“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:31-34 HCSB)
There’s simply no other way to state it, I was afraid. I was five years or six years old and was attending Eugene Field Elementary School in West Tulsa. We lived just a few blocks away, and my older brother and I would walk to school each morning and I was afraid. I wasn’t afraid of school. I loved school and I loved to read and learn. What made me afraid was a neighborhood family that had several boys who lived nearby and who lived to bully the other kids and, especially, me – I knew them simply as the Dennis boys. I realize my memory might be tainted by the fear they produced within me, but it felt like their entire life focus was on bullying me.
While I was a bit of a coward and the epitome of “the wimpy kid” persona, my older brother was not. Jerry was street smart, tough and a brawler. I was never sure how he became so tough, I just knew he was and I was glad he was on my side. One morning on our way to school, the Dennis boys appeared and began to pick on me and tried to intimidate and scare us. I was ready to head back home to the safety of Mom’s kitchen, but Jerry wasn’t afraid.
One of the younger Dennis brothers grabbed me and pinned my hands behind my back. The older brothers circled Jerry and tried the same maneuver on him, but he saw an opportunity and took it. The brother who had grabbed his hands was barefoot and so Jerry stomped on his toes and he released Jerry’s hands. All I remember after that was a flurry of fists, punches, bloody noses and me being rescued and set free by my older brother. The Dennis boys faded away along with my fear of them and was replaced by admiration, pride and respect for my older brother. I was no longer afraid, my older brother had my back.
Like my brother who stepped in and defended me, Christ has stepped into the fray and has taken our condemnation and God’s judgment upon sin and He has delivered us from sin’s power over us and its sting upon us, death. Paul began this chapter with “no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (see Rom. 8:1) and he ends the chapter by reminding us of those very words when he says – “God is for us, therefore nothing can stand against us.” In my encounter with those bullies, their intimidating actions elicited a fear response from me. That is, until my brother stepped in. His response to their bullying quieted my fears because I knew he was capable and he was on my side. I knew he would step in and defend me against their attacks, so that changed me and my response to them.
While America, Britain and much of Europe has enjoyed several generations of religious freedom, the rest of the world has continued to live under oppressive cultures and, often, violent responses to Christianity. Now, we are beginning to see a change even in our culture as biblical Christian values and beliefs slip steadily into the past and out of the realms of belief and viability for our friends and neighbors. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. Many of them still hold to a belief in god and spirituality, in some form or fashion, just not the one, true God of scriptural truth and biblical values. While our Christian brothers in these other cultures have grown bold and strong because of their constantly contested faith and their trust in Christ, we seem to have grown fat, lazy, silent and weak in our faith.
Our culture no longer sees a biblical view of Jesus because, in many ways, we stopped presenting a truly biblical view of Him – Christ our redeemer, the one who stepped into the fray and rescued us because we were dying in our sin and who called us to join in Him on that journey of rescuing others. Instead of being focused on Christ, the church has become focused on itself. We don’t need God’s power, we just need more of your money, a bigger facility, more programs, more lights and better, louder music. We don’t need more of Christ, we need more resources. We don’t need more of God’s power, we need faster WiFi and fewer restrictions on our personal freedoms.
But Christian strength and church growth isn’t rooted in personal freedoms, church resources, pastoral leadership or political ideologies. Christian strength comes out of our confident faith in and complete reliance on Christ. Paul wants the Roman church to have a solid foundation for their faith and a confidence in their future and that cannot be found in their circumstances, personal worth, financial resources or political standing. Paul wants us to know that our foundation of faith and confidence in the future cannot depend on those things that we’ve come to expect, demand and rely upon. Paul tells the Roman church what she must rely upon and he tells us, if we’ll listen…
First, because God is for us then nothing is capable of standing in opposition to God and His divine will. Admittedly, we need to have a very clear and accurate understanding of God’s will for our lives and His church but nothing can prevent Him from pursuing and achieving that goal. We looked at that, last week (https://wp.me/p5mod1-8Jn) and concluded that God’s desire is for us to know Him intimately and to love Him ultimately while we are being transformed into the image of His Son, Jesus. Knowing this and keeping it at the forefront of our faith should have the same effect on us as my experience with my older brother, it should remove our personal fear and embolden our efforts at obedience.
