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The gospel is great assurance for the believer because in the gospel we know that nothing can take us, or separate us, from Christ. Although it is an uneasy theological concept, predestination gives us this assurance. In Romans 8 Paul speaks of our predestined assurance before the Father because of Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross and through the resurrection. It is truly wonderful to know that nothing will take us away from the blessed hope we have if we are truly in Jesus Christ.

And Romans 8 gives us an insight into our future. As predestined people then future glory is ours because God has planned it as such. Paul tells us that this earth is groaning with sin and will one day pass away. But this groaning must be endured so that we can know the glory of heaven. John Bunyan in hymn encourages us to keep going in the faith so that we will know the full blessings of our salvation.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

When I was a child I couldn't wait for Christmas and I couldn't wait for birthdays and I couldn't wait for someone to come home from their holidays. What have all three things got in common? Presents. What are you gonna bring me home from your holidays? Where can I find the Christmas presents and birthday presents and even if they're wrapped how can I take the tape off even with a steam iron so that I can see what's inside and carefully put it back together again so no one would know? Particularly with Christmas and birthdays, what's the fun in that? What's the fun in waiting? Well, I thought there was no fun. I didn't like the surprise. I wanted to know what I was getting. And so when the day ruled round to receive whatever gift was coming, of course it wasn't always as good as the gifts that did come that surprised you. And in a way that's, that's a story that covers what we're looking at in Romans 8 in these last number of verses this evening. Because we're back in Romans having had a bit of a break again, just like Genesis. Uh, but we're in a passage that includes many familiar verses. Verses that we've possibly learned over the years, but certainly that we've heard, read, and preached on. And it's a message in this section about waiting. Waiting in all kinds of scenarios. Waiting because this world is not a pleasant place and we have to wait until the Lord returns. Waiting again because we don't see, we don't see the hope, or we have hope in what we don't see because if we did see it then we wouldn't hope. So we have to wait and we have to be a waiting people. As we know the heart of the gospel is found in Romans chapter 8. And so as we go through this, we'll be thinking of the assurance that God gives that He is greater than the world and that His promises will last forever. We're not to be like the children who want to get to the presence long before they're due to receive them because we have to wait. We have to be patient people as the psalmist says, wait on the Lord. And so as we look at this, there are three natural sections in this passage. And we begin in verses 18 to 25 thinking about future hope, which is a helpful section heading in the ESV translation of the Bible. And one of the reasons why we can identify so easily with Paul and his teachings is because he's just like us. Whenever we read of Paul's life story, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles, and whenever he gives personal testimony in his letters, we can identify with him. Because we see that he, too, had troubles in life just like us. Now, of course, he faced more than any of us would want to face, but in these we see his humanity. He was a normal person, living out the Christian faith. He was run out of town, he was flogged, he was imprisoned, and he was shipwrecked. None of us here will have had to face that. But look at what he says in verse 18 as he focuses on the future promise that God has given him and to all his people about eternity. He says, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And we shouldn't be surprised by this perspective from Paul. In the previous section, he's considered what it meant to be heirs with Christ. And this is what he said in just a verse prior. He said, And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him, in order that we may also be glorified with him. So that's where Paul's come from. He recognizes that we must suffer as God's people. But then he bursts open and says, For I consider, though, that those sufferings at the present age are not worth comparing to the riches and the glory that is to be revealed to us. See, at the heart of the Gospel is a message that takes us from this present world to eternity. That's what the Gospel does. Our focus is not that we are saved for the here and now. Yes, we are to undertake good works. We're created for good works, that we might proclaim the truth of the gospel and demonstrate the love of Christ. But our salvation is not just to make life easier now. The gospel is about the assurance of our eternal presence with God. That's what, and that's why Paul explains the world as he does in verses 19 to 22. There's a song that we learned a couple of years ago, and we sung it last Sunday, so that's why we're not singing it this week, by Ben Slee, entitled Creator God. And it actually sums up, it's closing four lines, sum up this section very well. Because he says, And so we wait in eager expectation, And join the song that all creation groans. Lord, haste the day, Decair is slain by glory, The day you call your sons. I've often thought that those last four lines that we sing encapsulate this passage from Romans 8 very well. Because sometimes we don't