God's Eternal Purpose, Our Unshakable Joy (Romans Sermon 56 of 120)
February 17, 2002 | Andrew Davis
God's Purpose for the World, Election & Predestination
The Foundation of Our Salvation
Turn in your Bibles if you would to Romans 8:28-30. We have been moving our way through this, the most assuring and encouraging chapter of the Bible. We have seen that from beginning to end, God is speaking to us as his people a word of consolation, a word of comfort, a word of assurance, a word of certainty in an uncertain world. And as we've moved through this chapter, we have seen a building crescendo of assurance, of things that will give us assurance, starting with the historical fact of the giving of Jesus Christ on the cross, the fact that he died on the cross, his blood was shed. Right from the very beginning. It says, "What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his Son in the likeness of a sinful man to be a sin offering."
And so we have right at the very being of this chapter Jesus Christ portrayed before us on the cross. Dead on the cross, as an atonement for our sins. But it also speaks of the new life that we have in Christ. Not only are we dead with Christ spiritually but we're also risen with Christ spiritually. We have a new life, and it speaks of that as well. It says, "In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." And so we have a new life in the Spirit, and for those people, there is therefore now no condemnation, for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because of the death of Christ, and because of the assurance we have of the new life in the Spirit, we know that there's no condemnation for us.
And so Paul works his way through and gives us a solid assurance. From verse 1, "There is no condemnation," to verse 39, "There is no separation." God is speaking a word of consolation, a word of comfort, a word of assurance. And I'd like to ask you today: on what are you basing your confidence? What are you basing your assurance of salvation on? A building is only as secure as its foundation. What is the foundation of your assurance of salvation? Are you looking to yourself? Are you looking inward? Are you looking at your own faith, your own trust, your own life, your own achievements? And if so, I submit to you today that your foundation is weak. It's like quicksand and it will not stand up the trials and testing of life. A building is only as secure as the foundation.
And I believe that God gives us in the verses we're looking at today an eternally secure foundation that our salvation is based on his eternal saving purposes in Christ. Purposes that were laid out, that were worked out before the foundation of the world. And that's a solid, secure foundation. Another way to look at it is that our assurance has a root system. A tree, a great tree is only as healthy as its root system. And our assurance is alive, isn't it? It's a living thing. And we are to be drawing nourishment from the doctrines we're looking at today. We're to be kind of sucking moisture and nourishment up out of the soil of doctrine so that we can stand up against the storms of life. How healthy is your root system? If you're looking inward, it's not healthy, it cannot survive, but if you're looking to God, the author and finisher of your faith, then you will survive every trial that you face. And so we're looking at the foundation of our assurance. We're looking at the root system of our assurance, and we're supposed to be drawing on it. Look at the first phrases that we're looking at, at verse 28.
Roman 8:28, it says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." We know that. What is Paul doing? He's saying, we've learned this. We've come to understand these things. We're drawing on the doctrine. We know this. We are meditating on it. We're thinking about it. And based on that, we have a full, a healthy, a strong assurance of salvation.
And so we're looking today at the foundation of our assurance, the foundation of our salvation really. We're looking at its root system. Our ultimate security comes from this. If you are a Christian, it is because God chose you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. That's what Ephesians chapter 1 says, and Romans 8 teaches it too. If you're a Christian, it's because of God's eternal decree, his choice. And that means that God set his love on you before the foundation of the world. You personally. He knows you by name and he set his love on you before the foundation of the world. Before your ancestors crossed the ocean to get here, whenever that was, before the Pilgrims set foot on the Mayflower and crossed the Atlantic. If your ancestors were the Pilgrims, all the better for you.
But before that even happened, before Columbus set foot on the Santa Maria, before the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, before Alexander the Great swept across Asia Minor, before the pyramid Cheops and the Sphinx, the timeless sphinx were built, before any of that. Before God said, "Let there be light," before any of that, he set his love on you in Christ. Amen. And that is the foundation of your security, it's the foundation of your assurance, and it will not be shaken no matter what happens to you in life.
