Sermon Message: Alive with Jesus
Sermon Message: Putting Off the Old
Sermon Message: When You Hear God's Call
Sermon Message: Working for the Lord
Sermon Message: Fellowship in the Light
Sermon Message: O Worship the King
"God Is For Us!"
(Delivered Palm Sunday, March 24, 2002 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
Palm Sunday is a day of celebration. It's the day that we set aside to remember the entry of our wonderful Lord Jesus into Jerusalem to conquer sin and the grave for us. There was certainly a celebration on that a day long ago, when the crowds shouted and rejoiced as Jesus made His entry into the city. Though the people then didn't really understand what was about to happen, we do; and so, we have an even greater reason to celebrate than they.
Now given all of that, it might have seemed more appropriate for us to look at a passage from one of the Gospels - a passage that tells that original story of Jesus' triumphant entry into the city to die for us. But I have felt led to preach from a very wonderful, very victorious passage from Paul's letter to the Romans instead. By the time we're through, I believe you'll agree with me that this passage is a very appropriate passage to look at together on Palm Sunday.
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I'd like to introduce this passage to you by sharing a personal story. It concerns a turning point in my own understanding and appreciation of my salvation in Christ. I'm still a little fuzzy about when this turning point occurred, or what the circumstances were when it happened to me. But even though it happened many years ago, I remember the impact of it very well; because I still live with it today. The only way I can explain what happened was that, one morning, I woke up to the exciting realization that I am going to go to heaven.
To appreciate why that realization had such a tremendous impact on me, you'd have to understand my condition before that time. I had spent most of my life, prior to that point, believing - with absolute certainty - that I was justly condemned before God for my sins and was deservedly going to hell. One day, by God's great grace, I heard the Good News that Jesus died for my sins, and I placed my faith in His sacrifice for me. From then on, I knew - in a formal and intellectual way - that my sins were now washed away by the blood of Jesus and completely forgiven; and that I was now no longer on my way to hell. I praised God for that fact; and praise Him for it today.
But there is a big difference between the relief that comes from knowing that you're no longer going to go to hell; and the thrill that comes from realizing that you're now absolutely going to go to heaven. On this one particular morning, I woke up - literally woke up in bed - to a wonderful, new awareness that I hadn't had before. I believe what happened was that God had been working in me for a long time through His Holy Spirit and through my reading of the Bible; and then, one morning, He finally permitted the truth to sink into my soul. I had come to realize, with a new clarity, that I was - without a doubt, without fail - definitely going to live forever in a wonderful place called heaven. I realized that, because of what Jesus had done for me, I was certain to be there; and that I in no way will ever lose that glorious prospect. No matter what else happens in my life, I will definitely be raised from the dead, I will definitely be glorified in a body like Jesus' own resurrected body, and I will definitely be with Him forever - eternally beholding His face, and eternally basking in His love! I wasn't in doubt about those things before that particular morning; but it was right then that, it seemed, God opened my eyes to the certainty of it. I have been enjoying the excitement and anticipation of heaven ever since.
Dear brother or sister; Jesus purchased that certainty for us when He came into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to die for us on the cross. And the apostle Paul gave wonderful expression to that certainty when He wrote the following words:
Some people believe that it's very presumptuous to say that you can be certain about going to heaven. And if my own certainty were based on anything less that what it says in this passage - and the confidence I have from it that God Himself is "for me" - I would have to agree that to say such a thing is presumptuous. But I believe that those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus can be certain of heaven because of what Paul says in this passage. Our certainty is based on a relationship with God in which He Himself is truly "for us". If God is for us, then we're secure on the basis of a relationship with the greatest Person that there is. And if that's true, then, as Paul says, there isn't anyone or anything that can ever be against us. Whenever it can be said that God is "for" a woman or man, that woman or man is absolutely certain for heaven!
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Upon what do you base your hope that God would let you into heaven? Every woman and man must face that question. If I were to ask people in the street what reason they have for hoping that God might be 'for them' and let them into heaven, I predict I would get some pretty standard answers.
Someone, for example, might say that they trust in their good deeds. Such a person might say, "I think that I ought to at least be considered for an entry into heaven. After all, I've done a lot of good deeds. I haven't been perfect, I'll admit; but I believe that if all my deeds were put on the scale, I'm sure that the good ones would far outweigh the bad ones."
Many people believe this should be enough to cause God to be "for them" and to permit them into heaven. But the Bible has already warned us that God is not "selling" eternity in heaven for the price of any amount of good deeds. Jesus Himself has said,
Now without question, those are good deeds. But apparently they apparently aren't what Jesus spoke of when He referred to 'doing the will of His Father in heaven'. Elsewhere in the Bible, someone asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" And He didn't say, "Prophesy in My name;" or "Cast out demons;" or "Do many wonders." He answered, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:28-29). That's the only "good deed" that God wants from us. That's why Jesus says He will turn to those who trust in their good deeds instead of in a relationship with Him, and say,
So you see; good deeds will never give you any certainty of heaven. God is not letting people into heaven on that basis of their good deeds.
