Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If God Is For Us, We Should Never Be Afraid

Part 1 of God Is For Us

Text: Romans 8:31-32




What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? (vv. 31-32).


New Series

We are starting a new series of sermons based on Romans 8:31-39. The series is called “God Is For Us.”

  1. If God is for us, we should never be afraid (vv. 31-32) 
  2. If God is for us, we will never be condemned (vv. 33-34) 
  3. If God is for us, we will never be abandoned (vv. 35-39) 

The apostle Paul asks, “What then shall we say to these things?” (v. 31). “These things” probably refers to all that he’s written in chapters 5-8. Paul answers his question with five rhetorical questions. Let’s read what says about “these things.”


God Is on Our Side

When my high school basketball team would go to a tournament, the first thing we’d do was look at the tournament schedule. Who would our first opponent be? Imagine if we could insert into our starting lineup a player like Lebron James. We wouldn’t care who we were playing against. It wouldn’t matter. That’s what Paul means when he says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).

“If” means “since.” For God to be “for us” means that he’s on our side. Since God is on our side, it doesn’t matter who our enemies are. We can say with the psalmist, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

Paul isn’t saying that God’s children won’t experience any opposition. He’s not saying we won’t ever go through times of trouble. [Talk about things that could make us afraid.] What he’s saying is that nothing can cause us ultimate harm—undo all that God has done, is doing, and will do for us. “Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined…. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified” we are sure that he will glorify.

[Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.] In the end, all of the opposition and trouble we face in this life, will produce “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”


God Gave Up His Son for Us

God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (v. 32). This is the clearest demonstration of God being “for us.” Octavius Winslow said, “Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy;—but the Father, for love!”

Paul could be thinking of the story of Abraham and Isaac found in Genesis 22. God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…and offer him…as a burnt offering” (v. 2). In the end, Isaac was spared. But Jesus was not spared. What Abraham was told to do, God did. He “gave [his own Son] for us all.”

There could be no greater gift than the gift of God’s Son to die for us. Since God has already given us the greatest gift, he will certainly give us everything else we need. If someone has already graciously purchased a new car for you, will they mind giving you a piece of gum? [Read Philippians 4:19, then verses 11-13.] Remember: sometimes we don't actually need what we think we need.


Fear Not

What causes you to fear? If God is for us—and he is!—we should never be afraid. God—who if he were a basketball player would make Lebron James look like me—is on our side!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Glorified!

Part 5 of From Groaning to Glory

Text: Romans 8:29-30




For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (vv. 29-30). 


God Is Not Indifferent to Our Suffering

In this life we groan. It’s normal to ask, “Why, God?” But one question we should never ask is “Do you care, God?”

In John 11, Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus informing him that their brother Lazarus is dying. Jesus doesn’t leave until two days later, and by the time he arrives at their house, Lazarus has died. Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). I think what she really wants to say was, “Why didn’t you come sooner?” Did Jesus not care?

When Jesus sees Mary weeping, he becomes “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (v. 33). The KJV says that Jesus groans. [1]  And then when he arrives at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus cries. [2]

God is not indifferent to our suffering. When we groan, God groans. When we cry, God cries.


The Coming Day of Glory

There is no greater proof that God cares about us than the cross. On that cross, Jesus groaned so that one day our groaning would cease. On that cross, Jesus suffered so that one day our suffering would end.

There is coming a day so glorious that the suffering of this life will seem like nothing in comparison. [3] That’s not making light of our suffering. That’s making much of the glory of that day!

How can we be sure that we will experience this day of glory? 


An Unbreakable Chain

The “purpose” of God (v. 28) is outlined in verses 29 and 30. There is an unbreakable chain of five links (i.e., five acts of God) that guarantee the completion of a believer’s salvation: “those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined…. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

“Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (v. 29). There’s been a lot of debate about what “foreknew” means.

There are two interpretations:

  • “Foreknew” means that God knew ahead of time who would put their faith in Christ. 
  • “Foreknew” means that God foreloved the elect (i.e., those whom he chose to be saved). “In Scripture God’s knowing often refers to his entering into relationship with someone.” [4] For example, in Amos 3:2 God says, “You [Israel] only have I known [5] of all the families of the earth.”

