May 10th, 2020

Creator, Judge, and Redeemer

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – May 10, 2020
Text: Romans 8:1-11
Title: “Creator, Judge, and Redeemer”
In the 8th chapter of Romans Paul is defining for us the activity and nature of God, and the believer’s response in daily living in the light of that reality. God is understood by Paul to be Creator, Judge, and Redeemer – and the real light that comes into the life of the believer is a Godly perspective on how we come to find out and live our identity as a child of God, as a disciple of Christ, and a Christian citizen of the world.

Remember the song “16 Tons”? It was written and recorded by Merle Travis in the late 1040’s. The version I’m most familiar with was recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, with the snap of his finger and the strong bass line. Merle Travis got the line of the chorus, “You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt” from a letter his brother wrote to him. And his father used to say, “I can’t afford to die, I owe my soul to the company store.” Travis’ family was a coal mining family from Kentucky during the time where the company paid the workers in scrip so there was no way to accumulate cash, and hence, those workers were forever trapped in a false economy created by the mining companies. Those miners were forever indebted.

Understanding God as Creator is a question of who you are indebted too. Who owns your soul? “If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit which dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors…………….” (Rms. 8:11). Do you ascribe all of your worth to God? Or do you hold back something to claim as your own? Do you find your life in God, or are you searching for life in the pleasures of the flesh? Do you believe the Gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, or is your gospel the latest fad or fashion on the TV talk show? Do you measure success by the yardstick of Faith, or is success reflected in the size of your bank account?

Who, or what, do you look toward that “creates” you? God or mammon? You cannot serve two masters.

A biographer writes of J. Paul Getty, the once-richest man in America, the following: “He changed his will 21 times using it as a weapon to punish what he saw as disloyalty. He drove one son to suicide and missed the funeral of another who died at the age of 12.” Here’s a quote from Getty’s diary from the week of that death: “Funeral for darling Timmy. A sad day. Send cable to Zone that Aminoil can have 50% of Enoncele by giving us 50% of Burgan and pay 10 cents per barrel handling…….” One of the saddest sentences of modern times. A man so wrapped up in himself he could not even attend the funeral of a 12-year-old son. Certainly, he did not know his Creator.

Second Paul understands God as Judge. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rms. 8:3-4). Thank God for His Judgement! That we might be subjected to it in HOPE. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope.” (Rms. 8:20).

I’m reminded of the boy whose team had just lost badly in a Little League baseball game. His father, trying to comfort him, said those often-used words “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” The tearful little ballplayer looked up to his dad, and asked, “Well, dad, how come we have a scoreboard?” That boy hit the nail on the head, didn’t he? If there is no meaning in life, then nothing counts. The judgement of God is not a negative thing – it’s a most positive thing. It is to say that our life does count, and that God is the standard. Even our failure in sin is meaningful. Just as our physical pain indicates that we are alive, so the pain of sin indicates that we are still capable of turning to God for forgiveness. Without the Judgement of God, not only does nothing count, nothing grows. A good gardener is a decision-maker, a judge – what to prune, what is a weed, what needs cultivation, when do you harvest? What God has planted cannot be cut off! From Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, the Prophets and the Apostles – all accomplished God’s will in spite of the world. It is as the power of the vine, a strength that cannot be denied, for from the stump of Jesse, there is a shoot! It is through God’s judgement that we are indeed the Victors! Sin is put to death and the Spirit makes us alive so now we become the children of God – sharing in the inheritance – eternal life. Thank God for His Judgement!

Paul stood firmly in the tradition of Job who proclaimed, “my redeemer liveth”. God as Redeemer sets free; gives life; renews strength – for IT IS HIS VERY NATURE TO DO SO! Creating us for redeemed living! “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry “Abba, Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him that in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rms. 8:15-17). We are redeemed for God’s chief purpose: That the glory of Christ might show forth in us, and in all of God’s creation. So that we see God’s goodness in everything that reflects the glory of Christ.

God is Creator, Judge, and Redeemer – so then how do we live as believers? The answer is found in Romans 8:28. “All things work together for good, to them that love God.” This is not a passive “whatever-will-be-will-be” attitude; it is not a resignation to fate; and it is certainly not the pervasive fatalism that attempts to take over the world. Rather, it is a dynamic resource of the Spirit. The distinctive of faith versus un-faith is not what happens as what one makes of what happens. All things work together for everyone – the difference is whether for good or ill. Identical circumstances can strengthen one and destroy another. It is not what happens to us, but what happens in us, that determines the good.

As far as I can tell, Jesus never advised us to “keep a stiff upper lip” nor to “grin and bear it”. But He did in many ways point out that the remedies for our ills often lie in our own attitude. He knew that joy does not spring from joylessness; that peace is not a product of guilt; and that health does not come from fear. The Living Bible paraphrases this oft quoted verse: “We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans.” So, the question is not: “Is all that happens for our good?” The question is this: “Are we loving God, and looking to see how our life fits into His purpose?” And so, by His Grace, living in the knowledge of God – our Creator, Judge, and Redeemer – we come to the knowledge of what God is doing.

“What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? ………….. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …………. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen