by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
Dinner is ready. You open the front door and call out to your children to come home for dinner. For each of your children you made their favorite meal. Many of your children will come home for what they know will satisfy them. However, there are children of yours that over time have drifted and gone elsewhere and found other things to eat. They stopped coming home. They have gone. Should some or all of the wayward children come home, they are indeed welcome and you will be certain to cook for them their favorite meal. You’re aware that their dinner choice are not healthy and will in time make them sick enough that they won’t survive without your home cooking. But for now, you cook for the children that you know are within the sound of your voice that you know will come every time you call them home. You still get word to your wayward children that they are welcome should they ever decide to return. But it no longer makes sense to keep calling out for those kids that have left home and broken relationship with you.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
I experienced new revelation about this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans as I walked from the Sunday morning worship service to my car. It changed my day for the better, and it should improve my outlook for every day of my life. I do not believe that God all of a sudden revealed this to me, or shined a beam down from heaven like He did Apostle Paul when revelation of the person of Jesus Christ was so bright Paul went blind. I see just fine (except for the 2.5 reading glasses I am wearing as I type). This revelation in Scripture came to Paul under the severest of circumstances and Paul wrote it all down in a letter to the church in Rome. Paul was likely beaten up quite badly by really big tough men and cast into a dungeon, imprisoned for doing what I am doing freely right now. He may have been writing under candlelight, or perhaps catching sunlight or full moonlight through the ground level slit in the stone wall above him as he sat on damp ground with his exposed infected wounds causing him intense pain.
I believe God has revealed this promise to each of us and that He has called me to bring it to your attention. You might read this and say to yourself, “Steven just picked up on the hope of this promise now?” I suppose I have had intellectual awareness of this truth but it hit me in a way yesterday that moved me big time. A wave came over me and through me and my eyes welled up as I praised God for this truth of what He has in store for me and for you.
If you have a Bible, it would be good to read Romans Chapter 8 before continuing, or click on the link provided above, which will take you to the Bible Gateway site to read the chapter. The focus here is specific to verses 28 through 31. The following is verses 18-31 written from Paul’s prison cell:
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
In Romans Chapter 6, Paul writes that we are set free from the power of sin and death. He writes that the consequences of our selfish sin is death, but that the gift of God, through relationship with Jesus, is in fact eternal life; the truth that indeed sets us free. In Romans Chapter 7, Paul goes on to write that the power of sin, while it lacks the authority to inflict on us eternal consequences, continues to hold us under its addictive spell, constantly seducing us by way of carnal attraction. Paul writes (Romans 7:19-20),
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Then comes the promise of Romans, Chapter 8. Paul writes that while his addiction to sin still has the effect of him feeling frustrated and miserable, and perhaps even desperate feelings of failure and unworthiness; in relationship with Jesus Christ there is no condemnation (verse 1). What the moral standard of the commandments and the law of the prophets could not do, the sacrifice of Jesus did for Paul, and for you and for me, as Jesus suffered real condemnation for your sin and mine (verse 3).
Today, we live in the hope of eternity through salvation. We have a general idea of what we are saved from. But what are we being saved into? Paul writes that all of creation has been groaning for this hope to be realized, much like a woman pregnant waits with incredible anticipation for the life growing inside of her. While the anticipation for new life is bubbling within, pregnancy has its challenges and persecutions. While we possess the hope and the anticipation for salvation into new life, we often struggle with the adversity and pain in the world we live in. Bad things tend to happen that leave us feeling really bad.
When James writes (James 1:2) to experience great joy in the midst of trying adversity and problems, what on earth is he talking about? Are you ready?
James is talking about God’s plan from the beginning. When God created you and me, He knew that we would choose our own way since He gave us the opportunity to choose freely, and that we are human and not God. He knew that would be a problem of divine proportion. So we are told that Jesus was slain from the beginning of creation (Revelation 13:8). The sacrifice of the Son, Jesus, reconciled each one of us back into the plan and purpose of God.
What are we saved into?
So many of us have quoted Romans 8:28 at one time or another, especially after something traumatic occurs, or a loved one dies.
“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.”