I agree with the second interpretation—though I also believe that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

“Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Our destiny is to be like Jesus in his glorified state. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

“Those whom [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified.” “Calling” is not a general gospel invitation. It is God’s effective summoning of us into relationship with himself through Christ.” [6]

“Those whom [God] justified he also glorified.” Our glorification hasn’t happened yet. Why does Paul talk about it in the past tense? Because it’s as good as done from God’s perspective.


Grace Alone

How can we be sure that we will experience the day of glory? We can be sure because of God’s grace and God’s grace alone. It’s not up to us. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). “Every justified believer will be saved in the end.” [7]

____________________

[1] “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” (John 11:33, KJV).
[2] “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
[3] “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
[4] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 270.
[5] The NIV says, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth.”
[6] Moo, Romans, p. 270.
[7] Ibid., p. 279.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

God Works All Things for Our Good

Part 4 of From Groaning to Glory

Text: Romans 8:28




And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (v. 28). 


An Amazing Promise

The promise of Romans 8:28 is one of the greatest promises in the Bible: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Nothing will come into our lives that God doesn’t allow and use for our good. What this promise tells us is that “God is for us” (v. 31).

But maybe you don’t feel like God is for you. Maybe your life—or the life of someone you know—seems to contradict Romans 8:28. Let’s make sure we understand what the apostle Paul is really saying in Romans 8:28.


A Promise for Every Believer

This promise isn’t for everyone. This promise is “for those who love God.” This promise is “for those who are called according to his purpose.” Paul isn’t talking about two kinds of people; he’s talking about one kind of person. He’s talking about believers.

You might be thinking, “But what if I don’t love God enough?” Paul isn’t saying that this promise applies only to believers who love God to a certain degree. This promise is for every believer. “Those who love God” is a description of all believers.


All Things?

All things work together for good.” “All things” means all things—both the good things and the bad things. But this doesn’t mean that bad things are good things.

Joseph said to his brothers, “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” (Gen. 50:20). The crucifixion of Jesus is the ultimate example of God using a bad thing to bring about good. “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). “In this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).

Was the crucifixion of Jesus a good thing? That’s a tricky question. The cross was both the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened.


"Good" Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

“All things work together for good.” Romans 8:28 is not promising that life will always be easy for a believer. Consider Paul’s life. He certainly didn’t live a life of ease. [Read 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.] 

We shouldn’t interpret “good” from the world’s perspective. For example, if a believer loses his or her job, we shouldn’t automatically say, "Don’t be upset. God must have an even better job for you because 'all things work together for good.'" Maybe that is the plan of God. But maybe it isn’t. [Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.] “Good” includes our conformity to Christ—which begins in this life—and our glorification. [Read verses 29-30.] 


The Benefit of Hindsight

Paul says, “We know that…all things work together for good.” “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 12:8). In the present, we “know” by faith. We trust God to cause everything to work together for our good. We trust God—an all-wise God, an all-powerful God, a faithful God, a good God. One day, we will “know” by sight.

We live this life not having all the answers, not understanding why things happen the way they do. We ask, “Why would God allow [something bad] to happen?”

Think again about the crucifixion of Jesus. As his mother and friends were standing there watching him suffer and die, what were they thinking? They were probably thinking, “This is the most horrible thing that could have ever happened.” They were probably asking, “Why did God allow this to happen?”

We now have the benefit of hindsight. We now see that the cross was both the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In the end, we’ll have the benefit of hindsight. We’ll be able to look back at some awful times in our lives and see how God was working for our good. The promise of Romans 8:28 gives us hope when everything seems pointless and painful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Holy Spirit's Groaning

Part 3 of From Groaning to Glory

Text: Romans 8:26-27




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 (v. 26). 


It's Not Easy to Pray

It’s not easy to pray. Anyone who says it’s easy to pray is either lying or isn’t normal. Why isn’t it easy to pray?

