Do you sense an ache in your soul, longing for something greater than what you experience in this world? In week eight of Dying to Live, Blake Holmes walks through Romans 8:18-30 to show us what it looks like to anticipate the future glory that is promised in Scripture.
God is for You | Romans 8:31-39
Future Glory Over Present Suffering | Romans 8:18-30
Changed by God | Romans 8:1-17
Acceptance Over Performance | Romans 7:7-25
The Law and Spirit | Romans 7:1–7
Our Identity in Christ | Romans 6:15-23
Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ | Romans 6:1-14
Obedience of Faith
Do you sense an ache in your soul, longing for something greater than what you experience in this world? In week eight of Dying to Live, Blake Holmes walks through Romans 8:18-30 to show us what it looks like to anticipate the future glory that is promised in Scripture.
It's good to gather and to sing, to pray together, and now to open up God's Word. We're continuing our series on Romans 6-8, Dying to Live. I want to start this morning telling you a little bit about what happened yesterday within our body, as many of you and many in my community gathered around one particular family. Hundreds of people gathered at the football field to pray for a young boy named Primo. Primo is in seventh grade, and yesterday, Primo received a heart transplant.
This young man who knows Jesus said, "I pray that God uses this to unite our community and that more people would come to know him." In seventh grade! You can see the hundreds of people who were on that field to pray and beseech the Lord, longing to hear the news, "We have a heartbeat." It was later that afternoon word went out: "The surgery was successful, and the heart is beating on its own." That's amazing.
Church, I'd just ask you to continue to pray for Primo and his family. He's a remarkable young man who, weeks ago, didn't show any signs of unhealth, a fit, strong athlete. All of a sudden, he finds himself in need of a heart. The body gathered around him. The community gathered around him and prayed. I just sat there and thought, "Could I imagine being Primo's dad today?" The longing to hear the news, "We have a heartbeat." Man!
I thought, if I could sit with you at the coffee shop and talk to you this morning, how many of you would say, "Hey, Blake, I'm longing not for a heartbeat; I'm longing for the restoration of a relationship. I'm longing for health again. I'm longing for my life to feel like it's normal again. I'm longing for a sense of peace. I'm longing to be reunited with a loved one." What are you longing for this morning? I'm not talking about things like a Cowboys victory. I'm talking about the ache in your soul.
As believers, there are longings within our hearts, and as we look at Romans 8 today, beginning at verse 18, I want to share with you an amazing truth. If you hear one thing I'm going to share, I want you to hear this one truth that Romans 8:18-30 says: our future glory far outweighs our present suffering. If you got that… Write it down. Our future glory far outweighs our present suffering. That's the heartbeat of this passage we're going to explore this morning.
I was talking to a friend who said, "Oh, Blake. That's the message so many of us need to hear." It's the message that I think the Lord was kind in just going, "Hey, I want you in this text, Blake." So, if you feel an ache and you feel a longing this week or today or have for months, be encouraged, because this is an amazing passage. We've learned in this series that the Christian life is not trying to perform for God. We don't operate with a performance-based acceptance. We don't perform for God so he will accept us. We operate with an acceptance-based performance.
If you don't understand the difference between that, the heartbeat and the motivation behind why you do what you do as a believer, there's a radical difference. Once you understand there's nothing you could do to make God love you more and there's nothing you could do to make God love you less, that it was finished at the cross… Once you understand that, then you operate from an acceptance-based performance, not trying to bring your résumé to God, going, "Look at what I can do for you, God. Look at how my good outweighs the bad."
You'll never attain to the righteousness of God. We all fall short, but God in his goodness and his kindness and his grace has made provision for us. We've learned in Romans 6-8 that the Christian life is one of active surrender to the Holy Spirit. That's what it looks like to walk with the Lord: to actively surrender to his Spirit.
Today, we'll see that this passage in verses 18-30 breaks up into three parts. This longing I'm speaking of… We see that creation longs for a future day. To use the word the text says, creation groans in anticipation of our future glory. We groan. There is an ache inside of us, longing in anticipation for our future glory (verses 23-25). Then in verses 26-30, the Spirit of God groans. God's Spirit groans in anticipation of our future glory.
This is an amazing text. No matter where you are today, no matter what burden you carry, no matter what sickness you face, no matter how dire your circumstances, if you know Jesus Christ, here is a promise you can be assured of: your future glory far outweighs your present suffering. That's not wishful thinking. That's not kind sentiment on a Hallmark card. That's straight from the truth of God's Word.
So, let's look at verses 18-22 together. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." If you have your Bibles, put a star right by verse 18. Underline it, highlight it, whatever you have to do in your phone, because verse 18 is what sets the main idea for everything that's going to follow. This follows right after verses 16 and 17 where David Marvin taught us last week.
