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No Separation PM

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NO SEPARATION

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                                        Romans 8 35-39

This glorious statement about our confidence in Christ has the structure of two bookend phrases in verses 35 and 39.  Paul asks the question and answers it, and, in between he sets out the reality of the believers’ situation.

It is a confident statement and a wonderful promise – but it also demands that we take a good hard look at the opposition we face as those who put their trust in Christ.

This morning we considered the real significance of Romans 8 28 – not merely a memorable verse, or a timely reassurance; and certainly not a motto or a talisman – but a statement about God’s Big Plan.

Here Paul asks us to consider the harsh landscape of the believer’s life and pilgrimage. He poses a question that strikes at the heart of the believer’s confidence – a question that is the climax of a series of questions for which this chapter is famous.   It was always a myth that the Christian life is one long happy experience – and yet the elusive calm and confidence is attainable – not by the absence of trials but by their presence.

The whole passage is marked by challenging questions:

What shall we say?                             31

Who can be against us?                      31

Who will bring any charge?                  33

Who condemns?                                 34

Who shall separate?                            35

Here we have:

A real question.               “Who shall separate…?”                                      35

A hard prospect.              “For your sake we face death…”    Psa 44 22         36

A triumphant Lord           “nothing…will be able to separate..”              37-39

A REAL QUESTION

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
                                                                                                v 35

Of course we expect the answer “No” – but Paul doesn’t want us to rejoice in the reality of that truth without fully anticipating the very real challenges that do and will confront us.

The over-arching view is that NOTHING SEPARATES

But the apostle  is entirely realistic – he faces head on the many very real forces that oppose the Christian in his pilgrimage.

He lists the REAL forces arrayed against the believer:

·        Trouble

·        Hardship

·        Persecution

·        Famine

·        Nakedness                                 1Cor 4 11

·        Danger                                      2 Cor 11 26

·        Sword

He has in mind a psalm, from which he will quote presently, and which presents the victory and the opposition of the believer.

Paul is issuing a challenge. In asserting the absolute assurance that the believer has in his Lord – in reminding him of the CERTAINTY of God’s love no matter what – he challenges his readers and ourselves to offer any objection – any possible agent that might SEPARATE us from Him.

Before we can stand as “More than conquerors” we must lie down as sheep.  The way to victory does not lie in AVOIDING the battles, or the pain, or the anguish – but in accepting them and THEN triumphing over them.

Paul is not conjuring these things up out of the air.  Any serious study of Paul’s life and work will conclude that he had a very hard time of it.

This is a ROBUST CHRISTIANITY that faces up to the difficulty and stands victorious in Christ – for He too never avoided the conflict or the suffering or the difficulties.

Is there anything you would like to add to the list that Paul supplies?

·        Trouble                                     pressing in John 16 in the world trouble

·        Hardship                                   confined

·        Persecution                                        pursued

·        Famine                                      =

·        Nakedness                                 1Cor 4 11[1]         

·        Danger                                      2 Cor 11 26[2]

·        Sword                                       Mat 26 47    - Peter, James

And in verse 38 it is continued….


·        Death

·        Life

·        Angels

·        Demons                                     Verse 38

·        The present

·        The future

·        Any powers

If we face lesser difficulties how much more will we not lose sight of His love?

This is a REAL QUESTION – because we have a REAL ENEMY.

It is not simply that we are subject to the same ups and downs of everyday life with its trials etc.  it is that the Christian life is a life lived on the battlefield.  There is an Enemy.

In the same way that the chapter sets out the grounds for our spiritual security so it sets out the very real issues that will challenge the believer – so that we may see that nothing – absolutely nothing – has been omitted.   He quotes scripture:

A HARD PROSPECT     

36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

                                                                        Psalm 44 22

Mmmm – that’s not exactly a motto text to be framed and hung on a wall is it?

But please notice it does not say we DIE  or ARE SLAUGHTERED  - but that WE FACE it  and ARE CONSIDERED.

It is not about a FINAL distress nor indeed an IMPOSSIBLE DIFFICULTY

It is a real look at real problems.

There is Scriptural warrant for hard times.

Over and over again Jesus tried to prepare His followers for what would happen to Him and what would happen to them.

