Beautiful summer morning here. Brad welcomed us. "I'm grateful that you're here." He added that this summer we're "bopping around (the book of) Romans," adding that today's message would be drawn from Romans 8 and the reality of joy.
Ruth Anne stood to say thank you from the Blood Drive folks who were here last week. Each pint of blood will save three lives.
The Scripture reading was from Romans 5:12-21, and after a time of prayer Brad began his message.
Life & Death
Anyone who has been a Christian for any amount of time knows that Christianity is supposed to be about joy, a joy that is not dependent on circumstances. In John 17, one of Jesus' prayers for his disciples was that they would have a joy that nothing could take away.
Brad said he has wrestled at time with this, and suspect that we have too at times because life is hard. In such a broken world we can be hit by so many things that it can be difficult "rejoice always" as Paul wrote more than once. And yet....
When we look at Romans 5-8 we see such a rich discussion about God's grace, the culmination which can be found in today's passage from Romans 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." Pastor Brad illuminated three lessons we could learn by reflecting on this verse.
1) Bad things turn out for good.
Bad things happen in life, and becoming a Christian does not automatically reduce or eliminate these bad things.
Flipping this around, Brad asked where the good things come from? Good things are a miracle of grace. If good things happen, God worked it thus.
This verse is often misapplied. It is not a cure-all for the suffering caused by bad things. When Lazarus died and Jesus wept, it was real sorrow that moved him. It wasn't a fake show He put on while knowing all along He'd be raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus hates death, loneliness, isolation, suffering and those things that really hurt like selfishness and self-deception.
2) Truly good things will never be lost.
Brad pointed out that verse 28 is not an isolated verse, but in a context, followed immediately by these lines.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Our suffering is not purposeless. God's aim in our lives is to conform us to the image of His Son, to the likeness of Jesus. It is a predestined purpose, fixed, immovable, a given. God will conform us into His likeness, will transform us to be like Christ. This verse is written in past tense, as if an accomplished fact.
The radicality of the Gospel is that in an era during of inequality, where women had few rights, there were no second class citizens in Christ. All were adopted into God's family, no matter what their station in life.
3) The best is yet to come.
When Pastor Brad reached this third point, he stepped down from the pulpit and stood at the front of the sanctuary. Citing the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelations 21 and 22, he told us how Heaven awaits us. It is real and not a pipe dream. What matters most is who I am and what I am becoming.
And in that day we will be thoroughly joyful. That is what is promised us in heaven. One reason is because we will be morally flawless inside and out.... and we will see God face-to-face. When you understand what is to come, you can handle anything in this life.
Whatever you are going through, know this. There is a God who in the end will make everything right.