This sermon, preached July 27, 2014, at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. , celebrates the all inclusive nature of God’s love and grace.  Preached by Dr. Bill Nieporte, the sermon is based on Romans 8:26-39 and is titled, simply:  Inclusion

In the topsy-turvy world we live in, we are constantly on a search for something to hold onto that will give us a sense of security and peace.  We are like Linus from the Peanuts cartoon strip.  We need that “security blanket.”

The good news declared in the Christian Gospel, however, is not that we have to grab hold of anything (not even God).  How could we ever hope to grasp and hold onto the transcendent God anyways?  We can’t!  BUT God can take hold of us – and does – and never lets us go.   We are always included.  We have a place at God’s table.  Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love.

You can watch the video below.  A podcast can be downloaded at the church website:  Patterson Avenue Baptist Church

Below the video, you will find a copy of the manuscript prepared in advance of the sermon.

At the end of this post, there is a special note about a new book by my friend Steve McVey, titled:  “Beyond and Angry God!”  It comes with my highest recommendation, as does Steve’s ministry at

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Romans 8:26-39

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

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 image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My youngest brother, David, had a stuff “Pooh-Bear” when he was a boy.  It was nearly impossible to pry that stuffed animal from his grip.   Pooh-bear went with us on almost every family outing.

Bear to serve as a substitute for that old ratty bear, but David wanted nothing to do with it.  He wanted to stick with the old friend that had been with him for all those years.

Before Michelle was born, I knitted her a baby blanket.  Yes, I knitted that blanket.  No, it wasn’t a great knitting job.  I brought it this morning so you could see it.  It’s looks like a flag for a really pathetic country.

Still, when she was born, this blanket became one of her favorite items.  She carried it with her everywhere she went as a child.  When she grew up and went to college.  I doubt she carried it with her from class to class, activity to activity…but it was in her dorm every evening, a reminder of her home and the parents who loved her and cared for her more than she could even imagine.

I don’t remember if I had a special blanket or toy, but I probably did.  Most of us have had such a item.  Maybe a special toy or blanket.  But most of us probably had something that we carried with us that brought a sense of comfort and security in the ever changing world of our youth.

In fact, no matter what our age or station in life, we probably all have something that serves for us as an anchor, an emotional refuge  and sanctuary in a world that often seems inside-out and upside down.

Perhaps you find your sense of security in your…

…banks accounts, investment portfolio, and retirement programs

…in your spouse, your children, your parents, and your family

…in the best friends you have as confidants and sounding boards

…in the career you possess or the education you’ve earned

…in the house you live in

…in the routines you follow every day of every week

re reminded of it.  When we watch certain segments of the nightly news, we sense it yet again.

Parts of our world today seem to be like a powder keg and everyone standing nearby seems to be hold a lit match.  It wouldn’t take much for something to happen that might draw us into a worldwide conflict.

There are so many things we could point to as sources of stress and difficulty in our world today.  Suffice it to say that the world is a pretty tough place.  It always has been.

If we don’t have something to cling to, we tend to spend a lot of time, energy, effort, and cold hard cash in order to try and create something.  We will do whatever we can to stay be in control and determine our life’s destiny.

In the local book store the largest section is for help books and audios program with their prescriptions and formulas for making a better life.  This is even true in the religious bookstores.

And 0ne of the things congregants ask for most from their pastors and preachers is a list of keys, formulas, plans, and procedures for living life in a hectic world. “Pastor, you speak well and bring a good sermon, but your messages just don’t seem as practical as we need them to be!”

I’ve heard that on occasion.  So have most of my colleagues. “Please give us some practical principles to hold onto in a hectic world!”

So we try.  We really do.  We take the grand and glories narratives from scripture and passages of great theological intrigue and insight, and we try to boil it all down to a few points and a poem to give folks some fleeting sense of security is a stress filled world.

You know me.  I’ve been your pastor for seven years.  You know I am not very good as the three points and a poem routine.  I have never come round to the pabulum approach to preaching. Here’s the problem.  I do not think the scripture is filled with principles, plans, and programs designed to help us survive difficult days.  I believe scripture simply invites us to totally abandon ourselves into the inclusive grace of the God – a God we can know as Papa.

I don’t believe our task in life is to hold onto God or hold onto the things of God.  I believe that the scripture teaches that God holds on to us and promises to never let us go.

