â€œWho shall separate us from the love of Christ? St. Paul makes it sound like once Jesus gets his hands on a person He ainâ€™t going to let go. You can wiggle and squirm all youâ€™d like but Heâ€™s not going to let go of you. Heâ€™s given you His Word on it. â€œI will never leave you nor forsake you.â€ And thereâ€™s nothing, I say, NOTHING more certain than HIS PROMISE TO YOU.
Itâ€™s scary to count all weapons that the devil has in his arsenal to try to break the Lordâ€™s grip on you. â€œShall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger. And then if all else fails, the sword.
And Satan unleashed every weapon in his arsenal against Jesus to try to break His promise and open his hand and let you go. He kept turning up the heat and raising the pressure.
At first it was just a few questions in the wilderness. â€œDid God really sayâ€¦?â€ And then, outright accusations about His reputation and character. And then, the threats. And then, the full-blown, mass bombing of â€˜TRIBUATIONâ€™ and â€˜DISTRESS.â€™ Enough to turn the heart of any of us to say, â€œOkay, okay. Iâ€™ll give you what you want. Just donâ€™t hurt me.â€ But His grip on you remained firm.
So, Satan unleashed his wolves from hell to â€˜PERSECUTEâ€™ Jesus. He was arrested without cause, tried by a crooked judge, condemned to death by cowardly king. He was â€˜persecuted for righteousness sake.â€™ And His hold on you remained secure.
Then there was the â€œFAMINE.â€ 40 days and nights in the desert with nothing to eat is enough to cause anyone else to grow weak, and how easy it should be to pry his boney fingers off of you one by one until you drop from his hands. But no. He clings to you with all of His strength, which even in His weakness is still almighty.
â€œNAKEDNESS.â€ They stripped Him of His clothes. He hangs there naked and ashamed. But still He will not let go of you.
And then finally, â€˜THE SWORD.â€™ â€œAnd a soldier pierced His side â€œand at once there came out blood and water.â€ Surely in death, He will let go of you. Right? Thatâ€™s what Satan thought too. But His death only sealed His grip on you all the more and He will not let go.
Why? Because He said that He would not let go of you. And there is nothing, I say, NOTHING more sure and certain than HIS PROMISE TO YOU.
I want you to know I understand that this may sound like a very strange way to put things. And I understand if this may not be the way youâ€™ve heard it put before.
I know that the much more popular way to tell this story is that it is US that the devil works on with all of His terrible weapons. And whether or not we remain secure in Godâ€™s hands depends on how tightly WE maintain OUR grip on Him.
And as it turns out, you can write lots of books about how to â€˜strengthen your gripâ€™ and â€˜hold onto your faith.â€™ And those kinds of books really sell. Because thatâ€™s the way we think it works. It all depends on MY â€˜grip on God.â€™ So I better do all that I can do to â€˜HOLD onto Him.â€™ Because you know, if I donâ€™t HOLD on tight, Heâ€™ll slip right out of my hands.
All Iâ€™m asking is that you to try to see THE DIFFERENCE. Because it makes all THE DIFFERENCE in the world.
If we think that our life and our salvation all depends on US, then we darn well better be â€˜STRONG IN FAITHâ€™ and â€˜HOLD ON TIGHTâ€™ or the GRAVITATIONAL FORCES that God Himself created will pull Him away from us.
Or maybe youâ€™re picturing this the other way around. Maybe weâ€™re the ones holding to a 2 inch window ledge, 50 stories high, BY OUR FINGERNAILS, and we donâ€™t know how long we can go on like this before we fall.
Or maybe you see it as more of a COOPERATIVE THING â€“ LIKE A HANDSHAKE. God puts out His hand and I put out my hand and we hold onto each other. And even if Iâ€™m even willing to admit that GODâ€™S THE ONE WITH THE STRONGER GRIP, itâ€™s still a mutual effort. He really doesnâ€™t want to let go of me but if I let go of Him, I mean really, what can He do?
PRETTY SMALL GOD, WOULDNâ€™T YOU SAY? PRETTY WEAK GOD. He can only do so much. In the end, it really all depends on you.
And the ONLY PROBLEM with all of this is, ITâ€™S NOT TRUE. WHICH MAKES IT A HUGE PROBLEM. Itâ€™s not the way that it works. Not at all.
LISTEN. â€œI am the good shepherdâ€¦ I give them eternal life and NO ONE SHALL SNATCH THEM OUT OF MY HAND. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and NO ONE IS ABLE TO SNATCH THEM OUT OF THE FATHERâ€™S HAND.â€ (John 10:28-29).
It all depends on Godâ€™s hand holding onto us. And the truth is, thereâ€™s a whole lot more comfort in that, than there is if it depends on me, even if itâ€™s just a little bit of me.
This is why St. Paul boasts with obnoxious confidence saying, â€œFOR I AM SURE that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation WILL BE ABLE TO SEPARATE US from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord.â€ (Rom. 8:38-39).
