Romans: Experiencing God
In every age Gods supernatural powers will be tested against mans ability to work out his own solutions. So this is where we find ourselves in the 21st century in the age of the computer, technology, smart phones, I Pads, and the internet. The age of information, where mankind is ever gaining knowledge but never coming to the truth. And the church is being conformed by the worlds thinking. The truth is as Paul shares with us here in Romans 8- if the church suffering something is wrong with the church.
Paul cautions us that if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. Jesus told us if the world hated Him, it would hate us also. Few people in history have enjoyed a more intimate relationship with the Lord and few have experienced the joy he did in his walk with the Lord. Yet in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul recounts his suffering: five times he received 39 lashes, three times beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, three times shipwrecked and imprisoned often. This is why Peter told us we should not consider it strange to encounter fiery trials. Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority a person can possess.
But I am afraid we have for most of our lives lived in relative peace here in America. But we can see how those times are changing. And we are to take our stand for the Word of God and call sin- sin and not an alternative life style. If we are told something is good that God says is vile, we must not keep silent. It is interesting when Eve encountered the enemy in the Garden of Eden, she did not call the tree by the name God had given it- the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she called it by a less threatening name- the tree in the midst of the garden.
When we compromise truth- we begin down a slippery slope that leads us to a miry pit. And I am afraid, we have arrived in that miry pit here in the 21st century.
Paul then tells us how he deals with present suffering by comparing it to the glory that will be revealed in us. So for now- we are waiting for the glory that will be revealed in us when the Lord Jesus returns. In the meanwhile, we are told to wait on the Lord and do good. For us to wait on the Lord and worry, fret and wring our hands is not doing good. For us to keep our mouths shut when the truth must be shouted from the roof tops is not doing good.
We are to be salt and light. Salt preserves, keeps things from rotting. Light is most useful in the darkness and we should always let our lights shine in the darkness. Peter admonishes us in I Peter 3: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have. I have experienced hopelessness before, and may I tell you- it is the darkest place a soul can be. Here is a short list of how to deal with the issues that are becoming the hot buttons in our society;
- Know what we believe.
- Know why we believe it, for this is the reason for what we believe and the reason for our hope
- Know how to share the what and why you believe and be ready to defend it.
- Do this with gentleness and respect.
We have something to say, we have a duty to say it and we need to know how to say it. The Bible is telling us we must be prepared to suffer for doing good.
Paul goes on to explain how creation has been subjected to frustration that mans fall in the Garden created. Sin always pollutes the very surroundings. Look at our city today compared to what is used to be 50 years ago. Remember how rare violence and crime was? It all began with the fall in the garden, when Adam and Eve lost their home, when thorns and thistles, and pain, fear and worry came in as the so-called benefits promised by the Father of all Lies who said you will be like God. The ground was cursed producing thorns and thistles and death came as God said- dust you are and to dust you will return. In other words, the fall of man involved all of creation as far as the earth is concerned. And the misery has just increased with each passing generation.
Not only is nature groaning, but mankind is groaning. I heard that Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, a physician and great preacher of Gods Word who died in the 1980s requested on his death bed- do not pray for healing. He was ready to go and leave this world behind. His soul was groaning within him to be released from this suffering and waiting for the adoption and the redemption of his decaying body.
Now this presents a passage we must make sure we take in the right context. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25)
We are saved by grace through faith. The first fruits of the Spirit, Paul refers to is justification, the beginning process of salvation, whereby we are declared righteous. We are then sealed and indwelt by the Spirit of God. This is our guarantee. Hope does not replace faith, but is by faith we are sure of what we hope for. This hope is confident assurance that He who has begun a good work, will complete it. The adoption as sons, joint heirs and the redemption of our body speaks of the future occurrence at the resurrection. We will be like Christ. We do not yet possess that except by faith we believe we will. Remember what was said of Abraham? Against all hope- ( and this is hope of human possibilities) against that frail, anemic hope Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations Abrahams hope was in God, in His Word, His promise and Abraham acquired this sure hope by faith. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. ( Hebrews 11:1) Notice faith is always NOW, in the present tense. This faith is what makes our hope sure and the unseen certain. Our happiness in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life, is in the sure hope in which there is a day coming when we shall receive new bodies and the adoption process will be real and seen as we will become the sons of God.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed with our circumstances. We do not know what to do and we do not even know how to pray. But we have the Spirit Himself, who intercede for us. We have an advocate in heaven, the Lord Jesus who intercedes for us on our behalf, and we have One within our hearts as well who can lay our requests and deepest needs of our soul before God Himself. God heard the groaning of His people in Egypt and He will hear our groaning also. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, the One who comes alongside to undertake our case. Paul is telling us a great truth here: God searches our hearts. And Who is it that indwells our hearts? The Holy Spirit. And God knows the mind of the Spirit, for they are of one mind. Therefore the Spirit within us always prays according to the will of God.
But here is the good news, one day the groaning will give way to glory, as we fully realize our adoption and the redemption of our bodies and enter into Gods new creation.
Now Paul moves on to one the most often quoted verses in the book of Romans- Romans 8:28.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Notice this verse does not begin with we hope, we wish, we suppose no it begins with we know. Do you know this about your Heavenly Father? Do you know this is a fact, a promise based on the character of the One who created everything.
