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Confidence in Suffering – Sermon on Romans 8

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Last week, we were talking about confidence in life.  How do you walk out into life free of anxiety, free of the fear of men, free of feelings of inferiority, free of feelings of superiority, just self-forgetfully walking in the calling that God has placed on your life?

The heart of it is in Paul's  little phrase “righteousness FROM God.”  It’s a phrase that occurs in Romans 1:17 and again in Romans 3:21 – there is a Righteousness FROM God.  There is a gift that God offers the world.  This gift is His Son, Jesus.  And Jesus is the righteousness of God.  Jesus is everything the Father is looking for.  He is good, loving, truthful, wise, pure, joyful, prayerful, self-sacrificial.  Pick up a Gospel and read it, and you’ll see that Jesus IS God’s righteousness.  And the good news of the gospel is this:  God gives Jesus to us as a gift and says, “Here, have my Son.  If you have Him then you have my righteousness.”  Anyone who receives Jesus is counted by the Father as righteous – as righteous as Jesus Himself.  In Jesus we have the righteousness of God and if you grasp the magnitude of this gift it will give you all the confidence in the world.

We thought about this last week.  Life can often feel like you’re a fraud walking through the millionaires club.  And you feel unworthy, and you don’t quite know how to act or speak or look.  Some of us shrink away into a corner, some of us boldly step forwards and try to blag it.  But Paul says, drop your guard and drop the act.  You can walk tall: through Christ you are a trillionaire.  In God’s eyes, that’s your position.  You are a righteousness-trillionaire.  In yourself you are bankrupt.  But never mind, you’ve inherited a fortune in Jesus’ name.  You can’t see it now, and other people can’t see it now, but Jesus has it safe.  And He belongs to you and you belong to Him.  The trillion pounds is yours.  So walk tall.

We saw last week how Romans 5 was a key plank in Paul’s argument.  Let me remind you of Romans 5:12-21…

Adam and Christ

So then when you were born, whose nature were you born into?  Adam’s.  Your original nature – older translations call it “the flesh” – it comes from Adam.  So the world you inhabit is Adam’s world, the humanity you encounter is Adam’s humanity, your very nature is Adam’s nature.  That’s where you find yourself.

But if you trust Christ you are born AGAIN.  And you are born again into Christ’s nature.  He gives you His Spirit.

So that sets up a battle.  A battle between the flesh (the sinful nature), and the Spirit.  But Romans 8 is here to tell us, that no matter how desperate the struggle – Christ is stronger than Adam.  His Spirit is stronger than my sinful nature.  Christ’s new creation will far outweigh Adam’s old creation.  And so in the words of verse 37 we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us.  In fact, that could be the phrase written across the top of chapter 8.  MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Christ.

And the first thing we see Christ conquering is our condemnation.  Look at verse 1:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

How can that be true?  I have Adam’s nature, I’m surrounded by Adam’s curse, surely there’s a whole ocean of condemnation that’s on me.  Paul says, No, Christ has conquered it. Verse 2:

2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Here’s how our condemnation is dealt with.  Christ came into the world – verse 3 – in the likeness of sinful man, to be a sin offering.  Jesus stepped into our shoes and took responsibility for our sin.  On that cross He was condemned.  All the condemnation that me and my Adam nature deserves was meted out on Jesus.  And He took the whole sorry mess of it down into the grave.

On Easter Sunday, He rose up again as the true fulfiller of the law.  The true Righteousness of God.  He sits at God’s right hand, more than a conqueror over sin and death and hell and reigns on the throne of the universe.

From there He gives believers His Spirit – it’s His Presence given to believers, so that now WE have the righteousness of God.  THAT’S how the righteous requirements of the law are met in us. Not through my efforts but through the Gift of the Spirit of Jesus.

Now that’s wonderful news.  Spiritually I am united to Jesus, I am no longer condemned, I have His righteousness, I am a trillionaire in God’s sight.  But while that’s brilliant news, I’m still left with a couple of problems.  Can you see what they are?

