TEXT: ROMANS 8:31b-39; LUKE 12:35-40; ISAIAH 30:8-17
GOD IS FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To you who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.


The Church year that marks the life of Christ is into its second season.  Advent is past.  Christmas remains with us yet one more week.  The world’s calendar, however, just now turns the page and your prospects for 2015 are very good!  As you consider the passing of the old and the entry of the new this evening, please stay awake in light of St. Paul’s words to the Church at Rome. 


The Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to ask some defiant yet beautiful questions?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  Who is to condemn?  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. 


St. Paul quotes sheep being slaughtered from the Psalms (44:22).  From the Old Testament he demonstrates that tribulation for Christians is nothing new.  The dangerous threats that Paul lists were all experienced by the apostle himself (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).  He fulfilled his calling in distress and weakness and danger and imprisonment.  His last writing from prison (Philippians) indicates his approaching death. 

 

Each word in his list covers oceans of evil and danger which God’s people still encounter as they stay awake today.  He records seven pressure-filled, persecution-laden threats ending with execution (the sword).  A look at the fleeting year of 2014 reveals that all of these threats were at work.  The church has just passed through a century where more Christians, numerically, have been persecuted and martyred than at any other time in history. We live in a time when governments that once championed freedom of religion are turning increasingly hostile to the message of the Gospel. “Free” societies that allow for the public expression of nearly any thought, any idea or any action increasingly cannot bear to hear the witness of Christ’s Church in the public square. Increased violence from Islamic radicals has led to martyrdom for growing numbers who confessed Christ and who refused to deny Him.


NEW YEAR’S EVE – JAN 31, 2014
TEXT: ROMANS 8:31b-39; LUKE 12:35-40; ISAIAH 30:8-17
GOD IS FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To you who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.


The Church year that marks the life of Christ is into its second season.  Advent is past.  Christmas remains with us yet one more week.  The world’s calendar, however, just now turns the page and your prospects for 2015 are very good!  As you consider the passing of the old and the entry of the new this evening, please stay awake in light of St. Paul’s words to the Church at Rome. 


The Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to ask some defiant yet beautiful questions?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  Who is to condemn?  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. 


St. Paul quotes sheep being slaughtered from the Psalms (44:22).  From the Old Testament he demonstrates that tribulation for Christians is nothing new.  The dangerous threats that Paul lists were all experienced by the apostle himself (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).  He fulfilled his calling in distress and weakness and danger and imprisonment.  His last writing from prison (Philippians) indicates his approaching death.

 

Each word in his list covers oceans of evil and danger which God’s people still encounter as they stay awake today.  He records seven pressure-filled, persecution-laden threats ending with execution (the sword).  A look at the fleeting year of 2014 reveals that all of these threats were at work.  The church has just passed through a century where more Christians, numerically, have been persecuted and martyred than at any other time in history. We live in a time when governments that once championed freedom of religion are turning increasingly hostile to the message of the Gospel. “Free” societies that allow for the public expression of nearly any thought, any idea or any action increasingly cannot bear to hear the witness of Christ’s Church in the public square. Increased violence from Islamic radicals has led to martyrdom for growing numbers who confessed Christ and who refused to deny Him. 


When Dr. Martin Luther proclaimed seven marks for recognizing Christ’s church on earth, he included the holy cross as one of the seven signs.  By the holy cross he meant suffering and persecution and martyrdom for the sake of Christ.  The cross of suffering is present in our time.  It is also true that tribulation and distress and danger come in many ways not connected to the cross of Christ.  Again in 2014 – there has been - terrorism and violence and outbreaks of lawlessness and outbreaks of disease and typhoons and wildfires and mudslides and missing airlines and crashed airlines carrying hundreds and warfare and more.  Danger and destruction and death are all around.  


Yet, as St. Paul continues, he answers his bold questions with sweeping confidence.  In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  As one reviews “all these things” that Paul previously records in his epistle, a painful truth emerges.  The whole creation (is) groaning together… (Rom 8:22).  All creation together has come under bondage to suffering and decay due to man’s sin.  Nature is not supreme, no is it “cruel” or a “mother”.  It is God’s creation and responsive to His Word.  We cannot save the earth or the universe because it is under a curse imposed by God because of man.  We should conserve – we should treat it wisely, but like our mortal bodies, this old earth will come to an end.   That’s why, even amid the amazing beauty of God’s creation that remains, the earth quakes and the lightning strikes and the sea storms and the wind wreaks havoc.  That’s why disease threatens and forests burn and wastelands both freeze and burn up.  All creation is in solidarity with Adam in futility and bondage to decay.  Only God can save it. 


