The title of the sermon for today is, When you're on God's side you're on the winning side.
Now, I meet sometimes some Seventh-day Adventists who would almost give you the impression that when you're on God's side you must be on the persecuted side. Therefore you may be on the losing side, so to speak. But, that's not what we see from Scripture. When you're on God's side, you ar on the winning side. In Acts 5 there's quite an interesting story told there. You are all acquainted with it. We heard about it in our Scripture reading, the closing part of the story.
The apostles are preaching Christ in Jerusalem and every time some people come with a little bit of a new spirit, a new religion, a new religious leader, the religious leaders of the day don't like that very much. They don't like to se the status quo disturbed. They don't like when an evangelist from the Seventh-day Adventist Church come into town and kind of preaches a new message. People don't like that very often. I mean. the religious leaders don't like it. The people may like it, but the religious leaders don't like it. They feel threatened by this.
And so they take the apostles, they put them in prison and the angel of the Lord delivers them, takes them out of the prison in a miraculous way. And when they come the next morning to find them in prison, they find the doors locked, everything intact, the guards outside, but the apostles are not inside.
the wise man of You would think that the religious leaders of that day would have gotten the message. But, no, they didn't. They still didn't understand. Somebody tells them, "Well, you know, these people that were in prison are now preaching in the temple court. They're having an evangelistic campaign there. Maybe you should go and se what is happening there." So they go and arrest them again. To interrogate them.
Then there is one of the great religious leaders of that day, Dr. Gamaliel, a scholar, a part of the council, a wise man of that time, doctor of the law Acts 22:3). And he says, "You know, people, let's be careful. Let's think a little bit about what we're doing. Because, you know, A few years ago we had one of these religious leaders, Theudas, which came along and attracted some people, but it didn't last very long. Then a little bit later Judas of Galilee came along he attracted some followers, but now, today, a few years later, who talks about that movement any more? So why get excited? You know if this movement is of men, it'll disappear. It won't get anywhere. It may excite people for a little while and then soon it will disappear. But if this movement, perchance, is of divine origin, just be careful because you might be on the wrong side, and you might be fighting God. And when you fight God you are on the losing side."
These are great words of wisdom that we can still use today in various circumstances. Fortunately they listened to him. What Gamaliel was saying in effect is that there are two sides in the world. There's a side with God, and there's a side fighting God, against God. Be sure to be on the right side.
Now, one of my favorite books in the Bible is the book of Romans. I always say that if you can understand the book of Romans then you can call yourself a theologian. I don't claim to understand fully the book of Romans yet because it's a very hard book to understand in ways, because it's so deep theology. But in that book of Romans, which was so influential in launching the Protestant Reformation and many other revival movements, you have the eighth chapter, which is in the middle of the book of Romans. A very important chapter and my favorite chapter.
If you turn to Romans 8, you will notice that at the beginning Paul makes clear that there are two types of people in the world: those that are on God's side and those that are on the other side. Now, that's not the language he uses. He uses, in Romans 8:2, those that have the law of the Spirit of life and those who have the law of sin and death. So he says that there are two segments to humanity: those that follow the law of the Spirit of Life and those that follow the law of sin and death. The two segments.
The first is on God's side, the winning side. The second is on the losing side. So, the invitation of Paul is that we should be sure we are on the side of the Spirit of life. Not on the side of the law of sin and death. And he points out that if you are on the side of the law of life, you belong to God's family. Therefore you are on the winning side because you belong the royal family.
If you look at verse 14, Paul says something very interesting. Romans 8:14,15. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
So on the one side you have those that follow the law of sin and death, the law of bondage, people that are in fear. And on the other hand you have those that have been adopted into the family of God.
Now, the Roman understood in Paul's day quite well the concept of adoption better than the Jews. Adoption wasn't a Jewish concept. But the Romans had this concept of adoption. When a person was adopted, several thing happened. First of all, the person's former life was cancelled. From now on he received the rights of the new family into which he had been adopted. You debts were cancelled. You had no more debts. You received the rights and you became heir to the estate of the family into which you had been adopted. And the change was so important that you had to have quite a number of witnesses to testify that that adoption had actually taken place because, really, it changed your whole situation in life. And this is what Paul is using here. He says, "You have been adopted into the family of God. So now, you're not a part of those that live on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. You are now a part of the Royal Family."
That's the concept that Paul bring out here in Romans, chapter 8, which I love. The concept that you are now on God's side. You are on the winning side. You belong to the Royal Family. So much so that you can call God "Abba." Now, that's a very endearing thought that Paul brings to us here.
Because the book of Romans, like the New Testament in general, is written in Greek. But here, in the Greek New Testament, Paul writes to the Romans in Greek, but when he comes to this part here, the adoption concept in verse 15, he uses a term from his own Aramaic language, not Greek. He was using the dialect he was speaking at home, so to speak. Not the learned language. And he uses, "Abba." Abba really is a term equivalent, more or less, to when we would say in our family, "Daddy," or "Dad," a very familiar term for "father."
