Selected highlights from this sermon.
The greatest proof that God is on our side and that He’s willing to give us all things is that He’s already given us His most precious gift—His Son. His choice to hand over His beloved Son to us in order to redeem us was completely voluntary. So if He willingly gave us Jesus, would He not also freely give us all things?
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In the early 1900s a teenager by the name of Peter Deyneka got on a boat from Russia to go to Nova Scotia. His parents had saved for months in order that they might be able to buy their son a ticket with the hope that this young man would begin over again and have a good chance in the New World. They knew that the boat ride would be long and so in order to make sure he had enough food they baked black garlic bread, and they dried it and put it in bags so that it would not mold. There on the ship Peter Deyneka would look through the window and see everyone else eating. He saw the rich people eating and then he would think to himself how wonderful that would be and then he retreated back to his room where he ate his bread and drank his water. Some of the sailors who were there noticed his predicament and took advantage of him. They said, “If you help us with the kitchen chores we’ll feed you some of the food from the kitchen, so he worked very, very hard and was very glad that he got some decent food. Peter Deyneka, in his biography, said that it was not until the last day of the voyage he realized that three meals a day were included in the price of the ticket.
By the way, Peter Deyneka came here to America and was converted here at The Moody Church. I interviewed him about twenty-five years ago before he died, and what a great evangelist he became for Russia and began an organization, which today continues to share the Word of God in that country.
But the bottom line is this: You and I know that if we received Christ as Savior, we have a free ticket to go all the way to heaven. What some of us don’t know is what is included in the price of the ticket, because God is very generous with His people and we sometimes think that a Christian is simply a person minus his or her sins. What an incredible insult that is to what God has done when He came and redeemed us from our sins.
With your Bibles open to Romans 8, you know that we have been learning that we have been chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. In verse 29 the Apostle Paul goes on to say that those whom He foreknew He predestined, and foreknowledge, we learned, means to know ahead of time and to choose to fore-love. If you were not here to hear the last message of this series of messages, I really do encourage you to do just that as I talked about the doctrine of election and the certainty of God’s purposes. But as Paul continues the discussion he says now in verse 31, “What shall we say to these things?” And the things that he has been talking about are all that God has done to redeem us. He says, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
The great humanist, Erasmus, read these words and said that not even Cicero was able to equal the eloquence of the Apostle Paul at this point: “If God is for us, then who is out there who can be against us?” And by the way, in Greek there are different ways to say the word if. The word that is used here means since. Since God is for us; it’s not as if there’s some kind of a doubt in Paul’s mind as to whether God is for us. He says, “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” Who is there out there that might take on God?
The chapter begins with those lovely words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So the question is, who can rid us of our no condemnation status if you’re a believer? Who can take away God’s sovereign choice of you? Who can somehow take you and wrest you from belonging to God’s family? Who is out there that might be able to do that? The obvious answer is nobody, because nobody is stronger than God.
We may think to ourselves that surely our enemies can. False teachers can mislead. They can misdirect us, and all of us know that that happens regularly, and that even true Christians sometimes get bogged down in various cults, and various wrong doctrines, but even then, their status as a child of God remains unmoved and untouched because if God is for us who then can be against us? And if you were foreknown, and if you were predestined, and called, and justified and already glorified as we learned last time, it’s a done deal. You are glorified. Who is going to take you out from under God’s protection and His infinite grace? Can an enemy do it—somebody who hates you—somebody who stalks you? Can they somehow thwart God’s purposes in your life? The answer is no, because if God is for us, Paul says in verse 31, then who is he who is going to be against us? Who will take on God?
Well, what about yourself? Can’t you just return the gift of salvation? After all, you chose to believe on Christ. Can’t you just simply choose to no longer believe on Christ, and you take that gift of salvation back like you might a sweater at Christmastime because you get tired of it, or it doesn’t fit, or you don’t like it and you’ve changed your mind. No, you can’t do that because that implies that the choice to believe on Christ was yours, and what the Bible is teaching here is that God chose you first, and then worked in your heart so that you would concur with God’s choice, so that on your part it definitely was a voluntary decision, but at the same time you were responding to the great sovereign work of God in your heart. And as we learned last time, you were known to God as His child as long as God has existed. God is the author of salvation. God is the one who finishes the work of salvation, and because of that, it isn’t ultimately in your hands. You are in God’s hands and Jesus said, “No one is able to pluck them out of my hand. I and my Father are one.”