Persecution is inevitable – because the world hates us as it hated Him.

What makes this verse peculiarly difficult is that by and large our Western Christianity knows so little of the adversity and challenge that other believers face daily. 

Over and over again Paul – and the other apostles warned the Church of persecution coming – not so as to depress them but so as to help them see that the Chrisdtian life follows Christ into the real world – a world which has no time for Him.

This is the world in which all share in certain problems – whether believers or not

Suffering

Hurt

Death

Disaster

But Paul’s use of the psalm reminds us that there are perils reserved for us simply because we are the Lord’s.

17 All this happened to us,

though we had not forgotten you

or been false to your covenant.

18 Our hearts had not turned back;

our feet had not strayed from your path.

19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals

and covered us over with deep darkness.

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God

or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

21 would not God have discovered it,

since he knows the secrets of the heart?

22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

The Psalm – which is at times upbeat and triumphant – bemoans the fact that God’s people had not knowingly sinned particularly – or failed – but they were as lambs for the slaughter.

What happens to us is not something new – it has been the experience of God’s people through the ages.

If we can’t face that then we are FAILING HIM and not FOLLOWING HIM

He called us to take up our cross and follow Him.

But the following DOES LOOK AWAY TO JESUS HIMSELF – therein lies the great difference.

Not only have other followers of God gone that way – but My Lord Himself has gone that way – and further than I am called to go!

How can we witness to this world if we are not seen to be those who face up to the real issues that confront all mankind – as well as the real conflicts that cross the Christian pathway?

Of course we don’t want to go that way – no one does – but we are FOLLOWING THE LORD.

It is is easier to preach this than to live it!

 

But – just a minute we are deviating from the thrust of this passage.

 

Paul is not out to depress us but to reassure us:

A Triumphant Lord – A triumphant Love     35

                                                                                 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love  MESSAGE

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. 39 Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.                                                     NEW LIVING BIBLE

Of all that Paul has had to say in this passage – and indeed in the whole chapter these verses present the central force THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.

Separation is a very real terror.   On a different level there is no experience so difficult, in my view, as saying a last goodbye.  Ordinary goodbyes are hard enough.

The possibility of being abandoned – alone – beggars belief.

But OUR TRIUMPH rests on the best of all possible foundations the LOVE OF CHRIST!

We are more than conquerors through His love

 

We are NEVER TO BE SEPARATED from His love

Instead of a sense of failure and defeat we are cast increasingly upon HIM – this is a crucial part of God’s plan but before we rejoice in a this final statement we need to return to the question in a slightly different way.

WHO SHALL SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST?

Whilst we can never be finally separated – it has to be said that there are many times when our love for Him dips to a low ebb.

Our Enemy has it in his mind to deprive us of our peace and our witness – he will try again and again to drive a wedge between us and our Lord.

And the circumstances which Paul has listed in triumph do seem to have an effect upon our devotion.

What separates you and me from the love of Christ?

What separates you and me from our love to Him?

Ah – you say – a different question – but it is one we must ask.

·        Trouble                                     pressing in John 16 in the world trouble

·        Hardship                                   confined

·        Persecution                                        pursued

·        Famine                                      =

·        Nakedness                                 1Cor 4 11  

·        Danger                                      2 Cor 11 26

·        Sword                                       Mat 26 47    - Peter, James

Indifferent prayer life

Scant regard for Scripture

A falling away from worship

The forces of a materialistic world

Our own age and infirmity

So many things to challenge our faith and our devotion.

But HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS

I may leave the boat in a moment of confident faith

See the wind and waves

Falter

Fall

Cry out for help

HE WILL NOT LET ME GO!

We are More than Conquerors through HIM and HIM ALONE

Our VICTORY is here entirely

Not in our ability to transcend difficulty or overcome evil or avoid temptation

BUT IN CHRIST ALONE!

It towers o’er the wrecks of time – drawing me like a great magnet to the ONLY SOURCE OF COMFORT AND CONFIDENCE

HE OFFERS ME NO EASY WAY – BUT HIMSELF

Harsh but loving upon His cross

WHO SHALL SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST?

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.


----

[1] 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, without enough clothes to keep us warm. We have endured many beatings, and we have no homes of our own.

[2] 26 I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not.

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