I. Deep Mysteries: God’s Eternal Decree, Our Present Suffering
Now, Christianity is a mysterious religion. Is it not? We teach mysteries, aged-old ancient mysteries before the foundation of the world we're talking about. What other religion talks about these kinds of things? But we preach a mysterious gospel. We preach that God who created the ends of the earth, all the distant nebula and all that, took on a human body as a baby in a manger and grew up as a regular flesh and blood man. Is that not mysterious? How many of you sitting here can say, "I fully understand the incarnation of Jesus Christ, how he could be fully God and fully man." It's a mystery. We can't understand it. Can you understand how his coming to earth and the details of his life could have been written down on parchment and ink 600 to 1000 years before he was born. Can you understand that or is that not a mystery as well? We preach a mysterious religion.
Can you understand the mysteries of Jesus's miracles? How he could speak to the winds and the waves, and instantly they would be still, or how he could walk on water, or even more risen from the dead on the third day, having something called a resurrection body that can suddenly appear and disappear and move through walls. Can you understand that? This is a mysterious faith that we have a mysterious religion, and I think of all the mysteries, perhaps the mysteries surrounding our salvation are the greatest, and we're not going to understand them all. We're going to try to plumb the depths today and the analogy I've used before we're out in a dingy over the Marianas Trench, seven miles down below is the bottom of that trench, and we're all going to pay out our string today and we're going to see if we can find the depth. We're going to find the bottom or we're going to run out of string. This is a mystery, the things we're talking about are mysterious, and yet God wants us to know them, doesn't he? Because he had Paul write this so that we would understand.
The remarkable thing about the way Paul comes at assurance here, is this starts in the middle of our daily lives, all the suffering and struggle that we have. And he says that in the midst of all of that, all of those things that we struggle and suffer with in the midst of all of that, God causes it to work together for good. So he starts right in the middle of our lives, and then what does he do? He reaches back before the foundation of the world to something called predestination, before the foundation of the world, and he goes back there and then he goes across where we are now to the end of the world. Something called glorification.
And so with starting where we are he reaches back in eternity past and out to eternity future, and then gathers this up into assurance. Isn't that remarkable? And he does it in three verses. You realize how difficult what I'm trying to do is today? I assume you hope to get out of here somewhere around noon. I know that. I can see it on your faces. I know that there are things that you're interested in but you realize that some pastors preach 17 or 18 weeks on these three verses? We are talking about the three great doctrines on which our assurance is based.
Predestination, predestination before the foundation of the world. We're talking about providence, God's sovereign rule over everyday life. And we're talking about perseverance right to the end. That God is going to stick with us until he's finished with us. And we're going to do that in about 11 minutes. How can we do it? But that's what we're looking at today. Providence, predestination, perseverance, and all of this adds up to total assurance of salvation. God is at work in you and the things he's doing in you he's going to be working at until they're finished and it's going to hurt. It's going to be hard. There's going to be suffering. There's going to be struggle, but in all of this, God is working to accomplish his eternal purpose.
And what is that purpose? That you be perfect in Christ, that you be conformed to Jesus Christ, that you're with him forever in heaven. And that is the highest and greatest assurance there is. I want you to understand differently and more strongly what it means when it says that nothing else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. That's very specific theological language of a kind of love that was set on you before the foundation of the world.
And it's not finished yet. The Love has got hold of you and he's working on you and he's going to keep working until he has finished and nothing will separate you from the love of God. And that's the basis of your assurance. Now, this is a difficult doctrine. Some people have a hard time with it. There was a poem written in 1894, you've heard it before, I'm sure some of you anyway, by William Ernest Henley. He was going through suffering. We all go through suffering. Christian and non-Christian alike go through hard times in life, and Henley was going through suffering. He lost his 6-year-old daughter, Margaret. She was the love of his life, the light of his life. He had already gone through a great deal of suffering. I won't bring you through the ups and downs, but he was not a believer in Jesus Christ. And he wrote a poem called Invictus, which means 'I have not been conquered'.
And the first and last stanza runs like this, "Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."
