Conquering Life's Ultimate Question (Romans Sermon 58 of 120)
March 03, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Martyrdom, Perseverance, Sovereignty of God
Endurance and Assurance for a Dangerous Journey
Take your Bibles, if you would, and look in them with me at Romans Chapter 8. This is going to be our last sermon in Romans for a while, and that's kind of exciting when you stop and think about it. I won't tell you how many messages we've had in Romans, but it's a lot. It's about a third of the preaching I've done since I've been here. So, it's really a remarkable journey. And we've seen very clearly, I think, as we've moved through Romans, how the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
For in these 8 chapters of Romans, we've been taken from being dead in our transgressions and sins right into the very presence of God in heaven. And so we who deserve nothing but wrath have been assured of salvation in Romans 8, in the most lavish way. And therefore, I think it's remarkable this Christian faith of ours. I think it's an incredible thing, because God promises absolutely everything to us through Christ, doesn't he? And then he demands everything from us in Christ as well. And we're going to see that in the verses that we're looking at today. Recently, I've had the privilege of reading one of the most exciting adventure stories I've ever read in my life, and I'm continuing to read it.
I've read the children's version. Now, I'm going to read the adult's version, and it's about an expedition begun by Sir Ernest Shackleton, in August 8th, 1914, an expedition across the Antarctic. He was going to be, or attempting to be, the first man with his group to set out and to travel across the Antarctic. As he sailed from London on August 8th, 1914, what followed was the most extraordinary adventure, perhaps in history. The ship was trapped and then eventually, crushed by ice. The expedition was marooned first on the constantly shifting Antarctic ice pack, and then on a remote and uninhabited island. It took a daring open boat journey, a 22 footer with three sails, across 1000 miles of the most turbulent, dangerous, and frigid waters to rescue his group. Shackleton went out, a small expedition from the larger to bring back help. And the astounding thing about this incredible journey, this adventure, is that Shackleton lost not one single man committed to his care, but brought them all back safely.
Now, I found out recently that this story is going to be depicted at an IMAX, in Raleigh, very soon. And so, all of you are going to want to go buy tickets. I know I want to go see it, but this is an incredible story. The thing that's amazing to me is that the name of the ship was The Endurance, and I believe that Romans Chapter 8 is given to us, because we are in the midst of an incredible journey, a dangerous journey even more dangerous spiritually, I think, than the physical dangers that faced Shackleton and his group. And what does this journey call for but endurance, perseverance through faith in Christ.
What's also interesting to me is that August 1914 was the very month that armies began to march and World War I began. And so really, if you combine those two things, the moment you become a Christian, you are set to travel a perilous journey through a war-torn zone to accomplish a mission for God. And what does it take, but the kind of assurance that we are given in these final verses of Romans 8 that enable us with courage to set out on that journey. We are not going to be wafting up to heaven on flowery beds of ease, not at all. But rather, in the Book of Acts, Paul says it is through many hardships that we enter the kingdom of heaven. Americans almost need to be jarred awake to realize that. We are called to make a dangerous journey.
And I've come to realize also that every single blessing in the Christian life is given to us because of God's love for us, that we may be blessed thereby, but also that we may turn around and be a blessing to others. And so, it is also true, in the matter of assurance of salvation. The very thing that God's been laboring to do in us, in Romans 8, he works in us an assurance of salvation, but always for a purpose. And I believe that purpose is that we may accomplish the advance of the kingdom of God, in this world, no longer worried about our own future, no longer worried about our own salvation, no longer worried about anything whatsoever. We are now fit to be vessels for God, poured out for his glory until he takes us home. And so, I think, behind the assurance given in Romans Chapter 8, is a mighty and incredible mission laid before the church, the mission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Romans 10:14-15 says, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news!'" You all are the ones with the beautiful feet. You are the ones who are called to take the Gospel across mountains and rivers and oceans, even the Arctic Ocean if need be, to people who've never heard. The blessings that God has lavished on you, that he is lavishing on you, are not meant to accumulate in some kind of a backwater, but rather are meant to motivate you to turn around and be a blessing to the nations, and that's the very thing that God intends to do by giving you assurance of salvation.
