TEXTS: Matthew 1:22-23, Romans 8:31-32, John 14:16-17 (HCSB)
INTRODUCTION: Usually I focus on one primary text of Scripture when I preach. But, for this devotional, I want to view three texts that express three glorious aspects of God’s relationship with us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. We won’t be expounding these texts in full, but rather we will be noting key truths in each of these texts. We will be emphasizing three English prepositions as we go along. And I hope that we will be encouraged as we think of God’s gracious work on our behalf to have an intimate relationship with us, His people, His children in Christ. It may be (especially) in times of difficulty, when encouragement is needed, that you and I will be able to repeat these three prepositions that will bless us with a renewed sense of the Lord’s presence in our lives.
The Angel broke into Joseph’s perplexing situation to announce the miraculous birth of Jesus. Matthew characteristically notes how this birth was a fulfillment of prophecy: “’See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel,’ which is translated ‘God is with us.’” (Matt. 1:23 HCSB) What a glorious truth, God was literally visiting His people. He was to be with His people personally, indeed bodily, and most importantly “savingly,” to save His people from their sins (see also 1 Timothy 1:15). What a mystery! What condescension! What good news! Jesus, in fulfillment of prophecy was truly “God with us” throughout His ministry on earth. The presence of the Lord is affirmed in Matthew 18:20 in a completely different context as He is in the midst of believers at a time of discipline. And as Jesus voiced His final commission in the Gospel of Matthew, He concludes by saying “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 HCSB). God is with us in Christ.
This is such a glorious truth. The Scriptures proclaim that God came to live and be among us and that presence continues! And he did this in a humble, and insignificant way. Yes, He did. And a key aspect of the gospel is wrapped up in this phrase “God with us.”
The apostle Paul gloried in the humility of our Savior in Phil. 2:5-8. He let go of the glories of heaven, he took the towel of service, he chose the path of obedience, and he drank the cup of suffering on the cross to be our Savior. To do all this - He had to be God with us. Praise His Name! This is a stumbling-block to many, and yet it is what the gospel declares. Such mercy, such grace, such humility, and yet such majesty and glory (John 1:1, 14-18)
But, let’s go further……..
The Apostle writes in climactic fashion as he comes to a key point in his presentation of the gospel, “What are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?” (Romans 8:31-32 HCSB) It would not be such a blessing for God to be with - if He was not for us! God is for us in the most profound of ways as the giving or “offering” of His Son indicates. In the preceding verses (Romans 8:28-30) and the following verses (Romans 8:33-39) we read of the immensity of God’s love which undergirds the truth of God being for us. The offering of Jesus is the ultimate gift and act “for us” that simply means that God will withhold nothing from us that we need. We also read of the certainty, the security, and victory of God being for us.
We have certainty in our relationship with God (28-32) God is for us in terms of the certainty of His eternal purpose for us (Romans 8:28-30) and His ultimate expression of love and sacrifice for us (Rom. 8:31-32). We can get used to a tame view of God in our culture. The Scriptures present the awesome majesty, the powerful sovereignty, and the glorious holiness of God. We are finite, weak, and sinful people in desperate need of salvation. To know of God’s purpose and love towards us in no uncertain terms is nothing short of mercy and grace. We can have the certainty of Him being for us because of what He has done, not because of what we seek to earn or merit in and of ourselves.
“Grace so amazing, grace undeserved.”
We also have security in our relationship with God (33-39). In terms of His judicial acceptance of us, what more could be said than is stated in verses 33-34. Again, in our culture, we have such a small view of the absolute righteousness and justice of God. And yet, in Christ and because of Christ we have a secure position that no one can shake. And this is in keeping with the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (38-39). Praise God for that!
There is so little security in this life. We fool ourselves if we think we are safe and secure in this world. The present pandemic crisis underlines that reality. But, we can, exercising true faith knowing that we are secure in the Lord. God is for us!
God for us also means that we have victory through our relationship with God (35-37 in context). Due to the fact that God is for us in His love, we are overcomers in life. Crises, circumstances, evil powers and all potential and real opposers cannot defeat the Christian. Yes, there can be suffering. Yes, there can be loss in this life. But, victory means that nothing we experience can cause separation from the Lord and His love.
We are overcomers in Christ.
We are victorious in Christ even in the midst of the difficulties and dangers of this world and beyond. Indeed, nothing is able to “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 HCSB). As hard as it is to grasp the reality of this truth, God is for us. For those who are truly in Christ, the truth of God being for us is an unshakable verity.
And as a closing thought on “God for us” I want us to return briefly to Romans 8:32. The logic of the text is clear. If God has done the greatest, most sacrificial thing for us, then why would we not trust Him to give us any and everything we need?? What is the answer to that question?
God is not like “Santa Claus.” God doesn’t just show up once a year, and then disappear until next year. The greatest act of love has been shown, so we can trust God daily for everything. Note the past tense of “love” in verse 37. That is because the greatest act of love (Jesus given) reveals the permanent nature of God’s love for us.
But, let’s go deeper……….
Jesus is speaking to His disciples about His return to the Father. He is also preparing His disciples for their experience after He was to depart, and He says to them, “’If you love Me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But, you do know Him, because He remains with and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.”
Jesus clearly speaks to His disciples about the gift of the Holy Spirit. This other counselor, the Spirit of truth would not only be with the disciples, but be in them. God, the Holy Spirit would be in them. This gift of the Spirit after Jesus was exalted in heaven was evidenced and proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost. What a glorious indication of the type of relationship that God desires to have with us. In the provision of the Holy Spirit we have God choosing to reside with us and indeed in us. The indwelling Spirit is our gift in salvation. It is through the Spirit’s presence that the exalted Christ remains with us as we fulfill His commission.
We know much from the Scriptures about the ministry of the Holy Spirit (For example read John 16:7-15). It is through the Holy Spirit that sin is exposed, it is through the Holy Spirit that truth is grasped, and it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is glorified in our lives. And as we read Romans 8 and other passages, we learn of the transforming work of the Spirit and His leading in our lives. Also, we are blessed to know that we have an intercessor within us who prays on our behalf, the Holy Spirit Himself!
His presence in us leads to the call and directive to “be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b). His presence is not to be ignored or resisted. He is to fill and control our lives.
CONCLUSION: As you read Jesus’ prayer in John 17, especially 20-26, you sense the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ for union with His people, and His people’s union with Himself and the Father. These are deep truths that we cannot fully comprehend, but I want to conclude by making a simple observation. God’s will, purpose, and provision are for a close personal relationship with us, His children. He has done everything to make such a relationship possible. That should bless us. That should encourage us. That should cause us to rejoice. He came to be with us, He came to be for us, and has come to be in us. These truths should motivate us to abide in Him, seek His face daily, continue to learn of Him, and grow in that relationship. We should pray Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 for ourselves as well as for one another:
“I pray that He [the Father] may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah [Christ] may dwell in your hearts by faith, I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”