Number one – my flesh is still Adam’s flesh.  And number two – this world is still Adam’s world.  Do you see that?  I still have my body from Adam, my original natural is with me, and this sinful nature clings like skin to my bones.  And secondly, this world is still the fallen world that Adam corrupted.  Our bodies and our world are still corrupted.  And Christians live with that tension.  Do you see the tension?  Phyisically I am very much FROM Adam.  Spiritually I’m united to Christ.  So there’s going to be struggle.

From verse 5, Paul talks about the struggle from v5:

 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Do you hear the struggle?  Without the Spirit, all I would want was the way of Adam which is the way of sin and death.  But if we belong to Jesus, we have the Spirit and we love God and want to please Him.  But it’s a battle.  Verse 12 continues:

 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

Here’s the battle of the Christian life – putting to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.  Not by the law, not by will power and human effort, but by the Spirit.

What does that mean?

Well, imagine you lie.  You lie to protect your reputation, you tell everyone you’ve done something that you haven’t done to sound like a big shot.  And afterwards you feel bad about lying.  And you want to stop lying like that because it’s getting to be a habit.

Now at that point – what is Christian about that resolve?  Non-Christians resolve to tell the truth too.  There’s nothing Christian about trying to be a better person.  There’s nothing Christian about putting sins to death.  It’s the WAY you put them to death that’s the real difference.

See, you could put it to death through the law.  You could say “The law says Thou shalt not lie.”  I’ve broken the law.  I’ll punish myself and put myself under condemnation until I feel I’ve done my penance and then I’ll try really, really hard to be honest next time.

Two problems with the law approach.  First, it doesn’t work.  Second, I’ve just resolved to be my own Saviour.  I don’t need Jesus for this.  I don’t need the cross, I don’t need the Spirit.  I’m just trying to be more moral.  There’s nothing Christian about resolving to tell the truth.

But Paul tells me to put lying to death BY THE SPIRIT.

What’s that?  Well to figure out that, we need to figure out what the Spirit is up to in the world.  And verse 14 will tell us what we need to know.  Here’s what the Spirit is up to:

14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

Verse 15 calls the Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship.  So the Spirit of the Son makes US sons and daughters of God.  The Spirit sweeps us up into Jesus so that we share Jesus’ relationship with God.  And what is Jesus’ relationship with God.  He is the Son, who calls out to God, “Abba, Father.”  And now, BY THE SPIRIT, so do we!

Abba is a word for Daddy in many middle eastern languages.  It’s intimate, it’s affectionate.  It’s also deeply respectful.  But here’s the question: Who on earth gets to call Almighty God, Abba?  Calling the Queen “Liz” is bad enough.  But at least calling her Liz doesn’t presume anything about your relationship to the Queen.  To call God “Daddy” you’re not only being incredibly intimate with God, you’re also making a claim on Him.  You’re saying “God, You are my Father and I am Your child.”  And children have certain rights.  In verse 17, Paul will tell us one of those rights – we have inheritance rights – as children of God we are heirs of the cosmos.

So that’s what the Spirit is up to – He’s communicating Christ to me, He’s testifying to me that I am in Jesus and in Him God is my Father, He’s communicating all that that means…

Now come back to verse 13 and ask “What does it mean to put to death the misdeeds of this Adamic body BY THE SPIRIT?”

Here’s what it means.  It means I open up my bible, I read the Spirit’s words and I allow Him to tell me:  “Glen, don’t you realize you HAVE the righteousness of Christ?!  You ARE God’s beloved child, unimprovably so.  So Glen, when you lied, who were you trying to impress?  Why lie?  You are dead to lying now, not because there’s an anti-lying law.  You’re dead to lying because, What need is there to lie?

The Spirit is constantly telling me, “I am a trillionaire walking around the millionaires club.”  And my lying exaggeration is like flashing around a counterfeit £50 note, trying to impress people.  That doesn’t impress people in the millionaires club.  And it completely forgets that I have a trillion pounds to my name?  What am I doing?

So put lying to death BY THE SPIRIT.

