Sermon Text – 10.27.2019

[Romans 8]
Once upon a time, famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody got up in front of a large audience full of people and held up a glass and asked the room, “How can I get all the air out of this glass?” One person shouted from the back, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody shrugged, “Good idea, but I tried that and found that to suck the air out with a pump creates a vacuum inside the glass and the glass shatters. After several other suggestions from the crowd, Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” You see, victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by sucking all the sin out of our life. It is accomplished by pushing the sin out with something better, it is accomplished by filling our life with living water.  Today is the final sermon in our sermon series the Road to Rome, Part 2. Every week we have been getting through a full chapter of Romans, and today we are up to chapter 8. Let’s do it.

Romans 8 is one of those chapters in the bible that make me want to just give up preaching. As a preacher, I don’t think I’m totally necessary for you to get to the good stuff today. Like, forget all my little comments, and I could just get up here and read a couple verses, pause and say, “isn’t that amazing?” and then read some more verses. It’s that good. So, I’m thinking today would be a good day to open your bible and have it open on your lap – and I’m using the same translation that’s in the pews, so we’re all on the same page. Verse 1 [read it]. Let me just stop. Let those words wash over you. If you’ve been with us this whole series, all month we’ve been hearing – we are ungodly, we are brokenhearted sinners, we are far away from God, we fail over and over, what a wretched man I am, I cannot do this on my own. Stop. No more: There is now no condemnation. [Read v.2]. Through Jesus Christ, you have been set free. Through the law of the Spirit – meaning that moment when you gave your life to Jesus, you invited the Holy Spirit to come set up shop in your heart and the Holy Spirit has set you free. [read v.3a] Remember the struggle of last week? I do not do what I want to do, I know what’s good, but I always seem to do what is wrong. It says, what the law was powerless to do, because it was weakened by the flesh. We limited humans couldn’t get it done. We couldn’t save ourselves, with all our tips and tricks, with all our how to’s and advanced technology and societal progress – we couldn’t fix our connection to God. What the law was powerless to do, God did by sending his own Son. [read v3b-4]. This kinda echoes back to chapters one and two – God is glorious. In his glory, in his light there is no shadow. But rather than destroy us as a part of the darkness, God comes into our lives and lights up our heart so that we are no longer a part of the darkness, and if we live by the Spirit, God’s righteousness can be found in us. Justified. God is a God of justice, but also a God of grace. If we live in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  

So the next ten verses or so are all about that shift – from flesh to Spirit. If you remember from last week, Flesh has nothing to do with flesh, it just means the physical world as opposed to the Spiritual. Verse 5 [read 5-9]. So it’s actually pretty basic – we do not want our lives to be super focused on the flesh, but rather we want our lives to be focused on the Spirit. Verse ten and eleven basically say that even if you succeed according to the world, if you live according to the flesh – that still leads to death. We shouldn’t use the world’s standards of success, but instead use God’s standard of success, according to His Spirit, because that leads to life. And to help us understand this shift, verse 14 he clarifies by using family relations. [Read v.14-15]. It’s one of those things where – it’s a nice verse all by itself, but if you understand it in context it becomes an incredible verse. Two chapters ago, back in chapter 6, Paul taught us that we are slaves to the one we obey. Whether we are slaves to God or slaves to sin – we are always slaves to the one we obey, that’s just a reality of the world we live in. And he really does go on and on for a bit about it all, but then in chapter 8… it’s like, slavery to sin sounds good at first, but leads to death. But slavery to God, which sounds restrictive at first, leads us to family, leads us to life. God adopts us as his children.


Verse 18, [read v.18-19]. All the garbage of today, that stuff that seems like it’s end of the world right now – it’s not even worth mentioning compared to the glory that’s coming. And I don’t think that’s belittling the struggles we are going through right now, I think that elevates the glory of what’s coming. Because right now, the struggles seem like they are everything. Pain has a way of shrinking our world. And if the pain is loud enough, we aren’t even aware of other people in the room. It has a way of consuming us. But God is telling us – the good that is coming is so incredible, so incomparably beautiful that you won’t even remember, it’s not even worth comparing.


After verse 19, Paul spends the next couple verses trying to explain this idea, and one of the best metaphors he comes up with is pregnancy. [read v.22]. Childbirth is a GREAT example! They describe labor pains as literally the worst pain a human being can endure, and yet compared to holding your child for the first time – it doesn’t even compare. I’m not diminishing the pain of childbirth – I’m saying that pain is so worth it, that it doesn’t even compare. Paul is saying that all of creation, all of us in this life right now – we are living the labor pains of the world. But what comes next? After this life? So incredibly glorious it doesn’t even compare. So we wait patiently. We wait eagerly for the moment the labor pains are gone and the family of God grows just a little bit more.


