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TEXT: Romans 5:6-11
SUBJECT: Romans #9: Why Our Hope is Sure
In 1949, Richard Crossman published a book on Communism called The God that Failed. In it, he allowed six American and European authors to explain what drew them to Communism in the first place, and, then, why they left it and came to oppose it.
What attracted these gifted men to Communism were its promises-promises of a better world, a world without poverty and oppression, racism, imperialism, and war. They never gave up their ideals, but in time, they learned that Communism was not the way to achieve them. It was a god who promised a new heaven and a new earth, but only gave us more of the same. And worse. They pinned their hopes on Communism and it let them down.
Like Communism, the Gospel promises a better world, that one day all who believe in Christ will share in the glory of God. Our souls will be freed from sin and rejoined to bodies that cannot get sick, grow old, or die. Glorified people, of course, don't fit into the world as it now is, so the world itself will be remade into a place where the Lord and His People can live together forever. When surveying the new heavens and earth, John could find no Temple, because no Temple was needed: the whole universe had become the Temple!
Because God is with us in all His fullness, sin and its effects will be no more-
There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain because the former things have passed away.
This is the promise of the Gospel-
A hope that does not disappoint.or as the AV says, A hope that maketh not ashamed.
People who believed in Communism and worked for Communism and suffered for Communism are now ashamed of themselves! The Hitler Youth who marched so proudly through the streets of Nuremberg are now ashamed of themselves! Unbelieving Israelites put their faith in idols and trusted foreign powers and were ashamed of themselves! Anyone who pins his hopes on anything but God will some day be ashamed of himself.
But Paul, echoing the Old Testament prophets, says people who hope in God will not wish they hadn't. When the Day of Judgment comes, no believer in Christ will wish he had trusted someone or something else!
The Christian has a hope of glory-and the hope is not 'wishful thinking'-it is a sure expectation, a promise that cannot fail!
Well, that's what I say. The problem is: the Communist says the same thing about his beliefs; and so does the Muslim about his; and others about theirs. We live in a cynical time: so many of us have been burned by promises not kept. Republicans, Democrats, salesmen, pastors, New-Agers, everybody's promising something. Why believe anyone?
Or, more to the point, why believe what the Gospel promises? The short answer is: because, unlike other promises, Gospel promises are not built on Jello! They're supported by something firmer than that-by something so solid that nothing can shake it!
What supports the Gospel?
The love of God.
This is what Paul is arguing for in vv.6-11, but he introduces the subject in v.5-
Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.
Our hope in Christ cannot fail because we know God loves us. We know He does-not because we have found an argument for it-but because He has poured it into our hearts. How does a man know his wife loves him? He cannot prove it mathematically, and he doesn't need to. He knows she loves him because.she loves him! It is an intuitive thing, a thing that cannot be explained like geometry, but it can be experienced, and is, by millions of people every day.
In emphasizing the objectivity of God's love, we must not forget its subjective side. There is a real thing out there called 'the love of God' which we have whether we feel it or not. But this 'love of God' can be felt, and often is.
Especially in times of suffering.
Most of you know my father has not been well lately. Last week he was hospitalized, and when he came home, he was weaker than I've ever seen him. He's lost his appetite (and twenty pounds) and we're all very worried about him. But with this said, I can also say, I have seldom felt the love of God stirring in my heart more than I have the last few weeks.
We don't depend on the feelings of 'being loved', but we're thankful for them. God is real and He's not locked up in Heaven; in His Holy Spirit, He is every bit as 'with us' today as He was when-
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
This love of God has been given to us, impressed on our hearts, Paul says. But, all loves are not the same. What love is it that we have in Christ?
Paul describes it under two headings:
AN UNDESERVED LOVE
In vv.6-8, he reminds us that it is an undeserved love-
For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet, perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul draws a sharp contrast between human love and Love Divine. A handful of heroic people would lay down their lives to save others. But what kind of people do they give up their lives to save?
Paul says righteous or good people. They're worth dying for. We might add important people and the ones who have a claim on your love. Think of the Secret Service Agent jumping in front of a bullet to save the President, or the mother who risks her life to give a lung to her dying daughter.
