Encouraging Hope (May 13, 2018)

Second Baptist
Lincoln May 13, 2018

 Encouraging Hope

Romans 8:31-39
 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? [33] Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? [36] As it is written:"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

At the core of every human being is the desire to be accepted and approved of – to be liked. We often develop  self esteem based upon the opinions others have of us. Why is it that so many of us feel so badly about ourselves? Is it because deep down we have a sense that we have failed in some way – failed either to please those around us, ourselves – or failed to please our God?

The Apostle Paul, in fact, seems almost to fortify our own notions of failure through the first seven chapters of Romans – we realize that whatever shred of self reliance, self sufficiency, or self justification we have mustered up is utterly useless in the quest for acceptance. In my flesh, that is in my old nature, Paul tells me, there dwells no good thing. In fact, when we try to do good we do bad, and when good needs to be done, we do not do it. Paul sums it up at the end of chapter 7 by saying: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Then, he answers his own question in the same breath: “Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” So is not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance – but it is through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed, and loved – then empowered and changed.

In Romans 8:1, Paul states where we are in relationship with God.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…The “Therefore” in this is like a gear change from Paul pointing out that we are failures under the law to the fact that we are dearly loved and valued by God because of his grace for us.Chapter eight is the answer to the first seven chapters that tells us that humanity is corrupt and we are all sinners.  But now he tells us we are NOT CONDEMNED. Imagine that!! NO CONDEMNATION.  Imagine if you were convicted of a crime.  The jury was convinced of your guilt and the press was reporting it in all the papers.  But in the course of the trial, you apologized to the victim and expressed your remorse. Upon hearing your remorse, the judge pardons you and sets you free.  That is what happened to us.  There is no condemnation because God set us free.  Nobody else has the moral authority to condemn us.  God is the ultimate moral authority. 

Verse 31 where we begin today, expresses it this way:
(v. 31) What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? The Greek construction is better translated “SINCE God is for Us.”    The Implication here is that if anyone were able to rob us of salvation they would have to be greater that God Himself, because He is both the giver and the sustainer of Salvation.  

We get various snapshots of the power and love of God in the Old Testament. David declared with unreserved confidence, in Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. [2] Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; [3] Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. He concludes it with (Psalm 46:11) The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

When you take the evident power of God and combine those characteristics with the abiding love of God, we get a glimpse of the relationship that God desires to have with us. That familiar verse in Jeremiah 29:  For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ’plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

God has our absolute best interest at heart.   Could there be any question of God’s love for us?  Well, apparently there may have been some question regarding God’s love. Paul uses a form of rhetoric here that presents a series of questions.  He asks his initial question, “Who can separate us from the love of God?”  Rather than simply saying “NOTHING!”, he instead asks several more questions so that the reader might contemplate the depth of God’s love. 

It’s like you and me.  If someone say, “Nothing is worse than a hail storm.”  We might tend to agree, until we put it into perspective.  What if we were to continue the questions by asking, “Is cancer worse than a hail storm?” (well, YES).  “Is terrorism worse than a hail storm?”  (of course). Paul is doing this with his argument.  Because when we factor in human nature to the whole subject of God’s love, we tend to forget the effects of his love. 

Who can separate us from the love of God?  Can a non-believing spouse who objects to our going to church.  No, God’s love is far greater than an unbelieving spouse. Can the loss of a job separate us from the love of God?  No, God’s love is far greater.  Can the loss of a child separate us from the love of God.  NO. No, No.  Can a rebellious child who is running wild separate us from the love of God?  No.  God’s love is what will help us survive those times.

Paul names those things. (Romans 8:35)  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? That way it causes people to consider specific hardships to realize the complete and perfect love of God.  Now why do I emphasize this?  Simple: How many times do we feel defeated and broken?  How many times do we feel like we are at the end of our rope and we’ve just tied a knot just to hang on. When we get caught up in the adversity and despair, we tend to forget that we are not in this battle alone.  We are not defeated. Furthermore, when we feel like we are separated from God, the fact remains – we are NOT. As if the first list is not enough, Paul adds a second list in verses 38-39.  Romans 8:38-39. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

After reading that list, can you see anything that can separate God’s love from you?  It covers it all. We can be hard on ourselves.  We can think of a million reasons why God shouldn’t love us.  We can think of all the things we did and all the mistakes we made. We can very quickly lock ourselves into a box of despair with no hope of getting out.  But God’s love is the key to opening that box and releasing us from our pain and misery and hopelessness.   

It was that ultimate act of his love that we find in verse 32 that serves as the key that releases us.  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? So he not only gave us salvation from sin, but he also promises to provide for us.  He saves us and sustains us.  His love extends beyond the cross as God takes an active interest in our lives, Jesus sacrifice on the cross not only is the foundation of our salvation but also of our security.  Because the Father loved us so much while we were still under condemnation.

This passage brings us genuine hope.  When we face doubts about our own faith or we experience difficulties in our everyday lives, we can return to this truth that we are securely locked in God’s love. Knowing God’s love draws us into a relationship with the heavenly father that leads us toward a life of obedience.  When we love someone, we are committed to them and we exercise obedience. Being a disciple of Jesus involves us responding to the love of God by giving ourselves in obedience to the one who loves us.

If you get nothing out of this message today, know that you are loved by God and you are securely connected in relationship to the king of kings and lord of lords.Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.