How are you going to stand with Jesus when vast numbers of other people are moving away from Him? Pastor Colin talks about what it takes to have a faith that lasts.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 (NIV)
God’s judgment is for you in justification. God’s power is for you in sanctification. God’s love is for you in adoption. God’s glory is for you in glorification. God is totally for you in Jesus Christ.
If God is for us, who can be against us? If God is in your corner, you must prevail. What’s God’s purpose in telling us these things? Why do we need to know them? What’s the point? The application?
Why You Need To Know
For your joy
“I am convinced… that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
There is joy there. There is security there. There is triumph in being convinced of these things. God wants you to know that these gifts are yours in Christ, so that you will live in the joy of them. God wants you to enjoy that kind of confidence in His love.
Imagine with me for a moment, a guy who meets the woman of his dreams and falls hopelessly in love with her. He dates her, woos her, and eventually he decides that the time is right to “pop the question.”
All his future happiness hangs in the balance. He gets down on one knee, takes her hand, and with trembling voice says:
“Will you marry me?”
She says, “Yes!… maybe.”
He says, “What do you mean, ‘Yes!… maybe?’”
“Well, I’m saying ‘Yes,’ but I’m not totally sure.”
How much joy does this guy have as he goes home at the end of that evening? Not much. He has some hope of future happiness. But it might not happen, so rejoicing would be premature.
You could believe all the promises of the Gospel—justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification, but if you add a “maybe” at the end, you lose all the joy. It is like putting a nail in the tire of your car—all the air goes out, and it won’t take you where you want to go.
The word “maybe” kills joy, and so do the words “if” or “but.” God is totally for me in Christ… if I’ve lived a good life this week. Can you feel the air going out of the tire? God is totally for me in Christ… but especially when I pray or witness. As soon as you make God’s love conditional on something you do, you lose the joy and power of His love.
Many Christians live in a twilight world, where you believe that God loves you in Christ… somewhat, sometimes. You believe that you are justified, sanctified, adopted and glorified… maybe, probably, hopefully. You feel that God is for you… usually, normally, frequently. But you are not convinced that God is for you totally… always, unconditionally and forever in Jesus Christ.
The whole point of this teaching is for you to taste the joy of knowing that God is totally for you in Jesus Christ. God does not want you to be like the girl pulling petals off a flower saying “He loves me… He loves me not… He loves me… He loves me not…” He does not want you to follow him in an insecure kind of way—there’s no joy there.
Have you ever noticed that this marvelous chapter, setting out the spectacular glory of God’s rescue in Jesus Christ, ends with a catalogue of suffering?
For your suffering
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (v35).
Paul lists seven forms of suffering. As we walk through them, I want you to ask a simple question: Will I experience this form of suffering in my life? The answer will be either “Yes” or “Maybe.”
- Trouble—Q: Will you experience trouble in your life? A: Yes.
Our Lord says: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- Hardship—Q: Will you experience hardship in your life? A: Yes. Scripture says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:7).
Hebrews makes it clear that God brings discipline into the lives of all his children, and some hardships are brought into our lives by God for this purpose. Not every hardship is discipline. Don’t read hardship as God failing to love you. It is precisely the opposite.
If God allowed your life to be an uninterrupted party, you could not become a son who reflects his glory. Your Father will not allow you to slide into a wasted life of self indulgence. So, he breaks up the party, and he brings hardship into your life because he loves you.
- Persecution—Q: Will you experience persecution in your life? A: Yes. Paul says “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
If you live a godly life in this world, don’t expect to be thanked for it. Expect to be disliked and sometimes marginalized. Here’s why: When you live with obvious integrity, you will trouble the conscience of some other people. Folks who love darkness don’t like light. If your life is like a shining light, people who love darkness will be disturbed by it. They will resent it. They will say, “We don’t want that light shining ‘round here. We want darkness.”
- Famine—Q: Will you experience famine in your life? A: Maybe.
Thousands of God’s children have suffered through famine and drought. He’s provided more than enough food for the world. But He’s given more to some than to others, which ought to help us think about our responsibility. Are there any people in Chicago who are hungry? Yes, there are. Could it be that one day you will be hungry? Maybe.
- Nakedness—Q: Will you experience nakedness in your life? A: Maybe.
There are Christians in the world today who need clothing. Does God love them less than He loves you? Absolutely not!
Could a Christian experience the shame of nakedness through a violent assault? Can that sort of thing happen to one of God’s children? Yes. Paul is saying it can, and tragically, sometimes it does.
We’re asking “Why do you need to know that God is totally for you?” If you’ve experienced the shame of nakedness, you need to know that he’s totally for you in Christ, and you need to know how to get there.
- Danger—Q: Will you experience danger in your life? A: Yes.
We live in an age of world terror, where evil men can bring massive destruction without warning. We live in a world of accidents. There are about 42,000 deaths on the roads in the United States every year. Do these fatalities include any of God’s children? Yes! It’s a part of life. Christians are not somehow insulated from the dangers of this world.
- Sword—Q: Will you experience martyrdom in your life? A: Maybe.
“Sword” is a reference to martyrdom, to someone’s life being taken on account of their faith. According to gospelnet.com there are 465 Christian martyrs per day, who lay down their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every day, 465 of your brothers and sisters in Christ experience martyrdom. In a suffering world, you need to know that God is totally for you in Jesus Christ.
