"From Grief To Glory"
Dr. James Merritt
1. On the capitol dome in Washington, D. C. you will find the following inscription: "One God, one law, one element and one supreme event toward which the whole creation moves."
2. Now what is that event? The inscription doesn't tell us. It leaves it to our own imagination. Is it the destruction of the world? Is it the establishing of a worldwide order? Is it the bringing in of a utopian state? I think not.
3. The one event toward which this entire creation is moving is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to figure out something is desperately wrong with this world; both the world of nature and the world of humanity. Now the Bible tells us that what is wrong with this world is guilt. But the Bible gives the solution to guilt, which is grace.
5. We also know by experience that the result of this guilt is grief, but the result of grace is glory. What this world needs to do is to move from guilt to grace, and from grief to glory. That is exactly what the sainted Apostle Paul is dealing with in this precious passage of scripture.
I. The Grief We Suffer
1. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (v.18) Now present time is universal time. We all live in the present time. All present time is a time of suffering.
2. There is a fact we all must face. That is, suffering is inevitable and suffering is inescapable. You are not going to get out of this life without suffering, without heartache, without grief, without pain.
3. There are some people who think that they can escape suffering by being godly, by living pure, and avoiding trouble. Now you ought to be godly, and you ought to live pure, and you ought to try to avoid trouble at all cost. But the problem is, trouble will not avoid you. "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (II Tim. 3:12)
4. The fact of the matter is, success always comes at the expense of sacrifice and suffering. You can see it all through the Bible. Job attained success through sacrifice and suffering. Jacob attained success through sacrifice and suffering. Joseph attained success through sacrifice and suffering. Jesus accomplished salvation through sacrifice and suffering.
5. Grief and glory is a theme that is found all the way through the Word of God, and it always comes in that order. Now many of us are like the disciples who wanted the glory without the grief. The Devil, on the other hand, wants to give you the grief without the glory. But the Christian life means, first the grief, and then the glory.
6. But that should not discourage you, that should encourage you. For Paul emphasizes that the benefits of the glory will far outweigh the burdens of the grief. The word "consider" is a bookkeeping term. It's a banking term. It refers to balancing a ledger; a balancing scales. Paul says when you put grief on one side of the scale and glory on the other side, the blessings of the glory to come far outweigh the burdens of the grief that we have to bear here.
II. The Groaning We See
1. Three times the word groan or groaning is used in this passage of scripture. First we see the groaning of the creation. "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now." (v.22)
2. Then we see the groaning of the Christian. "And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (v.23)
3. Then we see the groaning of the comforter. "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (v.26) I want to focus on the first two groanings:
A. The Groaning Of The Creation
1. Why is this creation groaning? "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope." (v.20) Why is there fighting in this world? Why is there frustration in this world? Why is there failure in this world? The answer is sin. When Adam fell, the creation was plunged into chaos from which it never has and never will recover apart from the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
And the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die,
"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was naked; and I hid myself."
And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which
I commanded you that you should not eat?"
Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."
And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Gen.3:1-13)
In this passage of scripture we see the anatomy of sin.
3. First there is doubt as the serpent says to Eve in v.1, "Has God said?" Then there is denial as the serpent says to Eve, "You will not die." (v.4) Then there is deception as
Eve takes the bait and bites the bullet. (v.5) After that, there is death for God said to them, "In the day you eat of it, you will surely die." Adam and Eve died immediately in their spirits, progressively in their souls, and ultimately in their bodies.
4. But following all of this was decay. A curse was place on the animal world. "So the Lord God said to the serpent: 'Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.'" (v.14) Notice he said that the serpent was cursed more than the cattle. Every beast of the field is cursed. That's why the lion feeds on the lamb, and the wolf attacks the sheep, and animals feed off each other. This was the beginning of the story of "The Survival of the Fittest."
5. But the mineral world also was cursed. "Then to Adam He said, 'Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, say, 'You shall not eat of it': 'Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.'" (v.17) Because Adam fell, the ground must be plowed, the seed must be planted, the weeds must be plucked, and the food must be picked. Backbreaking labor, hard work and sweaty brows are the order of the day.
6. But the vegetable world also was cursed. "Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field." (v.18) Now the roses have thorns, and the gardens have weeds, and the flowers have thistles, and the ivy is poisoned.
7. God did all of this to remind us that something is wrong with this world. You see, nature not only reveals that this world has been created by God, but it also reminds us that it has been corrupted by guilt.
8. We see that this world was "subjected to futility." (v.20) Now the word futility carries the idea of being unable to achieve a goal or a purpose. In other words, this world is not the way God intended for it to be, and is not the way it was originally created. We see in v.21 it is now in "the bondage of corruption."
9. Now I believe in ecology. I believe we ought to do all that we can to keep our environment clean and our rivers pure. We ought to do all that we can to preserve the beautiful world God has created. But I am here to tell you that ecology ultimately is an exercise in futility. This world will always be in bondage to corruption.
10. In physics there is a law called the "Law of Entropy" which refers to the constant and irreversible degradation of matter and energy in the universe to increasing disorder. Now this law contradicts the theory of evolution which states that, rather than getting worse, the world is getting better.