So your enemies can’t. You can’t. What about Satan? Well, Satan can thwart us. He can harass us. He can debilitate us. He can accuse us, but ultimately Satan can do nothing with our status as God’s children, as His sons, and as His daughters, because, you see, we belong to Him forever. That is to say, we belong to God forever, and therefore we are secure in the will and the purpose of God, and we can overcome Satan, as particularly we will learn in the next message. No, if God is for us, who is there out there who is going to be against us? Who will take on God?
The other day I was listening to a message by Henry Blackaby, and if you know him you know he is a man of great faith. He was a pastor in Saskatchewan, Canada, a place with which I have some familiarity, and his church was planting other churches in other little towns, and they went to this one town, and the witch doctor from the Indian reservation was there to meet him out on the street and told him that there will be no church built in this town. The witch doctor said, “I have come to put a curse on you,” and Henry Blackaby just smiled, and he said to him, “You have no idea whom it is that you are up against,” and a church was built in that town that is still there today. [applause] If God is for us, who can put a curse on us? It’s like trying to down an aircraft carrier with a slingshot. If God is for you, who can be against you?
My fellow believer, today I am here to tell you that there is no one stronger than God who can topple him. There is no one as big as God who can thwart his purposes. There is no one so evil and so crafty that God cannot overcome him. If God is for us who shall be against us? Who is out there that can take on God? The answer is no one if God be for us, and he is for his people.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, that all may be nice, and it’s wonderful for you to preach this, but I’m going through a hard time financially, or I’m going through a hard time health-wise. I have children that are misbehaving. I have somebody who has just cheated me. Where is God in the middle of all this? If God is for us, it certainly doesn’t appear as if He’s for me,” you may be saying. Maybe today there is somebody out there and you feel just like Naomi in the book of Ruth. You remember she left Bethlehem and she left with a husband and two sons, and she was in the land of Moab and the sons married Moabite girls, and then her husband died, and then both of her sons died, and then she came back, and one of those daughters-in-law of hers by the name of Ruth, followed her, and you know the rest of the story. But when Naomi came back to Bethlehem they said, “Naomi is back,” and she said, “No, no, no, don’t call me Naomi. Call me Bitter because the Lord has dealt harshly and bitterly with me.” She said, “I left full. I had a husband, and I had two sons and I’ve come back empty because all three men in my life are dead,” and so she says, “I feel as if God has been bitter toward me.”
Do you feel that way? You say, “Pastor Lutzer, if God would be for me that would be wonderful, but how do I know that God is for me when everything out there seems to be against me; when the economy is against me, when friends seem to be against me, when my health is against me. Where is God in the midst of all of this? I do not see that God is for me.”
Well, the Apostle was thinking about you, I’m sure, and he was thinking about me. Look at the text. Always remember. Keep your Bible open with your finger on the text. Verse 31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Verse 32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Wow! How do we know God is for us? What is the proof that God indeed is on our side? The answer is simply this: God has given us his most precious gift, even (the Bible says) His own Son, and it says He delivered Him up. The idea in Greek is that He handed Him over. I love that terminology, because when you hand something over it’s very clear that you are still in charge. You’re handing it over, and in fact, when Jesus died on the cross, the Bible says that He dismissed His spirit because He was in charge, and His spirit could not be dismissed until He dismissed His spirit. Even on the cross, Jesus was still king. He was still reigning.
Now look at what the text says. Therefore, this was a voluntary choice on God’s part. Now some people die voluntarily because they may be martyrs for the faith, and that certainly has happened tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of times in the history of the church. But when they give up their life, they would change circumstances if they could. If they had their captors under their control, if they had situations that they could control, they’d probably get out of it. God had all of this under control, and Jesus said that any moment he could call ten thousand angels and they would come to deliver him. This was not because Jesus was a victim in the usual sense of the word victim because a victim sometimes is helpless, and Jesus was never helpless. The Father was never helpless, and yet He voluntarily gave up His son. He handed Him over for us, and that is the greatest proof that God is on our side. He really is on our side.
