God Works For The Good - Part 2
Last week we looked at one of our favorite verses, Romans 8:28.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
What good news! Today we want to talk specifically about those good God-works. What is it exactly that God does for us? We discover this in the next two verses. We have A LOT to talk about. Here’s how we’re going to do it.
First, we’re going to affirm that it’s God Who does the work.
Second, we’re going to talk about the difficulty we have when talking about time.
Third, we’re going to talk about the challenge of being conformed to the image of God’s Son.
Finally we’re going to talk about the specific five (5) good works that God does in us, His children.
#1 - ___GOD___ is the One Who works.
“… in all things God works for the good…” v. 28
“God foreknew, He also predestined… He called, He also justified… He also glorified.” v. 29-30
We continue the theme from last week, that it is God Who is doing the work in our lives. We can never take credit for our salvation or our relationship with God in the family of God or the end result of what work we do in the Kingdom of God. It’s ALL GOD! God receives all the credit! God receives all the glory! Praise God! (We also must talk about…)
#2 - God accomplishes it all ___OUTSIDE OF TIME___.
“God foreknew, He also predestined… He called, He also justified… He also glorified.” v. 29-30
We struggle with two things here: one is our boundaries of time; and two is the limited logic of our minds.
First - we must acknowledge that each one of these good works of God in our lives as Christians are all in the past tense! That is good news! For the good work is done - as far as God is concerned. For if we accept #1 (God is the One Who works) as a given, then #2 - God’s accomplishments - are done! Finished! In the books!
With God, there is no past or future. God is eternally NOW! God is the Creator of time. And we as His creatures are creatures of time. We are inside time attempting to talk about something that is accomplished outside time by THE Someone outside time. It is a struggle for us to understand. But I believe we can grasp the basic idea…
Let’s begin with the end - “He also glorified.” What I’m about to ask is not a trick question. Just trying to help you grasp the idea. How many of you sitting here with me would honestly say that you are glorified? Your bodies are fully renewed? You only ever desire to serve the Lord perfectly? You never ever have the desire to sin? You only ever wish to do the Lord’s will? Anyone here fit that description? No?
Yet the Bible in this verse describes you and others who are in God’s family as already being glorified. How can this be? And if you are in any doubt whatsoever about the last (glorified), how can you have any confidence at all about the others (foreknown, predestined, called, and justified)? Yet, isn’t this exactly the point of Paul’s writing here - to give you confidence? (“And we know that in all things…) What gives?
We must come to grips with the fact that all these works are God-works. And God works outside of time. As far as God is concerned, all this is already done! For God is outside of time. We, however, are inside of time attempting to understand the God-works outside of time. It’s like a fish trying to grasp what it would mean to live outside of water. It’s rather breath-taking when we try to think about it!
Which brings me to the second issue - the boundaries of our logic. Many of us struggle with these God-works - especially the predestination part - for not only the reason of time, but also what else it might mean? If God foreknows me, does it mean He does NOT foreknow others? If God predestined me, does it mean He does NOT predestine others… and so on. I don’t know that and neither do you and no matter what others say, neither does anyone else. Let’s stick to what we know. I am here standing in God’s love and God’s protection and God’s family because of God and only because of God!
Paul specifically addresses this issue in the next chapter (9) of Romans.
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!” Romans 9:14
Let’s stick to what we know and admit that there is much we do not know. Most of all, let’s never become arrogant in our salvation. If we are saved, it is only because God wishes it so. It is never because of me!
#3 - We are challenged by ___CONFORMITY___.
“For those God… predestined conformed to the image of His Son…” Romans 8:29
I find we in the Christian theological debate circles OFTEN get this wrong. For we talk about “predestination” as it pertains to our salvation. But here - in the most direct discussion in the Bible about God’s choice, about God’s predetermination - the issue is about conformity to the image of Jesus! We could say it this way: God has predestined us to look like Jesus! What does this mean?
