“18 Inches”

“18 Inches”


18 Inches

Pastor Richard C. Piatt II | Romans 8


January 28 2024



For those of you that know me well, you’re probably amazed as I am. I made it through that song without crying. Now we’re just gonna pray that my tear ducts stay dry through the sermon. It is, a time to reflect, as what I’ve already said, that I’ve never been out of the pulpit this long since I’ve been in the ministry. And that started around 1977, probably, and just one year after our marriage. So since 1977, I’ve not been out as long as what I was from the beginning of December to through today, although I’ve been up here and and so forth. And as you know, I show my commitment, my love for Christ and for my church and for my family as why we came on Christmas Eve, which probably I wasn’t speaking, but that was probably a tad early after open heart surgeries. And that was, I think, something like six days. Six days, I keep looking to confirm, six, seven days, depending upon what you want to take with what they did, but after open heart surgery.

So this has been a new trek, a new trip in the midst of it all. And I’m only going to go through a little bit of the history because it is truly, truly my heart. I use that word heart every time I do, it has a new meaning, I just have to tell you that. I kind of giggled deep inside, but it is truly my heart, the new one that Dr. Hassan put in there, not the new complete heart, but he made it so the old one isn’t broken anymore, but it is truly my heart. that today is not the day to put Pastor Piatt and his illness and so close to death and the struggles and was still getting blood regulation or blood regulated and still pills and still working on all of that. But this isn’t a time to spout my physicality and then to get you to pray more for me.

But it is to put on display. the greatness of our God. And we’re going to be looking at Romans chapter 8. as what was read completely so that I wouldn’t have to do that while I was preaching. But in a passage of scripture that we all know a lot of what that has to do after the Apostle Paul takes ultimately through those eight chapters and is discussing the greatness of our salvation and who we are in Christ. And there is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ. And it’s our position. Then he goes on and talks about our assurance and the things that are there. And as I came to this time, I thought, OK, well, I’m going to have a first sermon somewhere.

I did contemplate of doing like John Calvin did back on September 13th, 1541, after he had been basically run out of Geneva. And he had to be gone. And then reluctantly, he was requested to come back and setting up for his preaching. It was about two and a half to three years later. So he had been gone longer than I. And his first sermon after being gone for two and a half, three years was he went to the next passage of scripture. And I thought, well, we should then just pick up and go back to Matthew and continue preaching there. However, I was not led of the spirit to do that. And also just to say that one year after he went back and he continued teaching and preaching that. That’s when the plague broke out in Geneva. And much of his church died. And then his wife became pregnant. And then she gave birth and two weeks later, their first and only born son died. Two weeks. And tragedy continued in the midst of that. And as he went on, and his testimony, as that was expressed, it was tremendous. And this is what he wrote to a close friend. The Lord has certainly inflicted a severe and bitter wound in the death of our baby son, but he himself as a father knows best what is good for his children. He did not waver on that.

Psalm 119 and verse 71, it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes. The psalm writer was willing to be afflicted to better learn God’s word. How does that strike you? It’s a little bit odd in our day and age of sloppy, easy Christianity, definitely with easy believism. Let me repeat that. It is good that I have been afflicted.

Now that’s personal, the psalm writer. He doesn’t explain it ultimately, but it is good that I have been afflicted. It is good that I needed a knee replacement. In a sense, it is good that I threw blood clots to both lungs unknowingly. And you say, what on earth are you talking about? Because it was because of that, a test was done that saw just a little bit of plaque on a heart. And a test was done. And then another test was done. And then a heart cath was done. Now this has nothing about learning God’s statutes, but I learned a lot in the midst of all of that, that in the midst of affliction, I have a God that I can trust simply. In the midst of afflictions, we have some of our congregation right now that are going through some tremendous afflictions. But it is good that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Then you go and you do a heart cath and then one day later you’re having your head, your whole chest cut open and surgery done. That never would have been known if I wouldn’t have had a bit of an accident in May and then was postponed until July, then postponed to August to then caught so that at the end of the year, I could be here today. Now, it’s got obligated to make sure that I come back to the pulpit. No, but he graciously allowed it. So it’s been good that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statues.