II. The Ultimate Question Posed
Christianity truly is an astounding religion. It asks ultimate things of us. It promises ultimate things to us, and it answers the ultimate questions of life. What kind of questions do I mean? Well, for example, what will happen to me when I die? Or what does the future hold? What does the future hold? What is going to happen to me in my future life? These are the kind of questions that Paul is dealing with here at the end of Romans Chapter 8. The Christian version of it is, can anything separate me from the love of God in Christ? Look at that in Verse 35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" We have therefore set before us the eternal, the sweet love of God in Jesus Christ, the sweetest gift that we've ever received. We are loved totally. We are loved unconditionally. Contrary to what we deserve are we loved and we have been loved before the foundation of the world.
In Jeremiah 31, "I have loved you with an everlasting love and therefore in love and kindness, I have drawn you." Isn't that marvelous? What a lavish thing is the love of God in Christ, and yet it's also complicated as well, isn't it? It's a little bit difficult to understand, because the very ones that God loves mainly us, he also is willing to say, you're like sheep for the slaughter. We're going to talk more about that in a minute, he's willing to pour us out like a drink offering, and how can that be? We don't understand his love. Our love is based on constantly shifting emotions and value judgments and assessments. So our love is not a secure thing, but Christ's love is very different. It asks incredible things of us and gives incredible things to us contrary to what we deserve, and it's a difficult doctrine.
Difficult Doctrine of God’s Love
Recently, there was a book written by DA Carson entitled "The Difficult Doctrine of God's Love," and in it he goes through five different types of God's love. And I think if we don't understand that properly, you will get no assurance of salvation from Romans Chapter 8. You have to understand, God loves people in different ways. This morning, we received an example of God's love given indiscriminately to all people, righteous and unrighteous alike, namely the pouring rain. And we need the rain to live, without the water we cannot survive. And so, God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, indiscriminately loving all in that way. But the kind of love discussed here in Romans Chapter 8 is of a different kind. It's the love of God in Christ Jesus, for us, the very thing that we have talked about.
Now, this is so important. Why do I say that? Because if we believe that God in the kind of a weak general way, loves everybody, but yet you might still end up in hell, what kind of assurance is that? God's loving me, but I might go to hell? That's a terrifying thing. I want to know what's going to happen to me when I die, I want to know. And that's why we need to understand Paul's question Paul's way. Who shall separate us from the kind of love I've been talking about here? The kind of love that transforms you, the kind of love that saves you, the kind of love that brings you to heaven. Can anything separate me from that love? And the answer is no, and therefore we have a full-blooded assurance of salvation. We must understand love that way.
III. The Ultimate Question Weighed
And so, Paul weighs the ultimate question, what does the future hold? Can I be separated? Can I be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Now, this word separated comes up in many different contexts in the Bible. For example, in Matthew 19:6, talking about marriage, he says, "What God has joined together, let man not [what?] separate." So there's that idea there of a divorce. And the question we'd ask spiritually is, "Am I going to be together with Christ forever? Is there a possible separation between me and the one who love my soul? Is there a divorce in our future?" Or there's another kind of separation, separation that comes through departing, through leaving.
We feel this, we're a very fluid society. We're together for a while and then people leave and we move on, there's a tearing and a ripping from that separation, when we're called to leave a place. In Acts 1:4, on one occasion, Jesus was eating with them and he gave them this command, "Do not depart from Jerusalem, don't separate yourselves from the city because a gift is coming to you from on high." Or even more poignantly speaking of the Holy Spirit, in 1st Samuel 16:14, "Now, the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and an evil spirit tormented him." So there was a sense in which the Spirit had been taken from Saul, you know what I'm talking about? And so David cries out after his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51, he says, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me." He's yearning, he's concerned over this matter.
