J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

How Deep is Your Love – Romans 8:29-35

how deep is your loveAudio for this sermon can be found at http://www.sermoncloud.com/sovereign-king-church/

There are seemingly a million movies made each year, and practically every one of them has some romantic story line.  You can see the grossest comedy or the scariest horror movie, and more than likely, there will be two people either in love or two people who fall in love by the time movie is over.  These movies make a lasting impact when they can create that scene where one character makes a declaration of love that is so convincing, the audience wishes that someone would tell them the very same thing.  And for some reason, men declaring their love in the rain is even more powerful.

For example, there is that famous scene in “The Last of the Mohicans” where Hawkeye declares to Cora Munro, “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”  I’ve spoken to many women who find the scene so memorable that they wish someone would say those very words to them and of course mean it.  More recently, a movie with a memorable scene like this is “The Notebook” where there is the perfunctory man of lower social status who falls in love with a socialite.  Apparently, the themes of Romeo and Juliet never grow old.  Well, the socialite, named Allie, confronts the young man named Noah, of course in a rain storm, about why he has never written her.

Allie: Why didn’t you write me? Why? It wasn’t over for me, I waited for you for seven years. But now it’s too late.
Noah: I wrote you 365 letters. I wrote you everyday for a year.
Allie: You wrote me?
Noah: Yes… it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over

And then they kiss.  Of course, there is always the example of Jack and Rose in Titanic promising each other that they’ll never let go. Once again, water is the key element to any promise of affection.  If you are a guy, maybe you just dig on the Terminator looking back and saying, “I’ll be back.”

One of the reasons that I think these moments are so effective and so memorable is that they give the impression of a secure promise of love.  Promises of love are made all the time, and by looking at the divorce rate, it is easy to see that promises of love are not easily kept.  I guess in any relationship, security is incredibly important.  If you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a person loves you, then you can rest.  No security equals no rest.

Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul wants to make God’s love to His children abundantly clear.  He is going to detail the many ways that God has demonstrated both that love and that security, and the intention of his telling is for those who have faith in Jesus Christ to exhale…to rest.

With that in mind, we are going to this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  What lengths does God go to assure His children that He loves them?

Let’s do a quick review of last week’s sermon before we jump into this week’s passage because it is essential to keep these thoughts in today’s passage connected to the ones in last week’s passage.  We ended last week with these points:  God helps His children in their weakness, the Spirit of God hears your pain and prayers, intercedes with God the Father to bring about God’s perfect, holy will in your life.  You then can be strengthened in your weakness and worry knowing that God is doing exactly what is best for you.  Last week, we looked at that often quoted but difficult to believe verse that says,

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

We spent some time discussing how in the world all things could work together for the good of those that love God?  We found that the answer is two fold:  God ordains all things and those that love God are called to the ultimately good purpose of giving glory to God.  We also spent a good bit of time discussing that we can trust that there is an end goal of the good because there are no accidents.  God is not a cosmic janitor cleaning up our messes and making them good.  God has ordained what’s going to be in your life for specific purposes.

In light of those truths, last week, we took a couple of minutes and talked through the things that we see in scripture that speak specifically to God ordaining.  For example:

  • Col 1:16 all things have been created by Him and for Him.
  • Isa 14:27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?
  • There are no chance or lucky events.  God plans all of those.  Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
  • Isa 45: I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
  • What about evil people?  Pro 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.
  • You might say, “Surely sickness, deformities, and weakness, God couldn’t have ordained those?”  God ordains those as well.  John 9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  The man was sick so that God might be glorified.
  • Psa 139:16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.  God is not a reporter of the events of your life.  God is the author.

So as you love God, you can know that the absolute best thing that God can do for you is being done because you have been called to the purpose of loving God and giving Him glory.  You live out that glory in the arena of God’s providence.

Now this truth is not intended to make you lazy, shiftless, careless, or fatalistic.  In light of God’s promises, it is intended to give you hope and quite honestly, inspire you to live fearlessly.  I’ll make an analogy that is sure to fall woefully short but might help to give a small picture of these truths.  This is not an analogy of God ordaining all things but an analogy of the security that His ordination should give you.  Teaching a child to ride a bike is about making the child feel confident that they can take a risk knowing that Mom or Dad are right there running alongside.  That doesn’t mean that spills don’t happen or that scraped knees are completely avoided, but it does mean that the child can risk riding on two wheels because they know that the Father is completely there with them.

