David Jeremiah - God’s Love Will Never Let You Go
Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind man in history to reach the peak of Mount Everest. With 10.000 feet vertical fall into Tibet on one side, and a 7.000 foot fall into Nepal on the other, the south summit of Mount Everest at 28.750 feet is where many climbers finally turn back. But Erik Weihenmayer is not the kind of man to turn back. He didn't stop with inching along the icy cliff nearly five and a half miles above sea level. In fact, on August the 20th, 2008, Erik reached the summit of the Carstensz Pyramid, in Indonesia, the tallest mountain in Australasia. With that climb, he finished his goal of reaching the seven summits, the highest peaks on each of the world's seven continents. And he climbed them all and many more while being totally blind since the age of 13.
When Erik began his adventure a few years before this, a friend told him that he should climb Alaska's Mt. McKinley, something that seemed completely unrealistic. He knew there would be only one way to accomplish it. "It may sound crazy," he said, "a blind novice taking on such a dangerous mountain", but in many ways, McKinley was the perfect big peak on which to begin. Since all the route is glaciated, criss-crossed by giant, gaping crevices, the only way to climb it is to be roped up with teammates. Even when the wind was howling and I wouldn't be able to hear footsteps crunching in the front of me, I have the direction of the rope to follow. Alone and surrounded by these crevices and the wind howling, nothing but a rope to guide your steps and keep you connected".
He said, "My knees get weak just thinking about what I did. When a half dozen climbers are inching along a crevice in single file, the rope that passes through each of their harnesses is their lifeline. If one person slips, it's the rope that holds him. The others dig in and bring him back". The rope that is for the mountain climbers their stability, is for us the rope, called the love of God. It is God's love that holds us in our journey through life. And like the rope for the mountain climbers, it is not a rope that we have to hold onto. It is a rope that we are connected to by virtue of God's love for us. Romans 8:35, and again in verse 39 the Apostle Paul says, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus".
Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus. God's love is like the rope that passes thought the harness. God's love is attached to us so that, regardless of what happens, we stay connected to God. God's love doesn't depend on you or me loving him back and keeping a grip in his hand. His love is attached to us by the force of his promises. We are loved. And Paul wrote to Timothy, "It doesn't even matter if we are faithless to God. He is always faithful to us. So, here in Romans 8:35 and 36, in order to underscore the staying power of God's love, the Apostle considers seven things that might possibly be strong enough to cause us to be separated.
Now, he knows that nothing can separate us, but he also knows that it can often appear to us that we are being separated from the love of God. We go through things in our life that can make us think, if we're not connected carefully to the truth, that God has forgotten us. Even the Old Testament writer of the Psalms had moments like this. You remember the Psalm where David cried out, "O God, how long before you remember us? Lord God, what are you waiting for"? We all have these moments. And let me just say to you upfront in this message the thing that will get you through those moments is not your emotional stability, not your connectedness to other people. The thing that will get you through those moments is your knowledge of the Word of God and what it says about God.
You need to know some things when you go through stuff in life. It's not just a matter of being strong emotionally. When I go through stuff, I need to know some things. And so, before we're finished today, I hope you're going to know that God loves you, and he will never, ever let you go. That's what the nature of this text is. Paul begins by giving us a list of things that could possibly pop in your mind. Maybe these things will keep God from continuing to love me. He says in verse 35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, shall distress? What about persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword"?
All of those things are conditions in life where you might, in the midst of those things think: where us God? But I want you to know that Paul is not describing this like an armchair theologian. Paul is giving us words that describe things that actually have happened to him. He's given us seven representative words that, if you go to 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, you will discover Paul experienced all of these things, with the exception of the last one, which is the sword. And he's about to experience that at the hand of the Roman emperor. Years ago, when I was ill and coming back from surgery at the Mayo Clinic, I was waking up the day after a major surgery, and I had a bunch of cards brought to me by my wife. And one of the first cards on the pile was a card that had on it, the front of it, the words of 2 Corinthians chapter 11. Words like this: tribulations, kinds of needs, distresses, stripes, beatings with lashes, imprisonment, tumult.
It was one of those cards where all these words just kind of were blended all over the front of the card. Let me go on: sleeplessness, fasting, dishonor, lies, deceit, chastening, sorrow, poverty, stoning, 3 shipwrecks, 24 hours adrift in the sea. And I'm looking at this card, and I'm thinking, "Who is the sick person that sent this to me? I'm trying to get better, and this is supposed to help me"? And I read through the rest of them just shaking my head. And then I opened the card, and when I opened the card, this was what's on inside, "So, how you been? So, how you been"? I have to tell you, it was the most encouraging card I got all the time I was in the hospital. I'd never experienced anything like Paul. Paul had gone through so much here, I am coming back from a little, measly surgery, so how you been?
