Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 25, 2018
As always, let us begin by reciting our monthly memory verse, Romans 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.” This is the last Sunday in March, therefore, this is the last Sunday that we will be reciting verse 18. However, do not set verse 18 aside forever. The key to long term memorization is long term repetition. We must continue to train our minds, month after month, or we will soon forget.
By way of a spoiler alert, I can already tell you what our memory verse for next month will be. It will be Romans 8:28, which will be our sole focus this morning. Like verse 18, it is a verse that provides us with great comfort and hope in times of suffering. Therefore, if you are an overachiever, feel free to start memorizing that text today. So with that said, please stand in honor of the living Word of God and follow along with me as I read Romans 8:28-30.
And last week as we examined verses 18-27 we acknowledged that this present time in our Christian walk is a difficult one. That as Christians we have trials and tribulations. The health and wealth prosperity Gospel is a complete and utter lie. Jesus himself says in Matthew 7:14 “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” And in John 16:33 Jesus tells his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Jesus does not say you may have tribulation. He says that you will have tribulation.
And all we have to do is look at the life of the early Church, persecution, scattered, famines, 11 disciples were martyred, John was exiled, Paul was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked and then killed. Epaphroditus almost died delivering provisions to Paul. The churches in Macedonia experienced extreme poverty and afflictions. The Church in Smyrna experienced tribulation, poverty, and slander. Members of the Church in Pergamum were killed. And this list can go on and on an on.
Christians are a people who are destine to suffer in this present time, just like our Savior who suffered in his life and in his death. This is our lot in this life. This is why the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Suffering as a Christian is not strange, it is natural. In fact, not suffering is strange. All of your comfortable lives should be indictments in your walk, for a care free life could be an indicator that your faith is not real, that you are not an actual Christian. For Christians are those who share in the afflictions of Christ.
Now having said all of this, are we who suffer for the sake of His name, merely to grin and bear it? Are we to just suck it up? Or has God, in His grace, given us spiritual weapons to help us in times of suffering? That answer to that question is obvious. God has not forsaken us, he equips his children through His Word, and we saw this last week.
First we saw that the way you respond to suffering and the despair that could naturally follow is to have hope. What hope? The hope of what waits for us in glory, our eternal destiny. This is our memory verse, verse 18. We must get our eyes off the waves of this world and set our eyes upon Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God.
The second way that we respond to suffering is through prayer. And in our weakness it is the Holy Spirit that comes to our aid. The Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer, intercedes for us according to God’s will so that we pray in line with God’s purposes. And does God answer prayers that are in accord to his will. Absolutely.
The Sovereign God
Today we will look at the third weapon that we can use against the sin of despair. And this weapon is the knowledge of the Sovereignty of God.
AW Tozer stated, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Why did he say such a thing? Because it is true. Your view of God is a compass of our life. Unfortunately, for most of us, if not all, our view of God is terribly low, and in fact, many of your views of God are idolatrous.
Many people have wrongly taken God, and molded Him into a God that makes them comfortable; a God that they can wrap their heads around; a God that is just like themselves. They have a small, idolatrous view of God. And because of their small view of God, they do not fear God; they do not submit to God; they do not trust in God; they do not worship God.
And this is why Christians must be Bible people. For the Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible revelation to us of who God is. This is the primary purpose of the Bible, to reveal to us the one true living God. For God is not a god to mold, God is the one true God to behold. And when you have a true view of God, it changes every aspect of your life. It changes how you wake up, it changes how you eat food, it changes your marriage, it changes how you raise your children, it changes what you do for a living, it changes where you go to Church, it changes how you spend your money, and it changes how you respond to suffering. Which leads us into our text today.
So with that said let us look at verse 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.” Let us begin with the implicit question that AW Tozer posed, who is God? The Bible has some pretty big things to say about God.
What does Sovereign mean? The Greek Word for sovereign Lord is the word despotes. It is where we get the word for despot, which means a ruler with absolute power and authority. Normally, in it’s common English use it is used to describe someone who is tyrannical or brutal in their authority. That is not how it is used here, but it is used to describe that preeminent position that God has over all things that exist, space, time, and matter. This would include galaxies, stars, planets, natural laws, wind, rain, vegetation, animals, insects, people, viruses, bacteria, atoms, and electrons. God has absolute power and authority over all things created.
RC Sproul famously says, “There is no maverick molecule if God is Sovereign.” For if God did not have absolute control over all things, then he cannot be trusted to bring about what he has promised. The verse that I believe is a slam dunk on this issue is Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” There is nothing more seemingly random then lots being cast. They are just like dice. This verse is explicitly saying that every dice roll is determined by God. That if I had two dice in my hand and cast them onto this floor, it is God who ordains what the outcome would be. And I could do that 1 million times, and every single time, God is the one who determines every outcome.