  • Prayer requires time. 
  • Prayer requires discipline. No one accidentally falls into the habit of daily prayer.
  • Prayer requires focus. 
  • We often don’t know what to pray for. The Bible tells us to pray “according to the will of God,” but what do we do when we’re not sure what God’s will is? Should we pray for deliverance from our troubles or for strength to endure them? 

Why should we bother to pray when we don’t know what to pray for?


The Spirit Helps Us

When we don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit helps us. “The Spirit [who “dwells in” believers (v. 11)] helps us in our weakness” (v. 26). [1]

Notice that Paul says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” He doesn’t say “you.” Paul is admitting that even he didn’t always know what to pray for. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells about a time when he asked for something that wasn’t the will of God. [Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.]

How does the Spirit help us? He “intercedes [i.e., prays] for us” (v. 26). And how does he intercede for us? He intercedes for us “with groanings too deep for words” (v. 26). One way to understand these “groanings” is that they are our groanings. “They are inexpressible longings that arise in every believer’s heart to do and know the will of God.” [2] But our groanings also become the Spirit’s groanings. He takes them to the Father and “translates these groanings and conforms them to God’s will.” [3]


Your Will Be Done

The prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is the model for our prayers. We naturally want the easier path (deliverance from the trouble rather than strength through the trouble). It’s not wrong to pray for deliverance. Jesus prayed—while being “greatly distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33)—that the “cup” (a metaphor for the wrath of God) would be removed from him. But in the end, he said, “Yet not I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

 Is that your desire? Do you desire to do the will of the God who endured the cross?


Hope in Prayer

Verse 26 begins with the word “Likewise.” As our hope helps us in times of trouble, the Spirit helps us when we don’t know what to pray for.

If we truly desire to do the will of God, we don’t have to fear that we might ask for the wrong thing. The Spirit intercedes for us.

___________________

[1] The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. There is only one God, but each Person of the Trinity is God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Should we not believe in the Trinity because we can’t understand it? No! We shouldn’t expect to understand with our finite minds everything about God. God says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). Even the most brilliant human mind is finite.
[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, p. 446.
[3] Ibid.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Our Groaning

Part 2 of From Groaning to Glory

Text: Romans 8:23-25




And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (v. 23). 


Groaning

The apostle Paul says that we (i.e., believers) “groan inwardly” (v. 23). Did you groan about something this past week?

  • We groan about the never-ending tasks of life.
  • We groan about our physical struggles (e.g., tiredness, weight gain, sickness, pain).
  • We groan about our relational problems (e.g., failed marriages).
  • We groan about our spiritual failures (e.g., not loving others as ourselves). 

We don’t groan because we have no hope. We groan because we do have hope. How can hope cause us to groan?


Our Hope

Paul writes, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23).

We “have the firstfruits of the Spirit.” The “firstfruits” are the beginning of the harvest, and they also cause the farmer to anticipate a greater harvest. Paul is saying that because we’ve received the Holy Spirit, we now look forward to even greater blessings. And since we are looking forward to a life that is so much better, we groan when we go through the struggles of this life.

An elderly person who was once a great athlete must inwardly groan when he struggles to walk up the stairs. He groans when he looks back. We groan when we look forward—not because we don’t have hope, but because we do have hope.

When Paul talks about our “hope,” he’s not talking about the normal kind of hope (i.e., wishful thinking)—“I hope I win a million dollars.” Our hope isn’t wishful thinking because it’s guaranteed by the word and power of God.

What’s our hope? “We wait eagerly for adoption as sons.” But didn’t Paul say in verse 15 that we already children of God? Yes, we have already been adopted into God’s family, but we do not yet enjoy all of the blessings of adoption. We are living in the period between justification and glorification (v. 30).

Paul is thinking specifically about “the redemption of our bodies.” [Read 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.] When Christ returns our bodies will raised (if he comes after we die) and transformed. “The redemption of our bodies” is not only freedom from our physical struggles, but also freedom from our spiritual struggles. (Do we groan about both?) “In this hope we were saved” (v. 24a).

