If God is for us, who can be against us?
Dear Friends in Christ,
Doubt is very unsettling. That’s not a great revelation to anyone, is it? There are certain statements that really get under my skin. Probably at the top of the list is when a divorcing couple says that “the children are handling the divorce real well.” I have talked to the kids. They are NOT handling the divorce real well, and it often shows up years later.
Children, even though they don’t say it to Mom and Dad, are scared and uncertain. They want and need security. They aren’t getting it. Who am I going to live with? Will I ever see my dad or mom much at all? Will we have to move? Will I have to go to a different school? Will I lose all my friends? The effects of that insecurity show up later in life. Because of a divorce by parents the children are often wary of commitment later in life. I have sat across the desk from many who shed tears that resulted from problems caused by the trauma of a childhood divorce.
Today we complete our sermon series on “Profound Bible Questions.” These words address the great need for certainty when it comes to our relationship to the LORD God. This question is so appropriate on Reformation Sunday. In many respects the Reformation was all about Martin Luther’s refusal to allow his conscience, his teachers, his church’s teaching take away the certainty he came to know from Scripture that God loved him. Today the question comes from one of the greatest of all chapters of the Bible, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Let’s talk about 1) The frustration of uncertainty; but 2) The fact of certainty.
Did this ever happen to you? You back out of your garage. Something catches your eye on the floor of the garage. It’s kind of a dark color. You get out of your car and there is an oil spot. Your car is leaking oil. Your mind fills with all kinds of awful thoughts. You need to go to work but you begin to wonder if it is a good idea. There must be a bad gasket. Will it suddenly get worse and go from spot to blotch? What happens if the oil hits the exhaust system and starts a fire? Doubt!
You need a friend who knows cars. You need someone who can give a good evaluation. If the car is old, maybe it is time to get rid of it. You need someone who will give you the straight scoop.
As we celebrate the Lutheran Reformation today, we remember that the people who should have given Martin Luther the straight scoop about his salvation were anything but reliable. It began in so many respects because Martin Luther had a tender conscience over his sin, but the church failed to help him. They withheld the truth about God’s love in the person and work of Jesus the Christ.
But that comforting message was not what Martin Luther heard from his teachers or from his church. He was told to try harder at being perfect. Luther once compared a tender conscience to a yapping dog that just continues to bark and bark and bark with the accusation of sin.
How did he try to correct the problem? That WAS the problem; HE tried to correct the problem. He was absolutely certain that if he died he was going to go to hell, because he wasn’t good enough for God. He set out on a life of attempting to appease God and please God. Through self-sacrifice he thought was a way to the Father’s heart. He tried all kinds of ways. He once wrote, “For almost fifteen years I wore myself out with self-sacrificing, tormenting myself with fasting, vigils, and other burdensome tasks with the idea of attaining this righteousness by my own works.” All he did was met with failure. An honest assessment only leads one to say, “No one is perfect and that includes me.”
There is another way to deal with the tender conscience. Toughen it up! Let it get hard. Accept everything. Anesthetize the conscience so it feels nothing. Accept abortion! Accept homosexuality! Be a proponent of living together outside of marriage! Forget this garbage about your body being a temple of the Holy Spirit stuff. Make it your goal in life to think that others owe you! What belongs to others is something I have a right to! Those who believe there us a line between right and wrong – ridicule them!
I was reading a bit about Martin Luther said this week. I found this interesting quote. Remember he was saying this in the 1500’s. “I hold that if the apostles had lived in such a time as this, in which sin and vice top everything, their conscience would have been entirely too tender to bear it. Be we have the hide of bears and wild hogs.” If Luther thought he was living inSodom andGomorrah in the 1500’s, where are we now where everything is out in the open? Part of our daily prayers ought to be that God give us a tender conscience. I don’t think there is too much that shocks us or drives us to our knees in repentance. God deserves better. What ought to be frustrating for most of us is that the moral compass inside of us has been knocked way out of whack. Our consciences seem like they have the skin of a wild hog.
