February 18, 2018
Pastor John Hering
31 What, then, shall we say in response 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, 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 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. 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.
It hardly makes any sense that people will pay money to be scared. You might purchase a season pass for Six Flags so that you can be strapped into a seat, clank up a steep hill on a track, hang over the top and then be hurled down the hill at speeds over 70 MPH so you can scream. You can purchase two tickets to the Firewheel AMC theatre, purchase your bucket of popcorn and sit down to scare your socks off watching “Insidious: The Last Key.” I tried to watch the trailer on YouTube and got super scared just watching that! They wouldn’t build roller coasters and produce movies if people didn’t pay money to be scared. Yet, there is a difference between being scared and terror. The dictionary defines terror as, “intense, sharp, overmastering fear” (dictionary.com). Now, sitting in your comfy chairs this definition of terror probably didn’t cause you to break out in sweat. No, real fear happens when your plane takes off from San Francisco airport bound for Hawaii and the engine cover rips off. Then you’re probably afraid. Real terror comes when the engine rips off the wing and you hear the pilot shouting, “Mayday! Mayday!” Terror are students screaming at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. But, even this isn’t the worst source of terror. There is something worse than roller coasters, scary movies, crashing jets and terror attacks. The source of the worst terror is to be separated from God’s love. We have a word for that. Hell!
Today marks the 1st Sunday in Lent. Abraham asked to sacrifice his son is terrifying. Jesus being tempted by Satan and knowing if he fails, the world falls is terrifying. And Paul writing in Romans 8 isn’t fooling around. He writes to take on the worse terror head on. The terrible question that humanity thinks about and has to answer is this:
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
The answer to this question will either end in terror or give us a place of safe retreat. The answer to this question is our theme for this sermon. You would do well to memorize it in order to avoid a life of terror. Here it is:
Christ’s Power Conquers All
- Because Jesus’ Power Frees Us
- Because Jesus’ Power Loves Us
You all know that Divine Peace started almost 25 years ago with the goal of sharing the love of Jesus with northeast Dallas County. That was our plan. God had other plans by expanding our mission work into Rockwall County, too. We can trace the mission work of St Paul by reading through the Acts of the Apostles. There you hear places like Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derby, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica and Corinth. These are all places where St. Paul planted churches. But, what about the congregation in Rome? Historians report that Rome had a population of about 2,000,000 (about the size of Dallas proper). The Bible doesn’t tell us how this church, or actually, several churches in Rome got started, but historians reported these congregations starting without an apostle there. This was great, but the believers there sensed something was missing. They were separated from other Christians by miles of ocean, but also needed a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to have an escape from the terror of this world. Paul wrote the answer to that question,
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
Paul was inspired to write the letter to the Romans, which we consider now to be a most excellent summary of Christian doctrine (much like a Catechism). Paul wrote boldly and firmly to lay out the basic teachings of Christianity. In chapters 1-2 Paul hammers with God’s law to smash any self-righteous ideas for those who might have thought, “Hey, we’re pretty good people!” Listen:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness…Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed … What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? No at all! … As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one … All have turned away, they ha
ve together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one;”
Rom 1:18, 2:5; 3:9, 10, 12
Did you hear and did terror strike? The entire human race has fallen into a deep, dark hole of sin and by all rights deserve to be eternally separated from God’s love. That’s terror!
Do you know who really gets this? Satan! He loves to put on his Christian Dior’ suit, stand in God’s courtroom and point to sinners like you and me to accuse us, “Look at those sinners, God! They have not loved you more than their money. They hardly pray. They have dirty reputations, They cheat, lie and have evil thoughts. They hurt people’s feelings! You go get ‘em God! Damn them to hell with me like they deserve!” Satan loves to answer the question, “Who shall separate us from Christ’s love?” Sinners, that’s who!
Dear Christian Friends, listen to what Paul wrote:
“31 What, then, shall we say in response 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, 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 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.” Paul says because of Jesus’ power we are not condemned. Jesus is the one who stood up against Satan and did not fall into temptations. Jesus is the one who died for you. Jesus is the one who rose for you. Jesus is the one who ascended into heaven and even now is interceding for you. It is Christ’s conquering power that frees you. Believe it! Being connected to Jesus through faith means that God looks at you and on account of Jesus declares you not guilty of all your sins and sets you free from all condemnation.
