Romans – Week 26 Sermon Notes

  1. INTRO:

Cliché: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”

“Think outside the box”

“Everything happens for a reason”

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

“No pain, no gain”

I do have to admit I do like the “no pain, no gain” one…but the rest I try to avoid…but why?

Is it because they are not true?…I would say in general terms they are all true.

Maybe it is because they are overused and lack original thought…but sometimes the desire for original thought is driven by pride not a quest for truth.

Romans 8 may be the one chapter in the Bible with the most candidates for what many would consider Christian clichés…I don’t consider clichés…but some would.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” 

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

But what is a cliché depends on the use and the user.

For instance, let me give you a phrase that is way overused and lacks original thought…”I love you.”

So is it cliché or not? Some say “yes” some say “no”

Why would some say “yes”…well their perspective and their experiences have lead them to believe this about that phrase.

The phrase does not consistently match their own reality…people have said but not lived it…or at least they thought that was the case.

If someone is well loved…saying “I love you” will never be overused or lack original thought…because it matches their reality.

They know it is true in their own lives.

Today we finish Romans 8, one of the more loved and memorable and misused chapters in the Bible.

A chapter with many clichés…or no clichés at all…it depends on what you do believe, value, and do with these only life altering truths.

Rom. 8:31   What, then, shall we say in response to this?

“This” is actually plural…”These things”

These things are the many reasons for our confidence that Paul has been discussing thus far.

All these reasons can be summed up in a single statement:

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

It is not a question…it is a rhetorical statement of fact…the answer is included in the question.

Of course there are many people and things that can and do oppose us: people hostile to the faith, trials of life, Satan.

The point is none of this opposition compares to the fact that God is for us.

Oil Rig: I worked on an oil rig in a tiny(one gas station) town in East Texas two summers out of college.

-There were about 24 men who worked the round the clock shifts.

-I was the worm…the designation for the newest guy.

-None of the men gave any indication of being believers

-One man in particular decided to be hostile towards me…and he went out of his way to be a pain.

-There were times when I felt alone…but as the summer went on I discovered that I had these men outnumbered…by discovered, I mean the fact of Romans 8:31 became a living reality for me.

-By the end of my time on the rig the man who was particularly hostile became a friend, and a defender of mine.

-I really came to believe that if “God is for me, who can be against me” was true…it is a lesson I continue to learn, then forget, and learn again.

Of course there have been and are many situations where Christians have been killed by those hostile to the faith…but even in those situations…the hostile crowds are outnumbered.

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

This is a declaration of fact…a truism, like saying “the sky is blue”…there really should no news value in that for us…it is so very obvious.

So obvious it almost doesn’t even need to be said.

But he says it…because we need to hear it.

Then he elaborates.

First by giving the greatest proof that God is for us. 

32 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?

He gave his Son (the best he could possibly give), what reason do we have to believe that he would withhold any good thing from us.

“All things” here is not a cosmic shopping spree, or winning the heavenly lottery.

The all things is connected to 8:28

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

The “All things” is our final glory and all that God provides to bring us to that glory.

He will finish the work he began in us…this is our assurance.

Some might be disappointed by the true scope of this promise.

“I was hoping he would give me some really good stuff, like better health, , better job, more money, maybe a bit of fame, longer life…still longer life…”

The scope of this promise is much larger than any of that…He gave his son, so you can be sure your final destiny is secure…those he justifies, he will in fact glorify.

All that happens between you justification and glorification, he will control for your good and his glory.

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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.  

“Bring a charge” is a judicial term.

This doesn’t mean that people, Satan, even our own hearts might not try to bring a charge against us.

The point is that these charges will be unsuccessful…they will not stand.

Guilt is a powerful force in our lives. As are its cousins shame and blame.

“Look at you, who are you to think you could be forgiven for that?”

“You are a fraud, if people only knew what is in you…and what is in your past.”

“You are a terrible follower of Christ, mother, friend, dad, person…so just shut up, don’t you dare speak out about your faith or about God…shame on you.”

“Look at all the stuff you don’t do, look at all the bad stuff you do.”

We all have plenty of charges leveled against us…by others and by our own hearts and minds…on a daily basis.

Paul’s point here is…the charges do not stick.

This is true in fact…it is important that we become increasingly aware of this truth…personally, pragmatically (in personal ways)

I recently had a charge (not legal, personal) leveled against me…I didn’t think it was well founded so my initial response was to consider an aggressive self-defense.

