Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Let's unpack and try to see what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote this.

The first part is this scripture is “and we know”. Paul is writing here that we can be so certain of this promise that God has given us. We know without a shadow of doubt that God is in the moments of our lives. I don't know about you but when I see some of the things that happen it makes me wonder “ok so where is God in all of this?” How's this promise coming true in a time like this? Many people struggle with this idea; we want to believe that God is involved but it's hard for us to see sometimes. Paul says without a doubt that we can know for certain that God is in this promise. 

The next part of this scripture that we struggle with is this “All things…”  Maybe not all thing, right? Maybe not cancer or the death of a small child, the divorce of a couple, maybe not famine right? maybe not poverty? Maybe not the sex slave trade where young boys and young girls are being taken? That’s not good, right? So many Christians misused some of the terminology but they mean well. They're trying to comfort people

Here's the problem, we stick God in the story at the wrong time and the wrong place, so many times in the middle of tragedy. We expect the happily ever after. We ask for God to wave his magic wand and show up and fix it. It never happens the way we think it should. Paul is trying to tell us that God doesn't just show up at the end. He's already there. He's there before it. He is there in the middle of it. He is there after it is all over. He is involved and working in our life and that is the point of what Paul is trying to say. We can trust that God is involved in this situation. He is involved in our ups. He's involved in our downs. He's involved when there's pain. He has not walked away from us.

So when Paul wrote this he's not saying whatever happens is good. He's not even saying that evil and tragedy are good. He's not even saying that if we have enough faith everything is going to turn out okay the way we want it to. What he is saying is that God is actively at work in our situation.

Parents, are any of your kids scared of the dark? As parents have you ever heard your name being called in the middle of the night? “Daddy!” “Mommy!” It's very alarming to hear that in the middle of the night. They come to you or you go to them and they say, “I'm scared.” “I'm afraid.” Instead of turning on all the lights, you just hold them safe in your arms. You comfort them and you tell them that everything is going to be okay. You can feel the tensions begin to ease as you sit and hold them.

Here's what you don't do. You don't turn the light on. You don't take them out of their situation. You don't take them out of their fear. You don't take them out of what's bothering them. All you do is you insert your involvement in what's going on. That's what God does with us. God doesn't always take us out of the situations we’re in. He doesn't transport us out of any of the things that are happening, but what he does do is he involves himself in it. He walks through those dark times with us. He doesn't always make it go away but he says he’s always right by your side comforting you. It's okay he knows exactly what you're going through and exactly how you feel.

The next phrase in the verse is “work together…All things work together…”

Have you ever had a really great piece of cake? I understand that cake isn't everybody's favorite but once in a while you eat a cake where someone gave it thought. I had one of those cakes recently.  The baker, who is a part of our  church, baked a cake and then smothered it in chocolate syrup. Then put incredible icing on it. If that wasn't enough they put crushed Heath bar on it. It was a next-level cake. Thought and care was used as the primary ingredients of this cake. 

Most of us are familiar with the fact that there are separate ingredients that make up a cake. There are separate things that it takes to make a cake. Standing alone each one of its ingredients is probably not the best to eat on its own. I've never remembered my kids asking for a snack and Heather giving them a bowl of baking soda or a glass of flour. Each of these ingredients left by themselves are okay but it would be a taste bud disaster if we ate it by itself. By design there's a certain amount of each thing that goes in to make a good cake. By Design they work together to come out as something you love and something that's good. 

This is what happens in our life sometimes. Individual things can happen to us and they're not good. Sometimes they are tragic. Sometimes they're painful. Sometimes you have no idea what they mean. 

Let's take a look at the life of Jesus. Think about how Jesus lived. He came to this planet through a miraculous birth. He grew in maturity and stature. He started his ministry on earth. Some people didn't like him because of the things he took away from them. So many people love him and so many people followed him because he was healing people. He was making broken people whole again. He was bringing dead people back to life. Crazy stuff that no one has ever seen before. They called him rabbi and master. At one point Jesus came into the city and everyone was waving palms and yelling, “Hosanna hosanna in the highest!” This was Rockstar level praise. Then something turned. Something changed. all of a sudden Jesus was arrested.

Can you imagine the confusion his disciples felt? Why did this happen? This doesn't make any sense. He's taken and put in front of the same people who yelled , “Hosanna.” Now they yelling, “crucify him”. He was working in the city taking care of hurt and lost people. Now they wanted him to die. The next incident didn't make any sense at all by itself. Jesus was beaten and flogged like a common criminal. People had to say he's done absolutely nothing wrong. How can this be happening? From there Jesus was taken to the cross. Nailed to it. Stabbed in the side and tortured with a crown of thorns shoved onto his head. 

I bet it was difficult for the disciples to see any good in Jesus's death. They took his body and they put it in the grave. 3 days later, the timer went off, and the cake was done. Jesus rose. He came back. that created one of the most incredible story that has ever been told. The most incredible events that history has ever known.