Now you can risk great acts of faith and obedience because you know that God’s ordination of all things means that there is a guarantee of His care and His good for you.  If God does not ordain what is going on in your life, we are left to hope to God reacts well.  In fact, you can risk great acts of faith and obedience because they are guaranteed.  For example, we have spoken earlier in Romans about how once you have faith in Jesus, you are no longer a slave to sin but have God-promised, raising from the dead, Spirit-empowered obedience ahead.  If you know Christ as your Savior, it is promised that you will become like Him, even if that process is slow.  Look at verse 29.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Now this verse says that those who know Christ are guaranteed to be like Christ or conformed to His image.  If you have saving faith in Jesus Christ, it is a 100%, stone cold lock guaranteed that you will become like Him.  It might be slow, but it is inevitable.  The reason this is so is because God has predestined it to be so.  Let’s tackle a couple words here.  Those God foreknew He also predestined.  Those two words “foreknew” and “predestined” are inseparable.  One leads to the other and each derive from the other.  What does it mean for God to foreknow someone?  There really are a couple of options.  Some would say that foreknowing means that God looked into the future, knew what was going to happen and because of that certain things are surely going to happen.  But once you couple the word “predestined” with “foreknow” that makes that explanation of these events implausible.  If God is merely a reporter of future events you could say that events are destined to happen but not pre-destined because they clearly would not be.  There would be no pre about it if God is merely reporting what other people are going to do.

In addition, if God is not ordaining these events but only reporting them, what causes them to be sure to happen is not God’s plan but the fact that He knows what people are going to do.  If that is the case, then the guarantee here that people will be conformed to the image of Jesus completely dependant upon the power of you and me and not upon God.  That is completely inconsistent with the promises of Romans that speaks of the guarantee coming from God’s power and not our own.

You see, there are several different types of ways that the word “know” is used in scripture.  You can know a fact.  You can know a person.  Or you can know someone in a way of sexual intimacy.  Those last two are often used interchangeably.

Saying that God looks in the future, sees what’s going to happen would be just his knowing of something, in fact it would make God a student.  He would have to look into the future and learn what was going to happen and then destine I guess if you will.  But the word here is the intimate word for knowing a person, a prior relationship is what is being communicated.   It is the same word that is used in

  • Galatians 4:8-9 “You have come to know God or rather to be known by God
  • And the sad opposite in Matt 7:23 when Jesus says “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

You see, God knows those who are His and He is predetermining that they will be like His son Jesus.  In fact, Jesus Himself guarantees this as He is the first fruit or the very first of the Kind meaning that many will come after Him that will be like Him.  God so much wants to love you by making you like Jesus that He predetermines that for each of His children.  Okay, here is God running beside you while you are learning to ride a bike.  Think of the sin that you can’t get rid of.

  • Maybe you sneak peaks at pornography or are addicted to masturbation.
  • Maybe you are a terrible gossip.
  • Maybe you embellish the truth or just flat out lie a good bit.
  • Maybe you fail in doing things you are commanded to do like pray, study the scriptures, share the truths of Jesus.

Now here is the kicker.  Maybe you really wish those things could change but at times you grow weary and even give up the fight of growing in obedience.  God however in making you His child is promising you that you have the Holy Spirit to arm you will with a guaranteed conformity to the image of Jesus.  God has decided before the foundation of the world that you will be like Jesus, even if that feels like an inch by inch growth, it is guaranteed.   It is impossible for the same Holy Spirit whose power raised Jesus from the dead, to live within you and you not become like Jesus.

Now these promises are intended to give you comfort and reassurance.  They should give you real hope that things really can change.  But Paul here in Romans wants to assure you and give you hope for even greater things.  Look at verse 30.

30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What we find here is four simple past tense verbs:  predestined, called, justified, glorified.  These are things that God has done and will be done without any interruption.  That is the nature of the simple past tense verb in Greek.  They are definitive actions.  Notice here, that there is a succession of thought.  God has predestined you to be His child.  Those who will be believers are predestined by God to be so.  The process by which He brings that about is calling them – this not your mom calling you to leave the back yard to come to dinner – it is an effectual call.  It brings about its desired result.  Those that He calls, He justifies which means God Himself fixes the relationship that is broken with those that He calls.  And if God is going to do all of that:  predestine, call, and justify, then you can bet that He will assure that His children will remain in Him and they will be glorified meaning that they will enjoy the benefits of Heaven as obedient sons and daughters because of Jesus Christ.

Now for some folks, this kind of language is difficult to hear.  When we hear the words “predestine” then some struggle.  The difficulty lies in that fact that we have no earthy parallel to predestination.  When scripture talks about forgiveness, we understand what that is.  This happens in relationships all the time.  One forgives another.  When scripture talks about justification, we can understand that as well.  This happens in court.  A person is accused, they are tried and justice is done.  When scripture talks about salvation, we can even muster an understanding there.  A child is rescued or adopted and we see some correlation there.

