I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Have you ever just sat back and considered everything God has done in your life? For most of us, we don’t take the time to do this often enough; I know I don’t. It may be hard to get started, as thoughts about the here and now rush though our minds, as the distractions and demands of everyday life make so much noise that it’s hard to think. Yet as we continue to ponder, as we begin to relax, God’s doings begin to enter our thoughts, and before too long, they push the distractions away.
We might even move on to ponder and reflect upon what God has done in His Creation; the wonder of all it, its grandeur so magnificent.
When we invest a little time and attention in this way, it isn’t easy to remain silent, is it?
Our God is so amazing, so awesome, so powerful, so loving; how can we think on such things and not enthusiastically give Him praise?
Funny thing about exaltation; once you get started, it’s hard to stop. Imagine what it would be like if we did this every day; don’t you suppose that every day would be as amazing as the things God does in our lives? Oh yes, I bet they would be; can you guess why?
If we began each day reflecting upon all that God is and does in our lives, we would be seeing all that He does each day as we go along, and each day we would be giving him enthusiastic praise, and when you do that, it’s hard to stop… and each day would then become a day of praise.
We now continue in this section where Paul is making the point that grace gives victory over sin, and that victory is assured. As always, it seems to be one thing to say so, and another thing in daily life; how does this victory come about in the face of life’s challenges? We saw in the last post that this victory comes through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which we received at “birth” when we were born again. This new life makes us God’s children, His family, and it is our membership in His Family that assures our victory.
Paul continues proving this point as we turn to his next sub point, in verses 26-30 where we find that God will bring His children through their earthly trials.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (8:26-27)
When times are tough, we might not know what to do, we might be at our wit’s end, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us intercedes, even though we may not understand it at the time. There is a really interesting little element in play here, something that we like to talk about, but sometimes overlook in times of trial; the indwelling Holy Spirit is really quite active in our lives when we are weak. On the other hand, when we are strong, or when we think we are strong, the Spirit seems to be less active; you may have experienced this yourself. Yet the interesting component of this is that the Spirit is always there, always busy and always working, but we are often distracted going our own way, doing our own thing. In these times, I often find that I have blundered yet again into a “learning moment” wishing I had learned that lesson last time so I wouldn’t need to learn it yet again this time…
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. 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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
In these verses, Paul continues making the point that God has promised to see us through our trials in life. Verse 28 is one of comfort for millions, for it assures those who love Him that no matter what our circumstances, God will see us through and work things out to a good end; good for His purpose.
“Wait! Hold on, what was that again?”
Yeah, there’s a condition: “…those who love him…” Who are the ones who love Him? Jesus told His disciples that if they love Him they should keep His commands (John 14:15), Thus I would suggest that those who love Him are those who keep His commends, the very first of which was “follow me” or to put it another way, those who love God are those who have responded in obedience to the Gospel Christians.
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. (8:29)
This is a tricky verse, and by that I mean a controversial one. Let’s be careful that we don’t read things into it that aren’t there. “For those God foreknew…” follows from verse 28, which is directed at those who have responded to the Gospel in obedience, so they are the ones He “foreknew”. This is because God knew well in advance that when the day came that the Gospel was proclaimed to all nations, many would respond to it in obedience, and thus they were foreknown. God ordained or “predestined” that they would be “conformed” to the image of His Son, so that His Son, who was first to be raised in glory from the tomb would be followed by His brothers and sisters. If you have been following our tour through Romans, you will recall that Paul has been teaching this quite a bit already.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (8:30)
Those who responded in obedience to the Gospel (predestined) were called. This isn’t difficult when you ask yourself what is really going on when the Gospel is proclaimed, for when it is proclaimed, we are being called to follow Jesus. Those who respond in obedience have been justified, which happens to be theme of the book we are studying, and they in due course will be glorified just as Jesus was when He rose from the grave. What this passage is there to teach Paul’s readers is that our victory over sin by God’s grace is assured because God has ordained that it will be so, which happily is the context in which the passage falls.
I realize that some may prefer to add some extra significance to what these are saying, and that’s fine by me; I won’t make a big deal out of it since I don’t debate any more. Actually, if you are a Total Depravity fan, you will need that extra bit of significance to make Total Depravity work, but if I may offer a suggestion before you go ahead… You may well be able to fix the doctrinal problem that Total Depravity brings about, but aren’t you going to have an even bigger problem with Selection and Predestination? If it was me, and I was still a debater, I would just leave these verses in context because it is easier to defend Total Depravity than it is to defend Selection and Predestination… I’m just sayin’
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
With these verses, Paul begins the final argument to demonstrate his proposition that grace brings victory over sin. Paul’s final point is that the victory of grace over sin is completely assured. This argument is broken into four sub points, the first of which is comprised of verses 14-17. The first sentence is the transition from the previous passage into the new subject which is that grace has assured that we are God’s children.
Of course “the Spirit you received” refers to the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit through whom we have been adopted to sonship. Because we have become God’s children by having been born again of the Spirit, we can truly call God “Father”. Our assurance of this is that the Spirit who indwells us testifies with our spirits that we are His. Because we are now His children, we are also His heirs, co-heirs with Christ; that is borne out by our willingness to suffer with Christ in this life.
The second of the four sub points is found in Romans 8:18-25, and is truly amazing: As co-heirs with Jesus Christ, we will inherit the universe. I realize that most preachers don’t preach sermons on this and most Sunday school lessons aren’t about it either, maybe that’s because they fear that we will let our imaginations get carried away. For just a moment, however, try to imagine what that would look like; the whole universe, restored to its pristine condition. Our present circumstances are nothing when you consider what we will have in Christ; why obsess about circumstances? The entire creation is yearning for the day when God’s children are revealed! (8:18-19). Sin has had a terrible consequence on the creation, this wonderful world that God created has been in decay ever since, but it will not always be this way, for it will be redeemed as we have been. (8:20-21).
The creation groans in anticipation of that great day just as we do, we who have the firstfruits of sonship, who eagerly await the fullness of sonship when even our mortal bodies will be redeemed (8:22-23). The final two verses are a little different, an odd way of putting it, yet they make a great point. We are eagerly awaiting the final part of the promise we have received from God, and the very fact that we are still hoping demonstrates that it has not yet been accomplished. For in this life we still must deal with pain, suffering, sickness and death. So, we will continue to wait eagerly and patiently until Christ completes the last bit of His work upon His return.
It was a garden where the great event took place, the event that both confirmed and changed everything, for you see, that garden tomb is empty! In a sense, our rebirth took place in a garden.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me there’s no better place to meet our Lord in prayer than in a quiet garden. To me, it seems almost like going back to the place where humanity was created…
There’s an interesting and refreshing combination of nature that consists of God’s creation, and Man as shown by the tending of the garden that strikes me as significant. It’s like teamwork; when you take God’s part and Man’s part and combine them together you end up with something wonderful.
Raw nature is awesome to behold. Great cities built by men over many generations can be humbling and inspiring as well, but a well-tended garden is a combination of the two. Armed with knowledge that this is not only what God intended in the first place but what He calls us to in the present day, can there be anything more inspiring than a garden?
Yes, a garden… Where it all began, and where it all began again. A garden, where it begins anew every day!