Our Source of Joy

Sermon on 28 August 2016 - Romans 5

Pastor Don Pieper

Having established that it is by faith in the saving work Christ...that we are made right with God in chapter 4..., Paul goes on to do a compare & contrast between Adam and Jesus: “If by the sin of this one man, Adam, death reigned and was passed on thru that one man,how much more will those who receive grace and righteousness reign in life thru this one man, Jesus Christ?” (Romans 5:17)

To understand Paul's point one needs to understand what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. One comedian I loved growing up, put it like this...: “One day Adam and Eve were running around, all natural, in the Garden together...: 'Dee-dee-dee-dee...” Now Adam is the man; he remains constant. He's into instant gratification. He's always.... See, that's the man. Now the woman, Eve, she's always: 'Come here, come here, come here; get away, get away, get away!' 'Eat these mudpies', she says. 'Oh, yes! I love them; bla-la-la...!' 'Here, eat this tree!' 'Oh, yes – bla-bla-la....!' She was messin' with Adam. I know! I married a women! I know what was going on! But then she ran out of things for him to be eatin', see? So she pulled an apple off the forbidden tree, knowing that she was out of line. Bit it – knew there was going to be trouble and handed it to Adam and said, 'here, eat this.' So he did, knowing full well that he wasn't supposed to, but he did it anyway! Crunch! Now they're both out of line! Next thing you know, there's the Lord: “Okay! (blow whistle) Everybody – out of the pool! Out! Out! Everybody!” And that's how the first, “No Swimming” sign came to be!

People today get all caught up in who was to blame – the man or the woman, but they miss the point. They're both to blame. Both got kicked out of God's perfect swimming hole. Paul's reference to the impact of that first sin in the Garden is not a male/female question but a life or death question. If you know the story you know that the result of their sin is death. Not only will they now both age and die, but animals begin to attack and eat each other, Adam & Eve's own offspring result to murder.

Paul summarizes this truth when he writes: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through his sin, in this way, death came to all men, for all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

From generation to generation this legacy has been passed down. Our sin separates us from God and such separation brings death for God is the source of all life. “Adam's one sins brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” (Romans 5:18)

Paul's contrasting the legacy of Adam with that of Christ reflects back to his opening words in chapter five: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” (Romans 5:1)

Having established how we come to be at peace with God, the one whom we have avoided, ignored, disobeyed, discounted and often outright rejected by our selfish, wayward ways, Paul goes on to talk about how our faith in Jesus, is the source of an otherworldly joy.

Paul identifies the source of this joy in three ways: 1) “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (5:2); 2) “We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (5:3) 3) “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (5:11)

Let's look at those in reverse order. The third, our joy in being reconciled to God, echoes Paul's opening words about having peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Paul is saying if we keep our focus on what Christ has done for us, our hearts and lives should exhibit great joy. Mean-spirited, unfriendly, grumpy Christians is kind of an oxymoron, then isn't it? If we really believe Jesus died for us, that God loves you & me that much, seems to me it should show!

Paul echoes that sentiment a few verses later when he writes: “God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) God was chasing after you long before you ever acknowledged your need for him! He doesn't love you because you have made such a positive impression on Him. He loves you because He loves you... (H.T.B.!)

I read a book recently about Ronald Reagan. Reagan once asked one of his bodyguards, Tim McCarthy, how he felt he was doing as president to which the man, without hesitation, answered, “Mr. President, I would take a bullet for you.” And that's exactly what he did the day a mentally unbalanced man by the name of John Hinckley took aim and fired muliple times.

His bodyguard did that out of loyalty... Jesus did that not because of the good job you've been doing but because of his undying love and compassion for you. He took a bullet/3 nails for you!

It's like the foolhardy captain who needlessly put himself and those on board his small yacht in peril who embraced the coastguard that pulled him to safety, sobbing tears of joy and gratitude.

If no one intervened, your life and mine, would be a sinking ship, so God sent his only beloved son, Jesus, on a rescue mission, to leap into your stormy waters to rescue you...! By doing so God has demonstrated his love for you! Embracing him who is your lifeline....brings great joy...!

Not only that, Paul declares, “We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3) This comes to us from a guy who was mocked, beaten, shipwrecked, shackled and cursed by his “religious” peers.

Okay – really? We can rejoice in our sufferings? Has Paul gone off the deep end a bit here? Isn't that a bit sadistic, if not unrealistic? Who actually rejoices because of their pain or loss?

Note, however, that Paul doesn't say we are to rejoice because of our suffering but in our suffering. He's not advocating some kind of morbid view of life but a joyous and triumphant one. He wants to save us from a defeatist attitude. After all hardships will come, sooner or later. Everyone dies. Storms are a fact of life. The question is, how will you respond when they assail you?

Paul points to God's redemptive plan. He wants to bring meaning to our loss and grief. God looks to turn the table on the enemy and mold the character of Christ in you. Only thru hardship do we grow. I loved Melanie's testimony a couple of weeks ago. She sat up here and courageously shared how God had used the adversity and pain she was experiencing...to bring to her attention God's desire to mold her character. She came home humbled, yet incredibly joyful, her potential for loving stronger – particularly those who claimed to be Christian but didn't exactly look or act very much like Christ!

Nick Taylor is another prime example... Nick has lost the clarity of his speech due to his battle with illness. If that weren't enough, a few months ago his face and hands were seriously burned in a work-related accident. But in the midst of these things Nick has continued to grow. His attitude has been amazing. His love of the Lord unflinching. He is one of my heroes as his character, it seems to me, more and more resembles that of the one he seeks to follow...

“We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce perseverance; and per-severance, character; and character, hope. 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!” (Romans 5:3-5)

Corrie ten Boom writes of such an experience while she and her sister, Betsie, were suffering in a German concentration camp, in her bestseller, The Hiding Place. She tells, for instance, of her lament

and sorrow of their winding up in packed, flea-ridden barracks with other inmates. Her sister coaches her to rejoice in the goodness of God even in such circumstances and later to not to give in to hate. To their amazement the guards never break up their prayer and worship tho these actions are strictly for-bidden under penalty of death. It is only later that they learn the reason why – the fleas... Thru their witness many women come to cling to the hope of seeing God's glory!

Just before dying Betsy tells her sister that God has given them a message not only for the women imprisoned at Ravensbruck, but to the world after the war. Tell them, Betsy whispers, “...must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit as deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.” (The Hiding Place)

“We rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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!” (Romans 5:3-5)

The hope Paul speaks of here reflects back to the third source of our joy: “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2) We anticipate, Paul writes, a time in which we will see with our own eyes the glory of God! That is, all that God has done and is still doing, even his allowing the pain we endure, is all working to draw us to Himself. God blesses in hundreds of ways but the ultimate prize is God himself. Our hope is experiencing his presence. That's the significance of his filling us with the Holy Spirit – that we might experience His loving presence.

I don't know how many times we've seen folks at the Alpha retreat, overwhelmed to the point of tears with experiencing that. “God is here!” Nicola said that's exactly what she and Melanie witnessed when the Korean kids prayed and worshipped together – tears of joy flowed!

When Betsie died, Corrie was brought to her bedside. She was stunned by what she saw. “Her face was full and young. The care lines, the grief lines, the deep hollows of hunger and disease were simply gone. In front of me was the Betsie of our youth, happy and at peace. Stronger. Freer! This was the Betsie of heaven, bursting with joy and health. 'O Lord, what are you saying,....giving me?!'”

(from Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place)

She was given hope... “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God... We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character hope. We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (5:2-3,11) I pray, you and me, we may be people overflowing God's great joy...!