Freedom To Live!
Freedom to Live
In the Bible, all roads or paths seemingly lead to Romans. Paul here in chapters 5-8, is giving glimpses from different angles about the Christian living under and within grace – God’s unmerited favour to undeserving sinners. It’s like he is creating this fabulous stained glass sphere depicting life for the Christian believer who is now under grace and has Jesus as their master and Lord.
In our passage from Romans 8, we come to another angle with another scenario. This passage of the Bible is diamond encrusted gold. The purest of gold and clearest of diamonds! Some people consider that speaking about this passage is akin to somebody trying to describe Beethoven’s 9th symphony with mere words. If that were true, then tonight we have the Ode to Joy!
We live in a troubled world. I am sure you are aware. As did the original recipients of Paul’s letter. Now Paul is assuring his Roman readers that even when the troubles of life hit them, God is secure and their salvation is assured – despite what anybody can do to them or what troubles they may have to endure. Paul is assuring them that God will not separate Himself from them during their pains and trials of life.
I wonder what you are undergoing currently in your life. Suffering comes to us all in one-way or another. John! Cathie! Suffering of varying degrees is common to all people of all time and of all cultures. Whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others, troubles and sufferings unite all of humanity. It is a common denominator. And of course there are no easy answers. With that said, let us look together at this most wonderful piece of Scripture.
1. Freedom from pain and suffering.
a. Creation groans (Read vs. 18-22).
However, this groaning is not a useless thing. Why? Paul goes on to compare it to a woman giving birth. There is pain, but the pain will end when the child is born. One day creation will be delivered, and the groaning creation will become a glorious creation! As people of the kingdom, Paul exhorts his readers to not focus on the sufferings of today; but look forward to the coming glory. Today’s groaning bondage will be exchanged for tomorrow’s glorious freedom.
b. The Members of the Kingdom groan (Read vs. 23-25).
The creation groans as do we. The reason we as Christians groan, writes Paul, is because we have experienced what he calls “the first-fruits of the Spirit!” That is a foretaste of the glory to come when we shall live with our King in glory. Just as the nation of Israel tasted the first-fruits of Canaan when the spies returned (Numbers 12:23-27), so we Christians have tasted of the first blessings of heaven through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This should encourage us to want to see the Lord, receive a new body to live with Him and serve Him forever in everlasting life. We are waiting for “the great adoption,” which is the redemption of our bodies when Jesus returns again. This is the thrilling climax to “the adoption” that took place at our conversion when the “Spirit of adoption” gave us the standing of an adult in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus returns, we shall enter into our full inheritance.
Meanwhile we wait and hope as Paul writes here in Romans 8v24. What hope is this we ask? It is “The blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The best is yet to come!! As Christians, people of the Kingdom of God, as God’s children, we should not get frustrated as we see and experience suffering and pain in this world as we live in the Kingdom. Paul exhorts that Christian believers should know and remember that the suffering of today, will one day give way to eternal glory.
c. The Holy Spirit groans. (Read vs. 26-30)
So creation groans. God’s Kingdom people groan. What about God? Is He a distant God who is not concerned with the sufferings of His creation or His people? By no means!! Our God is not a distant God but a God actively concerned for His creation and for His people! God is concerned about the sufferings we go through and the troubles we endure. He desires for the redemption of His creation and His people!
When Jesus walked the earth, He saw what sin was doing to men, women and creation (Mark 7:34; John 11:33-38) and this happened. Jesus wept. Isn’t that profound?
Paul writes that God the Holy Spirit groans with us and that He feels the burdens of our weaknesses and suffering and lifts us. He is the Comforter. He is the Counsellor! He is the Helper who lives within us. As we struggle to persevere as we sometimes do, is it because forget to ask for His help, His comfort and His wisdom?
But the Spirit does more than groan: He prays for us in His groaning so that we might be led into the will of God. We do not always know God’s will. We do not always know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us so that we might live in the will of God even though we are suffering in some way. The Holy Spirit shares the burden with us as we endure and persevere.