There needs to be a balance in our lives between thankfulness (for our present blessings) and groaning (as we look forward to our future blessings).


How Should We Wait?

“Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (v. 24b). “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

We are waiting for a day when we will no longer groan. This is our hope. How should we wait for the day when our groaning will cease?

1. We are to wait with excitement (“we wait eagerly,” v. 23). 

Are you waiting for some big event, counting down the days? My kids often ask, “How many days until…?” We count down the days when were excited. What God has planned for our future is something to get excited about!

2. We are to wait with endurance (“we wait for it with patience,” v. 25). 

Paul isn’t talking about just killing time. He’s talking about holding on to hope despite suffering and difficulties. It’s not like waiting to see the dentist for a checkup. It’s like waiting to see the dentist because you have a terrible toothache. But remember, we’re not just waiting for the end of all our problems. We’re waiting for a future so glorious that we can’t even begin to imagine it.


We Are Far Too Easily Pleased

Are we really longing for this day?

C. S. Lewis writes,
…it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased (The Weight of Glory, p. 26).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Creation's Groaning

Part 1 of From Groaning to Glory

Text: Romans 8:18-30




For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (v. 18). 


Series Introduction

For the remainder of our journey through the book of Romans, I’m going to do things a bit differently. From here on out, I’m going to make each section of Romans into its own little series of sermons. So I’m beginning a four-part series on Romans 8:18-30. And I’m calling this series From Groaning to Glory.

Notice the word “groaning” in verse 22, the word “groan” in verse 23, and the word “groanings” in verse 26. And also notice the word “glorified” at the end of verse 30. From groaning to glory.


Present Suffering, Future Glory

Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). Is Paul saying that our suffering is insignificant?

Paul isn’t saying that people don’t experience great suffering. I'm sure you can think of someone (maybe it's yourself) who is going through a time of great suffering. And we know that there are many others who are going through similar kinds of suffering--or even worse.

Notice that verse 18 begins with the word “For.” What Paul says in verse 18 is connected to what he said in verse 17: we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

In verse 17, Paul is talking about persecution. In verse 18, he’s talking about all kinds of suffering. We suffer because of our “human frailty,” which includes both our physical and moral frailty. [1]

Paul doesn’t pretend that a person’s problems disappear when he or she becomes a follower of Christ. Actually, he often writes in his letters about how following Christ caused him to experience suffering. [2]

Paul suffered greatly. People today suffer greatly. Paul isn’t saying that our suffering is insignificant. What he is saying is that the suffering we experience now is nothing compared to the glory we will one day experience. So if our suffering is great, imagine how great the glory will be!


Eager Longing

Paul says that the glory will be so great that even “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (v. 19). Paul personifies [3] creation. [4]

He says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vv. 20-21).

Who subjected creation to futility? It was God. Creation was “subjected to futility” because of humanity’s sin. [Read Genesis 3:17-19.] This world is not what it was made to be. But notice that he subjected creation to futility “in hope”—in hope that one day creation will “be set free from its bondage to corruption.” God says that he will “create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isa. 57:17; cf. Rev. 21:1).

We won’t forget about the old heavens and earth, but we won’t miss it (like my parents miss their old washing machine, even though they now have a new and “better” one). [Read Revelation 21:1-5; 22:3.] Paul is talking about the world we want to live in—a world where “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3), a world free from futility and frustration.

In The House at Pooh Corner, Winnie the Pooh is asked, “What do you like doing best in the world?” Pooh starts to answer, and then he stops and thinks because “although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you begin to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” That’s true. Usually the anticipation is better than the experience. The experience often doesn’t live up to our expectations. And, of course, every experience is only temporary.

What do you long for? What we really long for, we won’t find in this world. C. S. Lewis once said that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” [5] We were made for another world.


Do You Have Hope? 

In verse 22, Paul says “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” I haven’t experienced childbirth (obviously), but I’ve observed it. I was present for the birth of my four children. What I know is that the pain of childbirth is great, but it’s nothing compared to the joy of having a newborn baby. That’s what keeps a woman going during the pain of childbirth.

