Sermon
29

Jul 2013

Chosen

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Sermon audio:

Act 5 | Spreading the News of the King

This sermon on “Chosen” from The Drama of Redemption was preached by Chris DeRoco at Redemption Hill Church on Sunday, July 28, 2013.

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The sermon notes are compiled and edited by a member of Redemption Hill from the pastor’s notes. It is designed as a resource for those engaging the sermon for the first time or those returning to it for further reflection. We pray this resource serves you well.

Sermon Text:

Chosen

Romans 8:28-39

The Gospel means we are chosen.

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.

These letters were written to help us understand the events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and how they are the fulfillment of the redemption that the prophetic writings promised.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? 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 with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Two promises but one massive foundation:  “and we know” and “I am sure”.

And We Know

The first promise is founded upon “and we know” that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  Paul wanted the church in Rome to understand that there is a joy and security that comes through Jesus. Chapters 1-7 outline many specifics including our separation from God, our inability to justify ourselves through the law, only through faith in Christ can we be changed and recovered.  Romans 8 starts with the significant “therefore” which is transitioning to informing the meaning of the preceding verses.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  So that all things that happen to us in life we can know that God is working together for good.

Which begs the questions, “what things” and “what is good”?  There are things “against us” both internal and external.  Externally, these things are tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword.  Paul presses this point because when bad things happen the natural human response is to say “If God loved me and I was secure in him, these things would not be happening. I must be doing something wrong. I must not be forgiven. I must not be right with God”.  Bad circumstances in life “threaten” our assurance of salvation and steal our joy.  The promise “all things together for good” is frequently twisted and misunderstood to mean that everything bad will turn good in the end. However, the text is not suggesting such; it does not say that bad things turn into good (the way man is wont to define it) but rather that God works all (inclusive of the bad) together for good.  Hence, bad things are really bad and statements such as “every dark cloud as a silver lining” are lacking in verity.  Moreover, there is no timetable associated with this promise; there may not be a week, month or year where everything suddenly gets better.  This is not to suggest that they won’t, simply that it is not what God has promised.   Some may experience a horrible break up of an engagement, to find out that God had someone “better”. But many people loving God and being loved by God, break up and never marry. It may never get fixed this side of eternity.

This naturally begs the question “So then what does God working all things together for good actually mean?”   For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  The good is believers being conformed to the image of His son. He does not promise us better circumstances but a better life. Jesus did not suffer so we would not have to but so that when we do we become more like him. All the bad on the inside and outside serve God’s purpose of conforming us to the image of Jesus.

“Everything is necessary that He sends, and nothing can be necessary that He withholds.” John Newton

This means sin and satan can never win.  Everything that happens to God’s people, serves God’s purposes. The internal “things” things that will kill, foolish pride, selfishness, denial of weakness, denial of the need for God; these are all things that tend to be bred from perpetually good circumstances.

“If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more stable and solid than Mount Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside of Romans 8:28 is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles. Outside, are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28. Once you walk through the door of love into the massive unshakeable structure of Romans 8:28, everything changes. There come into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown away anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs your good and bad and all the pleasures you’ll ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.” – John Piper

I Am Sure

The second promise is founded upon “I am sure” that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So this promise is really assumed in the first promise. God works all things for good is possible because no outside circumstance can separate us and nothing on the inside of us either.  “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” At some point you are going to say: “I did not know I was this bad. I did not know I could think these thoughts or say those words” and you will think “God could not love me with this”.  There is sin within us and the potential for sin we don’t know about yet.  Despite this, no matter what is happening inside us and regardless of the sin He sees in us, He loves us and will continue to love us forever.

The harmony of the promises is that all the evil, internal and external to us, is incapable of separating us from God’s love.  Moreover, that God is working all of them for good and to bring about His ultimate purpose which to conform us to the image of Christ.

The foundation of the promises is that those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.  We were predestined, before anything was created, God chose us to be His forever and to be conformed to the image of His Son. All those He predestined, or chooses, He calls to Himself and justifies them.  All those He justifies make it to the end and they fulfill His purpose which is to be glorified.  Not one person He calls can miss the end if they start.  God chooses us and we can never be lost; this is a blessed assurance!  He has chosen His people, He will call His people, and, even though they are sinful, He will justify His people. He will conform them to His image and He will keep them to the end, thus they can never be lost. All our failings and inside and outside circumstance can never kill us and only conform us.  There is nothing that shall separate us from the love of God.

