Sermons

No Separation

May 23, 2021 Speaker: Chris Jessee Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 8:31–8:39, John 8:3–8:11

Romans 8:31–39

[31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] 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? [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [34] 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. [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36] As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] 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.

ILLUS: My office, cleaning up from being ‘tin foiled’ - gave me extended time with a few areas throughout my office. The main one being, my bookshelf behind my desk. I don’t have bookends for those books -so- I’m left using larger books for each end. They’re reference books so they tend to work well but we all know that feeling of trying to organize a bookshelf and they just keep falling, sliding all over the place when the correct bookends aren’t in place.

Paul, at the close of Romans 8, is adding the finishing bookend.

He began with NO CONDEMNATION -and he ends with- NO SEPARATION. This is the assurance that our life in the spirit leads to; understanding that IN CHRIST we are not condemned and we are not left floating on our own until we’re with him one day in heaven. As we live in the good of sins forgiven there is NO SEPARATION relationally from Christ.

He’s working to shore up our assurance as believers, speaking directly to our questions and doubts, helping us to understand the good of the Gospel that is not only available but NEAR to us each and every day - including for me and for you right here, right now, today.

What is it that holds our life together in Christ? He secures our salvation, he alone is the way, the truth and the life.

The Holy Spirit points us to Christ for assurance of salvation and hope for change. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our standing in Christ -no condemnation- and our position in Christ - that there is no separation.

Next Sunday, Danny is going to do an overview of chapter 8 with us - the hope that Paul is directing our minds, thoughts and affections toward - and we’re going to have an extended time of response as Mike Nash leads us through Communion followed by worship together. So our time of worship at the beginning of the service next week will be a bit shorter and following Danny’s message we’ll spend extended time in reflection, receiving and worship.

For today; Let’s take the closing verses and questions that Paul asks, one-by-one as their own main points...


[31a] What then shall we say to these things?


Paul is reaching back, building on what he has said just before these verses and it sets a helpful context for us to consider verses 28-30 - especially as it relates to the things we walk through in life

Romans 8:28–30
[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. [29] 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. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Paul is asking you and me today, how is it that we’ll respond to these truths? What difference will they -or even- can they make in our lives?

Paul has, throughout chapter 8, been building on themes like our new, Spirit infused, desire to live for and please God. The Righteousness (right standing and acceptance before God, the Father) that Christ alone can provide for us.

We have the gift of the Holy Spirit with us, bringing truth to life and helping us live in the way that Jesus exemplified and calls us to. The Holy Spirit points us beyond our circumstances to the hope that we have for glory through Christ’s finished work

So Paul begins this passage asking what is it we’ll say - that is - how is it we’ll respond?

Imagine if we just stopped here… we’ve heard there’s no condemnation, that’s wonderful! That’s glorious, that’s grace that is amazing. But our faith and the blessings of this covenant relationship don’t stop there. We’re not simply NOT CONDEMNED.

I wonder, if we were, left with that one bookend, wouldn’t that lead to just a kind of ‘floating along through life’ - just drifting through time until we’re with him in glory. Facing our circumstances, the hurts and even disconnection from others in this fallen world. No, as we’ll see, we’re not just NOT CONDEMNED - he is near to us and we are near to him!


[31b] If God is for us, who can be against us?

If the God who has purposed our glory is all-powerful, why are we afraid of any opposition at all?

There will be opposition in this fallen world… we, as his covenant people, don’t have to be concerned with what the world says about us because our confidence lies in the one who created and overcomes the world.

[32] 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?


Think about this with me:
- Parents spare their children when they refrain from inflicting the full measure of a form of discipline
- At times, Judges will spare criminals when they reduce or suspend a sentence

But, this is not what the Father did with Jesus. No, the full penalty for our sins were poured out on him on our behalf.

In other words: God has done the greater thing - he gave up his son, he did not spare him - so the lesser things, what we need for this life, provision, grace for our moments, mercy for our failings, that’s the lesser thing - that’s the light-work that God can and will do through the Holy Spirit

Because: he has done the Greater Thing // Therefore: he will do the Lesser Things

[33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Paul has already said this a few times…

Romans 4:25 He [Christ] was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

When did he do these things on our behalf? - Romans 5:10 while we were enemies…

ILLUS: Tried to think of a courtroom drama where things were left to the very last minute and then, in closing arguments things come around to change everything - there are many examples but I never could quite find one that was helpful. Then, I realized, the courtroom that I’m most often standing in is the one of my own heart and mind… knowing the thoughts, understanding the leanings or desires of my heart that God is changing.

