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Have you ever heard Ronald Reaganâ..s favorite joke?
It goes something like this: The parents of identical twin boys were concerned that their sons had such extremely different personalities. One was a die-hard pessimist, the other an undying optimist. So, they took the boys to a psychologist.
The psychologist put the pessimistic twin in a room filled with brand new toys, but the boy didnâ..t touch any of them. Instead, he cried. When the psychologist asked him why he didnâ..t play with the toys, the boy said, â..Because Iâ..m afraid Iâ..ll break them.â.
The psychologist put the optimistic twin in a room piled to the ceiling with manure. Immediately, the little boy began digging excitedly through the piles. When the psychologist asked him why, he said, â..With all this poop, thereâ..s got to be a pony in there somewhere!â.
Over the past few days, Iâ..ve been telling you about Paulâ..s theology of Christian optimism, based on Romans 8.18-30. So far, weâ..ve discussed three of its four pillars:
- The salvation of creation (verses 18-21)
- The redemption of our bodies (verses 22-25)
- The intercession of the Holy Spirit (verses 26-27)
Today, I want to talk about the fourth pillar: The good work of God.
We find this fourth pillar in Romans 8.28-30:
And 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 foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness 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; those he justified, he also glorified.
Two misconceptions about these verses need to be cleared away: First, they do not say that everything that happens to us is good. Rather, they say that God is working for our good in everything that happens to us. Second, these verses do not say that God is working for the good of everyone. Notice that Paul limits his remarks to those who love and are called by God. Of course, through faith in Christ, everyone can respond to Godâ..s call with love.
But how do we know God is working for our good? Paul offers two reasons: Jesus Christ and predestination. For Paul, what happened to Jesus Christ is the template for what will happen to every Christian. Resurrection will overcome death. Eternal life in Godâ..s presence will heal all the hurts of life here on earth. The Jesus story will become our story. Christâ..s resurrection is the first of many.
Paul also mentions Godâ..s predestining power. Far too many people view the concept of predestination with alarm. They think it means that God arbitrarily picks some people for heaven and others for hell. But here, predestination simply means that God finishes what he starts. And thatâ..s good to know. Sometimes, when life gets hard and weâ..re tempted to lose faith, we need to remember that Godâ..s not done with us yet.
Thereâ..s a pony on the other side of all thisâ.¦well, you know.