But this song, this isn’t the only place and the only verse that has that. And verse 67, Psalm one, 1967, it says before I was afflicted, I went astray. But now I keep your word. Now all I’m gonna say about that is, is that afflictions have a purpose. To learn his word, to keep us on the straight and narrow. Verse 75 of the same Psalm says, I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. In faithfulness. Is God less faithful when bad providence comes into our lives? No. Now in what world does that make any sense?

Well, for one who would happen to read the book of Genesis, remember all of the afflictions of Joseph? And we tend to read through that so fast. being turned on by his brothers, then ultimately going to Egypt and then being put in prison a couple of years and then being forgotten and then getting out and then saving the Egyptians, saving ultimately the whole seed pocket of the beginning of Abraham and all of his sons and all of that. So Israel would have an incubating place to grow up and everything. And remember when the children, his brothers, I got a little bit antsy about, oh, no. What’s going to happen? Dad’s gone and Joseph is going to turn against us. He’s going to remember it’s going to be paid back. And you remember the words. You meant it for evil. But God meant it for. Good. Now, again, in what world does this make sense?

Probably in today’s in today’s world. A lot of people do not like biblical Christianity for this fact that we believe in the sovereignty of God. And they say, if your God is real and if he’s sovereign and he’s overall, then why is there evil here? And why does tragedy happen? Why did Pastor Piatt have one day before they cut open his chest? Why was, you know, and they want to go in that say, well, that’s not fair. That’s not this. And they forget God’s faithfulness and affliction is good. And it’s good that I’ve been afflicted, that I might learn his statutes. And they don’t get it, and they say, why? Well, there’s a couple of things they don’t get, because there’s some things they do not know.

Turn with me to the book of Romans, chapter 8. Some things they simply do not know. And we’re going to come to this Romans 8 and I’m going to take maybe a unique look at it very very quickly. If you know your Bible well you know that eventually I want to get to verse 28. But I think to jump immediately to Romans 8 28 and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to those who are called according to his purpose. And that’s a wonderful verse.

However, it’s not it does have a context. It’s not there all by itself. And sometimes it’s kind of missed, because in the book of Romans, up to this time, we’ve got God in the gospel and what it means. I’ve already quoted that verse one about there’s no condemnation. He’s already talked about walking in the spirit. Those in the flesh cannot please God. He is writing all of this concerning the righteousness of God. Verse 10, Christ is in you and the body is not dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. And he goes on for as many years led by the spirit of God are the sons of God and so forth. But as we get a little bit closer to our our precious text of verse 28, I noticed a couple of things here that sometimes we we just don’t see it if we isolate that out.

Romans 8, 28. A lot of times is misquoted. It just is misquoted and it says, all things work together for good. That’s not what the verse says. It says, and we know. So he’s talking about something that we cognitively know, but he’s writing it because he’s trying to get it to, hence the title of the message, to drop about 18 inches and get into the heart. And so 18 inches, we know that all things work together for good, we know I mean, I read the verse. We’re Bible believers. It’s a good thing I was afflicted. God has faithfulness in afflictions in those verses. We know those things. But how do you get it to drop 18 inches to get it into the heart? How is it that you can face some of the difficulties in life when tragedy comes?

These things are supposed to be an encouragement. It’s in the midst of a passage that encouragement comes, but it’s a limited knowledge to those who know and love God, to those who participate in the eternal sovereign, salvific experience of being born again. Hence, we get that verse later on, When it says, moreover whom he predestined, these he also called, those he called he justified, those whom he justified, those he also glorified. Talking about that golden chain. And how this is true about truly born again, saved believers that have participated in Well, if you’re a covenant theologian, it’s the covenant of redemption. Or it’s just the idea of the whole eternal pre-temporal election of God choosing those in the sun that would be recipients of the atonement. However you want to theologically define that. But he says those are the ones he calls. Those are the ones he justifies. Those are the ones that ultimately sanctifies and he’s going to glorify. So this is a promise and the encouragement that we have. And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God.