Now the implications of this truth are life changing. This is where past paradigms in your life start to crumble. This means that every event that has ever occurred in your life was ordained by God. Every moment of your life has been determined by God.
Listen to Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Before you existed, your days were formed for you. Today was formed for you before time existed.
I don’t have time to read to you all the text that point to this fundamental truth about the Sovereignty of God, but it is everywhere. The first Sunday I preached on the sovereignty of God, almost five years ago, I quoted nearly 50 verses that tell us that God is sovereign over all things. In fact, just to my right on the banner that you look at every single Sunday, Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
All Things Means All Things
And with this foundation, that God is despostes, sovereign, we can move back to Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” When God says he uses all things for our good, he means all things. He does not mean some things, he means all things, big and small, cataclysmic and mundane, evil and good…all things.
This means that God is sovereign over even the bad things in life. This means that God is ordaining suffering. We have already seen this in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” The wrath that is revealed is a creation that is cursed, death, disease, division, etc. Likewise we just studied in in Romans 8:20 that God subjected creation to futility. It is through this wrath upon the world, and through the cursed creation that many of our sufferings come. However, here are a few more verses that support that God ordains suffering:
Therefore, Christian, your suffering is not random. Your suffering is the will of God. This means that your suffering has a purpose, and as Romans 8:28 says, the purpose of your suffering is that it is for your good. Suffering such as cancer, open heart surgery, a wayward husband, a wayward son, the loss of your job, the loss of a child, a church split, no health insurance, slander, persecution...all of those things in our lives that we groan against are working together for a believer’s good.
Now, for non-Christians, this is not true. Verse 28 only applies to those who God has called, who love God, not those who are unsaved. For the unsaved, their suffering is not for their good, it is for their ultimate bad. In fact for those who are not Christians, your suffering is just a foretaste of the groanings of Hell. And this cursed creation is as good as it will ever get for eternal torment awaits you.
But for Christians, suffering has been flipped on its head and the Sovereign God of the Universe is using it for His glory and your good. Suffering becomes a tool in the hands of God to reach the end that He desires.
But how? How does God use suffering for our good, for in the midst of our suffering, it does not feel very good. Many ways. More ways than we have time to cover this morning, but here are a few.
One way is through discipline. Hebrews 12:6 - “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Suffering is not punishment, but it may be discipline. An example of this is the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Paul says, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” A thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble. What is this thorn, no one is completely sure, but make no mistake, Paul wanted it removed. But God did not, for the thorn was the instrument that taught the Apostle Paul humility.
Another way that God uses suffering is that it draws us to the Lord. Listen to what it says in 1 Peter 4:19 - “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” It is through suffering that we must turn to the Lord and trust in him. When everything is roses, is it not our nature to draw near to Him, but the moment things falls apart, what do we do? We rightful turn to the Lord and cry out, we groan inwardly with the help of the Spirit. Last night I read a quote by Charles Spurgeon, ““I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
Another good that can some out of suffering is a deeper knowledge of the Lord. Everyone knows that the plight of poor Job. If you recall the story, it was God himself that brought Job to Satan's attention. God was the cause of Job losing all this wealth, losing his family, losing his health, and emotionally losing his wife and friends. And at the very end of the Book of Job, Job says to the Lord, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
6therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Without suffering, Job never speaks these words. It is the midst of suffering that God reveals himself to us. My guess is that many of you can testify to this truth, perhaps even now. A phrase that I have used in the past is that brokenness brings clarity. In our suffering we can see better the mercy, grace, steadfastness, and comfort of our Good Father.
And the final one, which is the preeminent one, and which fits into the context of Romans 8:28 is that suffering molds us to be Christ like. Look at verse 28 and 29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” It is in suffering that the dross of our sin and flesh is burned away. It is through suffering that the grip of this world is loosened. It is through suffering that we set our eyes upon glory when we lay hold of him who has laid hold of us. God uses suffering to fulfill our destiny and conform us to the image of His Son.
So do not complain when suffering comes upon your life. Rejoice in your trials and tribulations for it is through them that he brings us to glory.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 19, 2018
Let us begin this morning with our March memory verse. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” As I have stated already, verse 18 is a fighter verse. For it helps us to fight the fight of faith against the sins of despair, anxiety, and grumbling.