2. Freedom for God!
I would like to concentrate here on verse 28 and I like the way The Message translation of the Bible paraphrases it “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
“For your good” is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament. Joseph, Moses and Jeremiah were surely in Paul’s mind! For example, from Genesis 50, Joseph after he is reunited with his brothers said this:
Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Moses as he tried to get Israel into shape, while they whinged and whined about the Law frequently told them it was for their own good.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
Or take Jeremiah, as the ancient Israelites were in exile
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Millions of Christians over the centuries have taken great comfort and hope from Romans 8:28. I wonder if any of the recipients of this letter, recalled Paul’s words to them when that horrible little man, the Emperor Nero butchered the Christians in Rome just a few short years later. I wonder what their response was and I imagine that they were comforted.
Paul writes here “In all things God works for our good.” Now the phrase, “all things” includes not only the good, the happy and the pleasant things in life, but also the bad, the unhappy and the unpleasant things as well. It includes evil, sickness and death. At the times when we are happy and things are going well, it is very easy to agree with this verse. But in times of trouble, this verse is hard to understand and still harder to believe.
For the millions, of Christians who have spent their lives in jail, or have been killed for the faith, we cannot possibly say that all things have been for their good in this world. If that is so, how then are we to understand this verse?
Perhaps we should understand it this way. All the things that happen to us here on earth, God will work for our good in heaven. In the previous verses, Paul teaches about our future hope and future glory. Therefore, in this verse the good that Paul talks about is heavenly good, not earthly good.
But having said that, it is also true that God is concerned for our welfare in this earthly life. He cares about our bodies, our health, even our food and clothing. When God allows trouble to come into our lives, He usually uses that trouble to bring about some good result in our lives here on earth according to both our writer, Paul and to the Apostle James (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4). For example, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had that stroke back in 2003. It is through troubles that our faith is tested and strengthened (1 Peter 1:6-7). Through various kinds of trouble God disciplines us, so that we might become more that is more like His Son, Jesus Christ, according to the writer of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 12:7,10-11).
The most important thing to remember about this verse, however, is that the promise given here is only applicable to those who love God – those who are his children and in His kingdom. That is those have been called according to His purpose and are therefore members of the kingdom of God. If we love God, called according to His purpose, and therefore members of the Kingdom of God, then we can fully trust Him to work for our good in all things. Our hope is in God; He is faithful and able to fulfil all He has promised. If this does not describe you, then please do see somebody after we finish in a short time.
As those who are in the Kingdom of God, that would call themselves believing Christians, Paul exhorts us to never give up in times of trial and suffering because God is at work in the world (Romans 8:28). Paul encourages us that God has a perfect supreme plan (Romans 8:29) and that He has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory.
Ultimately we will be transformed into the Lord Jesus Christ – that is God’s ultimate goal for us – to be like His Son. Best of all, God’s plan will succeed – He has the victory and that victory was gained at the Cross of Calvary. It started in eternity when He chose us in Jesus Christ. God predestined that one day we would be like His Son. The word predestination here applies only to those in the Kingdom of God, not to those outside the Kingdom. Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that God chooses who will remain outside the kingdom.
If people remain outside the kingdom, it is because they choose to, by refusing to trust and believe in Jesus Christ. Those whom He chose, God called (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)’ when they responded to His call. He justified them by taking away their guilt and sin, and He also glorified them. This means that the believer has already been glorified in Jesus (John 17:22); the revelation of the glory awaits the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So let’s recapitulate and then conclude. There is no point somebody speaking up here if there is no application given to us to go on with as we walk the Christian life under grace.
