The Inseparable Love of God

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.” (Romans 8:35–39 ESV)

Can __________________ Keep Christ From Loving Me?

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.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Ten powers threaten our confidence in the inseparability of God’s love. He starts with the big one – Death. Death is our ultimate separation. Does Christ’s love extend past the grave? Life – life is filled with uncertainties and dangers. Can anything in life separate Christ’s love from me? Angels and rulers – The spiritual world has rulers and principalities. Is there anyone there who can impede his love? How about Satan? He’s strong, isn’t he? Things present or future? Is there anything in time or in the future that can pull his love from me? Powers – is there any authority on earth that can keep him from me? Height and depth speak to spatial realities – could the highest star be too high for his love? Could the deepest ocean be too far from his love?

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If Jesus ____ for Us, Who Can Stand Against Us?

“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.” (Romans 8:33-34 ESV)

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The answer? Lots of people bring charges against God’s people. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Satan the accuser

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10)

Satan slandered Job. Satan slandered God in the garden temptation. Satan is a slanderer. Could it be that Satan has slandered you by name to God Almighty? It’s possible. Does the accusation of the highest demon alter our status before God? No.

“There is never the danger that Satan with all his cleverness and wiliness will be able to come forward one day and produce a clause that brings me under condemnation. God knows it all infinitely better than even Satan does. God knows all about the Law in its every detail, comma and jot and tittle, so nothing and no one shall ever be able to bring this charge against God’s elect.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)[1]

The law of God

Sin is any violation of God’s law in action or intent. The law condemns us, and it should because we violate it all day long. We sin. We are sinners by nature and action. Do the accusations of the law stick? No.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

Through union with Christ we are under a new jurisdiction. A new law. The law of the Spirit under which we are free from condemnation.

Our conscience

I think this is a huge problem, particularly if you struggle with perfectionism or legalism. Our consciences will scream at us that we are guilty, and apart from God’s grace, our conscience is right. Or a weak conscience will tell us we are guilty for doing something that violates our conscience even if God doesn’t care about it. This is the struggle of the legalist who is not only trying to obey God’s law but man-made laws too. The result is living like we are perpetually losing when we are by grace winning in God’s eyes. What do we say to this?

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” (1 John 3:20–21)

Other people

If we escape Satan, the law, and our conscience, there is no escaping the accusations of others. If we live any resemblance to a Christian life, other people will condemn us. It may be our beliefs which are out of step with societal beliefs, it may be our lifestyle which is at odds with the moral choices of people around us, it may be our inconsistencies which family and those close to us see. This all results in condemnations that sound like, you are a hypocrite, you are a bigot, you are holier than thou, you are a Bible thumper, who are you to tell me what’s right? etc.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Lots of humans, demons, laws, and conscience. They can, and they will.

What do we do when they do? Like Paul, we appeal to Caesar. We appeal to the highest authority and the only opinion that matters forever, God’s. God, who do you say that I am? What is my status? Is what they are saying how you see me?

“It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) God declares us innocent. If God’s judgment is for us, whose charges can stand against us? Here is the Bible’s answer to our worry that we may get to heaven and find out that something went awry, something was missed, something is brought up at the last second and we are judged guilty and sentenced to hell. Can that happen to God’s elect? Can that happen to God’s justified? Unequivocally no!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, p. 410.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

If He Gave His Best, He’ll Give the Rest

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?” (Romans 8:32 ESV)

How Christians Live on Romans 8:32

There is a way to live on Romans 8:32 and a way to make a mess of it. Honestly, ask yourself this question, which half of Romans 8:32 gets me most excited? Am I more excited about God giving me Christ or God giving me all things? Which is more thrilling to me? Many people engage with Christianity as a means to some other thing they really want. When they get a tough medical diagnosis, they start to pray. When they have a financial hardship, they start going to church. When they need God’s help, they give money to the church. People get spiritual when they need something from God. Of course, what happens to the church going, praying, and giving once the crisis passes?

Their Christianity is not actually Christianity. It’s just man trying to manipulate God, which is the core of all false religions. God is a means to an end instead of being the glorious end Himself.

Real Christianity starts with Christ. Real Christianity begins with Jesus as the greatest gift God could ever give. It is a kind of faith that believes in Jesus even if nothing else comes with him. What do we think of a person who marries for money, or power, or fame? We think, that’s not love. That’s just self-love.

Romans 8:32 offers reassurance for those who treasure Christ more than anything else. Those who look to Christ for his sake and glory. Love Christ for his amazing love. If becoming a Christian meant all you got was Jesus, would you still choose to be a Christian?

