J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Romans 8:18-25 – Sermon Notes

Audio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

Hands down, we live in one of the most narcissistic cultures of all time.  If not the most, we are at least one of the worst cultures at flat-out loving ourselves.  Two recent books, “Generation Me” and “The Narcissism Epidemic” by sociologist Jean Twenge highlight this growing phenomenon in America.  The premise of Twenge’s research is that, “We’ve built up the confidence of our kids, but in that process, we’ve created a generation of hot-house flowers puffed with a disproportionate sense of self-worth (the definition of narcissism) and without the resiliency skills they need when Mommy and Daddy can’t fix something.”

Essentially, parenting styles today make every action a success and every entitlement an expectation.  The author cites a few examples.  For example, in her research, she found that 30% of college students today think that they should get at least “B” in a particular subject if they never miss a class.  When the author asked the same question to a group of college students in Connecticut, nearly 100% agreed with statement.  The author offered this suggestion as a cure for the prevailing attitude of our day.  She says an antidote to a skyrocketing self-worth is humility, evaluating yourself more accurately, mindfulness and putting others first.  Now that sounds incredibly Biblical doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this type of narcissism has not escaped the church.  The reduction of Christianity to a mere “personal decision for Christ” has taught many believers in Jesus that that the Kingdom of God is here for one reason:  to serve them.  For example getting people to truly care about a hurting neighbor is incredibly difficult.  For many, if your neighbor disagrees with you politically, environmentally, or sexually, you can forget most Christians helping them out.  Why?  Well the prevailing thought is, “If you have the audacity to disagree with me, then your problems are your own fault,” and completely lacking humility, we use words like “dumb” or “stupid” or whatever else makes us feel morally superior.

If you want to gauge your own sense of Christian narcissism, take this little test.  Recall your most recent prayers.  Are there more petitions for your self than there are prayers for others and praises for God?  If so, perhaps you should ask who you think is serving whom?

Sadly, if your church preaches that the intention of God is to make you personally healthy, wealthy, wise, and completely remove your life of suffering, you can pack the place out.  In fact, you can build a tower of Christian Narcissism very easily; it’s just that you get to call it a church building.  But what we are going to see from the book of Romans this week is that the redemptive work of Jesus is about saving individuals, but it also about so much more.  Not wanting to make that mistake, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  The work of Jesus is about redeeming sinful people, but how is the work of Jesus about so much more than just that?

8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Now this is a bold a statement as any human being can make about suffering.  You have to ask, “Is it okay to say that the suffering of this time is not worth comparing to the glories of heaven while so many people are suffering immensely.  For example,

  • 171,000 Christians were martyred for their faith last year.
  • 7.6 million people worldwide die from cancer each year
  • 100,000 children died from Cancer in America alone
  • Or you can make it more personal.  Last week 2 children in Garner suffered massive burns all over their body when their house caught on fire.
  • A 6 year old girl died while waiting at a bus stop.
  • In Garner High School, over 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch which means the vast majority of students are living in incredibly difficult financial situations.

There is a lot of suffering in this world.  Right here in this congregation, we have had deaths in our families, long term sickness, loss of jobs, and on and on.  And Paul has the audacity to say that the present troubles and sufferings we are experiencing are not even worth comparing with the glory to be revealed.

You see, he is saying that the glories of Heaven are so great that you won’t even think about comparing your suffering to them because the glories will be so far outweigh whatever pain you are in right now.  Ask your self, “What would it take right now for you to not worry about your suffering?”  What incredible thing would have to happen for you to say, “It doesn’t matter if I am broke,” or “It doesn’t matter if I’m not healthy,” or fill in the blank with whatever it is you wish would go away right now.

Would it take unlimited money?  Would it take perfect health?  Would it take a perfect marriage or job or whatever?  Those things might be nice but none of them are intended to give you the joy that God intends to give you.  In fact, Paul wants your suffering to make you want real, true joy.