Well, this is quite a list that we have here, the things that happened to Paul before he wrote the Book of Romans. Because Romans and 2 Corinthians are very close together in their having been written. So, all these things he knew. Paul wasn't just saying, "Here are some things that could happen to somebody. And if they happen to somebody, they could keep you from continuing to believe that God loves you". No, no, no, Paul is saying, "Here are some things that happened to me. I've been through all of this and a lot worse, and there's more things than just seven. And I'm here to tell you that nothing can separate you from the love of God. I'm not just telling you because it's in the Bible. I'm telling you because I have been there and done that, and God has proven himself faithful to me in the midst of all these things". This is not theoretical. This is actual.
And if you study Paul's life, that's actually true. I've made the comment more than once that wherever Paul went, he always ended up in the synagogue and then in jail. And many times, they tried to kill him. They threw him over a cliff. I mean, they did everything they could. Every day Paul went out into the world, he faced death. He says, "Every day, I am facing killing". And Paul is so certain about this, he's so absolutely conscious of this, so confident of this in his own spirit, that in verses 38 and 39, he gives us one of the strongest testimonies to the staying power of God's love you'll read anywhere in the Bible. Listen to these words again. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord".
To make his point, the Apostle uses his literary training to teach us this truth. In the first list that we read in verse 35, we have a list of things that actually happened to Paul. But in verse 38, we have a list of things that could possibly pop into your mind that could, in the extremities of life, happen to you. So, Paul wants to take all that off the table. And he uses a literary device to make this happen. He uses a device, a figure of speech called a merism. You've probably never heard of that before. I have to honesty tell you I couldn't remember studying that in English. But let me tell you what it is. A figure of speech is the way a writer uses words to convey a subject. And a merism represents two extremes that stand for many words in between. Here's the best way I know to tell you this. How far are your sins separated from God? Answer, as far as the east is from the west, got it?
Well, if you read the Bible, several times especially in the Psalms and here now in Romans 8:38, Paul is going to use the merism, which is stating the extremes of something, and in doing so including everything that's in between. In other words, instead of saying all the things he might have to say to convey what's here, he just says this and he says this. And there are five pairs of contrasts, five merisms if you will in Romans 8:38. Let's go through them together. He says, first of all, "Not the crisis of death nor the calamities of life". What can separate us from God's love? Neither death nor life. Death is the greatest of all separators, but Paul's not frightened by death. He's already said to us in verse 35 that he's going to experience the sword, which he did. Paul knew that Christ had conquered death, and so it no longer terrified him.
In fact, he wrote to the Corinthians these words. He said, "'O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ". Paul says, "Neither the crisis of death nor the calamities of life". What kind of calamities? All the things he mentioned earlier: tribulation, distress, hardship, suffering, all those things. Paul says, "None of those things will ever separate you from God's love, neither the crisis of death nor the calamities of life". And then he says, "Not only will the crisis of death nor the calamities of life separate you, but now the intervention of angels nor the intrusion of demons".
Neither angels nor demons is the next phrase. What does that mean? Well, some people say it couldn't be good angels because good angels would have no motivation to separate you from God's love. But perhaps we're missing the point when we say that because what Paul is simply doing is taking the extremities that he can think of. Maybe the extremities in his mind are evil demons and good angels, and everything in between. And nothing between those two things in the spirit world can ever separate you from God's love, nothing. It's impossible, Paul says, for you to be separated from the love of God. The rope of God's love goes through your harness, and it cannot be removed.
So, we're safe in the angelic world. We're safe in the spirit world. And then he goes on and he says, "Not the crisis of death nor the calamities of life. Not the intervention of angels nor the intrusion of demons. And not the cares of today nor the concerns of tomorrow, things present, nor things to come". Paul says, "Here's the next merisms. Take all the things that are happening to you now, and take all the things that can happen to you in the future, draw a line between them, and never will you ever find on that line anything that can separate you from God's love" The rope is secure. God's love is absolute. You say, "How do I know these things are true? How do I know that I can't be separated from God's love"? Well, here's a good exercise for us to go through, and I need your help in this.
