Better Days are Coming
July 19, 2020
Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
It seems that everyone these days owes something to someone. We owe the bank for money borrowed for our car, our school loans, to buy new furniture. We owe the mortgage company for the money received to “buy” our house even though it legally belongs to them. We owe credit card companies (VISA, M/C, AMEX) or retail chains (Boscov’s, Penney’s, Lowe’s or Home Depot). We owe loan companies the retail chains use for us to be able to buy stuff - like Synchrony or Wells Fargo. These are all establishments I have owed money to, at one time or another, over the past several years. And they just love it when we owe them money. We get to have lots of stuff (that we get to box up and move every now and then), and they get to charge us outrageous interest on the money we borrowed. And the more you pay off those accounts, the more they are willing to raise your credit limit to entice you to come in and buy bigger and more expensive stuff. Don’t you love it when the salesperson looks at you with a gleam in their eye and says, “don’t worry about the price. You can put it on your store credit card and pay a little at a time.” Yeah. Over the next 10-20 years after you have paid nearly twice the retail price when you finally make that last payment. What has happened is, we have become slaves to those we owe. They are leading us down a path of no-end. They are telling us how, where, and when to spend our hard-earned money. And they do not care whether we can afford it or not. That’s not their job.
Paul says in the beginning of our reading (v. 12) that “we are debtors” (syn. borrowers). But he specifies that we are not debtors to the flesh, but to the way we live according the needs of the flesh. What gets us into financial trouble, what leads us down that road of never-ending monthly payments, is our wants and our desires. It’s not the money we spend on food, household necessities like gas, oil, heat and electric that gets us into trouble, it’s the other things. The things that our greed and our passions – perhaps even our covetousness - that draw us toward. So many times, we buy strictly out of impulse. We see something on TV, we see a neighbor or co-worker with a new something and we feel we just must have it. And it doesn’t matter if we have to finance it for 10, 15, 30 years to get it. Then what happens? The we start receiving notices from the bank that our accounts are low (or overdrawn) and our mortgage payment is due. Our checking account is dry and the baby needs formula or the kids need food or diapers. All because we fall into the trap of living according our flesh.
After hitting us with this wonderful bit of disheartening information, Paul says at the end of verse 12, “you will die.” What is Paul saying here with those 3 little words? If we go out and buy a bunch of stuff, overdraw our bank accounts, and live forever paying high interest rates, we will die? No. What he is saying is that if we live solely according to the needs of our hearts and minds, and not stay focused on what lies ahead of us eternally - what happens to us after we leave this world, and all of our debt is left with our kids and grandkids - we will not only parish physically, we will die spiritually as well.
But what does Paul say next? “But if [living] by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, [and] you will live” (v. 13). After Paul pulls the proverbial rug out from under our feet, he gives us that ray of hope. If we live by the Spirit of God, we automatically become heirs of God’s kingdom. We are adopted by God to be part of His family. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t go out and buy something we want every now and then, we just shouldn’t put that desire ahead of the desire to be in a right relationship with God. We should be able to give something to God. Remember, it was His first. I would say most of us have fallen into the trap of not being able to put anything in the offering on Sunday because a due bill or the need for food for the family. God says, “that’s OK. Just don’t make it a habit.” Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, several ways to view giving. “First, poverty is not an excuse not to give. Look at the Macedonians: out of their poverty they still practiced grace giving (8:1-2). Second, give yourself first to the Lord (v. 5). Third, giving is proof of your love of God (vv. 6-8). Fourth, be willing to make a pledge and more willing to fulfil it if God provides (vv. 10-11). Fifth, give willingly (v. 12). Our willingness makes it acceptable to God. However, if we give grudgingly, it may help the one who receives it, but it does not put the giver in good standing before the Lord. It is better not to give than to give grudgingly. Remember, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corin. 9:7) Finally, do not give to the point of poverty but to the point of equality (vv. 13-15).
So, you see, it’s ok to buy stuff. Just don’t forget that all we have and all that we own, really belongs to God. We are just borrowing from Him for a while.
In our reading we see Paul referring to God as “Abba” or “Father”. Some theologians go as far as translating “Abba” to “Daddy”. Now I realize not everyone has a rainbows and waterfalls relationship with their earthly fathers. That their lives growing up was not filled with hugs and kisses and open arms when you came home from school or He walked through the door at the end of a hard day at work. For that I am regretful, and I feel empathy for you. I pray your paternal relationship has grown better over the years. But don’t assume that a relationship with your heavenly Father has to be the same way. I hope that when I refer to God as Father in my preaching that I don’t lose a few of those listeners who have struggled with father/child relationships. I pray you allow the Holy Spirit who dwells in you to strengthen your love, trust and faith in God your Father. Just know that God loves you with all His being and would do anything possible to have you love Him with all your heart.
