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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Greatest Sermon Ever Written: The Result of Faith
Text:Romans 5:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Added:2023-01-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Hebrews 4

Text: Romans 5:1-5

 

THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN: THE RESULT OF FAITH

  1. Peace with God

  2. Access to God

  3. Joy in God

  4. Love from God

 

  1. Psalm 48: 1, 4

  2. Psalm 54: 1-3

  3. Hymn 38: 1-2

  4. Hymn 7:1-4

  5. Psalm 9: 1, 5

  6. Hymn 72: 1-5

 

Words to Listen For: umbrella, buds, jasper, dragon, black

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are the two kinds of peace when it comes to God?  Why are they important to distinguish from each other?

  2. What is unique about our access to God?

  3. What are the two (seemingly strange) reasons for rejoicing?

  4. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” - Should we ever say this?  Evaluate.

  5. What is your experience of hope?  Who is your source of hope?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved, washed in the blood of Christ,

When we go out into the world and evangelize…how do we do it?

I don’t mean what METHODS are we using…do we approach others, knocking on doors and do “cold evangelism?”  Or do we set up the booth of truth and sometimes approach those walking past, sometimes waiting for them to approach…or do we use our existing relationships and do what is known as “warm evangelism” and when someone asks you about your weekend, you make sure to center the conversation around church…

This is a valuable discussion to be had, we should talk about it, we should figure this out, but that’s not the question on the table this morning.

Instead…when we go out into the world and evangelize…however we get the other person to start talking or start listening to us talk…how do we present the gospel?

One way is to present it like eternal fire insurance.

Did you know that your sins rack up a debt with God?

You might say you’re not a sinner but…have you ever stolen something?  Even something small?  Even once?  Have you ever lied?  Even a white lie?  Even once?  If you’re not PERFECT, the Bible says that God will punish you.

But there’s good news too!  If you put your faith, your hope, your trust in Jesus Christ, then you won’t have to worry about the fires of hell.  Call it eternal fire insurance.

And some of us may chuckle and label this as a pretty poor way to evangelize.  But…notice that this is very similar to what the Apostle Paul has done so far in Romans, hasn’t he?

He lays out the problem - wrath.  God’s wrath revealed from heaven because of our sins.  Jews and Gentiles both.  Those under the law and those not under the law.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

And then righteousness.  Righteousness through redemption.  What we heard last time.

BUT NOW.  Oh yes, we love those words!

BUT NOW the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  Justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

And already, with how this is worded, we see that there is more to come.

Because WRATH and RIGHTEOUSNESS…they’re not really opposites, are they?

Righteousness and Redemption, yes, they are eternal fire insurance…those who have received the righteousness of God, those who have been redeemed - bought from that slave market, shackles removed - will never experience a single second or a single flame of hell…but there’s SO MUCH MORE.  God has done SO MUCH MORE for us.

Faith brings with it glorious results.

This morning, as we continue through the Greatest Sermon ever written, we uncover the treasures

(THE) RESULTing (OF) from FAITH.  We will discover

  1. Peace with God

  2. Access to God

  3. Joy in God, and finally

  4. Love from God
     

THE RESULT OF FAITH: PEACE WITH GOD

Therefore

This is how our text begins.  Romans is a very straightforward, very logical sermon.  One to the next to the next and so on.

And Paul, having given us the WHAT last time is now putting theological boots on the ground.  He’s answering the “NOW WHAT” question.

Related to the “so what” question - why do I care about this…but still distinct from it - how now should I live?

Therefore

And we can go back to see what he’s saying this in response to.  What is the “this” that we should care about and change how we live?

We go back, not even a full verse, but just one word.  What is the word that ends chapter 4?

Justification.

Ah yes.  Ok, we are in it now.  Justification.  And here Paul is using this as an umbrella term to cover redemption and propitiation as well.

 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we have been justified by (or through) faith, we have peace with God.

And here is it vitally important to distinguish between peace WITH GOD and peace FROM GOD.

Both are promised to us, both are blessings of being counted as children of God, but they are not the same as each other.

Peace WITH GOD is the FACT of peace.

Peace FROM GOD is the FEELING of peace.

Let us be very careful not to confuse them.  For so often we think of these two as the same.  As merely “PEACE.”

How do I KNOW if I have peace with God?  It is if I experience peace from God.  If I do not FEEL PEACE, I do not HAVE PEACE.