Some people get very sentimental about the love of God, as if knowing that God loves you were some vague emotional retreat from the world. But there’s nothing like that in the Bible.
Paul suffered more than anyone you know. And he’s writing to tell you how you can know that God loves you and how you can find joy in this love—even in a world of massive suffering. We don’t come to worship to escape the realities of life. We come to worship to find strength to face the realities of life in this difficult, hard, persecuting, hungry, naked, dangerous and martyring world.
Seven forms of suffering—four of them you will experience, and three that could come your way. God wants to bring you to the place where you can say with Paul, on the most difficult day of your life: “I am convinced… that nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How do you get there? How can you be sure that the blessings of the Gospel are yours—no “ifs,” “buts,” or “maybes”—no joy-killing qualifiers, so that you can have joy in knowing that God is totally for you in Christ, even in the face of great suffering?
How can I know?
Learn to measure God’s love for you from what he has done, not from your feelings or circumstances. This is a massive change for our postmodern culture, where all is evaluated according to feelings and circumstances. That will never work in a world where Satan is prowling around trying to destroy your faith. You need a better way of knowing that God loves you than how you feel or what’s happening in your life.
Christian joy is cultivated as you learn to measure God’s love for you from what he has done, not from your feelings and circumstances.
God’s decision is already made
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (v33).
Justification is the opposite of condemnation. It is God’s final decision in your favor. It is the decision and the declaration of God that will be made on the last day—brought forward, and announced in advance to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
What matters here is not only what has been done—justification, but also who does it—God justifies. A decision in a court case can be appealed to, reviewed by and eventually overturned by a higher court.
But when God justifies, there’s no other place to go. There is no other court of appeal, no higher authority to whom your case can be brought. If God is for you, who can be against you? If God justifies you, who can condemn you?
When you know that the ultimate judge has decided in your favor, that it is irrevocable, then you are in a position to answer all other charges, accusations and condemnations that can be brought against you.
- Your heart may condemn you—There will be times when your own heart will condemn you. You become conscious of your sins and failings, and your own heart will say “God cannot love you. Look at your life. How can God love you?”
You have to know how you can answer your heart. Here’s how: It is God who justifies. And God is greater than your heart! The ultimate judge has already made his decision. “This then is… how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts…” (1 John 3:20).
- Other people may accuse or condemn you—Some of you grew up in an environment where you’ve had nothing but criticisms and charges and accusations against you:
- “You never were any good.”
- “You don’t have your sister’s talent.”
- “He’s not half the man his father was.”
- “You’ll never get anywhere in life.”
It’s shriveled your soul and crushed your spirit. How can you live with joy after that? So, now it’s natural for you to go through life with a frown. You rarely find joy in anything that you do, because you feel that it’s not good enough and someone else would have done it better.
Paul had to live with that. He came under a barrage of false accusations from troublemakers in Corinth, and he said “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court… my conscience is clear… it is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Here’s a man faced with criticism, but he’s not troubled by it.
How could he say that? Because he knew “It is God who justifies.” Grasp this and it will set you free from being crushed by the criticisms, charges and antagonism of other people.
- Satan will condemn you—Satan is described as “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). So we need to know how to answer Satan. Here’s how: “It is God who justifies.”
There is only one judgment about you that really matters. And if you are in Christ that judgment is already made—in your favor! Justified! Not condemned. Forgiven! Not Guilty. Case Closed. Court Dismissed.
If you don’t know this reality in your life already, why would you not want God to make that declaration about you today? Here’s how that can happen for you:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:23-25).
That brings you into an entirely new relationship with God as you say to him “I need your rescue in my life today.”
Christ’s work is already done
“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” (v34).
This is a marvelous summary of the work of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. All that is needed for your justification, sanctification, adoption and glorification is already done.
You can rejoice—no “ifs,” no “buts,” no “maybes” in your justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification, through Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and intercession. That’s how you find joy in the love of God, even in the pain of your suffering.
- Christ died for you
“Christ Jesus… died” (Romans 8:34).
That changes death for you! Christ went into His death bearing your sins so that you might go into your death free from them. This is why Paul says “death cannot separate us from the love of God” (v38).
- Christ rose for you
“Christ Jesus… was raised to life” (Romans 8:34).
That changes life for you! Christ rose in the power of an endless life (Hebrews 7:16). He is the Lord of life, and He gives the life of His Spirit to you. That’s why Paul can say “life cannot separate us from the love of God.”
- Christ ascended for you
“Christ Jesus… is at the right hand of God!”( Romans 8:34).
That changes the future for you! One day you will share in his ascension. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And when he comes, we will be caught up to meet him in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever. That’s why Paul can say “nothing in the future can separate us from the love of God.” He’s already in heaven and all the demonic powers are already under his feet.
- Christ intercedes for you
“Christ Jesus… is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
That changes the present for you! Christ is the sovereign Lord, and that means that he gets what he wants. You can be quite sure that everything you need for life in this world is yours through Christ. That’s why Paul can say “I am convinced that nothing in the present—no need you have, no struggle you face, will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you are in Christ: God’s decision is already made. Christ’s work is already done—no “ifs,” no “buts,” no “maybes.” Learn to measure God’s love from what he has done, not from your feelings and circumstances. And you will be able to rejoice in his love even in the face of suffering. Paul is convinced. I’m convinced. Are you?
“I am convinced that
neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
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” (Romans 8:38-39).