This week we will conclude our mini-series in Romans as we work through Romans 8:31-39. As you recall, Romans 1-5 is all about justification. We are justified in Christ by His grace. Romans 6-8 focuses on sanctification. We are not perfect but live under the progressive influence of His holiness. Because of His active work we are also free from condemnation. Romans 8:31-39 reminds us that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. We are His adopted children and nothing can change the progressive work of His grace in our lives!
The past few weeks at New Life have been wide open! The weekend of Sept. 28 we came together to serve the men and women in our community who faithfully keep our city safe. The civil servants of Goose Creek are dedicated to their job and it is always a joy to provide opportunities to encourage them. This past weekend several volunteers from New Life joined together to serve a segment of the special needs community who attend the day program at Active Day of the Lowcountry. The team painted a very large room at their facility and they did an amazing job! It seems with all of the service projects we have going on the consistent perspective throughout the church family has been that 2018 has passed too fast.
I think it is important to recognize that this is a complicated issue. Ultimately when we pursue the issue of pain and suffering we inevitably come back to God. He is Sovereign, He is good and He is in control even in our suffering. C.S. Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain gets our attention. It helps us focus on the things we consider important. As hard as it is, what if I looked at my pain as a way to learn more about myself and God? What if there are some lessons that can only be learned through suffering? Hebrews 5:8 tells us, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.” That’s a profound thought to think upon. In this life, as you experience pain and suffering, here are a few truths from the Bible that we can remember during those hardships.
#1 There is no condemnation
If we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know our suffering is not a form of wrath-filled judgment and condemnation for our sin. Paul tells us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) In other words, Jesus bore the full condemnation our sin deserves on the cross. That means there is no additional punishment for our sin, whether past, present, or future. Therefore, we can know that our trials and troubles are not due to God’s condemnation for sin.
During the difficulties of life we can trust His love never wavers, after all, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” This is a good question. Do trials and troubles separate us from the love of Christ? Should we think God loves us less if we are facing difficulty? Paul is emphatic, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35, 37) We are not meant to measure God’s love by our circumstances. The measuring rod for the love of God is Jesus (Rom. 5:8).
#2 He uses all things for our good
The Bible also teaches that if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can know that God is working all things in our life, even our suffering, for our ultimate good. Paul reminds us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). Similarly, after being sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly imprisoned for much of his twenties, when all was said and done Joseph could say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). How could he say that? He discovered that God is at work in ways unseen amidst our trial and trouble. Of course, we don’t know exactly what he is doing, but at the very least he is growing our faith, increasing our love, deepening our grace, expanding our patience, cultivating wisdom, making us more useful for his purposes. God uses the difficulties of life to help us become more like Him.
#3 There is no separation
Finally, if we have a living trust in Jesus, we can also know that He is never going to give up on us and will finish the work He started. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That means we are never alone in our trials and troubles. Even more, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). This means our trials and troubles are not peripheral to God’s purposes in our lives, but part of them. Perhaps the greatest reminder from Paul comes from Romans 8:18 when he writes “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” As we endure the hardships of life, Christ is there from beginning to end, eager to reveal His glory.
One thing that we all have in common is that sooner or later we will experience pain and suffering. The unexpected car accident. The sudden loss of a job. The frustrating relational tension in the work place or at school. Unexpected illness. Sudden death of a loved one. Unmet expectations and unachieved personal goals. Eventually we all chase the same question, “Is this because of something I have done?” The reality is if you live long enough you will suffer. Pain and suffering are part of our experience and there is nothing we can do to change that reality! On an even deeper basis many have concluded because there is so much pain and suffering in this world, it is therefore impossible to believe that God is good. Does the presences of pain and suffering diminish the reality of God’s goodness?
The Harmon’s have been invested in the idea of community groups for many years. During
my early years of ministry I bought into the concept and it has remained a regular
expression of our church life. Nevertheless we have come across folks who were reluctant
toward community groups for many reasons. If you find yourself unsettled and uninvolved
with community groups hopefully this post will provide clarity for the function and support of
groups at New Life.
If you’re like me, Sundays are my favorite day of the week. Sundays are a time that our church comes together for corporate worship, that is, as a body of believers, we unite to worship our creator God together. I must make a quick distinction about corporate worship. Corporate worship does not simply mean singing, but rather refers to every element within a service because they all serve a purpose to glorify God.
This past Sunday was a wonderful experience! We celebrated Christ through a time of worship, worked through Romans 6:20-23 and witnessed 4 baptisms! I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a good exhaustion. As I have reflected over those events I am reminded that as a church we are in the business of making disciples.
Two weeks back we started a sermon series from Romans covering chapters 6-8. This is indeed a heavy theological section and the main point throughout these chapters is sanctification. Remember, sanctification is strictly focused on the power of sin in the believers life. When Paul states in Romans 6 that sin is dead, he is talking about the power of sin. Obviously we have sin in our livers and unfortunately at times that becomes easy to identify. So, why are we spending three months working through this issue of sanctification?
This coming Sunday we are going to pick up right where Pastor Billy left off. Romans 6:12 will be our key verse, which states, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts."
If you enjoy history, particularly history of the early church then you might find a kindred connection with the book of Acts. I have always been fascinated with the collaboration of the early church leaders that formed the movement of Christianity. This letter contains 28 chapters and a quick survey of this book identifies that as the church developed and started expanding, church leaders made a concerted effort to establish a partnership for the purpose of advancing the gospel.
This Sunday we are going to explore the parable of the talents. This parable is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and is a perfect topic as we continue our Neighbor Series for the month of July. As you reflect on this parable you will quickly come to the issue of the spiritual gifts and talents that God gives to each person that follows Christ. I believe the talents in this parable point us to a healthy understanding of the grace-gifts that God gives to the church. Unfortunately many Christians are left asking the question ‘what are my gifts?’
Our Pastor writes most of the blog posts we publish, however, occasionally some of our other church leadership (some staff, some volunteer) who also contribute to the New Life blog.