Sunday 17th of April 2022.
Sermon Notes: Easter a Time of Introspection.
By Robin Spengler
Paul in writing to the church in Rome and then Ephesus states that we are saved by grace and justified through faith in the work and person of Christ.
Read Romans 3:21-28 (ESV) – 21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. 26It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
This is the Easter Message and the heart of the Gospel.
Without genuine faith in Christ we are doomed. But with Christ I have eternal life and the promises of God. However, today I would like to look at Easter from a slightly different perspective. Let’s call it a bit of introspection.
Our scripture reading is Romans 8 and verse 28.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) – 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
This scripture should be read in the broader context of Romans 8. It is part of a larger argument and in particular verses 29-30, which we will look at later.
There are however several qualifying statements in this passage:
– It applies to those who love God.
– That all things includes both good and bad things, work together for good.
– That bad things remain bad, but all things work together for good.
– That it applies to those who love God.
– It applies to those who are called by God.
– That this calling is to fulfil the purpose of God.
Today we will look at just three elements of this statement.
1) Those who love God.
2) The call of God.
3) The purpose of God’s calling.
With this in mind let’s look at the first point.
1) Those who love God.
James (James 2:19) writes that even the demons believe and shudder.
So, to believe is not what Paul is saying. Paul specifically uses the word love, not believe. So what is it to love God?
I would like to start with what it is not.
It is not an intellectual acceptance of the truth about God.
It is not simply being religious.
It is not a matter of sentiment or feeling.
It is not an emotional experience.
So what then is it to love God?
John, I believe, hits the nail on the head with this statement. (1 John 4:19 (ESV) – We love because he first loved us.). No man in his sinful state can love God in a saving way.
This word love, translated from the Greek word agape, is a love that God gives us.
It is a gift of the Spirit.
We may try to love God in our own strength, but this is doomed to failure. The only way to receive this love is through genuine faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s how God has planned it! So let’s do some introspection.
The 10 – point test of agape love.
How do I react in adversity?
Do I trust God in all situations?
Do I believe that Jesus is Lord over the whole of creation?
Do I grumble and complain when things go wrong?
Do I experience the hand of God in my circumstances?
Am I able to praise God in all circumstances?
Do I see the hand of God in creation, in others, in the world around me?
Do I make every effort to live in a way that pleases God?
Do I make every effort to keep from deliberate sin?
If I sin unintentionally, do I show genuine remorse and ask forgiveness?
Remember, no one is perfect, but if you are a Christian you are progressing towards genuine love.
To me a beautiful example of agape love is given by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.
When being forced to deny Christ, it is recorded of him saying; “86 years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
Can you identify with this?
2) The call of God.
The call of God can be divided into two parts.
1) The general (Gospel) call of God.
2) The effectual call of God.
The general call of God refers to all who hear the Gospel Call. But not everyone who hears the Gospel responds to the message. Some hear but continue with their life, maybe with some knowledge of the Gospel, but there is no change in them. They have not found Jesus.
The effectual Call of God refers to those who hear the Gospel and respond to it, they have found Jesus.
Let’s do some more introspection.
The 12-point test of effectual calling.
Can you say, I am what I am because of what God has done?
Are you interested in the things of God?
Do you see Church as part of God’s plan and that you are a functioning part of it?
Are you amazed by the love you have for Jesus?
Are you amazed at the way you have changed?
Do you have an inner conviction that you know God?
Do you have a desire to know what the bible teaches?
Do you want to be with other Christians?
Do you have a different outlook on life?
Are you convicted by your previous sinful lifestyle?
Do you have a desire to change your ways?
Can you look back and say, “All that has happened to me is good because I see God’s plan in it”?
If you can say yes to most of these questions, then you have found Jesus.
3) The purpose of God’s calling.
Dear friends Easter is not without a purpose. So what is the purpose of God’s calling?
We have already looked at Romans 8:28. However, this verse can’t be read in isolation. It is part of a much broader statement.
Read Romans 8:28-30 (ESV) – 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 29For 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. 30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom he called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.
There is so much here that it could take weeks to uncover.
But what it does show us is that God has an ultimate purpose for those whom he has called. Romans 8:28 is not simply a random statement. It is part of God’s masterplan.
Note! It is God who is doing the work.
Read Romans 8:29b (ESV) – …be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
It may be said that the purpose of God’s calling is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. This begins with the calling of God and continues until we are finally glorified. God has chosen a people, to be His people in a new creation, which will be perfect in every respect.
This great plan of God is summed up in the theological Covenant of Redemption.
“The covenant of redemption is the agreement made between the members of the Trinity (before the beginning of time) in order to bring us salvation. The Father plans redemption and sends the Son in order to save His people. The Son agrees to be sent and to do the work necessary to save the elect …” -R. c. sproul.
Note this was God’s Plan, before the beginning of time!
Easter, dear friends didn’t just happen, it was always part of God’s great plan of redemption!
I close with this reminder. Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Have you received this Easter gift of God?