Preached @ Anchor Community Church on August 10th 2014
“Consider, for example, that Christian distress of mind that comes from sighing over ones inner depravity and care for ones salvation – all concepts originating in nothing but errors of reason and deserving, not satisfaction, but obliteration.”
From Nietzsche’s Human, all too Human
“…by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease, but it’s symptoms.”
We often live our lives as Christians in a powerless fashion. Romans 8 is a great chapter in the bible, and amongst other great truths is pretty “Trinitarian.” We see the sanctifying work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, which orthodox Christianity has taught as one God (Being), yet manifested in three distinct persons. That’s a lot to think about, but an important part in regard to the nature of God. Human religions seem to emphasize either a fierce monotheism like you would find in orthodox Judaism and Islam, or a pantheistic idea of God found in many of the Asian religions. However the bible seems to indicate that God is one, yet plural.
Either way, we do see all three working toward the “Sanctification” (Being made holy/righteous) by the Father, Son and Spirit of God.
Our Big Picture today shows us that we are no longer under judgment (In spite of indwelling sin) because of Christ’s work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our soul. The latter part of Romans 7 demonstrated a real struggle found in every human. In spite of wanting to do God’s Law, we tend to continue in some of the sins that we have always struggled with; especially those sins are core in our heart. Paul called them “Indwelling Sins.” These are those deep-rooted issues that we find in our life as we begin to walk with Jesus. Thus it caused Paul to cry out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul’s answer is found in Roman 7:25-8:4; Jesus!
From the Head…
The Beauty of the Gospel (Romans 8:1-4)
In spite of our sin, God loves us (Romans 5:8), and in Christ, frees us from the tyranny and condemnation (Judgment) of the law. Literally Jesus became sin on our behalf, so that we could be justified (See 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why Jesus had to be made “Flesh.” So He could take our punishment, which was un-payable, in order to have real justice served. I believe it is this idea, though a glorious relief to those that are saved is a crushing folly to those that are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). The human mind hates this because it negates his/hers “Role” in salvation, thus relegating humans to a humble place. There are some who even believe that the Christian idea of forgiveness is evil, because it is built on a “Pardon” with no justice, and asks the “Victim” to forgive the “Oppressor.” First of all, this idea of this “Righteous requirement of the Law” being “Fulfilled” in us through Christ, is hard to wrap our brain around it, and if we are thinking only in the “Flesh,” we will never wrap our brain around it, and continue to demand our rights, see everything from our own individual perspectives and not God’s. According to Romans 3:25 God did what he did to “Demonstrate His righteousness.” The human mind hates the fact that God is about His glory, and not ours. This is why the unbelieving heart hates His justice, and that He would judge anyone, because humanity is always about injustices done to them, but do not want one thing done about their own injustices.
Only those that have been regenerated and have changed their “Walk” (v. 4) understand that forgiveness is something we do, because we have been greatly forgiven. Also, forgiveness can happen, because God is the master of justice, and we can know that He will deal with injustice righteously, unlike humanities desire for blood for other people’s sins.
The Futility of Unbelief (Romans 8:5-8)
The Christian claim is truly outrageous, stupid and infuriating, because the claim is that apart from Regeneration in Christ we are hosed. This is “Exclusive” and a folly and as some have put, “Immoral!” What we do need to understand here is the claim is not that someone needs to join Christianity, but it is claiming that without Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, all our attempts (Religious or not) to eradicate indwelling sin from our lives is futile! The fact is, Justification/Regeneration must proceed and Empower Sanctification/holiness. Without Christ’s work on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in our lives, we can’t even think biblically. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
This is not to say that non-believers can’t change their behavior or live “Moral” lives, because they can,; but what this set of verses are teaching is they cannot “Please God” (v. 8), because they are thinking from a fallen human reason (vv. 5-6), they are “Hostile” to God (v. 7), and subsequently can’t “Submit to God’s law” (v. 7). The two following quotes from Philosopher Nietzsche and comedian George Carlin sum up the unbelieving mind;
“Consider, for example, that Christian distress of mind that comes from sighing over ones inner depravity and care for ones salvation – all concepts originating in nothing but errors of reason and deserving, not satisfaction, but obliteration.” Nietzsche
“Religion convinced the world that there’s an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there’s 10 things he doesn’t want you to do or else you’ll to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! …And he needs money! He’s all powerful, but he can’t handle money!” George Carlin
This is as much a struggle for the religious non-believer as the non-religious one. The only difference being that the non-religious person is more honest with their feelings toward God. As religious folk, we all get caught up with the creation of our own rules of morality, and passages toward Nirvana. This is no difference from an atheist, who doesn’t try to hide behind a god to do it. The Christian narrative is either true or false (See 1 Corinthians 15), and if true, we are called to our knees in humble adoration of the master of the universe, not a new set of rules. Human thinking can never get to the idea that sin is something that effects them, and is outside of them, so they can eradicate it by their “Good” works. Biblically sin is “Missing the mark” that God has commanded, and when we sin, we grieve God and dishonor Him. This is why George Carlin can say what he says, and it rings true for so many people. Who is God to tell us what to do? What right does He have to push His views on us? Why does He get to exact justice on those that are deserving?
The Transformational Power of a New Identity (Romans 8:9-11).
Though our sin is “In the flesh,” we are NOT! We have the Spirit of the Living God Dwelling in us! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us! He gives that life to “Our Mortal bodies” Christianity is NOT just about the Spiritual. The gospel compels us toward the Physical. The gospel compels us to restore culture too. The gospel changes us spiritually so we can serve God physically here on earth. At the heart of His commandment is love, and as we Christians live out that reality in real space, the culture will be touched by the Kingdom of God.
…to the Heart
How does this work? It works because we have a new identity capable of pleasing God and obeying His commands, which bring forth life and peace, not destruction. We are taught to walk differently, but never in disunity, lacking love and displaying arrogance, but to “Act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Questions For Study
1. Is this passage freeing to you?
2. What does it mean to “Walk not according to the flesh?”
3. In what way is humanities mind “Hostile” to God?
4. How are we pleasing to God? What role do we play?
5. If we are “In the Spirit” why do we sin?
6. Where does our defeat of sin begin?
Books For Further Study
1. NT Commentary on Romans, William Hendricksen
2. John MacArthur NT Commentary, Romans 1-8, John MacArthur
3. Encountering the NT Series: Romans Doug Moo
4. Romans, Martin Luther
5. Romans: God’s Good News For the World, John Stott
6. Romans, R.C. Sproul
7. Romans, John Calvin
8. St. Paul For Everyone: Romans, N.T. Wright