Notice that the argument that Paul gives there is really one from the greater to the lesser. What he’s saying is, “If God gave up that which was most precious to him, namely his son; if God was willing to give up his son, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?” I mean if you, young man, are going to give your girlfriend a ring, aren’t you also going to give her the case in which the ring comes? I would think so.
Let us suppose that there was a situation in which I had to die for Rebecca, my wife. I’d like to think that I would gladly die in her place. Now, if I were to give my life for her, wouldn’t she also get whatever my inheritance might be, whatever that turns out to be or how little it turns out to be? Wouldn’t she get that too? Of course! I mean if you’re going to give your life, that which is most precious and best, obviously everything else is thrown in. What the Apostle Paul is saying is this: He says, “In light of the fact that God did not spare his own son, he gave us that which is most precious to him, therefore, he is willing along with him, obviously, to give you all things.” There is no imagination in the world that can possibly begin to describe all that God has prepared and is willing to give those who receive His Son as Savior. There is no limit. None! And that’s why I’m saying it’s included in the price of the ticket. You receive Jesus Christ as Savior, and you inherit, the Bible says, all things.
In your bulletin today you will notice that I have listed ten blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ. I did this in about ten minutes. I thought to myself, “What do we have in Jesus?” This is not a complete list. In fact, it’d be interesting to have a Bible study sometime where everyone did some research to find all that God gives us when we receive Christ as Savior. This is only a small indication of the all things, but for those of you who are watching by Internet or listening by radio, I’ll take the time to read it, though the folks that are here at Moody Church not only have it listed, but they have verses of Scripture to go with it, and I hope that you take the time that is necessary to look up all of these verses.
We are given grace from all of eternity. We’ve already learned that but this is a beautiful passage—II Timothy 1:9 because it says that you have been graced, “the grace given us in Jesus Christ from all of eternity.” Now we’ve learned that already, that we were in God’s mind and heart as long as God existed, but notice, you’ve both been forgiven and justified. Now there’s a huge difference. If all that you know as a Christian is forgiveness and you don’t understand justification, I personally don’t know how you can walk with God day after day when things get tough and your emotions don’t fall in line with what you believe, and that’s why the message next time in this series is so critical as I speak on justification. “Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died. It is God who justifies.” You need to understand that if you intend to seriously walk with God.
We are reconciled to God. Imagine this. We were enemies, the Bible says, and God reconciled us in Jesus.
We were joined to Jesus for the new walk. It says we are united to Him by His death and His resurrection.
Number five: we are seated with Jesus in heavenly places. We are already there legally. It says He raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Jesus Christ. You are already there. How certain are you that when you die you are going to heaven? If you are a believer, you are one hundred percent certain, because you are already there. I mean, you’ve already got property in heaven. You’ve already been established there. Your advocate is already there representing you. All that is necessary is for you to breathe your last so that you can get there, and don’t be in a hurry, but it’ll happen.
Back in the days when I was a Canadian citizen there could be no hassle when I went from the United States to Canada. I’ve got a passport. Hey, your passport is already in heaven. It’s just a matter of time.
We are indwelt and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Imagine what God does. As God has said, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God,” and the Bible says that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are sealed until the day of redemption.
We are given Jesus as our advocate.
We are friends and brothers with Jesus.
I hope you are being blessed today, by the way. My, if you’re not being blessed come up to me later and I’ll introduce you to Jesus.
You know, Jesus said to the disciples, “I’m not calling you servants anymore because servants don’t know what their masters are doing. I am calling you friends because everything that the Father has told me I am telling you.” Wow!
We view death as a gift. Paul says in I Corinthians 3:21, “All things are yours including life and death.” Death is a gift. Listen, if you wouldn’t die and if the Lord wouldn’t come back, imagine living forever in your frail weak body that’s getting weaker every day. Imagine that! That wouldn’t be any great blessing. God says, “I’m going to give you a gift. It’s called the gift of death.” And Cyprian said in the early centuries that the reason that Christianity took North Africa was because of the plagues. He said, “The plagues were the best thing that ever happened because it proved that Christians died differently. They died with so much hope the pagans said, “Where in the world are they getting all this hope from?” and Christianity spread. It’s a gift.
And then we are assured of reigning with Christ forever. That’s what the Bible says. We shall reign with Him forever. You’ve heard me quote it many times. “He who overcomes, to him I will grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and sat with my Father on his throne.” And is says in Revelation 22, “His name shall be on their foreheads and they shall reign with him forever and ever.”