Someone else might say, "I don't rely on the things I have done to get me into heaven as much as on the things I haven't done! There are lots of people in this world that live far worse lives than I do. I'm not saying I'm perfect; but I certainly haven't murdered anyone; and I haven't cheated in my marriage; and I haven't robbed any banks. God ought to be for me and let me into heaven, because I'm certainly not as bad as a lot of the other people He has to work with."
And, if we were to do a comparison, I imagine that we'd find many such people really weren't as bad as others. But the problem is that the standard for entry into heaven isn't based on how we measure up against other people. The standard is how we measure up before God. And the Bible says, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23); and that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). And so, no one can trust in going to heaven because they're "not as bad as others"; because the Bible says that no one - not even the best of us - is "good enough". That's not a reliable hope either.
There's lots of other things people might point to when asked what reason they have for hoping God would be "for" them and let them into heaven. They might hope in the fact that someone else in their family was a Christian. They might hope in the fact that they had gone to church for a long time and had given lots of money to His cause. They might hope in the fact that they are "spiritual", and have a great sensitivity to spiritual things. They might hope in having been baptized as a child. But God has not said that He'll let anyone into heaven on the basis of any of those things. None of them can provide any certainty for heaven.
What then is the only way we can be certain for heaven? What is the only way that God will be "for" us? It's only through a relationship with Jesus Christ by faith. Jesus once told His disciples;
There's the answer! There's the way! There's the certainty! It's through Jesus. When we come to the Father through faith in His Son Jesus, then - and only then - we can be sure that God is for us! And if God is for us, then nothing can be against us. That's how we can have confidence in our hope. That's how we can enjoy the wonderful certainty of heaven. That's what Paul tells us about in this wonderful passage in Romans.
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Look at how Paul begins. He says, "What shall we say to these things?" What things is he talking about?
In this particular passage, Paul is summing up a major section of his letter to the Romans. In it, he details the way God declares a sinner to be "justified by faith" on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. How a man or woman is made "righteous" on the basis of faith in Christ - and kept righteous - is what Paul was writing about in the first eight chapters of this letter. And just to show that it's all God's doing, immediately prior to our passage this morning Paul said,
It was then that Paul makes that great assertion: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" What shall we say? Shall we say that God who did all this for us in Christ would allow us to be lost to Himself? Shall we say that He is indifferent to us and doesn't care whether we get to heaven or not? Shall we say that He'd go to such great lengths to gain us to Himself, and yet wouldn't move heaven and earth in order to complete the good work in us that He has begun?
Paul is stressing that, if we are in Christ, we are not only certain not to go to hell; but we are definitely certain to go to heaven! We have great reason to rejoice this morning; because in Christ, heaven cannot fail to be our destiny!
In this passage, Paul goes on to tell us first that ...
1. BECAUSE GOD IS FOR US, NO NEED WILL EVER PREVAIL AGAINST US (v. 32).
Paul asks this question:
Much attention has been drawn lately to the heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali. There's a story told about him in his younger, cockier, more self-assured days. He was flying to one of his fights when the plain he was in experienced some serious turbulence. The pilot signalled for everyone to fasten their safety-belts; and all the passengers nervously and obediently did as they were told. ... All of them, of course, except one. When the flight attendant saw that the champ hadn't fastened-up, she requested that he do so immediately. Ali stuck his thumb in his chest and boasted, "Superman don't need no seat-belt." The flight attendant, quick on her feet, said, "Superman don't need no airplane either."
What do you and I need to get to heaven? Certainly nothing we have access to can get us there. We don't have the means within our grasp - no matter how self-assured we may be - to get to heaven. If we trusted in anything we could do, then we'd have absolutely no right to be sure of heaven.
But God Himself has provided everything that is needed. He has held back nothing from us that would get us to heaven. There has been no limit to what He would give to get us there. He "did not spare His own Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all". He gave up that which is most dear to His heart - His own precious Son - in order to bring us to Himself. And if He would give up His own precious Son for us, we can be sure that He'll never withhold anything else from us that we need. He will never allow any "lack" or "need" to prevail over us that could keep us from heaven. If He gave up His own Son for us, "how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
One reason, then, that we can be certain that we're going to heaven is because God has demonstrated that He is willing to go to any length - and indeed, already has gone to the greatest length possible - to insure that we will be there. He has given Jesus to die for us. And if He would give Jesus for us, then it's impossible that any "need" will ever keep us out of heaven. If you place your trust in the cross of Jesus, you are certain for heaven. You have great reason to rejoice. God is wonderfully for you.
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Another reason we can be sure of heaven is that ...