His wondrous intention and revealed will to do so is what fuels St. Paul’s unwavering, confident questions!  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Enemies still abound – St. Paul details many of them – and they are against us!  But with God on our side we need not fear their ultimate effect!  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?  All things - even a share in His Lordship over the universe!  The glory to be revealed to you is beyond telling (V. 28).  There is a fullness of glory to which you are moving for which the Holy Spirit prays in just the right way for you - “They kingdom come” (V. 26-28).  This is God’s doing – His choosing – His predestinating love – His justifying - His setting a beggar like you – a beggar like me - in His kingdom (V. 29) (Matt. 5:3).  The crucial truth for 2015 is this - God is for us!


It is from this concrete foundation of God’s gracious doing that Paul’s high defiant questions flow!  God is not neutral or undecided about you!  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  The case is closed!  Who dares dispute the verdict of the Divine judge?  For He is also the suffering Deliverer and now the risen conqueror and  intercessor!  What beautiful defiant questions!  What confidence in the Grace of God in Christ Jesus!  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.  That’s why in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  In Christ – you are returned to a higher height than that from which Adam fell!  You are a super-conqueror in Christ!  Jesus will not come “condemning” you but “interceding” for you – pleading for you on behalf of His own blood (V. 34) (Heb. 9:11-14).  He justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).  Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  The strongest power in the universe holds you in His hands and He will not let you go!  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  St. Paul then enumerates a fierce row of super- separators – starting with death!


For I am sure that neither death nor life…Why start at the end with that terrible separator of loved ones?  Because death is the last enemy – the final enemy – and the crucified and risen Christ has defeated it!  God is for us to such extent that He took on flesh and blood to taste death in our stead – standing under our load of sin.  It was the Lord’s will to crush Him for our iniquities (Is. 53:5, 10)!  Now, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved (who agaped) us.  The New Year – 2015 - will not be won through any resolutions or dreams of your own making – but through Christ.  You stay awake by abiding in His care!  It is not your hold on Him but His hold on you by which the dreaded separator of death is defeated. 


With death taken care of – look what follows after.  For I am sure that neither death nor life (with all of its dangers and pressures and threats), nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against the cosmic powers of this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places – Eph. 6:12) nor height nor depth, The height of the universe seems to dwarf us into insignificance yet God threw the stars and universe into space and He is for us!  The depths of earth’s oceans and mines and dark superstitions cannot separate us from Christ.  It is Jesus who descended into the pit of outer darkness to announce His victory over the evil one for and He is for us!  In fact not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


When hope dims - when the world crumbles – when life is in shambles – even under the shadow of death - God is for us!  This is a beautiful three-word summary of redemptive history - God is for us!  That’s why you are to hope for what you do not see – even the redemption of your body!  God is for us!  In 2015 you are safe in the love God because there is no protection greater than Christ’s intercession for you.  You stay awake by trusting the cleansing power of His blood for you.  God’s steadfast love in Christ makes your future one great certainty! 


Since creation was made for man - where man leads – creation will also follow!  All creation now groans in bondage - waiting for rest – waiting to be set free!  The other side of the coin is the wondrous truth that the entire creation also shares in the hope and freedom radiating from the Son of God.  The “new creation” in Christ includes a new heaven and a new earth (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21 & 22; Rom. 8:18-25).  The future is filled with something much better and all creation waits for it!  With creation you are right in groaning for it – longing for it!  This New Year will also turn old – but the “new creation” that God bestows in His Son will not grow old or pass away.  You stay awake by receiving the renewing gifts he bestows. 


Beloved God is not neutral or undecided about you!  That’s why He put His name on you and baptized you into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:1-4).  God is for us!  That’s why the risen Christ offers heavenly food with these words – for you – for the forgiveness of your sins.  God is for us!  That’s why your prospects for 2015 are so very good!  God is for us!  


Your prospects for the New Year may be so good that this will be the year the master comes and knocks – to take you to His wedding feast.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.  In the name of Jesus – Amen!

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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