These are comforting words. Or we will say, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God”, no matter where we are. And we’ll say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”; and, “We are more than conquerors!” Hallelujah!
How often have you considered the promise intertwined in this passage that is really what the promise of salvation is all about?
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. Romans 8:29-30 (NIV)
Uh oh… here comes all that religious theology stuff about predestination and all that. I admit that it is theology alright, but it isn’t that it’s theology that makes it right, it’s that it is truth, which makes it great!
Who did God foreknow? Have you ever created anything with a specific purpose from scratch that turned out exactly as intended; worked just as you intended and created it to work; something that did exactly what you needed it to do; and then said to yourself, “I have no idea what that is that I just created”? You know what you are bringing into the world long before it is even conceived into existence. Parents bearing children typically develop a relationship with them while they are still in the womb. You bond and know your child in relationship even before he or she takes that first breath on its own.
The heartbreak come when the child becomes disobedient and rebellious, perhaps even to the point that you may not recognize them. But strip away the visible appearance of disobedience, like when you see their picture as a young child, or when they get their act together as an adult, and you clearly see that they resemble you, “created” in your image.
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT)
Until yesterday, I didn’t spend much time considering the whole foreknowledge-predestination doctrinal thing because I believed that God knew each of us since He is our creator, which makes complete sense to me. But now, I am caught up by this thing about predestination and foreknowledge as it relates to God’s original plan for you and for me. His plan from the beginning has been to establish this immense community of people much like Himself to live with Him and love one another by their own choosing.
God knew from the beginning it would require incredible sacrifice. God knew that there would be, and will be those, who insistently reject the amazingly glorious existence and life He has planned for us. God knew that this sacrifice at the cross and in the grave would mean radical pain and perhaps even shock to the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit that is God. But God also knew that out of His immense radical love for you and for me, that it is all worth it—every second of it; and if given the chance to reconsider, He’d do it all again the exact same way. How do I know that? Because God is God, and He foreknew precisely how it would turn out when He put the wheels in motion in the first place.
It does not matter who you are or what you have done. God (Father, Son, and Spirit) created you in His image. When Jesus came to earth the first time, He did so looking like us, selfish sinful human beings, yet He did not sin. When we enter into relationship with Christ, He takes us as we are. We were made to look like Him. Redemption is about being transformed to be “remade” into His image. In relationship with Christ we experience the new life of recovery (salvation) on earth. The hope of our salvation, though, comes in the promise that we have been called to be sons and daughters of one Father, God—brothers and sisters of the firstborn, resurrected Jesus. We (you) have been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, resurrected Jesus. What does Jesus look like, today? I don’t exactly know. But in the book of Revelation, we have an idea.
And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. Revelation 1:13-17 (NLT)
Apostle John did in fact recognize Jesus, the Son of God, as he witnessed human features of glorified Jesus. However, John’s description of Jesus is beyond my comprehension. John did his best to describe for us what he saw. Yet, even though John recognized Jesus, he writes that he collapsed as though he were dead. There is Scripture that says that even the mere appearance of Jesus, when He confronts His enemies in that final battle, will indeed kill them. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, so that Moses could visualize something tangible but he could not look upon Him. The Bible says that God is a consuming fire. Apostle Paul was blinded at the sight of glorified Jesus. The three men in the book of Daniel stood and walked around in a fiery furnace with a fourth person, and with Him were more sensational than the fire.
So, what did John see? Something that would obviously kill him unless God in the person of Jesus chose to supernaturally allow John to experience this encounter into the glory of who Jesus is today. John may have fainted at the sight of such a marvelous, and perhaps fearful sight. Jesus then touched John and told him and showed him quite a bit of stuff that John lived to write about.
So the plan of God is that we live in community with Him as a family glorified; a family united in love. What will we look like? I don’t know, except that Paul wrote that we will look like Jesus resembling our creator. We won’t look anymore like rebellious children, or defiant teenagers, or depressed adults living in the shame and bitterness of our past under the weight of the world. Looking like Jesus, resembling our Father, we will live out our eternity in the peace and joy of the heaven He is preparing for you and for me, even as I have written, and you have read this.