A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on August 21, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether The Christian Faith One Word at a Time: Predestined Romans 8:28-30Children, do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Some children already kind of know. They just love playing church or school or taking care of their toy animals. Most children, though, aren’t so sure. What they want to be is something they have to pray about as they get older and see how God leads them. Hopefully they figure it out before they start college. Adults, did you ever figure out what you wanted to be? Maybe whatever pays the bills. But wouldn’t it be nice if God appeared in a burning bush or spoke to us in a dream and said, “I want you to do this.” Actually what we do isn’t nearly as important as how we do it. In every stage of life and in whatever career we choose, God wants us to be like Jesus.For example Jesus had compassion on people who were hurting, and He healed them. We can’t do that; but we can be there for them. We can help them in little ways and keep praying for them. Or, Jesus loved His parents and His brothers and sisters – though sometimes they didn’t make very easy. So also for us, showing love to our family is one the most important earthly jobs God gives. Jesus also was respectful and obedient toward His rulers. Remember how they treated Him at His trial? But that didn’t change how He treated them. In the same way, we may not agree with everything our rulers are doing, but God still wants us to pray for them and in every way possible help them to be better rulers. Maybe just one more example of what Jesus was like and how God wants us to be. Jesus never worried about money. Well, sure! He was God’s Son and He didn’t have a wife, three kids, and a mortgage; why should He have worried about money? But we are God’s children too, and He says to us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!” Being like Jesus is more than just coming to church once a week. It’s a 24-7 job, but it seems to be getting harder every day. We are following a sermon series called, The Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is Predestined. God has predestined us to be like Jesus in our daily life. Our text gives us two reasons why we can be. 1. All things work together for our good. 2. God is completing the faith and the love He has begun in us. We read in our text: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) This is comforting, until we ask ourselves, “Do I truly love God, so that things will work together for my good? In verses before our text Paul explains what it means to love God. It’s struggling against our sinful nature. It’s trusting in Jesus for forgiveness. It’s striving to do what’s right. Loving God is also holding to His Word and being certain of heaven and bringing all our needs to Him in prayer, until we get there. If all this together is love for God, do we love him? Maybe more than we realize. Or maybe we need to keep praying the hymn verse, Let me love you more and more, always better than before! When this is our sincere prayer, we will KNOW with Paul that all things are working together for our good. However, that word know in the original means to know something, not by experience, but by reading or hearing it. And so, at times we may look at a situation through the eyes of experience and think, “There’s no way anything good can come of this.” However, because God has predestined us to be like Jesus, we know as a fact that it will turn out for good, because it says so in the Word. But what good? For example how are this world’s economic problems helping us support our missionaries or our worker-training schools? We might say, “These problems are not helping us at all.” God says, “They will help – they will help us become more focused on the Word, and so they help us be more like Jesus. Or, how can an illness help us in taking our family and do all the things that need doing, if we’re too sick to do anything? We might say, “It can’t help.” God says, “It will help. If you love me, this will help you to grow.” What an encouragement this is that God is working in all things to help us want to be like Jesus, and to be like Him more and more. And now this is just kind of an aside. Whenever there is evil, or when bad things happen to a believer, God isn’t behind it. God surely tempts no one, and He only gives good things. Evil happens because of sin in the world and because of our own sins too. However, once evil happens, God works with it for our good. Our text explains how we can be sure of this, and that He will in fact complete the faith and love He has begun in us. We read: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30) Here’s a picture of a ship in a storm. Is this ship in danger? Yes, it’s in danger of smashing into the rocks. But what could keep this ship safe? A solid anchor attached to the ship with a very strong chain. God is our anchor, and here is His very strong chain. Link one is He foreknew us. Link two is He predestined us. Link three is He called us. Link four is He justified us. Link five is He glorified us. Each of these links is equally strong, but now let’s take a closer look at them. Before creation, God already knew us. This includes even the embarrassing things we wouldn’t want to tell anyone. But rather than being turned off to us, He planned what He would do about all those sins and failures He saw in us. He would send His Son! He also planned how He would wrap His arms around us and pick us up again, each time we mess up. The second link is He predestined us. That means He choose us to be heirs of heaven with His Son. However, the basis of God choosing us wasn’t future goodness that He saw in us, because sin stains even our goodness. Rather, the basis of God choosing us was the merits of Christ. What this means for us is if we want to be sure that we are the elect, that we are predestined for eternal life, don’t sit there and count up your good deeds. Count up Jesus’ good deeds!The next link in God’s chain is He called us. God called us to faith through our baptism and through the Word. This is a comfort for us, because God finishes what He started. On the other hand, never think of His calling us for Jesus’ sake as a license to sin. That wasn’t His purpose in bringing us to faith. His purpose, again, was that we be like Jesus.The next link in God’s chain is He justified us. That word means acquit and declare that we are not subject to any punishment. Through the faith He gave us, God personally acquitted us. He announced this in the liturgy when we confessed our sins, and He will say it again in the Lord’s Supper. As we receive His true body and blood which are present with the bread and the wine, He will say to us, “Give and shed for you!” How we need this announcement! None of us are without sin. And so, from time to time the devil will take our record and throw it in our face, and maybe try to get us to believe that God isn’t working in everything for our good. However, because God has personally justified us, we don’t have to listen to any doubts or fears. God wants us to listen to His sure Word. The last link in God’s strong chain is He has glorified us. Now, we might expect a future tense here – He will glorify us in heaven. However, Paul used the past tense, He has glorified us, because God can see the future as clearly as He can see the past. And so in the mind of God, our being glorified in heaven is already a done deal. But more than that because God can see the long view of everything, He is able to steer our lives around whatever obstacles that might harm our faith, and as said before, He knows how to make everything work together for the purpose of making us to be like Jesus. At the start I asked the children if they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. It can really be an advantage to know early what we want to be, because than we can work harder at learning the things we’ll need to learn. We’ll also have more motivation to avoid those that hinder us from reaching our goal. May our chief goal in life be to be like Jesus in everything we say and do! This isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for the first Christian living under Rome, and we can’t expect it to get any easier for us either. Yet this is God’s eternal purpose for us. May He work in all things to bring our wills into line with His will! And may we not be discouraged by anything, but trust that God is working in all things to help us to be more like Jesus! And finally, for all the times we have not fully trusted Him, may He forgive us for Jesus’ sake! And He will, His strong chain proves that He will complete the faith and love He has started, until we are like Jesus in heaven. Amen.

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