Online Text Sermon - The Christian Persuaded, Romans ch.8 v.38
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Christian Persuaded|
|Text||Romans ch.8 v.38 |
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For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8, 38).
Here we have the apostle Paul speaking about a persuasion that he had. And I, in introducing this persuasion, would wish to say to you that it is a persuasion which we need and which we all ought to have if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course it is a persuasion which no one ought to have except a believer, and we ought not to pretend that people are believers if they are not.
Here is an exclusive persuasion, one which does not belong to all mankind but is confined to those who are Christ's people. But for them I say it is a most profitable persuasion because it is the strength we need to get through life. How was it that the patriarchs and prophets all persevered? They all suffered, many of them were put to death, many of them knew imprisonment, torture, cold and heat, and all the barbarities which their enemies inflicted upon them. They got through these troubles because they shared with Paul this persuasion, that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let's look at it first of all like this: let's look at the whole question of 'a persuasion'. What is a persuasion? A persuasion is an inward conviction that something is true, based upon good evidence. The mind of man is so constructed that when the evidence is compelling, the mind cannot but be convinced. You will immediately recognise that that is true. When your mind has received solid grounds for believing anything, you have to believe it. If you see something with your own eyes, you have to believe it; the evidence is irresistible; it is compelling. You cannot twist the mind to believe what it does not believe on good evidence. That is what we are talking about. It is the persuasion based upon good evidence. The mind weighs up the arguments for a thing and the arguments against a thing, and on the basis of this process of weighing up of the one side and the other, the mind has to come down one way. That's what has happened to the apostle Paul. He is convinced on the evidence which he has that nothing shall separate the believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He has come to the position in which he believes that he cannot lose salvation. That, you know, is one of the greatest fears that believers have - the possibility that we can be saved and yet later lost. The Roman Catholic Church plays upon that fear, in that it never ever gives assurance to any of its members. Nobody in the Roman Catholic Church, according to its official teaching, has any right to be assured of eternal life; they never give assurance as the Bible does. In that way they keep people in a state of fear, so that they have to keep coming, and they have to keep paying, and they have to keep on confessing and taking the mass, in the expectation that if they do all these things it will work out well in the end. But it is a religion based upon fear, not faith. Whereas the biblical religion, as we see, the true gospel, is a gospel which assures us of God's love in Christ when we are believers; and it assures us that this love is something that cannot be lost.
We all know what it is to have a friendship in life, which was precious to us and to have lost it. I suppose every one of us has had that experience; possibly quite recently, owing to events which we are all too familiar with. We had friendships and connections of affection and esteem, but we lost them. We have all had that and it is a common experience, and it is a very painful thing to have to go through. We remember the happier days when the friendship was good, but for one reason or another we can look back in life and see that, either through foolishness on our side or on their side, the friendship was interrupted and the bond of affection was broken, and people went their separate ways; they were friends no more. But the persuasion of the apostle Paul is that, though that can happen amongst men in this life, it cannot happen between God and His people - no matter what our circumstances, no matter what our sins even. There is no way that we can lose this sense of and enjoyment of the love of God in Christ. Once we have truly come to faith nothing can rob us of the blessings. As we say, "Once saved, always saved." So that places us in a better position even than our first father Adam, because Adam was in a situation in which he knew the love of God and lost it. Perhaps we don't sufficiently remember that that is the case. One of the terrible sufferings that Adam must have gone through after he sinned was the realisation of what it is to lose the friendship and the fellowship and love of God. Mercifully he got it back again, rapidly, through the gospel which was preached to him. But nonetheless it is part of the sadness of Adam's experience that he knew the love of God until the time he lost it, and that is what caused him to hide in shame under the trees of the garden.
But here is something that no Christian can lose: he cannot lose the love of God; he cannot lose the salvation which is associated with that love. I want to say, first of all to those Christians, who really are Christians, that this is one of the greatest blessings imaginable, and you must do all in your power to persuade yourself of this and to be persuaded of it. If you have not got this persuasion, and at the same time you are Christian, then I say: give yourself no rest until through prayer and seeking God and calling upon Him and reading His Word, or going to fellowships or reading the best books, that you come to a position in which you do know the assurance that you cannot lose the love of God.
