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Thrive in Hope

Date: Apr. 14, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Romans 8:1-39

Key Verse: Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Who hear remembers our key verse for this year?  There are some years where some of us, myself included, forget our ministry key verse by this time of year, so, we thought of a way to remedy this situation. Periodically, throughout the year, we will revisit the key verse to remind us of the direction we want to take as a ministry.  Maybe it’s also a good time now, at this time of year, to also review our personal key verses for 2019, and see how we are doing on that.  Our key verse for 2019 is from Rom 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  And this was chosen to remind us that we were made for more than ordinary life, we were made to thrive.  So how are all of you thriving so far?  How many are not sure?  Let’s begin by thinking about what thriving looks like.  To thrive means to prosper, to flourish.  Now we might get the idea that thriving looks like you’re on top of the world, with no worries and enjoying life every day, maybe making lots of money along the way.  But that’s not what everyone’s life looks like every day.  Sometimes life is rough.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word thrive: to grow vigorously.  This might help us understand it better.  Thriving may not always be pleasant, but when you are growing, you are thriving.

Ultimately, there will be great prosperity, and there will be unlimited flourishing.  However, that may not be guaranteed in this life, but it is promised in the life to come.  So this is the hope that we have.  It is not an uncertain hope.  It is not a vague hope, but it is a sure hope that we will be glorified, given new and perfect bodies, and living in a perfect universe.  It sounds too good to be true, but it is true, and it can be proven in this chapter. Romans 8 is one of the most powerful and glorious chapters in the Bible.  We witnessed this for a fact, when we heard Ms. Kalpana Christian Sharma from Warren Park ministry recite the entire chapter from memory, with Spirit.  How many people felt chills down their spine? The bare word of God is full of power. If she did that again this week here, I wouldn’t even need to preach.  She could just recite it and we’d be done.  The chapter preached for itself.  Romans 8 is a powerful chapter.  Spurgeon called it “the cream of the cream of Holy Scripture.”  Some consider it the climax of the book of Romans, perhaps even the New Testament.  Maybe God is really trying to speak to us through this chapter.  And in this chapter we can find hope.  At the Easter Conference, we heard 2 amazing messages by Tim Fitch and Sam Rarick on the topic of hope, and we will talk more about hope today.  April 2019 is our month of hope.  At least the first 2 weeks.  Isn’t it funny how these things work together?  So how can we thrive, in this difficult road of life?  It is hope that can sustain us.  It is hope that gives us strength to press on.  It is hope that will comfort us.  In hope, we can truly thrive.

Let’s get into the chapter.  Look at v.1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  This is a glorious truth, and the basis for our hope.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  In the previous chapter, Paul described a sinful nature waging war within his body.  Sin seemed to spring to life when the law was given, and used the law against him. Paul is no exception, it happens with all of us.  If you tell a child not to do something, what is their desire?  It probably is to do it.  When God’s law says “Do not steal,” our sinful natures will tell us, “stealing is fun, it’s exciting, let’s do it!”  Even Paul confessed in Ch. 7, when the law said “You shall not covet,” his sinful desires produced in him every kind of coveting!  Our sinful natures are like trolls, or goblins, attached to our skin, always leading us to break God’s law and to do those things which deserve punishment.  That’s why Paul cried out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” – but immediately he answers, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Christ Jesus our Lord!”

