It’s really funny. As you come out of Christmas and the New Year’s celebrations, you start seeing meme’s on Facebook and Instagram that say things like, ‘327 days until Christmas’ and stuff like that. Some people really love that time of year, starting with Thanksgiving, then decorating for Christmas, and then ringing in the New Year, and all that. They look forward to that season all year long, waiting and dreaming.
But, they say, ‘the waiting is the hardest part.’
You know what it’s like to wait. Sometimes anticipation kills the excitement of the thing you’re waiting for.
It’s barely January, but some of you are waiting in anticipation for tax time—some because you know you will get a return and others because you know you will have to pay. But, you are waiting and the waiting is hard.
In our text today, the Apostle Paul tells us that the creation itself is waiting in anticipation. He uses the creation as an illustration for the waiting that we do as people.
Romans 8:19 (ESV) — The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
The planet itself, the universe as a whole, all that was created waits in anticipation. And the waiting is the hardest part.
What is the creation waiting for?
Well, Paul says, it is waiting for the sons of God. And Paul’s gotten a little ahead of himself, because in verse 21, he explains why the sons of God are so important to the creation. Paul writes,
Romans 8:21 (ESV) — The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
The creation longs for us—God’s Children—to receive freedom from sin and shame and God’s wrath, because when we receive freedom, then the creation itself receives freedom. The entire creation suffers from the sins of humanity, but the creation also awaits healing as humanity experiences redemption.
Now, the way that most of us have been taught, this is pretty simple. You might think that the revealing of the sons of God in this passage is something that happens in the end when Jesus returns. Like it’s judgment day language. The idea is that Jesus will return for His people, the children of God, and take them to heaven, and ultimately to a new earth. In other words, when we get new, perfect, and eternal bodies, the whole creation gets made new and perfect also.
And where that is true—it is what the Bible teaches—it’s not quite what Paul means in this text. Let’s look back at verse 19. Paul says that the creation is waiting for children of God to be revealed. If he meant eternal perfection, he would have said that the creation longs for the children of God to be glorified or perfected, but he doesn’t. He specifically says revealed.
So, when are the sons of God revealed?
Well, every time someone makes a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, a son of God is revealed. Sons of God—and that includes daughters of God—are being revealed all the time, more and more, all over the earth.
Why does that matter for the creation, though?
Well, the creation longs for more people to know Jesus because that means more people will be living under the righteousness of God.
This goes back to the very beginning in the story of Adam and Eve—as so many things do. Adam and Eve were commanded to work the land and help it to produce fruit. They were given the charge to be stewards over the earth.
But, sin—the breaking of God’s commands—works against the effort to build something beautiful in the world and works in opposition to it.
Sometimes this is referred to as ecological stewardship. The idea is that under the righteousness of God we should want to preserve the planet and the entire creation. As Christians, we should want to undo the destruction to the planet that sin has brought into this world—to make good what God made good in the beginning.
So, the creation is waiting for us, God’s people, to spread the message of Jesus Christ to more and more people so that we can see all things begin to be made right. Corruption reigned upon the creation until Jesus died for the revealing of the sons of God and now we work for the restoration of all things.
The creation waits to be redeemed, and the waiting is the hardest part.
The creation is an illustration Paul uses to make a larger point in the text. He starts the next section with this very important word. He says, ‘likewise.’ In other words, just like the creation longs for us to help fix it’s weaknesses…
Romans 8:26a (ESV) — Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Just like the planet is waiting to be renewed, we too, those who are called children of God, are waiting to be renewed. God has revealed that we are children of God, but you all know we aren’t perfected yet. We are still waiting with expectation and the Spirit of God, Paul says, helps us in our waiting.
In fact, that is the good news for life today, that because of Jesus, God helps us in our waiting. God helps us in the trials of life. God helps us when we are hurt and he helps us to love others when they are hurt. Even though we are not yet perfected, God is for us, He is with us, and He helps us.