So, let’s ask this, “What makes the glories of Heaven so great that our present suffering can’t even compare?”  We saw that last week in verse 16-17 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  Because God has made you His child, the Spirit causes your heart to cry, “Daddy, Father.”  Not only are you God’s children but you are heirs with Jesus Christ sharing glory in Heaven.  But if you are going to be like your brother Jesus in Heaven, you must be like Him in suffering here on Earth.

What makes the glories of Heaven so much greater than your suffering on earth is that you are a co-heir with Christ.  Not only are you forgiven.  Not only are you spared the torment of hell.  Not only are you privileged to spend eternity with the Father, but you are a co-heir with Christ sharing in the glory that He has earned for you.  You arrive in Heaven not as a prodigal son or daughter but as an obedient son and daughter through Jesus Christ.  And there, according to 1 Thessalonians 4, you will enjoy the redemption of your physical body while relishing in God’s presence without any physical limitations or pain.

I fear even to articulate these words with the fear that I have not done them justice.  Paul’s intention is to fill you with hope and expectation by giving you a big picture of your suffering.  Yes your present trials, sicknesses, heartaches, and pains are difficult.  But you do not have a Savior who is unacquainted with those things.  You know what you should do when you suffer?  Mediated on the sufferings of Christ.  You know why?  Because not only do your sufferings not come close to what He suffered, Jesus was perfect and all His sufferings were without merit.   He suffered when He should have been the one pouring out suffering for sin.  He suffered for those that inflicted His suffering.  Yet He endured it all to usher you and me into the glories of Heaven and then on top of that, He shares the glories of Heaven with you.

Now, once we get a big picture view of our suffering, Paul intends for us to get a big picture view of Jesus’ redemptive work.  Look at verse 19.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Paul wants us to see a bigger picture of the effects of sin and a bigger picture of redemption in these verses.  Specifically, he speaks about how not only is the human heart affected by sin and the fall of mankind, but all of creation is as well.  So much so is physical creation and nature suffering that it longs for the day when God will redeem it again.  This will happen at the revealing of the sons of God which is another way of saying that creation will be redeemed when God’s children are ultimately redeemed in Heaven.  But this an often overlooked topic in scripture, so let’s dig in a bit.

How has creation been affected by sin?  Well verse 20 says it was subjected to futility and verse 21 says that it is in bondage to corruption.  Now if you read those verses carefully, you would see hope and redemption spread throughout them but we need to understand the prognosis before we pursue the prescription.  The word for futility here also translated frustration is the same word for vanity which is another way of saying that it is alienated.  Who or what are nature and creation alienated from?  Us.  Think about it.  What was God’s original intention for the relationship between mankind and creation?

Genesis 1:28 commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.  Making human’s responsible for subduing and dominion is making them vice-regents – that is an agent of the King who acts in the best interest of the king in His stead.  This is Kingdom language.  Which means creation and mankind should be living in harmony with humanity ruling over all creation with the same gracious, creative intent of God.  The Kingdom of God should have not only a spiritual impact on this world but a physical one as well.  You as God’s children are called to extend and spread the influence of the Kingdom of God in every area, arena, nook, and cranny of this world.

Now many people think that subdue and dominion is language to mean that people can treat nature and creation anyway they want but the Creator of the universe who just pronounced creation good is bequeathing to humans a responsibility.  Now, I refuse to have lengthy arguments here about the size of the hole in the ozone or whether there is global warming or not.  No matter what side of the argument you come down on, if all you do is argue pro or con about environmentalism then you have missed the point of this passage.

But reducing the language of subduing and dominion to the environment and our care of it is too narrow of a focus.  God’s intention is that man would rule and reign over all creation as if God Himself was doing it.  In light of sin, that job becomes pretty difficult.  These verses would say that your mere presence on this earth subjects creation to futility because you are sinful and the curse of the fall into sin is that the ground has been cursed because of your sin.  That is how bad your sin is.  You should thank God for every day you take another breath because you do it not at your own expense but at creation’s expense.  But your mere presence as a saved, redeemed child of God should also spread the influence of the Kingdom of God everywhere.