Remember what verses 16 and 17 say. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Do you see that? We're children of God. We have been made children, and as children we're heirs. There is an inheritance. But there is this tension. There's this "already, not yet." What he says is that we suffer with him today on this side of heaven, but there is a future glory.
Therefore, in verse 18, he says, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time…" Fill in the blank of whatever burdens you, weighs your heart down, whatever you long for. The sufferings of this present time…there's no exception to this, whatever you're battling…are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. We are adopted into the family of God, but we have not received our future inheritance.
You see, we await glorification when we will receive our resurrected bodies and will be with God away from the presence of sin forever. I mean, just stop and think about that. Your future glory far outweighs your present suffering. We have a hope. The Bible speaks of our salvation in three major movements. We've been justified by faith. We've been declared righteous. We are sanctified.
We've been freed from the penalty of sin, we're freed from the power of sin, and ultimately, we will be freed from the very presence of sin. We will be glorified. That's what he's speaking of. "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Notice this. Verses 19-22: "For the creation…" Circle the word creation. That's the first thing we're going to see that groans.
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…" There's that word. Underline it. Creation groans. "…together in the pains of childbirth until now."
Well, that is a mouthful. What does it mean? It means creation groans in anticipation of our future glory. There's an eager longing. I love this idea. The image behind this Greek word here, which is translated the eager longing… It's like to wait with a head raised, like, on your tiptoes. Have you ever been waiting for someone to come off a plane you haven't seen in a long time, and you want to see them? You raise your head. You get on your tiptoes.
It's like creation is personified. There's a future day where creation itself is on its tiptoes, going, "What's God up to? What's he doing? Where's all this leading to?" History is not just a random occurrence of events, but God is providentially at work, writing our story, writing his redemptive story, and creation longs to see. It uses the word revealing, which speaks of a removal of a covering. Have you been to a great revealing before, where maybe they have a bust or a statue…a dedication? They remove the covering, and everybody cheers.
Creation longs to see the future glory of God's redemptive plan. There's eager anticipation. Why? Because we see in verses 20-22 that when man fell, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they not only fell and were separated from God, but creation fell with them. God cursed the ground upon which man worked. Everything we eat was going to come from the sweat of our brows. The ground was to be filled with thorns and thistles. There would be pain in childbirth. Nature would decay. Death would enter into the world. Nature fell.
We live in a broken world. Sin brings death. Yet one day, we see that the Lord will redeem creation. He's going to establish his reign on earth. It's like a mom in childbirth. There is pain today, but one day there will be new life. That's what verse 22 says. "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." Isaiah 11. Just listen to the depiction of Isaiah 11:6-10.
"The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse [the Son of David, the son of Abraham, Jesus Christ] , who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious."
There will be a day where Jesus reigns on this earth and restores fallen creation. Did you know that? Do you believe that? How many of you C.S. Lewis fans out there? All right. Many. How many Narnia fans out there? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, rich with theology. I love how Lewis depicted this. Do you remember the scene? "It's always winter, never Christmas." That's exactly what Lewis was saying. The earth was frozen over, impacted by the witch, but who shows up? Does anybody remember? Father Christmas.
Father Christmas shows up. And what does he say? It's such a great line. He shows up and says, "I've come at last. She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch's magic is weakening. […] Merry Christmas! Long live the true king!" Long live the true king, Aslan, which is represented as the big, majestic lion…Jesus. He has come to restore the created order. There is a future day, and creation longs for that future day. Our future glory far outweighs our present suffering.
Not only does creation groan, but we groan. There is an ache in our hearts. We've all experienced this. Verses 23-25: "And not only the creation, but we…" Circle the word we. We saw that creation groans. "…but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan…" There it is again. We groan. We long. We experience the ache of this world. We groan inwardly. Underline that.
"…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Notice what's said here in verse 23. Let's unpack this. "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…"
Firstfruits. This is an allusion back to the book of Exodus. The Israelites would offer their first fruits after the harvest. They would take the best and the first of what they had and offer it to God as an expression of thanksgiving and trust that he would provide. "I can offer you my first fruits, because you're going to provide the harvest. You're the Lord of the harvest." What Paul communicates here is that we can wait with confidence and with hope because God has given us his Spirit. His Spirit is the first fruit of our salvation. It's a deposit, if you will, of what God will ultimately do.
First John 3:2 says it like this: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." Ephesians 1 says it like this: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…" When you trusted in Jesus Christ, God's Spirit moved into your life. "…who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."