2. BECAUSE GOD IS FOR US, NO CHARGE OF SIN WILL EVER PREVAIL AGAINST US (vv. 33-34).
Paul goes on to ask;
Do you know what the name "devil" means? It comes from the Greek word "diabolos"; which means "an accuser" or "a slanderer". That's what the devil is - an accuser and slanderer of God's people. He's a mud-slinger and a finger-pointer. The Book of Revelation calls him, "the accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). In the Bible's story of Job, we find Satan pointing the finger at God's good man - saying that Job only served God because God was good to Him (Job. 1:9-11). In the prophecy of Zechariah, we find Satan standing at the right hand of God's good priest, Joshua - pointing the finger at him and opposing him (Zech. 3:1). One of Satan's main activities is to bring charges and accusations against God's people.
What do you suppose the devil says about you and me? I'm sure that he has taken every opportunity he can to point a finger at our sins and failures, and to bring charges and accusations against us before God. And I'm also sure that most of his charges and accusations against us are valid, and would justifiably condemn us before God - except for one, very important, very wonderful fact: Jesus took the guilt of our sins upon Himself and paid the price for them all. None of his accusations can ever result in our condemnation. None of them can ever be used to keep us out of heaven.
Notice the details, and you'll see why the devil's accusations against us can never keep us out of heaven. First, notice who it is that the devil seeks to bring an accusation against: "God's elect". That name refers to those God "chose" us for salvation - completely apart from anything that they did to deserve it. And just as we did nothing to make ourselves worthy to be God's "elect", neither can we "blow it" and do anything to make ourselves unworthy of God's elective love.
Notice also who it is that "justifies" us or "declares us righteous": "It is God who justifies." That fact is enough to render any accusation brought against us utterly mute. Any charge the devil - or anyone else - can bring against us falls completely flat when God says, "Yes; I know about that sin - and I am the one who has declared that sinner 'righteous' by faith in Jesus." The devil can take his accusations to no higher court than God; and God is the one who justifies us.
Finally, notice the work that Jesus did for us. "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." The Bible tells us that Jesus "was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom. 4:25). It tells us that, as our resurrected "High Priest", Jesus now sits at God's right hand in our defense: "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Every accusation or word of condemnation that the devil brings against us - every piece of dirt he is able to dig up about us - is met by Jesus Himself, who points to His own sacrifice on the cross for our sins and says, "It is finished!"
Another reason, then, that we can be certain that we're going to heaven is because Jesus - by His own sacrifice for us - has made it impossible for any sin to keep us out of heaven. No less an accuser than the devil himself is utterly frustrated in every charge that he brings against us. If you have trusted Jesus, then once again you have great reason to rejoice in the confident hope of heaven. God Himself is for you. Who then can be against you?
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One more reason we can be confident in our hope of heaven is that ...
3. BECAUSE GOD IS FOR US, NO FORCE IN ALL CREATION WILL EVER PREVAIL AGAINST US (vv. 35-39).
The only reason we will ever get to heaven is on the basis of "relationship" - because Jesus loves us and His Father is for us. Paul names several things that might "attempt" to separate us from that saving love of Christ. Many of the things that are mentioned almost sound like ways to describe the history of the church itself. It has, in this dark world, certainly suffered many of these things many times: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, the sword. Many of our brothers and sisters are suffering these very things even as we speak. I think that's why Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22; "Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." He says that to remind us that our suffering of these things is nothing unusual. The church has always been attacked in these ways.
But none of them will every be able to sever us from our relationship with Jesus. He says that, in all these things, "we are more than conquerors" - literally "super-conquerors" - through Jesus. On our own, we're utterly undone by those things; but through Him, they only result in victory. Anything that the devil can throw at us can now only make us stronger; and anything he can do to kill us is only permitted by the Father in order to bring us into glorious, eternal victory and the full enjoyment of the presence of Jesus!
Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not "death or life" - that's physical opposition; "nor angels nor principalities nor powers" - that's spiritual opposition; "nor things present, nor things to come" - that's circumstances outside our control; "nor height, nor depth" - that's a limitation from distance; "nor any other created thing" - that includes everything except God Himself. Only God Himself can separate us from God; and God has promised that He will never do so. Jesus said,
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Why could Paul say that He was "convinced"? Why can anyone who has placed their trust in Jesus be confident of heaven? Certainly not because of anything we have done. No amount of self-sufficiency will save us. No amount of "good deeds" can give us that confidence. No circumstance will be beneficial enough to make us worthy of being assured of heaven.
No; it's only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, dear brother or sister, that you and I can be confident of heaven. We can even now begin celebrating and rejoicing in the glorious anticipation of heaven. Because of Jesus' sacrifice for us, we are as certain of heaven as if we were already there. We are certain that God is for us.
But is that an appropriate theme for Palm Sunday? I believe it's VERY appropriate. Let me close by showing you what that Bible says it will be like when we are all finally in glory, before the throne of Jesus. It's the most descriptive picture we're given in the Bible of what it will be like when we're finally in heaven. Revelation 7:9-12 says;
We are sure to be there - with palm branches in our hands - because Jesus first rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to die for us and make it certain for us!
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