Next, Paul reminds the Roman church that God didn’t spare His own Son but willingly offered Him up on our behalf. If God was willing to do that, He certainly won’t hold back on giving us everything needed to accomplish His perfect will. Let that sink in a bit, especially in light of the current circumstances facing the modern church. What the church needs to achieve God’s purpose and will is not something that God is withholding from us. If God knows we truly need it, then He wouldn’t withhold it.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we run out and borrow huge sums of money to achieve what we perceive to be God’s will and then sit back and blame Him when our efforts fail. We often fail to recognize or understand what is really needed to achieve God’s purpose. The modern American church is notorious for believing that we just need to “build it” bigger and better and they will come. We take this “all things” out of context and apply it to our desires and our goals instead of keeping it aligned with God’s purpose. God will “grant us all things” as long as they are in line with His purpose and plan. Some would say, if you fail to receive it then you obviously didn’t have enough faith. I would say, if you fail to receive it then you may have misunderstood and been pursuing something that was completely outside of God’s will for you and or your church.
However, I do believe that when we know God has called us to a particular pursuit and we are seeking to obey Him then He often places us in circumstances that challenge our faith and force us to rely upon Him and not on ourselves. Why? Two basic reasons, 1) so that the outcome is clearly because God was working and He receives all of the glory; 2) so that we continue to rely upon Him, our faith grows stronger and we remain humble and obedient. By the way, the two most important things the church needs have already been given in boundless supply – God’s grace through Christ’s cross and God’s power through the Spirit’s indwelling. The rest is just fluff and glitter. Yes, I said fluff and glitter. Nothing else really matters.
Then, Paul wants the Roman church to know that nobody can lay any accusation or substantive charges against those whom God has chosen – the elect. This implies several things. First, we will not be judged based on human standards or expectations and our opponents will not have the final word. In other words, the Church of God and the People of God will be judged by and accountable only to our God. Caesar doesn’t have final jurisdiction over the Roman church and Congress, POTUS, SCOTUS and nothing else in the US has jurisdiction over the American church. God alone is the ONE who justifies or judges us.
Now, before you “AMEN” that too loudly just remember who will hold us accountable – the ONE who knows the secret things of our hearts and minds. God is the one who must declare us “just” or not guilty of the accusations – not our culture. That means we must live to obey, please and honor Him and not them. Paul assumes that the church will pursue what God wants, not what our culture wants but that’s a huge assumption. I’ll simply remind you, there is now no condemnation and there never will be for those in Christ. In Christ. Instead of seeking to be in the hearts and minds of our peers, we must seek to be in Christ. Instead of seeking to be in City Hall we must first seek to be in Christ. Instead of seeking to be in the State Legislature or Governor’s Office, we must seek to be in Christ. Instead of seeking to be in the Halls of Congress, in the Oval Office or in the Supreme Court’s Chambers, we must seek to be in Christ. If you seek to be in Christ, then it won’t matter where you sit, stand, serve or go you will always be IN Christ.
Finally, Paul reminds the Roman church that whoever might seek to condemn them will be facing off against the ONE who died, but even more, the ONE who has been raised and is now on God’s right hand speaking on our behalf – INTERCEDING for us. We don’t have just any defense, we have our BIG brother standing next to God speaking up for us. If you are IN Christ then He is telling God, “Father, this one is mine. He’s in me and I’m in him.” God responds, “That’s sufficient. Case dismissed.” The accuser, Satan, is standing over at the prosecution table and he says, “But God, didn’t you see how many times he’s failed? Notice what he’s done? Look at the evidence!” God replies, “I AM looking at the evidence.” Satan glances up from his notes, and sees God looking at Jesus’ hands. “Not guilty! Charges dismissed. The court clerk will please note, Jesus’ blood has been applied to this case. Next case!”
Are you IN Christ? Is He speaking to God on your behalf? If not, He’s willing to do so. I want you to go back and read this passage, once more. As you do, note how many times Paul says “for us” in these verses. It is even implied in a few places where the translators omit it. God is FOR US. Offered Him up FOR US. Christ Jesus is the One who died [FOR US], but even more, has been raised [FOR US]. He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes FOR US. The US in those verse are those who are IN Christ. In Christ – those who pursue God diligently, live to obey Him fully, desire to know Him intimately, and strive to love Him ultimately. Do we fail in any of those things? Constantly. But that’s why we need Jesus and it is why He did these things FOR US. I’m not perfect, but I’m IN the ONE who is perfect. Are you?