Well those are beautiful words, but they don't ring true to Scripture, do they? Now in one sense, we navigate the ship of state, the ship of our souls through all kinds of things, but are we able to navigate to heaven? Are we able to get through the trials of life, through Judgment Day, through all of the punishments written on the scroll? Are we able to get through all that and go to heaven? No. We must be saved. We must have a savior and we are not in fact the master of our fate and the captain of our soul if we hope to go to heaven, but rather that there's a savior and his name is Jesus Christ. The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon spoke about this doctrine, the sovereignty of God. And this is what he said,
"There is no attribute more comforting to God's children than that of God's sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their master over all creation, the kingship of God over all the works of his own hands, the throne of God and his right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on his throne. They will allow him to be in his workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties and goodness.They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends his throne, his creatures then gnash their teeth, and we proclaim an enthroned God, and his right to do as he wills with his own, to dispose of his creatures as he thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on his throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon his throne whom we trust."
The thing that I want to say to you today is that God sitting on his throne, guarantees you salvation if you're one of his children. That is the solid foundation because God takes his sovereign power and puts it at the disposal of his church that they may be saved.
II. Context of Assurance: Present Suffering
Now what is the context of this word of assurance? Well, it is our present suffering, as we already talked about. We live in difficult times. September 11th opened the eyes of many people to the possibility of instant death quite frankly. And also of something as great as The World Trade Center, a landmark, really a symbol of New York City, instantly removed, and I think people were struck by that and they're still kind of reeling to some degree about it.
But there have been other tragedies since then. You heard about the volcano that erupted in the Congo displacing 400,000 people from their homes, many of them are Christians. Your brothers and sisters in Christ displaced from their homes. Ongoing war between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Day after day after day we see the suffering in that small area. And then there's localized suffering.
Duke Hospital and Durham Regional, every day little sagas of suffering and tragedy are being played out. Sometimes it touches you. Sometime in the future it may touch you. There's suffering in this world and in the middle of that suffering comes this word of assurance. Paul is speaking to people who are struggling and who are suffering with tragedies. Look at Romans 8:23. It says, "We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we groan inwardly." There's an internal groaning in the Christian life. There's a struggle and a suffering. And in the middle, we're tempted when a loved one is suddenly struck down or we ourselves receive a bad report from an oncologist, cancer has struck us, we're going to cry out, "God, where are you in all of this?"
That's the time you've got to pull on your root system. You got to go back to the foundation and say, "God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him." There is Christian suffering. Look at verse 18: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." And so there is present suffering, but there is also a future glory and so the apostle is lifting our eyes off of our immediate circumstances of suffering to look upward to future glory. And so we are called to consider and to know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.
III. Text Overview: Flying Over the Peaks of God’s Sovereign Plan
Now let's fly over the peaks of God's sovereign plan. Verse 28, it says, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
The text proclaims to all believers there is a purpose for everything you go through. No tear is shed in vain, no pain is felt for nothing, everything works together to accomplish something. God's activity here is assumed, it's proclaimed. And so therefore the faulty idea of deism is excluded. The idea that God just created the world and lets it run, that he's somehow remote, that he's too busy or too strong or big to be involved in your small everyday affairs, that is false. God is actively involved in the minutia of your life. So deism is out. We have an active energetic God who's involved in your life.
Also blind atheistic evolution is excluded, that posits a world that's just running like a machine all the time. I read a story recently about a farmer that got the leg of his trousers caught in a piece of farm equipment. It was in Reader's Digest. I won't tell you what happened, you don't want to know. But he survived as a heroic story. But there's a picture of the world just grabbing hold and pulling and chewing you up, it's all blind force. The machine doesn't know it's doing it to you, it's got nothing against you. It's just doing what it was designed to do. And so some people look at the world that way. It's a machine that chews and spits people out. But that is not biblical.
God is alive and he rules. A sparrow doesn't fall to the ground apart from the will of God. It's a difficult doctrine but it's true. God is alive, he's a king, he's at work and so we exclude deism and we exclude atheistic evolution. Instead we look at a God who's sitting on his throne. And that leaves us with a problem, right? Why did this happen, or this thing occurred that was contrary to what seemed good for me? And it's hard to figure it out and I don't know that I will ever figure it out; none of us will.
