READINGS: Psalm 139: 1-14; Romans 8: 18-39
- We talked about suffering last week.
- And about praying – and knowing that he hears. Like the persistent widow with the unjust judge – keep knock – knock – knocking on heaven’s door.
- About Jesus and the Spirit interceding for us
- And we talked about God’s purpose – His ways being higher than our ways.
Psalm 139 works for us today as we also unravel a bit more of Romans 8.
We are far from home and family. Many of us. At my first job in NZ as Chaplain at a College in Wellington the choir sang his amazing song for me at my induction – it’s called “All the ends of the earth”:
It happens to be a Jesuit song. It certainly resonated for me as I had travelled a long long way to get to that first service. It did feel like the ends of the earth.
Here’s Psalm 139 – listen again:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
Boy did He have to hold us fast – within a few months all hell broke loose. It was the darkest thing you could ever experience. And the very next verses say this:
Psa 139:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” Psa 139:12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Take a minute to think about that.
- What does it mean to you?
- The deepest gloom – is not beyond his light.
And if His Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light to our path, it may mean we only get enough light to see a few feet ahead.
But that is enough for us.
Paul after all says: (NIV84) We live by faith, not by sight. ((NKJV) For we walk by faith, not by sight.)
And if darkness is as light to God, He can certainly see what is ahead. We can trust Him. After all – as we heard last week: Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
BUT WAIT. There is more. You can’ r read Romans only as a devotional – self-help encouragement letter – picking out the 8:28 verses.
- There is theology in this book through and through.
- It’s foundational to our faith.
- It’s key to the reformation.
It’s so powerful that Wesley was converted through hearing something read from a preface to Romans.
On this day, May 24th, 1738 he opened his Bible at about five in the morning and came across these words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should partakers of the divine nature.” He read similar words in other places.
That evening he reluctantly attended a meeting in Aldersgate. Someone read from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans. About 8:45 p.m. “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
It spoke to Martin Luther and changed history through Him.
The Roman road starts at Romans 1:16:
Rom 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Rom 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The Roman road – of course – is a series of key verses which are turning points through the letter.
First Romans 1:16-17 – not ashamed of hte gospel
Then Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Then Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Then Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Then Romans 12:1 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship
If you’re doing the bible reading challenge you will get to these in good time.
But in Romans 8 there are a couple of verses that are not a road, but more like a cable car up a mountain.
You know 8:28 of course? Yes – God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (That was from memory.)
Here’re the next two verses. Luther must have loved this when he got the hang of it:
Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Man that’s good. Paul – you genius. Look at these concepts in just one verse:
- Foreknew – he knows us before we are even thought about
- Predestined – how Presbyterian
- Conformed to be like Jesus
- Born again – because Jesus is the firstborn of many brothers – us)
- Called – you don’t start this – he starts it
- Justified – made righteous by faith (not paying money)
- Glorified – the glory we spoke about last week! It’s ours now in terms of status – and when we go home we will soar!
When Paul comes down Table Mountain on that cable car it’s almost as if he has to pinch himself:
Rom 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Rom 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
You know where this ends: Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Rom 8:36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, Rom 8:39 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.
That’s why the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never put it out.
To celebrate this today – let’s listen to this put in song.
And while we do – if you’d like to come up and light a candle symbolically – you can do that.
When we do – we’re saying in action to that thing in our lives that seeks to overwhelm us – whatever it is – that tries to extinguish our light with gloom and doom:
Go read Romans 8!
And remember that I was baptized into Christ – that the light of Christ shines in me and my life.
Nothing can put it out.
Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.
- trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…
- life or death…