And so, Paul says, "When you have been adopted into the family of God, and you're part of the Royal Family, you can call the God, the Creator, the Almighty God of the Universe, you can call Him your Father, you Daddy. Isn't that a marvelous thought? You're on His side. You are part of that Royal Family.
And then he goes on and brings out in verse 21, which is a very good religious liberty text, in the very center of the book of Romans, in the center of the eighth chapter that we, now, because we're part of the Family of God we can enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.
I like that expression: "the glorious liberty of the children of God."
Now, some people think that the Ten Commandments, maybe, are a little restrictive, but I don't think so. I don't think you think so, either. The Ten Commandments are kind of like railroad tracks that lead us in the direction we want to travel. Now, the locomotive of the train can say, "Those tracks are pretty limiting. I think I don't want to be limited in this way, I'm going to kind of jump the track. I'm going to head out across the countryside the way I want to go."
Well, it doesn't take much imagination to think what would happen. The locomotive would not go very far, a few yards. Maybe fifty yard if it were going fast enough, and it gets bogged down and stuck and stops. It is only as you follow the freedom of the railroad track that you can reach your destiny. And that's the way I look at the Christian life. It is one of the glorious liberties of the children of God.
I was attending a meeting once in Geneva a few years ago. A meeting of religious leaders and of other churches and one of the men there who had a certain well known position. He was trying to kind of needle me a little bit I think. We had a break and he said to me, "I will now take my liberty to be able to go out and smoke a cigarette." I said, "You are not using liberty. You are going there because you are a slave of the cigarette." You know, he looked at me. He didn't know what to say, because, really he knew that I was saying the truth. He was not free. He was limited. He wasn't enjoying the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, at the very end of that chapter, uses an expression that I think is marvelous. He says (verse 21), For all thing are yours; How do you like that? "All things are yours." And to make sure that one understands it, the very next verse at the very end of the chapter (verse 22) he repeats, "All thing are yours" again. He says it twice.
But Paul doesn't stop there. He goes right on and says (verse 23), Ye are Christ's... So, yes, great liberty, great freedom, glorious liberty of the children of God, "All things are yours." But remember there is a framework, "Ye are Christ's." You belong to the Royal Family of God.
And then, throughout Romans 8, there are so many other verses that we could talk about. We could talk about the "earnest expectation" that we have in verse 19. I like that expression, because that is a Seventh-day Adventist expression. Earnest expectations (Greek - apokaradokia = anxious watching). The Greek there means, really the image you have there is of a person, kind of leaning forward, scanning the horizon, expecting something to come.
Earnest expectations. Do we still have that earnest expectation as Seventh-day Adventists? Or is it beginning to kind of become a little humdrum? "Well, yes, some day, perhaps. Let's lead a reasonably good life, a decent life and when the Lord comes, hopefully some day." You know, all churches are expecting the coming of Christ, more or less. Oh, maybe a thousand years from now...later. But in theory they better expect it. But Paul says here, "You know, you are to have earnest expectation, eagerness, Looking, scanning the horizon, waiting for signs of the dawn, because, (Paul says later on in verse 24) We are saved by hope. The glorious hope of our soon-coming Lord.
Now as we approach toward the end of the chapter, Paul asks three questions that shows that you are in the winning side because you are on God's side. The first question he asks is (verse 33): (b)Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? In other words, who will accuse you? The second question is (verse 34): Who is he that condemneth? Who will condemn you? And the third question is: (verse 35): Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Three questions.
The first question is: Who shall accuse you? He says there is no more accusation. Christ has come: He has justified us. We are saved. There is no more accusation. Some time ago, my wife hit a car with her car, coming from behind and she got a ticket. Not a big deal, but it was still a ticket. So, I said, "Just go and pay your fifty dollars or whatever it was and pay the ticket." "Oh no! I'm not! I don't want to pay the ticket. I'm going to go to court! I think it was the other person's fault." "Well, you hit a person from behind. I don't think you're going to win in court. So, you can go to court if you want to, but don't count on me being there. I don't have time for that kind of thing. Just go and pay the fifty dollars."
She went to court and the judge called her name. "Yes." The judge asked, "Now, where is the police officer in this case?" He looked around. There was no police officer there. He hadn't come. The judge said, "Well, there's no accusation. Case dismissed." No fine. No endorsement. I learned a lesson there. When there is no accusation, there is also no condemnation.
And that is what Paul says here. There is no more accusation for God's elect because you are on God's side. You're on the winning side. There's no more accusation and therefore there is no more condemnation. Isn't that a marvelous thought? No more condemnation.
And then finally the last question. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? No more separation because you are part of the Royal Family. Isn't that a wonderful thought that he goes on. Nothing, heights, depths, other creatures, principalities, life or death, powers present, things to come, nothing in the whole universe can separate us from the love of God. We're no part of the Royal Family.
Isn't that a wonderful message that Paul leaves with us here in Romans 8. I think this is a wonderful thought.
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last updated 1/15/2001 by Bob Beckett.