Do you see that tension there? The Spirit of God is the down payment, the deposit, the beginning of the inheritance, proof that God is not done with us, that we're a work in progress. Philippians 1 says, "He who began a good work in you will complete it." He has not left us on our own. In verses 24-25, this is why we have hope. Hope has always marked God's people. People so misunderstand hope because they think of it like wishful thinking or just kind sentiment, but hope is marked in the character and the Word of God. Our hope resides with him.
Verses 24-25: "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." We have hope because the Spirit of God resides within our hearts. God is not done with us. We are being sanctified. We are being conformed into his image, and one day we will be glorified. We will see him as he is, removed from the pain and the suffering of this world. We will be like him.
Paul says this day is so amazing that in 2 Corinthians 4:17 he says, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…" If there is a passage to encourage you this morning… Whatever is burdening your heart, whatever you're up against, whatever is weighing you down, Paul is able to say that it is light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory, which is beyond all comparison. That is a bold statement: our suffering pales in comparison to the future glory that awaits us.
In Romans 5:3-5 he says, "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…" How can we rejoice in our sufferings? "…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
When my son was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. I really did not understand the nature of leukemia or what it does. It can be one white blood cell that becomes cancerous that multiplies, and then one becomes two, and two becomes three, and now you have cancerous cells that kill out the healthy cells.
We initially noticed he looked tired and lethargic, weak, had bruising on his legs…all of the signs something wasn't right. That was the worst day of my life when the doctor looked at me and said, "Your son, at 4 years old, has cancer." That began a three-year journey…over three years…of every single day… Every day, he took one form of chemotherapy, whether orally, whether through his port, or a spinal tap. I watched my son battle cancer every day.
What was amazing, as time went on and he was responding well to his treatment, was to hear from our doctor, "Blake, there will be a day when your son is going to be cured." I said, "Cured." His words to me were, "Like he never had it." That's different from remission. Cured. So, year by year went by, and I lived in anticipation of what my doctor promised, that someday my son was going to be cured, that the cancer cells were going to be gone, and the chance of him having cancer again was as remote as anyone else. Cured.
I longed for that day. We just celebrated, in fact, the anniversary of when he took his last round of treatment. Just for us as a family, we always mark that time. Friends, what Scripture is teaching is that there is a groaning we all experience, a longing we all experience, a suffering we all experience this side of heaven, but God in his goodness and kindness and grace, if you know Jesus Christ, offers you a hope such that your future glory far outweighs your present suffering. Do you believe that? Do you know it? Do you live with that sense of hope, with that belief? That's the promise. God's Spirit testifies to our hearts there will be a future glory.
But not only does creation groan and do we groan, but the Spirit groans. Look at verse 26. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings…" Underline that. Creation groans, we groan, and the Spirit groans. "…too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Now we get to verse 28, that verse that many have already highlighted, many quoted. Star it. We're going to look at it in context.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
We see in verses 26 and 27 the Spirit intercedes for us in our weakness, in our fallen humanity. He is aware of our brokenness, and the Spirit who resides within our hearts intercedes. Translators are torn. If you have a New American Standard Bible, they interpret that to mean Paul meant we don't know how to pray as we should. If you have an NIV, it's what to pray as we should. Either way, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf and groans out of compassion for our weakness. He empathizes with our weakness.
God in his goodness and kindness allows his Spirit to live within our hearts, dwell within our hearts, change us from the inside out to know God, and he meets us even in our prayers. In verse 28, we see that God works all things out for the good of his people. What a promise. God allows whatever we experience to conform us into the image of his Son. That's what this means.
Let me be really clear, before we quote Romans 8:28 to others who are suffering: This is not a promise of worldly comfort or pleasure. This is not saying everything we experience is good. Cancer is not good. Nor are we promised a complete understanding this side of heaven. You aren't always able to connect the dots and go, "Oh, so I experienced this, and this is how God used the course of events to bring about this good." You may never see it this side of heaven, but the promise is that God is writing your story, and he always has your best interests in mind, and he is good.
His greatest aim is not our happiness, but our holiness. Life can be incredibly hard, but in the disappointments, the trials, the brokenness, the hurt, the frustration, the longing, we have a God who's providentially at work in our lives. He's writing your story, and he always has your best interests in mind. If you know him, what is he doing? He's conforming you into the image of his Son. He's shaping you to know him and to draw you closer to him.
One man, in writing on this passage, comments this: "Essentially, it promises that nothing will touch our lives that is not under the control and direction of our loving heavenly Father." There are no accidents. There are no mistakes. "Everything we do and say, everything people do to us or say about us, every experience we will ever have…all are sovereignly used by God for our good. We will not always understand how the things we experience work to good, and we certainly will not always enjoy them." Amen to that. "But we do know that nothing comes into our lives that God does not allow and use for his own beneficent purposes."