A word of encouragement here. Just in case your mind has drifted off during the past 5 minutes, or maybe you thought, “I’ve heard all this before,” or “I sure am glad Pastor Hering is preaching this sermon to all those other people here who need to hear it.” Listen: “Who shall separate us from Christ’s love?” Jesus’ work. Jesus’ efforts. Jesus’ actions. Jesus’ power guarantee that “Nothing Shall Separate Us From the Love of God.” You hear these words and believe these words, but let’s see how practical they are. For those in Rome they might have been tempted to reply, “OK, Paul, but truth be told, people are picking on us and other bad stuff happens. Our day to day life sure doesn’t feel like Jesus loves us!” To them Paul would answer: Christ’s Power Conquers All
Because Jesus’ Power Loves Us
We live in a real world, too. We are tempted to think that when bad stuff happens in our life we are in danger of being separated from God’s love. St. Paul was a realist, too. He didn’t live in an ivory tower and pass out pious platitudes. If you thought you’ve had troubles, listen to this,
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently ,been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”
2 Cor 11:23-28
Paul wasn’t saying these things to say, “Hey! Look at me! I’m so awesome!” No, he was saying these things to sympathize and love them, to say, “Look, I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there, too.” He makes an impressive contrast to be sure!
Even more importantly, our Savior does this for us. The writer to the Hebrews says,
“but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin”
Jesus knows what you and I are facing in our lives. Then bad things happen we might be tempted to say,
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
Admittedly these are unpleasant times: You sit down to a great Valentine meal and bite your tongue. You are about to give a major presentation at work and catch a bad cold that makes you sound like a fog horn. You were late for your excursion on your trip so you had to pay extra to pet the stingrays. “Hardships” has the idea of things closing in on you. Someone you love goes in for surgery and not so sure they’ll come out okay. “Persecution” when your unchurched friends make fun of you because you don’t do the stupid stuff you used to do when you were young and foolish. “Danger / sword” well, there have been several occasions this past year were gangs have gathered a few blocks away and people have been shot. Living in a sinful world means that we can expect to have days of being frightened, scared and terrorized. Paul quotes Psalm 44,
““For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
God knows that we are the sheep, but he is the Good Shepherd who will work in unique ways in order to bring his people closer to him. Indeed, God does some of his best work during times of human suffering—disciples fish all night and catch nothing, til Jesus tells them how to cast their nets; disciples are baffled how to feed 5,000 people, until Jesus blesses the fish and loaves and gives them their full; the wedding couple embarrassingly runs out of refreshments until Jesus turns water into wine. Jesus uses his power because he loves us and wants to smooth rough edges and purify our hearts and lives until we join him in Paradise.
But, still the question remains and is very real,
“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”
And you know the answer: “Nothing!” for
“37 …. in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Jesus sees to it that his people come through the difficult days supreme, as conquerors! Paul has a long list of attackers that Jesus defeated for us:
“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…”
There are no loopholes….
“Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I know there are days when you are scared, whether from movies, mechanical failures, amusement attractions or deadly terrorist attacks. Perhaps they all serve to remind us that we may not feel like conquerors living in this world. IN fact, sitting here today you may not feel much like a conqueror at all. But, that’s okay. Shall we trust in God who made this world and sent Jesus to save us or in our feelings? Would you rather believe the God who never lies or your emotions? Put your trust in Jesus who has the power of love for you that is great.
You’ve probably had conversations with people who complain about Christians: my neighbor claims to be a Christian and hollers at his wife and kids all the time. OR My Boss claims to be a Christians but he doesn’t treat people fairly. OR (You fill in Christians you know that don’t act like it). We might even acknowledge that some Christians are fooling themselves or even faking it. But, no one can speak a word against Jesus. That’s why we trust in him. We are broken. We are helpless. We are scared and terrorized by the world around us. But, our hope is in Jesus’ Power that Conquers All. Jesus’ power frees us from the curse of sin. Jesus’ power loves us to pay for all our sins when he died on the cross. Therefore, this Lenten season, continue to trust in Jesus and for nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Amen!