Can anyone tell me who this picture is of?
RA Tivoli Gardens” by Michael Alo-Nielson. Licensed under CCBY 2.0 via Commons
(Rick Astley). His most famous song was in the 80s, when Parra was winning grand finals! The song was called “Never Gonna Give you up” It’s made a bit of a comeback in recent years through Rickrolling, which is trying to trick people into clicking onto his song. The lyrics are pretty well known. Do any of you know them?
Never gonna give you up,
Never gonna let you down,
Never gonna run around and desert you.
Never gonna make you cry,
Never gonna say goodbye,
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you!
We look at those lyrics and think, he’s promising a bit more than he can deliver here! There’s no human being so perfect as to do all these things. Yet wouldn’t it be amazing if there really was someone who could love us like this, never give up on us, never desert us, always stay faithful to us, never tell a lie, never let us down? Does such a person or love even exist?
God in Romans is showing us that he delivers what Rick Astley can only sing about, and what all of us long for. Through Jesus we can know that God will never give up on us, he will never let us down or desert us. God is for us. As we in v28 just before this section, he’s working for our good in all things.
Yet in our painful, messy and complicated world there are things that might make us doubt that God is really for us. If you’re a Christian – if you’re trusting in Jesus, what are the things that might make you doubt that God is for you? As we look at this passage, let’s consider three big things that might make us doubt that:
Look at v31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
In response to all that God has done for us in Jesus, as we’ve seen in Romans, Paul asks: who can be against us? Well on one level, lots of people. When this letter was written, around 57AD the Christians in Rome were a small minority, and would face much opposition over the next few centuries as the church grew. Just as Jesus church today continues to face opposition as it grows all across the world.
I’m in a face book group for people who like logic and puzzles, and some people in that group enjoy taking regular shots at Christianity. One of them recently made this claim: the facts are in, Jesus never existed. Linked to an article which listed a number of historical works around Jesus time that didn’t mention Jesus. It’s not actually much of an argument, there were some works that do mention Jesus and some that don’t. Just like today some books mention Richie Benaud, some books don’t, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist.
If you use social media, you’ll probably see things like this a fair bit, people posting memes or articles taking shots at Christianity, trying to discredit it. What do you do with those? I think with most of them, it’s probably better just to let them go, because often the person is just having a laugh, or just trying to start an argument for the sake of it, but sometimes if the other person’s interested, it can be worth engaging with them.
In this case, I responded saying that actually there’s quite a consensus among ancient historians that Jesus did exist. I linked to an article that Sydney historian John Dickson had written where he put out a challenge that he’d eat a page of his Bible if there was any professor of ancient history in a recognised university anywhere in the world who believed that Jesus didn’t exist. It went around the world, no one was found. All those ancient history professors believe Jesus existed.
In response to my comment, someone responded with another question, and I responded with an answer, but then the conversation stopped and I was left with the impression that this person was happier just taking cheap shots and not so much wanting to engage in a real discussion.
Sometimes opposition to Christianity in Australia can feel like a little like that – I’m happy to mock your beliefs, but I don’t really want to have a sensible conversation about it, yet often opposition can be more serious. Some of you will be in the minority as a Christian at work, at your place of education, in your family, or sporting group. Sometimes what you experience for being a Christian might be worse than just some friendly teasing, I know of people who’ve been shunned by their families, even forced out of jobs because of their faith in Jesus. In other parts of the world, Christians have had possessions taken, been jailed, tortured, even killed for following Jesus. If you experience serious opposition, you might ask, how can God be for us?
Jesus experienced opposition. He tells his followers we should expect it. Yet he also tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We can do that, because we know that God is for us Look at v32 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?
There’s no greater sacrifice God could have made than giving his son Jesus, to die for us. If he’s sacrificed to that level already, we can be sure that he will follow through on everything else he’s promised us.
Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers, when they were worried about whether or not he would forgive them for what they’d done to him? Joseph found power to forgive them in the God he knew was on his side even in the face of opposition. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20)
The Bible tells us two things are compatible that we might think are opposite. It tells us God is sovereign and all powerful, yet humans are responsible for their actions. You see those two in this verse. Humans responsible for their actions, are intending harm, yet God is so sovereign, so powerful, that even where humans are going against him and intending evil, he is able to use it for good. If God is for us, who can be against us?
The first soccer team I played in was in the under 8s. I’d never played before so they just put me fullback – I ran from side to side on the 18 yard box following the ball in the other half in case it ever came into ours, but it never did. I remember getting into those oranges at half time, but I hadn’t even touched the ball. We had one really good player who was the fastest and best player in our comp. We won every game that year, some of them 11 nil and he’d usually score ten of them, and set up the other. It didn’t matter what team we came up against we always won, because he was on our side.
How much more true that is if the Sovereign, all powerful God is one our side – we can expect opposition, but we know that opposition won’t last. There is nothing anyone can do against us, that God can’t use for our ultimate good, and his glory.
God is for us: through Jesus, no one can stop him achieving his purposes for us.
- Struggle with sin?
Do you remember Paul’s question at the end of chapter 7, he said: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? He’s an apostle, he’s met Jesus, he had the Holy Spirit, he planted churches, he wrote letters that were considered Scripture – they became part of the Bible, yet he struggled with sin. If you’re a Christian, is there anything you struggle with, that makes you wonder, whether God is for you? Perhaps you keep giving in to anger, and you wonder, can God really before me, after all I’ve done and said? Perhaps you’ve been struggling with porn – you know it damages your brain, exploits people, and dishonours God, you’re making some progress and yet the struggle is real – you wonder, can God be for me, if I’m still struggling with this. Maybe your struggle is with your tongue, you’re working on it, you’re making progress, but you still say things that you find yourself regretting afterwards, and you wonder, can God be for me, when I keep hurting others with my tongue?
