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Lent 1, “An Inseparable Love”

Pastor Gary Wong, February 21, 2021

Romans 8:31-39

31 What then will we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him? 33 Who will bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies! 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus,[a] who died and, more than that, was raised to life, is the one who is at God’s right hand and who is also interceding for us! 35 What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 Just as it is written: For your sake we are being put to death all day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor powerful forces, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Does anything scare you? Snakes give me the willies. When I was young, I used to be afraid of the dark. Some children suffer from what psychologists call separation anxiety disorder, a fear of being separated from their parents or a primary care giver. That kind of fear is understandable. After all, there’s a special bond between a child and his parents. Every child is born with basic needs. Babies get hungry. Their diapers get wet. Because he can’t meet his own needs, he has to have someone help him. How does he make his needs known? He cries! A parent responds to that cry by feeding him or changing his diaper. Every time his need is fulfilled, the child learns to trust that his parent is there for him. This cycle of having a need that is then met by a caregiver happens thousands of times in the first few years of his life. The result is that a strong bond is formed between child and parent. The child knows that he can trust his parents to protect him and provide for his needs.

So, what might happen when a young child is separated from his parents? It depends. If mom leaves her toddler to play in his bedroom while she works in the kitchen, it’s not a big deal. But what if we’re talking about a child’s first day at preschool or Kindergarten? No matter how much a parent might tell him how much fun he’s going to have, there still is some anxiety. There are a ton of unfamiliar faces. Thoughts of stranger danger might flash in his head. Is he going to find a new buddy or be tormented by a bully? Even though the teacher is friendly and smiles at him, she’s not Mom. When I was in that situation some sixty years ago, I didn’t want to let go of my mom’s hand. I was suffering from a bad case of separation anxiety.

In the beginning, there was no such thing as separation anxiety disorder. There was a perfect bond between God and his first children. Adam and Eve knew exactly what their Father’s will was and they willingly and perfectly carried out God’s will. All of that changed when they disobeyed God. Cast out of the garden, their lives would now be full of toil, tears, sweat and struggle. But the worst consequence of their disobedience was that they had wrecked their once perfect relationship with their Creator. Adam and Eve were now God’s enemies. Because we have inherited a sinful nature from our first parents, we were also objects of God’s wrath. The prophet Isaiah says to each of us: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isa. 59:2).

To some people, the idea of being separated from God isn’t all that scary. You and I know better, don’t we? Yet, we don’t always treat this separation as the devastating disaster that it is. Some Christians look upon that separation as though they’re having a disagreement with a coworker or friend. Harsh words are spoken. Backs are turned and doors slammed. Each party simmers and sulks in his own space while a wall of anger separates the two combatants. If they should run into each other, icy stares are exchanged and cold shoulders are given. Yet, with time, their anger subsides and they might even forget the reason they were having a disagreement in the first place.

Eventually, we move on. We might decide to patch things up or choose to make the separation permanent. It’s up to us. That’s not the case when it comes to God. Sin puts us on one side of a bottomless canyon with God on the other side. What’s more, there is nothing we can do to bridge the gap. Sin causes us to be completely cut off from God. The separation that the Bible talks about doesn’t mean that God is going to take a temporary leave of absence and then come back after a while. It doesn’t mean that God is going to forget about our sin and give us a get-out of jail for free card after he’s had a chance to cool off. God hates and punishes sin. Because we are sinners, we deserve to suffer in hell where we would be separated from God forever.

Since we can’t fix this situation, who can? God! God doesn’t want us to be separated from him. He wants us to be reconciled to him and live in harmony with him for eternity. God’s solution called for Jesus to be our Savior. Even though Jesus is equal to the Father in every way, Jesus humbled himself by becoming a human being. Jesus was perfectly obedient to his Father’s will and became obedient to death on a cross. Because of his love for us, Jesus was willing to be forsaken by his own Father. God abandoned his own Son on the cross. When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), Jesus was literally going through hell.

