************ Sermon on Romans 8:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 29, 2016
"Not Worth Comparing"
SHEMA sings John 1:1-5; Romans 8:16-25; Revelation 21:1-5
About thirty years ago the psychology department of Duke University carried on an interesting experiment. They wanted to see how long rats would swim. In one container they placed a rat for whom there was no possibility of escape. He swam a few moments and then ducked his head to drown. In the other container they made the hope of escape possible for the rat. The rat swam for several hours before finally drowning. The conclusion of the experiment was just the opposite of our common conclusion. We usually say, "As long as there is life, there is hope." The Duke experiment proved, "As long as there is hope, there is life."
Our Bible text this evening focuses on the Christian's hope.
This year SHEMA has been singing about the Christian's hope under the theme of "Everything New." This is based upon the words of Jesus in Revelation 21:5: "I am making everything new."
I The Need for Hope
A One of the key phrases in our text for this evening is "our present sufferings." We need hope because of "our present sufferings." Because of "our present sufferings" we need hope, badly. We need hope in this broken down, mixed up, fallen world. For without hope there is no life. Our Bible reading, with the rest of Romans, identifies four kinds of sufferings.
First, we need hope because we are sinners. Though God made us to love, our natural tendency is to hate God and neighbor. We are so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil. We are so corrupt that we actually increase our guilt every day. Some of you might think I am overstating the case. So, let me remind you of what Paul -- under the inspiration of the Spirit -- wrote in Romans 3:
(Rom 3:10-18) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (13) "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." (14) "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." (15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery mark their ways, (17) and the way of peace they do not know." (18) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."There you have it: we are broken, we are sinners, we are fallen, we are incapable of love.
What is God's response to this? You all need to know God is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge He can't overlook our sin nor can He let us off lightly. Instead, He has declared curses and condemnation on us. Paul puts it this way in chapter 1:
(Rom 1:18) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men ...As sinners we deserve only one thing from the hand of God: we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after.
So, we need hope as sinners. The hope of the Gospel. The hope of forgiveness. The hope of being made right with God.
B Second, we need hope with creation. Paul makes a curious comparison in verses 19 & 20. Paul personifies the physical universe. He makes it sound like animals, plants, rocks, and seas -- like man -- have emotions and desires, that they are thinking and feeling beings. According to Paul, creation is longing for something, hoping for something. Creation is eagerly longing/hoping for the day when the sons of God will be revealed.
Why is the creation longing, waiting so eagerly? "For the creation was subjected to frustration" (Rom 8:20), and is in "bondage to decay" (Rom 8:21). You need to realize that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they brought God's judgment down upon themselves and upon the creation. Do you remember how the creation, too, was condemned? God said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you" (Gen 3:17). Creation did not sin; Adam did. But creation was subjected to a downgrading because of Adam and thus entered into Adam's judgment. Creation was placed under the divine curse as part of the punishment of the human race. Under God's judgment, creation is suffering "decay" and "frustration."
We see the decay and frustration of creation in a multitude of ways. I have biked to Parkfield a couple of times. It is over the costal range from Coalinga and is right on the San Andreas fault. One of the things I look at there is a wall built sometime in the 1930's that spans the fault. The wall is now in two parts -- more than 30 feet apart -- because of earthquakes and the movement of the plates. This means that in two million years Visalia will be beachfront property. Think, also, of the might and destruction of a volcano, tornado, hurricane, tsunami. Think of all the death and decay in the animal world with the survival of the fittest and the big and strong preying on the weak and helpless.
Creation is suffering. That's what Paul is saying. And, because we are part of creation, we suffer with it.
We need hope with creation. Hope for renewal. Hope for freedom. Hope that everything will be made right.
C Third, there is the suffering we experience with all other humans as part of the human race. "Change and decay in all around I see," says one of the song writers. Some of our people lead a life of constant pain and suffering. I think of a lady who is in a nursing home. She wants to get out. She wants to do stuff. But she just lays there in constant pain. I think of another lady who underwent more than 20 different surgeries before her life of suffering was ended by death. So much physical hurt and pain. I tried to visit someone last week and he had to rush off to the doctor because he started to bleed from a recent surgery. Someone else couldn't keep an appointment because they she was dealing with a terrible tooth ache.
And then there is the emotional and psychological pain we cause each other: family fights, friend betraying friend, wayward children, divorce and separation, sexual and physical abuse, and the list goes on and on.
There is so much suffering that we experience as part of the human race. So we need hope. We need hope that someday the pain and suffering will end. Hope that perfection will reign.
D Fourth, there is the suffering we experience as Christians. Paul mentions in verse 17 that we share in the sufferings of Christ.
Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew what it was to suffer for Christ, to suffer as a Christian. He had been beaten, stoned, thrown in prison, hounded like a dog, shipwrecked, rejected by his people. He knew hunger and thirst, exhaustion and poverty (cf 2 Cor 11:24-27).
In this life and in this world we can expect to suffer for Christ, we can expect to suffer as Christians. Listen to these verses of Scripture:
(Lk 9:23) If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
(2 Tim 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ... (cf 1 Pet 4:1; Jn 15:18-19)
So, we need hope. We need hope that things will get better. We need hope that the suffering will end. We need hope.
