MESSAGE FOR SEPTEMBER 20, 1998 FROM ROMANS 5:5

 

           We continue this week in the fifth chapter of Romans as Paul celebrates one by one, the blessings given to those who have been justified by faith in Christ.  So far in chapter five, Paul has told us that those who are justified have peace with God.  That is, not only are they no longer at war with God but there is a sense of harmony and well being as they can now relate personally to God in warmth and intimacy.  A second blessing of those who have been justified, made right with God is they have gained access into a context of grace with God.  Their relationship with God is governed by grace, not law.  Their relationship with God is not rooted in the legalistic soil of trying to please God by what they can do for Him, but in what God has done for them through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  Third, justified people rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  They overflow with joy as they look forward with a steadfast confidence to that moment when they will see the glory of the Lord.  This will be seen when he reveals His own manifest magnificence, and also when the glorified church is revealed as she is finally transformed into his glorious likeness.  Justified people can rejoice in that hope.  Last week, we saw that those who are justified rejoice not only in this  future hope, but they also overflow with joy in the sufferings of this present world.

          They do this because the suffering of this world, in the lives of those who have been justified, can ultimately produce hope.  Suffering, that which most people think sucks the hope out of them, is actually a means by which God strengthens our hope.  It strengthens our confidence that God will keep his promises--it purifies and refines our hope--this confident expectation that God is everything He says He is and will do everything He says He will do.  That is this wonderful quality called “hope” and it is hammered out on the anvil of the trials and tribulations of life.  Because suffering leads to hope, it is a cause for rejoicing,

          After Paul has related hope to the glory of God and to suffering, he continues on about the utter reliability of this hope--this confidence that God will do what He has promised.  He says, beginning in verse five, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  The big truth Paul communicates here is simply this:  Those who are justified in Christ are blessed with a future hope that is totally trustworthy and sure.  Paul makes two points about this hope which are chocked full of blessing for anyone who truly desires to trust in God.  The first point is found in the phrase, “And hope does not disappoint us...” 

          This phrase needs some explanation before we can understand it.  That phrase is in the present tense, “hope does not disappoint” but as we said last week, this quality of hope is almost always future oriented.  Also, the context of this verse is all future oriented.  Our hope of the future revelation of the glory of God is future and our hope that our present sufferings will produce future hope is future.  Many of the best scholars believe Paul’s intention here is to speak of our future hope at the judgment.  This helps us to understand that Paul is talking about a future hope.  The word translated “disappoint” in the context means “put to shame.”  Paul is saying that at the judgment we will not be ashamed for having this hope.  Paul’s thought here echoes the Psalmist in Psalm 25:3 “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.”  That is essentially the same thing Paul is giving here as a blessing which belongs to those who are justified.  The hope that you, as a child of God have in the Lord to fulfill his promises will not cause you to be put to shame.”  The point is this:  Those who hope in Christ and His promises will not be ashamed in the future for having and acting on that hope.   This is a beautiful promise that hope does not disappoint, that is, we will not be ashamed in the judgment for having lived our lives hoping in Christ and His promises. This pierces the heart of one of the lies that a committed Christian can be tempted to believe.  I say “committed” Christian because those people who are not committed seldom struggle with this lie.  The lie is related to the fact that when you live your life in obedience to Christ, there are many things in this life you will never experience that other nice people, many of whom claim to be Christians ARE experiencing. 

          Following Christ means sacrifice.  Jesus doesn’t tell us to first sit down and count the cost for nothing.  Last week, I paraphrased a quote which actually goes like this, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, its been found difficult and left untried.”  The essence of discipleship is following Jesus and Jesus’ life is characterized by sacrifice.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t seek to be the village fuddy duddy.  I’m not advocating the Christian life as misery or drudgery--it is tragically true that too few Christians know the true joy of the Lord.  A long face is no sign of spiritual maturity.  “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  But the Christian who seeks to live his life faithfully will find that sacrifice is more  than an occasional visitor.  There’s nothing wrong with having fun--we all need an occasional diversion, but to think that following Christ is without significant, regular sacrifice warped and without a shred of biblical evidence. Sadly, this superficial understanding of discipleship--this Christianity “lite” (all the full bodied flavor of discipleship without the cross) is pervasive in the church today.

       Those who advocate this understanding of Christianity point to texts which describe the Christian life as in Matthew 11:29 where Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  First John 5:3 says, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,”  These two texts don’t mention sacrifice--  “light burden,...easy yoke,...not burdensome”--that doesn’t sound like sacrifice.  Then you have other texts which describe the Christian life as in First Corinthians 9:26, “...I do not run like a man running aimlessly;  I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  Whatever happened to the light burden and the easy yoke!?  Paul says that he beats his body into submission so that he will not be disqualified from receiving the crown of eternal life.

