April 7, 2024


God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 43

Romans 8:31 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney

The renowned Niagara Falls is actually made up of three falls, Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.  The largest of the three by far is Horseshoe falls with a roaring torrent of angry water gushing nearly 700,000 gallons per second over a 188-foot steep cliff.  Right before the falls, there are violent, turbulent rapids.  Farther upstream, however, where the river’s current flows more gently, boats are able to safely navigate. Just before the Welland River empties into the Niagara, a pedestrian walkway spans the river.  It seems there use to be a sign posted on the bridge’s pylons that warning boaters: Do you have an anchor? Followed by, Do you know how to use it?  Believing that God is for you is one thing, but knowing how to apply this great truth in your life when you find yourself in the turbulent rapids of doubt and disappointment is another thing. 

The apostle Paul has shown us in the earlier part of 8 that God will not spare us from pain and problems in this life, but that He has a purpose in them all: to make us like His own Son and that the difficulties of this life are not worth comparing the magnificent future God has for us.  Now, in these last nine verses of chapter 8, Paul takes us to a mountain top of truth that lifts our hearts to a new understanding of God’s love for us.  

One thing we need to remember, one thing that will serve as the anchor of our faith through no matter what difficulty we experience in this life is to know what it means that God is for us. James puts it this way: Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it(James 1:22-25, NLT).  God does not want us to come to church to hear His Word, look in the mirror as it were, then completely forget it the moment we leave.  James says we’re only fooling ourselves if we think that is what real faith is. That’s not the kind of faith God wants to bless.  The kind of faith God wants to bless is an obedient faith, a faith that has been carefully thought through and owned.  This is the kind of faith that transforms, strengthens, sustains, and builds confidence in the face of adversity; a faith that doesn’t leave us when we need it most.  If you have ever wondered what kept Job faithful to God, or what kept others who’ve gone through hell on earth close to God, this passage answers the question.

Read Romans 8:31-39.  Paul begins, What shall we say to all these things?  What things? The magnificent and overwhelming truths that he’s carefully listed in chapter eight.  Such truths that through our faith in Christ we have been adopted into God’s family (v.15), that we are fellow heirs with Christ (v.17), that we have received the Spirit as a guarantee of our final redemption (v.23), that He intercedes for us in prayer when our hearts are too weak and weighed down with life (v. 26), that though we are sinners by nature, through faith we have been forgiven, acquitted of all wrong (v. 30), that our future glorification is so certain God speaks of it as having already happened (v.30). What more could possibly be said? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can successfully be against us? This is a good place to make a distinction between security and assurance.  The security of our salvation has to do with God.  The assurance of our salvation has to do with us. If you are a believer, your salvation is secure because our security depends on God.  But you can be a believer who has security but lacks assurance. In Romans 8 Paul is showing us why we are secure so that we can have assurance. 

Respected 17th century commentator Matthew Henry writes Paul makes a challenge, throws down the gauntlet, as it were, dares all the enemies of the saints to do their worst: If God be for us, who can be against us?  Who Can Successfully Be Against Us? The Bible tells us there are three battle fronts we face in this life, three main enemies we need to be aware of that will try to rob us of the certainty of God’s love for us: 1) The World, 2) The Flesh, & 3) The Devil. 

  1. The world. Can the world rob us of our great salvation in Christ? It can’t steal a believer’s salvation, but it can open the door to a great deal of unnecessary confusion and pain as well as hinder our growth. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4). 

During his final and tearful goodbye with the Ephesian elders, Paul clearly warned them that soon after he left savage wolves, even some of their own, would try to destroy the confidence of their faith in Christ. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves’ men will arise, speaking perverse things (misleading things), to draw away the disciples after them. “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified(Acts 20:28-32).  Paul’s warning is still relevant more than two-thousand years later.  There are savage wolves today trying sway believers away from the sound teaching of the Bible.  In fact, they are on the rise. But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). 

One of the fastest growing belief systems in America today is what is known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD).  According to the Cultural Research Center out of Arizona Chrisitan University, it is the most popular worldview in the US today.  You may have never heard the name, but you’ll recognize its beliefs.  Nearly four of 10 adults (38%) are more likely to embrace elements of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism than other popular worldviews, including Biblical Theism (or the biblical worldview), Secular Humanism, Postmodernism, Nihilism, Marxism (along with its offshoot, Critical Theory) and Eastern Mysticism (or “New Age”).Three out of four people (74%) who embrace MTD consider themselves to be Christians.  This is what Paul was talking about more than two-thousand years ago. 

According to Dr. George Barna, CRC Director of Research, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism—which he describes as “fake Christianity”—is a worldview that is defined and driven by current culture more than by historic religious truths or a comprehensive and coherent doctrine. 

What are its beliefs?Belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives. People are supposed to be good to each other (i.e., moral).  The universal purpose of life is being happy and feeling good about oneself. There are no absolute moral truths. God allows “good people” into Heaven. God places very limited demands on people.  

The same study gave some percentages of how their beliefs conflict with the basic teaching of the Bible. 91% Do not believe that people are sinful and need salvation through Jesus Christ.

88%Trust sources other than the Bible for moral guidance. 76%Contend that good people get to Heaven through good behavior. 71%Do not believe that the Bible is true and reliable communication from God.  According to Barna,“Practitioners of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism are not anti-religion or anti-Christianity. They just are not willing to surrender themselves to authentic Christianity’s demands—or to believe that a real faith would even make such demands of them.” (CRC Staff | Apr 27, 2021).  

