Saturday, April 16, 2011

“Who Can Separate Us From The Love Of Christ?”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  For I am persuaded, that neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.   Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ the Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

As Christians we read these verses and we shout yes and amen, raise our hands, and do a little happy dance, because we mentally ascend to the fact that nothing can separate us from God’s love.   Yet the reality of life is that the “things” listed in these verses do separate Christians from Christ every day.   When the hardships and troubles of life come upon us, they tend to wear at us, often causing us to question God’s love and faithfulness.  They cause us to lose faith in the power of prayer, and the validity of the promises found in the Word.  It is not that these trials “actually” separate us from Christ’s love, but we allow them to move “us” away from Christ. 

Notice the question that is asked at the beginning of this verse.  Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”   Yet the list is not of “who’s” but of “what’s.”   The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to put a wedge between you and Jesus!  The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to get you to doubt God’s love and faithfulness!  The “who” wants to use the “what’s” to cause you to not trust in the Word!  The “who’s” job is to steal your faith and your peace, and to separate you from your purpose. 

So who is the “who?”  The who is Satan and all his army of fallen angels.  Eph. 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  The word wiles is translated in other versions as “schemes,” “strategies,” “deceits.”  It’s defined as:  tricks, secret plans, plots.  The Strong’s Concordance says the Greek word that is translated as wiles means “to lie in wait.”  So we get this picture of a cat crouched and waiting to pounce on its prey at a moment of vulnerability. When the trials and troubles listed in our key verse above begin to happen to you, Satan will be waiting nearby, scheming and plotting your demise.  Therefore we must, “Be sober and vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) 

Below is a list of the words and their definitions from our key verse. These are tools Satan uses to try to separate us from Christ and His love.  Regardless of the type of difficult situation you are going through; be it a battle with health, finances, disasters, careers, family, or relational, Satan will use it to separate you from Christ “if” you allow him to. 

Tribulations               troubles, afflictions, anguish, burdens     
Distress                     hardship, calamity, narrowness of room    (lack of options)
Persecution                (not just religious, includes things like bullying and prejudice)
Famine                       scarcity of food     (includes a shortage of anything needed)
Nakedness                 complete nakedness   (emotionally naked and vulnerable)
Peril                            danger                        (fear:  real or imagined)
Sword                          judicial punishment
Death                          death                 (loss of something dearly loved)              
Life                              Zoe                   (good fortune: be it ours or others)

Whether your house just burnt down in a fire, you have lost your job, or your business is going bankrupt. Whether you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal disease or your family is in turmoil and falling apart; in these situations the most prominent question in our minds is “Why?”  God, “why” is this happening to me?  God, if you love me, “why” aren’t you helping me?  God, if you care, “why” are you making me go through this?  I’ve been praying, God “why” aren’t you answering?  God, if the promises in your Word are true, “why” aren’t they working? 

God is certainly big enough to handle us asking the “why” questions.  But let’s be honest, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any forth coming answers to why things happen.  Satan’s battle ground is our minds and the longer we entertain the unresolved “why” question, Satan will come to fill our minds with false conclusions like, “God doesn't really love or care about me.”  “Faith doesn’t work.”  “Prayer is a waste of time.”  “The Bible isn’t true.” “You can’t trust God or His promises.”  And lastly these thoughts can lead us to the final question of, “Maybe God isn’t real at all?”   

The Bible says in Romans 8:28 that, “all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  So does that mean that God causes my house to burn down, or gives me a disease for my “good?”  If that’s the case then, “gee thanks God!”  No!  The answer is a thousand times, No!  God does not cause these bad things to happen to us, and people who say or teach sure things are ridiculous.  The trials and troubles that we face each day are a result of living in a fallen and sinful world.  They started in the Garden of Eden and are a consequence of sin and rebellion being released into our world.  God is not saying here that our tribulations and distresses are “good.”  Romans 8:28 is simply saying that God will take every situation that comes into our lives, even the bad things, and He will rearrange them so that “good” will result from them.  When we submit ourselves and our trials to Jesus and trust fully in His Word, expecting a good outcome, God can make good come from “any” situation.  It is never “good” that someone is raped or abused, but many a ministry has been born out of such trials.   It is never “good" that a person is afflicted with disease or has a debilitating accident, but many a life has been spiritually transformed as a result of such distress.  The next verse, Romans 8:29, teaches that God uses these tribulations we suffer so that we will, “be conformed to the likeness of His son.”  In other words, the end result will be that we will be made into the image Jesus.  

Instead of good resulting from our trials, many, many lives and families have also been destroyed by these same painful situations.  Why is that?  As mentioned earlier Satan's purpose is to use them to separate us from God, making us angry and bitter.  His goal is always to steal, kill, and destroy, hoping to conform us into “his” likeness, rather than the likeness of Christ. 

In John 9:1-3 Jesus was asked "why" a man was born blind; was it the result of his sin or the sin of his parents?  Jesus said that it wasn’t either, but that the end result of it would be “that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  I believe that this is what God desires from all of us.  That when trials and tribulation of any flavor come into our lives, instead of them causing us to be separated from God, the end result of them would be that “God’s work would be displayed in us.”  That we would become more and more Christ like, and spend our lives restoring and healing others, just as we have been restored. While the perils of this life are many, they pale in comparison to what awaits us on the other side of the “jelly wall” (the doorway into the kingdom realm.)  We must learn to see through it with the eyes of our faith, being fully “persuaded” that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

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