I had lunch this past week with a person who is not a believer. He is actually an atheist, and he gave me three reasons why he wouldn’t want to go to heaven. I remember two of them. One is that he’s interested in social action, and he said in heaven there wouldn’t be any poor so I’ll have nothing to do. He said, “I’ll be bored out of my mind.” The second was that he can’t imagine living a whole eternity with Christians, and then he said, “You know I attended the Republican National Convention, and if that’s heaven…” and I said to him, “I just want you to know that’s not heaven; I can assure you.”
Oh my friend, we’re going to be so busy in heaven. It’s not a matter of beginning with a hymnal on page number one and singing all the way through and then when you’re finished starting all over again. You are going to be given assignments. You are going to be given territory over which you must rule. You are going to be connecting with friends throughout all of eternity and you will never, never get bored, and you’ll be reigning with Christ. The Bible says that if you overcome, he says, “I will give you authority over the nations.” Listen, “He who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, will he not also with him freely give us all things?” “All things are yours,” the Apostle Paul said.
Now, don’t ever say, “Oh, you know these poor Christians, they are just sinners minus their sins, and God came and took their sin away.” Yeah, God came and took their sin away but He did it with an intention, namely that He had one Son, and He said, “I want many adopted sons and daughters (millions of them) and so I’m going to redeem them.” You are not just a sinner minus your sins. Understand, my friend, you are invited to participate in the “all things.”
Now what I’d like to do is to help us to get a handle around this by summarizing some of the ideas that clearly Paul has been teaching so far in Romans 8.
First of all, salvation is God’s work entirely. It is not yours. This is where Christianity differs from Islam in many respects, because in Islam if Allah wishes to forgive he forgives but there’s no payment for sin. There’s no need for a sacrifice.
The Biblical God is a different God. He is a holy God and as a result He cannot just allow bygones to be bygones. What He must do is He must have a payment for sin. “The soul that sins, it will die,” the Bible says. Somebody’s got to die when man sinned, but here’s the dilemma. We can’t die. If we do die, we would be punished in hell forever for our part and there would be no redemption for us. Redemption is totally out of our hands. We can’t do anything about it. If anything is going to be done, God’s going to have to do the doing.
Poras, who was a poet and playwright in Ancient Rome, criticized some of his fellow playwrights. He said, “The problem is they have these plays and they bring a god on the stage when it really isn’t necessary,” and then he said, “No god should ever be brought onto the stage unless the plot is so difficult and so entangled that only a god can unravel it.” Well, if you read the first few chapters of the book of Romans you know that because we are under the condemnation of sin, the plot is so thick and so difficult and we are so entangled by sin that we can’t do anything about it. We need God to come and do it.
Phil Donohue, that great interpreter of American culture said on one occasion, “If God loved the world, why didn’t He step out of heaven and do it Himself? Why did he get Jesus to do it?” Phil, in Jesus, God did it! That’s the answer. [applause] And God, the Father, in eternity past said, “I’m going to give my Son a gift of humanity.” In the Gospel of John they are referred to as “those whom God has given me,” over and over again. That is the elect, and He is going to come and He is going to die and He’s going to redeem, and these are going to be His people forever and ever and ever. “And I’m going to overcome their blindness, their stubbornness, their unwillingness to believe, and I’m going to have their wills in harmony with mine so that what I have planned to do they will agree to and throughout all of eternity we will sing, ‘Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.’”
Now, if you are here today and you say, “Well, I don’t know whether or not I belong to this company,” remember the message last time. This does not exclude anyone who desires to believe. If you want to believe, that shows that God is working in your heart, and I urge you to believe. Every Sunday I urge you to believe on Jesus, because no one who wants to be included is excluded, but it does mean that salvation is deeply rooted in the soil of God’s eternal purposes. Salvation is God’s work. We just get the privilege of proclaiming the very good news.
Second, it is very clear that the blessings of today guarantee the greater blessings of tomorrow. Let me say that again. The blessings of today guarantee the greater blessings of tomorrow. I began by talking about Peter Deyneka, who very clearly did not know that three meals a day on the ship were included in the price of the ticket. Well, today we have the hors d’oeuvres but the banquet is coming.
