Sunday, 11 December 2016

Romans 8:28-39 More than Conquerors

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Introduction

Today, special occasion celebrating baptism of Logan & Summer.

We are entrusting them to God’s care, and praying that as they grow up they will come to know and love God.

Famous Chinese proverb states “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Today marks the first step for Logan & Summer on the journey of faith. Our hope & prayer is that as they grow up, they will discover for themselves the love God has for them, and the plans and purposes He has for their lives.

But what is a Christian?

Many people have the wrong idea about what it means to be a Christian, and how you become a Christian.  Being born in Britain doesn’t make you a Christian, anymore than being born in a MacDonalds restaurant would make you a hamburger.

Some people think a Christian is a good person, you might hear them say “I try to live a Christian life” – but what they really mean is “I try to be a good person.” But that doesn’t make you a Christian.

Some people say a Christian is someone who goes to church, which although vitally important, doesn’t make you a Christian. You can come to church & still not be a Christian.

Others would say if you’ve been baptised you’re a Christian, but although baptism is essential for Christians, baptism itself doesn’t make you a Christian.

No, a Christian is someone who has a relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ his son.  It is someone who has put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and who has made an active decision to follow Jesus. If we’re serious about following Jesus, it will affect every aspect of our lives, our relationships, what we do with our time and money, our priorities in life, and so forth.

And if we want Logan & Summer to grow in their relationship with God, then they’re going to need support and encouragement in this. That is why in the baptism service, the parents and godparents were asked will you pray for Logan & Summer, and draw them by your example into the community of faith, and walk with them in the way of Christ, and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?

Thinking back to the idea of faith as a journey, if you’re visiting relatives with your child, you don’t just put the baby on a bus or train by itself, and send them on their way, hoping they arrive safely at their destination, you travel with them.  The same is true in the journey of faith.

Not Alone – the Church

But we’re not alone on this journey.

We have God’s family, the church, which is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the church being one body made up of many different parts. We each have a part to play in God’s family, and every single member is important, from the youngest to the oldest. 

The point about a family is it’s a place where you belong, a place where you are known, loved, and supported. That’s why the church exists, so that we can encourage and support one another on this journey of faith. Because like any journey, there will be good times, when the going is easy, but there will also be times when the going tough, and that’s why don’t live our Christian lives in isolation, we are called to love, support and encourage one another.  That is why the author of the letter of Hebrews writes ‘do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.’ (Hebrews 10:25)

We also have God.

Not Alone – God

We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, dwelling with us. This is the presence of Jesus himself.

There is an old children’s song which goes ‘Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so.’

But as Christians the knowledge that Jesus loves us, comes not just from the Bible, but from the reality of God’s presence in our lives. 

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

When we open our hearts to Jesus, he comes and fills us with the presence of his Holy Spirit. And with this comes the knowledge that we are loved, and forgiven, and the Holy Spirit helps us to know God personally. 

And as we experience the presence of God in our lives, there comes the reassurance that God is at work in our lives, and that NOTHING can ever separate us His love.

In All Things

Paul in our reading from Romans writes “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God is concerned with your life and mine.  He's not a distant remote God, who stands from afar watching us as we struggle our way through life. But he is active in the affairs of our lives. In all things God works for the good of those who love him.

God loves us, and cares for us, and wants what is best for us. This doesn’t mean however, that we always get what we want. As a parent, I don’t always give my children what they want, because it is not always in their best interest, but I always try to do what is best for them.

Nor is Paul saying that if you’re a Christian you’ll be free from troubles, and that life will be easy, and that things will always work out the way you want. Life doesn’t work like that. We will still face disappointment, rejection, tiredness, sickness, loss, and death just like everyone else. In fact Jesus warned those that would wish to follow him to expect opposition.  ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ (John 15:20)

But what Paul writes, is that all situations and circumstances of our lives, both the good and the bad, God is not working to make us happy, but fulfilling his divine purposes for us & his world. 
Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, we often only see a small part of it, and the bit we do see doesn’t always make much sense. But God sees the big picture, He has an eternal master plan which he is working towards, which includes us.

God can even use the bad and difficult situations we face for good. For example, in the OT we read about Joseph. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, then rises to a position of responsibility, only to be falsely accused of something he hadn’t done, and thrown back into prison and forgotten about by everyone but God. But even in this difficult and dark times, God was at work, and put him in a place where he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which resulted in Joseph being given a position of responsibility that made him the most important person in Egypt after Pharaoh, so that ultimately God could use Joseph to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including his own brothers. Although Joseph experienced kidnapping, slavery, false accusations, wrongful imprisonment, rejection & famine, God was at work in his life.

And because God works in all things, he is able to take and redeem our mistakes, the things we regret, the things we're ashamed of, and use them for good.

Examples:

Yvonne Garbett - experience of alcoholism, now helping others with alcoholism.

Justyn Rees Larcomb - seemed to have everything, a great job in the city with a big salary, a lovely home, wife and children. But he got sucked into gambling, it started with a simple £5 online bet, but quickly got out of control, becoming a £10,000 a day addiction. He hid his problem from his family and his colleagues, but in the end lost his dream house, his job, his family & his reputation. He’d been a Christian for much of his life, but realized he'd neglected God, and turned back to God, and started to get help for his gambling addiction.   Slowly, with help and support from other Christians and charities that support people with gambling, he has turned his life around, and now helps others who struggle with addiction problems, including Gambling.

Gill Beasley - death of daughter Rachel 20 years ago, led her to found the Walsall MacMillan Cancer Group.

The promise that God works for the good of those who love him, doesn't mean that all that happens to us is good, but it means God is able to turn it around for good.

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love

Paul goes on to write that for those who put their trust & faith in God, nothing at all will be able to separate us from God’s love.

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.”[b]
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,[c] 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.

Conclusion

Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. He dived into the cool water, not realising that as he swam towards the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.

His mother in the house was looking out of the window and saw the alligator bearing down on her son. In utter fear, she ran toward the water yelling to her son as loudly as she could.

Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and started swimming toward his mother. But it was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him. From the dock the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug of war between the two.

The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much to passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, and hearing her screams raced from his truck with his shot gun, and shot the alligator.

Remarkably the little boy survived, but his legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the alligator, and on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother's fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

A local newspaper reporter came to interview the boy and asked if he could show him his scars. The boy lifted up his trousers, and then with obvious pride, he said to the reporters. "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms too. I have them because my mum wouldn't let go."

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars too, not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic. But the scars we have picked up through life, the hurts, disappointments, rejections, failures,. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But some wounds, my friends, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.