The War Within: 5 Questions

The War Within: 5 Questions

Text: Romans 8:31-37

Opening: For eight weeks now we’ve been studying Romans 7 & 8. We’ve talked about the war within us between the flesh and the Spirit. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot, including that God offers us salvation in Christ and then as we respond positively to His invitation,  confirms that we’re saved from eternal death through the ministry of the Spirit — His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And now as we near the end of chapter eight, we come to the passage that is meant to erase any remaining doubts about our saving relationship with Jesus. Paul wants us to understand that the moment we put our faith in Christ’s death on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, something happened in the heavenly realm that cannot be undone. Our ticket was booked for heaven, and no one will ever be able to take it from us. That’s the whole point of the verses we looked at last week (Romans 8:28-30). No matter what anyone throws at us in this life, we who love God and are called according to His purpose can rest assured that He will work it all out for our ultimate good. And we owe it all to God’s intervention in our lives. Paul tells us that He foreknew (fore-loved), predestined (pre-determined our eternal destinies), called (in a way that we could not resist), justified (the act of crediting Christ’s righteousness to our accounts) and glorified us (something that will happen at the final resurrection but is so certain that he treats it as if it’s already taken place). All of this is meant to help us grasp that we never have to fear losing our salvation. Christ is worthy of our absolute faith and trust and He will carry us safely home to heaven. In fact, God guarantees it (Ephesians 1:14 — {The Holy Spirit} is the guarantee of our inheritance). WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT! That’s better than we can say for the Alaskan man who recently attempted to cross a channel near Juneau on a “homemade watercraft“—more specifically, “an inflatable, duct-taped craft“—complete with a paddle, his dog, and a conspicuous lack of a life jacket. This he did while the water temperature hovered around 44 degrees. A local news outlet stated that while the “weather on scene was reportedly calm with 9 mph winds,” a Coast Guard crew still ended up coming to the man’s aid when the makeshift boat started to fill with the ice-cold water. Having “deemed the craft unsafe,” they “transferred it, the man—and his dog—to [nearby] Douglas Harbor.” Perhaps to guard against embarrassment, the news release “did not identify the man.” This man’s “boat” was homemade, patched together with duct tape and carrying no life jacket on board—yet he still trusted it with his life (and even his dog’s life). Before we poke fun at his foolishness, we have to wonder how many other people are guilty of trusting their lives, in fact, their eternal destinies, to something just as foolish. I’m thinking about those who are hoping that their homemade, duct-taped, man-centered theology of good works and self-righteousness will get them safely home to heaven. Unfortunately, it won’t work out so well for them either. Not when the Bible tells us that when it comes to matters of salvation, only God is worthy of our trust (Isaiah 12:2 — Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation).

Now this morning, we come to the ninth message in our series. In Romans 8:31-37, Paul asks FIVE RHETORICAL QUESTIONS (a rhetorical question  is one that is asked not because the answer is unknown, but to make a point. It actually expects no response because the answer is obvious to everyone) to further convince Christians that our salvation cannot under any circumstances be taken from us. It’s as if he’s saying, Okay, I explained to you that salvation is the work of God on your behalf. You didn’t earn it. It was a gracious and merciful gift from Him. Now, if that’s true, and it is, then rest assured that no one can ever take it away from you.” Five rhetorical questions meant to erase any doubt we might have about our eternal destinies.  LET’S START WITH THE FIRST ONE IN VERSE 31.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Remember, the answer is so obvious that it does not need to be provided. After all, who in the world would dare stand against the children of God when God stands for us? The obvious response is no one. That’s what we’re to understand. It’s like living in a world of kindergartners and having Arnold Schwarzeneggar as your body guard. If anyone ever seeks to harm you, you just say, “Hey, take it up with Him” and the problem goes away. Sadly, there are believers who still think some would dare to stand against us and point to things like — the unbelieving world that hates us (John 15:19 — because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, the world hates you). Others might cite the principle of indwelling sin that has proven to be a powerful adversary (Galatians 5:17 — the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another). And what about the devil? He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Each has destroyed many people. But the point that Paul is making is not that we can stand against these foes on our own. It’s because God is for us that we do not have to fear someone stealing our salvation. Think of it this way: He has saved us. He is saving us and He will save us. No one can stop God from achieving His pre-determine plan.