So this is now a family promise. If you’re here today and you know Christ as Savior, this is something that you can claim. Now, you ought to know it, but you got to make sure it drops 18 inches to get to the heart. Well, but it’s not all by itself. and the knowledge that we should know. Because if you go back, this is couched in a context where there is some groaning.

There’s been a lot of groaning at my house. Sometimes I just groan, I don’t hurt or anything, I just groan. Half the time, probably two, three times a night, I’ll just go, ugh. And Susan will say, are you okay? Yeah, I’m good. or just turning over in bed can ache a little bit. Oh, you young people, you’ll get this one day. But it’s worse when they’ve cut you open and it wasn’t six weeks before I could get out of a recliner because I can’t sleep on my side and when I turn it hurts. And so I’ll make a groaning, are you all right? Are you all right? Well, there’s several different points of groaning in this particular passage. And what’s interesting is, It also is surrounding the word of things to know.

Like, for example, verse 22, which begins to answer the question, what kind of world is this? And those that are lost in today’s world, they say, I don’t want anything to do with with a God who didn’t stop 9-11 or who allow suffering to come. Yeah. Share that with Job. And yet Job said, but I will not curse my God. Verse 22, for, and here’s the first one now, for we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. So he points out the fact, there’s some things we know.

This is a broken world. This is not the world that God specifically directly created. God didn’t create a world groaning. God created a world. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. That still continues. But as they praise God in their creation, they also groan. Why are they groaning? Well, back at verse nine, in the earnest expectation of the creation, eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God. God has a purpose in the midst of all of this to reveal his children, his loved ones. And that’s where it’s gonna go to the end of chapter eight. But before we get there, he wants us to know this idea of knowing that all things work together for good. that it is good that I have been afflicted, that I might learn God’s statutes. How and what kind of a world is it?

Well, first of all, it was a world that is anxiously anticipating the completion of God’s program with respect to his sons. And the idea here is, is like, they’re just anxious, looking over, waiting for this, you know, for something major to happen. But the creation is groaning in the midst of this. So we find out not only is creation groaning, but also even we groan. And this doesn’t have just to get ready or to because of getting old. Verse 23, not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the spirit, earlier part of the chapter, those are the ones who are born again.

Even we ourselves groan within ourselves. I mean as believers, the believers are groaning in the fact that we groan over indwelling sin. We groan over the lack of our sanctification and how we complete that. We can groan over what we still need to accomplish. So we’re groaning. Creation is groaning. And we know those things. So there is this idea that we know. that creation is broken and it groans. Verse 26, he puts it in a negative way. He says, likewise, the spirit also helps in our weaknesses for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought. But the idea then is, but we do all know the spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. So now the groanings isn’t us or the creation, but it’s groaning of the third person of the Godhead and a prayer life that we know that we are dependent upon God, God is there and so forth.

So there’s some things here that we need to know. We are in need of dependency upon the greatness of our God. a prayer at all that we are in the know that this world is broken and awaits its final redemption. But now we come to verse 28 where we want to spend our morning. That’s the context. But now we come to this and we find in 28 through following kind of five clear statements on how to properly interpret the groans in life or the bumps in life for the believer. What does this tell us that we can learn to help get through all of this?

