The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Longing
8th Sunday after Pentecost
July 30, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Longing
Dear friends in Christ,
This past Wednesday was an important day. For on that day, July 25th, we were only five months from Christmas. For many, this will create a sense of longing for those five months to go quickly because we love Christmas. For others, a bit of dread because we know those five months will go by too quickly. Let me try another date in the future. August 23rd. will fill some with joy and longing and others with fear and wishing that day will never arrive. That is the first day of school for most of the Des Moines area. Finally, consider one more day in your future. Some dread this day more than any other. Some long for it more than any other day. It is the day your life on earth ends and eternal life begins.
In the section of Romans 8 before us today, Paul does not address those who dread this day. Paul addresses believers whose sins are covered by the blood of Christ. He addresses us who have been reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. Paul is writing to those who have been given the white robe of Christ's righteousness. He talks to all who have been baptized into Christ and now long for that glorious reunion with Jesus in heaven. Today, we continue in our series of considering the Christian Faith, One Word at a Time. Our word today is Longing. We long for heaven because all creation is suffering now. We long for heaven because it is something better. Hear again the inspired words of Paul in:
Romans 8:18–25 (NIV84)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Because All Creation is Suffering
Creation itself is longing for that day. Creation itself is groaning. Creation itself is subject to frustration until the Last Day. We see the suffering of God's creation all around us. Tornados bring destruction. Floods ruin property and lives. Drought and heat scorch fields. Earthquakes bring down cities and villages. This is not how God created the world. Adam and Eve did not worry about drought or storm in the Garden of Eden. But now the creation suffers and groans.
Think of the creatures of God's creation. When I was in elementary school I loved to read about dinosaurs. It is unfortunate that so much written about dinosaurs also includes a denial that God created them along with the first humans on the sixth day. However, they must have been majestic creatures. The Adam and Eve would have seen big and small dinosaurs and praised God for creating such creatures on the earth. But I have never seen a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a long necked sauropod wandering in the woods. Along with thousands and thousands of other species, the dinosaurs are extinct. Disease, disaster, habitat change, predators and other ways in which the creation groans have caused the suffering, death and extinction of many of God's creatures. The whole creation suffers because of sin.
Paul tells us that the creation suffers not by its own choice. The oceans did not rebel against the Lord. The dinosaurs did not disobey God's commands. The plants did not have evil plans to overthrow the Creator. But man did all this evil against the Lord. It was human choice that brought sin, death and suffering to everything in creation.
When we stub our toe and cry out in pain, we are reminded that we live in a sinful, fallen world. We suffer right along with creation. But unlike creation, we deserve to suffer much more than a stubbed toe or a hangnail. We deserve to be thrown into the eternal flames of hell and suffer without end. But that eternal suffering has been taken for us by Christ. He atoned for our sins so that we do not have to suffer for our sin. He reconciled us to God, changing us from enemies to God's children. And the Lord does not punish his children. He has forgiven you.
And yet, we still suffer. From minor aches and pains to debilitating diseases. From flat tires to terrible accidents. From people talking behind your back at work or school because you are a Christian to having to flee your country because of an evil government. If this suffering is not to punish believers for their sins, and it isn't, what is is for? Our suffering reminds us that the whole world is suffering and longing for something better and we are too. Suffering teaches us to long for what is next, to long for heaven. Maybe you've heard it from someone who has lived many years on this earth or maybe you have said it yourself. How much longer until the Lord calls me home?
For Something Better
This question is only one for believers in Christ. We have the certain promise from our Savior that he is preparing a place for us in heaven. We long for that home because it will be better than anything we have yet experienced. An unbeliever can only try to prolong this earthly life as long as possible and try to avoid suffering while here. An unbeliever can only hope that they are right and there is no heaven or hell, that death in this world is simply the end of existence. Some in our state are pushing for ways to people to escape the suffering of disease through physician assisted suicide. Just take some pills, end your life and your suffering will end. Paul tells believers something completely different. He tells us that the suffering of all things in this world tells us that something better is coming. It is like the suffering of a woman before her child is born. So when we find ourselves suffering, patiently wait for the Lord to bring about his promise and take us home in his time and in his way.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
We, along with all of creation waits for the sons of God to be revealed. Yes, we know that we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. But could you go to a baseball game and point out the Christians in the stands? We can't judge a person's heart by looking at the outside. We can't even know for certain if a person is a believer and thus going to heaven by what a person says. If you went into the local Catholic church, Baptist church, Methodist church, other Lutheran church and into our own congregation and asked people a simple question, I would guess that you would get lots of different answers. Here is the question: “What reason will you give to God for letting you into heaven when you stand before him?” The answer has to be “I don't deserve heaven but Jesus paid for my sins.”
Many who call themselves Christian give answers that are not Jesus. “I tried my best...I loved people...I did better than most.” Those who trust in themselves will not enter eternal life. Only those who trust in Christ alone. On the day we stand before God the true sons of God will be revealed. We long for that day for then we will be fully united with believers of every nation, tribe and language. When we get to heaven we will be with believers from every age of this world. There will be no concerns about false teachers or hypocrites in the church. We will be surrounded by the joy filled children of God. I long for that day.
We long for that day when something better happens for our body too.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
God created Adam's body from the dust of the earth and then breathed into him the breath of life. Adam was created by God with a body and a soul. Since sin entered the world we humans suffer in both body and soul. We long for the day our soul enters eternal life and our body returns to the dust from which it came. But we also long for the day when we live body and soul in heaven. Can you imagine how glorious it will be to have a body with no aches and pains? No arthritis or bad knees. No catching a cold or coming down with the flu. No heart disease or cancer. No mental illness. No birth defects. Your body will be raised to be like Christ's glorious body after his resurrection. How we long for that day!
But here is the hardest part:
If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Unless Jesus returns this year, August 23rd will arrive and school will start. December 25th will arrive and we will celebrate the birth of Christ once again. We only have to wait and those dates will arrive soon. So also, we wait patiently for the promise of glory in eternal life. We have the certain promise from the Holy Spirit through the words of Romans today. Hold onto the promise as you patiently endure suffering in this life, longing for the something better that God will certainly give.
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