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? Paul’s arguing from the greater to the lesser. His logic goes like this: God sacrificed HIs only Son, Jesus, for us! Do you think for a moment that He would willing watch Jesus suffer and die to make us children of God and then withhold anything else that would keep us from being united with Christ in heaven? Absolutely not! It’s utterly inconceivable. Illustration: What a word! Inconceivable. Do you remember the movie The Princess Bride? — Vizinni, the genius, who was bested by a masked man in a battle of wits, liked to use the word “inconceivable” to describe his dealings with his foe (who we later learn is the Dread Pirate Roberts). On one occasion Vizinni cuts the rope the pirate is using to scale a steep cliff thinking he will fall to his death, but nothing happens. Vizinni says, “He didn’t fall. Inconceivable.” That’s when Inigo Montoya, a brilliant swordsman replies, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Perhaps you’ve wondered what “inconceivable” means. Here’s an on-line dictionary definition — not capable of being imagined or grasped mentally. That’s what Paul has in mind here when he asks, “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?” Maybe another to think of it is: If God withheld anything else that He meant to accompany our salvation, what statement would He be making about the value of His Son’s life and death to make atonement for our sin?

 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect, it is God who justifies? This one brings us into an imaginary courtroom. Paul’s point is that no charge of law breaking will stick because God has already justified us. We touched on this last week, so I won’t dwell on it except to say that to be justified is to be declared by the Judge of the Universe (God) to be totally righteous. Of course, this begs the question, “Are we really righteous?”  The answer is “Yes” but not because we’ve done everything right in the eyes of God throughout our entire lives. Rather, that’s what Jesus did (John 6:38 — I have come down from heaven, not to do my will, but the will of Him who sent Me). We have sinned countless times, but as the unique God-man, Jesus always did what pleased His Father. In doing so, He established His righteousness and then did something “inconceivable” when He offered His life in payment for our sin. Now, when we put our faith in Jesus, we receive His righteousness as He pays the debt of our sin through His death on the cross. God then declares us to be just on the basis of Christ’s righteousness which is now ours.  So…can anyone bring a charge against God’s elect since He has justified us? No…there’s no way!

Who is to condemn? Since we cannot be charged with wrong-doing, we cannot be condemned for it either. Did you hear that? No one can condemn us (pass sentence upon us)! And here’s why — Christ Jesus was the one who died (He was condemned) — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Listen…before we met Christ as Savior and Lord, God certainly condemned us when He sentenced mankind to die because Adam and Eve rebelled against Him (Romans 5:16 — the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation); it stands to reason that the law of God also condemned us. In 2 Corinthians 3:9 Paul called it the “ministry of condemnation.” That was the entire point of the law … to reveal just how sinful mankind really is. But now that we’ve put our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection (that vindicated His claim to be the Son of God who conquered sin and death), we no longer have to suffer under the weight of condemnation. In fact, Jesus, now sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us just in case anyone, the Evil One perhaps, would declare that we are unfit for heaven.  Application: Not only does Satan try to condemn us, but we seem to do a pretty good job of it ourselves. I want to say something to you this morning if you’re one of those people who walks around entertaining self-condemning thoughts like: I’m a horrible person that no one would love if they really knew me. In fact, I don’t deserve to be accepted by God as one of His children. I’m the biggest loser I know. I have to admit I battled thoughts like this at one time in my life. That is, until my boss in CCC confronted me about it. He said, “Kerry, when you think those things, here’s what you’re really saying to God. ‘If your standard were just a little higher, you wouldn’t accept or love me either.’ Is that what you want to say to the holy God of the universe. Do you really believe your standard of what isright exceeds His?” “No,” I said, “it doesn’t and I’m sorry I ever entertained those thoughts.” If you’re in Christ, no one can condemn you. And anyone who tries will have to go against our advocate who intercedes for us in heaven.