Scary.  But God promises us the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). False teaching as deceptive as this cannot keep a real believer out of Heaven. But it can create a lot of confusion for an unbelieving world.

  1. The flesh Another adversary to our confidence in God’s salvation is ourselves.  Paul warns us in Philippians 3 not to put any confidence in the flesh.  

Too often we base God’s love and acceptance of us on our performance.  We stumble, mess up, do the wrong thing and we wonder if and how God can still love us.  You need to know God unconditionally loves and accepts you even when you feel like you’re not very loveable. Let’s face it, sometimes we’re not very lovable!  The Bible says God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).  In other words, it is God’s nature to love us irrespective of whether you’re lovable or not.  

Sometimes we’re hit with a double whammy though.  Not only do we feel unlovable, but to make matters worse, everything is falling apart around us.  Life is not going well, home life is not good, work is a struggle, and we wonder if we’ve done something to really tick God off.  God says, I want you to know My love for you doesn’t change even when you’re going through difficult trials.Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor nay any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35,37-39).  Nothing, absolutely nothing can threaten God’s love and acceptance of you.  

If you’re allowing your circumstances to be a gauge of God’s love and acceptance it means you’re basing your security on your circumstances, or your flesh, and not God who is greater than your circumstances and your flesh. Neither your character nor your circumstances determine God’s love and acceptance.  You cannot do anything to merit God’s unconditional and uninvited love.  Here’s what God is saying, “Step out in faith, put your ultimate security in Me, take Me at My Word.”It’s that simple.  If you base your sense of security on anything else, you’re setting yourself up for a rollercoaster ride of insecurity and doubt.  Choosing to believe and act on the truth of God’s Word – that God fully loves and accepts you is the foundation to living a secure life. 

David Livingstone was one of Great Britain’s great heroes in the late 19th century.  As a pioneer medical missionary, his fame reached an almost mythical status.  But it was his resilient faith in Christ that he is the most remembered for. You can hear his determined faith in the words he penned: Nothing earthly will make me give up my work in despair.  Livingstone’s favorite Bible verse was Matthew 28:20 Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. His biographers tell us that whenever he was confronted with some special danger or difficulty, he would write the text afresh in his journal, adding the words: It is the word of a Gentleman of the strictest and most sacred honor, and that’s the end of it!  The world and the flesh, no matter how convincing, will never be successful against us. Why? If God is for you, who can be against you?

  1. The devilThe Bible calls the devil, the accuser of our brethren (Revelation 12:10). He accuses believers before God both day and night.  He fits the category for which Paul says I am convinced that any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God(Romans 8:39).  He is called the “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Or “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). Interestingly He is neither omniscient – all knowing, omnipotent – all powerful, omnipresent – all present, only God is all knowing, all powerful, all present.  Satan is a created being (Isa. 14:12) that served as one God’s top cherubim (angels who serve as guardians of God’s holiness) (Ezek. 28:12-15).  After trying to usurp God’s throne (Isa. 14:12), Satan and a third of Heaven’s angels, whom he deceived, were thrown out Heaven.  The Bible says he now disguises himself as an angel of light trying to fool the world (2 Cor. 11:14). Jesus calls him the father of lies (John 8:44), the one who comes to kill, still, and destroy (John 10:10).  The devil and his fallen angels, we know as demons, hate God and all that God loves. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). Yet not even Satan and all the forces of Hell can nullify God’s work of grace in securing your salvation. They will try, but they cannot and will not succeed.  Why? If God is for you, who can be against you? 

Years ago, while preparing for a short-term mission’s trip in the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, a small group us stayed in Sweden for a few days.  While we were there, we had the opportunity to visit a zoo outside of Stockholm.  When we came to where the lions were kept, we had to step down into a concrete bunker like enclosure.  All that separated us from the lions was a thin miserable looking chain-link fence.  It just so happened that the lions were being fed at the same time. They let it be known we were interrupting their dinner with a number of loud spine-chilling roars that bounced off the walls all around us.  My heart started racing and the hair went up on the back of my neck!  I was reminded of Peter’s words that the devil , prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith

The world, the flesh, or the devil will try to create doubt, deceive, or discourage you from believing you can be separated from God’s secure love.  But they will never be successful.  Why? If God is for us, who can be against us?  Paul’s statement shows the utter futility of the opposition of the world, the devil, or the flesh to attempt to separate us from the love of God.  

Nothing can separate you from the security of God’s love. But you may be struggling with assurance. It may be because you doubt the reality of your commitment to Christ.  You’re either saved or you’re not.  There is no in between. No one grows into salvation.  Doubt may cause us to ask: Did I really trust Christ?  If you’re not sure call on the name of the name of the Lord again and again if necessary. Ultimately, assurance comes from taking God at His Word. 

You may wonder, did I trust Jesus in the right way? Did I say all the right words, do all the right things? Romans 10:9-10 says if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:9-10). 

What if there is sin in your life? Maybe some serious sin? If you continue to live in sin you need to make sure you really trusted Christ in the first place. we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth (1 John 1:6, NLT). Security is never a license to sin.  Believers are not sinless, but they should sin less.  James says we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2).  But true believers will both grow in greater Christ-likeness. 

A number of years ago the young wife of a missionary shared about her past that left her listeners stunned.  It seems that when she was a student attending Bible school, she robbed her employer of thousands of dollars of merchandise.  Her guilt consumed her, and she admitted her sin to her employer asking his forgiveness.  She then learned to paint so effectively that her earnings from painting paid off the debt and led her employer to Christ. When someone asked how she could be so open about her past, she threw her arms wide and with a great smile said, “When all is forgiven, there is nothing to hide, and where there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear.”

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