Summary: Paul shows us the end game of God's plan--conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son.
Today, in a very real way, we reach the pinnacle of the book of Romans. Paul reveals the end game–essentially what everything is working toward. He’s taken us through a long journey to get here–a journey that was sometimes difficult to understand; a journey that was sometimes tedious in its working out; a journey that oftentimes was and is very confusing for those of us living in this day and age. But it is a journey that had to be taken in this manner, not because it was required by our philosophical thought, but because it was the journey revealed by God that went through Jesus.
Paul has laid out the workings of God starting with humankind’s rebellion from God. Paul showed how everyone has failed to live up to God’s purpose and command and how no matter how hard we try to accomplish that purpose and command, we will always fall short. Therefore, we stand condemned by God and under His wrath. Yet, in a stunning turn of events, God Himself takes on human flesh and pays the debt of our sin and makes us right with God. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They are now justified by grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forward as a sacrifice of atonement effective through faith.” God makes us right with Him through no action of our own–it is completely and totally by God’s grace. Nothing else. And this becomes effective when we trust in Christ’s actions and not our own. There is nothing we have to do: no law to follow; no act of charity to perform; no prayer to pray. There is just a heart that has been captured by God’s marvelous grace.
And when that heart is captured by God’s marvelous grace, it falls in love with God. It falls in love with Jesus and our allegiance is changed. Where once we sought the things of this world, we now seek God. We live for God. We desire God and His will and rule. We find ourselves in Christ and we find Christ in us. Furthermore, the Spirit of Christ; the Holy Spirit, establishes a base of operations in our hearts where He works to put to death the desires of our flesh to help us focus on God. And, we found out last week, this same Holy Spirit intercedes for us by taking our selfish, misguided prayers as well as those prayers that have no words and transforming those prayers into holy and acceptable words.
All of this, Paul has set forward to show us what God is up to in our lives–in the lives of those who love Him. God is conforming us into the image and likeness of Jesus. I want you to just consider that for a moment. Think about just how spectacular a claim that is. God is conforming you; molding you; refining you; so that you become like Jesus. This is God’s end game. He wants you to be like Jesus beginning now and then brought to perfection in the life to come. When our hearts are captured by the Gospel; when we trust in Jesus and love Him; God molds us to be like Him. Wow.
Let’s pray. What an amazing thought is laid out before us today, that you, our heavenly Father would take us–fallen, broken, sinful beings and transform us into the image and likeness of your Son Jesus. We are not worthy of such an honor, but help us trust these words. Help us trust that you are working to do exactly this so that we might carry out His mission to bring your love to the world. And we ask this in His name. Amen.
We must be very, very careful as we approach our biblical text today from the eighth chapter of the book of Romans. Verse 28 is a much beloved text oft quoted by many, many Christians today. In fact, I still remember it as one of the Bible verses I was required to memorize when I was in confirmation 30 years ago. “All things work together toward good for those who love God; those whom He has called according to His purpose.” If we do not read this verse carefully, we can interpret it to say, “If I love God, then everything will work out for my good.”
Now, in a sense, this is true. I mean, we proclaim as Christians that ultimately, God will have the last word in all events, and that word will be good. We proclaim that all the evil that was ever committed will be unmade. We proclaim that the blind will see, the lame will walk, the dead will be raised, and so on and so forth when God comes to make everything new. When we take the long view, we can easily say, “Everything will work out for my good.” But if we do not keep this view in mind, there are at least three problems that arise.