God gave us a very detailed story in how he does this in the book of Genesis in the story of Joseph. You know the story well- Joseph the beloved and favorite son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. As the story unfolds, we see life from Jacobs perspective. His favorite son Joseph , he believes is dead, killed by wild animals; his beloved Rachel had died, Dinah had been defiled, Reuben was disgraced, Judah was dishonored, Simeon and Levi had broken his heart and now a famine threatened his familys very existence. In addition, the baby of the family, Benjamin, must appear before this powerful governor in Egypt. Here is what Jacob said: all these things are against me. We can certainly empathize with his situation, cant we? Yet God had been and was working all things together for good. Watch the end of this story- Joseph and his family reunited and Joseph tells them: Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. What a great story that underlines this truth.
If we had never known about this story and went to see a movie based on this story- we would have been on the edge of our seats as we watched the story unfold- and wondered how will this ever work out? We would watch Joseph sold into slavery, Jacob told he was dead. Joseph falsely accused of sexual assault and placed in an Egyptian prison for up to 10 years. But because we know how the story ends- we can watch this story unfold without any anxiety for we know that God is working all things together for good. In fact, we would probably see how God was training Joseph for leadership and how he was also bringing the sons of Jacob to repentance. Is this not true of our own lives as God has told us- He is working everything out for our good and He will complete that which He has begun?
Do you realize that God knows our life from the end to the beginning, and as we live out our lives going toward that end- He has promised us He is working all things in our life together for good. Jacob said all things are against me, but actually God was secretly working all things together for Jacobs own good as the end of the story proved.
Remember a statement I made earlier: Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority a person can possess. Paul spoke of what the Lord had brought him through in 2 Corinthians 11; and John Newton wrote about it and lived it when he wrote: Thro many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.
This is what this promise means. We will go through many dangers, toils and snares before we get home to heaven. And many of us have already come through many of these things. But the Lord has promised good to me and you hasnt He? You realize this verse is a promise for Gods children it for those who are in the fraternity of Christianity, for those who love the Lord. His word our hope secures. He is working all things together for good, even at this very moment. Although we may not see it now- His promise to us, His word secures our hope. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. Sure- certain- did you hear those words ?
Let us look at some other words in this verse: work, all things, together, good and purpose. Jesus told us His Father is always working. And we now know what He is doing- He is working all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose. In my opinion, God has not really had a day off since He rested on the 7th day of creation. Between a rebellion in heaven and mans fall in the garden, God is always working. The Psalms tells us He neither sleeps nor slumbers. What is He working with or through? All things. This would be the good and the evil, the sweet and the sour, the dark and the light, the laughter and the tears- all thing, seen and unseen. He is weaving all these things together. Back to the story in Genesis- imagine the years and years that went by, when to Jacob it seemed everything was against him. And think about Joseph, trying to do what was right, only to find himself imprisoned on false charges. Surely he must have thought at times, he would never get out of that Egyptian dungeon.
Imagine if you can, what the disciples must have thought the day they crucified our Lord. Could anything good possibly come out of this horrendous, seemingly meaningless act of mankinds viscous act of execution of the most wonderful person who ever walked on the face of the earth? Their questions at the time seemed to have no answer, but by now you must realize things are not always what they seem. You see, the disciples did not know the rest of the story, or this promise of God that He was working all things together for good.
Now what is the meaning of good according to Gods idea of good? Our list of good might include: good health, all our children and grandchildren saved and doing good, good jobs, plenty of money in our retirement accounts, a nice home, etc. Now I am not saying that God does not want you to have some of those things, He knows we have need of them. But good as used by Paul here refers to that which pleases God. Again, we refer back to Gods use of the word good in the creation account. In the beginning God created the earth and all the things were referred to after each thing He created- God saw that it was good. Then after God had created Adam and Eve and given them everything they needed we are told: God saw all that He had made and it was VERY GOOD. (Genesis 1) Why was it very good? Because it was without sin. It was morally perfect- no corruption at all. When sin entered, God could no longer call it good, for it was corrupt, it was no longer in its original created order, its pristine, sinless condition.
In the beginning, God created the world good. In the end, He will re-create it to its original pristine good condition. In between, He is always working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to the purpose.
And what is the purpose? The next verses tells us His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son. And what has God said about His Son– This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
We were born imperfect with sinful natures and unable to please God in that condition. But God in His Sovereignty sent His Only Begotten Son into the world that He might re-create that original condition in us, by having us be born again by the Spirit, that we might see and enter the kingdom of God. For the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Our purpose is through a personal relationship with God for the following purpose: to worship Him, to evangelize- witness to others, to make disciples, to enjoy fellowship with Him and other believers, and to be involved in the ministry He has for each of us.
Can you now look back at times in your life when you were experiencing what were some tough times? Can you imagine Paul sometimes wondering what was going to happen- when he had been stoned, beaten, imprisoned or shipwrecked for the third time? We know how afraid and puzzled the disciples were on that fateful Friday. And yet, time after time, after time- God has brought us through hasnt He? Maybe today you are in the midst of a trial, a time of trouble.
Listen, the Lords most often repeated commandment was to fear not because often when these times arise, fear climbs in the boat and the waves seem to get worse. Then we get to the other side- now dont miss the looking back and realize through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, tis Grace that brought me safe so far and Grace will lead me home.
Through car wrecks, through sickness, through sleepless nights and grave sides of loved ones- we have experienced Gods grace, His faithfulness.
God has not intended we live a life of fear, worry and anxiety. The past is covered by His Blood, the future is in His keeping. .
God is with me, God is for me, God is in me for this reason: to do something only He can do through me! For it is God who WORKS in you both to will and to act according to His good purpose. ( Phil. 2)
Here is what Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God:
- God is always at work around you.
- God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
- God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
- God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
- Gods invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
- You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
- You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes work through you.
Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority person can possess.
Are you experiencing God in your life? How?
Can you tell people what you believe and why you believe it?
Can you tell your story, your experience with God? Do you have a story to tell?