We have spent the last six months walking through Romans 8, verse by verse, and at last, we reach the conclusion of one of the greatest chapters in the entire Bible – and what a note to end the song on. Paul’s sweeping symphony of chapter eight ends with the crescendo of declaring the unbreakable, invincible love of God for us. Paul is saying that in light of all the things in our life that can let us down, that will run out or give up on us, one thing will not: God’s love.
As you are growing older, you are slowly becoming more and more aware of something that everyone experiences; let’s call it the exaggeration of reality. The exaggeration of reality is when we exaggerate our expectations when we look forward to something or our memories when we look back to something. That movie that is coming out is going to be the greatest movie ever or that concert was the most incredible experience of your life. We can be prone to inflate both our expectations and our memories far beyond what will happen or what happened. I don’t know about you, but I see this most often when I think about vacations. When I am planning a vacation, I have these expectations of how perfectly the trip will go, and how refreshed I will feel, and all the fun, spontaneous adventures that will happen. And often, what happens is that I end up spending my vacation comparing what is happening with this exaggerated expectation of what I think should be happening, and I always find it lacking. Or, I remember a vacation I took in the past, and in my memory, I remember that particular vacation being nothing short of perfect, crammed full with all my favorite things, and then I constantly search out a way to recreate that exaggerated memory – which never ends up measuring up. There is no faster way to spoil a hobby, date, vacation or weekend then to succumb to the temptation of the exaggerated reality.
The question we have to ask ourselves, however, is why do we do that? Why do we tend to want blow things out of proportion with longings and expectations? Doesn’t it seem so natural for us to desire some kind of experience, trip or romance that doesn’t fall short of our expectations? But if we have never been able to fully satisfy that longing, why then do we have it? If I lived my whole life in a dark room, I wouldn’t be complaining about how dark it is, because darkness would be all I knew; that would be like a fish complaining that the ocean is wet. So, if human history is nothing but reoccurring disappointments, why do we still long for something so wonderful and glorious that it fulfills us?
Answer: because we were made for it.
Here is the point: we all long for an experience that we cannot exaggerate. We all long for something that will remain constant, no matter what; we all long for something that will satisfy our deepest longings. And the difficult truth is that there is nothing in this world that will ever provide what we are longing for – nothing. One author was reflecting on this thought and was very troubled that he seemed to be filled with so many longings and desires that nothing in this world seemed to fulfill, when suddenly, a thought struck him. If a man is adrift out at sea, his hunger for food does not necessarily mean that he will get bread, but it does mean that he exists in a universe where bodies were designed to nourish themselves with food, so therefore food must exist. And this is where the now famous line was created by Mr. Lewis, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
C.S. Lewis looked at his tendency to exaggerate his expectations and memories of everything around him, and concluded that if there is nothing on earth that can satiate his thirsty soul, then perhaps his soul was designed to be satisfied by something that transcended this world. That, friends, is what God is offering us here in Romans 8: an overwhelming, invincible, unbreakable force of love that satisfies our souls. What we are looking for in our varied longings and desires is an experience of joy that is enduring, that is constant, and that is so weighty, we cannot exaggerate it.
Let’s look, if we can how God’s love is remedy to our soul’s longings by looking at the 1) endurance of God’s love 2) the scope of God’s love and 3) the depth of God’s love.
The Endurance of God’s Love
First, we see the endurance of God’s love. Paul tells us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No…” It is interesting that as Paul is attempting to explain the depths of God’s love, he lists off some of the worst atrocities and evils on the planet. Why would Paul do that? First, I think Paul wants us to know that the presence of suffering does not mean the absence of God’s love. Often when we get into times of tribulation or persecution, we think we have done something wrong, and say, “God must not love me” or “God must be punishing me for something.” But Paul is saying, “No, suffering in Christian life is normal – expect it.”