And so we can ask the ultimate question, will I be asked to depart from my share in the heavenly Jerusalem? Or will the Spirit depart from me so that I'm separated from the Holy Spirit? Separation, can anything separate me? Or there's another kind of separation, separation that comes through holiness, holiness itself, there's a picture of separation. Separate unto the Lord, this kind of thing, like the holy vessels that are used in the temple, they're separate unto the Lord, they're holy to the Lord. So therefore, in the final analysis, there's going to be a separation of wicked from righteous.
And my question is, will the holiness of God move him to separate himself from me? Talk about King Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:21. It said he had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house, leprous, and excluded from the temple of the Lord. You see that.
And so, we want to ask, is the holiness of God finally in the end going to catch up with me, and I'm going to have to be separated from him forever? And so finally, there's a separation that comes on judgment day. He speaks of a separation of the wheat from the tares. He speaks of a separation of the good fish from the bad. Good fish are collected in baskets, the bad are thrown away. He speaks of the separation of the sheep from the goats. The sheep are on his right and the goats are on his left. And those on his left, he says to them, "depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
There's a separation. I want to know, am I going to be wheat separated and brought into his barn or am I going to be chaff burned with eternal unquenchable fire? I want to know this. Can anything separate me from Christ? That's the question that Paul's seeking to answer here. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Now, here, we face the issue of what I call ostrich assurance, I've referred to this before. What I mean by that is, well, the ostrich is an amazing thing, isn't it? What does it do when danger comes? What does it do when trouble and hardship and persecute... What happens? What does the ostrich do? It sticks its head in the ground and hope it's going to go away.
Does ostrich assurance bring any kind of assurance at all? The assurance of faith is to get your head out of the ground and look full on at what is coming at you and say, God is bigger than that. God is more powerful than that, and nothing can separate me from the love of God. And so, we have here, I think a red blooded assurance, something that's facing everything that could possibly happen to you and some of them will. That's the whole challenging thing. If you have an ostrich assurance, you're not going to be able to face, it won't measure into your theology, you won't be able to understand why is God doing this to me if you don't understand what's going on in these final verses in Romans Chapter 8.
Possible Separators Named and Weighed
And so, he goes through the various kinds of separators, the things that could come to separate you from Christ. And he weighs each one of them, he looks at them separately, and he looks at them and he weighs them and he sees, can this or that or the other separate us from God? And that's what he's doing here at the end in Romans Chapter 8.
The first thing he looks at is the issue of tribulation. In Verse 35 he says, shall trouble or a better translation is tribulation, it's a very common word, tribulation or troubled distress something difficult, and Jesus deals with this in John 16:33. He says that in this world, you will have trouble. It's the same Greek word. You're going to have it. Have you ever seen those little pocket books of promises from God?
This is the promise, John 16:33, "In this world, you will have trouble." I didn't find it, I was flipping through, I didn't see it in there. I thought, "wow, it's not in there." I didn't own the book so I couldn't write it in there. John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble." Or everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. These are promises from God. But Paul is not giving us an ostrich assurance here, he wants us to face it. You're going to have trouble, but shall those troubles separate us from Christ? That's the question he's dealing with here. There's going to be tribulation. Actually no, they don't. If anything they make you stronger, they make you more powerful if you're truly a Christian.
Now that's a big if, isn't it? That's been the issue all along in Romans Chapter 8. Assurance is given to true Christians. Those who have no assurance, those who are not true Christians should have no assurance, you should repent and trust Christ. You should not be comfortable and safe and easy in a position which you're not a Christian yet. Assurance isn't for you if you're not a Christian, it's for the Christian. There is therefore now no condemnation for who? For those that are in Christ Jesus. Those that are Christians. And so, he wants to give you assurance and if you are genuinely a Christian, tribulation or trials actually help you in your Christian life. We already covered that in Romans 5:3-4. Not only so, but we rejoice in our tribulations, our trials, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.
