J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Stick to the Plan – Sermon Notes: Romans 8:36-9:13

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

I’m no mathematician nor am I the son of a mathematician.  In fact, in college, the classes I enjoyed the least were my math’s especially the two statistics classes I had to take.  I have jokingly referred to myself as a “math atheist” on more than one occasion.  How surprised was I when I found myself managing an eye doctor’s office, keeping the books and trying to make the place more profitable.  All of sudden, numbers, projected profits, and balance sheets were my way of life.  Then for a couple of years, I made my living working the numbers as optometric consultant.

The good thing about math is once you get the formulas, they are tried and true.  2 + 2 + 4 will be the same tomorrow as it is today.  You can even do the formula in reverse and it works because 4 – 2 = 2.  When doing financial analysis and you’re looking at what a company grossed, their average day is always going to be total gross divided by the number of business days.  It work the other way around.  The number of business days times the average is going to equal the total grossed.

But here is the problem.  It is generally deduced that addition is easier than subtraction.  Development behaviorists determine this by studying children and observing that children deduce differences by their knowledge of sums.  So it takes learning to add and building a knowledge base in order to do subtraction properly.  The math works both ways adding and subtracting but subtracting is apparently a little harder for many.

Well the truths of God work the same way.  They are true forwards and backwards but if we start with ourselves and have to subtract to get to God, it is always going to be a bit harder.  Starting with God and His promises is always the best route.  Let me give you an example.  A few weeks ago, we looked at how God has made absolutely sure that His children will be secure.  He chooses them.  He calls them.  He justifies them.  He glorifies them.  Because of that, those that have faith in Jesus can live fearless, faith-filled lives of obedience because God has guaranteed not only that His children will grow in being like Christ, He has promised that they have nothing to fear.  Nothing can stand against them:  no job, no lack of job, no broken relationship, no nothing.  When God plans, enacts and secures a work in the life of His children they have nothing to fear.

That truth gets tricky though if we start with ourselves and work backwards to God.  If we start by saying, “Oh I would really like to live securely and fearlessly,” there are a host of challenges that can get in the way.  We look at our weaknesses; we look at our circumstances and get discouraged.  We hear the promises of God, but wonder if they are still possible in light of all the problems in our lives.   You can find your way back to God and His promises will still be true but it might tough going to get there.

Instead, we need to start with who God is, what God has done, and what God has promised to do and then see our lives in light of that.  Addition is easer.  God did His work.  Mankind does His work because God did His work.

If you were here two weeks ago, you are going to find some similar themes as Paul is always apt repeat Himself, but that’s okay.  Paul starts with God and moves to us, so it will be refreshing to hear what He has to say.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  How do the promises of God make life secure?

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Now, why in the world would Paul make these kinds of declaration?  Declarations about believers being killed, being sheep for slaughter, and consequently being a conqueror?   Well 2 weeks ago, we heard these promises from God.  Paul said in verse 31, If God is for you, who can be against you?   The answer would be…no one.  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you, how will God not also with Jesus graciously give you all things?  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  No one because God is the one that chose His children so no one can bring a charge against them.  It is God who justifies so who could condemn you?   No one.  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.

It is important for you to understand these truths before tackling the last part of chapter 8.  God wants to assure you of His love for you.  Nothing in all creation can separate your from His love.  No one can effectively be against you.  No one can bring a charge against you.  No one can condemn you.

This of course does not mean that people won’t attempt to separate you from God’s love or be against you or bring a charge against you or attempt to condemn you.  The word most often associated with someone condemning you or bringing charges against you because you are a believer in Jesus is persecution.  In America, we know very little of persecution.  We assume because somebody is offended by the topics of abortion, homosexuality, or some other hot-button issue that that is persecution.  Most of the time, folks are reacting to our arrogance and our smugness and not to the offense that Jesus presents.  If people can react to your stand in the same manner that they can react to a similar stand of a political party, that’s not persecution.  That’s politics.

Having someone condemn you or bring a charge against you happens when you present such a clear and beautiful picture of our meek Savior that they are undone and offended by Jesus and the Gospel – not offended by you.  We know very little of this because we either get in the way and offend and start telling people how they are going to burn in hell or we just don’t know Jesus very well so we couldn’t present a honest picture of him to the world if we had to.

No, the voice of condemnation most heard in your ears is your own voice.  This happens when you either don’t know the truths of scripture and the Gospel well or you begin to measure your standing before God by your efforts.  Then the voice of condemnation comes in your head and tells you things like…God does not love you.  You are worthless.  Your family, friends, and loved ones would be better off without you.  Your physical appearance determines your self-worth.