We should pray for a conscience more like Luther’s when we miss opportunities to worship the Lord, to love and forgive but don’t. We ought to feel frustrated when we are lazy and lustful and lose our cool but rationalize it by saying, “It’s natural! Or I am only human!”
A sensitive conscience is preferred because it recognizes sin. A hardened conscience doesn’t so why would it need a Savior. But whether sensitive or hardened, neither is the answer to sin. Only Christ is that. That’s not fiction. That’s a fact. .
Romans 8 has a lot of good facts that leads to certainty. It begins with verse one. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The fact that God gave us Jesus proves that he is for us and not against us.
I love sports. In high school and college I was involved in sports athletically. An athlete is really given a lift when the crowd is behind him or her. In fact, in basketball, the crowd is often called the sixth man, or in football the crowd is the twelfth man.
But the sixth man and the twelfth man sit in the bleachers. God didn’t. He got into the middle of it all. Chapter 8 of Romans says, “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?” In the heavens above, our God reigns. He is not a God who loves the world in general and throws a few pious platitudes our way with words of honey. He is more than that. He is a God who demonstrates his love by offering his unique, one-of-a-kind Son in death on our behalf. He proves, once and for all, that he is for us and not against us in a most personal way. He did not spare his Son, but offered him up for us all. He did the heavy lifting. He lifted the burden of sin to himself removing it from us. He was lifted up on the cross to be punished in our place. You know what? That’s not a feeling; that’s a fact!
Let’s see another fact from Romans 8. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” We are taken into the celestial courtroom. The courtroom is filled with witnesses who want to point their accusing fingers at each of us. First is Satan. He takes the witness stand and speaks brazenly and boldly. He points out all our human weaknesses. He explains how he has exploited those weaknesses. He tells the Judge that we value all kinds of things more than the Lord. Look at the places where they spend their time. TV watching! Recreation! Wasting time! Look how much they do that compared to getting familiar with your Word, Lord. Where they spend time is what they value most! Look what’s on their minds! Look how little they value their worship. Look at what they think about even when they are supposed to worship. Look at their priorities! They prove they are mine more than yours, God!
The next on the stand is the world. He speaks. “I tempt them with money and they love it and want more. They are so greedy. I offered them pleasures and they love it and want more. Hey God, if you are against sin, then you have got to be against them. Just look at their lives.
The next witness is the conscience. Accusations are made left and right. Love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind and love their neighbor as themselves? Are you kidding me? They haven’t been close. Their minds are full of hate and lust and greed. If you recorded their thoughts and made them watch all the thoughts they have, they wouldn’t even be able to watch it because they would be so embarrassed. Unfortunately all of us would have to say, “Amen!” That’s so true to our shame. You are making me feel so bad, Mr. Conscience!
But God would remind us, There you go with your feelings again! Look at the facts. The fact is that the Judge is also the one who saves. He cancelled that debt of sin. The Judge paid for it all. He also replaced the failures with the perfect life of Christ. Remember the facts. You have a Savior who lived perfectly for you. You have a Savior who paid the guilt of sin himself for you. Those are the facts.
You know what else is a fact? “Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” The Bible tells us pretty clearly what God has done in the past to prove that he is for us and not against us. It happened two thousand years ago. He came to this world. He lived and died and he rose again. That happened 2,000 years ago. But Paul gives us still another fact in Romans 8. We are reminded that Jesus isn’t just hanging out and playing video games in the celestial arcade. He isn’t on his heavenly Lazy Boy watching his favorite teams – the angels and the saints. He is interceding for us.
Now what does that mean? That’s kind of hard to understand and completely comprehend. But we could imagine that the exalted Lord Jesus keeps saying, “Yes, Father, these children have sinned against you. But look! I gave myself for them. I paid their ransom. I paid the price – my holy and innocent blood. Look at them. They need and crave your pardon. You cannot deny their plea because I shed my blood for them.” He pleads for us. He intercedes for us.
There are a lot of things that give us doubts in life. We can’t always be sure of our health; family members can sometimes disappoint us; government can really do things that make us wonder. But never wonder or doubt God’s love. Our love might waver. His doesn’t. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”