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“Do You Want To Live?”

October 21, 2018

Romans 8:1-11

“Do You Want To Live?”

Intro:  Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.  After 18 months in a Turkish prison where he was held on counts of terrorism, he was set free.  After spending some of that time jammed in a cell designed for eight prisoners with over 20 and spending some of that time in isolation.  He says that he maxed 4 hours of sleep a night, had a nervous breakdown, was isolated from other prisoners by being the only Christian and the only American.  He had spent 23 years in Turkey ministering on behalf of Jesus Christ and preaching the Good News of the Gospel.  Spiritual captives were set free by being introduced to Jesus.  But he was imprisoned.

The interviews so far have not been sensational spectacles.  He has spoken briefly and frankly. One of his first acts of freedom was to pray with President Trump. He prayed Scripture over him for righteousness and good leadership.  And I reckon he was grateful to have the freedom to do so.

We all have our prisons but the thing is, we put ourselves in them. We enslave ourselves to habits and to situations that keep us in bondage and in fear.  We convince ourselves that our sin is unforgivable and that there is no way out of the situation we find ourselves in, that there is no way to redeem the consequences we are living with.  We are not free.

But friends, being imprisoned by fear, circumstance, choices or whatever else holds us, is not how God intended for us to live.  Can you think of the sin that imprisons you most?  Hold onto that as we walk through Romans 8:1-11 this morning.  Let us pray.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 

So the opposite of this is that there is condemnation for those who do not belong to Christ Jesus.  And that fact is why Jesus commanded his disciples, us, to proclaim the message of Good News.  That in him, the person of Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness and freedom from condemnation.

Next we look at the benefits of this freedom from condemnation.  It’s not just about a ticket to heaven.  We are in the midst of eternal life right now.  And so the freedom we receive from Christ is not something for later, it’s for now.  Listen:

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

It is the Spirit of God that gives us life.  Those who belong to Christ have that Spirit pouring life into them.  The freedom we receive is freedom from the power that sin exerts over us.  We are no longer enslaved by that power because the holy Spirit defeats it - daily doing battle with our flesh.   So each person in the universe chooses life or death.  Some will try to save themselves by doing good, being good.  But listen to what Paul says.

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.

So hold the phone!  Following the law of Moses was a way to obey God but one thing stood in the way of its effectiveness - human sinful nature.  The Ten Commandments remain a great instruction for how we are to live our lives in a manner honoring to God, but they won’t save us.

God had a further plan for our redemption and salvation. Are you ready?

So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

So God made this huge sacrifice by sending Jesus to die for our sins.  Did you catch what Paul says here?  In the physical body of Jesus Christ God declared an end to sin’s control over us.

But note that there is a transformation  that is expected to happen in the life of one who believes in Christ - and oh that it would happen instantaneously and be easy!  But a person who accepts Christ and to whom the Holy Spirit is given, there is a real change.  Paul states it like this, they are people who no longer follow their sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

So I speak to those of us who are already in a relationship with Jesus. Those who are currently filled with the Holy Spirit.  What transformations have you seen take place in your life?  What things are you currently struggling with that you had been content with before? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. Paul explains more:

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 

So there you have it.  Our mind tells us all we need to know about our spiritual life! Let’s look at a real life example.  How many of you have ever tried to quit smoking?  How many of you have ever tried to stick to a new diet?  Have you found that when it’s all new and you have a plan and you are distracted by new recipes or that new pack of Nicorette gum, your mind is so focused and centered and committed to what you are trying to accomplish in your life.  And you can go days with your mind under the control of this new way of being.  That’s how it is when we are under the control of the Holy Spirit.  Allowing the Spirit to guide and direct our thoughts.  But then the day comes.  You smell the tobacco, or you remember the candy stashed in the closet and all of a sudden that’s where your brain goes.  And the thoughts of eating the candy or smoking the cigarette grips you.  It consumes you.  All you can think about is getting what you want.  What is dominating us in those instances? It’s a war.  We can’t win it on our own. Our spiritual lives take constant attention because this world is full of “cigarettes and candy” that would distract us from thinking about things that please the Spirit of God who lives in us.  There is a serious consequence for letting our sinful nature control us. Verse 6 says:

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. 

And the opposite:

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 

Okay, people! When put like that, is there a difficult choice to be made?  On any sane day, would you choose death on purpose? Or would you choose life and peace?  Paul explains why flirting with sin is bad for our health picking up in verse 7:

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

Simple.  As we grow in maturity in our faith, we are better and better able to reject sin. We are more able to think like God thinks and to see as God sees.  It is a process.  Some progress quicker than others because they are ready to give up their bad habits.  My Father-in-Law died of lung cancer back in 2015.  He knew he should give up smoking years before and went through the pattern we talked about earlier.  But he let the craving for that cigarette control him rather than the hope of a longer life.  

We do spiritual battle every day with our nature.  And probably daily we stiff arm God and say, “No, I don’t want you to take control of that part of me.” And in so doing, we choose to take a step away from God.  And those are measuring opportunities for us to come clean before God.  Do we belong to him or are we still in control?  Paul states next what being a Christian really is like:

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The choices we make, the way we live our lives, these show who we belong to.  Remember that God calls his followers to be in the world but not of the world.  Where do you draw that line?  You may not be able to draw it all at once.  If you are not disturbed at all by any sin in your life - check your spiritual pulse.  God wants total commitment but we can’t give it on our own.  We can only give it through the transformation that comes from the Holy Spirit working in us.  Will we yield and will we choose life?

Concl.  You see, like Pastor Andrew Brunson, many of us have been falsely imprisoned. Satan, the enemy of God, would have us believe that the sins we are guilty of own us.  He would have us believe that we are defeated already and deserve to be miserable captives held in our own prisons. But he is a liar - like the ones who accused Pastor Brunson.  Here’s why: Jesus died to set us free from any and all sin that would try to hold us captive.   To be free, we have to let it go, confess it, repent of it and walk out of the prison.

As we move into a time of response to the Word, would you look at the questions asked in the bulletin, and would you be honest with God and allow the Holy Spirit to search you out and bring to mind the things that stand between you and freedom?  In a while I will invite us to corporately pray the prayer printed in the bulletin.

 

Response:  Making Things Right With God

    What mistakes do you need to admit?

    How do you resist doing the right thing?

    What are you afraid to let go of?

Prayer:  Father God, show me the way to go.  Help me to walk the path you desire me to follow.  Forgive my sins. Put your desire and will in me.  Let the Holy Spirt rule in my heart and mind.  Amen.

 

Benediction:  Philippians 1:9-11

Here’s what I pray for you:

    Father, may their love grow more and more, in wisdom and insight -

    so they will be able to examine and determine the best from everything else.

    And on the day of the Anointed One, the day of His judgement,

    Let these stand pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness

    that ripens through Jesus the Anointed.

    All this I pray, with a view to God’s ultimate praise and glory.  Amen. Go in peace.