But God in His grace wants you to know that Nothing in all creation can separate your from His love.  No one can effectively be against you.  No one can bring a charge against you.  No one can condemn you.  If you have faith in Jesus, you are a conqueror because your victorious Savior is the conqueror.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Jesus Christ, your place before God is so secure, no one, not even you, has the power to remove you from the security of His love.  The world considers you a sheep worthless only worthy of slaughter, but no, in Jesus you are a conqueror.  Yes, your body, your health, and who knows what might be taken in this world, but through Jesus, you are a conqueror because Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, has conquered sin, the power of sin, death, alienation, doubt, fear, Hell, Satan and all him minions.

What a sweet truth.  We would all do well to comfort our hearts as we lay awake at night with these verses.  Neither height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus,  Amen.  And as a reminder to those that think they can lose their salvation, you are a “thing in creation” so that means that no even you can cause you to lose your salvation.  You know, most everyone fears losing their relationship with God.  But this verse intends not only to assure you of your relationship with God, but also assure you of His love.

Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God?  The answer is no.  Look at that list.  If you die, it can’t separate you from the love of God.  Nothing in this life can separate you from the love of God.  No angel or heavenly being has the power to separate you from the love of God.  There is nothing that can happen today and nothing that can happen in the future that can separate you from the love of God.  There is no power, none above in the heavens or below in the depths nor anything in all of God’s creation that can separate you from the love of God.

Folks, if you have faith in Jesus and you trust Him for your salvation asking Him for repentance and forgiveness, this verse is worth a lifetime of counseling.  It is God’s declaration of how undying and unchanging His love and affection is for you.  Please memorize it.  Please practice it when you are scared.  Men, proclaim this truth to your wives when they are worried.  Women, proclaim this truth to your husbands when they doubt.  Parents, proclaim this truth to your children when they are stressed.  Kids, proclaim this truth to your siblings and friends to let them know how much Jesus loves them.

Now, at this point, Paul is going to take an interesting detour.  Well, what it really is in an extended illustration of these truths.  What makes God’s love inseparable from you is that its basis and root is found in God’s choosing you, calling you, justifying you, and glorifying you.  Paul is going to illustrate what that looks like by discussing the election of the nation of Israel.  What I mean by the Nation of Israel is the physical descendants of Abraham.  Again, keep in mind, this Paul’s illustration of how secure God’s love is to you and to your election.

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Paul starts off here by reminding us that what he is not lying when he says these things – in fact he says that the Spirit of God has testified to his that what he is saying is true.  And the story he is about to tell causes him great anguish.  In fact, the only reason I can believe that what he says he is true is because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit so he cannot be lying.

Paul uses the story of the nation of Israel to demonstrate God’s faithfulness and warn against presumption.  Paul’s anguish comes because so many of them do not believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.  This pains Paul so much that he wishes that he were accursed or essentially he wishes that he himself could die and go to hell if it meant that his brothers in the nation of Israel would believe.  On a small note here, I pray that I could have that kind of compassion for those that don’t believe in Jesus.  Sadly, the church is often rightly criticized for our lack of compassion.  We are so quick to tell  people that they going to burn in hell where Paul here says, “If I could burn in hell so that you wouldn’t have to, I would.”  This is a great verse to pursue your own motivations or lack thereof around those that do not believe and then walk in repentance and newness of life.  But in verse 4, Paul shows why it is such a tragedy that his fellow Israelites do not believe.

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The nation of Israel was promised to be God’s people to Abraham when God said in Genesis “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  They fell into slavery under Pharaoh and God saved them through Moses walking them on dry land across the Red Sea.  At Mount Sinai, God established a covenant with His people.  To help them understand the expectations of being in covenant with God, God gave the law to them.  This was not just a simple list do’s and don’ts; it was an expression of God’s character detailing to them exactly how they should show thankfulness to God and how they should approach God in worship.

God gave them incredible men to lead them, the Patriarchs.  Men like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and others.  Though each one of these men was far from perfect, they were Godly men.  Abraham proclaimed faith in God.  Moses led the people in the worship of God.  David helped constitute the people as a nation.  Solomon taught them the deep truths of God.  From them, and many Godly women as well, came the line of ancestors that eventually led to Jesus Christ.  Now, that is an incredible legacy.

Paul was in anguish because after all of those blessings, very few Israelites believed in Jesus.  Looking around, it makes sense to wonder and ask:  What about the promises of God?  What about election?  In Paul’s day, Israel wasn’t even in control of their own land anymore.  They were under the judgment of God.  What happened?

Now before we answer the question, Paul is asking that question in light of the fact that it looks like God has promised a bunch of stuff and it didn’t happened.  Right or wrong, some of you are asking the same types of questions.  You are wondering why things aren’t better.  You thinking, “Hey, shouldn’t God have my back here?  Shouldn’t He bail me out?”  You might even begin to wonder if the promises of scripture are true or not.  You might even begin to wonder if the whole Christian life is a big waste to time.  Yeah, God’s love is secure but so what?  I’m hurting now.  Paul uses the Nation of Israel to answer those questions.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring

No, the Word of God has not, cannot, and will not fail.  You might wonder by looking at your circumstances if God has failed because things are not turning out the way you thought they should.  You might ask yourself questions like:  Wait a minute, why am I struggling financially?  Why am I in a passionless marriage?  Why is my health so bad?  Why are my kids having so many problems?  Why am I unemployed?  Shouldn’t things be better?  Aren’t those things my right?