11. But the folly of that is seen by simply planting a garden and then leaving it alone. That garden will not progress, it will digress. It will deteriorate. Weeds, thorns, and thistles will choke out the good plants. That is exactly the way of the entire universe. It is not going upward, it is going downward. It is in bondage to corruption.
B. The Groaning Of The Christian
1. Now what happened to the creation also happened to the creature. When Adam fell, he lost his position. The king of the jungle was meant to be man, not the lion. It was not the whales and the sharks and the mammals that were to rule the oceans, but man. Psalm 8:6 reminds us, "You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet." But when Adam fell he lost his position.
2. When he lost his position he lost his purity. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings." (Gen. 3:7) When Adam was first created he was marked by innocence, but when he fell he was marred by iniquity. His soul was permanently scared by sin.
3. When he lost his purity he lost his peace. "So he said, 'I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.'" (Gen. 3:10) It is interesting to see that the first words Adam uttered after he sinned was, "I am afraid." The root of all fear is sin. Fear is evidence that somehow, somewhere, someway we doubt God.
4. For the Bible says, "Perfect love casts out fear." You see only a Christian can really understand what is wrong with this world and the fact that there is something wrong with this world. The reason for that is found in v.23 where we find that "we have the firstfruits of the Spirit." You see, we know what it is like to be put right again with God. When a man is right with God he immediately senses there is something wrong with this world.
5. If you go into a room that is radioactive, that is saturated with radiation, you would never know it unless you had a geiger counter. The Holy Spirit within us is like a spiritual geiger counter. It clicks at even the faintest hint of sin, and it tells us that something is desperately wrong with this world and it even tells us that something is desperately wrong with us. For when we sin we know it's wrong to sin. We know that there is something wrong with this world and the people who live in it.
6. So today the physical world, the animal world, the mineral world, the mortal world tells us by its groaning, hurting, crying, weeping, that something is desperately wrong.
7. It is said that Dr. W. A. Criswell has a strange hobby. One of his hobbies is, as he travels around the country, he loves to go to cemeteries and read the epitaphs on tombstones. One time he was in Garland, Texas and he came upon the gravestone of a certain man whose name was at the top of the gravestone, and underneath it was this epitaph: "I told you I was sick." This world is telling us today that she is sick and in need of a Savior.
III. The Glory We Seek
1. Both the creation and the Christian are looking for a
A. The Glory Of Restoration
1. "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." (v.19) This world that has been ruined by sin one day will be restored by the Savior. When God finished this creation it was a good creation. But when Adam fell, it became a groaning creation. But one day it will be a glorious creation.
2. This world is longing for a day when once again it will be a world that God intended for it to be. In fact, this physical world can hardly wait for the coming of Jesus. The word "eagerly waits" is a very vivid word that literally refers to watching with outstretched head. It suggests standing on tiptoes with eyes staring straight ahead looking with intent expectancy. Why is this world so eager for the Lord to return? Because it is going to be restored.
3. The animal world is going to be restored. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." (Isaiah 11:6-9)
4. The mineral world is going to be restored. "The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sin. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes." (Isa. 35:1,6 & 7)
4. The vegetable world is going to be restored. "For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." (Isa. 55:12-13)
5. This refers to the glorious millennial reign of Christ when this world is going to be restored to all of its pristine purity. You remember the song Isaac Watts wrote that we sing at Christmas called "Joy to the World?" We all know that first stanza:
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
6. But we don't often sing the next stanza of that song which goes like this:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found.
7. When Isaac Watts wrote that he was not thinking of the first coming of Jesus, he was thinking of the second coming of Jesus; when He will establish that glorious millennial age when the animal kingdom, and the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom will be as God intended for it to be.
B. The Glory Of Resurrection
1. "And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (v.23) Now it is only our body, our mortal body, that needs yet to be redeemed. Our inner man has already been redeemed. We are already indwelt by the power and the Spirit of God, and we become a partaker of God's divine nature.
2. Our souls are fit for heaven and ready for glory, but our bodies are not. That is the problem with us. We are kept in bondage by our mortal bodies which are still corrupted by sin. It is almost as if we are the seed and the body is the shell.
3. That is why Paul said in Romans 6:12-13, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." You see, it is our bodies that need to be transformed. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." (Phil. 3:20-21)
4. You see, the problem is not our inward man, it is our outward man. That's why Paul said in II Cor. 4:16, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day."
5. There are four stages in the life of every child of God. First we were formed in the image of God. But secondly, we were deformed by sin. Thirdly, we are being transformed into God's image, but one day we shall be conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Now how and when is this going to happen. "For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (vv.24-25) Now the hope that Paul refers to here is the blessed hope of the coming of Jesus. This hope is a living hope. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (I Peter 1:3-4)
7. This hope is a longing hope, for we are "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13)
8. It is a lasting hope, for it is a hope "which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel." (Col. 1:5)
9. So will end the story of this world and the people who live in it who love the Lord Jesus. It began with goodness. It sank into guilt. It fell into grief. It was redeemed by grace, and one day will be ushered into glory.