What's another word for perseverance? Shackleton will tell you, it's endurance. It produces endurance in you, the ability to stand fast. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces proven character, and proven character results in hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So those trials actually make you stronger, they give you a full-blooded hope, you go through these hard things, you say, I made it through, I'm still a Christian, I still love Jesus. I've survived.
Now flipside, the trials, the tribulations also sift out the true from the false, don't they? When a time of persecution comes in the church, there's a sifting there, isn't there? And Jesus talked about that in Matthew 13:21. He talks about the seed that falls in various kinds of soils, the seed that falls on the rocky soil it says the one that received the seed that fell on the rocky places, is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy, he might even walk the aisle during that joy. No joke, it might be a time of excitement for him, and then immediate receiving of joy, but when trouble or tribulation or hardship comes because of the word what happens to him? He quickly falls away. And so, there is a sifting out, but tribulation or trial will not separate a true Christian from Jesus Christ.
Neither will distress, you look at the second word he says distress, the idea here is a very strong Greek word, the concept of being crushed on every side. Can you imagine like the walls coming in from both sides, just like this, and there's a sense of increasing pressure. Do you ever dive down into a pool or into the ocean and just keep diving deeper and deeper, and you feel that increasing pressure starting pushing on you. And that's what can happen when you're living a life of faithfulness and obedience to Christ, there can be times when there's just a pressure from every side pressing in on you. Apostle Paul knew about this in 2nd Corinthians 1:8, he says, "We were under great pressure far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired even of life." There's a crushing that goes on, and he says this happened "so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead." The pressure comes but it didn't separate Paul from Christ.
Well, what about persecution? That's when you get a human being who uses all of their intellect and their abilities and their creativity and their power to make your life miserable. It's called persecution, and it happens at lots of different levels. People insult you, falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, Jesus talked about that. That's persecution. People just saying things, people insulting you all the way up to people wanting to kill you. All of that's just the range of persecution and Jesus said "rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
So he goes through these things, and then he lists those things. Those first three things, I think are unique to Christians, it's the stuff that happens when you step out boldly to be a Christian. These other things can happen to anyone, but they're especially true of those that are boldly ministering for Christ. Famine, nakedness, danger, sword. Famine means you're stripped of food, nakedness means you're stripped of clothing, danger means you're stripped of your peace of mind, and sword ultimately you're stripped of life itself. But the amazing thing is none of those things can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing can separate you. Thank you. Amen.
Shall famine separate us from the love of God? No, you may run out of earthly food, but you will never run out of the bread of heaven, the bread of life.
What about nakedness? They may strip you of clothing, Paul lists that as something that happened to him in 2nd Corinthians 11. Without clothes. And so little moments in church history when ask about, but don't delve too deeply, but it happened. He was without clothes, he was stripped of clothes. But you're never going to be stripped of the righteousness, the cloak of righteousness that you will stand in on Judgment Day. That's the basis of your standing with God. Nothing can take that away from you.
What about danger? What is danger but potential evil that might happen in the future. It causes anxiety and fear. That way you don't move out. You're not witnessing to your neighbors, you're not witnessing to your boss. You're not witnessing to your family members. They might not like you. They might hurt you. They might oppose you. That is true. They might. Probably, they will actually. But danger, is danger going to separate us from the love of God in Christ? No. 2nd Corinthians 11:26, Paul says, "I've been in danger from rivers, I've been in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers." Most dangerous kind. And in all that danger, I was never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And what about the sword? Does the sword ever get unsheathed against a Christian? Ask James. In Acts, Chapter 12, his head was cut off by Herod, by the sword. Tradition has it the same thing happened to Paul. It was the sword that was waiting for Paul in the future. He wouldn't be crucified, he was a Roman citizen, so he was executed by the sword most likely. The sword was in Paul's future and he said, "It's not going to separate me. It might separate my head from my body, but it will not separate me from Jesus Christ.