We were in bondage to sin and death, but Christ Jesus has set us free!  Look at v.3, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.”  This sin in the flesh is our sinful natures.  It always, always is in rebellion toward God.  It is hostile to God.  There is a monster living in you, that wants you dead.  It cannot submit to God’s law, so there is no way it can please God.  It is always aggravating God.  There is no such thing as a truly “good person.” People have done good things, but ultimately no one is righteous before God.  No one can go to God and say “let me in to heaven.”  None of our offerings, none of our good deeds, could ever truly fully satisfy God.  Our lives are corrupted.  So God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet he was without sin. Jesus lived a perfect life.  He lived a righteous life, in perfect obedience to God.  He was our representative.  He could go before God, and God would listen to him, because he pleased God absolutely. Jesus could plead with God for our lives.  But there is a catch.  God had to punish sin.  Who could be an offering pleasing to God?  Only Jesus.  So God took all of our sin, and placed them on Jesus. In exchange, he took Jesus’ righteousness, and placed it on us.  The cross shows us what our sins deserve: the pain of it, the shame of it – but it was not us on the cross, but Jesus, so that we could be set free.  He was the once for all sacrifice to atone for sin. The cross showed that God condemned sin, and he killed it there, to take away the sins of the world.  Through Jesus, our Mediator before God, our representative in the flesh, our defender who is on our side, we have been set free. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus gave us his righteousness.  The righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us!  Think about that.  What did you do?  Nothing! But how did you attain this righteousness?  By faith in Jesus.  How great is that?  How simple is that?  And free of charge!  By faith in Christ, you have been justified. “Justified” is a word that simply means “declared righteous.”  I would add, you are irrevocably declared righteous. So what happens now, you spotless, shiny and clean vessel?  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you.  Jesus told his disciples that if and when he goes to heaven, he will send the Helper, the Comforter, the Counselor, and true to his word, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us.  This is what he does, according to v.11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”  You were once dead in your sins.  You were considered as good as dead.  But the Spirit revives you, the Spirit quickens you, and gives you a new life.  You could not truly live until now.  You could not thrive until now.  Now, in the Spirit, you really are living.  This new life is really the beginning of your eternal life.  This is where hope starts.  Hope begins when you are born again.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ. He is the third person of the Triune God, distinct from the Father and the Son, but one with and equal in power and glory to them.  The Holy Spirit in you is God in you and Christ in you.  His power raised Christ from the dead, and His power raised you from the dead.  The Holy Spirit is instrumental to your growth and hope.  Look at v.12-13, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”  Your obligation, your duty, is not to live according to the flesh.  What does that look like?  Gal 5:19-21 shows us: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality (this includes watching or thinking about porn or imagining lust in your mind), impurity and debauchery (this includes getting drunk or intoxicated); idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.”  Do not set your mind on these things; do not look for them or spend your time pursuing them. In fact, your obligation is to put these to death.  Do not feed them.  Let them starve.  Let them atrophy, pay no mind to them, and let them die.  For some of these things, for some people, it is not easy.  But notice v.13 says “by the Spirit.”  You can’t put these to death on your own anyway, this can only be done by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  To give us an idea of how to be led by the Spirit Eph 5:18 puts it like this: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit (singing to one another, make music in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks for everything to God).”  Of course, this is not easy either.  One way, sin, is natural to our sinful flesh, the other requires dying to the flesh.  But we can think about it this way – just as one might fill themselves with alcohol to come under the influence of alcohol, so we should fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, to come under the influence of the Spirit. One way leads to debauchery and regret, the other leads to life.  If we put in the effort to be filled with the Spirit, we will reap the rewards.  The key idea is to come under the influence of the Spirit by being filled, and Eph 5:18 gives some suggestions how.  Cultivate your relationship with the Holy Spirit, and it will help you to be able to live accordingly and follow Him.

The Holy Spirit also gives us a new identity.  Verses 14-15 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Ever wonder how you adopted into the family of God?  The Holy Spirit brought it about.  And by the Spirit we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Imagine that. Sometimes children, I think more if they are much older, when they are adopted, may take some time to call their new parents “mom and dad.”  But the Spirit moves us to say, “Abba, Father.”  And Abba is an endearing term, like “Daddy or Papa.”  Everyone who believes becomes a child of God, there is no exception. It’s not like some of you will be nephews, others like the neighbor’s kid next door.  No, every one of you is a son and daughter of the living God.  Our spirits know it.  It’s hard to define what a spirit is.  Maybe think of “School spirit.”  OSU alums and NWU alums have a lot of spirit, and they’re distinct. Even the Marines have a spirit, different from the Army, Navy or Airforce.  So also, the spirit of a Christian has a distinctiveness, a desire to know God and be holy.  This spirit cries out, “Abba, Father,” and the Holy Spirit testifies to this, saying, “Yes, indeed, you are a child of God.” 

There is a promise that comes with being a child of God, and a glimpse of our hope.  The promise is that we will be co-heirs with Christ.  This is the grace of God, and our status as children of God. We have full rights as children, even an inheritance!  We will inherit the earth.  We will all have a share in eternity.  The term co-heirs is also interesting.  In some cultures, the firstborn son would get a double portion of an inheritance. Christ is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters, but being co-heirs, we too will share in the inheritance of the firstborn, which is a great inheritance.  Another thing that is promised to us is suffering.  Just as Christ suffered for righteousness, and as we live out our lives as children of God in this world, we can expect some suffering for that.  But we will also share in his glory, which is a glimpse of our hope.  We will share in the glory of Christ.  Look at v.18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  This is coming from the mouth of Paul, who faced all kinds of suffering to preach the gospel.  He says our present sufferings are not even worth comparing to the glory.  This glory will be so glorious, so wonderful, that our sufferings now will seem insignificant and small compared to that. That’s some perspective.  Some of us are facing sufferings today.  We groan under sin, of ourselves, and of others. But the promise is, the glory that is revealed in us will much much more than compensate for our troubles now. Remember the story of Joseph from Genesis: he was sold as a slave but rose to prominence as a ruler in Egypt. When he came to power, he had two children – he named one Manasseh, because God made him forget his troubles, and Ephraim because God made him fruitful in his land of suffering.

This glory is our hope, and Paul goes into more detail about it.  Look at v.19, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” The word for “wait” is actually very strong in the original language.  The NASB translation uses the words “anxious longing.”  It has the idea of watching a race very closely, sticking your head out to see who the winner is.  The creation is looking out anxiously in eager expectation; the creation is really really longing for the children of God to be revealed.  After the fall of Adam and Eve, when sin entered into the world, the ground was cursed, and man had to toil hard to grow food.  This really shows how much God was displeased with man’s sin.  The creation – plants, and animals, what did they do wrong?  They were innocent bystanders, so to speak.  But because of man’s sin, he dragged down all of creation with him.  This should really make us feel more sorrow over our sin.  But the creation is not mad at us.  Actually the creation is hoping for us.  God hid a secret, a truth that even the creation knows about: that the children of God would be revealed in glory, and at that time the creation too would be liberated from its bondage to decay.  The glory that you will receive is so glorious, that even all creation is waiting for it.  Now, we know that creation is not really a person.  It’s the plants, animals, sea and land, sky and space, and all the stars and planets.  But Paul gives them a personality, as in anxiously waiting in eager expectation, to show that this hope is not a vague hope – but it is a certain hope that will happen, because the universe is waiting for it.