As modern, western, enlightened people we have a natural negative reaction to these promises. With some of us it is just a nagging sense that while we may believe in the sovereignty of God over the world, that there is something that is not lining up.  We may take comfort in this scripture but there is something that is nipping at our heels, keeping us from fully internalizing it. Others might be reacting more violently to this because we are offended and the problem we have is the seemingly unresolved question of free will and human responsibility.  The implication being that our choices don’t matter and we have no freedom or power to follow or reject God.  Moreover, that if we are Christian, it would appear that we may do whatever we want and there is no reason to deny ourselves and follow God’s ways if the end has already been predetermined.  These questions and concerns are understandable yet they can be a real hindrance to our growth. The origins are pride and wanting the responsibility of life and eternity to rest on ourselves believing it’s safer and better for us in the long run.

Understanding God in the redemptive story will allow us to truly believe the love that God has for us, that all things will work together for good for those whom He has called and that we can have unshakable joy and assurance irrespective of our circumstances.

God’s Sovereign Choice

God started this story. “In the beginning” God created.  He chose to create and as such He gets to continue choosing.  To everything God is previous; He is God so He gets to set things up as He chooses.  If we believe this, we must give up the right to pass judgment for ourselves and particularly the issue of salvation. We tend to suspend His attributes of sovereignty when considering Him, however, it cannot be because the first thing we see God doing is exercising His sovereign choice to create.

In Act 3 of the redemptive story, after Adam’s rebellion had spread and everyone’s thoughts and actions were evil continually, God chooses Abram, a wealthy man from Ur who was not seeking the one true God.  He was worshipping the Sun when God called to him.  Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”  The choosing and calling of Abraham is a “theological blueprint” for the redemptive history of God’s people.

Man’s Choices

We do not have to choose between our free will and God’s fixed future.  We think that either we have free will and the future is open and undetermined or that the fixture is fixed and set so that our choices don’t matter.  However, the Bible doesn’t require that we choose between these.  Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  Man has real plans, makes real choices, but its God purpose that will be done. He does His plan, not in spite of our choice, but with our choices. It would seem to be a contradiction but is only an apparent contradiction in our minds but not in our lives. We know this because we got out of bed this morning and if we really believed that our choices are meaningless because God’s purposes are guaranteed, then we would be absolutely passive and find no need to get out of bed.  Conversely, if we really believed our choices determine the future, we’d be paralyzed and unable to get out of bed for fear that we’d do the wrong thing and mess everything up?  Thus functionally we believe it is “both-and” in terms of our free will and God’s predetermination.

Take Comfort

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

We are in Christ not because we work harder, have more faith, or are more humble than the next person. Rather, we are in Christ because, in love, He predestined and chose us to be His.  If we are able to understand this the love of God will change us forever.  God’s people are in slavery in Egypt and He overthrows the Pharaoh who lay claim to them as well and delivers them.  Deuteronomy 7:7-9 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you”.  This was the reason He set the Israelites free and is the same reason He set the world free.  He chose them because He loved them in the same way that He chose us because He loved us.

When we realize that God loves us not because we are faithful, not because we are good but because He chooses to we will experience freedom.  To be loved for what you are and not success (for which failure would destroy us) or our beauty (for which aging devastates us), means that we can go through anything. We can experience any situation because He will keep on loving us forever.  Our salvation did not start with us, was not accomplished by us, and will not continue with us thus we cannot mess it up.

Every lasting relationship will have asked and answered the question of “what are you going to do when I fail you? Will you run away or will you run to me?”.  Until the question is resolved there is no real friendship, no marriage and no salvation.  The question to pose to yourself is have you settled this issue between you and God?  Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Jesus, in dying on the cross for our sins, was experiencing all things (internal and external) and He could have ended it and walked away.  In that moment He had many reasons to let us go and separate himself from us but He didn’t, choosing instead to be our savior.  From this we can know that nothing shall separate us from the love of God.  Hell itself could not come between us and Jesus. He spared not His own Son to save us. In Romans, Paul is effectively communicating that if He would die in such a way to save us then we would not fear that He would know allow us to be lost in this life.  He already knows all that we have done, and all in spite of all the bad things (that we have done and will still do), He still chooses to love us.

© 2013. Redemption Hill Church.  Used by Permission.

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