How can he be so sure? Why is He so confident? Because he knows that it all depends on God. And God has promised. And there is nothing, I say, NOTHING more sure and certain than HIS PROMISE TO YOU.
Now that changes everything, doesnâ€™t it?
â€¢ Now we donâ€™t have to find something GOOD IN US to pin our hopes on. We pin our hope on Godâ€™s goodness.
â€¢ Now we can be honest with ourselves. We donâ€™t have TO SUGAR-COAT THE TRUTH or PAINT A ROSY PICTURE of ourselves hoping that God will be impressed enough with us to HOLD ONTO US.
â€¢ It doesnâ€™t depend on our goodness or our badness. GOD IS GOOD.
â€¢ It doesnâ€™t depend on our faithfulness or our faithlessness. GOD IS FAITHFUL.
â€¢ It doesnâ€™t depend on our love or lovelessness. GOD IS LOVE.
Our hope rests in Godâ€™s goodness and faithfulness and love ALONE.
And I know, that doesnâ€™t seem FAIR. Could it really be that we do nothing and God does everything FOR US? But since when is love FAIR?
Faith is not about knowing how to HOLD ONTO GOD. Itâ€™s trusting that GOD IS HOLDING ONTO YOU.
On June 13th, 1999, the Triune God took hold of Daniel Matthew Morren in the waters of his baptism. AND HE NEVER LET GO. â€œI give them eternal life and NO ONE SHALL SNATCH THEM OUT OF MY HAND.â€
â€œDaniel Matthew Morren, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.â€ And the Triune God snatched this precious little child out of Satanâ€™s jaws. â€œMy Father, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch [him] out of the Fatherâ€™s hand.â€
As ridiculous as it sounds, from the moment that God takes hold of us in our baptism, we begin to squiggle and squirm to try to get free from His grasp.
We want to be â€˜free.â€™ Which really means we want to be â€˜lost.â€™
We want to be â€˜our own person.â€™ Which really means we want to hold hands with the devil again.
We have a deep need to be â€˜connected.â€™ Now that we have them, weâ€™d never think of going without our cell phones or not checking our Facebook page 10 times a day. But staying connected to God is the last thing on our minds. Who takes the time to listen to Him speak to us in His Word or speak to Him in prayer?
So, arenâ€™t you glad it doesnâ€™t depend on you?
Which doesnâ€™t mean that you can use your hands to do what you want and continue to sin. As St. Paul put it, â€œShall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?â€ By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)
â€œDo you not knowâ€¦â€ â€œDo you not knowâ€¦â€ that those hands that took hold of Danny and took hold of you, WHILE YOU WERE DEAD IN YOUR SINS, were CRUCIFIED hands?
From the cross He cries, â€œMy God, My God, why have you forsaken me?â€ The Father opened His hand and let go of His only-begotten Son. He dropped His beloved Son like a hot potato. What God should do to us because of our sin, He did to His Son, so that you might never say, â€œMy God, My God, why have you forsaken me?â€
He who knew no sin became sin FOR US. Why? So that you might know just how determined God is to hold onto you.
Hanging from the cross, AND THATâ€™S THE PICTURE YOU WANT TO HOLD BEFORE YOU EYES, Jesus Christ took DANNYâ€™S PLACE and YOUR PLACE too. And He did what Danny should have done and what we all should do but donâ€™t.
In His darkest hour and in the deepest torment of His soul, WHEN ALL APPEARANCES WERE TO THE CONTRARY, He entrusted His life to the loving care of His Father in heaven because He believed that GOD IS FAITHFUL. â€œInto YOUR HANDS I commit my spirit.â€ (Luke 23:46).
AND TRUE TO HIS PROMISE, on the 3rd day, God took HOLD OF HIM. And death had to let Him go. Death had no hold on Him.
These are the hands that took hold of Danny IN HIS BAPTISM, and that took hold of you IN YOUR BAPTISM, and if you have never been baptized, THEN LETâ€™S TALK. â€œThis is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.â€
Whether it was in the Red Sea or the Jordan River or in any one of 100 million baptismal fonts in every time and every place, the grace of God washes over us in a BLOODY OCEAN of divine forgiveness. It is fathomless.
YOU CAN NEVER SINK SO DEEP THAT YOU WILL EVER GET TO THE BOTTOM OF GODâ€™S FORGIVENESS FOR YOU. Every sin from your past, from your present, from your future, has already been placed into THE HANDS of Jesus Christ and nailed to the cross. IT IS FINISHED!
And now, because you donâ€™t have to worry about holding on to God with both hands,
your hands are free to love your neighbor â€“ your neighbor who, like Danny, may need to hear that its okay,
whatever the problem, GODâ€™S FORGIVENESS IS ALWAYS GREATER.
Whatever the dangers, GOD HAS GOT A HOLD OF YOU.
Whatever the fear, GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR FEARS.
For Jesusâ€™ sake, God will never let go of you.
He dove into the depths to take hold of you.
He rose from the depths to deliver you.
Let this be our focus, our assurance, our comfort in our time of sorrow and grief.