Last Sunday, I preached through Romans 8:12-19 and barely skimmed the surface of verse 18 and 19; therefore today we are going to incorporate them in our teaching for this morning. So with that said, let us stand in honor of the Word of God and follow along as I read Romans 8:18-27.
In our text for today we can utilize this approach and make two very easy and interesting observations. First we can see that there is repetition, and what is being repeated is the concept of groaning. In verse 22 we see that Creation is groaning. In verse 23 we see that Christians are groaning. And in verse 26 we see that the Holy Spirit is groaning. Therefore we see three levels of groaning: creation, believers, and the Holy Spirit.
So what are they groaning about? Deliverance. Deliverance from what? Deliverance from the consequences of sin and to glory. So let us examine this groanings one at a time, starting with Creation.
Groaning of Creation
If you are going to study Creation, you must start at the beginning. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…” Created what? Everything. Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Everything that exist; time, space, matter, was created by God. Therefore God has authority over all things and he can do whatever he pleases with His creation. As we will read in Romans 9, God is the potter and we are the clay. This is a fundamental and consistent theme throughout the Bible.
After God created everything in six days, what was Creation like? Fortunately, God tells us in Genesis 1. In chapter 1 God has a pattern that after he creates something we are told, “God saw that it was good.” And he keeps saying it was good, until we get to verse 31 when it says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (See evening and morning, six days.)
Let me ask you a question, is that how you would describe creation? Very good? Not if we are honest. Creation is a monster. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, mudslides, wild animals, bacteria, they list goes on and on. Creation many times seems to be our enemy.
Therefore, something must have gone horribly wrong, between Genesis 1 and today, for today Creation would not be described as very good. Creation is actually the opposite of very good; it is very bad.
So what happened? Why is that this world seems so driven to destroy us? That is simple, it is because of man's sin. After creation, Adam and Eve rejected God's authority over them, and disobeyed his good Word. This led to sin entering the world, death entering the world, and creation to be cursed.
We see this explicitly in Genesis 3, when God confronts Adam for his sin. God says to Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Creation is cursed because Adam sinned against God. This is why the world we live in is full of thorns, thistles, poison plants, parasites, diseases, forrest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. It all has to do with the sin of man.
As it says in our text for this morning, verse 20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.” It was not creation desire to be so messed up. It was God's desire. God subjected it to its current condition. Creation was created by God and is being used by God to display his wrath against humanity. Creation is a tool in the hands of God.
The question is how long will this subjection go on? Forever? No. There will be an end to creation's groaning. Look at verse 19, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” The moment where the curse of Creation comes to conclusion is when all of God's elect have come into the fold through the preaching of the gospel.
I believe this is why Jesus says in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Why does the gospel have to go to all nations, so that all of God children will repent and place their faith in Christ. When this happens, and all of Jesus' sheep hear his voice, the end will come. Christ will then return, and with Christ's return, all of God's children will become like Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” When the full number of those destined to become Christians, actually become Christians. The trumpet sounds, Christ returns and we are all changed to be perfectly like Christ. Therefore, the Bride of Christ is revealed in both quantity and quality.
And this is what creation is groaning for, to be unleashed from its bondaged and to be returned to its original stated of being very good. It longs to get back to the Garden of Eden.
But as I said, Creation is not the only one who is groaning. We as Christians are also gowning. Look at verse 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.”
The believer's groaning is nearly identical to Creation's groaning. We are also looking forward to the same release from the curse of this world. And this groaning is a product of what is called the “Already, but not yet.” I have spoken about this condition numerous times over the years, and we see it in our text for today. If you recall from last week, we read about how the Holy Spirit testifies to us that we are the Sons of God. That the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of Adoption. However, you will notice that in verse 23 it says that we wait eagerly for adoption as sons. Which one is it? Are we adopted now, or are we adopted later? The answer to that question is yes. We are already adopted, and we are not yet adopted. How is this possible? It is possible because Christians live in two worlds.
We are in this world, but we are not of the world. The Kingdom of God has invaded the Kingdom of Satan through our hearts. Heaven has broken into the domain of darkness through the Holy Spirit indwelling those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul means in verse 23 when he says, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit.” That is a reference to Christians.
However, the first fruits of the Spirit is not the full fruits of the Spirit. Yes, we as Christians have been born of the Spirit, but we have not reached maturity in the Spirit. As I stated earlier, we do not became fully like Christ until the last trumpet sounds. Is it our destiny? Yes. Are we progressing towards that goal? Yes. But in this present moment we are not there yet.
Therefore, we, like creation, groan for full redemption. We groan to be fully redeemed to the Father. We groan for complete deliverance from this fallen world. We groan for the “not yet”. The Apostle Paul calls this “not yet”, hope. Look at verse 24, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” This salvation is not the same as no condemnation we saw in verse 1. This salvation is complete deliverance from the entirety of sin, death, and all aspects of the curse.