It works for all sins.

Put porn to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Why go after that counterfeit intimacy, when Jesus brings us into His eternal fellowship with the Father?

Put covetousness to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Do you really need the latest outfit or the latest gadget, when you’re about to inherit the universe?

Put anger and harsh words to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Don’t you realize you’re loved and appreciated and declared righteous in the heavenly realms?  Do you really need to assert your rights here and now?

Whatever the misdeeds of your Adam nature, put them to death BY THE SPIRIT.

So that’s how Paul says we handle our old corrupt natures.  What about this old corrupt world?  Well, end of v17 Paul says the world will share the same path as Jesus Christ.  FIRST suffering.  THEN glory.

And if you want to handle the suffering NOW, look to the glory THEN.

 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In v18 Paul weighs it up on a pair of scales.  He puts present sufferings on one side, and the whole scale tips down and we crash to the ground with a thud.  That’s what happens when there’s nothing on the other end of the scales.  If you don’t have a future hope, suffering just floors you.  What should we do?  Add the glory that will be revealed.  And what happens?  It’s not even worth comparing.

Wow!  That sounds like some impressive glory.  Paul is talking about a glory that outweighs tsunamis and genocide and cancer and famine and warfare and divorce and bereavement and mental illness and disablilities and unemployment and… what is your present suffering?  Add it to the list.

And add this word to the list: “frustration” – that’s in verse 20.  Life doesn’t work how it should.  Your family doesn’t work how it should.  Your body doesn’t work how it should.  Frustration.  Verse 21 gives another phrase: “bondage to decay.”  We are locked into decay.  None of us are getting any younger.  And we’re perishing.  Verse 22 gives another work to describe it: groaning.  How much groaning is there in the world?  Paul says we groan.  Creation groans.  Even, v26, even God the Spirit groans.

So add it all to the suffering side of the scales.  And feel the weight of it.

And when we do that, someone will ask?  Why?  Why all this suffering?  Paul says creation follows the story of man.  Man began in innocence and fell, but Jesus took hold of man and raised him up to glory.  That’s the story of creation too.  When man fell, God (v20) subjected the world to frustration – he tied its destiny to man’s destiny.  So that just as man falls in Adam and is raised in Christ, so the world falls but it will be raised too – it will be brought into, v21, the glorious freedom of the children of God.

These sufferings are not the last word.  They are part of a story.  They are only ONE side of the scales.  When you put our future glory on the other side of the scales it far outweighs the suffering. That’s a bold statement, but in verse 22 he gives an analogy to back it up.  Imagine going through birthpains but having no idea you’d get a child out of it.  Imagine just being told that such extreme pain was a natural part of life, no good ever comes from it and then you die.  Imagine that?  That would make it intolerable wouldn’t it?  But actually there is a glory that makes the suffering of birth-pains worth it.  Every mum will tell you – it was astonishingly painful and completely worth it.

Paul says we’ll all say that on the last day.  Astonishingly painful.  But there is a glory at the end of it, like when a mother gets to hold her newborn baby.  A glory that far outweighs the suffering.

What is that glory?  It’s the glory of a resurrected universe.  A universe that, like Christ Himself, is passed through the fires of judgement but comes out the other side in gleaming, pristine, immortal, physical glory.

Jesus gave a foretaste of it.  When He rose He gave a taster of the life to come.  He went for country walks with His friends, He went fishing, He barbecued breakfast on the beach for His mates.  He ate and drank and talked with His people in face-to-face intimacy.  That was the foretaste.  The banquet is coming.  And the banquet WILL make all the suffering worth it.