know what to do when we hear the line that all creation is groaning. What does that mean? It means that all creation is not what it should be. You know what it's like if you wake up tomorrow morning and you're in the wrong side of the bed. You're gonna groan about it. Maybe because you've hit the wall, you know, and you don't normally go out that side. But you know what I mean? If you wake up cranky, you're gonna groan, and you're gonna moan about it, and we're all guilty of it. Well, that's what creation is like. It's not what it was meant to be. Creation, and us as humanity, and in fact every part of creation, because of the consequence of sin, is groaning. And the reason why we groan is for something better. If you do wake up tomorrow and you get out on that wrong side of the bed and you're moaning and you're groaning, you're hoping that you'll get over it and probably everyone around you will be hoping you get over it. Because we want to get back to what we should be and what the day should have been. You see, this world was not made to last and neither were we. The image is one of groaning. heaving towards an end. That's why we continue to declare that this world is not our home. So don't get too comfortable in it. It will fade away. And Paul continues in verse 23, the reality that we are like. And there in verse 23, he says, and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have, who have the first fruits of the spirit grown inwardly as we wait eagerly. The adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies. There is a weariness to this world and we must feel it too. In Christ, we are people who are being transformed. We join with creation, and we groan, waiting the day our transformation is complete, and we are fully redeemed for all eternity. And so Paul concludes this section with what seems to be a riddle. He says in verses 24 and 25, For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it. The hope that Paul is speaking of is the certainty that we will end our time in this world and wake up in eternity, perfect and redeemed. But we can't see this. It is unseen. We can't determine it through reading an instruction manual or looking into a crystal ball or by reading a horoscope to tell the future. We trust in the words of Jesus, and as such we wait patiently. As Hebrew 10 verse 23 tells us, Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Let me ask you, are you holding fast? Eagerly awaiting the return of Christ? Perhaps you were, but you aren't now. It seems that he's taking his time, and the lure of the world has greater appeal and perceived promise. Don't give up. Keep going. Because Christ will come back, and he will bring his people. The race is worth running, because the finish line will be in sight. Christ will come, and he will take us. That's where Paul begins, so that we would know a future glory, that even though we face things that we would never ordinarily choose to face, we face them with future glory, because it is a hope, the hope of the gospel. That takes us from this world to all eternity. And so moving on to verses 26 to 30, we see the strength of the spirit. And Paul very quickly brings us into the focus of the comforter. Let's remind ourselves of why the new Testament speaks so much of the Holy Spirit. In John chapter 14, in verses 16 and 17, Jesus tells us of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever. Even the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells in you and will be in you. And again, in Acts chapter 1 and verse 8, Jesus says, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. We're given the Holy Spirit as a gift. And this gift is sent to help us to be followers of Jesus. That's what Paul tells us in this passage. The Spirit leads us. The Spirit challenges us. The Spirit directs us. In these verses, Paul says that it is the Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses. And he links a particular weakness to the Spirit. in prayer. We don't know what to pray for. And we might think, of course we do. We see all the trouble of the world and that encourages us to pray. Well, Ian Duguid says this, One of prayer's great challenges and hindrances is human indecision and ignorance. Paul frankly acknowledges it. We do not know what to pray for as we ought. This limitation tempts us to prayerlessness. You see, we need to be a people who pray. To pray at home. To join with others on a Wednesday evening. To pray in midweek. To join in prayer before the services on Sundays. to engage in prayer in worship. But we make decisions that hinder us from these moments and these times and in what we should be praying for. But we can take hope. Because even the shortest of prayers and indeed the longest of them as well are interpreted on our behalf. The Holy Spirit is fully God. So it is God's will that the Spirit intervenes for us according to his very will. And this is done in a loving way because the Spirit is our comforter. And Paul in verse 28 continues his encouragement by stating, And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. And we can take, quickly take this verse out of its context and use it as a stand alone verse that covers anything we want it to mean. But it comes as part of this section, so what does it mean for us? Well, this verse is pointing us not only to the verses to come, but also to the verse just before. God is sovereign, and as such nothing escapes him or falls from his view. He has ordained all things, and his purposes through his people will fulfill his plan of salvation. And the assurance comes in verse 29. And often we don't like verse 29 because of the word that's used in it. Predestined. We often interpret predestination