In this world, there is great suffering. But the suffering we experience now is nothing compared to the glory we will one day experience. Imagine how great the glory will be!

One thing we need during times of suffering is hope. Do you have hope?

____________________

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 237.
[2] In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Once I was stoned” (2 Cor. 11:25; cf. Acts 14:19).
[3] This is common in the Bible. For example, Psalm 65:13 says that the pastures, hills, meadows, and valleys “shout and sing together for joy.”
[4] “Creation” refers to “all of subhuman creation: plants, animals, rocks, and so on” (Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 266).
[5] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 136-137.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What's So Great About Being a Child of God?

Part 26 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:14-17




For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (v. 15). 


My Dad! 

There’s a viral video in which a group of girls are bragging about their dads.

One girl says, “My daddy has a gold tooth!”

One of the girls is impressed: “Wow, a gold tooth?”

Not to be outdone, another girl turns to the first girl and says, “My dad has diabetes.”

We who are Christians say that God is our Father. And the Bible actually encourages us to boast about “our Father in heaven”: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). So what’s so great about being a child of God?


What It Means to Be a Child of God

In these verses, Paul gives us two reasons why it’s an amazing privilege to be a child of God—to have God as our Father.

1. A child of God has been adopted by God. 

In verse 14, Paul says, “All who led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Later, he writes, “We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” To be adopted by God means to be chosen by God. God has chosen us to be his children.

Why do verses 14 and 15 say that we are “sons,” not “sons and daughters”? Is Paul excluding women? No! The reason why Paul uses the word “sons” has to do with the culture of his day. In that culture, a childless adult would adopt a male child to be his heir. So an adopted child would have been a son.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (3:26). And then he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). In other words, all of us—both male and female—are equal in God’s family. No one is more or less a child of God than anyone else!

To be adopted by God also means to be loved by God. In verses 15 and 16, Paul writes, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (cf. Gal. 4:6). Our relationship with God is not a relationship of fear; it’s a relationship of love.

Paul says that we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Paul’s original letter would have read Abba! Pater! The word Abba—which, by the way, has nothing to do with a Swedish pop group—is Aramaic, and the word Pater is Greek. Both words mean “Father.”

Jesus spoke Aramaic, so “Abba” is what Jesus called God. In Mark 14:36, Jesus address God as “Abba, Father.” When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them to address God in the same way: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).

Once God adopts us, we never have to fear that God will one day return us to the orphanage. He will never disown us. He will never kick us out of his family. We are permanently in God’s family. Nothing can or will change that. As Paul says later in Romans 8, “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).

2. A child of God is an heir of God. 

In verse 17, Paul writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness with out spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

What does it mean to be “an heir of God”? What is our inheritance? Our inheritance includes many things, but the greatest treasure of our inheritance is God himself. “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6). We were made for God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the “chief end of man” is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

We are “fellow heirs with Christ.” Jesus became like us (v. 3) so that we could become like him (v. 29). The Son died on a cross so that I could become a son! “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 8:10).


Am I Really God's Child?

How do I know if I’m really a child of God? Am I really God’s child? Is God really my Father? If God is my Father, I will resemble him. How can I resemble God?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells them, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:1-2). To be an imitator of God is to be like him in our character and in our actions.

Jesus “loved us and gave himself up for us.” The Father “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). Look at 17: “if children then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” We aren’t to desire suffering, but are you willing to suffer in order to remain faithful to God? God was willing to suffer for us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How Do I know if the Holy Spirit Lives in Me?

Part 25 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:5-13




You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (v. 9). 


If in Fact

The apostle Paul says that there are two—only two—categories of people in this world. There are people who are “in the flesh,” and there are people who are “in the Spirit.”

Now this isn’t like if you’re left-handed or right-handed. The consequences of being “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit” are much higher!

  • “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).
  • “If you live according to the flesh, you will die” (v. 13). 