So, we’re going to look at three elements of God’s help from the rest of the passage and explore God’s hope through each of these. The first is that we receive help through…
I want to mention three truths about God’s Spirit that give us hope. The first is that…
God’s Spirit Intercedes for Us
Romans 8:26a (ESV) — Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…
To intercede means to stand in-between. You might have seen it in person, but you’ve definitely seen it in movies and tv shows. The big bully at school goes to a smaller kid and demands that he give him his lunch money, but then a hero shows up and stands between them, willing to take the blows of the bully to protect the little guy.
Well, the Holy Spirit is as much the Spirit of Jesus Christ as He is the Spirit of the Father. So, the picture is that Jesus, by His Spirit, stands between you and the Father, pleading on your behalf.
We receive help in life because we know that Jesus is actively working to reconcile us to God, interceding for us before the Father.
Jesus intercedes for us through His Spirit.
The second thing Paul teaches about the Spirit is that God’s Spirit…
Romans 8:26b–27 (ESV) — We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit…
You might struggle to pray because you aren’t sure exactly how. I think this passage helps us with that. Paul says we don’t know what to pray for as we ought to. I’d encourage you to pray using whatever language you usually speak in. Tell God what is on your mind and in your heart. Prayer is a conversation with God and there really aren’t any magic words.
The reality is that the Spirit of God within us, interprets our thoughts and our hearts to God so that even when we can’t get the right words out, it’s okay. God still hears the longings of our hearts.
The important thing is not so much how you pray, but that you pray.
The Spirit of God helps us in this way. He takes care of our shortcomings in prayer so that you can relax and just talk to God.
And then the third thing Paul teaches about the Spirit is that, the Spirit always…
The Spirit of God searches our hearts and interprets our thoughts and feelings as we pray so that God doesn’t hear our meaningless babbling, but He always hears exactly what is happening inside of us.
Paul says He does that…
Romans 8:27 (ESV) — because the Spirit intercedes for the saints [Christians] according to the will of God.
In other words, what the Spirit prays on your behalf is not your will, your desires, and your purposes, but always God’s will for you, God’s desires for you, and God’s purposes for you. He does this so that you don’t have to worry that when you pray you are asking God for something that is not within His will.
Maybe you’re praying for a new job because your supervisor is on your last nerve and you can’t handle them anymore. And you’re afraid that your prayer is selfish and a new job might be hard on your family, but you’re praying because you just want to get away from your supervisor. But, then one day after praying for some time, you go to work and find out your supervisor got a promotion to another part of the company and you have a new supervisor.
See, God’s plans are not our plans, but the Spirit of God makes our plans accord with God’s will in every way.
So, we have hope in life even now and we experience the power of God in our lives now, because the Spirit of God makes the righteousness and goodness of God practical in our lives, even now, through prayer.
There is good news for today, because when you pray, God hears your prayers and He works in your life, by His Spirit, when we pray.
So, the first way God helps us in life now is through His Spirit. The Spirit of God interprets our hearts and desires and brings them to God. A second source of good news for life now, we receive help in life through…
It seems strange to me that God would hear our prayers differently than we prayed. It seems weird that you might ask for one thing and He give you another. But, if I’m honest, God rarely answers my prayers the way I expect Him to.
That’s because the Spirit is taking the limitations of the flesh and our natural sinful influences out of our prayers. When we pray, we do so imperfectly, but the Spirit of God is perfecting our prayers so that they accord with God’s purposes. And God’s purposes should be our purposes.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Sometimes we pray for something and it doesn’t work out the way we wanted. And we think, ‘Did God hear my prayer?’ ‘Does God really care about what I want?’ or ‘Does God really care about what I need?’ ‘Is He even listening?’
But, we are assured that God has heard our prayers and He has answered them. He has answers them, not according to what you think you want or need in the given situation, but according to what is best for you in the grander scheme of life on this earth and for eternity.
For instance, God is less concerned about your personal comforts and more concerned about your eternal wellbeing and the character that is built into you in life now. The good news is that God won’t give you everything you want now and let you suffer for eternity.
It’s hard to believe, though, that God can know better than you do.