Here is where we begin to see that the redemptive work of Jesus is bigger than just saving individual sinners.  Creation groans because of your sin and the effects of sin but it also eagerly waits for your redemption and longs to be set free.  Verse 20 says that creation was subject to futility but it did so with hope knowing that God would redeem it one day.  Isa. 65 and 66, 2 Peter 3, and Rev 21 all speak of God making a new Heaven and a New Earth one day.  God is going to redeem everything that is tainted with the stain of sin.

Understanding that then, we need to understand what it would look like to have a big picture view of God’s redemptive work.  Look at verse 22

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul likens creation’s groaning and desiring to be redeemed to the groaning pain of childbirth.  Now, I know nothing of that kind of pain, but I have witnessed it a few times, so I can at least tell you what it should look like.  From my vantage point, the pains of childbirth that typically bring the glorious joys of children come about through a lot of grunting, sweating, agonizing, and sometimes even saying a few cuss words.

So what is creation groaning for?  It is groaning for two things:  It is groaning for you to be the proper vice-regent for God, but knowing that you are sinful, creation really longs for the ultimate redemption that God has promised it.  Paul’s point is that creation groans, groans like it is trying to push out a baby, for an ultimate, final redemption and YOU should groan for an ultimate, final redemption.

Your suffering reminds you that there is a redemption yet to come.  Your suffering is not intended to embitter or anger you but remind you that this place is not your home.  There is yet greater redemption and glory to come.  God has given you this picture of redemption, the firstfruits of the Spirit to encourage you and remind you that God is doing an ultimate work of redemption bringing His children and creation back to their original relationship with Him.  And I promise you, if you lose perspective on this you will not only become embittered but some of you very well may turn, shake your fist at God

We should groan and eagerly await just as creation does.  The physical earth will be redeemed and your physical body will be redeemed.  But we still don’t know how to play a part in this larger than we can imagine redemption that God is doing.  Well look at verse 24 and we will see How we play a larger part in God’s redemption of humanity and creation.

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

You know some of us, really struggle with hope.  One of the main reasons folks struggle with hope is because they haven’t yet received the thing for which they hope.  So, I guess hope for most folks apparently has its limitations.  Why is that?  I would offer that our hope has its limitations because of our narcissistic nature.  We will hope in something as long as we know that we are going to get it which begs the question, “Is that really hope at all?

For example, when our children ask for something and we say that it is way too expensive, somewhere deep down inside, they still think they are going to get it.  Why?  Because we pretty much get our children whatever it is that they want.  Whenever we want something, we might say we are hoping to get it, but deep down inside we know we can charge it or we expect someone to get it for us.  And if we don’t get what we want?  We are disillusioned and disappointed and depressed.

In all honesty, we don’t know what hope is because we either aren’t patient enough to wait and we just go get what we want for ourselves or we just get angry and write off anybody or anything that doesn’t serve us immediately.  We are in essence spoiled brats.

But Paul says here, hope is the essence of salvation.  It is only hope if it is unseen which means it is beyond our grasp or beyond our ability to get it for ourselves.  If we only hope for things that we know we can get for ourselves or for things that we know people will get for us, it is not hope.  Do you want to take part in the grand redemption story that Jesus is undertaking?  Do you want to properly serve your role as vice regent?  If you do, the way in which that becomes a possibility is for you to have true, honest, earnest, hope and patience as we wait for God.

Unfortunately, what gets in our way of having hope is our impatience and to be honest, our low view of God.  We think He is constantly ready to destroy His children when He is actually about redeeming them.  We see every difficulty in the day to day as God’s curse and forget that God desires to redeem and not destroy His creation.

Spurgeon put it this way, “My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are ready to sin.  He is more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus.”  Since we are so impatient and don’t want to live in hope but instead want everything we want right now, we as a consequence live without hope or without great faith in God.  We would rather Him serve us instead of us serving Him.

You can’t very well point people to the hope they should have unless you have hope.  You can’t tell people that God can save a marriage unless you are willing to wait and trust that He is going to save yours.

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August 30, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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