Paul says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (v. 9a). But that’s not the end of the sentence. The next word is “if”: “if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b). There’s a lot riding on whether or not the Holy Spirit is living in us!

How do I know if the Holy Spirit lives in me? Let me ask you this: What’s your mind set on? 


What's Your Mind Set On?

In verse 5, Paul writes, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” To set the mind on something is to desire something. We either desire “the things of the flesh” or “the things of the Spirit.”

What is the “flesh”? It’s “our fallen, ego-centric human nature” [1] To live “according to the flesh” is to live a life that’s all about me.

To “live according to the Spirit” is to live a different kind of life. The Holy Spirit transforms our mind. We have a new desire—a desire to please God. We desire “the fruit of the Spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Verse 4 tells us that Jesus died so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” “In us” could mean “for us” (i.e., justification) or “by us” (i.e., sanctification). Jesus didn’t die only for our justification. He also died for our sanctification. “Holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and the atonement.” [2]

What are you setting your mind on? [Read James 4:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17.] Are your values and pursuits any different from those of the world? What we set our minds on will affect the way we live.


Is Grace Just About Getting?

We are justified by grace. Justification is a gift from God. But is grace just about getting? What about giving? Do we say, “God, you have given me so much, but I’m not gonna give anything to you”?

There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). But verse 13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (v. 13). That’s a warning.
Neither the “indicative”—what God has done for us in Christ—nor the “imperative”—what we are commanded to do—can be eliminated. Nor can they be severed from one another; they are inextricably connected. The point of that connection in this passage is the Spirit. The same Spirit that “set us free from the law of sin and death” has taken up residence within us, producing in us that “mind-set” which tends toward the doing of God’s will and resists the ways of the flesh. [3] 
“We are debtors” (v. 12). Giving back to God isn’t optional. But God isn’t saying, “If you don’t pay me back, I’m going to take away everything I’ve given you.” First of all, we can never pay God back. Secondly, anyone who has the Holy Spirit will never argue that we don’t owe God our lives.

____________________

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 222.
[2] Ibid., p. 221.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 495.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Justification and Sanctification

Part 24 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:1-4




For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (v. 2). 


Justification and Sanctification

Two important biblical words are “justification” and “sanctification.” What do they mean?

Justification is the declaring of a person to be righteous (i.e., not guilty). (It’s like when we say, “His actions were justified.” In other words, the person is not guilty of wrongdoing.)

Sanctification is moral transformation (i.e., Christlikeness, holiness). Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (“the Spirit of life,” v. 2). This is why he is called the Holy Spirit. (It's not that he's more holy than the Father and the Son.)


What's the Connection?

Many commentators believe that 8:1 is about justification (“no condemnation”) and 8:2 is about sanctification. [1] What’s the connection between verses 1 and 2?

Notice that verse 2 begins with “For,” which means “because.” John Piper points out that “because” can be used two ways. It can be used to provide evidence of something or state the cause of something. [2]

If I say, "I am tired because I’m yawning,” I'm saying that my yawning is evidence of being tired. But if I say, “I am tired because I didn’t get much sleep,” I'm saying that my not getting much sleep is the cause of being tired.

Is sanctification the cause of justification, or is sanctification the evidence of justification?

Sanctification isn’t the cause of justification. If it was, we could never achieve (or keep) the status of “no condemnation.” Sanctification is the evidence of justification.


God Has Done What the Law Couldn't Do

If it’s impossible for us to get rid of our guilt, how is it possible? “God has done what the law [i.e., the Mosaic law], weakened by the flesh [i.e., our sinfulness], could not do” (v. 3a). The purpose of the law was not to justify us: “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). [3]

God has done what the law couldn’t do: make a way for us to be justified. How?