Well, you definitely might consider that the word of God failed if you looked at Israel.  Hardly any of them believe in Jesus, so how could the Word of God not failed?  Well, the problem is not the Word of God.  The problem is where you are looking for evidence of the promises of God.  Paul explains His illustration in this way.  He says, Not all of Israel belong to Israel which means just because you are physically part of the nation of Israel, hat doesn’t mean you are part of Israel.  Just because a person is a physical descendent of Abraham, that doesn’t make them a child of Abraham.

Now let’s stop here for a moment.  The presumption became and still is to this day that if you are physically descended from Abraham, if you are born a Jew, then God is going to automatically save you.  But nowhere in scripture do we see that promises of God working with those kinds of assumptions.  God called a people to Himself but never promised universal salvation and never does God promise salvation based upon a mere descendant of someone.  If that was the case, there would be no need or desire or impetus for Jesus.

Paul wants to kill any idea that you, me, or anyone else would ever had that God owes us anything.  He is already gracious.  He has already given us His son.  Why would think that He is going to run around be impressed with us?  Why would you think at any point and time, “Hey God you are not being fair.”  God is sovereign.  He has poured His grace out through Jesus.  We are finite.  We have no right to demand that God already be more gracious.  Fortunately, He is.

Listen, I understand real need.  I promise you I do.  But we yell and scream to God about material things when He gave us His Son.  He gave us His son.  To illustrate that, Paul gives another picture of God’s promises.

7 “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Let me tell you what’s going on here.  God made a promise to create a people from Abraham.  Abraham had a child named Isaac.  Isaac had two sons:  Jacob and Esau.  In fact they were twins.  Esau was the older and Jacob was the younger.  Jacob was a quiet guy, probably listened to Dave Matthews or Coldpay.  Esau was rough and tumble kind of guy.  He probably listened to Ted Nugent or maybe Metallica.  Esau was a pretty good guy.  Jacob was a shmuck.  Let me give you an example.

It came time for Isaac to give his blessing to his sons.  Isaac and his mom tricked their dad and stole the blessing that was supposed to be given to Esau.  Like I said…a shmuck.  Strangely enough, God created the people of Israel from…Jacob.  In fact, he even changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  But look what Paul says.  God’s blessings don’t come through natural descendants.  The blessings don’t come from where you think they will come from.  They come from God.  They come from the promise.  God decided what was going to happen to Jacob and Esau long before either one of them did anything good or anything bad.  God elected by His own desire and purpose and plan that He would bless Jacob and not Esau.

In a worldy sense, it doesn’t mane any sense:  Jacob was the shmuck and Esau was the good guy.  But God’s purposes and plans will not be thwarted.  Begin with God, hear His promises, work from there to here and things make sense.  Begin with us and work backwards, it’s a little harder.  You see, back in Genesis 25:23, God promised that Isaac would have these two sons and the older would serve the younger.  The promise came about through sinful means but God’s promises cannot be thwarted.  God uses sin sinlessly.

You see God’s purpose of election is always sure.  He chooses.  He calls.  He justifies.  He glorifies.  God had a plan.  He loved Jacob.  He hated Esau.  Some want that passage to say, “Jacob I have loved; Esau I have loved less,” but that is not what the Hebrew says.  Folks let me frame this this way as we move to a conclusion:  God does hate.  He hates sin and apparently He hated Esau.  We are told to hate our sin, but rarely do we come close to hating it.  We hate the consequences of our sin and at times we fight, but I have yet to meet the man or woman who hates sin the same way God hates sin.  But we do know what it looks like to hate by looking at God the same way we learn to love by looking at God.

Now this passage has caused so much anguish, and I would say that most of it comes from trying to make it say something it doesn’t say.  But this passage emphasizes that God’s purpose and election is sure.   He chooses.  He elects.  He loves.  He hates and He does all these things without explanation or justification.  As my old mentor Terry Traylor use to say, “God is as sovereign as your worst nightmare.”

But all of life’s questions become clearer if we start with God and move towards us.  If we pursue God’s character and His promises and as much as scripture allows understand His promises, our lives begin to fit into His plan and we can find peace.  But all of life’s questions become more difficult to understand if we start with us and move towards God – it can happen but it isn’t easy.  Folks, God is gracious.  He has poured out a never-separated love on you.  But His purposes are His own and in every circumstance, He has one primary purpose:  to bring Himself glory.  He does that by loving Jacob, hating Esau, saving you, ordaining sickness, calamity, prosperity, feast and famine.  And when you re-orient yourself so that your one purpose, whether feast or famine, is to glorify God, you can ask God to do whatever He wants in your life and you will be happy as long as He is glorified.


October 4, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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