GREAT PASSAGES OF THE BIBLE: 4
God is on Your Side
If we were to take a satellite photograph of North America, we could see some basic land features. We’d see, from east to west, the Atlantic Coast, the Appalachia’s, the plains of the Midwest, the Rockies, and the West Coast. As we move through the Bible main storyline, what are the major land features in it? We’re in a series right now looking at just that.
We’ve said that there is coastline that you set foot on in Genesis 1. We are introduced to the land mass of creation and of the Bible in that chapter. We find that God is and that he creates and relates. He made in the creation human beings with the capability of relating to each other and to him.
But that relationship gets broken so we come to the small mountains of Genesis 12. We go from God making creation to making a nation. He went from making man (Adam and Eve) to calling a man (Abraham and Sarah). That man and nation would be God means for fixing the broken relationship between him and humanity.
We then stepped over man pages of the Old Testament and came to lofty, Rocky Mountain-like peaks of John 1 in the New Testament. In doing so we go from God making creation to God making a nation to God making a new creation, from God generating to regenerating to resurrecting, from God making man to God calling a man to God becoming a man.
Today I want to take us to hear the voice of one who wrote approximately half the NT and I want us to hear how he, the Apostle Paul, interprets what John last week in our passage then described as, “to them who received him he gave the power to become children of God.” Paul is going to tell us that God, in Jesus Christ, not only entered the world but he entered it for a purpose. Paul is going to tell us that God, in Jesus Christ, not only entered the world but he entered and enters any life that will receive him … for a purpose.
Our text this morning is found in Romans. Did you know it was Romans which Martin Luther was studying when he was so affected that he launched the whole Protestant Reformation? Last week we talked about Sir Christopher Wren and St. Paul’s Cathedral and God and the cathedral of creation. Scholar Douglas Moo writes of the passage (chapter 8) which we go to now that it “has been called the ‘inner sanctuary within the cathedral of the Christian faith.’”
In the name then of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit these words: Romans 8:1-4, 26-39
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,  in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit….
 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
 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? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth and from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.
I heard a cute joke this week. Seems there was a football game among the animals. It was the big animals versus the small ones. In the first half it was a romp. As you’d expect, the big ones ran the football down the field at will. As the play started in the second half it was a different story. The lion charged forward with the ball but went down at the line of scrimmage. He just went down. You couldn’t tell what happened. He just went down. Then the zebra galloped with the ball and the same thing happened. He went down. You couldn’t tell what happened. He just went down. Then the rhino. Same thing. There was a time out and the coach of the little animals asked his huddle, “Who’s making all those tackles out there?” “I am,” said the centipede. “Where were you the first half?” asked the coach. The centipede said, “I was in the locker room getting my ankles taped.”
Do you know what Paul has told us in this passage? He has told us that God entered the game of life and put the stop on sin and death. He has told us that God, furthermore, enters by his Spirit anyone who will receive him and when he does, he puts the stop on sin and death in our own lives. Before he enters, the big animals of sin are winning and our desire to win at goodness and life is loosing. But once God enters, it’s a different ball game. We pick this up in many ways but in particular through some key phrases.
Here’s one -- “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul has explained his experience, your experience, my experience, the world’s experience with the good I want to do, I fail to do and the bad I want to avoid, I do. Oh, occasionally and temporarily and in limited ways we succeed but not in the free-flowing organic way our core self desires. Because of our chronic failure we know in so many dimensions failure, depression, and indictment.
And Paul is saying, “I don’t need more commands to not do bad and to do good, or a new book from the self-help section, or another priest with another passage nor a new doctor with a new drug. I need a power of a different order in my life. I’ve tried it all and I’m telling you I need someone who will decidedly and definitively give goodness and real strength the upper hand in my life.”