III. The Ultimate Question “Considered”
Now he has weighed all of these different kinds of things, now he goes a little deeper. He considers why do these things come to us at all? I thought we were children of God? Is God not powerful enough to protect us? Why are these things coming to us? Why do we even have to discuss them?
God Considers Us as Sheep to be Slaughtered
Well, he discusses that in Verse 36. Look at it. "As it is written, for your sake, we face death all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
That's another one of those skipped verses. You can't skip this verse. If you skip it, you don't understand the assurance of Paul's talking about. It's a powerful verse. And this, I think, is the key to understanding all the assurance he wants to give you. You're going to need this kind of assurance. You're going to need to be fully equipped with assurance if you understand this verse and move out accordingly. You're going to need this kind of assurance if you move out accordingly based on Verse 36. What does it mean? Well, we're considered, it says sheep for the slaughter. The word is reckoned. There's a reckoning. God has basically put you down in his accounting book as a sheep to be slaughtered. That's the way he thinks about your earthly life here on earth. The time you're left here on earth.
In heaven, you are a child of God, nothing can touch that, but on earth you are considered, you are reckoned as a sheep for the slaughter. That's what I think it says. Now this word reckon has been very important in Romans, hasn't it? Romans 4:3, it says, "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." God put Abraham's faith down in his book as righteousness. Good for judgment day. And that's the way we get saved. We're reckoned righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. We're counted righteous that way. Furthermore in Romans Chapter 6, we are called to reckon or consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. It's the same word.
And now here we are told that someone, somewhere, we are not told who, but we know, has reckoned us or considered us sheep for the slaughter. Well, who did that reckoning? It's got to be God. God considered it that way. He counts us as sheep for the slaughter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a martyr for Christ, the end of World War II, said this, "When Christ bids us follow, he bids us, come and die." And he did. He said take up your what? Your cross. Let's say you lived in Palestine in the first century and you saw a man walking down the road surrounded by Roman soldiers and carrying a cross. What would you think about him? Well, in the modern language, you'd say, "Dead man walking." "He's a dead man." Hadn't happened yet but that's where he's going, he's going to die. No question about it. Any hope for escape? Any hope for parole? Any phone call coming from the governor? No, no, and no. He's going to die.
And so what do you think Jesus meant when he said, "Take up your cross daily and follow me." So he's calling for your sake. And this is the key, at the beginning of the verse, he gives us the key, for your sake, we face death all day long. What does that mean? For you, literally because of you, because of your name for your name's sake, he leads us in passive righteousness for his name's sake, for the advance of his kingdom. For his glory, because of him, we face death all day long. Because of him and for his glory, we're considered sheep to be slaughtered. Now Jesus, did he live out this principle? Yes, he did. He did. In Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the" what? "to the slaughter. And as a sheep before his shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."
Who led him? Who gave him over to death? Who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all. Who was it that did that? It was God the Father. Now let me ask you a question? He didn't spare his own son that... Do you think he's going to spare you? If the head of the house has been treated like that, how about the servants in the household? That's hard to hear, isn't it? But it's true. We're considered sheep to be... Considered his own son sheep for the slaughter, how much more we who are his servants?
Has this principle been lived out by Christ's sheep? Yes, it has gloriously. For 2000 years, Christians have taken up their cross and have been willing to die for their savior. Why? So that the kingdom of God might advance. Brothers and sisters, we have a glorious heritage. We don't know the 10th of it. I can't wait to get to heaven and talk to the martyrs. I want to find out what motivated them. I want to know them even more. I want to know the Christ whose spirit imbued them and empowered them. Don't you want to know them? Don't you want to be like them? Why lead a small life? We're called to be more than conquerors? We're called the rise to conquer.
Yes, this principle's been lived out by Christ's sheep. He taught it to his disciples. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it does what, produces many seeds." Think about that. What's that seed supposed to do? Fall into the ground and die, whereupon it produces what? Many seeds, which then are supposed to go fall into the ground and die. This is the way the kingdom advances. It's always been this way. Paul put it this way about himself in Acts 20, "And now compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me, that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me. If only I may finish my race and complete the task the Lord Jesus gave to me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of his grace."