This hope is the a fundamental mark for a Christian. We, above all, are a people of hope. We are to set our gaze upon the future, one that we have been promised, but have not yet received. Our best life is not now, our best life is some day in the future. As it says in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” This world is not our home, we are sojourners, we are exiles. We are just passing through on our way to glory.
And this future destiny of glory has been purchased for us in the past through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our eternal hope of deliverance from the curse is secure because Christ became our curse. He is our deliverer.
And this is the first step in fighting the fight of faith. When all the world seems like it is against you, you must set your eyes upon what Christ purchased for you. He purchased for you an eternal hope of glory. And as it says in verse 18, “ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Glory is just across the finish line. It is the prize that awaits us in our Father's arms. Therefore do not sulk and throw yourself a pity party, set your eyes upon your citizenship in Heaven.
Groanings of the Spirit
But let's be honest, this is, at times harder then you think? Life is ruthless, the schemes of Satan are from time to time, overwhleming. The present darkness of this world can sometimes suffocate you: loneliness, depression, health, family turmoil, persecution. At times we don't know if we have the strength to endure. What do we do, when we have reached our limit and don't think we can take one more step? Look at verse 26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
This word for “help” mean to come to our aid; to join us in the battle, side by side and take part in our struggle. God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit is our Helper. And how does he help us? Through prayer.
When life is overwhelming, what does the indwelling Spirit cause us to do in response? Pray. The way he helps us is through prayer. The Spirit does not remove the difficulty. He does not give us supper power to overcome whatever obstacle stands in our way. The Spirit helps us to pray.
Therefore, Christians are not just a people of hope, they are a people of prayer. But what kind of prayer? Our text tells us with groanings too deep for words. What does that mean? I will tell you what it doesn't mean. It does not mean speaking in tongues. Some people try to make an argument that this is what Paul is reaching for, but it is not the same word. Tounges is glossolalia. This word is alaletois. Glossolalia means to speak languages. Alaletois means unspoken.
So what does it mean? It means something very similar to what we have already seen? Creation groans for our deliverance. We groan for our deliverance. And the Spirit groans for our deliverance. However, the Spirit groanings are not like Creations and it is not like ours. Our groanings are based on hope, things that are unseen. The Spirit's groanings are based on perfect knowledge. Look at verse 27 “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The Spirit of God, who now dwells in every believer causes us to prayer in union with God's will.
And these prayer may be seemingly counter-intuitive. For the Spirit may cause you to pray, not that your cancer would be taken away, but that it would be used for God's glory. The Spirit may cause you to pray, not that you have more money, but that you could learn to be content in all situations. The Spirit may cause you to pray, not that you will find a spouse so that you are not so lonely, but that you would find your satisfaction in Christ alone.
It is the Spirit that causes us to pray the will of God in the midst of our weakest moments. And we can rest assured that in those moments, God hears our prayer and answers our prayers for the Spirit and the Father are one.
Therefore, because of the Spirit we 1) have been born again, 2) our minds are now set upon Godly things, 3) we can now walk in accordance to God's law, 4) we have the Spirit of Adoption testifying to us that we are God's children, and 5) we have a perfect intercessor who lays upon our heart the will of God and therefore we can have confidence that God hears and answers our prayers.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 11, 108
Let us begin this morning by reciting our March memory verse. Romans 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.” In your bulletins should be an insert that contains our current memory verse, as well as all past memory verses since we began our journey through the book of Romans. As I have said before, I hope that you hang that on your fridge and you are your family are intentional about storing that Word upon your heart.
Today, we continue our study of Romans 8. “Great Eight” as it is called. And hopefully, as we walk through his chapter little by little you are seeing why it is called Great Eight. Our text for this morning is Romans 8:12-19. If you will, please stand in honor of God’s Holy Word.
The Revealing of the Sons of God
The title of my sermon today is “Sons of God” for this is what verse 12-19 is primarily about. And as we begin, I want us to begin at the end. Verse 19 says, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Many of you, perhaps, have never in your Christian walk come across this verse before, or at least have never pondered it very deeply, so let us do so this morning. Let this verse sink in. “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
The word “revealing” in Greek is apokalypsis. It is the same word used as the title for the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation (apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants.” Apokalypsis means to uncover, lay bare and in some context, to make naked. It is a word that describes pulling the curtain back to show the audience what lies behind. It is a word that describes the existence of an object that has not yet been put on display.