A few weeks ago I was at my son’s soccer game. Asher’s team was handling the other team very well. This issued in the opponents’ heads hanging in dejection, in nervous and negative banter from the players’ parents on the sideline, and a glaring scoreboard. Then there was a slam of a car door in the parking lot to the side and I looked up, as we all did, to see an athletic young man in the opposing team’s uniform come jogging up. In a matter of minutes after entering the game that player’s skill and scoring changed everything. There was no condemnation internally as the players’ chins were up, there was no booing from the sidelines but rather ease and cheerfulness, and there was no condemning glare of the scorecard. No condemnation.
This is what Paul says … he was defeated and he needed someone’s help to win at life. Then Paul adds, “It came when Jesus Christ entered the game.” When that happens, there is now no condemnation.
Look at this other phrase, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” We’re in process. God’s on our team but we’re still on the field. We need help.
I have a friend whose son didn’t get through basic for the Navy because of stress fractures in his shins. He got together with his son for the next year and a half at 5 a.m. They started walking together. They increased the distance together. They did exercises together. They jogged together. They increased the distance. The father helped his son overcome the weakness in his legs and helped developed them so he could go back to basic. He did and he’s in the Navy today. This is what the Spirit of Jesus does.
Paul is the one who has identified that when God called Abraham the blessing would come through his seed meaning one offspring in particular, Jesus Christ aka the Second Adam. Sin and death entered the world through the first but through the second would come goodness and resurrection.
Seed means life and waiting. It can be waiting in the ground or waiting in the womb. Paul tells us creation waits, has birth pangs even, for the completion of resurrection existence of the sons and daughters of men.
In pregnancy, there is, then, with funny hunger pangs, the Spirit who is a husband and runs to the grocery store. When you’re tired, the Spirit is the chair for you to sit on. When you’re needing emotional support, the Spirit is the one to listen to you and pray for you. The Spirit helps us in that waiting and any weaknesses that go with this waiting time – whether it stress fractures in the legs or other issues in the womb of our spiritual character.
Furthermore, in this growing time “God works all things together for the good of those who love him.” This does not say that all things just work together for good. It says God works things together for good.
When I was a little kid I took judo. One of the lessons I remember learning is to sense the opponent’s strength and use that for your own advantage. So if he pushes on your shoulder, don’t resist the push, but give way to his push and pull him at the same time, slipping in behind him as he over-lunges. The God who takes the field in our game of life is an expert in this technique. There will be pushes at us in this “meantime” of waiting and they will not be good things but God is able to make use of them for our development and his goals. Every single one of them. He helps in our weakness. He transforms all that happens to us.
Here’s a last phrase for now: If God is for us, who can be against us. Oh, let’s continue: nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The God of the universe is on your team. The Eternal God of all power is on your side. There’s no one anywhere who’s going to make you lose the game he wants you to win when you receive him on to your team. To all who received him he gave power to be the children of God!
It sure makes a difference to have someone on your side. It sure makes a difference to have the right person on your side. One with your concerns at heart and who has authority.
Saturday we played a little league play-off game. We needed to supply umps. In the coaches’ conversation about this situation ahead of time we noted that one of the men would be faced with calling balls and strikes on a pitcher who was his son. We decided to let the other team coach call on our pitcher and vice versa. However, if you were a pitcher and you knew your dad was fair and generous and loving and good and was behind you, not just to call the pitch, but behind you like, “I’m behind you, Buddy,” how great would that be. Not an enemy ump behind you but your loving father behind you.
Friends, your Father in heaven is behind you. Your heavenly Father is on your side. The Judge of everything is on your side. The Champion of life is on your side. God, Father/Son/Holy Spirit is for you and he is on your side. He didn’t just come into the world. He came to be for you. He didn’t just come into the world. He came to come into your life and make you and I the free and victorious children of God we were always meant to be.
The Word of the Lord.
If you would like to talk with someone about this message or your spiritual life, or to have someone pray with you, the pastors and elders of the church would your call.
Pastor Jeff Wood has been a pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian since 2014.