We have seen together that God is not distant but is close and personal and that we know He Himself has suffered. He cares for His creation and for His people through the ministry of the God the Holy Spirit. Times of trouble may come, and we are being transformed into the image of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
We have seen that we will one day have freedom from pain and suffering. Freedom to truly live! We also saw that there is to be no fear from separation from God. God is for us. Christ died for us. God the Holy Spirit lives within us, praying for us, guiding us, empowering us and is the seal of our salvation. God has declared us His sons and daughters if we choose to follow Him. Jesus Christ prays for us and He loves us.
Do you sometimes get discouraged and frustrated in times of trouble as I do sometimes? I have to ask myself questions. Questions such as how can we believers ever be discouraged and frustrated when we already share the glory of God? Our suffering today, guarantees much glory for us, when Jesus Christ Himself returns in glory!
How can we be discouraged when the God we love and serve, who has called us to follow Him, who Himself had great anxiety the night before He suffered and died on the cross? How can we be discouraged, when we know that this Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to the Father. Jesus still had his scars when he ascended. How can we be discouraged when this Jesus will come back again one day to gather us?
Where is God? What does He have to do with it? God does not shelter us from the sufferings and hard times of life because we need them for our spiritual growth (Romans 5:3-5) and for our transformation into the image of Jesus, God’s Son. As we read in vs.28, God assures us that the difficulties of life are working for us and not against us. God allows trials and sufferings to come that they may be used for our good and His glory. We endure trials for His sake (Romans 8:36), and since we do, do you think that He will abandon us? Of course not! Instead, He lifts us through the hard times.
Folks, we all have troubles. There are no easy answers to most of them. I don’t even have answers for my own troubles. My memory some days is like a sieve. Other days it is more like a funnel. But I know God is there – I may forget many things but I have not yet forgotten that. It is God whom I depend upon and personally know to be totally reliable in every way. For those in the community out there, we need to be God’s hands and feet. We need to radically show people out there and in here, that God radically cares and loves for each of them. Too often people in need, both within the church and outside it, are shown care and concern for a little while. But gradually as time goes on, the caring and loving of that person diminishes and ultimately ceases. Dogged persevering to love and care is required. We can love and care for all using the power and imagination of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
All sorts of excuses are given for not showing care and love, but in reality, there can be no excuse or reason. Not caring means not loving. Love is to be for all people, regardless of personalities, conflicts, opinions, gender, sexuality, prejudice and bias. You don’t have to agree with people’s choices but you do have to show you love and care for them.
Lots of people leave churches through the back door, because they don’t get the care they need and desire. Lots of people won’t even listen to us because they see that churches and Christians are not showing love towards them or others they know. Too often, I would say.
Too often a church can be too interested in its own little world, concerned for its own little programme, rather than God’s programme of love and care for all people. They are churches that look after only the interest of select people within its walls and community. The church is to look after all interests of all members of its local community and those who come within its walls. .
If you are a Christian here tonight, the troubles and suffering we endure, are all part of living in the kingdom of God. Part of life. It is, as we look to the future, as we see that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus and to the supreme glory of God. Not for our own glory. In any pain or suffering we endure, we shouldn’t give up, we persevere. God perseveres with us because God has not given us up and neither has He given up on us. God the Son died on the cross and rose again from the dead so that you may have new life! God the Holy Spirit lives within you! For it is when we are weak, that God is strong. Hold on to Jesus. The Jesus who said “Come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
The Jesus that will one day take our face in His hands and wipe away our tears. Oh what a day! We will say, it was all worth it. And yet, even though I know this, I still have the impudence to often cry out with frustration and confusion to the Father “Why Dad?” And then He assures me that he loves me with an everlasting and enduring love.
As CS Lewis once wrote: “If God is wiser than us, His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.”
Let’s go and radically love and care for others that we meet or others that we know who need to see God’s radical love and care in action.
However, if you happen not to be a Christian, you are separated from God. He doesn’t have you in His hand. To be in the kingdom of God, you simply have to trust in Jesus, and believe in Him for your future. If that is you, please do not leave here tonight without talking to somebody such as Chris and Sue about how you can take that step. They would love to help you.