But do you remember what I said about how pain shrinks our world? When we are in pain, it can become so bad that there is nothing but us and the pain. See,  Paul has really really great news for us in chapter 8, but if it stays up in our head – we’ll forget. We have to get it down into our heart. Rather than just something we know intellectually, this good news about the coming glory is something that we need to know in our gut. And so Paul says, “alright, let’s talk about how hope works.” [read v.24-25]. The whole point of hope is that it points to something that is not here yet – something we are heading towards, and so it takes patience. Which, when we are in the midst of pain is NOT what we want to hear, but it IS what we NEED to hear. [read v.26]. I quote this scripture all the time. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m supposed to pray for – but the Spirit intercedes with wordless groans. You know what that reminds me of? Childbirth! The metaphor that Paul just brought up! I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the room during childbirth, but it’s not like the lady is sitting there calmly saying, “this is a very unpleasant sensation but thankfully I know up in my mind that once this pain is gone the beauty of what’s coming will make it all worth it.” No, that’s not what it looks like. It looks like this – “OWWWWWW!!” It’s usually wordless groans while holding way to tight to my hand. Clinging to my hand because in that moment there is nothing but her and the pain and she needs to cling to the reminder of what’s coming. We need to know the truth about hope not just intellectually in our minds, but down in our gut, in those painful moments we have to cling to that truth through the Spirit we need to know these things in our heart.
Verse 28 tells us [read it]. I was almost going to skip this verse, because it’s really challenging. It’s really easy to mix up what this says. Some people look at that line and walk away thinking, “God only lets good things happen to those who love him.” Which, first off – no, but also – that’s super toxic thinking. It leads people to think if something bad happens to them, they must have done something wrong, they must not be loving God the right way. But that’s NOT what it says. It says in ALL things. In ALL things. In all the good things and in all the terrible things God is working. When bad things happen, it’s not punishment. When good things happen, it’s not like God is extra special happy with you. In ALL things God is working. God is able to use the good, AND redeem the bad for your ULTIMATE good. Labor pains are a good thing, because they are working towards an incredible next step.


He finishes up, [read v.31]. Then there are three questions Paul says with Jesus, with this hope of the glory to come filling up our hearts – who will bring a charge against us? Nobody. Who will condemn us?? Nobody. Who will separate us from God’s love? Nobody. He writes, [read v.37-39]. That’s it right there. That’s the line. That’s the promise we cling to when pain shrinks our world. The hand we grip that helps us get through the next contraction. Remember that line, remember that promise, cling to that hand.


        Every sermon I preach at some point in there you’re going to hear the phrase, “the good news this morning is…” and then I’ll insert something we learned about God from the scripture. Problem is, today I’ve got like 39 verses of good news. The good news is that there is no condemnation. The good news is that you are set free. The good news is that God did what you could not. That God gives us a better way to live than the broken world, a life in the Spirit. The good news is that God adopts us into his family. The good news is that God gives us hope for something better. We are eager for what is coming. The good news is that God sends his Holy Spirit and helps us keep that hope alive, helps us wait patiently. The good news is that nothing can separate us from God’s love.


Really here’s what it all boils down to. DL Moody got up in front of a group of people and asked, “how do I get the air out of the cup?” Jesus gets up in front of us and asks, “how do I get the sin out of your life?” You can try scooping the air out, you can try vacuuming it – but the glass will implode. You can try scooping the sin out, you can try vacuuming the sin out of your life, but your life will implode. So the answer is to fill your cup with water. Fill your life with the Holy Spirit and the sin gets pushed out of your life. The answer is not about what you take out of your life, but rather about what you fill your life with. Live the life of the Spirit. Eyes up, Flushing. Make God your number one priority and the rest will follow. When we give our life to God, we start a new life in his grace, we invite the Holy Spirit to set up shop in our heart.
        SO the application that comes out of this abundance of good news is to fill your cup with the Holy Spirit. Now I have to pause there for a second and make fun of what I just said. Because while it sounds great – fill your life with the Holy Spirit – it sounds spiritual and deep, but what does that even mean? I kept coming back to the question this week – what do I do with hope? Like, we’ve got all this good news – but what does it mean for our lives? What does it look like practically? Paul gives us hope, so what are we supposed to do with hope? And here it is:  if you have hope for a better tomorrow, you live for tomorrow. If you believe in tomorrow, it changes your today. If you believe there is more, you have to live for more. Hope realigns your priorities and changes the goals we have for our life right now. Are you living for the “realm of the flesh” – just this world right now? Or are you living in the Spirit – focused on the eternal kingdom of God? Paul gives us a beautiful picture of what’s coming. We are eager for the kingdom of God. But does it show in your priorities today? Ask yourself, what are you doing today to build God’s eternal kingdom? Are you living a life that reflects the Spirit? A life that demonstrates that Jesus is the lord of your life?


Let me see if I can explain it like this. Imagine life is an arcade. You’ve got a pile of tokens, some tokens are dirty or sticky and some are shiny and new, but they all work. But, of course, at the end you have to give all your unused tokens back into the manager. The only thing you get to keep for the future are tickets. You get tickets by using tokens, and at the end you use tickets to get prizes. At the end, tokens are useless. I don’t know why I’m explaining how an arcade works – but stay with me on this. The goal, obviously is to put the tokens to good use. Now imagine the tokens are days in your life. Each of us gets a pile of days, some are shiny and good, some are sticky and dirty – but each day passes the same for us all. For some people, all they care about is how many tokens they get. They spend all their time sauntering around the arcade bragging about their huge pile of tokens. Look at how many days are in my life. Or maybe it’s about how shiny their tokens are. I have more nice days in my pile than you do. For others, it’s not about how many – but how much fun they have. They spend all their tokens on their favorite stuff, even if it spits out only a couple tickets, they don’t care. Let’s be honest – prizes at an arcade are usually lame anyways, let’s just focus on having fun with the tokens we have. They spend their tokens, they spend their days doing what they want – even if it doesn’t really do much to build the kingdom of God. This is super popular in our culture – we do what we want, focused on today, caring very little about what comes tomorrow. Do you spend your tokens, do you spend your days on skee ball or at the soup kitchen? Do you spend your tokens on vacations or on volunteering? Nothing wrong with skee ball or vacation – but our priorities and their prevalence shows what’s really in our heart. Fill your cup with the Holy Spirit.  

  DL Moody got up in front of people with an empty cup. This is your life. What will you fill it with?  Amen.

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