows exactly what is going on within the heart of the believer and the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes according to the will of God.
In the moments you don’t know how to run to God - the indwelling Spirit is in that moment going before the Father for you and seeking His will.
This is why it is so important to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in your life. As God is working in you, He is at work around you, and Paul is giving us this broader picture of life.
When I understand the truth of trials from a biblical perspective, Life doesn’t revolve around me anymore.
Life revolves around God and His eternal purposes.
And Paul develops that thought of purpose in vv. 28-30
2. Purpose (vv. 28-30)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Within these verses, we find a world of Theology.
Some tend to take v. 28 and make it an anthem while leaving out vv. 29-30, and this is a mistake.
However, vs. 28 is a blessing that should be held to with all hope, because to the one who loves God - we know that all things work together for good!
Now, what Paul is not teaching is that all things, in and of themselves are good.
What he is teaching however is that all things work together for good.
ILL: Apple Pie - Not all the ingredients are good by themselves, in fact some may be quite appalling. But when everything comes together, the mixture is good.
Similarly, the tragedy and heartache we face throughout life is not good in the moment, but God in His sovereign goodness works the details together for good.
And the good that all things are working toward is not earthly comforts, but conformity to Christ. And we see this in the next two verses.
So, Paul says, all things are working together for good, but only for those who:
1. Love God
2. Are the Called according to His Purpose
So we ask the question, what is the purpose of God that we are called to?
Paul answers that with 5 actions of God in fulfilling this purpose in you.
As we study the Word of God, it gives us insight into not only what he requires of us, but what He is like and what He has, is, and will continue to do.
And as we learn about God in the Word, we learn that He never calls us to something He won’t provide the means to obey.
And these verses are no different.
God collaborates the details together for those who are called for His purpose, then Paul outlines how God plans to fulfill that purpose.
Beginning in verse 29
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
You will notice the five action verbs that God accomplishes:
He foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, and He glorified.
This is what God is at work doing to make sure you fulfill the purpose He has laid out. We will look at these verbs here in a moment, but what is God up to in your life?
What is God doing as he is orchestrating in the midst of your brokenness, in the midst of your suffering, in the midst of your weakness?
According to vv. 28-29, God is at work conforming you into the image of Jesus.
Slowly but surely, God loves you so much that He has not caused, but allowed, suffering into your heart and life to form you into someone who looks and acts and lives more like Jesus.
He is taking the medium apples and the sweet moments of life and mixing them together with the nutmeg and salty situations to develop you into something amazing. And again, that is not earthly comforts, but ultimate conformity.
It is not ok to continue in what is less than best, so God is at work changing us. And the means by which he accomplishes that is often through hardship.
One thing we learn from Adam and Eve and the fall is that perfect conditions don’t produce perfect obedience and contentment.
So before we can look at this truth of hardship and think we know better than God, or perhaps view Him as cruel for allowing trials into our lives instead of constant ease, we must consider how humanity as a whole has responded, knowing that we are made out of the same stuff, with the same desires and shortcomings.
Perfect conditions did not produce perfect hearts in Adam and Eve, and it wouldn’t in your life either. And as a result of the fall, hardship and turmoil, and sin has come ravishing through our lives - yet God is so good that He graciously works in the midst of this for our good and His glory.
Now, He does this through 5 primary actions, we see in these verses. And if any of these actions are present, they are all present. You will notice how they build on one another.
v. 29 begins with Him foreknowing.
This simply means that God knew something beforehand. And the description of that foreknowledge is found in the same verse. Do you see preceeding foreknew. It’s not a what, but a WHOM. God knew who were His beforehand. This is God at work. He knew His own beforehand.
v.29 doesn’t stop there.
It says that he foreknew us, and predestined us.
Predestined means - to predetermine something before it happens.
And that something is defined in the passage. Do you see it proceeding Predestined?
God is at work, He chose me, and now we see that he predetermined that I would need to conformed to the image of His Son.
Conformed means to be like-natured.
My nature (Romans 1-3) is broken. I am a sinner and at enmity with God. My nature must be radically transformed. And God is at work to change that, initially through salvation and continually through sanctification.
And this conforming of us, confirms that Christ is the firstborn. And if there is a firstborn, then there must proceed otherborns.
We are to become like Christ. And God is at work fulfilling that in us.
Not only has God pre-known me and predetermined conformity for me, but:
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Those whom God has predetermined to be conformed, He called.
Called here means to summon, or authoritatively communicate a demand for participation.
So this is the effectual call of the saved. This isn’t speaking of the general call on all to come to Christ, because we know that not all who hear the Gospel respond in repentance and faith.
But as these actions of God build, we know they are all inclusive.
So God is at work, through Him forknowing who are His, Predetermining that we will not stay in our sinful nature, Him calling us unto Himself and this call being effectual, Paul says God is also at work at Justifying.
We know that familiar term - justify - to pronounce a verdict that someone is in full accordance with the requirements of the law.
God has worked this out for me. God is the one who justifies. He is the One who has pronounced me as right with Him.
And we know that this pronouncement of justified is applied only to those who respond to the Gospel. This is not a universal, everyone is right with God understanding, but a specific work.
And Paul concludes this list of the works of God with those who are justified are also glorified.
And we scratch our heads a bit, because although we have experienced first hand already the first four, we look at the fifth with anticipation to come, but Paul uses the past tense when he says that God has already glorified.
And although we know we have yet to experience the final glorification to come, we too, like Paul anticipate it and Paul was so assured of it, that He felt confident to write as if it has already happened.
It’s like when the freedom festival is coming to town, someone can ask, will Pastor eat a tenderloin from the bandstand and get a cinnamon role from Dotties? Although it hadn’t happened yet, you can rest assured it will.
And Paul says, wow! Would you look at all that God has accomplished in you. Don’t think your at the center of all of this. Your relationship with God is not built on your ability and your work.
No! It is God who knew you beforehand. Not only did He sovereignly know you beforehand, He also predetermined that you would be conformed. So, in HIS predetermination, He effectually called you, He justified you, He is going to glorify you in time to come, and that is so real that it’s like it’s already happened.
God is at work in you. He has provided future hope in what’s to come.
He has provided present help in the indwelling Spirit.
And He is fulfilling His eternal purpose in you.
God is at work changing me, and through it all, I can trust Him!
You can trust Him with your heartache. You can trust Him with your tragedy. Although you don’t see how He could possibly bring together the details of your hurt, He promises He is.
God is at work changing you, and through it all, I can trust Him.
Let’s affirm that together.
God is at work changing me, and through it all, I can trust Him!