The other day I was doing a science project with my kids. And we took apart a Sony Walkman. Have you ever taken apart a Sony Walkman? But I am interested in this kind of things. I see some of you laughing. I know a mechanical engineering interest. But I wanted to see what was in there. The thing didn't work anyway. Batteries were dead, and it just wasn't working, so I wanted to take it apart. And so we did, and we snipped some wires, and that did it. Once the wires were snipped it would never work, again. And we took it apart. And on one side of it were electronic components and on the other side were mechanical components. And on the electronic side, I went through with my kids and I identified the little components that I knew and there are many I don't. And we looked at them and the tiny little things on the circuit board and all kinds of stuff. And then on the other side there are all these marvelous gears and pulleys, and all this stuff that attracted me into Mechanical Engineering to begin with.
And I said, "Look at that. Look at that motor and how the pulley. And you notice how this turns clockwise, but then this one turns counter-clockwise. And some of the gears are big and some of them are small. And yet they all work together for a purpose, don't they? It's all been worked out by somebody very intelligent. And we don't always know why the motion moves this way or why it moves the opposite direction, but we know that it all works together for a purpose. And so it is with our lives, isn't it? Do you know why every little gear fits in, how it fits into your life? No you don't, and some of those it seems, work opposite to what you want, opposite to what you expect. Look at the circuit board. I asked my kids, I said, "If we took this out and threw it away, do you think it would work right?" They said, "We don't know." And I said, I don't either but the designer thought it needed to be in there. And so we don't really have the right to pull that little component out. It's very tiny, but it serves a purpose.
And so it is with our days. Every little thing has a purpose. We don't know what that purpose is. We don't know why it's there. We don't have the right to throw it all out. If you had your life the way you wanted it, it would be all success, wouldn't it? It'd be all joy and mountaintop experiences and all that. And would you be conformed to perfection in Christ, thereby? I don't think so. God has marvelously mixed together, like a pharmacist, the chemicals of what you need to accomplish his purpose. And what is his purpose? Conformity to Christ. How do we know that that's his purpose? Well, he tells us. Look what he says, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."
And by the way, that is very specific, isn't it? It's not that all things are working together for good for everybody. It's working together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. It's very clear. And who are those that love God? Well, I can tell you, none of us love God naturally. Romans Chapter 3 said that. There was no one righteous, no one who seeks God. So we didn't love God naturally. He saved us to love God. And he called us it says, according to his purpose.
Well, what is that purpose? Look at verse 29. Now what's the first word in verse 29? Do you notice? It's the word "for." And what does that word 'for' teach you to do? Look backward at verse 28. Alright, what's the last thing in verse 28? His purpose. So verse 29 is going to tell us what that purpose is. You are called according to a purpose. What purpose? What is he doing in your life? What is he doing in the world? Look at verse 29. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Verse 30, "And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified."
So that is the purpose of God, to take people like you, sinners like you, through a process so that you end up perfectly conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. That's also called, in verse 30, glorification. He has a purpose of glory for you. And he's bringing you through that purpose. Isn't that marvelous? And isn't it worth anything to go through, in order that that purpose might be accomplished? Not just for us, but for all of God's people. Of course it is, and that's the purpose that he's working it out. God is working an eternal purpose. Paul goes back to the beginning of time and he talks about the purpose of God. And he looks ahead to the end of time and that purpose is accomplished. The glory of his people.
And then, there are steps in verse 30. Specific steps. Those he predestined, it says, he also called and those he called, he also justified, and those he justified, he also glorified. Well, the those in there are people. So it says, and the people he predestined, those people he also called, the people he called, those people he also justified, the people he justified, those same people he also glorified. He's working with people here. People like you and me. He's working with people.