I consider my life worth nothing to me. I reckon, I account my life nothing to me. Paul's following his own savior and the way he thinks about his life. And then it says in Revelation 12:11 of the holy martyrs, "They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Has the church lived this out? Yes, it has. How do you think in a mere 200 years or so, the gospel of Jesus Christ conquered the Roman Empire. How did that happen? How did it happen? How did it happen that an empire which had Nero and Marcus Aurelius and all these terrible persecutors, one after the other, Caligula and all these other, how did it happen that eventually Constantine declared himself to be a Christian?
Well, Tertullian said, "The blood of martyrs is seed for the church. The blood of martyrs is seed for the church." But what happened is centurions would take simple everyday common place people out and kill them, and the centurions would watch how they would die, and then they would get converted. There are many accounts of centurions who later, who had earlier executed Christians were later executed for their faith. And how did that happen? Because these folks didn't consider their lives worth anything to them. They're willing to die for Christ. It's a great story about Felicitas, a widow, a mother of seven sons, pagan priest denounced her. The authority’s brought her in to threaten her with death if she didn't renounce Christ and her courageous answer, I love it, rings through all of time. This man is standing threatening her with death, and this is what she says to him, "While I live, I shall defeat you. And if you kill me, I shall defeat you even more."
Isn't that incredible? And then they brought in her seven sons, one after the other, and thought that they could get at her through them, no dice. Every one of them was ready to die for Jesus Christ. And they did die in different parts of the city. The emperor said they have to die in different parts of the city. And so there are testimony spread all over the city, and everybody got to see how they died. And God welcomed them into heaven.
Why are we considered sheep for the slaughter? Well, first of all, we need to die. Don't we? We need it. Are we done being saved? Is your salvation complete? Are you perfect? Are you like Jesus? Then you need to die day after day, after day. You have to die to yourself, you have to die to your own desires. You have to die to what you want. You have to die to your own reputation, your own plans. You have to die, be willing to die, and we need that. But you know something? More than that, others need us to die. Don't they? Other people who haven't heard of Christ yet.
The Example of John Frederickson
So many examples of this. In 1900, John Fredrickson, was a missionary in India. He purposely went to a famine stricken region of India and rescued hundreds of starving children, transferring them to the care of other missionaries. Then he went back into the region and worked so hard day and night that he came down with dysentery. He died on September 5th, 1900, when one of the children that Fredrickson, whom they called Sahib, had saved, heard about his death. He exclaimed, "Two have died for us, Jesus and Sahib." And out of his life, and his death came countless Christians, Indian Christians, who live for Jesus Christ. 1900.
The Example of Jesse and Evelyn Brand
How about this one 1907, Jesse Brand went as a young missionary to serve in disease ridden Chat in India called the Mountain of Death. They could see fleas jumping from dead rats to live ones or even to other living things, even babies. It was a terribly disease ridden, infested area. And this man went just to bring the gospel and one year of medical training. That's all he had to offer. And he went in there and he served, and God preserved him for a while, went back to England and on furlough was talking about the needs, and a young woman listened to him speaking, Evelyn Harris, she was a wealthy London socialite. She committed herself to go to India as a missionary. Eventually, the two of them got hooked up and they got married. You know where they spent their honeymoon? Ministering in Shat to the people that they were called to minister to.
Over the number of years that they ministered, 25,000 people were cared for in one year. Jesse preached over 4000 times in 90 villages, churches had sprung up in these villages. Tons of people led to Christ. And then Jesse, finally, 1928 came down with malaria and died. Just poured himself out for Christ. The Indian Christians buried him with the epitaph. He delivered up his life to the Lord in behalf of the people. Evelyn Brand continued to minister. She raised their son Paul. Paul Brand wrote a book with Phillip Yancy called Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. He became a missionary doctor ministering to lepers. Perhaps you've read the book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and also In His image. That was his parents. Amazing.