as if we are robots without free will, yet the Bible speaks of both. Predestination is not a baseball bat to be used in theological debate, rather it is to be the assurance that once we are gods, we, he will never let us go. Again, Paul assures us of this, and says that when we are called according to his purpose, we are conformed and shaped to the image of his son, so that we will be his first fruits. And this is, it's wonderful. It's a wonderful calling to be Christ's. Because once we are his, we are always his. And again, Paul runs off this section in verse 30 by saying, And those whom he predestined he also called, And those whom he called he also justified, And those whom he justified he also called. glorified. When we are Christ's we receive the full package. We are justified here and now through Jesus. Daily we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit and we are and will be glorified because of all of this. You see how lovingly the Father cares for us? Do you see what he's done? That he wants us to embrace, to know that we are justified, to know that we are redeemed, that we are strengthened by his spirit day and daily, and that yes, we are glorified now, and Whether you believe yourself to be predestined by God or not, take hope in the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit is not the third wheel of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God and as such we must be attentive. One of the creeds of the church that I tend to read occasionally is called the Athanasian Creed. And in it there's a very specific line that talks about the Holy Spirit. And how the Holy Spirit is not distinct from the Father nor the Son. That the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, not some minor piece, but fully God. Just as the Son is fully God, just as the Trinity is one yet three. And so we must pay attention to the work of the Spirit. And so the question may be, well, how do we do this? Well, we read Scripture and see how the Spirit speaks to us through the Word of God. We pray privately and corporately and allow the Spirit to lead us for what we should be praying for and have the assurance that we are heard in heaven through its intercession for us. And we simply allow the Spirit to lead us in what aligns with Scripture because the Spirit will not work outside of Scripture. Any sense that we have that does not comply with Scripture is not from God and is not the true working of the Holy Spirit. How open are we to the leading of the Spirit? And at times you can't articulate it. It's not as if there's going to be a plane in the sky with a banner floating along its back. There's something within us that we know is simply right when the Spirit leads us and speaks to us. Always, always within Scripture, will you listen to the Holy Spirit? Will you allow the unction of the Spirit to guide you? That's, that's a great old word, unction, but it's true. Something we cannot explain, but yet we know it real and true. And don't think you can fool yourself or fool God by saying this is of the Spirit when it's not, because you won't. That's why we read Scripture, not just on a Sunday, so that we will know for sure that we can test the Spirit and know exactly what is true and what is not. Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Because Paul says it is the Spirit who is the comforter. It is the Spirit who works on our behalf. And so we must be open to how the Spirit leads. When we come to the final section of this chapter, and it looks at God's eternal love. And this is one of these sections that reads as if Paul can't get the words out quick enough. He begins with a familiar question. What then shall we say to these things? Well, what is your response? That's what he's asking. After everything I've taught you, he says, well, how are you going to respond? And let's remember how he started. He said, For I consider the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And so he continues by asking, What then shall we say of these things? If God is for us, Who can be against us? And this is a great question that Paul is asking because the answer is simply no one can be against us if we are in Christ Jesus. Verse 21 details that God has given us his son to save us. This not only demonstrates God's love in salvation, but also that he is good towards us and will be gracious to us. Paul goes on in verse 33 by asking, Who can bring any charges against God's people? The elect. And again, no one. And Paul points us to Jesus in verse 34. Which I should have somewhere. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died. More than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Because of Christ's victory over the grave, we need not fear this world. Nothing will snatch us away from God if we are truly His. Paul goes on to list the sufferings of the present time. Tribulation. Distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword. These sound like issues that we continue to face today, here and right across the world. But these, as difficult as they are, will not separate us from the love of God. These are the consequence of sin and the consequence of the fallen world. But God is greater than the world and he will have the victory. Amen. And Paul goes on to quote Psalm 44 and verse 22 to drive his point home that the world doesn't change and it continues to be against God's people. And this is a central verse in a lengthy psalm that cries out to God for help because his faithful people are suffering persecution and God does not seem to be responding. In fact, the next verse of the psalm explains or exclaims, wake up! