Christian Growth is a Divine Design - pt1

Steve Viars October 20, 2007 Romans 8:2-39

 

- many of you have seen some of these home design shows on television...

- and apparently there are several different variations but the basic idea is that they start with a house that could use some sort of a makeover...

- and then an interior designer or a landscape architect or some other professional comes in and suggests ideas – sometimes in competition with other designers...

- but in the end they transform a house in some ways that are pretty impressive...

- I don’t know much about this, but the variation that appeals to me the most is the one called “design on a dime”...As my family members will attest, I especially like the “dime part” of any makeover concept...

- but, not long ago I saw one called “Divine Design...”

- it was over at the community center one afternoon when I was working out on one of the ellipticals...and I don’t want to get a male/female thing going on...but let’s just say the folks who were already there had Divine Design on the TV in front of the ellipticals and I didn’t think I should barge in and switch it to CNN or ESPN...

- so while I worked out, I also got to see an episode of Divine Design...

- the basic thrust was this...they went into a basement that was kind of like a typical, dark, dingy basement that wouldn’t be very useful for much...and completely transformed it into a beautiful, inviting space...

- they even worked it out where the covers on the furniture and some of the wall treatments were reversible so that the look of the entire area could be changed for different seasons of the year by simply rearranging a few of the elements...

- it was really impressive...to see what a group of people who have special skills can do to completely change how a room or a house looks or functions...

- I was reminded of the title of that program as I was studying the final passage in the series we’ve been doing on Reaching New Heights in Our Ability to Grow.

 - all fall we’ve been talking about change and growth...known formally as the doctrine of progressive sanctification...

- this is our ninth and final message on that topic...and it’s interesting and instructive that the apostle Paul ends this discussion by emphasizing how the various members of the godhead are involved in this process...so at the risk of getting in trouble with the TV folks, we’re going to call this...Christian Growth is a Divine Design.

 - with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Romans chapter 8?...page 124 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- if you’re visiting with us today, we’ve been working verse by verse through the most extended passage of Scripture in all the Bible on how to change and grow...

- this morning brings us to the end of chapter 8, which contain some of the greatest verses in the entire NT...

- and what we’re going to see this am, and what we’ve been seeing through this entire study, is that Christian growth is intensely spiritual in nature...

- what we’re doing here is not self-help...it’s not a program or a technique...

- its not “5 easy steps to...” or human effort alone...

- it’s intensely spiritual...it really is a “divine design”...

- now, when we say that...we also then believe that it is a superior design...

- We would never want to be irreverent about something this important, but it almost like these billboards that say, “Got Milk?”...we could put one up that says “Got God?”...

- in other words, trying to change apart from Him, and His Word, and His power and His direction would in our minds be disastrous...

- so how we’re approaching the subject of change as believers, at least in our way of thinking, isn’t a lame alternative to the more sophisticated approaches of our world...

- we’re not scratching and clawing and trying to maintain our market-share in the increasingly competitive arena of ideas about how to change...

- if there really is such a thing as “God’s way of changing and growing”...that’s what we want to hear about...that’s what we want to understand...and that’s what we want to do...

- we’re going to read Romans 8:26-39...and as we do, please be looking for 3 ways God stands ready to help you change.

- read Romans 8:26-39

- I hope the title we’re using this morning, and the way we introduced all of this, makes more sense now...

- this passage really is all about the divine aspect of this process...what God’s stands ready to do to help us change...first of all, by providing...

I. Divine Assistance.

- the first 2 verses told us more about what the Holy Spirit is doing on our behalf...

- and isn’t it amazing...there’s something else you wouldn’t think about standing in line at McDonalds...

- now, let’s see if we can understand this more fully...

A. The context of the Spirit’s work.

- verse 26 begins with the words – in the same way

- that always should make us look back at what was previously discussed...

- and remember from last week, Paul was talking about suffering...

- and how even the creation groans in a sense awaiting its deliverance from the curse of sin...

- and Christians too [according to verse 23] groan within ourselves...there is a desire to be delivered from the suffering that comes from living in a sin-cursed world...

- and all of that requires patience and perseverance and a deep belief that suffering can produce a kind of glory in us [a kind of maturity and spiritual depth] that would not be achievable in any other way...

- and what Paul is saying in this verse is...that is also true for the Holy Spirit of God...in the same way the Spirit helps our weaknesses...

- now, please tell me from the middle of verse 26...how is that weakness sometimes manifested when we’re suffering?

B. The dilemma when we are suffering.

- verse 26 – for we do not know how to pray as we should

- have you ever been in that situation...where you would say, Lord, this is so confusing right now, I don’t even know how to pray...I don’t know what the solution would be, I don’t know what to ask for, I find all of this to be completely confusing...

