The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Inseparable
11th Sunday after Pentecost
August 20, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Inseparable
Dear friends in Christ,
Tomorrow, there will be a partial solar eclipse in Iowa. Other parts of our nation will experience a total solar eclipse. It will be dark during the middle of the day. Stars will appear in the afternoon. It should be something amazing to see. The moon will block out most of the sun for about two minutes. In our scientific age, an eclipse is something to marvel at. As Christians, we also praise the Creator for making the sun, moon and stars. However, in the past various cultures have seen an eclipse as a very bad thing.
“The sun has gone out. Will it catch fire again? The gods are angry with us and are punishing us with darkness. The end of the world is upon us!”
When something unexpected and scary happens, people often assume that whatever they worshiped as a god is no longer on their side. I am sure you could even find some Christian writings saying something similar. “God blacked out the sun to show that we had sinned against him enough to block out his love for us.” I have definitely seen this kind of foolishness from so called Christian leaders in response to hurricanes and other disasters. “That city deserved it because of their immorality.” In essence such a person is saying that God has removed his love from the people of that place by allowing a terrible disaster. It is a foolish and ignorant thing to say for many reasons, one of which is our focus from Romans today.
Paul makes it clear that nothing can separate believers, those whom God chose before time began, from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We are inseparable from his love.
Romans 8:35–39 (NIV84)
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.
Do you know anyone who has fallen away from the church or away from faith in Christ completely? They were raised in a faithful church, maybe this church. Maybe you went to school or Sunday school together. Perhaps you were confirmed together. But then you didn't see them much anymore. Maybe they were around for a while but when they got their first job or went off to college or got married, things changed. The things of this world pulled them away from the Word and Sacraments. It could be that this person went through a tough time, a sickness in the family or they lost their job or were influenced by secular teachings. They blame God for the hardships in their life. They say things like, “I don't want to worship a God who allows evil in my life.” Chances are that you know someone like this.
How does this fit with the verses from Romans today? Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and yet we see that some people do separate from Jesus. It helps to look at it from God's point of view. God's Word tells us that God loves the world, that God wants all people to be saved and that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. Therefore God loves the unbeliever who has never heard of Jesus. He loves the believer who then loves him. And God loves the believer who is drifting away from faith and the person who has rejected the faith given by the Holy Spirit in baptism. God's love continues even when a person's love and faith in God changes. In the end, God will give those who reject his free forgiveness and salvation in Christ what they want. He will give them an eternity without Jesus.
This is a warning for us. You are the only one who can separate yourself from the love of Christ. You can separate yourself from the Word of God. You can distance yourself from other believers who teach, correct, rebuke and encourage you with the Word of God. You can stay away from Holy Communion. You can refuse to be around the life giving gospel of Jesus and starve yourself of God's love. But God will not separate his love from you.
Listen again to Paul's first list of what cannot separate us from God's love.
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.”
Every Christian faces hardships and trouble in life. We think of financial problems, health troubles and family hardships. What were the believers in Rome going to face? History tells us that Peter and Paul were executed in Rome. History tells us the many Christians were put to death by wild beast for entertainment in the Colosseum or Circus Maximus. Certainly, they were sheep to be slaughtered before the mighty Roman Empire.
While we do not face the same type of slaughter, biblical faith and we who hold to it are increasingly becoming the target of society. The belief that God made everything out of nothing with his word in six days is the target for ridicule. Those who hold to what God says in the Bible may find it difficult to get through advanced degrees in certain sciences and to hold a job if they make their faith known. What if it is known that you go to a church that follows what the Bible says and only calls men to be pastors? Many churches have given up this biblical teaching under societal pressure. Will there be a time when society and government puts even more pressure on churches to change what we believe and teach? I don't think they will start feeding Bible believing Christians to the lions at Wells Fargo Arena. However, I can imagine a time in the future when believing and teaching certain doctrines is against the law. The roles and men and women and biblical marriage of one man and one woman are two that immediately come to mind. In the future, things could become very difficult for Christians who hold to all of God's Word.
Whatever the trouble, Paul tells us that our Lord will not separate from us. Christ himself is the Lamb of God who was slaughtered for the sin of the world. He faced the persecution, danger and sword of the powers of this world and did not once turn from his Father in heaven. However, you remember that God the Father separated from his Son. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is what we deserved for those times we do no trust the Lord, when we choose to go along with the world instead of standing on the truth, when we sin in any way. We deserved to be separated from God. But Jesus took our place on the cross under God's punishment and took our place even under the most severe punishment – separation from God. Jesus suffered separation so that we are inseparable from God's love. He suffered hell so that we can say with confidence along with Paul.
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.
Jesus conquered sin and then Jesus conquered death. He rose from the dead. Last week's reading in Romans told us how God chose us to be connected with Christ's victory through faith. Therefore, we are also conquerors through Christ. Sin and death cannot stop us from being with our God forever. Christ is risen and I am forgiven. Christ is risen and I will too. Christ is risen; what can man do to me? Christ is risen; what can the devil do to me? No earthly or spiritual being can separate us from God's love. Nothing that happens today or tomorrow can separate us from the love of Jesus. We are inseparable from our Savior's love.
Tomorrow, I hope to see something amazing in the sky – the moon blocking out the light of the sun for a couple of minutes. There will be stories and photos all over tomorrow and the next days and weeks. But the excitement will quickly fade away. The love of Christ will never fade away even on the worst of days in this life. On September 11, 2001 our nation experienced one of the worst of days. Thousands of lives lost. Thousands of families in shock and grief. Millions of lives affected. I remember watching some remarks by a military chaplain, I believe from the Navy, shortly after the attacks. I don't remember anything he said except the way he recited the words before us today in Romans. His voice and cadence perfectly matched Paul's words of confidence in the face of every danger and disaster in this world. Jesus had not left us. He was not angry with us. His love endures forever. I do not have that man's oratory skills and yet the Word of God is powerful. You are inseparable from his love. Trust what the God tells you, even on the worst of days.
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.
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