Now with that in mind, verse 19 becomes all the more interesting; for it say that the Sons of God are the ones who will be apokalypsis, revealed. That the sons of God are the ones who will be uncovered, laid bare, displayed to all creation.
This amazing verse should cause us to ask several questions, should it not? First, who are these Sons of God? Second, when did these Sons of God first come into being? Third, how is the curtain pulled back, thereby revealing the Sons of God.
The first question is simple. It is answered in verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” If the Spirit of God is in you, you are the Son of God. Who has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Those who have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore the Sons of God are those who have placed their faith in the son of God, believers.
The second question is not as clear, at least not in our text for today. It will become clearer as we get farther into chapter eight, specifically verse 29. IN fact, let us look at it now. Verse 29 says, “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. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Unpacking verse 29 and 30 will come later, God willing, but for the purposes of today, we need to understand that verse 29 tells us that the Sons of God (brothers of Jesus) were foreknown by God before they were called and justified. Called and justified is just another way to say, before they heard the Gospel and believed in Christ and were forgiven.
Therefore, the Sons of God, existed as an object in the mind of God before they existed physically and before they put their faith in Jesus. That is what it means when it says “he foreknew.” Foreknew just means that he knew them before there was a them. I realize that this is heavy stuff, so let us look at a few other passages in God's inspired, inerrant, in infallible Word that tell us the same thing.
First Ephesians 1:3-5. Listen to what it says, “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, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
So did you hear it? “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” God selects certain people to be made holy through Jesus before he created the world. Verse 5 says that God predestined us for adoption to himself as Sons. To predestined means to ordain our destiny. This is the same teaching as what we saw in Romans 8:29. That he foreknew us, predestined us.
Lets look at a second text. Revelation 13:8. In this text, John is talking about people who worship the symbolic creature known as the beast. In my opinion the beast represents the world. But listen to what is says, “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” So there is a book. This book has a name. Its name is “The book of life of the Lamb who was Slain.” Obviously that is Jesus' book. In Jesus books are names. These names are written in Jesus book before the foundation of the world.
This is the same teaching that we saw in Ephesians 1 and the same teaching we saw in Romans 8:29. Which means, the Sons of God have existed in the mind of God before the world was created, and I would actually claim eternally, but we will not spend the time this morning going to those verses.
The great Baptist theologian John Gills says, “They that are the sons of God, are his sons before by divine predestination, and through the covenant of grace; as such they were given to Christ; and under this character, and as standing in this relation, he assumed their nature, and died for them, in order to gather them together.” Therefore the Sons of God existed before time.
The third question that we posed earlier is how are these sons of God revealed? How is the curtain pulled back? The answer to that question is the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” I think it is our tendency to read this verse backwards. We think that being led by the Spirit is what makes us the Sons of God, and in a sense I would agree with that. It is the Holy Spirit that the application of sonship is applied to us, but sonship actually existed in God's sovereign plan prior to us being born again. In the mind of God we are first Sons of God, destined for adoption, and that is why the Holy Spirit awakens certain men and not others to the grace of Christ.
This is what Jesus was talking about in John 3 when he was teaching Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit. John 3:8 says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jesus is telling Nick that the wind has a will, and it blows where it wishes. Which means that the Holy Spirit is sovereign over who is born again, over who becomes a Christian. It is not ultimately up to the individual, if the wind blows upon him. He is passive in its activity. This is not to say that the individual does not have to repent of his sins and believe in Christ. That of course is still the condition, but the only way in which that condition is met is by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So how does the wind pick whom to cause to be born of the Spirit? Romans 8:29, “ For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Those who the Spirit causes to be born again, are those whom God foreknew. Ephesians 1:4, those he chose in him before the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8, those whose names were written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slain.
This is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, to apply the sovereign and eternal plan of God, which is achieved through Christ, to God's elect. And I am using that word, “elect” because it is the word that is used later on in Romans 8:33 when posing the question, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Elect just means those who are chosen.
And the Sons of God, by being led by the Holy Spirit are displaying the eternal reality that God has destined us to be his children forever. The Holy Spirit pulls back the curtain for the world to see. Your life, through the Spirit becomes a testimony to the World of your destiny.
Which leads to the question, is this true for you life? When the world looks at you, do they see evidence that you are the Son of God. Are you being led by the Spirit, or are you being led by your own flesh? Is the character of Christ on display in your life? Do you live for the glory of the father? Do you display a Spirit driven righteousness? Do people come up to you and say, I know who your father is, your a Christian aren't you?