- well, what does the Scripture says happens during times like that for people who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord?...

C. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

- that same word is translated as...

- Acts 25:24 – appealed (“...King Agrippa...about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me...”)

- Romans 11:2 – pleads (“...how he pleads with God...”

- Hebrews 7:25 – make intercession (since He always lives to make intercession for them).

- you might say – does that mean what I think it means?...absolutely...the HS prays for you...He brings your requests and your needs before the very throne of the Heavenly Father...

- by the way, other places in Scripture say that Christ carries out a similar ministry for you...

- here’s a fuller version of the verse we just mentioned --Hebrews 7:25 - Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

- that’s why the apostle John says that –I John 2:1 -  ...we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

- (someone who is interceding to the Father on our behalf...)

- here’s the picture---let’s say that this week you were going through a particular difficulty...perhaps you were suffering in some way and just having a hard time of it...

- but you said in your heart...I really do want to do what we’ve been studying on Sundays...I really do want to reach new heights in my ability to change...

- so perhaps in your heart you were really wrestling with what you were wanting at that moment...or thinking at that moment...

- you were wrestling with what you really should say or really should do [by the way, I hope every person here had some of those kind of experiences this week—that’s the only way we’re going to grow]...

- well, according to this text...you were not just going through that alone...and you weren’t the only one crying out to God on your behalf...

- the Holy Spirit of God was interceding for you...

- and if you say...well, is it just some sort of repetitive prayer, or some sort of superficial speech...

- actually, it’s the exact opposite...what does the end of verse 26 say?...

- verse 26 – with groanings too deep for words.

- you might say – what exactly does that mean?...I have no idea—if I did, it wouldn’t be “groanings too deep for words...”

- but you can bet, if the Holy Spirit is praying for you to the Father like that, it is a very good thing...

- and one other piece of this according to the end of verse 27...

- verse 27 – “...He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

- that might remind us of the book of James, which says sometimes believers make two mistakes regarding prayer...either we don’t do it, or we ask amiss...we ask for the wrong thing...

- the beauty of this concept is...not only is the HS praying for us, but He always gets it right...

- He is praying according to the will of God....

- what’s the overall point?...Christian growth truly is a divine design...this is an intensely spiritual matter...and as you try to grow in Him, you can be assured that the God of heaven and earth will bless your efforts to change and serve Him...

- many of you know that we have a counseling ministry here...and it is available to anybody in our community looking for help with any kind of problem they might be facing...

- recently I have had several different families come in where one or more of the members do not even have a personal relationship with Christ...

- that is often the case, but not normally in the concentration that I have the last few weeks...

- and praise the Lord, last week a husband and wife chose to pray and trust Christ...

- and then again on Monday, a teenage young man dud the same thing...

- and I don’t look at that and say...wow aren’t we something?...isn’t our counseling center something?...

- my response, and I think for all of us, our response would be...praise God that the change process truly is divine in nature...

- it’s not just a matter of my prayers being answered...it’s a matter of the Holy Spirit’s prayers being answered...

- why would you want to change using any other method?

- now, let’s push further in the text...the second heavenly provision for our change is that God has given us a...

II. Divine Goal.

- one of the huge issues everybody has to face is...change into what?...or change them into what?...

- in other words, what is your goal?...what is your standard?...

- I’ve mentioned the past several weeks that there are a few folks who aren’t really sure what to do with us because they are not sure a church can have an effective program for at-risk girls....

- and that is a fair concern...we are not above public scrutiny...

- but without being offensive, that door swings both ways...because any person or group who works in an environment where helping someone else change has an immediate philosophical challenge...what is the standard?...what is the goal?...what is the norm for human behavior?...change into what?...or change them into what?...

- we don’t believe we have the wisdom nor the authority to just make up the answer to that one...

- we want the response to that all-important issue to be...divine...

- thank God, he gives that to us...please think now about verses 28-29...Paul says...

A. God can work all things in your life for good.

- is that a fair reading of verse 28?...

- now please notice what he says, and what he doesn’t say...

- he doesn’t say that everything is good...because that is not true...

- God has made human beings with a will, and some of what they do, and some of what they do to others is anything but good...

- but the verse says...God can work that for good...in other words, He has a goal that is divine...that can even include the sinful actions of others for which they are fully responsible...

- now, let’s just think about that for a minute...do you really believe that God has a specific plan for you?...do you really believe He has a specific plan...a divine plan/goal...and that he is orchestrating the events of your life in such a way that you are best positioned to take steps toward accomplishing that goal?