Well, you know, what goes through our minds? When we were given, you know, I went in for a heart cath and to be perfectly honest with you, that’s scary enough. You know, they’re gonna go into your body, go up into your heart, and they’re gonna poke around. And I’m just figuring, what kind of light do you have? You know, how do you get rid of the blood? There’s a lot about that surgery, even though I have a degree in biology, there’s a lot about that I don’t get, but they’re good at it. And I had awesome doctors. And so, but I do know that my doctor, he went up, he saw it, he pulled it right back out and said, this man is not allowed to leave the hospital. He is a time bomb ready to go.

For those that don’t know the whole rest of the story, I had a 90% blockage of what’s called the Widowmaker, that it’s on more the backside of the heart. Nobody had ever seen this before. He saw it, and he said, uh-oh, and we got to get this guy taken care of right away. A surgeon shows up the next morning, and he says, tomorrow morning at 6.30, you will be on my table. I really did not have any options. It was just boom, boom, boom. So very, very quick. And so that one day when they’re trying to get me ready for everything, you’re on a roller coaster of emotion. Wow, this is really serious. I could be dead and gone real soon and I’ve got weddings to perform. I’ve got babies I want to see. I’ve got more jokes for some of the deacons. And if they’re old, I’ll just go ahead and tell them anyways. You know, I want to see, you know, what’s going to happen with the grandkids. You know, there’s a couple more animals I want as pets. You know, I’ve got more tropical fish I wanna breed. And you start looking at life and you just say, whoa, and the emotion. And Susan and I just be sitting there for a little bit and then we would just be there and we talk a little bit. Because you have 24 hours is it before you’re gonna have, you know, go through this major surgery. And then we just start crying. And you know, one gets teary eyed and then it’s just really bad. And it is emotional.

Well, what is it that God can bring to you to help support you in the midst of all of that? God is faithful. God is good. And what does he say? And we know. Drop it down 18 inches and we know what is it that God’s people we know. But how do we know and how do this done? Well, there’s five statements here that’ll help us in the midst of all of that. And the first one is, and we know that all things work together for good. And that the promise is made to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. He further identifies them in 29, verse 29 and 30. This passage really preaches on that. And it’s very, it’s a wonderful thing. And a lot of good sound doctrine, salvific, good doctrine in the midst of that. But that’s not my emphasis this morning. And we know that all things work together for good. Well, what is it that we can know about all of that?

Well, first of all, we know God has a purpose. That’s just very basic, isn’t it? God works all things after the counsel of his own will. Ephesians. Is there anything that happens that is not ultimately decreed by a good, holy, and sovereign God? No. All things are worked He promises that anything that happens to his children, that it is always for our good. Not that the thing in and of itself, if you got a pet snake and it bites you, that’s kind of a nasty little thing. But the fact of how and what might result in the midst of all of that, it will have a good purpose, why? Because God has a purpose. It is fixed from the beginning. For whom he foreknew, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of a sin.

Now, however, you’re going to develop all of that. I’m not going to go with the difference between the Armenian, the Calvinist and God foreknew. Therefore, he predestined. Then that still puts man in the principle. And then you don’t have man’s purpose. You got or you don’t have God’s purpose, got man’s purpose. But let me just put it this way. It is from the beginning. It is fixed. He works all things after the counsel of his own will. It is absolute. Go back to thinking about the book of Job. Job, where were you when I established the world? Job, how about the stopping of the waves on the beach? It’s fixed, it’s absolute. Can anyone stop the hand of God? God works all things after the counsel of his own will for his own glory. God’s will and God’s glory will be accomplished whether I live or I die. Because God has a purpose. His purpose was to have me conceived and my mom back in 1953. I had to think what month and then go back nine months and see what year it was.

You see, Life is not a series of randomness. It’s not. Beverly, you got a boot on your foot by the plan of God. Maybe he wants to slow you down. Someone told me today, maybe he basically struck you with all of this to make you slow down. No comment. But you see, God has a purpose. It’s absolute. It’s for his glory. I just don’t happen to know what it is. And you see, the only way that this will really make sense, if you really think about it, because someday I’m going to die and so are you. For his purpose, I want to die well. I want to, but I also want to die expecting that God’s going to get the maximum amount of glory out of my death, however it happens. I don’t know. And so you see, when we have that concept, who lives in this kind of a world? Christians do, who know.