          How do you put those two texts together and make any sense of them?  Which one really describes the Christian life?  The answer is:  they both do.  Jesus and John are speaking of the lightness of the Christian life that is lived out by someone who is leaning on God and walking in the Spirit.  As you are yoked with Jesus, trusting Him to bear the load, there is an ease to be found in the Christian life in the power of the Spirit.  But trusting Christ to bear the load is something that must be learned and its a life long process.  And a major part of learning to trust Him is disciplining ourselves for the purpose of crucifying that “flesh” part of us which is constantly pulling at us to trust in ourselves and go our own independent way.   That faith-quenching “flesh” part of us has to be killed and that is where sacrifice comes in.  Trusting Him is the hard part!  Learning to trust requires sacrificial, demanding discipline in order to close the door to our independent minded flesh and open the door to humble dependence on the Spirit’s power which comes in response to faith.

          Now that we’ve established that the Christian life is difficult, lets get back to what Paul is saying in Romans five.  One application of this text is this:  as you live your Christian life with its sacrifices and self denial you are confronted with a temptation to fear.  And that fear feels something like this:  All that I am doing in sacrificial obedience to Christ and which deprives me of many of the niceties and pleasures which so many people around me share in--all that sacrifice is a waste.  Let me put into words what many committed Christians may feel at times, especially when the sacrifices are mounting.  Most of the other Christians you know don’t go through what you do...they don’t have to lose sleep to spend time in prayer and the word--they don’t have to watch their finances and buy fewer things for their children because they give a large percentage of their income away. They don’t have to repeatedly say “no” to their child’s request for a new bike so they can use that money for ministry to others who are less fortunate.  They don’t have to place the kind of restrictions on their television or books or movies or other media outlets you do. These others seem to be able to compromise their faith and hang onto relationships which brings them down spiritually.  They don’t have to make nearly as many sacrifices as you make and they’re no worse off spiritually.  It will all be the same in the end.  The way you are living your life, the things you are giving up...this is ridiculous...it is a cosmic waste and some day when you stand before God, you will be red faced in shame.

          The underlying lie behind all those statements is most often this.  “When you die and stand before Christ and He gives you that initial bear hug in glory, none of those sacrifices you have made will count for anything.  And when you make them, out of what you sense to be obedience to God, all you are really doing is depriving you and your family of things which, in the end, wont make any difference.  You’ll find that so much of the self denial, the sacrifices has been all for nothing and you will feel like a fool for hoping in Christ to honor your so called “obedience.”  This is a lie.  I’m convinced that when we stand before Christ and see His glory and feel His love our response will be, “How could I have been so lazy--I had all the chances in the world to give my life away for Him and I spent so much time hoarding things for myself!”   The trouble is many people in the lukewarm church of today have refused to live a committed Christian life because of this lie.  It cripples their walk with God.  This lie that all the sacrifices made in obedience to Christ are good for nothing and will result in you wearing a dunce cap in heaven, feeling ashamed for your “false zeal” is part of what Paul is addressing in Romans 5:5.

          Paul says this hope that God will fulfill his promises is NOT in vain!  Our sacrifice, our suffering here will not disappoint us.  When you stand before God, having made by his grace, these sacrifices in obedience to him you will not be ashamed!  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will  be revealed in us.” When we stand before Him, all the sacrifices, all the self denial, all those times you picked up your cross and gave up something that seemingly everyone else around you had, all the pain connected with those sacrifices will be utterly forgotten.  The question of whether “it will all be worth it” Paul answers here.  It WILL all be worth it!  This hope we have will not put us to shame!!  The question left for us to answer is this:  “Am I following Jesus in a life of obedience and self denial?  Is the reason I seldom if ever struggle against the power of this lie of being ashamed for unnecessary sacrifice because I’m not really giving up anything for the Lord?”  For so many so called Christians in North America, the assurance Paul gives in this text is irrelevant--it doesn’t scratch them where they are itching at all.  They don’t fear that all their sacrifice is in vain because they aren’t making any noticeable sacrifice!  It would be futile for them to sit down and count the cost to live the kind of life they are living as “Christians” because they aren’t paying any appreciable price.  For them, Christianity is this world and heaven too.  If you are such a person who never is confronted with sacrifice for the King, your status in the kingdom as one who has been justified by Christ may be only in your head, not in reality.  The first point Paul makes here is Those who hope in Christ and the fulfillment of God’s promises will not be ashamed of having and acting on that hope.

