************ Sermon on Romans 8:38-39 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 18, 2020
Anxious. Bored. Confused. Depressed. Lots of people are struggling with such feelings today. Anxious. Bored. Confused. Depressed. ABCD.
Many reasons for this. First, COVID. COVID is bringing out the worst in people as they sit at home instead of work. Alcohol consumption is up, way up. Crime is down but domestic abuse is up, way up. Lots of couples are seeking marriage counseling. The divorce rate is climbing. Suicide is way up -- even in the military. Because of wedding venues being closed, young couples are living together in increasing numbers instead of getting married. Online learning for many of our nation's children is not working and an entire school year is in danger of being lost. Our elderly are locked up, locked out, and desperate for companionship. And, with the economic closedown, the number of poor, hungry, and homeless worldwide has increased dramatically.
Second, the news. The news is filled with angry people. We can't believe the news on the left or the right because they all have an agenda and prove the words of the psalmist that all men are liars (Ps 116:11). I get so disgusted with the news I literally have not watched a broadcast since November 2016.
Third, politics and riots. Black Lives Matter. Stores looted. Buildings burned. People fighting. We watch with dismay as our country is being torn apart. And in our biggest cities the governing authorities do nothing about this.
Fourth, the upcoming election. What is going to happen November 3? If the Democrats win, how far to the left are we going to go? Are they going to stack the Supreme Court with additional appointments? Are they going to take away our rights and religious freedoms? Is the church going to be persecuted, and in what way?
Fifth, funerals and weddings. Most funerals have been reduced to graveside ceremonies with a handful of people. For instance, Bernice Visser talked to me about her funeral; she figured there would be over 300 people; instead, there were 18 of us. Wedding plans have been postponed, reduced, or cancelled. People should be together in such situations to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. But they aren't.
Sixth, churches. Christian Renewal reports that one in six churches are expected to shut their doors because of COVID. Twenty percent of church members are expected to stop attending. Whereas in India, the church is growing by the same amount because it is the church rather than the government that distributes food and supplies.
Anxious. Bored. Confused. Depressed. ABCD. My dad was this way as he was dying. Nellie Prys and Celia Groen too.
In this setting I turn to Romans 8. Romans 8 is medicine for the soul. It offers comfort, strength, and encouragement for those who are anxious, bored, confused, depressed -- including us!
The most important phrase in our text is "nor anything." As in nor anything, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In verse 35, Paul mentions seven things a believer might experience -- Paul experienced all of them: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword. Notice how they increase in intensity. Paul asks if any of these -- from trouble all the way to death by the sword -- can possibly tear a believer away from victory in Jesus? His conclusion is NOTHING. None of them can tear a believer away from the loving arms of God.
In verse 38 Paul continues the list with ten more things a believer might experience.
In between the two lists, Paul quotes from Psalm 44:
(Rom 8:36) As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."Do you know why Paul quotes Psalm 44? He is reminding his readers that in this life the people of God must face much affliction (cf Jn 16:33), including even martyrdom, being killed by the sword. In the early days of the church one or more Christians were martyred every day.
Paul's second list continues where the first one ended: with death. Paul mentions the extremes of existence. Again, Paul emphasizes the Christian's certainty, the Christian's surety, that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
"Death" cannot tear a believer away from God's embrace. The loss of life may be our greatest fear, but Jesus holds the keys to death and Hades. He stands on the opposite side of death, and death actually brings us to Him.
"Life" cannot do it. Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us in this life. He promises to be with us always. And He is with us in divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit.
"Angels" cannot do it. As servants of God they never would want to. But Paul means they lack the power to do this.
"Demons" cannot do it. Paul is thinking of fallen angels and spiritual forces that oppose God's rule over the universe. Jesus defeated them at the cross (Col 2:13-15).
"The present" cannot do it. "The future" cannot do it.
"Nor any powers." Spiritual powers. Satanic powers. Temporal powers. Governing authorities.
"Neither height nor depth" can do it. Nothing overhead or underneath can suddenly come swooping down or up to sever believers from God's love.
"Nor anything else in all creation." Not ABCD. Not anxiety. Not boredom. Not confusion. Not depression. None of these can tear us away from the loving arms of God.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are secure in this love. Safe in this love. Surrounded and covered and comforted by this love. We have victory in this love.
In light of this, I want to end with verse 37. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Christians are "more than conquerors." Another possible translation is hyper-conqueror or super-conqueror. Christians are hyper-conquerors. Christians are super-conquerors. Do you hear what Paul is saying? Paul is saying Christians cannot lose. They cannot be overcome. They are victorious. They are like Super Man.
I always stand amazed that these words were said by Paul. Because by almost every standard, Paul was anything but victorious. By almost every standard, Paul was anything but a conqueror.
(2 Cor 11:24-27) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, 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 own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (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.Doesn't this sound like he is more of a loser than a conqueror?! Yet, Paul describes himself -- and every believer -- as a conqueror, as a super and hyper-conqueror.
Why? How are we super-conquerors? Because of "the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is the love, don't forget, that sent Jesus to take our punishment. This is the love that sent Jesus to give us His righteousness and His life. The love of God in Christ is the strongest, most steady, firm, unbending, solid, substantial, constant, uniform, dependable force in the universe.
I keep telling Alexander, my grandson, that I wish someone would love me as much as I love him. He smiles and says he loves me that much. But Paul tells us of someone who loves us more, way more. That someone is Jesus,
In the Christ Who loves us you are a super-conqueror. In the Christ Who loves us you have overcome. In the Christ Who loves us you are victorious. Think about this in terms of ABCD:
-Anxious - no more.
-Bored - no longer.
-Confused - never again.
-Depressed - no need.
Now, let me add the letter E to how we can describe our feelings in this sad, broken world. E for Ecstatic. Or, E for Exalted. Or, E for Exhilarated. That is also our experience. In Christ. Because of Christ.
Do you suffer from ABCD? Realize that you are a super-conqueror in Christ. Realize that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. Realize the letter E applies to you.
Paul is talking to Christians. If you are not a Christian, then you are already separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If you are not a Christian then death is the end and something to fear. If you are not a Christian, I beg you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. For, if you believe you also will be a super-conqueror. And, nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from the love of God in Christ.
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