Secondly, he wants to show us the enduring might of God’s love! God’s love is not fluffy sentimentality that blows away like a tuft of clouds. No, God’s love is like an iron-clad, impenetrable fortress that will not be moved by anything! When you and I come to know the certainty of God’s love for us, we then become enduring! If you have ever been out to the ocean, and you look at the cliff sides, you’ll see rocks standing out in the middle of the rolling breakers, and you see these massive waves crash down upon the rock and completely cover it and it looks like the rock has been smashed to smithereens – but, in a few seconds you see the water pull back, and the rock is still there. That is what God’s love for you is like. Unlike everything else in this world, it cannot be taken away by any force.
Last week, we saw in the headlines that there were 147 college students in Garissa, Kenya who were killed by the terrorist organization Al-Shabab. Four terrorists went systematically through the dorms asking people if they were Christians, and if they said “Yes”, shot them on the spot. Did that separate them from the love of God? That is certainly what the terrorists would like to think, but it’s not true. All they did was usher 147 sons and daughters into the glorious presence of Jesus. In A.D. 404 John Chrysostom was brought in before the Roman emperor. The emperor threatened him with banishment if he remained a Christian.
Chrysostom responded, “You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house.”
“But I will kill you,” said the emperor.
“No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” said Chrysostom.
“I will take away your treasures.”
“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
“But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left.”
“No, you cannot, for I have a friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me.
The Scope of God’s Love
That is the endurance of God’s love: it cannot be taken from us be force. Secondly, the scope of God’s love. Paul answers the question he originally asked, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” What does Paul mean when he says that we are “more than conquerors”? Well, the original Greek word translates literally to “in victory, we are over-victorious” or “we have a victory that is more than victory.” Well, that didn’t really make any more sense to me, so I looked into a couple of commentaries and I think got some clarity.
If you conquer something, you defeat it; something opposed you, and you overcame it. So what does it mean to be more than that? If you are more than a conqueror, then you not only defeat it, but it now serves your good , rather than your bad. You aren’t just an immovable rock that can’t be shaken by all the tribulation around you, you are more than that – meaning, all of that now serves your good. This is just another way of Paul saying Rom. 8:28. We see a glimpse of this also in 1 Cor. 3:21-23,
For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
How is “death” yours? If there ever has been an enemy that you want to just have defeated, it is death – but here, Paul says that death is ours. I think with that Paul is saying that now, in Christ, death now serves your ultimate good: bringing you to Christ. You are more than a conqueror of death. The scope of God’s love is this: not only can nothing separate you from it, but all things that look like they are trying to, are really serving your ultimate good of bringing you closer to Jesus.
The Depth of God’s Love
So, we have seen the endurance of God’s love, the scope of God’s love, and finally we see the depth of God’s love. Paul finishes with this very famous verse, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, 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.” Paul bursts here, stretching as much as he can with language to try and convey the depths of God’s love. Paul is hitting this drum as loud as ever here: Nothing can separate you from God’s love. You know, some people here say, “Well yea, nothing can separate you from God’s love, but you can separate you.” But that isn’t true: aren’t you a part of “everything else in all creation”?
This is 200 miles per hour, petal to the floor, over-the-top love. You know what this is? This is a love that cannot be exaggerated. Paul could have just said something like, “Nothing at all can separate you from God’s love”, but he lists out all of these extremes because he wants you to feel the expansive nature of God’s love. There are no limits, no banks, no bumpers, no edges, no end – God’s love is unlike anything in this world: and that is exactly what you are looking for.
We said earlier that what we are looking for in life is an experience of joy that is enduring, that is constant in every situation, and that is so weighty, we cannot exaggerate it. Friends, is this not precisely what God’s love is? This is what you were made for!
Lastly, how do we experience God’s love? You could hear this and say, “Man that sounds great! How do I get that? What do I have to do?” And the answer is: nothing! Well, sort of; 1 John 4:9-10 helps show us, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son…” God displayed His love for us by sending His Son to die for us, when we didn’t even love God, to die for our sins. You experience God’s love when you see the greatest display of His love for you, and by faith, believe it: the sacrifice of His Son, given to you freely.