From time to time we commit sins which hide God's face from us - all of us do that. Sometimes we commit sins which the devil comes in and persuades us are so great we shall never ever taste of God's love again. But the apostle Paul's persuasion was otherwise. It was to this effect, that once we have come to faith in Christ, not even sin itself can separate us from the love and kindness of God; nothing can. "We are saved," he said, "eternally". And we are called upon, through grace, to believe that that is so if we are the people of God.
If we are not converted, the thing we need above all things to do, is to come to the point in which we have this enjoyment of the love of God. We get that the moment we put our trust in Jesus Christ. It is something which God gives as a seal to our hearts, a taste of heavenly things. True religion is more than guesswork, more than a notion. The believer has an inward token of the love of God. He feels something that others do not feel; he enjoys something from God, which others do not know about. It is this inward witness and testimony of the Spirit of God in his heart bearing witness with his Spirit that he is a child of God. Those who have never come to Christ have never experienced that; it is God's secret within the souls of believers. I say, if you are in a condition in which you have never personally believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is the gift of God to you if you will have it; freely, without money and without price. By faith alone in Jesus Christ and in what He is and has done.
So my friends, that is the persuasion. I have to ask you: Is it your persuasion this evening? Let each one ask and answer for himself: 'Am I persuaded as the apostle Paul is?' Oh what a persuasion it is! With this persuasion a man can face anything, you know. This is what makes Christians courageous. Take the three friends of Daniel. I don't suppose there are many forms of death which are more terrible than being thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Who would not blench, even at the very thought? How could these three courageous men face the thought of being thrown into a furnace of fire? Well they could, on good evidence. It is because of a persuasion that they had. They argued like this, they said, "A burning fiery furnace is a very terrible thing." But they said, "God is a consuming fire, a still more terrible thing, so to be burned alive is far better than to sin against God and suffer eternal punishment." So they were persuaded that it was far better for them to have their bodies destroyed than to displease the God in whom they had trusted.
The same is true exactly with Daniel. Can you imagine what a man must fear before he is thrown into a den of lions, as he was? What would persuade a man to face a den of lions? Well, he would argue like this. If he had the persuasion that the apostle had, he would again weigh up the evidence, and he would say: "To be thrown amongst roaring lions is a fearful form of death, but God is a more terrible being than all the lions in the world. How then can I face Him as one who has sinned against Him?" And so, on the basis of rational argument, he would be persuaded that it is far, far better to follow the way of truth and suffering.
Both of these cases illustrate that this is how these men acted. They would rather continue to enjoy the love and favour of God than to place themselves in the position in which they escaped, just temporarily, from the inconveniences of this life. I say therefore, this is what leads a Christian to be ready to suffer for Christ. That's how the apostle Paul could suffer for Christ. How many churches he planted; how many journeys he undertook; how many sufferings he put up with for the sake of Christ! How many shipwrecks, how many stonings, how many imprisonments! He did it all because of this one thing: he was persuaded, he was convinced on the best evidence, that the love of God is something from which the Christian can never be severed.
I have said this, that a persuasion is a conviction based on evidence. Let me look now at some of the evidence. What is the ground of his hope? What was the reason or reasons why he could be persuaded like this, of this great fact? Well the first thing undoubtedly was the way in which he looked at Christ's cross, and the sufferings of Christ on the cross. He refers to this in all his writings, more or less, but particularly at the beginning of this epistle. He says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Later on in this epistle and in this chapter he says, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth" (v.33). The way in which he argues is the basis of his persuasion. He is convinced that because Christ is God, and because Christ's death is the death of the God-Man, that that death is fully able to atone for all the sins of the people of God, and to give rest to the consciences of God's people forever. If that is the case, then there is no power left to sin to condemn us; no power left to sin to destroy the relationship which we have with Christ and with God and with His love.