I’m a very decisive person. I always know what I want. I’m always watching circumstances and I make quick decisions to move in the direction I want to go. So, when something doesn’t go the way I planned, it can be hard for me to believe that God is doing what is best for me. ‘Cause I think I always know best!
But, it doesn’t really matter how wise I think I am in my decision making. It doesn’t matter how well I watch circumstances. None of that matters, because God is always wiser and always more watchful.
Verse 29 of our text explains why God knows better than we do. Paul writes,
Romans 8:29 (ESV) — For those whom he [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…
We’re only going to deal with the first part of the verse at the moment. When Paul says that God foreknew you, he means that God knew you before all things were even created.
This isn’t knowledge like when I ask, ‘Do you know Donald Trump?’ I doubt anyone here really knows Donald Trump, but you would say ‘yeah of course I know Donald Trump,’ because you know he is the president and you know some things about him.
Paul also doesn’t mean knowledge like an acquaintance. We have lots of people we ‘know,’ that we don’t really now well. We don’t have their trust, we don’t know their stories, we don’t have a deep knowledge of who they are as a person.
When it says that God foreknew people, it means an intimate knowledge. It means a knowledge like when we talk about your Oikos. Oikos is the Greek word for household used in the scriptures and it refers to your inner-circle, the dozen or so people that are closest to you in life, the people who you know intimately, the people who know you intimately. These are the people that you can’t lie to, because they know you.
Paul says that God knows you like that, but more so, he has known you like that since before all things were even created. The depth of your personality and character was in the mind of God before He spoke anything into being. That’s what it means that He foreknew you. He knows who you on an intimate level and He knows who you will be at the end of your life.
If we’re honest, that means God knows us better than we even know ourselves. So, if God knows you in that way, then God knows what will be best for you in a way you could never know.
So, when Paul says that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, he means that God is going to make all things turn out for your ultimate good even though you are incapable of determining that for yourself.
We’re talking about good news for life now and some of you may be thinking that there is no good news for you right now. All you have in your mind is good news for eternity. You don’t see God working in your life and you’re not sure how the circumstances of your life could possibly result in your good, but this verse gives us a confidence that God’s working in this world is for a reason, it’s intentional, and it’s working for your ultimate good. And that kind of understanding will allow you to persevere and even persevere joyfully. It’s good news. And I want to point out one other element of this verse. Paul says that those who love God are ‘called according to His purposes.’
When you become a Christian, it is not so that God will empower you to achieve your own purposes in life. Jesus saved you so that you can accomplish His purposes.
And that almost seems like a contradiction. Paul just said that God works everything for your good, but then says that you are called to God’s purposes not your own.
It’s not a contradiction, though, because God’s purposes for you will always be immeasurably better than any purpose you can muster up on your own. God’s ways will always be more fulfilling, more satisfying, and more righteous than any desire you could ever fulfill on your own.
That’s good news for life today, because we can be assured that even the parts of life that are painful and uncomfortable are for our ultimate good because even though they sometimes conflict with our purposes, we have been called to God’s purposes and God’s purposes are always good.
So, God helps us through His Spirit, He helps us through His Purposes, and there’s more good news, we also receive help through…
We’re just going to walk through these last two verses principle by principle.
Romans 8:29–30 (ESV) — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
We already talked about foreknowledge so we won’t talk much more about that. But, those who God has known as His own since before the creation, he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.
This language points back to the foundations of the world, when the Lord God made man in His image. Everything broken and hopeless in this world is because of the sin that marred God’s image on humanity.
But, now we have this promise, that although sin has caused us to no longer reflect the glory and righteousness of God, now, those who follow Jesus have a great promise that they will be conformed to the image, Paul says, of Jesus. We will be restored completely so that, once again, we will reflect the glory and righteousness of God in every way.
Those who God foreknew were predestined for glory and righteousness. That means that if you are in Christ today, God knew you and predestined you for eternal glory before He ever created the world.
And Paul says that those God predestined to image Jesus, once again, he also called and justified. In this verse Paul is referencing Jesus’s teaching.
John 6:44 (ESV) — No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him.