If you're like me, you've wondered if you would lay down your life to save others, and if so, whom. Your husband or wife or children? Yes. Your uncle or aunt or cousins? Maybe. A friend? Possibly. How about a neighbor or the man you work with? Or a stranger? Would you die for them?
Most of us would not. Now what if the person were a bad person-not bad in general-but really bad and especially bad to you. Would you die to save a priest who molested you? Would you die to save the neighbor who seduced your wife? Would you die for the drunkard who ran over your boy on the way to school?
You wouldn't do this-no one would, and no one would expect you to. But this is exactly what God did! When we were at our worst-both helpless and dead set against Him-He sent His Son to the cross for our salvation!
Two terms deserve some reflection. One is without strength. Theology calls this 'total inability'-when we could do nothing to get right with God or to prepare ourselves to be right with Him-God set things right!
The other is ungodly. We were helpless before God, but not innocently helpless. We were against God, like the men in the parable we said with our mouths, or in our hearts-
We will not have this man reign over us.
It was then that God's love came to us in Christ who died to set things right between us. Doctors don't pay house calls on healthy people; they go to the sick, and this is what God did, in Christ-
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Not good-hearted people who could have done better-but rebels, people who love sin (of some kind or other)-and who-
Worship and serve the creature
More than the Creator, who is
Blessed forever. Amen.
God's love is a love not deserved, not earned, a love we're not worthy of! It was not something in us that moved Him to love us, but something in Him. This is Paul's point and he got it from the Law, the very thing Jews were trusting instead of Christ, Deuteronomy 7:7-8-
The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loved you.
If you review the Gospels you'll see the kind of people Jesus drew to Himself, people like Zacchaeus who betrayed his country to Rome for money; or Simon the Zealot, who'd have happily cut Zacchaeus' throat; or 'the woman who was a sinner' who could only cry over the life she lived; or Mary Magdalene once possessed by seven demons.
Or Paul himself-
Blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent man.
In the Name of God and Israel, he was doing the work of Satan and Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Haman. No man ever deserved the love of God less than Paul-and it was he who got it, and Paul adds-
As a pattern to all who would believe to everlasting life.
When people tell me Christianity is for losers, I say, 'Right!' It's for people who are helpless and sinful and without hope and without God.
The Lord didn't love us when we were straight, but when we were bent like a pretzel!
Can the promises of the Gospel prove false? No they cannot be because they're resting upon the love of God for sinners. If they were built on His love for us when we deserve it, we'd never have it, and if he did, we'd lose it before long. But they're not built on our love for Him, for on His love for us. John knows the score-
Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin.
If His love for us is undeserved, it cannot be sinned away by the stupid and selfish things we all do every day. Is it okay to sin? No it isn't, but it is also not fatal, for-
I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principality, nor power, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Where sin abounded,
Grace did much more abound.
A BIG LOVE
The second thing Paul says about God's saving love is, it's Big, vv.9-11-
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
In this paragraph, Paul's rabbinical training comes out. Rabbis often argued from the greater to the lesser; even Jesus did this-
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not even one of them falls without your Father. Are you not worth far more than many sparrows?
If God cares for sparrows, He cares for us. That's His point.
Paul uses the same reasoning: If God loved us when we were His enemies, does He not love us now that we're His friends? Impossible!
If Christ loved us enough to die for us on the cross, will He quit living for us now that He's in Heaven? Impossible!
This means the believer-in-Christ is totally secure in God's love. If I gave you my kidney, I'd give a stick of gum. But, at the cross, God gave more than His kidney, and this means He will give us every last thing we need to secure the glory of God.
This is why we boast in God! Some Bibles say, 'rejoice'-and that's true, we do that-but 'boast' is the better word. It's why we're proud of God and don't mind saying so.
The love of God is bigger than your need! Bigger than your sin! Bigger than your weakness! Bigger than your enemies! Bigger than your fears! Bigger than everything outside of God put together!
SUMMARY AND CLOSE
Every politician and salesman and guru promises a better you and a better world if only you vote for him or buy his product or follow his example. Some of them are liars and all of them are fools.
Only God changes things and only through His Gospel, whose promises can be trusted and will come to pass, because underneath them all is in the infinite, almighty, and eternal love of God, a love we don't deserve, but still have, for Christ's sake.
Let us, therefore, boast in God and enjoy His love. Amen.
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