And what is he saying? God foreknew those people. He predestined those same people that he foreknew. He called the same people he predestined. He justified the same people he called and he glorified the same people he justified. That's the logical connection here. Some have called it the Golden Chain that connects us forever to God. I think it's beautiful. I like to think of the image of a train. When I was in Japan, my children and I and my wife got on one of those bullet trains called the Shinkansen. And, boy, those things… They move. Incredible, but one of the key things you need to know before you get on the Shinkansen is, what your destination is? Where you're going to end up? Especially if you don't speak the language, that's very important. Very important to know where are we getting off?
Because if we end up on the other side of the island, I want to know how to get back. And so, the destination is important. The destination is where you're getting off. Predestination is that the destination is been determined ahead of time. And so, we get on a train and then we go through certain stops. We go through from foreknowledge, to predestination, to justification, to glorification through these stops, and nobody gets off the train. The same people that begin, finish. And that is a solid foundation of assurance, is it not? Nobody jumps off. You don't want to jump off anyway. But we all make it through.
I've used this illustration before, but I think it's beneficial. How would you feel if you are parents of children and sent them off to camp. And you went there for Parents Day and said, "We want you to know that 95% of your children are still alive and with us. So be comforted." Would you be comforted with that? 95% of the children that we entrusted to your care are still alive? Is that comforting? Not at all. We need a 100% or else we're going to be anxious. We need to know, "Is our salvation guaranteed, or am I going to end up in hell?" That matters. That matters a lot. It affects the way you live your life. God wants us to have assurance, and so, he's saying 100%, "Those that are foreknown go all the way through to what? Glorification." That's what the Scripture says. And that gives us our assurance.
Now we've overlooked this whole thing. We've seen this whole thing in a big way, but I want you to see God's activity in it all. There's no room for human pride here, is there? Look at it again. I'm going to put the word God in there instead of he. "For those God foreknew, God also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and those God predestined, God also called, and those God called, God also justified, and those God justified, God also glorified." God is the actor here, and no one is powerful enough to break up what God is doing.
Says in the Book of Isaiah 14:27, "his hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?" Our sovereign God. Now, let's look at details specifically in these steps.
Let's start with foreknowledge. It says, "Those whom God foreknew." First of all, the thing to notice here is that God does not foreknow in this particular verse, programs, methods, procedures, possibilities. What does he foreknow? Or I should ask, who does he foreknow? He foreknows people. Those people whom he foreknew. He knows people. Now, what does this mean foreknowledge? Well, there are two different ways of understanding foreknowledge. One is that God knows things about people and the other's that God knows people themselves. In the one sense God foreknows things about people. This is a kind of a man-centered way of looking at it, that God looks through the corridors of time and picks out people that will someday believe in Jesus, and based on that foreknowledge of what they will do he chooses them. Thus his choice of people is based on their prior to some degree choice of him.
So he looks down through the corridors of time and says, "Oh there's one, and there's another one, and there's another one." And based on what he discovers in you, he chooses you. But the problem is that Jesus himself said, "You did not choose me, but I [what?] chose you." "This is love. Not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." So I don't think it's that God foreknows things about you, although he does know everything about you. David said, "Before a word is on my tongue, you know it altogether, Oh Lord. All of the days of my life were written in your book before any of them came to be." David knew about that. There is that kind of foreknowledge, but that's not what's discussed here.
I believe instead, he foreknows you in a covenant relationship. I love the King James version on some of these things. It says back in the Old Testament, you remember that story about Adam and Eve, and after the fall, and then it says that Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave birth to Cain? When you read that, you say, "what do you mean he knew her?" Well, that's a simple translation of the Hebrew word, Yada is the word. It's just simple word for know. Adam knew his wife, but we all know what it means, don't we?
Okay. You just have to read it in context. Do you know what it means? Well, the interesting thing is that same knowledge is taken over into the New Testament twice. One of them is in Matthew 1:24 and 25. This is in the King James version. "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel had bidden him and took Mary home as his wife. And he knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn and he called him Jesus." What does it mean that Joseph knew her not. Well, you know what it means. It doesn't mean that he didn't know anything about her. He knew her very well, but he didn't know her with covenant love. It says the same thing in Luke 1:34. Mary answered the angel, "how shall this be seeing that I know not a man?" Well, she knew lots of men. She knew all about them. She knew Joseph. She knew men, but she didn't know a man not in this covenant love sense. And that's what I believe this foreknowledge is. God looks through the quarters of time and sets his love, his covenant love on a people.