The idea is that, left to our own devices, a human being is utterly incapable of changing their ways and entering into the presence of God. It is only that the Father draws people to Himself that we are capable of knowing God.
Now the Lord is righteous and in His presence there is no imperfection. So, since God calls us to Himself, He also deals with our imperfections. The word we use here is justification, which means just-as-if-I-had-never-sinned. God has offered us forgiveness for our sins by the blood of Jesus so that we can be perfected and ultimately enter into His glory.
And that’s what Paul means at the end of the passage when He says that God glorified those whom He justified. God forgave us for our sins, which is justification. But, God will also make us no longer sinners. That’s glorification. God will ultimately make us perfect like Jesus when we enter into His eternal Kingdom so that we can spend eternity with Him.
So, that sounds like good news for eternity, but it’s also good news for life right now. I want to point you to the last section on the graphic on the slide and in your bulletin. Notice there is a gap between justified and glorified. You are counted righteous, just as if you had never sinned, when you commit to Jesus. But, you are not glorified until the end.
God is doing something in-between there with the rest of our lives. Paul says that in the gap you are being conformed to the image of Jesus. A Christian’s life is characterized by conformity to Jesus. We do not yet image God as we ought to, but every day we look more and more like Jesus. We are being conformed.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV) — And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
That’s the hope of today, the good news for today. It’s that we see God working to change us more and more to reflect Jesus as we look forward to future perfection. Even though we await glory, we get a taste of it, more and more every day.
And that’s where we started the message. Paul’s working out one big thought here. We get that we will one day be perfected, but the waiting is the hardest part.
Where’s the good news for life today?!
It’s not that we are perfected yet, but that…
Romans 8:26a (ESV) — The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Just like the planet is waiting to be renewed, we who are called children of God, are waiting to be renewed. We are still waiting with expectation, but God helps us in our waiting.
We have hope for now, because God does not leave us alone in our waiting.
If I were to distill the principles of this text down into one simple principle, it would be this.
God is working in and through you to accomplish His good and perfect purposes.
That’s good news for you today because it means that when you are weak and you fail or you make a bad decision or people around you make it hard for you to do what is good and right, God is still at work for your good. It’s not as much about what you need to be doing, but about what God is doing in and through your circumstances.
This passage promises us that God is accomplishing His good and perfect purposes in and through us who are called children of God even when our sin and our shortcomings make God hard to see.
That’s good news. It’s not that there is something you must do, but that there is something great that God has done.
So, at this time, I want to ask you to commit to a…
Take out your next step card and consider, in light of the truth you have heard today, what next step you need to take today.
Maybe you are consumed with worry and your next step needs to be to rest this week. You need to give something over to God and let him deal with it. You need to trust that He is going to accomplish His good and perfect purposes even though you are powerless to change the situation. If that’s where you are at, you can write rest for your next step.
Or maybe you just need to pray. Sometimes it’s hard to pray. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t listening. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who doesn’t pray because you don’t feel you have the right words for it. Well, there are no right words as we said, so start praying this week and the Spirit of God will perfect your prayers. If that’s where you’re at, write pray for your next step.
But, maybe you are here today and you have just learned that God is working for good for those who are his followers, his children, those who love God, and you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus. If that’s where you are at, we use the acronym ABC to show you what you need to do to become a follower of Jesus. It goes like this.
Admit that you are a sinner. That means that you admit that you have contributed the broken situation of the world at least in some small way. It means that you have done things that are wrong and you want to be forgiven for those things.
Then B, you believe that you have been offered forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. That means you believe that you are justified, made just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.
And finally C, you commit to follow Jesus. You recognize that His ways are better, his purposes are more meaningful and you commit to live your life as He leads you.
If you are ready to take that step today, write commit on your next step card or mark the box that says ‘commit to follow Jesus.’
And maybe the Spirit of God has revealed to you another step. I would encourage you to write that down and our staff and prayer teams will be praying for you this week in whatever steps you are ready to take, that the Lord would strengthen you and give you victory as you move forward this week.