But as I waited, prayed before I responded…I felt the need to defend myself lose some of its steam.

Not that is wrong to defend ourselves…but in this case the more I prayed, the less inclined I was to try and defend myself.

It is difficult to be accused…whether the accusations are accurate, partially so, or completely wrong.

As we move through life there will be plenty of all of those kinds of accusations…some we deserve, some we don’t.

The accusations that come our way can lock us up.

We can lose heart, lose hope…maybe you don’t want to step out boldly as a representative of Christ because of past shame or present guilt.

Imagine you are trying to live your life in a Christ honoring way and suddenly someone from your past bumps into you in a store and with your family or friends watching…takes you to court.

“Hah, look at you, pretending to be changed, I know you, I know what you have done…what have you got to say for yourself…do these people know who you really are?”

Who are you now, really? Now…right now, who are you?

Years ago I was at the reception of a wedding I had officiated standing with my three girls, they were probably around middle school age.

I lady who thought she knew me well from High School…began to tell my girls “I can’t believe your dad is a pastor, I knew him in High School, I can’t believe he is a pastor.”

When she finally moved on…we laughed…and I said “She didn’t know me as well as she thinks she did.”

But even though I do regret some things from those years…I don’t need to live in shame now.

It is not that our past choices don’t matter, or that they may not continue to cost us…it is that, they do not now define us…and more importantly in the final outcome…they will not count against us.

Religions almost without exception are about some kind of scale.

Trying to put more good deeds than bad deeds out into the world.

And if you put more bad deeds out there…you will be punished…more good deeds and you will be rewarded.

The gospel is that Jesus has put the weight of his life, death on our scale and now we receive his reward and not our punishment

Who can effectively bring a charge against us since it God himself who has declared us “not guilty?”

Who can condemn us since Jesus Christ has not only died for our sins, he is now alive and standing at the right hand of God…interceding for us.

Guilt ridden mom, dad, student, sr adult…I hope you see how practical and life giving this is.

It is not an easy truth to apprehend and apply when accusations are hurled at you…by others, or even by yourself.

But it is truth nonetheless and the worth the effort to take it into your heart and mind.

Of course the ultimate implications are in our future…but the applications are in our present.

We are now justified (declared not guilty)…we will then be glorified (share in his life more fully)

And the implications are more than legal…they are very personal.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

This question is parallel to the one in verse 31 but it sets the tone for the rest of the chapter by shifting the focus to Christ’s love.

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

35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

We are innocent of all charges but more than that, we are loved.

What if the story of the prodigal son went like this.

“There was a son who did not enjoy life with his father, he demanded his father give him his share of the inheritance right now. Off he went to enjoy his freedom and after squandering all his father gave him found himself in dire circumstances; eating the food of farm animals, living worse than the servants who worked in his father’s home. In shame he headed for home. As he drew near his father’s estate, his heart froze in fear as he looked up…there he was….his dad…standing at a distance, arms folded, scowl on his face. As the son drew near to his disappointed father he fell to the ground and said “I’ve sinned, I’m not worthy to be your son but would you make me your servant, I just want to come home.”

The Father said “You debt is forgiven, I’ll not hold your sin against you. And yes you can work for me and live here…but I don’t trust you, I don’t love you, I don’t even really like you anymore.”

Far less moving and far less truth than the real story…here’s how Jesus told it.

Luke 15:17   “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21   “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22   “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

We are not guilty…but we are more than that…we are loved.

And what might separate us from that love?

Let’s investigate some possibilities.

35b Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Surely if we suffer trouble, we are persecuted, going without food and clothes and are living in dangerous and even deadly circumstances…this indicates we are not being loved by Christ…doesn’t it?

But wait, it seems this kind of life has always been true for God’s covenant people and still is…Paul quotes Ps 44:22

36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

So “In all things, God works for the good of those he loves…and none of those things (some of which are very difficult) can separate us from his love.”

What seems so very abnormal to us…”You say I am loved, yet I still suffer”…is in fact normal.

Now he returns to his main line of teaching…so trouble is normal, I get that…but can any of these troubles separate us from the love of Christ?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

How are you more than a conqueror?

“Hey, did you win the game?”

“Oh we more than won the game!”

Whatever, how do you “more than win a game?”…either you did or didn’t.

Paul is using a rare word (used only here in the NT), one that means “to thoroughly conquer”…more than conquer.