NOT TRUE.  ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE.

If this is your experience, please pay close attention.  Because when we confuse these two kinds of peace, we are in for a rough ride.  Never having assurance of our salvation.  Assailed by doubts, wracked by fear, tossed around by every wave of the sea.  All because we imagine that half of the matter is equal to the whole of it.

 

Peace WITH GOD is the declaration that the war is over.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God.

It is good that we are not just stepping into Romans at this point, because we need the context to explain the complexity of this statement.

The war is over - what war is that?  This is the enmity with God that has been at play ever since the fall into sin.

Ever since our first parents, Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  The war is our wickedness fighting against God’s righteousness. 

We wage war against Him and He against us.  And there are only two ways for the war to be over.

Either we fight until our very last day, we fight until we appear at Judgement day, and at that time we lose, and we lose eternally.

Either we LOSE…or we SURRENDER.

This we heard last time.  That surrender.  Laying down our weapons of pride and having instead, the open hands of faith.

Getting down on our knees before the cross and admitting: “I can’t do it on my own.  I just can’t.  I’m wounded.  I’m weak.  And I’m so very scared.  Please meet me in my darkness and bring your light.  Please meet me in my brokenness and bring your healing.”

Faith requires us to go beyond ourselves, to deny ourselves, to reject ourselves and say instead, “I’M with HIM.  I’m with the man who came down from heaven to save me.  I have no other hope.  He is mine and I am His.  I will rest in His embrace.”

This is surrender.  This is faith.  And through that faith, justification.

When we wave the white flag of surrender…there is that wonderful peace achieved.  We find that the one we’ve been fighting against is the one who made us.  The one we’ve been fighting against is the one who loves us.  And the one we’ve been fighting for…isn’t ourselves.  We weren’t unique individual fighters promoting freedom and independence, but rather we were protecting our abuser.  Our kidnapper, the one who hates us and works everyday all day to see us suffer.

Our surrender is the best thing we could possibly do.

This is peace WITH GOD.  The fighting is over.  We have laid down our weapons and embraced our former enemy.  I’ve said it before, I will never grow tired of saying it…He is MORE THAN A CONQUEROR.  A conqueror would either slaughter his enemies or take them as prisoners…what has happened here is that the conqueror has adopted you as His child.

Think of it this way.  Imagine a headline that reads: German army surrenders -  soldiers welcomed into Allied homes to replace their own sons lost in battle.  Never in a million years.  Put them on trial for their war crimes!  That’s what we do.  But that’s not what He did.  That’s not what we received.  We have immediate peace with God.

And ideally, peace with God will lead to peace FROM GOD.  That peace we are promised in Philippians 4 - the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is the subjective feeling of peace.  It is beautiful, it is wonderful, but it is elusive.  We don’t always feel it.

But here is the sticking point - do not think that when you lose that feeling then the fact goes along with it.

Though the feeling is a proof of the fact, the absence of the feeling doesn’t make the fact a falsehood.  I’ll say it again and then add a metaphor because it can be confusing.

Though the feeling is a proof of the fact - feeling God’s peace can assure us that the war is over - the absence of the feeling doesn’t make the fact a falsehood.  When we don’t feel that peace, it doesn’t mean the war is back on again.

Imagine a tree.  You look at it, and in the spring you see buds.  And in the summer you see leaves.  Depending on the tree, depending on where you live, the leaves will fall off in the fall, and the tree will be bare all winter.  Does that mean that the tree is dead?  Not at all!  Leaves show life, but no leaves do not necessarily mean death.

Peace with God.  A wonderful, beautiful fact.  C.S. Lewis put it this way, and it still fills me with hope and joy, it still gets me emotional after all these years: “The long dark winter is over and Aslan is on the move.”  That’s peace with God.  The battle is over, peace has been achieved, and God is on the move.  Because along with this peace, we also have the blessing, the treasure, of access to God.  Our second point.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.

Though we could read this simply, almost like a shopping list - first peace, then access, oh and also hope and don’t forget love - it is far more likely that as the Apostle Paul is writing these wondrous things, he is marvelling at each one in turn, stumbling over himself as they tumble out.

Not only peace…but also access.  Not just access, but also joy…and above all, if these 3 aren’t enough…also love!!!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Not only PEACE, but also ACCESS.