Paul describes this hope and glory in v.23, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”  This is our hope: the redemption of our bodies; the resurrection of our bodies from mortal to immortal, from dishonor to glory, from weakness to power, from natural to spiritual.  And it is a true hope, by definition, because it is something good that we do not have yet, so we hope for it, and expect it, even long for it and wait for it patiently. We will obtain it!  This hope, this glory is already ours, but for now it is hidden within us, but promised to be revealed when Christ comes again.  We see a glimpse of this partially, because of the Holy Spirit in us, and the evidences from the fruit of the Spirit: peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. But when Christ comes again, we will have this fully and complete.  There was a glimpse of this when Jesus was transfigured – the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning(Luke 9:29).  In the book of Daniel, we see that “those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever(Dan 12:3).” Can you imagine, each and every one of us in here glorified!  It will be a glory indescribable.  Not only that, but the heavens and the earth will be renewed in glory also.  We have a hard time keeping plants alive at home. Not so in the new earth.

This hope of glory comforts us in our suffering.  The Holy Spirit also helps us in our weakness. Sometimes our sufferings are so great, so deep, that we cannot express them in words.  When a family member is facing great difficulty, or sometimes when we are facing intense struggles or anxiety, we have a helper who will be with us in our prayers.  We don’t know what we should pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groans.  This is an encouragement to all believers to pray, especially in times of trouble.  Even in our times of great weakness, we are never alone.  The Spirit is able to help us because He knows the mind and will of God. We cannot know the mind of God, but the Spirit does, and he searches our hearts too.  He understands us without us saying a word.  Paul gives us more encouragement in v.28, “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Even our sufferings are for our good.  Rom 5:3-4 says that our sufferings produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not [disappoint us], because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  We can be sure of the hope that we have, because of the constant love of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives.  The great hope and plan of God is that we would be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  That is the nature of our glory.  Just as he was glorified and resurrected, so would be, as his brothers and sisters. Notice the past-tense of what God has done in v. 30: God predestined, he called, he justified, and glorified.  It’s like these things are already done.  It is only a matter of time before we see the glorification.

In light of these wonderful promises, Paul gives a very passionate and inspired conclusion. Verse 31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?” This is a rhetorical question, the clear answer is no one, how can anyone go against God?  Next he says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, give us all things?”  God will give us everything we need to endure and to grow, and more than that, he will give us what he has promised, an inheritance in the new earth.  He continues, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.”  Who can condemn?  No one!  There is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  Who can condemn you?  The devil?  Not a chance! Because Christ is on your side. He died, he was enough to pay for all your sins.  Your money is no good with Jesus.  He paid it all.  He then rose to life, and guess what, he is at the right hand of God, interceding for us. You have a friend in high places, and he’s a brother, and he loves you.

Look at v.35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Notice – Paul says “who,” and not “what.”  Our most powerful adversaries are the devil, demons, other people, and sometimes, maybe ourselves.  Through these agencies, come these things – and Paul lists them in increasing order of severity: shall trouble separate you from the love of Christ?  These are lighter afflictions.  Hardship?  These are some of your tough life circumstances.  Persecution?  Famine? Nakedness?  Danger?  Or sword (which represents death)?  It seems like we are powerless, sheep to be slaughtered, according to the quote from Psalm.  Shall these things separate us from the love of Christ?  Can we all please read v.37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  In all these troubles, we will triumph.  We are “more than conquerors.”  Do not be discouraged!  These things will come, but we have a helper. We have the Holy Spirit.  These things will try to defeat us.  They will try to make us afraid, or worry, or lose faith in God.  But in troubles, hardships, persecution, famines, nakedness, danger and sword, the Holy Spirit turns them into perseverance, character, and hope.  The Christian will find joy in these times. Paul sang hymns while locked up in prison.  Some of the great Christian martyrs were praising God, or praying for their persecutors while they were being burned at the stake.  How is this so?  Because of the hope of glory.  Death cannot overcome us.  Death cannot defeat us.  Death cannot hold us in the grave.  When Jesus comes again, we will rise, we will shout with joy, and we will shine like the brightness of the heavens.  In the new earth we will thrive freely and abundantly in everlasting blessedness. While we are here, we thrive as we live according to the Spirit, as we set our minds on the Spirit.  We cultivate our relationship with him – singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs to one another making melodies in our hearts, giving thanks to God for everything.  We thrive even in our sufferings as we grow in perseverance, character and hope, waiting for the redemption of our bodies.  This hope does not disappoint, because of the love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

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The Result of Complacency and Pride

Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

  “I abhor the pride of Jacob
    and hate his strongholds,
    and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

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