Easter 2020 – Romans 8
I want you to picture yourself at a restaurant-I realize that’s hard to do right now. Who would have ever thought that going out to eat would come to a screeching halt and now be this precious memory! But picture yourself-not just getting takeaway-but actually sitting down for lunch or dinner at a restaurant. Either you ordered at the counter or gave your order to the waiter or waitress. But probably one of the first things you do is take a big drink from your soda (or whatever drink you ordered). If you’re like me at a diner-right away you get a cup of coffee and you’ve probably downed it and gotten a refill (or two) even before your food has arrived. Keep the coffee coming! But what do you do when there’s no refills-or at least not free refills? It’s a dilemma. Stresses me out. You sort of feel like you have to ration your drink like you’re in wartime. I’ll have a couple of sips right now-but only a couple-because I need to have some of my drink still left when the food gets here. We say this to our kids who want to guzzle down all their chocolate milk right away. Keep some left-it’s water after this. But I don’t want to be caught with an empty cup and my whole meal to eat. But it catches me off guard when I realize-Oh this is one of those no refill places. Drink it slowly! Have you experienced that? I remember when we first moved to England lots of people from our church were always wanting to eat out at Pizza Hut. I was thinking-why Pizza Hut? Monica and I didn’t move to England to eat at Pizza Hut. But I can still hear the reason why-Because they have free refills there. They said it almost in a whisper, don’t let the secret get out as though this was the most unheard of, yet incredible idea. You can just keep getting more Pepsi and Sprite-it’s unlimited! The concept of free refills was just beginning to arrive in England-so besides Pizza Hut, there was a chicken restaurant called Nandos, and Subway that were the only other places with free refills. I remember having lunch with a guy at Subway and I went back up to the soda dispenser for a refill and he was baffled. What are you doing? You’re just getting more Sprite? You can’t do that! As an American, who was clearly an expert on the topic of free refills, I told him that’s what the machine is for, but he wouldn’t believe me. So I told him I’d stare at one of the employees while getting more Sprite to prove that I could have a free refill. You are so bold! But he was amazed. He looked at his cup-So I can have more than this? I can just keep getting sodas. Knowing that his one drink wasn’t all there is completely changed how he ate his lunch and downed his drink. And that’s the concept I want us to have in mind this morning. Not so much lunch and free refills, but life. This world, this life, isn’t all there is! The Bible tells us there’s more, a whole lot more to come-and that ought to completely change how you live.
Open your Bible to Romans 8-and most likely this section of Romans is titled Future Glory in your Bible-and that’s precisely what we want to focus on. This life isn’t all there is, there’s a future, a glorious future ahead for followers of Christ. So look at what Paul says in-v. 18. Pause there a moment. Before we go any further in the text I want to honestly and sincerely ask-Do you believe that? Do you really believe that all the sufferings, all the pain and struggles and challenges of life are not worth comparing to the glorious destiny that God will bring about in your life? Because if you really believe this verse, then everything in your life changes. Unfortunately I fear that many of us as believers know this truth in our heads-that God does have a glorious future in store for us-but it fails to penetrate our hearts. We know that eternity is out there-but we still live all stressed out, filled with anxiety and worry, putting all our eggs into the basket of this life as though this is all there is. I have to enjoy it all now, get my rewards and blessings here. I’m trying to make this life perfect. But God is saying-Trust me-there’s incredible joy and blessing all right-there is a perfect life-but it’s not quite here yet-it’s coming.
