“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The following message has the potential to be somewhat controversial. Many of us seem to have the idea that it is our responsibility to protect God or His image. We have this idea of a Holy, perfect, “good” God. The problem is that we have made God into what our image of Holy, or “good” is. In doing this, I believe we have robbed God of His sovereignty, and His power. In our own minds of course, not in actuality, because God is not bound by man, or our finite human minds and understanding.
The verse we are going to be looking at today is one that I’m sure most of us have read, and heard quoted before. We normally hear it, and quote it to help us feel better about a certain hardship or problem that has come our way. Many times we will refer to it after one of the storms of life has passed, and we can look back and say, “Yep, I see what God was doing there now.” But is this the only application to this verse? I don’t believe so.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other night, and she asked an interesting question. What is the worst thing you’ve ever done? I didn’t have to think too hard because in my entire life, I can only think of one regret. I have always said in my life, I wouldn’t change a thing, because I know that all things that have happened have gotten me to where I am today, and I am really happy with where I am today. Of course there was this one thing, in the back of my mind that if I could, I would take back in a second, because it was so horrible. It is the only thing in my life that I truly regret, and still harbor guilt for.
I would like to submit that all of us have things like this in our life. We all have our “skeletons in the closet”. We know that when we confess our sins, and when we are saved, we are forgiven our sins. Even so, knowing that God has forgiven us, it is sometimes the hardest thing to do, to forgive ourselves. This is true not only with things that happen before salvation, but even after our salvation. Many of us seem to have this view that yes, we are sinners before we come to Christ, but then somehow we are made perfect, and aren’t ever going to sin again. But this is the farthest thing from the truth. Anyone who has been a Christian for more than a week, heck even a day can attest to this.
For me personally, my worst thing ever happened before I was a Christian. In actuality it probably isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done, because at the time I wasn’t saved. God’s Spirit wasn’t dwelling within me. But for whatever reason, this time period in my life is one that I have carried around guilt for, for several years. In all truth things I’ve done since are far worse. Because I have been saved, I do know the laws of God, and yet I have still transgressed those laws. For you, I can’t say what your skeleton is, or what you are feeling guilt for. But I think we all need to take a closer look at this wonderful verse, Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God ALL things…” Did you catch that ALL? “work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
“All” is a pretty “all” inclusive word. Its not just some things, or the things we want to attribute to God. But it means just what it says, “ALL things”. I believe that includes our sins. Now I can hear many of you saying right now, “What do you mean, God wants us to sin?” Absolutely not! The Bible is very clear that all of us are to live in obedience to God. Jesus Himself says that if we love Him we will obey His commands.(John 14:23) So I am not saying that we are to go out and sin at will, and its ok. But what I am saying is that God is so awesome, so powerful, and so wonderful, He can take our sins and our imperfections and use those for His glory. God can take our fallen human nature and glorify Himself through that, and cause it to work for our good. First of all, we have to understand that this is a conditional promise. What are the conditions? Well, first that we have to love God, and second that we have to be called according to His purpose. Lets analyze these two conditions very briefly.
As I said, in John 14:23 Jesus tells us that, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” So let me set us straight on this one point first. We as fallen human beings are incapable of loving Jesus, of loving God, perfectly. Yes we love Him, but it is not a perfect love, because we are not perfect. Only God loves perfectly. This being said, we will not always keep His word. This is a sad fact indeed. That we are in such a fallen state and so depraved that we do not walk in complete obedience to the God of the universe, the one that has saved us from the pits of hell. But it is true. Just look deep inside yourself, and ask yourself it you are perfect, if you ever have impure thoughts. Do you sometimes try to “use” God for His blessings? This isn’t a perfect love. But Jesus, God, our Lord has called us to love Him. To love Him with all that we are, all that we can. How can we show Him we love Him? By trying our best to love Him, to obey Him, and most importantly asking Him to help us love Him, and walk in obedience. By His power, and the power of the Holy Spirit we will continue to draw closer to Him.