I remember the famous 1940 portrait painting of Jesus by American artist, Warner Sallman. I didn’t know a Christian family in the late 50s who didn’t have a reprint of Jesus’ head by Sallman hanging in their home. (We still have a reprint by the church office downstairs.) I used to stare at that painting for hours and wonder how in the world I was ever going to fit “the image of Christ?” I don’t have the olive skin or the beard or the flowing, shoulder-length locks of hair. Also - there was always a glow around Jesus’ face that never glowed around my face.
What do you think it means to be “conformed to the image of His Son?” I believe we are talking here about the one single characteristic of Jesus’ image that most impressed His Heavenly Father - Jesus always wanted what God the Father wanted. Jesus always lived His life with a “not my will, but Yours be done” attitude. I think THIS is the image God wants for you and for me. This is how we are predestined to be conformed! Again, let’s squarely face the truth that none of us have perfectly arrived yet in this category either, but this is the good work we should be doing to cooperate with the good work that God has also promised to do!
So what are the five good works that God is doing in each of us?
God’s Good Work #1 - God ___FOREKNOWS___ me.
“For those God foreknew…”
Rejoice in the fact that you are not a surprise to God, even if you were a surprise to your parents. God has known you long before you knew you!
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”
More than just your flesh and bones, but your very inner being, your personality, that unique YOU that makes you YOU, has been known by God Your Creator! He not only FOREKNOWS who you are but also WHOSE you are… everything that follows in Romans 8!
God’s Good Work #2 - God ___CHOSE___ me.
“For those God foreknew, He also predestined…”
Isn’t this what it means to be predestined? That God chose me before I chose God? Again, we struggle within the limitations of time. To you and me, it certainly seems like we chose God.
I know in my case I can quite clearly remember when I was nine years old going forward to the altar and praying the sinner’s prayer. It sure felt to me like that was my decision, my choice, my volition.
Here is the point - God chose me first. God not only foreknew me… He predestined me. And remember - he predestined me to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus. So I’ve had a lifetime of work to come to the place (and I still don’t do it perfectly) where I say, “not my will but Yours be done, Father!”
God’s Good Work #3 - God ___CALLS___ me.
“And those [God] predestined, He also called…”
God’s calling is intricately linked to God’s predestination of us. He didn’t just call us to be saved! He called us to His work! He restores us to be capable of doing the special work for which humanity was first created. And each one of us have a very special work to do!
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Do you begin to see how all this fits together? God foreknows you because He created you. You are His masterpiece! You are His workmanship! God don’t make no junk! He made you for a reason!
You are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus, Who also sought out God’s will above His own! God has a will for you too - a calling! God has planned out the good things you are to do! So… get ‘er done!
God’s Good Work #4 - God ___RIGHTS___ me.
“Those [God] called, He also justified…”
What does it mean to “justify?” It means to make righteous. God declares us - sinners through and through - as “not guilty” before God and therefore to be treated as holy - special, set apart for God’s work.
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known… this righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22
It would be impossible for us to do the holy work of God if we ourselves were not holy and set apart. And yet not a one of us can make ourselves holy and set apart. So God does this for us. It is His declaration alone that makes us this way and His own sense of righteousness could not be satisfied without Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf. In every sense, God makes this possible. With that said, it should be the desire of all of God’s children to want to please Him by our words & actions.
God’s Good Work #5 - God ___GLORIFIES___ me.
“Those [God] justified, He also glorified.”
This is the end game - the already done part as far as God is concerned - but the not quite yet part as far as we are concerned. This should give us confidence that God is still working in each one of us. He’s not done with us yet!
“Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
This is our future! This is our direction! God has a plan for us and God has the ability to carry out that plan for us. This is God’s good working in you and in your brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Conclusion: So how should you respond this morning to this good news about God’s good work in you?
Response #1 - Be patient with yourself. We all fail in our attempts to live rightly before God. Remember that God WILL do this! As far as He is concerned, the work is done!
Response #2 - Be patient with others. The same as #1 goes for everyone else you know too! Yet somehow it’s always easier to go easy on ourselves.
Response #3 - Be thankful. Worship God well! The heart of worship is developed through a keen understanding of God’s good work in us. Because it is God Who does the work, it is God Who deserves our praise, worship and thanksgiving. Let’s worship Him well!