Rev. Brian Bill
5-year-old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone: “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he gave the same answer. She smiled and said, “It’s OK – Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw that it was dark and started to leave…and then an idea came to him and he asked this question: “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me a can of tomato soup?”
Life is filled with questions, isn’t it? Some questions make us laugh while others make us scratch our heads. Here are a few that I’ve come across…
* Why do we press harder on a remote when we know the batteries are going dead?
* Why doesn’t glue stick to the bottle?
* Is there ever a day when mattresses are not on sale?
* Why do we constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?
* Why do we continue to pay $1.39 for a bottle of Aquafina water when the Pepsi Company has admitted that it uses public drinking water as its source (a lot of these bottles are filled with water from my hometown)?
* Why did over 17 million people watch High School Musical 2 on August 17th when it celebrates school getting out while students around the country were getting ready for the start of school?
On top of these really deep questions, you may have some questions about Pontiac Bible Church. If you’re new here you may wonder what the next step is for you. Here’s a pathway for you to follow. Start with Sundays and then plug into a small group. After joining a group, then look for somewhere to serve. We believe that this will help you connect with Jesus and it will equip you to become a growing and faithful follower. We also have a new member’s class beginning September 9th.
Some of you may have some questions about our Sunday morning worship services. We’re beginning a new series called “Worship Matters” two weeks from today to help answer some of those questions. Incidentally, I’ve been intrigued by the questions that Jesus asked in the Gospels and so we’re going to focus on some of His questions in October and November.
As we come to the end of Romans 8, we’re faced with a crescendo of questions. See if you can spot them as we read verses 31-37: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
What Shall We Say?
While most of these questions are rhetorical, they are no less real. In fact, Paul is using this method to get us to pause and ponder these amazing truths. He’s also doing something else that is not real evident in English. Instead of using connecting words, he’s utilizing a Q&A format in a rapid fire manner, moving quickly from one question to the next.
The first question really helps frame the entire passage. As a preacher Paul has been giving a lot of information in the first eight chapters of Romans. Now, in these closing verses he’s moving from information to application to transformation: “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” I think he’s tying everything about justification, sanctification and glorification together and is likely returning to the theme of “no condemnation” from Romans 8:1. But in the context, he’s linking what immediately came before. Let me just summarize the last two weeks.
* We are never alone when we’re in the groan zone. What, then, shall we say in response to this?
* God’s good for us is not our comfortability, but our conformity to Christ. What, then, shall we say in response to this?
Two thoughts come to mind in response to this question: What shall we say? First of all, “Nothing.” Have you ever received a totally undeserved gift and you couldn’t even find words to express how grateful you are? That’s happened to our family just recently. In light of all that God has done, what really can we say?
My second response to the question, “What shall we say?” is the word “Everything.” I should be filled with praise and should never stop thanking God for all that He has done. We should also give him everything that we have, including our very lives. We had a creative planning meeting this past week to put some ideas together for our upcoming “Worship Matters” series. We started by putting the word “worship” on a piece of paper and then we wrote down whatever came to mind. As we were sharing our thoughts we all stopped when Dean Ridder said this, “Worship is all that I have for all He is.” That’s deep.
Based on what we’ve learned, how should we then live? Like water cascading over a waterfall, these questions serve to celebrate our security in Christ. I want you to notice that these questions are personal (“who”), not impersonal (“what”). For our purposes this morning, I’m going to summarize the five FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) I see in this passage and respond with a corresponding FAP (Faithfully Answered Promise) for each one.
FAQ #1: Who Opposes Us?
FAP #1: God Protects Us!
This first question is found in verse 31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The meaning is not so much “if” but is rather “since” or “because.” It literally reads this way: “Because God for us, who against us?” Since God is for us, what difference does it make who is against us? Others may intimidate us, but we have the Almighty on our side. I was pretty small in elementary school and would get picked on by some of the bigger boys. I learned quickly that if I hung out with a guy named Dave Theider, the rest of the guys would leave me alone. Why was that? Because Dave was the BMOC (big man on campus).
