Morning folks. If you’ve got a Bible it would be great if you could get it open again – or open it up for the first time – at Romans chapter 8.
AND if we haven’t met before – my name is Ken and I’m the Minister at St Joseph’s. AND in my younger years I was part of a church in a pretty rough part of Glasgow.
· It was brilliant – as the church attracted all kinds of people from all walks of life.
· BUT it was also a bit unpredictable and even scary at points.
Like one summer when we were doing our annual Holiday Club called the “Big Buzz” – I can’t even remember where we were going but my co-leader and I were walking along with a handful of the kids – one of whom she was carrying on her shoulders – when we made a wrong turn.
· I don’t mean wrong as in wrong way – but wrong as in the wrong kind of street.
· For in it were some of the local scallies – and they had seen us. And so they pulled themselves upright and started walking down the street towards us with the kind of swagger that only those looking for trouble and confident of coming out on top of said trouble… can pull off.
BUT all of a sudden from up on top of my co-leader’s shoulders came this high pitched bark: “Who are you looking at? Do you want some? Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough?!”
I mean this kid was only 5 or 6. He would have only come up to these lad’s waists. But bold as brass he challenged them to do their worst as if nothing in all the world could hurt him… or us!
AND in this case he was right. As soon as they saw this little pipsqueak they parted like the red sea, mumbled some hasty apologies and let us go on our way.
· Because they knew who his Dad was.
· AND if you had known his dad – you wouldn’t have messed with him either!
He was untouchable… because his dad was untouchable.
AND folks as we come to the closing verses of Romans 8 this morning the Apostle Paul’s defiant tone is a bit like that wee lad’s. Last week we looked at verse 28-30 – in which Paul gave us the basis for Christian assurance. AND this week he revels in it.
· “If – verse 28 is true – and by the way it really is! “…that for those who love God all things work together for your good…”
· AND if the golden chain of God’s salvation plan – in verses 29 to 30 that leads to your glorification is unbreakable.
· Then it is true that nothing in all the world can hurt us! Not really. Not ultimately. We’re untouchable because of who our dad is – Not some Glaswegian gangster, but our loving heavenly Father.”
Now you might wonder how he can say that? “Really? God loves us? He’s working all things for our good? I mean how can he even think about saying verse 37:
“No, in all these things” – in the midst of the troubles and difficulties of life – “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”?
How on earth does he get there? AND how do we – in this crazy year of 2020? As we feel in so many ways that we are NOT overwhelmingly conquering… BUT losing at every turn?
Well here’s how: Listen to the logic of Paul’s questions – And you will see that if you’re a Christian you are more than a conqueror, firstly, because…
1. GOD IS FOR YOU!
Do you see that there in verse 31:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
If you’re a Christian, who could be against you? Answer: Quite a lot of people.
The Unbelieving World finds Christianity offensive – so it says it is not only against God, but against his people.
Sometimes there’s outright hostility – BUT for most of us though, there is patronising indifference. The World is set against us.
BUT then again our own sinful nature is set against God also. We saw that earlier on in this chapter. We’re our own worst enemies – as sin gnaws away at us. And fights against the leadership of God’s Spirit!
And then what about the devil? Satan has a file on us – and he longs to destroy our faith. We can feel his attacks.
Who is against us? Lots of people! Which is why there are so many situations in which we struggle to have confidence in God.
But Paul says: “If GOD is for us – WHO could possibly stand against us?”
Do you see what he’s asking us here – the question is: Even if the whole world were stacked against you… is it stronger than God?
So take, that situation where you feel totally outnumbered, where as a Christian you feel you’re losing – and this is what you have to do – compare the 2 sides.
· What you’re afraid of on the one hand.
· And the God who is “for us” on the other.
And ask: Which is bigger? Which is stronger?
And as you do that, please know that in the Bible God is described as your Father, Husband, Shepherd, your King, our Creator, our Refuge, our Strength. Now what are you afraid of? Whatever it is it’s like a ladybird against a lion – compared to the God who is “for us”.
I remember early on in my time at secondary school pitching up to play cricket at another school and the opposition captain was 6 feet tall. We were only 12 and he was a giant towering over us.
AND he bowled like a whirlwind – He threw it down so fast we couldn’t get out of the way quick enough. He took all 10 wickets as we were bowled out for 9 runs. NINE!
He then came out to bat and after 3 meaty hits he scored all the runs in about 4 balls. He could have beaten us on his own! In the world of Under 13s cricket – anyone with this guy on their team was a sure fire winner.
AND Paul is saying to us here: See the God who is “for you”. See that he is on your team and you will see that you are more than a conqueror.
So you might be the only Christian in your family, or work place, or class at school. The odds don’t look that good. But can I just say that if you are the only Christian in a certain situation… there is actually an incredibly strong team there:
Because it’s You + God!
If you have got God on your side – you are on the winning team!
BUT… how do you know that God is with you… that he IS for you? AND that he won’t actually desert you and leave you looking like a total fool?
Well listen to Paul’s next question and see that…
2. GOD HAS GIVEN YOU HIS SON!
Verse 32: “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?”
Do you get FOMO folks? That is the “Fear of Missing Out.”
I think a lot of us have a kind of Christian version of it. We fear that through our Christian commitment – if we really go for it and try to live out what the Bible says – then actually we will miss out on some of the good things that life has to offer us:
· in terms of relationships,
· or career,
· or possessions – Because the world tells me that following God wholeheartedly will rob me of these things.
BUT once again Paul challenges us here: “Really? How can you say that when you look at what God has ALREADY given you?” He gave you his son!
What do you think is the most valuable thing in all the universe to God? It is his Son Jesus.
