Pastor April's Sermon from Sunday, July 10, 2011 - Life in the Spirit

Romans 8:1-11 A few words about the book of Romans as we get started.

The author of this book is the apostle Paul.  And Paul wrote a number of letters, but Romans is a unique letter for a couple of reasons.

-       Unlike the others, this letter was not written to one of the churches he helped found.  It was written to the church in Rome, a collection of people, many of whom were not of Jewish background, and they had never met Paul.

-       Second, because of this – Paul’s letter isn’t as much about addressing specific issues as much as it is about outlining a concise explanation and exposition about what he feels to be the heart of the Christian faith.

And we need to appreciate what he is doing here – because it’s kind of impressive It is Paul’s deepest belief that Jesus has done a new thing and as altered the very nature of our ability to relate to God.  And so in this letter,

-       he is outlining a new theology where he tries to make sense of how that works in light of Jewish history and in light of the entire human experience.

-       I mean this is quite an undertaking!

-       He’s creating a new theological framework where one didn’t really exist before and so - it might seem wordy and confusing the way he writes – but we have to cut him some slack.  He was doing something entirely new.  He didn’t have centuries of Christian thought to draw from to make the most articulate and fully thought out argument.  He was a pioneer and so he blazes some trails for us in some really helpful ways.

I remember recently a visit from my parents.  I love my parents dearly but I have this odd compulsion that I need to have everything together when they are here visiting.  And so visits from them, while welcome, can sometimes stress me out.  So… knowing this about myself, I spent double the normal amount of time praying, I even took a day off to make sure I had time to clean and to rest.  And even though I had done everything right.  The chores were done and the house was clean, But just before they arrived, I lost my phone – and that’s all it took before I was irrationally yelling at everyone around me, making ridicualous demands of my husband and feeling consumed by anger and frustration.

And I remember thinking – what in the world is wrong with me?  I am a MESS!

Now I’m sure that none of you have ever experienced anything like this…  right?

I mean – there is something about the fundamental human experience…  where we want to behave a certain way but somehow we seem to not be able to.  We do exactly what we wish we wouldn’t.  We make the same mistakes over and over.

And it’s frustrating and maddening and at times, it can feel like we are powerless.  It can feel like we are slaves.

Paul talks about the problem of sin in a way that I think is actually really helpful.  He talks about it as a universal human experience.  And he isn’t just so interested in sin as a list of bad behaviors.  The language Paul uses to talk about sin – describes it as a force or power, capable of deceiving human beings, taking up residence within them, and causing their death.  Paul understands sin to be the power and force that seems to be robbing us of the life that God wants to give us.

And Paul says that alone – on our own – we are powerless to completely overcome this.

Even the Law, the Jewish law, the Torah – this good gift of God to guide his people into how to live – even that, it wasn’t enough.  It was too weak to overcome the power of sin.

And right here – this is the whole heart of Paul’s entire letter.  Everything has been leading to this point.

And at the end of chapter 7 – he says that with his flesh, he is a slave to the law of sin.

Read v. 1-4

Paul is sharing the heart of the Good news  -

The Good News is that in Jesus – Sin has actually been condemned.  Because of Jesus, sin has been dealt with – this force, this power that has been robbing us of life – has been overpowered by the Spirit of Life in Jesus Christ.

And so we who were headed for death are now capable of experiencing life, and peace.

We are able to experience life as God intended us to experience it.

Read v. 11

So, I want to be clear what theologically bold statement that Paul is making here.

Essentially he’s saying that Jesus has changed the fundamental nature of the way the Jewish people approach their lives.

Before it had been about following the law, trying your best to adhere to the guidelines.

But life in the Spirit seems to be about something much different. Jesus has actually already addressed the problem of sin.

Paul says that because of the work of Jesus – there is a Spirit that lives in me that is more powerful than the sin that lives in me.  He says that I am actually raised with Jesus – and that I have LIFE, abundant life available to me.

And every day – I’m given choices – choices between things that will rob me of LIFE and choices between things that will offer me life.

You can think about them as 2 fires burning – which one will you put wood on?  Which fire will you tend and stoke?

Sometimes those choices are really obvious.  And sometimes not so much.

So, I’ve been thinking about this visit with my parents – because my mom is coming into town this week.

And I thought about how I handled things last time – and the truth is – if I’m really honest – I was feeding the fire of something that was robbing me of life.  I wanted everything to be perfect when they came here, for them to see that I was doing great and that everything was fine, so I spent an entire week feeding desire.  And it was ROBBING me of life.  And so all the while I was busy cleaning and resting and even praying to be calm and peaceful – the whole charade – it was robbing me of life.

this God, this Jesus is a bringer of life.  True life and peace.

And this Spirit of Jesus has great, great power.  Not because the Spirit helps us to get everything right.

The power is in Jesus and Jesus’ ability to help us see what is real and true and honest about ourselves and about the world.

And I think it is THAT – that helps us to be able to move forward and to live differently.

Where - Even in our moments where we feel powerless, where we feel like a slave to sin – we actually ARE NOT.  We don’t have to stay in those places.

Where are the places in your life that you KNOW will bring you life and peace but you just aren’t making space for them?  Maybe that’s time with people you love and care about.  Maybe its time in prayer.  Maybe it’s time in study or in a small group.  Or maybe its time in worship.  Maybe it’s letting go of some of your masks that you’ve been putting up.  Letitng go of some of the things that simply don’t matter, even if we really want them to!  Maybe it’s the ability to be more honest about who you really are.  Maybe it’s  simply opening up our hearts to listening to what is true..

Where is God inviting you to take a closer look at what is robbing you of life?

Where do you need to address some of the places that have robbed you of life in the meantime –

God is interested in bringing you life.

So – this week – where will you put your energy?  Towards the things that are robbing you of life?  Or toward the things that are bringing you life?