Saturday, June 11, 2016

Nothing Separates from the Love of Christ

by Timothy Howe

Nisqually River Bridge, Mt. Rainier, Wa
On a recent hike, we crossed a bridge over the Nisqually River that runs down from Mt. Rainier. While on the bridge, I happened to bend down and a take a photo of the mountain through the trellis. Interesting how much bigger the beams of wood look when compared to a 14,000 foot mountain. Obviously, they are but specks in comparison to the mountain on which they rest. Though distance and perspective reduce the amount of space that the mountain takes up in the image, the mountain remains 14,410 feet. In a similar way, we too often allow our circumstances to shape our view of reality. Trials and difficulties loom large and the great things of this world seem diminished. Hold onto proper perspective.

Love of God (Rom. 8:31-39)
Dr. Randy Adams, the Executive Director of the NWBC, recently spoke to a group of pastors, pastors' wives, and church leaders. He spoke from Romans 8:31-39 and shared about God's unceasing love for us. The Scripture consists of a series of questions which summarizes our position as children of God, joint-heirs with Christ to be precise (Rom. 8:16-17). Paul uses responses to these questions to solidify what God has done for us. 

He will provide all that we need.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will be not also with him graciously give us all things? 

God recognized our greatest need and took care of it personally. Consider that at a deep level. He provided for us in a way that we were completely incapable. How much more can we trust that He will continue to meet our needs? Let us trust that He who is capable to meet all of our needs and who cares for us will meet those needs. And in the process let us be careful to not confuse needs and wants nor set improper expectation based on our time-table. 

He takes away our guilt.
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 

Have you ever caught a child doing or saying something they know they shouldn't? As long as the offense is fairly minor, the adult can take some joy out of the cute, guilty face. The sense of guilt is a whole lot less adorable as we mature. Many people retain a sense of guilt long after the offense has been forgotten or its consequences felt. The scripture above tells us that God has already justified us. What that means is that He, who is most capable of holding our guilt against us, does not charge us as guilty. Don't be subject to guilty feelings. If there are some actions for which you feel guilty that require retribution, recompense or setting things right, then take whatever necessary actions. Beyond that release any feelings of guilt.    

He removes our shame. 
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Similar to guilt, many people continue to harbor shame in our lives. There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt may be associated with offenses we committed whereas shame are those offenses committed against us. Shame dogs us and tells us that we are not worthy. Paul tells us that the Greatest One does not condemn us, in fact, he advocates for us. Jesus stands next to the Father seeking our very best well-being. Shame can be debilitating and may need counseling to overcome. Many offenses are too painful or too fresh and require the help of professionals and the vantage of greater distances of time to overcome. But let the work of the Spirit help in this healing process. Hold onto the promise that the Savior stands as your champion.

He sticks with us through all difficulties.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 
     "For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
     we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This last section is often quoted by people in times of difficulty, and rightfully so. In it we are offered a promise from God that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. What a promise! Paul goes to lengths to make clear what he means by "nothing." Each of us has experienced suffering, stress, threats, deprivation, or danger. The Scriptures remind us that in the very middle of these difficulties, our Savior's love is ever present. May you sense that love during your next trial. If you are currently in that trial, may you know that you are loved beyond measure. 

Dr. Adams challenged a group of pastors and church leaders to memorize Romans 8:31-38, a challenge which I have taken up. I encourage you to do so as well. 

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