But that is not the only evidence of your salvation. Not only is their an external testimony of Sonship, but there is also an internal testimony. Look at verse 16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
What does Paul mean by our spirit? He means the deepest part of who we are? Our inner self. Our heart, if you will. And it is to this spirit of ours that the Spirit of God speaks. It is an inward, supernatural, Godly communication to our hearts.
And the words that the Holy Spirit speaks are words of comfort, they are words of assurance. For the Holy Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. To bear witness is to testify, to proclaim under the oath of God what is true. And what does the Holy Spirit speak into our hearts, but that we are children of God.
As verse 15 states, Christians have within themselves a Spirit of adoption. That we who were once hostile to God, have now been brought near to God. So near that we now find ourselves in the family of the Almighty. Despite our sins, despite our rebellion, we have made children of God, with our adoption papers singed by the blood of Jesus. And it is the Spirit of God that testifies to our inmost self this reality.
Now for those who do not have this Spirit of Adoption, to unbelievers, this inner testimony is a truth that is unexplainable. Words cannot convey the deep realization that a Christian has about his place in God's family. When asked, how do you know your saved? We simply answer I know because I know. I have an inner testimony that gives me assurance that I now have peace with God. It is a truth that can only be understood through experience. However, once experienced it is unmistakable. When an unbeliever becomes a believer, and the Spirit testifies to them, they now understand.
For it is the Spirit that gives a Christian the capacity to cry out “Abba, Father.” This is not possible without the Spirit of God indwelling us. For the word Abba is a word of intimacy. It is a word that Jesus used to describe his Father. It is a word that is best translated to Daddy. It is a word of affection, a word of dependence, a word of familiarity, a word of a childlike faith.
For those who do not have the internal Spirit of adoption, they may call God father, but he is not their Daddy. Instead he is a cold, absentee guardian. One who exists, but one they have no loving relationship with. They call God father because they are told his is father, but their relationship with him is mechanical. They see God as fun hating slave driver. To them God is a strict Master, not whom they love, but him who they must obey so that they don't get in trouble. These people are not true Christians. They are sadly deceived.
But this is not how it is for the Sons of God, for look at verse 15, this is what Paul is speaking about, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,” When we are born again, we turn from seeing God as our slave master, and begin to see God as our loving Abba. For the first time we have a relationship that is built on love, not built on penance, and sacraments, and fear. It is a Spirit driven relationship, which testifies to our heart that we have a good good Father. Our love for our Abba Father is evidence that we are truly saved.
The Inheritance of the Sons of God
Which leads us to Paul's final conclusion. If the evidence of our lives, both externally and internally point to the truth that we are God's children, that means that we are heirs to the Creator of the Universe, and not only heirs, but we are fellow heirs with Christ. All that Christ will receive we will receive. Jesus inheritance is our inheritance. Look at verse 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.” This is what awaits us in eternity.
But what will this inheritance look like? No on living can answer this question. Paul, prior to his death could only say that it is incomparable. That the glory that we will one day experience as children of the Almighty God will be so substantial that it will eclipse everything that transpires here on earth.
Picture the greatest moment you have every experienced in your life and multiply it by infinity, and perhaps you will be getting close. Being in the presence of our Dad is the greatest reward of existence and everything is immeasurably less.
As it says in Psalm 84:10, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” And as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” This glory is a forever glory. It will not fade, it will not be taken from us, it will not become dull. Standing for all time in the presence of our Dad is not an abundance of boredom, it is an abundance of joy and pleasures forever.
And this is what awaits for us who are born of the Spirit and kept by the Spirit. This is what awaits us who are running the race down the narrow and hard way of following Christ. A finish line that contains a prize beyond your wildest imagination. This is our hope, this is our destiny. It is ours, not by the works of the flesh, but by the works of Christ on Calvary. This is what our brother Jesus purchased for us.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 4, 2018
Today is the first Sunday of March, which means a new memory verse. Our memory verse for March is Romans 8:18. So let us begin by reading it together, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).
And let me emphasize how important this verse is for each one of you. All of you in this room will experience future suffering. How are we to deal with that suffering? By reminding ourselves of God’s truth found in Romans 8:18, that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. The glory of being in the presence of our Father. This verse is a sword to fight back against the schemes of Satan on your darkest day. And of course, keep refreshing your memory on our past verses. In your bulletin, you should have an up-to-date sheet for all of our verses that we have memorized up to this point.
Today, we find ourselves in Romans 8:5-11. We are picking up, where Pastor Jeff left off. And before I move on, I just want to express publicly how good's Jeff's sermon was last week, and the reason it was so good was because he stuck to the text. That is the key to being a good preacher, stick to the text. The role of a Preacher is to teach the Word of God. It is not our roll to entertain you, it is to equip you with the living and active Word of God. So with that said, lets get to work doing just that. Please stand in honor of God’s Word, as we read our Scripture for this morning.