I think it was difficult to find a helpful courtroom illustration because: Only Jesus has been given the authority to judge humankind!

John 5:22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son. - this reminds us of Jesus' role, doing so as fully man and fully God. It is a confirmation of Christ’s deity which reminds us that when he says ‘it is finished’ it truly is finished.

To the unbeliever He is Judge.
To the believer He is our advocate, our defense attorney. He would never condemn those, for whom He died!

So, Christian don’t be afraid of Him, or try to avoid Him. This is the goodness of the nearness that he extends to us today.

If you’re here today and not ‘in Christ’ - putting all of your hope and faith on Jesus finished work on your behalf can I ask: what are you waiting for? Cast yourself on the mercy of God today knowing that, through the blood of Jesus, he will not turn you away!

[34] 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.


The word interceding here is most often thought of, in ways I’ve heard it over the years, as praying on our behalf to the Father. I do think that can be part of it but let’s examine a bit further to better understand what role Jesus plays, not only in our salvation, but in our very life in him.

Interceding: Mediating, intervening on someone’s behalf, pleading a case to the benefit of another…

In his book: The Bookends of the Chrstian life, which I highly commend to you all, Jerry Bridges quotes the puritan Thomas Wilcox and says this of Christ’s role in dealing with what we may feel as a persistent sense of guilt:

Shift your focus to Christ, our mediator. If we’re so discouraged we cannot pray, then we must see Christ praying for us (Romans 8:34), using his influence with the Father on our behalf. What better news could we ever want than to know Jesus Christ—the Son of God, co-creator of the Universe—is addressing the Father on our behalf? - The Bookends of the Christian Life (p. 60).

I appreciate how Bridges addresses this in “Bookends of the Christian Life”. He shows one bookend to be the Righteousness of Christ and the other Bookend to be the Power of the Holy Spirit all leading us to, what he calls ‘Dependent Responsibility - if you haven’t read it, I trust you’ll enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

 

To illustrate this idea of Christ as our Mediator, interceding on our behalf, please turn in your Bible to John, chapter 8

I know that many of the original transcripts of the New Testament didn’t include John 7:53-8:11, you may notice in your Bible that there’s a different format or brackets around this section of scripture. It’s most widely thought to be a passage that is illustrative of things that happened during Jesus’ ministry.

So, I’m not pointing to it to try to draw out a theological conclusion about how to respond to someone caught in sin or some other foundational-doctrinal point. It does align with Jesus’ character and, I believe, illustrates well for us what it looks like for Jesus to be one who ‘intercedes on our behalf’

John 8:3–11

[3] The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst [4] they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. [5] Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” [6] This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. [7] And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” [8] And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. [9] But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. [10] Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” [11] She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

Jesus’ response stunned the mob, who at first could only stand and stare.

We read that; one by one, beginning with the older men who seemingly had lived too much to feign sinlessness, one by one her accusers walked away.

Then, Jesus asked, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she responds
- can you imagine these words, delivered perhaps through shaking lips, fear of the end of her life in that moment, and yet her life was just beginning as Jesus says to her…

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from
now on sin no more.”

I appreciate John Lindell’s brief commentary on this exchange:

In this powerful scene, Christ reveals a definitive portrait of God to us. Jesus stands between the accused and her accusers, absorbing their rage. He stands there protecting a cherished, wayward daughter of God, as He stands for us now. In Jesus we see a God who is willing to stand between our accuser and us. - Lindell, John. Soul Set Free: Why Grace is More Liberating Than You Believe (p. 185).

Let’s note that Jesus’ responds in three ways:
He does not condemn
He is near and active
He calls for change that he empowers us for

This is how he intercedes -praying, stepping in, mediating, absorbing the accusations- for you and for me today!

He does not condemn
He is near and active
He calls for change that he empowers us for


[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?


Haven't all of the other questions really been leading up to this one? It seems to be the culmination of all of the things that Paul has been saying throughout chapter 8 and really up to this point from the opening words of the book of Romans.

What is the one thing that Christians should fear the most? What is it that might withdraw any sense of comfort or hope in the life of the believer? Separation.

It’s a fear that goes back to the garden and our fractured relationship with God our Creator, Father, friend that we once enjoyed a close relationship with.

We can look around and see many things that might lead us to think we’re experiencing separation from Christ’s love -or- give us a sense that his love has been withdrawn from us; trouble, hardship, persecution... These are things that come to all of us as Christians but aren't reflective of his love being withdrawn from us.

