Editors Note: For most of August I am on vacation, spending some much needed time recharging my batteries and enjoying time with the family. I knew I was going to be away from my computer for some time so I went out searching for some great guest posters to help keep this blog active while I am away. I am so excited to welcome my good friend Rev. Jared Miller as a guest on my blog. Jared is the pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell, SK.If you are ever in Grenfell make sure you pop in.
Being married to an American has its perks. I’ve seen more of the US since meeting her than in all the years before. Philadelphia is particularly interesting. The shops outside Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are littered with the slogans of the Revolution: “No taxation without Representation” “Don’t Tread on Me.” One in particular though stands out: “We serve no sovereign here!”
We have a love-hate relationship with the idea of sovereignty. We like the idea of someone being in control; of making sure that bad people get what’s coming to them. But at the same time we want to be the decision maker in our life. What we miss though is that the God who is Love is not only a picture of perfection and goodness, but a God who stands outside of things and holds them together. Love that is patient and kind, not envious or boastful, arrogant or rude is only one side of the coin. On the other side, God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never ends. To say that God is Love is to believe that He is bigger than our circumstances, bigger than history itself, and bigger than anything that has ever been or will ever be. God’s essential character, as much as it is Love, is sovereignty. When we declare that we serve no sovereign, we’re missing three important parts of God’s character.
Love Intercedes. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words … and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I think one of the reasons that prayer gets underused is because we’re afraid that we just don’t have the words for it. But Paul’s point here is precisely the opposite: if God is sovereign, then prayer is decidedly not about the words we use to pray. Jesus said as much in his teaching on the subject. If God is sovereign then he’s not looking for power or poetry in prayer. (The ‘why’ he calls us to pray at all is a subject for another blog.) That God does call us to pray though is not about us showing ourselves off, but about placing ourselves in a position of trust with God and giving him the only thing he’s after in our prayer life: honesty. God wants you to share yourself with him just as you are; to offer mind, heart, soul and strength as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. And honesty in prayer leads inevitably to humility in life. It forces us to see the gap between ourselves and God and to recognize that everything we have and are has Him as its source. God is not some deity, sitting on a cloud watching history unfold. He is involved in it since speaking it into creation and since knitting us together in our mother’s womb, and he became intimately involved in it when he entered into it in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Sovereign love is love that intercedes.
Love Protects. “If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised.” We live in a culture that elevates the individual. Beth and I love to watch Masterchef, and every week the contestants face a team challenge where they have to work together. And every week it’s the same thing: they ask the losing team what happened and they shred each-other. Everyone blames everyone else for their mistake. Far as I can tell, no one has ever been the reason a team lost. When we fail we justify our failure by passing the blame onto somebody else. This kind of attitude is so far removed from Paul’s world, where the law of hospitality instilled another with greater value than myself. So when Paul says if God is for us, he’s not talking about a God who likes us better than he likes some other guys. He’s not even talking about a God who is in alliance with us. He’s talking about a God who has an obligation to defend those who come to him, no matter how broken we are, no matter how much dirt is on our hands and no matter what it costs him, even if it costs him everything. Sovereign love protects.
Love Wins. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death not life, … nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The grand irony of God’s sovereignty is that eternal life ultimately has nothing to do with whether or not we choose God or not. Whether we believe what it means or not, the tomb stands empty. Whatever we think about Him, Christ is still ascended. However we choose to live, the Kingdom is still come. Love wins because when Jesus declared “It Is Finished”, those weren’t the last words of a dying man, but were a declaration from the mouth of the second person of the Trinity. They were a statement about eternity and the battle that has waged over every life since the beginning of time. There is nothing on Heaven or on Earth, or in all of creation (in case one of those categories doesn’t cover it) that tops sovereignty. Sovereign is sovereign. Sovereignty means that God wins, and when God wins, Love wins. Thank God that nothing can change that.
(This is adapted from a sermon I preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell, SK on June 23rd called Sovereign Love based on Romans 8:26-39. It’s the third part of a series on the book of Romans I did called “Textbook Love” and you can listen to the whole thing online by clicking here. )