What shall separate us from the love of Jesus? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?. It is interesting to note that all of these are included in Paul’s lists of his personal sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:26-27 and 12:10 with the exception of the sword which he would later experience at the command of the Roman emperor Nero. Suffering in these forms did not come as a surprise to Paul, and neither should they to us since God’s people were told to expect them centuries ago in Psalm 44:22 which is what Paul quotes here in Romans 8:36– Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Yet while many Christ-followers experience one or more of these hardships, they in no way are meant to indicate that Jesus has stopped loving us. He loves us by His choice. He saves us by His choice. If we kept our salvation by hanging on to Christ, then we would almost certainly lose it, because we routinely release our grip on Him. But that’s not what Paul means here. When we begin a relationship with God not only do we take hold of Christ but He takes hold of us and promises never to let go. He loves us with an everlasting love and promises never to leave or forsake us. Illustration: Do you remember the story of the man who dreamed one night that he was walking along the beach with the Lord? A they walked along the beach, across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him he looked back, at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it: “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The LORD replied: “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Now at the end of this message, we’re still left with Verse 37. It takes us back one more time to all the stuff that Paul just mentioned (tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword) and reminds us yet again that nothing can take away the salvation we have in Christ. No one can stand against us; He will make sure we have all we need to persevere to the end; He has justified us so no one can bring a charge against us; He will never condemn us or allow anyone else to; and it’s impossible to be separated from His love. All of this is weighs on Paul’s mind as he brings this section to a close with these words. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Here he provides us with two truths that transform how we face any kind of adversity or threats to our salvation in this world.

TRUTH #1 — Our SIGNIFICANCE now comes from Christ — We are more than conquerors. A conqueror is one who decisively vanquishes his foes. When God takes any adversity thrown at us and works it for our good, it’s His way of mocking the efforts of any who stand against us including the devil himself. Jesus has won the victory over sin and death so decisively that we have a whole new standing in the universe. As one pastor puts it, “We are super-conquerors!”

TRUTH #2 — Our SECURITY now is in Christ — through Him who loved us. Our new standing comes to us through Jesus! Jesus died for us on the cross. He reconciled us to God. There is nothing He could have done that would have demonstrated how much He loved us more than taking our death  upon Himself that we might have life.

Conclusion: “The Highwayman” is a poem that tells the story of an adventurer who robs the coaches of English aristocrats. It turns out that the man is in love with an innkeeper’s daughter, and by night, when the coast is clear, he courts her. The authorities learn of the romance, and one twilight, before the highwayman arrives, British soldiers invade the inn. They tie the innkeeper’s daughter at the window so the highwayman will see her and believe the way is safe. Then, lest she try to warn her love in any way, the soldiers gag the maid and tie a musket so that it is aimed at her heart will fire at her slightest movement. The highwayman comes riding. Unaware of the armed men that wait to cut him down, he gallops ever closer to his destruction. He sees his love at the window. She hears his horse’s hoofs on the lane. The soldiers cock their muskets. Nearer to the arms he loves, nearer to his destruction, the highwayman comes riding. Then, just as he is about to dismount his horse and come within musket range, a premature shot rings out warning him to turn back. The highwayman reins and turns as the frustrated soldiers shoot a futile volley. All the muskets fired, but only one found its mark. The one true shot was from the musket that fired the warning—the musket aimed at the heart of the innkeeper’s daughter. Her warning saved his life, but at the expense of her own. Could she have demonstrated a greater expression of her love? For two thousand years the Cross has stood both as God’s ultimate warning of the consequences of sin, and as the greatest expression of His love for sinners. If God did not love, He would not so graciously warn. The Cross is where we hear the fatal cry of a Savior calling out to those He loves to turn from their sin and be saved before death overtakes them and it’s too late.