But it’s still hard, day by day.  That’s why Paul tells us of the present help of the Spirit, v26:

 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

This is so beautiful, so precious and so needed.  When you are suffering – really going through the mill – can you pray?  You’re a better Christian than me if you can.  There are times when we are so weak and so overwhelmed, and the Spirit prays FOR US and IN US and THROUGH US and expresses our groans better than we ever could.  It’s a truth that needs putting together with the end of v34, do you see it:  Christ Jesus is at God’s right hand, interceding (that means praying) for us.  Jesus is praying for ME right now.  He is the Son of God at the Father’s right hand.  And the Spirit of the Son is in me.  And the Spirit sweeps me up into Jesus and prays my prayers in Jesus’ name for me.  And when you are REALLY suffering you need to know that God’s not waiting for you to pull it together and start praying.  His Spirit and His Son hold you and keep you and pray for you.

And you need to know that God is working things out THROUGH suffering TOWARDS glory.  Verse 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.

God will do with OUR suffering what He did with Jesus’ suffering.  He will redeem it and turn it to resurrection glory.  We don’t know HOW He’ll do it, but He’ll do it.  His purposes for us have been too long in the making to be thwarted by this present suffering.  Verse 29 tells us of the eternal purposes of God

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Sometimes a mother will say, after having her first child – “I’d quite like a second, so I can give my son a brother or sister.”  It would be worth the pain of childbirth to create more siblings.”  God the Father had this in mind before the world began – an enormous, numberless family, so that His Son could be the firstborn among MANY brothers and sisters.  And everything God does is motivated by this desire to adopt BILLIONS of children.  And so the Father has had in mind this gigantic family and has predestined them to this glory.  That’s a big word, but it just means that He has fixed their destination in advance.

That’s what Adam and Christ was all about.

In Adam, my destination was already fixed – I was going down to death and condemnation.  But in Jesus I’m born again and, once more, my destination is already fixed – I am rising to life and glory. Pre-destined, like that.  It’s the truth that salvation is not a taxi, it’s a bus.  There’s no salvation taxi where you hop in by yourself and the driver says “Where to?”  And you say “I think I fancy heaven actually.”  And off you go.

Salvation is a bus that you find yourself on, in company with billions of others.  You’re born again and you look around and say, “Where’s this bus headed?”  Someone says “Glory.”  Oh, you say “when do we get off?”  They say “Only once we’ve arrived.”  It’s a bus headed for glory and if you’re on it, no-one’s going to kick you off it.

those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

If you are in Jesus, you are secure.  You will get to glory.  It’ll be a very bumpy road.  Sorry about that, but the destination is secure.

 31 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?

We’re on the bumpy road to glory and it looks pretty hairy at times, but we keep telling ourselves, “God gave us His Son, what will He withhold from us?”

And who can speak against us, v33:

 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.

When Satan throws your sins in your face tell him: “Oh I’m a lot worse than that devil.  You left out all my other sins.  I’m a total wretch.  But Jesus died for me – He made satisfaction for all my sins and He is my Defence at the right hand of God right now.”  Run along Satan, you are conquered.

So no more condemnation!  And so more separation, v35

 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."

Notice where Paul’s confidence is?  His confidence is in His union with Christ.  If I am united to Jesus, then everything will ultimately be ok.  And He says that union is UNBREAKABLY strong.  No suffering can ever break it.  Not even death can break it.  NO…

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.

There is an OVERFLOWING love that is IN Christ Jesus our Lord.  That’s good, because if you’re a Christian – YOU are in Christ Jesus your Lord.  And nothing – NOTHING! – breaks that union.  Not death, nor anything that happens in life.  Not an angel, not demons, not even Satan himself.  Nothing in your present, and nothing in your future, not any power in heaven or in hell or on earth – NOTHING can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Right now, you have NO condemnation.

Right now, you have the Spirit testifying to you – you are God’s child, you are God’s child.

Right now, you have Christ praying for you.

Right now, you have the Spirit praying in you.

And one day we will see the plan of eternity brought to completion – MANY children adopted by the Spirit into the Son, and raised up just like Him.  In fact the WHOLE CREATION liberated, cleansed, renewed, glorified.  Every tear wiped away, every birthpain redeemed, every ounce of suffering outweighed by glory.


3 thoughts on “Confidence in Suffering – Sermon on Romans 8

  1. Pingback: Change is not outside-in or inside-out. It’s outside-up. « Christ the Truth

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