Podcast available at: https://anchor.fm/diane-simcox/episodes/But-Wait–Theres-More–If-You-Act-Now-e18kion
Romans 5:1-11 – Week Six
It’s hard to imagine a world without Amazon and other ways of shopping online. Our children and grandchildren can’t comprehend a time when a person couldn’t just find and buy whatever they wanted with a few clicks.
Before we had access to online shopping, we had commercials that would capture our attention with new, remarkable products. All within about 60 to 90 seconds, a demonstration of the product would convince us to consider picking up the phone and placing our order. If you’re like me, you’d tried to reason it all out. You’d have a conversation with yourself trying to justify the purchase. “Do I really need a wall clock that plays bird calls every hour? Well, no, I really don’t. I could see how that could be annoying. But Aunt Era really likes birds and her eyesight isn’t what it used to be so hearing the birds sing every hour on the hour could be of some help to her. So, should I get it? It’s only $19.95 plus shipping and handling and she does have a birthday coming up.” And as if the salesman on the other side of the TV screen could read my mind, he sweetens the deal. “But call now and we’ll double your order! That’s right! Two bird call clocks for the price of one!” Well then I start to ponder who else might enjoy a gift of one of these beautiful, unique clocks. As I mentally make my way through the family tree and close friends, the salesman makes the deal irresistible. “And if you act now and call within the next 30 seconds, your shipping and handling is free!” At this point, I can’t get the phone picked up and the number dialed fast enough only to hear, “bonk, bonk, bonk”. That doggone busy signal. I’m starting to panic because I see the time ticking away on the screen. So I try again. Bonk. Bonk. Bonk. And as I’m dialing for the third time, the salesman pipes up again. “If you call now, you’ll not only get a second clock at no charge to you, free shipping and handling, but we’re also going to throw in a free set of bird watching binoculars valued at $29.95 at no additional cost to you!”
This is too good of a deal to pass up. And as my pulse quickens and my focus is watching that time ticker, I frantically redial and redial until I can get through. And there is such sweet satisfaction when I give them my credit card number and my mailing address because I know that that great package of deals is all mine now. An offer was made and I chose to accept it and as a result, I was getting a whole lot more out of the deal other than just what grabbed my attention at the beginning.
So far in this letter to the Romans, Paul has identified himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ and has expressed his desire to be present with the readers of this letter. He’s addressed the differences between the Jews and the Gentiles. He’s discussed the sinfulness of all of them and God’s righteousness that covers that sinfulness. Last week, our main focus was on Abraham and how it was the tying of God’s grace and Abraham’s faith in God that made Abraham right with God just as it is with us. And chapter 4 of Romans ends with the reassurance for those who accept and believe in Jesus that we too are made right with God because of the sacrifice made on our behalf.
That’s the initial sales pitch – the main product. Salvation for us through the sacrifice of Jesus. But there’s more.
Romans 5:1-2 TPT “Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. 2 Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!
In that first verse, Paul relates back to his previous statements in chapter 4 that we have been declared righteous and justified because of our faith that God gave us in the first place. And this is when Paul begins with the additional benefits, the perks of being a child of God.
The first one he mentions is true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Not peace of God. Not peace from God. Peace with God. This is significant because of the impact peace, or the lack of peace can have on a relationship.
When we are not at complete peace with a person, the relationship is strained. We put up guards in what we say. We don’t feel at ease. Sometimes we avoid the person altogether. Everything about God and Who He is tells us that we have no right being in a peace-filled relationship with Him. We are sinful. He is not. He is holy. We are not. Our very human nature automatically puts us at the opposite end from God. But because of our Lord Jesus Christ, our relationship with God is peaceful.
Colossians 1:20 TLB “It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him—all things in heaven and on earth—for Christ’s death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood. 21 This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends.”
As if the salvation and the peace with God isn’t enough, there’s more! We have access to God’s grace.
Access to important people makes a difference. My mom and I volunteered as ushers at the Fox Theatre and Atlanta Civic Center for many years. After some time, the main organizer of ushers showed favor towards me and posted me backstage. This gave me greater access to the performers. I was able to be up close to stars such as Liberace, The Osmonds, Dick Van Dyke and Frankie Avalon. But that access was limited and only lasted for a few hours. But the God of all creation, the God who formed and breathed life into every celebrity and performer and human being who ever lived has granted me and you full access to Him through grace. Is that not amazing when you really think about it?
Ephesians 2:18-19 TPT “And now, because we are united to Christ, we both have equal and direct access in the realm of the Holy Spirit to come before the Father! 19 So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are the children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God.”