Here is where our reading comes into play.

Striving to enter that rest - this was our first point.  That rest, that peace with God, both the objective and the subjective.  This was the effort of Moses and Joshua.  This rest, this peace was disrupted by the sin of the people.  The sin that leads sinners to have to appear before a Holy Judge and give account.  But then Jesus came.

Then when the judge takes out our list of offenses He will find the words: PAID IN FULL written across them, blotting them out with His atoning blood.

And so, because of that, Hebrews 4 continues: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

And then Romans 5 - Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.

Through Christ, we have been granted entry into the heavenly throneroom.  It is into the throneroom we go when we pray.  It is into the throneroom we go when we feast at the Lord’s table.  And it is into the throneroom that we go when our lives on this earth are over.  And each one of our three entrances is only possible because of Jesus Christ.

This is something that we as believers can so easily take for granted.  It wasn’t always this way.

Remember what we heard last time about propitiation being the same word as the mercy seat?  The only way to meet with God is by means of His mercy seat?

In the old covenant, only one man, and only once a year had access to God.

And this access was anything but bold.

There was such a fear of the High Priests that they would be struck down because of their sin, and there is evidence that many of them indeed did die when they appeared before God, that a practice apparently developed.  This is a legend, not corroborated by Scripture, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does illustrate the fear perfectly.  This practice, this legend is known as the legend of the rope.

This legend says that on the Day of Atonement, along with the special washing and the special clothing, the High Priest would put on one more thing.  He would tie a rope to his leg.  This was because he was unsure if he would survive appearing before the Lord.  And if he was struck down, no one could remove the body, since the High Priest was the only one who was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.  And so the rope was there so that if he was struck down, those outside could pull out his body and give it a proper burial.

One man, one day a year, for a few minutes could approach God.  And he would regularly be struck dead for his sins.

 

But now!  BUT NOW Romans 5 says we have access.  BUT NOW Hebrews 4 says that we can boldly draw near the throne of grace!

We can boldly come into God’s presence.  Because now we are His beloved children.  In THE BELOVED, we too have become beloved.  In THE BELOVED, we too have become beloved.

And we can enter boldly.  We do not have to stumble over our words, beginning each prayer with: Far be it for me, and forgive me for asking, and I don't mean to bother you, but could I please…oh nevermind, you’re far too busy to deal with the likes of me.

We should not SAUNTER CASUALLY into the throneroom, but we CAN enter BOLDLY, knowing that we were invited.  Knowing that we have an all-access pass through the blood of Christ.  We can and we should spend time in the throneroom, because one day and then forever, it will be where we live.

We have direct access to God.  This is something the Jewish people would never have imagined.  This was something the Greeks would dread - the best thing for them would be if their vindictive and cruel gods forgot they existed.  But we have access to the most holy, the most powerful, the most loving being in the Universe, and He calls us His children, and we can call Him Father.

What unparalleled treasures these are!  But there are a couple more treasures left in our treasure chest this morning.  The Apostle goes on and speaks of JOY.  Our third point.

We have been given JOY as well.  In this treasure chest, under the pearl of peace, the amethyst of access, we have come to the jasper of joy.

We see in our text that joy is mixed together with hope.  If we had more time together this morning, I would love to preach a 5 point sermon, but we have enough here already with four points.  So I will briefly mention hope, but focus here on the joy.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope

We see here two reasons for rejoicing.  Two reasons for us to be filled with joy.

First of all, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and secondly we rejoice in our sufferings.

Neither one is what we would normally think.  We are rejoicing that something good happens to someone else, and we are rejoicing when something “bad” (and you’ll see why I said it in that way in a minute) happens to us.  Paul is…writing a little strangely here.

We rejoice, first of all, in hope of the glory of God.

Now hope isn’t just a feeling.  It’s not just a wish that we put out in the universe like, “I HOPE that it won’t rain tomorrow.”  Not at all.  Christian hope is a sure and confident expectation that God will fulfill His promises.  

There is a real strength to biblical hope - not our own strength and how hard we wish, but rather, the strength of Biblical hope is found in God’s faithfulness.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Because for all of our discussion in the past several sermons about righteousness and redemption, of justification and propitiation…we’ve been rather self-centered here.