Friends, you and I will never be able to fully understand the suffering Jesus endured in our place. Thankfully, we will never have to feel the full force of God’s anger. We will never know what it is like to be separated from God’s love. Before the creation of the world, God had already planned how he was going to reconcile mankind to himself. At our baptisms, God carried out his plan for each of us in time. He washed away our sins and has made us his dear children. Through his perfect life and innocent death, Jesus has completely and permanently broken down the wall of sin that had separated us from God. Because of Jesus, we have been united with our heavenly Father and have peace with him. Through faith in Jesus, we have been given a brand-new life in Christ and a guarantee of a glorious future in heaven.

So, how is your life going? Are your days trouble-free? Are you completely at peace with God and your fellow human beings? I could say that I never have any worries or fears. But then I would be lying to you and to God. None of us has or should expect a perfect life. Paul says that “we must go through many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). At times, we might feel overwhelmed with trouble. Maybe we’re having financial problems. For some, it seems they often run out of money before they run out of month. There might be strained or broken relationships between coworkers, family members, or friends. Maybe the problem is a lack of any meaningful relationships. Perhaps a loved one is suffering from a serious, possibly deadly disease. In the chapter that precedes our lesson, Paul talks about his struggles with sin. The apostle laments, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18, 19).

Does that lament sound familiar? All of us struggle with sin. Our lives are a constant battle against the devil, the world, and our sinful natures. Satan has made it his life’s work to tempt us to sin, and after we have fallen for those temptations, to be our chief Accuser. He says, “You say that you’re a Christian and love God, but then you break God’s law—not just one time, but all of the Commandments all of the time. You’re nothing but a big hypocrite!” In the midst of our troubles and guilt over our sins, our faith can waver. We are tempted to doubt God’s Word and believe the devil’s lies. The devil wants us to say to ourselves, “My sin is too great. I’ve sinned too many times. God won’t forgive me. God doesn’t love me.”

This is where our lesson gives us such comfort and encouragement. Paul gives a definitive answer that dispels our doubts and fears. Paul asks and then answers four questions that leave absolutely no doubt that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. The first question is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31). The answer, of course, is no one. There is no one more powerful than our Almighty God who protects us and provides for all of our needs. The proof that Paul offers up of God’s all - encompassing love is the fact that God “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (v.32). The second question is, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” This question is directed toward Satan who points to our sins. Paul points out the futility of Satan’s efforts by reminding us, “It is God who justifies” (v.33). Because of Jesus, God has declared us, “Not guilty!” The third question is related to the second: “Who is he that condemns?” (v.34). At the beginning of this chapter, Paul reminds us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). Jesus, whom God has appointed to judge the world, is sitting at the right hand of his Father, interceding for us. With Jesus pleading our case, there is nothing to fear.

The final question is, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v.35). At this point, the answer should be obvious. Because of Jesus, the answer is nothing and no one. Paul comforts and encourages us with these words: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:37-39). Rather than being overcome by our problems, Paul assures us that it is we who will overcome and be the conquerors. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh are no match for the love of Christ. God’s love conquers all.

Friends, sin once separated us from God. Faith in Christ unites us with God in an unbreakable bond of love. So even though we may suffer all kinds of problems and troubles on our earthly journey to heaven, we don’t have to be discouraged or lose hope. The cross and empty tomb assure us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, let us praise the Lord with our lips and our lives for his inseparable love. Amen.

“I Walk In Danger All the Way” (CW 431 vv. 1,5,6)

Text: Hans A. Bronson, 1694 – 1764; tr. Ditlef G. Ristad, 1863 – 1938, alt.

I walk in danger all the way;

The thought shall never leave me

That Satan, who has marked his prey,

Is plotting to deceive me.

This foe with hidden snares

May seize me unawares

If e’er I fail to watch and pray;

I walk in danger all the way.

I walk with Jesus all the way;

His guidance never fails me.

He takes my ev’ry fear away

When Satan’s pow’r assails me,

And, by his footsteps led,

My path I safely tread.

In spite of ills that threaten may,

I walk with Jesus all the way.

My walk is heav’nward all the way;

Await, my soul the morrow,

When you farewell can gladly say

To all your sin and sorrow.

All worldly pomp, begone!

To heav’n I now press on.

For all the world I would not stay;

My walk is heav’nward all the way.

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