II Glory Greater than Suffering
A Suffering. Suffering. Suffering. Our world is full of suffering and pain. It truly is a vale of tears. Into this situation -- our situation -- of pain and suffering comes the good news of the Gospel. Because of Christ, because of His death and resurrection and ascension and return, we have hope. Notice how Paul puts it in our text:
(Rom 8:18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Paul wants us to imagine a scale -- not the digital scales we use today but the old fashioned kind with two weighing pans suspended from two arms. The same kind of scales held by Lady Justice.
On the one side of the scale Paul puts the sufferings of this present time. All of his sufferings. All of your sufferings. All of creation's sufferings. When Paul puts these in the balance, you would think the scale would fall over from all the weight. Yet, what does Paul say to the Corinthians about the troubles, trials, and sufferings of this life? Paul says they are "light and momentary" (2 Cor 4:17). Do you hear what Paul says about pain and suffering? It has no weight. It lasts for no time. Not to diminish the pain. Not to make light of the pain. Not to pretend the pain does not happen.
On the other side of the scale Paul puts glory. "Glory," you may say to yourself. "What is the weight of glory?" Consider this: did you know that in the Old Testament "glory" denotes the weight and majesty of God's presence. Unlike the weight of suffering, the weight of glory is not "light and momentary." Rather, it is great and eternal.
So, what happens when you put suffering on one side of the scale and glory on the other side of the scale? Or, to put it another way, what happens when human suffering is put opposite of God's glory? "I consider," says Paul. Another translation says, "I reckon ..." (KJV). Whatever translation we use the idea is that Paul makes a calculation like a book-keeper balancing an account. He weighs suffering on the one side and glory on the other. He sums up what we pay out in suffering and finds this to be very little; he then sums up what is secured for us in Christ and finds this to be an infinite sum.
So, what happens when you put suffering on one side of the scale and glory on the other side of the scale? No matter how you weigh it, the scales always go down on the glory side and always go up on the suffering side. No matter how you weigh it, future glory always outweighs present suffering. Is it because the suffering is so light and so momentary? No, it is because the glory is so great and eternal. So great, in fact, that next to it pain and suffering seem light and momentary.
Think of what this means. There is no suffering so great that it is greater than glory. There is no evil so bad that it is bigger than good. There is no darkness so dark that it chases away the light. Today there is pain and grief when loved ones die; but here, too, the glory outweighs and outshines the suffering.
"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." We have identified the pain and the suffering but what is the glory? What is Paul talking about?
Is our glory the beachfront property I was talking about earlier? Is our glory the things of this earth: money, pleasure, fame, family, health, a brand new bike, a Microsoft Surface Pro with an i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM? Is our glory a happy and fulfilling marriage with lots of wonderful grandchildren?
B First of all, Paul is talking of the glory of being with Christ. What do you think that is like? I can only answer by looking at John's experience when he was in the presence of the Lord. John, if you remember, was in the Spirit. He heard a loud voice like a trumpet. He turned to see the voice and saw someone "like a son of man." What he saw was absolutely glorious: robe down to His feet, golden sash around His chest, head and hair white like wool, eyes like blazing fire, feet like bronze glowing in a furnace, voice like the sound of rushing waters, in His right hand He held seven stars, out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword, His face was like the sun shining in all its glory. Remember John's reaction? "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead" (Rev 1:17). This is the weight of glory. That is our future hope.
But there is more. John also saw a throne. At the center of the throne is God and the Lamb. Surrounding the throne are a series of circles, each circle bigger than the last. In the first circle before the throne are seven blazing lamps or spirits, then an emerald rainbow, then four living creatures, then twenty-four elders, then the crystal sea, then thousands of angels, then every other creature in heaven and on earth and on the sea. And all of them are singing the praises of God:
(Rev 5:13) "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"This, too, is the weight of glory. This will also be our experience.
But there is still more to the Christian's hope. Someday our body will be raised from the grave -- a perfect body like Christ's perfect body. Someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Someday we will live a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. What is this life like?
(Rev 21:3-4) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."This, too, is the weight of glory. This will also be our experience in the future.
C The weight of glory. I want you to notice it is centered on Jesus. It is all about Jesus and not about me. Its focus is the worship of Jesus the glorious Lamb. Its result is to be like Jesus. Its goal is to be with Jesus both now and forevermore.
The weight of glory is not something we earn. This is not something we purchase. This is not something that is ours because of all our prayers and sighs and tears. Nothing we feel or do gives us this.
Notice what Paul says in verse 17? He talks of being "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). That says it all. An heir is not more deserving, smarter, or better looking than any other member of the human race. An heir is a child. In our case, an adopted child. Adopted by grace through faith.
"Everything New." Thank you, SHEMA, for singing about this.
Will this be your experience? Is this your hope?
If you are not a Christian, you go from suffering to even more suffering. You go from the suffering of this earth to the agony and pain and torment and suffering of everlasting hell fire. This is a horrible place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
However, if you are a Christian, if you believe in Jesus, then you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. If you are a Christian, your hope is to go from suffering to glory.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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