Romans: Unfailing Love

Good morning and welcome to Journey church.  My name is Phil and it’s a pleasure to welcome you and be able to share with you from God’s word.  Today we continue a series on Romans.  And today we come to the high point.  It’s the apex of the book of Romans.

I remember when I was in Haiti visiting our ministry partners with some high school students, we decided one morning to climb this mountain that towers over the city of Gonaives.  And it wasn’t like a Colorado mountain it wasn’t 14000 feet high – but it was a hike.  And the students were great and pushed and encouraged one another to keep going, and eventually we reached the top.  And it was a beautiful view.  Below us and just ahead was the Atlantic Ocean – beautiful and blue and reaching to the Horizon.  And below us – at our feet, lay the city of Gonaives, churning with activity. And from the top – peaceful.  And the student line up to snap pictures from the top – the typical arms out heads up!  I’m on top of the world!

Why do I bring this up?  The passage we are reading today is Paul’s mountaintop view of where he had been – and where he is now.  And he absolutely loves the view.  He climbs to the top of this spiritual mountain – and he is going to ask the universe five questions and listen for an answer.  And when no one can respond to his five challenges – he is going to declare a conviction.  Five questions and a conviction. 

Let’s read as Paul takes us up this mountain.  And before we read this – it’s good to remember where we came from.  Paul doesn’t start this letter from the top of the mountain.  He starts the journey at the bottom – in the muck and mire of humanity’s present condition.  Remember?

In chapters 1,2,3 – he takes us on a painstaking tour of the muck of our natural sinful condition.  He starts in the pits – by making a strong case that all of us are far more wicked than we ever imagined.  Ten times more wicked.  And all of us are – without help from Jesus – doomed, frankly.

The heathen – guilty because they are unable to abide by their own internal standards.  The hypocrite?  Guilty.  Because she holds others to a standard she herself cannot meet.  The Hebrew?  Guilty!  The tenth commandment alone – thou shall not covet – pushes us into grave we dug for ourselves.  Paul summarizes what we know to be true about ourselves, when he writes – for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

We are all – in far worse shape than we can understand.  God sizes us up pretty well in Romans 3 – when he writes – that no one is righteous – not even one.  We don’t understand, we don’t seek God, we naturally and easy, turn to our own way.  It says our throats are an open grave.  The way we talk about one another – it’s like the stench of death in the air the way we tear one another down with our words and thoughts.    Apart from God’s miraculous intervention – our life is marked by selfishness.  and we naturally and easily, apart from God, make this world a miserable place.

Does that offend you?  You’ll never get to the top of the mountain if you don’t start in the depths – admitting the reality of our broken world and our own brokenness in here.

We are far more evil – ten times more evil than we imagined.  And we are in ten times more trouble than we could ever have imagined.

The good news – God saw our distress, and he came down to rescue us.  He grabbed us by the hand and pulled us out of the muck and mire.   Salvation!  Available to whosoever will come to the place where they think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with their life.

We are saved, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is the argument of Romans 5.  This is the theme of the bible.  It’s always been this way.  We are saved by grace – God’s doing not ours – and it comes by thinking highly enough of Jesus to trust him – daily – with everything we’ve got.

This doesn’t mean we become perfect.  The battle with God over control of our lives might be over when we surrender to Him.  But a new battle begins.  Romans 6,7 explains that through our union with Jesus, our relationship with sin has changed.  We are free from the penalty and power of sin.  But it’s a fight!   It’s a battle!  But it’s a god fight!

A fight against the part of us that thinks it is missing out by not indulging itself on whatever excess is finds interesting.

We battle even our natural bend that wants to make a good thing, an ultimate thing.

This battle against our inner Mr. Hyde – it’s sheer misery, isn’t it?  Who will rescue me!  Paul asks at the end of Romans 7.  24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me…?     25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

And in Romans chapter 8, Paul introduces us to the reality of the Holy Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?  Well, let’s first admit that it’s confusing to understand – it doesn’t help that he is sometimes – the King James version called him the Holy Ghost.  How appropriate that we speak about the Holy Ghost on the Sunday before Halloween.

