Los Alamos Church of Christ

Let the Word Dwell

#17 Romans 8:28a

Being Conformed


A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule.  One day the mule fell into the farmer’s well.  The farmer heard the mule “braying” or whatever it is that mules do when they fall into wells.  After carefully considering the situation, the farmer, although he sympathized with the mule, decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.  Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.


Initially, the old mule was hysterical!  “What are you doing to me?  You are going to just bury me alive. I have been a great mule all of my life!  I served you as best a mule can.  And this is the thanks I get!”  The mule was not big on the farmer’s plan, until it dawned on him that every time a shovel of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and then step up on the new dirt.  This he did blow after blow.  “Shake it off and step up... Shake it off and step up... Shake it off and step up... This became his litany.  Over and over he repeated it until battered and exhausted the old mule triumphantly stepped over the wall and out of the well.  What should have buried him, actually blessed him.


Shake it off and step up is a tremendous philosophy.  And it is taught in no better place than Romans 8:28. 


#17 Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,




Divorced from its context, Romans 8:28 is a powerful statement.   It affirms everything is going to be alright. But, read in the context of Romans chapter 8, it a solid place on which our faith can rest.  Romans 8:28 is where we can learn to shake it off and step up.


Romans 8 begins with…



#15 Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

--We don’t live with condemnation.  We don’t live in shame.  We don’t live in guilt.  We walk fearless. 

--We know we are justified; bam.  We have been reconciled into the family of God.  We live as sons of God. 

--We live in faith of the Father.  That is where the shake it off and step up philosophy begins… in faith of the Father. 


And… we know from last week that we are eagerly waiting the revealing as sons of God!


#16 Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

--We are anxious for the revealing so that we can live on the remodeled earth.

--Bring it on. I can’t wait… to walk in the cool of the evening with the Father on the new earth.


Well… you do have to wait. “Rats.”


While we wait, the Spirit helps us


ESV Romans 8:26-30 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 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.  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.


These verses should always be kept together.   If you divide up these verses you may miss the point.  You end up with separate disjointed concepts.  You could miss the power of the Spirit helping us.    


There is this two-way connection between our hearts and God’s heart.  It is in answer to our hearts-connected prayers that we have the guarantee that all things work for good in our lives.  And it is through the two-way communication with God, by the Spirit, that we can shake it off and step up. 


This morning I want to change our perspective on this life.  Last week, I showed that the Then outweighs the Now.  This sermon is going to work on how the Now works while waiting for the Then.    I want to be able to see this life a bit more clearly.  There are three perspectives of your life that are taught in these verses that we need to incorporate into the Now.  






It may seem that our world is coming apart.  It may seem that earthquakes and riots and people killing people and credit card bills and cars that breakdown and sudden trips to the hospital and families that are falling apart and jobs that are just no longer any fun and loneliness and world hunger and homelessness and evil people beheading others and on and on and on and on; that this world is out of control.  How can anyone claim that God is in control?  “If he is, he certainly is not doing a good job.”  If God really cares about humans, how could he possibly allow so much stuff?


It would seem that if you stacked up all the suffering that is going on in the world right now, that it would overwhelm God.  How can God handle every single hurt, every single worry, every single broken heart, all the hate, all the abuse?  How can God stand by and watch?


I don’t know.  But, God is God.  And, our verses tell us that God is in control.  The Father works together with all the things, to make those who love him able to step up. God is taking everything that happens and works it for good.  All the suffering in the world is not pointless.  It is designed to enable good.  In every disaster there is an opportunity to shake it off and step up.  There is choice to do good. 


This does not mean God causes everything.  It bothers me to hear Christians say, “I guess that was meant to be.”  No… there are other forces in the world.

--There is evil in the world. God is not evil, nor does he do anything evil. Evil in the world tempts us to be evil.  But with every temptation there is opportunity to be good.   God uses evil for good. 

--There is stupid in the world. Some people choose to ignore my advice, “If it’s stupid, don’t do it.” Then there will be consequences that are often hard.  But God can use these consequences for our good.  There is opportunity to do good. 

--Sometimes things just happen.  Disease, or accidents or things are going to happen because of the way the cursed world works.  God is not going to suspend the laws of nature very often.   But, God can use things for our good.  There are openings for growth.

--The blessings of this world; the fun things of this world; the happy times we experience, what we would call good, can be used by God for more good.


The ESV accurately translates the Greek with work together. The word is sunerge,w  sunergo – synergy.   God synergizes with the all things to give us the opportunity to be good; to do good; to grow;  to shake it off and step up.