The Example of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and Tona
And we, two years ago, had Elizabeth Elliott here. Probably the most famous martyr story of the 20th century. What people don't know is that one of the six Auca Indians that killed her husband and the others came to faith in Christ and said, "We need to go up river to the warring Aucas." It's another faction of the Aucas that they've been warring with for years. "We need to go up river and witness to them. They went up river." This man, his name was Tona, went up river and he volunteered to go to share the gospel, and as he was sharing the gospel they attacked him with an axe and killed him. And as he was dying, he cried out, "I am not afraid, I will die and go to heaven." His attackers cried out, "We'll help you go." And they killed him and with his dying breath, Tona whispered, "I forgive you. I'm dying for your benefit." And many of those down river Auca Indians also came to faith in Christ. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it bears many seeds.
We're in verse 36, "As it is written, 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'" The fact of the matter is, our God is not our... He doesn't think about things the way we do. He's not trying to protect you in this world. He's actually trying to pour you out in this world, and he does it by giving you assurance. He's calling on you to be willing to be slaughtered. Your reputation in the world slaughtered. Your earthly comfort and ease slaughtered. Your superficial friendships with non-Christians slaughtered. That's the hardest of all, isn't it? I worked in a workplace and you have these superficial, easy kind of comfortable relationships with non-Christians, and you never share the Gospel. You never challenge yourself. You're never willing to go out on a limb, and then you leave that company. Those people never came to Christ. Never heard a word from you. And on it goes. Are you willing to die to that easy, comfortable relationship?
Because if they don't come to Christ, it gets really weird, doesn't it? It gets awkward and difficult, and you have to be willing to pay that price. Superficial friendships with non-Christians slaughtered. Perhaps even your professional career slaughtered. And how long all day long we're considered that way, sheep for the slaughter. And why? For his name's sake.
IV. The Ultimate Question Answered (verses 37-39)
In the end, Paul answers the question, "Can anything separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?" No. Look at Verse 37, "No. In all these things, we are super conquerors." Isn't that marvelous? "More than conquers through him who loved us. For I'm convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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."
Is that not the answer to the ultimate question? No, nothing can. So why are you afraid? Why hold back? Why die with any resource not having been spent? Can death separate you from Christ? No. I am the resurrection, the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. What about life? Sometimes it's easier to die, isn't it? What about another 40 years of life in this place? Can that separate you from Christ? No. He will sustain you through all the twists and turns, persecutions, temptations. He'll get you there. Can an angel separate you from Christ? No. They're ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. What about a demon? Let's includes Satan in that. Can he separate you from the love of God in Christ? Absolutely not. Because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.
What about the present? Can anything going on right here and right now separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Answer, no. What about the great unknown? The Future? Oh, that's the one. I worry about that. What am I going to be in 20 Years? Don't underestimate the grace of God. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. So nothing in the future is going to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In short, nothing in all creation shall be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
V. Application: Rise to Conquer!
What is the application? Die for Christ. Take up your cross today. Be willing to say no to yourself. Be willing to walk as Jesus walked. Be willing to pour out your life. I want to close with this.
The apostle Paul, the end of his life. He was in prison and he said, "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure." What do you think Paul meant by departure? Death by execution. He was convinced he was going to die. It was over. But it's interesting what he said first, I am already being what? Poured out like a drink offering. Had not God been pouring Paul out for years? Pouring him out, pouring him out, pouring him out, day after day, pouring him out, and this is my picture of God at the end of Paul's life. He looks in the cup. Oh, there's a little more, a little more of Paul. Pours him out some more, until it's gone.
That's the God we serve. And then what happened to Paul? For me to live as Christ and to die is gain. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. What are we afraid of? Let's rise to conquer as a people of God. Let's be super conquerors for Jesus. Let's leave nothing, no stone unturned, no resource that we have available to us unspent for Jesus Christ.