The Two Conditions of Man
In our text is is very apparent that Paul is contrasting to conditions, the condition of the flesh and the condition of the Spirit. Paul mentions the word flesh six times and the word Spirit nine times. As we begin, let us start by defining these two conditions.
First let us begin with the flesh. What does Paul mean by the flesh? By flesh, Paul does not mean your skin tissue, as when we refer to a flesh wound. Paul is also not talking about your physical body as a whole. What Paul means by the flesh is man's sin nature. Paul regularly uses the word flesh to refer to man's fallenness, our natural rebellion against our Maker. This is our nature that we have inherited from the fall of Adam.
In my studies I came across this definition that I thought defined the flesh well. “[The Flesh] is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness.”
Against this idea of the flesh is the Spirit. What does Paul mean by the Spirit? Now, if you look at your Bible, you will notice that the word Spirit is capitalized. Why is that? It is because it a reference to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As Pastor Jeff mentioned last week, Romans 8 is substantially about the Holy Spirit. He is mentioned approximately 20 times in 39 verses.
The Holy Spirit is commonly referred to as the forgotten person of the Trinity, and to be honest, this is exactly how He desires it to be, for the favorite topic of the Holy Spirit is not himself but the glory of the Father as displayed in Son.
Having said that we do know something about the Spirit. Let's just take some time to mention a few of them this morning. First, the Holy Spirit is fully God. We see this most clearly in Acts 5:3-4 when Peter says to Ananias “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” In the same flow of thought, Peter rebukes Ananias for lieing to the Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to lying to God, for the Holy Spirit is God.
Second, the Holy Spirit is a person, specifically a masculine person. Masculine does not mean that the Holy Spirit has male anatomy, but it does mean that the Father and the Son view him as a Him. We know this from the lips of Jesus. In John 14:16 Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a him. He does not call the Holy Spirit a spiritual force, or a her, but reveals the Holy Spirit as a masculine person. Therefore, this is how we should refer to the Holy Spirit as well. To refer to him otherwise is to change the Word of God.
Third, and most pertinent to our discussion today, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, dwells inside every true follower of Jesus. You just heard me read that in John 14:16 where it says, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will beg in you.” When Jesus said this to his disciples, Jesus had not yet ascended to Heaven to send the Spirit, so the dwelling in them, would not take place until the day of Pentecost.
We also see it in our text for this morning. Look at verse 11, Paul says the same thing as Jesus did, just now after Pentecost, “through his Spirit who dwells in you.“ The “you” Paul is referring to are the Christians in Rome. But this truth is true for all believers. The Holy Spirit dwells in all Christians, no exception.
Look at verse 9, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Spirit of Christ is the same as the Holy Spirit. You cannot call yourself a Christian if the Holy Spirit does not indwell you. The Holy Spirit is the deposit or the seal upon your soul that marks you as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And in these two categorical positions, the flesh and the Spirit, lie all of mankind. Everyone who has ever lived, or ever will live, fall in one of these two categories; you either live according to the flesh or live according to the Spirit. And this is the way that Paul is thinking in Chapter 8. He is thinking in the terms of two realms. He is not blurring these two categories. He is speaking as if they are mutually exclusive with one another.
You can see this in verse 9 when Paul says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Paul is writing to Christians, and they are not in the flesh because they are in the Spirit.; two different and separate realms. Therefore, you are either in the flesh, or you are in the Spirit. Everyone in this room is in one of these two categories, whether you know it or not. For your sake I hope it is the realm of the Spirit.
The Power of the Flesh
So let us first examine what it means to be in the flesh. Look at verse 5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” These people who live according to the flesh are unbelievers. They are those who operate entirely in the realm of the flesh, total absence if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells us that these people “set their minds on the things of the flesh.” What does that mean, to set you minds on the things of the flesh? First, the things of the flesh are things that are not for the glory of God, but instead are for the glory of self. The things of the flesh or things that are self-gratifying, not god glorifying. The things of the flesh are the things are against the will of God, they are things of sin. We are actually given a list of things of the flesh in Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies.”
And we are told in our text for today that a person of the flesh, an unbeliever, sets his mind upon these fleshly things. So what does it mean to set your mind on these things such as sensuality or enmity? The Greek word for to set your mind is phroneó. And this word phroneo means more than just using your brain, or thinking about these things. Phroneo is a description of a person's will. John Calvin said that to set you mind of these things involves, “all the faculties of the soul, reason, understanding, and affections.” This is what it means to phroneo, to set you mind, it involves your total self being bent towards the things of the flesh. It means your will is oriented towards godless, self-gratifying pleasures.