What about the vulnerability of nakedness, the fear that can come from danger or the sword that comes to so many of our brothers and sisters who suffer in other nations, who are persecuted for their faith. We know this to be true the Paul wants us to understand the this is not a withdrawal or a lack of The Nearness of Christ.

While we may face obstacles or opposition there's none of them that could detach us from the love of Jesus Christ.

I was struck in preparation at the thought of how each Christmas it can be so easy for us to celebrate “Emmanuel: God with us” and that’s true through the incarnation. Paul wants us to experience the nearness of “Emmanuel: God with us” as a part of the normal, everyday life of the Chrstian walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter what circumstances we’re walking through - the highs or the lows, the glory or the garbage of this life.

Even today, on the Christian calendar know as Pentecost Sunday (which literally means “50” because it’s 50 days after the celebration of Easter). Today we’re reminded of the event in Acts 2 which was a fulfillment of prophecies in the Old Testament -connecting back to the book of Joel- and the church at large experiencing the benefit of the promised one to come and comfort and to guide.

I love how one author, Ryan Griffith put it:

“You hear about Easter because of Pentecost.”

He goes on to state three benefits of Pentecost Sunday (I’ve linked to his article in the online notes for you all - "A Pentecost to Celebrate):


1. Pentecost fulfills Jesus’s promise to never forsake his own.
2. Pentecost launches the global proclamation of the gospel.
3. Pentecost signals the coming of fuller restoration and a greater celebration.

What do Easter, Christmas, Pentecost Sunday -for that matter: creation, the covenants, the history of redemption or the grand narrative of scripture- all point us to?

Since the fall of mankind captured for us in Genesis 3, where our relationship with God was fractured on a cosmic and eternal scale, throughout years of unfaithfulness to the covenants and laws laid out in the Old Testament and now offered through the rescue of the cross and the nearness of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us: God has been rushing toward his people, drawing them back to Himself!

[36] As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The quotation from Ps. 44:22 shows that the difficulties listed in Rom. 8:35 do strike Christians. They are not exempted from suffering or even from being killed

[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] 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.


Christians are more than conquerors (greek phrase: overwhelmingly-conquer), not because we will never face trials, Obstacles, hardships, lack, Danger or persecution.

Christians are more than conquerors because God turns everything - even suffering and Death - into good as we’re changed into the image of Christ.

What an amazing work Christ does for us - he takes us from being sheep led to the slaughter as we're told and verse 36 and says that we will become more than conquerors through him who loved us in verse 37

I was struck in preparation of this - God does the greater work of sending his son so the lesser work of providing what we need is ‘light-work’ to him. Through his “light work” he provides what is needed for us to overwhelmingly conquer the things that will come to us in this fallen world as we await his kingdom one day.

This begs the question for us today - that is, what are the things that we put our confidence in?

Paul would say this plainly - It is Christ that died! – don’t put your confidence in anything else!

You may want to say…
1. I was dedicated as a baby! – even as we celebrated with families earlier today - may we be a church that declares: No! It is Christ that died!
2. I was baptized! – No! It is Christ that died!
3. I was confirmed! – No! It is Christ that died!
4. I tithe! (gross, not net, principle) – No! It is Christ that died!
5. I was raised in the church! – No! It is Christ that died!
6. I go on missions trips! – No! It is Christ that died!
7. I have these gifts! – No! It is Christ that died!
8. I go to MLC! (hmmm!) - No! It is Christ that died!

Paul is saying to us - Whatever your confidence in your own efforts, abilities or history…“Put them all away!” and hold fast to this one declaration! – “It is Christ who died and he is all my hope, he is all my peace, my salvation!”

Paul then chooses the extremes of elements in God’s universe to help us understand that there is no separation at the close of our passage today (v.38):

The extremes of existence: death & life.
The extremes of created spiritual armies: angels & supernatural powers (or demons) Angels would not, demons could not, undo God’s relationship w/His redeemed ones!
The extremes in time: present & future i.e. nothing now...like the list in v.35 & nothing in the upcoming.
The extremes in space: height & depth- Nothing swooping down, nothing coming up!
The extremes in creation: any other created thing.

Nothing in the entire created realm can thwart God’s purpose for believers in Christ!

Remember today: the Holy Spirit points us to Christ for assurance of salvation and hope for change. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our standing in Christ -no condemnation- and our position in Christ - that there is no separation.

May this be the truth of the gospel that calms our racing minds, may this bring comfort to our souls in the midst of turmoil and may this be the hope of glory that we fix our eyes on: Christ died, he does not condemn those who are in him and there’s nothing that can separate us from his love.

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Receive & Declare - Romans 10

June 6, 2021

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May 30, 2021

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