          The second point Paul makes here about this hope tells us how we can know in this life, how we can have proof that we will not be put to shame, will not be disappointed.  He says this hope will not disappoint us “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  Here is a beautiful picture of how the Triune God loves his children.  The Father, as we’ll see next week initiates this love, the Son expresses this love through His death on the cross and the Holy Spirit enables us to experience this love as he pours it into our hearts. The word translated “poured out” means “to gush out.”  This is an extravagant pouring.  God is not stingy in giving us His love--he gushes it into our hearts.  Paul’s second point here is:  The proof that our hope is not a vain one is the presence of God’s love which we experience by the Holy Spirit.   This ministry of the Holy Spirit in allowing us to experience this love is explained by Douglas Moo in his commentary on Romans.  He says, “...it is this internal, subjective--yes, even emotional--sensation within the believer that God does indeed love us--love expressed and made vital in real, concrete actions on our behalf--that gives to us the assurance that “hope will not disappoint us.”

          The kind of love we feel from the Spirit is the kind of love a Father has for his child.  Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  Isn’t’ that wonderful?  Isn’t that fantastic that God would do that for us?  That he would prove to us that our hope is not in vain by confirming His love for us experientially by the Holy Spirit?  Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s great, but I don’t feel--I don’t experience His love for me.  For years, I have been singing “Jesus loves me, this I know...:  but the only proof I have of that is “for the Bible tells me so.”  I would never minimize the importance of the Bible’s testimony of God’s love for us, and NO ONE feels this love all the time[!], but this same Bible says right here that the Holy Spirit is sent to us, in part to enable us to experience God’s love for us.

          In the brief time remaining, let me give you a number of reasons why you may not be experiencing God’s love by the Holy Spirit.  This list is far from exhaustive, but perhaps you will meet yourself here somewhere.  The first possible reason is maybe its because you have unrepentant sin in your life you are refusing to deal with.  If the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin and you ignore Him, you are quenching His influence in your life--ALL His influence.  You can’t simply pick and choose which of the ministries of the Spirit you will receive.  You can’t say to God, “No, I don’t want any more of the guilt your Spirit is causing me to feel over my unrepentant sin, but please Spirit, keep the love coming--don’t shut that off--I like that!”  Sometimes, God in His grace will continue to flood us with His love even when we are in sin to show us his goodness.  His kindness leads us to repentance.”  He will keep His love coming into our hearts in sin sometimes to shame us into sinning against such a loving God, but that is His choice, not ours.  Often, unrepentant sin will shut off our experience of his love. 

          Another reason you may not be experiencing His love is because you, out of a false sense of nobility refuse to receive this experience of His love He wants to give you.  Some people who are more conscious of how sinful they are and are full of pride in a perfectionistic sort of way will simply say to God in their spirit, “No, Lord, I don’t deserve your love--I’m a monstrous sinner and I could never be worthy to experience your love.”  This isn’t something they think mentally, its spiritual thanks to the pride in their hearts and the programming they have received by life.  No one else has ever loved them unconditionally, so why should God?  When the fountain of God’s love bubbles up within them, they immediately cap it--they shut it down.  They don’t do this mentally--in their spirit, they simply refuse to accept God’s gushing out of His love for them.  They sabotage his attempts to show them His love and they push it away.  This feels noble to them, but it is in fact, quite arrogant.  Who are we to send the Lord packing when He comes to confirm His love to us?  Of course you’re a sinner, but God has chosen to love you by sending His Son.   Who are you to veto His work to show us His love?!  We are presuming to stand above and know more than God.  Humble yourself, renounce your pride and tell Him you will receive His love through the Spirit.

          A third reason you may not be experiencing His love is because God is temporarily withholding the experience of His love to wean you from placing your trust in your emotions.  God desires children who “walk by faith and not by sight” or by feelings!  If you begin to equate God’s love for you with some feeling you get, he will take it away to cause you to place your ultimate trust in the word of God and what He has done for you in Christ.  He will not let us rely too heavily on feelings which can be so dependent upon circumstance and other externals.  God wants to bless us this way, but He wants us to trust in Him, not His blessings

          A final reason why you may not experience God’s love though the Spirit is because you have never received the Spirit--you have never been born again.  If you are not experiencing God’s love this could be the reason.  If you have never been born again--never received the Spirit, it is impossible for you to feel the love of the Spirit.  If you are not certain whether you have the Holy Spirit, come to God and repent of your sins.  Accept Christ (for real!!) as your Lord and Savior and receive the Holy Spirit so that He can pour out the love of God into your heart.

          Isn’t the Lord wonderful to install, in the Person of His Holy Spirit, this fountain of his love within us that gushes up to confirm His love for us?  Paul says that’s His way of affirming to us that all the pain we endure, the sacrifices we endure, the crosses we carry are not for nothing?  Do you experience this ministry of the Holy Spirit.  If not, there is something wrong because this blessing is part of the blessing that comes to those who have been justified in Christ.  Seek God and find our what’s wrong if this is not part of your experience.  Maybe the reason God doesn’t have to confirm his love for you in the midst of sacrifices is because you aren’t making any.  Jesus said, “...anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple cannot be my disciple.”   May God give us grace to live out the Christ life and to have our hope in Christ confirmed regularly by the outpouring of His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

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