|Fourth Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| June 24, 2018| Romans 8:18-23|
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:18-23
We confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” What will that life everlasting be like, when Jesus comes to take his church home?
St. John describes heaven in Revelation 21:3-4:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The old order of things is that order of things in which death reigns. God warned Adam. “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” He ate. He died.
All mankind fell in Adam’s fall
One common sin infects us all
From sire to son the bane descends
And over all the curse impends.
Through all man’s powers corruption creeps
And him in dreadful bondage keeps;
In guilt he draws his infant breath
And reaps its fruits of woe and death.
The doctrine of original sin makes people angry, but the Bible teaches it and so we must teach it. Everyone who has ever been born with the sole exception of the virgin-born Son of God was conceived and born in sin, spiritually dead, blind, and hostile to God. We die because we are sinners. Sin is the reason for sorrow, mourning, crying, and pain.
The creation God made was very good. The problem with the created world is not that it is created. The problem is sin. That’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. Sin not only corrupts our nature; it corrupts all of nature.
Christ came into this world to take away sin. We Christians say that he succeeded. We believe what the Bible says about Jesus and, based on the Bible, we claim that he is our righteousness. We claim that on account of his obedience and his suffering he has fulfilled all righteousness. The gospel of Christ reckons us to be righteous. What God says is so. We are righteous.
But are we, really? Earlier in this Epistle, St. Paul described his spiritual struggles, which are ours as well:
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Romans 7:15-19)
God says we are righteous, but we are burdened with sin. Are we good or are we bad? Do we do the good we want to do? Or do we do the evil that we don’t want to do? Who will deliver us from these bodies that are infected with sin and death?
Jesus will. He won’t deliver us from the sin in our bodies by tossing aside our bodies. God didn’t take on our flesh and blood only to abandon our bodies to the grave to let them rot. God wasn’t incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and made man to destroy flesh and blood. He did so to redeem us, flesh and blood, body and soul. God was incarnate. The Word became flesh. He was made man. He assumed our human nature. What he assumed he redeemed. What he redeemed he will raise up on the last day. He will glorify his Christians.
St. Paul writes:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Original sin is not a popular teaching, but to deny it is to deny heaven. Popular views of heaven feature the glory of heaven as being out there, and not in here. But see how the Bible describes heaven. There is no death, no curse, no mourning, no crying, no pain, and no sorrow. What has happened here? The sin within us is purged. It is gone forever! Glory will be revealed in us. Within!
Think of it! You won’t get mad at anybody ever. You won’t lust after what isn’t yours. You won’t resent not getting what you thought you wanted. You won’t hate anybody. You will have no desire to do anything wrong. That’s glory. That’s inner glory. That glory will be revealed in us Christians when Jesus returns, the dead are raised, our bodies are changed, and we are confirmed in the righteousness reckoned to us by the gospel.
God speaks and so it is. But it doesn’t appear to be as he says. In Christ we are righteous right now. Through faith in him heaven is our home – as if we were already there. But we still sin and we feel it. We’re not in heaven yet. The curse has been lifted, but it remains. There is an already and not yet feature of our lives in this world. We are redeemed, but we will be redeemed. Not only we, but the whole creation groans in anticipation of our final redemption. When these dying bodies are fully redeemed and become immortal and unperishable bodies, then all of creation will be released from death and the curse of sin.
When God joined this world, he didn’t become a plant or an animal. He didn’t become mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, or oceans. He became a human being. We were made in God’s image. We are the crown of his creation. All creation waits in anticipation of our final redemption. When we are glorified, then the created world will be glorified as well. That’s heaven.
The lion will lie down with the lamb. The child will play with the cobra. There will be no death and no violence. There will be no sin and no curse of sin. The sufferings we suffer now cannot compare to the glory we will experience. It will be within us, for our hearts will be pure and nothing evil will ever enter into us again.
Jesus teaches us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow him. It is the cross of persecution. God’s word is not always popular, but we confess it. The moral standards of our culture attack God’s teaching taught in the Bible. If you agree with God and say so, you will be called a bigot and a hater. The popular religion denies God’s anger and turns sin into dysfunction, something we can fix. To teach that everyone is a sinner in dire need of a Savior and that Jesus is the only Savior sinners have is to challenge the popular religion of our culture. To confess this openly is to invite persecution. That hurts.
But what hurts more is the suffering within us that we bring upon ourselves. When we live as if we were not what God has pronounced us to be, we suffer disconnect. It is as if our lives are one big contradiction. When we look back to Calvary and Christ’s resurrection, we see our victory over our sin. Jesus brings Calvary and the open tomb to us every Sunday, feeding us with his body and blood. As we look back, we also look forward. We look forward to the day when we will feel no sin, remember no guilt, and experience nothing less than pure joy in the presence of the holy God. We look ahead. We live in anticipation.
That’s how we can learn to live lives that show mercy to others. What we need (and we need it every day of our lives) is an attitude adjustment. Where does the judgmental and condemnatory spirit come from? Why do people hold grudges and refuse to forgive? Those who live under judgment judge. Those who feel condemnation in their hearts feel the need to condemn others. Only the one who has received mercy can give it to others.
Already, but not yet. We are already redeemed by the blood of Jesus. He paid the price to free us and he freed us. We have been delivered from God’s anger and live under his grace. He is smiling on us. But if that is true, why do we suffer? If God is love, why should anyone suffer? Many deny God’s existence by arguing that a loving God couldn’t possibly permit the suffering that exists in this world.
But the loving God we know in Christ has already confronted the suffering that exists in this world. He hasn’t given us instructions on how to eliminate evil in society or even in our own hearts. He does it. But until our final redemption, when the bodies in which we live are fully purged of all sin, and mortality is replaced by immortality, perishable by imperishable, we must wait.
We wait in hope. Hope is a God-given confidence in the future we cannot see. No suffering we experience in this life can compare with the glory to be revealed in us on the last day. Heaven is not a dream. It is our true home. It is not a wish. Jesus promised to prepare it for us. He promised to return and to bring us into the perfect joys of heaven.
Why should cross and trials grieve me?
Christ is near with his cheer, never will he leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son for me won when his life was given?
No one can.