The Holy Spirit is God.  And we know this because of the synonyms.  And if you read Romans 8 you get this sense that God and Jesus and the Spirit are used interchangeably all over the place.  Sometimes you are baptized by Jesus into the Spirit or with the spirit, and sometimes the Spirit baptizes you into Jesus.  And Sometimes it’s the spirit of Jesus, and other times it’s the spirit.

This isn’t a talk about the Trinity, but the fingerprints of the trinity are all over the Bible.  Including here – the Holy Spirit is God.  And let’s not miss the announcement from Jesus.

Where does he live?  Romans 8:11 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The Holy Spirit – God himself – resides in you.  He isn’t visiting.  He isn’t popping in for a spot of tea.  He has made a home inside of you.  Where you go – you bring God with you.

The idea that God lives inside of you is non-sense to any other religion.  In every other world religion God could take you or leave you, really.  But Christianity is different.  What are you worth to God?  And when you ask him to guide your days, he makes his home inside of you.

The Holy One lives in you.  And get this – you know when Jody and I were first married –  we lived in a one bedroom apartment.   It was practically a studio apartment.   Tiny tiny.  And we had a guest visit one time – and you know – it was close quarters.  What our guest watched, we watched.  What we smelled our guest smelled.  What we read he read.

Pretty amazing to think that – you know – what we watch the Holy Spirit is watching.  We drag him with us.  He is with us.  And is right at home with your very life.

Paul takes us from the brink of destruction to a place where God is so close he tastes the donuts we eat.  And whispers life to our souls!

What does the Holy Spirit do, anyway?  Well, the bible is actually pretty specific about the job of the Holy Spirit.  Among other things, he comforts us.  He knows this broken world has lots of jagged edges that cut and scrape and injure.  And God promises to be our comforter.

He is our guider – guiding us – leading us.  He is our helper – Romans 8 tells us that.  He is the one who empowers us.  He is also one who convicts us when we need to be convicted of sin.  And as such – he doesn’t stop by convicting us…  because the Holy Spirit is also an executioner!  Working with us to put to death the part of us that needs to be put under.

But more than anything – he is our life giver. He does this by glorifying Jesus.   This is Jesus in John 16:14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 

Now anytime you read the word glory in the bible – think of these two terms.  Beauty and importance.  In essence, the Holy Spirit holds the spotlight and shines it on Jesus.

The Holy Spirit makes Jesus glorious – by making him beautiful and important to us.  The role of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of the beauty and importance – the trustworthiness of our loving savior.  He empowers us to be like Jesus and do the things Jesus did.

Oh how far we’ve come from the muck and the mire of life estranged from God.  All that is his is ours through faith in Jesus.   Paul reaches the top of the mountain – and as he looks back from where he has come from, and all that is now true regarding his changed relationship with God – Paul has five questions to ask the universe.

Let’s enjoy the mountaintop experience here – let’s enjoy Paul’s challenge to the universe – and let’s rejoice in the inevitable conviction that results…

Paul’s first question: 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can stand against us?

Note – Paul isn’t asking who IS against us.  If Paul had asked – who is against us, there would have been plenty of answers.

An unbelieving world is against us?  We have a spiritual enemy who is against us – the devil and his demons.  In many places in the world there are people who will kill you for believing in Jesus, as many of the people reading this letter in Rome had learned first hand.  Paul himself was once against Christians.

Diseases, hardships, and even Death is still against us.  It’s a defeated foe but not yet destroyed.  What about the internal Mr. Hyde that wants to destroy us, isn’t it too against us?

He is against he but he will not win!  He cannot prevail!  He’s doomed!

But If he is for you – and we are assured that when we place our faith in Jesus – then he is now and forevermore FOR us – then who can prevail against us!?

Paul poses a challenge to the universe.  Is there none who can stand against us?  And indeed, none can answer the bell.

Question 232 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 

How much are you worth?  The answer is – you are worth whatever God was willing to pay for you.  You must be worth a marvelously great amount to God. For he paid for you with his own life.

If God gave up his son for us, what do we think he is holding back from us?

