|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
God Is For Us
1st Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
God Is For Us
Romans 8:31–39 (NIV84)
What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered 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 convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the Thursday newspaper was a striking photograph of a woman. On her forehead was a cross of ashes. On her face was a look of extreme anguish. She was standing outside of the high school in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were murdered on Ash Wednesday. The photograph tells the story of shock and fear and helplessness. She probably doesn’t even know what has happened to her child yet.
The theme for today’s sermon is “God is for us.” Do you realize how crazy that sounds when evil things like what happened on Ash Wednesday in Florida happen all over this world? How would that mother react to hearing “God is for you...God is on your side” when she is faced with the unimaginable thought of her child never coming home? How can God be for us when such evil happens? How can we believe God is still for us when we face great evil in our lives? It seems more like God has left us when evil attacks our lives. But we can boldly say that God is for us because he tells us he is in his Word.
Paul tells us today that God is for us when Satan accuses. God is for us even when the whole world is against us.
When Satan Accuses
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Since we are jumping into the middle of a letter, we need to catch up to Paul’s line of thinking. He has convinced the Romans that both Jew and Gentile are alike sinful and deserving of eternal death because of their sins. Paul has shown them the righteousness of Christ as a gift received by faith and that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He has told them about the peace we have with God through Christ Jesus and the power we have to live a new life as baptized children of God. He explained the battle believers have against their sinful nature. And in chapter eight Paul begins with the beautiful announcement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
So what shall we say in response to this? Thanks be to God for all he has done for us. There is no question that God is for us. Look at all he has done to remove our condemnation. God has done everything for sinful people to win our forgiveness. If God is for us? No...Since God is for us, who can be against us? There is no doubt about it from God’s side of things. He is for us.
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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.
Though God is sure that he is for us, Satan will still try to turn God against us. Paul takes us into a courtroom now. Satan is the accuser and attempts to bring charges against us in God’s courtroom. Let’s be honest, he has plenty of evidence against us. Satan can bring out a whole catalog of sin for each of us. He could list the dates and times for every sinful word spoken. He could bring out witnesses for every sinful action, from throwing the toy at our sibling when we were 3 years old to throwing someone under the bus to avoid consequences for ourselves. Satan could bring out before God all our thoughts of being better than others, all our thoughts of hatred and indifference towards others, and every other instance of sin in our lives. The presentation of evidence against us would be a lengthy process. The evidence against us is overwhelming. We are guilty.
But Satan is the only one foolish enough to try and bring evidence against those whom God has chosen. It is God who justifies. God is the one to declare someone not guilty. Satan has no say in the verdict. If God declares you not guilty, then you are not guilty. So what is the answer to the next question?
Who is he that condemns? If you read quickly to the next words, it seems like Christ Jesus is the answer. Although Jesus is the answer to 80% of questions in Sunday School and Bible class, he is not the answer to this question. Who is he that condemns. The answer – no one! God is for us. He does not condemn us as our sins deserve but declares that we are not guilty. How do we know that God is for us when Satan accuses us?
Christ Jesus died for us. Christ paid for that sin of throwing a toy at your brother in anger. He paid for that comment said in jealousy. He paid for that love of money. He paid for every sin by his death. Therefore God does not condemn us and neither can anyone else in God’s courtroom. And just for more evidence that God is for us, Jesus rose from the dead. The payment for sin was accepted. And for even more evidence that God is for you, Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for us. Jesus is our defense attorney who paid the price to free us from condemnation and presents that evidence of his payment to his Father.
So don’t listen to Satan’s lies when he brings up your past sins or when he tells you that what you’ve just done or thought or said is too bad for God to forgive you. Don’t listen to him when he tells you that God is against you. Listen instead to the one who defeated Satan at every turn. When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus won and did not sin. When Satan got Judas to betray Jesus and the rulers to plot against him and the governor to condemn Jesus to death by crucifixion, Jesus won again by willingly paying for the sin of the world and then rising from the dead. Listen to the victor, Jesus Christ. God is for you always and especially when Satan accuses.
When the World is Against Us
It is not just our sin that Satan uses to try and convince us that God is against us. It is also all the evil in this world.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
The answer is the same answer as the previous question. Just as no one can condemn us, so also nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. But this world still tries. We face trouble and hardship in this life. Those are all the pressures of this sinful world. It is the trouble brought about by sickness and disease. It is the trouble of a friend who turns against us. It is the hardship brought on by job loss and financial struggles. How can God be for me when I’m facing all these troubles? Where is God?
Then persecution happens because you believe in Jesus Christ and follow what he says. It is not as socially acceptable as it used to be to be a Christian, to go to church every Sunday and even some Wednesdays, to express your faith at work or school or with friends. Why doesn’t God just make it easy to be a Christian in this world?
Famine and nakedness are extreme lack of food and clothing. Maybe we have not faced shortages like that but most have faced shortages in some way. The money only goes so far. The kids outgrow the clothes before you can save for the next set. The car falls apart before you are able to purchase the next one. Why does God let us lack anything in life? Is God really for us?
Facing danger and sword can also bring about those feelings of doubt about God’s love. What is that mother in the photo thinking as she waits outside the high school in Florida for news of her child? How easy to question God’s love in that situation. How easy to wonder if God is really for you when facing extreme danger and death for yourself, and maybe even more for a loved one.
We know that God will not abandon us and has not abandoned us in our times of deepest grief. We know because he did not abandon us to suffer the punishment for sin. God knows how evil and wicked and terrible this world is. He knew what would happen when he sent his one and only Son into the world. The world would hate Jesus. The world would tells lies about Jesus. The world would plot to kill Jesus and have fun torturing him until they nailed him to the cross. Still they would mock him as he hung on the cross. The Father knew all the evil the world would inflict on his Son and still he would not abandon the world to sin and death. Jesus knew all the evil that would happen to him and he would not abandon us to our sin and eternal death. This is how we know that he will never abandon us. This is how we know that even on the worst of days, God has not taken his love for us. We must look to the cross.
Maybe that is why the photograph of the mother struck me. The cross draw with ashes on her forehead is the only sign of hope in that picture so filled with anguish. The cross of Christ proves that God is for us. God has not abandoned us and never will. For God gave us his Son. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says it better:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.