Preached @ Anchor Community Church on August 31st
“We have a choice to focus on our circumstances and therefore define God’s character, or we can focus on God’s character and allow that to define our circumstances”
We have been doing a ten week study on Romans 6-8, zeroing in on what sanctification (Process of God’s making us holy) is. I pray it has been as fruitful for you as it has for me! While there are many aspects of our sanctification, at least the following three are important to understand.
1. A result of Justification
2. A work of the Holy Spirit
3. A response of Obedience/Mortification
At the heart of our sanctification is Love, which is why our passage today reflects God’s love for us. Our passage concerning God’s love has to be seen within this context of sanctification and His character. All to often we define love on our terms and then judge God by those terms. Many have rejected God, because they do not believe He can be a loving God with so much pain and suffering in the world. In a sense they judge God’s character on the circumstances surrounding us, rather than judging and defining our circumstances in light of His known character. 1 John 4:8 reminds us “God is love!” Our sanctification is fueled by the knowledge of God’s love for us. Who you love matters, because what you love, is most often what you will put your time, talent and treasures into.
Also, as our love for God weans, we are weakened in our desire to please Him, and see Him for who He is and what He has done. So rather than judging God by our circumstances, I pray that we judge our circumstances by His character, and know that it is quite often in our pain that He shows up the most.
We saw that god’s ultimate goal is the redemption of everything He created, and therefore we need to see God’s love and our sanctification in light of that. Also, God’s goal for His people then, is the conformity to the “Image of His Son” (See Romans 8:19; 29-30).
Missiologist Leslie Newbigin wrote that, “The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel” meaning that it was the church (People) who was the collective witness of the Gospel to the world. It’s the church who defines the gospel, and makes it known through their obedience to the gospel. The church was the tangible witness of God’s wisdom (Ephesians 3:10). While God is redeeming His people, he is using them to help in the redemption of the world.
The Big Picture: The love of God is the only constant in a world of pain
If God is Love, then why is there so much evil?
We have a choice to focus on our circumstances and therefore define God’s character, or we can focus on God’s character and allow that to define our circumstances
Our passage today leads us to Five Rhetorical Questions and an Answer that demonstrate the lasting, life changing Assurance that there is nothing that can Separate us from the Love of God.
From the Head…
Paul’s Summary Questions (Romans 8:31-36)
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31-32)
“These things” refers to both the immediate context, as well as, a summary of chapters 5-8.
If God is for you, nothing can “Be against” you. This has an Arrogant ring to it in a way. Who is Paul to say that he has a divine blessing and others don’t? Is Paul saying that if God’s on our side, then we have a right to any kind of imperial rule? Should we then force our way on to others as Christianity has in the past?
The answer is no, because both Paul and Jesus make these claims from a marginalized position. Persecution and pain are a reality in this world, and in the midst of that pain, that we can know that God is for us. Paul is making these claims from a severely humble place in the world; not in a place of power and might, but in humility and from the margins.
Paul reminds us that god didn’t even spare His own Son (See Hebrews 5:7-9) in spite of His perfection, because His purposes of redemption were greater. We need to see our pain through this lens. God is “For” us, but it may not play our exactly how we desire it to. God is working on a purposed plan that is far more important on the grand scale, yet He will work everything out for the good (Romans 8:28).
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33)
Again, the obvious answer is no one, we are Justified in Christ! We are legally made righteous because what Christ did for us. He took the legal penalty of our sin and gave us His righteousness (See 2 Corinthians 5:21).
“Who is to condemn?” (Romans 8:34a)
We’re no longer “Condemned” (Romans 8:1), because Christ took on our Condemnation for us, and then was Raised to conquer death.
Who is it that is at the right hand of God? (Romans 8:34b)
Christ does and Intercedes for us consistently. We have an advocate (Attorney) according to 1 John 2:1-3. No one can bring a charge against us, because Christ reminds anyone that we are made righteous and acquitted in Christ. Satan has no place in our head.
“Who shall separate us from the love of God? (Romans 8:35)
Shall, “Tribulation” “Distress” “Persecution” “Famine” “Nakedness” “Danger” “Sword” ??
Paul’s Answer of Assurance (Romans 8:37-39)
NOTHING!! Nothing can separate us from the love of God. No matter if it is something spiritual or physical. When we are tormented in our minds or physically, or any horrible thing that happens to us, we must realize that we aren’t being forsaken by God, because He still loves us!
We have a choice at the time of our pain to focus on our circumstances and therefore define God’s character, or we can focus on God’s character and allow that to define our circumstances
Our circumstances do not dictate God’s character or His feelings for us, because His love is NOT a Feeling! God is in control His love is based in His Person and Christ’s work on the cross, not our achievements!
…to the Heart
In the end it is our Justification that initiates and fuels our Sanctification . It is God’s Love that redeems and sustains our Spiritual Walk. So why not “Sin so grace may abound?” Because God has taken our place of condemnation. Because God’s work has saved us. Because God’s purposes are playing out in the world. Because God’s love is unconditional
Questions For Study
- Who are you loved by?
- What/ Who do you love the most?
- In what way(s) do we love other things more than God?
- How or why is that a problem?
- How does knowing that God’s love can’t fail help you in the sanctification process?
Why are we often so downtrodden because of adverse circumstances?
Books For Further Study
NT Commentary on Romans, William Hendricksen
John MacArthur NT Commentary, Romans 1-8, John MacArthur
Encountering the NT Series: Romans Doug Moo
Romans, Martin Luther
Romans: God’s Good News For the World, John Stott
Romans, R.C. Sproul
Romans, John Calvin
St. Paul For Everyone: Romans, N.T. Wright