What is Christianity all about? Is Christianity all about bad news or about good news? I have seen descriptions of churches that were completely about what they were against and not at all about what they are for. It is easy to tear things down and much harder to build things back up. I remember having people talk to me about Jesus and it all seemed negative, it all seemed to be a grasping for something in the moment of fear. To be fair, you can see where people get such ideas. Paul has really spent a lot of time talking about sin and about how it has corrupted all of humanity. It has not been very enjoyable to dwell on. You could almost see Paul has having a completely negative view. However, for Paul the good news is not really good news until it is seen in the context of the bad news. In Romans 8, Paul unleashes the good news on the readers. Paul has already explained that we are saved by faith and that it is only by the grace of God. That is incredible news. In this chapter, Paul goes into some more detail about what is in store for the Christian once they put that faith in God. It is far, far more than just a ticket to heaven. Let us take a look.
The first thing that Paul mentions is the link to what Paul has just been talking about. In the previous chapter, Paul talked about the trap of sin from which both the law and our human will were unable to free us. It would be very easy for us to feel condemned in such a situation. There is no lack of opportunity to self-condemn. We know the mistakes we make. We know the ways in which we fail. Are we condemned according to God? Paul teaches: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2 NIV) How much condemnation is there left? No more! We are free. Not free to sin, but free to overcome sin without having to lose hope along the journey. How many people need this? All of us. All have felt condemned. We need not live with the burden of our failings weighing us down. We are free.
Freedom is a great gift but there is more. God gives us his Holy Spirit. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11 NIV) What is the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is not just a tool or even a power. The Spirit is one of the persons of the Trinity. The Spirit is God and part of God dwells in us. It is not as if we become Christians and then God abandons us until it is time to meet again in heaven. God dwells within us by his Spirit. I grew up in the church and yet this is a truth that escaped me. I thought we were supposed to just be respectable little Christians. I never considered that God would dwell in us by his Spirit. No matter how alone you feel, you are never alone. The Holy Spirit is within you.
That is wonderful that we have the Holy Spirit but what does that mean? One of the purposes of the Spirit is to testify to our adoption into God’s family. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15–16 NIV) This is a theme that is found throughout the New Testament and yet so few Christians understand it. God is not just looking for followers or even worshippers. God is looking for sons and daughters. God is looking for a great big family and he wants each one of us to be a part of that. The truth is that at times we do not feel like a child of God, we do not feel like we deserve that honour. The good news is that our relationship with God does not depend on our feelings. The Holy Spirit is our rebirth certificate that testifies to the truth of our relationship apart from any feelings. If you are a Christian, you are a child of God.
Hope in Suffering
One of the other blessings we receive is hope in suffering. We are told: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV) Christianity is not a religion that denies suffering, that pretends that everything is okay or sees pain as an illusion. The most important event in human history according to Christianity is the death of Jesus on the cross, a moment of intense suffering. Suffering is real. However we have hope in suffering because we know that our current suffering is not the end of the story. There is something better that is coming. Just as Jesus moved from the old rugged cross to the resurrection, so we too will move from suffering to glory, from death to life.
Resurrection of the Body
What is this glory that awaits us? It is the resurrection of the body. “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23 NIV) Our hope is not to be disembodied spirits floating in the clouds but to be resurrected beings with real bodies just Jesus had at his resurrection. This is connected with our experience of adoption. We are declared to be sons and daughters of God now, but our adoption is made complete at our resurrection. There we will have bodies built for eternity and and will be able to enjoy our Father for eternity. This is the hope that is held out to us in the present moment of weakness.
Resurrection of the World
We may know that our bodies will be resurrected, what many do not know is that our world will experience a resurrection as well. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20–21 NIV) I often hear Christians say this world is not our home. Actually, this world is our home. Perhaps not the way it is now, but it will be changed just as we will one day be changed. This is something that is talked about in Revelation as well. What is interesting is that the new earth will be so amazing that God will come and dwell on earth to be with his people. This world is not a dump waiting to be escaped from. This world is a taste of the new earth that will take place at the resurrection.
Help in Prayer
The resurrection of the body and the resurrection of the world are great gifts. But they will take place some time in the distant future. What about right now? I have to get through this day. I have to get through this week. How is that going to happen? It is going to happen through prayer. The problem is that I don’t even know what to pray about. That is okay, because we still have the Holy Spirit. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26 NIV) This is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. I know my inadequacy in prayer, especially when things are the most desperate. But my prayers do not have to rely on my knowledge or eloquence. The Spirit helps us to pray. The Spirit knows our experience, the Spirit knows us and the Spirit knows God’s will. It is very important that we rely upon the Spirit for prayer and we should be encouraged that we are not alone in prayer.
Love of God
There are many other blessings that we receive but I am going to conclude with our experience of the love of God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39 NIV) We are built to love. We are made to both receive and give love. However, in our humanity relationships often break down. Love falls into lust. Loyalty falls into jealousy. We fear losing the love relationships that we have. We may even fear that we will lose the love that God has for us. There is no reason to fear. God has adopted us into his family and he has declared his love for us. Case closed. God is not a fickle lover. His love is guaranteed. Nothing can break that love for us. Rest in that love, enjoy that love, trust in that love.
What is Christianity all about? It is not all bad news. It is not all rules and laws. It is about good news. A lot of good news. Not just heaven but blessing after blessing in this world and the next. We receive so much, from the Holy Spirit to the resurrection. We receive freedom and hope. We are helped in our prayers and in our confidence in our relationship with God. God is pouring out his blessings on us. Receive those blessings and let that joy spur you on to share this blessed faith with the people around us.