I am 49 year old father of three and husband of one (for life)
Monday, June 04, 2007
The Fruit of the Tree
Romans 5: 1-5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
3 and 4 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Even though our scripture is only five verses, there is a lot of good theology there. In the previous chapters of the book of Romans, Paul talked about the doctrine of justification. Simply put, justification has been defined by author Shirley Guthrie in his book Christian Doctrine:
“Justification means that despite the fact that things are not right in our inner lives and our personal relationships, God forgives and accepts us. Therefore, there is no need for our compulsive, anxious, defensive attempts to make things right ourselves or to give up in despair because we cannot do so.”
The apostle Paul, having made his point, that justification comes by faith and not by works, goes on to tell us, in chapter five, the application of that truth. In other words, what happens in our lives, as Christians, when we are justified by faith? What are some of the benefits and privileges that flow from being granted righteousness? How do we receive the peace of being justified? How do we do what it calls us to do? The fruits of the tree of justification are many:
Verse one of our scripture says:
“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
The declaration of “we have peace with God” implies that such peace hasn’t always existed between humanity and God. You see, it all started with sin and a guy named Adam and a woman named Eve and the events that occurred in the Garden called Eden. You remember that, don’t you? As a result of Adam’s sin we, as his descendants are still plagued with a sin nature. God cannot be at peace with a sinner while the sinner continues under the guilt of sin. This is where justification comes in. Justification takes away the guilt, and so makes way for peace. And such is the good-will of God to humanity that, immediately upon the removing of that obstacle (sin), the peace is made. It is by faith in Christ that we lay hold of God's arm and of God’s strength, and so are at peace.
But it is more than the peace which comes as a result of a truce. It is a peace that is founded on justification which we receive when we trust Christ. This ushers us into a place of grace with God. We stand, confidently, in God’s grace—a grace God made available though Jesus Christ. Again, all this comes by faith; we cannot and did not earn it. It was given to us! It is in grateful response to God’s grace that we come to this day of commitment. We don’t put our hands to work in ministry to earn our way into heaven- that’s called works righteousness. Instead, we commit our hands to the work of ministry because we have been guaranteed a place in heaven. For some of us, the commitments we make today will require more time. For some it will require more effort. Some will need to move out of our comfort zones. Whatever it is that must be given up in order to make this commitment, remember what was given for your place and mine among the saints of God.
“we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”
One writer describes the hope of the glory of God in this way:
“…we hope that God is as great and awesome as he really seems to be! Our hope is, as Paul said in his first letter to the church at Corinth, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
We have been offered, as believers in Christ, a perspective on life that would otherwise not be available. We are given an opportunity to see the events in our lives through an “eternal” lens, if you will. Not only that, Paul says that we are to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. I have a bit of trouble with that word “rejoice”. I get the idea that rejoice is a “church word” and it doesn’t really mean anything in real life. I have been known at times to be a bit of a grouch. Some of you may be surprised to learn this about me, because you don’t live with me. However, those that live under the same roof as me may be thinking “Yeah, right; tell me something I didn’t know.” On my grouchy days, the last thing on my mind is rejoicing. That eternal perspective that I’m supposed to have seems to be more elusive than a greased pig at the county fair.
So, we rejoice in a confident anticipation ("hope") of coming glory, when our whole being will be filled with the character of God. So because we stand in God's favor through Christ, we can rejoice in the hope of sharing in God's glory.
Richard Foster wrote:
“Properly understood, heaven is not a goal at all, but a destination. Heaven is vitally important, and it is part of the package, if you will, but it must never be the center of our attention. Heaven is only a glorious byproduct of something far more central. Salvation is a life, and when we have this life, physical death becomes merely a minor transition from this life to greater life. Since, in Christ, we become unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God's great universe, we can look forward to the greater expression of this life in heaven, but our focus should be upon the new order of life we now have in Jesus Christ. The real issue is not so much us getting into heaven as it is getting heaven into us.”
Then we come to an interesting part of our scripture where Paul says:
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
I don’t know about you, but when Paul says that we are to “rejoice” in our sufferings- I get a bit confused. Does this mean that we are to be grateful, for instance, when we unexpectedly run out of money at the end of the month with bills to pay? Rejoice when our health begins to fail or a spouse has decided it is time for him or her to leave and start all over just because times have gotten tough?
This being the hardest point, Paul sets himself to show the grounds and reasons of it. Why are we to rejoice in our tribulations? Tribulation can produce patience; it can also produce a hardness of heart that may never soften. The things that work patience are a matter of joy; because patience does us more good than tribulations can do us harm.
Because we go through tough times, does not mean that God no longer loves us! Quite the opposite! We’re destined for the glory of God, but in the meantime we’re supposed to boast in our sufferings.
Listen also to the words of James:
Consider it all pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.
Paul says we rejoice because we know…. But what do we know? When we rejoice in our suffering we are responding to God’s secret, a secret we have been let in on: God has designed the suffering not to drive us from him, but to draw us to him. This is what we know! Though at times our trials may threaten to do us in, there is good reason to rejoice. Rejoicing in suffering deepens our hope and creates a longing in us for its realization. It gives us a hunger and thirst for God. Suffering brings about death in us, so that God’s life may be lived out through us. This is why we are told to rejoice: through suffering we come to know God more intimately and we long to be with God more sincerely.
Finally, Paul says:
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Last week, I talked about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and how we can be enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to do many things. We have had the love of God, that is, his love for us, poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. God’s love has literally gushed forth in our hearts; it has not been given sparingly, but freely and lavishly.
Someone has once said,
“We can live for forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope.” But the truth of the matter for the Christian is that there is hope because God is the author of continual hope. God is the one who constantly, all throughout our lives, develops hope in us.
This is Paul’s point in v. 5.
We are participating in the hope to be realized in the future. If you have abandoned the self-designed blueprints for your own life…if you have quit trying to make life work through your own control and manipulation and trusted Christ to forgive you for such sinfulness, and you know that Christ has paid the penalty for your sin on the cross, then you are a Christian. You share in the hope to be revealed in the future. You will never be disappointed. How do we know that our hope is real? We know because you have a subjective apprehension of God’s love for us in our hearts. This is the first hand experience of God directly. The Holy Spirit has made that known to you and me and God has accomplished it all through the atoning death of his Son.
J. I. Packer reminds us of the unquenchable and irresistible love of God:
What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.—Knowing God
We are-each and every one of us-a tangled mass of motives; hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile. God knows our hearts better than we can ever know our own. God is the only one who can separate the true from the false; he alone can purify the motives of the heart. But God does not come uninvited. If chambers of our heart have never experienced God's healing touch, perhaps it is because we have not welcomed divine examination.
Our relationship with God is one characterized by His peace toward us. This means that we can stop trying so hard to be people that we are not. Let’s rest in His presence and remember the larger fact is that God knows us intimately! When you go through trials, know in your heart that God is working a deeper longing (i.e., hope) for heaven in you. This shouldn’t cause you to abandon your life here, but rather take it up with renewed sense of commitment to capture the Christian mind and act responsibly in a fallen world—to love well and give freely. You are secure in Him. Persevere in those trials and draw close to Him.