Tuesday, August 01, 2023

The Gospel of John, July 30, 2023

This is the second session of Living Water Lutheran Church's adult Sunday School class on the Gospel of John. I apologize for the funky audio at the beginning of the session.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Good Christ Gives

[Below is the text of today's message shared during worship with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, as well as live stream video from both the traditional and modern worship services.]

Romans 8:28-39

Our second lesson for today, Romans 8:28-39, is one of the most inspiring passages in the whole Bible.

God inspired the apostle Paul to write these words to comfort those who are baptized into and who believe in Jesus Christ as their God and Savior.

God wants these words to be Gospel words of promise secured by Jesus through His death and resurrection for sinners like you and me.

But, even though we know we’ve been set free from the power of sin and death at our Baptism, have come to trust in Jesus, and that God has made us His saints, we still are sinners. Until we physically die and are physically raised from the dead by Jesus, we saints will also be sinners.

And because we are sinners, we sometimes read the Word of God as sinners rather than as saints, as the hopeless and the dead rather than as the hopeful and the living. This can lead us away from the clear Word of hope and comfort God wants to give us through Jesus.

Take the first verse of our second lesson. Paul writes: “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.” (Romans 8:28)

You were summoned or called to salvation by God, at the waters of Holy Baptism. Paul says, if you love the God Who died and rose for you in Jesus, meaning, if you believe in Jesus, then you know that, in all circumstances, God works for your good! These words are meant to comfort us.

But, we may think, not everything seems to be working together for my good in life.

My family is troubled.

There’s cancer or diabetes or dementia or depression in our household.

My spouse and I are arguing.

My kids are rebellious against God and me.

I may lose my job.

My grades are terrible and I’m afraid I may not get ahead in life.

That person who I thought loved me has dumped me.

In such circumstances, we hear or read these words of comfort and hope–”all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”--and we wonder: Am I not really a believer? Do I not believe enough? Is God punishing me? Is God trying to teach me something? Why aren’t things working out for my good?

Listen, friends: God didn’t inspire Paul to write these words to discourage you or to question your salvation.

First John 4:15 tells us: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (ESV)

The bad things–and death itself–that come to us in this life have nothing to do with whether God loves you or forgives you or has saved you.

If by the means of His grace–His Word and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion–you can affirm your faith in Jesus. You know that the bad things that come your way aren’t from God.They result from the sin, decay, and death of this dying, fallen universe. And Jesus tells us that both repentant saints and unrepentant sinners are subject to the bad things that come in such a world.

So, how will all the bad of this world work for the good of those who trust in Jesus? Our lesson goes on to say: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29)

Don’t let the devil twist these words in your mind. (The old jerk will certainly try to do that!)

The Bible does not teach what’s called “double predestination”: the false idea that before you and I were even born, God destined some to go to heaven and some to go to hell. God’s Word tells us that “God our Savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)  And Jesus told Nicodemus that God the Father sent Him because God so loved the whole world! (John 3:16) As you’ve heard me say before: God is not a monster; He will not force salvation on us, but He doesn’t pick out winners and losers before we’re born.

The word translated as predestined in our lesson is, in the Greek in which Paul wrote, is, προορίζω, the second part of which gives us our English word, horizon. It literally means to mark out beforehand, to clear the horizon.

What Paul is saying is that God, through His pioneering work, Jesus goes ahead of us and predestines those who, by the power of the Gospel Word, believe in Him, to become His brothers and sisters in the new and eternal creation He will fully usher in on His return to the earth.

Jesus Christ clears a path for us through the sin, suffering, challenges, and death of this world to lead us to the destiny that belongs to all who trust in Him: everlasting life with God.

Paul then tells us how we, as disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus, can view the sad and tragic things that happen to us in this life. He writes in words I can’t improve upon:

“...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 then is the one who condemns? No one. 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? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

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.” (Romans 8:31b-39)

The God we know in Jesus is for us, friends!

He is for you.

He brings you the forgiveness of your sins.

He conquers all the sadness, difficulties, and death of this life so that they will not have the last say over your life.

He gives you an eternity with God that cannot be taken away from you.

This is the good that belongs to all who daily turn from sin and daily follow Jesus, the good that belongs to all who confess “I believe in God the Father almighty…I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

This is the good of knowing the Savior Who promises to be with us always, here and now, and that one day, will call us from our graves into a life in which sin, sadness, difficulty, and death will be no more.

On the day when angels sound forth the trumpets of heaven and Jesus descends again to the earth, Jesus will call us to rise in our glorified bodies that no longer bear the pains of this fallen universe, and will call us to come face to face with Him Who “will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. [And] There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

It’s then that the new day that can never die will arrive.

This is the good from which nothing in this world can separate you, the good that Jesus died and rose to secure for you

In Christ, dear friends, you are justified by grace through faith in Him.

In Christ, you have an eternity with God that belongs to all who believe.

In Christ, you are more than conquerors.

You are God’s own dear child.

This is, no matter what may happen to you today or tomorrow or at any time in this life, this is the good that God has worked for you in Christ.

Turn to Him.

He will give you the faith and the blessings you need now and for all eternity.