“Love Conquers All”
Romans 8:26-39 “Love Conquers All”
Announcements: Welcome to virtual worship this day. This last week
of July completes 20 Sundays of Pineda Presbyterian Church’s in-person worship services not being held. For 20 Sundays we have worshipped virtually. Thank you, Bill for taping, Rhenae for getting our Sundays ready for the website, all our music people for taping and videoing, and our minute for mission and mission connection videos!
Before reading: Here we are at the climax of Paul’s discussion of grace as the
successor to law and sin’s power over humanity. Those of us who have come to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have been transferred to the realm, or kingdom, of grace from the real of sin. Once having been unable not to sin, we who believe are now able not to sin by the grace of God in our lives we know through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Grace is lodged within us through the Holy Spirit by our faith in God. We will continue in Romans through September; however, today is our last reading from chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Roman church.
You may read your Scripture from your Bible or from the New Revised Standard
Version found in the website bulletin. Either way, listen to the Word of God from Romans 8:26-39.
1. It is not too unusual to hear someone say something like this when
asked a question about how a married couple is doing. “Oh, you didn’t hear. Joy and Joe separated a few years ago after seven years of marriage and finally divorced last year.” To separate something or an entity like a marriage is to divide one thing into two or more parts. This same word “separate” was used to describe the divine/human relationship: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35) And Paul answered his own question the next four verses by saying that there is nothing that could “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:39)
2. As in any good marriage, the key to life together is communication.
It is the same in a Christian’s relationship with God and other Christians. Paul knows that and says something like that the Great Communicator is not the charismatic former President Ronald Reagan but instead the Holy Spirit. God sent the Spirit of God to open communication between God and the children of God. We don’t know how to pray as we ought, “but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints (that is who we are—saints!) according to the will of God.” (26b-27) Communication, as well as salvation, is why God sent his Son. Jesus intercedes for us, too.
3. In our weakness, we pray with the Spirit’s help. Thank God! One of
our greatest desires is to connect with God. The communication called prayer is the way to connect with God.
Despite humanity’s weakness, our sense of isolation, our hunger for
God, there remained Paul seems to say “a deep interconnectedness between God, God’s Spirit, and God’s creatures.” (421, Texts for Preaching) Some years ago you may remember Olympic gymnast Kerry Strugg, with two torn ligaments in her ankle, prayed to God before the last run at the vault. She stuck the vault with an almost perfect 10. God must have been with her. What’s important for you and me to know is that even if she had not stuck the vault, God would have been with her. We are definitely connected to God.
A number of years ago my wife, Denise, and I slipped into the City
Road United Methodist Church in Madison, Tennessee to see the musical “The King and I” superbly performed by a group from the church. The couple seated next to us proclaimed they were Presbyterians from Hillsboro Presbyterian Church, after I told them who we were. And he responded, “Must have been predestined.” Maybe so, but I would have said providential, because predestination has to do with our final destination, arranged before time by God. The Doctrine of Predestination gives us the confidence, the assurance, which any of us should have as Christians because our destiny is under God’s control, not our own. (Achtemeier, 145) We can live without separation anxiety by knowing that God will come back and/or we will return to God. Predestination is about our final destination and is a doctrine of assurance. Providence speaks of God’s daily care and providing for us.
5. “And those whom (God) predestined God also called; and those
whom (God) called (God) also justified; and those whom (God) justified (God) also glorified.” (8:30)
By changing the pronouns to their antecedent, you can see the emphasis
on the sole worker of predestination is God. Before that in verse 29, Paul used “foreknew.” Thus, God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. Now that’s a package! All of which is tied to the hope we have, as we wait with patience for the redemption of our bodies. (8:23-25) Our future redemption is secure in God’s hand. Scholar Dr. Paul Achtemeier says it like this: “Redemption is the powerful act of a loving God, Paul has been insisting, and part of that love is not to allow us to botch it up.” (143, Interpretation) This doctrine of predestination talks about our final redemption and destiny that rests solely in God’s hands. Dr. Achtemeier says it so well: “… there is no other power than God’s which can affect our final destiny. No creaturely power – the only other power than God’s, since there are no other gods – can affect our lives in any but a temporary way. It is for that reason that nothing that happens to us during our life as creatures of God can have any negative effect on God’s loving care for us.” (150, ibid) Predestination is not a doctrine of judgment but of grace.
6. The hallmark song of the Sovereignty of God, written by Reformer
Martin Luther, is titled “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (# 260 in the hymnal). God “designs, desires, and brings about the good.” God put into place salvation. One scholar writes, “No human act can secure this salvation, and no human act can jeopardize salvation. It belongs to God alone.”
(421, Texts for Preaching)
God is sovereign. Our confidence for salvation, Paul expresses
“not in the power of human virtue but in the grace of God in
Christ.” (434, “Little Kittel”)
7. Though at times doubt reigns over us, there can be no doubt that God
is for us. These four words, “God is for us,” are a concise
summary of vss. 28-30 of chapter 8. One commentator said,
“’God is for us’ is a concise summary of chapter 1, v. 16 b
through chapter 8, v. 39. (434, “Little Kittel”)
8. “If God is for us,” is there anything in all creation that can effectively
be against us?
