Summary: The goal of all discipleship is to create Christ-likeness in believers.
CHRIST-LIKENESS REMAINS OUR
By late Spring, 1864, the American Civil War reached a military impasse that compromised President Lincoln’s re-election. He wrote a note to that effect, then filed it. General Sheridan’s victories in the Shenandoah Valley and General Sherman’s capture of Atlanta later that summer turned Lincoln’s re-election from impossible to inevitable.
Since it’s impossible for God’s word to change, its purpose invariably matures. Thus, Romans 8:31-39 remains inevitable because Romans 8:28-30 remains immutable. Though the texts have been historically misquoted and misapplied by everyone, Christians included. Thanks to Dr. Marion Henderson, professor at Lincoln Christian College, I never misquoted or misapplied it. But until a couple years ago I didn’t fathom the ultimate meaning of God works for the good of those who love him. Until then I thought it meant that God fashioned positive results from every possible negative circumstance.
Which is true, and not a small benefit, but still insufficient to the context since it doesn’t identify what Paul meant by GOOD. Verses 29-30 do, with unmistakable clarity. The GOOD God does for us is the same as the PURPOSE he has for us. And that is nothing less than conforming believers to Christ’s very image. Conformed means to fashion-like, so Jesus is the DIE from which God turns endless numbers of Christians.
Predestined in the context means then, not that God condemns some to Heaven or to Hell, but that he made Jesus his archetypal human after whom he fashions duplicate believers. That’s the inevitable result of conversion for every believer in any age. A hat may not always be merely a head covering. In 1948 a new scientific journal called Physics Today had a pork-pie hat on its cover—with no identifying statement. Because everyone in the field, and many outside it, knew it offered tribute to Robert Oppenheimer, the pork-pie wearing physicist who guided development of America’s first atom bomb. However, had newspapers in 1865 wanted to identify a dead President they would have pictured a Stove-Pipe Hat. People who make the news change, and with them the fashions that distinguish them.
But conversion has always had one, and one alone, identity: those baptized into Christ become progressively more like him. Think of Jesus as God’s MODEL home and of us as its unfurnished counterpart. The model has everything purposefully in place, every article and nuance complementing the whole and each an elaboration of the builder’s purpose and the interior designer’s vision. Then we walk into the very same house unfurnished—our house—with all those stark bare walls and empty rooms, crying for help. How can we duplicate what the model offers? By hiring an interior designer. The same is true spiritually. God gets us from the plain, empty house to the Christ-honoring edifice by consigning the Holy Spirit to us. And what the unfurnished home becomes under the interior designer’s whimsy, we become as the Holy Spirit intentionally redesigns our interior with Christ’s elegance. All families have distinguishing traits: the ancient Anakites, gigantic bodies; the republican Romans, large noses; Hohenzolleran kings, jutting jaws. And every Christian child of God, the nature of Jesus Christ.
Most importantly, according to our text, God has overcome the only two threats to our success in achieving his purpose.
A. The Spiritual World verses 38-39
In 1929, the Berlin Municipal Council recognized Dr. Einstein’s 50th birthday by awarding him a country villa with a lake view. But on visiting the house, his wife found it already occupied and the occupants unwilling to move. An embarrassed Council discovered it had previously given the inhabitants an inalienable lease.
To compensate, it presented Einstein a nearby acreage without a house. AFTER he accepted, the Council discovered that adjourning properties had been leased with the stipulation that no further building permits would be allowed in the vicinity.
OOPS! In desperation, the Council granted Einstein a third plot—only to discover AFTER publicly announcing the bequest that they didn’t own and couldn’t give it. Einstein finally purchased other property and built on it.
Don’t confuse God with the Berlin City Council. He has thoroughly investigated our problem; is knowledgeable of all the difficulties involved resolving it; and has done everything necessary and marshaled all the powers needed to do so. Indeed, he has left nothing undone in planning as Christ left nothing undone in securing our salvation. However incompetent Christians and churches are, it isn’t because Christianity itself is flawed or guilty of delivering insufficient power to the load it claims to carry.
B. Life-Experiences verses 35-36
We sometimes feel helpless before circumstances. Life is huge, and we’re small; it’s wicked, and we’re weak; it’s merciless, and we’re vulnerable. All too true. No Christian, however staunch in faith, but has found life’s tantrums raising questions about God’s love or our ability to persevere in faith.