The second condition I mentioned is that we must be called according to His purpose. If God has called you or me, rest assured that He has a purpose and a plan for us. God takes every one of our experiences, our faults, and failures and builds us up. Perhaps we can use these in order to minister to someone else who has experienced, or is going through similar circumstances. Many ministries are founded on these principles. Many Christian couples who have survived an adulterous affair, go on to work with and minister to others who are dealing with this tragedy in their own lives. I have heard of many men who have an addiction to pornography go on to start ministries working with other men who struggle with this sin in their life. Former alcoholics, and drug addicts who have been shown the love of God, and rescued from their old selves have gone on to work with, minister to, and have been used mightily of God to help others turn their lives around. I don’t know where you were when God saved you. I don’t know what sins you were, or are dealing with. But I do know that God is so amazing that He can use those things, to not only glorify Himself, but also He can use those things for your good.
Stop carrying around this guilt. Confess whatever sins you have, and God has promised that if you do that He will forgive you of those sins. In 1 John 1:9 it tells us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I hate to break it to you guys, but you aren’t perfect, and I honestly don’t believe on this side of heaven you ever will be. Psalm 103:12-13 gives us another awesome promise. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
Do you get that? God has taken all of our sins, past, present and future, and placed them as far as the “east is from the west”. God knows we are human, he knows our nature. He knows we are going to sin. It is so funny to me that we seem to think that God is surprised by our sin. When we read about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we read it like God was shocked by their sin. Like He didn’t know they were going to sin. That’s silly. God is omniscient, all knowing, and all powerful. He knew they were going to sin, He knows we are going to sin. But God is so amazing, so powerful He takes those things and uses them for His glory, and to reveal things to us, and to mold us into who He wants us to be, He takes our faults, our sins and uses them for His purposes.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a justification for sin, or an open license to sin. If you take it that way, then you are showing that you aren’t saved, that you don’t love God. If you do, you will be seeking to be like Him, and seeking to keep His word. As Jesus said, that is how you show you love Him.
The purpose of this message is for us all to understand we must stop punishing ourselves over past sins. If God has forgiven us, then we must forgive ourselves. If we’ve confessed those sins and repented, then those sins are gone in the eyes of God. If you haven’t confessed yours, do it now. Have that weight lifted from you. Don’t walk around mired in your old sin. Wallowing around in it, allowing it to bring you down. If you are doing that, you are wasting precious time that you could be learning from you sins. Stop wasting time and allow God to take those sins, those failures and use them for His glory. All things pass through the perfect hands of almighty God, and He will use all things to accomplish His perfect purposes and for His glory.
If you are a child of God you have already been made perfect in His eyes. If you have accepted Christ as your savior, His blood has already made you as white as snow. He hasn’t just cleansed you of your past sins, but all sins, once and for all. Here are a few verses from the Book of Hebrews. Chapter 10, verse 10 “we have BEEN sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL.” And a little later verses 14-18, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are BEING sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” You see we have BEEN sanctified, but we are also still BEING sanctified. As Martin Luther put it we are simultaneously saints as well as sinners. I like to say that we are all “works in progress”.
If you haven’t been made clean by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. Then now is the time. By that single offering, as the author of Hebrews said, you can be perfected in the eyes of God. All your sins, past, present, and future can be forgiven you. Confess your sins to God, repent and turn from those sins, and start to love Him and His Son Jesus Christ. Ask Him to help you love Him, and to live by His Word and keep His commands. We are all sinners the Bible tells us, but only Jesus can take those sins away. Only Jesus can take that guilt that you have been carrying around for so many years. Only through the sacrifice that Jesus made, because of the compassion of our Father in Heaven, can our sins be placed as far as the east is from the west. If you have been saved, but have still been carrying around that guilt. Today is the day to let go. Grab hold of the promises of God, and be free. Allow God to use your weaknesses and your faults for His glory, His purposes, but not only that for your good. If you truly love God, that is His promise for you…