Friend, with God on your side, there is nothing that anyone else can do to you. Psalm 118:6: “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Paul is not suggesting that we have no opposition because we all have adversaries. The point he is making is that every opponent is puny compared to how big God is. Don’t you think many of us judge whether God is for us by how events or circumstances turn out? If something goes bad, some of us immediately think that God is against us and when things go well, we think He’s for us. If you’re a born again believer, God is always for you, no matter what happens.
In order to make this promise more personal, I’d like you to insert your name into this verse right now: “God is for .” Let’s try that together. I’ll say the first three words and then you shout out your name to complete the sentence.
When you feel like someone or something is against you, remember that God is for you. God is your proponent and He is bigger than any opponent you may be facing. In the midst of opposition, claim the first FAP that God is for you and that He protects you.
FAQ #2: Who Withholds From Us?
FAP #2: God Provides for Us!
The second frequently asked question is posited in verse 32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” The gift of God’s Son is the promise and pledge that He not only protects us – He also provides for us. Notice the word “own.” This emphasizes the Father’s possession of His Son, who He freely gave up to die on the Cross. He gave him “for us all” which means that Jesus died in our place, for our benefit.
This argument is from the greater to the lesser. Since God did not hesitate to give His greatest gift, certainly He will give us lesser gifts. It would be like a dad building a full-length basketball court for his son and then refusing to give him a basketball to use. 2 Peter 1:3 is one of my favorite verses: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
I want to share an amazing opportunity that the Lord has opened up. Recently I was asked to serve as a chaplain for a football game that will be held this Saturday. I was eager to do this because it will give me an opportunity to interact with up to 50 guys who I might not normally hang out with. As I started praying about this, the Lord impressed upon me an idea to give out copies of Super Bowl Champion Coach Tony Dungy’s new book called, Quiet Strength to each of the participants. The Elders and Deacons made arrangements for me to purchase these books (another church may be joining with us in this endeavor). But before I could do this, I needed to check with the guy in charge of the event to see if it would be OK. When I asked him, he said “Absolutely. This is exactly what I want you to do.” And then he asked me to not only pray before and after the game, but to also give a 20-25 minute talk to the guys! I keep thinking about this verse as I pray about what to say on Saturday – “God graciously gives us all things!”
God protects and He provides. That leads to the third question and answer.
FAQ #3: Who Accuses Us?
FAP #3: God Purifies Us!
Check out verse 33: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” Galatians 5:15 states that Christians often “bite and devour” each other. Some of you are experiencing that right now. In addition, many of you hear the accusing anthem of guilt and shame that plays in your own mind on a daily basis. On top of that, we know from Revelation 12:10 that Satan, whose name means “Slanderer,” brings charges against Christians “before our God day and night.” Satan brings every flaw, every sin, and every shortcoming up before God all the time. But none of it sticks because we have been justified, or declared righteous. God knows what we’ve done and even agrees with the charges but he has forgiven all Christ-followers. We are pure before Him.
FAQ #4: Who Condemns Us?
FAP #4: Jesus Prays for Us!
God protects us, He provides for us, and He purifies us. We see in verse 34 that Jesus also prays for us: “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Our sins deserve condemnation but Christ now commends us. Check out this short course on Christology, based on four deep truths:
* Because of His crucifixion: “Christ Jesus, who died…” The cross of Christ is the basis for our confidence.
* Because of His resurrection: “…more than that, who was raised to life…” The resurrection is proof that God the Father accepted the payment of His Son, who conquered sin and death.
* Because of His ascension: “…is at the right hand of God…” This is the place of exaltation and honor. 1 Peter 3:22 says that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
* Because of His intercession: “…and is also interceding for us.” He is like our divine defense attorney. Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
In the midst of accusation and condemnation, we have an Advocate who is interceding for us. I love what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:10-11: “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” We learned a couple weeks ago that we have the Holy Spirit interceding in our hearts (see verse 26) and we have the Son interceding in Heaven. The perfect one is praying for those He has purified. Isaiah 54:17: “‘No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the LORD.”