We are all adopted children of God. He chose us to be part of His family. Even as the Gentiles during Jesus’ time were considered children of God as well as the Jews, so are we adopted as children of God. If you know someone who has been adopted or if you have been adopted into your families know what I am talking about. The family they, or you, became part of chose you out of many, many other children to a member of their family. You were special enough for them to make you an heir of their kingdom, their family. Just as God chose to create each one of us to be co-heirs of His kingdom with Jesus. Paul reminds of that in verses 16-17. “We are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We did not choose God, God chose us. Even through all our sins, our temper-tantrums, our defiant actions, He chose us. Our Father in heaven, whose love goes beyond all comprehension, all understanding, chose to make us part of His life, for eternity.
Now we are into the good stuff. We know what it takes to get caught up in fleshly desires that cause us to die physically and spiritually, and what it takes to be committed to God and to live eternally. Paul tells us in the second part of our reading (v. 18), “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Paul is telling us not to spend too much time harping over all the terrible things that are happening to us today because better things are coming. Sure, we will have suffering and pain at times in our lives, but we have the promise of God that when these days on earth are finished, we can look forward to the glory that awaits us. We just need to be persistent in our daily fellowship with God and with fellow believers. We need to mindful of the needs of others, those who are going through trials far worse than we are, those who are struggling with addictions, oppression, and social injustice. We are to be looking out for fellow brothers- and sisters-in-Christ who are being tormented for their belief in the Jesus. Better things are coming.
Listen to what the Apostle John writes in Revelation 21:3-5. “And I (John) heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” What an amazing revelation of hope and glory written in 3 verses. God, our Father, is coming one day to live among us. He will leave His heavenly throne and come be with all of us. Some of us will already be with Him before this happens and some of us will still be living on the planet. But know that this earth will not last forever. In describing the fate of the earth Paul uses phrases like, “waits with eager longing”, “subjected to futility”, “set free from its bondage to decay”, and “groaning in labor pains”. I don’t know about you, but I think those labor pains are getting closer together. Remember when your child or grandchild was about to be born? The anticipation rising (maybe not for the mother) as the labor pains grew stronger and the time in between grew shorter. The excitement in knowing that the time of arrival was drawing near. We should be starting to get excited for the Lord’s arrival.
Just look at all the natural disasters that have occurred recently. Tell me God is not trying to tell us something. Look at the pandemic we are suffering through right now. Tell me God is not trying get our attention to make things right. Look at the uprisings toward social injustice. Tell me God is not trying to get us to stop looking at each and judging each other by the color of our skin and finally start looking at each other as brothers and sisters, equal heirs of His kingdom, children of God.
My friends, the day of the Lord is coming. But, “In hope we are saved” (v. 24). Hope is where we can find comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in or to this world, God will take care of us. Jesus promised He would be with us always, until the end of time (Matt. 28:20). Well that time Jesus spoke of is not the end of the world. It is the end of eternity. And eternity is everlasting – endless. And Jesus will be with us endlessly. Hope is where it all lies for us. Hope is looking at something gone terribly wrong and knowing that our God will make it all right according to His will. God’s plan for each of us has already been laid out – already written. God knows what is ahead of us and He has promised, by the indwelling of the Spirit, to walk with us step-by-step until we are seated at His feet. God never promised us that everything would be easy. He never said that if we believe in Him that nothing bad would ever happen to us. Things happen for a reason. I know sometimes that sounds like a cop-out when we don’t know what else to tell someone. But it is true. God does not make mistakes and sometimes things happen to help draw us closer to Him, to help us rely on Jesus and to look to Him for help and guidance.
Life is hard. And being a follower of Jesus can make it even harder at times. Bad people will come at you and try to break the bonds you have with Jesus. They will do things, say things, to get you to renounce your commitment to your sovereign Lord. But know that God is always right there with you. My brothers and sisters, better times are coming. Be patient. Be mindful of God’s calling on your life. Be hopeful for the future holds a reservation for you in the greatest place beyond anyone’s imagination. And that is Heaven. Your forever home with your forever loving Father. Better things are coming. And if you are not sure what awaits all of us, listen to John’s description of Heaven found in Revelation 21.
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal (v. 11). The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long (v. 16).
Before I continue, let me explain what a stadia is. One stadia measures 607 feet. So, this New Jerusalem will measure 1380 miles x 1380 miles x 1380 miles. 1.9 million square miles (roughly midway between the sizes of Australia and India). But remember, this New Jerusalem will be a cube with many levels (approx. 600,000 stories) measuring 26.3 billion cubic miles.
The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass (vv. 18-21). The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp (v. 23).
That is what lies in wait for those who believe in Jesus, those who have faith in, trust of, and love for their Father in heaven. A city like no city on Earth. A city made with precious stones and metals we have never seen or heard of. A perfect city for God’s perfect children so that we can live in Christian perfection with our loving and caring Lord. You see, no matter what happens here in this world, better things are still to come.