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself. Do not reject us forever. And so we come back. We come back to the, that first section that we looked at where we might feel it's not worth going on. Where this life of faith is tiresome and God doesn't seem to be working or moving in the ways we would like. This is part of the testimony of God's people through all generations because it's in the hymn book of his people. Amen. It's not something new that humankind has thought, but God is not slow. God works exactly in his own time because God knows what is best for us, for all his people, and for his gospel. And so in verse 37, by way of concluding all of this passage, we get an affirmative knew that nothing will separate us from God. We will not be taken down by these things that are a consequence of sin. We are more than conquerors, not in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ and listen to how Paul finishes this passage. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Isn't that an amazing statement for Paul to finish on? Isn't it amazing what he says about our God? That the love of God is so great towards us that nothing will separate us from it? Is this the love you knew? Is this the love you want to know? Because this is Paul being confident in God's eternal love. Nothing will separate us from him because he gave his one and his only son to die for us. And so is this your confidence tonight? Are you sure that nothing will separate you from God? Or perhaps you do want this for yourself. And so you're asking, well, how can I get this assurance? How can I be certain that when I lay down to sleep tonight and wake up in the morning, I will be confident that nothing will separate me from God's love? And the answer comes, it is Jesus Christ. Because we are to turn to Jesus. We are to stand firm in him and stand firm in his love because he will lead, he will protect, and he will guide as he prepares us for future glory, living each day in the strength of the spirit and having great confidence in his eternal love. As I was getting ready to come out tonight, I was listening to the radio. And a hymn came on the radio that brought me back to my childhood because it's a hymn that we not only learned in Sunday school, but that we sung in Sunday school. You will have heard of John Bunyan. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress, and Pilgrim's Progress is exactly what it says in the title. It is the journey of a pilgrim, of a Christian, who comes to know Christ and have his burden removed, but as he journeys to the celestial city, he is tempted along the way on the path that he should walk. And parents and grandparents, if you have the opportunity, get a, get a copy of Pilgrim's Progress if you don't have one. And there's some newer versions in, in modern English. Buy it and give it or sit and read it with your children and grandchildren because it's a wonderful story that links back to scripture. Bunyan wrote it as he faced the gallows. It was a vision given to him by God, he will say. And from it came a hymn. He who would valiant be, or who would true valor see. And the second verse goes like this, and forgive the old English. Who so beset him round with dismal stories, Do but themselves confound. His strength the more is, No lion can him fright, Heal with a giant fight, But he will have a right, to be a pilgrim. And verse three begins, Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit. He knows he at the end shall life inherit. Then fancies flee away. He'll fear not what men say. He labor night and day to be a pilgrim. I would sing it for you because I was singing it at home. And I thought, what a, what a hymn that encapsulates what it means to be on this journey of faith. And maybe as a child I loved verse 3 because it's talked about a hobgoblin. I mean we didn't have too many of those in Cady, I don't know about Anna Long, but it's all about image. Hobgoblin nor foul fiend, no matter what comes we are safe in Christ and we need to know this. You need to know this. So that tomorrow, no matter what you face, whatever diagnosis the doctor will bring, whatever trial and tribulation family members may come with, whatever you will face, the hobgoblins and foul fiends of your life, do not despair, because there is future glory. There is strength in the Holy Spirit for the moment. and the day, and there is great confidence in God's eternal love that will see us through this world and bring us to the next faithful pilgrims of our loving Savior. Is this your life? Is this what will be contained in that great red book that Michael Aspel will bring and present to you? That in it, a hymn such as the one I've just quoted, will be the journey that you will have taken. It may not be the easiest of journeys, but it is the safest because it is a journey that will lead you home. Will you rise and will you follow Christ and will you know him tonight, tomorrow, and all the days he gives you so that you will not fear and you will stand in his strength. I genuinely and truly hope you will. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you for your word. And we acknowledge that in this heart of the gospel that Paul wants to communicate to us, he, he doesn't always make it plain, but we thank you that we can read it in our own language. We thank you that we can understand it. And we can learn from it so that we can live it. And Father, thank you that your word is given to us so that we may indeed do that. Live it out as we walk before you, before the face of God, as your pilgrims on that journey that will lead us home. So make us faithful, we pray. And may we follow you and know your great strength. In Jesus name. Amen.

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