July 30th, 2023 Romans 8:28-39

Today, in a very real way, we reach the pinnacle of the book of Romans. Paul reveals the end game–essentially what everything is working toward. Paul has been and continues to take his readers on a journey that had to be taken not because it was required by our philosophical thought, but because it was the journey revealed by God that went through Jesus.

Paul has laid out the workings of God starting with humankind’s rebellion from God. Paul showed how everyone has failed to live up to God’s purpose and command and how no matter how hard we try to accomplish that purpose and command, we will always fall short. Therefore, we stand condemned by God and under His wrath. Yet, in a stunning turn of events, God Himself takes on human flesh and pays the debt of our sin and makes us right with God. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They are now justified by grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forward as a sacrifice of atonement effective through faith.”

God makes us right with Him through no action of our own–it is completely and totally by God’s grace. Nothing else. And this becomes effective when we trust in Christ’s actions and not our own. There is nothing we have to do: no law to follow; no act of charity to perform; no prayer to pray. There is just a heart that has been captured by God’s marvelous grace.

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us by taking our selfish, misguided prayers as well as those prayers that have no words and transforming those prayers into holy and acceptable words. God is conforming us into the image and likeness of Jesus. I want you to just consider that for a moment. God is conforming you; molding you; refining you; so that you become like Jesus. This is God’s end game. He wants you to be like Jesus beginning now and then brought to perfection in the life to come.

We must be very, very careful as we approach our biblical text today from the eighth chapter of the book of Romans. Verse 28. I still remember it as one of the Bible verses I was required to memorize when I was in confirmation over 50 years ago. “All things work together toward good for those who love God; those whom He has called according to His purpose.” If we do not read this verse carefully, we can interpret it to say, “If I love God, then everything will work out for my good.”

Now, in a sense, this is true. I mean, we proclaim as Christians that ultimately, God will have the last word in all events, and that word will be good. When we take the long view, we can easily say, “Everything will work out for my good.” But if we do not keep this view in mind, there are at least three problems that arise.

The first problem often comes with my definition of good. Oftentimes, my definition of good does not have the long view in mind. Oftentimes my definition of good only concerns my wants and desires. If I love God, then everything I want and desire that I consider good will come to me. God is not in the business of giving us our heart’s every desire. He is in the business of transforming our hearts to desire Him above all things, and this is the view we must keep in mind when we read Romans 8:28.

The second problem that occurs is the fact that not all things are good, and bad things are inescapable in this life. Everyone at some point and time must deal with suffering, pain and sorrow, confronted with the reality of evil and death in the world. You cannot call things good which clearly are bad or sinful. Sin and sinful actions or behavior is never good. We cannot simply excuse them. Bible. . .

The final problem that occurs with interpreting this text inappropriately is that the good that we receive becomes contingent on how much we love God. This is how a lot of those television preachers get away with saying the things they say. Your life hasn’t turned around? Your finances haven’t turned around? . You need to have more faith and more love. Effectively, this train of thought says that everything depends upon you. Which can be exciting for folks when things are going well, but absolutely devastating for folks when things are not going well.

No, Paul chooses his words carefully to convey this thought: if your heart has been captured by the grace of God; God will take every circumstance in your life, everything that happens to you, good and bad He will use them for your benefit. He will use them for your good.

Good cannot be defined according to our Western, materialist thought. That good cannot be defined as health, wealth, and perfect relationships. No. Paul doesn’t allow us to do that. Paul defines what that good is in verse 29. You cannot just read verse 28, you’ve got to put it together with what follows:

29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. Paul is showing us the end game. Paul is showing us what good God intends. Those who God foreknew–those whom God looked at and saw that their hearts would be changed by the Gospel–he predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

That’s the good God is working toward. God is conforming you to the image and likeness of Jesus. This is the ultimate of Good–to become like Christ, and it is not something that you are capable of doing on your own. It is something God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all combining their efforts to do. Hence the golden chain of verbs in verse 30, “30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Paul basically summarizes everything he has told us from Romans one until now. This is our status as Christians. God has predestined us. God has called us, justified us, God has glorified us. He has done all these things so that we can be transformed from the inside out to be like Jesus.

I know that some folks are skeptical about Christians in general. We don’t often live up to the ideals of our founder. But God isn’t finished with us yet. God is in the transformation process. Yes, Christians are imperfect people. We sometimes are callous, uncaring, and ungrateful. We sometimes are hypocrites. Our hearts are undergoing transformation, so don’t look at us. Look at Jesus. And wouldn’t you like to be like Him? All it takes is faith and putting your trust in Him as God has done everything for you.

For those of us who have already started this journey with Jesus early in our lives, trusted in Him throughout our lives and consider ourselves Christian, let me ask you: do you sense that you are becoming more Christ-like? Are your hearts continuing to be transformed so that you see the fruits of the Spirit active in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control? Do you pray deeply and earnestly ask God to make you more like Jesus?

The Gospel brings transformation to our hearts and lives. God has poured out His life for you. He’s died that you may live. And if this news has touched your heart; if your heart is filled with the love of God, He will use everything that happens to you to change you and transform you so that you will be like Jesus. Do you want to be like Jesus?