Have a look at v33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one.
We saw in chapter 6 how if we trust in Jesus we’re no longer slaves to sin, we have a new power to say no to it, we should see real progress, we’ve seen in chapter 8, how the Spirit leads us and helps us in this process of putting sin to death, yet as chapter 7 shows us, in this life we’ll still struggle with sin, we won’t see perfection until Jesus returns. In that struggle, we need to know that Jesus death is enough to forgive all our sin, past present and future. If God declares you right through Jesus, and welcomes you into his family, who’s going to say to you, no you’re not right? No one, that’s worth listening to.
The Bible says we have 3 real enemies who work against us – we have the devil, a real enemy, the world – all those who are opposed to God, and our own sinful nature, but we have someone far more powerful who is for us, look at v34: if says 4 things about Jesus: 1. He died – not for his own sin, but the sin of those who would trust in him, 2. He was raised to life – the Father was showing that Jesus sacrifice was acceptable 3. He is at the right hand of God. When the Bible talks about the Father and the Son ruling, it doesn’t talk about two thrones, but one throne. They share a throne: the throne of God and of the lamb (Revelation 22:1,3) One throne that God the Father and the Son share, Jesus is at the right hand of The Father, sitting on the throne with the Father. Jesus is God, just as much as the Father is God. 4. He is interceding for us – speaking on our behalf. God the Son, speaking on our behalf to God the Father.
In 1500s there was a powerful Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth who sent his herald to declare war with Francis the First, King of France. The herald declared war using all the titles this king had, as a way of intimidation. He said I declare war in the name of the Emperor of Germany, King of Castille, King of Aragon, King of Naples, King of Sicily, and on he went with all these titles.
When the herald of Francis the First took up the challenge of battle, he didn’t want to be outdone, but his king only had one title, so he just repeated his master’s name and office as many times as the other ruler had titles. He said, “I take up the challenge in the name of Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France – over and over, because that was all he had.
If we’re Christians, we will know that there is a long list of accusation that can be made against us, many wrong things that we have done against others and against God, but if our trust is in Jesus, there is really only one thing that needs to be said in our defence: Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me, Christ died for me.
If you’re a Christian, even though your struggle with sin is real, through Jesus, there is no charge against you that will stick.
God is for us – through Jesus, no one can stop him achieving his purposes for us, no struggle with sin will stop us being free from condemnation through Jesus.
- Suffering and death?
Look at v35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Paul then quotes from Psalm 44. Often in the Old Testament we see things going badly for God’s people because they ignore God and go their way instead of his, but if we read Psalm 44 you’ll notice, that there the people are actually living for God, yet still suffering, as v20 of that Psalm says which Paul quotes in v36 ‘For your sake we face death all day long; They are suffering, not for their own sin, but for the sake of God.
When we suffer, does it mean that God is not for us? No, look at v37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors… That word is literally hyper conquerors, or super conquerors. Hardship actually grows our character, it develops perseverance and hope if we know we are loved by Christ.
What is love really? Lots of people sing about it or make movies about it.
Justice Crew by Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia. Licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons
Justice crew tell us – we spread love it’s the only way (they think love is good, but what is it?)
The Beatles told us – love is all we need (but then, they fought with each other and broke up, so maybe they don’t know what love is!)
Taylor Swift says: love means you’ll never have to be alone
Ana in Frozen says: Love is an open door, where you can say goodbye to the pain of the past! (Unfortunately, without wanting to spoil the movie too much 🙂 the man that she sings that with later tries to kill her sister, so maybe she doesn’t know what love is either!)
Pat Benatar says: love is a battlefield
Queen says: they can’t handle it, this crazy little thing called love.
What is love? Everyone wants it, but no one seems sure what it is!
The Bible tells us: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) Love is self-sacrifice for the good of another.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) There’s no greater demonstration of love than a perfect God sacrificing himself for humans who’ve rebelled against him.
Jesus death shows us that we are not just acquitted by God, we are loved. We are not just loved by another human, we’re love by God. We’re not just loved temporarily, we are loved forever.
Here’s a great photo from Cathy and Jarrod’s wedding last weekend
Photo: Nail and Twine Photography
– a young couple, declaring their love for each other, walking through the sparklers, happy, in love with each other – it’s a great photo! Yet they know, as we all know, that life’s not all smiles and sparklers – many couples start out like this, yet end up separated, something comes between their love for each other. What can help us keep going in the hardships of marriage, or singleness or life?
If we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love, his love enables us to love others, even when things get hard. Look at the list of things Paul covers in v38-39: neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation… (everything’s covered!)
As a pastor I’ve had the privilege of being with people as they’ve died, I’ve often come away from those experiences encouraged by Christians who’ve faced death, with a great sense of assurance, because although they are sad to leave loved ones, they know both they and their loved ones are ultimately in God’s hands, and they know even death won’t separate them from God’s love.
If you’ve never read the Jesus Story Book Bible, you should read it, it’s great for all ages, it gives the big picture of the Bible better than almost any other book I know. It refers to God’s love as a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”.
If you’re not yet trusting in Jesus, he invites you to come to him, to trust in his perfect life, his death and resurrection as being for you, to find in him the forgiveness, love, and security you need. What’s stopping you from turning to him? What is there that can love you, the way God can? There’s no person, no possession, no money, no power that can love you the way humans longed to be loved.
If you are trusting in Jesus, God wants you to know today that he is for you: No opposition can stop his purposes for you, no struggle with sin will leave you condemned, no suffering, not even death can separate you from his “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”.