Not just any access to God, but the access and rights of a family member! Even after I married and moved out of my parents’ home, I always had a key. I always had the alarm codes. I didn’t have to call ahead, didn’t have to knock or ring the doorbell. I had full access to be with them any time I chose to do so. I wouldn’t just show up on the doorstep, I let myself in and made myself at home. There was security in knowing that no matter where I lived, I always had access to a home with loving parents who were delighted in spending time with me. Do we feel that way with God? Do we fully appreciate the fact that we have that same access to God? We don’t have to make an appointment or call ahead of time. We don’t have to check out His hours of operation because He’s always available. If you really, really think about it, is there anyone in your life to whom you have full access literally at any point in the day or night? I imagine each of us has a list of people we could call on at any time, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll answer the phone or be available to talk with us when we need them. But God. He’s like Waffle House. He’s everywhere and always open.
If you’re keeping tally, so far we have salvation, peace with God and access to His grace, but the list of benefits keeps growing. We also get the joy of hope in experiencing God’s glory. How would you describe God’s glory? It’s not necessarily easy to put into words, is it?
The best definition I found is this. The glory of God is the “invisible qualities, character, or attributes of God displayed in a visible (or knowable) way.”[i] Simply put, the glory of God is the sum total of Who He is. Truth is, none of us will ever know this side of heaven exactly what all that entails. Our minds and thoughts are too restricted, too limited to fully comprehend God in His entirety. But what we do know is that there is no one like Him. And by being His child, we have the joy of hope in experiencing all that He is and knowing Him from a personal perspective.
Some of us are participating in Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God. She makes references to Ann Graham Lotz as well as Dr. Henry Blackaby throughout her study. Most of you know that Priscilla Shirer is the daughter of Dr. Tony Evans, a most brilliant preacher who is one of my favorites. Ann Graham Lotz is the daughter of Billy Graham who is world-renowned for his ministry. And we are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Henry Blackaby as a member here and, of course, to have Dr. Mel Blackaby as our own pastor. Three great giants in the ministry and I’ve often wondered what it was like to be a child of one of the greats. What was it like learning how to ride a bike with Dr. Billy Graham running along side you and encouraging you? What did family time look like in the Evans’ household? Board games, movies, pizza and popcorn? What was it like in the Blackaby home on Christmas morning tearing into gifts and dumping out the treasures from the stockings? The experiences that the children of these major Christian leaders had would have been unique and special. Those experiences would create stronger bonds and more intimate and close relationships between the fathers and their children. Today, we may see Dr. Henry in the hallways or in the Worship Center, but because we aren’t his child, we don’t have the same connection, the same experiences as his own family does with him. We know him and we may have a relationship with him, but it’s not on the same level as that that he has with his own family members.
But as a by-product of being a child of God, there is joy of hope in experiencing all of His glory. There are opportunities throughout our life to have that closeness, that intimacy with God and to experience His glory. Not because we deserve it. Not because we’ve earned it. In case you have doubts about that, let me refresh your memory. Romans 3:23 NIV “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. All fall short. Not just Gentiles. Not just Jews. Not just Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians. Not just men. Not just women. Not just those who go to church on Easter and Christmas only. Not just those who have perfect attendance in Sunday School. Not those who can quote scripture fluently. And not just those who have to paraphrase even John 3:16. All, every last one of us, fall short of the glory of God. But through Jesus, we obtain joy knowing that we have hope to experience the glory of God.
And just like the salesman on TV, Paul throws in an extra bonus!
Romans 5:3 TBT “But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. 4 And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. 5 And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!”
My former mother-in-law was notorious for bringing the HoneyBaked ham to every family function. We usually got together at the home of one of my sisters-in-law. My mother-in-law would take the ham still wrapped in the heavy foil and bag and give it to one of them. My sister-in-law or whoever was hosting, would unpack the ham and place it on a platter to serve. My mother-in-law would always ask that they keep the bone because she liked to use that to season a pot of collard greens. She didn’t want the bone to go to waste.
I was about five months pregnant one Thanksgiving and she offered to host the family at her house. I had been craving HoneyBaked ham, but especially the unique crusty deliciousness of the glaze. I got there a little early to help her and as I walked in the kitchen, I was horrified. There, on a large platter, sat a naked spiraled cut ham. It kind of looked like a HoneyBaked ham, but there was no glaze. I was so confused. I had never seen a naked HoneyBaked ham before. As I made my way closer to the ham to be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I saw the trash can right in front of the ham. That woman had scraped the glaze off! The glaze that makes HoneyBaked hams unique had been thrown away like garbage. I took a few breaths not wanting to upset the baby in my womb. As calmly as I could, I asked her what happened to the ham knowing that only a maniacal person would purposefully remove the best part. Her response? “Oh, I don’t like the glaze.” I was speechless. Thanksgiving was ruined in my opinion.