Who can question the generosity of God?   Let me ask you – Who delivered up Jesus to die?  Not Judas for money.  Not Pilate for fear.  Not the Religious leader out of jealousy.  But the father – for love.

Listen – When we see Jesus on the cross –  it means two things – our condition is more serious than we thought.  So serious that only the death of Jesus could cure us.  But it also tells us that we are more valuable than we could imagine.

What are we worried about?  Why the anxiety?  We are worth everything to God and we need not fear he will allow us to rot from neglect.

Question 3. 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 

So – again – it’s not Paul asking – “Who will accuse us?” For there are many who would accuse us.  I mean sometimes it’s our own conscience that accuses us!   Our own conscience tries to tell us that we are too guilty to be forgiven and too guilty to be loved.

The devil accuses us before God constantly – but here’s the deal – He can’t make the charges stick.  And here’s why.  Because justice is on our side.

Recently I received a notice from the IRS –  who accused me of not submitting my taxes on time!  The audacity!  How dare they!  So I gathered the proof and I couldn’t wait to call them and when I finally got through to someone the person said, do you have all the documentation and I said Yes I do!  And she said, you seem like you are telling the truth I’ll just do you a favor and wave the fee.  And I said – I’m not asking for mercy – I have proof of my innocence!  I demand justice not mercy!

Listen – the devil wants to stand before God and accuse us of our guilt and therefore deserving punishment.  And we aren’t standing before God with our hat in our hands – begging him for mercy.   Because Jesus stands up on our side in court and says – that debt was already paid.  The punishment was already meted out.  These charges can’t stick!

Accuse all you want.  They’ve got no case! Justice and mercy are both on our side now.

Paul asks the universe-  Who’s got it in them to try to build a case against us?  No one?  Yea – I thought so.

Which leads naturally to the fourth question.  Question 4:  Who is he that condemns?   If there’s no case against us; no charges no condemnation.

Listen – do we have any idea just how marvelous this statement is?  it means we will never face God’s wrath.  His anger – his righteous judgment.  It’s over – there is nothing left for us but God’s love.

No condemnation.  No wrath.  No shame.  Are you hounded by a spirit of shame?  See, sometimes our own conscience wants to condemn us.  It needs to be informed that there is no condemnation – none.  Sometimes that means more than informing, but rebuking your conscience.

Does shame call out to you for something from your past?  Rebuke that shame in the name of Jesus.  It’s over and done and past.  You are washed and pure.   Romans 8 builds the foundation of your new identity in Christ.  the old has gone.  You are now a new person in Christ.  You are a child of God!  You are a daughter of God.  You are God’s son or daughter,

And so – Paul stands on top of the mountain and asks the universe – Who will condemn us?  Who stands to condemn God’s beloved child, in whom God is well pleased?

This leads to Question 5.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

He then lists formidable foes.  Trouble?  Hardship?  Distress? Famine and nakedness? Danger or the sword?

All of these things – and others not listed are in fact painful, and hard to bear and challenging to our faith.  And Paul knew what he was talking about because he endured all of these things himself.

Never the less – can pain and misery ever separate us from the love of God?  What awaits us on the other side of that mysterious door?  The loving arms of a savior who himself tasted the very same things on the cross.

I want you to for a moment close your eyes and imagine – the biggest warmest hug.  An embrace that melts you.  That is what awaits – because you – are a Child of God.  Do you believe that?  Can you feel that?  Would you ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel it and imagine it?

There is no condemnation for you.  There is nothing that can separate you.  Rest your head on his shoulder and allow God to embrace you and love you.  You are his beloved daughter.  His beloved son.  In whom he is well pleased.

Nothing can alienate us from God’s love!  Nothing.  He travelled across the universe to rescue you – to adopt you.

And so – weighing all these things out – he makes a rational decision.  I am convinced.  It’s a rational, thoughtful response. 

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul gets to the top of the mountain.  And what a view!  He begins by building a case that we are far more wicked than e ever imagined!  Ten times more evil!

And here, at the pinnacle – Paul looks around and declares that we are far more loved – 10 times – a thousand times – more loved than we ever imagined we could be loved.

Are you convinced?  What’s holding you back?  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you cry Abba!

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