It doesn’t mean we can live any way we like, and God will fix our messes.
To understand the truth of Romans 8:28, we can’t just pull out the part of the verse we like: “And we know that in all things God works for the good. . .” and skip the rest, “of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,”
Romans 8:28 is a promise for believers. Real believers. Those who are living their lives for Christ. Not those who claim to believe in God but are living like the devil.
So how do we know if we're real believers?
“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 3:5-6).
Romans 8:28 says to those who love God and are doing their best to follow his commands, “Even though bad/sad/evil/wicked things will touch your lives, I (God) will use them to ultimately bring about good, both in your life and in the world.
Joni Erickson Tada said, “God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
And what is the ultimate good God wants to accomplish in the lives of his children? “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.”
If we surrender our lives to God, he promises to redeem everything that enters our lives in two ways:
He will use it to conform us to the likeness of his Son,
and He will use it to draw others into a relationship with himself.
And what about those who prefer a hearty serving of the world with a spritz of God?
You reap what you sow. You reap more than what you sow. You reap longer than what you sow. The natural consequences of our refusal to live our lives according to God’s direction are the gifts that keep on giving.
To make my point, I’ll use two biblical examples—Judas and Peter.
He loved the world and the things of the world—fame, fortune, and popularity—more than he loved God. When the time came to take a stand for Christ, he caved to public opinion and the lure of riches and betrayed him. When it all fell apart, there was no Romans 8:28 moment when God waved his magic wand over the mess Judas had created and fixed it all.
Judas was filled with remorse and regret over the results of his actions, but he never demonstrated true repentance that brought about a change of heart and action. Judas ended his life like he had lived it – separated from God.
“But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born"(Mark 14:21).
Peter, like Judas, also spent three years with Jesus. He, too, ate, learned from, and pledged his loyalty to Christ. He even promised to die for him.
And then fear overcame him, cowardice ruled, and Peter caved. He also betrayed Christ.
Unlike Judas, though, who had never fully committed his life to Christ, Peter was all in. He was all in before he sinned, and he was all in after.
Did Peter sin against the Lord when he allowed fear to overcome his faith? Yes. But did this type of behavior characterize Peter, or was it a moment of weakness, a brief stumble in a long history of faithfulness?
We know the answer, because we know the rest of the story. Instead of only feeling remorse and regret, like Judas, over the unfortunate results of his betrayal, Peter wept bitterly, humbled himself before the risen Christ, and allowed him to restore and reinstate him (John 21:15-17). For the rest of his life, Peter lived in obedience, courage, and faith despite overwhelming opposition. He demonstrated the truth of Romans 8:28—he was “conformed to the image of Christ.”
So what is the true message of Romans 8:28? Allow me to reorder this priceless promise: “For those who love God and are called according to his purpose, God works in all things for the good, in order to conform them to the likeness of his Son, so that Christ can be the first fruits of many (spiritual) brothers.”
Are you all in, like Peter, or straddling the fence? Your answer will determine whether the promise of Romans 8:28 belongs to you.
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