God is not a bad God and therefore bad things happen. But rather, God is a good God, the world groans because of sin, and God has redeemed the people and is so sovereign over all circumstances, he accomplishes his purpose. And it’s a good thing. His will and his purpose is specific, it’s personal, and it’s all encompassing. I like to, I’ve used that illustration before, the idea of a cake. You take a cake and you got flour and I wanna say lard, I’m thinking of a really good cake. You know, butter and sugar and you put it all together. Each of those things by themselves, kind of nasty, except for the sugar. But you put them together and you put them into the heat of a flame and boy, it comes out really good. All things work together.

So the things that we go through in life because of the purpose of God, it is good that I have been afflicted. The second clear statement on how to properly interpret life and how these things happen, not only because God has a purpose, but because God’s purpose can be known. We know that all things work together for good.

Now, We sometimes forget we sometimes can have a poor pity party. And it sometimes almost can seem like it’s overpowering with wave after wave. Well, who’s trying to bring the discouragement, God? No, Satan will change that. But what we do is is to see each time it’s the same God who has the same purpose. And we and we know this again, back to the book of Job. His kids, his kids die, he loses all his wealth, he loses his health, he loses all of that, and yet with all of this, even at the suggestion of his wife, curse God and die. No, no, because he knew. Now, he needed to be straightened out a little bit, but the purposes of God can be known. He has a purpose.

Thirdly, God’s purpose includes all things. The good things, the bad things. That one I would, again, go to Joseph. How many hunger pangs, how much weight did Joseph lose when he was in prison? There was a lot of negative aspect of that. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. It includes all things because of the broken world in which we live. It is a promise that we know it’s true, not just for preachers. But it’s true because God has a purpose and it’s true for all believers to those who love God. and to those who are the called according to his purpose. And just so you kind of know that who are the ones called of God according to his purpose, it’s all who are truly born again. Those that were foreknown, those that were predestined, those that were justified, sanctified, and glorified. This is a family promise. This is a family thing that we should all know. I want you to be encouraged. No matter what you are going through. We know that all things work together for good because God is in the process of conforming you into the image of his blessed son, Ephesians chapter one again. That’s what you were predestined to do.

And some things have to be pretty rough for us to go through before we can take on that appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think this would even be epitomized. I would normally put this more towards the end, but I’m gonna put it here now. Crucifixion, good thing, bad thing. Was it on purpose? Well, it was prophesied, so I’d kind of have to, yeah, that Jesus, what about Jesus being beaten? Was that good? Was it according to purpose? Did it have an ultimate good result? Well, if you’re here today and you’re saved, you better say, yeah, on that one.

You see, we have to have the bigger picture and to just trust God. We trust him for what we go through. His purpose is good for all believers, those that are loved and those that are called. So we’ve got God has a purpose. God’s purpose can be known. God’s purpose includes all things. God’s purpose is for all believers, not just for the spiritual or anything. We can all know these things as per what the Bible says. And then finally, God’s purpose involves an eternal process. God is not looking at circumstances and coming up with this. but rather he has all these things in order to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. What we tend to do is compare the facts and we forget the reality that God is behind it all. And all of this should basically come across with eternal praise and eternal worship. In the midst of what I was going through and knowing that this was so hard because it was unexpected. I mean, this thing just kept going from one surgery postponed because I have to chase after a rat that doesn’t want to be eaten by a pet snake to open heart surgery in Lakeland Regional. And you’d say, wow, what a big story. Yeah, there’s a big story behind all that. Oh, it’s actually far bigger than that, because in the midst of having some of the testings and some of the other stuff, you see, I had the calcium scores, the scoring, and I knew it was bad, but I didn’t want everybody to know quite yet. And then, of course, there was that vacation, when like three weeks before I am limited to a hospital bed, that we went up Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, and we walked it. And I didn’t want to stop. The doctors just shook their heads. And you know what they said? They said, God must not be done with you yet. Well, that feeds the ego. But God doesn’t need me. Although I’m really glad he’s not done with me yet.

