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Romans

8:28-39

 

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

What then shall we say to these things? 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 he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 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. 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. (ESV)

 

 

 

Even From Their Failings

Tuesday of Pentecost 22

22 October 2013

The saints of the Bible were not supermen. No saints are. We are completely mistaken in our presumption that they stood a cut above us in their spiritual prowess. They were men and women who struggled in faith, suffered in hope, and sinned in the midst of real temptation. They denied Christ when push came to shove, like Peter. They complained at God, like Moses. They fell into great vice through cowardice, like Abraham. Not once, but twice Abraham passed off his wife, Sarah, as his sister, rather than his wife when confronted by powerful men who desired to have her as a wife. He declined to trust himself to God's rescue by standing up to the kings of Egypt and Gerar (Gn 12 and 20). Not once, but twice God rescued Abraham from the complications of his own cowardice and even increased his blessings. God does things like that. That's what makes saints.

 

God promises "that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rm 8:28). Seen from the gospel end of God, what the world says is bad, God intends it for good. This divine promise is not a pie-in-the-sky piety where Christians are always happy and successful, righteous and good. Far from it. God forces us to call good what the world hates and despises. Our hope is not in the light, but hidden unseen under the darkness we will have hope.

 

God's good also includes when our own failings create complications and trouble. Abraham's failings certainly did. We would expect God to punish Abraham for his cowardice, or at least let him suffer for it. It would only be just. That's right. It would only be just; not gracious and not loving. Our heavenly Father does not return justice to us. We could not bear it. Only One ever has. For the sake of that One, our God returns good for sin and moral cowardice. He is gracious to those who, like Abraham, falter when trying to feel their own way through the dark. He loves those whom He has called even when they are groping along a path away from the light of the world.

 

I often see this as God's way in people's lives. They come to my office to open their broken hearts at crisis times in their lives. Perhaps, they have fallen into sin and vice, like Abraham. Maybe they struggle with why they are facing suffering, and if it is sent by God, why they are not suffering it better, why they aren't better at accepting their trouble without tears or anger or frustration. "If I am in the light, why do I feel the darkness all around?" I tell them that when people are in deep crisis this is when they most appreciate and completely understand the grace and mercy of God. Their hope is buoyed up even though they cannot see the object to which their hope clings. Suddenly, the signs of God's mercy that seemed only empty rites now become meetings with God, they look past the servant who serves and hear God's comfort for them in sermons, they suddenly find hope for life when the body of Christ is placed on their tongue and the blood of Christ is received in faith for the forgiveness of sins. Like Abraham they can hear of the God who works good "even from their failings," as Luther says.

 

Martin Luther

 

"The saints daily commit many such sins. They, too, are carried away by occasions. But these sins differ from the sins of the ungodly, which deny the faith and militate against the acknowledged truth. Abraham is not that kind of man. Yet he feels the law in his members (Rm 7:23), which sometimes tears him from the right way, namely, when he is not excited by fervent faith, when the days are evil and times of tribulation are at hand, just as we, too, daily experience in ourselves.

 

"Therefore you must note that the saints should not always be excused from all sins; for the conclusion that they, too, had bodies or flesh and felt their passions, which original sin left even in such as were reborn in faith, serves to comfort us.

 

"But here another question arises. Why does God allow such sins to be committed by His own? Why does He permit His own to stumble in this way? The most appropriate answer to this question is given on the basis of the outcome. God permits it to happen this way in order that He may have the opportunity to achieve many good results. The saints do not fall in order to perish; they fall in order that God may bestow rich blessings on them by heaping greater benefits on them, as is written: 'We know that all things work together for good' (Rm 8:28) for the saints, and a gloss to this passage adds: 'Even their very failings.'

 

"No one can have any doubt that God sends tribulation and misfortune to the end that they may benefit us; for Paul's statement is well known: 'If we endure, we will also reign with him' (2Ti 2:12). Yes, God even makes up for our misfortunes."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 20.5
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, work Your good in my life even through my failings. Keep me from despair. Hold me in the bosom of Your love, that I might rest in Your promises. Amen.

 

For the family of Marvin Kluttz, whom the God of Abraham took to His bosom through death, that they might mourn his passing with faith in the power of the resurrection and the hope of the life to come

 

For the Latin American mission conference going on in Guatemala, that those who are participants would lead God's people into the holy gospel

 

For all those who continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that they might not become weary in their petitions to the God of all grace

 

For all Christian pastors, that they might have the courage of their convictions in the Word of God

Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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