Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 13, 2017)

ROMANS 8:28-30


In the name + of Jesus.

     Throughout our life, God extends to us a promise for our on-going consolation and encouragement: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     First of all, it is important to understand what this promise is not.  The promise is not  that everything will always be good in your life.  You live in a sinful world.  You live among sinners.  You yourself are a sinner.  Therefore, bad things will happen to you.  You will suffer pain and loss and heartache.  You will have people sin against you, and sometimes it will be devastating.  The devil will taunt you by afflicting your soul with guilt and by afflicting your body with evil.  You have been taught to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” for a good reason.  Bad things will happen to you.  But in the midst of those evils that you must endure, you have a promise.  You have God's promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     Again, it is important to understand what the promise is not so that you will not be deceived or disappointed when the evils come into your life.  God works all things for our good.  That is the promise.  The promise is not that you will know how it will work for your good.  It may take years for you to know how God worked all things for your good.  You may never know.  But throughout your whole life, God's promise remains true: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
     Consider Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob.  He was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was seventeen.  This teenager was then sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.  In service to him, he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife.  Joseph was then cast into prison, though perhaps dungeon would give us a better image of his quarters.  There is no way Joseph could figure out how God would use this for his good.  Joseph was cut off from his family.  His reputation was that of a rapist.  And he was not expecting parole.  Joseph did not sugar coat his situation.  These were all evils being done to him.
     You probably know how the story turns out.  After Joseph interpreted dreams for some officials, he was summoned to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams.  Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph's wisdom, exalted him to second in command over all Egypt.  Eventually, Joseph was even reunited with his father and brothers.  Later, when his brothers pleaded with Joseph that he not wreak vengeance on them, Joseph commented, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...” (Genesis 50:19-20)  Even though Joseph eventually recognized the good that God worked out, which included the preservation of Israel and, therefore, the promise of a Savior, this took decades to be resolved.  In the meantime, Joseph had to suffer through many evils, and he acknowledged that.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  And still, Joseph believed that the Lord was good and merciful through it all.  God works out all things for our good.
     And so it is with you.  You, too, have to endure your share of evils.  It is honest to say so.  In a perfect world, you do not have to suffer the loss of property, health, reputation, or loved ones.  You do not need to sugar coat this and pretend that these are not evils.  These are the things you pray to be delivered from.  But no matter what your hardships are, the promise stands: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)  
     One of the reasons we call our sufferings and losses evil is because we have put our trust and hopes in these things.  We love our worldly goods, and it grieves us to lose them.  Some of the evils you endure are accidental.  A storm may wipe out your home.  A computer virus may delete baby pictures.  Some evils are intentional.  People may steal your goods, slander your name, or wound your body.  We consider such loses a great evil—not because they are the result of sin, but because we personally have lost something.  We put our faith in medicine, in technology, in the economy, and in relationships.  Repent.  If you love your goods, then you will not believe that God remains good and merciful when your goods are withdrawn from you.  You will think that God is evil because, although he could have stopped it, he did not.  God does not make you bulletproof from evil.  Instead, God makes you a promise: We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) .  
     You have been called according to God's purpose.  That is, you have been united by Jesus Christ.  You are not united to Jesus so that you will have wealth, health, and honor, but so that you will be delivered from the guilt of sin, the sentence of hell, and the taunting of the devil.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)  Before time, the Lord knew you and set you apart.  In our time, the Lord called you by the Gospel and united you to Jesus.  At the end of time, the Lord will deliver you from death and bring you to everlasting glory to dwell with Jesus forever.
     God works all things for our good.  That is God's promise.  And even though we cling to God's promise, our faith is not in an idea.  Our faith is in a man—Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  It is that fleshly God who has come to deliver us from all evils.  He has taken into his flesh all of our sins.  And his flesh was pierced to a cross where he absorbed the curse for our sins.  What was done to Jesus was certainly an evil thing—religious leaders who were jealous of his popularity and who stubbornly refused his grace demanded to have him put to death even though they could find no fault in him.  But what they intended for evil, God intended for your highest good.  Jesus' innocent death is the payment for your sins.  Jesus' precious blood purifies you.  And the fleshly Savior who died for you is now the firstborn from the dead.  He is risen.  And since you have been united with him, your flesh, too, shall rise from the grave to live forever.  That is God's purpose for you.  To this you were called so that you are now justified before God, and shall be glorified with Jesus Christ forever.
     If this is God's plan and purpose for you, then the God who chose you before the creation of the world and then became man to live in this creation will not forget you.  He remains good and merciful to you.  And he works all things for your good, even the evils you face.  If the Lord takes away your blessings through some evil, he does not take away his mercy or promises.  The blessings God gives don't save you; Jesus Christ does.  And if removing your goods from you reminds you of that, it is good.  When you discover to your shock that your friends have not been trustworthy, your Savior still is.  God uses the deception of man to show that he is true and trustworthy.  That is good.  And even if the devil taunts you, God will even use the devil for his own purpose—which is to cause you to flee to Jesus.  Because finally, at the end of life, you will have nothing to your name except Jesus—and that is all you need.  God's whole purpose for your life is to save you, to deliver you at last from all evils, and to bring you to everlasting glory with him.  God works all things for that purpose and for your eternal good.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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