August 16 & 17, 2020 [Pentecost 11]  Romans 8:35-39  J.D.Roekle

 

35What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36Just as it is written:

For your sake we are being put to death all day long.

We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor powerful forces, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Forever in God’s Love

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          If you are a country music fan, you may recognize these lyrics:      

 

You may think that I'm talking foolish
You've heard that I'm wild and I'm free
You may wonder how I can promise you now
This love that I feel for you always will be
But you're not just time that I'm killin'
I'm no longer one of those guys
As sure as I live, this love that I give
Is gonna be yours until the day that I die

Oh, baby, I'm gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men
If you wonder how long I'll be faithful
I'll be happy to tell you again
I'm gonna love you forever and ever
Forever and ever, amen

          It’s a feel-good song, isn’t it?!  But how long is forever?  The song concedes that love will last at least “until the day that I die.”  That’s the way it is with earthly relationships.  We love the special people around us all our days or all their days on this earth.  At least, that’s our intention.  How often do relationships end before that time?  Family members distance themselves from each other. Marriages are dissolved.  Friendships are broken. All of a sudden, the concept of forever shrinks.  I’m going to love you forever…until its not convenient for me anymore.  I’ll be forever faithful to you…until I’m no longer in love with you.  You will forever be my best friend…until someone else becomes my best friend. 

          Now think of it from God’s perspective.  Imagine that it is God singing the refrain to you: I’m gonna love you forever; forever and ever, amen.  When it comes from God, forever takes on a different meaning.  If you listened to the sermon last week, you know that we talked about the fact that God chose you before you were born, and even before the world was created.  He loved you way back then.  Why else would he choose you?  And unlike many relationships we have here on earth, his love for you never stops.  Nothing can separate you from God’s love.  You are forever in God’s love

 

          But does it always feel like it?  Just ask the apostle Paul.  Look at his list: “trouble…distress…persecution…famine…nakedness…danger…sword.”  He expands on that list from personal experience in his second letter to the Corinthians (11:23-27):  He said that he had “been in prisons more often, been whipped far more, and I’ve been close to death many times. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. One time I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day on the open sea. 26 I have often been on journeys, in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, in danger on the sea, in danger among false brothers. 27 I have worked hard and struggled. I’ve spent many sleepless nights. I’ve been hungry and thirsty. I’ve gone without food many times. I’ve been cold and lacked clothing.” 

          Before Paul became a Christian, he no doubt had his problems.  However, he would be the first to tell you that once he became a Christian, his problems multiplied.  Enemies lined up against him.  No wonder Paul quoted the Psalmist: “For your sake we are being put to death all day long.  We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

          Now, none of us can claim we’ve been through what Paul’s been through.  We haven’t likely faced physical persecution.  People wanting to hurt or kill us because of our faith.  At least not yet.  However, all Christians face trials of various kinds.  Our faith is tested.  Enemies lurk. They seek to bring us down.  If there is really a God out there, would he really let you suffer? they question us.   

          So, does that mean because we face trials of various kinds, that we are in danger of losing God’s love?  If that ever becomes a concern for us, we just need to remember Paul’s words here: 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 

          When we think that perhaps God’s love for us has grown cold, let’s turn our attention to where Christ won the greatest victory ever: the cross.  And why?  Because of God’s undying love for you and me in Christ!  Keep in mind Paul’s words a few chapters back (5:8):  “But God shows his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

          It wasn’t as if God looked at you and saw such a fine specimen that he decided to love you.  When he looked at you, he didn’t like what he saw.  He saw a heart that wanted nothing to do with God.  Even more so, he saw someone who was hostile to him and to his will. 

          Yet, in his love, he sent Jesus in our lives.  He sent him to pay the ultimate sacrifice.  And in so doing he would win the greatest victories ever.  He would conquer sin so that it would no longer possess you.  He would conquer death so that neither the grave nor hell could hold you.  He conquered the devil thereby assuring you that he is forever more powerful. 

          With these victories in mind, God made you his children by faith.  It was his love that reached out to you as the words were spoken: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  And in love he reminds you of his love in his body given for you and his blood shed for you. 

          Whenever you face trials or hard times, remember the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The love of God in Christ reminds us of how serious God is about us.  It assures us that his love for you will not run dry. 

          Paul reminds us that absolutely nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  There is nothing that you go through in life that can separate you from God’s love.  Even though it may not seem as if God cares, in Christ, he does!  Even when you are on the brink of death, God assures you of his love by reminding you that you will be with him always.  There is nothing in your future that can take God’s love away from you.  There is nowhere you can go where the love of God is not with you.  In order to show you the absolute love of God, Paul says there is not “anything else in creation” that can end God’s love for you.  Nothing can come between you and God’s love.

          No one enjoys trials and tribulations.  No one enjoys suffering.  We like to have stability in our lives, and these trials often bring chaos.  There is nothing more stable than God’s love in Christ.  It is the one constant you can always count on, in good times and in bad times.  Rejoice that you have it!  And rely on it in every time of need.  Amen.