If the answer is yes, then Romans 8:32 is a promise to live by. Where do we struggle in life? On the “all things” side. Will my needs be met? Will I make it through this trial? This hard marriage? This health issue? Will God be good to me or to my loved ones? What about my children and grandchildren? What about my future? How about this: on my deathbed, should I be conscious, what do I think about that second after I die? How can I know?

Over and over Scripture points to the cross. See Jesus there. See him in all his divine glory and worth. See him as God’s gift of infinite worth to you. If he gave you his best, he will give you the rest. And the greater my estimation of Jesus as a gift to me, the more confidence I have for all the other things needed in this life and the next. If God is for me, who can stand against me? If God gave me his best, will he not give me the rest?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

He

He Glorified

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV)

Of all the words in this verse, this one is the shocker and contains the main point of the whole thing. Why?

Glorification is the Bible word for the future of the Christian. This includes our resurrection and promised glorified body. It includes our full sanctification to moral purity. This insinuates our future destiny which is heaven until Jesus returns and ultimately our forever with God on the new earth. All the future wonder and blessings that await us are summarized by glorification. It’s all future.

Yet what tense is used in verse 30? The tense we would expect would easily be the future tense. So, the verse would say, Those whom he justified he also will glorify. But that is not what it says. It says, “Those whom he justified he also glorified.” Past tense. Past tense? How can a future promise be described in a past tense?

I remember once doing a wedding. I was in the back with the groom and groomsmen. I was peeking out the door watching the bridesmaids come down, and we were about to walk out when the groom whispered in my ear, just so you know, we got married three months ago. Da, Dum Da Da…. I walked out on stage completely confused and not sure what to do. How do we talk about what it means to get married when you are already married? Single people don’t do that to your pastor.

But it gets at this point. There is a grammatical tense known as the prophetic future tense. A prophetic future is speaking of something in the future that is so certain that you talk about it like it’s already happened. So, the bully on the playground looks at his next victim and says, you are dead meat. What is that? He is exercising a prophetic future tense. I am so confident that I’m going to destroy you that I’m speaking of you as if it has already happened.

Larry Bird famously walked into the All-Star locker room right before the 3-point shootout and told his competitors, You guys are fighting for second. He was speaking of a future reality as if had already happened.

Why does that matter in Romans 8:30? Because our salvation from first to last is so certain to be accomplished that God describes it in the past tense. Those he justified he also glorified.

Who can say that? Does the bully actually know that the skinny kid isn’t secretly a 3rd degree black belt? Does Larry Bird know he’s going to win the three-point contest? No. No human can speak of anything in the future with any actual knowledge. We can pretend, plan, and playact. But we don’t know what our next second of life holds for us much less eternity future.

But with the God who works everything according to the purpose of his will, everything future is as certain as everything past. God doesn’t wish. God doesn’t hope. God doesn’t wait to see how things pan out. No circumstances overwhelm him. No efforts of sinners or Satan confound him our surprise him. There is nothing from beginning to end that doesn’t fall within the sovereignty of our God who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Only God can speak of the future as if it’s already a done deal.

What is the point? Everything about our salvation is grounded in the eternal character and purpose of God. We can join God’s certainty that all who call on the name of the Lord were saved (predestination), are saved (justification), and will be saved (glorification).

Where is Romans 8 going? It’s heading into the greatest section of assurance of God’s saving love to be found in the Bible. The very next verse is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) That’s next week.

Who is the repeated doer of each saving work? He. God. The beginning was God. The end was God. All of it for the good of those called according to HIS purpose. God’s purpose is unchangeable, unalterable, undeniable, invincible. Therefore, our salvation is unable by any power in heaven or earth to be dissuaded, dissolved, or defeated.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

God’s Purpose is our Christlikeness

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29 ESV)

How do we conform to the likeness of Christ?

Let me summarize it with this, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Through the gospel and by the Spirit of God, a Christian is someone who beholds the glory of Jesus, though not perfectly. Paul says elsewhere, we see him like in a foggy mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). But by faith we see in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection true glory and beauty. We behold the glory of the Lord. We perceive in him divine glory and place in him all our eternal hope.

The Spirit of God indwells us. Our eyes are wide open to his beauty. The Christian life is an ongoing experience of beholding—seeing—the glory of Jesus. How? Primarily through Scripture but also through the church family, life’s trials, and our own maturing in Christ. As we see and savor him, the Spirit of God works to change our lives, values, perspectives, attitudes, and actions to slowly but increasingly resemble Jesus. We are being changed progressively. We are being sanctified progressively. We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.