Do you remember the words of 2 Cor 4:16-17. Now you might think that the struggles and pain of this life are anything but slight and momentary-especially now during Coronavirus, they seem massive and all-consuming. But even beyond the present crisis, this could be the struggles and pain you’ve endured for a long time. It could be health concerns, financial problems, marriage issues or your cruddy, dead-end job that’s now considered non-essential. Or maybe its loneliness in life or anger at how you’ve been treated all these years. The struggles you face probably seem like big obstacles you can hardly get around-but this verse-just like in Romans is telling us to put those things in the right perspective. That as a follower of Christ there is an eternal, weighty, massive glory that’s coming that makes everything you’re facing now seem miniscule. Paul isn’t discounting the struggles you’re facing, as though they’re nothing. But he is saying that by knowing this isn’t all there is, you can have true and genuine hope in what God has in store for you. Notice how he started the verse-So we do not lose heart! Meaning the struggles and suffering of life don’t destroy you-instead let the hope of eternity strengthen you. And that’s exactly what he’s saying back in Rom 8:18. That word consider is so important. Paul isn’t just speaking on a whim-Hey, chin up buddy-things will get better-try to look on the bright side. He’s saying-I’ve considered this truth, I’ve thought about it, I’ve done my calculations and through careful study have reached the conclusion that suffering now is a small thing in light of the glorious future God has in store! And remember how Paul suffered-shipwrecks and stoning and imprisonment; the thorn in his flesh that stayed with him all his life even though he prayed for it to be removed. As an expert in suffering, Paul is still saying the glory to come is so much greater than the pain now. And he’s inviting you and me to draw that same conclusion, to make the same consideration. Okay, here are the issues and problems in my life, here’s the pain and struggles I’m facing-and then here’s eternity and all God has in store for me. How does this weigh out?
And there’s two major components this involves-the first is creation. Look at-v. 19-22. The NIV says creation is groaning right up to the present time. And that couldn’t me any more relevant than right now! If creation was ever groaning and suffering it’s the present. So-1) Creation is groaning for its restoration. This world is not what it was created to be. The evidence of this verse is being played out right before our eyes in this global pandemic. One little virus has disrupted the world. And it isn’t just people-but animals too-God’s creation is getting it-no one knows how a Tiger at the Bronx Zoo got Covid-19! Things are not normal. The cycle of life and death we see in nature is not normal. The world is abnormal. It’s suffering, it’s limping along, nature is sick-but the text is clear in saying that it’s not nature’s fault. In verse 20, it said that Nature was subjected to this futility and decay by God. And do you remember why? It’s not because we made factories and pumped bad gases into the air depleting the ozone layer or polluted the planet. Obviously that doesn’t help-but the reason Nature is suffering goes far, far deeper. Nature was suffering long before the industrial revolution and it was because the Caretaker, the Gardener didn’t do his job. Look at Gen 2:15. God wanted Adam to faithfully care for this good earth He’d made. God was saying-Adam I’ve created a perfect world-paradise and your job is to work in paradise and care for it. Like God saying-Make sure the beach is doing okay-and you say sign me up for that! But of course Adam didn’t do that. He sinned-and his sin was in a direct violation of caring for the earth. He disobeyed God by eating from the tree he wasn’t supposed to-so Gen 3:17-18 And there the world is cursed. This is where Nature gets sick-because of mankind’s sin. Disease, virus, pestilence and pandemics are now set in motion. This is where they come from. This is why the Coronavirus has happened! On a lesser scale-this is why the thorns and thistles have happened. This is why weeds keep springing up in your yard and your flower beds-for awhile you pull them, but after a while you just give up because the weeds keep growing. Our backyard is a prime example of what thriving weeds look like!
Listen to the words of the old British preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones that are refer to this time of year-I wonder whether the phenomenon of the Spring supplies us with a partial answer. Nature every year makes an effort to renew itself to produce something permanent; it has come out of the death and the darkness that describes Winter-and in the Spring seems to be trying to produce a perfect creation, to be going through some kind of birth-pangs year by year. But unfortunately it does not succeed, for Spring only leads to Summer and Summer leads to Autumn and Autumn back to Winter. Poor old nature tries every year to defeat the principle of death and decay-but it cannot do so. It fails every time. It still goes on trying, as if it feels things should be different and better, but it never succeeds. So it groans-and has been doing so for a very long time. And this year, Spring has really groaned! The daffodils are beautiful in front of the church but no one is here to see them! Despite Nature’s best attempts-disease and death are profoundly hanging over us. Why? Nature’s destiny is inseparably linked to man’s. Because man sinned, the rest of creation was corrupted; but when man’s glory is restored, so the world will be restored as well-v. 19-and this is talking about when this world ends-and the new world begins-because when that happens-v. 21. Nature is sick and groaning because it’s Gardener, it’s Caretaker, mankind, is sick and groaning. But one day nature will be restored to it’s original glory-and so will we!