And yet even though we deserved to suffer as one of God’s enemies – in order to rescue us from our sin – he did not spare his son... BUT sent him to the cross to die for us.
If you’re a parent – would you do that? Even for someone you loved? I don’t think I would give my only son for anyone!
BUT God did! AND IF God loved me that much – then surely I can trust him for everything else.
He is like a husband who gives his wife a £50,000 present – perhaps a beautiful diamond necklace – He’s not going to wrap it up in some used hankies.
I mean if he’s going to buy the £50,000 necklace – if he’s not going to spare his own son – then surely he will give us the wrapping paper? He’s going to give us all that we need.
AND so the question is, as we look down at verse 32 – what are “all things”?
· Are they the things the prosperity preacher might promise you?
· Are they all the things the adverts tell us we need?
· Are they all the trappings of a comfortable middle class existence?
No! The “all things” – are the “all things” of verse 28 and 29 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” – so that we might be “conformed to the image of his Son.”
God will give you all that you need to become more like Jesus – because that is the aim of his purposes for you. And for me too!
So Jim Packer writes this of the “all things”: “One day we shall see that nothing, literally nothing which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing literally nothing that could’ve reduced that happiness has been left with us.”
That is what God is doing – he is making us like Jesus. And he won’t deny me anything that helps with that.
So let’s not be half-baked and nervous Christians – holding back in service, or giving, or witness, or involvement. No! How could we possibly not trust God for everything... if he didn’t even spare his own son.
God is for you. He has given you his son. BUT please see also that:
3. JESUS IS WORKING FOR YOU NOW!
Do you see that in verse 33:
“Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of Greyfriars Bobby. BUT in Edinburgh there is a statue of this wee dog – Bobby, who belonged to a fella called John. And when John died Bobby spent the next 14 years sitting on his Master’s grave guarding it, until he too died.
Now there’s something lovely about that story – which is why Bobby now has a statue near his master’s grave. BUT there’s also something tragic about it too.
· Because the one who fed Bobby is gone.
· The one who cared for him is gone.
· The one who loved him is no more.
And folks, the Christian’s faith is not expressed like that – in loyally lying on top of tomb of a dead master – hopelessly pinning for and defending him.
NO! He’s alive! Which means what? He can continue to love us, continue to feed us, continue to care for us.
You see Paul’s reminding us here that Jesus not only died for us – BUT he also rose - so that the Christian can plant their foot on the solid ground of an empty tomb – AND with a reasoned faith say Jesus lives now to love and protect and defend me!
· AND he does that because he not only rose, he ascended – and is where? Verse 34: “…at the right hand of God…” – seated at the place of power.
· AND what is he doing there? He is “… interceding for us.” Have you ever stopped to wonder what is Jesus doing right now? He is praying for you. He is praying for me.
He is praying for the security of his people. There is an intimacy and a constancy in the preoccupation of Jesus for his people. He is working for you still.
Jesus sits beside God the Father – and whenever any accusation comes in against us – it is immediately overruled by Jesus as he says: “I’ve paid for her sin, his sin. I mean Father look at the scars on my hands – I paid in full. So they must not be made to pay again… because they trust in me.”
Nobody can undo what Jesus has done on the cross! We are free of all accusation and guilt – because of the cross yes, but also because Jesus is still working for us – protecting our salvation… in order to bring us safely home.
AND I hope that you will see in that – fourthly and finally, that:
4. GOD WILL NEVER STOP LOVING YOU
Here Paul reaches his crescendo - as he gives us this final defiant challenge in verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” What problem or power could ever separate us from God’s love in Christ? “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
Do you see what Paul is saying? He’s saying: “Christian, do you really think that:
· The trouble you experience – perhaps in your marriage or with your family
· OR the hardship you’ve been through – perhaps loneliness in Lockdown
· OR the persecution you’ve suffered – from hostile work colleagues or relatives
· OR the famine – perhaps of clients that you fear you will lose in your business during this pandemic
· OR the danger – that we all face of catching COVID-19
· OR the sword – of state persecution that we may have to face one day.
Do you think that experiencing any of those things – will ever mean that God doesn’t love you?”
We’ve already seen here in Romans 8 that he allows these things to happen to us to make us more like Jesus – precisely because he does love us. Not because he doesn’t.
AND so Paul goes on in verse 36 to quote from Psalm 44 – reminding us that in many places and eras believers have always been in danger of even death for their faith. Like many brothers and sisters today in North Korea or Yemen or Eritrea – they have been like sheep lined up for slaughter.
BUT do you think that any of that means that God has stopped loving his children?
Paul’s answer in verse 37? “NO!”
“No… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
For his kids – death is quickest way to glory – to be with him forever. AND there is no situation in all of life – or death – that will amputate us from his love!
AND so we can declare with Paul in verse 38: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I don’t know how this works for you. You may be in the midst of terrible suffering, it may feel as if God is not for you, that he has stopped loving you – and you may be close to giving up.
BUT please know that if you are a child of God – if you are trusting in Jesus this morning – nothing will ever stop God loving you.
· However weak your faith may be
· However, faltering your love for him is.
· However badly we fail him.
· However terribly God allows us to suffer in learning to be more like Jesus.
Nothing, no NOTHING can ever separate us from his love.
God will ALWAYS love you. Always has. Always will.
And in the end, how do you know that he loves you? The answer is: Look at his hands. Just look at his hands.
Let me lead us in a prayer – let’s pray: “Now in all these things – Romans 8 verse 37 – we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. Oh Father God, we tell you we are assailed by guilt. We do feel fear and insecurity. We know suffering. So Father God please enable us to trust you – you who did not spare your own son – to hang in there – and to trust you to give us all things, and to make us more like him. Amen.”