Pastor Eric Schroeder

Text: Romans 8:1-10

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I know this isn’t the place to talk about politics, but I assure you, it relates to our discussion for today.  So here goes… How do you feel about guns?  That seems to be a big question in our country lately.  And it turns out that a simple question can be quite a divisive one, because different people can react to the same events, and based on their own background, experience, and opinions, they can come up with different answers. There are those on one side who say that we need new laws, because people shouldn’t have so many guns, or they shouldn’t have access to certain kinds of guns. Too many guns…At the same time, there are also people on the other side who also say that we need new laws, but they are on the opposite end of the spectrum: they say that we need more guns; we need armed guards or even armed teachers in every school. Who is right? Passionate people on both sides; I’d hope we’d all agree that no matter where we fall, preserving human life is always worth thinking about. I have no doubts that guns will be part of an ongoing conversation, but today we have an even bigger issue to deal with…

 

In Romans chapter 8, we are reminded that every death is a tragedy. God did not create people to die. He created us to live with him and with one another in perfect fellowship—perfect peace. But ever since sin came into the world through the disobedience of the first humans, the nature of human life changed.  Instead of being born in the image of God, every natural child of Adam and Eve all the way down to us has been born in the image of our sinful parents. And there are a couple of ways that people might interpret that. I think most people don’t have a problem admitting that they are not perfect. Any honest person has to say that, right?  

But we see in these verses that our natural condition is far worse than just “imperfect.” Most people like to say, “I am a pretty good person.” It’s worse than that. Most people are willing to say, “I’m human. I make mistakes.” It’s worse than that. Let’s see what God says when he is honest. We’ll actually start with the middle paragraph today, verses 5-8: 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

If we are left to wander on our own, left to our own desires, what happens? The sinful nature only wants to sin. Now, that doesn’t mean that all of us have the same sinful desires. Some of us have a sinful nature that is more prone to grumbling and complaining. For others, it’s greed and envy. For others, it’s a love for gossip and putting others down. For others, it is lust and impure sexual desires. For others, it is drunkenness. For others, it’s pride and arrogance. For still others, it is hateful violence and murder. But for all of us, it is a natural desire to rebel against everything God says; no matter which direction we go, our nature refuses to walk with God. The sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  

 

And where does this walk lead? Sinful desires certainly lead to sinful words and sinful actions, but it’s worse than that. The sinful nature leads to doubt of God’s goodness, his promises and his love. The sinful nature leads to deceit as it fools us into chasing after what is not good for us or anyone else. The sinful nature leads to destruction of human relationships and our relationship with God. Ultimately, God’s Word sums it up here when he tells us, “The mind of sinful man is death.” Your sinful nature is self-destructive and suicidal. It wants to control you, and it wants to kill you. God knows that one more law isn’t going to make a difference. Every law God gives becomes one more chance to disobey. Every law God gives is one more reason for God to find us guilty and condemn us for all eternity. And he has every right to do just that, but that isn’t what he wants for anyone…

So God decided to come up with a new kind of law altogether, we might say a new ruling principle.  Back to the opening verses. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

How can God say we are not condemned, when our sinful nature is responsible for so much guilt? God has to punish sin. God had to punish your sin and mine.  

But here is where the new law comes in. The old law couldn’t save us, because we couldn’t keep it. But God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son to keep it for us. As Paul writes here, For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. As God foreshadowed with Old Testament animal sacrifices as substitutes for sinners, God now sent his own Son as a substitute for sinful mankind. Just like the animals had to be spotless, healthy and without blemish, so God’s Son came spotless and holy, the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Instead of condemning sinners, God condemned our sin in the human flesh of Jesus Christ, our substitute, and now he offers and gives the credit for Jesus’ perfect obedience to all who believe in him by the power and work of his Holy Spirit in us.  

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…for us who are in Christ Jesus. Sin, guilt, and death no longer rule over us, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. In other words, we don’t just live under God’s law; we live under the rule of grace. We live in Christ, with his cross shielding us from every accusation of the devil and our own flesh. Instead of being mastered by our flesh, we have a new outlook and a new purpose, because we have a new master. In verse four, we are assured that we do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

The Spirit is a far better leader than our sinful nature. He gives you the power of Christ to fight against temptation, to walk with God, and to live in freedom because you live in the forgiveness and grace of God.  

It is this grace of God that shapes the way you look at yourself. You are not a slave to sin. You are a child of God, because the Spirit has blessed you with the assurance that Jesus is yours and you are his.  Once you were condemned, but now there is no condemnation left for you—Jesus willingly took our condemnation on himself. Our sinful nature still fights, but every time we confess our sins and trust in Jesus for forgiveness, we use God’s grace to overcome it.  

When it comes to our eternity, all has been accomplished. When it comes to our daily lives, we can still expect the struggle. Perhaps today is the day to ask yourself: where in my life does sin still lurk? Am I still allowing my sinful nature to reign over me in any way? Are there sins to which I have grown numb or callous? Are there sins I repeat far too often, in my public life or in secret? If we aren’t sure, our first reading gives us an opportunity to identify our own weaknesses as we read through a summary of God’s will in the Ten Commandments. If you still aren’t sure, read or review Martin Luther’s explanation of the commandments in your catechism. Then crucify your sinful nature as you confess those sins and cling to the cross of Christ for forgiveness. Finally, as you rejoice in your salvation, pray daily for God’s strength, and put that strength to work in service to God and one another.  

And then, when the political discussions come up, may God give us the strength to testify that the real answers aren’t political. People need to know God’s law, and they need to know that only Jesus Christ can win the victory over sin and death. Every life is precious to God, and every sin is paid for by God’s Son. Apart from him all are condemned. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. May the Holy Spirit keep us in Christ, and use us to gather others in Jesus’ name. AMEN.