There are some questions in Romans 8. Well, they're called rhetorical questions because they assume an answer. Let me show you the first one in verse 31 of chapter 8. "If God be for us, who can be against us"? What's the answer to that? No one. So, I'm going to read these questions, and I'm going to ask you to help me. I'm going to read them, I want you to say: no one. Now, don't say it like you just woke up. I want you to say it like you mean it, all right? I want you to say it with authority 'cause this is what this is meant to do. He asked these rhetorical questions, and the resounding answer should be in our heart. Are you ready?
Here we go, ready. "If God be for us, who can be against us? Who can bring a charge against God's elect? Who is he who condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of God"? Not the crisis of death or the calamities of life, not the intervention of angels nor the intrusion of demons, not the cares of today nor the concerns of tomorrow, and not the pinnacle of heaven nor the pit of hell. In all of the space between the highest and the lowest point of God's creation, love is present because God is present. God is omnipresent. And because God is love, that means his love is omnipresent. There are many stories in the Bible about God's presence with his people. In the Bible, in early church history, and in modern times, we are constantly being reminded that it is impossible to escape from the presence of God's love.
And then number five, not anything mighty or anything made. He says, "Nor powers nor any other created thing". The word "powers" is usually translated by the word "miracles". The Bible says there is no demonic miracle that could separate you from God's love. And there isn't anything, here, I love this because this is kind of the summary statement of Paul. He says, "Not any other created thing". Now, how many things are there in the world that are uncreated? How many? One. Only God Himself. God is uncreated. He created everything. He says, "Not any created thing can separate you from the love of God". What does that include? Everything in the world has been created by God, so it's the summary statement. God is saying through Paul, "I've made my list. I've given you all these contrasts. If you didn't get that, let me make one more statement so that you don't miss this. There's not anything that's ever been created in the entire world from the beginning of time until now, not anything at all that can ever separate you from the love of God".
Now, I don't know how much clearer it can be made. That's God's testimony to us. That's his promise. And some of you say, "Well, pastor, I don't, man, I sure don't feel loved. I'm going through so much stuff, I think God's forgotten me". Well, I don't know about your feelings, I just know this. I promise you, God hasn't forgotten you. You say, "How can you say that? You don't know me". No, but I know God. I know his Word. And what I said before is when you're going through things where you're tempted to feel like God has forgotten you, it's not how you feel that's important. It's what you know that's important. And if you don't know the Word of God, if you don't know what God has promised, if you haven't accepted his truth as the infallible Word of God to your heart, when these times come, your emotions will take over your life.
Don't let your emotions take over your life. Let your heart and your mind in Jesus Christ take over your life, and you will be able to deal with these things because in the heart of your heart, you will know, "I have a God who has hooked me up to the rope of his love, and I am connected, and I know it". Amen? Now, here's the summary of it all and the conclusion. In verse 37, Paul says, "If these things are true, and we know these things are true, it changes us. How does it change us? Let me read the verse, Romans 8:37, "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us".
What does it mean to be more than conquerors? I mean, if you're a conqueror, what more could there be? This is the only time this little phrase "more than a conqueror" is found in the Bible. It is the connection of two Greek words, "huper," which means more than, and "nikao," conqueror, the word from which we get the word Nike. We are huper nikao. We are more than conquerors. Now, how can you be more than a conqueror? Let me explain. We are not merely conquerors. We are more than conquerors. It's not just that the forces that are opposing us we have neutralized, but more than conquerors, we have taken the things that are against them and made them part of our victory.
In other words, there is revealed to us the love of God which is in Christ, a love which no one or nothing will ever be able to separate us, so we do not stop or defeat the power of all things that come against us. Something happens more than that. We are better for having gone through the battle. We become better people because of these things. We grow. As Warren Wiersbe said in one of his books, we step on the bumps in life, and we go higher. The Bible says that when we face all these things that Paul has put on the table, and we go through them, and we go through them with the love of God harnessed to our heart, the result of having gone through them with his power is that we are better on the other side of those things than we could ever have been had we not gone through them.
One of the great things that came to me during the challenges I had 10 years ago was just this simple thought. And I said it when I got up in the pulpit the first time I came back: God is enough. He is enough. Just to know that in your heart, to go through the things that you go through that are tough, and to come out on the other side with this confidence. I was there, I went through that stuff, and I want to tell you my God is enough. You can never recover from that. Because when you see the stuff coming at you the next time, you don't have to be panic-stricken, whatever it is, whatever is coming at you. Hey, I've been there, and my God's enough.
So, when you're going through the hard things, when you're wondering if maybe you've gotten unconnected, just remember this. Nothing, nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, your Lord. Let me say it again. nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus your Lord. And you know why? Because God loves you, he always has, and he always will.