2017-07-30 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
PRAYING WITH PAUL
“We are not abandoned…
Past, Present & Future”
Over the past weeks we’ve been preaching Paul, doing our best to come alongside him as a real human being, a fellow companion in the faith…trying to read his letter as a letter from a friend VS a letter from a lofty, high fluetent theological ivory tower professor.
Paul was like us! On certain days he was on top of the world, marveling at how Christ and following Jesus was an amazing, mind-blowing encounter and experience…but other days he was down in the dumps, stressed out, blown out, bullied out, brused & beaten
…hanging onto the faith by the skin of his teeth…needing encouragement, needing help, needing resources…
So today, we pray with our colleage in the faith, Paul.
This might be our last dip in Romans for a bit, so we’re going to not just reflect on the letter…but actually “pray” the letter into our reality and imaginations.
And so for the past 2 weeks we’ve been basking in Romans 8, hearing about life in the Spirit, and imagining what life in the Spirit means for us individually and corporately.
Let me remind us of a few “Spirit-infused” promises:
v.2 For the law of the SPIRIT of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death… (I feel a 90’s praise song coming on!)
v. 5 Those who set their minds on the Spirit…receive life and peace from the Spirit.
v.11 The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you!
v. 14 For all who live by the Spirit of God are children of God.
v. 16 The Spirit bears witness…we are children of God…and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him…
I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us…and so we hope for what we do not see…and we wait for it with patience.
–Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us!
And so today we conclude our time in Romans 8…and rather than just hear it…we
“pray our way” through it.
And perhaps this could be your prayer for you to carry in these days…a prayer that delights in God, and creates a way for the Spirit to work in us and through us for the good of the world.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (ok….it’s Rom. 7:25…but…you know!)
In this moment, the Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but your Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep
–We don’t self-describe as prayer warriors…we are not super heroes. We are Christians. Everyday Christians. Sometimes we don’t know how or what to pray…but good news, the third person of the Trinity is there for us! The Pentecostal blessing keep a coming!
God is not asking us for “wordy” prayers…(longest prayer-er isn’t the winner!).
God invites us to pray…however we can, whenever we can…for as long or as short as we can. This is a grace-filled invitation to pray as you are able.
And God, you search our hearts,
you know the mind of the Spirit,
for the Spirit intercedes for the saints
according to your will.
–And here’s why we can pray as we go! Remember Psalm 139? Where can I go from your Spirit?…Search me O God and know my heart…lead me in the way everlasting.
“The Spirit intercedes for us saints…according to the will of God.”
Again, so much grace & freedom…we don’t have to find God’s will, he’s not playing hide & seek with his will for us! God’s Spirit leads the way…and we follow in it…
We know that all things work together for good
for those who love God,
we, who are called, according to your purpose.
Your foreknowledge predestines us
to be conformed to the image of your Son…
your son, Jesus, the firstborn,
first in the line of humanity that he restored.
And we who are predestined are also called;
we who are called are also justified;
we who are justified are also glorified.
–Sometimes “all things work together” is abused in Christian culture…this is not a promise that says “good Christians get rewarded appropriately”…
perhaps a better phrasing is:
“God makes all things work together for GOOD – – “with” those who love God.
See the difference there? It moves from being a “I’m better than you, God loves me more” to a “we work together to see and experience the GOOD of God…even when things aren’t good.” [ we…together…. I see good when you don’t…and vice versa ]
–Uh oh! Predestination! Whoa!
We’ll get to that in a minute…for now let’s focus on Destiny/Identity (past, present, future):
>We are called! We have purpose.
Our future is pre-destined! Again, not for fame, fortune and riches…but to the image of Jesus.
–“And we who are PREDESTINED…are called / justified / glorified.
Let’s talk about predestination…this is not a “God has picked his favourites before-hand, Calvinism-Neo-Calvinists” thing…Baptist historically believe in a wider theology than that.
But there are other voices (I am one of them) that say: the bigger pre-destination story going on here and in the larger themes of God’s story is that we are predestined to be LOVED BY GOD. So many times we hear the Christian proclamation and feel like “you’re not good enough…or I am not good enough”…but what if today and every day, we could know and live in the truth of our predestination…that it is being named & claimed by God as beloved daughters and beloved sons of God.
What are we to say about these things?
If you, God, are for us, who is against us?
–This is our refrain of the day…it’s on the front of our church bulletin…I’ve paraphrased it here: “If you, God, are for us, who is against us?”
You did not withhold your own Son,
but gave him up for all of us, so with Jesus,
will you not also give us everything else?
–another astounding promise…based on our giving & generous God…who gave up his Son for the love of the world and the cosmos, and now, along with the resurrected Jesus, graciously gives us all things.
–What are these “all things”… what does it look like to be given “everything else.”
Again, it’s not fortune & fame…but it’s
ALL…that is necessary for salvation & protection (not in the “Xians don’t get sick/suffer”)
But rather that there is NO…
>other…no other power, force, circumstance or evil power/structure that will be separate us from God…past / present / future.
>>Ps. 139 again: Where can I go from your Spirit? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?
God, you justify. Who is to condemn?
–Again, Romans 8:1…There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised,
who is at your right hand, who indeed intercedes
–We once again remember that Jesus is the protagonist in all of this.
He leads the way…we follow…Jesus sits and intercedes at the right hand of the Father…
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
We pray with the Psalm writers: (Ps. 44:22)
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
–Paul ties in a prayer of the Psalmist…the story of God’s people is a story of “we will not be abandoned”… but it has not been easy…and Paul reminds these Roman Christians that suffering is part of the Christ-way… but even in that suffering, God is able to birth hope, healing and life…
— The persecution, the blame, the shame can be so foreboding…maybe we don’t experience that as North American Xians, but let’s pause and ask ourselves:
Q: “What do we feel is separating us from the love of Christ?
>What are our hardships?
>Where are we in distress?
*disease, dissension, failure, lack of purpose, depression, bankruptcy, regrets, things done/left undone; disbelief, mis-belief…
In the midst of all these separations…Paul proclaims: NOOOOOO!
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through you who love us.
For we are convinced 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. Amen!
So how shall we live?
–Joyful in our call to action
–Assured that in the end…for those things past / present / future in our lives that God will win. Love will win. In the end, God will get what God wants… and as Will Willimon puts it:
In the end, God wants the whole world!
We live the “glorious life” as those who are enlisted…invited…into God’s work in the world.
Thy kingdom come…Thy will be done in Edmonton, as it is in heaven!