You know, if you go to the CLC, we have what is known as the North View Room. It’s the room that looks out over the part of the city of Chicago (Clark Street), and you know that oftentimes if there’s a banquet that’s where hors d’oeuvres are served, and then you go behind the two doors into another room, and there’s the banquet. But right now we’re where the hors d‘oeuvres are being served. You’ve heard me say before that we have a drop, but God says, “The ocean is coming.” We have a flower, but God says, “You’re going to inherit the whole garden.” Let’s take, for example, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Bible talks about that we are sealed unto the day of redemption. In other words, God says, “I want to make sure (and you know in ancient times the seal was actually put in an envelope and the seal indicated that it could not be broken or tampered with without people knowing that the hot wax and the insignia of the king had been tampered with). God says, “I have kept you all the way to the day of redemption. Nobody is going to tamper with you. They’ll try to tamper with you but you are sealed until the day of redemption, and in that day there will be a completion of all that I intended, and that huge banquet that we’ve talked about is going to be yours, and you are going to be invited to the table.” The fact that you are now seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenlies is proof that someday you will reign with Him. The fact that the power of sin has been broken in our lives is proof that someday we will be free from the very presence of sin. All of the things that we anticipate today—those things that we anticipate—are going to be ours tomorrow in a fuller, richer, unending eternal sense because “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, those things which God prepared for them who love him, for if God spared not his own son, but delivered him up and handed him over for us, will he not also with him freely give us all things?” There is no limit to what God does for those who trust His Son.
There’s another lesson and that is that obviously we should be a grateful people. Let us suppose that you had a son, an obedient son, a son whom you loved, and a son who did your bidding; and then you had a servant, and the servant stole from you. The servant lied about you, and then the servant committed a crime and is to die for that crime, and you and your son have a discussion and you say, “Son, I love you, but also I’ve chosen to love this servant so much. Are you willing to die in the place of this servant so that I can purchase him and he be mine forever?” And the father and the son agree and your son dies for that disobedient rebellious servant. Now are you telling me that after you do that, is it even possible for that servant to be ungrateful? Is it possible for that servant to be stingy? You know last week I made the statement that if you are stingy you are probably not a Christian. It’s interesting. I received a lot of interesting comments based on that statement. Well, I think I stand by that. You mean to say that God can give you His son and deliver Him up for you, and you are stingy or ungrateful? I hope not. It’s not even possible if God did that for you and for me, that we can go along in our own self-interested ways without responding in love and gratitude and worship and praise to the one who delivered that which was most precious to Him for us rebellious unworthy sinners, and enemies.
Oh yes, I know life is hard. I know gratitude is difficult because it’s harsh out there, but if you have an eternal perspective you can continue to believe and you can continue to trust because you know that all things are coming and you’re on the ship, and the day is going to come when you will not just look through the windows, but you’ll sit down at the banquet and the Bible says (this is hard for me to say now, folks) when we sit down at the banquet, Jesus Himself will come and serve us. “He who spared not his own son but delivered him up, will he not with him freely give us everything?”
A young woman by the name of Anne Steel had encountered one trial and disappointment after another. She was engaged to be married, and she looked forward to her wedding day, as did the guests, but on the day appointed the groom was missing. After about an hour of waiting a messenger brought the news that he had unexpectedly died. Later on she penned these words, which are still found in many hymnals.
Father, what ‘ere of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign will denies,
Accepted at thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise.
Give me a calm a thankful heart
From every murmur free,
The blessings of thy grace impart
And make me live to Thee.
The “all things” are on their way.
If you are here and you’ve never trusted Christ, and you feel like a real outsider because you’re not even on the ship, I encourage you to trust Christ as your Savior. If you find within you just that desire to say, “I want to belong. I want to be reconciled. I want all of these gifts, these blessings that were listed in the bulletin today,” you trust Christ right now even while I pray, and would you join me?
Father, forgive us for our ungratefulness, for our selfishness. Forgive us, Father, for going our own way when You’ve done so much for us. Encourage Your people today we pray and grant all of us the faith and the courage to know that we belong to You. For those who have listened who have never trusted Christ as Savior, they don’t have that ticket, today we pray, show them their sin, and then show them Jesus, that they might believe on Him and be saved.
Before I close this prayer, what is that you have to say to God today? What is it that you have to say to Him?
Hear our prayer today, Father. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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