The Great Eight (Part 13)

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:23-25 ESV). The Apostle Paul says in our reading today that we should set our hope on a redeemed body. Then he says, “We wait for it with patience” (v. 25). I’m not so sure I do a very good job of the patience part of that. Perhaps you have that same feeling. Let’s see if we can dig a little deeper and do better with the patience part of waiting. There is no doubt that we can hope for a redeemed body and still be God-centered. This is not selfish or self-centered. It is what God has created us to be. However, the real hope that brings peace and patience in the wait comes in the understanding of the resurrection. Sometimes it is difficult to get excited about heaven. It can seem that that going to heaven means leaving a wonderful world of excitement and entering a drab world of boredom. After all, who really wants to sit on a cloud and play harps and sing for eternity! Well, part of that lack of enthusiasm is in a misunderstanding of what heaven will be. So, let’s look at that for a few minutes today. God’s final purpose for us is not to have our soul or our spirit floating around without our body in some ghost-like mansion in the sky. His purpose for us is to raise our body from the dead and to make it new and beautiful and healthy and strong. His final purpose is not to take us away from the earth to spend eternity in heaven, but to make a new heaven and a new earth where we will live in happiness forever and ever. And if this new earth where we will live forever were going to be completely different from our present earth, then why would God bother to raise our bodies from the dead? Why not just start over with completely different bodies if he were going to start over with a completely different world? Well the answer is that the world will not be completely different. It is our old bodies that will be made new in the resurrection, and it is our old earth that will be made new when Jesus comes. Therefore, I can say with great confidence that if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and follow him as your Lord, there is nothing good and happy in your life on this earth that will ever be lost. Whatever is bad will be taken away, but all the good and happy experiences will be kept in the new earth forever. In every experience we really will go from death to life; from disappointment to joy; from dread to excitement. And, because that’s forever, I am now able to be more patient in this little while of a...

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The Great Eight (Part 12)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24 ESV). So the journey continues. Today I want us to think one aspect of our hope: There is coming a day when our bodies are going to be redeemed and there will be no more groaning. I have walked with many people in the midst of the most painful of moments. Marriages decades in the making suddenly and perhaps unexpectedly destroyed because of a broken promise; dreams of the future destroyed in the unexpected illness or death of a child or young parent; or, the increasing pain and difficulty of chronic illness as it erases the hopes and desires of the future. These are but a few of the things that might bring us to “groan” in life. So often I hear people who intone that “only time will heal.” Perhaps there is some truth in that statement in so far as the ultimate redemption of all things is still a future event; however, we miss an essential truth when we think the passing of time will dull our ache for freedom from the pain and challenge of life. The truth is that time, in itself, is powerless to transform hopelessness to hope, or death to life. Only God can do that. And, He will! We can have a genuine hope in the redemption of our bodies. Our reading declares that we, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Paul teaches us to hope for the redemption of our bodies. He says that it is all right not to want to hurt. It is all right to want to be out of the wheelchair and off the crutches and cortisone and pain relievers. It’s all right to want to see and hear like you could when you were twenty. It’s all right to want to be pretty and handsome and energetic and strong. It is right to want to be reunited with those who have been taken from us in death. This is the promise of a redeemed body when glory replaces groaning. The promise has at least three parts. I wish we could spend more time in each, but our journey is long enough as it is. However, here they are for your meditation and thought: God’s promise is that all pain and disease and deformity and disability will be gone in that day; all sin, which so often takes the body for its base of operations, will be gone; and, this is not because we will be rid of our bodies, but because in a mysterious and wonderfully spiritual way we will have new and glorious bodies which are capable of touch and smell and taste and hearing and seeing. Go ahead, groan today since you know that tomorrow your groans will cease in the power of God shown in the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross and in the...

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The Great Eight (Part 11)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV). To better understand this next paragraph in our journey through “the Great Eight” we will turn to another passage from the Apostle Paul. The principle in our reading is that peace in Christ Jesus that guard your heart and mind. To the Philippi Church he writes, The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 ESV). I wish this were easier to understand in the face of difficult circumstances and events in our lives. However, the difficulty does not diminish the truth. So, let’s unpack it a bit. We should first note the context of this promise. This is also where we find the condition: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (verse 6). God’s peace is promised to guard those who pray with thanksgiving about everything. This peace will transcend our ability to understand it. There is precedent to this in other readings. We see other gifts of God that are not fully comprehensible to us. The gift of salvation is “indescribable” (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15). The complexity and wisdom of God’s plan is inscrutable (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). Even the love of Christ is something so great we will never fully understand it (cf. Ephesians 3:19). Likewise, human reasoning is incapable of fully comprehending the peace of God. The believer who places their full confidence in a loving God becomes thankful in every circumstance; and, that results in the possession of a supernatural peace. It is an inner calm that will dominate the heart. The faithful believer will know peace; his heart and mind are “guarded” by it despite the tempest raging without. No one, especially those outside of Christ, will be able to fathom that peace. To most, it will remain a mystery how someone can be so serene in the midst of turmoil. Our focus is so “then” that the “now” pales in comparison. I often need that kind of peace. Don’t...