- I received this e-mail after the service last week on suffering...and I am using it with the writer’s permission...

Dear Pastor Viars,

You don't know who I am, but I want to thank you. Exactly one year ago today I was sexually assaulted and went through a period of suffering after that.

I began to meet with a woman from Faith for counseling after a friend referred me to the biblical counseling ministry. I cannot begin to describe the blessing that Faith has been to me this past year.

The past few weeks I have been anxious and worried about October 14 coming and the uncertainty of my reactions towards the one year anniversary of the assault. The sermon you preached today was exactly what I needed to hear on the exact date I needed to hear it.

If I believed in coincidences that would be one, but I believe that God ordained that in His perfect plan. The sermon today gave me hope and encouragement and I spent the day reveling in God's goodness, instead of resorting back to sinful habits. Putting the purpose of suffering in perspective a year later was another opportunity for my continued growth. I more than cope with my suffering, I celebrate the goodness of God's pruning in my life and the sanctification process I daily experience.

Thank you again for your shepherding of FBC and the impact you have made on my spiritual growth.

- isn’t that just the “luck of the Irish”?

- or do you believe that God has a specific plan for that person including the exact content of the sermon on the exact day it was given?...

- and that is not to say that the assault was good...but that God can cause all things to work together for good...

- now, please notice this...there are conditions to this concept in the verse...

- so, what are the conditions?...

B. If you love Him.

- verse 28 – to those who love God

- the foundation of the divine design is a growing love for God...

- thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart...

- and the person who sent this e-mail shows that she loves God so much that she is willing to look for His purposes in the midst of great suffering...

- I have daughters...this note brought tears to me eyes...but to hear her say “I celebrate the goodness of God’s pruning in my life...” is an evidence of maturing love...

- what is the second condition in verse 28?...

C. If you make His goal, your goal.

- verse 28 – to those who are called according to His purpose

- what purpose? [keep reading...]

- verse 29 – to be conformed to the image of His Son

- the point is that a significant part of the provision that God has made for your growth is that He has given you a Divine Goal...that of becoming more and more like His Son...

- it’s not, how can I solve my marriage problems, but how can I become more like Christ in the midst of my marriage problems?...

- how can I pass this class?...[develop]...

- and humanly speaking...one of the reasons this church is what it is today is because there are a lot of people around here who have adopted that as their life goal...

- and when you tie these two points together – please always remember this...the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is not to glorify Himself, it is to glorify the Son...

John 16:12-14 - I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

- so the point is – one of the primary reasons the Holy Spirit would intercede for you with such passion is so you will take steps toward becoming more like God’s Son...

- now, there’s an obvious question that flows out of this...have you made God’s goal your goal?...

- have you adopted the right standard?...the right model?...

- and are you seeing clear specific steps in that direction?...

- and then there are all sorts of spin-off questions...if you are single, are you seeking a Christ-like mate?...

- if you are a parent, have you adopted the same your goal for your kids that God has adopted?  [getting cross-ways with Him is a decidedly bad idea...]

- so Christian growth really is a divine design...we have divine assistance, and a divine goal...lastly we have a...

III. Divine Commitment.

- Verses 31-39 make some statements that should give us incredible hope, and incredible confidence...

A. God is for us.

- don’t you love verse 31?

- verse 8:31 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

- and you know, that is true individually, but it is also true corporately...

- I hope you’ll plan to be with us for our stewardship banquet...[explain, not just for church members...]...one of the things we do at that event is celebrate all that God has done for us this year...and if there was ever a year to believe this point corporately, 2007 has been it...God has been for us, in the sense that He has blessed our efforts to try to serve Him...

B. Nothing can separate us from His love.

- verse 39 – [nothing] ...will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- the way this fits into the flow of the passage is that sometimes the very events that are the best opportunities for growth are difficulties...hard times...

- and instead of responding with something like...God must not love me because He allowed this to happen...choose instead to believe Scripture...a God who loves me has allowed this to happen, and He can give me the grace/strength necessary to handle it well...

- not as some sort of hopeless victim...but...

C. The result – overwhelming conquerors.

- verse 37 - But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

There is no condemnation because we share the righteousness of God and the Law cannot condemn us. There is no obligation because we have the Spirit of God who enables us to overcome the flesh and live for God. There is no frustration because we share the glory of God, the blessed hope of Christ’s return. There is no separation because we experience the love of God: “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Ro 8:31

Conclusion

1. Develop specific applications to today’s message

2. Develop specific applications to the series.

3. Mention next year’s strategic planning process, the importance of all of us growing God’s way so we’re best prepared to chart the next part of the journey.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video