We’re protected, provided for, purified and prayed for. There’s one more promise…
FAQ #5: Who Separates Us?
FAP #5: Jesus Preserves Us!
Friends, verses 35-36 tell us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ because He preserves us: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’” To “separate” means to place a wedge between and was also used as a synonym for “amputate.” There is absolutely nothing that can get in the way of the Lord loving us. We will never be cut off from Christ, no matter what we go through. Paul could personally attest to this as he faced profound persecution in his life (see 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-29).
We all face trouble within and hardship without. None of this can separate us from the Savior. Nothing can break the bond between us and God. Those who are persecuted for their faith will never be severed from the love of Christ. We’ve been praying for some friends in the Middle East this summer and they report this week that the threats are increasing. They certainly are “facing death all day long.”
Seven years later, many of the Romans who heard these words would see them come true in their own lives as the Emperor Nero threw Christians to the lions and burned believers at the stake. Death does not separate us from God. I read of someone who did not want the usual dates of when he was born and when he died on his tombstone. Instead he wanted his tombstone to have three dates: “Born: ; Born Again: ; Transferred: .”
One pastor captured this well: “The only things that trouble can take away from you are the things that don’t ultimately matter. The things that really matter, trouble cannot touch.”
I understand that one of the cool words today is “uber.” This comes from German and means “above” or “over” and is used to communicate something that is “intensely super” much like the Green Bay Packers. In verse 37 Paul declares that we should be doing more than just surviving, we should be thriving; we’re called to not just cope, we’re called to be conquerors: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We need five words “we are more than conquerors” to translate what is just one word in Greek. It carries the idea of being a “super-conqueror.”
Wasn’t it cool hearing from Michael and Robin Wahls last week when they shared how a man named Mohammed has come to Christ and is now living out his faith in the midst of great persecution? We received a recent report regarding 41 believers who are jailed in another part of the world. They are “uber-conquering Christians.” While they have been in jail, four other inmates have come to know the Lord! These new believers have since been released and are now sharing their faith with their friends and relatives. During the trial, the jailed believers were able to quote John 14:6 and explain the gospel in open court! I love the concluding statement of faith at the bottom of the email from our missionaries Roger and Maggie Bruehl: “God is answering your prayers! Please continue! This is a great time to be alive and be involved!”
Let me point out something. For many of us Americans we think of victory in terms of winning. We tend to look at the successful, the beautiful and the wealthy as winners. The context however is that God uses apparent defeat to produce ultimate victory as He accomplishes His purposes through our problems. That means you can be an “uber-conqueror” even when you’re dealing with health issues, relational ruptures, financial trouble, stress on the job and whatever persecution you are experiencing because of your faith. The key is to think less about the power of things over you and more about the power of Christ within you.
Let me go over the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and the FAPs (Faithfully Answered Promises) again quickly so they go down deep in our hearts. Savor the security you have because of what the Savior has accomplished.
FAQ #1: Who Opposes Us? FAP #1: God Protects Us!
FAQ #2: Who Withholds From Us? FAP #2: God Provides for Us!
FAQ #3: Who Accuses Us? FAP #3: God Purifies Us!
FAQ #4: Who Condemns Us? FAP #4: Jesus Prays for Us!
FAQ #5: Who Separates Us? FAP #5: Jesus Preserves Us!
I close with one more question…and it’s a big one. It’s actually the question. Have you accepted Christ? If you haven’t and if you don’t, God will be against you. Don’t delay a decision. Receive Jesus Christ into your life right now.
We want to end this service by hearing how our Africa teams experienced the conquering power of Christ this summer. We’ll hear first from the Kenya team: Linda Carley, Kathy Marley and Katie Vietti. Lindsay Carley served in Uganda, and because she is back in college, we’ll watch a multimedia presentation of her trip.