At the end of June we started studying the book of Romans during our sermon time. For the past few Sundays we’ve taken a break from that, and considered some other things. Today, we’re going to dive back into the book of Romans.
Now, Romans was written by the apostle Paul, but inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Word. And therefore, it really is like a river. Some of it is easy enough for children to splash through, while other parts are deep enough that even the wisest theologians can’t touch the bottom.
At times Romans is a heavy book, and it takes concentration to gather in and understand all that the Holy Spirit would teach us through it.
One of the easiest teachings that comes up over and over in the first seven chapters of Romans is the teaching of “justification by faith”. Now, that sounds technical, but it’s easy to understand. Justification by faith simply means that sinners get to heaven through a simple trust in Jesus. That’s the only way. Sinners are forgiven because Jesus is the Son of God. He died in our place. Even the worst of sinners who trust in Him for forgiveness, are stamped “SINLESS” by God.
Paul talks about “justification by faith” in Romans 3, verse 20…
“…righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV).Jesus died for your sins. Through faith in Him, God considers you a saint. Sinless and perfect. Forgiven in full. If this were the only thing you remembered from Romans, Paul would be happy.
Another teaching that comes out in the first seven chapters of Romans is the teaching that there is an inner war going on inside all followers of Christ.
We all know that you can’t change what’s in a bottle by simple putting a different label on it. When a sinner comes to faith in Jesus, God labels that person sinless. But sins still happen in that person’s life.
But God doesn’t JUST label us sinless when we come to faith, God ALSO gives His Holy Spirit into us to reform us. To teach us how to live God’s way. To lead us to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. To lead us to forgive others when they sin against us.
But the Holy Spirit has an enemy who also lives within us. Our old sinful nature. The old us wants to destroy our faith in Jesus. So he leads us to sin. To things that the Spirit of God doesn’t want us to do. Things that are damaging to us, and to our faith.
Paul talks about this inner war in Romans 6, verse 11…
“…Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25a NIV).This inner war isn’t going to end until heaven. But because of Jesus, we don’t have to be slaves to sin now. We have been forgiven, and the Holy Spirit lives within our hearts to lead us.
Enough review. The text for our mediation this morning comes from Romans 8. In this chapter Paul talks about the suffering that followers of Christ will have to endure before we reach heaven.
Romans 8:14-25 (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now 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.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children 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 freedom and glory 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 to sonship, 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 they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
We believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We believe that because He suffered and died in our place, our sins have been forgiven. The Holy Spirit has convinced our hearts of this through the Bible, and through Christians who have brought this message to us personally.
Paul says that if this is true, if the Spirit of God has brought us to faith and is still with us, then we’re “Children of God” and heirs of God. Instead of hell and shame, our inheritance is Heaven and glory. Through faith in Christ, we have become Children of God.
But then Paul starts talking about our “present sufferings”. Becoming a Child of God doesn’t mean that God is going to suddenly whisk us up into heaven. Very few Christians have had the joy of being taken to heaven shortly after coming to faith.
So why? Why does God leave the ones that He loves in this broken, painful, frustrating and exhausting world? Why does God leave His Children here?
Because He has more things for us to do here. Because there are young one to raise so that they know Christ. So that they are productive Christians, bringing glory to God and sinners to peace. There are friends to make and friends to support in hard times. There are fellow Christians to correct and encourage. There are a million different answers to that question, “Why does God leave His Children in this world”. I guess the simplest is that He has more things for us to do here.
There will be pain in our lives. There will be suffering. Paul knew it. On one of the journeys Paul took to preach the Good News of Sins forgiven through Jesus, he ended up getting seriously injured. Paul’s enemies stirred up a crowd in the city of Iconium and got the people to stone Paul to death. Well, they thought He was dead anyway and then dragged him out of the city and left him.
But Paul wasn’t dead. He got up and moved on. Shortly after, in another city, Paul told a small group of Christians to remain strong and hold onto the faith because…
“…We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” (Acts 14:22b NIV).▬
As we go through these hardships, Paul wants us to be encouraged. That’s why he reminds us that the race is already won. We aren’t going through hardships in order to earn heaven, Jesus has already earned and given us forgiveness, peace with God and heaven as our final inheritance. That work is already done.
Paul says, look to the future you have in Christ for encouragement when you’re feeling weighed down and worn out. Look at Paul’s words in verse 18…
“18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV).Note that Paul doesn’t say, “Come on you wimps, I’ve suffered ten times what you have.” He doesn’t encourage us to get through our suffering by beating ourselves up for what we’re feeling. Instead He says, get your head up! Look at what’s coming. The glory that we’re going to experience in the presence of God is so much greater than anything we could suffer in this life, that it’s not even worth comparing.
In heaven we’re not going to sit around comparing scars and swapping stories about the terrible suffering we had to go through. The amazing glory of being with God, in a renewed body that doesn’t feel pain is going overshadow our past sufferings like Mount Rainier compared to a mole hill.
Paul gives us a glimpse of the glory He’s talking about in verse 19…
“19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children 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 freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21 NIV).When we look around us, we see a world that is full of things God didn’t want in His Creation. God didn’t plan earthquakes and tidal waves that destroy cities, villages and kill thousands. God didn’t design animals to eat their own young, or predators who stalk the weak as their food source? But when Adam and Eve sinned, God let sin bleed right into the fabric of our universe.
God did this for two reasons. One, so that all humans would would know that this world is not it. This world is not what it should be. There is something wrong with this world, and that thing is sin. This is not our final home.
The second reason that God cursed the physical universe after Adam and Eve sinned, is what Paul talks about here. So that in the end, when the Children of God are revealed and renewed, the renewal of the universe will make that day all the more glorious. The broken universe is breathtaking now. Imagine what it will be when it all flows in harmony together, without the effects of sin and pain and death.
God talks about renewing the universe in other places in the Bible also. In Isaiah 11 it says…
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,And in Revelation 21 it says…
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV).
“1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” m for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ u or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”▬
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:1-6 NIV).
When we look forward to heaven, it’s natural to groan under the weight of our present pains. It’s natural to long for the time when we won’t just read about glory, but when we will see it with our own eyes. Look at verse 22…
“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 to sonship, 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 they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:22-25 NIV).Groaning is okay. There’s a difference between groaning and grumbling. When we imagine what living with God will be like and we groan inwardly, we’re expressing our deep longing to be with God, and free from our present sufferings. And that’s just fine. It reminds us that this world isn’t all there is. And we shouldn’t live our lives like this world is all there is. Because of Christ, we have a future glory which outshines everything we now know.
I don’t know what you’re struggling through right now. Maybe it’s not much. Maybe it’s huge and heavy. Whatever it is, don’t hold it yourself. Let Jesus hold it up by praying it into His hands.
Our present sufferings may seem everlasting, but they’re not. They are temporary. God has made us His own Children through Christ. And He will bring us home at last. To a universe, renewed in glory. To our own bodies, renewed in glory. To a renewed and sinless self. To living face to face with God. To freedom from a broken and dying world. To final adoption into God’s House.
To close our meditation today I’m going to read two verses. One spoken by Paul, and one written by him. Dear Christians, Children of God through faith in our Savior, let these verses stick with you in hard times.
“…We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” (Acts 14:22b NIV).All praise and honor and glory be to Jesus, who makes the future of sinners like us, a future full of joy and glory.
“18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV).
The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.