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The Great Eight (Part 10)

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:10-11 ESV). As I said at the beginning of this journey through the eighth chapter of Romans, we would be here for a while. Over the last ten days we have really just scratched the surface of the meaning of these principles. Today, we’re going to look again at a part of yesterday’s reading. Since its Valentine’s Day also, I thought the timing was good for us to examine what the gift of God’s grace means to us a bit more. It is centered in the work of redemption in Christ. Paul says, If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (v. 11). Let’s see if I can make this a bit clearer in a practical way. First, it means that our destiny, the end of this life, will be a “seat” in the heavenly places (cf. Ephesians 2:6).  To understand this image we need to recognize how the typical meal looked for the first century Jew. Today most people merely eat when they can and where they can. It is a necessary evil. In the Biblical context mealtime was an event. It affirmed kinship, friendship, and good will. The seating acknowledged your status and recognized a peaceful disposition and commitment to those at the table. It was a declaration of personal relationship. If we get a seat in the heavenly places with Jesus, it means we are a part of His family; we are trusted friends with a deep relationship. Jesus said, No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15 ESV). Second, in Christ Jesus all the promises of God are “yes” for us (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20). All of the “if/then” statements of Scripture are ours. All of these statements are more than promises; they are law. Laws are different than commandments in the Scripture. Laws always give us clear direction. It’s much like math. If you add one to one, you will always get two. You will never get less or more. You get two. There is incredible assurance in that truth. God is giving us great clarity in living our life. Believe in Jesus, get eternal life; sow good seed, get a good harvest. There are many more; however, here’s what so important for us to recognize. God is not selective with his children. We are all loved, because we are all redeemed. All of His promises are yours. That’s a real Valentine’s...

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The Great Eight (Part 9)

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:8-11 ESV). In this next section of “the Great Eight” the Apostle Paul begins with this very matter-of-fact declaration that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).  There are many descriptors that can be applied if we stop reading at this point. We could say that we are abandoned, rejected, worthless, ashamed, used, broken, abused, and condemned; however, Paul does not stop here. Every one of those words are crossed through in favor of that one word we all deeply long to experience. We are now redeemed. In Christ Jesus you are redeemed and forgiven for all our sins. In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. Here’s how the apostle writes to the Ephesians: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV). This is that mysterious process where we each become a new creation and a son of God in Christ Jesus. Most of you know how much I like to create new things in my woodshop. There is something very satisfying about taking rough cut lumber and working it until it becomes something beautiful and useful. Recently my granddaughter, Faith, had a project to do in her Social Studies class. They were studying the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The assignment was to produce a journal based on the historical reports of that exploration. Faith is quite creative. She asked me if I could help by building her a box to put her journal and a few items in to present her project. Well, making a box is really not much of a challenge; nor is it very satisfying as a creative project. So, we chose a design that would simulate an Italian Jewelry box of the 19th Century. I used some wood that would take stain and “aging” well; trimmed it with some period millwork; and put a clasp, hinges, and handles that represented that look. It was quite beautiful when done and filled with her journal and other items. The wood I used was “scrap.” The box became a treasure. Do you see it? There it is. God, in His great grace, took us, who were little more than scrap, and made us into a great treasure in Christ! Now, that’s good...

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The Great Eight (Part 8)

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2 ESV). Yesterday I focused on being “set free;” today I want you to ponder the phrase “in Christ.” Being “in Christ Jesus” is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be united to Christ and bound to Christ. Let me emphasize some of these for you over the next few days. Each of them has a particular application to some of the challenges we face on a regular basis. In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created (cf. 2 Timothy 1:9). This truth is not just a part of the systematizing of theology that provides a basis for debate and determining doctrinal beliefs. I enjoy a spirited debate as much as anyone; however, a debate does not change the way I feel once it is over. I need to be changed. That happens when I recognize the power of grace at work in my life. In this case, the Apostle Paul is declaring my position to be forever “in His grace.” Additionally we know that in Christ Jesus we were chosen by God before creation (cf. Ephesians 1:4). Everything about us was not an afterthought to God. He is not suddenly surprised by our predicament. We have been created and equipped for every circumstance of life. So, when you face that inevitable “bad news” couched in some devastating illness or tragic circumstance, it has not surprised God. And, he has prepared us for just such a moment. That preparation does not lead to defeat. It leads us to freedom. And, in Christ Jesus we are loved by God with an inseparable love. We will get a closer look at this truth later. For now let these words permeate your thoughts today, Paul writes: “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). The illustration today has the meme, “Rooted. Grow Deep. Live Tall.” I like that a lot. The depth of our relationship in Christ has no limit; nor does the height to which we may grow. All of this is true because we are “in Christ.” It is forever altering everything about us. The circumstances of our lives are ordained and overseen by God. No hurt is too great, no harm is so vast, and no enemy so strong that we will not...

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