Romans 8:31-39 As 2013 draws to a close and 2014 begins, we have all kind of questions about the year to come. Will this be a wet year or can we expect another drought? What will happen in the mid-term elections and what will that mean for our country? What new conflict or disaster will befall the world?
And we have questions about our own life in the year to come. Will I hear some terrible news regarding my health? How will I fare financially? What will happen in the lives of my family members?
There is much that we do not know about the year to come. In fact, we really don’t know anything at all. And that makes us a bit worried and anxious. But God speaks to us in his Word tonight for the purpose of easing our worries. He tells us that that in the midst of all the questions we have about the year to come, there are some things that we can know for sure.
In this familiar text, St. Paul asks five questions about the most fundamental parts of our life and our relationship with God and then by the power of the Holy Spirit he answers those questions so that we can be sure that no matter what we face in 2014, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Paul writes: If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who can be against us? Well, let’s see? Muslim terrorists who want to kill us. Our own government who wants to take more of our money. The culture around us who wants to ruin our reputation as Christians. The devil who wants to destroy us eternally. I can think of all kinds of people who are against us, and will continue to be against us, in the year to come.
But that’s not really the point that Paul is making at all! His point is this: Who are all those enemies (even if they were allied together) who are all these enemies against us compared to God who is for us.
God is for us! Just think of that! The living God of the universe who called this world into being, who sustains it moment to moment, who is from everlasting to everlasting, not only knows us and everything about us ( including what the future holds for us)—but he is for us! God is on our side. He is our advocate.
No matter who sits in the opposite corner of this boxing ring called life—God is in our corner and that will make all the difference no matter we face in this new year.
Paul was not fool. He knew all about enemies who were against him. His own people, the Jews. The rulers of the most powerful empire that had ever existed. False prophets form within the church herself. He knew that all kinds of people were against him. But when he measured them against the God who was for him—what were all of them together?!
So it is for us! In 2014 you can count on the good news that no matter what enemies you face, they are not greater than the God is for you.
But how can we be certain of that? How do we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God is for us? We find our answer in the same place as the Apostle Paul. God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
It is a wonderful and remarkable blessing to know that the one, true and living God of the universe is for us. We can know this and believe and build our life upon it in the year to come because God has shown his attitude towards us in the gift of his Son.
And since God has already given this greatest gift of all, can there be any doubt that God will also supply everything else we need.
If we are honest with ourselves, many of the worries and anxieties we have about the year to come—many of the questions that remain unanswered-- concern material and earthly and financial matters. It seems that our country is teetering on the edge of real financial problems and we wonder how that will affect us.
We don’t know how all of this will work out-- but what we do know is that, having already been given the greatest gift of all in Jesus, our heavenly Father can be counted on to meet all our other needs.
Think about it this way. All of those material worries that we had as we sat here on this night last year-- are the same ones we have here tonight-- and yet the fact of the matter is that we are sitting here: fed and clothed and sheltered.
The God who is for us—the God who has given his Son—can be trusted to give us everything else that we need for this body and life because he has already taken care of the one thing that really, eternally matters and that is our salvation. Paul writes: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Many of the questions and concerns and worries that we have as we face the beginning of the new year are not unique to us all—they are common to all men—but those who do not believe in Jesus do not have the comfort we do because they do not know God-- and they completely blind to the fact that this lack of knowledge about God-- and this missing relationship-- ought to be their chief concern as they face the future because there is not just 2014 to consider—there is eternity.
No matter what happens to a person in the year to come—no matter what enemies they face—nothing could be worse than being a slave in Satan’s kingdom, deaf and blind to the truth about God, and a future inhabitant of hell. That is where so many are in our world tonight. But the child of God has nothing to fear on this account.
When we recognize that the fears and anxieties we have about the year to come are really nothing compared to eternally important things—our worries become much smaller.
We are children of God. He has known us and loved us from before the beginning of time. He has planned for our salvation and sent his Son Jesus Christ to accomplish. He has providentially and graciously ordered every moment of our lives so that we would be brought to faith in Jesus and kept in faith until that day we enter our eternal home.
When it comes to our relationship with God, God himself has declared that we are right in his sight. That is God’s verdict. That is God’s judgment. That is what God himself says about who we are and what our relationship with him is.
Compared to that, what does it matter what anyone else (be it other people, or the devil, or our own hearts) say about us when God says: you are my child? God has declared that we are right in his sight through faith in his Son Jesus. Paul writes: 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.
We began this meditation on God’s Word talking about the trepidation we all naturally have as we begin a new year. But what God wants us to know is that there is no reason for fears or worries or anxiety.
We are right in God’s sight and members of his family because the condemnation that we deserve fell upon the crucified body of Christ. Our sins are forgiven and we are right in God’s sight.
We have nothing to fear even in the face of death because Jesus has conquered the grave for us. If this year should be our last here on earth we can absolutely confident that there is another life to come in the heavenly home Christ has prepared for us.
And we can face whatever the new year holds because at this moment our living Savior who has loved us at the cost of his own life, rules the world at his Father’s right hand for our sake, constantly lifting up our cares and concerns to his heavenly Father.
It is with this understanding of who we are in Jesus that Paul asks and answers the most important question of all as we stand at the beginning of a new year:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 our Lord.
The man who wrote these words was named Paul not Pollyanna. He had no silly illusions about living a life of undisturbed ease. In fact, he knew that such a life was an impossibility for the child of God. Not only do we live in a dark and dangerous world, subject to all of the hardships that befall every person, if we are truly following Christ, the cross will leave its mark on us too.
But Paul faced the future unafraid and unashamed. He knew that there was nothing and no one in this world more powerful than the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ. God wants us to know and believe the same as we face this new year and so Paul asks and answers these questions so that we might know that we will be conquerors in the year to come:
Who can be against us when God is for us? No one!
Having given us Christ, will God give us what we need? He will!
Who can lay a charge against those God has justified? No one!
Can even death condemn us? Not a chance!
What can separate us from Christ’ love? Nothing! Not now! Not ever!