Same thing is true of Judgment Day. There are things Christ knows and there are people he doesn't know. What does Christ know on Judgment Day? Everything. Everything. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. He knows it all. You'll have to give an account on Judgment Day for every careless word you've spoken. He knows it all, but yet he will say, "I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers." Those that he has not set that covenant love on. "I never knew you." Not "you never knew me. " He’ll say "I never knew you." That's a mystery, isn't it? But I believe it's the same knowledge that Paul's discussing here with foreknowledge.
The next step is predestination. I want you to look down at the Bible open in your lap, and I want you to see that word there. There you go. Some of you are looking. Predestination is a biblical term, is it not? Therefore, if you want to be a biblical Christian, you have to believe in predestination. Now, I'm not saying that it's not mysterious. I said at the beginning, there are many mysteries, but there's this word, predestination. It's simply not possible for a Bible believing Christian to reject the idea of predestination. It's taught in the Bible. It's deep. You'll never fully understand it. You're going to run out of string before we hit the bottom, but it's there and it's biblically taught. Even worse, I think we have a natural predisposition against it. We want to be the master of our fate. We want to be the captain of our soul. We want to feel that we're free. The Bible teaches our freedom. We have free decisions that we can make, and we are responsible for those decisions but yet, at the same time, the Bible teaches predestination.
Now, that was clearly operating concerning the death of Christ. The night that Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword to protect him. You remember? What was Peter protecting Jesus from? Peter was protecting Jesus from his own salvation, because if Peter had succeeded in Jesus not dying, what would've happened to Peter's soul on Judgment Day? He'd have died in his transgressions and sins. Thankfully, Jesus knew exactly what was happening. He said, "Peter, put your sword away. If I wanted to be saved, I wouldn't be saved by your sword. I would call on my Father and he would send angels. But how then would the Scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" What does that mean, it must happen in this way? "I've got to be arrested." "The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him," Jesus said.
Acts 2:23, Peter picked up on this. In preaching on Pentecost he said, "this man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." And then in their prayer in Acts 4:27-28, "Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had predestined should happen." Same word. So the death of Christ had been figured out before the foundation of the world. Thus, the Book of Revelation calls Jesus the lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world, and so he was.
Now, it says here in our text, that we were predestined for something. The idea is that the destination of the train has been figured out. Those God foreknew he also predestined for something, predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, or in verse 30, to be glorified.
What does that mean? Well, it means very plainly that you were not chosen to start your race, you were chosen to finish your race. He who began a good work and you will carry it on to completion unto the day of Christ Jesus. You're not chosen to start. You're chosen to finish, and you will finish.
Somebody say, "Praise God." We're going to finish. You're going to go to heaven if you're a child of God, because you're predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Now, who is predestined? Well, look at verse 33. It says, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen," or the elect is another way to translate that. "It is God who justifies, who is he that condemns?" There are these people whom God has chosen, and those are the ones that he has worked on. His ultimate purpose, his final glory in the image of Christ, that Christ "might be the firstborn," it says, "among many brothers." It says the same thing in Ephesians 1, "For he chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will."
The highest end though, isn't your salvation. It actually isn't. It's the thing that brings you most joy and we should all look forward to it, but the highest end is his own glory, that he, Jesus, might be the firstborn among many brothers. For the glory of Jesus Christ, all of this was done.
The next step is calling. It says in verse 28, "Those who are called according to his purpose," and verse 30, it says, "Those he predestined he also called." What is this calling? Well, the Bible talks about two kinds of calling. One of them is happening right now. When I speak the Word of God, sound goes through this auditorium, through the air, and hits your eardrums, and your eardrums vibrates, and what happens after that? I don't know. We'll have to get the doctors to tell you, and they'll explain it. But the eardrums vibrate and into the brain, come the words. That's one kind of calling. And many people receive that calling. Many people hear the open proclamation of the Word. That calling goes out to the ends of the earth. That's one kind of calling. There's a general invitation of the proclamation of the Gospel, but then there's a second kind of calling and Jesus showed that by saying, "Many are called, but few are" what? "chosen." "Many are called," said Jesus, "but few are chosen."