  • The Father sent the Son (“By sending his own Son,” v. 3b). 
  • The Son became human (“in the likeness of sinful flesh,” v. 3c). “His humanity was both real and sinless simultaneously.” [4]
  • The Son became an offering for our sin (“for sin,” v. 3d). 
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by the Son on the cross (“he condemned sin in the flesh,” v. 3e). “In the flesh” refers to the body of Jesus. “Believers are no longer ‘condemned’ (v. 1) because in Christ sin has been ‘condemned.’” [5]
  • Now our justification and sanctification are possible (“in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” v. 4a). [6]

Believers are described as people “who walk [i.e., live] not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 4b). This is sanctification—the evidence of our justification and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

To live “according to the flesh” is to live a me-centered life. To live “according to the Spirit” is to live differently—to be like Christ.


There Is "No Condemnation," But There Is Obligation

“No condemnation” means no condemnation. There’s no fine print; there are no exceptions. There is absolute security for the believer.

But Jesus died on the cross not only for both our justification; he also died for our sanctification. “Holiness is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation and the atonement.” [7]

Being satisfied with only justification (and not bothering with sanctification) is like being given a free Hawaiian vacation but never leaving your hotel room.

____________________

[1] The two occurrences of “law” in verse 2 mean “power” or “principle” (cf. Rom. 3:27).
[2] John Piper, “Set Free by the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” (sermon)
[3] The law isn’t bad. Telling someone that apples won’t cure tiredness doesn’t mean that apples are bad.
[4] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 219.
[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 477.
[6] The fulfillment of the “righteous requirement of the law” can be seen as referring to our justification or our sanctification. Perhaps it refers to both.
[7] Stott, p. 221.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

No Condemnation!

Part 23 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 8:1, 13




There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (v. 1). 


A Heck of a Story!

I remember watching the NFL Network’s Super Bowl LI edition of Sound FX. The Patriots are losing 28-3 in the middle of the third quarter. A Patriots’ victory appears highly unlikely. But one thing that stood out to me was Patriot’s wide receiver Julian Edelman telling teammates, “It’s gonna be a [heck] of a story!”

Edelman ended up being right. Super Bowl LI did become “a [heck] of a story” for the Patriots. They ended up winning the game 34-28. The Patriots’ 25-point comeback is the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that every single one of us is a sinner. We have broken God’s law. We are guilty. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to take away our guilt.

It looks very bad for us. But “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (5:20, NIV). The gospel is an amazing story!


Security and Warning

We are free from condemnation. But does that mean we’re free from obligation (i.e., obeying God’s commands)? Look at verse 13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die [eternally], but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live [eternally].”

According to verses 1 and 13, there is—for the believer—freedom from condemnation, but there isn’t freedom from obligation.

  • Does “no condemnation” mean that we are absolutely secure in Christ? 
  • Does the warning “If you live according to the flesh you will die” mean that we have to “earn our keep”? 

Freedom from Condemnation Yes!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1).

  • “Condemnation” is “the opposite of justification.” [1]
  • “Now” refers to the new era that began when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
  • “Therefore” points back to what Paul has been saying about God’s grace. 
  • How can we be free from condemnation? God “condemned sin in the flesh” (v. 3). “The flesh” refers to Christ’s body. 
  • It doesn’t say, “No condemnation unless….” We don’t have to fear that any sin will ever condemn us! “Who is to condemn?” (v. 34). 
  • “To insist on feeling guilty is but another way of insisting on helping God with our salvation. How deeply imbedded in human nature is the influence of works-righteousness!” [2]

Freedom from Obligation? No!

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (v. 13).
[How does] the need to put sin away from us relate to the promise of verse 1? Calvinists and Arminians are agreed that the believer must progress in the battle against sin if he or she is to attain eternal life. But the Arminian believes that a regenerate person might, indeed, be so lured by the flesh that he or she fails to progress in the Christian life. At some point, then, that person might cease to be “in Christ.” Thus, the promise of verse 1 no longer applies to that person. The Calvinist, by contrast, believes that the influence of the Spirit in a believer’s life is so dominant that he or she can never reach the point of falling permanently into a lifestyle of sin and so forfeit the promise of “no condemnation.” [3]
“Security without responsibility breeds passivity, but responsibility without security leads to anxiety.” We need balance! [4]

____________________

[1] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 274.
[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, p. 174.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 258.
[4] Ibid.