Dear friend, is that argument an argument which weighs with you? Have you sufficiently reasoned like this in your own soul: that if Jesus Christ is God and died for us, then sin cannot condemn us? Oh yes I know we have many sins; oh yes I know that our sins are worthy of eternal punishment. But, I say, if Christ has borne those sins, and suffered vicariously for our sins, and risen again from the dead in token of God's acceptance of His work, then there is nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. The argument must follow, and the conclusion must follow, and the persuasion must follow.
Then there is another way in which the apostle could argue the case. It is this: because of the way in which God's love has acted. Some people talk about the love of God as though it really was nothing more than the smile on a canvass of some famous painting like the Mona Lisa - just a pretty thing on a picture and nothing more. That's the unconverted man's way of thinking of the love of God, like a pretty smile, but it has no power and does no good. That's not the way the love of God is represented to us in the Bible. Far from it! The love of God has acted in history, and before history, in forming what we call 'the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure'. We read about it, did we not? The foreknowledge of God which is His eternal choice of some unto salvation; the predestinating of those persons to salvation; the calling of them through the gospel; the justifying of them through faith alone in Christ; and lo and behold, the glorifying of them all at last. The apostle's argument and persuasion is related to that consideration that God's love has provided this everlasting covenant. You see, within the covenant there is no possibility that any of these links and contacts could be destroyed - it is impossible for sin or death or Satan or any other power to break the security that God's covenant promises give to those who believe. These things were forged in eternity past; they become a reality in our experience in the present; and they will be so to all eternity to come. And if that is the case, then we may be persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Dear friend, are you persuaded? If we were persuaded as we ought to be, we would never really think about anything, but only about the love of God in Christ; how to enjoy it more, and how to spread it around to others in this world more.
I give you a third basis and ground upon which the apostle Paul's persuasion is fixed. It is that all the enemies of the people of God, and all these things which are against them, are less in power than God himself. Look at this list. He says, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth..." - any other creature you care to name; put anything in there - Satan and all the powers of hell, unbelief, sin. None of these things taken separately, nor all of them taken together, is as powerful as God. God is greater than them all. And if that is the case, they cannot overcome God's love towards His people. Oh, how comforting it is as we go along life, to know that this is so! Events often wear a frowning countenance, but behind a frowning countenance God hides a smiling face, a face of love and kindness to us, even now in this present life. God loves His own people with an infinite love. He paid for them a price which cannot be calculated. And if God so loved the world as to give His Son, do you think He will forsake them when they go through the trials and difficulties of this world? He will not.
Then, let me give you a fourth reason before I close tonight, and it is this. God is a Father to His people. This also is referred to in this epistle, as it is elsewhere. We have the Spirit of adoption crying, "Abba Father". The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. That too is a sound basis for our persuasion that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, because God has breathed into the souls of Christians an inward certainty that we belong not to this world but to God Himself. When God makes Himself the Father of anyone, it is forever. God being the Father of Christians means He will be their Father forever. On this basis therefore, let the apostle Paul's persuasion be yours.
I pity those who are Arminians and who deny the doctrines of the Reformed faith, because the view of Arminianism is: that a man may be saved today and lost tomorrow. Like the Salvation Army girl I once met who said something like this, she said, "We believe you can be saved today, lost tomorrow and restored the following day." Such a religion is the religion of nonsense. It is not the religion of the Word of God. Make wide allowance for your sin; we all have mountains of it - mountains upon mountains upon mountains of it. Those who know themselves best know how much their sins are. Listen to Jonathan Edwards talking about his sins, and he was one of the saintliest men who ever lived. He said, "My sins are infinity upon infinity. No, no", he said, "my sins are infinity multiplied by infinity." Sin is an infinite evil but oh, thank God, the eternal love which God bears to His people is an infinity which can swallow up all our sin, and deal with it, and justify us, and receive us into His presence for time and eternity.
My friends, we need this persuasion today, right now, because there are many things that trouble a Christian. Many things appear to be out of joint; the times are evil; the days are evil; the church is evil; the state is evil; everything is in a topsy-turvy way. But there is something which overarches everything else: it is this persuasion that nothing can separate a believer from the love of God in Christ. Believe it, and believe it for your comfort.
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