That brings us to the second component-v. 23. Anybody good at groaning about stuff? Anybody have families that like to groan and complain a lot? You can raise your hand because no one will see you at home. But that’s 2) We are groaning for our resurrection. That’s what it means when it says the redemption of our bodies. And that’s why today is so important! Now the events of Friday are captured in one powerful sentence-Mark 15:37. And that’s the moment when the Son of God died. As He hung on the cross, it wasn’t the nails or the crown of thorns or the loss of blood or even the Roman soldiers that killed Him-instead Jesus willingly and freely gave up His life. And that didn’t go unnoticed-15:39. Here’s someone who’s overlooked the execution of many people over the years-but this one was different. The centurion sees that this wasn’t a criminal shouting and screaming to the end, this wasn’t someone defiant or angry and full of resentment; this was someone making a sacrifice. I believe the centurion saw the willingness and humility from Jesus which leads him, a Roman-not a Jew-but a pagan Roman-to make this staggering conclusion-Truly this man was the Son of God. He’s thinking, the greatest being who ever walked our planet just gave up His life on a cross. And because Jesus died that way-and didn’t linger for hours or even days on the cross as most crucified people did-the centurion’s testimony is called in for witness-v. 42-45. Jesus is referred to as a corpse-and that’s what He was at that moment. It wasn’t like Jesus was faking it or went into some kind of hibernation or coma. They didn’t take Him off the cross with Jesus giving a wink saying-Shh-I’m really not dead-wait until you see this-or that Jesus pretended to die and then jumped off the cross and ran away when no one was looking. Rather, His dead body, a corpse-with no pulse and no heartbeat, was given to Joseph and buried in a tomb-v. 46. It was sealed up, the tomb was covered-that was it-game over. He was dead-Friday night ends with Jesus buried. This wasn’t a trick-it’s a done deal. Horrible start to the weekend-worst weekend ever for Jesus’ followers. But as we all know-the weekend wasn’t over. And it’s a good thing Jesus really died on Friday-a) He needed to die for our sins and pay the death penalty we deserved, but b) because Jesus really died, He was really resurrected! He didn’t pass out for 3 days-or go into some semi-conscious state. He went from dead to alive, for a corpse to a living, breathing person. The horrible cycle of death was reversed. He accomplished the very thing we are groaning for in our lives. What did the angel say to Mary on Sunday morning-Mark 16:6. Take a look at it. Jesus has no need of it! That tomb they put Him into as a dead body on Friday, is now empty because He he’s been resurrected!
This is the whole point, the entire goal of the gospel. When you believe in Jesus, your sins are forgiven, you’re justified by faith so that you are born again as a son or daughter of God. And right now, in this life, that’s a spiritual truth. When you’re born again as a Christian, the Holy Spirit enters your life-but otherwise you look and appear the same on the outside-nothing’s changed-but that’s not how it will always be. This isn’t all there is. The Holy Spirit living within you is a guarantee, a promise, that the spiritual reality of being born again will one day become a physical reality. Look at v. 11. That’s the ultimate and final hope-and it’s not fictitious thinking but fact! Your life right now is one of inward groaning, realizing that this world, this body-isn’t normal-isn’t that great to hear! But it’s not what God intended-you have a body that experiences disease and decay, we live in a world that experiences disease and decay-that couldn’t be more obvious right now. Things are this way because of sin-and yet, through Jesus, it will all change!
Back to v. 23. You will one day, finally receive your adoption as God’s son or daughter, your physical body will be redeemed, you’ll be resurrected to a new, glorified body, just like Jesus. You’re not destined to be a floating, spiritual ghost with a harp and a halo any more than Jesus was. After His resurrection He was tangible and physical; you could see the scars on his hands. He was grilling fish on the beach and eating breakfast. It’s not Easter for me unless I read John 21:9, 12-14. Jesus wasn’t some spirit from the grave floating around. He was a completely new type of human. The first of the new humanity that is infinitely greater than the old model of humanity. Humanity 2.0. Jesus was the first to be resurrected but He’s certainly not going to be the last. Look at-1 Cor 15:49; 21-23. And that day is coming! This is not just fanciful writing, this is the truth-and it’s what we’re waiting and longing for! That day when Jesus returns and resurrects all who belong to Him by faith.