So the Word goes out, the voice goes out to the ends of the earth. But then there's a second kind of calling. 2 Corinthians 4:6, "God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." And so what happens is, as the sound of the Gospel goes out, the Holy Spirit moves and suddenly, you're regenerated. It's similar to the calling that occurred when Lazarus was laying on a slab, and Jesus stood in front of Lazarus' tomb and said, "'Take away the stone…." "'But Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days. ' Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? '" And so, they moved the stone and then Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of those standing near here." And then what happened?
He called Lazarus. Do you know what I'm talking about? What did he say? "Lazarus, come out!" Now, if I had been there and said Lazarus come forth, what would have happened? That's right. Nothing. But if the Holy Spirit says it, if Jesus says it, now, that's something else entirely, isn't it? And so, when he says, "Lazarus, come forth!" Something happened to Lazarus, something different. He's not dead anymore. He's alive. And then of his own free will, he obeyed that command, didn't he? And, yes, he did. He swung those legs out, and he came out, and he said, take those grave clothes and let him go. Lazarus was... He was given a choice there, wasn't he? Let's see, I can stay in the tomb, or I can come out and be with Jesus and have a victory celebration party at my house tonight. Stay in the tomb, or victory celebration with Jesus. Tomb vs Jesus. Choice, free choice. May I ask you a question? Billion people in that choice, how many are going to stay in the tomb? Zero, none. Would you? Think about it. Would you stay in the tomb or would you come out in the sunshine and be with Jesus? Of course, he obeyed of his own free will, but God's call came first, and he moved, and they had that victory celebration that night. And that's what happened to you. The called according to his purpose. He spoke, you heard the sound waves of the Gospel, but you've heard that before. Suddenly something happened by the Spirit and you were regenerated to newness of life, and you swung your legs off that slab and you started to walk with Jesus. You're the called, according to his purpose.
Well, justification, we've already talked about the moment that you swung your legs out and started to walk, at the moment you believed, you were justified of all your sin, we've covered that already. All of your sins forgiven, and then the future we've talked about as well.
Glorification, instantly conformed, so that Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers. Then the righteous will shine and says like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. On what are you basing the confidence of your salvation? Is it on your own believing, your own strength, your own convictions, you're such a strong person? Or is it because God set his love on you and he will not let you go? I think it's the second, and because of that, I have tremendous joy in my salvation.
IV. Application: Unshakable Joy, Deep Humility
What application can we make of this? Well, so much, but I want to focus on four.
First of all, joy. I want you to rejoice even in your sufferings. You know, the gears of your life are turning. God is accomplishing things in you. It's not all going to be cake and ice cream. There's going to be suffering, there's going to be struggle. Paul said, "It's through much hardship that we enter the kingdom of God." It's hard, and God is working that in you for his purpose. Have joy in the middle of it.
Second, I want you to have assurance of your salvation. That's the whole purpose of the chapter, but it is the purpose specifically of these doctrines. Assurance of salvation, realize that if you're a child of God, your salvation is guaranteed.
Thirdly, humility. Do you realize this is not of you, so that no one may what? Boast. Let him who boast, boast in who? The Lord. We get assurance and we get humility.
And then finally I want you to have wisdom. I want you to look at your life and the life of everyone in the world differently. Once you realize that God is wise and he's working things out even in September 11 terrorist attacks, and in earthquakes, and in volcanoes, and in your own private sufferings as well. God is doing all things for his wise and eternal purpose.
That's a word to Christians. But if you've never given your life to Jesus Christ, can I urge you today to not leave this room without trusting in Christ? If today you hear the call of God, don't harden your heart, but listen, and follow, and walk with Jesus that you might have eternal life. Trust in him. If you're hearing Jesus calling you today, follow him.