Here’s what happens.  At some point we discover that the security and safety we long for cannot be found in the things we cling to.  Not even the concepts about God we hold or that elusive thing we call faith.  Our ultimate hope is not that we hold onto God, but that God holds onto us.

That’s what Paul is talking about in the section of Romans 8.  The verses we have read this today offer us numerous reason to have hope in the gracious and bountiful provisions of God.

When times are tough, we often think that prayer is a solution.  Many folks approach prayer like its magic, like we are performing some sort of incantation.  In today’s text, Paul reminds us that when the stuff really hits the fan (and it does), we don’t know how to pray, what to pray, or what words to say.  Yet in those moments we discover that our prayers are not the answer, but the Holy Spirit’s prayer are.  The Spirit intercedes on our behalf in moans and groans that cannot be put into words.

When times are tough, we sometimes feel that the whole world is against us.  We feel as though people are just piling on.  In those moments Paul’s words remind us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Then there are those moments when we feel like we are experiencing separation anxiety.  We feel like what’s happening to us – all the bad experiences – are an indication of God’s anger, frustration, judgment, and exclusion.  We feel like God himself is separating Himself from us.  Paul tells us that these feelings are a myth.  He tells us that we are never separated from God’s life or loved.   Paul writes:

 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s not a security blanket to wrap ourselves in.  That is the security blanket wrapping us up in itself.  That is not us keeping God in our grasp, that is God grasping us and never letting go.

And because of this confident home, Paul also writes:

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

That means that our present and future are not the byproduct of our own wisdom, thoughts, works, or effort.  Our security is not found in the hands of world leaders, retirement programs, gym memberships, pill bottles, or the latest and greatest I-phone or I-pad.  No…our safety, security, and destiny are all in the hands of a gracious God.

This does not mean that we lives passive, uninvolved, or disconnected lives.  Rather it means that life has meaning because the one who is life’s meaning never separates himself from our lives. I love the way Thomas Merton said it in a prayer.  His example has become an inspiration for me.  He prayed:

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me, and I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire, and I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, I will trust in you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Like Merton, we believe that we are included in the provisions of God’s grace, and because this is so – life has meaning, purpose, and value, even when it does not seem as such.  Life has meaning, purpose, and value, even when we mess and muck it up.

This is what Paul means when he says that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  It means that no matter what, God never gives up on us.  God never divorces himself from us.  Nothing is ever able to separate us from the love of God.

This is not to suggest that bad things to not happen.  That’d been silly to even suggest.  What Paul is saying is that those bad things that happen to us – and even those bad things we occasionally do – do never separate us from God’s goodness, grace, and love.

We always have a place.

We are always included.

Paul is not suggesting that we will never face pain, never encounter evil, or never experience suffering.  He is not suggesting that nothing bad will ever happen to us.

What he is saying is saying is simply this:

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands! Therefore, we can look to the future with confidence.  We don’t have to be afraid.  Even in the midst of all that bad things that can happen, even in the face of all the uncertainty and insecurity in this world, we can live in faith and confidence, knowing that ultimately, ultimately, the will of God will be done.



Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
by: Steve McVey
publisher: Harvest House Publishers, published: 2014-08-01
ASIN: 0736959823
EAN: 9780736959827
sales rank: 14540
price: $7.56 (new), $8.65 (used)

How would your life change if you really believed and could even feel that God is absolutely crazy about you?

Steve McVey’s penetrating new look at the transforming power of God’s grace leads you to that change. Steve unpacks the biblical revelation of the Trinity as a loving relationship, and he highlights the goal of history: God intends to include us in that circle of love! Steve answers troubling questions that can keep you from fully sensing God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness, such as…

  • Why does God look like a bad cop in the Old Testament and a good cop in the New Testament?
  • At Calvary, was the Father angry at the Son? Is He ever angry with me?
  • Why do I sometimes feel separated from God, abandoned, guilty, and ashamed?

Theologians have described the Trinity as perichoresis–a dance. Are you ready to be swept into the Father’s embrace?


One Response to “Inclusion”

  1. Ivan says:

    This is a good sermon. Very profound and thought provoking.
    Well done Pastor Bill. Hope you don’t mind me using it sometime in the future.

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