“It doesn’t matter.”
I hate that sentence. Not when choosing a restaurant or a movie, but when I hear it from someone dealing with a hurt or disappointment.
Whether as a parent or a pastor, it always makes my blood run a little cold—because I know that saying “it doesn’t matter” feels like resolution or even acceptance, when it is really escapism and gloom.
That kind of “it doesn’t matter” is a way people lose themselves. It displays a loss of heart in the great struggle against the world that “shouldn’t be this way!”
We are subjected to futility, and enslaved to decay (Romans 8: 20,21). This is the haunting pain of life—that life can feel futile or vain, and decay inevitable.
In youth it creates an “angst,” in maturity, a “crisis,” and in old age, a “sourness”—and to all a kind of darkness.
Our reaction to this pain and disappointment under futility and decay is what this passage calls “groaning.” And the apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is subjected to this:vanity, vaporousness, futility, frustration, purposelessness, decay, perishability, corruption of wholesomeness, decomposition.
Everything seems to be against our natural hopes, either in circumstance or in the slow decay of time. Even if you get what you want, time will bury it in sand, or decompose and grow over it.
Christians call this punishing, discouraging futility “the Curse” because we believe that it is both unnatural (things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be), but also, that the Curse will be broken and can be overcome.
However, without the help and hope of God, the curse overcomes us and closes out the light of hope, closes our hearts to feel life, weakens our courage to face challenges, and dims our eyes to see beauty and glory.
When the tunnel of disappointment loses its light at the end, we fall into gloom.
Gloom is the loss of the ability to hope, being overcome by despair.
It is what happens when we think the Curse is the final explanation of suffering—pain without purpose, suffering without hope.
Gloom preaches that this is all there is: futility unto decay” and “meaninglessness, then death.”
How do we find the “Mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8:6, 27; Ephesians 6:18) in all of this?
Last week I said from Romans 8: Christians conquer the flesh, curse and suffering in the Spirit.
In this sermon: Christians conquer the Curse by the Spirit.
But how? How do we conquer something so universal and so constant as the curse? Something we know will eventually, in some way, win?
The danger: When in pain, we often reject answers because we think they dishonor our pain. Every answer sounds either trite or severe.
Romans 8:18 may seem like both, but it is the main answer, nonetheless:
Romans 8:15-18 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. For, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
This is both the promise and the way to overcome in the Spirit.
2 ways the Spirit can make us conquerors in the curse:
The Spirit magnifies our hope in glory in the face of the Curse’s gloom
Gloom makes it so we can’t lift our eyes to TRUST in God. The Curse claims the final word of futility and decay over every trial. All of our pain is going nowhere because of failure and the grave.
Christians don’t combat this by saying there isn’t pain, or that if we trust God, he will shield us from our experience of the curse.
“Well, I’m sure God will protect you!” is a phrase that can reveal a person who thinks that if we obey God, he will keep bad things from happening to us—that our obedience will break the curse.
Such people need grace, since some CHRISTIANS think this is true: that if they obey, God will protect them from all harm. God never promises that. He promises the opposite.
The antidote to the gloom of futility is the hope of glory.
Romans 8:18 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
“Hope of glory”- 2 ideas:
- Glorious: God’s glory revealed and experienced
- A hope: Hopes are future until they are revealed
The future glory will be all from God and for all of creation.
- Rom 8:18 – “The glory that will be revealed in us.”
- All the glory that there is will be revealed “in us.”
It’s BIG- all creation’s hope: All creation is in “eager expectation” and “anxious watching.” The literal translation of verse 19 is, “For the anxiously watching creation is eagerly expecting the revelation of the sons of God.”
Romans 8:19-21 “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
All creation, including us, was subjected to futility, frustration, and dysfunction—by God, in the curse. Things aren’t the way they are supposed to be. Everyone feels this. It’s a universal moral intuition, even when we are taught otherwise.
Creation is watching someone: All creation is in “eager expectation” and “anxious watching.” The literal translation of verse 19 again: “For the anxiously watching creation is eagerly expecting the revelation of the sons of God.”
Romans 8:18 – “The glory that will be revealed in us.” All the glory that there is will be revealed “in us.” Presently things are “groaning as in the pain of childbirth,” and we feel the same as the rest of creation.