We’ve been focused on what it means FOR US.  And we can do that, it isn’t wrong to do that…but it’s also not the complete picture.  The motivation behind what God did on the cross IS LOVE…don’t you ever doubt it…but the love isn’t only for us.  It is love for us, as well as love for God’s own glory.

We have heard before how God acting for His glory isn’t selfish, it isn’t egomaniacal, it isn’t the ravings of a narcissist.  So I won’t go through all that again this morning.  But God is doing these things for HIS GLORY as well as for you.

And when we have the mind of God, when our minds and our hearts and our souls are in tune with His…then we will rejoice when His glory is spread abroad.  When His glory is exalted.  Our ultimate goal should be the same as His ultimate goal - for God to be glorified.  And we rejoice in this.

When Christ died…when the war was won…when the ice began to melt signifying the end to this long dark winter, signifying that God was on the move…to what end?  To what ultimate end?

 

To God’s glory!

At the end of time, when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…do you remember how that verse ends?  TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

When the saints cast their golden crowns before the throne of God, when we are filled with inexpressible joy and sing the new song to the Lamb who was slain…what is the goal?  THE GLORY OF GOD.

It’s all about Him.  And so when we look at the justification in the courtroom, the redemption in the slave market, the propitiation on Golgotha…it is wonderful and glorious and marvellous for us…but more than that…it brings glory to God.  And so we rejoice.

 

We also rejoice…in suffering.

Now…Christians, despite what it may seem to the rest of the world…Christians aren’t CRAZY.  We don’t have wires crossed in our brains where we feel pain as pleasure and we say: BRING ON THAT SUFFERING, I LOVE IT!

We do not rejoice in suffering because suffering is fun.  Because suffering is cool.  Not at all.

But rather, what do we see here?

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

We rejoice because of what GOD DOES IN US THROUGH SUFFERING.

Despite being princes and princesses, despite the crowns and the thrones and a dragon as our enemy…Christianity isn’t a fairy tale.  There are real torments, there are real troubles, temptations and trials.  There will be tears.  God doesn’t promise that your life will be a non-stop joyride…but instead He promises that there is PURPOSE IN SUFFERING.

We might see that purpose, God taking away things we like that will ultimately hurt us…God taking away the GOOD to give us the BEST…God temporarily taking away our health and strength so that we trust in Him instead of in our own abilities…or we might never see that purpose.

What is the possible reason that this person died?  How is that good?  What is the possible reason that I was mistreated to the point where I wonder if I will ever experience happiness again…how does that make me STRONGER…it only served to break my spirit…

We might not know.  We might never know.  Maybe our suffering is meant for us to be stronger, maybe it’s meant for someone else to be stronger, maybe it’s meant to somehow spread the glory of God.  But just as with PEACE…just because we don’t feel it or understand it…doesn’t mean it’s not there.

We rejoice in suffering.  And so, let us be very careful to ever utter the phrase: Why do bad things happen to good people, especially when we are referring to ourselves.

We have to be careful here for two reasons:

1. First of all: Are you sure you want to call yourself a good person?  Really?  If so, please re-read the first 3 chapters of Romans.  You’re not GOOD.  Nobody is GOOD except God.  A truly good person could EARN salvation.  A truly good person doesn’t need a Saviour.  Do not be so unbelievably arrogant as to label yourself as GOOD.

2. And secondly: Are you sure you want to call suffering BAD?  Is it really BAD?  It may be bad at the time, it may be unthinkably difficult, but in the grand scheme…is it BAD?  The death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Easily the most evil thing that has ever happened in the history of forever.  Was it bad?  Do we wail and mourn on BAD FRIDAY every year?  NO!  It was unmistakably EVIL and VILE and SATANIC what happened…but it was also unbelievably GOOD!  It brought glory to God and salvation to His people!  A TRULY GOOD FRIDAY.

The Puritan preacher Samuel Rutherford put it best in these two quotations.  We should learn to respond to suffering in the same way that he did:

“Why should I tremble at the plough of my Lord, that makes deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposes a crop.”

When the Lord allows suffering, suffering so deep it is like someone is carving up your very soul…be sure that God is still in control.  He is not a first-time farmer, randomly carving up the land, but rather, He plows the land perfectly to grow a harvest of righteousness.

 

And then: “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”

Though it may be dark, though it may be cold, there is real treasure to be found in everything that God allows.  Rejoice in your sufferings because you know the One who allowed them.

