May 8th, 2022: Freedom for the Future- Romans 8:18-30
What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.
C. S. Lewis
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Count on it. When you rationally compare what pains we suffer in this life for our loyalty to Christ with the riches and beauty of heaven, the choice is clear. You’d have to be a fool to remain an unbeliever. There’s a commercial right now for insurance where Charles Barkley, a famous and hilarious NBA star is chosen first in a fifth grade two on two basketball game, and the announcer says, “the easiest decision in the history of decisions.” Exactly. Of all men, Paul is aware of what trouble comes with a commitment to Christ. He was beaten, jailed, stoned, and eventually beheaded for proclaiming the gospel in a world bound to reject it. Ironically, he also persecuted the church before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Therefore he is uniquely qualified to testify that there will come a day when the things we suffer here will not even matter enough to be remembered. Notice not just revealed to us but rather revealed in us. That is, Christ will do all that he has planned to do, through his people and the righteousness and worship that God deserves will shine through the overcoming lives of the people of God. Your suffering and ultimate victory praise God.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1Corinthians 5:19)
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God
We can picture it. Our happy life. We fantasize about the perfect home, the perfect family, the dream job. We believe that if we work hard enough, wait long enough, and behave well enough that our expectations of perfection in life will be fulfilled. The truth is, we are blessed beyond all expectation by the goodness of God, however, nothing on this side of life is ever perfect or lasting. The cold hard truth is that we age, we decay, we die and so does everything existing in our sin cursed world. If our only hope is creating a perfect world and a happy life here, we will be bitterly disappointed. A believer’s trust in the goodness of God and the fulfillment of heaven will be rewarded. The sacrifice of Christ has given us the power to become the sons and daughters of God and to exchange this life for a far greater one.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
“Made subject to” means to be brought under the authority of, in what way are we brought under the authority of vanity? But Christ has brought vanity under his authority. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve brought all of us under the authority of vanity. Vanity means emptiness. They had been under God’s authority, but in an act of willing rebellion they sold themselves as slaves to the enemy and to the emptiness of his false promises to “make them like gods.” Christ on the cross, redeemed mankind from the curse, those who put their trust in him will be freed from serving emptiness and self. They are unstoppable, in the sense that nothing mankind or Satan does will ever be able to stop them from spreading the gospel and glorifying God. Even their deaths only bring to them more victory, a life eternal in Heaven with God.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To be anointed was to be set apart for a purpose, specifically, an occupation that would be fully dedicated to the service of God. Look at what he has been set apart to do: heal broken hearts, preach to those who are prisoners in sin and its consequences, help the spiritually blind to see the truth, and those who have been beaten up by a life separated from God. Spiritually, Paul is a front line medic. Note that it doesn’t say gather together people who really have it together, those who are successful, those who are in positions of power and authority. That is because despite our outward appearances, in light of eternity, we are all desperately in need of saving and that is what the gospel is all about. Helping others to understand that forgiveness is available, they have hope, and a purpose.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
At the fall in the garden, one of the consequences was that the earth was cursed. It was not to bring forth in its strength. Thorns and weeds were added to cause Adam to bring forth his harvest by the sweat of his brow. Scripture says that the earth waxes old like a garment and shakes. We know this to be true. Humanity also groans. Old age, disease, illness, poisonous snakes, bee stings, pandemics, poison ivy, surgeries, and all kinds of other maladies cause us to long for a redeemed body. That body will not age, doesn’t hurt, won't become injured. We don’t know exactly what that body will look like, but we have witnessed accounts of Jesus’ resurrected body and we know ours will be like his! Even the unbelievers recognize the brokenness of the Earth and the fact that it is not eternal and seems to be heading for disaster.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Hope is to desire, expect, have confidence in, and trust. David said it this way In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth. (Psalm 71: 1-5) Faith and hope go hand in hand. How do we strengthen our hope - And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5: 3-5). You heard correctly, our tribulations increase our hope and the Word of God increases our faith.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
For now, while we live on purpose and wait for the coming of Christ and our redeemed bodies, we suffer many things. Far from just being told to grin and bear it, we are told that there is help on this side. The Holy Spirit of God is our help. We can be in such pain, such mental stress, such despair that we aren’t even sure what we should say when we pray. This isn’t a problem, the Holy Spirit, who is God, speaks up for us. He knows what we need and he gets the attention of Heaven to move on our behalf, all we have to do is pray in the pattern Jesus gave to his disciples, “thy will be done.” God’s will is what I need, there is no way around it, it is completely foolish to resist it and utterly futile to deny it. God knows our hearts, our minds, our desires, our weakness, our selfish intentions, and He knows best how to deal with all that and bring into our lives the suffering, the relief, the instruction, whatever it is that we most desperately need, and cares enough to do just that.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
We read it. We hear it. We see it with our eyes but do we truly believe that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose? Does that include things that don’t go the way I want? Or what about that accident, that death or losing that job? It rains on the just and the unjust meaning good and bad things happen to us all. The difference is we can learn from it and through tribulation increase our hope. Cry out to God for wisdom and help to get through our situation or we can again turn away from him, become bitter, and deny he even exists. Our loving God understands that we won’t get this right as a rule. He patiently waits and in long suffering and loving kindness offers a way for us back to himself. God may allow us time and sensibilities to repent when we get off track. When he does he also gives grace and mercy to get us back on track.
Predestinate, Justified, Glorified These are really not as mysterious as we might like them to be. Many churches have elaborate doctrines based on these three words.. Predestinate - God has made a decision about our future, based on our willingness to surrender and accept him. God is all-knowing. He knows what we will choose but he gives everyone free will to decide. Justified - if we receive Him, our decision to follow Christ allows his sacrifice at Calvary to cover our sins, just as if we hadn’t sinned. Our sin debt is paid in full. Again, not because of our goodness - which in God’s eyes is like filthy rags. Finally being Glorified- We will join Christ in Heaven, with eternal life, and a new body just like his. The reward at the end is better than we can ever think or imagine. This is why Paul starts off by saying that our suffering, although grievous here, will be as nothing when compared to the splendors of Heaven.