But when scripture speaks of predestination there is no human parallel.  There is no one who can predetermine exactly what is going to happen.  We can try; we can influence, but we can’t predetermine.  So because of that, predestination must be understood completely by pursuing the character and the revelation of God.  Predestination is His property.  We don’t understand if we start by looking at the character of humanity.  So often, when the sweet promises of predestination come up, people’s first response is “But I have free will,” or “Man has free will.”

Well, there is a little bit of time here to discuss that but the scriptures speak of God’ predestination of His children, then that is exactly what He does.  Man’s will or lack thereof only comes into understanding by seeing what God has done and can do and not the other way around.  So, let me offer some practical advice as we move forward.  Whether you are beginning to study the Bible for the first time, whether you have grown up in the church, whether you are seminary trained or Spirit inspired, start your studies of scripture with what is known and revealed about God and then allow your theology of man, sin, salvation, heaven, and hell, be influenced and grow from there.  Understand the Creator; understand the creation.  So back to the earlier conundrum about man’s will.  Humans do have free will.  But they are dead in their sin according to Paul, so what they freely choose is sin.

Do you remember the description of mankind apart from God in Romans 1?  No one knows God.  No one understands God.  No one seeks God.  That is man’s free will.  It is depraved and does not choose to glorify God without the gift of faith.  If man has free will to choose God, then He does not need a Savior.  The 4 past tenses above, God predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies – each of those would be completely dependant upon your will if you are free to choose to glorify God.  If you could do that, not sure you have much of a sin problem.

But don’t miss the promises herein.  What is the point of my telling you that predestination, calling, justifying, and glorifying are all the work of God.  The point is to give you hope because God equips people to that which He calls them.  Look at verse 31.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No one, no person, no institution, no authority, no spiritual being, no devil, no demon, no job, no job loss, no relationship, no divorce, no abuse, can stand against you.  Why?  Because God has secured everything for you by His power.  Not by yours because then everything could stand against you.  No one thing can stand against you because God has predestined you, called you, justified you, and secured that you will be glorified if you are in Christ Jesus.  Mentally, right now, you should make a list of the things that you feel are against you.  Think about insurmountable to you.

  • Your health
  • Your wealth or lack thereof
  • Your damaged relationships
  • Your boss that doesn’t like you.
  • None of those things will stand against you because God has predestined you, called you, justified you and glorified you.

It would take a great act of love to secure these things for you and that is exactly what God did.  Look at verse 32.

32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Look what God has done for you.  God did not spare His son Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for you.  If He will not spare Jesus the most precious of all creation, then what will He spare you in His love for you?  Who will accuse the elect (that is those that are predestined or chosen) of anything in light of that love?  God is the one who justified or fixed your broken relationship.  No one can condemn you.  Jesus died for the elect and now He, just like the Holy Spirit, intercedes for God’s children.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God because of what God has done.  Nothing.  Look at the list in verse 35.

  • No amount of tribulation
  • No distress on your part over finances or jobs
  • No persecution from those that hate God’s elect
  • No famine or lack of food
  • No nakedness
  • No danger of any sort
  • No sword

Those things are horrendous and awful but they cannot separate you from the love of God.  Folks, your salvation, your faith in Christ, your forgiveness and your status before God are secure.  You can’t even take it away.  Why?  Because those He predestined, He called, and those He called, He justified and those He justified, He glorified.  Salvation is the work of God and God alone.  Any insecurity about your faith or fear that you will lose your salvation is in direct proportion to these truths.  The more you think you get to take responsibility for your salvation, the less secure you will be.  The more you understand that your salvation is God’s work, the more you will see how secure it is.

So tonight or today or whenever you wonder if God loves you, remind yourself.  There is nothing in all creation that could separate you from the love of God.  To prove to you how much He loves you He sacrificed the thing most dear to Him…Jesus Christ.  Security in Christ comes from God alone, and the more you trust your own wisdom and your own logic and your own thoughts of how you are responsible your salvation, the less you secure you will feel.  Here this truth from Ephesians to help you with this.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

We should praise God because He has given us every spiritual blessing which is far more valuable than earthly blessing through Jesus Christ.  Why?

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

This is the same promise as Romans 8.  These spiritual blessings are guaranteed because before the foundation of the word, God chose His children to be holy and blameless.

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

By His love, God predestined His children to be adopted through Jesus according to His will and His will alone.  This amazing truth leaves us with but one option:  humility and praise for His grace poured out to us.


September 20, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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