And finally, our final treasure this morning, the love of God.

You might wonder how I can speak this way about suffering.  Isn’t it too flippant?  Isn’t it too simplistic?  Isn’t it cruel and heartless, and a refusal to acknowledge the pain?

No, not at all.

What Samuel Rutherford said, what Paul was preaching to the Roman Church…this is the view from 5000 feet.  Rutherford experienced real suffering.  He was persecuted much of his life, and would have been executed for treason - for daring to say that there was a power higher than the king - if he hadn’t died of illness first.  The Apostle Paul was the master of suffering, tortured, imprisoned, and eventually executed for his faith.

No Christian worth his salt would say to a suffering person - “buck up, God has a plan, Romans 5 says rejoice in your suffering, let’s see a smile on that face!”

No.  Never.  Indeed, when we encounter those who suffer, we are to mourn with those who mourn.  But deep down, in our heart of hearts, we can and should still have a tiny flame of joy burning, even in the darkness of distress.  A light of hope, a light of joy.

And this, the Apostle Paul says, is possible, this hope comes, and does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.

And there’s two reasons here for this.  Two reasons for hope.

One is our experience - if you are sitting here today, your hope has not been put to shame.  Your trials, however painful, your path, however dark…your suffering has not won.  You have not been defeated.  You have hoped in the Lord, and He has rescued you.  Your faith is real.  Your hope is real.  It has worked.

And the second is the source of your hope.

When you are struggling so deeply, you can begin to doubt God’s existence.

If God is real, He would not allow this.

Or, the second option: God is real…but He’s not good.

If God is good, He would not allow this.

Or, the third option: God is real, God is good, but not to me.

If God loved me, He would not allow this.

But here, when you are too weak to preach to your own soul, the Holy Spirit preaches to your soul.

 

God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

If you have truly trusted in the Lord, if you came to the foot of the cross, humbly outstretching empty hands…

Your heart is not completely empty.

Your heart is not completely black.

Your heart is not completely hard.

No matter how you feel.  Instead, it is filled with the love of God.

This is a supernatural gift, and it is one that we cannot completely understand, but it is grounded in historical facts.

We don’t have time to go through the next few verses this morning, but just briefly glance at them with me.

 

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 

God died for you.  He sought you out when you were weak, when you were ungodly…when you were His enemy who hated Him…do you

really think that now that you are brought into His family, He will now be sought by you in vain?  NONSENSE.

 

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

God didn’t save you just to let you suffer alone.  He did not sacrifice His only Son to just forget about you.  Justified by His blood - declared righteous…what He has begun in you, He will see through to completion.  He did not save you only to turn on you in wrath and destroy you.  NONSENSE.

 

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We were reconciled to God.  We have peace with Him, He has welcomed us into His throneroom.  You’ve been welcomed in, and nobody who comes to Him will ever be cast away.  God will not suddenly or eventually revoke your access to Him.  NONSENSE.

 

It’s a supernatural transcendent gift, so far beyond us, but it is grounded in what we can understand.

And this pouring…let us not think that it is a one time thing.  We receive the Spirit once and never lose Him, but the pouring is a continuous ongoing pouring out.

Do not have it in your mind that God poured about 250mL of love into your heart, and once you’ve used that cup up, too bad, you’re on your own now.

Just as His mercies are new each day, so too His love.

God will not let you down. He will not let your hope prove futile. He will not let you be put to shame.

And we know this…because…how?

 

Because of His love!

Because of His love that He planned before time itself - THESE ARE MY PEOPLE, I WILL SET MY LOVE ON THEM, and nobody shall take them from my hand

Because of His love that He accomplished IN HISTORY - living, dying, rising from the dead, sending His Spirit to guide us and comfort us.

Because of His love that He supernaturally pours into our hearts each and every day, knowing how weak we are, every time a cloud passes in front of the sun, every time that we don’t feel Him as strongly, every time we encounter any difficulty and we panic…He is there to comfort and assure us.

I am STILL HERE.

I am STILL FOR YOU.

You and I STILL HAVE PEACE.

You can STILL come to me in prayer.

I am as I always have been - your loving Creator.

I am as I will always be - your loving Father.

One day…one day you will see that in full.  One day you will experience all of my love…but until then…until then experience this foretaste of the blessings that are yours by grace, through faith.

They are yours.

I am yours.

Forever.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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