God is Glorious (Romans 11:33-36)

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Today we begin a journey. On this journey we’d like to start with the end in mind. The Christian life starts and ends with Jesus. God was in the beginning (Gen 1:1), creating the world we live in and God begins our life at conception (Ps 139:13). He knows the number of our days (Ps 139:16; Job 14:5). And God initiates our faith relationship through the sending of Jesus – the Son (Heb 1:2) – and helping us to see Him clearly in the Scriptures, and in all of life. God is the beginning and the end (Rev 1:8). One day we will meet Him face to face. And when our faith becomes sight the end will become a new beginning of things to come, that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor the heart imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him (1Cor 2:9).

And so, I want to talk to you about God and the difference He makes in your life for how we should respond toward Him.
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EXAMINE     Romans 11:36 – 12:2                       God is glorious; we are not God.

In the book of Romans, the author – Paul, writes a very theological letter to an audience needing depth of understanding of God, the gospel, and how faith is to be lived.

Rome is not unlike today. Rome was the largest and capital city of the known world. Its Republic empire lasted some 500 years with somewhat rather political stability, a massive military force enabling the “Pax Romana” (Peace of Rome). Daily life in Rome could be luxurious for the wealthy. Food was imported in to feed the millions of people. City life was abundant with both virtue and vice. Roman virtue has continued influence even today in Latin and Greek language, culture, religion, inventions, architecture, philosophy, law and forms of government. Roman vice was prevalent with the worship with a plethora of gods with numerous theatres and temples, and other houses of immorality.

The Christian church was present in Rome and seemingly thriving despite persecution. In 64 A.D., a fire destroyed a significant portion of the city. The emperor Nero blamed the Christians as a scapegoat, but its rather certain the fire was caused by Nero in effort to construct a 200-acre monumental temple unto himself. Today, one can explore the Roman catacombs which testify to the Christian movement and martyrdom in the early centuries.

And the Apostle Paul writes the book of Romans to stab a sharp sword right in the heart of the culture.

Romans 1:1-5 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

 

NT Wright says if we don’t start Romans with the opening verses, and rush too quickly to verses about the gospel, then we are seeking to depoliticize Paul and the Christian faith.[1] Paul intentionally opened his letter to Rome to counter government politics that Caesar was Lord (kyrios) and the true good news (euangellion) was not the birth of a Caesar, but that Christ has come to fulfill prophecy, as a descendant of David, and has all power conquering even death through His resurrection. Further, Christ’s power isn’t subject to a single nation but extends to all the nations. Every reference of Paul was meant to be subversive/rogue toward the Roman powers of the day.

Therefore, as Christians we must remember that when we come to faith by submitting to Christ’s Lordship and seeking Jesus as our Savior, then we are making the most political statement one can ever make. We proclaim our allegiance to king Jesus above all other powers. We promote our citizenship in God’s kingdom above all earthly communities. And we prioritize our resources for the sake of God’s name to be spread to nations. And yet, our weapons are love, unselfishness, and faith because our battle is not against flesh and blood. In all, we must read the letter of Romans as through its author were intending for us to go rogue toward every earthly power to establish the truly greatest empire – the kingdom of God.     

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:8 “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The gospel revealed to us from the book of Romans is meant to produce in us awe and adoration of God.

Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? [Isaiah 40:13]’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? [Job 41:11]’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

 

We are to awe God for His greatness. In reflection of all the descriptions of the gospel and doctrine of God that Paul has written in Romans, he now turns attention to awe of God’s greatness.

Illus[2]: Humanity thinks they know about greatness or even claim it for themselves. Muhammad Ali used to proclaim “I’m the greatest!” Once Ali was on a commercial flight and just before takeoff an attendant came by and asked Ali to fasten his seat belt. His reply was, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” And the attendant quickly responded, “Superman don’t need no airplane either. Sir, please fasten your seatbelt.” We also know the latter years of Ali’s life suffered the effects of Parkinson’s disease and experienced the same fate of all humanity in the grave. Human greatness falls short of God’s greatness.

Paul speaks about God’s depth (βάθος / immense and inexhaustible depth).

–        Depth of riches. God is an eternal treasure and at His right hand are fullness of joy (Ps 16:11; Prov 8:18). God’s property and riches are an infinite thousand beyond our understanding (cf Ps 50:10), with Heaven as His throne and earth as His footstool (Isa 66:1). Therefore, we should never view our gifts to charity or our giving to church as a means to bribe God. God has no needs that we can meet. When we attempt to approach God as rich we will leave empty, but when we approach God with poverty of spirit we leave full, overflowing from His riches (cf. Matthew 5:3; Rev 3:17-18).

–        Depth of wisdom and knowledge God is full of knowledge (Job 12:13; 28:28; Prov 2:6). God’s ways and wisdom are beyond our understanding (Isa 55:8-9; Ps 139:6). Therefore, we should never assume to counsel God. In fact, Paul quotes two OT examples to further his point (Isa 40:13; Job 41:11).

o   Context Job 38:1-5a “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! ….