Even when bad happens to us, can God still be for us?
Surely God cannot be for us, when our church is vandalized, the memorial organ given in memory of your daughter desecrated, sanctuary strewn with trash and broken pews and a destroyed chancel (Scott’s Chapel AME Church in Hermitage), or when your 60 plus year old sanctuary burns to the ground (Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, September 17, 2003). Then, when that happens, surely God cannot be for us. In the early loss of one’s father, surely God cannot be for us. If a terrible virus with no vaccine or effective cure takes your brother, then how can God be “for us”?
Yet, Paul says that God is for us, especially in our suffering.
9. My father would always say when my brothers, Joe and John, and I
were in trouble, which was often, and were going to get a whipping, which did not happen often,
“Now, I want you to know that this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” My wisely unspoken words were, “Sure, Daddy, I’m not that dumb.” As I have grown older, my Dad has grown wiser. I have come to understand that fatherly quote before the discipline as words of love before the pain.
Not to say that our suffering is punishment from God, though at times
that is true, but I believe that God’s love works in our suffering for our betterment.
Another way we are loved by God as children of God is through God’s
allowing us to learn on our own, to learn through our freedom to become whom God has called us to be. I truly believe my father’s word, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” My father was for me. I need to add that I do have a sister, Mary, who is the youngest of my siblings, but also the least punished. I think my brothers would agree that Mary was our father’s favorite.
10. A relatively old 1995 movie titled “Mr. Holland’s Opus” impressed
upon me a family’s love in suffering. Mr. Holland, played by Richard Dreyfus, had one focus in life that reigned supreme over God and family: his love of music.
After Mr. Holland became a high school music teacher, he continued to
work on his Opus, a hobby, an obsession. He and his wife gave birth to a son, who listened to classical music. Mr. Holland would put headphones on his wife’s womb so that the baby could listen to classical music before he was born. The complete, utter devastation of Mr. Holland came when he discovered that his two year old son was deaf. The destructive pain of the knowledge of his son who would not know his father’s joy of music almost destroyed Mr. Holland. To see the redemption that eventually came in this movie was painfully miraculous.
11. It is good news that suffering those natural things like hardship,
distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, things we
deal with as humans cannot separate us from God. It is also good news that those things supernatural like life and death, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth cannot separate us from God.
12. Terrorists, who kill randomly, cannot separate us from God’s love.
Unchecked global pandemic cannot separate us from God. Anxious about an unsure future and worried about a world in free
fall cannot separate us from the God who loves us.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the throes of the Great Depression and
faced with World War II raging around the world and what the United States would do, gave the State of the Union address on January 6, 1941 before Congress. President Roosevelt warned:
“that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed
in every part of the world.” He said that the world must be secured on four essential freedoms: “freedom of speech and expression….freedom of every person to worship God in his own way….freedom from want….freedom from fear.”
The speech began like this:
“Every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world – assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.” (161, Great American Speeches)
Sounds too familiar today in 2020! Devastating terrorism, global
pandemic, racial injustice, and crippling anxiety are not part of God’s will for us, but God can take such destructive acts that
destroy community and use them for God’s will and purpose
for a new creation.
13. I was blessed to grow up diagonally across the street from a family
that witnessed to me of the love of God. They welcomed me in
their home many times. Their youngest son, Kelly, who was three older than I, testified to me in various ways that God loved him and his family even if life said otherwise. While still in Dublin High School, Kelly’s father died in a car accident. In his early twenties, Kelly contracted an incurable disease which he battled daily. In the Spring of 1987, his older brother, U.S. Army Captain Ben was killed when his jet crashed in Kentucky. Kelly had every reason to say that there could not be a God in such an evil, hopeless world, at least not a God of love. Kelly has known great suffering in his life. However, a number of years ago (1987) Kelly wrote a letter to the editor of the Dublin Courier Herald around Thanksgiving and Christmas:
“In closing, I offer my thanksgiving. I am thankful beyond words for
my family – and for the years I was privileged to spend with my brother. I am thankful for my friends, and friends of God’s family. But, most of all, I am eternally thankful for a God that is real: a God that fulfills his promise of strength, peace, comfort, and eternal life. I am sure all these things are possible if you have FAITH in God, HOPE for tomorrow, and LOVE for your fellow man.”
Kelly added a P.S.: “If asked to give my thoughts on where my brother
is. I would have to say, that at about this time of day (late afternoon), he would be with my father, Bill (Canady), and Joe Wilson (my longtime Scoutmaster)… fishing, of course!”
There truly is no “if” with God. God loves us.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (8:37) To me, Kelly is a conqueror, a most glorious victor, through Jesus who loved us, who suffered for us, who was crucified for us, and whom God raised for us and all sinners. We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ who loved us.
Conclusion: God reaches down and firmly wraps his hands around our
lives and says, “I love you. Since I am for you, no one in all creation can be against you. Nothing in all creation can separate you from my love in Jesus my Son.”
We are more than conquerors through God who loves us.