Let me simply ask-Do you belong to Him? That is the single-most, fundamental question in life to ask yourself. Do you belong to Christ? By putting your faith in the Savior who’s been raised to new life, He guarantees that you will be raised to new life too. But without Him, there’s no life. Sure, we make improvements in medicine, we eradicate diseases and we are earnestly trying to come up with a Coronavirus vaccine. But technology advances, people live longer, we tell ourselves that 60 is the new 40, we want to be immortal and live forever, but we can’t no matter how much we try. Immortality will never be discovered or accomplished by man. Yet the gospel promises immortality to be completely and utterly true in Christ. Believers in Christ, those who belong to Him will dwell for eternity in a new, glorified body upon a new, glorified earth. Perfection, all that you’ve ever longed for is truly on the horizon. This is what creation is groaning for and eagerly anticipating. Last week we looked at these words-Phil 3:30-21. Clearly, this life isn’t all there is. Lewis, Miracles, 253. And that’s precisely the truth that Romans 8 is telling us. There is an incredible, incomparable, glorious house being built for you, a glorious future in store for you-and when you read about it you can almost begin to taste and imagine it-but it’s not here yet. This is the time of transition. The final metamorphosis hasn’t come. If you want to use the analogy of a butterfly we are living in the cocoon days. As a believer you’re no longer a caterpillar, you know you’ll soon be sprouting wings, ready to fly and soar through the summer sky of God’s redeemed creation-but not quite yet. The old house is still being torn down; the new one is yet to come. Lewis, Weight of Glory, 43 Isn’t that incredible! Back to Rom 8:18
We know the great things God has in store for us-but we have to wait. We have to trust; we have to endure; we have to be, dare I say, patient in our cocoon. And that’s exactly what God’s Word is telling us-v. 24-25. There’s a word we all love to hate, but one that is so crucial-patience! The hope of our salvation, the hope of this incredible future is what keeps us going. And this isn’t a hope like-I hope I win the lottery one day-but clearly knowing you won’t. It isn’t wishful thinking or hanging onto a pipe dream; it’s the hope of absolute certainty and confidence. It’s faith looking forward-and the Bible defines faith as being sure of what you hope for, certain of what you do not see. Are you certain about your glorious future in Christ-even though you don’t see it? If you’ve trusted Christ you should be! Do you really believe that this life isn’t all there is and God has something incredible for you? I love the way Paul says it-who hopes for what he sees? Who would sit in their living room in front of their 4K tv telling someone-I sure hope I get a 4K tv! The person would think they’re crazy-You have a 4K tv right there. What are you hoping for? But that’s the way a lot of us live. We claim to have hope in God but won’t really believe it or trust it until it’s right before us, but if we do that, if we wait to believe it until we see it, then it ceases to be hope. We’re often wanting to live by sight and over and over the Bible is telling us to live by faith. To live with an unmovable and rock solid hope in what we know to be true, what God’s Word promises to be true even though we don’t see it. And Easter morning-every year-no matter how many Easters you’ve lived through-and hopefully we won’t have another Easter like this. But especially an Easter like this tells us to believe in the unshakeable hope that just as Jesus was raised from the dead so will all who belong to Him! Easter-more than any other time of year-tells you that this isn’t all there is. There’s more, a whole lot more to come-so will it change the way you live today? Will what you know about the future change the way you live in the present? That’s the challenge for us this morning. Like a free refill at a restaurant-there’s a whole lot more to come-so you don’t have to hold anything back. You don’t have to leave a few sips in your glass. Like your glass is emptied-knowing there’s more to come. Let yourself be emptied for Christ-knowing there’s more to come in Him!
I want all of us to think back to school-and even if you’re in school-think back to school because it’s been a while since you’ve been there. In the moment school may seem hard, or you might have been distracted or hated being a student-but knowing what you know now would you have studied harder? Would you have tried more? Applied yourself more? Would you have taken more opportunities or not been so scared to try something? I’m sure we’d all make different decisions if we could go back to school, knowing what we do now. But of course we can’t go back. It’s too late-and we have to live with the decisions we made. If only I knew then what I do now… But that doesn’t need to be the case for your life. If you truly believed this life isn’t all there is, that in fact this life is just the tip of the iceberg, the opening chapter, the training ground for what’s to come, how would you live differently? If you truly knew that this life didn’t need to be the source of your happiness, that you will one day dwell in the place of absolute joy, what changes would you make? If you knew what God has in store for you completely eclipses anything you’re experiencing now and isn’t worth comparing, how would you live differently? Rom 8:18