Commanded morning… stars… animals…weather… etc.
Job 42:1-3 Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. …

Paul explains further, God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways are inscrutable. The word used describes footprints cannot be tracked or hunted down (cf. Ps 77:19)

 

è  Illus: Hurricanes, Earthquakes, and all other natural disasters or tragedies are reflections of God’s great and sovereign power. We cannot fully understand because our role is not to administrate but to awe God.

 

è Awe of God is absent and that should not be. We find awe in the wrong places[3]
– in life dreams that slip through our fingers.
– in spouses that try to satisfy but fall short.
– in our hopes for our children’s future which more often result in conflict.
– in a house that becomes filled but leaves our hearts empty.
– in a job that tires and taxes.
– in a vacation that leaves us in debt and more tired before we went.
– in a championship season that ends with fading and ending celebrations.

Our awe is too often misplaced. We were made to live with eyes gazing upward and hearts gushing outward in love for and from God. Our searching and hunger can only be satisfied when we have awe for our Creator and not created things. In fact, conflicts and crisis occur when we are no longer amazed by the gospel and we stop our wonder and Romans 11_36worship for God. Therefore, when we find our identity and live for the applause of the only One deserving of our awe, then we find purpose, gain perspective on life issues, and understand how to prioritize everything around us.

 

We are to adore God for His graciousness.
God is a giver. He is the source of all that is good, and He is gracious to share blessing upon us. “For from him, and through him and to him are all things.” God is to be awed for His greatness and adored for His graciousness. All that Paul has talked about in Romans 1-11 is in mind.

–        Faith in God – Romans 1

–        Family of God – Romans 2-4

–        Freedom from sin – Romans 5-7

–        Father and Spirit – Romans 8

Romans 8:31–32 “ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

 

è When we are blessed with good, do we adore God through gratefulness and giving toward others? Gratefulness and giving is often a measure of our faith. God’s blessings are not always meant to increase our standard of living but our standard of giving. And when that is true, we will discover we cannot outgive God. “For from him, and through him and to him are all things.”

Illus: Story of a young girl who wanted her father to pay her for all the chores she performed. One day before she leaves for school she left a note on the door that read: “Washing Dishes: $1 / Cleaning Room and making bed: $1.50 / Picking up leaves outside: $1 / Feeding & cleaning pet dog: $1.50 / Total: $5” When the child returned home from school, the father had a note laying on his daughter’s bed that read: “Your mother carried you for 9 months: $No Charge / Your parents stayed up late nights and cared for sickness: $No Charge / Your father worked overtime to pay for roof over head, clothes on back, food at every meal, and activities each school year and summer: $No Charge / Your father tells jokes and parents entertain you and friends on weekends: $No Charge / Total for being my child: $FREE”

After reading the note, the young girl realized she had lost sight of her father and mother’s graciousness. She had turned a love relationship into a business service.

Too often we turn our faith relationship with God into a contractual obligation where we give a little and expect a lot from God. The reality is God’s graciousness is much more than we deserve. Our adoration of God brings God glory and in return gives Him joy to shower blessing upon us.

Psalm 34:10 “those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” Psalm 84:11 “the LORD bestows favor & honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

è This week, make a list of 7/30+ blessings from God and spend time reflecting and praising God.

 

We are to amen God for His glory.

Paul closes this doxology and summary portion of his letter with “To God be the glory forever. Amen.” We must not forget the “Amen.” Amen is a statement of certainty; so let it be. If we have awe for God’s greatness, adoration for God’s graciousness, and affirm the gospel, then our lives are a giant amen to the glory of God.

Glory: praise, but also weight, significance, preeminence, priority

We are continually making decisions of glory and worship (sacrifice). We don’t just have faulty decisions but we have worship disorders that need reoriented toward the true and worthy God.[4]

–        Way we spend our finances for lord entertainment and ego

–        Way we view food to feed lord belly / to comfort lord emotions / to soothe lord heartache

–        Way we treat our family/friends for lord selfishness

–        Way we serve our church family by lord convenience (coming message in Romans 12)

 

Romans 12:1 “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

 

è Christ died for you, will you live for Him?

o   In your home

o   To your neighbors

o   At your school

o   Among your co-workers

 

APPLY/THINK

When we pick a flower we have something incredibly beautiful. However, when a flower is separated from its vine source of life it begins to die. At first we cannot see its dying and we think everything will be fine. However, as death sets in over the next several hours and days you will begin to see petals wilt and fall. In a week’s time or so death will be complete because the flower is disconnected from the vine. It can never have life again, unless its seed becomes replanted and in a future season it will resurrect.

 

Sin separates us from Jesus the vine, and causes our dying. We think we will survive on our own. We show off our colors and rise as tall as we can. But, over time we begin to lack vibrancy and lose our vital signs. Our only hope of new life is to die and plant our seed in the soil of God’s grace for resurrection hope.

è God is waiting for you to die to self and be planted in Him.

è If you have died and live to Christ, you must remain in His soil… (spiritual disciplines & growth).

– – – – – – – – 

[1] http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/paul-and-caesar-a-new-reading-of-romans/

[2] Illustration from Bible.org

[3] More from Paul Tripp, Awe: Why It Matters For Everything We Think, Say, and Do.

[4] Some thoughts inspired from a message on worship by Mark Driscoll https://markdriscoll.org/sermons/worship-god-transforms/

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