And this fleshly mind setting is the state of every man who is not a follower of Christ. All mankind is bent towards the flesh, towards sin. The core will of man is to rebel against God. We see this in verse 7 and 8, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. ”
Man, absent the work of the Holy Spirit, cannot submit to the will of God. It is impossible. Man is incapable of doing what God desires. Man's natural will is in direct opposition to God's will. This is what we call total depravity, it is one of the five points of Calvinism. It is the T of acronym TULIP. No matter how hard one tries, absent the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot please God. You are totally hostile.
Now, some of you may respond, wait a minute. I know a lot of people who do good things but they are not Christians, are you telling me that God is not pleased with them? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, for that is exactly what the Bible clearly says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That is an absolute statement in God's infallible and inerrant Word.
And the fundamental reason for this is because if someone does something in life that is not ultimately for the Glory of God, then it does not please God. And a person who lives according to the flesh does not live for the glory of God. It doesn't matter how many schools or hospitals you build, it doesn't matter how many hungry mouths you feed, it doesn't matter how much money or time you give away. If you are not doing those things for the Glory of God, for His name's sake, then those activities do not please God.
The Bible tells us very clearly that the reason Almighty God created everything was for His glory. The reason you exist is for His glory. This is the chief end of man. This is why it says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Therefore, it what you do in life does not glorify God then God is not pleased.
And remember back in Romans 1:23 where it said that we, “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Instead of glorifying god, we glorify our selves. Our mind is set on the flesh.
And if our mind is set on the flesh, then we walk in the flesh. And our walking in the flesh is hostile to God's will and we not submit to God's law and we cannot please our Maker.
And if that is not enough, not only are those who live according to the flesh displeasing and hostile towards God, but they are also dead. They are spiritually dead, and will soon experience the second death. Those who walk in the flesh are dead men walking. Death is their present and future reality. Which is interesting, for many of those who live according to the flesh think they are living, but they are deceiving themselves. They are not truly living, for true living can only be found in Christ.
The Power of the Spirit
But this is not the case for one who has been born of God. Look at verse 9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Who is Paul talking about? He is talking about those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Those who have repented of the works of the flesh, and placed their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:13 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” Upon hearing the gospel and then believing in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life. The third person of the Trinity lives inside of you. This is a supernatural event, a seismic and fundamental transformation takes place in your life at your conversion. Becoming a follower of Christ is not just a matter of a casual change in what you do on Sunday mornings, it changes everything.
As it says in verse 5, Christians do not live according to the flesh, we live according to the Spirit. To live according to the Spirit, is to be under the Spirit's power, His influence. Christians are governed by the Holy Spirit. We are no longer controlled by our flesh, we are controlled by God himself, from the inside out. So how does this occur? It occurs just like it does under the flesh, but in the opposite direction.
Those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Remember what I said earlier, to set you mind is a reference to the will of man. It is “all the faculties of the soul, reason, understanding, and affections.” At the moment of being born again and manifesting faith in Jesus Christ, the will of a believer is now bent by God himself towards the things of God. Our will is changed.
We begin to see the World as God sees the World. We start to think through life's problems with the reason of God. We start to love what God loves. And because of this a believer goes from being hostile to God, to having peace with God. A believer goes from not submitting to God, to obeying God. A believer goes from not pleasing God, to pleasing God, and this is all because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
This is why so often when people think of the Holy Spirit they think of a force or a power, for this is how the Spirit is in fact manifested in our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to walk in the way of the Lord, to live life in accordance to God's will, to follow Jesus. And as I said, this power is a supernatural power.
Look at verse 11, ”If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.“ The miracle of the resurrection now abides inside of you. Inside of us resides resurrection power. A power that can overcome the flesh. A power that can overcome our sins. A power that enables us to truly live. Not just in the future, but now. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, eternity has broken into the present and shines though our lives.
To often, as Christians, we take the disposition of a Debby downer. Feeling sorry for ourselves, questioning our abilities, unsure, uncertain, weak, timid. DON'T YOU KNOW WHO LIVES IN YOU? The God who made the heavens. The God who parted the read sea. The God who shakes mountains. The God who walks on water. The God who raises the dead. The God who cleanses the Temple. This God of the Bible indwells you and empowers you.
It is time we start living as if this is true. In my son's bedroom there is a sign that hangs above his bed. It is the verse of Joshua 1:9. It says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”