You know, God doesn’t need me to accomplish his purposes. But what it does show is God sovereignly also had me slowed down. Because I was limping so bad before the surgery, you all remember that. And therefore, I was limping so bad that then that would just slow me down and up. God is in control of all the circumstances, no matter what it is. And ultimately, the sovereignty of our God is not something that we look at fatalistically and say, oh well, and throw up our arms. But there is a loving, caring, sovereign God who holds our lives together to accomplish his purpose. And it’s not our purpose.

One of the things that made it so difficult was knowing I was battling the widow maker and also, so did Larry, our song leader. And we were trying to be careful with Connie, but she was always pretty much in the know And yet she came up with something that I just have to share. Because you see, it is the epitome of what this is. And today is the day it needs to be said. And then maybe me and some of you, we can move on. Because you see, the day that Larry was taken, to the emergency room. I was there. Connie was here and John Shelburne was there. And they did everything to save him. I mean literally everything even to a trip to a cath lab. They they. And you know what. God’s purpose was to call him home was a mine. Connie’s, you know, but that was God’s purpose. And I know that God has a plan, a purpose, and he’s working it out. And they did everything to save him, humanly speaking, and it was not done. Then I come along, and I got a 90% clog, and I’m walking to the highest spots in the Smokies. Should have died up at the top, probably should have died before I even got there, driving on those roads. I had 10,000 steps right before the day when the hospital limits me to a bed. I was doing almost everything now, not knowingly, but in everything to almost kill myself. But God had a purpose.

And you see, we have. The knowledge to know. That God is a sovereign God who works all things after the counsel of his own will. And he has a plan. We may not know exactly what the plan is, but we know he has one and we can simply trust him to know that he is a good God. It is good that I have been afflicted. It is good that Larry was afflicted and he’s been singing with angels. Again, not quite our plan, but it is according to purpose.

The real question is today, as we would come to the end of this message, we are sure that God has a way and a plan, and His is the only way. His is the safe way. His is the best way. Are you in His plan? Well, how do you get into the plan of God? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. Sins forgiven. but on God’s terms, not ours. A gift of the Holy Spirit as what we see in Romans 8. That’s according to God’s purpose, not your whim of just being able to say that, well, I fought off my sin.

You see, that’s the reason why that Larry, I’ll put it in Widowmaker terms, Larry’s Widowmaker Put God on display. Biggest attendance of anything here. The gospel goes out. There’s a situation down in Brazil with a camp. There is the testimony of God all over that. But my widow, my widow maker turned out differently. But God has a plan and a purpose. It is ours to know, to trust, and to glorify Him as we understand the majestic splendor of God’s glory. Do you know Him? Do you know God through His Son, Jesus Christ? Don’t bewail the circumstances of your life and to just, it’s so easy to do.

But you see, we need to have the knowledge and we know. Drop 18 inches. You know that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. 18 inches because you have to accept him and be born again. Do you know it?

Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, thank you for being a good God. Father, thank you. That we can simply trust you. Sometimes we want to just say we trust you with our eternal life, but we can’t trust you with our daily lives. Or we can trust you when things are good, but not when the afflictions come. Forgive us for that. For you are the God that we can trust at all times and in all circumstances. Help us to do that, Father. Help us to do that individually, Help us to do that as a church. But Father, now I would pray and ask that if there be one soul here today that doesn’t know Christ, may they be willing through the enabling ministry of the Spirit of God to trust you, understanding that you’re this kind of a God and they need you. Father, all of this is because of your perfect wisdom. Help us. to trust you, in Jesus’ name, amen.

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