A hope: Hope is by definition not experienced yet. So not happening right now isn’t a valid objection against it.
Romans 8:23-25 “…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Application: Learning to “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” (just like creation’s “eager expectation” in vs 19).
This is the work of the Spirit—as we pursue the “mind of the Spirit.”
Our Goal: What are we waiting expectantly for? “The adoption to sons, the redemption of our bodies,” “For, in this hope we are saved.”
The Spirit’s work: Building this hope to be our anchor in the groaning of the curse. The Spirit wants to apply the truth of God until you feel as Paul does: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
How does he do it?
- Know the “hope” in which God subjected creation (vs 20).
- Hope in God’s glory—not just our glorification.
- Rejoice in our suffering—knowing it focuses our hope.
- Receive the love God “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
Application: You need these parts of salvation to overcome the gloom of the curse, and the futility of so much of life.
- Our hope in the future glory of God—and being adopted into it, through the everlasting redemption of our bodies into the freedom and glory of God and in a redeemed creation.
- The work of the Spirit applying this whole hope to our hearts, even in suffering
- So we can be waiting eagerly even as we are groaning inwardly.
How do we really practice “groaning inwardly yet waiting eagerly” as a Spiritual practice of the heart?
The Spirit is our help against the Curse’s confusion and weakness.
Groans make it hard to lift our face and talk to God.
Main example: Not being able to pray “as we ought” or “in God’s will” weakens our ability to express our groanings well, and confuses our ability to know God’s will and pray from a heart that is united with his will.
Rom. 8:26-27 “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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
“In the same way”: as God helps us wait eagerly for the hope of glory, he also helps us cope in the present with our weakness of heart.
The Spirit: “intercedes for us”
- Intercedes through wordless groans
- Combines our “hearts” with the “mind of the Spirit”
- Helps us feel and pray in “accordance with God’s will”
What are the “wordless groans” of the Spirit? A connection to creation and our groans under the curse—the Spirit makes his own groaning in us that are our right groan toward the Father.
In Romans 8:22, creation groans, and in Romans 8:23, we groan wanting our bodily redemption. In verse 26, the Holy Spirit groans as a way of interceding for us to God.
God doesn’t just hear our audible prayers—he also searches our hearts. The content of our heart is what is or isn’t in line with his will, and is a communication of faith to him. It is the place out of which we pray. By coming into the place of our heart’s groanings, the Spirit both aligns our hearts with God’s will and helps us pray as we ought—though his presence is inarticulate in a formal sense.
The main effect is that this aligns us with God’s will, and allows us to express our groaning to Abba in love—but also appropriately.
This is our help in our weakness of expression and need of present comfort; the help we need to embrace God’s will, so we can participate in his working things for our good and ultimately our glorification (our great hope).
What is “God’s will”? (Romans 8:28)
Romans 8:28 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God forknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called, he also Justified, and those he justified he also glorified.”
That is: God will glorify those he has chosen. We can hold unswervingly to our hope in Christ. because God is intent on his glorification of those who are heirs in Christ. We were his elect long ago, and those whom he has brought to justification, he will take to glorification. There is no slackness or shakiness in his promises.
“Slap me so I don’t do something petty.” – My daughter
I think the reason she comes to me in those moments is because she knows that she can groan with her dad, and that she is safe in her groaning when she is in my arms. I will let her feel, but I won’t let her fall into what she fears: pettiness, resentment, hopelessness, and all the reactions that indwelling sin stirs us when the curse bites us in some way.
I know my goal is to give her hope and to help her groan. I want that because I love her; I want her to know that there is no condemnation with me, and that I want to help her be more than a conqueror as an adult.
Conclusion: How do we do it?
So how do we have this kind of relationship with the Spirit to receive God’s hope and help?
The Spirit’s power is in our participation with him, and with the content of the gospel (the “hope in which we were saved”).
- Believe in Jesus work as the Christ and High Priest in breaking the debt and power of sin in his life, death, and resurrection.
- Believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit as an heir—a fully legitimate child.
- Seek the Mind of the Spirit, and put to death the Mind of the Flesh
- Seek the Mind of the Spirit especially in our boast in the hope of future glory.
- Embrace the dynamic of: “Groaning inwardly while waiting eagerly.”
Rom. 5:1-5 NIBO Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.