But as we saw in Romans 7, none of us in this life get there completely. We will always have indwelling sin on this earth. But there is coming a time when we will instantly and completely resemble Jesus. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) That moment of resurrection and glorification will mean instant and full Christlikeness. Our moral character will be perfect. Our desires fully his. No more struggle with sin. No more struggle with self. Our worship forever will completely be All about Him.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Resurrection: God’s Guarantee for Those Who Love Him

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

What Good is God Guaranteeing for Those Who Love Him?

A resurrected body

If Jesus was resurrected, it is God’s guarantee that our bodies will someday be resurrected like his. The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 makes this point. Here’s a highlight:

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17, 19–21)

We humans like having bodies. Anybody out there not have a body today? We like having bodies. We may not like our body but we like having a body. We especially like it when our bodies are working well. But the sad reality is that all our bodies are in an incremental decline. Don’t look at your Easter pictures from three years ago. Only the children look better; the rest of us look just a little worse each year. I’m only talking about men. What do the aches and pains and creaking sounds when we get out of bed tell us? This body is decaying.

How does a new body sound? Jesus’ resurrection is God’s guarantee of our bodily resurrection into a permanent, glorified body. If all the creaky bones and sore muscles and colds and flus and heart diseases and cancers in this life are guaranteed by God to be replaced with a forever body that never will decay, who here calls that good?

Inseparable love forever

Romans 8 continues with, “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.” (Romans 8:38–39)

How could our forever be “good” if it didn’t have love? How lonely we would be forever if there was no one to love or be loved by. It’s terrifying to think that hell is loveless. No love. No kindness. Perhaps no communication. Only hatred and grinding despair. Jesus called it forever “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).

But for those who love God, God’s love cannot be separated from us. The list hits exactly the things that would make us fearful. Can death take me from God’s love? Can any human authority take God’s love from me? Can any spiritual being take God’s love from me? On the list goes with all the things we fear. The conclusion is that there is no height or depth, person or power, or anything else that can keep God’s love from its full expression to me forever. Would you call that good?

A life of ultimate meaning/hope

“For those who love God all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28)

Imagine there was no resurrection of Jesus. Imagine he remained dead like everyone else and joined every other religion’s key leader as permanently dead. If your religious hero is dead, your religion is doubtful at best. It would mean this life is all there is. This is it. And then where do we go for any sense of our lives to have any lasting meaning or purpose?

Reflecting on her impending death, the French atheist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir stated:

“I loathe the thought of annihilating myself quite as much now as I ever did. I think with sadness of all the books I’ve read, all the places I’ve seen, all the knowledge I’ve amassed and that will be no more. All the music, all the paintings, all the culture, so many places: and suddenly nothing…Nothing will have taken place.”[1]

Death looms for the atheist, the materialist, the agnostic, the believe whatever, and believe nothing at all. They too are searching for meaning in life. But without any divine promise of redemption, they cling to this life alone. Perhaps that’s you today. You’re trying to do something significant with your life and trying hard not to think about your death. The rich, the poor, the powerful, the helpless, the human, we are all the same.

The same highs and lows happen to us. Blessings, yes. But trials and suffering as well. The unbeliever experiences bad and knows death awaits. The Christian experiences the same sufferings, but with the confidence that they will lead to good.

Is this a mind game? No. It’s grounded in the historical reality of the resurrection. If God can make all things good including even the death of Jesus, then God can take the gnarled mess of my life and turn it all into eventual good.

I heard R.C. Sproul at a conference refer to Romans 8:28 and ask, “What if Jesus himself came on the stage now and said, ‘I personally guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you.” How would we all feel?’” Best Easter ever! And isn’t that really what the resurrection says? For those who are true Christians, nothing ultimately bad will ever happen.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Simone de Beauvoir, Force of Circumstance, p. 657.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Our Groans, God’s Good

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

What is the Assurance From our Sovereign God?

The guarantee – for good

What is the greatest evil or injustice ever done in human history? The murder of Jesus. This Friday we gather and celebrate what we call Good Friday. Why would we call it “Good Friday?” The death of Jesus. The suffering of our Savior. Of all the senseless names for a day, Good Friday would have to rank first, unless we see through the death of Jesus an ultimate good. What good? The ransom price paid for our sins. Victory over Satan and death. Life brought out of death. Beauty from ashes. A death that brings eternal life.

Somebody in the past pondered, what should we name the day Jesus died? In isolation, there’s nothing good about Good Friday. But from the perspective of the bigger picture, if there’s something wrong with the name Good Friday it’s that it is understated. It was a great Friday. An amazing Friday. A forever fantastic Friday.