Do you see that? The Spirit groans in anticipation of our future glory. He's at work in our hearts. He intercedes for us in our prayers, and God assures us that nothing happens to us outside of his providential will. This is probably illustrated best through… I was thinking about this. If you look at a tapestry, if you think about it, on one side of the tapestry, it just looks like a mess. It just looks like yarn that's thrown out of the back. You really can't make sense of it. But on the other side of the tapestry there's something beautiful. There is order, and there is design.
We don't always see the other side of the tapestry. We certainly experience what's on the left-hand side where it just looks like a fray of yarn…random events, hurts, frustrations, setbacks. We're like, "God, what are you doing?" He's like, "I'm working. I'm painting you a picture so you will know your future glory far outweighs your present suffering. Don't lose hope. I always have your best interests in mind. I'm providentially at work. I'm orchestrating life and affairs for that future day."
Notice verses 29-30, because this is so important. Verses 29-30 say this: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
I can't possibly share with you and unpack the meaning of all of these terms, but it's an unbreakable chain of five assurances. God foreknew you. God knew you before the foundation of the world. He knew you. It could be translated "Those whom he long ago thought of in a saving relationship to himself." He knew you.
Do you want to know where your security, your meaning, your purpose, your dignity, and your worth lie? In the fact that God knows you and God loves you. Apart from anything you've accomplished, earned, learned, or done, God knows you. He not only foreknew you…he predestined you. Predestination is a word so many of us run from because we can't understand it, but it is entirely biblical. God chose you before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:3-6: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…" There it is. "In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."
He foreknew you. He predestined. He chose you. He called you. The Bible speaks of the call. Like, there's the gospel call. "Come. Receive him. Know him." But it also speaks of the effectual call, that God changes your heart, that when he knocks on the door of your heart, you respond, not because you figured it out but because of his grace and his goodness. He gives you life. He called you. Not only did he call you, but he brings justification. He declares you forgiven.
If you believe in who Jesus is and what he has done for you on the cross…his death, burial, and resurrection…you're freed from the penalty of sin, and one day you will be glorified. You'll be freed from the presence of sin. Five great assurances. It's an unbreakable chain. I love what one man said in light of this passage. I know it's hard to understand. I'm not asking you to figure it all out right now. We don't have time for that. I'm asking you to accept it.
He says this: "He [Paul] wants us to come away from this text not with theological questions but with a renewed sense of assurance: that the God who began a good work in us will indeed bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus." The God who foreknew you, the God who chose you before the foundation of the world… What makes you think, if he has done that and has called you and justified you, that he won't also fulfill his promise to bring you to a place where your future glory far outweighs your present suffering?
He speaks in the prophetic past tense as a way of emphasizing the certainty of a future event. Consider it done. He justified. He also glorified. Our future glory far outweighs our present suffering. There's a longing, an ache that all of us feel, that creation expresses, we express, and the Spirit of God within us expresses this future day, of something great that is to come. Do you live with that hope? Do you believe it?
I remember my grandmother. She was an amazing cook. When you went to her house for dinner, there was nothing ever informal about it…ever. Southern belle. I called her "Granny." Every time you went and sat at her table, you had homemade food…appetizers, fresh vegetables (always vegetables), meats, a table that was set. It was an event.
What she would always say, though… It was always great. Because I was the grandson. Right? She'd say, "Hey, Blake, hold on to your spoon." "Granny, why hold on to my spoon?" "The best is yet to come." That's what she would always say: "The best is yet to come." I knew exactly what she meant, because it wasn't just homemade vegetables. That's what you tolerated. It was the homemade chocolate cake. It was the dessert. The spoon was just a sign. "The best is yet to come."
Watermark family, I want to tell you something: hold on to your spoons. Whatever burden you're carrying, whatever hurt or pain you're experiencing, the best is yet to come. Do you have your spoons? You're going to learn a lesson. If you're at home, you should have come to church. You're going to walk out of these doors, and you're going to experience the best is yet to come. Let's pray.
Father in heaven, I thank you that the best is yet to come. In the meantime, Lord, our hearts ache, creation aches, and your Spirit within our hearts testifies the best is yet to come, yet I know there are kids like Primo who need a heart transplant in seventh grade. I know there are friends in here who are desperate to be reunited with loved ones, who want to hear "You're healed, and the cancer is gone."
There's a lot that's tearing at our hearts and breaking us down, but would you remind us of those five great assurances, that unbreakable chain? Would you remind us with the spoons we carry this morning that the best is yet to come because our future glory far outweighs our present suffering? Thank you for this reminder this morning. In Jesus' name, amen.