What puzzled me was that my mother-in-law was always so concerned with the host saving the bone for her so that it didn’t go to waste. And this time, that she was the host, the one preparing the platter, she threw away what I considered to be the best part simply because she didn’t like it. I wasn’t the only person upset by her wastefulness that day. Several of us groaned as we walked by that trash can that day, looking down at what should have been on our plates and in our tummies.
What my mother-in-law didn’t consider was that the glaze was part of the ham whether she liked it or not. I’m not particularly crazy about that thin layer of fat that is nestled in between the glaze and the ham, but I tolerate it because it’s part of every bite.
We don’t like times of trouble. We don’t like trials. It goes against our natural desire to be comfortable. But that doesn’t mean we won’t encounter them.
Psalm 34:19 CEB “The righteous have many problems, but the Lord delivers them from every one.”
John 16:33 HCSB “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
In these two verses alone, we are promised that the Lord delivers us from them and that He has conquered all those things which bring us distress. Not only that, but God doesn’t waste any part of a trial or trouble that we go through. God doesn’t allow us to experience tough times for the sake of entertaining Himself or just to make us suffer. Our tough times fertilize our perseverance, our endurance, our patience. And as our patience, endurance and perseverance are exercised through these troubles, they become stronger and as a result, our character is sharpened and refined.
Isaiah 48:10 NIV “ See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
That refinement of our faith in Him results in pure hope. Having ONLY Positive Expectations.
James, the brother of Jesus told us, “My brothers and sisters, you will have many kinds of trouble. But this gives you a reason to be very happy. 3 You know that when your faith is tested, you learn to be patient in suffering. 4 If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good. You will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be.” James 1:2-4 ERV
We may not like every aspect of troubles that we encounter. Some are painful, scary, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, disappointing, embarrassing, and much like my mother-in-law found the glaze – distasteful. But not one bit of our experiences are wasted or thrown away by God. Each step, each circumstance is meant to refine us and knowing that should give us joyful confidence in that God knows what He’s doing. That’s hard, though, isn’t it? Because our initial reaction to tough times is often, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Or we go the opposite route and figure we’re being punished for something. Either way, our focus is on ourselves. We don’t often face trials and think about how God can use our circumstance for His glory and for our growth. If we did, if we really looked at those tough times and put our focus on God, would that not change our entire perspective and humble us to think that He would want to use someone like us?
Remember the blind man that the disciples questioned Jesus about?
John 9:1-3 NTE “As Jesus was going along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 ‘Teacher,’ his disciples asked him, ‘whose sin was it that caused this man to be born blind? Did he sin, or did his parents?’ 3 ‘He didn’t sin,’ replied Jesus, ‘nor did his parents. It happened so that God’s works could be seen in him.”
The affliction of blindness, the trouble, the trial was not the result of any sin, but rather was the instrument to shine on God’s glory. Our suffering is given to us to build us up, not to destroy us. Trouble leads to endurance which leads to refinement which leads us to hope. Not one morsel of our suffering is wasted. And to just make it all clear, Paul reminds them how much God truly loves them and us.
“Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. 7 Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. 8 Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us. 9 Since Christ’s blood has now given us God’s approval, we are even more certain that Christ will save us from God’s anger. 10 If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us. 11 In addition, our Lord Jesus Christ lets us continue to brag about God. After all, it is through Christ that we now have this restored relationship with God.” Romans 6-11 GW
When we were morally weak, when we lived as enemies of God, He still died for us. When we were at our absolutely worst, He still loved us. If He did that, how much more loved and secured in that love are we now that we belong to Him; now that He is our Father? In the translation I just read the phrase “more certain” is used twice. Other translations say “much more”. Paul is emphasizing his own personal belief in the product of salvation. He’s submitting proof of the love that God has for us and guarantees that the blood of Jesus covers our sins and makes us safe from God’s wrath.
Those commercials are done in a way to provoke a sense of urgency that if you don’t act now, you’re going to miss out on a great deal. We should have that same sense of urgency for those who are lost as well as for ourselves when we are called by God to something. Those commercials often emphasize that if you’re not 100% satisfied, they’ll refund your money. They believe in their product so much that they offer you a guarantee.
“But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; 22 he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-22 RSV
Salvation, peace with God, access to God’s grace, hope, joy, proof of His love and deliverance from God’s wrath. That pretty much beats a second bird song clock, free shipping and handling and a cheap pair of binoculars, doesn’t it?
When going through trials, make God look good!
Sometimes things we don’t like are put on our plate, but they’re there for a reason.
We truly have unlimited access to God!
You plus God are the majority.
Hope does not disappoint us.