“That those He foresaw and predestined to conform together to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many siblings”.
This is a strange time in the world, and in this season of the church year we ask a few good questions: who are you? What matters? And what now? Weeks ago, in Chapter 6 we heard the Holy Spirit tell us that you are dead, dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus by baptism (6:4, 11). In these weeks, these chapters, Paul has been grappling with us about what that means this side of eternity. No longer a slave to sin, now a slave to righteousness (6:17-18). What I don’t want to do I do, who will save me from this body of death? (7:15, 24). This world, even you are dead through sin; but the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, who raised Christ, will also resurrect your body (Romans 8:10-11). And as sons now, not slaves, we wait with the groaning creation for this resurrection from real death, the revelation of the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). Now today, the Spirit is reminding you, both of your failure and sin, but also that He joins with you to oppose your weakness (Romans 8:26).
So who are we? You are weak, you are distracted by this world and your own desires, struggling against what is easy you long for something you cannot see. In a word, you fail; yet because of Jesus, because of the Holy Spirit, because of our Heavenly Father who loves you and works all things for your good, for your union with Jesus Christ; because of the Most Holy Trinity you have life everlasting. Just a foretaste this side of eternity, but truly nothing can take this promise away from you, so cling to this, the only thing that is sure. For friendships can end, families break apart, businesses fail, yes we suffer in our lives and this world is as good as dead. And yet God’s Word will stay forever, He’s predestined it (Isaiah 40:8).
And He has predestined that we be conformed to the image of His Son, to Jesus Christ. Now I ask what does that mean? What does it mean to be conformed to the man who wandered around ancient Palestine without a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). To be conformed to this man who lived for others, teaching, healing and forgiving sin, so much that often His only times for rest were interrupted (Matthew 14:13). This man who was rejected by His hometown, rejected by His people, His disciples, the people He loved and came to save (Matthew 13:54-57; 26:3-4, 56). Rejected, flogged and crucified. What does it mean for you to be conformed to Jesus Christ? If it comes a time when we are persecuted like others around the globe, does that mean you are less like Christ? If we suffer fire, flood and drought, does that separate you from God’s love? If we are rejected, bashed and murdered, has God abandoned us? No, as it is written, ‘on your account we face death all the day, we are regarded as sheep before the slaughter’ (Psalm 44:22)
However in all these things we are more than conquerors through the one who loves us. Some people think we are crazy for choosing an execution tool as the mark of our church buildings, but for us this symbol of death is our victory. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God. In Jesus we are victorious over sin, death, and the devil. The Holy Spirit guides us in the way everlasting beyond this corrupt world and into the New Creation, conforming us fully to Christ. Nothing can separate us, so don’t let it. As our Father in Heaven conforms you to His Son, don’t let anything distract you, be it huge like war or bushfire, or small like stubbing your toe. We have been chosen together by God, called out of this dying world to be conformed to Jesus’ everlasting life. To live for others, to show God’s great love by caring for His creation, to rejoice in the truth and encourage others with the mercy God Almighty first showed you.
Sin is defeated, shame, guilt, and worry are no longer your boss. Death is defeated, the Spirit is conforming you to Jesus, uniting you into His resurrection. And everything that distracts you from the God who loves you is passing away. Yes, this world is dying, and yet we love the work of our Father’s hands just as Jesus did. We intercede for others just as Jesus did. We encourage one another in the hope we share just as Jesus did. That hope, which we experience a small foretaste of, is the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection, the New Creation, the time when God will restore this fallen world, restore all His saints, restore you, through death to life, fully reconciled with Jesus Christ our life and peace.
And that peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.