+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Romans 8:1-11
Theme: Life In The Spirit
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not the static backdrop of Christian consciousness. Christianity is not a drama now played out on the stage of human achievement with images of a martyred hero forming the backdrop for the set. The events of the atonement are not merely historical points of reference which inform a common interest. The crucified and living Jesus is the active power- the existing authority in the present time- that subdues the nefarious evils of sin and death. Dear friends, believers are not simply enthusiasts of the way of Jesus, we are temples of His living presence. God is not out there. He is right here; present among us and in us through His word and sacraments.
His presence means we are not alone, we are not autonomous, and we are not self-determining. It means our greatest foes are outmatched and our greatest fears will never gain the upper hand. The inspired apostle says today, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”1 Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”2 Yes, believers are freed from the eternal guilt of sin. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been given license in the meantime. We are freed from the dominance of our own selfishness in the here and now.
The mind set on sinfulness cannot coexist with a heart of faith. Our Scripture says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”3 No amount of coercion can change that reality. Threats do not change the spiritual attitude of the heart. Fear often achieves conformity. Intimidation can be used to restrict any number of behaviours. But coercion never changes desires or motivations. It can only lead to hopelessness or self-righteousness. A study of a large number of heart by-pass patients found that after 2 years, eight out of nine people still hadn’t changed to a healthier life-style. Even the threat of crippling disability or death did not drive them to change. The truth applies spiritually. The law of God will not change our hearts. It will reveal our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our need. But we go our own stubborn way until the gospel makes intervention into our lives.
And, intervene it has! The crisis of sin was resolved by a singular event, at a specific time, in a precise way: Jesus, the Christ, was crucified on the altar of the cross. In that event of redemption and in nothing else- not in the combined efforts of believers across the centuries, not in the good intentions of individual sinners, not in the tolerance of the Father of transgressions against His holiness, not in the deepest yearning of troubled souls- was the forgiveness of sins secured. Only the shedding of His holy blood reopens the gates to Paradise. At the cross Jesus took possession of our sins. They are His. He stands accountable. Christ has made you an heir of His heavenly kingdom. The certainty of this inheritance is given to you every time the promise of forgiveness rings in your ears. A foretaste is given to you every time the body and blood of Christ is taken upon your lips. At your baptism Christ took jurisdiction over the consequences of your sin and He promises to keep you separated from the punishment those sins have merited forever.
Satan pretends he can offer us an inheritance too. He promises us freedom from God’s tyranny and the liberty to do as we please without consequence. He woos us with the temptation that we can have our cake and eat it too. He deceives us with the idea that we have the ability to manage the effects and consequences of sin. Thus, sin appears to be no real threat and is not pondered until mortality is faced. When Satan tries to get into your head, point him right to the cross and say, “I am baptized!”
The sinful nature is a past identity no longer applicable to our new life in Christ. We are clothed now with His royal robes of righteousness. Our filthy rags have been thrown out. Dear friends, God doesn’t transform our sinfulness, our selfishness into something useful or godly (certainly He does bring good out of sinful circumstances). God doesn’t renovate our sinfulness. He crucifies it. He puts to death evil desires, designs and deeds. The Spirit does this individually within the believer. The struggle against temptation continues while we still draw breath, of course. It is real and the Holy Spirit must lead us in this battle. We are not spared this struggle. We are sanctified through it.
The way of godliness is not a future undertaking but a present exercise. The Bible doesn’t present us with a surreal dichotomy between the physical and spiritual worlds. The heavenly state of bliss is not a platonic idealism, that is., it is not a purely spiritual state of existence. It is not a state of mind. St. Paul is not speaking here of some separation between mind and body, as if, the more enlightened Christians become the less important physical reality becomes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The spiritual resurrection of the believer now means he or she can now understand the material world from a proper perspective. Christian truth is grounded in realism. It is incarnational. Christ was born of Mary. We are reborn of water and the Spirit. Yes, it involves mystery. We cannot comprehend the Holy Trinity. We cannot grasp the meaning of grace with our reason or senses. We cannot program how the Holy Spirit works. Miracles must be left to God. But remember, miracles are only such from human perspective. From God’s viewpoint, all His works are ordinary exertions expressing His purposeful love.
We live with apparent contradictions; paradoxes. We are sinners, but also saints. We are spiritually resurrected, but the decay of death accompanies our every thought and every move. The Scriptures are clear that there can be no final amalgamation between good and evil, between faith and unbelief, between hatred and love. Darkness cannot coexist with light. The final separation of good and evil, life and death, sin and grace in the collective dimension results in heaven and hell. There will be no eternal mingling between the holy and the profane. Heaven is the gift of the Saviour. Hell is the choice of unbelief. Heaven is an always an inheritance. Hell is always earned. Heaven is always gifted. Hell is always merited. No one earns their way to heaven. No one has hell foisted upon them. God might be doubted, reviled, or ignored. But who else would we want to have charge of the universe? He has taken our death that we may share in His life. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
16 July 2017
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Romans 8:1-2
2 John 8:36
3 Romans 8:7-8