One of the applications I have heard regarding this verse through the years is that we are able to soar above all troubles…virtually untouched by them.

We are not supposed to struggle (much), we are not supposed to suffer, we are supposed to live like kids with a really rich dad…very few real challenges.

But this would be true if our dad were very rich and very foolish.

God is king, but also wise and good and loving…he will not keep trouble from us.

I have known men and women who were ruined by the lack of struggle as they grew up…it turned their lives into nothing but struggle.

College Football Player: 20 years old, received a sentence of 15 years for sexual assault.

-I don’t know his whole story and I don’t blame his choice on his parents.

-But I have seen people, protected and pampered into becoming people who are foolishly disconnected from the reality of a world of cause and effect.

God is no foolish parent.

Maybe you are struggling with the analogy of a parent…what parent allows the kinds of things to happen to their children that God allows to happen to his?

It is an analogy and all analogies only go so far.

God is our father, but he is God.

Just as a father or mother sees the larger picture while the child sees only the here and now…so God sees the larger picture.

But unlike human parents God sees the entire picture and has the ability to bring about his own purposes…no human parent has either of those abilities.

Is. 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

So how are we more than conquerors…what Paul probably intends by using this unusual word is that not only do we ultimately triumph over adversity but that very same adversity, in God’s hand, leads to our ultimate good.

We don’t just survive adversity…we ultimately become more like the Lord Jesus through it.

It has permanent value in our lives.

Even on the human level, survivors of combat as well as mental and physical trauma who are able to turn what they went through into opportunities for personal growth tend to avoid much of the long-term relational, mental, physical devastation from those events.

How much more so when our “post-suffering” growth…is brought about by the will and power of God.

Paul concludes this chapter with a personal testimony celebrating God’s love for us in Christ.

He gives a list of four pairs with “powers” thrown in between the third and fourth pair.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither 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.

  1. Death nor life: two basic states of human existence
  2. Angels nor demons: The entirety of the Spiritual world
  3. Present nor future: All of history, including people and events of history
  4. Height nor depth: All of physical reality. Descriptive language…everything “up” and everything “down”.

That pretty well covers it…but just in case you miss his point he adds “Nor anything else in all creation”

Then he ends the chapter like he began it…a declaration of confidence in Christ Jesus.

8:1: “There is no condemnation”

8:39: “There will be no separation”

Paul is not a theological scientist…giving “brute” facts about God as if God is more an object of human study than a being who offers relationship.

Paul is using language here designed to move our hearts in the direction of God not just get information into our heads.

The information is true, and important…but he is trying to persuade us to accept what he says as true so that it will transform both the way we think and the way we live.

He offers questions and answers one after another with barely a pause.

He is offering a confident declaration of faith rather than a logical argument.

It’s common to separate belief from knowledge.

We “know” it is raining right now, or that we feel hungry.

We “believe” that God is real, and the gospel is true, and that God is control.

So there are “real” things that we know.

Then there are less than real things that we believe.

But Paul’s declaration here is more what we would call “know” than “believe.”

It’s more like: “I know it is raining right now, I know nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.”

Look at verse 38 “I am convinced”

“How convinced are you Paul? 50%, 75%?”

Convinced is a word that means “complete certainty”

You cannot be 75% completely certain…you are either convinced or you are not.

He is…and with good reason…convinced.

He has experienced the resurrected Christ in his own life.

He has seen God transform many people in his ministry

He has understood how Christ is the fulfillment of the ages, all that God has been doing since the beginning.

He has seen God bring good in his own suffering…and he has had a lot of it.

He is convinced…so he does not hesitate to try and be convincing…he wants his readers (that includes you and me) to become convinced as well.

CONCLUSION:

Rom. 8:1   “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” 

Rom. 8:28   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Rom. 8:31   “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Rom 8:39 “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

These are the very truths of God…what can you do to keep them from becoming cliché?

Important:

-It’s important what happens in your business or workplace…very important.

-Its important what happens in our government and military…liberty, life…depend on it.

In the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on military meetings of national and international scope…I was an observer never a participant.

The stuff was important, the participants were important people…but nothing I heard was of more or as much importance as this…

Rom. 8:1   “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

Rom. 8:28   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Rom. 8:31   “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Rom 8:39 “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You keep this truth from becoming cliché by understanding it is true, it is real…and it is of enormous and eternal value for you…so it is of the utmost importance that you get these truths into your mind, heart and life.

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