Jesus came. He lived the perfect life. He was accused falsely. He was beaten. He was crucified. He was dead. He was buried...and he came back to life. you see, the events by themselves didn't make any sense did they? In all of the bad things that happened, when you put them together there was a design that God had that was good.

The next part of this verse says, “For good”. We have to decide what good means. What does the word “good” mean? If we went around our workplaces, our schools, all of us would have a different definition of what good is. Some might say success and health or a great family. What this word “good” is leaning to is an honorable morality. God is not so much about our happiness as he is about our holiness. As we follow God, happiness will come.

Paul says we know that in all things God works for the good. But what he's not saying is that all the tragedies and heart aches are always going to bring a better set of circumstances for us. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. God is committed to making us holy.

ROMANS 8:29--For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

God decided that we would be conformed to the image of his son. That's the good that Paul is talking about. He's not talking about the good that we want or the good that the world sets in front of us. He's talking about the standard that Jesus set; in the way that he lived his life, in the way that he died and in the way that he rose again.

The good is that we are being changed into the likeness of Jesus.

The next section says, “ to them that love God.” Now we have to talk about the limitation that this verse mentions. This is a promise that's for believers only. This is not a blanket promise for people who don't believe in God. So when you quoted it at a funeral to people who don't believe, you're misquoting it. We're giving them a promise of hope that's not there. 

God told us that for those who believe, he gave them the right to be called children of God. I hear people misquote this all the time too. “We are all children of God.” The Bible says, “no you're not.” 

You're all God's creation until you believe Jesus. When you believe in Jesus then you are given the right to be called a child of God. This is a promise for believers, that he is working for those who love him to make them into the image of his son Jesus Christ.

ROMANS 8:29--For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

In other words he's going to shape us, conform us, morph us and make us transformed. This verse is talking about something that we call sanctification. Sanctification is a process that takes us from our sinful nature into the image of Christ to become more like Jesus so through that process it's not always really easy. It is very much a process although wouldn't it be nice if Jesus just snapped his fingers and we immediately changed. This is a process that God has to draw us to himself to become more like him. This journey of sanctification, this journey of change to be more like Christ is difficult because it causes us to fight against our very nature and our very nature is sin. Have you ever wondered why there's so much pain and suffering in this world?

Let’s do a little experiment real quick…

I'm going to name a couple of things and I want you to raise your hand if you've ever been involved in anything like this. 

Have you ever been in a place where you've done something that's hurt someone?

Have you ever caused someone to stumble or caused someone pain?

Have you ever done anything to yourself that’s caused pain?

That is exactly why there is still suffering in this world. Because we have not been fully transformed into the image of Christ. We are still dealing with this sinful self-centered nature that is always about us and our benefit and who we are and what we get and how people feel about those things.

When Jesus started his ministry the first thing he preached was repent for the kingdom of God is near. Repent means to change. it means to turn and the opposite walk away. To be transformed. To start walking in the new life.

Most of you know or are learning that I have a love for chickens. We had a hen recently that was insisting that she was going to hatch some eggs. Now we don't have a rooster so there are no baby chicks in our future. We would take this hen off of her eggs, take her all the way outside, try to distract her with food but when we went to look for her later on in the day she was right back on trying to hatch those eggs. Why? Because it was in her nature.

It is in our nature to return to the sin that wants to destroy us. 

One of the hardest transformations that anyone can go through is recovering from an addiction. It doesn't matter what the addiction is heroin, pornography or alcoholism. What the addiction does is, it just keeps coming back to our sin nature. It keeps feeding the insecurities of the addicted by telling them that they're not enough and they can't survive without the use of this drug. It feeds the lies and sin. It roots itself into the everyday function of a person. It  buries them in a false identity that they can’t find their way out of. As painful as recovery from an addiction is 

it's what we need to go through sometimes. When we break our addiction to sin, it’s ugly. It's not pretty at all. That is sometimes the transformation that God has to take us through when we become sanctified. There is a side of being transformed and molded into the image of Christ that is joyful and a wonderful celebration. But this journey is not without some kind of pain and sacrifice. As we separate ourselves from our addicted-to-self mentality, God has to strip away our self-centeredness, our desires and take away the things and plans that we want for us to become more like His Son. 

MATTHEW 16:24-26 - 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

To really take on being a follower of Jesus, we are going to have to deny ourselves and the nature that drives us. Sometimes we're going to have to do the hardest thing that we could ever imagine. We are going to have to sacrifice some things because taking up our cross and following Jesus sometimes feels impossible. Matthew 16:25 says whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me will find it. No wonder so many people didn't want to follow Jesus. They would have to give up their life, their comforts, their social status

Jesus asks a question that I would like to challenge us to think about this week…




Let me end with this... 

ROMANS 8:28--”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Bake on!

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