If we believe our verses, the first perspective we need to have about the world is that God is in control.  He is using all the things of the world for good.  He doesn’t cause all of them, but he can transform them to our benefit.


The 2nd perspective tells us how.






ESV Romans 8:28-29 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.


Some have taken verse 28 out of context and used it to teach that if you really love God everything is going to be peachy in your life.  Bad things don’t really happen to those who love the Lord.  They preach a gospel of earthly prosperity.  But that is not what this verse is talking about.


The good that happens is a result God working with all things, in order to conform those who love him into the likeness of his Son.  We, through the things that happen, are being made into the likeness of his Son so that God can have a plethora of sons.


It is like restoring a car.  There is an old 57 Chevy sitting beside my house.  You could see my old car as a pile of rust and dents.  Or, you could look at the car and see what it might be.  You could see in that pile of rust and dents a gorgeous 57 Chevy with tuck and roll leather interior where there was a rat’s nest.  You could see a shiny chrome-covered 350 small block where there currently is a hole.  You could see a candy-apple red paint job that just dazzles you when sunlight strikes it.  That is like us.


When God looks into our beat-up lives, he doesn’t see a worthless pile of junk that ought to be hauled to the car crusher.  God sees the restored model.  He sees Jesus in us.  Here is the catch. It’s going to hurt, a bit, to get us there. 


If a car could feel, here is what it would say about restoration process.  “Why are you ripping out my interior?  I know it’s not much but it’s all I have.  Why are you taking off my bumpers, they are a little dull but they are better than nothing. Ouch, ouch, why are you beating on my fender?  That hurts.  Why are you taking me all apart and scrapping and sanding and hurting me?”  In the process the car might complain. 


We often say the same things as God removes the old out of us.  We whine when God strips us of our pride.  We complain when he reshapes our heart.  In order to be conformed to be like Christ, we have to suffer like Christ.   What?  In order to be like God’s first son, we may have to suffer like God’s first son.


God works together with the “all things” of this world to make us like his Son.  We are being restored into the image of Christ.  When we get to the Then; the remodeled earth, it will be like a car show… in more ways than one.  God will be able to walk along between rows and rows of beautifully restored people who are who they were intended to be when they were created!  Even in the Now, we move to be more like Jesus through the process of restoration! 


Justification, reconciliation, redemption, salvation, no condemnation, hope of a new creation - and add to that list… restoration.  Wow!


And that leads us to the last perspective you need to have about your life. 






Imagine six-year-old Kevin.  His parents have enrolled him in music lessons.  After day after school, he sits in the living room and reluctantly strums “Home on the Range” on his new guitar, while watching his buddies play baseball in the park across the street.  It’s drudgery.  It is torture. 


Now suppose Kevin is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice.  In a vision Kevin is taken to Carnegie Hall.  He sees a guitar virtuoso giving a concert.  Usually bored by classical music, Kevin is astonished by what he sees and hears.  The musician’s fingers dance excitedly on the strings with fluidity and grace.  Kevin thinks of how stupid, how clunky his hands feel as they stumble over the chords.  The virtuoso blends the clean, soaring notes into a musical aroma that wafts from his guitar.  Kevin remembers the toneless discord of “Home on the Range” as it fumbles from his guitar.


But Kevin is enchanted. His head tilts slightly to one side as he listens.  He drinks in everything. He never imagined that anyone could play the guitar like this.


“What do you think, Kevin?” asks the angel.  There is a soft, slow, six-year-old’s “W-o-w!”


The vision vanishes.  The angel is again standing in front of Kevin in his living room.  “Kevin,” says the angel, “the wonderful musician you saw is you in just a few years.”  Then pointing at the guitar, the angel encourages, “But you must practice for that performance.”  -- "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" by Donald Whitney. 


ESV Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.


God has a plan for your life… to be like his son.  If you could see what you will be one day; who you are supposed to be.  If you could see who you are in Christ, you would join Keven with a… “W-o-W”.  But to get to that person you must allow the Spirit to connect your to the heart of God.  The Spirit will synergize the all things of the Now to move you to be who you are created to be… the restored you!


Isn’t that exciting?  To know that God cares enough about you to keep on working in your life to bring you to glory!  Glory Then is not merely the compensation for suffering Now.  Glory is a result of the suffering.  Our glory is directly died to our suffering!  Our glory is to be made like Jesus. That is the plan God has for your life.  A plan that if you could see the results of what you are ultimately going to be… you couldn’t wait to be that person!




So, shake it off and step up.  Shake it off and step up.  Glory waits!


#17 Romans 8:28a And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,


Tim Stidham

May 3, 2015

Los Alamos Church of Christ